28 February 2011

Mark 10:17-27

"Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, 'You lack one thing; go, sell what you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.'" (v. 21)


This is a very vivid story, sometimes titled 'The Rich Young Ruler'. It is also a very topical story in these times when the gap between rich and poor is widening and the subject of banker's bonuses is so much in the news. In a recent session of the Treasury Select Committee in Parliament, Bob Diamond, the chief executive officer of Barclay's Bank was asked a question lifted straight from this passage, "Why is it easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven?" (verse 25) His reply, "I'm still stuck on that one."

This young man in our story flung himself at Jesus' feet, called Jesus "Good Teacher" (verse 17) and sincerely wanted Jesus to answer his question, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus was not critical of him, for we read that he loved him (verse 21).

Jesus was at pains to get this young man to stop and think, to count the cost of discipleship and of what he was saying. The problem for the young man was not that he was wealthy but that his wealth was a stumbling block to his full discipleship. And the disciples themselves did not understand what Jesus was saying because they believed, as they read in the Scriptures, that wealth was a sign of God's favour (eg Deuteronomy 8:18Psalm 25:12-13). This explains their comment in verse 26, "they were greatly astounded (at what Jesus had said to the young man) and said to one another, 'Then who can be saved?'"

To Ponder

When you think of our life of Christian discipleship, which 'costs' do we you find most difficult?

Can bankers who receive bonuses of millions of pounds "enter the kingdom of heaven" (verse 25)? Why?

The disciples were astonished at what Jesus said to the young man. What parts of Jesus' teaching astound you?

Bible notes author

The Revd Jennifer Potter

The Revd Jennifer Potter is a Methodist minister at Wesley's Chapel, City Road, London. Prior to being appointed to serve there she worked in the Connexional Team from 1996-2002 as the secretary for international affairs.