Text: Mark 10:17-31
Jesus said many wonderful things. But here, it seems, he got it completely wrong. Here’s what should have happened:
A young man, wealthy and influential, rushes up to Jesus and falls on his knees before him.
“Good Teacher,” he blurts out, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus replies, “I can see that you are a very courteous, eager and sincere young man. Relax: I’ve got some good news for you: there is nothing you have to do to inherit eternal life. It’s not a matter of giving, but of receiving. It’s not try, but trust. Eternal life is a free gift from God.”
A smile begins to spread across the young man’s face. “That’s marvellous,” he says. “So exactly how do I receive this free gift of eternal life?”
“It’s as simple as ABC. A – acknowledge your need. B – believe in me. C – confess your new-found faith. Oh, and because you have more money than you know what to do with, perhaps you could try to spare a little cash for the poor and needy.”
When he hears this, the young man is positively beaming. “This is easier than I thought.” And he went away rejoicing, because he already had everything this world could offer: his youth, his wealth, and his influence, and now he had heaven too.
Turning to his disciples, Jesus said, “How easy it is to enter the kingdom of God!”
So, why did Jesus do it his way, and not our way?
In his own eyes, he was already ‘good enough’ “Good teacher…What must I do…keep the commandments…but I do.” How many of us are secretly cherishing the same thought? Rom 3:10 ‘It is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one.”‘
Something else was occupying God’s place in his heart. He thought he had kept all the commandments. But he had reckoned without the 1st commandment: ‘You shall have no other gods before me.’ And also the 2nd ‘You shall have no idols.’ Is there anything you love so much that it is occupying God’s rightful place in your life? And the test of this is, How willing are to lose your earthly treasure, in order to gain treasure in heaven? ‘He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep in order to gain what he cannot lose.’ Mt 6:21 “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
He was not willing to count the cost of being a disciple. There is a sacrifice to be made as well as a gift to be received. There is a cross to be carried as well as a crown to be worn. Lk 14:28 “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Will he not first sit down and estimate the cost to see if he has enough money to complete it? Or suppose a king is about to go to war against another king. Will he not first sit down and consider whether he is able with ten thousand men to oppose the one coming against him with twenty thousand? In the same way, any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple.”
And the whole point is that eternal life is a free gift. But it cannot be received if I fancy that I am already ‘good enough’, if something else is occupying God’s rightful place in my heart, if I have failed to sit down and count the cost of being a disciple of Christ. Eternal life must be received as a little child, in utter dependence, or not at all.
But listen: God can take the most selfish, hard-nosed, worldly person, and can give that person a change of heart, for with God all things are possible. And God will be no man’s debtor. Whatever sacrifices we have made for the sake of the kingdom will receive their ample reward. And though earthly treasure will always be mixed with pain and sorrow, there is treasure in heaven “where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
‘If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless. But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ–the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, in every way I know how, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.’