Mark 10:17-31 A Rich Man Seeks Jesus’ Counsel
We transition abruptly from Jesus’ blessing of the children to His “setting out on his journey” from there. And then something happened! Let’s face it, there’s not much story to be told when Jesus and the disciples are just walking from one town to the next (especially in Mark’s fast-paced, action packed good news account). But I digress…
A man runs up to Jesus and kneels before Him. So yeah, at this point, every eye is fixed on this guy. What is he gonna say? What is a he gonna do? A question: “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Talk about cutting to the chase when it comes to asking questions of deep spiritual significance of the Teacher (v. 17).
Jesus, in His usual manner of guiding the conversation to where it needs to go, answers a question with a question: “Why do you call me good?” Only God is good (v. 18)! Jesus then points the man to some highlights from the Ten Commandments (v. 19). To which the man replies: ‘been there, done that’ – yeah I got that (v. 20). Hmm, that seems arrogant – doesn’t it? But Jesus doesn’t scold him (He “loved him”), rather He points him to the higher ways of the kingdom:
“Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” – Jesus of Nazareth (Mark 10:21, NIV)
Does Jesus make a general pronouncement here for all His followers to obey, in all times, places and circumstances? Probably not. But He is trying to make a point. For this man, selling everything would bring him to a place of helplessness. This rich man is no more able to gain eternal life for himself than you or I are – it is the gift of God (following William Lane, NICNT)! The call (on all of us) to follow Jesus is a call to abandon everything for the kingdom. Remember:
“they left their nets and followed him” (Mark 1:18)
The answer to his question from v. 17 was devastating to the man! “He went away sad” (v. 22, NIV). As so often seems to happen “after the incident” in Mark, Jesus now turns His attention to His disciples for another teachable moment:
“How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” (v. 23, NIV)
The disciples are blown away (v. 24). So Jesus repeats Himself, in yet an even stronger statement in v. 25. Its impossible! “Who then can be saved?” (v. 26). Impossible? – not with God (v. 27)!
Now Peter speaks up – ‘hey, what about us?’
“We have left everything to follow you!” – Peter (v. 28)
It’s a bit arrogant, yeah. But at the same time, the spokesman for the disciples clearly understands the demands of the kingdom better than the rich man did. Jesus response can be a bit perplexing. Loss of home and family, sacrificed for the sake of the good news is restored with new ‘homes’ and familial relationships (with other followers) within the kingdom in this present age, but yet, with accompanying persecutions. The rewards in the age to come at the consummation of the kingdom – eternal life – of course eclipse anything that could be experienced in this present life (v. 29-30).
“But many who are first will be last, and the last first.” – Jesus (v. 31)
Jesus final statement here may draw us back to Mark 9:35. Who is the greatest disciple? (Hint: If you want to be great – sweep the floor). It is him who is “servant of all!”
Followers of Jesus recognize their utter helplessness to do anything by which they might save themselves (i.e. they understand grace). Followers of Jesus leave everything (Mark 1:20, Luke 5:11) to become fishers of men. Followers of Jesus live a rich life of fellowship in the family of God, but its a tough road to Jerusalem! But in the end it’s worth it!
Come, follow Me! – Jesus of Nazareth