January 24, 2016
By John Ulrich, Senior Pastor
I thought Timothy Warren was my friend. He was a teacher at seminary and seemed engaged with all the students. So I signed up for Preaching 101.
Day one: He says, “ I don’t give ‘A’s.’ I will make you work for it.” The class was so intense that one student burst out in tears. He was a man with surprisingly hard requirements.
And maybe the disciples felt that way as well. Jesus was loving and kind, but at times so demanding as the ultimate disciple-er.
Today is about those tough requirements and how we meet them. It’s not about earning our way into heaven, or a checklist, but another way to live our lives, how to fulfill them through God.
Jesus gives us two difficult requirements in Mark 10:1-31.
- A marriage requirement that few of us can hope to fulfill.
Can a man divorce? That is tricky question, a trap from the Pharisees.
While most agreed that divorce was available, they all argued when it was OK. Jesus states that the need for divorce comes from stubborn human sinfulness. Marriage is intended to be forever, permanent, so that marriage after divorce is like adultery. This is the most, hard-lined statement that Jesus makes about marriage and divorce. And when we read this passage, it seems so harsh! What about all the good godly people who have suffered the tragedy of divorce? Later there is provision for human brokenness, and remarriage.
God made this one flesh relationship, and it should be permanent. Divorce is a stepping away from that covenant. Marriage is a really big deal in God’s eyes.
And this includes premarital sex, looking at others lustily and all other aspects of the bond between man and wife.
So if you think you are safe, your marriage is great and you try to uphold all aspects of that covenant … Jesus has the next big question, and starts talking about money!
- The rich young ruler comes to Jesus.
He asks, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Jesus first asks him about the commandments, and the man answers that he followed all of them.
Jesus looks at him and loves him, and then drops the bomb: “Sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and then come follow me.”
What if Jesus showed up to us today and said, “Give it all away!”
The rich young man knew he failed, and walked away.
Jesus continues on, talking about how very hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.
So if we are honest, this is a very unsettling passage. But Jesus is right. And this is a test of if I really love my neighbor as myself.
But it’s not impossible. That’s what the disciples did — they let everything go to follow Jesus.
The rich young man can’t let go of all these obligations and rituals, and so he fails.
In Mark 10:29-31, Jesus gives a little reprieve, and does recognize how many have given much, and continue to do so. But he is saying that we should be willing to give up all, if he asked us. Would we be really willing to give up all we have to others? To relinquish our stuff for God? Do I have any hope to make it into God’s kingdom?
In verse 27, Jesus gives hope! All things are possible with God.
Our biggest hope is in two words, “with God.”
With God, all of us sinners, those who aren’t as generous as we should be, those who have been selfish and unfaithful and unforgiving — we can make it.
He doesn’t tell us how, but does tell us how we can get in on the possibility!
In verses 14 and 15, Jesus says, “Let the little children come to me.” He gives us the other option for being a part of God’s kingdom — approach God’s kingdom as a child, simply, honestly, in dependence, confident, trusting, to God.
Our eyes on God’s requirements, but our hope set on God’s resources, on God’s hope and forgiveness.