Mark 10:17-31 NASB
¹⁷As 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?”
¹⁸And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.
¹⁹You 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.'”
²⁰And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.”
²¹Looking 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.”
²²But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.
²³And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!”
²⁴The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!
²⁵It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
²⁶They were even more astonished and said to Him, “Then who can be saved?”
²⁷Looking at them, Jesus said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”
²⁸Peter began to say to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You.”
²⁹Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, ³⁰but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life.
³¹But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.”
Some further information
In these verses we read of a meeting between the Christ and a young man; as he is said to be (Matthew 19:20, 22 ), and a ruler (Luke 18:18 ), a person of quality.
We read here about some circumstances, which were not mentioned in Matthew, and which makes his address to the Christ at first very promising.
● He came running towards the Christ, which was an indication of his humility; he laid aside the gravity and grandeur of a ruler, when he came to Christ: thus he manifested his earnestness.
He ran as one in haste, and longing to be in conversation with the Christ.
He now had a chance of consulting this great Prophet, in the things he wanted to know for his peace of mind, and he would not let slip the opportunity.
● He came to Him when he was in the way, in the midst of company.
He did not insist upon a private conference with him by night, as Nicodemus did, though like him he was a ruler, but he embraced the opportunity of talking to Him, and not be ashamed.
● He kneeled to Him, in token of the great value and veneration he had for Him, as a teacher come from God, and his earnest desire was to be taught by Him.
He bowed the knee to the Lord Jesus, as one that would be obedient to Him; he bowed the knee, as one that meant to bow the soul to Him.
● His address to him was serious; “Good Master, what shall I do, that I may inherit eternal life?”
Eternal life was an article of his creed, though is was then denied by the Sadducees, a prevailing party: He asks Jesus, What he should do that he may be happy for ever.
Where most people ask to receive a good life now on earth (think of the “churches” where they preach the “prosperity gospel”), he was asking what good deeds he should do during his life on this world, so he may obtain the enjoyment of the greatest good in the other world;
Not, Who will make us to see good? But, “Who will make us to do good?’’
He enquires for happiness in the way of duty; the summum bonum — chief good which Solomon was in quest of, was that good for the sons of men (Ecclesiastes 2:3).
▪︎ Now this was a very serious question in itself; it was about eternal things, and his own concern in those things.
Note that it could be the beginning of a conversion, when people start to ask what they must do to go to heaven, or to be saved. “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30)
Pity enough not all push through when they have received an answer.
▪︎ The question came to the right person, one that was every way fit to answer it, being himself the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the true way to life, to eternal life; Who came from heaven on purpose, first to lay open for us, and then to lay open to us; first to make, and then to make known, the way to heaven.
Note that to be saved, there is only one way. We all need the Christ and ask the Father for forgiveness in His name, and ask Jesus to lead us on the way to His Kingdom.
▪︎ The question came with a good design — to be instructed.
We find this same question put by a lawyer,
• not kneeling, but standing up (Luke 10:25),
• with a bad design, to pick quarrels with Him;
he tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do?
It is not so much using the right words as having the right intention of them that Christ looks at.
● The Christ encouraged him
▪︎ The Christ encouraged his address by assisting his faith (Mark 10:18).
He called him good Master; Jesus did not want the young ruler to see Him as a good person, but the Christ would have him mean with these words that he looked upon him to be God, since there is none good but one, that is God, who is one (Zechariah 14:9) .
Our English word God has doubtless some affinity with the word good; as the Hebrews name God by his power, Elohim, the strong God; so we by his goodness, the good God.
▪︎ The Christ encouraged his address by directing his practice (Mark 10:19).
Keep the commandments; and you know what they are.
• He mentions the six commandments of the second table, which prescribe our duty to our neighbour; He inverts the order, putting the seventh commandment before the sixth, to intimate that adultery is no lesser sin than murder.
• The fifth commandment is here put last, as that which should especially be remembered and observed, to keep us to all the rest.
• Instead of the tenth commandment, Thou shalt not covet, our Saviour here puts, do not defraud.
Me aposteres —that is, said Dr. Hammond, “You shalt not rest contented with your own, and not seek to increase it, by the diminution of other men’s.’’
It is a rule of justice not to advance or enrich ourselves by doing wrong or injury to any other.
● The young man replied to this (Mark 10:20), Master, all these have I observed from my youth. He thought he had, and his neighbours thought so too.
Note that ignorance of the extent, and spiritual nature, of the divine law, makes people think of themselves, to be in a better condition than they really are.
Paul was alive without the law. But when he saw that to be spiritual, he saw himself to be carnal (Romans 7:9, 14).
However, although he could say that he was free from scandalous sin, and so went further on the way to eternal life, than many of us, we need to consider that even if we honestly know nothing negative to say about ourselves, it will not justify us (1 Corinthians 4:4).
● The Christ had kindness for him; Jesus, beholding him, loved him (Mark 10:21).
He was pleased to find that he had lived inoffensively, and pleased to see that he was inquisitive how to live better than so.
The Christ particularly loves to see young people, and rich people, asking for the way to heaven.
Now we come to verses where the story get a sorrowful change.
● The Christ gave him a command of trial, by which it would appear whether he did in sincerity aim at eternal life, and press towards it. He seemed to have his heart fully focused on it, but did he really have his heart upon it?
▪︎ Can he find in his heart to part with his riches for the service of Christ?
He hath a good estate, and soon, shortly, after the first founding of the Christian church, people who had lands, would sell them, and lay the money at the apostles’ feet, so nobody would be poor among them. If he came to that, how would he react then? (Acts. 4:34, 35).
After awhile, tribulation and persecution will arise, because of the word; and he may be forced to sell his estate because of that, or maybe it could be taken from him, how would he cope with that?
Let him know the worst now; if he will not come up to these terms, let him quit his pretensions; as good as the first as at last. “Sell whatever you have”, or “Sell whatever you have, that is more than is necessary for your support;”
possibly he had no family to provide for; let him therefore be a father to the poor, and make them his heirs.
Every man, according to his ability, must relieve the poor, and be content, when there is an occasion to do it.
Worldly wealth is given us, not only as maintenance to bear our charges through this world, according to our place in it, but as talent, to be used and employed for the glory of our Lord, who hath so ordered it, that the poor we should have always with us as his receivers.
While I’m writing this, I realize that probably again people will leave, and stop reading my messages, especially those who are connected to the “prosperity gospel” churches, as this will come down hard on them. Because this is almost the opposite of what they are used to hear almost every Sunday.
Jesus here clearly says not to enrich yourself, but to help the poor, with the blessings you have received.
Back to the young ruler.
▪︎ Can he find it in his heart to go through the hardest costliest services he may be called to as a disciple of the Christ, and can he depend upon Him for a recompence in heaven?
He asks the Christ what he should do more than he has done already to obtain eternal life, and Jesus gives him an honest reply, by which it becomes clear whether he has indeed that firm belief of, and that high value for, the eternal life that he seems to have.
▪︎ Does he really believe that there is a true treasure in heaven sufficient to make up all he can leave, or lose, or lay out, for the Christ?
▪︎ Is he willing to deal with the Christ, based on trust trust?
▪︎ Can he give Him credit for all He is worth; and be willing to bear a present cross, in expectation of a future crown?
● Upon this he went away (Mark 10:22);
▪︎ He was sad at that saying;
▪︎ He was sorry that he could not be a follower of the Christ upon any easier terms than leaving all to follow him;
▪︎ He was sorry that he could not lay hold on eternal life on cheaper conditions;
▪︎ He was sorry that he could not keep, and hold of his temporal earthly possessions too.
But since he could not come up to the terms of discipleship, he was so fair as not to pretend to it; He went away grieved.
Here appears the truth
Ye cannot serve God and mammon (Matthew 6:24).
While he held on to the mammon, he in fact did despise the Christ.
And this also counts for all those
• who prefer the world before Him,
• who prefer worldly pleasures before Him,
• who prefer worldly riches before Him.
He bids for what he has a mind, yet he goes away grieved, and leaves it, because he cannot have it at his own price.
That which ruined this young man was, that he had great possessions.
In the same way the prosperity of fools destroys them, and those who spend their days in wealth are tempted to say to God, “Depart from us”; or to their hearts, “Depart from God”.
Following on this we see the Christ talking with his disciples.
▪︎ Maybe you are tempted to wish that the Christ had softened His words, which he spoke to the young ruler, and that caused him to leave.
▪︎ Maybe you are tempted to wish that the Christ by an explanation had taken the harshness off of it.
But the Christ knew all men’s hearts;
He would not court him to be his follower, because he was a rich man and a ruler;
If he wants to go, Jesus let him go. The Christ will keep no man against his will; and therefore we do not read that Jesus called him back, but instead He took this occasion to instruct his disciples in two things.
▪︎ The difficulty of the salvation of those, who have an abundance of this world;
▪︎ And the greatness of the salvation of those, that have but a little of this world, and leave it for Christ.
● The difficulty of the salvation of those who have an abundance of this world; because there are few who have a deal to leave, that can be persuaded to leave it for Christ, or to lay it out in doing good.
▪︎The Christ now looked about upon his disciples, because He would have them all to take notice of what He said, that by it they might have their judgments rightly informed, and their mistakes rectified, concerning worldly wealth, which they were apt to over-rate.
How hardly shall they who have riches enter into the Kingdom of God! (Mark 10:23). They have many temptations to wrestle with, and many difficulties to get over, which lie not in the way of poor people. But He explains himself (Mark 10:24), where He calls the disciples children, because as such they should be taught by him, and portioned by him with better things than this young man who left the Christ to cleave to.
And where he had said, How hardly will those who have riches get to heaven; here He tells them, that the danger arose not so much from their having riches, but more
▪︎ from their trusting on that riches,
▪︎ from their placing their confidence in them,
▪︎ from their expecting protection, provision, and a portion from their riches.
▪︎ from putting their hope in their riches, instead of putting their hope in their God (Job 31:24).
They have such a high value for the wealth of the world, that they will never be able to be brought to point where they can put the right value upon Christ and his grace.
They that have much riches,
▪︎ but do not trust in them,
▪︎ that see the vanity of them,
▪︎ and their utter insufficiency to make a soul happy,
have got over the difficulty, and can easily part with them for the Christ.
But they have only a little,
▪︎ if they set their hearts upon that little,
▪︎ and if they place their happiness in it,
then also that little will keep them from the Christ.
He enforces this assertion with: It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man, that trusts in riches, or inclines to do so, to enter into the kingdom of God (Mark 10:25).
The disproportion here seems so great (though the more it is so the more it answers the intention), that some have laboured to bring the camel and the eye of the needle a little nearer together.
▪︎ Some imagine that there was some small gate, or door, to Jerusalem, commonly known by the name of ‘the needle’s eye’, for its straitness, through which a camel could not be got, unless he were unloaded, and made to kneel, and people would have to enter in the same way as such a camel (Genesis 24:11).
So a rich man cannot get to heaven unless he is willing to part with his worldly wealth, and stoop to the duties of a humble religion, and so enter at the strait gate.
▪︎ Others suggest that the word we translate a camel, sometimes signifies a cable-rope, which, though not to be got through a needle’s eye, yet is of great affinity to it.
A rich man, compared with the poor, is as a cable to a single thread, stronger, but not so pliable, and it will not go through the needle’s eye, unless it be untwisted.
So the rich man must be loosed and disentangled from his riches, and then there is some hope of him, that thread by thread he may be got through the eye of the needle, otherwise he is good for nothing.
This truth was very surprising to the disciples.
They were astonished at his words (Mark 10:24).
They were astonished out of measure, and said among themselves, Who then can be saved?
▪︎ They knew what were generally the sentiments of the Jewish teachers, who affirmed that the Spirit of God chooses to reside in rich men;
▪︎ and they knew what abundance of promises there were, in the Old Testament, of temporal good things;
▪︎ they knew likewise that all either are rich, or fain would be so, and that they who are rich, have so much the larger opportunities of doing good, and therefore were amazed to hear that it should be so hard for rich people to go to heaven.
Christ reconciled them to it, by referring it to the almighty power of God, to help even rich people over the difficulties that lie in the way of their salvation (Mark 10:27);
He looked upon them, to engage their attention, and said, “With men it is impossible; rich people cannot by their own skill or resolution get over these difficulties, but the grace of God can do it, for with him all things are possible.’’
If the righteous scarcely are saved, much more may we say so of the rich; and therefore when any get to heaven, they must give all the glory to God, who worketh in them both to will and to do.
● The greatness of the salvation of those that have but a little of this world, and leave it for Christ. This he speaks of, upon occasion of Peter’s mentioning what he and the rest of the disciples had left to follow him; Behold, (saith he), we have left all to follow thee (Mark 10:28).
“You have done well,’’ saith Christ, “and it will prove in the end that you have done well for yourselves; you shall be abundantly recompensed, and not only you shall be reimbursed, who have left but a little, but those that have ever so much, though it were so much as this young man had, that could not persuade himself to quit it for Christ; yet they shall have much more than an equivalent for it.’’
The loss is supposed to be very great;
▪︎ Worldly wealth;
Houses are here put first, and lands last: if a man quit his house, which should be for his habitation, and his land, which should be for his maintenance, and so make himself a beggar and an outcast.
This has been the choice of suffering saints; They have said farewell to houses and lands, though ever so convenient and desirable, through the inheritance of fathers, for the house which is from heaven, and the inheritance of the saints in light, where are many mansions.
▪︎ Dear relations.
Father and mother, wife and children, brethren and sisters.
In these, as much as in any temporal blessing, the comfort of life is bound up; without these the world would be a wilderness.
Yet, when we must either forsake these or the Christ, we must remember that we stand in nearer relation to the Christ than we do to any creature; and therefore to keep in with Him, we must be content to break with all the world, and to say to father and mother, as Levi did, I have not known you.
The greatest trial of a good man’s constancy is, when his love to the Christ comes to stand in competition with a love that is lawful, and that is his duty.
It is easy to such a one to forsake a lust for Christ, for he hath that within him, that rises against it; but to forsake a father, a brother, a wife, for Christ, that is, to forsake those whom he knows he must love, is hard. And yet he must do so, rather than deny or disown Christ.
Thus great is the loss supposed to be; but it is for Christ’s sake, that he may be honoured, and the gospel’s, that it may be promoted and propagated. It is not the suffering, but the cause, that makes the martyr. And therefore,
The advantage will be great.
▪︎ They shall receive a hundred-fold in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters; not in specie, but that which is equivalent.
▪︎ He shall have abundance of comfort while he lives, sufficient to make up for all his losses;
• his relation to the Christ,
• his communion with the saints,
• and his title to eternal life,
shall be to him brethren, and sisters, and houses, and all.
God’s providence gave Job double to what he had had, but suffering Christians shall have a hundred-fold in the comforts of the Spirit sweetening their creature comforts.
But observe, It is added here in Mark, with persecutions.
Even when they are gainers by Christ, let them still expect to be sufferers for him; and not be out of the reach of persecution, till they come to heaven.
The persecutions seem to come in here among the receivings in this present time; for unto you it is given, not only to believe in the Christ, but also to suffer for His name; yet this is not all …
▪︎ They shall have eternal life in the world to come.
If they receive a hundred-fold in this world, one would think they should not be encouraged to expect any more.
Yet, as if that were a small matter, they shall have life eternal into the bargain; which is more than ten thousand-fold, ten thousand times told, for all their losses.
But because they talked so much, and really more than became them, of leaving all for Christ, he tells them, though they were first called, that there should be disciples called after them, that should be preferred before them; as St. Paul, who was one born out of due time, and yet laboured more abundantly than all the rest of the apostles (1 Corinthians 15:10). Then the first were last, and the last first.
Now let us reflect on this
It starts so beautifully! Here is someone who has found the right way.
Whom can you better ask about eternal life than Jesus (Mark 10:17)?
To Whom can you better bow down to than to the good Master?
But Jesus looks deeper than these words.
He wants this young man to understand what he is saying. “Good” is only God; when you call Jesus ‘good’, you acknowledge that He comes from God (Mark 10:18).
It seems as if Jesus (in Mark 10:19) does not answer the young man’s question (in Mark 10:17).
Doesn’t he already know the commandments? He has always kept it (Mark 10:20). The keyword here is DO. This man wants to DO something, he wants to be in control. But that is precisely what he must give up. He wants to arrange his own securities, through what he DOES and what he has. He cannot give that up, despite his own grief about it. He wants it so badly, but he cannot surrender to Jesus (Mark 10:21, 22).
The disciples of Jesus are defeated (Mark 10:23-26).
It started so well, and it comes to nothing.
Is there anyone who can meet the demands of God and his Kingdom? “Yes,” says Jesus, but that decision rests with God. Just trust that with Him more is possible than you think. You are in good hands with Him! ‘ (Mark 10:27).
But the students also need extra security.
We have given up everything for you – there must be something in return, right? (Mark 10:28).
Yes, ”says Jesus,“ you will receive everything you need, including eternal life. With persecution – it will not be easy (Compare John 15:18-21; Acts 14:22; 2 Timothy 3:12).
But don’t think you can control the size of your own reward. The Lord decides who comes first and who comes last in His Kingdom. You, too, are not in control of the matter, you cannot boast of anything (Mark 10:29-31).
In various ways, both the young man and the disciples try to seek certainty. But only one assurance is given: If you entrust yourself completely to God, He will do what is right for you (Compare Romans 8:28; Philippians 4:19).
Questions for self-reflection
▪︎ Can you so entrust yourself to God?
▪︎ Why / why not?
▪︎ Ask your Father in Heaven to show you where you still fall short of trusting Him.
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