Mark 10v17-31, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

You lack


1456053183_thumb.pngHave you ever felt like something was missing?

  • Let’s say that you are working on a project such fixing the engine on your truck, but one of the bolts that holds it together is missing?
  • Or you are reading a story in a book, and suddenly the story does not make sense — because a page is missing?

Life is like that. Most people live with the feeling that something is missing. They feel that there is a void, an emptiness. They keep trying to find the missing piece of their life, but just cannot seem to find it.

That’s why the nightclubs are full. That’s why people turn to alcohol. That’s why drug abuse is on the increase. People are looking for that missing something.

But this is true, not only of non religious people; it is also true of many religious people. Many religious people still feel that there is a void in their lives. They may be looking for

  • significance or
  • meaning or
  • peace or
  • assurance of salvation.

Sometimes people begin following a false religion because they feel that something is missing. They may begin following a false Christian cult out of fear. Or they may simply keep changing churches because there is a hole in their lives that has not yet been filled.

Others are the kind of people that we would say are “good.” They are good people. They follow all the rules. They obey the commandments. But still, they feel that something is lacking. Something is missing.

What is missing?

In the Gospel According to Mark, chapter 10, we read about a young man who has everything going for him, but he is desperate to find the answer to life’s most important question:

Mark 10:17 ESV And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

1.      He Asked the Right Question (10:17).

Here was a young man in the prime of life (Matthew 19:22). Everything seemed to be going his way. He had all the money that he needed (Luke 18:23; Mark 10:22). He no doubt had a good standing in the community. But something was missing. And he did not know the answer to life’s greatest question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

This is the most important question that you and I could possibly ask. What must we do to inherit eternal life? In our heart of hearts, we know that there is something more.

  • We know that something does not come from nothing.
  • We know that the universe did not create itself.
  • We know that order does not come out of chaos.
  • We know that life is not produced by non-life.
  • We know that the DNA of the human genome and of every other living creature did not produce itself.
  • We know that there is a Creator.
  • We know that there is meaning to life.
  • We know that there is more to this life than living and ***dying and trying to make it through the day.


2.      He came to the right person (10:17).

This young man came to the right person. He came to Jesus.

We want answers to life’s most important questions, but we must be careful where we get our answers. There are many voices in the world giving many different answers to life’s questions. There are people who have thought a lot about the meaning of life. They have meditated on life’s profoundest questions. Some claim to have had revelations. They have seen visions or heard voices. Some have claimed to be enlightened. These men and women have founded new religions such as Buddhism and Confucianism and Islam. Others have founded new cults and sects based on their teachings.

Where should we turn to get the answers to life’s most important question? We should turn to the one who came from heaven.

  • Only Jesus came down from heaven (John 3:13; 6:38, 41-42, 51; 1 Timothy 1:15; Hebrews 1:6; 10:5; 1 John 4:9; etc.).
  • Jesus was the only one whose birth was announced centuries before it happened (Isaiah 7:14; Micah 5:2; etc.).
  • Only Jesus was born of a virgin (Matthew 1:23).
  • Only Jesus lived a sinless life (2 Corinthians 5:21).
  • Only Jesus died on the cross for our sins as the Scriptures had prophesied (1 Corinthians 15:3).
  • Only Jesus was raised from the dead on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:4).
  • Only Jesus ascended bodily into heaven 40 days after his resurrection to be seated at the right hand of God (Acts 1:11; 2:33; 5:31; etc.).

This rich young man came to the right person. He came to Jesus with his question. Jesus alone is qualified to answer life’s most important question: What must I do to inherit eternal life.”

This man is desperate for an answer. He runs up to Jesus. He kneels before him. He asks him,

Mark 10:17 ESV …”Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

Jesus’ answer is a bit surprising.

Mark 10:18 ESV And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.

What is Jesus saying? Is he saying that he himself is not good? No. The Scriptures are clear that “in him there is no sin” (1 John 3:5). Jesus is doing at least two things with this question.

  1. He is asking why the man called him good. Does the man understand who Jesus is? Does he understand that God alone is good? It is entirely correct to call Jesus “good,” because he is God.
  2. Jesus is telling him that he uses the term “good” much too freely. The young man no doubt thinks that he himself is a good man, that he is good. Ask someone how they are today, and instead of responding, “Fine!” they will likely tell you that they are “Good!” But the Bible tells us that “None is righteous, no, not one… no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10, 12).

This man no doubt thinks that he is good, but there he has a nagging feeling that something is missing.

3.      He Got the Right Answers (10:18-21)

Mark 10:19 ESV 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.’”

We tend to think of ourselves as pretty good people. We compare ourselves with others, and some of these commandments on the surface make us feel pretty good about ourselves. We don’t murder. We don’t commit adultery. Yeah, we’re pretty good.

Have you ever stolen anything? Have you ever lied? Do you always honor your father and mother? Have you ever coveted something that was not yours?

These are probing questions. But Jesus reveals to us that lust is adultery. Hatred and anger are sinful. He tells us that external obedience to his commandments is not enough if there is evil in our hearts:

Mark 7:21-23 ESV For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

When Jesus reminds the young man about the commandments, he is not saying that we are saved by keeping the commandments. Rather, he is saying that keeping the commandments follows salvation.

Do you remember when the Law was given? Was it given before or after God delivered the Israelites from Egypt? The Law was given after God had delivered the Israelites from Egypt. God had brought the ten plagues upon Egypt. Before the tenth plague, the Israelites sacrificed lambs and painted the doorways of their houses with the blood of the lamb. The angel of death passed over them and spared the firstborn of every home where the blood of the lamb had been applied. The Israelites marched out of Egypt and miraculously crossed over the Red Sea on dry ground. God delivered them from Egypt. God had saved them, but the Law had not yet been given. They had not yet reached Mount Sinai. It was not until after their salvation and deliverance from Egypt that the Law was given. The Law was not given to save them. They had already been delivered. The Law was given to show the Israelites how they were to live under that covenant.

Now Jesus reminds this man of the commandments: “You know the commandments…”

Mark 10:20 ESV And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”

Here is a remarkable young man! From his youth, he has kept the commandments.

We must not think that he is exaggerating or lying. The Apostle Paul spoke of his life before coming to Christ. He said that…

Philippians 3:6 ESV …as to righteousness under the law, [he was] blameless.

Without arrogance or hypocrisy, this man gives his moral report card to Jesus: “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”

Mark 10:21 ESV And Jesus, looking at him, loved him…

Jesus looked at this man intently. He examined him. He read his heart. Jesus saw something “rare and admirable in the man, for of no one else in the Gospel does Mark say that Jesus ‘loved him.’”[1]

Jesus accepts the man’s self-evaluation. This man had kept the Law. Jesus did not challenge that. But something is missing. The young man knows that something is missing. That is why he is kneeling before Jesus asking what he must do to inherit eternal life.

Mark 10:21 ESV And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing…”

He had kept the commandments! What more did he need?

Mark 10:21 ESV And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

What was this? Was this a call to poverty? Is Jesus telling us that we must take a vow of poverty in order to inherit eternal life?

No, not at all. The one thing that was missing from the man’s life was Jesus. “Come, follow me,” Jesus told him. Jesus said to him, in effect:

Right now God is your boss; but God is not your Savior, and here’s how you can see it: I want you to imagine life without money. I want you to imagine all of it gone. No inheritance, no inventory, no servants, no mansions— all of that is gone. All you have is me. Can you live like that?”[2]

Mark 10:22 CSB But he was stunned at this demand, and he went away grieving, because he had many possessions.

Money was the center of this man’s identity.[3] Jesus is what was missing.

You can obey the commandments, live a righteous life, be an example to others, and still be an idolater. Jesus loved this man, but he was lost.

What must we do to inherit eternal life? The answer is simple: We must follow Jesus.

  1. He Asked the Right Question (10:17).
  2. He came to the right person (10:17).
  3. He Got the Right Answers (10:18-21), BUT

4.      He made the wrong decision (7:22).

This rich man went away grieving. Jesus tells him to sell all that he had, give to the poor, and to follow him. He would have treasure in heaven, but the man preferred his treasure on earth to eternal life in heaven.

The Wrong Decision and the Unchanging Gospel

Jesus does not go running after the man. “Hey, come back! Don’t go! Let’s talk about this. I need people like you. You are very influential. The church needs you.”

No. Jesus could not build his church on people like him. How often the message of the gospel has been compromised. We have made false promises. We have preached a false gospel. We have told people that if they come to Jesus, they will never lack for anything. Life will always be sweet.

But Jesus says,

Mark 8:34 ESV … “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.

“Follow me,” Jesus says. “You lack one thing… you are not following me.”

The Peril of Riches

Mark 10:23-24 ESV And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God!

Jesus now turns his attention to his disciples. He looks around and warns them, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!”

They are astonished. The Jews thought that if you were rich, it was because God was blessing you. Rich in this life, rich in the next!

Jesus tells them again, “Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God.”

Today we have false preachers telling people that the gospel is all about getting financial blessings. Faith is all about claiming your rights as King’s kids. This is what the sinful heart wants to hear. The so-called prosperity gospel appeals to our greed. It does not take a work of the Spirit of God to accept and embrace a teaching which appeals to our sinful greedy nature. But it does take a work of the Holy Spirit to enable me to deny myself, and take up my cross, and follow Christ.

It is the characteristic of cults to take the focus off of the center of Christ. We preach Christ and him crucified (2 Corinthians 4:5). The Apostle Paul said, “I determined not to know anything among you but Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2).

The Bible has so many warnings about the deceitfulness of riches.

1 Timothy 6:6-11 ESV But godliness with contentment is great gain, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs. 11 But as for you, O man of God, flee these things…

In the Book of Revelation, Jesus rebuked the church at Laodicea:

Revelation 3:17 ESV For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

They were financially rich but spiritually poor. Contrast that with his message to the church at Smyrna,

Revelation 2:9 ESV “’I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich)…

It is not a sin to be rich, but those who are rich must be rich in good works:

1 Timothy 6:17-19 ESV As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. 18 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19 thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.

The disciples are astonished for Jesus’ teaching about riches has turned their worldview upside down. He emphasizes the point with a famous illustration:

Mark 10:25-26 ESV It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?”

Some have tried to explain away what Jesus said, but he is clearly pointing to the impossibility.

Mark 10:27 ESV Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

It is impossible with man, but not with God. When we understand that it is impossible for us to do anything to save ourselves, we look beyond ourselves to the God for whom all things are possible. “Salvation belongs to the LORD” (Psalm 3:8; Jonah 2:9).

The Promise of Life Now and Forever

So what does this look like, this Christian life? Is this simply a life of self-denial, a life of asceticism, a life of poverty, a life of doing without?

Peter wants to know.

Mark 10:28 ESV Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.”

Jesus assures his disciples that following him “holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come” (1 Timothy 4:8).

Mark 10:29-30 ESV Jesus 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 lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.

What does it mean to follow Jesus? It means complete allegiance to him and his will. Sometimes it means leaving house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands — for his sake and for the gospel. Following Christ so that others may know him. Leaving the comfort of your home and the security of your family so that others may be saved. When Christ calls you to leave your island and go to another place that has no biblical witness, you are leaving home and family for the sake of Christ and the gospel.

But there is great reward, both now and in eternity. Jesus says that no one who does this will not receive a hundred times as much in this present age. Putting it another way, Jesus tells Peter that everyone who leaves home and family will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age. In serving Christ we inherit a huge spiritual family: brothers and sisters in Christ. Jesus also speaks of houses and lands. The houses and lands are also to be understood in a spiritual sense:

“The new homes and fields are those that God’s people share with those in need.”[4]

Jesus said that we receive this with persecutions. There is a cross, but there is the joy of belonging to the great family of God. We have brothers and sisters and mothers and children without number!

[T]o conceive of discipleship solely in terms of its costs and sacrifices is to conceive of it wrongly — as though in marrying a beautiful bride a young man would think only of what he was giving up.[5]

Today my 15 year old son is traveling from Manila, Philippines to Port Vila. He has a long layover in Brisbane. But we have brothers and sisters in Brisbane who are going to pick him up at the airport and take him home and take care of him before putting him back on the plane to Port Vila. We have left home and family in the United States, but we have family here in Vanuatu, in Australia, in New Caledonia, in Fiji, in French Polynesia, in Europe, and in Africa. When you follow Jesus, you become part of the incredible family of God!

Something Missing?

So how is it with you? Do you feel like something is missing? Perhaps you have reached your goals and found out that they did not give you the satisfaction that you longed for. The signs around Port Vila tell us that happiness is a Facebook account. Or happiness is free SMS texting. That only lasts so long.

You will never fill that empty spot in your life with money or position or fame or success. You can follow all the rules and be as good as is humanly possible, but there will still be that nagging question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”

You only lack one thing: You must follow Christ.

[1] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 5747-5748). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

[2] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (pp. 129-130). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[3] Keller, Timothy (2013-03-05). Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God (pp. 129-130). Penguin Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

[4] Craig L. Blomberg, Neither Poverty Nor Riches, A Biblical Theology of Possessions, IVP, 1999. p. 140

[5] Edwards Jr., James R. (2009-10-05). The Gospel according to Mark (Pillar New Testament Commentary) (Kindle Locations 5827-5829). Eerdmans Publishing Co – A. Kindle Edition.

See also “Gospel of Mark”:


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