Luke refers to a man who came to Jesus, asking how he might inherit eternal life (Luke 18:18). Only Luke mentions that he was a ruler (G758), while Matthew says he was a young man (Matthew 21:20, 22). All three Synoptics tell us he was very rich (Matthew 19:22; Mark 10:22; Luke 18:23), but Mark adds that Jesus loved him (Mark 10:21). So, he is a rich, young ruler, whom Jesus loved.
The Bible mentions several people who were rulers (G758). Jairus, whose daughter Jesus raised from the dead, was a ruler (G758) of a synagogue in Galilee (Luke 8:41), but Nicodemus was also called a ruler of the Jews (John 3:1), probably meaning a member of the Sanhedrin (cf. John 7:50). Nicodemus was one who helped bury Jesus. The other person was Joseph of Arimathaea (John 19:38-40). Joseph was a rich man (Matthew 27:57) and a member of the Sanhedrin, i.e. a ruler of the Jews. Both Mark and Luke tell us that Joseph was a member of the Council, the high court that ruled over Jewish matters (Mark 15:43; Luke 23:50). Luke adds that he did not consent with the Council that condemned Jesus to die, showing that he was, indeed, a member of the Sanhedrin.
Joseph of Arimathaea was a rich ruler of the Jews, but do we have any proof that he might be the rich young ruler who came to Jesus in Luke 18:18, and the person Mark tells us Jesus loved (Mark 10:21)? None of these matters can be set in stone, but, if all the pertinent Scriptures are taken together, we are able to come up with possibilities, even probabilities. The fact that Joseph is a rich ruler makes it ‘possible’ for him to be the same rich ruler who came to Jesus in Luke 18:18. In other words he is a candidate, just as Lazarus is a candidate, and that could make them the same person. What might turn these possibilities into a probabilities?
In a previous study I had shown that Barnabas of the book of Acts was actually Joseph, whom the Apostles named Barnabas, because of his generosity and encouragement (cf. Acts 4:36). Barnabas / Joseph is also the brother of Mary, the mother of Mark (Colossians 4:10; cf. Acts 12:12), but who is this Mary? Luke refers to her in Acts as though we should know her. Peter immediately went to her home in Jerusalem, knowing he would find brethren there upon whom he could rely to tell James, the Lord’s brother, of his whereabouts (cf. Acts 12:12, 16-17). Again, if we use only the scriptures for her identification, this Mary can be no one other than Mary Magdalene, who is also Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus. If this is true, the Lazarus of the Gospel of John is the Joseph or Barnabas of Acts! Mary Magdalene = Mary, Lazarus’ sister = Mary, Barnabas’ sister. Since Barnabas’ real name is Joseph (Acts 4:36), the name, Lazarus, must be a code name used in the Gospel of John to hide Joseph’s / Barnabas’ identity from those who sought his life (cf. John 12:10-11).
We know that Joseph / Barnabas was rich (Acts 4:36). We also know that he had to have been a man of influence, because of those who mourned his death (i.e. Lazarus’s death – John 11:19). Note that the phrase “many of the Jews” who came to comfort the family were actually ‘many of the Jewish authorities’ at Jerusalem, which implies Lazarus / Barnabas (Joseph) may have been a member of the Sanhedrin. This logic creates the possibility that Barnabas / Joseph (Acts 4:36) is actually the ruler, Joseph of Arimathaea, and in making this connection, we create the possibility that Barnabas was also the rich young ruler of Luke 18:18, whom Jesus loved (Mark 10:21).
Luke 18:27 implies that the rich young ruler not only ‘could’ be saved, but ‘would’ be saved, because why would Jesus even mention this in connection with this man, unless he intended to do something about the incident? It is one thing to say all things are possible with God, and it is quite another to show that the thing pointed out, which was so difficult (Luke 18:24), was, indeed, possible with God. The fact that Mark points out that Jesus loved the rich young ruler indicates that Jesus intended to love this man into the Kingdom of God, showing how God both begins and brings to pass his work of salvation in one individual (cf. Philippians 1:6).
Whatever Jesus did in Lazarus’ life, other than raise him from the dead, it was well known that he loved him (John 11:5, 36). Moreover, Lazarus is the only male disciple in the Gospel of John who can be specifically singled out as the disciple whom Jesus loved (John 11:5; 13:23; 19:26; 20:2; 21:7, 20). So, it is implied by loving Lazarus, Jesus was working in his life. In light of this conclusion, how can we simply read the fact that the rich young ruler was loved by Jesus, but at the same time discount any implication that this indicates Jesus worked in his life too? One doesn’t simply love a person and have nothing to do with him. That’s not love. Yet, Lazarus is the only male disciple specifically identified by saying Jesus loved him.
Consider, the fact that the rich young ruler had problems with following Jesus, because of his love for wealth (Luke 18:22-24). Joseph of Arimathaea had problems with following Jesus, because of his position among the rulers of the Jews (John 19:38), so he visited Jesus secretly. If these men are the same man and can be identified as Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead, what change could we expect in Lazarus’ love for Jesus? All of a sudden Joseph goes public and identifies himself with Jesus (Mark 15:43), asking Pilate for Jesus’ body. In Acts we find Barnabas giving away his wealth, the very thing that hindered the rich young ruler in the Synoptic Gospels. Jesus loved Lazarus, put his own life in jeopardy for Lazarus, and the love of Jesus mastered Lazarus’ problem of wealth and honorable position among the Jews, and he came to full repentance to become the one we know as Barnabas in Luke’s book of Acts.
 John 7:50 – “Nicodemus saith unto them, (he that came to Jesus by night, being one of them,).” The phrase being one of them should not be part of the parenthesis. Nicodemus was one of THEM, i.e. one of the rulers (cf. John 7:48), as also Moffatt, Weymouth, the New English Translation and the Contemporary English Version also testify.