He was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
He went on his way rejoicing.
Mark 10, 22; Acts 8, 39.
Two people had come into contact with the Lord Jesus Christ, one went away sad, the other continued his journey rejoicing. Why this contrast?
The first one was a religious man. He was prepared to do anything special to obtain eternal life. So he asked the Lord, “Good teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” Jesus pointed out God’s commandments and quoted some of them verbatim. The man claimed he had sincerely endeavoured to keep them.
The Lord then answered, “One thing you lack. Go your way, and 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.” (v.21). On this point the rich young man failed and withdrew saddened. He had been ready to “earn” eternal by keeping the commandments. Jesus’ words aimed at making him realize that he would never achieve that. But simply believing in the Son of God, giving precedence to Him and following Him seemed to him too high a price to pay.
The other man, an Ethiopian and thus a heathen, had sought God in Jerusalem. But he was returning disappointed. He had, however, purchased a scroll of the prophet Isaiah and happened to be reading it when God led the evangelist Philip on to his path. He asked the foreigner, “Do you understand what you are reading?”, then preached the gospel of Jesus Christ to him. The man listened, believed the message and became a happy follower of Jesus.