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Mark 10:17-22 1
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?” 18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good-except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.'” 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.” 22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Background

This young man, showed great enthusiasm towards Jesus. He asked what he should do now, that he might be happy forever. The man asks what he must do to inherit eternal life. As a rich man, he understands inheritances. The law spells out inheritances. The firstborn son is to inherit two shares of the property, and each of the other sons is to inherit one share (Deuteronomy 21:17). In other words, the firstborn son is to get twice as much as any of his brothers. If there are no sons, daughters are allowed to receive the inheritance (Numbers 27:8-11). However, in most cases, a daughter would receive only a dowry—a bridal present from her father.

This rich young man surely knows those laws like the back of his hand. Now he wants to know the law regarding eternal life—what he must do to inherit eternal life. What are the requirements? What must he do? Most people do ask for good things to be had in this world during their lifetime. This man obviously recognized that the real prize was happiness for eternity.  Just like in Psalm 4:6, Many, LORD, are asking, “Who will bring us prosperity?” Let the light of your face shine on us., the man starts off asking about good to be done in this world, in order to enjoy the greatest good in the other world.

Christ encouraged this question by first showing him love, then by directing his behavior. But here comes the good news, bad news and the sorrowful parting between Jesus and this young man. The man asks Christ what he must do more than he has already done, to obtain eternal life? The man has obeyed God’s Laws. Shouldn’t that have been enough? Christ responds are you willing to bear a cross now, in expectation of future crown? The young man was sorry he could not become a follower of Christ. The terms were too hard. His worldly possessions were great and had a deep hold on him. He wanted easier terms that would assure eternal life, and keep hold of his worldly possessions too. He went away disappointed.

We see this same kind of logic in Matthew 6:24. “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” In our verses, Jesus looked at him and loved him. This tells us two things:

  • First, the man didn’t come to Jesus, as so many powerful men did, trying to find out if Jesus was real. The young man asked a question for the purpose of learning from Jesus, and anticipated doing what Jesus told him to do.
  • Second, Jesus saw that the man’s heart was pure and felt a genuine affection for him. Whether He knew in advance how the man would respond is something that we do not know. What we can deduce is that Jesus was giving the man a genuine opportunity to choose the road that leads to eternal life.

Why then should Jesus demand such a large sacrifice from this man? There are at least two possibilities:

  • As this story reveals, this man’s wealth is very important to him—more important even than eternal life.  The security afforded by material possessions tempts us to trust in possessions rather than in God.
  • This story follows immediately after the story of the children in which Jesus said, “Most certainly I tell you, whoever will not receive the Kingdom of God like a little child, he will in no way enter into it” (10:15). The rich man is quite unlike those children. They were poor, but he is rich. They were dependent, but he is not. They had no status or power, but he has both. They had no security apart from those who cared for them, but the rich man is quite secure in his own right. Perhaps Jesus is simply requiring the rich man to become like a child before God—to strip himself of those things that provide him security so that he might find his security in God.

It is possible, then, that Jesus tailored the requirement to sell everything especially for this man—to meet his particular spiritual needs. We should expect, however, that Jesus will ask something equally difficult and tailored for us.

Items for Discussion

  • This of course is stewardship month and this message goes to the heart of giving. How would you determine if, like this man, your worldly possessions were a barrier to entering eternal life with God?
  • What clues might there be to help you answer the question above?

In just several more verses Jesus will say “It is easier for a camel  to go through a needle’s eye than for a rich man to enter into the Kingdom of God” (v. 25). The disciples then ask the obvious question, “Then who can be saved?” (v. 26). If this decent, God-fearing, law-abiding man, whom God has blessed with riches, cannot be saved, who can?

  • The question to you is if you believe wealth is a barrier to eternal life?

Listen carefully to Jesus’ answer to His disciples question: “With men it is impossible, but not with God, for all things are possible with God” (v. 27). Apart from grace, this decent, God-fearing, law-abiding man has no hope.

  • So what are the barriers to accepting God’s grace?

Hint: Grace is God sending His only Son to die on the cross so that we guilty ones might be reconciled to God and received into heaven. 

Discussion Challenge

  • How does the body of the Church learn about God’s gift of grace and then accept it?

 

Notes:

  1. NIV New International Version Translations
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