Jesus and the Rich Young Man,
Illuminated manuscript page from the Codex of Predis,
Illuminations by Cristoforo de Predis (1440-1486),
Executed in 1476,
Ink, paint and gilt highlights on vellum
© Royal Library, Turin

Jesus and the Rich Young Man,
Illuminated manuscript page from the Codex of Predis,
Illuminations by Cristoforo de Predis (1440-1486),
Executed in 1476,
Ink, paint and gilt highlights on vellum
© Royal Library, Turin

Gospel of 15 August 2022

If you wish to be perfect, go and sell what you own

Matthew 19:16-22

There was a man who came to Jesus and asked, ‘Master, what good deed must I do to possess eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? There is one alone who is good. But if you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ He said, ‘Which?’ ‘These:’ Jesus replied ‘You must not kill. You must not commit adultery. You must not bring false witness. Honour your father and mother, and: you must love your neighbour as yourself.’ The young man said to him, ‘I have kept all these. What more do I need to do?’ Jesus said, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But when the young man heard these words he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.

Reflection on the illuminated manuscript page

Sometimes in our Gospel readings when people ask Jesus a question, it is with the intent to trick Jesus. They try to trip him up, instead of wanting to learn. In our reading today, the question of the young rich man is very different. His question comes from a genuinely good place. He is keen to be taught and learn what path in life he should take. He is already living a good and loving life, but deep inside he senses that he could do more. How beautiful. Jesus tells him ‘If you wish to be perfect, go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor’. All we know is that the young man went away sad. We don’t know what happened to him after. Maybe his possessions possessed him and he didn’t follow Jesus’ advise? Who knows. All of us can be held back in all kinds of ways, by all sorts of excessive attachments. None of these however should hold us back to truly respond to God’s call and fulfil the plan he has for us.

Our artwork is a detail of an Italian illuminated manuscript page from 1476. Painted by Cristoforo de Predis (1440-1486), who was born deaf and mute, we see the young man taking off his hat in reverence to Jesus. Jesus is clearly seen engaging. His left hand is gesturing ‘ok, well, there is the life you have now’, with his right hand is pointing upwards implying ‘or there is the higher path you can take, but that will require to sell everything’. Cristoforo de Predis was one of the best North Italian manuscript illustrators at the time.

The de Predis family hosted Leonardo da Vinci when he visited Milan for the commission Virgin of the Rocks. Leonardo met Cristoforo on that occasion. Leonardo later wrote about 'what can be learned from deaf and mute people' in his Treatise on Painting (Trattato della pittura).

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miguel vargas
Member
miguel vargas(@miguel)
3 months ago

This man assumes that having eternal life relies on his actions. He asks Jesus what “good thing” he must do to have or be assured of eternal life (John 6:28). This is the first use of the phrase “eternal life” in Matthew. It is the equivalent of saying, “How can I know for sure that I will be accepted into the kingdom of heaven when the time comes?”
Apparently, some in Jesus’ time believed that doing just one good action, maybe repeatedly, would be enough to guarantee eternal life. This man wants to know the identity of that thing so he can do it and rest assured that he will make it into the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus’ answer to the man’s question and the conversation that follows will show why nobody can do enough good things to guarantee themselves eternal life. Only God is good and able. The rest of us depend on His grace to save us through faith in Jesus (Ephesians 2:1–10).

Mo Hill
Member
Mo Hill(@moart)
3 months ago

What a beautiful painting, I can see the vibrant colours but wonder if they may have been brighter when first painted, I’ve just tried a “ Praying with art” study from an app called “Pray as you go” & found that I felt that Jesus fingers were lecturing me, which after reading your notes realised that was not the case, great to have your description thank you ??

Oi Lian Kon
Member
Oi Lian Kon(@kairos712)
3 months ago

The Marcan account of this encounter has an important detail. ‘Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”‘ Mark 10:21.
God is gracious. He does not hold back even when we do.

Charles Marriott
Member
Charles Marriott(@chazbo)
3 months ago

Thank God that Cristoforo was able to express himself in human terms as a wonderful artist!

Patricia O'Brien
Member
Patricia O'Brien(@marispiper)
3 months ago

Absolutely – it’s beautiful, isn’t it? A lot of love is portrayed in this image.

Charles Marriott
Member
Charles Marriott(@chazbo)
3 months ago

I suppose you could interpret Jesus’ instruction as that you should give away your excess wealth but not all your assets as otherwise you would become poor and become a liability for others to look out for. There is a grey area to be negotiated.

Jo Siedlecka
Member
Jo Siedlecka(@jo-siedlecka)
3 months ago

The story of this artist is fascinating. Thanks for telling us about it.

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