“On Your Mark”
What Must We Do? (Chapter 10 Verses 17-31)
The themes are all very relevant, marriage (vv1-12), children (vv13-16), and now earthly possessions (17-31). This man was young according to Matthew’s version of the account. He is prominent in the community, got money, and very eager to do business with Jesus, just the kind of young man we would all love to have in our Church. But notice right from the start (v17), he does not ask how he may get eternal life. What must he do? You see he thinks he knows only too well how, by his doing something, a good deed of some kind, some moral act of obedience. Like so many religious people today, they are always wanting to do something, the Person of the Lord Jesus, his propitiatory sacrifice are totally ignored, what must they do? Well the short answer of course is nothing, because we all know that the more you try to be good, the worse it gets. The salvation of the Lord is nothing to do with doing, it is being, it is what God makes a person, his initiative, his intervention, his saving and sovereign grace in Christ, it is about trusting in what Jesus Christ has done. The man’s question of course is quite arrogant, because behind it lies the gross assumption that he has the ability to achieve what he asks for. All you can commend him for is that he asks for the right thing, eternal life.
The Lord wants the man to think about good (v18), what it really means. It is not that the man is wrong, for Jesus is infinitely good, but that is the very point, only God is really good, in the absolute sense. And what the man needs to do is to look at, and see Jesus in a new way, because if he means good in the ordinary sense of the word then that is far short of the mark. What did he mean? Like many who see Jesus as being a good teacher? Or a good prophet? In light of the question he has asked Jesus, this is very important, because no ordinary religious teacher has the ability to bestow eternal life on anyone. The Kingdom is not taught nor bought. So you see the young man is brought up short, to think about good in relation to salvation and God, hence he begins to realize from whence comes eternal life, salvation. Yes indeed, God is good. Coming to him we find him to be abundantly so, just like Jesus (John 14.9). Jesus came to reveal the true character of God to people who had totally wrong ideas about him, and he did it to total perfection (John 10.30; 14.9; Matthew 11.27).
(© James R Hamilton, written September, 1996)