In our “Looking Along the Gospel” series, today we are studying Mark 10:17-45.
Our Big Idea is Jesus saying: If you call Me Good, then follow Me! Are you willing to Obey with your whole heart? Do you desire righteousness, or merely an end result of some sort?
The good news is of course that our only hope for righteousness is in Christ. And He has become that for us! (1 Corinthians 1:30f)
Mark 10:17-22 “Good”
This is not an instance of Jesus creating a new law, nor should we try to create one. The law never commands us to sell all we have–Jesus had wealthy friends, He never commanded them to sell all they had. Here, Jesus instructs this man, who came to Jesus with a question about eternal life–because this man’s heart is lacking something. The man keeps the law outwardly but not inwardly. Each of us has our own struggles. There are some points of the law we can honestly say are easy to keep. Other laws we are hopeless to overcome; our flesh prevails and sin.
Calvin says in his commentary on the synoptic gospels: “[the law calls us to annihilate] our vicious covetousness, because it [the law] trains us to bear the cross…to be prepared for hunger and poverty, the young man is very far from keeping it fully so long as he is devoted to his wealth and burns with covetousness.” (pages 253-258) The thing he lacked was not a deed to perform, but a heart’s attitude of loving God more than his money and possessions. He was guilty of not putting God first, of honoring God above wealth.
Had this man been inclined to give liberally to the poor, he would have heard these words of Jesus with great joy rather than grieving. So–Jesus is not giving a new Law, or adding to or amending the Law; He is giving this man instructions that will test his heart, showing him what is in his own heart. Likewise our hearts are deceitful. As this man’s heart was deceived into thinking he was good, he thought Jesus would commend him.
Grieved at Jesus’ words, he left. Calvin, page 258 “The same thing will happen to us unless the sweetness of Christ’s grace makes all fleshly delights tasteless to us.” In comparison that is. Prove that your loyalty to God, trust in God, etc…is greater by your willingness to part with riches, not hoarding the earthly blessings but being willing to use them, give them away, no longer be defined by them. We are not in a better place if we are “poor” or in debt or strugglings to make ends meet. We all have our temptations, idols, and false loves. Being in His Word, the Spirit will show you your own affections that must be brought into line with God’s.
Vs 21 Did you notice how Jesus looked on this young man?
This is who Jesus is–LOVE. Do you ever take time to ponder Him looking at you this way? When the Spirit convicts you of sin, do you know that He still looks at you with love?
In Calvin’s day, the Catholic church taught, based on this passage, “Whoever shall say it is impossible to keep the law, let him be anathema.” The Catholic church had been teaching that people could perfectly keep the law, have perfect personal holiness on their own. A couple hundred years later, J.C. Ryle wrote his “Holiness” because the same heresy was making its rounds in the mega churches of the day. This is why I’ve chosen to cover it today. Jesus is not giving a “do this and you’ll be fine” speech. He is not saying “you can keep the law, and are so close! Keep up the good work!”
He is speaking in a way, and in His perfect love, to show this man that he is NOT capable of keeping the whole law with his whole being. Outward of a few, yes. Completely, all of it? No.
23-27 This is not mere hypobole. It is impossible. Jesus is showing the ridiculouslness of trusting in riches as an indicator of your soul’s wellbeing. For centuries people believed that if I have riches then I am blessed, and it is because God loves me. The prosperity gospel is nothing new; it is simply the gospel tainted with centuries old earthly ideas. FF Bruce, starting at page 181 in his book “The Hard Sayings of Jesus” explains why the attempt to soften Jesus’ words by describing a certain type of gate being called the “eye of the needle” is dishonest, poor exegesis. No such gate existed in Jesus’ day. Jesus’ meaning is quite simple, salvation is impossible for us to achieve on our own.
But, all things are possible with God!
Vs 30–also misconstrued in two awful ways: prosperity gospel; socialism. We are to meet pressing needs, we now belong to a HUGE family! Share, meet pressing needs. But not a reason for us to give up rights and privileges to a socialist government. We trust God, not the government. We obey Him in sharing, rather than looking to a government to make us all share. And we do not look for blessings to prove God’s love for us. In this world we have tribulation, in the world to come all will be perfect.
The truth we cling to, and the hope that Jesus offers here, is that in Christ we have what our souls long for. The love and companionship that may be lost to us on account of the gospel is found in Christ. We learn the truth that physical needs are not the only needs we have. And physical blessings cannot fulfill the eternal longings we have, but Jesus does! This is one of those truths that we understand more and more as we walk with Him (see 1 Corinthians 2).
Recap of Mark 10:17-30 love God more than things, money, houses, other people, vocations, etc.
32-35 the Son of Man will die and rise again (third time in Mark’s gospel that this teaching has been heard by the disciples).
35-40 can You make us the most awesome and blessed people in Your kingdom?!!! We want only the best!
41-45 let it not be this way among you! Serve, be a slave of all…I came to be a ransom.
A ransom. For sins. Even all my sins.
Even after hearing the teaching given to the ‘rich young ruler’ the disciples still longed for what? And their companions were indignant, why? What do you still secretly long for? Could this be the season of life in which you finally lay those desires at the cross? Being led by the Spirit we will put all such desires to death and find all our true longings fulfilled in Him–even though we only have a foretaste.
A sweet meditation for this week:
1 Samuel 15:22
Isaiah 1:11-13, 16-17
Hebrews 10:6-10, 18
1 Corinthians 5:7b-8
1 Corinthians 7:29-31