Good morning and welcome to worship. Are you awake? I have a question for you. Psalm 118:24 says “This is the day the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it!” Psalm 118:24 Who’s the initiator and who’s the responder? Here’s another one. “Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” John 6:43 Who’s the initiator and who’s the responder?
Here’s another. “And God said, “Let there be light and there was light!” Gen 1:3 Who’s the initiator and who’s the responder? From beginning to end God is always the initiator, we are the responder. Now God has given us great freedom in how we respond. We can accept or reject him, run to him or run away from him. But in every case, he initiates, we respond!
In our Gospel today, we find 3 responses to the person of Jesus. Let’s open our Bibles to Mark 10. Jesus has traveled south and he is across the Jordan to the east of Jerusalem. “Again the crowds of people came to him, and as was his custom, he taught them. Some Pharisees came and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife.” Mk 10:1-2
Their question was hostile. The Pharisees wanted to trick Jesus into criticizing King Herod for divorcing his wife in order to steal his brother’s wife. Herod beheaded John the Baptist for criticizing his divorce. If they could get Jesus to condemn divorce, maybe they could get Herod to behead Jesus, too! But that’s not the point of our story this morning.
Our point is to see how these Pharisees responded to Jesus. They saw him as a threat. They were jealous of His popularity. They were angry because Jesus referred to Himself as the Son of God which meant equality with God. They were threatened by his miracles and ministry. They saw Jesus as a menace to their ego/pride and their power with the people.
Many people today say they believe in the concept of God, but they reject Jesus. Why is that? The answer is rooted in our desire to be our own god. We refuse to be accountable to anyone but ourselves. We want God to serve us, but we don’t want to submit to him.
Satan knows the name of Jesus is above every name. He knows a day is coming when every knee in heaven and on earth and under the earth will bow before him and confess Jesus as Lord. So he does everything he can to tempt us into trashing the name of Jesus.
This is what motivated the Pharisees’ response to Jesus. Maybe there was a time when you responded to Jesus as a threat to your personal autonomy. Maybe you say, “I’ve never done that. I’ve never seen Jesus as a personal threat. I’ve never misused his name.”
Let’s dig a little deeper. Have you responded to others the way the Pharisees responded to Jesus? The truth is the way we treat our brother or sister is the way we treat Jesus. He said, “In as much as you have done this to the least of these, my brothers, you have done it to me.” Jesus is the initiator, you are the responder. How are you responding to him?
Back to Mark 10…There is a second group who respond to Jesus in a very different way. “People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these…
…Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, placed his hands on them and blessed them.” Mk 10:13-16
How were the children responding to Jesus? It appears they were attracted to him. They trusted him enough to draw near to him. They were crawling all over him like children with a loving father. It seems they intuitively knew his love was sincere and they responded in kind.
They didn’t respond to the profoundness of his teaching. They didn’t respond to his power to raise the dead, calm the sea, cleanse the lepers, or multiply the bread. They responded to his love for them. How did the disciples’ respond to the children? Jealousy?
What does it mean to come to Jesus as a little child? Children have no wealth to guard, no ego or reputation to protect. Rather than being intimidated by Jesus, they respond to his love. James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” James 4:8 Jesus told the disciples, unless we draw near to him, respond to him, with the same openness as these little children, we will never enter the kingdom of God. How do you respond to Jesus?
There is a third response to Jesus is in Mark 10. “As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher”, he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Mk 10:17
This is a good question from what appears to be a sincere heart. But the young man has some serious misconceptions about God, about salvation, and about the condition of his own soul.
Jesus replied, “Why do you call me ‘good’? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments, ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’ Mk 10:18-19
Jesus is not denying his own goodness but he is pushing the young man to realize our salvation isn’t based on our merit, but on God’s grace for sinners like us.
The young man replies, “All these I have kept since I was a boy.” Mk 10:20 Right! Psychologists differentiate between our ideal self and our real self. Our ideal self is who we think we are; our real self is who we really are. Maturity is measured in coming together of these two.
Instead of slamming the young man’s immaturity and idealism, Jesus simply says, “One thing you lack, go sell everything you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me. At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.” Mk 10:21-22
Our security for eternity will never be found in what we’ve accumulated in this world. All that will be left behind. Our security is found in Jesus alone and in following him. Jesus said, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world but lose his soul?”
All the stuff, the wealth, accolades, we achieve in this world won’t buy us one minute in heaven. What we need comes only as a gift from God. It must be received by faith, like the children in their response to Jesus. They received his love without any thought of earning it.
This young man made the mistake of responding to Jesus as if he were the means to help him get what he wanted. Maybe he saw Jesus as a gift card to eternal life or a coach to help him win the gold medal of salvation. When Jesus asked him to leave it all behind, he couldn’t do it. His treasure wasn’t in Jesus; it was in his own merit.
Jesus turned to his disciples and said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God” Mk 10:23 The Pharisees were “rich” in self-righteousness, at least in their own minds. They refused to leave it to follow Jesus. They had forgotten what Isaiah wrote 600 years earlier, “All our righteousness is as filthy rags before the LORD.” Isa 64:6
The young man was “rich” in worldly wealth, talent, success. But the more he possessed, the more it possessed him. He walked away from eternity with Jesus to try and hold on to what is here today and gone tomorrow. Jim Elliot said, “That man is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep in order to gain what he cannot lose.” Jim Elliot – missionary martyr
The disciples were blown away. If the righteousness of the Pharisees couldn’t save them, if the wealth of the young man couldn’t save him, then who could be saved? Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” Mk 10:27
Is there hope for a sinner like me? Only in Jesus! Is there hope for a person mired in their own pride and self-righteousness? Only in Jesus! Is their hope for a person who has become possessed by their possessions and their need for recognition? Only in Jesus!
Are we willing to turn everything we possess, everything we are over to him? The old mountain men used to say referring to their rifles, “lock, stock, barrel”. Are we willing to follow Jesus wherever he leads, even if it’s to a cross? Are we willing to allow him to make us into who he wants us to be? Are we willing to be identified by the world as belonging to him?
Are we are willing to respond to Jesus, unconditionally, like the little children and trust him enough to draw near to him? Will we open the Bible with an open heart and allow him to teach us what he wants us to know? If we will, he promises the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these. When that begins to happen in our hearts, others will hear us say, “What do I think of Jesus? He’s what I’ve been looking for all my life.”
Let’s pray: Lord Jesus, my response to you has not always been what it should be. Sometimes I’ve resisted you. I’ve seen you as a threat to my independence, to the way I wanted things to be. And sometimes I’ve responded to you like the rich young ruler, only a means to get what I want. Help me respond like the children. Help me draw near to you with trust, faith and an open heart. In your name,