October 12, 2003

Mark 10:17-31

As [Jesus] went out into the street, a man came running up, greeted him with great reverence, and asked, "Good Teacher, what must I do to get eternal life?"

Jesus said, "Why are you calling me good? No one is good, only God. You know the commandments: Don't murder, don't commit adultery, don't steal, don't lie, don't cheat, honor your father and mother."

He said, "Teacher, I have ­ from my youth ­ kept them all!"

Jesus looked at him hard in the eye ­ and loved him! He said, "There's one thing left: Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth. And come follow me."

The man's face clouded over. This was the last thing he expected to hear, and he walked off with a heavy heart. He was holding on tight to a lot of things and not about to let go.

Looking at his disciples, Jesus said, "Do you have any idea how difficult it is for people who 'have it all' to enter God's kingdom?" The disciples couldn't believe what they were hearing, but Jesus kept on: "You can't imagine how difficult. I'd say it's easier for a camel to go through a needle's eye than for the rich to get into God's kingdom."

That set the disciples back on their heels. "Then who has any chance at all?" they asked.

Jesus was blunt: "No chance at all if you think you can pull it off by yourself. Every chance in the world if you let God do it."

Peter tried another angle: "We left everything and followed you."

Jesus said, "Mark my words, no one who sacrifices house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, land ­ whatever ­ because of me and the Message will lose out. They'll get it all back, but multiplied many times in homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and land ­ but also in troubles. And then the bonus of eternal life! This is once again the Great Reversal: Many who are first will end up last, and the last first."

The Message


1. The "commandments" noted are the communal ones. Basically the don'ts. It is relatively easy to stay away from the excesses of the don'ts and to feel as though one has kept them well. I only got angry, I didn't hit them. I only hit them, I didn't wound them. I only wounded them, I didn't kill them. I only killed them, I didn't destroy their soul. Etc.

It is much harder to keep the positive "commandments", particularly the ones related to GOD. It is at this point that the problem comes. To be proactive, caring for the poor and in other ways follow GOD, is more than can be borne.

What a surprise, gentle Jesus, meek and mild, got political. He was suppose to confirm my self-perceived goodness not set me to backtrack all I've come to. All I wanted to do was grease Jesus' palm with a little vigorish. His terms are outrageous.

2. First Jesus disappoints a seeker then he disappoints the disciples. You'd think he would get it right and understand our limits and give us a break. All we want is a break. Who could do more than we who follow so carefully? After all. Jesus said to sell and give everything and we have left everything and we have left everything.

Well, apparently they hadn't left it because it comes back around as, "I'm gonna get me mine and more by doing this leaving thing." But they hadn't sold their everything and given away the proceeds. They had only left it and could go back and pick it up again. Ain't language subtle.

3. So you want something greater, it will come with something troublesome as well. There is no free lunch here. Those who sell and give will be blessed ahead of those who bargain and keep. Selling and giving is difficult, those who bargain and keep will also be received (just later). So why go to all that trouble? Because Jesus Christ and the Message are, in and of themselves, worth it. The intrinsic values they reveal do make a difference.