Today a young man asks Jesus a big question. Mark 10, verse 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?’”
Now that’s a question. The Bible teaches us that what we do in this short life determines how we spend eternity. And this young man wants to know – what must I do to inherit the life that’s eternal? How do I get to Heaven?
So he asks the good teacher. And watch how Jesus responds. Verse 18:
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good except God alone.”
Notice that Jesus doesn’t go straight to the answer. Why? Because he wants to clear up the man’s wrong beliefs before he explains the right answer. So Jesus tells him, “No one is good except God.” That’s important.
We tend to split the world between good people and bad. But the Bible tells us that all have sinned, and not one person is righteous apart from God himself (Romans 3:23). Righteous means right with God, and in the Old Testament, the only way to eternal life is righteousness (Proverbs 12:28).
And watch what Jesus says next. Verse 19:
“You know the commandments…”
And he lists: don’t murder, no adultery, don’t steal, no false testimony, honor parents. You may recognize these from the Ten Commandments. Verse 20:
“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
Clearly this guy thinks he’s good. And I can relate. Before I knew Jesus, I really thought I was a good person. I tried not to hurt anyone, and I was a pretty nice guy.
But notice what Jesus leaves out. He lists commands about loving others, but he doesn’t mention the commandments about God: “You shall have no other gods” and “You shall not make idols” in place of God. Why does he skip those? Verse 21:
“Jesus looked at him and loved him.”
Pause there. For Jesus, this conversation is more than theological Q&A. Jesus loves him. So he tells 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.”
Wow. He only lacks one thing for eternal life. Just one. But read carefully – what is the one thing? Is it giving everything to the poor? I don’t think so. It’s the last phrase – those two words: “Follow me.”
There is only one way to inherit eternal life: follow Jesus. Romans 3 tells us that
“No one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law” (Romans 3:20).
That means good deeds are not enough.
“(But) righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe” (Romans 3:22).
In other words, Jesus makes us right with God when we follow him by faith. He took our sin to the cross and gave us his righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).
So why did Jesus tell the man to sell all that he had? Well, watch his reaction:
“At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth” (Mark 10:22).
So he was rich. And his reaction is a clue. He was sad because he loved his riches. Money is not evil, but the love of money is dangerous. Riches can easily become an idol – a replacement for God. Perhaps Jesus bypassed the first commandments to show the young man that he was doing the same. And again, I can relate. I thought I was pretty good, but pride was my idol, and it kept me from God. For this man, money was his idol. So Jesus told him: first let go of the idols, then follow me.
And watch Jesus’ words. He describes Heaven as “entering the Kingdom of God.” That changes things. If Heaven were simply a good place, then entrance would require being good; but if Heaven is God’s Kingdom, then entrance requires being right with the King.
Jesus is the King, and the only way to God’s Kingdom is to follow Jesus. He is good, and only he can make us righteous. But you can’t follow Jesus until you leave your idols. You cannot serve two masters, and you cannot follow in two directions.
So what happened to the man? Did he ever follow Jesus, or did he gain the world and lose his soul? We don’t know. But I do know there’s still time for you.
I wonder how Jesus would respond if you asked him that same question. We all have different idols: money, pleasure, drugs, success, pride, lust. To find your idol, just ask yourself: When Jesus says “Follow me,” what holds you back?
Read Mark 10, and consider what you need to let go so that you can follow.
For Reflection & Discussion:
- Which part of Jesus’ response really answers the man’s question? (Read 10:17 & 10:21).
- Why does Jesus say it is so difficult for the rich to enter God’s Kingdom? (Read 10:25).
- When Jesus calls you to follow him, what things hold you back? Share your story.