“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?” “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’ ” “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the manʼs face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.””
No beating around the bush this morning. You have to let go. You have to relinquish control over a life and a world that is bigger than you. Its only in accepting the reality of your “smallness” that you will see your need for God. For God is bigger than us, than our problems, bigger than the world that weighs us down. He’s bigger than our worries, our cares, our fears, our doubts and even our debts.
Letting go has to do with choosing the peace that God is offering in Jesus alone. That peace is to be received and experienced both here and now AND then and there. Without Jesus there is no real and lasting peace, either on earth or with God. There is only striving and vanity, working our fingers to the bone in every aspect of life, earning the wages of Hell. There is nothing we can gain on our own that will heal our broken hearts.
The rich man in the text this morning finds himself in a precarious situation. On the one hand, he has secured great wealth, bringing him worldly security and comfort. On the other hand, he has Jesus offering him salvation if he will give up that security and comfort. So the question is, what is more important? My efforts for my own sake or Jesus’ efforts for my sake?
You see, Jesus’ efforts on our behalf does something for us that we cannot do for ourselves. The man had yet to gain eternal life through all his hard work and he knew it; it is that realization that brings him to Jesus in the first place. But eternal life isn’t earned the way we earn our wages. Eternal life is given; it is bestowed unto those who would associate themselves with Jesus’ work for us.
If the man would turn his back on his own efforts and earnings and place himself at the mercy of Jesus’ work, he would then inherit Jesus’ earnings. And what is it that Jesus earns for us? Eternal life. The ultimate issue here is trust. Does he trust Jesus and Jesus alone for providing both temporarily and eternally or will he trust in himself and in what he has done for himself?
By asking the man to give up all he has, Jesus is helping the man distance himself from the temptation to trust in himself. Think of it from the perspective of addictive behaviors. If you have an addiction and you place yourself near and around the triggers for that addiction, you struggle unnecessarily. But if we remove ourselves from the temptations, the struggle becomes more bearable.
Jesus gives the man a chance to trust in God without distraction or burden. And in the end, Scripture records one of the saddest outcomes ever. The man walks away from Jesus’ offer. As he leaves in his sadness, Jesus Himself remarks how difficult it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. The difficulty comes when we must part with something we’ve given so much of ourselves to. That decision seems so unbearable. It’s a leap of faith that causes great fear.
And yet, its in the leap that we discover that God will provide. The assurance of salvation and the joy of God’s presence in our lives comes when we place our feet on the rock of Christ Jesus instead of the sinking sand of the world. God upholds us with a supernatural strength and He proves Himself over and over again when we say, “Yes, Lord. I trust you, Lord.”
Like the rich man, I believe there are those in here today who are looking for something more because you know there is something more. You’ve accomplished much but it has still left you unsatisfied. And so here you are, amongst Jesus and His people.
Like the rich man, I believe there are people in here today who are sad at what they have heard because you have much or are in the process of acquiring much. And so here you are, amongst Jesus and His people.
To both I say this: let go. Put away the distraction of pursuit and open your life to Jesus. Let Jesus show you the true riches of spiritual blessing and let it fill you and make you whole. If the wages of this world bring dissatisfaction and sadness, then let us trade our sorrows for the joy of the Lord.
Earlier in Mark’s gospel, Jesus said to the crowd, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels” (8.34–38).
True sadness is not walking away from Jesus because you don’t want to give up anything. True sadness is inheriting Hell because you trusted in your efforts and earnings over Jesus, who died to give you Heaven.
What will you do today? Will you finally say, “Yes?” Will you risk the tears and the pain that comes from separating yourselves from something that is actually controlling you instead of you controlling it? Will you admit that you’ve been mastered by your stuff? Will you lay down your earthly pursuits and take up heavenly pursuits?
And who knows, God may give you a pursuit that bears a striking resemblance to your current efforts, only that pursuit will be used to glorify Jesus and bless others in powerful way. It begins with trust, trusting in God and in His daily bread for you. Will you do that? It is up to you. Let’s let go together.