We’ve been looking at Mark 10 for several days. There we read:
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.
So far we have noticed —
I. A Young Man’s Urgent Question (v. 17)
Running up to Jesus, falling before Him to ask this question, this man’s sincerity is unquestionable. He wants, he needs an answer to his question “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” We then discussed —
II. Jesus’ Surprising Answer (v. 18)
Jesus does not answer this man’s question directly, but first challenges his greeting. To the man’s salutation, “Good teacher,” Jesus responds, ““Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.” We suggested that Jesus is indicating His own deity by this statement. Let’s now examine —
III. Jesus’ Shocking Challenge (vv. 19-20)
To this young ruler’s question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”, Jesus not only challenges his view of goodness, but He then selectively lists some of the Ten Commandments. Jesus says, “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.’”
The Decalogue, the Ten Commandments, are first given to Moses in Exodus 20. There we read:
And God spoke all these words:
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
7 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.
13 “You shall not murder.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.
15 “You shall not steal.
16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
Jesus chooses five of the ten commandments for this young man. He selects commandments #6-9 and then commandment #5. These commandments relate to how we treat our fellowman. Anyone wanting to be “good” had better not murder, commit adultery against, steal from, or give false witness about another human being. That person wanting to be “good” must honor his father and his mother.
Why did the Lord Jesus choose these commandments? The first four pertain to one’s relationship to God: 1. Have no other gods before me. 2. Don’t make any graven images of Me. 3. Don’t take My name in vain. 4. Remember the Sabbath to keep it holy.
It appears that Jesus chooses these five commandments because they are readily testable. What is fascinating is that Jesus does not list the tenth commandment which is “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
This young ruler’s response to Jesus’ selective list of some of the Ten Commandments is: “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” (verse 20). If we give this man the benefit of the doubt, we could conclude that no, he had never murdered anyone. He had never committed adultery with anyone. He had led an honorable life, not taking what was not his. He had been honest in his dealings with others, neither giving false witness nor defrauding others. And he perhaps had an exemplary track record of honoring his parents.
It is fascinating that Jesus does not correct him when he says, “All these I have kept since I was a boy.” Based on Jesus’ expansion of the Law, Jesus could have said to him, “If you have ever hated someone in your heart, you are guilty of murder. If you have ever lusted after a woman, you are guilty of adultery. If you have even once taken the credit due to someone else, you have acted as a thief. And your parents — if we were to interview them — would they say that you have honored them twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, since you were a child? I don’t think so!”
Jesus does not challenge this man’s claim. But what Jesus does do is amazing, and that we will look at in our next installment. (to be continued)