Monday, April 7, 2014

Inheriting the Kingdom (Mark 10:17-31)

This is one of the more well-known and oft-repeated stories in Mark’s Gospel. And yet there are a couple lines that we in Western/American culture almost always overlook. The first is that which comes immediately following Jesus’ instruction to the young man that he sell everything he owns. Jesus says “come, follow me.” This is the same exact calling that Jesus issued his disciples when He called them. It is the same calling that all those who follow Jesus heed when they enter into a relationship with Him and join the Kingdom of God. (Not all who are called “Christians” have heard or obeyed this calling, but then again “asking Jesus into your heart” and accepting Jesus as Savior and Lord are not the same thing.)

In our western mindset we are immediately caught-up and short-circuited by Jesus demand that the rich man sell everything he owned. We are a rich culture. Most of us would be considered rich in any historical standard. So we like to point out (correctly) that poverty vows are not a prerequisite for Christianity and that Jesus is always about getting to the harder “spirit of the law” and not just the rules. However, at the heart of the issue here is that Jesus demands that we place Him at the forefront of our entire lives. If we want to enter the Kingdom of God and renew our relationship with Him then He must be Lord and we place all of our trust in Him. We love Him and we love others and we fulfill the spirit of the law in our lives with the power and assistance God gives us.

The second overlooked phrase in this story is the one where Jesus repeats himself. After He tells the disciples that it is difficult for the rich to enter the Kingdom, He repeats the phrase. Perhaps it is for emphasis, but I think it is also for clarity. Because He does not just repeat the idea, He drops the qualifier. It isn’t just hard for rich people to enter the Kingdom of God. If is hard for everyone. Better yet, we should say impossible. That is what the disciples realized Jesus was saying, and that is what we realize too.

When we read that line about camels and needles we like to find our way around the implication. We know it is impossible for a camel to fit through the hole in a little needle. But our rich society does not want to think we have been denied access. Unfortunately that popular story about the gate into Jerusalem is simply not a possible interpretation in this passage. That gate didn’t come into existence until at least 1,000 after this event occurred.

Jesus’ point is precisely that it is impossible for us to enter the Kingdom. It is impossible for us to live out the spirit of God’s law. …on our own, that is. With God all things are possible, and entering His Kingdom is all about trusting Him and following His Son. More than likely it takes a drastic lifestyle change to do that, like selling everything you own—or for us Americans giving up our worship of self, but that is what is required.

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