17As 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. 19You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”
20“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
21Jesus 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.”
22At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
24The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “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.”
26The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
27Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:17-27, NLT)
The Daily DAVEotional
This story in Mark 10 is also shared by Matthew in the 19th chapter of his account of the life of Jesus. I wrote about this story about a year ago here, in which I addressed the question of whether or not Jesus requires rich people to give up their possessions in order to be saved.
You can read my thoughts about that in the previous blog post as I’m not intending to regurgitate all my thoughts again here. Instead, I want to focus on an often overlooked part of the exchange Jesus has with this person of extreme wealth.
The passage starts with the man coming to Jesus and asking Jesus what is required to inherit eternal life. But what is often overlooked is how he addresses Jesus. He calls Jesus “good teacher”.
Jesus picks up on this and replies in verse 18, “Why do you call me good?….No one is good except God alone.”
You almost never hear any sermon that focuses on this verse or gives any explanation of why it’s there. In fact, if you just eliminated verse 18 from the story altogether, the main idea and explanation seems to remain unchanged. In other words. Jesus’ response to how the man addressed him does not appear to be central to the main point of the story, which is the idea that coming to Jesus and inheriting eternal life requires us to recognize our spiritual brokenness and our need for a savior.
So if Jesus’ response is not important to the main idea in the story, why is it there?
Jesus is using this exchange to fundamentally change our idea of what is considered good.
Think about it. Almost everyone everywhere thinks that making it to heaven is a matter of being a good person and I’ve never met a person who, no matter what bad things they may have done in their lives, didn’t consider themselves to be good. Jesus’s response alters the equation of what is required to gain eternal life, which is the central query of the rich young ruler.
Do you think you’re a good person? Jesus says that ONLY GOD is good. Jesus also indirectly points to his own deity in the process when he asks, “why do you call me good….no one is good except God.” Jesus is pressing the implication that calling him good is tantamount to calling him God, since only God is good.
The rest of the story is simply a process by which Jesus reveals to the rich young ruler that he does not measure up to the standard of goodness (perfection) that is required to gain eternal life.
The disciples asked, “Who then can be saved?”
Jesus responded that with man, it is impossible. Why? Because no man can achieve the perfect goodness required to save himself.
But all things are possible with God. Jesus makes the impossible possible through His death on the cross!
What has been your concept of goodness in the past? What is the standard you use to determine whether a person is good or not?
Do you agree with people who say that most people are basically good? Why or why not?
Do you think it’s possible for people to save themselves?
What do you think is required to inherit eternal life? How would you explain it to someone else?