Skip to content
Mar 15 / Chuck Smith, Jr.

March 10, 2012 – Mark 10:1-31

Easter Preparations

As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Mark 10:17

INTRO: Easter is only three weeks away and it is much too important a day to let it sneak up on us

So we find chapter 10 in the Gospel of  Mark and catch up with Jesus a few weeks before the cross

If we look close at these six stories, we can discern a pattern in this chapter
– in the first half, two dialogues precede a dramatic, personal encounter with Jesus
• then, the second half repeats the first half — two dialogues followed by a dramatic, personal encounter
• for both individuals, the encounter with Jesus proved to be a moment of crisis – a crucial turning point

The two men could not be more unrelated
– one is healthy, rich, and mobile, while the other is blind, poor, and “stuck”
– Jesus invited the mobile one to follow him, but he did not go
• Jesus did not invite the stuck one to follow him, but he did anyway
– the first one had much to lose – the second had nothing to lose
• but the one thing they shared in common: they both had everything to gain

A brief look at the first two dialogues

Vv. 1-12, People were abusing the divorce clause found in the law
– they used the letter of the law to violate its intent
– Jesus’ explanation to the disciples regarding “divorce and marries another” (vv. 11-12) contains a conditional clause
• one action is undertaken in order to perform a second action
○ in this case, a person divorces a spouse, because he or she wants to be with, and marry, someone else
○ to Jesus, this amounts to legalized adultery
– the point being: Jesus does not put up with our nonsense
• he calls our actions by their real name
○ the people who exploited this loophole in the law were, technically, righteous people, but they were not good people

Vv. 12-16, Although Jesus doesn’t put up with nonsense, He does accept children
– this apparently confused the disciples, who tried to keep the children away from Jesus
• but the Lord said that children teach us how to receive kingdom of God
• how does a child receive the kingdom of God?
○ not through words or concepts, but through pure experience
○ held in Jesus’ arms, the children were in the kingdom of God

A man was there, observing all of this

When Jesus got up to leave, this man ran to him
– perhaps for the first time he saw the nonsense of his religious practice
• he also saw how Jesus was with the children
– he already had what the Pharisees had, but he wanted what Jesus had

Verses 17-22

I want to make three observations regarding Jesus’ initial response to this man:

  1. 1. Jesus corrects him regarding his use of the word “good”
    – this seems nitpicky – it was merely a polite form of address
    – but there are two big issues at stake:
    • he assumes goodness is the key to the riddle – if he can just be good enough
    • he expects Jesus to give him an assignment, something to do
    ○ but Jesus indicates that’s not the way to eternal life
    ○ no assignment, no mystery to solve, no secret initiation, rather he would have to deal directly with God, who alone is good
  2. Jesus adds a commandment, “Do not defraud”
    – the other “Do nots” are taken verbatim from the ten commandments
    • Jesus came up with this one himself – why did he do this? Perhaps we’ll see
  3. Each time Jesus speaks to someone in this passage, he is looking at them  (vv. 21, 23, 27)
    – when looking at this man, Jesus loved him
    • it is actually a beautiful moment and a peek inside the Lord’s heart
    – if what Jesus said caused the man to go away grieving, it was not because Jesus didn’t love him or wanted him to go away

Let’s go back now and try to see what Jesus saw

The man can discern a difference between religion and what he saw in Jesus
– the Pharisees were religious – but Jesus was . . . well, something else
• the man had also been religious, but he discerned a gap between being religious and having God
○ he wanted to fill the gap
• if he didn’t ask Jesus, he’d never know what piece was missing
– so he asked Jesus for the key to eternal life
• if a poor, itinerant preacher like Jesus is walking around with eternal life, then certainly he could afford it, no matter how great the cost

I don’t think his question was about immortality or how to live forever
– Jesus uses kingdom of God and eternal life interchangeably
• it has to do with a special quality of life — a life that is shared with God
• he wanted the real deal

Abraham Maslow, “Theologians used to use the word accidie’ to describe the sin of failing to do with one’s life all that one knows one could do.”

– that is where this man stands, one the verge of doing with his life all that he knows he could
• and he thinks he’s ready to take next step

According to the Scriptures, humans are one part dust and one part image of God
– the problem is, these two parts have been split for millennia
• the human dilemma is how to integrate them
– most people give up – they just live the dust part of themselves
• others are content to become “religious dust,” without concern for the divine image

This rich man is on the verge of integrating the image of God into his total self, thereby becoming a whole person
– he is right at the edge of becoming a person of greater depth
• something has driven him to Jesus, but suddenly something else is pulling him away
– this is the tragedy of so many men and women
• when the shallow life works for them, they won’t bother to go deep
○ if the can find an answer on the surface, why dig three feet down? or ten feet? or one hundred feet?
• but archaeologists of the soul know that the explanation for what’s on the surface lies under surface
– religion that sees only black and white, that defines everything as right or wrong, works for people who prefer to wade in the shallow end of the pool
• “Why learn to swim, when I can get as wet as I want in the shallow end?”
○ “Why try to figure out how things work, so long as they work?”
○ “Why stay with friends when they have to do the deep, soul-searching work as long as simple platitudes get me through each day?”
• but the shallow person lives in a snow globe, and when their philosophy stops working, their world is shattered
○ this is a terrible thing to observe — yet it can be a person’s salvation

Abraham Maslow, “It is when the shallow life doesn’t work that it is questioned and that there occurs a call to fundamentals.”

There’s a product at Costco I like, but I hate the packaging
– it says, “Dynamic new and informative label. Same 100% product”
• some advertisers assume we’re stupid
○ do we ingest the “new and informative label”?
○ do we buy labels on containers or do we buy the contents in the container
• advertisers assume a new, slick look is going to change our mind regarding purchasing their product
○ churches do this too — when they lose their spiritual vision, they spruce up their appearance
– but we pull this stunt on ourselves
• we make superficial changes and assume we now have more depth
– we might argue that this isn’t true, that we don’t let ourselves get distracted from things that could lead us to a deeper life
• but look how we panic the evening electricity goes out and we aren’t able to watch TV or get on our computer

There were crowds of people surrounding Jesus, yet this man was able to get through them
– in fact, everyone cleared a path for him
• that’s what his possessions did for him — they made him special, important, respected
– but if he was to do what Jesus required, he would lose all that
• lose the status, the legal privileges, the reputation
– and when we think about it, Jesus is only a few weeks from the cross
• so how far would the man really get if he started following Jesus?
• perhaps no further than another cross, next to Jesus
– on the other hand, he eventually did die, and when he died, he lost everything
• if he had followed Jesus, even to today he would still have eternal life, abundant life, the kingdom of God

He walked away from Jesus, but could he face tragedy of his shallow life knowing there is more?
– an encounter with Jesus shatters my defense strategies, coping mechanisms and leave me without excuse
• I must face the fact, I would rather be superficial than pay the price for depth, for integrating this other part of me
– that’s why the man “went away grieving”
• in walking away from Jesus, he betrayed himself
• and now we can understand why Jesus added his own commandment to the others, “Do not defraud”
○ all along, the man had been defrauding himself
○ and walking away from Jesus, he continues to defraud himself

CONC: There’s a famous quote by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book, The Cost of Discipleship

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”

– at first it seems to be a stoic view of Christian commitment
• in fact, this is as far as some Christians get in their relationship with God
• these are usually the believers who are constantly talking about “dying to self”
– but Bonhoeffer goes on to say,

“The call to discipleship, the baptism in the name of Jesus Christ means both death and life.”

This is what we need to remember as we approach Easter, which is “both death and life”
– like the rich man, we may become fixated on our losses
• we may miss the fact that giving up our shallow life brings us into new life
○ a richer, deeper life of creativity, joy, and love

Peter responded to Jesus, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You” (v. 28)
– and Jesus told him they would be rewarded
– but can we do it? can we take the path of the disciples and follow Jesus?
• No, we can’t! To think we could or must summon the courage or will power to go forward is an illusion
– Jesus made it clear, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God”
• and like the starting point with rich man, brings us back to God who alone is “good”

So, yes, Jesus calls us to come and die,
– and then to live, then live some more, and more, and more ad infinitum

One Comment

Leave a comment
  1. linda martin / Mar 15 2013

    without God I have nothing
    with Jesus we have everything
    very rich indeed
    I am grateful this Easter, this year I reflect on how amazing our God is I never cease to be in awe, adoration, of what He went through for you and I. it is truly incredible in the midst of storms we can choose faith, trust, belief or panic, worry and fear. Last Easter I was carried by family and friends’ faith. My physical body became weak, and so did my faith, spirit. God healed and strengthen me. I had desired the faith and was upset for not having it for myself.i am going to appreciate this Easter season even more. So thankful to God for the greatest love of all. A true friend, He lays down His life for His friends, greater love has no man than this. This verse always points me back to Jesus. So do you God bless you and your family.
    Thank you for sharing, you are a blessing

Leave a comment