Christ’s Power Over Every Need
The Gospel of Mark Sermon Series
“What Must I Do to Inherit Eternal Life?”
After striking a large deposit of gold, two miners in the Klondike gold rush were so excited about unearthing more and more gold each day that they neglected to store up provisions for the winter. Then came the first blizzard. Nearly frozen, one of the miners scribbled a note explaining their foolishness. Then he lay down to die, having come to his senses too late. Months later, a prospecting party discovered the note and the miners’ frozen bodies lying on top of a huge pile of gold.
Obsessed with their treasure, these men hadn’t taken into account that the fair weather wouldn’t last and winter was coming. Hypnotized by their wealth, they failed to prepare for the imminent future. The gold that seemed such a blessing proved to be a deadly curse.
The False Path to Eternal Life (vv. 17-22)
“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.
The man who ran up to Jesus calls him “Good Teacher.” The Greek word he used is agathos, meaning, “intrinsically good.” The word was no used lightly nor or every good thing. We will see in verse 22, that his passion outweighed his commitment.”
Jesus responds by saying, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” Jesus is saying, “Before you address me with such a title, you had better think soberly about what the implications are, and especially what they are for you.”
(v. 17) He then asks, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Brooks notes, “most Jews would have no doubts about what to do; observe the law. Probably the man had heard about Jesus’ teaching that mere obedience to the law was not enough.”
“indicating that he was thinking in terms of Jewish works of righteousness. He wanted to do something to merit eternal life, whereas Jesus taught that eternal life (the kingdom of God) is a gift to be received (v. 15). The disciples also were in this same mind set, because they are astonished at Jesus’ answer.
(v. 19) Jesus then moves to the 10 Commandments, where the man says, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” – This passage really summarizes why Jesus (God with skin on) came to earth; there are people who want to have eternal life, they are working so hard at trying to be good people, but in the end that’s not enough. And in that struggle, Jesus’ heart breaks.
“This is a sample of Pharisaic training which nullifies the very effect that God intends that the law should produce, namely, contrite knowledge of sin and the terrors conscientiae.” The man, even though he has kept the law from his youth, there is still something missing. He is dissatisfied with being self-righteous.
This is a real danger for churches – people who a seeking to be good people, upright citizens, but have never gone on to be genuine followers of Christ. They hold on to something in this world that keeps them from having eternal life. There was a time in Webster’s dictionary that defined Christian as “a decent, civilized, or presentable person.”
(v. 21) The man was sincere in his desire to follow God and keep the commandments, “And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him”
There are few people that truly see us – in spite of what Jesus saw, he loved him anyway. Then He spoke to him, showing him where he fell short of his goal of inheriting eternal life. “Jesus saw people with a double eye. He saw what they were, and he saw what they might be.” Jesus saw Peter as a fisherman, and a fisher of men.
The thing that Jesus commands the man to do is rooted in his love for him, and his desire for him to have eternal life. But, no matter how much we are loved by God, he will not override our choices. God gives mankind the dignity of choice.
“The one thing that prevented this young man from having eternal life was the security of his wealth.” Jesus highlights this by giving him the instructions to sell all his stuff, give them money to the poor, and “come, follow me.” (with nothing, just him). “the call is not to poverty, but to discipleship.”
The act of selling all his stuff is not something that earns him eternal life – Jesus is prescribing for this man a way for him to rid himself of something that is preventing him from having eternal life. “You lack one thing,” Jesus does not tell him exactly what that one thing is, but he tells him what is necessary for the one thing to become a reality. “What you have” stands between you and what you are seeking (eternal life).”
“The thing he lacks begins with this discovery, with the realization that all his work-righteousness is in vain, that what he needs is a complete inward change.”
But don’t think, “I’m not rich, so this does not apply to me.” The one thing that this man lacks “is the self-sacrificing devotion which characterizes every true follower of Jesus.”
“Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful” – “The man is conscience of his defect, an important point in his spiritual condition.” To obey Jesus was too great a risk for him to take, the security of his wealth, outweighed the security of the gospel. He said to himself, “I can’t follow Jesus if it means giving up my wealth.” Disobedience to God always brings sorrow.
This is the only verse in Mark where someone being called to discipleship but refusing.
The Costly Path of Eternal Life (vv. 23-27)
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.”
(v. 23) Jesus says, ““How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” Jesus never questions the man’s ability to keep the law (even from his youth), but “this action demonstrated how easy it was to become so attached to wealth that even an earnest man forgets what is infinitely more important.”
This also follows Mark 9:43 “And if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.” This is a call to radical action to remove that which would keep a person from heaven.
(v. 24) The disciples were “amazed,” and then again in (v. 26) “they were exceedingly astonished” at Jesus’ words, because the Jewish people “regarded wealth as a token of God’s favor.” “If this were true, then how would they – poor fishermen – gain entrance? The disciples asked if the best could not be saved, who could?”
(v. 25) The type of needle referenced is a sewing needle, and the camel is a regular camel. Jesus’ point is that it is impossible to put a camel through such a small opening as the eye of a needle. It is impossible for a man to be saved, in his own effort. Jesus is saying that it is impossible for a rich man, who trusts in riches, to go into the kingdom. He must learn to trust in Jesus alone.
The disciples ask the question, “Then who can be saved?” – we also use the word, saved. But what is it that the disciples are referring to; what does a person need to be saved from?
Jesus tells us that salvation is completely a work of God. “apart from the grace of God, it is impossible for any man – especially a rich man – to enter God’s kingdom.”
“Saved,” “salvation,” “eternal life,” “kingdom of God” are all used synonymously, meaning a right relationship with God. “This verse probably is the key to understanding the entire passage.
Inheriting eternal life, entering the kingdom, and being saved are impossible for any human being, but not for God, who is good and desires the salvation of all. Therefore, all must depend entirely upon God. Such absolute trust in God makes possible a life of faithful discipleship.” We come to God empty handed.
The Promise of Eternal Life (vv. 28-31)
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.”
(v. 28) Peter is responding to the rich man’s response to Jesus’ command to give up his material possessions and “come follow me.” This is almost identical to Jesus’ call of the disciples, specifically where Peter leaves his father and their family business in Mark 1:18 “And immediately they left their nets and followed him.”
(v. 29) Jesus gives a threefold answer to Peter, and he begins by making a promise “Truly, I say to you” – If there is a person who has “left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel,”
(1) receive a hundredfold what he has lost – when a person leaves his biological family he gains his church family. Often times, the brotherhood among Christians is stronger than biological sibling ties.
True fellowship within a church should be so genuine that we can see it as a good substitute for what has been left behind for the sake of the gospel. “Is fellowship just a beautiful word, with an attractive, but faraway, NT aroma about it, rather than a realized ideal?”
(2) suffer persecutions – Mark alone emphasizes persecution. This is the utter honesty of Jesus. He never offered an easy way. To be a Christian will cost you something. Barkley says, “Jesus never used a bribe to make men follow him. He used a challenge.”
(3) have eternal life in the age to come. God does not take anything from us without restoring it to him in a new and glorious form.
Jesus promises a full, though difficult, life here and now, and eternal life in the “age to come.” This entire section focuses on that riches make being a disciple difficult but the rewards of discipleship are worth more than material possessions.
Jesus is not teaching that being rich is evil, nor is being poor better than being rich. He is not teaching that only the poor can be saved. Jesus is saying that “God takes nothing away from a man without restoring it to him in a new and glorious from.”
Gregg Easterbrook wrote about this in a 2003 book called The Progress Paradox. Easterbrook’s subtitle was How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse. He describes how affluent we have become—better food, better healthcare, better education, better communication, better climate control, better entertainment, better transportation—all of that.
Yet, when sociologists do their surveys, and people in America indicate where they fall on the satisfaction scale, they are only “slightly satisfied.” Easterbrook has many explanations for this paradox—a condition some have termed affluenza—but the fundamental problem is that this fallen world cannot satisfy anyone.
What we really need, and what we are really looking for, whether we know it or not, is a relationship with the living God. David expressed it well when he said, My soul thirsts for you; my flesh faints for you, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (Ps. 63:1)
 Lane 375. “Scribal legislation prohibited the giving away of all one’s possessions precisely because it would reduce a man to poverty.”
 Cooper, 167.
 Gaebelain, 715.
 Rodney L. Cooper, Holman New Testament Commentary, Mark (Nashville, Tennessee; Holman Reference, 2000) 166.
 Frank E. Gaebelein, General Editor, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 8 (Grand Rapids, Michigan; Zondervan Publishing, 1984) 715.
 R. C. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Mark’s Gospel (Minneapolis, Minnesota; Augsburg Publishing House, 1964) 435.
 George Arthur Buttrick, Commentary Editor, The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 7 (Nashville, Tennessee; Abingdon Press, 1953) 803.
 “A primrose by a river’s brim, A yellow primrose was to him, And it was nothing more.” William Wordsworth
 Cooper, 168.
 Gaebelain, 715.
 James A. Brooks, The New American Commentary, Mark (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1991) 163.
 Clifton Allen, General Editor, The Broadman Bible Commentary, Volume 8 (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1969) 349.
 Lenski, 436.
 William L. Lane, The New International Commentary on The New Testament, The Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids, Michigan; William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1974) 367.
 W. Robertson Nicoll, The Expositor’s Greek Testament, Volume 1 (Grand Rapids, Michigan; WM. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1967) 411.
 Lane, 369.
 Archibald Thomas Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament, Volume 1 (Nashville, Tennessee; Broadman Press, 1932) 352.
 There is no evidence for a special gate in the city wall, called “The Eye of the Needle,” nor is there is any evidence that “needle” should be translated as “rope.”
 Gaebelain, 716.
 Brooks, 165.
 See Mark 3:31-35
 Buttrick, 809.
 Cooper, 169.
 Lane, 372.