“One Thing You Lack”
return to the main player
Return to the Main Player
return to the main player
Return to the Main Player

“One Thing You Lack”

Mark 10:17–22  (ID: 2825)

We might think someone like the rich young ruler in Mark 10 would be a great addition to God’s kingdom. His youth, wealth, and status could have been very influential. When the ruler asked Jesus how he could have eternal life, however, Jesus gave him an answer that left him sad. The kingdom of God demands a man or woman’s first allegiance, teaches Alistair Begg. Whatever we worship must be relinquished if we’re going to follow Jesus.

Series Containing This Sermon

A Study in Mark, Volume 5

A Different Kind of Kingdom Mark 10:1–11:11 Series ID: 14105

Stories of the Kingdom

Mark 4:1–34, Mark 10:17–22, Mark 11:12–25, Mark 12:1–12 Series ID: 27201

Encore 2012

Series ID: 25903

Sermon Transcript: Print

I invite you to turn with me to the Gospel of Mark, and to chapter 10, and we’ll read from verse 17. The reading is on page 721, I think, in the church Bibles—716, seven-one-six, in the church Bibles, if that’s of help to you. And it’s Mark chapter 10, and we’re beginning to read at verse 17. I invite you to follow along as I read:

“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: “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do 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 man’s 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 a rich man 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.’

“Peter said to him, ‘We have left everything to follow you!’

“‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus replied, ‘no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age (homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—and with them, persecutions) and in the age to come, eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.’”

Thanks be to God for his Word. A brief prayer before we look to this passage:

Father, help us now to concentrate, to think, to be aware of the fact that we turn to the living Word about which we have just sung, so that we might hear from you. Help us, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Well, I was just talking with one young fellow before I came in here. He was telling me… I said, “Are you back to school yet?” He said, “Oh yes, I’ve been back to school since the seventeenth of August.” And I thought, “Dear oh dear, where has the summer gone?” The poor fellow’s been there for two weeks, and I’m not sure he was delighted about it. And everywhere I go, I see them coming and arriving. And we’re delighted that students are arriving here in Cleveland for a variety of opportunities. And as soon as the students arrive into a college or a university, pretty quickly on their heels come the recruiters—individuals from large companies, representative of American business and technology. And they descend, sometimes surreptitiously, on the campuses in order that they might discover the brightest and the best students, so that they might add them to their team. I know this not by experience but simply by observation. Some of you are recruiters, and some of you have been recruited, and some of you are recruiters who have previously been recruited.

But this was on my mind because, as I read this story, I thought to myself, you know, thinking along these lines, if Jesus were looking to add to his team—as he was and as he is—then the fellow to whom we’re introduced in verses 17–22 is surely one of the best candidates that Jesus ever encounters in all of the Gospel records. And interestingly, this particular scenario is recorded not only by Mark but also by Luke and also by Matthew.

And in each case, this young man is introduced as a prime candidate for becoming a follower of Jesus. He had none of the baggage, for example, of a character like Zacchaeus, who had been a miserable little cheat.[1] He had none of the encumbrances of the woman at the well, who had, of course, been pressed down by all kinds of interest in apparently looking for love in all the wrong places.[2] No, there’s none of that in this fellow’s life. We’re told that he is young. You say, “Well, I don’t see young there in Mark.” No, because it’s not there. It’s Matthew that tells us that he’s young.[3] We’re told that he’s rich or wealthy in each of the Synoptics.[4] And it is Luke who tells us that he is a ruler—probably a ruler in the synagogue.[5] Furthermore, we discover from just looking at the text in front of us that this young man is keen; that’s why he “ran up” to Jesus. He is sincere, as he kneels before him. And he is concerned about issues of “eternal life.” I suggest to you that’s quite a combination: young, wealthy, religious, keen, sincere, and asking all the right questions.

Wouldn’t have been any surprise if Jesus had said, at least under his breath, “This is the kind of fellow I’m looking for! Not like these clowns that I’ve already added to the group— always arguing about who is the greatest, where they’re gonna sit in the kingdom of heaven, all that kind of thing. No, here’s a super fellow! Running up like that, and kneeling down, and addressing me as ‘Good teacher,’ and asking about eternal life. This is a terrific day!” But actually, we discover that this is the only man in the whole of the New Testament—the only individual in the whole of the New Testament that I could find—of whom it is ever said that he went away sad from the person of Jesus.

Now, when you read the text, it’s quite surprising, isn’t it? He makes a tremendous arrival, and he makes a sorrowful departure. What’s going on? Why does this happen? Now, we’re trying to teach each other that when we read the Bible and we’re searching it out, we ask ourselves, “What is surprising about the way in which this is set before us?” Mark is explaining many things. And as we look into the text, it should be immediately troubling that this unfolds as it does—and particularly for a certain kind of person.

Let me tell you who that person is. It’s a fairly familiar person around Parkside. It’s the person whose view of things—religious, biblical, Christian—essentially goes like this: “If there is a God and he is good, then I’m sure that he will reward nice people, as long as we do our best.” A good God, rewarding nice people for doing their best. Now, why do I say that? Because I encounter it all the time. I encountered it at least twice this week, in conversation that went along these entire lines. Not prompted by me in any way, but somebody said to me, “Well, here’s the deal: I’m a religious person, I try to be nice to everyone, I give as much as I can, and that’s my confidence.”

“This fellow,” says one of the commentators, “is part of a special group, scarcely touched by the gospel.” “A special group scarcely touched by the gospel.” Not that they don’t know the gospel, but they’re not touched by it. And we’re going to see just why that is. They are, if you like—the people in this special group—and I don’t want to be unkind to you, but some of you are here this morning, described by C. S. Lewis in one of his books, maybe The Four Loves, in which he describes these individuals as “nice people, lost in their niceness.”[6] “Nice people, lost in their niceness.” It is their very niceness, their very goodness, their very religious interest, which prevents them—stumbles them—from entry into the kingdom of God.

Now, the punch line to verses 17–22, I think, comes in verse 23. It’s really the bridge between the incident and then the conversation with the disciples. Look at it in verse 23. Here’s the punch line, or the introduction to the next section—whichever way you choose: “Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!’” “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”

Now, without going all the way back through Mark’s Gospel, let me remind you that Mark has been introducing us to this question of the kingdom of God. He has presented Jesus immediately, in the opening chapter, as the one who stands up and says, “The time [is fulfilled]. … The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!”[7] That’s his message. “The time is fulfilled. All of the expectations of the Old Testament find their fulfillment now in me.” The kingly rule of God, as seen in embryonic form, in some way, in the Old Testament, which was always going to be personalized, which is why the people of God were looking for a Messiah—“that kingdom is now fulfilled in me,” he says.

What a dramatic claim for an individual to make! “If you want to know God, meet me. If you want to enter into the kingdom, come to me. And I want you to repent, to turn away from your selfishness and your sin, and I want you to believe the good news that I’m proclaiming to you. And on that basis, you may enter the kingdom.”

Now, you fast-forward all the way to chapter 9, which is the previous chapter we were in. Let me give you just a flavor of it. The issue of entering the kingdom is so significant that Jesus says, “If you had a bad eye that was causing you to sin, you’d be better to pluck your eye out so that you could enter the kingdom of God with one eye than go to hell with two eyes.”[8] That’s heavy duty! That’s not like, “Hey, take it or leave it!” “No,” he says, “this kingdom business is big business.” And last time we noticed, in verse 15, in the context of “little child,” he says, “And I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”[9]

Somebody who would create a world out of nothing can surely walk on the water that he has established.

So you might say that one of the themes that runs through the Gospel record, and certainly here in Mark, is this question of entry into God’s kingdom. And what Mark is making clear is that the entry points into the kingdom of God are not just as we might expect. When we think in terms of God’s kingdom, we’re thinking of his rule over his people and over his world. And when Mark introduces us to Jesus, he shows us that Jesus is the King and the Lord of creation. Hence the winds and the waves are subservient to him.[10] That’s why he’s able to feed the five thousand with the five loaves and the two fish.[11] That’s why he walks on the water.[12] That’s why the lame walk. That’s why the blind see. They’re not there to titillate us. They’re not there just to intrigue us. What Mark is doing is saying, “The King has come; he created the whole universe.” If the king of the universe arrived, you’d be surprised if he didn’t do these things. Somebody who would create a world out of nothing can surely walk on the water that he has established. All the miracles are illustrations of the reign of God. And so it is that Jesus is calling men and women to submit to his kingly rule.

That’s a different way of thinking about things, isn’t it? You talk to the average person, say, “What do you think Jesus came to do?” “Well, I think he came to make me happy. I think he came to make me good. I think he came to make me feel good about myself.” All kinds of answers given. You need to go to the New Testament to find out exactly what it is that Jesus came to do. He says, “I am a king, and I command you to bow down underneath my authority, and I will accept nothing other than one-hundred-percent allegiance to me.” Wow.

Well, it’s in that context that this young man comes. “The kingdom belongs,” he has told us, “to those who are like little children,” who are helpless, who are needy, and who are lost. The kingdom of God belongs to those who, like little children, are helpless, needy, and lost. That makes it a hard sell, doesn’t it? To this special group. It’s very hard to get people to acknowledge that they’re helpless, needy, and lost. You go tomorrow morning and say, “I’ve got great news for you: the kingdom of God has come in the person of Jesus, and entry to it is yours if you will just admit that you’re helpless, needy, and lost.”

Say, “Well, I’m not helpless, and I’m not needy, and I’m not lost. I didn’t get where I am today—I didn’t drive my car and park it in this garage—to let everybody know that I’m helpless, needy, and lost.”

Say, “Well, that’s fine, but there’ll be no entry to the kingdom for you.”

“No, in fact, I’m wealthy. I’m religious. I’m good. I’m well thought of! If you have a God, surely he honors this kind of thing, doesn’t he?” That’s the way the dialogue goes when I’m talking.

So the underlying theme—the underlying question—is, Who is fit for entry to the kingdom of God, and on what basis? That’s really what Mark is addressing here, all the way through. And on the surface, this simply appears to be a conversation between a good man and a good teacher.

Now, that’s why Jesus immediately twists his nose just a little bit—metaphorically. “‘Good teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’” Jesus said, “Well, why don’t we talk about ‘good’ for just a moment? Why don’t we talk about what ‘good’ is?” And we could stop for a long time and talk about what good is. When I grew up as a boy, good was defined in moral terms. Good was either right or it was wrong. Now good is defined in emotional terms. Whatever makes you feel good is what is good. But that’s not our conversation for now.

What Jesus is doing is, he’s forcing this man to consider the question of his identity—that is, the identity of Jesus. “Why do you call me good?” The rabbis were not referred to as good. Jewish teachers were not referred to as good. You didn’t go up and refer to the rabbi as “good rabbi” or as “good teacher,” because they knew there was only one who was good, and that was God. So you didn’t call anybody good. There was only one who was good: God. So Jesus says, “Why are you calling me good? Do you think I’m God?” That’s very important, because only God can bestow the eternal life that is the focus of this young man’s approach to Jesus. “What must I do to inherit eternal life? What do I have to do to get entry into the age to come? How do I get into this kingdom?” Jesus says, “Well, it’s interesting you would start with ‘good teacher,’ because there’s only one who’s good—that’s God.”

Not only does the fellow need to come to a knowledge of who Jesus is, but he needs to get a clear view of who he is. And that’s why Jesus continues. You often hear me pray… I pray a little chorus, routinely, from Sunday School days in Glasgow:

Make the Book live to me, O Lord,
Show me Yourself within Your Word,
Show me myself and show me my Saviour,
And make the Book live to me.[13]

And that’s the work of the Spirit of God when we read the Bible—that the Spirit of God shows men and women who Jesus is, and shows men and women who we are, and then shows us why it is that Jesus is such a wonderful Savior, when we realize what we’re really like.

But not until we come to an understanding of what we really are before God does the notion of Jesus as a wonderful Savior hold any appeal. You see, as long as you and I are sufficiently satisfied with being wealthy and religious and good, and have no interest ever in entering the ranks of the helpless and the needy and the lost, then people can stand up here and talk till they’re blue in the face about a Savior who comes for the helpless, the needy, and the lost. And you walk out the door going, “I don’t know why he keeps on about that every Sunday. I don’t know who he’s talking to. I think he’s got the wrong congregation. I think he should move somewhere. It’s amazing the way he keeps talking about these people. Who are these helpless, needy, lost people? I don’t know any of them. They’re not exercising in my club, I’ll tell you that right now.”

No, you see, it takes the Spirit of God to show us what we are. And that’s what Jesus then does. He says, “You want to know what to do? Let me tell you what to do: keep the commandments. You know the commandments.” Then he gives a little selection of them—a little selection of the commandments from the second tablet of the commandments, from the ones that work out the principle of “love your neighbor as yourself.”[14] He says, “You could have a go at these.” And then look at verse 20. You gotta love this guy: “Teacher…” He’s dropped the “good” now. He stopped that. He’s a quick learn, smart guy: “I tried that once. I’m not doing it again.” “Teacher … all these I have kept since I was a boy.” I believe him! I absolutely believe him.

He says, “I was brought up in the context in which goodness was held up to me— righteousness.” In fact, he’s a lot like somebody that we meet later on in the Bible, in the Acts of the Apostles—a Pharisee of the Pharisees, with a great background and a wonderful education—who was able to say, when he wrote to the church in Philippi, that when he looked back on his life, in terms of living as a religious unbeliever in Jesus, he says, when it came to the issue of legalistic righteousness, “I was faultless.” “…legalistic righteousness, faultless.”[15] In other words, “I had it all buttoned down. If you were supposed to tick it, I ticked it. If you were supposed to x it, I x-ed it. If you were supposed to do it, I did it. If you were supposed to leave it alone, I left it alone.” Then it’s in that section of Philippians 3—I mentioned it to you, you can read it for yourself—where he says, “But all of those things—all of that stuff—I can’t even tell you what I call that now, in comparison to the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ as my Savior and as my King.”[16] What had happened to the fellow? Well, he had seen Jesus, and he had seen himself.

Now, when we teach the Bible, as we seek to do, we seek to say, “Look into the Bible, and here is Jesus. Examine the Scriptures. See if this is exactly what it says in the Bible.” But when it comes to the issue of you seeing yourself, as yourself, before God, I cannot do that. “Who knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of a man that is in him?”[17] The spirit of a woman that is in her? It is only the Spirit of God—only the Spirit of God. That’s why the disciples, when they heard this—and this is going forward to next week’s study—but when the disciples heard this, they says, “Well, then who in the world can ever get saved? How does anyone get saved?”[18] Jesus says, “Listen, the only way anyone ever gets saved is because of God.”[19] Because of God. Doesn’t matter if you’re rich or poor. It’s only God who opens blind eyes. Has he opened your eyes, member of this interesting group?

Now, it’s at this point that Jesus does the masterful work. He’s terrific at this, isn’t he? You remember, for example, when the lady came to him, to whom I referred earlier—in John chapter 4, it’s recorded for us—and they’re into the discussion about living water and getting a drink of water and so on. And eventually, Jesus says to her, he says, “Why don’t you go and call your husband and come back?” And she says, you remember, “I don’t have a husband.” And Jesus says, “You’re dead right, there, ’cause you’ve had five husbands, and you’re living with a guy, right?” She said, “Yeah.”[20]

Why did he do that? Why does Jesus do that? How does he do that? Because he knows. Why does he do it? Because he loves. Because he loves.

Look at what it says here: “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” He loved him! And because he loved him, he told him the truth. Because he loved him, he said, “Listen, I gotta tell you something: there’s one thing that you lack.” In other words, Jesus is the master physician. When you go to the doctor, and you go into the long explanation of what it is you’re there for and so on, and the poor physician sits there, he or she, waiting patiently for us to finish our prolonged excursus. And then they’ll say, you know, “Well, why don’t you take your shirt off and let me sound you.” And then they come with that thing, and then they go, “Hm. Uh-huh. Mm-hmm. Once again? Mm.” And then, when they go back the second time, you don’t know whether this is good or bad, right? So, maybe it’s good; he’s just verifying. Maybe it’s bad; he found something. And you never know whether the “mm-hmm” is a “mm-hmm” or it’s a “woo-hoo.” It’s a whatever it is. And then, somehow or another, masterfully, they finally put their finger on it, you know? And you wince. And you say to yourself, “How did he know to put his finger there? How did she know that was where it was?” The skill! It’s an understanding.

Jesus does this. He puts his finger right where it needs to go. He doesn’t put his finger on the same place in every individual, any more than the doctor cures by offering the same recipe for success no matter what the condition is. No, Jesus is far too skillful for that. So he says, “One thing you lack”—“one thing you lack”—“Go, sell everything you have and give [it] to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven.”

What is Jesus saying here? He’s simply saying what he’s been saying from the beginning: “The kingdom of God is near. Repent. In this case, go sell everything that you have. Turn away from your present allegiance, and come follow me. Have faith. Repent. Believe. Repent. Believe.” In this man’s life, this is representative of it.

And we musn’t go wrong here, and there are many sermons that are out there that go along lines which are immediately wrong. Jesus is not here calling this young man to do a meritorious work, as a result of which he will then be rewarded with eternal life. It’s not uncommon to hear this passage taught in that way: “Jesus says you should do this—and also, all of you should do this as well. So I want you to go home and, you know, if you’re making one sandwich, make two sandwiches, take one to the lady up the stairs. If you were thinking of getting a summer cottage, don’t get a summer cottage, but get something else and give it to, you know, somebody that needs a cottage, ’cause you don’t need a summer cottage. And if you will finally be altruistic in this way and do these things, then you will discover what this man discovered—that your meritorious deeds will earn you this response.” Nothing could be further from the truth. Nothing could be further from the truth.

What Jesus is asking the rich young ruler to do is to smash his idol.

What Jesus is asking this man to do is to smash his idol. Smash his idol! You see, what has happened is that this man, when he was asked about adultery, he goes, “Nope, I’m good on that one.” “Defrauding.” “No. I haven’t been doing defrauding.” He goes down the list. He says, “I kept all these.” Jesus says, “Well, let’s talk about the one you haven’t kept. In fact, let’s talk about the two you haven’t kept. Commandment number one: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, all your soul, and all your strength.’[21] And commandment number two: ‘Don’t make any idols. And don’t bow down and worship them.’”[22]

Suddenly, the man said, “Oh, wait a minute. Wait a minute. Oh! Oh. Oh, I didn’t get that.” No, you see, because Jesus is revealing the truth about this man. This man’s life was all about the now, it was all about stuff, and it was all about himself. He would have been the perfect twenty-first-century Western man—all about now, all about stuff, and all about himself. In fact, he’s the kind of individual that would have loved to hear sermons that made him “feel good about himself.” Because his whole life was set up to feel good about himself.

In fact, he just comes to Jesus now to make sure that he’s dotting all the i’s and crossing all the t’s. And that in itself is interesting—it is to me, at least. Because for all of his goodness, he’s still here with the question. Why does he even come and ask the question? Isn’t that interesting? I mean, he’s got it by the tail!

I’ll tell you why: because all of that external religiosity cannot deal with the soul of a man. All of the procurement of that which makes life in the now apparently really life does not answer the longings of a man. And that’s why, despite his opinion of himself, there he is, looking for an answer to the question: “How do I get eternal life? Because I’m doing this and I’m doing that, but, tell me: Is there something else I’m supposed to do?” ’Cause you know, there’s something missing, and “ya’ don’t know what it is, do you, Mr. Jones?”[23] “I mean, I’ve been a good guy for most of my life. I’ve tried to keep the commandments. I’ve been as religious as most of the people. If you’ve seen some of my friends! I mean, I’m way out on the far end with that stuff.”

This man represents the individual, be they male or female, who is of the opinion that the path to life with God is the path of doing good in some form—that the path to life with God is the path of doing good in some form: “Tell me what am I supposed to do?” And what Jesus is letting him know is this: that the commandments of God do not represent a ladder up which a man or a woman climbs to acceptance with God, but the commandments of God are like a mirror in which a man or a woman looks and realizes the condition of our own lives. It’s like an X-ray. It’s like a CAT scan.

This man comes, and ostensibly, it is as he describes. He’s honest enough to say he has questions. I like this man. “I’m here to ask you, good teacher. How can I be sure that I’m in the kingdom here when you wrap this up?” “Well, just keep the commandments.” What is Jesus saying there? That if you keep the commandments, you’ll be fine? No, he’s saying, “Go ahead and keep the commandments. Because as soon as you start to keep the commandments, you’ll know how needy you actually are.” Says, “Well, I’m doing well on the ones you mention.” “I understand that. But what about this one?”

You see, what Jesus is saying… and this is the strength of the parable, and with this I will stop: the kingdom of God demands—demands—a man or a woman’s first allegiance. The kingdom of God demands a man or a woman’s first allegiance—before my wife, before my children, before my business, before my career, before my money, before my whatevers. The kingdom of God demands a man’s first allegiance. And a rich man’s first allegiance—a rich man’s first allegiance—is to the acquisition and to the maintenance of wealth. That’s how you become rich.

And Jesus says, “In your case, sir, this is the one thing. This is the one thing. You’re asking me what to do? If I had invented another fifteen commandments, you would have been fine with that. But here’s the one thing: I want you to sell what you have, and I want you to give it to the poor, and then I want you to come, follow me.” And you look down at the text, and you’re looking for a great end to the story, and it says, “He went away sad, because he had great wealth.”

He comes to Jesus, and he’s got the notion that life in the kingdom is his—it’s within his grasp—if only he just can find out how to go about it. “I’m a good guy; you’re a good teacher. Let’s get together. You give me a few pointers. We can both feel good about ourselves—you as the teacher, me as the pupil. We can get on.” Jesus says, “Well, sorry to have to tell you this…” And the man went away sorrowful. And the man went away sorrowful.

I don’t know whether that’s the end of the story. Maybe we’ll meet him in the kingdom. It’s the end of the story for here; we don’t know what happened afterwards. I like to think that his sorrow led him to repentance. I like to think that he got home to his house, and he thought about it some more, and he said, “It’s so good that Jesus made me sad. It’s so good that he made me sad. If he’d just affirmed me, if he’d just said, ‘You know, you’re a great guy. You don’t need to worry about this. We got a place for you as an elder in our church. I mean, we love young guys like you—keen, wealthy, rich, so on. We’ll put you in leadership within fifteen minutes…’” “Oh,” he said, “that’s wonderful. That’s what I was hoping for. I knew there was just something necessary, just to cap my kingdom position off.” And Jesus says, “No, I’m sorry. This is what you’re gonna have to do.” And he said, “No, I’m not gonna do that.”

What about you? What about you? You think you’re gonna enter the kingdom just sliding in? Do you think Jesus is altering the entry to the kingdom, just to make you feel good about yourself? He’s not gonna do it. He’s not gonna to do it. So the only way in is the same way for everyone—on bended knee. Like a little child. And whatever idolatry, immorality, relationship, unforgiven sin—whatever it is that we hold onto, that we worship—must be relinquished, must be turned from, if we’re gonna follow Jesus.

See, Jesus didn’t simply give him a directive; he gave him an invitation: “Go, sell all you have and give it to the poor. And then come and follow me.” “No, I just wanna follow you.” “Can’t do. Sorry.” And the man went away sad, “part of a special group, scarcely touched by the gospel.”

Surely we are as blind as bats until the Spirit of God reveals our blindness. And then, in seeing Christ and in seeing ourselves, everything changes.

Members of that special group sit and listen to me and my colleagues every single Sunday at Parkside Church, and some of you are within earshot of me now. Members of “a special group,” in suburban Cleveland, “scarcely touched by the gospel.” It’s like water on a tin roof. One of the great mysteries to me, in twenty-eight years of pastoral ministry, is how you can continue to come and listen to the same story—and walk out. Surely we are as blind as bats until the Spirit of God reveals our blindness. And then, in seeing Christ and in seeing me—ourselves—then, everything changes.

Are you going to go away sad? That’s the question. You don’t need to; he didn’t need to. You can trust Christ right where you sit—a transaction between you and the living God, under the jurisdiction of the Spirit of God, in submission to the kingly rule of the Son of God.

Let us pray.

I have a verse of a hymn in mind. I’ll just quote it, and then the benediction:

I heard the voice of Jesus say,
“Come unto me and rest;
Lay down, thou weary one, lay down
Your head upon my chest.”
I came to Jesus as I was,
Weary and worn and sad;
And I found in him a resting place,
And he has made me glad.[24]

Father, help us. Bring us to the place of necessary sadness about our need, our helplessness, our idolatry, our substitute gods. Bring us to the place of genuine sadness, in order that you might introduce us to the gladness that is the experience of all who like little children receive your kingdom, by grace through faith.

And may that same grace—the grace of the Lord Jesus—and the love of God our Father, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit, rest upon and remain with each one who believes, today and forevermore. Amen.

[1] See Luke 19:1–10.

[2] See John 4:4–26.

[3] See Matthew 19:22.

[4] See Matthew 19:22; Mark 10:22; Luke 18:23.

[5] See Luke 18:18.

[6] C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1943; repr., New York: Touchstone, 1996), 183. Paraphrased.

[7] Mark 1:15 (NIV 1984).

[8] Mark 9:47 (paraphrased).

[9] Mark 10:15 (NIV 1984).

[10] See Mark 6:51.

[11] See Mark 6:30–44.

[12] See Mark 6:48–49.

[13] R. Hudson Pope, “Make the Book Live to Me” (1943). Language modernized.

[14] Leviticus 19:18 (NIV 1984).

[15] Philippians 3:6 (NIV 1984).

[16] Philippians 3:7–8 (paraphrased).

[17] 1 Corinthians 2:11 (paraphrased).

[18] Mark 10:26 (paraphrased).

[19] Mark 10:27 (paraphrased).

[20] See John 4:16–19.

[21] Deuteronomy 6:5 (paraphrased).

[22] Exodus 20:4–5; Deuteronomy 5:8–9 (paraphrased).

[23] Bob Dylan, “Ballad of a Thin Man” (1965).

[24] Horatius Bonar, “I Heard the Voice of Jesus Say” (1846). Lyrics lightly altered.

Copyright © 2024, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.