Sermon: The Rich Young Ruler (Mark 10:17-31)

The Local Christendom Podcast with Aaron Ventura

08-11-2023 • 26分

The Rich Young Ruler Sunday, November 5th, 2023 Christ Covenant Church – Centralia, WA

Mark 10:17-31

17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life? 18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God. 19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. 20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth. 21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. 22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.

23 And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! 24 And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. 26 And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? 27 And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.

28 Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. 29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, 30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. 31 But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.

Prayer

Father, we ask now that you would do the impossible, and save us who are very rich in worldly possessions. Lord, you know how attached we are to the things we call ours, when in reality, everything comes from and belongs to You, and just as we entered into this world naked, so also shall we exit this world, unable to bring any earthly thing with us. So teach us now to become truly rich, truly wealthy, and to store up for ourselves treasures in heaven, by treasuring You who are of infinite worth and most to be prized. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.

Introduction

It says in Proverbs 27:5 that, “open rebuke is better than secret love.” King Solomon goes on to say in the next verse that “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; But the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.”

  • In our passage this morning, the Lord Jesus continues to be our faithful friend, for he continues to give us the loving wounds of open rebuke. This middle section of Mark’s gospel could be read as Christ rebuking us into the kingdom. Because God loves us and wants us to freely embrace Him, Jesus continues to cut away at the chains that we have bound ourselves with. Jesus continues to pull down the idols that we have erected in place of He Who Is the one true and living God.
  • So far Jesus has rebuked us for our vanity and self-conceit, our desire to be great in the eyes of the world. He has rebuked for our infidelity in marriage and our easy divorce laws. Last week he rebuked us forgetting in the way of children coming to him, and this morning he rebukes us for our love of money and worldly possessions.
  • We remember the context is Jesus teaching us the cost of following him. And he has just told us that if we want to enter the kingdom of God, we must become as little children (even as infants) in how we receive it.
  • And immediately following this call to become as little children, behold, a young man comes running to him, asking what he must do to inherit eternal life.

Outline

Our text divides neatly into three sections wherein each, Jesus answers a different question:

  • In verses 17-22, Jesus answers the question, “What shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”
  • In verses 23-27, Jesus answers the question, “How can the rich be saved?”
  • In verses 28-31, Jesus answers the question, “What reward will those who forsake all and follow Jesus receive?”
  • Those are the three questions we will seek to answer in this sermon.

Verse 17

17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?

  • This same scene is recorded also in Matthew and Luke and when we combine all three accounts, we discover that this man is rich, he is young, and he is a ruler.
    • All three accounts describe him as rich, although Mark withholds that detail from us until verse 22 for dramatic purposes.
    • Matthew 19:22 tells us that he was young (νεανίσκος). And young in this context means someone in the age range of roughly 24-40 years old. So he is not a teenager but not yet an “elder.”
    • So this is a young man of some significance and reputation and wealth. Moreover, as we will see, he is a morally upright and law-abiding ruler, he has kept the second table of the law. He’s the kind of person you probably wouldn’t mind having as your next-door neighbor.
  • And so this rich young ruler comes running to Jesus, kneels down, shows him respect, and says, “Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”
  • This is perhaps the single most important question a person could ask, and so we must commend this man for asking it of Jesus. He’s come to the right person.
  • How does Jesus respond?

Verse 18

18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.

  • This is an interesting question that Jesus responds with, “Why do you call me good?” And as with all of Jesus’ questions he asks not because he does not know, but because there is something he wants us to know. Jesus wants this man to think about why he calls Jesus “good,” and what he means by it. Because embedded in the answer to Jesus’ question, is also the answer to the rich young ruler’s question, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” So let’s explore what is embedded here.
  • Why does this man call Jesus good?
    • Well in order to call anyone or anything good, you need some standard by which to judge, and where does that standard come from? In the mind of this rich young ruler, Jesus is a “good teacher” just like many other “good human teachers.” He is respectful, he even kneels, but he attributes to Jesus as a mere man the essential goodness that belong exclusively to God.
    • In other words, he calls Jesus good kind of like the man considers himself good, for as we will see shortly, he has kept the commandments from his youth.
      • And this is the essence of the rich young ruler’s problem: he doesn’t actually know what goodness is or where it comes from, and therefore he doesn’t know what is good for him.
      • He calls Jesus good as if man has some goodness apart from God.
    • The irony of course is that Jesus is God and very goodness itself, and so the man’s words are more true than he even intends (!), but he speaks them to Jesus from a place of false understanding, and therefore Jesus lovingly corrects him.
    • So the problem is not with calling Jesus a “good teacher,” the problem is with what the man means by that attribution.
    • And so Jesus says, “there is none good but one, that is, God.”
      • That is to say, God is what we call “good” absolutely and essentially and supereminently by nature (not relatively or derivatively), for there is no standard of goodness outside of God by which you could judge Him. God is the Supreme Good and nothing else can be called good unless it participates and imitates He-Who-Is-Very-Goodness itself.
      • Put another way, if God’s goodness is the sun burning at full strength, man’s goodness is as a flickering candle. And even that analogy puts man and God infinitely too close together. For God is the one who gives the sun to be, and as it says in 1 Timothy 6:16, “He alone dwells in light which no man approach unto, whom no man hath seen, nor can see…” That is how good God is, His light is so bright that the sun is as darkness next to him.
    • This is what Jesus means when he says, “there is none good but one, that is, God.”
  • Continuing in verse 19, Jesus further exposes the man’s false notion of goodness. He wants the man to see in himself that he does not at present regard God as this supreme and essential good. And so he says…

Verses 19-20

19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother. 20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.

  • So Jesus summarizes the second table of the law, commandments Five thru Ten, and the man says, “all these have I observed from my youth.”
  • The glaring omission here is the first table of the law, commandants One thru Four which describe how we are to love God as our highest good.
    • The first commandment is that we have no other gods before Him.
    • The second commandment is that we worship no images of Him.
    • The third commandment is that we hallow and revere His name.
    • The fourth commandment is that we remember His Sabbath Day.
  • And so despite this man keeping the externals of the second table of the law, he has not killed anyone, or committed adultery, or even gained his wealth by fraud, etc., he stills lacks one thing. He lacks the goodness necessary to inherit eternal life. He lacks God as His Supreme Good.

Verses 21-22

21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me. 22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.

  • Note the irony. The man who has “everything,” youth, riches, power, and status, lacks the one thing he most needs, God. And Jesus loves this man enough to tell him how God can be his, how he can inherit eternal life. What must this man do to inherit God’s kingdom?
  • He must do what every other human being must do, he must have God for his highest good and supreme treasure. And in this instance, because earthly riches are his actual god, and because great possessions are the idol he has fashioned in place of God, all those things must go.
    • Not because those riches are somehow inherently sinful, but rather because those are the golden shackles keeping him from being actually rich. By not following Jesus, the man has chosen to lock himself in a golden prison, rather than receiving by faith as a little child, a kingdom wherein gold is what they use to pave the streets with.
  • This is the great danger and tragedy of being rich in this world. You are tempted to settle for lesser goods rather than pursuing and desiring He-Who-Is the Source of All Goodness, He-Who-Is the Ceaseless Fount of all blessing.
    • It is only the Christian who has God as his highest good that can actually handle and use the good things God gives us, without letting them handle him.
    • Wealth is a wonderful servant and a terrible master. And the reason the Bible warns us of the deceitfulness of riches is because it is very easy to think that you are ruling your possessions (being a good steward) when in reality your possessions are ruling/stewarding you. That’s a whole other sermon.
  • Summary: What must this man do to inherit eternal life? He must repent and believe just like everyone else. And Jesus says for him, repentance means the forsaking of all his possessions so that God may be enthroned as the highest good in his heart.
    • What we have seen throughout this gospel is Jesus simply accommodating and personally applying “repent ye and believe the gospel,” to diverse groups and individuals.
    • Whatever idols you have erected in your heart in place of God, Jesus has come to knock down. For some it is money and worldly possessions, for others it is sensual pleasure and gratifying the flesh, for others it is their own self-righteousness and conception of themselves. And on and on the list could go.
    • But whatever you regard as a good higher than God, that you must forsake if you would inherit eternal life. And therefore in principle, we must say with the Apostle Paul, “I count all things as loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord” (Phil. 3:8).
    • In other words, were Jesus to say to you what he said to the rich young ruler, “sell everything you have, give to the poor, and follow me,” there must be no hesitancy or sadness in us to do so. And our gut response to that command tells us what is actually in our heart.
      • And because God loves us, He sometimes causes or permits that we suffer certain losses (whether of health, or possessions, or even loved ones), in order to remind us that this world is not where our hope and treasure lies.
      • Like Abraham, God wants us to fix our gaze upon a better city, whose builder and maker is God. Christians desire a better country, a heavenly one, where we can enjoy God and His people and His creation with no sin and no suffering and no loss forever!
      • And when that becomes our hope and the ambition of our hearts, when God becomes our supreme joy, love, and desire, Jesus says that already eternal life has begun in you.
  • Returning to our text, the disciples watching this scene unfold are astonished.

Verses 23-27

23 And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God! 24 And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. 26 And they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, Who then can be saved? 27 And Jesus looking upon them saith, With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.

  • How then can a rich man be saved? How then can the wealthiest nation in the history of the world be saved?
  • Jesus’ answer is that with men, it is not possible. Or as Jesus says in John 6:44, “No man can come to me, except the Father which hath sent me draw him.”
    • There is no earthly way for man to move himself to love God more than his stuff. Man is so blind in his sin, that what he thinks is good for him is only that which his various appetites find appealing. After the fall, man lacks the ability to love God as he ought. And therefore, Jesus says, “With men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.”
    • What this means is that unless God supernaturally intervenes, no man will ever be saved. And it is this supernatural intervention from outside of us, that the Bible calls grace.
    • What is grace? Grace is God’s action in man that leads to salvation.
      • Grace is one in essence, but it is diverse according to the many effects it brings about in us.
      • Thus, Scriptures speaks of grace that causes us to be born again (not of our own will but of God’s will), there is grace that justifies us and makes us righteous, there is grace that sanctifies us and unites us to God, there is grace that glorifies us and elevates our nature. There is grace that operates in us apart from our will (like regeneration), and grace that we cooperate with as we work out by charity what God works in.
      • But the essence of all grace is that, in Jesus’ words, it is not “from or with man,” but rather it is, “from and with God,” and with God all things are possible, even the salvation of the rich.
      • That is how a rich man can be saved. Only by the grace of God.
  • Finally, the disciples then wonder, well God’s grace has worked in us to forsake all and follow you, what then shall be our reward?

Verses 28-31

28 Then Peter began to say unto him, Lo, we have left all, and have followed thee. 29 And Jesus answered and said, Verily I say unto you, There is no man that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my sake, and the gospel’s, 30 But he shall receive an hundredfold now in this time, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands, with persecutions; and in the world to come eternal life. 31 But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.

  • There are two kinds of rewards for those who are moved by God’s grace to follow Him.
  • There are spiritual rewards we receive in this life and spiritual rewards we receive in the next.
    • In this life, Jesus says that if we have left house, or land, or family for his sake and the gospel’s, we shall receive “now in this time” a hundred-fold return.
      • For example: If a man has to leave his house to follow Jesus, he will find that the homes of the saints are opened to him. There will be a hundred houses that will be hospitable to him because for a righteous cause he has been made homeless.
        • We experience echoes of this when we travel to foreign places and stay with Christians we’ve never met before.
        • Have you ever experienced that feeling of deep spiritual kinship with someone you just met, where that common bond of faith moves them to warmly welcome you into their home and give you food and shelter. Despite many cultural differences, there is a bond of love that unites all Christians as members of Christ’s body.
      • Likewise, if a man has been disowned by his natural family for following Jesus, they exclude him from their society, Jesus says that whatever he has lost, the Lord will make it up to him. There are friends who stick closer than a brother (Pr. 18:24), and those friends are brothers and sisters and mothers in the church.
  • Now if you compare these two lists, of things that are given up with the things that are received a hundredfold, you will notice that among the things received, there are two omissions and one addition.
    • The two omissions are father and wife, and the one addition is persecutions.
    • The most likely reason for not promising a hundredfold fathers is because in Christ we have one Father in Heaven.
    • As for not promising a hundredfold wives, well you can imagine why that would be perverse.
    • We have one Father in Heaven, we have one wife, but in the church, we can have a hundredfold mothers and brothers and sisters and children and lands, with one important addition: persecutions.
  • In case we had too idealistic or unrealistic expectations for what the church is, Jesus tells us up front that if you follow him, you can expect to be persecuted. And perhaps the reason he sets persecutions next to lands, is because those who bring the gospel to new lands are frequently those who suffer the most persecution.
    • The Apostle Paul affirms this same reality when he says in 2 Timothy 3:12, “all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.”
  • So yes, there are great rewards in this life for following Jesus, but the rewards are different than you might expect. And if persecution does not sound like a reward, well remember the spirit of the apostles in Acts 5:41, which says right after they were beaten, “they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.”
  • What makes the Christian faith so special, is that our God knows the way out of the grave. When they kill us, they further our cause. When they persecute us, they crown us with glory. What evil men intend for evil, God works and intends for our good. And when that kind of God is on your side, you cannot lose. You are free to forsake all, count everything as loss, even your own life, and in so doing you discover the surpassing riches of knowing God in Christ.

Conclusion

Jesus says it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

  • The Lord Jesus did the impossible. And like a camel, that beast of burden, Jesus carried the immeasurable weight of the world’s sins to the cross and paid for them.
  • Jesus was pierced for our transgressions, and having passed through the eye of death, he came out victorious on the other side.
  • So what is your highest good? Is it God, or is something lesser? Whatever it is, Jesus requires you to count it as loss and follow him. And if you do,He will carry you through that same eye of death and give you eternal life in the age to come.
  • In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, Amen.

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