Who, Then? Going Back to Zero (Mark 10:23-24)

In Mark 10:22 Jesus has just shocked a rich man with his answer to how the man may “inherit eternal life.” The answer is, “sell whatever you have, give it to the poor.” The man departs, knowing he cannot live up to the expectation.

You can imagine the awkward silence. Mark reports that the disciples were “astounded beyond measure.” What they ask is, “Who can be saved, then?”

Jesus looked around at them and said, “For humans, it is impossible, but not for God—with God all things are possible.”

Let’s scrape away the barnacles and ask the question anew: “Who can be saved, then?”

Rather than relying on the hackneyed responses—the dogma—let’s ask the question in the context of this scripture: “What should I do so that I may inherit eternal life?” Yes, the question has many answers in the collection of Hebrew and Christian scriptures we call the Bible, yet notice that there is nothing abstract about the advice Jesus offers the rich man.

There is no economic theory;
there is no sociological speculation.
There is no “believe on me.”

Jesus gives a practical, in-this-world-now answer; he hands the rich man a road map. But the rich man cannot follow it. The faces of the gathered fall. As would the faces of most Christians: Only a miracle, Jesus says, can save those unwilling to give everything away. As Jesus would say, “Those with ears, let them hear.”

In the Gospel of Thomas (Saying #110) Jesus says,

“Those who have found the world and become rich, let them abdicate the world.”

In Saying #78 Jesus says,

Why did you come to the field? To watch a reed moving in the wind? To watch the rulers and the powerful in their fancy clothes? Those in expensive garments will not know the truth.

So, we can say that one method for answering the call of Jesus is going beyond material reality—a set that includes
where we were born;
how rich or poor we are;
perceptions concerning gender,
et cetera.

So, the first and most basic spiritual question is: Am I willing to part with my assumptions and material well-being to follow Jesus?

Am I willing to begin at the beginning?

The worldly—the materialist answer—is, “hell no!” That isn’t a new response. In Luke 12:15-21 we read this:

Jesus said to them, “Watch out and beware of greed, for a person’s life is not made up of abundance of the things owned. Then he spoke this parable to them: The fields of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully. So, he thought to himself, What should I do, since I have no more room for all my produce? He answered himself, I’ll do this: I will pull down the barns I have and build bigger ones, so big that I will be able to store all my goods and all my produce. After I have achieved that, I will be able to say to my soul, Soul, you have laid up enough for many years to come—relax—eat, drink, and be merry.

But God said to that man, Fool, this night your soul will be taken from you. Then who will get all these things you have saved for yourself?
Just so is everyone who lays up treasure for himself yet is not rich toward God.”

As Martin Luther pointed out, whatever we may think we believe, our god is that in which we put our trust.


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