From the Commentary on the Whole Bible (Jamieson, Fausset and Brown, 1871).
Lu 18:18-30. The Rich Young Ruler and Discourse Thereon.
This case presents some remarkable points. (1) The man was of irreproachable moral character; and this amidst all the temptations of youth, for he was a "young man" (Mt 19:22), and wealth, for "he was very rich" (Lu 18:23; Mr 10:22). (2) But restless notwithstanding, his heart craves eternal life. (3) Unlike the "rulers," to whose class he belonged (Lu 18:18), he so far believed in Jesus as to be persuaded He could authoritatively direct him on this vital point. (4) So earnest is he that he comes "running" and even "kneeling before Him," and that when He was gone forth into the war (Mr 10:17)—the high-road, by this time crowded with travellers to the passover; undeterred by the virulent opposition of the class he belonged to as a "ruler" and by the shame he might be expected to feel at broaching such a question in the hearing of a crowd and on the open road.
19. Why, &c.—Did our Lord mean then to teach that God only ought to be called "good?" Impossible, for that had been to contradict all Scripture teaching, and His own, too (Ps 112:5; Mt 25:21; Tit 1:8). Unless therefore we are to ascribe captiousness to our Lord, He could have had but one object—to raise the youth's ideas of Himself, as not to be classed merely with other "good masters," and declining to receive this title apart from the "One" who is essentially and only "good." This indeed is but distantly hinted; but unless this is seen in the background of our Lord's words, nothing worthy of Him can be made out of them. (Hence, Socinianism, instead of having any support here, is only baffled by it).
20. Thou knowest, &c.—Matthew (Mt 19:17) is more complete here: "but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which—as if he had said, Point me out one of them which I have not kept?—"Jesus said, Thou shalt," &c. (Mt 19:17, 18). Our Lord purposely confines Himself to the second table, which He would consider easy to keep, enumerating them all—for in Mark (Mr 10:19), "Defraud not" stands for the tenth (else the eighth is twice repeated). In Matthew (Mt 19:19) the sum of this second table of the law is added, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," as if to see if he would venture to say he had kept that.
21. All these, &c.—"what lack I yet?" adds Matthew (Mt 19:20). Ah! this gives us a glimpse of his heart. Doubtless he was perfectly sincere; but something within whispered to him that his keeping of the commandments was too easy a way of getting to heaven. He felt something beyond this to be necessary; after keeping all the commandments he was at a loss to know what that could be; and he came to Jesus just upon that point. "Then," says Mark (Mr 10:21), "Jesus beholding him loved him," or "looked lovingly upon him." His sincerity, frankness, and nearness to the kingdom of God, in themselves most winning qualities, won our Lord's regard even though he turned his back upon Him—a lesson to those who can see nothing lovable save in the regenerate.
22. lackest … one thing—Ah! but that a fundamental, fatal lack.
sell, &c.—As riches were his idol, our Lord, who knew if from the first, lays His great authoritative grasp at once upon it, saying, "Now give Me up that, and all is right." No general direction about the disposal of riches, then, is here given, save that we are to sit loose to them and lay them at the feet of Him who gave them. He who does this with all he has, whether rich or poor, is a true heir of the kingdom of heaven.
23-25. was very sorrowful—Matthew (Mt 19:22) more fully, "went away sorrowful"; Mark still more, "was sad" or "sullen" at that saying, and "went away grieved." Sorry he was, very sorry, to part with Christ; but to part with his riches would have cost him a pang more. When Riches or Heaven, on Christ's terms, were the alternative, the result showed to which side the balance inclined. Thus was he shown to lack the one all-comprehensive requirement of the law—the absolute subjection of the heart to God, and this want vitiated all his other obediences.
24. when Jesus saw—Mark says (Mr 3:34), He "looked round about"—as if first following the departing youth with His eye—"and saith unto His disciples."
How hardly, &c.—with what difficulty. In Mark (Mr 10:24) an explanation is added, "How hard is it for them that trust in riches," &c.—that is, with what difficulty is this idolatrous trust conquered, without which they cannot enter; and this is introduced by the word "children"—sweet diminutive of affection and pity (Joh 21:5).
25. easier for a camel, &c.—a proverbial expression denoting literally a thing impossible, but figuratively, very difficult.
26, 27. For, &c.—"At that rate none can be saved": "Well, it does pass human power, but not divine."
Sermons and Bible Commentaries for the 6th Sunday after Sleebo
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