Sunday

14 October 2018

Mark 10:17-31

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)

Psalm: Psalm 90:12-17

Background

When we were children, some of us learned to sing a hymn that began “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, look upon a little child.” Well, the Jesus we read of in this passage from Mark’s Gospel is certainly not meek and mild here! He has just shown the gentler side of him in accepting the children as we read in verses 13-16 and then this man comes and greets him. He asks a simple question: “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” At first the answer seems very straightforward, for the man knows well the commandments given to the people through Moses and feels that he has been following them faithfully, but then … Jesus looks at the man, with love it would seem in his eyes, and gives him the crunch instruction ­– not an easy instruction – to put away his wealth, for it seems he was a wealthy man, and give away all that he had to help those less fortunate than he was. Then he could build up his treasure in heaven.

Two simple words follow from Jesus: “Follow me”. Sadly, the man was not having any of that and went away grieving, but the encounter stood as a lesson to the disciples gathered around who had certainly made sacrifices of home and employment to follow him. They were clearly disturbed by what Jesus had told the man and Peter begins to argue with him, reminding Jesus that they had already done as he had demanded of them. We can perhaps hear the anger in his voice and his sense of unease that they were being criticised. Jesus, however, turns back to him and the others, giving value to what they had done on his behalf but suggests they have been storing up “brownie points” for themselves, and gives them a reminder that it might be that the one who gives up most won’t be the highest ranking when it comes to eternal life.

 

To Ponder:           

  • What message does this encounter with the rich man have for us in the wealthy western world today?
  • How does this encounter challenge you to look more closely at how you use your time, your talents and your wealth?
  • Do we sometimes work hard at being evangelists in the church and in the world, hoping that it will gain us “brownie points” despite the words in verse 31?

Bible notes author

The Revd Pat Billsborrow

Pat Billsborrow is a supernumerary minister in the Northwich and Winsford Circuit, and is at present part of a district ministry team working within that circuit with pastoral care of four churches. She is ecumenical officer in the Cheshire part of the Chester and Stoke on Trent Methodist District.