Turning to Jesus! Lesson Five

A Vacation Bible School Curriculum by Barry McWilliams
an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America

Daily Theme: Faith is Holding fast to Jesus whatever the cost

THE YOUNG MAN WHO WAS TOO RICH - a story from: Mark 10:13-31, cf Matt 19:13-30, Luke 18:15-30 - The rich young ruler

Object Lesson: If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when he comes in his Father's glory with the holy angels.

Read Mark's account carefully. Comparison of Mark's with those of Matthew and Luke reveals that Marks is the longest and fullest account. Matthew and Luke apparently abbreviated their accounts for various reasons, perhaps to save space. Note the setting of the story. Vs 1, 10, 13, 17. Where does this account fall in the travels and ministry of Jesus?

Jesus welcomes small children.

Why were the small children being brought to Jesus and why did the disciples try to shoo their parents away?

Luke makes it clear that the children were actually infants.

Perhaps they thought they were helping the Master by keeping outside these people and their noisy babies? He had been busy debating with the Pharisees about marriage and divorce and they appear to have stopped to rest in a house in Perea while travelling toward Jerusalem. Perhaps they thought that Jesus had more important things than to be bothered with children.

What was Jesus reaction and what does it teach us about His attitude toward children? About their value in the eyes of God and place in the church?

What was Jesus teaching his disciples when he said: "Let the little children come to me and stop hindering them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these."?

"The kingdom is the rule of God in heart and life, together with all the blessings that result from this rule." Entering the Kingdom is entering "Everlasting life" or "being saved."

When He said: "I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it."?

How might a person otherwise try to receive the kingdom?

Jesus is talking about the simple, humble, unquestioning, trusting manner in which a child accepts what is offered to him. He is illustrating the simplicity of faith. And at the same time making it clear that we are saved by grace. There are no conditions attached.

A "rich" young man

Apparently a listener to what has transpired in the house was a young man. What do we know about him from this passage?

What was his question that he stopped Jesus in the way to ask? Why is he so unsettled in his spiritual life? Is there significance to the phrase "what must I do to inherit..." Could Jesus' words about child-like faith have upset him?

Jesus responds with a question of his own: "Why do you call me good? No one is good, but God." Was the man's use of the word thoughtless or sincere? What did he want the young man to see?

What he lacked:

Jesus then called the young man's attention to the Law of God. The young man responds that he had kept them from youth on. Did he feel he was good enough to please God.

That he had sincerely tried to keep the law is clear from Jesus' reaction in Vs. 21. But what did he need to have eternal life? Jesus says to him:

  1. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven."
  2. "Then come, follow me."
Compare this to Jesus' call to his disciples in Lesson one. (See Mark 10:28). What aspects of true repentance did he lack? Why were these barriers to his salvation?

The man was asking Jesus "what else do I need to inherit eternal life?" But Jesus wants the young man to see "what instead" he needed. Apparently a leader (ruler) in the local synagogue, and a young man who was raised under the influence of Pharisaism, with its emphasis on the law and works righteousness, the Young man had diligently kept the Commandments as taught by the Pharisees. But His heart was attached to his riches. The choice of the expressions and their order (which differs from the order the Commandments are usually given in) when Jesus repeats the Commandments "do not defraud" ("You shall not Covet" - he was a man with employees and business dealings) and "honor your father and mother" (Was his wealth inherited? - most likely!) pointed to his problem. Jesus' suggestion that he sell his possessions and give them to the poor indicated that in his heart, he had violated the spirit of the commandments.

Though the law comes the knowledge of sin. That he could state "I have kept them perfectly since childhood" indicates he had not really taken the Law to his heart and seen how far he had fallen short of it. Had he really searched his heart attitude toward his riches and toward his employees and the poor, he would have seen his covetousness. The Apostle Paul's heart was brought to conviction of sin by the same commandment - see Romans 7:7-13.

What Jesus asked was too hard for him:

What does vs 22 tell us about the man's reaction to what Jesus said.

Jesus put his finger on the man's love of his possessions and his self-righteousness. Unless he gave them away (turned away from dependence on them) and received instead the "treasure in heaven" God provides in Jesus, he would remain unfit for the kingdom of God. All God asks of us is child-like faith, But this young man lacked true repentance, for he could not turn from his own works and his wealth and follow Jesus.

Note: Was this young man ever saved? While some would point to Jesus love in vs 21, we cannot say. While he had an exemplary life and the desire to honor God and have eternal life; he went away sad. Perhaps later he may have turned away from his wealth and truly repented. But his opportunity to walk with Jesus and be taught by Him was lost. Jesus was on the road to the cross.

The difficulty and importance of repentance and faith:

Jesus could not let this lesson slip by his disciples. Looking around, He twice said to them: "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God."

He used an illustration to make his point. The "eye of the needle" might have been a gate used at night by travellers to enter a city. Before the camel could be brought in, the load had to be removed. The gate was too small for a loaded camel. In the same way, the rich man could not hold on to his riches (as the treasure of his heart) and enter the kingdom. But even in its literal sense, Jesus is teaching that it is impossible for a rich man in his own power to try and worm his way into heaven.

In the context of the story, to what is Jesus referring when he says: "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."?

Jesus is stating clearly in black and white that our salvation from beginning to end is dependent on God, and not anything we do. Even our faith comes from God.

Why were the disciples startled by Jesus' words. Why do they react by asking "Who can then be saved"? What fears are expressed by Peter in vs. 28? How does Jesus answer these fears?


What are some ways we might be hindering children from coming to Jesus and why? How can we better welcome them?

Can you state in simple terms what is (and is not) required of us to be saved?

What does Jesus ask of us to be his disciples? How would you explain this to a child?

After Jesus calls the little children to be brought to him, for childlike faith is what God wants, we see a rich young ruler who can't turn away from his riches. Faith without repentance is impossible.

© 1989 Barry McWilliams and Mission Church Fellowship,
Hypertext Version © 1996 Barry McWilliams
For Permission to reproduce and use these materials and other information
Contact Barry McWilliams at eldrbarry@eldrbarry.net