True Riches in the Kingdom (Mark 10:17-27)


Sermon by Daniel L. Sonnenberg | September 14, 2014


Text:

 17 And as He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and began asking Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.”  

19 “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.'”  20 And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up.”  21 And looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”  22 But at these words his face fell, and he went away grieved, for he was one who owned much property. 23 And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!”  24 And the disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!  25 “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”  26 And they were even more astonished and said to Him, “Then who can be saved?”  27 Looking upon them, Jesus said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.” (Mark 10:17-27.)

Notes:

  • This is the story of rich young man.
  • But notice as we read that the fact of his being rich is not apparent at first.
  • Only when he declines Jesus’ challenge do we learn this.
  • At first, all we know is that he considers himself to be a good person.
  • Let’s see how his goodness and his riches relate to one another.
  • When you were a child, or if you are now a young person, did you/do you consider yourself to be a “good kid” or a good person?
  • What does that mean?
  • That you generally did or do what your parents tell you, you generally don’t go out carousing, or vandalizing or getting drunk or high or having sex outside of marriage. In a word, you obey the ten commandments – generally.
  • The man approaches Jesus and seems to pay him a compliment, calling him, “good Teacher.”
  • Why does Jesus deflect the man’s compliment?
  • Because in the OT, only God was considered to be “good.”
  • He alone was considered to be the source and norm of essential goodness.
  • Jesus here was already implying what he will make explicit later – that man’s idea of goodness is defined by human achievement.
  • Jesus was not saying that he himself was sinful, only that men, in contrast to God, were not essentially good, so human goodness, good works or meritorious works will not earn heaven for him.
  • Jesus had just finished teaching his disciples in vv. 13-16 that entrance into KOG is a gift of God to those who acknowledge their helplessness, who come as little children, trusting in their father to provide their needs.
  • Now this man is providing a negative illustration of that principle to J’s disciples.
  • The man considered himself a “good man” like Jesus.
  • He was confident he had fulfilled the commandments since his youth, since age 12, the Jewish age of accountability.
  • He was, as it were, a good man seeking to discover from another good man what he can do to assure eternal life.
  • But his question indicates he had lost some of his security, that he had never gained or had lost his delight in God, that he lacked an internal sense of God’s approval.
  • His religion wasn’t personal, it didn’t involve God as a person, he was merely following a bunch of rules.
  • So Jesus invites the man into a personal relationship, he invites the man to follow him instead of merely following rules, to find his delight in God, to find his approval from God in a personal relationship with Jesus himself.
  • Jesus doesn’t intend to shame the man.
  • In fact, v. 21 says that Jesus felt a love for the man, and that’s why he challenges him.
  • He demonstrates tough love for him when he challenges him to sell all that he has and give it away.
  • Jesus knows that in order for the man to truly become like the other disciples – like the 12 – he must do as they had done, leave behind job and family and home and substance in obedience to Jesus’ call.
  • The man must be willing to place his trust completely in Jesus and leave behind anything he might have trusted in before.
  • What Jesus is saying to this man who trusted in his goodness is that true obedience to the law is demonstrated ultimately in discipleship, in following Jesus, the person of Jesus.
  • The problem for this man, however, is that he is so firmly attached to his property that he can’t attach himself to Jesus.
  • “His face fell, and he went away grieved or sad for he owned much property.”
  • Now, understand that Jesus’ demand to go and sell all is not intended to be generalized for everyone.
  • J is not saying everyone must sell all and give it away.
  • It was particular to the man because he had much.
  • It was the obstacle which Jesus knew that man must remove IN ORDER to follow him.
  • But the man believed he couldn’t live this life without it.
  • He was so attached to it he was willing to trade it for real life in fellowship with Jesus, even eternal life.
  • He lacked that self-sacrificing devotion that characterizes every true believer.
  • What is it for you?
  • What does Jesus, in his love for you, demand that you set aside in order to follow him in a radical way, in order to be like the 12?
  • What is it that if Jesus asked, might you be unwilling to do, where might you be unwilling to go?
  • To what extent are you following Jesus as his disciple?
  • The deepest answer to Jesus’ question is not to sell all but to follow
  • It’s an divine invitation to grab hold of authentic life offered as a gift in himself.
  • AND it’s a radical demand that claims you and me utterly and completely, and orders the removal of every other support that could interfere with our unconditional obedience.
  • Jesus is the one answer to every person’s quest for life, but he demands death to self in order to gain it.
  • After moving to NC I used to say that Ohio is a great place to be FROM.
  • I never imagined myself coming back here to live.
  • But here I am because God made me willing. Texas!
  • Why were the disciples so amazed and astonished when Jesus said what he did about how hard it will be for the rich to enter the KOG?
  • It’s because in Judaism, the OT teaching regarded wealth as a mark of God’s favor.
  • Think of how the OT portrays Job and Abraham for example.
  • The presumption was that they were wealthy because God favored them, because they had accumulated merit through good works.
  • In other words, if one was a “good person” by doing good works, God favored him with wealth.
  • What the disciples were learning, however, is that there is no mark of God’s special favor in possessions, nor in the lack of them.
  • And that the danger to the rich is a false sense of security which wealth creates and the temptation to trust in material possessions or resources or personal power that they can buy.
  • What’s demanded by the law and the gospel, however, is whole-hearted reliance on God in the person of Jesus Christ.
  • Is there anything you are trusting in more than God – to get you through this life, or to get you into the next life?
  • Are you trusting in your intelligence, your skill, your powers of persuasion?
  • What if they were taken away?
  • What if Jesus demanded that you live without them in order to be his disciple?
  • What did Jesus mean when he said it’s easier for a camel to go thru the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the KOG?
  • This scared the disciples because Jesus meant it literally.
  • The camel was the largest land animal in Palestine.
  • The eye of a needle was the smallest hole through which something could pass.
  • It meant that no man could enter the kingdom.
  • Jesus meant that it’s impossible by human achievement or merit to gain eternal life.
  • It meant that no matter how rich one is in good works, and therefore in land or animals or money, it can’t gain eternal life for us.
  • Salvation is completely beyond the sphere of human possibilities.
  • Every attempt by human achievement or merit is futile and will fail.
  • So the disciples ask, “Then who CAN be saved?”
  • And Jesus replies, “With men it’s impossible, but not with God; for with God all things are possible.”
  • Because God is sovereign, he can overcome impossibility.

The LORD said to Abraham, “Is anything too hard for the LORD? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son.” 

Then Job answered the LORD and said:  “I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.

The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: “Behold, I am the LORD, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me? 

And the angel answered Mary, “Your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luk 1:36-37) 

And Jesus said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” 

  • “Eternal life,” “salvation,” and “entrance into the KOG” all describe a single reality given as God’s gift to men and women and children.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.  (Eph 2:8-9)

  • So how is our hope renewed today?
  • By depending once again on the goodness of God and the ability of God.
  • No man is good enough, no man is able to enter into the kingdom.
  • But because God is good, he offers the gift of eternal life.
  • Because God is able, he does what is impossible with men through the life, death and resurrection of his the God-man Jesus.
  • Is there any obstacle that is preventing YOU from entering into the kingdom?
  • Or, is there any obstacle that is preventing you from following Jesus whole-heartedly, self-sacrificially, as his disciple?
  • He is still working in the world today by His Spirit through his church accomplishing his mission to seek and to save the lost.
  • He calls us afresh daily into his mission to go and make disciples of all nations.
  • Is there anything you would not give up, anything you would not do, anywhere you would not go in order to follow him?
  • True riches in the kingdom are found not through our own works but through the gift of God in Jesus Christ.
  • We enter into and participate in that kingdom through self-sacrifice, following Jesus daily as his disciple.
  • To cling to something else is to gain the world but to lose eternity in fellowship with him.
  • But to willingly lose all that the world has to give in order to follow Christ is to gain eternity, salvation, and the kingdom of God.

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