The Ruler and the Beggar
Read Mark 10:17-34, 48-52
There is a very striking contrast between the two men whose history the Spirit of God gives us in this chapter. The rich man and the poor man present an immense contrast, and I think if you see the point of the contrast, you will take your place with the poor man, because the rich man declined to get rid of the thing that was the hindrance to his getting eternal life.
Now I daresay you would like to have eternal life. You. say, “Oh, yes!” But how are you going to get it?—that is the question. Perhaps you will say to me, “How are you going to get it?” Thank God I have it. “How did I get it?” I took simply, in faith, what God’s love presented to me in the person of Jesus.
“The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). What God gives I took. That is how I got it, and I should like you to get it too. Do not think you must work for it. You do not deserve it, you cannot buy it, you cannot earn it, and yet you can get it. Let Jesus have His own way with you, and you will surely get it.
Get hold of this distinctly, that the Jesus who now sits crowned with glory at God’s right hand is the same Jesus of whom this gospel tells us. There is no change in the Lord. His circumstances are changed, His surroundings different, but He Himself is the same. The Jesus I know is the Jesus Bartimæus saw. I have not seen Him yet: I am going to. And you too are going to see Him, because God says, “Every eye shall see Him.” Godless reader, get hold of this—“Every eye shall see him” (Rev. 1:7).
“When?” That is another question altogether. “When will Christians see Him?” When He comes into the air for His saints (see 1 Thess. 4:15-17), and one of these days He will come. Will you meet Him then? If not, you will see Him by-and-by at the great white throne, and then it will be in the character of Judge.
But before any of us see Him we have to get our eyes opened. You say, “How do you know?” Because for many a long day I was as blind as Bartimæus, but one night the Lord opened my eyes. Oh, that He may open yours now. You would like to see Jesus and have eternal life? How are you going to get these blessings? The young ruler shows how they are not reached. Truly he is a beacon. God has told us this tale that we may say, “I will not try to get eternal life that way.” Observe how he came to the Lord; it is very interesting, and I do not know that I could find two men who were more in earnest than he and Bartimæus. The young ruler came “running”—not with stately pace, moving slowly, as though his quest was not of any importance. Note this, “Then came one running, and kneeled to him.” And he was not ashamed to get down in public on his knees before the Lord. Were you ever yet seen down on your knees looking to Christ? You say, “No; I would be ashamed.” Ah, the day of your real shame and the day of your damnation will go together by-and-by if you are not careful.
The young ruler both ran and kneeled—no man could say he was not in earnest. Observe his query, “Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” That question of doing comes twice in this chapter. The rich man says, “What shall I do?” and the Lord says to the blind beggar, “What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?” “Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?” conveys the conviction that he thought he was capable of earning it. How does the Lord answer him? First of all He says, “Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is God.” He wanted to see if he knew who He really was. “There is none good but one, that is God,” gave him his opportunity. If he had really known who Christ was, he would have acknowledged His Godhead; but he did not believe that He was God, and perhaps you do not believe it. He was mistaken, and you are mistaken. Jesus is God. If that man’s eyes had been opened to the glory of Christ’s person, he would have said, “Thou art God.”
The Lord then adds, “Thou knowest the commandments,” and He names them. The young man replied, “All these have I observed from my youth.” He had been outwardly most proper; there had not been the slightest thing that any one could put his finger upon. You, my reader, may be all right outwardly; but what are you inwardly? Are you a sinner? Well, sin is a very serious question. The will of the creature is a very serious thing, and “the wages of sin is death.” You may glibly talk about getting eternal life; you are going to get the wages of sin, death. I want you to face that. Through sin you have forfeited your life upon earth, hence you are a dying man. And you talk about eternal life. Stop—what about your sins, those many sins of thought and action? “You say, Nobody saw them.” God saw all of them. And your conscience knows they are many. You will have to get that question of sin settled.
This young man proposed to get eternal life by “doing.” Very well, says Christ, you know what you should do. He replies, “I have done all that. I have not infringed the commandments with regard to God or my neighbour.” He did not know himself. Now there are two tables of commandments. One relates to God, the other to one’s neighbour. The Lord tested him and exposed him to himself, by the latter. He could not have loved his neighbour as himself, for he was a rich man. If he had loved his neighbour as himself, he must have shared his riches. Hence Jesus said to him, “One thing thou lackest; go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.” This meant, “If you mean to get eternal life by doing, do not make a long business of it; get it done right away. If that is the ground you are on, take action at once.” Alas! he thought more of his money than of eternal life. This rich man was told to follow Christ, and he would not. The blind man was not told, and he did it. My heart always warms up to Bartimæus. The Lord says to him, “Go thy way”; and his reply is, “Lord, Thy way is my way from this day forward.” Because he had tasted the grace and love of Christ, had come under the hand of the Lord, and got his eyes opened by Him, his heart was attached to Christ, and he followed Him untold.
“One thing thou lackest” is a solemn indictment. Is that true about you? You may have respectability, religion, money, station, but if you have not Christ “one thing thou lackest.” Do not avoid this statement. If God were to cut short the pulse of life in your case, and you were to pass into eternity without Christ, what would you lack for ever? Christ, the knowledge of Christ, and the enjoyment of the love of Christ. Let me beseech you, be in earnest. If Christ says, “One thing thou lackest,” let your heart be saying, “That one thing I should like to have just now.” And what is it? Christ Himself! Be not like the young ruler. We read, “And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved.” The fact was this—Christ tested him. You will always find that the Lord took people up on the ground upon which they approached Him. If there was reality they would learn from Him, but if not they would turn away from His ministry, like this poor fellow, who valued his possessions more than eternal life. They gave him a status, a place in this world. If a man be a millionaire people will run after him. A man who is poor is neither wanted nor waited on. That is the world. The ruler, in effect, said, I should like eternal life, but I have something that gives me a position in this life. Get rid of that, says Christ. He could not. He valued his money more than eternal life. He is not the only person who has acted similarly.
Perhaps you are exactly like him. You know you are a guilty sinner before God, and the question of eternal life is unsettled, and your relationship with God unsatisfactory. But you think, If I have to give up the world I am not prepared for it yet. Do not think that I am telling you to give up the world to get Christ. I never knew a tree that had much difficulty in shedding its leaves in autumn, because the sap had ceased to flow, and the leaves very easily fall off. If you get Christ, get to know His love, get the sense that He loved you, and gave up everything for you, all becomes simple. He does not ask you to give up anything for Him. He does not bid you give up, He says, “What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?” He wants you to let Him act after the dictates of His own heart. He gives life, you receive it and then follow Him. Eternal life is the gift of God, and you get it not by works, but just as the blind man got his sight. The grace of Christ conferred sight on him, and life to you when you trust Him.
If you want to know how to be saved, you will have to learn that you cannot save yourself; but that what is impossible with men is possible with God. His mind, His attitude, is that of a giving God. So said the Lord to Samaria’s daughter, “If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith unto thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water” (John 4:10).
Now let us look at the beggar. “And they came to Jericho,” the place of the curse, and there sat blind Bartimæus, begging. A blind beggar moves one to pity. There sat this man, and as the crowd came along he heard their voices, the hum of the multitude, the clatter of their feet, and he wondered what it was all about. He asks what it meant, and is told, “Jesus of Nazareth passeth by.” This was lovely gospel for Bartimæus. Forget not also that He is passing by you today; will you have Him, will you receive Him, will you believe Him? You had better. He had passed by Jericho once before; but He never passed through it again, and as Bartimæus heard it that day, see how it moved him. The Lord sometimes puts Himself in people’s way, and if they miss Him they do not get the chance again. I could tell you of many who have had one opportunity and missed it. Do not you be like that; but be like Bartimæus who, right away, says, “Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.” He had heard of His love, His mercy, His goodness, of His raising the dead, healing the leper, and opening the eyes of the blind. All that stirred him to action. Have not you, too, heard wonderful tales about Jesus of Nazareth? Have not you heard of that worldly friend of yours getting converted. You say, “Yes; but I do not believe it.” You have one opportunity now of receiving Jesus—I would urge you to it.
As Jesus passed by, Bartimæus lifts up his voice and cries with all the energy of his soul, “Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.” I think I behold that scene—the crowd passing on, and the Lord in the midst. There is the hum of many voices, but above all the noise one clear, shrill voice is heard, “Jesus, thou son of David, have mercy on me.” What does Jesus do? He “stood still.” Blessed Lord. I believe that if just now He were gathering up the folds of His garments to leave the Father’s throne, and descend into the air, to catch His beloved people up, and heard from earth an anxious sinner’s cry, “Jesus, have mercy on me,” He would pause to let that one get to His feet and get the blessing. Mark—He is coming, and coming quickly, and then when He has come into the air, there will burst from your lips, my procrastinating friend, a piteous cry for “mercy”; but there will not be an echo to bring it back, and no record in your case that the Saviour “stood still.”
Some one carried the gospel to Bartimæus that day, and I have the privilege of telling you it just now; but you must avail yourself of the gospel and come into contact with Jesus yourself. That day the people rebuked Bartimæus, and told him to hold his peace; but he would not, he was in such earnest. Do you say that he was excited? Forget not that men in numbers go down to hell quietly, respectably, and unmoved as regards their sours need. Why is this? They are blind, but know it not. Bartimæus was blind, knew it, and desired his sight. I am not surprised that some said, “Hold your peace.” There never is a knock at heaven’s gate that the echo does not ring through hell, and out comes every demon to try and stop the knocker. But Bartimæus “cried so much more a great deal.” The man was in downright earnest, and he got what he wanted. The reason you have hitherto not got God’s blessing is that you have not been in earnest.
And now “Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be brought.” That is lovely—the blessed Lord understood what he wanted, and commanded him to be brought.
And now they say to him, “Be of good comfort.” Are you an anxious sinner? “Be of good comfort.” A minute ago it was “Hold your peace,” and now it is “Be of good comfort. Rise; he calleth thee.” Does He not also call you? Indeed He does, He calls you now. He has His eye upon you, knows the deep need of your soul, and the writhings of your conscience, and He wants you to get near Him. Imitate Bartimæus. “And he, casting away his garment, rose and came to Jesus.” Mark that word, “casting away.” I have no doubt something has hindered you up to now; but this man is very wise, he says: “I want to get to Him; my garment may hinder me: I will fling away everything.” The rich ruler, rolling in wealth, will not give up anything, and loses everything; the poor beggar gives up his little—his purse would be in his garment—that it might not hinder him, and he gets everything. He was in downright earnest.
If you were in earnest, you would get blessing likewise. You know what is the hindrance. “I should like to be saved,” says a young woman, “but I am keeping company with a young man who is not converted, and if I got converted what would he say?” This has hindered many a soul coming to Jesus. To all such I say, “Look at Bartimæus.” “And he, casting away his garment, rose and came to Jesus.” Many a young man says, “If I turned to Jesus, I should be laughed at in the shop, at the warehouse, and by those at home.” What others will say is his hindrance. Bartimæus would not be hindered; so “casting away his garment, he rose and came to Jesus.” That is the kernel of all blessing. Have you come to Him yet? Come just now. Where you are hear the sweet news, “He calleth thee.”
Now look at this scene. There stands the poor, sightless beggar, and there stands the blessed Son of God—God incarnate, God manifest in flesh. “And Jesus answered and said unto him, What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?” It is not what shall Bartimæus do, but Jesus saying, “What shall I do?” Put yourself in that scene, get into His presence, and hear Him say, “What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?” What is it you want? Bartimæus wanted his sight, and simply replies, “Lord, that I might receive my sight.” First of all he said, “Jesus, thou son of David;” but as he got near Him, and before he got his eyes open, he got a sense of the glory of His person, and said, “Lord.” Have you ever noted these words, “If thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved”? When on earth Jesus had spoken about dying and rising again the third day. It has all taken place now, and the Holy Ghost has come down to say, “if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved. For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation” (Rom. 10:9-10).
Now note the Lord’s response to the earnest, needy seeker. “And Jesus said unto him, Go thy way; thy faith hath made thee whole.” He no sooner told the blessed Lord what he needed, what he wanted, than he got it. Do you want Christ? Then do not sleep tonight till you get Him. When you see that God is made known to you in Jesus, and that He has died on the cross to bear your sins, and blot them all out, your eyes will get opened, and you will say, “I see.” So it was with the beggar. “And immediately he received his sight, and followed Jesus in the way.”Gospel puts it this way, “Receive thy sight: thy faith hath saved thee. And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God.”
His eyes were opened to see Jesus. I think that is very beautiful. The first object that poor man saw when his eyes were opened on earth was the Person of the blessed Son of God—a Man, in grace come down to meet all his need. And Jesus would act the same to you, and you may be saved now. Can you trust Him? Can you believe Him? Will He not be as good as His word? Will He not surely receive, bless, and pardon you? Most certainly. Come then, this very hour. You trust the Lord Jesus Christ and He will receive you, and give you what you want. Come to Him, trust Him, and then follow Him, as Bartimæus did.
They spake to him of old who sat
In blindness by the way,
Of Christ the Lord, who, drawing near,
Could turn his night to day;
But still he lingered, trembling there,
Till o’er that living sea
The words of welcome reached his ear,
‘Arise, He calleth thee!’
And still those words from heaven fall
On every sinner’s ear,
And still the Lord delights to bid
The trembling soul draw near;
The old, the young, the rich, the poor,
He calls from wrath to flee;
Friend, from the death-like sleep of sin,
‘Arise, He calleth thee!’”
The Gospel Messenger 1904, p. 289