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) Continue reading

Problem of Wealth?

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through (the) eye of (a) needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”  They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?”  Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”  (Mark 10:23-27)

Before we address the question of wealth, the larger question is really “Who can be saved?” Continue reading

Following

This coming Sunday is the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time in Cycle B of the Lectionary. It is a familiar story as Jesus is asked by a rich young man. “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?…Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to (the) poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”  At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.” (Mark 10:17, 21-22) Continue reading

The Good

This coming Sunday is the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time in Cycle B of the Lectionary. It is a familiar story as Jesus is asked. “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” (Mark 10:17)

In the Hebrew Scriptures only God is called “good,” although it was permissible to speak of “the good man” (e.g. Proverbs 12:2 etc.) as a characteristic derived from one’s fidelity to God. But the expression “Good teacher” has no parallel in Scripture or Jewish sources. One can only take it as a true expression of the man’s estimation of Jesus as someone close to God who would teach with wisdom. Continue reading

The Way and the Promise

This coming Sunday is the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time in Cycle B of the Lectionary. It is a familiar story: “As [Jesus] was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17).

The beginning of the Gospel according to Mark begins with John the Baptist citing Isaiah speaking of the messenger: “he will prepare your way…Prepare the way of the Lord.” (Mark 1:2-3) In both verses the underlying word for “way” is hodos. There are other places in Mark when hodos is used and is translated as ‘way” – e.g., “the way of God in accordance with the truth,” and describing Jesus and the apostles “on the way” in 8:27 and 10:32. So it is odd that in 10:17, the same word hodos is translated as journey in the New American Bible (NAB). Continue reading

The Kingdom’s cost

ChineseJesus-rich-manThis coming Sunday is the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time in Cycle B of the Lectionary. It is a familiar story: “As [Jesus] was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17). Matthew refers to him as “a rich young man.”

In this part of Mark’s account, Jesus has been consistently teaching his disciples the meaning of the Kingdom in his examples and explanations: greatness means to serve the least among the people (9:36-37).  He has already told them that the path of discipleship will consist, not just of demonstrations of power (healing and casting out demons), but also one in which one “must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” (8:34) At times these lessons have come at the end of a dispute with the Pharisees or scribes as we saw in the previous Sunday gospel. There Jesus tells the disciples about the creative intent of God in the formation of marriage and family (10:2-16) as a means of describing the Kingdom echoed in human experience. Continue reading

Inheriting the Kingdom:

ChineseJesus-rich-manThe Rewards of Discipleship. 28 Peter began to say to him, “We have given up everything and followed you.” 29 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 30 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. 31 But many that are first will be last, and (the) last will be first.”

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. Continue reading

Inheriting the Kingdom: wealth

ChineseJesus-rich-manProblem of Wealth? 23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to pass through (the) eye of (a) needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”

Before we address the question of wealth, the larger question is really “Who can be saved?” The answer in v.21 is clear – human beings cannot save themselves. Just can’t do it. But, nothing is impossible for God. Stoffregen writes: “The answer to ‘how hard?’ is ‘It’s impossible.’ Whenever we make it ‘possible’ to do with enough work or sacrifice, we miss the radical nature of Jesus’ comments; which were especially revolting because (1) it was naturally assumed that the wealthy were closer to God and were more likely to be saved than the common people and (2) it was naturally assumed that those who kept the commandments were closer to God and were more likely to be saved than the common people. The man in our text fulfilled both requirements — but doesn’t enter the kingdom — at least not based on his righteousness or wealth.” Continue reading

Inheriting the Kingdom: follow

ChineseJesus-rich-manBut what must I do? “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 Jesus answered him, ….19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.’” 20 He replied and said to [Jesus], “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.”

In responding more directly to the question, Jesus directs the man to the Law (especially Dt 30:15 and following; Ezekiel 33:15 as well) – the one who obeys the law will live. Other than “you shall not defraud” the list is straight from the Ten Commandments ((Ex. 20:12–16; Deut. 5:16–20) and covers one’s moral conduct in relationship with others – certainly one measure of a person’s reverence for God and obedience to his precepts. There is one measure of “goodness” for the inquirer – do you accept the will of God revealed in the Law? Continue reading

Inheriting the Kingdom: promise

ChineseJesus-rich-man17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”

The Way. The beginning of the Gospel according to Mark begins with John the Baptist citing Isaiah speaking of the messenger: “he will prepare your way…Prepare the way of the Lord.” (Mark 1:2-3) In both verses the underlying word is hodos. There are other places in Mark when hodos is used and is translated as ‘way” – e.g., “the way of God in accordance with the truth,” and describing Jesus and the apostles “on the way” in 8:27 and 10:32. So it is odd that in 10:17, the same word hodos is translated as journey in the New American Bible (NAB). Continue reading