Where was the “rich young ruler” from? Does the Bible tell us?
Is Anyone Good?
During Jesus’ earthly ministry, a “ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone” (Luke 18:18-19), notice the first thing Jesus does is to ask Him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” That is just what the Old and New Testament teach. The Apostle Paul wrote “None is righteous, no, not one” (Rom 3:10) so why did Jesus question his statement that Jesus was good? The young ruler didn’t recognize Him as God or even as Master, but simply called Him “Teacher,” so Jesus was refuting the fact that teachers or rabbis, or anyone is good. There’s not even one! In fact, “no one understands; no one seeks for God” (Rom 3:11) and “All have turned aside; together they have become worthless” (Rom 3:12), which includes me, you, and every human ever born. Only Jesus was sinless in His humanity.
Do you know people who think they’re a good person?
Is any human being really good according to the Bible?
What’s the problem with the man wanting to “do” something to inherit eternal life?
God versus Money
The next problem is that the man thought that eternal life might be received by keeping the law, which thankfully it’s not about what we do (Eph 2:8-9), but about what Jesus has done (John 3:16), so Jesus runs him through the commandments (Matt 19:16-26; Mark 10:17-27) and shows the impossibility of being saved by keeping the law. Even so, the young rich ruler boasts, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack” (Matt 19:20). The truth is no man or woman has ever kept these laws, so Jesus tells him what he must do, and at the same time, Jesus exposes the truth that his possessions is his own god, and thus, he is breaking the first commandment, but he also finds out that he is not as good of a person as he thinks he is. Jesus tells the rich young ruler, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions” (Matt 19:21-22). Jesus also insinuates that the man is still not perfect by telling him that if he wants to be perfect, “go, sell what you possess and give to the poor.”
Can we keep the commandments even for a day? Which are the most frequent commandments we break?
Is having great possessions a sin?
The Rich Young Ruler
The rich young ruler had it all. Now, he wanted more. He wanted eternal life too. Perhaps he was adding it to his pile of possessions so that he could live the good life. He’d have it all. We know he was a ruler so he must have had power and authority. He was also rich, which gave him a place of prominence among the Jewish religious leaders and community at large. This is because the Jews associated a person’s wealth with God’s blessings, so the rich young ruler seemed to have it all. He had anything that a person could ever have wanted at the time, but there must have been one thing that the man lacked, and that was God in his life. Perhaps his guilt drove him to Jesus or he wanted his self-righteousness to be equated with already having eternal life. Jesus knew this man’s heart. Perhaps Jesus saw that all he wanted to do was to add eternal life to his growing list of “possessions.” At the end, the young rich ruler knew that he was walking away from God because his first love was his possessions. That’s why he went away sad. Maybe he hadn’t heard Jesus’ teaching that you will either “hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other [but] You cannot serve God and money” (Matt 6:24). The rich young ruler thought he could do both, but as we read, “he had great possessions” and so “he went away sorrowful.” Jesus was sorrowful too because Mark writes, “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him” (Mark 10:21).
Why was the rich young ruler sad when he went away?
How did Jesus expose the man’s heart?
Why does it say that Jesus loved him?
The Same Ruler?
There are other references to rulers in the gospel. On one occasion, a ruler came up to Jesus “and knelt before him, saying, ‘My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.’ And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples” (Matt 9:18-19), but “when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him” (Matt 9:23-24). If there was a crowd and there were even flute players, this ruler had to be rich, because often after the death of someone, they would hire mourners and the more mourners there were, the greater people would regard the family, so since there was a crowd and flute players, we can assume this ruler must have been rich and probably, influential. In fact, in that day, you couldn’t be a ruler if you weren’t rich, so here was a rich ruler whose daughter had just died who comes to Jesus in desperation, so Jesus tells the mourners, “the girl is not dead but sleeping.” After they laughed Him to scorn, Jesus “went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. And the report of this went through all that district” (Matt 9:25-26). This encounter with Jesus and the ruler happened after Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler, so it could have been the same ruler, but in the least, the rich young ruler must have heard about it because the rulers would have to meet frequently.
Is it at least possible it was the same ruler Jesus had met earlier?
Why would a Jewish ruler come to Jesus in plain sight and ask for His help?
Why did they laugh at Jesus?
Where was the rich, young ruler from? Perhaps it was Jerusalem because most of the rulers couldn’t live too far from there, but we’re just not told in Scripture. Sadly, there is no biblical evidence that the rich young ruler ever came back to Jesus to receive eternal life. The man didn’t have to give everything away. Jesus was only trying to show the man where his heart was. It wasn’t with God, that’s for sure. It was with his possessions. That’s a good question for me or perhaps you. Do we hold loosely to our possessions and tightly to God or do we hold tightly to our possessions and are unable to hold tightly to God? Good question, isn’t it?
Something to consider: Does God Want Us To Be Rich?
Resource – Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.