"Now behold, one came and said to Him, 'Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?' So He said to him, 'Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.' He said to Him, 'Which ones?' Jesus said, '"You shall not murder." "You shall not commit adultery." "You shall not steal." "You shall not bear false witness." "Honor your father and your mother, and You shall love your neighbor as yourself"'" (Matt. 19:16-19).
Mark 10:17 indicates that the man who we often refer to as "the rich, young ruler" (cf. Matt. 19:20,22; Luke 18:18,23) "came running" to Jesus. It is remarkable to see someone in his position approach Jesus by running--just to ask a question! This surely indicates his excitement and great desire to speak with the Lord.
"Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?" (Matt. 19:16). His question is worded in the singular (i.e., he wants to know what one thing he needs to do to be saved).
"Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God" (Matt. 19:17). Be careful not to misunderstand Jesus' words here. It appears that He is saying: "Do not call Me good unless you believe that I am divine!" Thus, if the man really believed his own words, he was acknowledging Jesus as deity. Our Lord wanted the rich young ruler to pause and consider this point because he would need to believe in the divinity of Jesus in order to endure the test he was about to be subjected to (cf. I John 5:5). Additionally, Jesus' words here destroy any grounds the rich, young ruler might think he has for considering himself to be "good."
It is interesting to observe that Jesus didn't dwell on the point regarding the man's use of the word "good." It's as if He dropped this brief comment in the man's ear as a seed that would perhaps sprout at a later time. We know from the immediate context that the young ruler did not heed Jesus' words (cf. Matt. 19:22), but no one today other than Jehovah knows whether this man ever submitted to the Lord completely at a later point in life.
"If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments." God, who knows what is good, is the only One with the authority to set absolute standards of goodness. Man certainly does not have this privilege. God has always revealed that which is good in the commandments He has given. Literally, Jesus wants this man (and us) to keep, and continue to keep, the commandments of God that are applicable. The rich young ruler was amenable to the Mosaic law. Today, all are under the "law of Christ" and must live faithfully under the New Testament (Gal. 6:2).
The rich young ruler then asks which commandments should be kept. Jesus responds by citing many of the Ten Commandments found in Exodus 20. "You shall not murder" (6th commandment), "You shall not commit adultery" (7th commandment), "You shall not steal" (8th commandment), "You shall not bear false witness" (9th commandment), "Honor your father and your mother" (5th commandment), and "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Lev. 19:18; cf. Rom. 13:9).
Jesus wanted the Jews of that day to obey all of the Mosaic law, not just the specific commands He mentioned here (cf. Matt. 23:23). It is undeniable that certain commandments are more significant (or weightier) than others, but that fact does not authorize anyone to neglect any of them!
We will continue studying this narrative in our next lesson.