Mark 10:17-31: What Must I Do To Inherit Eternal Life? Jesus Answers…

Mark is full of potent passages! In this next one, Jesus answers a rich man’s question about how to inherit eternal life. Unfortunately, he’s not going to like Jesus’ answer. Will you? Let’s dig in…

Mark 10:17-31 – The Rich Young Ruler

17 As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. 19 But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’”

20 “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.”

21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

22 At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” 24 This amazed them. But Jesus said again, “Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God. 25 In fact, 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 The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked.

27 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.”

28 Then Peter began to speak up. “We’ve given up everything to follow you,” he said.

29 “Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, 30 will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life. 31 But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then.

Mark 10:17-31 NLT

A Potent Passage

  • Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem to be crucified when this rich, young ruler stops Him by humbling himself before Him. This a risk, considering his societal standing — his position.
  • Though Mark just says he’s rich, the accounts in Luke and Matthew say that he’s young and a ruler — probably part of the Sanhedrin. His wealth more than likely helped him get the position.
  • Obviously his wealth and position weren’t satisfying him — he was missing something in his heart. He’d heard about Jesus, His miracles, healings and teachings. He wanted to know what he had to do to inherit eternal life.
  • He calls Jesus “good”, and Jesus says, “Only God is truly good.” That doesn’t mean that Jesus isn’t good. He refers to the sinless nature of God. Danny Saavedra comments:

He didn’t deny His goodness or divinity. Instead, He was inviting the man to reflect upon it. He was saying, “You know what you’re calling me, right? You’re saying I’m God in the flesh.” Now, if He is indeed the good teacher, the good shepherd, the Messiah, and Savior, then He and only He has the answer to the question of eternal life, which is what the young man asked. If He is a good teacher, then he must obey His every word! He must be followed and worshiped without question or hesitation. Jesus is establishing all of this before answering the young man’s question about eternal life. 

Friends, Jesus is the only good teacher, and He is God! Like this man, we’ll all have to confront this truth and choose how to respond to it! 

Danny Saavedra, The Gospel of Mark (Part Five):
https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/25836-the-gospel-of-mark-part-five
  • Jesus then asks him if he’s obeyed the commandments dealing with other people. He purposefully left out the ones dealing with a person’s direct relationship with God.
  • The guy replies that he’s been a good boy and he still obeys them. Right.
  • Jesus felt genuine love for him. He knew the man was sincere in his request, but the guy had one major obstacle — his love of money, power, pride, possessions and prestige — everything associated with being wealthy in that time period.
  • When Jesus tells him that he still has to do one more thing — sell ALL his things, give the money to the poor, THEN follow Him — the man is dejected, sad beyond belief. He didn’t know he’d have to give up everything to follow Jesus. He owned too much! His problem was IDOLATRY!
  • When Jesus compares him to a camel going through the eye of needle, the disciples couldn’t believe it. Notice, too, that Jesus calls them “children” — that’s what He just talked about in yesterday’s passage.

Denise Trio comments…

The disciples were amazed. Some translations use the word “astonished,” which means impressed or greatly surprised. Why? Logically, if a person is rich, especially in Jesus’ day, they must be doing something right. This rich man followed all of the commandments. He worked hard to get what he had. We could correlate his wealth with blessing and favor.

But Jesus once again flips these societal norms and assumptions upside down. Accomplishments and success on earth do not bring you closer to salvation. You see, people who “have it all” on their own will not need God. Their trust is in their stuff rather than in Jesus. When you have little or nothing, it’s easy to give it all up to follow Jesus. What do you have to lose?

Let’s look at Jesus, the Son of God, and consider how He was willing to put on flesh and walk among the disciples—and ultimately give up His life for us! He was obedient to give it all, and His resurrection offers us the promise of eternal life. This is the good news! The wonderful thing about the gospel is that by yielding everything, we gain everything in this life and in the life to come. It is better to follow Jesus than anything this world has to offer. I’m not telling you to sell everything to follow Jesus, and this isn’t a call to extremism, but to place our trust in Jesus above all else, making it easier to follow Him! 

Denis Trio, The Gospel of Mark (Part Five):
https://www.bible.com/reading-plans/25836-the-gospel-of-mark-part-five

Then Who in the World can be Saved?!

That’s an obvious question. Jesus answers simply that by human means — on our own — it is IMPOSSIBLE!

You can never become good — or good enough — by doing good! Subsequently, being good towards your fellow man doesn’t make you right with God!

That also includes doing a long list or religious rituals or sacraments. That’s also IDOLATRY!

Related: Idolatry and Immorality

Everything is possible with God

Nobody, no one, not one single human being can ever live up to this standard of surrender. However, Jesus doesn’t leave us alone! That’s why He sent His Holy Spirit as a Gift to us to help us, guide us and be with us 24/7.

Though with your surrender, you may lose family and friends, but you gain a whole new family in brothers and sisters in Christ. Be aware, though — and Jesus warns us, here and in future passages — that Christians will be persecuted. Just check out persecution.org and persecution.com — they are just 2 of several organizations that keep track of Christian persecution around the world. No matter what, our great reward is in His Kingdom in the New Heaven and the New Earth.

Stop Trying to Earn Salvation on Your Own and Surrender to Jesus!

It’s really rather simple!

Believe. Repent. Be Baptized. Receive the Holy Spirit.

  • Believe — have Faith — that Jesus is the Christ and He died taking your sins away forever and that He rose from the dead 3 days later.
  • Repent of your sins — stop sinning! Do a complete 180 degree turn in your life and surrender your life to Him.
  • Be Baptized by water baptism — show the world and yourself that you have died to your old life and are born again in Christ.
  • Receive the Holy Spirit in your heart.

Invite Jesus into Your Heart and Receive the Gift of Grace and the Confident Hope of Eternal Life…

I Will Follow


Grace Alone


Top image by Good News Productions International from FreeBibleImages.org. (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


Soli Deo Gloria! To God Alone Be the Glory!

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