Mark 10:13–31—The little children and the rich man
13 One day some parents brought their children to Jesus so he could touch them and bless them, but the disciples told them not to bother him. 14 But when Jesus saw what was happening, he was very displeased with his disciples. He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. 15 I assure you, anyone who doesn’t have their kind of faith will never get into the Kingdom of God.” 16 Then he took the children into his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them. As he was starting out on a trip, a man came running up to Jesus, knelt down, and asked, “Good Teacher, what should I do to get eternal life?” 18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. 19 But as for your question, you know the commandments: ‘Do not murder. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not testify falsely. Do not cheat. Honor your father and mother.’” 20 “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was a child.” 21 Jesus felt genuine love for this man as he looked at him. “You lack only one thing,” he told him. “Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22 At this, the man’s face fell, and he went sadly away because he had many possessions. 23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for rich people to get into the Kingdom of God!” 24 This amazed them. But Jesus said again, “Dear children, it is very hard to get into the Kingdom of God. 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God!” 26 The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked. 27 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.” 28 Then Peter began to mention all that he and the other disciples had left behind. “We’ve given up everything to follow you,” he said. 29 And Jesus replied, “I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, 30 will receive now in return, a hundred times over, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—with persecutions. And in the world to come they will have eternal life. 31 But many who seem to be important now will be the least important then, and those who are considered least here will be the greatest then.”
Points of Interest:
- ‘but the disciples told them not to bother him’—Two passages ago, Jesus told the disciples that the key to being welcomed by him and the Father is welcoming little children. But here the disciples are again, sending away little ones. Jesus is indignant with the disciples, and he increases the stakes. Not only do you have to welcome children, but you have to imitate them to enter into the kingdom of heaven. It takes faith like a child’s—open, expectant, and dependent—to get to the kingdom of heaven. After the very adult topic of divorce, Jesus brings our attention back to the simple faith of a child.
- ‘Why do you call me good? Only God is truly good’—Although he happens to be correct this time in calling Jesus good, Jesus calls into question the man’s definition of the word ‘good.’ He doesn’t know Jesus is God, but he calls him good. Perhaps he also thinks of himself as ‘a good person.’ He’s done all of the right things, and perhaps he is depending on that, on his goodness, to bring him eternal life. He has indeed done well. He claims to have kept all of the commandments Jesus lists since he was a child, and Jesus doesn’t contradict his claim. Rather, the man’s fervor provokes genuine love from Jesus. And yet, his own moral accomplishments are not enough.
- ‘You lack only one thing’—What does he lack? One way to describe what he lacks is a relationship with God. The commandments he has obeyed are 6 of the famous 10 commandments. The 10 commandments can be split into two different sub-categories: those having to do with love of your neighbor, and those having to do with love of God. The man has obeyed all 6 of the commandments about loving his neighbor, but apparently he has overlooked the 4 that have to do with loving God. How can he have eternal life? By having a relationship with God. How can he gain that relationship with God? The same way everyone else has: by leaving what they have and following Jesus.
- ‘How hard it is for rich people to get into the kingdom of God’—Although Jesus says that it is impossible for anyone to enter the kingdom of God, he singles out rich people. This young man is, in fact, unique among the people we have seen in the story of Mark so far. When Jesus called James, John, Simon, Andrew, and Levi to follow him, they all immediately left what they had behind. Either this rich man decides not to do it at all, or he at least needs time to think about it. Why is it harder for this rich man? The cost is the same for everyone: they have to leave what they have. But it looks bigger, because he has more to leave. The idea that he is leaving more is somewhat of an illusion. As Jesus says, there’s no benefit in even gaining the whole world but losing your life (Mark 8:36). No matter how much money this man has, it’s worth less than his life. But it feels to him like so much more than the others are leaving behind.
- Another way to look at it is that it takes the faith of a child to enter the kingdom of God. People with means have a hard time being children. They are used to being in charge, getting things done, being the people who have the means to accomplish what they want. Being like a child means receiving things as a gift from God—the only one who can make eternal life possible. Rich people are used to doing thing on their own power.
- ‘a hundred times over’—Jesus said two passages ago that no one who did something so small as giving a cup of water would lose their reward. The disciples have given up everything, and Jesus says they will be rewarded generously—a hundred times over in this life, besides eternal life in the age to come. Now, none of the disciples became real estate magnates during their life time. They did not possess, in the traditional sense, 100 times more land by the time they died than they did before they started following. But, they also never lacked for a place to stay, food to eat, or community. Jesus says anyone who does God’s will is his family (3:35, March 16th). The disciples have become a part of that larger family, and it is that family that gives them houses to live in and food to eat. When they went on their mission, they stayed in the houses they were welcomed into. They will continue to live that way, and Jesus promises it is a rich life, much better than depending on what you can gain for yourself.
Taking it Home:
- For you: Jesus says that no one can enter the kingdom of God without the faith of a child. Ask Jesus for the power to become a child.
- For your 6: Sometimes, like for the rich man here, the price tag of following Jesus can feel dauntingly high. For each of your 6, it will take the faith to leave behind something they depend on if they are going to follow Jesus. Ask the Holy Spirit to give them the faith and insight they need to respond to Jesus’ invitation. Ask that they will not go away sadly when given the choice.
- For our church: Ask God to make us more and more a community of 100-fold blessing. Look for opportunities to rely on others in our midst and to give to them.