“And look, someone came to him.” The record of the rich young ruler is in Matthew 19:16-22; Mark 10:17-22, and Luke 18:18-23. It is Luke who tells us that the man was a ruler.
“look.” The Greek word is idou (#2400 ἰδού), and it is used to get our attention. See commentary on Matthew 1:20 (“Look!). The “look” (the figure of speech asterismos) in this verse is important, because it shows that it was considered remarkable that someone (especially someone well off) would come to Jesus and ask how to have everlasting life. How many people actually seek everlasting life, especially rich people?
“what good thing must I do.” Although this is worded differently than the question in Mark and Luke, the records are the same; they only have a different emphasis. Mark 10:17 and Luke 18:18 say, “what must I do,” instead of “what good thing must I do,” but of course whatever the man had to do to attain life in the Age to Come would have been a “good thing.” The man involved was a “rich,” “young,” “ruler,” something we learn by piecing together the information in the different Gospels (Matt. 19:20; Luke 18:18, 23). We also learn from piecing the details in the different Gospels together that the fullness of what he said to Jesus was, “Good master, what good thing must I do….” The Gospel of Matthew records Jesus’ response to the question, “what good thing…,” while in contrast, Mark and Luke record the part of the conversation when Jesus responds to the man’s saying, “Good master.” There are multiple issues involved in the man’s question, and the different Gospels engage those different issues. There is no contradiction between the Gospels, they just deal with different details in the record.
Jesus’ answer is different in Matthew than it is in Mark and Luke, although the conclusion is the same, that there is only one who is good, and that is God. The issue being dealt with in Matthew, and Jesus’ answer to this rich young ruler, is an important lesson for each of us. Jesus said, “Why do you ask me about that which is good?” (Matt. 19:17). Jesus went on to say, “You know the commandments” (Mark 10:19). Jesus was making a powerful point. God is good, and truth and everlasting life come from Him. Furthermore, God has not made salvation difficult to understand; it is clearly presented in His Word. Although this man was young, because he was a rich ruler he would have been well educated and experienced in life. Educated people should have the confidence to read and believe the fundamental truths of the Word of God without having to have them explained to them.
One of the huge problems among believers today is that they spend very little time actually reading the Bible and learning it, so they end up confused by it and all the different opinions people have about it. As we see from the record, when Jesus did say what it took under the Old Covenant to have everlasting life, the young ruler already knew it and was doing it. In the Grace Administration in which we live, salvation is very easy (because Jesus paid for it and all we do is accept it!), and also clearly set forth in the Bible: “if you confess with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him out from among the dead, you will be saved” (Rom. 10:9).
[For more on Jesus’ answer to the rich young ruler, see commentary on Mark 10:18].
“life in the age to come.” The “age to come” is the future Messianic Age, the Millennial Kingdom of Christ on earth, when Christ will reign over the whole earth as king. Once a person is raised from the dead in the age to come, they will never die again, thus it is appropriate, although not as accurate, to use “everlasting life” instead of “life in the age to come.” [For more on the translation “live in the age to come,” see Appendix 2, “Life in the Age to Come”].