For the sake of the Gospel

This coming Sunday is the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time in Cycle B of the Lectionary. It is a familiar story as Jesus encounters a rich young man who asks what must he do to inherit eternal life. He doesn’t like Jesus’ answer and goes away sad. Peter hears this and “…began to say to him, “We have given up everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come. But many that are first will be last, and (the) last will be first.” (Mark 10:28-31)

Earlier (3:35) Jesus had redefined his family. “(For) whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.” For many of the first believers, following Jesus meant leaving everything behind. What one gained by leaving the biological family behind was the faith-community, those who were doing the will of God.

Peter again acts as the spokesman for the Twelve. His response stands in stark contrast to the refusal of the rich man to follow Jesus. The Twelve had abandoned everything in order to follow Jesus (Ch. 1:16–20; 2:14). Lane [371-2] notes that “Jesus’ response defines Christian existence in terms of promise and persecution, and history as the interplay of blessedness and suffering. The contrast between the present age and the age to come is thoroughly Palestinian in character and expresses the tension between promise and fulfillment in the life of faith. The frank recognition of the loss that allegiance to Jesus and the gospel may entail (cf. 13:12f.) is conditioned by the promise that all that is lost in one society (v. 29) will be regained a hundredfold in the new society created by the dynamic of the gospel (v. 30). This reassurance is addressed to any man who suffers loss for Jesus and the gospel. God takes nothing away from a man without restoring it to him in a new and glorious form. Jesus’ reference to the new family which will compensate for the loss sustained in one’s own family finds its preparation in 3:31–35.”

A Final Thought From Brian Stoffregen:

A dictionary definition of “sacrifice” is: “an act of giving up something valued for the sake of something else regarded as more important or worthy.” A key to a sacrifice is giving up something valued. We seldom are confronted with giving up things that we value for the sake of Christ who should be regarded as more important or worthy. How often are things donated to the church, things a family wants to get rid of — something they no longer value? Such giving can’t be called a “sacrifice”.

Frequently testimonies talk about giving the worst things in one’s life in order to follow Jesus, e.g., addictions, swearing, promiscuity, etc. In contrast, Paul’s testimony in Philippians 3:4-11 indicates that he gave up the very best things in his life, the most righteous things in his life, for the sake of the gospel.

What are some things that we value that Christ might ask us to give up in order to follow him? Soccer practices on Sunday? Watching football games on Sunday? Buying a new car?

However, if we are giving such things up only because we expect even greater things from following Christ, then we have probably haven’t given up our most important possession, the control of our own lives and destinies.

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