Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mark 10:17-31 (2)

I don’t know how that makes you feel. Discouraged? Upset? Worried ? Well if that’s the case then you’re in good company. Verse 26 says ‘lo, and they were astonished out of measure, saying among themselves, who then can be saved.’ Jesus message is so radical that even His closest followers were struggling with it. Who can be saved if it’s this hard? If even a man who looks so good struggles, how can we have any hope? If it’s not just about being good, who can be saved? Is it possible for me to be saved? Jesus answers that question in verse 27 ‘and Jesus looking upon them sayeth ‘with men it is impossible, but not with God: for with God all things are possible.’ How can we be saved? With man it is impossible. With man there is no way we can do it. There is no way this young man, despite his wholehearted obedience to the commandments Jesus listed could save himself. Just no way. With man it is impossible. But not with God. Not with God. With God all things are possible, with God you can be saved, with God this man can be saved. With God you can give up what you need to give up, you can change what you need to change, you can stop going to the places you need to stop going to, you can give a reason for the hope that you have. With God this is possible. I said earlier that the one thing the man lacked was Jesus. This is what I mean. He lacked a love for Him, a heart to obey Him, an understanding that he needs Jesus to be saved, he needs Jesus to save him, not his own efforts. That’s what he needed, that’s what I need, that’s what you need.

Please don’t miss this. Being a Christian means more than being part of a family that comes to church, or going to a Christian school, or going to camp or competing in competition or being nice to your parents or dressing and acting right. That’s the same sort of thing that the young man presented to Jesus as why he should inherit eternal life. It is impossible for us to be saved because of the things we do ourselves. This is what Jesus says. But not with God. God can save us. Not because of our efforts but in spite of them. Jesus would have saved this young man in a flash if he’d wanted to be, not because he’d kept the commandments, but in spite of that fact.

Then Peter speaks. It’s always worth paying attention to what Peter says in Mark’s Gospel because you know it’s normally something pretty daft. Verse 28 says ‘then Peter began to say unto Him, ‘lo, we have left all and followed thee.’ Peter says ‘hey Jesus, look dude, we’ve given up everything, we’ve done what you said, so…what are you going to do about that?’ Peter always has an answer, and in this case it’s a good one. If anyone has given things up to follow Jesus, it’s his disciples. They’ve given up their jobs, their homes, their family, their friends…everything, to follow Jesus as He walks around Israel. Peter wants Jesus to remember than when it comes to giving things up, he’s up there with the best. So what does Jesus have to say to that? Is He grateful? Does He apologise for speaking so harshly to the young man and let Peter know what a great guy He is? Sometimes we’re like Peter, we want Jesus to remember all the great stuff we could have had, all the fun we could have taken part in if it hadn’t been for Him.

Jesus, as we might have come to expect, has a different answer, and a better one. In verses 29-31, we see this answer: and Jesus answered and said ‘verily I say unto you, there is no man that hath left house or brethren, or sister, or father or mother, or wife or children or lands for my sake and the Gospel’s but he shall receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brethren and sisters and mothers and children and lands with persecutions, and in the world to come eternal life.

What Jesus is saying here is that it is worth it to be a Christian. It is worth it to give up what you need to so that you might gain Jesus. It is worth the ridicule, worth being an outcast, worth ‘missing out’ because of what you gain. This verse is true, trust me. When I came to America I left my sister, my father, my mother, my land…most of everything that made me who I was. And now? I miss my family every day, but Jesus has given me Christian brothers and sisters, a home at this church, friends, hobbies, a job. Jesus tells us not to worry, that whatever we think we’ll lose in this life for following Him, we’ll get back much, much, much more in the next life. There will be persecutions. We will struggle and suffer sometimes, people will laugh at us, people will end friendships with us. But it will be worth it. It would have been worth it for the rich young man to sell all that he had so that he could follow Jesus. He would have got it back 100 times. The same is true for you and me. There are things we all need to give up, but it’s worth it.

Jesus says it’s impossible to do this by ourselves. It’s impossible for us to do what we need to do. But with God’s it’s possible, He has done it on the cross. Jesus saving work that we celebrate on Easter Sunday is the ground for all His teaching, and all our hope. We can’t do what we need to do to be saved, that’s why Jesus had to die, that’s why Easter is so important, that’s why our response to the cross is so important.

No comments: