What does Mark say Jesus was doing when this event took place? See Mar 10:17. Where had He been, and where was He going? See Mar 10:1,32,46, 11:1. How does Matthew describe the age of this man? See Mat 19:20,22, and note that the term “young man” (neaniskos) may refer to anyone from a boy in his teens to someone in his late twenties. How does Luke describe him? See Luk 18:18. What is meant by a ruler? Cf. Luk 8:41 (official), Luk 12:58 (magistrate), Luk 14:1 (leaders), Luk 23:13, Joh 3:1, 7:47-49, 12:42, Act 4:5,8, 14:5, etc… In what way was the apostle Paul at one time like this man? Cf. Act 7:58, 26:10-12. How does Mark say the young man approached Jesus? See Mar 10:17. What does this and his response to Jesus in Mar 10:20 indicate about him spiritually and morally? Summarize the many positive things this man had going for him. How would most people describe his future? How was the apostle Paul also once like that? See Gal 1:14, Phil 3:5-6. In what significant way did Paul prove himself different from the rich young ruler? Contrast Mat 19:22 and Phil 3:7-8. What does this teach us about how the things that we value influence the choices we make that determine the direction of our lives? What must we value most?
What question did the rich young ruler pose to Jesus? See Mat 19:16, and notice that this is the first mention of “eternal life” in the Bible. Considering that he was rich, what sort of thing may he have had in mind? Was he thinking along the lines of an entire life of devotion to God, or of a single act or perhaps several acts he could point to as a guarantee that he was “saved”? How is that like many people today? What acts do people today point to as proof that they have obtained eternal life?
With what adjective do Mark and Luke have the rich young ruler describing Jesus? See Mar 10:17, Luk 18:18. How does Matthew present the man using the same adjective? See Mat 19:16. In comparing Jesus’ response in Mat 19:17a with that in Mar 10:18 and Luk 18:19, what is clear about the general intent? Is it also possible that in the course of the conversation the man used the adjective both ways, and Jesus answered similarly in order to emphasize a point? Think: what is clearly the key word upon which the dialogue turns, and is it reasonable to suppose there was more to the conversation than the single sentence recorded in each gospel? Why might Matthew have presented the conversation in a different manner than Mark and Luke, or perhaps emphasized a different part of their dialogue? Hint: recall Matthew’s audience, and notice also how he presents what Mark and Luke articulate as “God”. Notice also that Matthew’s phraseology (eis estin ho agathos) presents Jesus answering in a way that reflects the Jewish Shema from Deut 6:4 (cf. Mar 12:29,32, Jam 2:19). What can we learn from this about how to handle what scoffers often present as seeming contradictions in God’s word?
What was Jesus’ purpose in answering the young man as He did in regard to “good” and His statement that God alone is good? Was it to correct a faulty view of Himself and deny that He really is good and that He really is God as we believe? Or was it to correct a faulty view of what it means to be good? In light of His response, what is it that defines what it means to be good? In regard to the intent of the young man’s question, what is the standard of goodness by which we must measure our worthiness to obtain eternal life? How is that different from what the young man assumed that standard to be? In what way is all of mankind like the young man? Cf. Psa 36:1-2, Pro 21:2, 30:12, Luk 18:11, 2Co 10:12. How in fact do men measure up to God’s standard of goodness? Cf. Job 4:17-19, 15:14-16, 25:4-6, Psa 14:2-3, 130:3, 143:2, Ecc 7:20, Isa 64:6, Rom 3:23.
After digressing to correct the young man’s faulty view of what it means to be good, how did Jesus answer his question about what he must do to obtain eternal life? What does this teach us about the commandments reflecting the nature and character of God? Can one be “good” without keeping the commandments? Is it the keeping of the commandments that makes one good, or is it because one is good and reflects the nature and character of God that he keeps the commandments? I.e., is our goodness to inherit eternal life ultimately determined by our acts, or by our nature? Contrast Phil 3:4-6 and 1Ti 1:12-15. Although faultless as to legalistic righteousness in observing the commandments as was this young man, before he was in Christ did Paul have the nature of God so as to be truly good in order to inherit eternal life? What is it exactly that imparts to us that divine nature? See Gal 2:20, Col 1:27, 2Pe 1:3.
1. Notice that there is no difference in the KJV which follows the later Byzantine texts that “smoothed out” this difference by assimilating the verbiage from Mark and Luke.↩