I’ve been reading Mark lately, and this morning I read the two passages where Jesus says, “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (10:13-16) and “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (17-31).
I hadn’t read them both in one sitting before and I can’t remember hearing them preached together. I didn’t realize they go hand in hand.
After Jesus says that you must receive the kingdom like a child, there is an example that follows. A “rich young man” decides to keep the kingdom he’s built for himself rather than give it up as Jesus asks of him. The man wants to keep what he knows instead of trading it for something he’s simply told is better. He doesn’t trust that Christ, that love, is worth it.
I grew up being taught that “receiving the kingdom like a child” refers to child-like faith, and is a simple, almost naive, unquestioning acceptance of the gospel, and there is some truth in that. However, in these verses about the rich man who’s self-dependent, a straightforward acceptance of the gospel isn’t all we’re being shown. It’s a reliance on God.
When I read passages about sin or lostness, I look for a connection between them and the forbidden tree in the garden. The thing that causes the rich man to not follow Jesus is the sacrifice of his money and possessions because he idolizes what he owns, but it goes deeper than that. His need for these things derives from a pride and independence. He won’t rely on Jesus because he thinks he can rely on himself.
When Adam and Eve decided to pick fruit from the tree they were told not to go to, it was the result of their own discernment. Instead of trusting God, they trusted themselves and depended on their own judgement to guide them. They didn’t think they needed a father.
To receive the kingdom like a child is to rely on God wholeheartedly. As a child depends on their parents for a home and their meals, we are told to trust and depend on our creator in everything. The kingdom will be inherited by those who accept that they need Christ.
And he said to him, “Teacher, all these (the Ten Commandments) I have kept from my youth.”And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:20-22)
I’m not sure if the man actually knows he hasn’t kept all the commandments perfectly when he says he has, but either way, Jesus looks at him and loves him by continuing to offer the man a way to heaven. It’s an especially powerful detail if the man is intentionally lying to Jesus, because even in the moment he’s being dishonest, he’s still given grace.
After the rich man leaves, Jesus says to those around him that it’s easier for a “camel to go through the eye of a needle” than for a man who values the things of the world to follow him. To this, they ask, “Then who will be saved?” Jesus wants them to ask this, and replies, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
We’re like children, we can’t save ourselves. He has to do it for us, and he does.
This is foreshadowing what Jesus will do to pay the price of our turning against God throughout our lives. None of us have ever relied on God as we should. He’s loved us but we’ve done everything but love Him in return. We are given this ability to know and be forgiven by Him through the Son’s death on the cross.
Being “saved” or being “reborn” is the result of a person seeing and taking in the truth, and being changed by it. Regeneration is leaving the things you idolize and give an extreme amount of worth to for the only One who should have such value. Like Tim Keller has said, the solution to idolatry is “putting your loves in the right order.” It wouldn’t be right for a workaholic to put their job before their family.
In every testimony, there’s a decision made between Christ and pride. In this story, that pride came from the man’s wealth. If he followed Jesus, he would have forfeited himself and gained Christ in the process, receiving the kingdom like a child in becoming dependent on his Father.
Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” (10:29-31)