I recently travelled to a couple of countries on a ministry trip to visit some pastors and missionaries. Though I was allowed 40kg on the main airline I travelled, I managed to pack a suitcase that weighed only 15kg. with that, I took a small backpack for my computer and various things. It was a delight to travel so light. It made it easier to get from place to place. I was never bogged down by unnecessary weight as I hit the road from place to place. I was able to get on with what I needed to do without excess baggage. This is what Jesus wanted his disciples to learn. They needed to learn that, if they would be faithfully on the road with Jesus, they would need to travel light. They would need to forsake all and follow him. Though they had initially done so—and Peter would soon remind the Lord of that!—they still needed the lesson reinforced. Jesus was happy to do so.
Speaking of my recent trip, it provided me with an eyewitness experience to believers who are living out what Jesus taught here. I was enormously privileged to interact with Christians who know what it means to leave family and friends and funds in order to go on the road with Jesus. And even though they are travelling light (not much material luggage), nevertheless, they are experiencing true riches. They have lost a lot (in the world’s eyes) but have received the hundred-fold which Jesus promised in addition to the greatest of blessings: eternal life. I left that place with what I believe is a godly envy—envy for a closer relationship with the Lord; envy for the hundred-fold blessings promised by Jesus and experienced by my brothers and sisters who are living for Christ in a gospel-oppressive part of the world.
In this study, I want to encourage Christians to stay on the road with Jesus, despite the difficulties. Also, I want to biblically persuade non-Christians to get on the road with Jesus. I will do so as we study Mark 10:28–34. But to understand this passage, we need to grasp its context. Allow me to review how we got to this part of the road.
A Foolish Rejection
Jesus was on the road to Jerusalem (v. 17a) when he was met by a man whom, in the world’s eyes, had everything. He had wealth, youth, and status. What he didn’t have was peace of soul, for he was not at peace of with God. He had a providential opportunity to now experience this. Sadly, he rejected what he needed (vv. 17b–22).
This man chose riches over redemption. He chose wealth over worship of the good God. He chose to keep going his own way rather than choosing to go God’s way. It is a sad, pathetic, and all-too-oft repeated scene.
He was a good man, as society counts goodness. He was also a privileged man. But these riches got in the way of what he thought he so badly wanted: eternal life.
When Jesus confronted him with the call to leave all and to follow him (the word translated “follow” literally means “on a road”), he chose to keep heading down his own road, which led to destruction. The road that he should have chosen was the road trip we need. We need to listen to the call of Jesus, to embrace the cost of following Jesus, and to continue down the road with Jesus.
Sadly, this man’s response is all too familiar and prevalent. When confronted with the good news of the kingdom of God, rather than letting go of the baggage that hinders them, too many people choose to travel through life with excess baggage, paying an enormous cost, both for time and for eternity. Like this man, too many people lean upon the wrong source of protection, provision, and portion.
But as the writer to the Hebrews wrote, “Yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things” (6:9). However, I want to remind us of the need to continually choose to stay on the road with Jesus. But what kind of a road is it?
A Radical Road
The road on which Jesus calls us is a radical road: “Peter began to say to him, ‘See, we have left everything and followed you’” (v. 28).
Jesus made a radical demand of the man who came to him asking him “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (v. 17). Jesus told him to sell all he had and to give the proceeds to the poor. If he did this, Jesus promised him “treasure in heaven” and urged, “Come, follow me” (v. 21). This was radical teaching. Jesus clearly was saying that his call to discipleship is attended by a calculated and articulated cost of discipleship.
The word translated “follow” is a compound word, whose primary root refers to a road. Jesus was telling this man to leave his way of life, to leave his rich road, and to go on the road with him. The road is radical, rewarding, rocky, and resolute. How will he respond?
Jesus offers the inestimable blessing of kingdom living, but it will cost you. You will need to count the cost of following Jesus against the ledgers of a worldview that says that things and people and ideals are the source of purpose, power, prestige, and protection and that they are our true portion.
Jesus was not intimating that we can purchase our salvation. Not was he making a statement about so-called “social justice.” He was not trying to be woke (though I don’t believe he was against being woke). Rather, he was highlighting the man’s need to turn from, to repent, to have a change of mind about true riches. We need to decide to rely entirely on him. We should count the cost, precisely as Jesus told this man to do. No, we are not required to sell all we have to give to the poor. But we, like him, are required to volitionally surrender all our past, present, and future into his hands and to follow him—even blindly—as he leads on down the road.
Jesus wanted to save this man, but he also knew that, unless the man was willing to trust him, as the little children of the previous pericope did, salvation would be impossible (vv. 23–27). Was this man willing to place childlike faith—complete dependence—in Jesus? Sadly, he was not. He was not willing to deal with the root of the matter and to lean completely on Jesus. If he had, we would have sold everything and given it to the poor. But he was too self-sufficient and so he chose riches over redemption.
This command from Jesus should not be twisted as if Jesus was making a socio-economic statement about the much debated, and often hotly disputed, concept of “privilege” in our day. Yet we would be wrong to conclude that this has nothing to do with God’s care for the poor and the related truth that those who truly love God will love neighbour as self. In fact, as France writes, “If we lose sight of the principle that affluence is a barrier to the kingdom of God, we are parting company from Jesus at a point which seems to have been fundamental to his teaching.” To be blessed with possessions is wonderful. Yet such blessing can be perverted into a curse if such affluence begins to possess us. The best way to overcome this is to give it away, as Jesus commands here.
Those who inherit the kingdom of God are so enriched by his grace and mercy that they desire to enrich others with their blessings. They are so trusting of God that they have no problem sharing what God has graciously given to them.
Hughes writes , “What we do with our wealth will determine the spiritual health of ourselves and our families…. Divestment and investment—that is what God calls us to do.”
Divesting and Investing
This man used the word “inherit.” Jesus said that the only way he could inherit was if he divested. To do so, motivated by and for love of God is to invest in the kingdom of God, it is to invest in the future—an investment that one day we will inherit as “treasure in heaven.”
This passage captures the oft repeated tragedy: “His tragic decision to turn away reflects a greater love for his possessions than for life.”
In short, being on the road with Jesus means a radical change of mind about what is truly important.
It is to embrace a radical worldview in which the needs of others are as important, if not more so, than our own (see Acts 11:27–30).
It is to embrace the radical worldview that when we follow God’s Son, God’s appointed King, God’s chosen Saviour, then we are completely secure in him—so secure, in fact, that we need not find either our security or our significance (identity) in anyone or in anything else.
A Rewarding Road
Peter (of course!) was the first to speak upon Jesus’ radical instruction. Jesus responded,
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.
There are different views concerning the motivation behind his question. It appears that Peter was comparing himself to this young man. There might be a twinge of boasting here, for it does seem that there is an element of one-upmanship. But it also seems that his statement also serves as a hint of a question: “And so, since we have left all, what do we get out of it? What should we expect? After all, with all due respect, where are these ‘treasures in heaven’?”
We need to keep in mind that these brothers would not have had the ethereal and platonic concept of heaven that we do. To a first century Jew, the kingdom of God (“kingdom of heaven” in Matthew) would have been a more earthy expectation. Perhaps, therefore, Peter was wondering (as perhaps were also the other disciples for whom Peter was usually the spokesman) where these treasures were. They had left boats, tax booths, homes, and even families to go on the road with Jesus. They wanted to know when they could expect to see the dividends from their divestment and investment. Jesus now told them.
Jesus made it clear that no one was the poorer for following him. Jesus then delineated what they should expect. Jesus informed them that they need not worry, for the promise he made to this young man applied equally to them.
In a nutshell, Jesus told the disciples that those who leave family and home in order to follow him will find themselves wonderfully recompensed with a really big home and with a really big family. Jesus used the exaggerated language of “a hundredfold” to describe these mega blessings.
Obviously, Jesus was not promising that those who follow him will receive one hundred mothers, sisters, brothers, fathers, children, and lands. No. What Jesus was saying is that, when we leave behind a life on our road to be with Jesus on his road, then we will be blessed with a large family of God—in this time—and, in the age to come, eternal life. That is, the life that the rich young ruler was hoping to inherit would be theirs. But what does Scripture mean when it speaks to “the age to come”?
Again, it did not mean “heaven” (as in the third heaven, the dwelling place of God). It referred to Messiah’s initiation of the new heavens and earth when he rose from the dead and lef the way in this new creation. Jesus was saying that the time was near and they needed to get ready.
One further point, with reference to v. 31: “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” If Peter was boasting, then this verse was designed to teach him and his fellow disciples that there is plenty of room for all who will come after Jesus. They should be prepared for some surprises along the way. We can learn from this that we should not be the judge of who has given up the most to follow Jesus. As when I was in school, we find ourselves surprised by the true star in the class.
There are believers persevering at great cost whose battles remain unknown to us. Peter needed to learn the lesson that his duty was to follow the Lord, to carry his cross, and not to be focused on what others are carrying (see John 21:15ff).
I was recently in Western Asia and witnessed first-hand the rewards Jesus promised. I watched with gratitude, and more than a little envy, as believers were gathered as a family of God enjoying the blessings of fellowship in a way that perhaps you and I often do not. These believers have suffered loss of relationship with their blood family. They have lost employment opportunities. One family was forced to leave their flat because of opposition from other tenants who oppose their faith in Jesus Christ. And they realise that they may eventually be asked to leave their new premises. And yet these believers had a love for one another that is almost tangible.
One church I was with, after a long service, including a ninety-minute sermon, all stayed afterwards to share food together. That lasted for over two hours. This is a weekly event. The pastor told me that his church values time together and that the opposition from the government and community has only made relationships between members stronger.
Sadly, we who live with more freedom often are guilty of looking at our watches, ticking our box, rushing out the door (making sure we avoid those we despise), and too often are not too excited about returning until next week. Perhaps a good dose of persecution would help us to appreciate who our true family is. No doubt, such persecution would reveal the family to which we truly belong.
After this time together, I saw some young men from the church standing outside and so I went out to chat with them. After a minute or two one of the men said, “Wouldn’t you like to go inside?” He then led our group back inside the house where the church meets. It only then dawned on me that, being a Westerner, I might draw unwanted attention to their gathering and he was politely saying, “This is unsafe; let’s find a better place to fellowship.” Again, they face pressures that we can only imagine. But the pressures are forging deep bonds of fellowship in Christ.
It is true, in one sense, that the rewards for faithfully following Jesus are out of this world. Yet, in another more literal sense, many, if not most, of our rewards can be enjoyed in the here and now—particularly the hundredfold blessing of a deep and even unending fellowship with those who also have denied themselves, taken up their cross, and followed Jesus. The local church is a reward that we should be increasingly learning to appreciate, and to appropriate, more and more.
If you don’t appreciate the church, why not? Is it possible that you are not exercising childlike faith? Is it plausible that you are not relying on Christ? Could it be that you are not denying self, taking up your cross, and following Christ?
We need to increasingly value the local church. I recently interacted with a man in another part of our country, who would like to move with his family to Alberton to join our church. He recently listened to a sermon preached from our pulpit about how Christians should approach the Lord’s Day. He told me afterwards that he feels cheated, having only learned about this now after so many years as a Christian.
We need to increasingly value the gathering of fellow cross-bearers, especially on the Lord’s Day. We need to look for God’s blessings in the already while not losing sight of even greater blessings in the not yet. What a gift and blessing the local church is—and should be!
Are you helping fellow church members to be blessed by their familial relationship with you? “Oh to dwell with the saints above—that will be glory! But to dwell with the saints below—well—that’s another story.” God forbid this should be the case. And if it is, then someone has gotten off the road of following Jesus.
Amid the temporal blessings, Jesus adds another one, one that will endure throughout eternity: “eternal life” (v. 30). Again, the age to come references the age commencing upon the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of the Lord Jesus. But what began then continues throughout eternity.
Jesus defined eternal life in John 17:1–3: “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”
Jesus promised those who walk the road with him that they would be rewarded with knowing God. And there is no treasure so great. As I explained previously, this was what the young man lacked: a true desire to know and to love God. He therefore went away sorrowful. And you?
A Rocky Road
Jesus is God who never lies. He always tells the truth, which means that he tells it like it is. He did so here when, in the midst of describing the believer’s reward of a hundredfold blessings, he included these important and transparent words: “with persecutions” (v. 30).
Jesus told Peter and the disciples—again—that to follow him will mean suffering. As William Lane highlights, “Jesus’ response defines Christian existence in terms of promise and persecution … blessedness and suffering…. The promise of eternal life in the age to come looks beyond the conflicts of history to the triumph assured through radical obedience to the will of God.”
We will want to remember that Mark was writing with a particular audience in mind: Christians in Rome who were at this point beginning to face some real difficulties as they faithfully followed Jesus.
Some would have experienced loss of relationships—even family relationships—loss of status, loss of material goods, perhaps even loss of health. They would need encouragement. The good news of Mark would serve this purpose.
Jesus was transparent about such suffering when he spoke the parable of the four soils (4:16–17). But such suffering is necessary if we will experience the joy of knowing God. Paul put it this way: “that I might know him, and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings” (Philippians 3:10). In other words, suffering for and with Christ and savouring Christ go hand in hand. So, in a real sense, persecution is part and parcel of the promised reward. But again, as Lane points out, in such suffering we are able to “look beyond the conflicts of history to the triumph” that lies ahead. Jesus did, “Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith who for the joy that was set before him, endured the cross, despising the shame and is set down at the right hand of God” (Hebrews 12:2).
Brothers and sisters, be prepared to suffer as you are on the road with Jesus. Be prepared to be pursued by the enemy. Be prepared to lose friends. Be prepared to lose relationships with family members. Be prepared to be mocked, criticised and ostracised. Be prepared to suffer even at the hands of those who profess to know and love Jesus. That is, be prepared to be persecuted by fellow church members.
I recently heard of a missionary in an Asian country who visited some the pastor of a church there and his family. He later learned that, after he left, radicals came in and assassinated the family. It was discovered that some disgruntled church members had outed them as Christian and out a target on their back.
But don’t let this knowledge knock you off the road with Jesus. Don’t let the rocky road knock you away from following Jesus. He is worthy and the reward is more than worth the pain.
Keeping the context in mind, is it not so sad the choice this young man had made?
A Resolute Road
After this encounter, and subsequent exhortation, they hit the road again, with Jesus leading the way. A familiar conversation unfolded:
And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.”
Notice that Jesus did not lag behind. Rather he boldly went before them. This is significant in the light of what had just occurred.
What a man! They must have been thinking hard. They knew that he knew trouble and intense suffering lay ahead, and yet he was on the road anyway. They saw that Jesus was resolute about this and it astonished them. It should astonish us also.
They were headed for Jerusalem and the disciples were aware of what lay ahead for Jesus, and possibly for them as well (see 8:31ff). For this reason, they were both “amazed” and “afraid.” And yet I love the fact that they still followed him. On the road with Jesus, they were afraid. And yet, on the road they remained. We must appreciate their resoluteness, at least at this point.
As they journeyed toward Jerusalem, Jesus for the third time told them of his impending betrayal, deliverance to the authorities, and death. His words here are more descriptive than ever before. Note the words, “mock,” “scourge,” “spit,” and “kill.” Jesus was aware of great suffering that he would endure in the very near future. But despite this, he set his face as a flint. He was committed to doing God’s will. He was committed to denying himself. He was committed to taking up his cross and dying for sinners.
We can put it this way: Jesus was resolute to take up his cross because he was sure of securing treasure in heaven. He was sure of his reward for leaving his home and his Father. He was assured of all this because he was sure of his resurrection. Without the resurrection, the road of following Jesus would lead nowhere. Paul made this clear when he said that if Jesus did not rise from the dead then our faith is vain and we who trust him are of all men most miserable (1 Corinthians 15:12–19).
Let me put that in the context of this chapter: If we come to Jesus in humble dependence, and yet he did not rise from the dead, we are fools. If Jesus did not rise from the dead, we should eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die with no hope of a future.
But Jesus did rise! Therefore we, like him, must face life with a resolute confidence about our future reward.
The road we are on as we follow Jesus does lead somewhere glorious. It leads to a family that is being formed by grace, sustained by grace, and conformed by grace to one day be glorified by grace.
The road we are on leads to a promised new heaven and new earth, where righteousness dwells and where sin and sickness and sorrow will be no more.
Finally, the road we are on leads to a lot of surprises, as we surmise from Jesus words of v. 31: “But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” I’ve mentioned this earlier, but we need to revisit these important words.
In the overall context “The rich man might be ‘first’ in this world, but the disciples who had given up all to follow Jesus would be first in the world to come, where the rich man would be last” (Cole). It is quite possible that, with reference to Peter’s statement, “the disciples (Peter is their spokesman) were still thinking in terms of material rather than spiritual values” (Wessel). Jesus then described the relational and spiritual blessings (which includes physical blessings) that accompany those who walk on the road following him. But if they did have a materialistic mindset, they would also have had the worldly mindset that position, possessions, prestige and status is important. Jesus’ words would have clobbered such a worldview.
As we are on the road with Jesus, our worldview undergoes a radical shift and status becomes less important to us. What does matter is a submissive spirit to our Master. It seems that Jesus is saying that those who are the most dependant upon him are the ones closest to him. In this sense, the last will be first. As we will see in our next study, we need to be done with any sense of one-upmanship if we will stay on the road with Jesus. Rather, we must be committed to leaving all to follow him and focus fully on simply staying on the road with him. As we focus on him, we will have little need or inclination to focus competitively on another. And as we continue to do so, we will be appreciating one another in our large and growing family. This is a major point of this passage—one we need to pay heed to.
In closing, let’s focus on the ultimate lesson of this entire passage: the issue of substitution. James Edwards has written, “Jesus offers himself as a substitute for the man’s possessions.” Think about that. This is precisely what he did. Jesus was saying, “I am worth far more than all that you are clinging to. I am worth far more than anything you are trusting in. I can more than replace anything you think is so important.” How true!
But this substitution is grounded in the substitution that Jesus refers to in vv. 32–34. The cross to which this road leads is the only way that Jesus can be the substitution that he promised to this rich young ruler, and to the disciples, and to all who will answer his call.
By dying on the cross, Jesus became a substitute for all who will trust him like a little child. Jesus lived a perfectly sinless life so that he could suffer God’s wrath for sinners like you and I. By doing so God is justified in forgiving the sins of everyone who trusts in Jesus Christ alone. And we should trust him because, by his resurrection from the dead, he has proven that he is God’s appointed and accepted Saviour of the world.
We are now confronted with the same choice as this young man: Will we humble ourselves and trust Jesus Christ with all that we have? If we do trust him, we will find ourselves continually on the road with Jesus. That road will be radical, rocky, and yet rewarding. May God give us grace to be resolute in our obedience.