One Thing We Lack
Which thing do we lack? Someone local to me lacks neighbourly decency. They left this mess on our lane...Someone in the Watford council signs department lacked either a proper understanding of grammar, or the time to properly proof-read this notice:
Our focus today is the man who runs up to Jesus and falls on his knees in front of him. However, it must be noted that this incident comes hard on the heels of the previous scene.
Children were brought to Jesus - only for the disciples to rebuke them. Jesus in turn rebukes his disciples and declares that “the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (v14). Mark is showing us the ideal kingdom-candidates before we encounter the flawed kingdom aspirant.
‘Paradoxically, the least powerful, least wealthy, least influential have a greater prospect of entering the kingdom than do those who are most powerful, wealthy, and influential.’ Word Biblical Commentary
receive the kingdom
Why are the children able to ‘receive the kingdom’ (v15)? We are not told precisely here, but perhaps we get a clue by looking at the contrasting example of the man on his knees.
He looked good. He sounded good. He ran to Jesus, he fell upon his knees, he addressed Jesus respectfully (‘good teacher’), he kept the law. Yet something was amiss. He knew it. Why approach Jesus otherwise?
The answer was not what he expected nor wanted. He may have started on his knees, but he ended by turning his back on Jesus. He may have begun by running to Jesus, but he ultimately walks away. He may have arrived with eagerness, but he departed with sadness.
no one is good
Why does Jesus correct the man? Surely Jesus is ‘good’? Perhaps Jesus is detecting flattery and deflecting it. ‘The word order places the emphasis on the με, “me”: “Why me do you call ‘good’?”’ WBC. Only God is worthy of primary focus, not even Jesus. He has come to reveal God to humankind, not himself. Will this man honour not so much Jesus, but God who is source of all goodness including his good commands?
One thing you lack
This man has no material needs and no law-needs. He knows he has other needs, but what are those needs? Jesus is about to tell him - and it is clearly not what the man expected.
‘looked’ - looking at him. Did Jesus pause to study the man? Was the silent pause an opportunity for him to think, or perhaps a moment for the man to think about what he had just said? Was Jesus giving him space to add something more?
Jesus told him to give his money to the poor because once it is given you can’t get it back! This command is clearly not for everyone. The extravagance of the woman in Mark 14:5 is a counter-example. Jesus gives each person the challenge they need.
come follow me
Jesus seems to be saying, “Help me with my mission.” See Mark 2:14; 8:34; John 1:43; 12:26; 21:19, 21:22. Perhaps the question Jesus is posing to the man is, “Is my mission more important than yours?”
“In Jesus’ second response to the man, the commandments are assumed and taken for granted. The second response, however, moves beyond command to an abandonment and trust that involve the losing of self in yielding, trustful communion....The move is from willing duty to utter delight.” Walter Brueggemann, Psalms, 196
“He is told to part with the goods of this age since he is so interested in the next one, but he will not do so. His interest in the next world is not sincere enough to enable him to give up his preocupation with this world.” NIBC, Hurtado, Mark, 164
He wants wealth in both realms, but that is not possible as a demand or precondition of following Jesus. This gives the lie to the prosperity gospel advocates.
Jesus’ instruction indicates the urgency of the call. This is not simply a call to follow a Rabbi, but a call uttered due to the arrival of the kingdom and its king.
The rich man looked like he belonged to those who are “first”, but he will be last. The disciples looked more like they belonged to the “last”, but they would be the first.
The rich man calculates and finds the price not worth paying. Fundamentally he does not trust Jesus in the way children trust him. He hedges, attempting to find a way into the kingdom acceptable to God and to himself. That hedging keeps him on the wrong side of the hedge.
This scenario makes the disciples wonder if they have the right approach, attitude and understanding. Jesus is challenging and reassuring. They cannot ‘achieve’ eternal life, but God can and will make the difference. The costs are high - everything! But the rewards are far beyond anything we could hope for otherwise.
- The main question from this section of Scripture is, “what does this tell us about discipleship?”. What is the discipleship lesson for you personally?
- Is there ‘one thing you lack’ for wholehearted discipleship to Jesus? What is that? Is there someone you could talk to about it?
- In what ways do the reassurances of Jesus to his disciples about the last being first inspire your spiritual walk?