Before we go on, let’s review the three aspects of discipleship by a comparison with the marriage of Queen Esther. When she received the Persian king’s hand in marriage she entered a new covenant based on the king’s love (like positional discipleship). She then adjusted to married life and functioned in her role as a faithful wife (like ideal discipleship)–unlike Queen Vashti who failed in this area. In her case, Esther had a special opportunity in this relationship–she was the queen of Persia, the world empire back in the fifth century B.C. (like special discipleship).
3. The rich young ruler forfeited special discipleship (Matt. 19:16-22).
This young man was implicitly warned of his self righteousness and materialism that stood in the way of his salvation, and he loved material things which blocked his full commitment to Christ.
He was also summoned to accompany Jesus, witness His miracles, and hear His teaching fist hand. He forfeited this special discipleship in the presence of Jesus because of a lack of hope–it was replaced by temporal concerns.
When the young man excitedly approached Christ, his interest was in achieving eternal life. However, when he did not repent and forsake his misplaced faith, he lost real hope.
The young man was a ruler; his values were wrapped up in an earthly, temporary dominion.
Christ associated giving with hope: “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matt. 6:19-21).
Consider the opportunity offered to this rich man. He could have gained an eternal treasure! Jesus promised him this compensation: “… go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven” (Matt. 19:21). It sounded like a radical challenge, and it was. Assuming the rich young man never repented and returned to Jesus later, he has an eternal regret for wasting his resources on his short-lived, insignificant “kingdom.”
What a contrast to recognize the scope and eternal duration of Christ’s dominion! His kingdom is no mere natural, political rule. Remember Christ’s words to Pilate during His trial: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here” (John 18:36). When the Jewish ruling council was desperate to find a witness to condemn Jesus, they could find none. However, to fulfill His redemptive mission, Jesus gave them a testimony they could use in their murderous deliberations: “… Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven” (Matt. 26:64). The Sanhedrin accused Jesus of blasphemy; in doing so they committed that very crime as they condemned the innocent King of glory (1 Cor. 2:8; Psalm 24).
Christ’s prediction was an allusion to Daniel’s prophecy of the Messiah’s glorious return: “I was watching in the night visions, And behold, One like the Son of Man, Coming with the clouds of heaven! He came to the Ancient of Days, And they brought Him near before Him. Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, That all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, Which shall not pass away, And His kingdom the one Which shall not be destroyed” (Dan. 7:13,14). Christ’s disciples were given the hope of reigning with Christ in the age to come! (1 Cor. 6:3; 2 Tim. 2;12; Rev. 5:10).
After the young man turned his back on Christ and walked away, the Lord confirmed His special disciples’ hope: “Assuredly I say to you, that in the regeneration, when the Son of Man sits on the throne of His glory, you who have followed Me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first” (Matt. 19:28-30).
In light of this case of the rich young ruler, beware of the danger of forfeited discipleship. Have you received Christ’s salvation that is offered freely by grace through faith? He also calls you to wholehearted devotion and lifelong learning. As a true believer you have the added blessing of Christ indwelling presence, so your discipleship is special too.
Part 4 of 4
Copyright 2007 by John Woodward. Permission is granted to reprint this article for non-commercial use. Bible quotations are from the New King James Version, copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson.