For our reading today, we need to go back a few verses. The rich man was given the answer to what he asked for regarding how he could inherit eternal life. He walked away sad because he was not willing to let go of his possessions and follow Jesus. Jesus then said, “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 one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (Mk 10:24-25). The disciples were undoubtedly stymied, primarily because common Jewish belief of that time followed the belief that those who had amassed wealth and riches did so because they were blessed by God. If someone who had followed the commandments of God, was blessed by God, would not be a part of God’s kingdom, what then was one to do?
As Jesus responded to the rich man, he also addressed the disciples’ astonishment. First by stating that “For human beings it is impossible.” Jesus said this because there is nothing that we can do to earn or buy our way into heaven. It is not through perseverance, our dogged determination, or will power that we are saved. Our security also is not to be placed in the things of this world, our happiness and fulfillment is not to be placed in the apparent goods and glitter of the finite things that offer comfort and pleasure. For if we place our hope in the things of this world, in our own belief that we can control our destiny, we will be building our foundation on sand. “For human beings, it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God” (Mk 10:27).
There is only one way to enter the kingdom of God and that is to accept the invitation Jesus offers. The rich man refused the invitation, because he chose his possessions over the kingdom. The disciples of Jesus chose differently. The opening line of today’s Gospel reading is given by Peter, speaking up for those, who like him, did what the rich man did not do, when he said “We have given up everything and followed you” (Mk 10:28). Jesus affirmed Peter and the other disciple’s acceptance of the invitation to come and follow him, as well as to assure those who would willingly sacrifice and voluntarily give up, house, family, or land, to follow him. Jesus insists that they would receive back “a hundred times more in this present age… and eternal life to come” (Mk 10:30).
In today’s Gospel account from Mark, Jesus is not preaching a prosperity gospel or free reigning capitalism, nor is he being a proponent of socialism or communism. For each of these are human social constructs. Jesus instead is painting a picture of the reign of God as a new family. One that exists, not of the world, but of God’s design. A kingdom not of this world, but still present in it. Those who are a part of this kingdom are not connected through bloodline, tribe, political party, or nation, but through a transformation of heart, mind and spirit. The followers of Jesus are brothers and sisters to one another. They will provide hospitality, charity, support, and encouragement to one another, as well as to the poor, the marginalized, and those on the peripheries. For they too are our brothers and sisters.
Jesus offers us the same invitation that he offered the rich man and his disciples. We are being invited to follow him by letting go of that which distracts and diverts us, holds us attached and bound from giving our life more fully over to following the will of God. The best way we can do this is to make an assessment of our lives, to divest ourselves of those things that are not necessary, to let them go, so as to live more simply. In this way, we will be less tempted to look to our material goods for our security and pleasure, thus be less attached to them, and instead build our foundation on the solid rock foundation of our relationship with Jesus, his Father, and the love of the Holy Spirit. We are constantly offered invitations. Will we accept the allure of wealth, power, pleasure, and/or honor, or will we follow Jesus?
Painting: “The Face of Christ” by Ariel Agemian, based on the Shroud of Turin