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Mark 10:17-31

17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

vs 17 Why do you think the man came running? Have you asked the question that the man asked?

This verse tells us Jesus was going out on the road - in other words, he was getting ready to leave. The young man came running before he missed him. He had an important question for Jesus. Notice this young rulerís attitude. He wanted to do what was right, he came to Jesus for the answers, and he came running - he was eager and anxious for an answer. This is a remarkable young man. Do we come eager and running to Jesus, or do we have to force ourselves into prayer time or drag ourselves to church? This man had no such problems. He was eager to learn from Jesus.

The question that he asked is, "what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life." I think this is a normal way to ask this question, and we probably have asked the same question ourselves. But right from the start we discover that he doesnít understand the things of God at all. His focus is on his own actions when he asks, "What must I do?"

Many believers are trying to live their Christian life by finding out what good things they can do. They think the more good things they do, the more God will love them. This is what the young ruler thought. He thought he was a pretty good person, but in case he had neglected doing anything, he wanted to find out what else he could do to earn Godís favor. But as Jesus indicates in the next verse, thereís nothing inside of man that he can do - heís not good enough.

18 "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good - except God alone.
19 You know the commandments: ĎDo not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.í "

vs 18-19 Why did Jesus ask his question about being called good? What commandments is Jesus quoting from? Which ones did he leave out? Why do you think he left some out?

Many commentators point out that Jesus is here trying to help the young ruler realize that He is God. This may be true, but itís not necessarily the meaning here. When dealing with different people, Jesus often skips over many matters and immediately goes to the condition of the personís heart. This is what I think he is doing. As we will see in the next few verses, this man believes that he is a good person. This is why he asks, what shall I do. He thinks whatever hard task Jesus might pick out for him he is fully capable to accomplish it in his own strength. The point Jesus is trying to make here is that no one is good enough - only God.

We sometimes fall into the same kind of thinking. We figure that if we go to church, and pay our tithes, and treat everybody with kindness, God has to send us to heaven. But we simply arenít good enough. This young man was about to learn this lesson.

Jesus is here quoting from the Ten Commandments. He actually lists 6 of them.

Do not commit adultery.
Do not murder.
Do not steal.
Do not bear false witness - donít lie.
Do not defraud.
Honor your father and your mother.

I find it interesting that Jesus only mentions the commandments about dealing with others. Perhaps he understood that the man needed to focus on these areas.

20 "Teacher," he declared, "all these I have kept since I was a boy."
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. "One thing you lack," he said. "Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

vs 20-21 What kind of man was this? What three things did Christ ask the man to do? What has God asked you to do?

Now this young man is a remarkable fellow. I believe that he was very meticulous in keeping all of the commandments in the Bible. He did his best and he genuinely believed that he had succeeded. He believed he was a good person worthy of eternal life. Apparently this young man also impressed the disciples because after Jesus had said in verse 23 how hard it was for the rich to be saved, the disciples were astonished in verse 26 and asked, "Who then can be saved?" This rich young ruler must have been an impressive individual. Yet as Charnock observes, "...he had not any full satisfaction in his own conscience; his heart misgave, and started upon some sentiments in him, that something else was required, and what he had done might be too weak...."

Jesus tells the young ruler to do three things: give up everything, come, and follow him. The man did not listen to the advice from Christ. Are we going to listen? Here is what he is saying to us.

First, give up everything that will hinder you from serving Christ. Sell it all; get rid of it. Whatever it is, we have to let it go. What is it that you are hanging onto? Pride, possessions, alcohol, drugs, immorality, parties, friends? Let go of it if it prevents you from serving Christ. Notice Peter in verse 28 says, "We have left all and followed you." If we want to serve Jesus, we must be willing to leave it all to follow him.

Second, Jesus said "come." We must come to him. There is no other way to please God - we must come to Jesus.

Third, Jesus says "follow me." Thatís what we must do: follow Jesus; walk in his ways; allow him to lead us and guide us. We must not strive to go our own way, but rather learn how to follow him. His way is the much better way. Sometimes we think our way looks pretty good, but we need to follow Jesus because his way is always better.

22 At this the manís face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

vs 22 Why do you think Jesus asked him to do this? What would be hard for you to give up?

What happened to the eagerness and self-sufficiency of this rich young ruler? It all collapses because he is not willing to obey Jesus. Notice this man did everything else that was expected of him. And yet, as far as we know, he never did accept the Lord. What was the one thing that hindered him? It was sin. You see, sin is not the long list of bad things that we are capable of doing. Sin is simply disobeying God. Having riches or possessions, by itself, is not a sin. Many biblical figures had great wealth. But with the rich young ruler, riches had become his god. Jesus asked this man to do only one thing, but he refused to obey.

Jesus could have told the young man, as he did others, that not only could he not commit adultery, but he also canít even lust after a woman in his heart. Or he could have said, as he did on another occasion, that not only should the young man not murder, but he also must not become angry with his brother. But Jesus didnít say these things to the rich ruler. He only asked one thing of him. But the young man was not willing to give up the one thing Jesus required.

What is the one thing that is hindering you from serving God? It may not be a bad thing. It may even be a good thing. Are you willing to give it up for the Lord? If not, then it is sin in your life. But if you are willing to give it up, Jesus will then give you his cross of forgiveness to take its place. You will suddenly sense his cleansing power sweeping through your whole being. There are many ugly, awful, filthy areas in our life, but Jesus cleans them all. Jesus doesnít say we will be perfect. He only says, "follow me."

23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!"
24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, "Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!
25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

vs 23-25 What do you think Jesusí words mean? Why would it be harder for a rich person to sell everything he owns? What was the rich manís real problem?

When we are in love with material possessions, it is difficult for us to keep our focus on God. When we are helpless, it is easy to look to God for help. But when we are filled with resources, ability, security, and pride, it is difficult to turn to God for help. We believe we can handle things ourselves.

Notice that the rich manís problem was not that he had great possessions. His real problem was that these riches had become his god. They were more important to him than serving Christ.

26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, "Who then can be saved?"
27 Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."

vs 26-27 Why did the disciples respond the way they did? What do you think Jesusí words in verse 27 tell us about our salvation?

Some of the disciples had been partners in a fishing business. Although they may not have been rich, they certainly understood the value of money. They understood that when we obey God, often he does bless us in many ways, sometimes even financially. This is why they asked, "Who then can be saved?" They missed Christís point about placing other things ahead of serving God. But the fact is that none of us in our own strength can choose to serve God. It is God who gives us the desire to let go of those things that hinder us from serving him. Some, however, are unwilling to let go of their idols, their gods, their passions, their possessions.

28 Peter said to him, "We have left everything to follow you!"
29 "I tell you the truth," Jesus replied, "no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel
30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields - and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life."

vs 28-30 Do these verses promise wealth or prosperity? What kind of things do we receive when we follow Christ? What have you received from God?

From verse 28 we see that the disciples had no problem leaving all to follow Christ. They were ready to make the choice that the rich young man was not willing to do. Some people like to use these verses to indicate that God will bless us with material possessions. But obviously, this whole section is dealing with how material possessions hinder our walk with God. Rather, itís better to look at these verses as telling us that God will bless us spiritually. Jesus and Paul never had a home of their own, but God provided them living quarters wherever they went. Paul was often in need of financial resources, but God provided jobs and gifts periodically to help him through. Perhaps our natural brothers and sisters live far away from us, but God has given us brothers and sisters in Christ in our local church. Even among the blessings, notice that Jesus says we may also have persecutions.

31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first."

vs 31 What does verse 31 mean to you? In the church, how should the "first" be "last"? Why do you think some Christians strive to be "first"? In what areas do you need to work on to be "last"?

Perhaps in the disciplesí minds, they considered the wealthy to be superior in many ways. This tends to be the attitude of our modern American culture. We want more and more things, newer cars, and larger homes so that people will know we have "arrived." But Christians should not adopt the attitudes of the world. We need to be willing to accept humble surroundings and meager resources. In order to be first in the eyes of God, we need to be willing to be last in the eyes of the world. God sometimes blesses Christians with material goods and finances. There is no piety in poverty. However, we must be willing to sacrifice all for Jesus. When we do this we will discover true joy and blessing.


This study on Mark 10:17-31 © 1999 by David Humpal, all rights reserved.
All scriptures unless otherwise noted are from the New International Version © 1971, Zondervan Bible Publishers

Charnock: The Existence and Attributes of God, vol. II, pg. 212 Baker Book House

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