Summary: In Mark 10:17-31, Jesus’ teaching confuses a young rich young ruler, his enemies, the crowd and His own disciples, and then He tells a camel joke.

#43 Through the Eye of a Needle (or Jesus Tells a Joke!)

Series: Mark

Chuck Sligh

April 18, 2021


TEXT: Please turn in your Bibles to Mark 10:17.


Illus. – One time a man was sent to prison, so he was getting to know his new cellmate. Suddenly, down the hallway, someone yelled “42” after which prisoners from one end to the other burst out in uncontrollable laughter, including his new cellmate. But he just kept on with the conversation with his cellmate until someone on the other end of the hallway yelled out, “67,” followed again by hysterical laughter through the whole prison hallway.

After a few more times of calling out numbers, resulting in hilarity, he asked his new cellmate, “What’s going on with these numbers and people breaking out laughing?”

His cellmate said, “Well, we’ve all been in prison so long, we’ve heard all the same jokes time and time again, so we gave each one a number and when we hear the number, we remember the joke and laugh at it.”

“Huh,” said the new guy. “Can I try it?”

“Sure” said the old timer.

So the new guy yells out “56,” but all he gets are a few muted chuckles. So he tried a different number, “13,” he yelled, but this time not one person laughed. He looked at his cellmate and asked, “What gives? Nobody’s laughing at my jokes.”

The old prisoner said, “Well, some people can tell a joke and some can’t.”

I love that joke because it’s a joke about telling jokes.

Did you know that on at least one occasion, Jesus told a joke? It was a joke with a purpose to explain why a rich young ruler made a bad decision to turn from Christ and why rich people find it difficult to trust in Christ. This led to a serious discussion about what believers get in return for their sacrifices. Let’s dig in.


Look with me at verse 17 – “And when he had gone forth the way, one came running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, ‘Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?’”

Mark simply mentions that “one” came running to Jesus. Matthew says he was YOUNG, and Luke says he was a RULER. All three tell us he was RICH. For these reasons, this man is often referred to as “the Rich Young Ruler.”

Now notice that this young man is very sincere.

• Mark tells us the man came running to Jesus: This suggests that his question had an urgency to it. He HAD to get an answer to his question, revealing that he did not have assurance about his eternal destiny.

• Second, this young man had the right attitude: He knelt before Jesus.

• Last, he addressed Jesus respectfully as “Good Master” or “Good Teacher.”

But notice that the man asked the wrong question. He asked, “What shall I DO to INHERIT eternal life.” His question revealed that he viewed eternal life as something earned by doing good works, the OPPOSITE of an inheritance, which is something bestowed by someone else.

Verse 18 says, “And Jesus said unto him, ‘Why callest thou me good? No one is good but One, that is, God.”

By calling Jesus “Good Master,” he did something unheard of among the Jews. Jewish teaching rightly recognized the biblical truth that no one is perfectly good except God, and therefore to ascribe the term “good” to a person was at best questionable and possibly blasphemous.

Did the rich young ruler perceive that Jesus was God?—Probably not, but he definitely looked to Jesus as a great and good teacher, and felt Jesus could resolve the gnawing of his soul about the insecurity of his eternal destiny.

Jesus continued in verse 19 – “Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor thy father and mother.’

Since it was the rich young ruler who brought up goodness, Jesus pointed him to the law, specifically the Ten Commandment—the ultimate standard of what is good. He didn’t quote all 10 of the commandments, but rather, the second table—the last 5 of the 10, the ones that deal with our relationships with others. These are the ones that are more verifiable by OUTWARD ACTIONS, not one’s INNER HEART relationship with God, which cannot be outwardly seen.

How does he respond? – Verse 20 says, “And he answered and said unto him, ‘Master, all these have I observed from my youth.’”

We in the Christian era would be shocked if someone said that. Was this man crazy?—Was he self-delusional?

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