The Two Rich Men

Luke 18‑19  •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 6
Luke 18 & 19
How beautifully the incidents recorded in the evangelists exhibit the workings of nature and of grace. They are short and familiar, but full of matter for the meditation of our hearts, that we may be either warned or comforted.
Uneasiness of conscience was goading the rich young ruler of chapter 18 to seek relief wherever it might be found. He loved the world and could not give it up; and yet he had religious apprehensions of a day of judgment, and owned the fact that there was a kingdom of God still to come. This is a common case; a calculating worldly heart with serious religious sentiments, all together working uneasiness in the soul. He was a sample of the thorny ground hearer. He would fain have both worlds, and yet was not sure that he had the future world. And how could he? How could such a double-minded man be stable? How could a body, the eye of which was thus evil, be full of light? His uneasiness was goading him hither and thither, and in his waverings he seeks Jesus.
Can anything be more natural? He was not a reckless man of pleasure, but a religious, calculating man of the world who could deliberately weigh his own interests for time and eternity, and make them supreme in all his reckonings.
He was with all this, of course, nothing but an old bottle (see Matt. 9:1717Neither do men put new wine into old bottles: else the bottles break, and the wine runneth out, and the bottles perish: but they put new wine into new bottles, and both are preserved. (Matthew 9:17)). The new wine is therefore spilled. The doctrine of Christ is lost upon him. He goes away as he had come-a lover of the world-for the love of money keeps him apart from Jesus, and thus outside the kingdom of God.
The Lord draws the simplest moral from this incident. "How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!" The disciples, however, are amazed at this, and say, "Who then can be saved?" And Jesus answers, "The things which are impossible with men are possible with God." These last words are much to be noted.
It is the way of the Spirit in Luke to group together matters for moral instruction, making that much more His object than mere accuracy of historic time and place. After a short interval from the time of the case of the rich ruler, according to this his usual method, Luke gives us the case of the rich publican, Zaccheus of Jericho.
They were both rich, and up to this moment they may have had much in common. From this time on, however, as far as we can learn of them, they are separated forever. Solemn thought!
Zaccheus is not under the goading of a natural conscience. Rather, his path was under the drawings of the Father, for he seeks Jesus (John 6). It was the secret effectual drawing and teaching of the Father, and not the goad of an uneasy conscience, that was determining his present path. This was so, as we have said, because it lay toward Jesus; as He says Himself, "Every man... that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto Me." And that path, leading to Jesus, led away from the world. For Zaccheus was now traveling a road which nature and the spirit of the world would never have taken. He forgets himself on this journey. He was no longer the rich publican of Jericho. The young ruler, on the contrary, had never forgotten his riches. But, wealthy and important as Zaccheus was, all that is now forgotten, and through the crowd he passes, and up the tree he makes his way, careless of every cost if he may but see the Lord.
This is very beautiful. Here is an incident exhibiting the work of grace; the former had shown the working of nature. The ends of these workings are as different as the paths themselves. He lays his wealth at the feet of the Lord; the ruler had gone away full-handed as he came.
For Zaccheus was a new bottle. He keeps the new wine. Both are preserved. The wine is not spilled; the bottle is not burst. The drawing of the Father had led the soul, and the Person of the Son filled it.
Here was a living witness of what the Lord had said-"The things which are impossible with men are possible with God." Here was a rich man entering the kingdom because he was not under the mere impulse of the conscience-that never could have done it-but under the leading of God Himself, the teachings and drawings of the Father.