1, 2. What is the best invitation a human could receive, and what question might we ask ourselves?
WHAT is the best invitation you have ever received? You might think of a time when you were invited to attend a special occasion, perhaps the wedding of two people very dear to you. Or you might recall the day you were invited to take on an important job. If such invitations have come your way, you were no doubt thrilled, even honored, to get them. The truth is, though, that you have received a far better invitation. Each one of us has. And the way we choose to respond to that invitation affects us profoundly. It is the most important choice we will make in life.
2 What is that invitation? It comes from Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of Almighty God, Jehovah, and it is recorded in the Bible. At Mark 10:21, we read Jesus’ words: “Come be my follower.” That is, in effect, Jesus’ invitation to each one of us. We do well to ask ourselves, ‘How will I respond?’ The answer might appear to be obvious. Who would refuse such a splendid invitation? Surprisingly, most people do refuse. Why?
3, 4. (a) What might be considered enviable about the man who approached Jesus to inquire about everlasting life? (b) What good qualities might Jesus have seen in the wealthy young ruler?
3 Consider as an example a man who received that invitation in person some 2,000 years ago. He was a highly respected man. He had at least three things that humans tend to consider desirable, even enviable—youth, wealth, and power. The Bible record describes him as a “young man,” as “very rich,” and as a “ruler.” (Matthew 19:20; Luke 18:18, 23) However, there was something more important about this young man. He had heard of the Great Teacher, Jesus, and he liked what he had heard.
4 Most rulers in those days failed to give Jesus the respect he deserved. (John 7:48; 12:42) But this ruler acted differently. The Bible tells us: “As [Jesus] was going out on his way, a certain man ran up and fell upon his knees before him and put the question to him: ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit everlasting life?’” (Mark 10:17) Notice how eager this man was to speak with Jesus, running up to him out in the open, just as any of the poor and lowly people might have done. Further, he knelt respectfully before Christ. So he had a measure of humility and an awareness of his spiritual need. Jesus valued such good qualities. (Matthew 5:3; 18:4) Little wonder, then, that “Jesus looked upon him and felt love for him.” (Mark 10:21) How did Jesus answer the young man’s question?
The Invitation of a Lifetime
5. How did Jesus respond to the wealthy young man, and how do we know that poverty was not the “one thing” missing about him? (See also footnote.)
5 Jesus showed that his Father had already supplied information on the vital question about gaining everlasting life. He pointed to the Scriptures, and the young man affirmed that he was faithfully obeying the Mosaic Law. Jesus, however, with his extraordinary insight, saw what was below the surface. (John 2:25) He perceived a spiritual problem in this ruler—a serious one. Hence, Jesus said: “One thing is missing about you.” What was that “one thing”? Jesus said: “Go, sell what things you have and give to the poor.” (Mark 10:21) Did Jesus mean that a person must be penniless in order to serve God? No.* Christ was revealing something of great importance.
6. What invitation did Jesus offer, and what did the wealthy young ruler’s response reveal about his heart?
6 To lay bare what was missing, Jesus offered the man a wonderful opportunity: “Come be my follower.” Just imagine—the Son of the Most High God invited that man, face-to-face, to follow him! Jesus also promised him a reward beyond imagination. He said: “You will have treasure in heaven.” Did the wealthy young ruler seize this opportunity, this glorious invitation? The account reads: “He grew sad at the saying and went off grieved, for he was holding many possessions.” (Mark 10:21, 22) So Jesus’ unexpected words revealed a problem in the heart of this man. He was too deeply attached to his possessions and, no doubt, to the power and prestige that came with them. Sadly, his love for such things far outweighed any love he had for Christ. The “one thing” missing, then, was wholehearted, self-sacrificing love for Jesus and Jehovah. Because the young man lacked such love, he turned down the invitation of a lifetime! How, though, are you involved?
7. Why may we be sure that Jesus’ invitation includes us today?
7 Jesus’ invitation was not limited to that man; nor was it restricted to just a few people. Jesus said: “If anyone wants to come after me, let him . . . follow me continually.” (Luke 9:23) Notice that “anyone” can be Christ’s follower if he truly “wants to.” God draws such honesthearted ones to his Son. (John 6:44) Not just the rich, not just the poor, not just those of a certain race or nation, and not just those living during that time period but all are given an opportunity to accept Jesus’ invitation. So Jesus’ words “Come be my follower” really do apply to you.
Jesus did not ask everyone who followed him to give up all possessions. And although he did comment on how difficult it is for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God, he added: “All things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:23, 27) In fact, a few wealthy people did become Christ’s followers. They received specific counsel in the Christian congregation, but they were not asked to donate all their wealth to the poor.—1 Timothy 6:17.