October 15, 2000

Mark 10:17-31

As Jesus was walking down a road, a man ran up to him, He knelt down, and asked, "Good teacher, what can I do to have eternal life?"

Jesus replied, Why do you call me good? Only God is good. You know the commandments. 'Do not murder. Be faithful in marriage. Do not steal. Do not tell lies about others. Do not cheat. Respect your father and mother.'"

The man answered, "Teacher, I have obeyed all these commandments since I was a young man."

Jesus looked closely at the man. He liked him and said, "There's one thing you still need to do. Go sell everything you own. Give the money tot he poor, and you will have riches in heaven. Then come with me."

When the man heard Jesus say this, he went away gloomy and sad because he was very rich.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "It's hard for rich people to get into God's kingdom!" The disciples were shocked to hear this. So Jesus told them again, "It's terribly hard to get into God's kingdom! In fact, it's easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to get into God's kingdom."

Jesus' disciples were even more amazed. They asked each other, "How can anyone ever be saved?"

Jesus looked at them and said, "There are some things that people cannot do, but God can do anything."

Peter replied, "Remember, we left everything to be your followers!"

Jesus told him: "You can be sure that anyone who gives up home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or land for me and for the good news will be rewarded. In this world they will be given a hundred times as many houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and pieces of land, though they will also be mistreated. And in the world to come, they will have eternal life. But many who are now first will be last, and many who are now last will be first.


1. Since the last line is so dramatic we might as well start at the end with first becoming last and vice versa. Jesus seems to use a different way of measuring the meaning of life than do the rich or the disciples. This other way of measuring is based on GOD's ability to do the impossible. So, knowing the rich man had a very difficult road to go down, Jesus did not automatically assign him to camel status before a needle. Jesus talks and teaches one who has three strikes against him. Jesus liked him and held him before the ONE who can do the impossible -- see him through the needle's eye. [there was an old sci-fi story about Costain's Needle which has some overtones to this]

2. As with all of Jesus' insights that we struggle with because they run counter to what we have learned from our culture and religious heritage, the image behind it all is the great mercy of GOD for whom nothing is impossible. Rejoice.

3. So, having worked our way backward, a question must be raised regarding what "command" we have been staking our life on. It is probably the unseen command which will trip us up. The rich man simply did not have the command about selling on his radar screen. When it came out of the blue he had no way of evaluating it, much less following. Perhaps we need to always leave space for the "Unknown Commandment."

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