The Right Question, The Wrong Response - Mark 10:17-27

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Have you ever been frustrated by something you read in the Bible? Maybe you’ve had this experience, where what you read in the Bible stands over against what you want to be true. This is far too common. We can be tempted to come to the Bible in order to find affirmation for our way of living or our way of thinking. And then if the two don’t match up we realize we have a decision to make: Will we believe and submit to the Word of God? Or will we reject it and choose to live by our own standards?

In Mark 10 we have a story of a man who has to make this kind of decision. He asks a question of Jesus and he receives an answer He doesn’t like, and he has to make a choice. He asks the right question, but sadly He chooses the wrong response to the answer he receives.

The Most Important Question (10:17) 

  • The man with the question– If we bring together the descriptions of the Gospel writers we have a man who is often described as the rich young ruler. He’s a man who seems to have some status and means, and yet He does something we may not expect of a rich and powerful man – he runs to Jesus and humbles himself before him.
  • Understanding the question– This is a question that is asked in many different ways: How can we be saved? How can we enter the Kingdom of God? How can we have everlasting life? It’s not a throw away question. In fact, it’s the most important question that any one can ever ask.

Jesus Answers the Question (10:18-21)

  • Jesus reminds the man of the character of God (vs. 18)– Using the title the man had used as He approached Him, Jesus points the man to the nature and character of God – in particular His goodness and holiness. He is good, and we are not. And because of who He is and who we are, we aren’t fit to enter His presence (Psalm 14:1-3).
  • Jesus reminds the man of the standard of God (vs. 19)– After pointing to the character of God, Jesus then turns to the standard of God, the Law of God found in the Ten Commandments. This was the beginning of Jesus helping the man to consider His position before a Holy God.
  • The man’s relationship to the Law (vs. 20)– Like many faithful Jewish men the rich young ruler was glad to enter into a conversation about the Law. From His perspective – a view of the Law focused on outward actions – He had kept the Law and met the standard of God (Philippians 3:4-6).

A Clarifying Commandment – The call and cost of discipleship (vs. 21)

  • The love of Jesus for sinful men (vs. 21a)- Jesus is looking at a man who, like all of us, is a sinner. He’s a man who has spent his life trying to please God – trying to earn God’s favor and who is self deceived. And yet Mark says that Jesus loved him. Jesus is compassionate toward the sinful and the self-reliant. This is good news: Jesus loves sinners.
  • What must be done (vs. 21b) – The call is to follow Jesus, and in this man’s case there was one thing keeping him from truly following – his riches. This is a personalized command – Jesus says, get rid of all the things that you trust in more than Me so that you can follow Me.

The Man’s Response – The cost of discipleship is too high (10:22) –

There’s a great contrast between how the man approaches Jesus and how He goes away. He runs eagerly to Jesus with the right question. But He leaves sorrowful because he’s not willing to respond in obedience to the answer he receives. The cost of discipleship seems too high (Mk. 8:34-36).

Further Discussion – The Difficulty of Entering the Kingdom of God (10:23-27)

  • An announcement (warning) (vs. 23-24)– After the man leaves Jesus offers a sober warning to His disciples: the cost of discipleship is high and the Kingdom of God is difficult to enter. It takes full dependence on God. It’s especially difficult for those who have much in this world – materially or morally. The temptation is to trust in ourselves more than God.
  • An illustration (vs. 25)- The contrast between a large animal and one of the smallest openings is clearly meant to show the impossibility of a rich person—or anyone else—entering the kingdom on their own merit.
  • A question (vs. 26)– Here we have another form of that all-important question. Can anyone be saved? Are any of us able to trust fully enough, to get low enough, to come humbly enough?

A Pronouncement - The God of the Impossible (vs. 27) - The call of Jesus is high and the concern is legitimate: Can any of us be saved? The good news Jesus offers is this: What is impossible for us is possible with God. God can give us new hearts and enable us to trust Him fully. He can take a heart that loves the world and the things of the world and set it on fire with allegiance to Him.

Responding to the Call of Jesus

This is a story of a man who heard the call of Jesus, but who walked away because the call seemed to high. What is it that God has called you to that you are tempted to ignore? Is there something that could keep you from the Kingdom of God? Jesus is better. He’s better than any pleasure or possession. Don’t be like the man who walked away. Hear the call and follow Him.