Views of the Kingdom; Mark 10:13-31; PP: Matt. 19:13-30, Luke 18:15-30
Since my fumble fingers once again caused a failure to record the message, here is a brief essay of the message content:
This is a rather long text, with message centered around the recurring theme of the Kingdom of God rather than the individual components of the text. It’s not a Children’s Day message—we did that last year using the first part of the text and it’s not a lesson on the evils of wealth—there will be a time for that discussion another time. It is a message of God’s grace, power and love. The Kingdom of God was announced by Jesus at beginning of His ministry. We enter the Kingdom when we trust Him; we become citizens of it spiritually and are en route to it throughout this life; already, not yet. There are four main points to this message, along with the application and challenge.
Entry is Not by Status
Children had no status in the culture of the day. Until they were about 7 years old they were accounted as low in value. In this narrative, the disciples saw the request for blessing as a waste of the teacher’s valuable time; but Jesus didn’t see it that way. He wanted the children to come to him as it typifies how all must come to Him:
- We must come to Christ with humility
- We must come without arrogance
- We must come expectantly
- We must come obediently
These were all the normal behavior of young children in this culture.
Some current events bring up the question of young children dying before they can come to Christ personally. What becomes of them? We often use the term “age of accountability” to describe that point at which God will hold children accountable for their sins; but the Biblical grounds for are sketchy, and difficult at best to follow. However, this text and others make it appear that our merciful God has a just and fitting plan for them. To such, the word is inclusive—for Jews and Gentiles alike, Jesus pronounce blessings on these children—He would not do so to those outside His Kingdom. From this text, I believe we can stand confident that young children, infants and others who die before they can understand the nature of sin will be held guiltless by our loving and merciful God.
Entry is Not by Material Wealth or Personal Effort
The specific case here is known as the Great Refusal, or the Rich Young Ruler. We understand the youth and status from the other Gospels. It is likely that he was a ruler of a local synagogue in the region. He came so eagerly; he addressed Jesus respectfully—pretty good so far—but then Jesus tested him to see where his heart was, and he was found wanting.
He was self-satisfied in his efforts: …all these things I have kept from my youth. Sounds a lot like Paul’s history—as to the law, perfect—but Paul knew better. He knew it was outward righteousness—not inward righteousness—this young man hadn’t figure that out. And then the matter of his wealth—which not Jesus’ first priority and even when Jesus addressed the wealth issue it was a matter of the man’s heart, his attitude; not the money. We understand from previous accounts (ch. 7) that the heart is the seat of the problems; nothing from the outside can defile
He should have been seeking heavenly treasure; not earthly treasure
Entry is Not By Human Effort
We’ve addressed on the individual basis, but now for all mankind: Entry to the Kingdom must be by God’s work. The example given is that of a camel passing through the eye of a needle. Efforts have been made to minimize this; making it hard, but not impossible. This would destroy the doctrine of salvation by grace through faith and make it salvation by works.
Two arguments used to make this bad doctrine. First is a slight change in spelling of the word camel, changing it to camil, (simple swap of one letter in the Greek, essentially swapping an e for an i). This would make it a rope or cable, not animal; but there are no textual grounds for it. Of all the texts of Mark’s Gospel, not one shows this change of spelling, it’s an invention of those who would change the grace of God to the works of man. The second brings into play the idea of a city gate called The Needle—low and small so that a camel had to be unloaded and go through on its knees. The problem with this is that there are no textual or historic grounds for it either. Both are efforts of man to discredit the Word of God and reduce His work to ours. Salvation is God’s work—not possible by any act of man.
It is Not a Wasted Effort
Peter expressed the thought—but we’ve sold out to you, Lord; what are we getting out of it? First are rewards in this time. Those who sell out to Christ have far more in the way of blessings than those who do not. It may mean divesting yourself of all riches—it may not. There were several wealthy Christians throughout the New Testament: Cornelius, Lydia, Philemon; they were noted for having used their wealth for the Kingdom of God.
And there are rewards in eternity. The disciples will rule the 12 tribes, which addresses state, after the resurrection and judgment. We are also told elsewhere in Scripture that there will be rewards in eternity.
Kingdom of Heaven is an already/not yet kingdom. We become citizens of the Kingdom when we trust Christ—though we still live in this kingdom, we’re citizens of Heaven. We may see glimpses of His Glory in certain things as we travel this path here on earth. We will enter into an intermediate state (Heaven) when we die. Jesus promised the thief on the cross that he would that day be with Him in Paradise, and Paul mentioned that to be absent the body is to be present with the Lord.
We will be in a renewed Heaven and Earth after the resurrection and the judgment. In case you’re wondering, Heaven will NOT be a bunch of disembodies spirits sitting around playing harps—but that’s another lesson for another time.
We enter the Kingdom of God on His terms; not our own—by His Power, not our own. It was only the finished work of Christ on the Cross that made it possible.
It is not our status as we all must come to Christ in the same way
It is not our wealth, which may cause more problems than it cures as the love of money is the root of all evil and we cannot serve both God and money (Matt. 6:24) James Elliot said it well: He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.
It is not our effort. We should be working to get things right before God; do works for Him; but works do not give our salvation—God gives it, it is by grace, through faith, gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast. (Eph. 2:8-9)
It is not a wasted effort. There are countless stories from Christians who were sold out to the Lord receiving blessings far and away more than would have ever received had they held themselves back.
Approach God humbly—in the greater scheme of things, we account for so little; and yet God loves us—enough to have sent His Son to die for our sins.
Approach Him eagerly—the rich young man had that part right, let’s do the same.
Be sure to get the works/faith paradigm right, remember that works before faith are valueless. Works on account of faith bring the reward, the eternal reward. Part of the works issue is using your resources—which include your wealth—for His glory and honor.
Become kingdom minded. Not so heavenly minded that you are no earthly good; but so heavenly minded you are of greater earthly good. Part of that must be concern that those you care about are there also. Be selfish—try to take as many of your friends/family as you can with you. Know Christ; bring others to Him. That is Kingdom thinking.