The Gospel of Mark

Mark - Lesson 10D

Chapter 10:23-31

Next lesson

  • Last time we were together, Jesus encountered a young ruler, potentially a Sanhedrin official.

    • And it was in that encounter that this ruler sought out how he might inherit eternal life.

      • He assumed that the means in which he would inherit eternal life would be through and by his own sense of merit and wealth.

      • He saw his work, wealth and accomplishments as a means to qualify him for the Kingdom (eternal life).

    • However, Jesus informs him, in a few short words, that the ruler’s standard of “moral” goodness or intrinsic good, was not that of the Father’s standard.

      • For to understand who is truly good agathos in the sense of true holiness, one must look no further that Jesus Himself (The God-man).

    • Unfortunately, because the ruler’s affections were more set on his accomplishments rather than the availability of the true offer of salvation, in the Person of Christ, he missed the Kingdom; he missed eternal life.

      • The reality was that the rich young ruler placed his faith in the wrong thing instead of the right Person.

      • He placed his trust in his own ability, wealth, and status, and in doing so, walked away from the only means of salvation, found in the Person of Christ.

    • Our trust can only be placed in God’s means and Person, by which Salvation is freely given and made available.

      • It was at this point that we saw that salvation is not a means of man’s attempts at striving to be “morally good” in an effort to gain God’s attention.

      • Rather, it is God’s work alone that makes available the great gift of salvation.

      • Not only is salvation accomplished by God, but it is completely sustained by God, through the finished work of Christ on the cross.

    • Our attempts at work-based, or merit-based salvation is simply man’s attempt at striving for the wind.

      • The reality is, we are incapable of attaining this glorious grace gift in and of ourselves.

      • And as we will see tonight, the task that is impossible for man is completely possible for God because it was God’s plan to begin with.

    • Tonight, we find ourselves in a bit of a transitory moment.

      • We pick up at the point after the rich young ruler walks away sad and depressed because of his unwillingness to transfer trust from self to the Savior.

      • It is here that Jesus will begin a rather sobering teaching moment for the disciples.

      • This ultimately revealing just how much more learning and growth the disciples needed before Jesus’ departure.

    • If I were to offer a flow of thought or outline for tonight, we will see the following things:

      • 1. A Difficult Truth (v.23-25)

      • 2. A Startling Reality (v.26-27)

      • 3. A Pressing Question (v.28)

      • 4. A Present Cost for an Eternal reward (v.29-31)

    • If I were to put a tag on tonight’s text, it would simply be: “Through the Eye of the Needle”.

      • With that being said, I invite you to open your bibles and meet me in Mark 10:23-31 for the reading of God’s Holy word.

Mark 10:23 And Jesus, looking around, *said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” 
Mark 10:24 The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus *answered again and *said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 
Mark 10:25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 
Mark 10:26 They were even more astonished and said to Him, “Then who can be saved?” 
Mark 10:27 Looking at them, Jesus *said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”
Mark 10:28 Peter began to say to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You.” 
Mark 10:29 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 farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, 
Mark 10:30 but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. 
Mark 10:31 But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.”
  • Let’s Pray.

Mark 10:23 And Jesus, looking around, *said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” 
Mark 10:24 The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus *answered again and *said to them, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 
Mark 10:25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
  • It is after the young ruler turns away from the offer of salvation because of trusting in his wealth, that Jesus turns toward His disciples to address the heart issue at hand.

    • It’s almost as if Jesus holds up His hands in the direction of the young ruler as he is walking away to address the point in He will make shortly.

      • And Jesus’ point to the disciples is that there is difficulty for those seeking the Kingdom whose trust are in things rather than the transcendent one – God Himself.

    • In other words, the unwillingness to surrender to the things of this world for the sake of the next, only leads to an eternity apart from God.

      • Psalm 52:5-7 speaks to this reality of the hold that possessions and riches have on a person and the devastation it can cause.

      • Check out the text regarding David’s contemplative prayer regarding King Saul’s boasting in His wickedness and trusting in earthly riches.

Psalm 52:5 But God will break you down forever;
He will snatch you up and tear you away from your tent,
And uproot you from the land of the living. Selah.
Psalm 52:6 The righteous will see and fear,
And will laugh at him, saying,
Psalm 52:7 “Behold, the man who would not make God his refuge,
But trusted in the abundance of his riches
And was strong in his evil desire.”
  • Through David’s prayer of contemplation, he mentions that Saul’s downfall was rooted in placing trust in his own sources of strength rather than the God who placed him as King.

    • And this reality sets a warning for us all in that there is a natural tendency to misplace our trust in things other than God Himself.

    • And that is due to the fact that we naturally seek refuge in our own ability because of the wickedness of our sin nature.

    • The reality is there is no amount of riches, status, or power that will aid a person into the Kingdom of God (eternal life), but God.

    • And it is this truth that Jesus is pointing to which was quite unorthodox for the people in that day.

      • I mention this because the text tells us in verse 24 that the disciples were amazed by this statement.

    • The question might arise at this point: “What would cause the disciples to be in awe or wonder at Jesus’ statement?”

      • I pose this question because Mark finds it necessary to repeat Jesus’ statement differently, yet with the same message at hand.

    • With the Pharisaical teachings of that day, it was believed that one’s wealth was an indication of God’s favor upon that person.

      • In fact the very opposite of that point would be true as well according to Pharisaical teaching.

      • That if one was poor, it was a sign of God’s displeasure and judgement.

    • As one could imagine, hearing this type of teaching would have caused one to pursue wealth by “any means necessary” all for the sake of being seen as favored by God.

      • If you aren’t seeing it by now, that very teaching is not far removed from the Prosperity Gospel movement that we see today. (Rooted in a Pharisaic heart)

      • That if someone is not wealthy or healthy enough, they didn’t have enough faith for what the pastor was praying for over them.

      • Within these groups, the name of Jesus is used more as a key word to (mystically) pull on the hands of God to act in their favor, rather than Christ being the means in which our trust should be placed in no matter the outcome.

    • Friends, not only is the Prosperity Gospel prostituting the Gospel of Jesus, but it is absolutely unbiblical and contrary to what Jesus taught.

      • So it is this Pharisaical teaching of wealth, being tied to God’s favor, that the disciples have built their theology upon.

      • But now, with what Jesus has just pointed out to them witnessing the rich young ruler, it has shaken the very belief structure they grew up on.

    • And what we are able to see is Jesus addressing their spiritual immaturity in verse 24b. Notice, the text mentions, “Jesus answered them again.”

      • Within the Greek language, it is structured in a way to suggest that Jesus is responding to an “unspoken shock”.

    • As Jesus proceeds to tell them the statement again, He addresses them as “Children”.

      • This word “children” in Greek is teknon and it is the only place, in the Gospels, that Jesus addresses the disciples as such.

    • And as you may have surmised, His reasoning for calling them children stems from their lack or maturity and this will have to be flushed out.

      • However, what I love about Jesus is that although He refers to their immaturity, the term teknon is used in the sense of endearment.

      • Simply put, Jesus is committed to moving these men from spiritual immaturity to spiritual maturity.

      • And we should thank God that by God’s Spirit today, He is doing the same for us.

    • It is in verse 25b that Jesus provides a hyperbolic illustration describing the difficulty (not impossibility) of the rich entering the Kingdom (eternal life).

      • He states that “It is easier for a camel to enter the into eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God.”

      • One intriguing detail to note from Rabbinic teaching in that day is that the rabbis pictured an elephant as “passing through the needle” where Jesus uses a camel.

      • Jesus’ use of this Jewish proverb becomes clear in a very literal sense, especially after discovering the background we have just covered.

    • The point is made that: The efforts of the rich to enter the Kingdom in their own efforts and wealth becomes an impossible task.

      • Indeed, there is no way in which a camel, the largest animal in Palestine in that day, could get through the eye of a needle.

    • And to further push the illustration, the word in Greek for “needle” is raphis.

      • This type of needle described in Mark’s gospel was that of a sewing needle.

      • Therefore, it graphically emphasizes the point from earlier and that is the reality that man’s efforts in entering the Kingdom on our terms is impossible no matter how much we try.

    • The only way for one to inherit eternal life is solely based upon God’s work and means.

      • And in this case, God’s value system requires that of complete holiness and that is accomplished solely through the Person of Jesus Christ.

      • Therefore, for one to receive salvation there would need to be an abandonment of one’s value system for that of God’s value system.

      • Let’s keep moving. Check out in verse 26-27 the disciples’ shock and surprise and Jesus’ response to them.

Mark 10:26 They were even more astonished and said to Him, “Then who can be saved?” 
Mark 10:27 Looking at them, Jesus *said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”
  • It is after Jesus speaks to the impossibility of prosperity and possessions as a means of access to the Kingdom, that the disciples become “even more astonished”.

    • Don’t miss the expression here. “Even more astonished” in Greek means that the twelve were beside themselves.

      • In other words, everything that the disciples had been taught through rabbinical teaching regarding the Kingdom and salvation was based upon a value system of trust in works and not trust in God.

    • As we discussed earlier, wealth and prominence during that day was a sign of God’s favor and blessing in the eyes of society.

      • And the defense of this position by the rabbis would often point to the examples of the wealth of men such as Abraham and Job, to name a few.

    • But as we look throughout the Old Testament regarding wealth, these men’s trust and hope rested not in what they had, but in who they had – Yahweh.

      • For even Job mentions in Job 42:2 the following statement recognizing God’s Sovereignty in the midst of his physical ailments and loss.

      • Check out the text:

Job 42:2 “I know that You can do all things,
And that no plan is impossible for You.
    • To make it plain: Job recognized that God is in complete control no matter what and that nothing is impossible for Him to do.

    • Friends, Jesus is completely shattering the very value system that the disciples have held onto for years.

      • And perhaps this was a root issue from the disciples’ previous in-fighting regarding who would be greatest in the Kingdom.

    • So when this transcendental truth was re-stated by Jesus and it sank into their minds, they asked Jesus collectively, “Then who can be saved?”

      • Can you hear this sense of desperation in their question?

      • For a moment, it seems as if they feel as though: “What else is there for us to do if the means of works and wealth is not the way?”

    • If we were to put the truth of the text up to ourselves, pre-salvation, this is the dilemma in which many faced in coming to faith in Jesus.

      • Everyone attempting to attain salvation by their own way and means only to realize that their attempts would always fall short.

      • The only way in which one comes to true life (eternally) is by placing full trust in a person and not possessions and prominence.

    • It is to this point that Jesus states in verse 27 that “the way to eternal life is impossible for man, but not with God, for all things are possible with God.”

      • With this new perspective now in the minds of the disciples, Peter, on behalf of the 12, asks an anticipatory question regarding the many things the disciples have left for the sake of following Christ.

      • Check out verse 28.

Mark 10:28 Peter began to say to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You.” 
  • It’s at this point that Peter speaks up to inquire how the many things they have given up would translate to their reward in the Kingdom.

    • This matter of cost now to benefit in the Kingdom to come is confirmed in Matthew 19:27 where Matthew provides a bit more detail. (We will read this shortly)

      • It is in Matthew’s account that Peter asks Jesus, since the twelve had left everything to follow Him, what would there be for them in the Kingdom?

    • It’s as if to say: “The rich young ruler had much and wasn’t willing to count the cost, yet we have given up much in an effort to follow You, Jesus.”

      • In other words, “Jesus, how will this temporary cost play out for us regarding the eternal rewards to come?”

      • See, at the core, this question that Peter asked was brutally honest.

    • This question that is being asked is “How does the Kingdom economy work?”

      • The disciples wanted to know how their earthly loss, in the here and now, would fare in the “Kingdom economy”, if you will.

      • So, Jesus provides them the answer in which they have been anticipating after having their value system completely checked by Jesus.

    • However, as Jesus prepares to share with them this Profit/loss statement, it comes with the hard reality of what following Jesus and gaining eternal rewards in the Kingdom will cost them now. (Cost of Discipleship)

      • For it will be in taking on much loss and persecution now that would lead them to attain such great responsibility and opportunity in the Kingdom.

      • Check out the last three verses for tonight, verses 29-31.

Mark 10:29 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 farms, for My sake and for the gospel’s sake, 
Mark 10:30 but that he will receive a hundred times as much now in the present age, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and farms, along with persecutions; and in the age to come, eternal life. 
Mark 10:31 But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.”
  • So Jesus provides the disciples with a statement that they have indeed counted the cost and because of that there will be much blessing to gain both now and in the life to come.

    • Mark's gospel in particular, provides a list of physical loss (for the sake of Christ) and spiritual gain (being in Christ).

      • And what this statement conveys is a holistic picture of the cost of following Jesus.

      • We will view this list later in tonight’s teaching.

    • The reality is, when the disciples accepted the call to follow Christ they left everything.

      • Some left their families, others lucrative careers, and others land and the like.

      • I would like to note that this was not in the sense of abandonment, but rather a departure for a period of time.

      • All of this loss for the sake of following a carpenter who they would come to fully realize was indeed "Messiah", the Christ.

    • This cost was something to be considered, yet it would not be overlooked by God.

      • We see from this list in Mark 10:30 that with this temporal cost would come great reward.

      • However, to receive these eternal benefits/rewards, we would have to endure well now and serve well now, while following Jesus until our (resurrection) and His Second Coming to the earth.

    • In Matthew's account, Jesus provides the twelve with what they will gain in the Kingdom to come.

      • Turn with me to Matthew 19:28-29.

Matthew 19:28 And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 
Matthew 19:29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life.
  • Jesus mentions that the Apostles’ reward would indeed come, but not in this life.

    • This reward system in the Kingdom as Jesus mentions, is two-fold.

    • The first phase of the reward system is "paid out" in the form of privilege or authority in the Kingdom government for them.

      • Remember, within scripture, upon Jesus’ return to earth (Second Coming), the bible states that He will establish a government to rule all nations in the earth in the Millennium Kingdom.

      • To see what that means, turn with me quickly to Isaiah 9:6-7.

Isaiah 9:6  For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us;
And the government will rest on His shoulders;
And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.
Isaiah 9:7 There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace,
On the throne of David and over his kingdom,
To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness
From then on and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this.
  • So scripture tells us that the Lord will rule all nations from Jerusalem in perfect power and rule.

    • And with Jesus ruling in the Messianic Kingdom, Matthew's gospel mentions that the apostles will receive special positions in the Kingdom.

    • Again, notice the “time-stamp”. In Matthew 19:28, Jesus uses the term "regeneration".

    • That term in greek, palingenesis (pal-e-inasia) is directly connected to the term “rebirth” in the sense of the renewing of the world or the coming of the Messianic Kingdom.

    • And within the Messianic Kingdom, the Apostles will rule over the 12 tribes of Israel in government positions. (These positions reserved for the Apostles)

      • What a privilege this reward will be for them (in hindsight), especially knowing the great cost they considered in following Jesus and after His death!

    • The second half of this reward system deals with what earthly sacrifices are made now, in serving Jesus.

      • In other words, the earthly loss now results in greater eternal gains in the future!

    • So Jesus' point in verses 29-30 is that loss here, now, is only temporary when you consider God’s grand redemptive picture in full.

      • Therefore, in the words of Pastor Stephen Armstrong, we must have eyes for eternity.

    • The difficulty that we face as believers in the here and now is that we are citizens of a Kingdom that is not yet seen while at the same time being bombarded with the worldly treasures that are enticing and persecution that is oppressive.

      • But whatever difficulties come, we are called to serve Him knowing that our service to Him in the midst of persecution, results in a glorious reward in the Kingdom to come.

      • This concept of Kingdom value is completely counter-cultural to the world and yet scripture prioritizes the intent of using what the world deems as foolish to confuse the wise.

      • Really quickly, check out how Paul considers this counter-cultural thought of weakness as strength. Turn with me to 2 Corinthians 12:10.

2 Corinthians 12:10 Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
  • So, as Jesus addresses Peter’s statement regarding the twelve, having given up everything, He provides a list of losses and gains.

    • And in that list in verses 29 and 30, you may notice that "Father" is missing in verse 30. The question becomes why?

    • I want to show us a graphic on what's happening here.

  • What Mark's gospel shows us is, the loss that we experience in earthly possessions is greatly replaced with greater spiritual things (i.e spiritual brothers and sisters in Christ).  (Mark 3:34-35, Acts 2:41-47, 1 Timothy 5:1-2)

    • And even if coming to faith in Christ causes earthly alienation from your earthly relatives, God who is rich in mercy has and will replace what was lost, and in turn, by receiving Him, He becomes your Heavenly Father.

    • I remember when my wife and I got married, it was a huge ordeal for her side of the family because they were all Jehovahs Witnesses.

      • When my wife came to faith at 19 she was estranged by her parents and at the age of 21 excommunicated from her family.

      • So during her growth in Christ, the church community and church friends became that family for her.

    • The cost of following Jesus comes with great sacrifice, yet Jesus isn't asking you to do something He was unwilling to do.

      • He took on our grief, sin, and shame so that we may put on His righteousness!

      • So if it means I lose some things that "seem" valuable according to the world's standards, then it’s worth letting go to gain all we need in Christ.

    • Lastly in verse 31, Jesus ends by saying, "But many who are first will be last, and the last, first.”

      • What a way to wrap up the heavy teaching after the disciples' value-system is completely destroyed before their very eyes.

      • Jesus uses this statement as a means to conclude His response to the group.

    • Remember, Peter and the disciples are trying to make sense of Jesus' standard of entering the Kingdom versus what they have been taught. (Conflict of Values)

      • Therefore, Jesus sums up the point: That to gain in this world leads one to miss out on the opportunity to gain in the end.

    • Now please hear what I am not saying. I am not saying that for those who are wealthy or own their own business, that their pursuit of running a successful business is wrong.

      • What I am saying is when we put our trust and hope in these things (businesses, wealth, power, status, influence) it undermines the One in whom we have our refuge and trust in – and that is Jesus Christ.

      • It is God who must be the source of your joy and life – not money, not power, not influence, not status, but God.

      • For anything that is considered your source of joy and contentment outside of Christ, is no joy at all.

      • Check out what Paul says regarding money and wealth in the world. Turn with me to 1 Timothy 6:17:

1 Timothy 6:17  Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.
  • If you are one in whom God has blessed with great wealth and you are a believer in Christ, because you know where your help comes from, your outlook on giving and service to those around you look different from those who are closed-handed and whose trust in not in God.

    • When our value-systems become Christ centered rather than self-centered, it brings into focus our understanding of God’s value-system.

    • When we abandon trusting in ourselves for trusting in God’s means of Salvation, not only is salvation given, but as we serve well according to His purposes, and not our own, He credits our eternal account with rewards.

      • The first gain is eternal life (priority) and the second is that of eternal rewards to your account (service for the sake of Christ).

      • So it seems that the true biblical prosperity teaching is this: That if you sacrifice now, you will prosper later.

    • Friends, counting the cost to follow Jesus and serving Christ and His purposes now will lead to greater reward in the Kingdom to come.

      • At the university, I sang in a Christian Choir and the bridge of one of the songs we sang had the following lyrics:

You can have this whole world
But I’ll take Jesus for mine.
  • For believers, there is a choice to be made here and the result of your choice renders your rewards in the Kingdom to come.

    • There are many believers today giving up the many things the Lord has in store for them, all because they are unwilling to let go of this world's value-system in an effort to embrace God's Kingdom values.

    • Friends we must embrace the reality that with following Christ will come temporary cost in this life, and in order to attain eternal life the only way in is through the Son.

    • For some, it may require examining the motives for your pursuit of wealth and opportunities.

      • For others it may render being exiled from family members because they refuse to associate with someone following Jesus Christ.

      • Persecution for following Christ is not something we can escape, but the promise in the end is that it is worth it.

      • As Paul stated in 2 Timothy 3:12:

2 Timothy 3:12 Indeed, all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.
  • Friends, may I encourage us all tonight by saying, only what you do for Christ will last.

    • As we serve the purposes of Christ in this life, know that this life is simply preparation for the next.

    • Let’s Pray.



  • James A. Brooks, Mark, vol. 23, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1991), 163.

  • R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary on the Greek Text, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Carlisle: W.B. Eerdmans; Paternoster Press, 2002), 404.

  • Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Needle,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 1535.

  • S. C. Barton, Discipleship, 103–7, finds in this pericope the view that early Christianity was ‘a social world in the making’, and suggests that it brings to a culmination the perspective implied throughout 10:1–27, that Jesus ‘gives instruction in three areas crucial for constructing and maintaining an alternative social world: marriage rules, the place of children and the control of property’. He adds, however, the important qualification that ‘What is proposed is not an alternative social pattern to replace the household …, but alternative households to compensate (and more so) for those left behind’ (107).