The Book of Mark
James J. Barker

Lesson 34

Text: MARK 10:17-22


1.     The story of the rich young ruler is also found in Matthew and Luke.

2.     Matthew 19:20 says he was a “young man,” and Luke 18:23 says “he was very rich” (cf. Mark 10:22).

3.     Luke refers to this unnamed young man as “a certain ruler” (Luke 18:18).

4.     This rich young ruler seems very earnest and sincere.  “Running” (10:17) indicates his earnestness and eagerness to talk with Jesus.

5.     He is in every way a very likeable young man.  He knelt down before Jesus (10:17), indicating his great respect for our Lord.

6.     This rich young ruler was sincere, but he was sincerely lost.  Sincerity alone will not get you into heaven.  Hell is full of sincere people.  Most Roman Catholics sincerely believe that they can get to heaven by going to mass and receiving the sacraments.  But they are sincerely wrong.

7.     There are many sincere and religious Muslims and Jews and Hindus and Mormons, etc.  Jesus did not say, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be sincere, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

8.     No, He said, “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).



1.     The rich young ruler addressed our Lord as “Good Master” (10:17).  He was respectful but his approach was wrong.  He only recognized Jesus as a good rabbi or teacher.

2.     He asked the wrong question (10:17), because eternal life cannot be “inherited” by “doing” certain things.

3.     Most people today are like this rich young ruler.  They think that if they “do” certain things, and perform certain rituals, etc. they will go to heaven when they die.

4.     Matthew 19:16 says, “And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?”   

5.     What “good things” shall we do to be saved? 

6.     What good things did the thief on the cross do? 



1.     First, our Lord asked him, “Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God” (10:18).

2.     Some people get confused over our Lord’s statement.  It is all right to describe people as “good.” The Bible says Barnabas “was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith” (Acts 11:24).

3.     What our Lord means here is no one is good, as God is good, but men and women are good in so far as they reflect the goodness of God.

4.     The best of men are still sinners.  God alone is the true standard for understanding what is good.

5.     The Bible says, “They are all gone aside, they are all together become filthy: there is none that doeth good, no, not one” (Psalm 14:3; Romans 3:12).

6.     One preacher explained our Lord’s answer this way: “Either I am God, or I am not good – for God alone is good” (E. Schuyler English, Studies in the Gospel According to Mark).

7.     The rich young ruler thought that Jesus had reached a certain standard of goodness and he wanted to find out how to reach it.  He did not understand that Jesus was God, nor did he understand no one can be “good” enough to be saved. 

8.     Next, our Lord tried to show the religious young ruler that he was a lost sinner – condemned by the perfect Law of God (Mark 10:19).

·        Do not commit adultery (7th commandment)

·        Do not kill (6th commandment)

·        Do not steal (8th commandment)

·        Do not bear false witness (9th commandment)

·        Defraud not (not one of the Ten Commandments)

·        Honour thy father and mother (5th commandment)

9.     When our Lord said, “Defraud not,” some think he was referring to Leviticus 19:13 – “Thou shalt not defraud thy neighbour, neither rob him.”

10. Matthew Henry explained, “Defraud not” this way: “It is a rule of justice not to advance or enrich ourselves by doing wrong or injury to any other.”

11. Some think our Lord was summarizing the tenth commandment – “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbour’s” (Exodus 20:17).

12. In that case, it would complete the second table of the law. Our Lord summed up the law by referring to those that deal with man’s duty to his neighbor – the second half of the ten commandments.   The first half deal with man’s duty to God.  Our Lord was using the law to bring the man under conviction of sin.

13. Our Lord was not telling this rich young ruler that he could enter into eternal life by keeping the commandments (10:19). A RC man once told me that was his understanding of this passage.

14. Our Lord used the law to show him that he needed to be saved.  The law is like a mirror; it cannot save us (cf. James 1:22-25).  The law reveals to us our need to be saved.

15. Our Lord was testing the rich young ruler. He was using the law to produce conviction of sin in the man’s heart.  This is the purpose of the law.  The law convicts; the Gospel saves.

16. This man was under the delusion that he could get to heaven by keeping the law.  Therefore, our Lord used the law to show him how lost he really was.

17. The man thought that he had kept the law perfectly (10:20).  This proves he knew very little about the law (cf. Gal. 3:10-12; James 2:10).

18. Spurgeon said “the rugged way of works was set before him; not that he might attempt to win eternal life thereby, but that he might perceive his own shortcomings, and so feel his weakness as to look for salvation by some other method.”



1.     In his reply, the rich young ruler dropped the adjective “good” and simply addressed our Lord as “Master” (10:20).

2.     The young man complied with the Law externally, but did not comprehend the true spiritual nature of the law.

3.     He kept the letter of the law, but not its spirit.  And deep inside he craved some thing more.  So he asked our Lord –  “what shall I do?” (10:17).  What more could he do? 

4.     In Matthew’s account – “The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?”

5.     The rich young ruler realized something was still missing – “what lack I yet?”

6.     Jesus “loved him” and told him he lacked “one thing” (10:21).  But that one thing was vitally important – a relationship with God, salvation.  The “one thing which he lacked” (10:21) was the one thing that mattered most. 

7.     What good is money if you die and go to hell?  This rich man put his wealth and material comforts above God (cf. 10:23-25).

8.     He was willing to live according to the law’s demands so long as it did not cost him anything. 

9.     He was willing to give out of his riches, but he was not willing to give his riches.  Giving away his great wealth would prove that He loved God more than anything else.  His refusal to do so proved he loved money more than God (10:22). 

10. Our Lord said in Matthew 6:24, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.”

11. Jesus tested him in order to expose the idol in his heart, and sadly he failed the test.  He was not prepared to part with his wealth in order to help others – this proved he did not really understand the law (cf. Mark 12:28-31). 

12. More importantly, he was not willing to yield control of his life over to Jesus.  A person can never get saved until he is willing to do this.



1.     We do not know if the rich young ruler ever repented and got saved – the Bible does not say (10:22; cf. 10:23-27).

2.     His money was not the problem.  It was his love of money that was his problem. 

3.     “For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (I Tim. 6:10).

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