SYNOPSIS – To follow Jesus is to surrender one’s entire life – Past, present, and future – To walk wherever he leads, no questions asked – Mark 10:17-31.
One day, a young rich man ran up to Jesus to ask what he should do to inherit everlasting life. In this story, the reader is confronted with the cost and meaning of discipleship. The gospel of Matthew describes the man as “young” – In Luke, he is a “ruler.” While his haste to kneel before Jesus was unusual, the act points to his sincerity. This is confirmed by the comment that Jesus “loved him.”
(Mark 10:17-22) – “And as he was going forth into a road, one running and kneeling before him was questioning him— Good Teacher! what shall I do that life age—abiding, I may inherit? And Jesus said unto him— Why callest thou me, good? None is good save one— God. The commandments thou knowest,— Do not commit murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal; Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honour thy father and mother. And he said unto him— Teacher! all these things have I kept from my youth. And Jesus looking at him loved him and said unto him— One thing unto thee is wanting;— Withdraw! whatsoever thou hast, sell and give unto [the] destitute,— and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come! be following me. And he, becoming gloomy because of the word, departed sorrowing, for he was holding, many possessions.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
This is the first instance in Mark where Jesus is said to have loved someone. Moreover, it is the first recorded case of anyone asking him how to inherit everlasting life.
Jesus responded – “Why are you calling me good; no one is good except one, even God.” In the Greek sentence, the pronoun “me” is emphatic – (“Me, why do you call me good?”). According to his own words, this man kept the Law diligently. Yet despite his faithful obedience, something was deficient in his standing before God.
Jesus directed him to the one God who alone is good. The second half of his response can be translated – “No one is good except the one God.” Life’s ultimate purpose is to love this one God. In the next few verses, he demonstrated how one does this very thing – By forsaking all and following Jesus.
Christ did not dispute that the young man had kept the Law faithfully – But something deeper than simply keeping the Torah must be required to gain everlasting life.
The commandments that Jesus listed were from the “second” half of the Decalogue – The ones from the first half dealt with man’s relationship to God; the second half dealt with relations between men – (e.g., – Do not steal). Each of the last five was a negative prohibition – Do NOT kill. Do NOT covet.
By requiring the man to give all his possessions to the poor, Jesus demonstrated the positive and ultimate way to fulfill those commandments – In acts of kindness and mercy to others.
Jesus used the phrase “do not defraud” instead of the more original – “Do not covet.” As a man who was already rich, perhaps coveting was not much of a temptation. However, defrauding the poor was a common practice among the rich in Judean society.
Jesus responded once more – “You are lacking one thing; go, as much as you have sell and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come, be following me.” The one essential thing the man needed to “inherit everlasting life” was to forsake all and to follow Jesus.
The rich and the poor are all called to the same walk – To follow Jesus whatever the cost and wherever he leads. In this case, this meant the surrender all material goods. The rich man had kept the Law; however, by itself, that was insufficient. What he lacked was total commitment to Jesus.
To Follow Jesus
(Mark 10:23-31) – “And looking around, Jesus saith unto his disciples—With what difficulty shall they who have money enter into the kingdom of God! And the disciples were in amazement because of the words. But Jesus, again answering, saith unto them— Children! how difficult it is to enter into the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel through the eye of a needle to pass than for a rich man into the kingdom of God to enter. And they were being exceedingly struck with astonishment, saying unto him—Who, then, can be saved? Looking at them, Jesus saith— With men, impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God Peter began to be saying unto him— Lo! We have left all and followed thee! Jesus said— Verily, I say unto you— There is no one who hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or mother, or father, or children, or lands for the sake of me and [for the sake of] the glad-message, who shall not receive a hundredfold, now in this season, houses, and brethren, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands,— with persecutions, and in the age that is coming, life age-abiding. But many shall be— first-last, and [the] Last-first.” – (The Emphasized Bible).
Jesus then stated – “How hard it is for a rich man to enter the kingdom.” Noteworthy is that he did not say it is “impossible.” This man had assumed that receiving “everlasting life” required great human effort and deeds. Note how “inherit everlasting life” and “enter the kingdom” are used almost interchangeably.
Jesus used a hyperbolic picture, the notion of a camel passing through a needle’s eye, to stress that human effort is insufficient to enable anyone, even a devout rich man, to inherit the kingdom. But with God, all things are possible.
Jesus did not categorically condemn wealth or possessions. Other wealthy individuals in the gospel accounts were not required to sell everything they owned or to give all to the poor. Christ focused on the man’s problem – Material wealth. His riches prevented him from doing the one thing necessary for him to enter the kingdom – To follow Jesus no matter the cost.
Jesus promised that those who give up everything to follow him will receive “a hundredfold” back in this life. Often overlooked is the inclusion of one “negative” item in his list – “Persecutions.” Neither the gospel message nor this promise is a guarantee that disciples will not experience hardship in this life, including persecution for the sake of the Kingdom.
As Jesus previously made clear, to gain his or her life a disciple must first lose it in service to the kingdom. “Greatness” in his domain is measured by service to others. Thus, for example:
(Mark 8:34-37) – “If anyone wills to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross, and be following me. For whoever wills to save his own life shall lose it, but whoever shall lose his life for my sake and of the gospel, shall save it; for what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? For what can a man give in exchange for his life?”
The final declaration – “Many who are first will be last, and last, first” – Is the classic Gospel description of the final Reversal of Fortune. At the Judgment, many will be surprised when they discover who receives the greatest rewards and who loses the most. Human expectations and standing will be reversed in surprising ways – (Matthew 7:21-27).