The Rich Young Ruler

The Rich Young Ruler

We continue our series journeying through the Gospel of Mark, focusing on Jesus’ radical way of defying social norms and religious traditions. In doing so, Jesus teaches us a way of grace and love.

Additional Readings
Each week, we will include additional readings to help us work through the entire Gospel of Mark.

  • MARK 9:30-50
  • MARK 10:1-16
  • MARK 10:17-31
  • MARK 10:32-45
  • MARK 10:46-52

This Sunday’s text is another familiar story. We read about a man who runs up to Jesus and kneels before him with a question about what is required for eternal life. We are not told why this may be an urgent question for the man, though we may guess from his actions—running and kneeling—that this is the case. Jesus responds to the urgent question with clarity, and continues to interact with the man with careful attention and love.

But then Jesus challenges the man in a way that is unexpected. He challenges the man to look beyond the limitations of the material privileges of the world. Indeed, if the desire is for eternal life, then material privileges become immaterial.

And then Jesus takes the challenge beyond the young man who ran to him and knelt in respect to ask an urgent question. Jesus takes the challenge to his disciples, and brings it to us as well.

Mark 10:17-31 (CEB)
17As Jesus continued down the road, a man ran up, knelt before him, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to obtain eternal life?”

18Jesus replied, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except the one God. 19You know the commandments: Don’t commit murder. Don’t commit adultery. Don’t steal. Don’t give false testimony. Don’t cheat. Honor your father and mother.”

20“Teacher,” he responded, “I’ve kept all of these things since I was a boy.”

21Jesus looked at him carefully and loved him. He said, “You are lacking one thing. Go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor. Then you will have treasure in heaven. And come, follow me.” 22But the man was dismayed at this statement and went away saddened, because he had many possessions.

23Looking around, Jesus said to his disciples, “It will be very hard for the wealthy to enter God’s kingdom!” 24His words startled the disciples, so Jesus told them again, “Children, it’s difficult to enter God’s kingdom! 25It’s easier for a camel to squeeze through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter God’s kingdom.”

26They were shocked even more and said to each other, “Then who can be saved?”

27Jesus looked at them carefully and said, “It’s impossible with human beings, but not with God. All things are possible for God.”

28Peter said to him, “Look, we’ve left everything and followed you.”

29Jesus said, “I assure you that anyone who has left house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children, or farms because of me and because of the good news 30will receive one hundred times as much now in this life—houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and farms (with harassment)—and in the coming age, eternal life. 31But many who are first will be last. And many who are last will be first.”

Consider these questions:

  1. This man knew the commandments and had kept them since he was a boy. So what do you think he was asking Jesus? Was his question just a surface-level question about the concept of eternal life? Was his question deeper?
  2. Why do you think he was dismayed and saddened? The text notes that the man had many possessions. What might this have meant for the man asking this question? What does it mean for you?

Post-Worship Update on 8/27

Audio from the sermon can be heard below, and video can be found at this link (will open in a new tab).

Sunday’s message focused on tension. We don’t often want to think about experiencing tension in our worship community, and it is important to say that this was not intended to be a negative exploration. Instead, we might think about this tension as the same as the tension in a bungee cord. This is a tension that holds together ideas that may seem opposed to one another, which can be fascinating to explore.

The text of the rich young ruler can easily be used to denigrate persons with means, and it can be used to comfort those same people. But perhaps the reality is somewhere in between, held in tension between these opposing sides.

Jesus tells this man that he must sell all he owns to benefit the poor, but immediately beforehand he looks at the man and loves him. We may see tension between these two ideas, and yet this is exactly where I believe this text calls us. Jesus sees us and loves us; and in knowing us this way, Jesus challenges us and calls us to grow in unexpected ways.

Consider these questions:

  1. How would you describe your relationship with God today? If you were to come face-to-face with God (or Jesus or the Holy spirit), what question(s) would you ask?
  2. If you were to ask God what you might do in order to grow in your faith life, what do you think God’s response would be?
  3. What moves you toward—or holds you back from—taking the next steps of your faith journey? Why? What should you do?

One Comment

    Patricia Riddle

    Having grown up on the mission field, I know missionaries who relied on others (relatives, friends, etc.) for the things they needed because, in their words, “God will provide.” I got angry when people would go without new (larger) shoes for their kids, and when new pair would arrive in the mail, they were sure this was a miracle and that God had answered their prayers. As you can imagine, I’ve always had trouble with this teaching.

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