The Gospel of Mark

Mark - Lesson 10C

Chapter 10:17-22

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  • Last week, we were able to witness, from the very lips of Jesus, the means by which one enters the Kingdom of God (eternal life).

    • This is where Jesus utilized a previous illustration of “little children”.

      • And it was there that He made a profound statement which was the Kingdom of God belonged to “such as these”, referring to children.

      • We came to understand, not only did God receive and value “little ones”, but that the requirement into the Kingdom of God (eternal life) was “child-like” faith.

      • In other words, one must place complete trust in God who has provided the means of salvation which required a complete abandonment of one’s self and this world.

    • It would be humility that became the position by which one would respond to Christ, God’s person for salvation, and not self-aggrandizement.

      • So, within tonight’s text, we will see a continued train of thought unfold regarding how one enters into the Kingdom to come.

    • As we walk through tonight’s text, I would like to offer a flow of thought regarding what we will see.

      • We will see the following:

        • 1. Jesus asks a clarifying question to a curious man (v.17-18)

        • 2. Jesus redirects the man’s attention (v.19-20)

        • 3. Jesus provides a reality check (v.21-22)

    • If I were to put a tag on tonight’s text it would simply be: “The Rich Young Ruler”.

      • With that being said, I invite you to open a copy of the scriptures and turn with me to Mark 10:17-22.

Mark 10:17 As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 
Mark 10:18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. 
Mark 10:19 You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 
Mark 10:20 And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” 
Mark 10:21 Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 
Mark 10:22 But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.
  • Let’s Pray.

  • Within our cultural economy, we tend to measure people on the following scale: sub-par, average, good, better, best.

    • And within this “economy”, we measure what greatness is based upon skill sets, accolades, business acumen, wealth, influence, and the list goes on and on.

      • For many, this means of measuring is a constantly moving “finish line”.

      • It steadily moves further out, bit by bit, as someone makes the next greatest accomplishment.

    • This sense of competition and external achievement becomes this beacon of honor.

      • However, throughout the scriptures, we see that greatness and goodness is never measured by a constantly moving standard, but it is a consistent, non-moving, eternal, and transcendental target in which we know as God’s standard of Holiness for He is Immutable.

      • And tonight, we will see that our measly attempts at being great will always fall short of the great glory of God’s standard of greatness.

      • And in the end will lead us to great disappointment.

    • Therefore, there is a choice to be made in the process and that choice is: “Which Master will you serve?

      • Will it be the idol of accomplishment and status, or will it be the Creator God – the one in whom has fashioned you and I into His very image and likeness.

    • As we set the stage tonight, I want to reread our first two verses, verses 17 and 18.

      • This is what the text reads:

Mark 10:17 As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” 
Mark 10:18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. 
  • Mark tells us that while Jesus and the disciples are making their way towards Jerusalem, that a man makes his way towards Jesus and knelt before Him to ask a question.

    • And the question which the man franticly asked was: “How does one inherit eternal life, or entrance into the coming Kingdom?”

      • At face value, from Mark’s Gospel, this question may not seem “that out of the ordinary”, for Jesus had just discussed this matter early on.

      • However, what should begin to peak the reader’s interest is: “Who is this man?”

      • So here is where having the synoptic gospels aids in our understanding of the full picture in context.

    • Where Mark’s Gospel mentions “the man” who ran up to Jesus in a “generic sense” and Matthew’s gospel mentions “the man” as “someone running up to Jesus”, Luke’s gospel provides insightful details.

      • Luke writes that the man is actually “a ruler”. (Luke 18:1)

    • The word for ruler here is that of a very influential man, someone of great wealth and status.

      • Some scholars suggest that this ruler was potentially a synagogue leader or maybe even a leader within the Sanhedrin.

      • So the fact that “this man” is coming to Jesus asking a question should peak the interest of both the reader and the disciples themselves.

    • With knowing this man’s religious status in society during this day, it becomes shocking to witness how he approaches Jesus.

      • Notice that he kneels before Jesus while seeking a response regarding a question of great weight.

    • For someone to kneel before another was a sign of great reverence and respect, and in some cases submission.

      • It would seem like this introduction is moving in the right direction. Check out the next session of verse 17 where the ruler asks Jesus a question.

      • He asks, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

    • Notice, the man begins by acknowledging Jesus as a “Good Teacher”.

      • We will address his address to Jesus being a “Good Teacher” momentarily, however before we do that we need to take a closer look at the question asked.

      • You may already notice the problem at play here.

    • The ruler’s question regarding eternal life seems to stem from a means of a work-based or performance-based inheritance of salvation.

      • He didn’t ask the question, “How can I inherit eternal life?”, but rather what shall “I do”.

      • It seems as if this question was perhaps birthed from a place of exhaustion or frustration.

      • It’s almost as if to say, “I have done all these things, but something doesn’t seem to add up – I’m missing something.” (No sense of humility)

    • One could assume that based upon the man’s influence or status that his modus operandi was set upon what he could achieve as a “golden ticket” into the Kingdom.

      • However, the reality is that this sense of striving for salvation, to be in right fellowship with God, places the emphasis on us rather than on God.

      • This is where the ruler has found himself. However, he seems to realize that something is missing from his method to receive eternal life.

    • Now the text does not specify where the man was running from – whether from the crowd Jesus had just left or from a different direction.

      • Perhaps this man was in the crowd as Jesus addressed the disciples publicly regarding how one receives the Kingdom.

      • For it was there that Jesus said one can receive the kingdom as a child, displaying child-like trust in the Father.

    • It could be that the idea of being “like a child” was either a missed understanding or he refused to accept it, and therefore it prompts the man to run and ask the question of eternal life.

      • Whatever the case, the man is desperate for an answer from someone he deems worthy to respond.

      • So, with eternal life as the headlining question, check out Jesus’ response to him. Check out verse 18.

    • Rather than Jesus directly addressing how one inherits eternal life, He begins by asking a preceding question which deals directly with the man addressing Jesus as “Good Teacher”.

      • Jesus responds by asking: “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”

    • You may recall earlier in verse 17, that the ruler addressed Jesus as “Good Teacher”.

      • To call a teacher of that day “good” was quite unusual.

      • I say that because we first must know what the word for “good” means in this context.

    • Also, keep in mind that when Jesus answers a question with a question, that He is probing the individual to arrive to a proper conclusion.

      • It’s like in grade school when a teacher is giving you a test and you ask the teacher a question, in need of assistance.

      • Although the teacher is unable to provide you with the answer, they will provide “higher order” questions to get you to think.

      • Those question may sometimes be: Do you remember when we discussed “such and such”?

      • Those probing questions are used to bring you to a place to recall previously taught information or to think deeply about something.

      • Therefore, you are able to come to your own conclusions.

    • So Jesus here is using that same strategy, if you will.

      • Now the word for “good” in this context is not kalos which means “excellence in nature or characteristics”.

      • Rather the word for “good” here is agathos, which means “intrinsically good” in the sense of moral excellence.

    • Now, if we aren’t careful here, we can get a wonky understanding of what Jesus is doing.

      • There are some liberal scholars who have looked at this verse and said, “You see, Jesus denied he was perfect, therefore he denied that He was God.”

      • Not only is this poor hermeneutics, but it is an excuse to dismantle the incarnation of Christ in its entirety.

    • Remember, Jesus answered a question with a question, meaning He is trying to see if this man truly knows who he is standing before.

      • Jesus probes the ruler and says, “No one is “good” (morally), but God alone”.

      • In other words, no human being has perfectly executed moral/ethical standards according to God’s transcendental standard of Holiness.

      • Friends, there is no one perfect, except one, for only God is perfect and Holy.

      • Paul says this in Romans 3:23:

Romans 3:23  for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
  • Friends, this becomes the hint, if you will, that Jesus has given to bait the man to recognize, on his own, that Jesus is the Messiah.

    • To put it another way, the proper response to Jesus’ question should have been, “I call you good because you are God. You are the Messiah!”

    • However, as we will see, not only does the man miss the answer, but he missed it by a long shot because something else was ruling him.

    • So in an effort to check the man’s heart, He further defines the term “good” for the ruler based upon God’s definition of “good”. Check out verses 19-20.

Mark 10:19 You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 
Mark 10:20 And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” 
  • Jesus, without hesitation, goes to the Mosaic Law in Exodus 20, in an effort to show the man why he must know for himself, who is truly “good”.

    • He mentions 6 commands in general in which one of them was not a command but was used potentially as a means to address the attainment of the man’s wealth. (Do not defraud)

      • What becomes quite interesting is that in verse 19, the commands in which Jesus is reciting are directly related to man’s relationship on a horizontal level.

      • How do I deal with people, how do I honor others created in the image of God? So these are commands in relation to human fellowship.

      • Notice that He does not provide any commands by which examine how man remains in right fellowship with God. (Vertical sense)

    • In other words, Jesus is revealing the reality of how this ruler measures his standard of “perceived goodness” based on how do people see me.

      • His external engagements with others are on par, rather than there being an internal realization that he was not right with God.

      • And I believe this was the hesitation that the man had regarding his initial question to God.

      • He was attempting to see what other “things” he needed to do in an effort to get God’s attention.

    • So by now, what we are probably seeing is a “clashing of values”, but most importantly how this man’s sense of eternal security is wrapped up in what he does for God rather than placing his trust in God. (What God has done for man)

      • Herein lies the danger of a work-based, performance-based gospel – we begin to set up in our hearts and minds our own standards of what we think God deems “good”.

    • Our sense of striving and doing becomes the greatest hinderance of one coming to know Christ, yet at the same time, this makes them the perfect candidate to hear the Gospel proclaimed.

      • And what becomes a sad reality within Christendom is that even as believers in Christ, we have this tendency to operate in this performance-based manner.

      • “If I do this for the church or the ministry, God will be more pleased with me and I will find favor with him.”

      • “If I give this amount of money for a good cause, this will give me right standing with God and my guilty conscience will be wiped away.”

    • When we begin to understand that the grace of God shown in the Gospel, found in the person of Christ, has done all that needs to be done regarding being made right with God, it takes the striving off of us.

      • Paul makes this abundantly clear in 2 Corinthians 5:21:

2 Corinthians 5:21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
    • Our efforts in trying to “be good” or achieve for the sake of entering the Kingdom is a tiring and meaningless attempt.

      • The only way by which one can receive eternal life is by having our eyes open to place faith in Jesus Christ. (Divine illumination)

    • What becomes a sobering reality is that the rich young ruler recognizes that even with all his striving, he still has no sense of peace.

      • And now, his search for this transcendental truth leaves him at Jesus’ feet still trying to “dot his i’s and cross his t’s”.

      • Check out what happens in verse 20: And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.”

    • The ruler completely misses Jesus for who He is and attempts to lean on his own abilities, influence, and wealth.

      • Notice that there is now a change in the way in which the ruler addresses Jesus.

      • It moves from “Good Teacher” in verse 17 to simply “Teacher” in verse 20.

      • Why the sudden change in address?

      • In few words, the man misses Jesus’ question and His Person because he sees himself and his accomplishments as sufficient to inherit eternal life.

    • At best, the man’s understanding of being in right fellowship with God was not relational but rather transactional.

      • His belief was that he has kept the law perfectly since he became a young boy at the age of 12 (bar mitzvah).

      • And the reality is this Pharisaical approach to the Law is why God mentions within the scriptures time and time again that there must be a circumcision of the heart.

      • The ruler’s response of “keeping the law” was dripping with pride.

    • Friends, the reality is, the way to receive eternal life cannot be accomplished by means of external striving, but rather by internal dying.

      • In other words, we must be brought to the end of ourselves by God’s truth only to respond in humility, “like a child with child-like faith”.

    • There are many religions around the world that find themselves in this same position – trying to ascend to a place of Holiness by doing.

      • We see this within Catholics, Hindus, Muslims, Mormons etc.

      • They all strive to be closer to God by doing for God in the sense of moral actions, when the reality is only God is good.

    • What I find most beautiful within our text tonight is how Jesus responds to the rich young ruler. Check out verses 21-22.

Mark 10:21 Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” 
Mark 10:22 But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.
  • It is here where we see the heart of our Savior and the amazing grace of God in light of our present reality.

    • Mark mentions that as Jesus was looking at the man that He felt a “love” for him.

      • The “looking” that Jesus was doing here was not a mere glance or a justified rolling of the eyes.

      • No, the text tells us that Jesus was intently observing the man’s internal condition – for this was where his love for him grew.

    • The word for love here in Greek is agapao which refers to a genuine love based not on action but need.

      • In other words, this was the kind of man that Jesus deemed qualified to receive the message of the Gospel.

      • This was the kind of person in whom He has come to save.

    • There is a saying we used to say in the Baptist Church that said: “I’m so glad that the Lord looked beyond my faults and saw my needs.”

      • Indeed, this man needed to know that Jesus was all that he needed.

      • That to truly trust in Messiah was how eternal life would be inherited.

    • So Jesus, in response to what this man was seeking, tells him two commands:

      • 1. He tells the man to sell all of his assets and possessions and give it to the poor.

      • 2. Follow Christ.

    • Let’s look at the first command that Jesus gives him because without doing the first command there can be no moving towards the second command.

      • The rich young ruler is told to give all that He owns for the sake of following Jesus.

      • However, in verse 22, Mark states that after hearing this command from the Lord – after hearing the cost to follow Christ – the ruler weighed his cost and Christ.

    • And here is the dilemma that we find as it pertains to people’s response to the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

      • The pursuit of things over the pursuit of God is a costly thing – as a matter-of-fact eternity hangs in the balance.

      • When we find our temporal comforts more comforting than the provision of an eternal savior, we have misappropriated true priorities.

    • Sometimes our hold onto things and where we place our identity can cause us to miss the very hope that is before us – and this was the case for the rich young ruler.

      • We have folks more concerned about their 401Ks and real estate investments than they are concerned about what comes after death.

      • We have folks more concerned about their influence and following than they care about their rightful standing before a Holy God.

    • Misplaced priorities over a period of time, leads to high costs in the end.

      • And in this case the consequence of the ruler was that he left saddened and grieved, but ultimately missed the Kingdom.

      • And check out why? All because he owned much property.

    • Again, the Lord told him, “Sell all your possessions and give it to the poor and I tell you, will have treasure in heaven!”

      • If I were to put it a different way, “Relinquish all that you have put your trust in, in this life, and place your trust in me and you will be rewarded.”

      • Friends, Jesus wasn’t just telling the man that this was the way to eternal life, but He’s letting him know, your balance in the kingdom will be beyond what you have here.

      • Matthew 6:19-21 Jesus tells us this:

Matthew 6:19  “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. 
Matthew 6:20  But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; 
Matthew 6:21   for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
  • Verse 21 of Matthew 6 is where it all comes to a head! Where you place your treasure, your greatest value, your significance, your identity, is where your heart lies.

    • The very answer that he sought to know from Jesus was the very answer that his heart refused to accept and in that he grew deeply saddened.

    • The word for “saddened" here is stygnazo which means to become dark or depressed and this happened all because Jesus’ response was not what he wanted to hear.

      • Apparently, he wanted to have his cake and eat it too.

      • And isn’t this quite indicative of every generation who attempts to replace God for their own idols?

    • “Give me eternal life while I also enjoy the fruits of my own labors” – this is not how God works.

      • When we fail to recognize the Creator/creature distinction, it causes one to misplace what truth is and therefore we miss it, altogether.

      • Matthew 6:24 tells us this:

Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.
  • The young ruler is grieved because he is unwilling to give up on everything he has worked for only to receive everything he doesn’t deserve – eternal life.

    • Friends, eternal life is the cost that is relinquished simply for the sake of an illusion that what we hold on to in this life is somehow worth something.

    • The only thing worth holding on to is the word of God that is unchangeable!

    • I want to lastly hit on something that we can tend to miss in this passage if we move too quickly, and that is Jesus speaking, once again, about eternal rewards.

      • In verse 21b, Jesus tells the ruler if he surrenders all his possessions and gives it to the poor, that he would have treasure in heaven.

      • In other words, much loss for Christ right now renders much gain in the Kingdom.

    • When Christ is your all and all, you will be forever wrapped up in all that He is.

      • Therefore, we serve the Lord because of the grace that He has provided us, and in that service, we serve with all that we have – withholding nothing.

      • Why? Because if Christ is our greatest treasure, we have all that we will ever need in Him.

      • And it is through coming to the end of myself and you to the end of yourself that Christ shines forth in marvelous light.

    • Jesus’ encounter with this man, for me as a Pastor, brings such great hope to my heart in being diligent with proclaiming the Gospel to all.

      • Whether poor or orphan, whether rich or isolated, all people need to hear the Gospel.

      • For one to encounter the Gospel message leaves them faced with uncompromising truth that will either steer them to great joy or great sorrow in the end.

    • I leave us with this song that we used to sing in the church I grew up in. The song written by Rhea F. Miller went like this:

I’d rather have Jesus than silver or gold
I’d rather be His than have riches untold
I’d rather have Jesus than houses or lands
I’d rather be led by His nail pierced hand
I’d rather have Jesus than men’s applause
I’d rather be faithful to His dear cause
I’d rather have Jesus than worldwide fame
I’d rather be true to His Holy name.
  • The question that falls before those who are non-believers is: “How much longer do you intend to strive in your own strength?”

    • For there is rest, peace, provision, shelter, hope, joy, but most importantly, eternal life in the Person of Jesus Christ.

    • You can place your faith in Him today. He has revealed His truth to you by His Spirit through the scriptures.

    • You can believe upon the Lord Jesus Christ, today.

    • Let’s Pray.



  • Fruchtenbaum, A.G. (2016) “M. Instruction on Eternal Life,” in Yeshua, the life of messiah from a messianic Jewish perspective. San Antonio, TX, TX: Ariel Ministries, pp. 189–190.

  • On the significance of the title “Good Teacher, ” see: Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, Book 4, p.708.

  • Meier, A Marginal Jew, 3:586-587, n.84.

  • Carl B. Bridges Jr., “Good, Goodness,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology, electronic ed., Baker Reference Library (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996), 305.