In our story today, we read of a young rich man who came running to Jesus and fell on his feet. This was unusual in two ways: one, the rich men never ran and two, a rich man would not fall down at the feet of a poor person (Jesus owned nothing according to the standards of the world). When he comes, he uses flattering words by calling Jesus “good teacher”: which Jesus did not feed into but directed the title to the right place – God. We are not sure why he called Jesus “good teacher” but Jesus directed that honor of being good to God himself. His question was what he needed to do to inherit the eternal kingdom. His thought that was what he thought he needed: an action that would not affect what he owned.
When the man inquired as to what it would take to inherit the kingdom of God, Jesus reminded him of the commandments and, sure enough, he kept these commandments from when he was a small boy. We have to remind ourselves that no action, other than terms of ‘do not’ were required. But Jesus, looking at him as the Bible says, liked him. Jesus was inviting this man to the path of action where he did something with what he had. This man, for sure, had never stolen or committed a crime but one thing he could no compel himself to do was be positive and sacrificially generous.
The next answer from Jesus truly shocked him for Jesus said to him, “God, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, then you have treasure in heaven. And come and follow me” (mark 10:21b). The word that is used for money here is chremata which is defined by Aristotle as, “All those things of which the value is measure by coinage.” (William Barclay: The Gospel of Mark, p. 286).
In response we are invited to three important actions that will allow us to attain eternal life. The disciples were shocked by Jesus’ answers to the rich man; even more so, when Jesus talked about entering the Kingdom of God by comparing it with a camel going through the eye of the needle. This is where the disciples found out that entering into eternal life was an impossible mission but Jesus reminds them of this, “It is impossible with human beings, but not with God. All things are possible for God” (Mark 10:27b). We have to believe that Jesus was at this time wanting to bring an important message to his listeners. We now need to unpack this statement about what we need to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus offers three ways to resolve this:
- Sell what he owned: The Bible tells us that he owned a lot of property and he was not willing to give it up and distribute his wealth. Last week we learned about Job who was a rich man, yet he was upright before God. In a sense, from this story, Jesus is not condemning the rich people or the wealthy ones but rather telling them that the riches should enable them to be a blessing to the less fortunate. The rich man may have also forgotten that none of the material things that we possess will be needed in heaven. Our question to us this morning would be, what is it that you own that hinders you from being a blessing to others? Very often the things that prevent us from fully enjoying the kingdom of God might include our business, pride, success in all areas of life, family and the list goes on. What would you say, like this rich man, is hindering you from being a part of God’s kingdom? When Jesus looks at us, what does he see? A man or woman who is not willing to be fully used by the Lord? Or is a kind and willing person ready to carry the cross?
- Take care of the poor: Jesus had the need of the poor throughout his ministry. The beatitude uses a different kind of poverty that is spiritual. “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” In this passage, Jesus was not talking about the spiritual poverty but real, physical poverty. I understand in this church that we have the food pantry and other mechanisms that we use to bless the less fortunate. Our challenge then, is for us to look for ways that we can be a blessing for others. When we reach out in our neighborhood or through our church programs we are heading to the call of Jesus being able to inherit eternal life. God’s Helping Hands is another program this church has encouraged people through to be a part of God’s blessing to the less fortunate.
- Follow Jesus: This is a life-long commitment. When we choose to follow Christ, we are willing to do two things: Leave our baggages behind and commit to follow him. Leaving the baggages means making a choice to forgive those that have offended you on the way, choosing love instead of hate, choosing to share. The second thing is that we are ready to carry the cross. The journey to eternity is not a smooth one where there are no challenges but very often when we choose this path the devil is ready to fight us by all means with all things at all times. We are simply in a constant spiritual warfare where we are fighting against all principalities. Following Jesus calls for our willingness to carry the cross. The cross of Jesus involves our willingness to deny ourselves, and our willingness to carry that cross and then follow. We can’t leave the cross behind for it becomes part of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. In leaving behind what we possess in order to achieve eternity, Jesus was teaching two important truths which William Barclay put this way: One, possessions can easily make us fix our thoughts and interests to this world. Imagine those people who own those beautiful vacation resorts, castles, and personal jets. We can even come lower where we miss our real destiny and be carried away with everyday fun. Fun is not bad but we have to remind ourselves that we are on a transition as people of faith. Two, if our main interest is material possessions, it tends to make us think of everything in terms of price. When materials become our focus then we will think in terms of price and not in terms of value. We forget that in this world there are precious things that money can’t buy. Jesus reminds us here that our own judgment in the world may put us way up (first) but when we step on God’s scale we become the last.