Entering the Kingdom of God – Mark 10:13-31
Good morning! If you have a Bible, I invite you to turn to the Gospel according to Mark. If you can grab a Bible, we’re going to be in Mark 10:13-31, this morning.
Last week, we looked at what Jesus had to say about marriage, divorce and remarriage. This is an issue that affects all of us, in some capacity, and it is important for us to look at what God says about these issues, because ultimately it’s what God says, not what I say, that matters.
And this morning, Mark draws our attention to what Jesus says about children and wealth. You might be wondering how those two are possibly connected, but Jesus is going to be asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus is going to use children and wealth to illustrate for us that entering the kingdom of God is easier than we think, but more costly than we realize.
And the question that this passage is going to get us to ask ourselves is: If everything were stripped away, and all we had left was Jesus, would He be enough? And my hope is, if we are wrestling with entering the kingdom of God on our terms, that we might see the sufficiency and preeminence of Christ.
So, I’m just going to read our passage for us and then we will dive in. Mark 10, beginning in verse 13: “And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. 14 But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. 15 Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.’ 16 And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.
“17 And 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?’ 18 And Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You 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.”’ 20 And he said to him, ‘Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.’ 21 And 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.’ 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
“23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, ‘Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.’ 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, ‘Then who can be saved?’ 27 Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.’ 28 Peter began to say to him, ‘See, we have left everything and followed you.’ 29 Jesus 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, 30 who 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. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.’”
Just before we dismissed the kids for Sunday School, we sang the song: “Jesus loves the little children, all the children of the world; red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.” We sang that song rather intentionally, because it’s true that Jesus does indeed love the little children of the world. But sadly, many do not.
There is a popular notion that “children should be seen and not heard.” We like the idea of children, but we tend to view them as more of a hindrance, until they can be productive and useful in society. There are many children who live in poverty, who don’t have enough food to eat, who have been abused, or who have been neglected. Not everyone loves the little children of the world.
But then, there is the flipside of this, where we sometimes tend to love our children too much, to the point that we idolize our children. They will dominate our thoughts and our actions and our calendars and our clocks. From morning to night, we run around all over the place, taking them to their various activities. We worry about giving them a good life, so we place them in the center of a universe that they will gladly occupy.
And I think there is a biblical balance here when it comes to how we are to treat children, and Jesus seems to strike this balance better than any of us. We discover in our text that Jesus does indeed love the little children of the world. In verse 13, parents were bringing their children to Jesus, “that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them.”
The disciples would be in the first camp. They think that children are not the kind of folk Jesus should be bothered with. These parents should not be bothering Jesus with their little children. Whatever place children have, it's not to be interfering in the more important work of Jesus.
But at the heart of the disciples’ rebuke is that they still think of themselves as elite. They still think of the kingdom of God in exclusive terms, where it’s only for them. They aren’t actually concerned about the importance of Jesus; they’re more concerned about their own importance.
It wasn’t that long ago, if you remember, when they were arguing among themselves about who was the greatest in the kingdom of God. It was just back in Mark 9, when the disciples were trying to stop an unknown individual from casting out demons in Jesus’ name, because he wasn’t following them.
The disciples of Jesus are a very elite and exclusive group. But before we start pointing fingers, we need to consider who we are more like in this story? Are we more like those who are bringing children to Jesus, or are we more like those who have no time for children? How we respond to this question is of considerable importance based on what happens next in the text.
Verse 14 says that, when Jesus saw what was happening, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”
Jesus gets angry. Now, Jesus doesn’t get angry often, but when He does, we need to take note of the object of His indignation. As one commentator put it, “Jesus’ displeasure here reveals his compassion and defense of the helpless, vulnerable, and powerless.”
Jesus’ righteous indignation reveals to us that He cares for the little children, for the helpless, for the vulnerable, for the powerless, for the unimportant, for the marginalized. Jesus is essentially showing us what God is like. God is One who has time for little children. How comforting is that? Jesus is showing us that God has time for children. He doesn’t treat them as better seen than heard. He doesn’t regard them as a hindrance. He loves the little children of the world.
And John 1:12-13 says, “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”
In other words, as children of God, what this means is that God has time for us, as well. How encouraging is it to know that the infinite, eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing, ever-present, only wise God loves us and has time for us? He will not send us away, but instead, He invites us to draw near to Him.
1 Peter 5:7 says that we are to cast all our anxieties, all our cares, all our concerns on God, because He cares for us. If we have believed in Jesus, then we are children of God, and if we are children of God, then we have all the rights and privileges of sonship, which means that we can come freely and confidently into His presence, casting everything on Him, because He cares for us.
And if this is how our heavenly Father treats us, then how should we treat the little children of the world? How should we care for them? How eager should we be about bringing them to Jesus?
I will just say I am so encouraged to see the amount of children we have in this church. When kids are running around and laughing, it means there is life in this church. And when we put on an event like Vacation Bible School, and see an increase in the number of kids attending, year after year, that’s amazing. And if you want to be involved in VBS, this year, let me know, because we will need volunteers to help bring these children to Jesus.
Jesus says, “To such belongs the kingdom of God.” The kingdom of God belongs as much to the little children of the world, as it does to anyone else. Are we doing all that we can do to bring them to Jesus? But then, Jesus says something really interesting, in verse 15. He says, “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”
The disciples might find the little children to be a distraction, but Jesus is actually pointing out that children reveal something about the nature of entering the kingdom of God that we should take note of, and that is, coming to Jesus with nothing but empty hands.
Jesus isn’t saying that children enter the kingdom of God on the basis of who they are or what they have. It’s not their innocence, because they aren’t innocent. It’s not their purity, because they aren’t pure. It’s not their humility, because they aren’t humble. They aren’t perfect little angels. If you have children or grandchildren, you know that they are sinners just like all of us. No, Jesus isn’t praising children for what they have, but for what they don’t have.
You see, children are small and powerless and helpless. They are entirely dependent on another for survival. In our text, these children are being brought to Jesus. They don’t even have the ability to come to Jesus on their own. They need to be brought to Jesus by someone else.
And so, Jesus is using these children as an illustration of what it looks like to enter the kingdom of God, and that is, by grace. A little child has absolutely nothing to bring, and whatever a child receives, he or she receives by grace on the basis of sheer neediness.
It’s like the one verse in the hymn, Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me: “Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to the cross I cling; naked, come to thee for dress; helpless, look to thee for grace; foul, I to the fountain fly; wash me, Savior, or I die.”
We don’t enter the kingdom of God based on our merits, or based on anything we can bring to Jesus. The only way we enter the kingdom of God is by coming to Jesus with nothing but empty hands. Unless we receive the kingdom of God on this basis, like a child, we will never enter it.
How easy does that sound, right? Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”
If citizenship in the kingdom of God is by grace, and that I don’t need to earn my way there, then that makes salvation sound really easy, which it is. It’s easier than we think, but it’s also more costly than we realize. And Mark intentionally draws our attention next to a rich, young man, who is about to experience just how costly it can be.
Verse 17 says that Jesus was setting out on His journey when a man ran up to Him, knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
I want us to take a look at this man. He was a man of power and influence, as verse 22 says that “he had great possessions.” He had heard of Jesus and liked what he heard. He was eager, as he didn’t just walk up to Jesus, but ran up to Jesus. He was reverent, as he knelt before Jesus. He was religious, as he asked Jesus how to obtain eternal life. This man seemed to have it all. But we quickly realize that what this man wants, that he doesn’t already have, is not Jesus, but rather, what Jesus can do for him.
He asks Jesus, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And you would think that Jesus would give the answer to the highest question He had been asked yet, in Mark’s Gospel. But He holds back His response to deal with the heart issue of this man’s question.
Jesus responds, by saying, “Why do you call me good?” You see, in Judaism, only God is characterized as “good.” No one is completely good except God alone. And so, what Jesus is making clear to this man is that by addressing Jesus as “Good Teacher,” he is acknowledging that Jesus is God, and if Jesus is God, then this man must submit himself to whatever Jesus is about to say.
You see, it’s one thing to give lip service to God, saying to Him that we love Him and that He is good and to “take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to Thee,” but it’s another thing entirely to submit to what He says.
Jesus corrects the man’s theology, but then, what is Jesus’ response to the man’s question? He goes back to the Ten Commandments. “Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.”
The rich, young man wanted to know what he must do to inherit eternal life, and Jesus says to him, “I’ll tell you what you must do: Keep and obey the Law of God perfectly. Do this and eternal life is yours.”
The man responds, in verse 20: “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And what's interesting about the man’s response is that, from an external standpoint, he’s probably right. From an early age, it would have been drilled into him to keep the Law of God, perfectly. And he would have done so to the best of his abilities.
It sounds a lot like the apostle Paul, in Philippians 3:5-6, where he says that he was “circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.”
Jesus doesn’t challenge the man’s statement. Jesus doesn’t call out any arrogance or hypocrisy in the man. Instead, we are simply told that Jesus “loved him.” It seems like Jesus agrees with the young man’s framework: Do well, and inherit the kingdom of God. But Jesus is about to show the man how far short he falls of keeping the most important commandment.
Jesus says 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.” But it says that “he went away sorrowful.” He comes to Jesus with such expectation, but he leaves sad. Why? Because he wasn’t ready to receive the gospel.
He thought he was already perfect, but just wanted to make sure that he wasn’t missing anything. He wanted to know if there was still something more that he needed to do. But the reality is that his external obedience was unable to do anything about the sin that was in his heart.
The man had great possessions, and unfortunately, had replaced trust in God with his earthly riches. He had failed the first commandment: “You shall have no other gods before me.” And the reason he goes away sad is because he loved his riches more than he loved God. All of his obedience, all of his religion, all of his reverence was simply a mask to cover up the arrogance of his heart.
And suddenly, being good isn’t good enough to get into the kingdom of God. Being wealthy isn’t good enough to get into the kingdom of God. Being important isn’t good enough to get into the kingdom of God. What is good enough is Jesus. And here, Jesus is offering Himself as a substitute for the man’s wealth. Only when he sells everything that he has, which had become an idol in his life, and gives it all away, will he finally possess everything.
Isn’t it ironic that the children in the previous story, who possess nothing, are not told that they lack anything, but rather that the kingdom of God is theirs; yet this man, who possesses everything, still lacks something. And it’s only when he sells all that he has—only when he becomes as vulnerable and needy as a little child—will he possess everything.
The point isn’t that every follower of Jesus must sell all that they have in order to enter the kingdom of God. No, the point is that our heart must be surrendered to Jesus. Now, if you want to know where your heart is, a good indication is to look at where your money is going, “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
But the point is: Surrender your heart, surrender everything you are and everything you have, to Jesus, then the kingdom of God will be yours. This might be wealth for you. But this can be anything that causes disciples of Jesus to forget their childlike faith—their vulnerability, their neediness, their dependence upon God—and prevents them from following Jesus.
For this man, wealth had become an actual danger, an idol, a good thing turned into an ultimate thing that prevented him from entering the kingdom of God. And this is potentially where many of us are affected, as well. It’s why Jesus says, in verse 23, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”
Notice that Jesus says that it’s difficult, not impossible. Jesus isn’t condemning wealth. When we come to Mark 14, we are going to see a woman take a flask of very costly ointment and pour it all over the head of Jesus. And everyone around her is thinking to themselves, “What a waste! That could have been given to the poor.” But Jesus doesn’t condemn the woman. Instead, Jesus calls what she does “a beautiful thing,” pointing out that they will always have the poor to do good to, but they will not always have Jesus.
And so, Jesus is not condemning wealth, but wealth can be a potential danger to faith. Why? Because if I am able to provide for myself in times of need, then I don’t need Jesus. Do you see why this man goes away sad? Up until this point, he was self-assured. But then, Jesus comes along, and tells him to give it all away and to come follow Him, because until he does, he will continue to trust in himself rather than God, and it’s like the bottom comes out from under him.
To let go of that safety net is harder than we realize. It’s easier than we think, in that we are saved not be our own efforts, but by the grace of God. But it is extremely difficult, camel-through-the-eye-of-a-needle difficult, to surrender everything we are and everything we have to God.
This even shocks the disciples. They say to Jesus, in verse 26, “Then who can be saved?” And finally, the disciples have asked the right question. It has only taken them a couple of years with Jesus, but they have unknowingly revealed the utter futility of human effort. If entering the kingdom of God is harder than we realize, then who can be saved? If I, in all of my efforts to be good enough, in all of the wealth that I have, still come up short, then who can be saved?
Verse 27: “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.’”
Do you see what Jesus is doing? Jesus is driving them inward. Jesus is showing them their insufficiency and inadequacy. Jesus wants them to see that they do not have within them the power to do what Jesus is asking them to do. What they need is Jesus, because salvation cannot be achieved through human effort.
Ezekiel 36:26 says, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” That’s God speaking. Jeremiah 13:23 says, “Can the Ethiopian change his skin or the leopard his spots?” In John 3:3, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
In all of these references, and there are plenty more that we could look at, we see that what is impossible with man is not impossible with God, because salvation is not through human effort. It is and has and always will be a divine accomplishment through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
The rich, young man is asking what he must “do,” and Jesus is presenting him with the gospel that says it’s already “done.” Entering the kingdom of God is not based on how good we are, but how good Jesus is. We are not good enough on our own; we will never be good enough. The point is that Jesus is good enough, and we need to trust in His goodness to be saved.
Jesus can identify with the man in a way. 2 Corinthians 8:9 says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich.”
Jesus is the ultimate rich, young Man, who gave away all of His riches, giving up His eternal fellowship with His Father, becoming poor, so that He might get us, and Jesus is asking this man to give up His little bit of wealth to get Jesus. But he goes away sad, because in his mind, Jesus is not worth it.
Don't make the same mistake as this young man. When Jesus calls you, whatever the demand, whatever sacrifice He asks you to make, don't make the same mistake as this young man did, but instead, say, “Yes, I want you, and I want salvation, and I don’t care what it costs me.” Run to Jesus, church, and leave everything behind.
You might gain the whole world, but you’ll lose your soul. But whoever loses his life for the sake of Christ and the gospel will save it. Peter says to Jesus, in verse 28, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” And Jesus says, “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, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands.”
Jesus isn’t preaching a kind of prosperity gospel here that says if you give your money to the Lord’s work, then you will get it all back and then some. But as children of God, we are welcomed into His family. And what that means is that we have brothers and sisters in Christ. We have spiritual fathers and mothers who brought us to Jesus. We have found a home among God’s people.
These are the blessings of the gospel, now. But our “best life” is not now; it’s still to come. There is eternal life for all those who have surrendered their lives to Jesus. The future will yield an even better reward than anything the present world can offer. Those who deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Jesus will be blessed in the life to come.
But you will notice that one of the last things Jesus mentions are persecutions. These remind us that we are not yet home. Things are not yet as they should be. It’s like Romans 8:35 says, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?”
These are potential realities for us. But what this passage is getting us to ask ourselves, and I said it at the beginning of this message, is: If everything were stripped away, and all we had left was Jesus, would He be enough?
We look at the rich, young man and we see that Jesus was not enough for him. Is Jesus enough for us? This question exposes our heart. It exposes where our treasure is. It exposes our idols. It exposes our faulty thinking about salvation. If Jesus were to ask you to give up (fill in the blank), would He be enough for us?
Yesterday, at Men’s Breakfast, we were talking about what is truly important in life, like Jesus, and how we tend to make the non-important things, like money and houses and stuff, more important than they’re worth. And Barry referenced a quote by Corrie ten Boom that I really liked. She said, “Hold everything in your hands lightly, otherwise it hurts when God pries your fingers open.”
Entering the kingdom of God is easier than think, but more costly than we realize. Let us not hold too tightly to those non-important things, but may we hold fast to Jesus. He is enough, and He is supreme above all that this world has to offer.
And may we always remember that it is not by our goodness that we enter the kingdom of God, but by the grace of God through faith in the goodness of Jesus. And that, church, is really good news for us. Let's pray…