Mark 10:17–31 17 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?” 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, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 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.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
23 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!” 24 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! 25 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.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” 28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 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, 30 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. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and His Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Yes, this is the same text we looked at last week. Yes, we are looking at it again. No, it isn’t the same sermon. Some will be review of what we covered, but, overall, today will have a different focus from last week.
Last week, we looked at this rich young man who realized that he was incomplete; he was lacking something for his salvation. He looked to Jesus, yet he walks away from Jesus grieved with his face clouded over. Jesus’ command, “Go and sell all that you have. Give it to the poor. Then come, follow Me as I go to Jerusalem where I will die on the cross,” was just too much.
Jesus had asked the rich, young ruler to do something that was more difficult than shoving a camel through the eye of a needle; Jesus’ command was something that was more difficult than impossible.
Imagine with me, please, the life of this rich young ruler—let’s call him “Joshua.”
Joshua is born into a family with royal lineage. His parents raise him to be a devout Jewish boy. Joshua’s parents teach him about Yahweh Who had delivered His people in the past. He learns about Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, David, Isaiah, Elijah and all the great prophets of old.
Joshua learns the great Shema Blessing, the confession of Israel, “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Joshua’s parents diligently taught Joshua when they sat in their house, and when they walked by the way, and when they lied down, and when they rose (Dt. 6:4–7).
As Joshua grew up, not only did he became strong and tall, but also loving and wise. People liked him, and God was obviously blessing him.
Joshua’s parents continued to teach him. Each year they would bring him to Jerusalem for the Passover Feast. Joshua continued to hear and learn his people’s history.
Parents wanted their kids to be like Joshua, and other kids liked him too. Even though some were jealous of how greatly he was blessed, no one had any reason to complain about Joshua being greedy or stingy because he was always generous.
Joshua never caused anyone to suffer or be in any distress; he was blameless in his words and deeds. Joshua gave freely to anyone that had need; he helped when someone else was in trouble. Joshua always spoke well of people—even when others were gossiping; he never complained about what others had, but was excited for them when they were blessed. And Joshua continued to honor, serve, obey, love, and respect his parents.
But when Joshua grew up, he suddenly left. He left his parent’s royal house with all its comforts. He simply walked away. People began to wonder why he left. Some thought he was crazy and wondered if he leaving his royalty behind.
But Joshua left because something was not right. Something was missing for eternal life. That something kept nagging his mind, so he left.
Now imagine, please, as the rich, young ruler’s face clouds over and visible grief overtakes him, he walks away. He turns the corner, and the disciples ask, “Who can be saved?”
And Joshua (Yeshua), Jesus the real Rich, Young Ruler—Who had perfectly obeyed the Commandments and Who had great riches and power and glory and Who gave it all up, giving everything He had to the poor. Jesus says, “With man, entering the reign of God is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
You see the real Rich, Young Ruler here is Jesus. Jesus wasn’t asking the man who ran up and knelt before Him (let’s call him Henry) to do anything Jesus hadn’t done Himself. Jesus looked at Henry and loved him because, I think, Jesus saw something of Himself in Henry.
We tend to look at this text and see Jesus heaping the law upon poor Henry, but Jesus was tenderly calling on him to receive the Gospel. Jesus was calling Henry to give up anything that he thought made him right with God. Jesus was calling Henry to give up on winning and excelling and, even, living. Henry wanted to earn an inheritance, but Christ wants to give a free gift.
Christ is waiting, just waiting, to give him this gift, but Henry walks away.
“How hard it is,” Jesus says, “for those who have stuff to enter the reign of God.” This is not just the final nail in the coffin for those who are rich. The word wealth in v. 23 (again from last week) simply means things, possessions, stuff—even, possibly, debt. The words from Jesus, “How hard it is to enter the reign on God,” condemn us all.
“How hard it is, for those who have stuff to enter the reign of God.” Or in another place (Mt. 7:13-14), “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
But Jesus also said (Jn. 12:32), “I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself.” That includes Henry; that includes you.
I wonder, what if Henry had stayed? What would happened if, after Jesus had commanded him, “Go, sell, give, follow,” Henry had simply said, “I can’t do that”? I think Jesus would have said the same thing but in a different way.
“It is difficult to enter the reign of God. So difficult, in fact, that with man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God. That is why, dear Henry, I am going to Jerusalem. You see, Henry, I am going to Jerusalem to be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes to be condemned. Yes, Henry, condemned to death. I will be delivered over to the Gentiles who will mock Me and spit on Me and flog Me and kill Me. Yes, it is a far cry from the royal riches that I left, but after three days I will rise.”
Salvation is impossible with man. Salvation is impossible for you, but God specializes in the impossible.
Then Peter speaks up, but let’s not be too hard on Peter here—Jesus isn’t. Peter rightly recognizes that he and the disciples have left things behind and are following Jesus. And Jesus’ response isn’t harsh. He doesn’t rebuke Peter. He says, “Amen (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.”
Look around at your family here and imagine the family—the houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands—that you have inherited because you too are a part of the body of Christ. Imagine the believers of all of history, they are your family, even now they are your family. Imagine, Who your Father is—the Creator of the universe. Imagine the age to come—eternal life with that family and Father.
Sounds good right? Hold on, “with persecutions,” Jesus adds. Jesus doesn’t save you out of all your problems. He doesn’t remove you from this broken world. He does save and pulls you safely through it.
“But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
That’s how Jesus works.
Jesus isn’t interested in your piety or honesty or good works at all. Jesus doesn’t save you strutting around, dressed up in your Sunday best. “The first will be last.”
Jesus saves you stumbling around naked and un-showered. He saves you sweaty and smelly and dead and rotting. “The last will be first.”
Jesus saves you the last, the least, the lost, the little, and the dead. Amen.
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.