Andy Kampman speaks on Mark 10:17-31
Series: Normal Christianity
A rich man asked Jesus what he must do to inherit eternal life. Most of us want the same thing. It is a good desire. Through this story, Jesus shows us what real treasure is and how to get it. But do we have to give up everything to have eternal life? Are we even sure we can do that, even if we want to? This is exactly where Jesus wants us to start.
There are two responses to what Jesus calls us to:
• The rich young ruler’s response
• The disciples’ response
The question is not which one are you, but how do you know? Is the evidence of the answer apparent in your life?
The Definition of Good
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?” Mark 10:17 (ESV)
The word for good here is one that means good in the most general sense.
18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” Mark 10:18 (ESV)
Jesus answered his question with another question, asking him what he meant by good? He then redefined the term good for the man, giving clear statements so we can see what the young ruler’s definition was contrasted with Jesus’ definition.
Jesus’ definition was, “No one is good except God alone,” meaning God isn’t just good in the general, universal sense. God is perfect.
“The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.” Deuteronomy 32:4 (ESV, emphasis added)
This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him. 2 Samuel 22:31 (ESV, emphasis added)
O Lord, You are my God; I will exalt You, I will give thanks to Your name; For You have worked wonders, Plans formed long ago, with perfect faithfulness. Isaiah 25:1 (NASB, emphasis added)
Jesus defined goodness as perfection. Jesus then returned to the man’s definition.
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.’”
The rich young ruler just nodded, thinking He was going right where he wanted him to. He was convinced he had kept all these things and was proud.
20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”
This was a lie. The man was defining goodness with his own definition. He had fooled himself into thinking that being good was the same as being perfect. When we look at this guy, we think he’s foolish. What kind of a guy would do this? Yet, when we look at how we sometimes define goodness, especially how it relates to God and the Gospel, I wonder if we’re not that different than this rich young ruler.
I think about funerals. You always hear the phrase, “He was a good man,” or “She was a good woman”. But goodness, as it relates to eternal life, is not good enough.
Who We Are
I think about most high school students who would say the way to inherit eternal life would be some dos and don’ts. Don’t have sex, don’t drink and don’t swear. But when we live in a system of do’s and don’ts, we become Pharisees. We have the behavior, but at the core we trust our own actions for God’s love and approval. We can find much identity in what we do for God. We begin to believe the lie, subtly or blatantly, that God will love me more, if I.... (Fill in the blank).
This is what happened to the older brother in the Prodigal Son story in Luke. The prodigal son squandered his father’s wealth and the other thought he should have the wealth because of what he did. His father went out to him and asked him why he was not at the party. The son responded, “What’s all this stuff with my younger brother! I’ve never broken any of your commandments. You’ve never given me a goat to celebrate. What’s the deal? You should love me because of the things I’ve done for you”. His father realized he was living in a broken system. He answered him saying, “My son, that’s not how it works. All I have is yours, because you’re my son, not because of what you do.”
Ask yourself if this is in your heart. Do you believe that God loves you more today because you came to church? Do you believe the lie that God will love you more if you’re in a Missional Community, or serve the church or go on a short-term trip?
Those are all good things. But you can’t find your identity in them. When what we do for God defines who we are, we’ve missed it.
We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. Isaiah 64:6 (ESV)
In the Hebrew, the polluted garment means a stained menstrual garment. A stained menstrual rag, really? That’s nasty! But that’s what it is to God when we try to earn His love and favor.
Like the rich young ruler, when we have an incorrect definition of goodness, it leads us to the wrong treasure.
Yet, here’s the incredible news today.
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.” Mark 10:21 (ESV, emphasis added)
The phrase looking at him in Greek meant that Jesus was looking right into who he was. Intensely. Looking into his very soul and He loved him. The man basically just said that his goodness was found in the things he’d done, which meant that he didn’t need Jesus. But even in the midst of him saying that, Jesus still loved him.
In loving him, Jesus was calling the rich young man back to Himself. That is what Jesus wants to do with us today. If you’re finding your identity in what you do for God, Jesus is lovingly calling you back to Himself.
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.” Mark 10:21 (ESV)
Jesus was lovingly pointing out the man’s lacking. The man had made what he had done for God, his actual god. The rich young ruler had broken the first commandment of having no other gods before God. What he was doing and finding his identity and status in had actually become his god. He was trying to gain his treasure. But that it will never work, he can never be good enough.
That is what religion does. All other religions say you earn God’s favor. You do, so that God will accept you. But Jesus has another system. He knows the only way to have Him as the treasure is for God to reveal to us what we are actually treasuring that isn’t Him. Every single one of us, to some extent, needs a treasure exchange. We need to exchange what we do for God, for God Himself.
22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Mark 10:22 (ESV)
The rich young ruler revealed what he treasured was what he had. By redefining goodness, Jesus redefines who we are. Now He will redefine what we have.
What We Have
For the rich young ruler, he chose his treasure and possessions over Jesus. That was the idolatry he needed to repent of. He had the choice to repent, but he chose to walk away. Our hyper advertised culture tells us to have what we want, as much as we want. There are so many lesser treasures constantly at battle with the treasure of Jesus.
But you cannot serve both. You will either serve God with your money or serve money as your god.
24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Mark 6:24 (ESV)
God gives us money to show our affections. Where your treasure is, there is your heart also.
How do you know what you treasure? Look at your credit card statement from last month.
Some of us hear about the rich young ruler and dismiss it thinking we’re not as rich as him. But, because we live in America, we have a skewed view of what it means to be rich. Check out the Global Rich List, a website showing how rich you are compared to the other seven billion people in the world.
If you make $10,000 a year, you are in the top thirteen percent of the world’s wealth. If you make more than $48,000 a year, you are in the top one percent of all the world’s wealth. Americans are filthy rich. While half the world’s population lives on less that two dollars a day. By spending two dollars on a cup of coffee at Starbucks, we are spending someone’s entire full-day income. This should affect us, asking the question why we have so much money?
I think it’s to show and to share whom our real treasure is.
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! Mark 10:24 (ESV)
It’s beyond possible for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. So how do we enter the kingdom of God?
26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” Mark 10:26 (ESV)
This is the exact same question the rich young ruler asked in verse seventeen: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” Mark 10:27 (ESV)
Salvation and inheriting eternal life is always and only possible because of God. We cannot earn it or buy it. We can only receive it by Him.
In an earlier story, Jesus said, “whoever doesn’t receive the kingdom of God like a child, will not enter”. He was pointing out that kids are experts at receiving. We should receive like children.
The only way we can confess Jesus is our treasure is if God does it in our lives. Once He enters our lives we will always have Him and the treasure of Jesus can never be taken away.
How Do We Know?
How do we know if we’ve received this treasure? What is the evidence of it in our lives?
When we take the very things the world treasures and eagerly give them up, we redefine whom real treasure is. That’s how we know that we’ve received this treasure.
Jesus calls us to do this again and again. We are to give up and sell over and over again to show that we have a better treasure. We can enjoy this great treasure and don’t need other things.
The disciples exemplified this in their lives. They had left everything to follow Him.
28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” Mark 10:28 (ESV)
They had left their jobs, their boats, their father, and their money, even their identity as fisherman. They left it all behind to follow Jesus.
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. Mark 10:29-30 (ESV)
There is great reward for those who exchange treasure. What lesser treasures need to be sold? What needs to be exchanged? Not to earn God’s favor, but to reveal that we have received it already.
We might need to have an identity exchange. We might need to have a possessions exchange.
God wants to be our treasure.