To Such Belong The Kingdom – Mark 10:13-16

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]It is such a joy to come together as God’s people and sit under the instruction of His Word. I think it’s good for us to be consistently reminded that the Word of God is our only authority.

It is the Word of God that is living, and active and sharper than any 2-edged sword. It is the Word of God that heals, and comforts and brings conviction in our lives. It is the Word of God that will endure when all else fades away.

And so, when we come to this time each week where we open the Scriptures together, let’s come with expectant hearts. As we seek after Him let’s expect that He will transform us.

Let’s expect that He will conform us to the image of Jesus. Let’s expect that we will look different when we leave this place because we’ve been with Him.

And that’s our prayer this morning; that we would be with God in His Word and that He would bring glory to His name through our transformation. So, if you have a Bible with you, I’d encourage you to turn with me to Mark chapter 10. While you’re turning to Mark 10, I’ll take some time to ask the Lord to do these things in us. Would you pray with me?

We will be looking specifically at verses 13-16 this morning. It’s a very short text, but a very important one for our lives. And I would remind you that these verses are a part of our larger study of The Gospel of Mark.

So I would like to take just a few minutes and recap what we’ve been discussing in this overall narrative.

We’ve said before that Mark 8:27-30 represents a turning point in the life and ministry of Jesus. It’s about the halfway point in Mark’s gospel and it’s where Peter confesses Jesus as the Christ.

You might remember that Jesus looks at His disciples and says, “Who do the people say that I am?” The disciples responded, “Some say that you are John the Baptist, or Elijah, or one of the prophets.”

And then Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?”  To which Peter responds, “You are the Christ.”

That proclamation gives us an important dividing line in the gospel of Mark, where things begin to shift. Before Peter’s confession we read a lot about who Jesus is and how He lived. We get to read a lot about His character and His nature.

After Peter’s confession we read a lot about what Jesus has come to do; how His life is really about His death. And, as we reach chapter 10, Jesus is moving quickly toward Jerusalem.

He’s heading quickly toward the Cross and the culmination of what He came to the earth to accomplish. But as He’s heading toward Jerusalem, He’s still teaching and correcting the disciples.

We’ve said over & over again that the disciples still don’t really get the point. Which is why Jesus is always identifying these teachable moments where He reminds them of the truth about who He is and what He has come to accomplish.

Last week Saju unpacked one of those teachable moments as Jesus taught on the subject of divorce and remarriage. He pointed out how Jesus took the subject back to God’s intention for marriage. That marriage is, in fact, a covenant where a man and a woman become one flesh.

That is the way that God designed it to be. And divorce (like all of sin) is a distortion, a perversion of that design. It takes a gift, given by God for our good, and bends it toward a destructive end.

This morning we see Jesus use another teachable moment to show the disciples something significant about salvation and the Kingdom of God. And we need to make sure that we really understand this because it reminds us of something incredibly important for our lives as well. This is what Mark records in chapter 10, verse 13-16:

“And they were bringing children to him that he might touch them, and the disciples rebuked them. But when Jesus saw it, he was indignant and said to them, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” And he took them in his arms and blessed them, laying his hands on them.” Mark 10:13-16

I’ve already said that the disciples still don’t get the point. That’s pretty obvious from this text. The picture that we have here is people attempting to bring children to Jesus, and the disciples are scolding them for it. They didn’t want Jesus to be bothered by the presence of children.

Now, culturally, that actually makes a lot of sense. In the culture at the time it would be normal to not have children around these types of interactions with adults, especially when there is teaching happening from a respected teacher.

So, culturally, it would have made sense for the disciples to rebuke the people trying to bring children to Jesus while He’s speaking. But we know that the gospel turns culture upside down. That the gospel is, in fact, creating a new culture. You see, the Kingdom of God has entered and things are different now. Jesus isn’t playing by the cultural rules that the people would expect.

So that’s one reason that Jesus opposed the disciples in this. But, it’s also because it wasn’t that long ago that Jesus had addressed this issue of children with the disciples. You might remember that the disciples were arguing about which one of them was the greatest.

And in the middle of the conversation where Jesus was correcting them, He took a child on His lap and said very clearly, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me…” Which I believe implies that the converse is true:  If you don’t receive these children, you don’t receive me.

Now I realize that we don’t know exactly how much time had passed between that conversation and this conversation, but it couldn’t have been too long. Where Jesus said, “If you receive children, then you receive me.” And now we have an account of the disciples responding to children being brought to Jesus by telling them to go away.

It doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, does it? I think the point is that the disciples still don’t really get it. They really don’t understand what Jesus is working to accomplish, and so they rebuke people from bringing the kids to Jesus. And Jesus became indignant with them.

And this provides the context for yet another teachable moment. In fact, Jesus sees an opportunity to drive down to the very core of what it means to enter into the Kingdom of God, what it means to have faith in Him. It’s found in what Jesus says in verse 15. Let’s read this again so it’s fresh in our minds: “Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.”

That’s what I want to focus our time on this morning because it gets right to the heart of the doctrine of salvation and how Jesus rescues us from sin & death. I want to begin this discussion by making a very simple statement, and then we’ll spend the rest of our time unpacking that statement:  The Kingdom of God cannot be earned, it can only be RECEIVED.

Now that’s a very different message than the message the world communicates to us. The world says that you must earn everything. The world says that who you are & what you have is determined by what you do.

We see that message all around us, don’t we? And so it’s no wonder that the religious systems that come from the world communicate the exact same message as it relates to how we are made right with God. Every religious system is a variation of that same message.

Here are the things that you must do in order to have right standing with God, in order to go to heaven. In order to be made whole and complete, you have to do these things (whatever those things are).

I’ve shared this illustration before, but this is the picture that comes to my mind when I try to describe how all of these religions work. It’s like God is on the top of a mountain and people are down at the bottom of the mountain.

And the goal is to get up to the top of the mountain to be with God. And so, Muslims believe one thing about how you get to God. And Buddhists believe another thing about how you get to God. And Hindus believe another thing about how they get to their God.

And people who claim to be Christians, but who don’t understand the truth of the gospel, believe yet another thing about how you get to God. It’s like there are all of these different paths that lead up the mountain to God, and each religion has their own path to get up that mountain.

And each of those paths represents some type of work that you must do, some type of achievement that allows you to travel up the mountain to be with God.

This is the picture of all the religious systems that have been crafted by man throughout the history of the world. But that is not the message of the Bible. That is not the picture that biblical Christianity paints for us.

The story that the Bible tells is that God is in fact up on that mountain by Himself because He is Holy. There is none like Him! He is the Alpha & the Omega, the beginning and the end, the Creator of the Heavens and the earth, the One in whom all creation finds its existence (including you & me). The Bible tells us that God is perfect in all of His ways and completely holy.

The Bible also tells us that we are, in fact, at the bottom of the mountain because of our sin. Romans 3:10-11 says that “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.” Verse 23 says that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” So, yes, we are at the bottom of that mountain separated from God and unable to be with Him because of our sin. I think Ephesians 2:1-3 puts it most clearly. “And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

So God is at the top of the mountain in His holiness. And we are at the bottom of the mountain in our sin. I don’t think that most of the religious systems of the world would disagree with that. But here’s where the truth of the Bible and all of the religious systems of the world disagree (and this is the point that Jesus is making in our text).

Where other religions say that you must do things to get to God (to get up that mountain), the Bible says that no amount of good works will ever get you up that mountain to God. That there is, in fact, nothing that you can do in and of yourself to be made right with God.

Which sounds like really bad news, right? But no, it’s actually the most beautiful news that ever was. Because God loves us so much, knowing we cannot get back to Him on our own, He came for us.

The Bible tells us that God has come down the mountain to be with us in the person & work of Jesus Christ. Romans 5:8 says that, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Paul says the same thing in a different way in Ephesians 2:4-5 (these are the verses right after the ones that we just read about being dead in our sins & trespasses). Paul writes, “But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved.”

Friends, that is why the gospel of Jesus Christ is called “Good News”. We were hopeless & helpless, with no ability to do anything to rescue ourselves. But, because of His love for us, God has made a way for us to be reconciled to Him by grace.

And what is grace? It is a gift! It’s receiving something that you don’t deserve. Later, in Ephesians 2:8-9, Paul says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

This is what sets the message of the Bible apart from every other religious system ever developed by man. Our salvation can never be a result of our good works because no amount of working can get you up that mountain.

That’s because, apart from God, we are spiritually dead. I read a quote recently in a book that I’m reading on how the gospel creates in us a heart for our neighbors. It’s by Rosario Butterfield. This is what she said:

“We need God to come to us, to rescue us, because we can’t summon the strength to save ourselves and, even if we could, we would not know where to go. And this is what Jesus Christ did and does. Through union with and growth in Him, we are made new. We are redeemed, forgiven and adopted as children of God.”

The good works that we are able to walk in happen once you have been united with Jesus Christ. They happen once He has breathed life back into your soul. And so, those works are a result of the grace of God being poured out upon you through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on your behalf.

And this is what Jesus is communicating in our text. The Kingdom of God can never be earned, it must be received because it is the FREE GIFT of God to everyone who has FAITH (faith like a child).

Now, if I can, I’d like to briefly make 2 addition points very briefly, and then we’ll be done. 1) I want to talk about the reality of what happens if we don’t receive this gift and 2) I want to explain how you can receive this gift.

First, what is the result of not “receiving the Kingdom of God”? Well, to put it simply, it’s death. Romans 6:23 says that “the wages of sin is death.” That means that the payment that is due for our sin is spiritual & eternal death.

And someone has to pay that bill. If Jesus doesn’t pay the price for your sin, you will pay it — and it is eternally costly! 2 Thessalonians 1:8-9 says “Those who do not know God and those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.”

And so, the short answer is that those who do not receive this gift from God and enter into His Kingdom spend eternity separated from Him in hell.

Second, how do we receive the gift of the Kingdom of God. Well, on this point the Bible is equally clear. Romans 10:9 says, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” This isn’t about agreement or intellectual belief. Satan and his demons know exactly who Jesus is and yet they are not saved. This is about submitting your life to the truth of who Jesus is.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

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