Courage for life Blog

Questioning Jesus for Answers on Eternal Life

February 28, 2024

What if you could ask God a question and receive a direct answer? Have you ever envisioned what it would be like to walk up to Jesus and ask Him a question? Well, people walked up to Jesus and asked Him all sorts of questions and received a variety of responses. The writers of the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) in the New Testament record some of these question-and-answer encounters with Jesus.

In three of the four gospels, the same account of a young man running up to Jesus and asking Jesus a question is recorded: Matthew 19:16-26, Mark 10:17-27, and Luke 18:18-27. When you read all three accounts, you enhance your understanding of the man’s question and Jesus’ response.

To help you picture the scene in your mind, Jesus is teaching the crowds in the region of Judea near the Jordan River. The Pharisees, known as religious teachers, are questioning Jesus to test Him. At the same time, there are children and their families eager to be in the presence of Jesus. As Jesus is finishing His teaching and is ready to set out on His journey to Jerusalem, a man runs up to Jesus to ask him a question: “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (see Mark 10:17).

This young man is asking this question of Jesus because he wants to know an answer, but why this question about eternal life? Is this young man like the religious teachers trying to trap Jesus or interrogate Him? Hopefully, the question from this young man comes from a heart that genuinely wants to know Jesus’ response.

What is Jesus’ response to this man’s question?

“Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. But to answer your question, you know the commandments: You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.” Mark 10:18-19

In Jesus’ response, he first asks the man a question, “Why do you call me good?” implying that the man is either acknowledging that Jesus is God, or the young man is trying to see if Jesus will self-identify as God. Second, Jesus lists six of the Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20:1-17.

How does this man respond to Jesus’ answer?

“Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.” Mark 10:20

This man changes his address of Jesus to reveal he thinks Jesus is just a “teacher,” not God. But then, he reveals his belief that his obedience to God’s commandments has been impeccable since he was young.

What does Jesus know about this man that this man either is unaware of himself or he knows but is in denial?

“Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.” Mark 10:21-22

Jesus stops and looks at the man. Jesus loved him. Jesus told the man what to do and gave the man specific instructions to obey. How should you interpret this question-and-answer encounter between Jesus and the man? Thankfully, Jesus explains the question-and-answer encounter with the young man to His disciples because Jesus’ disciples are “amazed” at Jesus’ answer and the man’s response.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” This amazed them. But Jesus said again, “Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God. In fact, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” Mark 10:23-25

Remember, the young man initiated this question-and-answer encounter with Jesus. The young man wanted Jesus to answer his question about obtaining eternal life. But it appears that the young man thought he could obtain eternal life by keeping the Law, meaning the Old Testament Laws, specifically the Ten Commandments. The young man thought he could “do” the right things God required to obtain eternal life. From the young man’s perspective, he told Jesus he felt he was keeping God’s commandments well enough to obtain eternal life.

But from God’s perspective, this young man had missed the point of obeying God’s commandments. His obedience to God’s commandments should have been his expression of love for God, not his means of obtaining eternal life. God did not establish His commandments as a transaction between Himself and man, but rather a rule of life for man to conduct his life God’s way. Therefore, Jesus answered this man with a response that he would understand.

“Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Mark 10:21

The young man received a transactional response from Jesus. But Jesus’ response exposed the young man’s way of thinking to him and those observing the conversation (i.e., Jesus’ disciples). God loves this man. God wants the young man to “follow Him.” God wants the young man to love God more than his possessions, wealth, and status. Jesus exposed the heart of this young man to himself and Jesus’ disciples. The man didn’t want a relationship with God or even to be with God, but rather a guaranteed transaction from God that he was doing the right things to obtain eternal life.

The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked. Mark 10:26

Jesus told His disciples who is responsible for giving eternal life. Jesus said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.” (Mark 10:27).

How should you interpret this question-and-answer encounter between Jesus and the young man about eternal life?

Is Jesus teaching that “rich people” cannot obtain eternal life? Absolutely not! Is Jesus teaching that every person must sell all their possessions to obtain eternal life? Absolutely not! Jesus declares that God gives eternal life; man does not earn it through obedience to God’s commandments. God does the impossible, giving sinful man eternal life through faith in Jesus.

Have you ever wanted to ask God a question?

You wanted to talk with Jesus about God giving you eternal life. Maybe you were by yourself and initiated a conversation with Jesus. Maybe you thought like this young man that you could “do” the right things God required to obtain eternal life. Hopefully, this young man’s encounter with Jesus has helped you learn that God made the way for you to receive eternal life through faith in Jesus. You can be the recipient of something Jesus earned for you.

If you have ever been curious about how you could obtain eternal life, this question-and-answer encounter between Jesus and this young man provides you with some insights. From God’s perspective, how do you obtain eternal life? Faith in Jesus. But more than just this encounter provides evidence of God’s perspective on obtaining eternal life.

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16

“And anyone who believes in God’s Son has eternal life.” John 3:36a

“If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by openly declaring your faith that you are saved.” Romans 10:9-10

“Yet we know that a person is made right with God by faith in Jesus Christ, not by obeying the law. And we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we might be made right with God because of our faith in Christ, not because we have obeyed the law. For no one will ever be made right with God by obeying the law.” Galatians 2:16

God defines how a person obtains eternal life or is “saved” because God is the one who gives eternal life and is the one doing the “saving.” Jesus will give you eternal life through your faith in Him. Ask Him because God loves you!

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