World English Bible translation
10:17As he was going out into the way, one ran to him, kneeled to him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?"
10:18Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good except one - God. 10:19 You know the commandments: 'Do not murder,' 'Do not commit adultery,' 'Do not steal,' 'Do not give false testimony,' 'Do not defraud,' 'Honor your father and mother.'"
10:20He said to him, "Teacher, I have observed all these things from my youth."
10:21Jesus looking at him loved him, and said to him, "One thing you lack. Go, sell whatever you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me, taking up the cross."
10:22But his face fell at that saying, and he went away sorrowful, for he was one who had great possessions.
Today's passage has become commonly known as the story of the Rich Young Man. It begins a small section in the Gospel that deals with the matter of worldly wealth and the Kingdom of God. Although this section does not seem to relate directly to what goes before or after, there are definite reasons why this section "fits" in its place. Throughout this gospel, Mark demonstrates the escalating tensions between Jesus and the religious authorities of the nation. Many of these men were of the wealthy ruling classes of Jerusalem. Even the Pharisees, who had started out as a more middle class movement, became known as a wealthy elite.
In this passage a wealthy young man approaches Jesus as He was traveling. He respectfully asks Jesus, "Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" Whatever else might be said about this young man, as the very least he asked the right question. The goal of life should be the attainment of eternal life. It is a worthy question asked in a worthy manner.
Jesus responds to the man by first questioning why the man would call Him good. "No one is good except one - God." It might be easy, and tempting, to say that in this statement Jesus was really saying that the man should not call Him good unless he was willing to call Jesus God. However, it is more likely that Jesus was giving praise to the Father. He does not deny His unity with the Father; He is merely directing glory and homage to God. And then He directs the young man to the Law of the Mosaic Covenant. The Commandments that are given here are sometimes called the Second Tablet because the Ten Commandments were given to Moses on two stone tablets. They deal primarily with the relationship of man to man. However, it is basic Jewish and Christian belief that how we treat our fellow man is based on our obedience to our relationship with God.
The young man's response to Jesus demonstrates his naiveté. Yet, his response would not have been unusual in his day. Many Rabbis taught that a man could live completely obedient to the Law. Jesus does not rebuke him because even though the young man might be wrong, he was at the very least sincere. He honestly thought that he had observed all these things from his youth. But, even though Jesus looked on the young man with compassion and love, it did not prevent Him from being frank with the young man about his faults. Jesus told the young man to sell everything that he owned and give it to the poor. Then he was to return and follow Jesus, taking up the cross.
The young man was devastated by the response of Jesus. Jesus demanded the one price that he was unwilling to pay - everything. Jesus immediately saw the one thing that was getting in the way of this young man's relationship with God and immediately confronted him with it. Jesus does the same thing in our lives. If we are willing to listen, Jesus will immediately point us in the direction of the sin that tries to separate us from God. Jesus does not equivocate, and neither does God.
Will you come to God and ask the most important question, "Lord, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" And, having asked, are you able to accept the answer that you will be given?
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