The rich young man

The Life of Jesus Christ - Chapter 8 - Jesus' last journey to Jerusalem - Part 4

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An online Bible Study course by Barrie Wetherill about the life of Jesus. This book is in EasyEnglish Level B. Use the links below for other online Bible Study books and commentaries that will help you. Or go to the Word List, which explains words with a *star.

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Mark 10:17-31

How to receive *eternal life

Now a very impressive man came to Jesus. This man was young and rich. And he was a ruler. He also wanted to know more about God. He knew something about ‘*eternal life’ and he wanted it. People might have thought that he would be a very good *disciple. He came to Jesus in public with his question.

Mark 10:17 'Good teacher,' he asked, 'what must I do to have *eternal life?' [He wanted to know how to please God.]

Jesus first wanted to be sure that the man understood his own question. The man said that Jesus was 'good'. But only God himself is 'good'. Only God himself can give anyone *eternal life. Jesus made the young man think about who Jesus really is.

A common error

But what the man believed is a common error. He believed that he could get this *eternal life by his behaviour. He thought that he would be able to get it by himself. Many people today make the same mistake.

The *commandments

The usual Jewish answer to the man’s question would have been 'You must obey the *commandments.' [The commandments were the rules that God gave to Moses.] Jesus reminded the man about the *commandments. Then the man made another mistake. He said that he had always obeyed the *commandments. He thought that the *commandments were only about his actions. But the *commandments are also about our thoughts.

In Romans 7:8, the *apostle Paul described how he made the same mistake. Then he realised that his evil desires were also *sin. This showed him that the *commandments were about thoughts as well as actions.

When Jesus spoke to the young man, Jesus did not list all the *commandments. Jesus only mentioned the second part of the *commandments. He had not mentioned the duty to love God. Elsewhere, Jesus mentioned all the *commandments together like this:

Matthew 22:37-40 ‘Love the Lord your God:

·  with all your heart

·  and with all your *soul

·  and with all your mind.’

This is the first and most important command. And the second command is like it:

‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself.’

This is what the Law and the *Prophets really mean.

The young man had obeyed the *commandments by his behaviour. But his questions showed his mistake. He was a wealthy man. He did not steal anything. He did not kill anybody. But he was very selfish. His liked to please himself. Thousands of Jews were very poor, and this man had great wealth. He loved his great possessions very much, and he was not going to give them up. He would not even give them up for Jesus. He would not even give them up for *eternal life.

Jesus tested the man's true character

Jesus’ last words to this man tested the man's true character.

Mark 10:21 Jesus looked at him and loved him. 'You need one thing,' he said. 'Go and sell all your possessions. Give the money to poor people. Then you will have real wealth, in *heaven. Then come! Follow me!'

If the young man did this, he would show his love for God. It would be greater than his love for his possessions. This would please God.

But this man loved his wealth. And he loved the way that he lived. He was not going to give it up and follow a poor teacher. So, the young man sadly walked away.

Jesus' words about the camel, the needle, and rich people

Jesus then said something else which surprised the *disciples.

Mark 10:23-25. Jesus looked at his *disciples. He said, 'It is very hard for rich people to belong to the *kingdom of God!' The disciples were surprised at his words. But Jesus said again, '*Children, it is very hard to belong to the *kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the small hole in a needle than for a rich man to join the *kingdom of God.'

The disciples thought that rich people had everything in this world. They thought that it would be the same in the *kingdom of God. But this is not so. All those who obey Jesus are equal. Nobody is better than someone else because he is richer or clever. By themselves, nobody can achieve what Jesus wants. We can only achieve this by the help of the *Holy Spirit. We need the *Holy Spirit to give us a new way to live. We need the *Holy Spirit to teach us God’s ways. We need the *Holy Spirit to give us new desires and hopes. He will help us to be free from the love of money and possessions.


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