Mark 10:17–52 Three Great Questions.
What Must I Do to Inherit Eternal Life?
May We Sit On Either Side of You in Your Kingdom?
We Left All. What Shall We Get?

Key Notes: A rich man asked The Question. Third warning of the Cross. Asking for the wrong good thing.

If God walked upon the earth and lived among us, what would He be like? Would He explain our heavenly home? How shall we get there? How would His followers live then? This passage is unified around three questions which ask about the future, about our place in eternity. They are spoken at a time when Jesus’ life was nearly over. We can think of much easier answers than are laid out in this chapter. The three conversations crackle with emotional tension, decreasing from the first to the last.

Jesus' conversations with individual people are important to study. In this lesson we read about the rich young man who came seeking eternal life. The student will profit by reading it along with the interview with Nicodemus (Jn.3), and the woman at the well (Jn.4). The interview in this lesson is the most difficult of the three to understand. Each situation involves deep spiritual issues and how Jesus worked with seekers' minds. We can learn something of how the Jesus the Evangelist thought by watching Him interact with the people around Him.

10:17–18 Jesus had finished blessing little children, and now was setting out on His journey from Galilee down the east side of the Jordan to Jericho and across to Jerusalem where He will spend the final week of His earthly life.

A man came running and kneeled at Jesus' feet. He was intent and determined. This man did not come to bait Jesus as the Pharisees did. He was sincere in his question.“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  If anyone asked me this question, I would be delighted beyond words. It is the premier question. There is only one other person in Scripture that is known to have asked it in these words. (Lk.10::25). We wonder what moved him, a man who had everything the world could offer, and where he got the idea. Daniel 12:2 is one of the few places in the OT where the word “eternal life” is found.

The answer Jesus gave is the same in substance that Paul gave to the Philippian jailer when he asked “what must I do to be saved.” Paul responded, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved. …(Acts 16:31NKJV). Jesus here essentially said “Follow me”. However, there is a contrast between the two seekers. The Philippian jailer was suddenly helpless and in fear of his life. He is about to lose everything. This rich young man was not desperate and did not intend to lose anything. Preliminary work had to be done.

Jesus deflected the question “what must I do” by challenging his first word, the adjective “good” (Gr. agathos). Perhaps it was intended to be flattering. Jesus suggested that the man did not understand the meaning of the word, or  Who he is talking to,  that “good”  applied only to God. This is the teaching of Scripture and even the philosopher Plato understood God to be "The Good". So the man does not know who Jesus really is and until he does, he will no doubt reject the answer which Jesus is going to give him.

10:19–20 Jesus answered his question by referring him to the Ten Commandments VI-IX, as He did the lawyer (Lk.10:26), adding that he should not defraud. (Lev.19:13) . These commandments outline our responsibilities to other people. He left out commandments I-V which spell out our relationship to God and X—on covetousness. Any one of the laws that Jesus omitted would have been convicting, but Jesus challenged him on the human relations part of the law and on that level he “passed”.

Why did Jesus refer him to the law instead of to grace, for salvation is by grace? Eph.2:8
The Law is our custodian to bring us to Christ that we may be saved by faith. (Gal.3:24). So one must deal with sin as the law reveals it (the bad news) before salvation is meaningful (the good news). The man (now saying “Master” without the “good”) said he was equal to this challenge: he was law-abiding since childhood. He did not kill, commit adultery, steal, lie, defraud or dishonor father and mother. He went past that barrier and on to the next question.

10:21–22 Jesus did not challenge his answer. He looked at him intently and was delighted. He had drawn the young man in and now locked him down. He took salvation out of his direct grasp by referring him to the substance of the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before Me”. (Ex.20:3). He instructed the rich man to give up his money, his god-substitute, give it to the poor, and follow Jesus. The rich man turned away sadly.

He was wedded to his money, and the pleasure and power that go with it. He was not a miser. He would have to give up a life-style of wide-spread social contacts, multiple residences, servants and colleagues, wine and women, ambitious plans and dreams of empire. Give it all up; burn the bridges by giving it to the poor, to follow Jesus. He was unwilling to do that. Could we? It was impossible and Jesus knew it was impossible. Jesus let him go.

Jesus taught him four things before He let him go.

God is the Good he seeks and Jesus is the God he must acknowledge.
The Law sets the standard of behavior and its demands are beyond our reach.
Leaving everything to follow Jesus is the way to eternal life.
True treasure is in heaven.

There is no "easy believing" in the word of God.

10:23–26 Then He turned back to the disciples and spoke to their shocked expressions. He exclaimed how impossible it was for such a rich person to submit himself to the Kingdom. God would have to work a miracle. The rich are self-sufficient and proud of their attainments. They can buy happiness and security. They have no ordinary needs.

The disciples were first amazed to hear this and then greatly astonished to hear Jesus’ simile: bringing a rich person to salvation is like getting a camel, the biggest and most ungainly Middle-eastern beast, through the eye of a needle, the smallest visible orifice. (It was probably not a low gate in the wall of Jerusalem.)  The threshold for the poor to come to Christ is much lower, like the thread going through the eye of the needle. The poor are threadbare, have little to lose and feel their needs keenly. The end of the chapter will give us an example of such a needy person.

10:27 Jesus said salvation is possible only by God’s power. Then why did Jesus not apply the Power to have this man saved when he asked for eternal life?
I believe that salvation came to this young man after he had time to process the demand, count the cost and make his decision. He came to Jesus in the first place because God was drawing him. (Jn: 6:44). Jesus drew him in further and then let him go away physically, but His love did not diminish with the distance. It may have taken years of struggle and negotiation before he could give his heart to Christ and be His follower.

10:28–31 Peter could relate. He did leave everything—wife, family, and business-- and so did James and John and the others. He would feel some sympathy for the young man. If the cost of discipleship is everything you have, do you end up with nothing? As things were going they might all just end up dead. (10:32). “Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, ‘Let us also go, that we may die with Him. ‘” (Jn.11:16)

Jesus promised them a hundred-fold in this life—with persecutions—and eternal life ahead of them. Peter had thousands of brothers and sisters on the Day of Pentecost and remains famous to this day. James and John and the other disciples became the writers and founders of the new Church and are venerated two thousand years later. Being a servant of Christ has given me benefits beyond calculation which have nothing to do with money.

10:32–34 The pace picked up. Jesus was going ahead of his followers, going toward Jerusalem. They were upset, and all the more when He reminded them of what lay ahead. He was telling them the painful  truth of His coming passion for the third time (8:31–33; 9:30–32) and in more detail. The news was not good, He would be
            Handed over to the chief priests and the scribes (Jews),
            Condemned to death;
            Handed over to the Gentiles (Roman),
            Mocked, spat upon, scourged and killed.
Risen after three days in the grave.
The good news of resurrection at the end did not register. It was unbelievable and therefore would not be heard as good news.

Note the word “handed over”. Handed over by whom? Who handed Jesus over to the chief priests and scribes? Judas Iscariot? Isaiah 53 gives us the background for the answer.
            “smitten by God” (53:4)
            “the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (53:6)
            “led to the slaughter” (53:7)
            “the will of the Lord to bruise Him” (53:10)
            “He has put Him to grief” (53:10)
It was God who handed Him over to the chief priests and scribes.
It was God who handed Him over to the Gentiles to be abused and killed.
It was God who will raise Him from the dead. Acts 13:34
He is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev.13:8 KJV), set apart for this great work before time.

10:35–45 The disciples responded in the only way they knew. When Jesus made His first prophecy of the Cross, Peter was ready to block His way. (8:32). On His second prophecy of the Cross, the disciples reacted by jockeying for dominance. (9:33–35). This time James and John tried again, asking for the best places in Jesus’ future kingdom, a seat on either side of the throne.

The conversation was interesting.
Give us whatever we ask for. (That is what children say every day. But were’t they admonished to be like children? That's what children say every day. Weren't they admonished to be like children?)
What do you want? (Jesus follows their lead.)
Grant us to sit on your right and left side in Your glory. (Credit them with great vision.)
You don’t know what you are asking for. (His response is warm, even passionate.)
              Can you drink the cup I drink? (The cup of suffering)
              Can you be baptized with My baptism? (A bloody death)
We are able. (They may be shaken, but they go on gamely.)They may be shaken, but they go gamely on.)
You will drink the cup of suffering; you will suffer death, but the position is not given on that basis. (It may be given to Moses and Elijah, or Peter and Paul.)It may be saved for Moses and Elijah.)

This is an example of prayer that is not in the will of God. These are godly men, praying in faith, and enjoying an excellent relationship to Jesus. It was a wonderful idea, a great vision; it was just wrong. It was simply not the will of God, and no fault of their own. They had no lack of faith. We have the advantage of seeing that the request was inappropriate and that it was rejected at once. We could pray for such instant feed-back on our prayers.

James and John were crestfallen. The other disciples were irritated. Jesus quieted them. Gentile rulers flaunt their power. Greatness comes from service. He came to do the ultimate service—giving His life as a ransom for many.

10:46–51 He went through Jericho with a growing mass of followers. A blind man heard Jesus’ name. He was the son (Hebrew “bar”) of Timaeus, a man who was likely known by the believers. His son Bar-Timaeus was a beggar and he cried out to Jesus using His Messianic name-- “Son of David” –heard for the first time in Mark. Later the crowd will link David’s name to Jesus when He paraded into Jerusalem.
            “Blessed is the kingdom of our father David” (11:10)
            “Hosanna to the son of David” (Matt.21:9)
The crowd tried to stifle the blind man’s cries for help, but when Jesus called, he came blindly running. Because of his faith, Jesus restored his vision, and he became a follower.

Now we see how the poor and the blind find faith, healing and discipleship while the rich go away with nothing. The poor have nothing to lose and all to gain by clinging to Jesus.


What is eternal life to be? What will Heaven be like? How do I get there? Follow Jesus.
The answers to the three questions on eternal life depend on Jesus’ statement at the end. He came to give His life as a ransom for many. He is the key to eternal life through faith in His atoning sacrifice. He will have His own around Him in His Kingdom and the implication is that they (James and John for example) will know each other. He assures us of rewards in this life and eternal life as well. We are surprised at the lack of details about our eternal life in Jesus’ teaching. He is much more explicit about Hell (Mk.9:47–49) than Heaven.

Ransom (or redemption--the two words come from the same root in Greek 10:45) gives us the picture of a captured person who is valuable enough to warrant negotiating freedom—at considerable cost. Kidnapping for ransom has been a source of income since recorded time that continues in the 21st century. It is practiced by pirates and outlaws wherever legal restraints are loose. In thinking about ransom or redemption, we should avoid two errors.

  1. Christ’ death was a ransom paid to Satan.
  2. Christ’s was a martyr dying for his cause.

If Jesus’ life is a ransom that frees us from bondage to sin, who receives the ransom payment? It is not the devil, as Origen (circ.220–240AD) proposed. In OT uses of the word, “ransom / redeem” may emphasize deliverance without any payment.

“...brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh….” (Deut.7:8)
“…the ransomed shall return…with singing… from exile. (Isa.35:10)

In the NT, Christ’s death is central to the ransom / redemption concept. Penal substitution enriches our understanding of redemption because the Innocent stands in the place of the Guilty,  taking the punishment, allowing the Guilty to be justified and redeemed. Propitiation is a sacrifice given to God on account of His wrath against sin. Jesus' blood represents His death for our redemption.

“…we shall be saved by Him from the wrath of God by the death of His Son.” (Rom.5:9–10)
“…through the redemption that in Christ Jesus Whom God set forth to  be a propitiation through faith in His blood….(Rom.3:24–25 KJV).
“…redemption through His blood….” (Eph.1:7)
“For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God”. (IICor.5:21)

Our hope of eternal life rests on His life given as a ransom for our lives.


“I know
whom I have believed
and am persuaded
that He is able
to keep that
which I’ve committed
unto Him
against that Day.” ( IITim.1:12 KJV)