Witness in Action – The Rich Young Ruler

Mark 10:17-27

also Matt. 19:16-26 Luke 18:18-27

1.  The Samaritan Woman – one who knew little and had little interest (at first)

2.  The Rich Young Ruler – one who knew a little and had a wrong understanding

A. The Dialogue

1. The man initiated the conversation v.17

a. What good deed (Matt. 19:16) must I do?

b. I’ve done all I know, but I have this nagging suspicion there is something I’ve left out. Not so different from the Athenians and their temple to the Unknown God, eh? Act 17:23

2. Jesus’ response took it to the next level v.18

a. the man asked about good things

b. Jesus responded by pointing him to the Good One

c. The standard of good revealed in the Ten Words point to the ultimate goodness of God

i. There is one who is good in the absolute intrinsic sense; he has the authority to define what is good and acceptable for his creation.

ii. He’s already revealed the answer to your question; you know where it is, what it says – now go do it

3. The man is looking for something beyond the obvious

Matt. 19:17-18a But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to Him, “Which ones?”

a. what sort of commandments

b. the context indicates he thought that like Saul/Paul he had thoroughly covered the basics of law-keeping (see Phil. 3:3-6)

c. if Jesus is some sort of super-spiritual mystic with an inside line to God, perhaps he knows about a condition for salvation that isn’t apparent to the average lay-person

4. Jesus declares special revelation to be a “sufficient rule of faith and practice” v.19

a. there is no higher law than what God has already given

b. it is a comprehensive revelation of God’s definition of goodness

5. The man still thinks he’s doing ok, but… v.20

a. I’ve done that, what else?

i. he had satisfied the cultural standard for salvation – external conformity to the Commandments

ii. I’ve never committed murder, robbed a bank, or done drugs; I don’t smoke (much) or drink (to get drunk). I’m not that bad, I don’t deserve hell; God will let me in.

b. but I have no real assurance of salvation

i. works-based salvation never inspires complete confidence

ii. there’s always room for the “what if it isn’t good enough” question

c. there must be something else

ποιέω poieo (make or do as a single act)

rather than πράσσω prasso (perform repeatedly or habitually)

pilgrimage – to Mecca (hajj); to Rome; to see the Pope and kiss his ring

not interested in a lifestyle change

meet the prerequisites and move on to the next conquest/milestone in life

6. Jesus’ response brings him face to face with God v.21-22

a. it’s not a matter of externals, it’s a matter of the heart

i. where is your loyalty, what is the source of your confidence?

ii. misplaced loyalty spells only disaster

iii. what you do and what you have isn’t enough; why is part of it, too

Someone has said:Nothing an unbeliever does is good (in the ultimate sense) in God’s eyes because he does not do it out of love for God.

iv. poverty is not a prerequisite for salvation or super-spirituality (contra RC) – trust in God rather than riches is

b. the terms of discipleship have a practical outworking

i. deny self, take up the cross, follow Me (see Matt. 16:24 Mark 8:34 Luke 9:23)

c. Jesus pushes to a point of decision

i. not by explicit statement (you need to choose) but by confronting him with God’s expectation

ii. Jesus deliberately showed the man the standard is so high he could never achieve it.

iii. the man knew the truth, had been confronted with God’s demands and tacitly acknowledged the rightness of those demands – sad, went away sorrowful

iv. his failure to follow Jesus’ instruction equated to a decision to reject the truth

7. The disciples learn another salvation lesson v.23-26

a. Those who have experienced the “divine blessing” of riches have a hard time getting into heaven

i. if riches aren’t a sign of divine approval, then what gives?

b. salvation is of the Lord

i. Bottom line – man cannot save himself; only God can save him.

B. The Strategy

1. Jesus was prepared to answer (and did answer) a spiritual question engagingly

a. He answered serious questions asked seriously in kind (cp. the scribes and Pharisees)

i. He didn’t blow it off because it appeared the guy was a permanent pagan or was merely hassling him

ii. He was sensitive to questions posed as statements v. 20

b. take responses at face value when possible

i. the fact the man recoiled from keeping the command to love his neighbor showed he hadn’t kept it

ii. but, Jesus didn’t criticize/correct him when he said he had kept all the commands.

iii. nor did he get into an argument about what it really means to keep the commands of God

2. Jesus boldly (but not abrasively) countered cultural deceptions

a. religious culture called the law and keeping it good; Jesus called God good

i. if Satan can get us to focus on something less than God as the standard, he has won

ii. if something less than God is the standard, we can remake or revise the standard to fit our abilities and desires

b. culture does not determine what is acceptable to God

i. think about who God is; is it reasonable to expect he would let us determine the terms of our entrance into his home? The President, David Rockefeller, the Community and Friendship Clubs decide who is welcome into their home or organization; would God do less?

3. Jesus used a legitimate opportunity to point the person to God

a. reminded him that truth, goodness, right, justice, etc. – universal principles – must have a source that transcends mere human existence.

b.even though it is corrupted by sin, the natural world plainly reveals that God exists even though special revelation is necessary for saving knowledge

c. He didn’t stretch the conversation beyond where it could reasonably go.

4. Jesus stayed faithful to the standard

a. remember what God’s standard is

i. he expects perfect obedience

ii. he expects us to serve him with our whole heart

Jer. 24:7 I will give them a heart to know that I am the LORD, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart.

iii. it’s not the prayer or the profession, it’s the changed life

b. He challenged the man to renounce self and self-help

c. He didn’t cheapen the gospel (lower the bar) simply for the sake of decisions


a. it’s not just that divine power is necessary for salvation – God’s timing in salvation is perfect

b. God’s providential placement of means (people, preaching, reading materials, circumstances) goes beyond our ability to fully grasp

c. our success is measured by whether or not we faithfully to point others to Christ, not by the length of our convert list.


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