The Rich Man
17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honour your father and mother. ’” 20 He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”
28 Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
If Jesus were around today, he would give the stand up comedians a run for their money. He just had a way of saying things that brought some levity but, in the levity, there was often a punch that cut to the heart of the matter.
In today's gospel, a man ran up to Jesus, catching him just as he was setting off on another journey.
You know how that is...
You're edging your way out of the door, thinking you'll be in good time.
Against all the odds, you're ready to be on your way....
Then you're stopped in your tracks.
And it's never something simple that stops you.
Never something that can be kept til you return.
In Marks gospel, Jesus makes one journey - that is, the journey to the cross.
But all along the way, he stopped to teach and to heal.
And today's reading was yet another of those interruptions on the way to the cross.
This man, whom we call The Rich Young Ruler based on accounts in the other gospels presents Jesus with a question that must be addressed there and then.
It's a burning desire in the questioner that simply won't keep.
"Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"
For a moment, Jesus is distracted by the man calling him good.
"Why do you call me good?" He asks. "God alone is good"
From the subsequent conversation, this man was familiar with the laws of life - it seems likely he practised them all diligently. But there was clearly something missing from his life. He wasn't fulfilled. He knew how to live - but that wasn't cutting it. He wanted more.
One of the startling things we heard last week from the folks from the Foodbank is that many of us are just one pay check away from going hungry.
And that is something that I've come across with more regularity.
Demographics are changing.
Those who need help, with food, with shelter - no longer fit the stereotypes into which we like to box them.
The folk who turn up at the manse door these days are not, as has been the case in the past, folk chancing their arm or attempting a scam but people with stories of illness or redundancy or mental health issues that have led to their vulnerability and destitution.
You and I, worshipping together this morning are considered rich. We fall into the category that places us as rich people in the world.
Does that surprise you?
All of us gathered here - whether we're still trying to pay off student loans, whether we have mortgages that seem crippling month by month, whether our pensions have taken knock after knock over the years, whether our salaries fail miserably to keep up with inflation, we are considered wealthy on worldly terms.
We have a roof over our heads.
There is food in our cupboards.
We had a choice of clothes to wear this morning.
We may have driven or been driven here this morning.
We have access to education, to healthcare.
We have a choice of leisure or cultural pursuits.
We are wealthy.
And, whether we like to admit it or not, we are attached to our wealth, a wealth often achieved at the expense of others.
Those we will never meet - in factories halfway across the world, who manufacture the clothes we like to buy as cheaply as possible.
Those we will never meet, who gather crops in all weathers so that we can have out of season food whenever we want it at reasonable prices, for us.
Those we will never meet who precisely and painstakingly put together the gadgets and electronic wizardry that we love.
Those we will never meet who don't even earn in a day the loose change we spend on a latte or a fast food takeaway.
We are attached to our wealth.
We feel entitled to it.
Jesus does not condemn the young man who questions him.
Jesus looks on him with love.
What a powerful statement.
v21 - Jesus, looking at him, loved him.
Jesus told him: " You lack only one thing - go sell what you own, and give the money to the poor."
Neither does Jesus condemn us this morning.
He looks on us with love and says: " You lack only one thing - go sell what you own, and give the money to the poor."
And how hard it is for us to follow when faced with such a demand.
Peter, the disciple makes a good try at squirming out of it. Just as many of us will.
In v28 , Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.”
That's a refrain often heard in churches: " look at what we've done"
And Jesus message is: well done, now go and do more.
Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”
And this is where the gospel becomes good news even for us wealthy worshipers this morning.
Jesus looks on us with love, not condemnation.
And offers us grace.
Offers us the understanding that to do this thing that is so difficult, to achieve the impossible, we will need the power of God transforming our lives, turning them upside down, pouring in grace that makes all things possible.
In the work of the kingdom, we can never feel that we've done our bit. Not while there are poor and homeless and hungry folk in the world, and right here on our doorstep.
The work is never done.
And we have much to share.
Jesus looks on us with love, not condemnation.
But his message takes no prisoners.
Go and do more.
And let's notice one more thing about today's gospel.
When the young man runs up to Jesus and kneels before him, this is just like all the other stories we have been considering these last few weeks in marks gospel" stories of healing.
Folk came to Jesus and knelt before him seeking healing.
So it was with this young man.
He knew that something was amiss in his life.
He was good, he kept the law, he followed the church's teaching, but he knew that his life was not as abundant as it could be.
Jesus told him how he could find that abundance.
How he could experience that something more that was missing from his life.
Jesus showed him the way to being healed.
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
For us today.