Mark 10:17-34: Follow Jesus
May 3, 2021
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
A rich man—all in a rush with business—runs up to Jesus and asks Jesus the question of all questions. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” The rich man gets right to the bottom line. What’s the most important question here, let’s cut to the chase.
Jesus notices that the epithet with which he addresses Jesus is indicative of a heart of confusion. “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” In other words, the rich man rightly called Jesus “Good Teacher,” but he does not yet rightly understand why it is that Jesus is truly good—because Jesus is truly God.
Jesus then probes him: you know the commandments. But, fascinatingly, Jesus only quotes from the second table of the Ten Commandments. The first table of the Ten Commandments is to do with love for God. The second table is to do with love for our neighbor. Yes, as the rich man affirms, in a certain sense he is fulfilling his moral duties to those around him, his fellow human beings. But the first table of the Ten Commandments, the love for God—calling Jesus Good Teacher but not realizing he is God—it is in this absolutely central and crucial area that the rich man is so lacking.
Isn’t it fascinating that this rich man, the billionaire, is not even named? His money is not providing him with what he really needs. A relationship with God.
So Jesus, now, himself gets right to the bottom line, cuts to the chase. Ok, go and sell everything you have and come follow me. The point is not that money is wrong in itself (if money were the problem, giving it to poor people wouldn’t help because then they’d have the problem in turn); the problem is that the money is stopping him from following Jesus. He is not following the first half of then Ten Commandments and worshipping God. He cannot follow Jesus because he is worshipping money. This is the one thing he lacked: God himself.
Jesus then explains to his disciples. It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God. We know from the Bible that rich people do enter the kingdom of God—Abraham was wealthy, for instance, as was David. Joseph was a great prince of Egypt. The point is not the money; the point is the temptation to take money as God; to worship money as God. In that sense it is impossible to enter the kingdom of heaven. We must defeat our idols and turn back to worship God. It’s like trying to get a camel through the eye of a needle. Impossible! But not with God—all things are possible with God.
This is not a blank check to embolden the impious to ask for wealth (how ironic if it were used in that sense in this context of the rich man!); it is a statement that even idolaters, like you and me, can be saved because God is in the business of saving sinners. He is able to do so, and if we believe in him, he will save us. Everyone then must leave everything to follow Jesus—that is, we must follow him (and not anything else). And if we have something that we are following instead of Jesus, then we must get rid of that thing, whatever it may be.
We can use things, material resources, monetary resources, for God and for God’s kingdom. But we cannot use Jesus for money. That way is impossible. We use the things of this world as if we do not belong to this world, as if we are just passing through. We make as much as we can, save as much as we can, give as much as we can (in the famous advice of John Wesley)—remembering that the rich are to be humbled in their low estate, and the poor take courage in their high estate, for the first shall be last and the last first. And what matters is not how much money we have, but how we use what we have to follow Jesus. And by that standard there will be many surprises in heaven.
A person with only a widow’s mite worth of gifts, but given all to God, has given far more than a person with great resources who hoards them. Follow Jesus, and know that we will receive a hundredfold in this time—friends, family, brothers and sisters, being a part of the kingdom, not owning all in a materialistic sense, but a part of it all for Christ and in his family—and in the age to come eternal life. Following Jesus is worth it. Infinitely and eternally so.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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