The Bible doesn’t identify the ruler beyond the scant information it provides in Luke 18:18-30, Matthew 19:16-30 and Mark 10:17-31 (we certainly can’t pinpoint a particular, named person). All we know is that he is young (Mat. 19:20,22), rich, religious and a ruler (Luke 18:18).
There are a few possibilities about what it meant for the man to be a ‘ruler’, but none of them are certain (and a number of them potentially could be true at the same time):
- A member of the Sanhedrin (Luke 23:13; although his youth might make this unlikely)
- One of the leaders of a synagogue (Luke 8:41)
- A “magistrate” in the legal system (Luke 12:58)
- Some other kind of official
- Someone with authority and influence because of his family
- Or perhaps someone with authority and influence because of his wealth
What is more certain are the lessons Jesus and the Gospel writers are teaching. Among them are the following couplets:
(A) Wealth can be dangerous and can keep us out of God’s kingdom (Luke 18:24-25)! An implication from this is that anything that we highly value can become a danger or us.
(B) But God can work miracles and positively change the lives even of people who are caught up in unhelpful ways of life (Luke 18:26-27).
(A) Following Jesus is costly (Luke 18:22-23,28).
(B) But blessings are given to those who give up all and follow Jesus (Luke 18:28-30).