Posts

Mark XVIII: Entering the Kingdom of God - Mark 10:13-31

In Mark 10:13-31, Jesus answers an all-important, life-changing question: how do I enter the kingdom of God? And as the text unfolds, this is what we see: you enter the kingdom like a child. You enter the kingdom with empty hands. You enter the kingdom by following Jesus. You enter the kingdom by the power of God. You enter the kingdom with nothing, only to receive everything. And when it comes to entering the kingdom of God, it isn’t what you’d expect: the first will be last, and the last, first. Children enter in, but rich men are turned away.

We see this in verses 13-16 as Jesus welcomes little children. What the disciples were doing in turning them away wasn’t rude or culturally surprising, but it was very offensive to Jesus. His dignity had been offended because the apostles made it seem like the kingdom of God wasn’t for children. Instead, Jesus said, “Let the children come to me.” So children, listen to Jesus: God loves you, and the kingdom of God belongs to you. That’s the blessing that Jesus has for you.

Not only are children allowed into God’s kingdom, but unless the rest of us receive it like them, we won’t be allowed to enter! Jesus doesn’t tell us exactly what it is about children that we should imitate, but we can get some ideas from the young man we meet in verse 17. Children come empty; this man comes full. Children come utterly dependent; this man comes quite accomplished. Children are trusting; this man wants to judge Jesus and decide for himself.

His encounter with Jesus starts so very well, though: he comes in haste, he comes with humility, and he comes with honor on his lips, entrusting a question of utmost importance to Jesus and calling Him “Good Teacher”. When Jesus pushes back, He isn’t denying His own goodness, but He does want to make sure that this man really knows what he’s saying, and if he really is prepared to receive Jesus’ teaching as if it comes from God.

And what does the Good Teacher teach? He first calls the man to obey the commandments that tell you how to treat other people, dealing with external matters of human relationships. The young man says that he has kept all of these commandments from his youth, and he isn’t boasting.

Where we might be quick to nitpick his response, vs. 21 says that Jesus loved him for it. He tells him that only one thing is missing: “Sell everything, give it to the poor, and come follow me.” In other words, keep the commandments that demonstrate not just rule-following before men, but a heart that loves God more than anything else; no idols, no coveting.

Sadly, we see that Jesus has called this man’s bluff. The man does not receive this good teaching, because he has another god before the true God. He has taken the name of God in vain, because hiding beneath his outward worship of Yahweh is an inner worship of mammon, and mammon is a jealous god who won’t let him give up everything and follow Jesus. Those who enter the kingdom must enter it with empty hands.

After the rich man leaves, Jesus turns to His disciples and shocks them by telling them that money and possessions make it very hard to enter the kingdom of God. The disciples have been accustomed to think that having money and possessions were signs that you were blessed by God. Jesus says that wealth and riches are like the giant humps and knobby knees of a camel – they make it impossible to squeeze through the eye of a needle. But if this man, obviously obedient, eager to learn from Jesus, and clearly living under God’s blessing can’t enter the kingdom, then who can be saved?

And so in v.27 Jesus gives another crucial lesson about entering the kingdom: “With man it is impossible.” We can’t defeat our idols on our own. “But not with God.” Entering the kingdom of God is not a matter of willpower or great decision-making. The only way a rich man can enter the kingdom is by the power of God.

Peter wants to clarify his own standing, and so he starts to remind Jesus that the disciples have done what Jesus asked of the rich young ruler. In response, Jesus issues the incredible promise that anyone who leaves family or wealth behind for His sake will receive a hundredfold return in this life. What matters is the heart – are you willing to give everything up to follow Jesus, who gave up everything to come and save you?

That kind of heart is able to receive earthly blessings in the right way now, and in the age to come, eternal life. Try to enter while clinging to the riches of this world, and you won’t make it, but if you enter the kingdom with nothing but faith in Jesus, everything will be given to you. So leave everything else behind, and follow Him.

Posted on Wednesday, August 01, 2018 by CJ Bowen