Let us open our Bibles to the Book of Mark, chapter 10 where we are going to learn about the complexity involved in this great gift of salvation. Let us begin by reading vs.17-18 as Yeshua encounters a young, very rich ruler.
As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.”
Let us first deal with what may appear to be a contradiction. Have you noticed Yeshua’s answer? Though the man addressed Him as Good Teacher, Yeshua responded, No one is good except God alone.
Is Yeshua Divine?
Was this, as some have taught, to be a confession from Yeshua Himself affirming that He is not divine? If only God is good, where does that place the Messiah?
We have already seen in past conversations and passages how He showed Himself to be completely divine, by reading people’s thoughts, and by performing miracles which even the people themselves understood to be messianic. He had also declared that He is God incarnate which brought many to throw stones at Him.
Then, at this very time when He was just about to give Himself as the ultimate sacrifice, an action which required purity and ultimate sinlessness, we encounter this shocking statement; No one is good except God.
First, why did Yeshua answer the man in this manner? What He did was answer this man in kind. The man thought Yeshua was a man like the others, so Yeshua answers in turn, from a human perspective.
He then begins a conversation, a struggle, just like He did with Jacob, who at the end of a long night of confrontation said, “Indeed, I have seen God face to face, and yet my life was spared.” (Gen. 32:30). With the rich young ruler however, the outcome was different.
What is also interesting is that this man may have thought Jesus to be more than a simple teacher as he attributed to Him some super human ability, perhaps even some divine capacity.
This man may have even thought of Yeshua as the Messiah, as many do today, but without recognizing His divinity. To them as well, Jesus asks, Why do you call Me good?
You see, anyone who does not believe that Yeshua is divine and yet worships Him and speaks of Him as the one who atones and forgives sin, is committing idolatry. This is what the text is about to teach us.
Let us figure out who this man is. Gathering information from our text and from the other Gospel sources, here in vs.22 we learn that he was a rich man, and Luke adds that he was extremely rich (Luke 18:23) and gives him the title archon (Luke 18:18), denoting that he was most probably a ruler of a synagogue, like Jairus. Being a businessman, he must have devoted at least some of his time to religious matters. Matthew adds to this description by mentioning that he was young (Matthew 19:22).
So, this man had all the material things he needed, but he did experience a hollow somewhere in his life. He did not know exactly what it was, looking for answers that gave the assurance he longed for, something perhaps his religious connections did not fulfill.
The Means to Inherit Salvation
Notice his question to Jesus: What shall I do to inherit eternal life? But there is nothing one can do to obtain salvation. The Hebrew Bible teaches that it is by grace and by faith, not by works that we rightfully inherit eternal life.
That salvation is by faith is not a Christian invention. Its teachings lie at the very core of what the Hebrew Scriptures (the original Jewish faith) taught through and through. In Genesis 15:6 Moses clearly stated that Abraham believed in the LORD, and He accounted it to him for righteousness. Abraham, the father of the Jews became righteous, tzadik, not through deeds, but by faith.
Later God confirms all of these things through Habakkuk the prophet when He declare that, The just shall live by his faith (Habakkuk 2:4). Rabbinical Judaism however, along with all other man-made religions taught differently. They stress the works one needs to perform to gain spiritual salvation and eternal life with God.
Had the rich young ruler been willing to receive these words from Moses and Habakkuk, he would have had access to eternal life and not been held down by erroneous beliefs.
His True Credentials
Yet there were some in the Jewish community who did see the Messiah as the Bible rightly described Him. In Matthew 16:16b, Peter called Him the Son of the Living God. In John 1:29 we read how John the Baptist describes Yeshua. He said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
When Andrew first saw Him, he said, We found the Messiah (Jn.1:41).
Then when Philip found Nathanael (John 1:45) he said, “We have found Him whom Moses wrote of in the Law, also the prophets, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Later on, the blind beggar twice calls Him Son of David (Luke 18: 38-39). This is not how this rich young ruler saw Yeshua.
Pointing to the Law
See what Yeshua tells him next. It is very revealing. Vs.19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’
As He often did in His arguments and answers, He brings the person back to the source, to the Word of God. Now the question is why bring him to the Law? Because this is one of the best places to go and discover that one is truly a sinner. A primary reason why God gave the Law was so that we recognize that we are sinners, unable to attain salvation by any merit of our own.
This is why the Law was added. We read in Romans 7:7a, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.”
So, the Law points to the fact that if we honestly look at ourselves and the true attitude of our heart, we would see that we break the Law.
Why Skip Over the First Four?
But we should be asking another question. Why did Yeshua list laws from the second part of the Ten Commandments, those which have to do with our horizontal relationship to man? Why did the Messiah skip over the first four commandments which deal with our relationship with God. Probably because the man had already broken those first four.
He broke the first commandment when he called whom he thought was a man, good when only God is good. He also broke the first part of the law when he ran to Him and knelt, giving homage in a way that we do not do to another man.
Remember as well how he asked Yeshua how to obtain eternal life, when this is God’s prerogative to give. He did not think He was God. This is probably why Yeshua resorted to the second part of the Ten Commandments and attempted to bring this man to repentance and salvation. So, Yeshua approaches him from the human level, just as the man approached Yeshua from a human standpoint.
If one receives the first set of Laws, that is, if one truly honors God and carries no idols in his heart, he may then have much more success with the following six laws dealing with man.