Jesus continued his teaching about the entrance into the kingdom of God as the rich man walked away sad by stating, “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 are stymied, primarily because present Jewish belief was 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, appeared to be blessed by God, would he or she not be a part of God’s kingdom, what then was one to do?
Yesterday’s reading ended with Jesus responding to 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, 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 own destiny, we will be building our foundation on sand. Jesus continued, “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. Say yes to his invitation. The rich man refused the invitation, because he chose his possessions over the kingdom. The Apostles 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. He insisted that they would receive back “a hundred times more in this present age… and eternal life to come” (Mk 10:30).
Jesus, in today and yesterday’s Gospel accounts, is not a preaching a kind of prosperity gospel or free reigning capitalism, nor is he a proponent of socialism or communism. Each of these are human socio-political, economic constructs. Jesus instead is painting a picture of the reign of God as a new family. One that exists, not of the world’s making, but of God’s design. A kingdom not of this world, though still present in it, and the good news is that all are invited to be a part of it.
Those who are a part of this kingdom are not connected through bloodline, tribe, political party, or nation, but are united through a transformation of heart and mind and spirit. The followers of Jesus become brothers and sisters. They care for one another, provide hospitality, charity, support, access, means, and encouragement for one another. Together, they meet the challenges and persecutions that would come from those who oppose the kingdom.
Jesus offers us the same invitation that he offered the rich man and his disciples. Jesus is inviting us to follow him by letting go of that which distracts us and diverts us from giving our life more fully over to him and building up his kingdom. We need to assess our lives, to divest ourselves from anything that we place before God. In this way, we can become less attached and resist looking to our material goods for our security and pleasure, and instead build our foundation on the solid rock of our relationship with Jesus, his Father, and the love of the Holy Spirit.
What or who are you going to follow today, the allure of wealth, power, pleasure, and/or honor, or Jesus?
Painting: Ariel Agemian, “The Face of Christ” 1935