JANUARY 10, 2016
MAIN TEXT: MATTHEW 10:17-31
And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments:‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Who am I? Why am I here? What is my purpose in living? Where will I go when I die?
Everyone thinks about these things. We would consider these the ultimate questions of life. They go to the heart of what it means to be human. They address our significance and our destiny. The questions are connected. How you answer one will influence how you answer the others.
Right here in the middle of Mark we are told of a respected man of the community that came to Jesus. He was interested in his destiny, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” In the process of answering that question, Jesus also gave him insight concerning what or who really matters most in life. And what you decide now will determine where you go later. The questions connect and so do the answers.
This text addresses the important question: Who or what should have first place in my life? Jesus demands that people give Him first place in their lives above all else and all others (Colossians 1:18). Mark has just finished telling a story and Jesus’ teaching that we must receive the Kingdom of God like a little, helpless child. Today’s text raises the question: Will someone with great wealth and standing receive the Kingdom like a little child?
It is easier than you think
Mark is using contrast in these two stories. This man is the opposite of a helpless child. To come to Jesus like a child is to come with nothing, in total dependence on Him. No one can earn the Kingdom. The requirement is the same for all: simple, childlike reliance on Jesus.
Mark tells us “he had great possessions”. Matthew 19 says he is young. Luke 18 calls him a ruler. We now know him as the “rich young ruler”. He was a man of power, affluence, and influence. He ran to Jesus. He was eager to get to Jesus because “he was setting out on his journey”. He respectfully “knelt before” Jesus.
Jesus was richer than this man could imagine. As the Son of God, Jesus had lived for all eternity in the glory, wealth, love, and sweet fellowship of His Father. What He was about to ask this man to do was precisely what Jesus had done coming to earth and taking on flesh (2 Corinthians 8:9).
The man’s question is one of the most significant on the whole Bible and for all humanity (verse 17). In the Bible the gift of the life of God is called: eternal life, entering the Kingdom, having treasure on heaven, and enjoying the age to come. It is the life of God and life with God.
The man’s question is good but implies that he believes eternal life is something you work for – “what must I do?” Most religions of the world are categorized by “do”. I am saved by what I do. Christianity is characterized by “done”. I am saved by what another has “done”. Life with God and the life of God are not achieved; it is received as a gift (John 1:12) based on what Jesus has done for us (John 3:16).
Jesus responds (verse 19) and cites the last six commandments – which address our human relationships with one another. Verse 21 is tender and verse 22 is tragic. The sincerity and earnestness of this young man had moved the heart of Jesus.
Jesus had recited the last six commandments but now was addressing the first, “You shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:3). God must be first in our lives. The particular demand that Jesus puts on this man is not a general command for all purposes – it was specific to him. His wealth occupied the place that only God should have in his life. You cannot love your wealth supremely and love Jesus supremely.
He went away “disheartened” and “sorrowful” (verse 22). His gold would remain his god. James Edwards said, “A person who leads an exemplary life – who even endears himself to the Son of God – can still be an idolater”.
It is harder than you think
For the rich young man, money was the center of his identity. To lose his money would have been to lose himself. In verse 23 Jesus is not condemning wealth and commending poverty. His point is that wealth breeds confidence in one’s self and it has an addictive quality. Scripture addresses its dangerous attraction (Matthew 6; Luke 12; Luke 16). It can become life’s priorities and the things of God go by the wayside.
Addressing His disciples, Jesus paints a vivid picture (verses 24-25). An impossible task – salvation is totally impossible for any of us on our own. One thing – one other earthly love that comes before God – can keep you out of God’s Kingdom. Jesus turns the value system of the world on its head.
The Jews were guilty of their own prosperity theology – they saw wealth and riches as evidence of God’s favor. Jesus let them know that wealth can build a barrier to the one thing necessary to enter the Kingdom: helpless, childlike trust in Jesus. Salvation is something man cannot accomplish. Salvation is a divine accomplishment through Christ’s work. It is done! With men, no one can be saved. With God, anyone can be saved! If you want Christ to be your savior, you have to replace what you have been looking to as a savior. We all have something.
It is better than you think
Peter expresses a heartfelt plea (verse 28). Jesus affirms that whatever you give up in this age you will be rewarded a hundred times as much in the age to come. He notes precious things that we may give up: home, siblings, parents, children, and lands. It costs to follow Jesus. However the blessings far outweigh the losses. Leave a little and get a lot. Verse 31 is a phrase that Jesus probably repeated a number of times. In Christ’s Kingdom there is a grand reversal of every earthly standard of position, rank, and importance. God does not evaluate things in the same way fallen humanity does. Tim Keller says,
“The heart of the gospel is all about giving up power, pouring out resources and serving…the Center of Christianity is always migrating away from power and wealth.”
How will you respond?
APPLY TO LIFE
This week, as you reflect on the message, utilize this section to help you apply what has been taught to your life. Think of friends, co-workers, neighbors, family etc., that you could meet with to have a time of mutual sharing as you open God’s Word together.
This simple acronym (BLESS, B - Bless, L - Listen, E - Eat, S - Speak, S - Sabbath) should help you to frame your life according to the great commandment “love God” (Matthew 22:37) and the expression of that commandment in loving your neighbor (John 13:34). Each time you meet, start by discussing the rhythms of your life according to B.L.E.S.S.
Intentionally bless: Christ-followers, non-believers and those different than you.
Listen to what God is saying to you, through His Word and others.
Share a meal with a Christ-follower and also a non-believer.
Talk to God through prayer and to others about Jesus through witness.
Be intentional about taking time to both rest and recreate.
DISCUSS THE MESSAGE
Read: Mark 10:17-31
At what age did you begin to ponder the ultimate questions of life? What questions have you thought about the most?
How do churchgoing Christians sometimes make it look like our religion is based on what we do? How can we change this perception?
Why did Jesus make this particular demand of the rich young ruler? What demand might He make of you? Where is your identity? Whathave you been looking to as a savior?