Jesus began by walking through the commandments. Eternal life without obedience to God is impossible. You get the feeling that in his haste the young man might have interrupted Jesus saying, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young” (v20).
Fixing his eyes on the youth, abounding love poured from Jesus’ heart as He said, “One thing you lack. Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me” (v21).
A few key words hit the young man with the force of a sledge hammer. Sell? Give? Cross?
As he contemplated their meaning, his countenance fell. Gone was the burning enthusiasm. Gone was the light flashing in his eyes. As the passion faded in his heart, he must have thought to himself, “I asked about eternal life. Who said anything about taking up a cross?” After an awkward moment of silence, without another word spoken, the young man turned and walked away from Jesus and off the pages of the Bible.
Crossless Christianity. It appears to be rampant today in a society fixated on self. Crossless Christianity downplays the cost of discipleship while focusing only on the rewards. It would be like an insurance salesman telling you about the benefits of a plan without ever mentioning the premiums. The Bible is clear. There is a cost. It’s called taking up your cross.
We know what that meant for the Rich Young Ruler. We also know he refused to do it. What it means for you and for me may be entirely different. But this I know — taking up the cross involves sacrifice. It involves total commitment. It involves giving. It involves an attitude of complete surrender that says, “Nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.”
Surely, there must be an easier way! So thought the Rich Young Ruler as he turned his back on Jesus. But there is only one way, and that’s the way of the cross. “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it’” (Matthew 16:24-25).
Don’t be fooled by the purveyors of cheap grace. The only Christianity taught in the Bible involves taking up your cross. But it doesn’t end there for us anymore than it did for Jesus. The cross always leads to the crown (2 Timothy 4:8).
I wish the story of the Rich Young Ruler would have ended differently for him. Sadly, it didn’t. But our story can have a happy ending. So come on and let’s do what Jesus said. Count the cost. Pay the price. Take up the cross. Follow Him.
Pastor Todd Weston