16 Just then a man came up to Jesus and asked, “Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?”
17 “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, keep the commandments.”
18 “Which ones?” he inquired.
Jesus replied, “ ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, 19 honor your father and mother,’ and ‘love your neighbor as yourself.’”
20 “All these I have kept,” the young man said. “What do I still lack?”
21 Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
22 When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?”
26 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”
27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?”
28 Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. 30 But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
What a fascinating interaction between Jesus and this man. It is a common human experience to feel the deep need to know if we are good enough. We wonder what good things we must do to justify our existence and make us feel good about ourselves.
The modern (non-Christian) view may not include the question of how to gain eternal life, but nevertheless all people have the urge to seek some form of salvation through good works. It may be through our jobs, our achievements, our status, or something else.
Jesus initially answers the man’s question by showing that it’s pointless to seek to be ‘good’ enough – it’s impossible. There is only One who is truly good (God).
Jesus then adds another layer of challenge – if you really want to try to be good, you could start by keeping the Commandments. The man responds that he already keeps the Commandments and yet he knows that is still not enough.
Then Jesus drills down even deeper into the man’s heart to illuminate the point where the man realises he cannot achieve his own salvation – he is exposed as unwilling to give up his possessions or status to follow Jesus. Like all of us, the man is ultimately self-centred.
The disciples who are listening to this interaction are shocked. If this ‘good’ man cannot be saved, then who can?
This is exactly Jesus’s point. With man this is impossible. No one can be good enough to engineer their own salvation. It only possible with God.
As a Christian I may know this in theory, but also need to regularly be reminded that being ‘good’ or doing good things is not the basis of my value or my salvation.
While I remain on this earth I am still deeply flawed and yet so deeply loved by God in spite of my flaws. Thank you, Jesus! You alone are my salvation, and in Your great love is my worth.
Written by Shelley Witt