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Ticket to Heaven

Date: Nov. 17, 2019

Author: Dan Bockenfeld

Mark 10:13-31

Key Verse: Mark 10:15

Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.

Two weeks ago, I took my son Lucas to see this Jurassic World Live Tour at Allstate Arena. It’s a live show that they put on with stunts, people in some pretty realistic dinosaur costumes, and some really big animatronic dinosaurs. Oh yeah, there were also these flame throwers and a T-Rex. We went to the show because Lucas got some discount coupons from school and we thought it would be good for me to take him. The coupons really didn’t work out because you had to go to the ticket counter on the day of the performance and use the coupons. They weren’t redeemable online. I didn’t think that there would be much luck getting seats that way, so I just bought the tickets online. They were about $15 each, but with all venue fees and service fees the total price was nearly double the ticket price. When we arrived at the arena, we had to park and stand in line to get in. When we got in, there was someone scanning tickets and allowing people to pass. Once you were inside, you were met with veritable marketplace hawking ten-dollar popcorns and seventeen-dollar snow cones. And people were just lapping it up. The show was pretty good, but you had to have a ticket to get in. No ticket, no entry. There are a lot of things that work that way. You can’t get on a plane without a ticket. You can’t go to a movie theater or see a play or musical. You can’t even go to a sporting event without the right ticket. In fact, you’d probably get tackled if you tried to get into the Bears game without a ticket. Even if you do have a ticket, if you pay more, you can get a better seat. The $15 tickets that Lucas and I had, were in the upper deck. There were some people that had tickets that were so close, the dinosaurs would be in their face. If these human events require tickets to get in and a more expensive ticket gets you a better spot, then think about what it takes to get into some place more important, like heaven. It’s more than a million times better than any Bears game, does it cost us more than a million times as much? In today’s passage, Jesus teaches us what it takes to get into heaven.

Our passage starts out in an interesting way, “People were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them, but the disciples rebuked them.” (13) As the passage says, people were bringing little children to Jesus for him to place his hands on them. Now, people weren’t bringing kids to Jesus for him to heal them, but to bless them. Here, little children refer to kids age twelve and under. In Jewish society, it is only once the child reaches thirteen and has their bar mitzvah, that they are responsible for following the law. Before that point, children were actually considered to be most worthless people. In that culture, children weren’t treated all that well. They were always pushed aside. They were the most helpless and hopeless in society. When people were bringing these children to Jesus, the disciples must have thought it was just a waste of time. The disciples told those people to get those kids out of here. Jesus was far too important to deal with lowly children. It feels like they forgot what Jesus taught them not too long ago, “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me.” (Mark 9:37) The disciples were not very welcoming to the children here.

Jesus noticed it and he was not happy, “When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.’” (14) The passage says that Jesus was indignant. This is the second time that Mark mentions that Jesus was indignant. The first was in chapter 1, just before healing a man with leprosy. If you remember, indignant means feeling or showing anger or annoyance at what is perceived as unfair treatment. Jesus was upset because his own disciples were treating the children unfairly. They were people, and Jesus came even for the children. They were not less than people. Jesus told his disciples to let the children come to him because the kingdom of God belongs to ones like them. That’s a little shocking. God’s kingdom, heaven, belongs to ones like children. I don’t know about you, but most people don’t want to give kids extremely nice things because some kids tend to not care for their possessions. All you have to do is just ask any parent about toys with missing or broken parts. It’s not uncommon. So, does Jesus mean that only little children have a ticket to heaven?

Not really, Jesus explains further, “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” (15) So, it is not being a child that gets us into heaven, but our attitude and heart. Christmas is coming up. You see it in the stores. Have you seen how kids receive presents? They are so full of joy and are so happy to open them. They receive gifts so well, and in the same way, we need to receive the kingdom of God. We have to receive it with a thankful heart. That’s our ticket to heaven. We have to receive God’s kingdom like a child would, with a joyful and thankful heart. Without that thankful heart, there is no way to enter God’s kingdom.

In order to get an idea of what it means to receive the kingdom of God, let’s look a little further in the passage. “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?’” (17) As Jesus was leaving, a man ran up to him asking him about eternal life. If he was just a few minutes earlier, he would have heard Jesus talk about receiving and entering the kingdom of God. He would have had a clue to his question, but it gives us an opportunity to understand what Jesus said a little further.

Jesus responded, “Why do you call me good? No one is good—except God alone.” (18) I don’t know, but Jesus’ answer seems almost like he is irritated at the man. The man was trying to show respect to Jesus by calling him good, but Jesus seems irritated at that. Jesus repeats the Jewish thinking that only God is truly good. If the man called Jesus good, he was equating Jesus with God. Again, Jesus reply seems a bit cold and distant. He continues, “You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’” (19) Jesus starts naming a number of the commandments. He is telling the man that he needs to follow the commandments that he already knows to obtain eternal life. If you look at the list that Jesus shares, you can notice that it’s not all of the commandments. It is just six of the ten. I’ve heard before that the list explicitly excludes coveting, but if you look further, you notice that Jesus added “you shall not defraud”. This is the equivalent of coveting, but what is missing are the commandments that deal with a person’s relationship to God.

When the man heard the list, he replied, “Teacher, all these I have kept since I was a boy.” (20) This man seems to be very sincere in his request. He doesn’t seem like the Pharisees who were trying to test Jesus at every turn, but he really wanted to know how to be saved. When he heard Jesus’ list, it all seemed familiar to him. In his sincerity, the man had followed those commandments the best that he could since his bar mitzvah at the age of thirteen. But just as the list was incomplete, the man’s following of the commandments was incomplete.

The passage continues, “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.’” (21) It says that Jesus looked at him and loved him. It is a beautiful thing to mention. Jesus loved the man and told him what he needed to do. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” The man needed to value a relationship with God more than anything, so Jesus told him to sell everything and follow him. This is not unlike what many of his other disciples did. We see in the Bible that when Jesus told them to follow him, they stopped what they were doing, got up and followed him immediately. Some left their work. Some left their family, but when they heard the call, they put their focus on Jesus. They may not have sold everything they had. Peter’s house was a frequent hangout for Jesus and his disciples. However, they did put their focus on following Jesus.

In the next verse, we can see how the man responded to Jesus’ answer, “At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.” (22) The man became sad because he was pretty rich. The passage says, “great wealth”. He wasn’t a mere millionaire, but closer to a multi-billionaire. It was like telling Bill Gates or Jeff Bezos to sell all that they have. This man heard Jesus’ call to follow him, but thought that the cost was too great, so he went away. This is the only event recorded in the Bible where someone refuses Jesus’ call to follow him. This event is in multiple gospels, but it really is the only time recorded that someone doesn’t follow Jesus when he says so. His wealth tied him down. The man asked about how to inherit God’s kingdom, and Jesus offered it to him. However, the man did not receive it like a child would. He weighed the cost of entering the kingdom, but it was too much for him. He wasn’t thankful for the offer.

After the man left, we see what Jesus did, “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 someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.’” (23-25) Jesus said that it is hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God, and the disciples were just amazed at this. In Jewish society, it was thought that riches showed God’s favor. The richer you were, the more God favored you. People thought that when you pleased God, he showed his favor by giving wealth, but what Jesus said couldn’t have been more contrary. It wasn’t easy for rich people to enter heaven, but it was really hard. Jesus said that it was easier for a big animal like a camel to go through a small hole like an eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom of God. It was that hard.

So, why is it so hard for a rich person to get into heaven? Are poor people that much more pious than the rich? No, but the rich have so much more that ties them to this world. The rich are more invested in this world because of their wealth, but we all have things that tie us to the world. Those who have more are tied more, but even those with nothing can be tied by the desire. There are some poor who are so obsessed with obtaining riches that it ties them down just as much as the rich. It doesn’t even have to be money that holds people back. We could be obsessed with fame, power, pleasure or our own place in this world. Each of these can tie us down. Now, this doesn’t mean that we have to give up everything and sequester ourselves in a monastery, but the point is that we hold on to these things more than we hold on to God. When given the choice to choose God or something from this world, we have to choose like a child would choose. That is what it means to receive the kingdom of God. There are many times where we can have something from the world and God. We can use the things of this world to serve God, but there will be times where we will have to choose between the two. If we are too tied down, it will be difficult to choose God. It would be easier to push a camel through the eye of a needle. It is impossible.

The passage continues, “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.’” (26-27) The disciples were even more dumbfounded at how hard it was to enter God’s kingdom. Even with all the wealth in the world, we can’t purchase a ticket even to the nosebleed sections. In fact, our wealth can hold us back. By our own strength, we are unable to enter God’s kingdom, but all things are possible with God. We need God’s help to get into his kingdom. We need God’s help to get the tickets. We are unable to purchase them, but God is able to get us VIP passes that put us face to face with him. The man wanted to know what he could do to inherit eternal life, but there is nothing that we can do. It is all up to God, and we can only receive the gift that Jesus chooses to give us, just like a child.

With the man’s failure and the revelation of how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God, the disciples had to say something. “Then Peter spoke up, ‘We have left everything to follow you!’” (28) “‘Truly I tell you,’ 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—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.’” (29-31) Jesus says that those who follow Jesus will not go unrewarded. If people choose Jesus over the things of this world, they will be blessed more than we can imagine. Now this doesn’t mean we are going to get rich by following God, then you are back at square one, but what God has planned for us is far greater that what we are leaving behind.

We like to hold on to certain things because they give us a sense of security or meaning. Having a lot of money means that we are not struggling to survive. Being smart of wise means that we always know what to do, not matter what the situation. Being famous or having an important job means that we will have a lasting impact on this world. We have a legacy and will be remembered. We hold onto the things of the world because we think that they matter, but in reality, they are insignificant. What Jesus promises us if we follow him is more than a hundred times greater than what we leave behind. People want to have gold, but gold is just like bricks in God’s kingdom. Treasures in heaven are far more valuable than anything this world can offer. If we can realize that, then we can see that we are merely holding on to dirt, dust and bricks. God’s kingdom is far greater than anything that we can see here.

We have to let go of the desire over these things. They are not the ticket that we need. Just try to go to a Bears game with a jar of dirt. It’s not going to get you in. Or try to bring a brick as a ticket to get into a movie. You are just going to get strange looks. We have to use the proper currency to get into God’s kingdom and we can’t afford it because all we have is dirt, dust and bricks. The true currency to get us a ticket into heaven is the blood of Jesus. It sounds a bit macabre, but Jesus’ blood is the purchase price for out ticket to heaven. Jesus died on the cross so that we can get into heaven. It was a heavy price, but Jesus paid it. What we have to do is accept it and receive it as a child would, with a thankful heart. We are coming into Thanksgiving time. Next week, we will have our Thanksgiving service. It will be a time to reflect on what the Lord has done in our lives and choose how to respond. We can only look at the things of the world around us and be sad, like the man who approached Jesus was, or we can see the gift that Jesus has given us through his blood and be filled with joy and thanksgiving, like a little child.

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