Mark 10: 17 – 31 The rich and the kingdom of God

Mark 10: 17 – 31 The rich and the kingdom of God

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?’

‘Why do you call me good,’ Jesus answered. ‘No one is good – except God alone. 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, honour your father and mother.” ’

‘Teacher,’ he declared, ‘all these I have kept since I was a boy.’

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.’

At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad because he had great wealth.

Jesus looked round 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.’

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.

Then Peter spoke up, ‘We have left everything to follow you!’

‘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.’

*       *       *

“Then Peter spoke up, ‘We have left everything to follow you!’ ”

This implies the question, “Are we going to find it worthwhile following you?”

The disciples have come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, but they are still thinking of him in earthly terms, as a conquering king who will drive out the Romans, re-establish the kingdom of Israel in a purified form, and rule in glory. His supporters will surely be rewarded – won’t they?

And here’s Jesus telling them how hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of heaven!

In answer to Peter’s question, what does Jesus promise them?

In this life he promises them homes, people to love and for them to love, the security of a family and a source of food (the fields), although he warns them that they will also suffer persecution. In the world to come, he promises them eternal life.

Notice that he certainly doesn’t promise them worldly riches and power.

And this is enough to satisfy the disciples. They stay with Jesus as he sets his face towards Jerusalem and the cross. We see here how deeply they trusted him. Without the hope of earthly riches for their support, the disciples follow Jesus. This is truly faith in action.

Let’s look back now at the rest of 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?’

The man ran up; he was eager for the message of Jesus.

He fell on his knees before Jesus; although he was very wealthy, he humbled himself in public. He really wanted Jesus’ teaching.

Jesus referred him to the commandments, and the man said he’d kept them since he was a boy. Yet here he was, kneeling before Jesus. He was aware that his life was missing something vital.

Mark tells us that Jesus looked at him and loved him. He could see the hunger and thirst for righteousness in the man’s face.

Jesus says this to 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.’

I expect there was a moment of stunned silence after Jesus said that.

“ ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’

At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad because he had great wealth.”

Jesus uses this moment to teach about the danger of wealth. He says ‘How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!’, and ‘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.’

And it is. Wealth tempts you to trust it, rather than God. It tempts you to feel you are better than other people, which hinders you from loving them. It tempts your life’s focus away from God and towards the pleasures of the world. It tempted people in Jesus’ day, and it tempts people now. It tempts me.

But the reason why the gospel writer linked this story of the rich man with that of the disciples seeking reassurance is that it also teaches about faith. The rich man fled when he realised what was being asked of him. He lacked the faith to let go of his earthly security. He had the chance to join Jesus’ disciples but he didn’t take it.

The disciples, on the other hand, learned that they weren’t going to receive riches and power, but went with Jesus anyway – out of faith – out of love – out of a growing realisation of who he truly was.

Prayer

Heavenly Father

I confess that I have more money than I need to live on. Help me to gradually replace my trust in what that money can buy with trust in you.

In Jesus’ name, Amen

Published by pennygadd51

I write. I've written many pieces of flash fiction, dozens of short stories and two novels, with a third in progress.

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