The Treasure that Leads to Eternal Life

The Treasure that Leads to Eternal Life

The Treasure that Leads to Eternal Life
Text: Mark 10:17-31

Main Idea:  Eternal life is not the product of earning but wholly embracing Jesus as your greatest treasure.

I.   An Honest Quest for Eternal Life (Mark 10:17-22
II.  A Significant Barrier to Eternal Life (Mark 10:23-27)
III. A Comforting Promise for Everyone who Follows Jesus in this Life (Mark 10:28-31)

Mark 10:17–31

The call to discipleship always involves a cost of discipleship. Jesus calls fishermen to leave their boats and nets (1:16–20), tax collectors to leave their tax tables (2:14), the twelve-disciples to leave their sinful ideas about true greatness (9:37). And today, Jesus tells a moral, Law-abiding wealthy man that he must sell everything he has and give it to the poor. But, why?

Main Idea: Eternal life is not the product of earning but wholly embracing Jesus as your greatest treasure.

What Mark wants us to see in his Gospel is that, the call to discipleship is not an additional obligation that your add to your already busy life. It’s not like becoming a member of the PTA, a little league coach, or a member of the Navy Reserve. The call to discipleship is a divine plea to find true life—eternal life—by abandoning anything that will prevent you from pursuing your greatest joy and deepest satisfaction in person of Jesus Christ himself.[1] Forsaking the pleasures of this world is always for the sake of far greater pleasure!

So as we turn to our passage we are going to see this truth unpacked in three steps:

An Honest Quest for Eternal Life (Mark 10:17–22)
A Significant Barrier to Eternal Life (Mark 10:23–27)
A Comforting Promise for Everyone who Follows Jesus in this Life (Mark 10:28–31)

An Honest Quest for Eternal Life (Mark 10:17–22)

The Heart of the Question (10:17–20)

The rich man in the present story is a striking contrast to the simple children in the previous account. He is a man of significant means and social standing. He is a man who has dedicated his life to wholehearted obedience of the Law. And in addition to this, his diligent pursuit of Jesus and humble prostration on the ground before Jesus help us see that this man is eager to become a disciple. But even more, he is the first person in the Gospel of Mark to ask about eternal life! He isn’t looking for miraculous signs. He isn’t attempting to stump Jesus with a trick question. No. Rather, he is rightly looking past his earthly life to God’s promise of everlasting life.

Daniel 12:2 And many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

He is convinced that there is life after death. And he is doing everything in his power to escape everlasting contempt by obeying the Law of Moses. But what does his question reveal?

First, it reveals his fundamental belief that eternal life is earned through external compliance. As the Puritan pastor Thomas Charnock points out:

[Even] the best Christians may find some sparks of this idea themselves, when there are manifestations of joy in their hearts after rightly performing one duty, as if they have just given God satisfaction for their all their former neglects.[2]

But here is the problem with this kind of mindset, no matter how much we embrace it, it can never provide the assurance we desire.

Second, his question reveals a condemning conscience that no amount of law-keeping could satisfy or silence, which is why he wants to know what he is missing… he wants to know what he needs to “do” so that he can have assurance. And notice Jesus does not treat this man like a hypocrite as he declares his life-long pursuit of faithful Law-keeping. “Jesus, looking at him, loved him…” (10:21).

Let that sink in for a moment, Jesus loved him. And on account of this very love—not scorn, anger, or frustration—he tells him the very thing that he needs to “do” to inherit eternal life. Which means, if he remains in his current condition and doesn’t “do” what Jesus tells him to “do” he will never inherit eternal life! (Mark 10:21)

The Surprising Answer (10:21)

Jesus goes straight to the heart of the matter like a doctor revealing an underlying disease.[3] He does not need to preach to him about fornication, murder, and hypocrisy. Rather, his man needs to understand that his wealth is his greatest barrier to eternal life. Eternal life that can only be found in Jesus Christ.

Notice, “this one thing” is in fact a progression of four commands: go, sell everything, give to the poor, and follow me. What does he need to do to inherit eternal life? He needs to deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Jesus! See, Jesus knows that this man’s “going, selling, and giving” is the necessary act of “denying” that will ultimately liberate him from his financial idolatry and his self-made chains of self-reliance that are preventing him from “doing” the Greatest and First Commandment.

Exodus 20:2–3 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me.

Idol (false God): looking to anything other than God for security, identity, or provision.

Deuteronomy 6:5 You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

In other words, Jesus is telling this man to sell everything and give it to the poor because he knew that this man loved his riches more than he loved God and was trusting in his riches instead of trusting God.[4] And that as long as he could trust in his good deeds and personal wealth he would never be able follow Jesus and receive the Kingdom of God like a little child—empty-handed and without personal status.[5]

Matthew 10:24 No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.

Please do not misunderstand this passage.

First, money in and of itself is not evil. The love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.

1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

Money is a gift from God to be stewarded for his glory, not merely accumulated through oppressive, dishonest, or illicit means; nor should it ever be the source of our security or grounds of our identity. The question is do you control your money through wise and Godly stewardship or does your money control you.

Jesus doesn’t demand his followers to be financially destitute. No. He requires them to abandon any lesser joy that will inhibit/undermine/threaten their pursuit everlasting joy in him.

Matthew 13:44–46 44 “The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which a man found and covered up. Then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field. 45 “Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, 46 who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it.”

We see two kinds of people in these two parables: one person stumbles on a treasure and one person is searching for a special treasure. But, in both cases they respond the same way, they sell everything they have so that they can receive a greater treasure.

This is not a foreign concept. Early settlers who came to the Pacific Northwest over the Oregon Trail dumped irreplaceable heirlooms and important provisions like cast-iron cook stoves all along the trail from Missouri to Oregon. Because these items were threatening their progress. They abandoned the lesser joys of family memories and modern convivences for the greater joy of finding a new life in the Oregon Territory.

In the same way, Jesus is not asking this man to sacrifice his riches and pursue a life of joy-forsaking, white-knuckle asceticism so that he will be worthy of the kingdom. No. He is calling him to abandon the treasures that he cannot bring into eternal life so that he can receive the eternal life that he so earnestly desires.

Psalm 16:11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. [in and through Jesus]

The Unexpected Result (10:22)

So how does this man respond to Jesus’ command and promise? “He was disheartened and went away sorrowful because he had great possessions.”

Do you see the striking contrast between the little children in verses 13–16 and the rich young ruler. The children in the former story possess nothing but receive Jesus’ blessing. The rich young ruler seems to possess everything (financial attainment and moral accomplishment), and when he is presented with the “one thing” he still lacks… he walks away. He is like the third seed in the Parable of the Sower.

Mark 4:18–19 And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, 19 but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.

He treasured his possessions more than he desired everlasting life! He abandoned his quest for eternal life because he preferred the temporary pleasures of his riches to the infinite riches of Jesus Christ and the everlasting joy of eternal life with him.

A Significant Barrier to Eternal Life (Mark 10:23–27)

The Fundamental Danger of Earthly Treasure (10:23–26)

Don’t miss the disciple’s reaction to the truth that earthly wealth is a significant barrier to the Kingdom of God. They were “amazed” or utterly blown away. But why? It’s because the disciples, like most 1st-century Jews, believed that wealth was a sign of God’s blessing and favor.[6] In other words, if anyone was going to make it into the Kingdom of God, it was going to be the wealthy.

But, Jesus doesn’t soften his attack. He doubles down on his point by comparing rich people to camels and the Kingdom of God to the eye of a needle. Now, I don’t doubt that some of you have been told that Jesus is talking about a small gate in Jerusalem that a camel had to crawl through to get in. But, we have no reliable evidence for this suggestion other than an 11th century commentator.

I don’t think that the disciples are asking “Who can be saved” because of a small gate somewhere in Jerusalem that camels can barely fit through. Because if determined camels can crawl through the gate, salvation is reduced to a matter of personal determination—try harder, do more. No. They are wondering “Who can be saved?” because it is physically impossible to make a camel fit through the eye of a needle! And if salvation is this impossible, how will anyone be saved?

Jesus’ answer is simply this, “Salvation is always a supernatural work of God himself.”

Mark 10:27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”

The Glorious Grace of God’s Irresistible Omnipotence (10:27)

Does this quote ring a bell? Hasn’t Jesus said something like this before in the Gospel of Mark? Yes, when he was talking to the father of the demon possessed boy in back in Mark 9:14–29.

Mark 9:21–24 And Jesus asked his father, “How long has this been happening to him?” And he said, “From childhood. 22 And it has often cast him into fire and into water, to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have compassion on us and help us.” 23 And Jesus said to him, “ ‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said, “I believe; help my unbelief!”

Just like no one could deliver this child from his living hell, no one can deliver themselves from their self-destructive love of money. But, impossible circumstances exist to magnify the glorious omnipotence of God himself.

Now, I know that, in our church, we hold different views of God’s activity in salvation. But, this verse is a constant reminder that you and I are not in the kingdom because we are uniquely sensitive to spiritual things, immune to the temptations of this world, or mustered up enough will power to follow Jesus. No. Because the new birth is always supernatural work of God himself.

John 1:12–13 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

John 3:7–8 “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

Everyone who is a true believer in Jesus Christ is in the kingdom of God because of a miracle. A miracle that turns grown men and women into little children so that they can receive the kingdom of God with open hands. A miracle that opens blinded eyes to our desperate need for Jesus in such a way that we willingly abandon our idols (no matter what they are) and embrace Jesus in faith as our greatest treasure and only hope of forgiveness and everlasting life.

Everlasting life is not just life that has no end. It’s everlasting deliverance and salvation from our suicidal love affair with sinful self-gratification. It is everlasting joy in the presence of our Sovereign, Saving, Satisfier Jesus Christ. It’s everlasting life in intimate fellowship with the one whom we were created to enjoy forever.

And just in case you and I are tempted to pridefully measure or selfishly mourn our earthly sacrifices, Jesus offers a comforting promise for everyone who follows him in this life.

A Comforting Promise for Everyone who Follows Jesus in this Life (Mark 10:28–31 )

Notice, Peter looks to Jesus for affirmation. Look, we’ve done everything you required. Aren’t we great? Are you happy? Are we safe? But, how does Jesus respond to Peter’s plea, “We have left everything and followed you”?

First, he shoots down any sense of pride, in that, he wants them to understand that the gospel’s call for self-denial has nothing to do with earning because self-denial is simply the means by which we pursue the greatest good.

Secondly, Jesus wants Peter and his disciples to understand that God-centered self-denial is not a call to asceticism but the determined pursuit of even greater things.

To be clear, Jesus isn’t saying you and I can get materially rich by following him—at least not in the sense that our private possessions will increase. No. Instead, the point seems to be that if you are deprived of your earthly family in the service of Christ, you reap an even greater benefit in your spiritual family.

To all those that leave behind the close ties of immediate family and all the joys of birthdays, Thanksgiving, and Christmas together in your pursuit of Jesus Christ, Jesus promises that you will receive back one-hundred fold in him and in his people.

To all of those that abandon the security and comfort of a so-called normal life to follow Jesus, Jesus promises that you will get back one hundred times the comfort and security, knowing that your Lord owns every house and land and stream and tree on face of the earth.

See Jesus is saying, No one ever sacrifices anything for me that I do not repay a hundredfold. In fact, I promise to work for you and be for you such a way that you will never be able to say you sacrificed anything.[7]

[1] John Piper, “Every sin flows from a failure to treasure the glory of God above all things.” When the glory of God is the treasure of our lives we will not lay-up treasures on this earth but spend them to spread his glory.

[2] Stephen Charnock, “A Discourse upon the Goodness of God (Mark 10:18),” in The Complete Works of Stephen Charnock (Edinburgh; London: James Nichol; James Nisbet and Co.; W. Robertson; G. Herbert, 1864), 2:279.

[3] John Calvin, Commentary on a Harmony of the Evangelists Matthew, Mark, and Luke, trans. John Pringle (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 2:397.

[4] Mark L. Strauss, Mark, Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 448.

[5] “As the previous passage has affirmed, to inherit eternal life one must become like a child, empty and without status Mark 10:14–15;” (Strauss, Mark, 441).

[6] Deuteronomy 28:1–14; Job 1:10; 42:10; Psalm 128:1–2; Isaiah 3:10

[7] John Piper, Desiring God. (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah Books, 2003), 240.