Summary: A rich man is called to sell all he has and to follow Jesus
Mark continues to explain to us what Jesus meant when he said, “The time is fulfilled. The kingdom of God is here. Repent and believe.” Mark has helped us understand what Jesus meant by telling us stories and parables of Jesus. In today’s lesson Mark records a question that was posed to Jesus.
The question is today’s text follows one in the reading for Ash Wednesday. That question was, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of God?” The disciples understood that the kingdom of God was present and that they were a part of it. They wanted to know who to live in that kingdom. The answer that Jesus gave them was “serve.”
Today’s question is, “What must we do to inherit eternal life?” The question was asked of Jesus by a wealthy man.
FOLLOW THE COMMANDMENTS
The man is one of the only “establishment” men who approached Jesus without an agenda. It appears that he truly wanted to know what he needed to do to inherit eternal life.
Jesus gives the man a simple answer. He was to follow the Ten Commandments. In one way this is a simple requirement. The Pharisees believed that it was possible for people to keep the commandments perfectly. We read Jesus’ answer and we think that he is telling us to be good people. We are to lead a good life—a proper life. Basically we are to keep out of trouble.
The Ten Commandments, though, were never meant to be a pathway to heaven. They were given so that the community of God’s people could live together. The rich man understood this because he had kept all of the commandments and he still felt that something was missing.
Jesus responds to the man and tells him that if he really wants to inherit eternal life he will need to sell all of his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor.
The responses to Jesus’ words are both varied and similar.
• The rich man goes away sad because he is not willing to do what Jesus says.
• Peter, who thinks that wealth is a sign of God’s blessing is astounded. If the rich man can get into heaven with his riches, what will happen to the disciples who have left everything?
• We simply think that Jesus’ words are ridiculous. Does Jesus really think that putting everyone on welfare is the way to go? Are we not to be good money managers?
In reality what Jesus says is impossible to do. Jesus backs this up by saying, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.” Ah, the path to eternal life must be a gift—a gift from God to humankind.
The man’s question is interesting. He asks how he can inherit eternal life. If a person receives an inheritance than someone must have died. Of course, as Christians, we know that we have received our inheritance through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. It is God’s gift to us.
Wills sometimes surprise us. We have heard reports of wealthy women leaving their estates to their cats or their dogs. Sometimes the number one offspring is disinherited and the “black sheep” of the family receives a sizable inheritance. It’s God’s “will” and God’s “will” will be done.