Sermon by Pastor Tom Brown · Mar 12, 2023 · Mark Series

This morning we are in Mark 10:17-31. Our passage is about total worship, a total commitment to following Christ.

In this passage we will see that total worship is the key to the kingdom of God, it is humanly impossible and it is the smartest decision you could ever make.


1. The key to the kingdom of God is total worship. (17-20)

Our text begins with a young man with a massive question: what do I have to do to inherit eternal life?

Last week we saw that Jesus has just taught that you must receive the kingdom like a little child to enter it. Those children are now contrasted with someone who couldn’t be more different.

Luke calls him a young ruler in 18:18. He was probably a member of the Sanhedrin, somewhere between 21-28 years old. He ran up to Jesus and fell on his knees. This man has a burden.

Jesus responds to the young man, “Why do you call me good? There is none good but God.” He then lists 6 of the 10 commandments, plus an additional command – do not defraud.

The man replies, “I have kept them all from my youth.” (Jewish understanding was that 13 was the age a person became responsible to keep God’s commands.)

He probably believed this. He fulfilled what was asked of him by his religious tradition.

Yet he believed that he was missing something. What must I do!?

In this world, wealth = power. People with great wealth believe that everything is possible for them. This man has found one thing his money cannot buy him. A clear conscience and assurance of salvation.

Jesus looked at him and loved him. The word for look is a compound which intensifies the normal word for look. Jesus really looked at him. And he loved him. Jesus loved him by telling him the truth. You cannot separate the two with Jesus. If you love someone, you must tell them the truth.

“You lack one thing”, Jesus says, then he tells him three things – go, sell all that you have and then give the money away to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and then come, follow me.

Follow me. To become a Christian is not to become a member of a religious organization. It is not to adopt a set of religious or ethical beliefs. To become a Christian is to follow Christ.

A personal invitation to follow Christ, the King of the Universe, is the greatest privilege that can be given.

Yet he was disheartened. He left sorrowful. The word is lupeo. Deep emotional pain. Grief. Because he had great possessions, he was unwilling to part with his wealth.

In the eyes of the world, this young man was righteous. If anyone was going to enter the kingdom of God, surely it was him. Yet he walks away.

Now, what is involved here?

What is the essence of the law?

Love God supremely and love your neighbor as yourself.

In piling up possessions for himself, was he doing either of those things?

He was loving his possessions supremely.

While he was loving his possessions, the poor suffered. The requirement Jesus gave him exposed his absolute failure to keep the commandments.

Is the requirement for everybody?

Zacchaeus the tax collector expressed repentance and commitment to Jesus by vowing to give half of all he owned and was celebrated as belonging to the kingdom.

Barnabas gave a field in Acts 4.

Paul’s collection for the poor in 1 Corinthians 16 instructs each person to set a little aside for the poor.

Paul in 1 Thessalonians tells everyone to mind your own affairs and work with your hands so you won’t be dependent upon anyone.

There isn’t a universal requirement to give away all possessions in the New Testament. What you do find is a requirement of total worship. A requirement to value God above all other things.


2. Total worship is humanly impossible. (22-27) 

The Jewish people believed that the wealthy were wealthy because God made them that way. They must have done something to deserve it. It was an outward sign of inner worth. (We tend to do the same don’t we? We believe that what you have on the outside determines your value on the inside.)

Jesus saw things differently – how difficult it will be for the wealthy to enter the kingdom! The disciples were amazed because they thought the opposite was true.

Jesus illustrates the statement with a word picture – it’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God. Has anyone on earth ever seen a camel pass through the eye of a needle? No. It’s impossible.

The disciples – if the rich (think blessed) can’t enter the kingdom, then who can be saved?

The man asked Jesus, what do I have to do to inherit eternal life. This conversation reframes the question. What can you do to inherit eternal life? The one thing required is the one thing you cannot do. You can do nothing.

The young man did not understand true goodness. In calling Jesus good teacher, he was attributing a quality to a teacher that no human possesses.

The Bible teaches that no one is truly good. (Romans 3, Psalm 14, etc) This is one of the hardest Christian statements for the world to accept. Yet it is also the most helpful for understanding why we are the way we are.

You might think that surely some people are good. Jonathan Edwards in his work Charity and its Fruits gives some helpful explanation.

He discusses two kinds of virtue: common virtue and true virtue. There is a kind of virtue that is utilitarian, it serves a purpose.

The child who is taught that they should be honest because nobody likes liars develops a utilitarian virtue. Or the business students who is taught that they should be honest because customers reward honest business. Or the child who is taught they should be honest because God punishes lies.

These utilitarian commitments prevent society from being unlivable, but they don’t produce true virtue.

When do you become truly moral? When you love God and do right, not for your sake but for his.

Who is able?

The seed that Jesus plants in verse 27 will grow up to become the doctrines of grace explained in glorious fullness in the letters of Paul. No one can be declared righteous by the law because the law depends upon the human heart which is incapable of acting in pure worship.

It can be a painful process to surrender in total worship. It may feel like you are being dragged through the eye of a needle.

What would leave you deeply sad if Jesus asked you to give it away to follow him?

Some Christians believe that God’s primary purpose is to make strip all happiness from your life. Some believe God will do that because they don’t deserve happiness. Some because God doesn’t care about happiness.

This couldn’t be further from the Biblical revelation of God.


3. Total worship is the smartest investment you could ever make. (28-31)

Peter says to Jesus, “we’ve left everything and followed you.”

Oh, if you could understand what this means. The angels in heaven look down on Peter in wonder. To be chosen to follow Jesus the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.

Peter and Andrew, James and John left their boats and nets. Matthew left his table. All left behind homes and family to follow Jesus on the road.

No one who has left (house, brother or sister or father or mother, lands) for my sake and for the gospel will not receive a 100x in this life.

Persecutions? This was considered a privilege and a blessing by the first Christians.

The last first and the first last. The kingdom overturns our value systems. The small children with nothing to offer but their complete dependence are embraced in the kingdom while the high-status billionaire is on the outside.

“It takes from those who follow Jesus things they would keep, and gives to them things they could not imagine.”


What is more, I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.

Philippians 3:8


What could be so good. So valuable. So satisfying that it makes everything else in this world – honor, fame, wealth, even romantic love and family look like garbage in comparison? Jesus.

What would it cost me to get that?

Nothing and everything.

Tom Brown is the planting pastor of Vintage Faith Church in Wichita. Tom and his wife, Mandy, have worked together in ministry for 18 years and have four children. More about Pastor Tom Brown