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.
(Mark 10:17-22 NIV)
Jesus was on His way from Capernaum to Jerusalem and stopped in Judea. The Pharisees posed a question to Jesus in hopes of tripping Him up or finding fault with Him. Their question centered on marriage and divorce. The Pharisees asked the “what” question; Jesus answered with the much deeper “why”. Jesus then blessed the little children that had gathered around Him and said that we must come to God as little children to be accepted into God’s kingdom.
In today’s passage, Jesus is ready to resume His journey to Jerusalem. Before Jesus leaves, a young man comes and kneels before Him and wants to know how to inherit eternal life. This is not a trick question like that of the Pharisees – this man is asking a serious (but seriously flawed) question of Jesus.
The young man calls Jesus “good”; Jesus responds and says that goodness is reserved for God alone. In this young man’s eyes, goodness is focused on his performance. Jesus’ answer redefines goodness as part of God’s character, not on man’s works.
Jesus then prompts the man to give a performance-based response focused on the second half of the Ten Commandments that deal with human interactions. The man says he has kept all of these commandments since his youth – just the reply Jesus expected.
Mark then tells us that Jesus looked at the young man in love – not in anger, or in judgment, or in pity – but in love. Jesus told the young man to sell everything he had, give it to the poor, and then come and follow Him.
Mark records that the man went away sad because he loved his money and possessions more than eternal life. The young man had kept all the second half of the Ten Commandments, but he had broken the first and foremost commandment – making money and possessions his god.
In the next passage, we will see Jesus process what happened with His disciples, and what it means to us. Until then, let’s stay focused on what we can learn from today’s text.
First, note that Jesus’ challenge to this young man was unique to his situation. Not everyone has great wealth or clings to their possessions more tightly than they hold on to God.
The question still persists, though: What are we holding onto instead of holding onto Christ alone? Holding onto Christ alone requires both hands – we can’t hold onto Jesus with one hand and hold something else in the other hand. It’s an all-in commitment or no commitment at all.
Remember this scene from the movie “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade”?
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What are some other things we might be holding onto?
- maybe money or possessions, like the young man in today’s passage?
- maybe power or influence?
- maybe reputation or being liked/accepted by others?
- maybe pride or self-sufficiency?
- maybe our educational degrees or our career?
- maybe our health or well-being?
- maybe our looks or the clothes we wear?
- maybe our beliefs or traditions?
- maybe our family or friends?
Are we willing to give up and let go of anything and everything but Christ?
What is stopping us from letting go of the other things or people and holding onto Christ alone?
If we’re not holding on to Christ with both hands, eternity is at stake.