Luke 18 v 18. “A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Now, in this passage, Jesus moves our attention from important and unimportant people, to that which is of supreme importance, the King and his Kingdom itself. This is a true fact. If we do not believe that Jesus and his Kingdom are all important, to be desired above all else, it is most unlikely we shall enter into the Kingdom. It is a truism that we commit ourselves only to that which we consider most essential, and this is a good principle to bear in mind when we meet people who were once very zealous for the Lord, and now seem cold and dead. What happened? The Kingdom lost its importance and Christ himself was pushed into the shadows by other things.
This story of the rich ruler is a classic example of this principle. Being rich, he could afford to enjoy life in this world. Nothing was out of reach for him. When it came to eternal life, he thought he would like to possess that as well, and as he had always paid his way, he would pay his way for this too, so he asked “What must I do?” He must have been very taken aback by how this conversation unfolded.
His polite approach “Good Teacher” was the first shock as Christ pulled him up with the words, “Why do you call me good? No one is good – except God alone.” (v 19). Jesus was not quibbling with the man. This was a big issue. If only God is good, and if this rich man applies this description to Jesus, it would imply that Jesus was God incarnate and that this man had somehow perceived this. If this was so, then presumably the rich man would do whatever Jesus told him, without question. Otherwise it would prove to be only polite talk.
Now, it is probable that this rich man was indeed being merely polite, although he does seem to hold Jesus in high esteem.
The point for us to note is how easy it is to use serious words and phrases lightly. The question the man put to Jesus is surely one of the most important questions anybody can ever ask, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” This is a truly serious question. It presupposes some thinking on his part. Do people live forever or don’t they? Is it worth having?
In our world today not too many people think seriously. It seems many are content with the idea that they are in some vague way acceptable to God. Some people seem incapable of thinking great thoughts or asking great questions. Some seem totally unaware that they have a soul.
But they do! So do you and I. The question is, where will our souls be for all eternity?
What must we do to inherit eternal life?