I’ve been studying Mark 10 recently which says:
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.
There is so much in this passage of Scripture. Let’s notice what happens here.
I. A Young Man’s Urgent Question (v. 17)
If you had the opportunity to literally and personally ask Jesus a question, what would that question be? Some might ask Him, “Why am I going through this trial? Why me? Why now?” Others might ask, “How can I achieve maximum happiness in this life right now?” Others might not ask a question at all, but point an accusing finger at Jesus and declare, “”How can you possibly allow such evil in Your world?”
This young man’s question (we are told that he is a young ruler in the parallel accounts, Mt. 19 and Lk. 18) was urgent! He “ran up to [Jesus] and fell on his knees before him . . .” He obviously thought his question extremely important. He cast aside all customs of dignity for Eastern royalty to ask his question of Jesus. Eastern rulers did not normally run — for anything. His falling on his knees indicated respect and honor as he prostrated himself before Rabbi Jesus.
The very way we sometimes word questions says much about our assumptions — and ourselves. This man’s question was: “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He obviously thought Jesus could teach him what he needed to know, and that His answer would be good. His question was about the next life — and how he could prepare himself for it.
But what a great question! The parallel account in Matthew 19 has him asking, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” (v. 16). This man was really into goodness, wasn’t he?
There is, of course, a difference between asking how might I inherit eternal life and what good thing must I do to get eternal life. I believe that there are ultimately no real contradictions between the gospels, so it may be that Mark picks up on the inheriting part of his question while Matthew focuses on the doing part of his query.
Before we read further in our passage, how might you or I respond to both parts of that question, if we were Jesus? To the inheriting part, we might say, “Well, someone has to die for you to inherit anything — and that’s why I came — to die for sinners.” That answer, of course, would be true, but it isn’t how Jesus responds. To the doing part of his question, we might say, “There is nothing that you can do to get eternal life! You can’t earn it. You can’t buy it! It is given as a gift!” And that would be a true, biblical answer as well.
How Jesus really answers this man’s question will be discussed in our next installment. (to be continued)