Jesus’ Call to Salvation Demands Complete Surrender (v.17-21)
From the outset, we need to understand that this passage is about salvation—that’s important as we move forward. The rich young man cuts straight to the ultimate question, “What must I do to be saved?”
Note the rich young man runs up to Jesus and kneels before him.Running and kneeling, in this time, were neither common nor dignified—especially not for someone with wealth. His earnestness, and sincerity, in approaching Jesus are not in question.
The rich young man refers to Jesus as "Good Teacher." And yet, Jesus does not want to be a respectable, or "good," teacher in our lives! He demands to be the sovereign lord of our lives! He is not just a teacher to whom we pay our respect, but the LORD to whom we must surrender and obey.
Reflective Question I:
Have you turned from your sin and submitted to Lordship of Jesus in your life?
Jesus’ command reveals internal idolatry (v.19-22)
- The six commands Jesus recites in response to the rich young man's question stem from the last six of the 10 commandments. Jesus recites the commands, and not the first four, intentionally.
- The 10 commandments can be split into two sections. The first four, and the last six. The last six deal with our relationship toward others—or, horizontal relationships—while the first four deal with our relationship toward God—or, vertical relationship.
- When the rich young man responds, “I’ve kept these all from my youth,” Jesus does something peculiar. Instead of then reciting the first four commandments, Jesus instead gives five different imperatives:
Why is this important? Jesus intentionally links these five imperatives to loving God—the first four commandments. Jesus does this because he knew the man was harboring an idol in his heart. While the rich young man had done all the right things externally, and was—by all accounts—a Godly man, he was still was guilty of idolatry: idolizing wealth.
Reflective Question II:
Do you surrender your idols (inward or outward) over to the God of the universe?
Jesus’ claim about wealth reveals a sobering reality (v.21-31)
- Jesus' command for the rich young man to go, sell, give, come and follow means that there are two errors we—as believers—need to avoid:
- Believing Jesus calls everyone to sell all their possessions to give to the poor; and
- Believing Jesus calls no one to abandon all their possessions to give to the poor.
If Mark 10 teaches us anything, it teaches us that Jesus does sometimes call people to sell everything they have to give to the poor. This means, he very well might call you or me to do the same.
- Throughout the Gospels, Jesus talks more about the dangers of wealth, money and possessions than He does Heaven and Hell! Materialism, second only to the kingdom, is what Jesus talks most about during his ministry on earth—11 out of 39 parables are about money! Wealth is central to this story. It’s not just the Rich Man’s idol, it's ours as well. We are the wealthiest nation to have ever existed in the history of the world. Even our poppers are princes in the world's economy. We are all rich, in the proper perspective:
- Over 1 billion people are living on less than a dollar a day;
- 700 million people live in slums—that's more than double the U.S. population;
- 500 million people are on the verge of starvation, lacking food, water, and medical care; and
- According to UNICEF, 20,000 people die everyday of starvation and preventable diseases.
- Over 1 billion people are living on less than a dollar a day;
I’m neither trying to guilt you, nor say imply that money is inherently bad. Rather, I'm pleading with you to understand that if we continue to live our lives without acknowledging that there is a world of hurting people around us, we are dangerously close to being no different than the rich man who walks from the Author of Salvation because he didn’t want to give up his possessions.
Reflective Question III:
Is your wealth, or love of wealth, forcing you to walk away from your Savior?
- Jesus goes on to tell His disciples “how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” (v.24)
- While this very well could have been just a metaphor, I choose to believe Jesus was speaking of the literal impossibility of an actual camel threading the eye of an actual needle. Why? Because Jesus says to His disciples, “With man this is impossible, but with God, all things are possible.” (v.27)
- Jesus is calling our attention to the mortal danger of accumulating stuff! Contrary to the opinion of many so-called “prosperity gospel” advocates, wealth is not always a sign of God’s favor on your life:
- Wealth does not make you generous;
- Wealth can not fix your marriage; and
- Wealth cannot save your soul.
- This is largely why we have written into our DNA as a church our priority to "Live simply, give lavishly, and invest wisely."
Reflective Question IV:
Are our possessions keeping us from living simply and giving lavishly?
- Before closing, I want to place attention on verse 21, which reads, “Jesus looked at the man and LOVED him.” He Loved him! Jesus doesn’t tell the rich young man to give all he has to the poor and follow Him because he doesn’t care for him. Instead, Jesus’ love is what motivates Him to demand the man go, sell, give, come and follow. Jesus loves the rich young man enough to tell him the truth!
- Know that God loves you! In fact, He Loves you enough to reveal the sobering reality of idolizing wealth, and to gently and lovingly call you back home to Him.
Truth’s to Grasp
Finally, there are some truths that jumped off the page to me as I prepared that can’t go unspoken. I hope they resonate with you.
Truth I: Salvation always involves internal transformation
Not just external but internal transformation as well. This is evidenced by Jesus’ response to the rich man.
Truth II: Followers of Jesus submit to Lordship of Christ
“He doesn’t give us options to consider, but commands to obey” — David Platt
Truth III: Followers of Christ exemplify generosity and humility
Prioritizing sacrificial care for the poor and less fortunate.
Truth IV: The cost of following Christ is great; the cost of not following him is greater
If you don’t hear anything else, hear this today. Our love for ourselves is costly. While following Christ can be costly too, and in this case was completely costly, it could cost us more... and that is missing out of the very presence of Christ.
Truth V: We must realize that our desire for possessions is dangerous and deadly
Jesus isn't trying to take away our pleasure, He wants to bring us lasting satisfaction.
Remember, I’m not, nor is the bible saying that possessions are in and of themselves bad. Your car is not bad. Your tv is not bad. Your house is not bad. Your Iphone6plus with graphite case and diamond engraved stylist isn’t bad. But our desire for these things can seep in and take control.
Truth VI: God will vindicate and repay everything we sacrificed for Him
In closing, I want to point you to verse 22, which reads, “The man was disheartened by the saying, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”
It is my prayer right now that these truths—these hard truths—would not make you sorrowful or disheartened. That is the reaction of a man who chose to walk AWAY from Christ.
We can rejoice in light of this challenging scripture
We have the opportunity to join together as a body of believer to encourage and help one another in eliminating the idolatry and its consequences from our lives! We get to lovingly challenge ourselves and each other to truly lay down our idols, internal and external, at the feet of Jesus and say, "Thy will be done!"
Let us be joyful when we see an opportunity to help those in need. Let us be thankful we serve a Lord who loves us so much to tell us the truth about the sin in our hearts. And let us strive to Give GOD the glory in our lives and through our resources as we seek to make his name great among the nations.