Mark 10:17-31

(A Bible Study Led by Dr. Larry Reynolds)

October 4, 2012

 

Mark 10:17-22 – These verses contain one of best known stories in Bible.  I think it is so well known for two reasons:

·         First, it appears in three of the four gospels...often referred to as rich, young ruler...actually have borrowed from each of the gospel accounts to come up with that name...all three say was rich but only Matthew mentions was young and only Luke mentions was ruler...

·         Second, there is another reason so well known...not just because appears three times but because easy for us to identify with...came seeking secret of eternal life, something we're all interested in...tragically, failed to find eternal life because made three critical mistakes...three mistakes which we must avoid...

 

He failed to grasp the true identity of Jesus

1.   Notice in v.17 how the young man addressed Jesus...referred to Him as "Good Teacher..."...no doubt intended that as term of flattery...obviously Jesus was good...no-one could do the kind of things He did --make lame walk, blind see, heal sick, feed hungry, befriend the outcasts-- and be anything less than good...and obviously Jesus was a teacher...no-one could reveal the kind of profound truths about God and love and life and forgiveness and human relationships which Jesus revealed and be anything less than "rabbi" - teacher...of course Jesus was good and of course He was a teacher...

2.   But Jesus' response to this greeting indicates the man didn't really understand who Jesus was....when Jesus asked in v.18, "Why do you call Me good?  No one is good except God alone." He was not saying that He was not good...nor was He saying He was not God...instead, Jesus was pointing out how inadequate this man's understanding of His identity was...

3.   The young man had no clue as to whom he was talking... did not realize he was in the presence of God incarnate, God in the flesh...didn't know that he had directed his question about eternal life to the Eternal One...and from the man's response to what Jesus told him to do, can safely surmise that he never came to an understanding of who Jesus was...and because never understood that Jesus was God, was never willing to give Him the ultimate priority in his life...

 

 

1.   Lesson for us in that so obvious hardly needs be stated... heart of Christianity is, always has been, and always will be the identity of Jesus Christ...if it is true that Jesus is Who claimed to be, if it is true that He is "the way, the truth, and the life" and if it is true that "...no-one comes to the Father but by Him" then eternal life is found in Him and only in Him...

2.   Because this young man failed to understand who Jesus was, He failed to find eternal life...

 

He failed to understand his true identity

1.   Had absolutely no concept that he was a sinner in need of salvation...instead, viewed himself as person who was perfectly capable of doing whatever it took to deserve eternal life...word "inherit" in v.17 carries idea of getting something you deserve by virtue of who you are...in effect said, "I'm certainly capable of doing whatever it takes.  Just tell me what to do."

2.   His basic life philosophy was that if just did right things, lived right kind of life, then would deserve eternal live...was religion of works which totally disregarded his sinful nature... had no concept of salvation by grace...not unlike many people in our day, he viewed salvation in terms of works...felt if did enough good things, could earn eternal life...

3.   At first, Jesus responded to man on his own terms...if effect said, "Okay, if you want to do something to earn eternal life, obey the law."...then listed part of the ten commandments which deals with our relationship with people...not adultery/ steal/false witness/defraud/honor father and mother...suspect Jesus chose those particular commands because played to this young man's strengths...he was good with people...knew how relate to and treat others...

4.   So young man responded by saying, "Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth up."...other words said, "Been there; done that."...but wasn't enough...whether or not had really kept all those commandments not the point...know from his response at end of this event was breaking first and most important commandment about having no other gods before the true God because he couldn't part from his possessions...but at this point, he really thought he was keeping all the commandments...but he knew in his heart that it wasn't enough for eternal life...

 

1.   Way always is with religion of works...if depending on your good works to get you to heaven, can never be absolutely certain you've done enough good things to get there...and the alternative to religion of works is religion of grace...

2.   In contrast to depending on what we've done or will do to gain salvation, grace calls us to depend on what God has done for us in Christ for our salvation...at first glance may seem religion of grace not as demanding as religion of works...but actually it is more demanding...that is because salvation by grace through faith demands that we humble ourselves before God, admit our inadequacies and failures, put aside our pride and spirit of self-sufficiency, and accept from God the free, unmerited gift of eternal life...

3.   And that is precisely what this successful, proud, self-sufficient young man was incapable of doing...because of that he missed eternal life...

 

He failed to do what Jesus said to do

1.   Look at v.21 for moment...significant phrase there...Mark says "And looking at him, Jesus felt love for him..."...and because Jesus loved him, He told the man the truth...said, "You love things more than God...allowing possessions to possess you... you can never have eternal life until I am more important to you than your possessions..."

2.   Not saying that prerequisite for becoming a Christian is selling all you have, giving the money away, and living in poverty...in Scripture many people became Christians without doing that...is saying that can't become follower of Christ if anything in our lives --possessions, position, power, people, prestige, or whatever-- is more important to us than relationship with Christ...He demands nothing less than the absolute priority of our hearts...

3.   Jesus called for this man, as He calls for us, to give Him first place in his life...the man refused to do it and because of that refusal, he missed eternal life...

 

Verse 22 is one of saddest statements in Bible..."But at these words his face fell, and he went away grieved, for he was one who owned much property."...the phrase about the man's face falling is particularly interesting...the word Mark uses is used elsewhere in Scripture to describe the sky becoming overcast and a storm developing...his expression changed from one of hopeful anticipation to great sadness...he's the only man in the Bible of which it is said that he went away sad from the presence of Jesus...he came in with great confidence and optimism but he went away broken and sad...

 

Mark 10:23-29 – I can imagine eyes of Jesus and disciples of Jesus following this dejected young man as he sadly walked away...after he had disappeared from sight, Jesus turned His attention to His disciples and drove home some very important lessons about possessions...

 

When you read this passage may be tempted to think, "Well that's one part of the Scripture which certainly doesn't apply to me.  I'm certainly not wealthy!"...but if you think that way, I would beg to differ with you for two reason...

·         First, every one of us in this room is wealthy in comparison to most people in our world...we have enough food to eat...plenty of clothes to wear...adequate shelter from the elements...and most of us have much more...and what Jesus says in this paragraph most certainly can be applied and should be applied to people like us...

·         Second, don't have to have a lot of things to be controlled by a materialistic mindset...the desire for possessions we don't have can be just as enslaving as having possessions which control us...

In this passage Jesus teaches some very surprising things about possessions...

 

An abundance of possessions is not necessarily a blessing

1.   When you look closely at what Jesus says in this passage and other passages about possessions, have to conclude that Jesus taught wealth/having possessions is a handicap...how strange that sounds to us...all of our lives we're taught that success, self-worth, value is measured by how much you accumulate...the more you have the more powerful, influential, prestigious you are...we describe the rich as being over-privileged...but Jesus took just the opposite approach...He said those who have possessions are the under-privileged!

2.   While Jesus never condemned wealth, He did say that it is harder for the wealthy to be sensitive to will of God and needs of others...says that twice in this passage...listen carefully to His words...

·         v.23 - "How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!"

·         Then, to reinforce that said in v.25 -  "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God."

That second statement is particularly interesting...while a few commentators have suggested there was a gate in the city wall called "eye of the needle" and that Jesus was speaking literally about camel struggling get through that gate, most commentators [and I agree] see that saying as a proverb describing something that was very difficult...while Jesus not saying it is impossible for person with possessions be saved [in v. 27 points out that "all things are possible with God"], does say that it is very difficult...

3.   Why is that so?...why is it hard for those who have possessions to be right with God?...because is very easy for us to allow the things we possess or desire to possess to end up possessing us...instead of controlling them, they control us...we fret over them...worry over them...elevate them to place of God in our lives...and in the process we lose sight of the fact that possession are temporary and they will never meet deepest needs of our lives...

 

Possessions are not necessarily a sign of God's approval

1.   The disciples were shocked that Jesus would even suggest something so seemingly absurd as wealth/possessions being a handicap...Mark tells us in v.24 that the disciples "were amazed" at Jesus statement about the difficulty of those having possessions entering the kingdom of God...then he tells us in v.26 that "they were even more astonished" at Jesus' statement about the eye of a needle...

2.   Why?...why were they so shocked at what Jesus said about possessions?...because they had bought into an ancient heresy which has afflicted people from the earliest days of humanity...and that heresy is that material prosperity is a sign of God's blessings on a person's life...the more a person has, the more that person must be loved, accepted, approved by God...to their way of thinking, it was inconceivable that possessions, especially an abundance of possessions, could be a barrier to participation in God's kingdom... 

3.   There's a lesson here Christians who live in the materialistic culture of our day must not miss...just because you may have accumulated a sizable amount of possessions does not necessarily mean that God is placing His stamp of approval on your life...and conversely, just because you may have meager possessions does not mean God is judging or punishing you...

 

We are never poorer when we put Christ ahead of possessions

1.   In v.28 Peter makes rather self-serving, but true, statement... he immediately saw difference between rich young ruler who chose possessions over following Jesus and the disciples who had left their homes and businesses behind to follow Him... said, "...we have left everything and followed You."

2.   And in response Jesus said, in effect, "Yes you have and I want you to know there is a reward for you in doing that." ...want you look carefully at Jesus' statement in vv.29-31 because very important that we not misinterpret what Jesus is saying here...want you see several significant things about this statement...

·         First, notice the motive in v.29..."...for My sake and for the gospel's sake..."...we don't subject our possessions to Christ for the purpose of getting more...R.J. LeTourneau, the well known Christian industrialist, used to say, "If you give because it pays, it won't pay."...if we put Christ ahead of possessions just to get a reward, the reward will never come... 

·         Second, notice the reward Jesus promised in v.30... "...houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms..."...these were the very things the disciples had left to follow Jesus...Jesus was saying, whatever you lost you gain many times over...as one writer put it, "One house gone; but a hundred doors are open!  One brother in the flesh lost; but a thousand brothers in the spirit, whose love is deeper and whose kinship is profounder." [Hughes, p.66]...saying no-one who commits his/her all to Jesus is ever the poorer in those things in this life or the life to come which really matter...

·         Third, notice the phrase "along with persecutions" at end of v.30...just a reminder that committing one's life to Christ is no guarantee of life of ease in this world...as matter of fact, in some ways makes life more difficult and demanding...but it's worth it, Jesus says, because it is the way to eternal life...

           

Want conclude by telling you about two people---

--one is Nathan Rothschild...member of one of wealthiest families in Europe...on his deathbed made this statement, "Poor, unhappy me!  A victim of nervousness and fancied terrors.  And all because of my money."

--the other is young girl who lived in Korean orphanage...had nothing in way of material possessions...someone gave her a Bible...in Bible she underlined a single verse which was her favorite...it said, "As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything." [Brian's Lines, Sept/Oct 1994, pp.8-9]

One lived in midst of great wealth, but was really poor...the other lived in midst of great poverty, but was really wealthy...

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