Mark:  Why the Gospel is good news

Week 9:  Obstacles to faith.  Mark 10:13-31

Sermon:  Sun 6th March 2016
Opening Discussion Questions
What do you find helps/hinders you as you seek to follow Jesus?
If you could change one thing in your life to help you get closer to Jesus, what would it be?
Recap the situation
Back in Mark 8 we passed the pivotal point of Mark’s gospel, with Peter’s confession of Jesus as Messiah (8:29).  Since then Jesus has begun to speak frankly to his disciples about his impending death (8:31; 9:9, 31), although they still do not fully understand (8:32; 9:10, 32).  To go after Jesus will mean following in his footsteps, denying self, taking up one’s cross and following him (8:34).  In chapter 9, at the transfiguration, we see Jesus confirmed as God’s son in an episode reminiscent of Moses on Mt Sinai (see Exodus 34) and with some parallels to Jesus’ own baptism (cf Mark 1:9-11).  Through the rest of chapter 9 we see repeatedly how the disciples still don’t understand what Jesus is going to do, nor what it means to follow him.  At the end of the chapter, Jesus begins explicitly to teach them what the path of discipleship, of following, should look like (9:42-50).  That teaching on discipleship continues with a specific application to marriage and divorce (10:1-12), leading into our passage today.
Read Mark 10:13-16
What was the significance of Jesus’ touch (v13)?  See e.g. 1:41, 3:10, 5:24-34, 6:56, 7:33, 8:22
Why do you think the disciples rebuked the people who brought children to Jesus (v13)?
What might it mean to “receive the kingdom of God like a little child” (v15)?
What gets in the way of a childlike seeking after the kingdom today?  Speak personally as well as generically.
The emphasis in these verses is on being, rather than doing.  This is in stark contrast to the approach of the man in our next section, who begins by asking “What must I do?”
Read Mark 10:17-31
Please quash any lingering thought that the “camel going through the eye of the needle” (v25) bears reference to some kind of gate in the city.  Scholars (i.e. people who know these things) have generally rejected that theory, the phrase seems to be a contemporary idiom meant to imply something impossible to achieve (as demonstrated in context by Jesus’ explanation in v27).
The question and answer interaction in v26-27 seems to be the hook on which this passage hangs: no person can save themselves, but God can do all things.
The man goes away sad because he had great wealth, and was not prepared to give it up in order to follow Jesus.  Why is wealth such an obstacle to faith?
Do you think Jesus calls us to deal with our wealth in the same way as he calls the man in v21?  Why (not)?
Since it is so hard for the rich to enter the kingdom of God (v23), do you think we might be better equipped to follow Jesus if we were not so well off?
How do you understand v28-31 working out in practice?  Do these verses have any impact on your answer to the previous question?
What do v26-27 teach us about assurance and salvation?  (If salvation relied on our efforts, how secure would it be?)
Look back over the whole passage.  Contrast the approach of the children and the approach of the man.  Jesus commends those who are being like the children, not doing like the man.  Specifically, he calls for people to trust in God’s hand for salvation.
Closing applications
Are there any areas of life in which our doing is drawing us away from Jesus?
What might it look like if we were more focused on being like a child in those situations?
How is wealth making it difficult for us to follow Jesus?
What changes is Jesus challenging us to make?
How can we keep our focus on God’s work in saving us, and learn not to rely on our own efforts?
Are you enjoying the blessings promised by Jesus in v29-31?  If so, thank him for them.  If not, do you think you are holding onto anything that Jesus would rather you let go?

Jon Prior, 24/02/2016