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

The Wisdom of Riches

Today’s gospel is a familiar one: “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?” Jesus answers him, citing familiar words from the Commandments. “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?”  Jesus responds: “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor,…” And the young rich man goes away sad as he had many possessions.

If you wish to be “perfect” – something that echos Matthew 5:48: “So be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  The underlying word translated as “perfect” is the Greek teleios. I am not sure that is the best translation for modern-day English. I would suggest a better understanding would be to use the word “complete.”

Continue reading

The Wisdom of Riches

Today’s gospel is a familiar one: “Teacher, what good must I do to gain eternal life?” Jesus answers him, citing familiar words from the Commandments. “All of these I have observed. What do I still lack?”  Jesus responds: “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor,…” And the young rich man goes away sad as he had many possessions.

Continue reading

Colliding Worlds and Grace

Gospel_MatthewLong (Matthew, Westminster Bible Companion) writes concerning the rich man story, which also applies to our text: “… we must realize that, when the young man encounters Jesus, two very different worlds collide: this world, with all its prevailing customs and values, and the radical new way of life called for in the kingdom of heaven.” [p. 220]

This radical life comes at a price. Peter understands that and so he asks, “what about us who have already given up everything,” Jesus points to the life within the kingdom and then concludes that the called-for reversal will also be evident in the order of blessing on entering the kingdom: “But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” (Mt 19:30) Continue reading