This sermon was based on Mark 10:17-31.
The Rich Young Man
17And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'” 20And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
23And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” 28Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
You Can’t be Part of God’s Kingdom Unless You Want Jesus as Your King
- This rich young man enjoyed what life had to offer him, and it’s easy to see why. It offered him money, comfort, friends (presumably), a reputation. Jesus wants him to set all of those things aside to come and follow him – and he won’t do it.
- Jesus looks at him and loves him. He knows that this young man is kidding himself. No-one is good except God alone! He can’t keep all of God’s law, he won’t keep all of God’s law, and he hasn’t been keeping all of God’s law. So that’s why Jesus asks him to sell all he has.
- We don’t know what happens next. The man goes away despondent. He’s certainly been taken down a peg or two, having chased after Jesus so exuberantly. Maybe he goes home and nothing changes. He continues living his life, putting his confidence in the things of this world – his money, status, own sense of morality/uprightness. Or maybe he goes home and slowly starts to re-evaluate
How to get a Camel Through the Eye of a Needle
- It’s impossible, then, even for people like this man, to get yourself into God’s kingdom through your own devices. And that leaves the disciples very worried. Because if this young man can’t get into God’s kingdom, then what hope is there for doubting Thomas, or motormouth Peter, or the hot-headed sons of Thunder? And what hope is there for you and for me?
- This is the thing I need to remind myself every single day. This Kingdom that Jesus has been teaching about? This eternal life he promises? It’s impossible for me to get for myself. There’s nothing I can do to earn it or deserve it. And nothing I have done that disqualifies me from it.
- But all things are possible with God. So there is hope! It’s not impossible for me to enter the kingdom of God, even though I’m a rich man. It’s just impossible for me to go it alone. I need Jesus – because without him I’ve got nothing.
Finale – The Promise
- There’s a coda to this whole story. Peter doesn’t quite get it, doesn’t quite understand what Jesus means, and is still probably a bit scared by the whole camel/needle thing. So he speaks up and Jesus reassures him with one of the biggest promises in the New Testament.
- Because this promise isn’t just for Peter and the Twelve – it’s for all of us now and into eternity. For most of us it might seem a bit extreme – you might not feel you’ve had to leave a home or a field or family members for Jesus or for the gospel. But all kinds of believers today have, and have to cherish this promise.
- I wonder how this promise affects us today? Perhaps there’s somebody listening who has a dream, or an ambition, and believes it’s from God – but it would require quite a sacrifice, or an investment, or some sense in which you’d be leaving something behind for God. We are Jesus’s people – we can stand on promises like this one. And this one says that risks taken for God ultimately aren’t risks at all.