Excerpted from Why Do You Believe That? A Faith Conversation apologetics bible study. Lifeway Christian Resources, 2012.
Out of a great love for people, Jesus invited them to examine their beliefs and their way of thinking to uncover truth out of great love for them. An instructive example of Jesus’ concern for truth is the story of the rich young man.
Read Mark 10:17-27
What did the young man ask Jesus?
How did Jesus reply?
Even though Jesus hasn’t directly addressed the man’s point of how to inherit eternal life yet, Jesus has already questioned one faulty view–that Jesus is simply a “good teacher.” People today continue to make this common mistake about the person of Jesus–that he could have been a good teacher, but not God. Jesus replies to the man’s flattery by saying that there is none that is good except God. Jesus is indirectly teaching the man the nature of his identity as the God, who is the source and standard of goodness.[i]
After Jesus’ response that the young man must keep all the commandments, how does the young man reply?
The man had a faulty and superficial view of salvation. He thought a person could be good enough to merit salvation. Jesus handled this falsehood with his former claim that no one is good but God, but then he takes another step toward opening the man’s eyes to truth. Jesus confronts the man with a penetrating look into the truth of his inward state: that his allegiance was to wealth and not to God.
How did the young man respond to the conversation?
You and I shouldn’t expect that everyone with whom we uncover deep truths will respond to the salvation offered through Jesus Christ. Sometimes, as in the case of the young man, people will walk away from the truth; especially when they have strong commitments to their beliefs already.
Upon rereading the first part of verse 21, we see that Jesus loved this young man. He was obviously a spiritually minded person, who was doubtlessly moral, and who eagerly desired to know what was true about God and salvation. But this gentleman couldn’t face the cost of what he desired. Notice, too, that though Jesus loved the man, Jesus could not change the way to God for him. He could not change the truth for him, but out of love for the man, Jesus helped him uncover what was true.
You and I will not be able to reach into the mind of any given person and see into their hearts as Jesus did here. However, we can demonstrate a great love for someone by gently and graciously exploring their ideas and their view of the world, pointing out where we see untruths. If they walk away unconvinced, we must trust in the sovereignty of God to rightly deal with each member of His creation.
One of the more difficult issues for Christians is to figure out how far we go in a conversation before we concede with a person to “walk away.” What are your thoughts?
As you may have noticed, Jesus didn’t chase the man down. He didn’t continue to hurl Scripture quotes at him as he was walking away. This doesn’t mean we should give up on a person, but it does provide an example for us. Jesus does not verbally beat people down with what is true (or send them a barrage of text messages or internet communication). He provides an opportunity for them to encounter the truth. There will come a point in the conversation or relationship in which you must be willing to let that person make their decision even if it opposes your belief. And you must still love them (remember Luke 6).
[i] Resource on “good teacher”: Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary, “An exposition of the New Testament comprising the entire ‘BE’ series”–Jkt., Mk 10:17 (Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books, 1996, c1989).
Resource on Jesus’ deity: Robert M. Bowman and J. Ed Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ. (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2007).