To The Willful Heart, Jesus Says, Come, Follow Me

Bible Book: Mark  10 : 17-27
Subject: Jesus, Following; Invitation of Jesus; Followers
Series: Invitations of Christ

We have been looking recently at some of these Invitations of Christ.

So far, we have considered the fact that…

1. To the Worn Out Heart, He says, “Come Forth,” as He did to Lazarus in John 11:43

We considered the fact that…

2. To the Wanting Heart, He says, “Come Down,” as He did to Zacchaeus in Luke 19:5

We considered the fact that…

3. To the Wondering Heart, He says, “Come And See,” as He did to John and Andrew in John 1:39

Last week, we considered the fact that…

4. To the Weary Heart, He says, “Come Unto Me...” as He says in Matthew 11:28

This morning, we’re looking at an invitation that Jesus extended to the willful heart of a rich young ruler. The account of this rich young ruler is recorded in Matthew 19:16-22, in Mark 10:17-22, and in Luke 18:18-23.

Warren Wiersbe said about this rich young ruler…

Of all the people who ever came to the feet of Jesus, this man is the only one who went away worse than he came. And yet he had so much in his favor! He was a young man (Matthew 19:22) with great potential. He was respected by others, for he held some ruling office, perhaps in a local court (Luke 18:18). Certainly he had manners and morals, and there was enough desire in his heart for spiritual things that he ran up to Jesus and bowed at His feet. In every way, he was an ideal young man; and when Jesus beheld him, He loved him.

(From The Bible Exposition Commentary)

And yet, this man walked away without responding positively to the invitation of Jesus to “come, take up the cross, and follow” Him (Mark 10:21). He came, but he didn’t come far enough.

Of course, this past week has been leading up to Veterans Day today. And on Friday of this past week (November 09, 2007), in the “Political Grapevine” segment of the Fox News program “Special Report with Brit Hume,” there was a report about a “Florida teacher’s idea to honor conscientious objectors on Veterans Day.” The report said…

An idea from a Florida elementary school teacher to put the names of conscientious objectors on a banner at a Veterans Day observance has prompted hundreds of calls and e-mails in protest. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports Bay Haven Elementary School fourth-grade teacher Rolf Hanson wanted to honor conscientious objectors and give them what was described as more or less equal recognition with veterans. An irate parent called Rush Limbaugh – and the deluge of negative reaction commenced. The school’s principal quickly said that there would be no banner – and that veterans would be honored in what he described as a “very traditional” way. (,2933,310296,00.html)

For those who may not know, a “conscientious objector” is an individual who claims that either the religious, moral, or ethical dictates of his or her conscience are incompatible with being a combatant in military service, or being part of the armed forces as a combatant organization. Some conscientious objectors argue that they are either pacifist or antimilitarist. Some are simply opposed to the very concept of war.

For whatever reason, these “conscientious objectors” will refuse to serve in the military when they are called upon.

As I have meditated about this rich young ruler and how he walked away from the invitation of Jesus, I’ve come to the conclusion that he was a “spiritual conscientious objector.” He objected to the idea of putting Jesus in a place of priority above his wealth. Jesus told him, “Go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven” (Mark 10:21). And the Bible says that “he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions” (Mark 10:22).

To this man who had a willful, unyielding heart, Jesus said, “Come, take up the cross, and follow Me.”

There are several key elements to consider in this passage:

I. Let’s Notice The Seeker In This Account

A. Consider His Affluence

1. He Had Power

Cf. (Luke 18:18) And a certain ruler asked him, saying, Good Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

ruler – [Greek archon] a person in authority, a magistrate, a judge, a prince; a councilor, a member of the supreme council of the Jews; a man of influence. (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia)

ruler – Greek 758. archon; a first (in rank or power):--chief (ruler), magistrate, prince.

2. He Had Possessions

(Mark 10:22) And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.

great – Greek 4183. polus; much (in any respect) or (plural) many:--abundant, much, plenteous.

possessions – Greek 2933. ktema, ktay'-mah; from G2932; an acquirement, i.e. estate.

Cf. (Luke 18:23) And when he heard this, he was very sorrowful: for he was very rich.

very – Greek 4970. sphodra; neut. plur. of sphodros (violent; of uncert. der.) as adv.; vehemently, i.e. in a high degree, much:--exceeding (-ly), greatly, sore.

rich – Greek 4145. plousios, ploo'-see-os; from G4149; wealthy; fig. abounding with:--rich.

B. Consider His Approach

(Mark 10:17) And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

1. His Manner In Coming

a. With Haste

running – Greek 4370. prostrecho, pros-trekh'-o; from G4314 and G5143 (includ. its alt.); to run towards, i.e. hasten to meet or join:--run (thither to, to).

b. With Humility

kneeled - Greek 1120. gonupeteo; to fall on the knee:--bow the knee, kneel down.

2. His Mindset In Coming

a. He Seems To Be Courteous

Good – Greek 18. agathos; a prim. word; “good” (in any sense, often as noun):--benefit, good (-s, things), well.

Master – Greek 1320. didaskalos, did-as'-kal-os; from G1321; an instructor (gen. or spec.):--doctor, master, teacher.

b. He Seems To Be Curious

what shall I do...?

shall I do – Greek NT:4160. poieésoo; to make; to produce, construct, form, fashion; to labor, to do work; equivalent to to be operative, exercise activity; joined to nouns denoting a state or condition, it signifies to be the author of, to cause. (Thayer’s Greek Lexicon)

Notice how Matthew records it…

(Matthew 19:16) And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?

Despite all that this man had, he has come to the Lord seeking something that he does not have but that he sincerely wants. However, he viewed this as just another thing to accomplish and mark off his list.

II. Let’s Notice The Savior In This Account

A. Notice How Jesus Questioned The Issue Of Goodness

(Mark 10:18) And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

Jesus is trying the heart of this man to determine...

1. Was The Young Man Exhibiting Flattery?

Warren Wiersbe said…

The young man had a superficial view of Jesus Christ. He called Him “Good Master” (Teacher), but we get the impression that he was trying to flatter the Lord; for the Jewish rabbis did not allow the word good to be applied to them. Only God was good, and the word must be reserved for Him alone. Jesus was not denying that He was God; rather, He was affirming it. He just wanted to be sure that the young man really knew what he was saying

2. Was The Young Man Exhibiting Faith?

Jesus was not commending this man for hitting the nail on the head as he did with Simon Peter…

(Matthew 16:15-17) He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? {16} And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. {17} And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.

Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament says that Jesus “wished this man in particular to think carefully on what is good, and who.”

B. Notice How Jesus Qualified The Issue Of Goodness

(Mark 10:18) And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

1. The Master’s Deity Is Asserted

The Bible Knowledge Commentary states…

No one is good, absolutely perfect, except God alone, the true Source and Standard of goodness. The man needed to see himself in the context of God’s perfect character. Jesus’ response did not deny His own deity but was a veiled claim to it. The man, unwittingly calling Him “good,” needed to perceive Jesus’ true identity.

(Jesus seems to say, “If I’m good, I’m God.”)

2. The Man’s Doubts Are Apparent

(Mark 10:20) And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.

The second time he says “Master” he doesn’t say “Good,” suggesting that he didn’t really believe that Jesus was God.

Note: Another factor in this dialogue may be that Jesus is teaching this man that he cannot be good enough within himself. Consider again...

(Matthew 19:16) And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?

Jesus says, there is none good but one, that is, God.

Paul wrote in (Romans 3:10-12) As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one: {11} There is none that understandeth, there is none that seeketh after God. {12} They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable; there is none that doeth good, no, not one. [AND] {20} Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.

This brings us to our next thought…

III. Let’s Notice The Schoolmaster In This Account

Cf. (Galatians 3:24-25) Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. {25} But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

A. Consider How The Law Is Mentioned

(Mark 10:19) Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.

1. An Evil Thing Commandment #7 Do not commit adultery, Exodus 20:14

2. An Extreme Thing Commandment #6 Do not kill, Exodus 20:13

3. An Excessive Thing Commandment #8 Do not steal, Exodus 20:15

4. An Exaggerated Thing Commandment #9 Do not bear false witness, Exodus 20:16

5. An Earnest Trust Commandment #10 Defraud not, (keep back by fraud) Exodus 20:17

(This seems to correlate with the commandment regarding covetousness.)

6. An Exemplary Tribute Commandment #5 Honour thy father and mother. Exodus 20:12

These all come from what is called “The Second Table” or “Tablet” of the law which deals with sins against mankind. The first four commandments deal with sins against God. Jesus seems to reveal that if this man couldn’t realize sin on a human level of guilt, how could he realize sin on a heavenly level of guilt. Keeping the law saves no one. Jesus held the mirror of the Law before this man so he could see how sinful he was. And really, that was...

B. Consider How The Law Is Manifested

1. Paul Shows The Law And Its Weakness Galatians 3:1-5

2. Paul Shows The Law And Its Works Galatians 3:10

3. Paul Shows The Law And Its Way Galatians 3:13, 19-25

It is the schoolmaster, or instructor, teaching us that we can’t, but God can!

The young man had paid attention to the Law since his youth, but he had not yet humbled himself as a lost sinner.

Unfortunately at this point, there was a Self-Satisfaction In This Account…

(Mark 10:20) And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.

Wuest’s Word Studies from the Greek New Testament says…

The word for “observed” is ‎phulassoe‎. This word was used in classical Greek as a military term meaning “to guard, watch.” It was used of sentinels keeping guard. As used here in connection with the keeping of the commandments, it refers not only to the act of obeying them, but to that solicitude for their preciousness and honor, that leads one to carefully guard them from being broken. It means, “To take care not to violate.” Swete says: “The young man is relieved by the Lord’s answer. If the eternal inheritance could be secured on so simple a condition as the keeping of the Decalogue, it was his already ... The deeper meaning and larger requirements of the Law were yet hidden from him.”

IV. Let’s Notice The Summons In This Account

(Mark 10:21) Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

A. Think About The Prompting Of This Invitation

Why does Jesus invite him?

(Mark 10:21) Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

1. Jesus Invited Him Because Of The Love

This is something that only Mark tells us – that Jesus loved him.

beholding – Greek 1689. emblepo; to look on, i.e. to observe fixedly, or to discern clearly:--behold, gaze up, look upon, (could) see.

Wuest says…

Loved him. The word is agabaoe, “a love called out of one’s heart by the preciousness of the object loved.” It is used in the N.T., of God’s love, and of the love that God is.

2. Jesus Invited Him Because Of The Lack One thing thou lackest

lackest – Greek 5302. hustereo, hoos-ter-eh'-o; from G5306; to be later, i.e. (by impl.) to be inferior; gen. to fall short (be deficient):--come behind (short), be destitute, fall, lack, suffer need, (be in) want, be the worse.

B. Think About The Particulars Of This Invitation

What does Jesus invite him to?

(Mark 10:21) Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.

Warren Wiersbe said…

Our Lord’s directions in Mark 10:21 are not to be applied to everyone who wants to become a disciple, because Jesus was addressing the specific needs of the rich young ruler. The man was rich, so Jesus told him to liquidate his estate and give the money to the poor. The man was a ruler, so Jesus told him to take up a cross and follow Him which would be a humbling experience.

1. Jesus Invited Him To Empty His Coffers

go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor

Note: thou shalt have treasure in heaven

treasure – [Greek thesauros] a deposit, wealth.

2. Jesus Invited Him To Embrace The Cross

come, take up the cross, and follow me

come – [Greek deuro] “hither, here,” is used (sometimes with verbs of motion) in the singular number, in calling a person to come. (From Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words)

cross – [Greek stauros] a stake or post (as set upright), specifically a pole or cross as an instrument of capital punishment; figuratively it means exposure to death, or self-denial; by implication it means the atonement of Christ.

Come receive the atonement of Christ and follow the path of self-denial.

J. D. Jones said, “The compensation outbalanced the sacrifice, for there was the blessed company of Jesus all the way.”

(Mark 8:34-37) And when he had called the people unto him with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. {35} For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it. {36} For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? {37} Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

V. Let’s Notice The Sadness In This Account

A. This Story Is Sad Because Of The Parting Of This Man

(Mark 10:22) And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.

1. He Departed In Gloom

sad – [Greek stugnazo] to render gloomy, by implication it means to glower or be overcast with clouds, or somberness of speech.

Warren Wiersbe said…

Jesus offered this man the gift of eternal life, but he turned it down. It is difficult to receive a gift when your fist is clenched around money and the things money can buy. The Greek word translated “grieved” gives the picture of storm clouds gathering. The man walked out of the sunshine and into a storm! He wanted to get salvation on his terms, and he was disappointed.

2. He Departed In Grief

grieved – [Greek lupeo] to distress; to be sad: -- be in heaviness, be sorrowful.

This man came, but he didn’t come far enough!

B. This Story Is Sad Because Of The Possibilities For This Man

1. Jesus Gives A Picture Of Possibility

(Mark 10:23-25) And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! {24} And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! {25} It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.

Ivor Powell wrote…

The reference to the camel passing through the needle’s eye was well known. Alongside the main gates of a city, was a smaller gate used only by pedestrians. This served a two-fold purpose. When at sunset, or on the Sabbath, the large gates were closed to keep out the cameleers with their animals, ordinary people could still enter or leave by the smaller door. This entrance was said to be only about three or four feet high, and was called the needle’s eye. There were occasions when an angry cameleer literally tried to get his camel through the eye of a needle – that is, the small gate. This was possible, but nevertheless it was exceedingly difficult. There were three pre-requisites. The animal had to be small; the load had to be taken from its back, and the camel, somehow, had to go forward on its knees. It could be done, but it was difficult. It was also possible for wealthy men to get into the kingdom of God, but the same three conditions applied. Those who desired admittance had to be small in their own estimation; they had to offload anything that would hinder progress; they had to kneel, and thus seek entrance into the kingdom of God.

2. Jesus Gives A Promise Of Possibility

(Mark 10:27) And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.

possible – Greek 1415. dunatos, doo-nat-os'; from G1410; powerful or capable (lit. or fig.); neut. possible:--able, could, (that is) mighty (man), possible, power, strong.

In other words, God is capable of bringing change into people’s lives.


In North Africa the natives have a very easy way to capture monkeys. A gourd, with a hole just sufficiently large so that a monkey can thrust his hand into it, is filled with nuts and fastened firmly to a branch of a tree at sunset. During the night a monkey will discover the scent of food, and its source, and will put his hand into the gourd and grasp a handful of nuts. But the hole is too small for the monkey to withdraw his clenched fist, and he doesn’t have sense enough to let go of his bounty so that he can escape. So he pulls and pulls without success, and when morning comes he is quickly and easily taken. (Tan #2027)

How like the sinner who refuses to let go and let God!

An alternative concluding illustration:

Some years ago an energetic young man began as a clerk in a hardware store. Like many old- time hardware stores, the inventory included thousands of dollars’ worth of items that were obsolete or seldom called for by customers. The young man was smart enough to know that no thriving business could carry such an inventory and still show a healthy profit. He proposed a sale to get rid of the stuff. The owner was reluctant but finally agreed to let him set up a table in the middle of the store and try to sell off a few of the oldest items. Every product was priced at ten cents. The sale was a success and the young fellow got permission to run a second sale. It, too, went over just as well as the first. This gave the young clerk an idea. Why not open a store that would sell only nickel and dime items? He could run the store and his boss could supply the capital.

The young man’s boss was not enthusiastic. “The plan will never work,” he said, “because you can’t find enough items to sell at a nickel and a dime.” The young man was disappointed but eventually went ahead on his own and made a fortune out of the idea. His name was F.W. Woolworth.

Years later his old boss lamented, “As near as I can figure it, every word I used in turning Woolworth down has cost me about a million dollars!”

Bits and Pieces, Vol. F, #41


How like the rich young ruler who missed the opportunity of a lifetime.