Jesus’ evangelizing a rich young ruler is recorded by each of the writers of the Synoptic Gospels (Matt. 19:16-26; Mk. 10:17-27; Luke 18:18-27). Mark’s account reveals a vital facet of Jesus’ evangelism that teaches us key truths about our evangelism:
Mar 10:17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.
19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.
20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.
21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto 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.
22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
This accounts relates how a rich young ruler knelt before Jesus and asked him a question that showed that he had a wrong focus on trying to earn his salvation (“what shall I do”; 10:17). Jesus responded with initial teaching (10:18-19) designed to challenge the young man, to which he responded, “Master, all these have I observed from my youth” (10:20).
Jesus then challenged him in a way that brought him to a decisive point where he would have to repent of his sinfulness (10:21). The young man was saddened by Jesus’ statement that confronted him with his need, and he departed in grief (10:22).
Mark is the only Gospel writer to record a particular aspect of how Jesus responded to this young man’s wrong first response to His evangelizing him: “Then Jesus beholding him, loved him” (10:21a). Amazingly, Jesus responded to this lost young man’s sinfulness by loving him!
The significance of this remarkable response is heightened because the record ends with the young man departing still unsaved. Even though he had been lovingly evangelized by the only perfect Evangelist, this young man failed to repent.
Scripture provides us with no further information about this man, so we have no way to know whether this man was ever saved. We are left with an account that reveals to us that perfect evangelism that included the expression of perfect love from a perfect evangelist still did not result in the salvation of the lost person being evangelized.
Based on this analysis, we learn several important points that should inform our evangelistic endeavors:
1. To be like Jesus in evangelism, we must love the people that we evangelize even though they may respond wrongly to our witnessing to them.
2. Such love must direct us to continue our witness to them in a way that confronts them decisively with their need to repent
3. Even when we faithfully and lovingly evangelize people as best as we can, there is no guarantee that they will respond correctly.
4. Rejection of our efforts to evangelize people lovingly as Jesus did should not be automatically interpreted as failure on our part