The Rich Young Ruler (10:17-27)

The Rich Young Ruler (Mark 10:17-27)


I.) Seeker Sensitive Dilemma

There has been a lot of talk among churches in recent decades about the church needing to become more sensitive to the seekers out there. The seeker being an unbeliever who supposedly wants to truly know more about the Living God. To make seekers feel comfortable churches must downplay doctrine, avoid uncomfortable subjects, and appeal to the worldliness of man.

This methodology stems from a market driven approach which treats the church as a business rather than a living organism built by Christ. The grace of God in Christ and His cross is not the drawing factor, man and his antics are. Christ is talked about, but self is preached. Music, entertainment, energetic personalities, and experience all take priority over sound doctrine. Doctrines such as the holiness of God and the sinfulness of man are given mere lip service, and left in the realm of ambiguity.

So as not to offend the seeker, teachers are often coy when it comes to the sole thing which reveals God’s holiness and establishes man’s sin, the Law. Far too often the Law is avoided all together.

Inevitably what get lost in translation are the fundamentals of the gospel message, and the obedience it requires of everyone who hears it. Through the gospel Jesus Christ commands men and women everywhere to deny themselves, pick up their crosses, and follow Him as Lord.[1] The command to deny self gets convoluted among supposed seekers when a church has appealed to their love of self by worldly means. The church gets them in the door by some other means other than Christ, and Him crucified, and risen again. A.W. Tozer said it well:

“Religion today is not transforming the people – it is being transformed by the people. It is not raising the moral level of society – it is descending to society’s own level and congratulating itself that it has scored a victory because society is smiling accepting its surrender.”

The call to deny self is one of self-abandonment, and means for one to forget or lose sight of oneself. It is not just a call to die to self-interest, but:

1.) To abandon hope in trying to appease God with your works.

2.) To abandon sin that brings about the need for God to be appeased.

My question is:

Q.) What exposes the seriousness of our sin and the inability of our works before the Living and Holy God?

A.) The Law of God.

If the Law exposes what we are to abandon and self-abandonment is an integral part of the gospel, then refusing to talk of it is to not call people to Christ. Seeker-sensitive methodology hinders both the salvation of the lost as well as the sanctification of the believer. If you teach the Law of God, you will discover who men and women are truly seeking.


II.) The Appearance of Seeking God

A.) I open with this, because this man at Jesus’ feet is the quintessential seeker to today’s standard:

1.) He is young.[2]

2.) He is wealthy.[3]

3.) He is distinguished. Luke tells us he was a ruler, so he was probably a leader of a synagogue where people gathered to hear the Word of God. [4]

4.) He shows some humility by running up to Jesus in broad daylight and kneeling before the One the religious leaders hate and want to kill, and calls Him:

“Good Teacher!”

5.) He recognizes his need for eternal life and asks the most important question any human being could ask.

6.) He asks it to the One who both possesses the answer, and is in fact the answer Himself:[5]

“What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

7.) He has the appearance of seeking God.

So as not to offend him, methodology says that Jesus better tread carefully by appealing to his felt needs, and not deal with doctrine or sin. The seeker should feel comfortable, so Jesus better not mess it up.

The tragedy is that, though he appears to be seeking God by asking a good question and going to Jesus for the answer, he does not actually want God. His words and actions will reveal that he is a self-righteous idolater who thinks himself as good as God, and who seeks to please only himself. All of this is manifested by his response to what Jesus says to him.

Notice what Jesus does with this supposed seeker:

“Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.”

Jesus puts the emphasis on God, and in doing so establishes an objective definition of good. He elevates God’s moral perfection, and contrasts it with man’s moral imperfection:

“No one is good except God alone.”

The fact that God is good, should be the most unsettling thing to the hearts and minds of all humanity, because:

“There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; All have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one.”[6]

Since He is good He will by no means leave the guilty unpunished.[7] He is Holy, which means that only perfect and sinless people can enter His presence. If you want to know if you deserve to live eternally with Him, deeply search within yourself, and compare what you find to Him. Realize, the slightest variance will forbid you from entering His eternal life.


III.) The Law Reveals The Seekers True Desire

The question that needs to be answered is:

Q.) How do men and women see if they measure up to the moral perfection of Almighty God?

A.) They turn to that which God has given to explain His holy character and nature, His Law.

This is exactly what Jesus does with this man:

“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.’”[8]

He does not teach the gospel, but the Law. Before the gospel can ever be seen as good news, people must both wrestle with, and lose to, the Law. Only the self-righteous will walk away after such a match thinking they have actually won.

Jesus did not point him to the Law because obedience to it makes someone acceptable to God:

“By the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight…”[9]

Good works do not have the ability to make one right before the Living God. They do not have the power to forgive sin, or obtain everlasting life. This is because “through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.”[10]

As the Law teaches about sin it shows mankind that they fall far short of God’s glory, because through the Law God divulges His character and nature to man.[11] Since the Law discloses the Holiness of God, it reveals that God is good, and man is not.[12] Jesus is positioning the man to measure himself up to God’s definition of good and not man’s. This man wants to see eternal life, but Jesus wants him to see God’s holiness and his sinfulness, because if he cannot see that he will not see everlasting life.

The Apostle Paul says of the Law:

“The Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.”[13]

It is good because the knowledge of sin comes through the Law, and with the knowledge of sin comes the need for Christ:

“The Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, that we may be justified by faith.”[14]

Mankind cannot be made right before God by the working of the Law, because it does not actually deal with sin; it only reveals it.

By its revealing of sin we all die:[15]

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…the wages of sin is death.”[16]

The Law leaves us sinners in the hands of an angry God, and lying naked and helpless before the One with whom we have to do. Only the self-righteous walk away feeling clothed and virtuous.


IV.) Self-Righteous Seeker

Self-righteousness is much more than someone thinking themselves morally superior to others. Self-righteousness is the belief that both one’s moral virtues and refraining from sin:

1.) Makes up for that which they are guilty.

2.) Causes God to love them.

3.) Earns them the right to live eternally.

Listen to what men of history say on the matter:

Charles Spurgeon said of it:

“The greatest enemy to human souls is the self-righteous spirit which makes men look to themselves for salvation.”

J.C. Ryle said:

“Beware of self-righteousness in every possible shape and form. Some people get as much harm from their “virtues” as others do from their sins.”

Self-righteousness blinds people to their sin before God, and this young man proves this when he says to the One who directed him to the Holy Law:

“Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.”[17]

In other words, he is as good as God. Not only is this man young, distinguished, and wealthy; he is glaringly delusional. He knows nothing of God’s righteousness, and he is seeking to establish his own through the Law.[18] God’s Law does not kill him when he reads it; it comforts him and encourages him.

His view of the law is shallow and He fails to see that it not only bears on the outer actions of man, but upon the inner inclinations of the heart as well. Jesus taught that whoever hates his brother has committed murder in their heart, and whoever lusts after someone commits adultery of the heart.[19]

The heart is the power house of sin:[20]

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and follishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”[21]

We are not sinners because we sin; we sin because we are sinners. The Law displays the moral corruption of both the inner and outer parts of man. This man; however, does not see it.


V.) The Seekers God Revealed

Out of a love for him Jesus says:

“One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

Q.) Do we see what Jesus has done?

It is important to note that Jesus only listed the latter half of the Ten Commandments, which pertain to a person’s relationship with their neighbor. Loving your neighbor as yourself.

This man says he has kept these commandments from his youth. Realize that one cannot keep the latter half of the commandments if they never keep the first half that pertains to man’s relationship with God.

When Jesus tells him to sell all he possesses, give to the poor, and to follow Him, He is upholding the very first half of the Ten Commandments. He is calling this man to abandon both his self-righteous works and His sin of idolatry.

Notice what the man does:

“But at these words his face fell, and he went away grieved, for he was one who owned much property.”[22]

Q.) What is revealed?

A.) He loves a different god whose name is mammon and not Yahweh, and with his life he worships the graven image of money.

He does not keep the first part of the Law:

“I am the Lord your God…You shall have no other gods before Me.”[23]

Jesus said:

“Where your treasure is there will your heart be also. No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will hold to one and serve the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”[24]

Since he has a different god he does not seek to love God with all of his heart, soul, mind, and strength. Since he does not strive to keep even the first commandment it is impossible for him to have kept the second half. He is not good.

Rather than seeing his sin and turning from it, he walked away grieved, and Jesus let the seeker go. This man was not seeking the Lord his God. He wanted eternal life added on to what he had. He did not want to lose his life, he wanted to seek out how he could save it, but:

“Whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospels shall save it.”[25]

Q.) What does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?

A.) Absolutely nothing!

Q.) What shall a man give in exchange for his soul?

A.) Absolutely everything!

Jesus said:

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”[26]

Jesus has beckoned this rich man to do this, and the man turns away grieved because he does not want to undergo self-abandonment. He loves himself and not God, so he abandons neither his self-righteous works nor his god, and he walks away.


VI.) The Impossibility of Salvation

Remember this man is the one who came to Jesus asking about eternal life, so after he walks away:

“Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, ‘How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God.’ And the disciples were amazed at His words.”[27]

Their amazement was most likely do to the fact that according to their culture a man who possessed power and wealth had God’s blessing upon them. Surely this man would have been someone who would enter the kingdom of God.

Jesus then says:

“Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!”

Recall the truth Jesus recently established with His disciples when He said:

“Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive to the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it at all.”[28]

Whoever does not come to grips with their own spiritual weakness and inability drawing them to depend on another will not enter in. It is especially difficult for people who have pursued their god called money, and are confident in their own power and ability they exercised to obtain it.

This is why Jesus says:

“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”

Some have suggested the eye Jesus is talking about here was a little archway camels would have to go through in order to enter the city. Everything upon the camel would have to be unloaded, and the animal would have to crouch low and crawl under “The Eye of the Needle.” The point they are stressing is the humility required in salvation.

Though there does need to be humility for one’s salvation, I would urge you not to adopt this view. Jesus’ point is not the humility necessary for salvation; The point He is stressing is the impossibility of salvation with a man. We are talking about an actual camel, and an actual needle eye. If Jesus were merely talking about a familiar location where camels regularly entered through, than the disciples would not have been:

“Even more astonished and said to Him, ‘Then who can be saved?’”

So Jesus says:

“With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”[29]

Unless someone is spiritually born again they will never be able to see the kingdom of God:[30]

“Unless someone is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”[31]

The Scripture says such people are:

“Born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”[32]

With men salvation is impossible, but not with God.


VII.) God, The One True Seeker

The Scripture declares there is none who seeks after God, but this does not leave the world without a seeker all together. There is One seeker, and He is God. The greatest question before us is:

Q.) How does He seek after the lost?

A.) He reveals Himself to them through the faithful preaching of His Word:

1.) With His Law He reveals both His perfect character and nature, and man’s sinfulness. He is holy, and righteous, and good. Man is unholy, and unrighteous, and evil. When He reveals Himself we all die.

2.) With His gospel He reveals His Son and the Work He accomplished to save those who die under the Law.

It was asked earlier:

Q.) How do men and women see if they measure up to the moral perfection of Almighty God?

A.) They gaze upon His holy Law.

There are three things people will do with it:

1.) Many will hate it and shun it as irrelevant.

2.) Some will live by it believing they are good.

3.) Few will die under its crushing weight.

There needs to be a follow up question to this:

Q.) What are people to do, who realize they are crushed by the law, and fall short of God’s glory?

A.) They are to gaze upon His holy Son.

They must be told that while they are yet ungodly sinners Christ died for them:[33]

“When the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”[34]

Christ died for the ungodly.[35] He willingly became their sin, so that through faith they may freely become the righteousness of God in Him.[36]

Before the love of God demonstrated in the gospel of Christ can ever be seen as good news, people must both wrestle with, and lose to, the Law. When evangelizing the lost be diligent in making much of God and His holiness, and praying that God will draw people to see they fall far short of His glory. That they have sinned and deserve eternal death under His wrath. When that pitch black back drop leaves people in the pits of eternal despair:

Preach Christ, crucified and Risen again! The Atoner of our sin, Appeaser of God’s wrath, and Conqueror of death!


[1] Mark 8:34

[2] Matthew 19:20

[3] Matthew 19:22; Mark 10:22; Luke 18:23

[4] Luke 18:18

[5] John 14:6

[6] Romans 3:10-12

[7] Exodus 34:7

[8] Mark 10:19

[9] Romans 3:20a

[10] Romans 3:20b

[11] Romans 3:23

[12] Psalm 25:8

[13] Romans 7:12

[14] Galatians 3:24

[15] Romans 7:7-11

[16] Romans 3:23;6:23

[17] Mark 10:20

[18] Romans 10:1-3

[19] Matthew 5:22,28

[20] Genesis 6:5;8:21

[21] Mark 7:21-23

[22] Mark 10:22

[23] Exodus 20:2-3

[24] Matthew 6:21,24

[25] Mark 8:35

[26] Mark 8:34

[27] Mark 10:23-24a

[28] Mark 10:15

[29] Mark 10:27

[30] John 3:3

[31] John 3:5

[32] John 1:13

[33] Romans 5:

[34] Galatians 4:4-5

[35] Romans 5:6

[36] 2 Corinthians 5:21

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s