Two Rich Guys, Only One Saved

In preparation for RICE Regenerate Praise, I’ve been thinking a lot about the topic of ‘surrender’. It occurred to me that within two chapters of Luke you’ve got two rich guys who meet Jesus. In Luke 18 you’ve got the rich young ruler; in Luke 19, Zacchaeus. For both of them, ‘surrender’ was the key to their salvation. Yet tragically, only one of them is declared ‘saved’ by Jesus.

Luke 18:18-23   18 A certain ruler asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  19 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good– except God alone.  20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, do not murder, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.'”  21 “All these I have kept since I was a boy,” he said.  22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “You still lack one thing. Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”  23 When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was a man of great wealth.

Luke 19:1-10  Jesus entered Jericho and was passing through.  2 A man was there by the name of Zacchaeus; he was a chief tax collector and was wealthy.  3 He wanted to see who Jesus was, but being a short man he could not, because of the crowd.  4 So he ran ahead and climbed a sycamore-fig tree to see him, since Jesus was coming that way.  5 When Jesus reached the spot, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, come down immediately. I must stay at your house today.”  6 So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.  7 All the people saw this and began to mutter, “He has gone to be the guest of a ‘sinner.'”  8 But Zacchaeus stood up and said to the Lord, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount.”  9 Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, because this man, too, is a son of Abraham.  10 For the Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost.” 

Why do you think these two rich guys had such radically different responses and different outcomes?

Your comments are welcome (and will help me out immensely for Saturday night’s PRAISE night).


About Pete

I am a child of God, a husband, a father of four children, a pastor, and a church planter. I live in Sydney Australia and live to see Jesus made famous in this city and be the only God people worship.

Posted on May 11, 2009, in Bible and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. One man comes to Jesus with clenched hands, holding on to everything that he believes gives him security, stability, worth, identity, power, status, self-sufficiency … and he’s unprepared to let go …

    The closed hand is a hand that assert independence, war and self-sufficiency.

    One man comes to Jesus with open hands, holding on to nothing, ready to leave it all behind, ready to let it all go … all that he has held onto bringing him security, stability, worth, indentity, power, status, self-sufficiency … and he’s prepared to let it go …

    The open hand is a hand that speaks of surrender, the willingness to let go … until you come to Jesus with open hands you will not know grace, because you won’t receive it … note: you can’t come to Jesus with open hands if you can’t let go of the things you’re holding on to … you can hold his hand, you can’t take what he gives you …

    praying for you bro!

  2. following on from Eugene (although not as eloquently)…
    one difference I notice is the object and expression of faith shown by each man.

    In the first instance, he says, “What must I do”.
    This tells me that he thinks his works are sufficient. Again, he says, “All this I have done”. So long as this is the case, Jesus is always going to say, “You still lack”. We never measure up to God’s standard – thus the purpose of the Law (ref Galatians, Romans etc). The object of his faith is his works, the expression of that faith is to cling to those works and reject Jesus.

    In the second instance. Zaccheus wants to “see Jesus” but can’t and knows he can’t. In the end it is not Zaccheus who sees Jesus, but Jesus who sees Zaccheus. The response to this grace from Jesus is an expression of the obedience of faith which Jesus says is evidence that “salvation has come to this house”. The object of his faith is Jesus and the expression of that faith was repentance and reconcilliation.


  3. I had a few thoughts… The references to the ruler in Matthew and Mark made things a little difficult, but for me the differences between the passages are the two men’s views on themselves, as well as their view on who Jesus was. I guess they’re inter-related.

    Firstly, although it is not explicit, it would seem that the ruler is someone upright and respected in the community, someone not only religious like the Pharisees, but also genuinely trying to follow the Law (which is why I think Mk 10:21 says “Jesus looked at him and loved him”). When he asks Jesus “what must I do…”, it seems like he is someone who likes to tick the boxes; he’s asking Jesus “what have I left out?” And then of course, Jesus shows him the box he won’t be able to tick off.
    Zacchaeus, on the other hand, was someone despised by the people. I think the fact that he is short and has to climb a tree is appropriate and humorous because his physical reality reflects his standing among the community – he is looked down upon literally as well as socially. He wouldn’t have dared to ask Jesus the same question that the ruler did (even though the ruler seems to have done so in humility – Mk 10:17 “he fell on his knees”).

    Secondly, I don’t think the ruler saw Jesus as the Son of God. Even though he fell on his knees, I think he saw Jesus as a wise and respected person, someone who would know better than him, yet someone from whom he could surely benefit and gain assurance. Also I think the interesting thing is that Jesus asks him to sell “everything”, yet apparently Jesus does not explicitly ask this of Zacchaeus who only offers half of his stuff, yet is accepted by Jesus.
    In the case of Zacchaeus, Jesus was the one who initiated communication. Zacchaeus responded with gladness – maybe he was amazed that someone so sought after as Jesus would accept him and wish to stay at his house. Another thing is that Jesus calls him by name, maybe relating to verse 10, that the Shepherd knows his sheep by name. Anyway, relating to the first point of his awareness of his humble standing, Zacchaeus calls Jesus “Lord”, not merely “good teacher”, and makes a public confession of repentance, without Jesus having to say anything. I think Zacchaeus showed a true humble and contrite heart.

    Not sure if this is helpful in any way but I’m looking forward to Sat nite.

  4. the others have had a crack at your questions.

    here’s two other observations:

    1) Zacchaeus is a tangible expression of the parable that Jesus told in Luke 18:9-14. It is possible for Tax Collectors to not just beat their breast and cry out for God’s mercy, but repent and live radically different in response to that mercy.

    2) v6 says that Zacchaeus welcomed Jesus “gladly”. i love that his response isn’t just one of toilsome duty, but it’s a joyful response to Jesus. (This is the key dif b/w the two blokes – one is gladly willing to give up his gear to follow Jesus and the other isn’t)

    go well on Saturday!!!

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