New Evangelizers Post: Jesus and the Rich Man Part 3

Peter then states that, “We have given up everything and followed you.” (Mk 10: 28) In Matthew’s Gospel, this statement is followed up with, “What shall we have, therefore?”(Mt 19:21) This question appears to be implied from this statement of Peter’s in both Mark and Luke. This shows that the disciples still did not understand the spiritual foundations of Christ’s teaching. Culturally, this would have been very difficult for them. As mentioned earlier, wealth was considered a blessing from God. In addition, notions of the Messianic Age that were popular at this time held that there would be increased worldly prosperity for His followers, not poverty and privation.

Jesus responds by addressing those who have “given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the Gospel…” (Mk 10:29). As mentioned earlier, the disciples would have had to leave their houses and property to follow Jesus. In Mark’s Gospel, we know at least that Peter is married from the account of the cure of his mother-in-law (Mk 1:29-31). Jesus also addresses the loss of earthly familial relationships. This is parallel to the scene earlier in Mark’s Gospel where Jesus’ family think He is out of His mind and try to take Him. Jesus’ response is, “Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Mk 3:35) In this passage, Jesus is showing that even if His own earthly family rejects Him, He will have a new, much larger family in the spirit. This saying, which Jesus applied to Himself, is now applied to the rest of the disciples who have also “given up” their family relations for the sake of spiritual ones. They will receive “a hundred times more now in this present age…and eternal life in the age to come.” (Mk 10:30) Jesus is not just speaking about an apocalyptic time (the age to come), but of the time of a person’s earthly life in the Church (the present age). The word here for “age” could be translated in this term of time or it could be translated in terms of space (“world to come”).

When speaking of what the disciples will gain, it is of note that he says they will gain “houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands…” (Mk 10:30) But omitted from this recompense are “fathers,” even though they are mentioned as those that have been sacrificed for the sake of the Gospel. In the above passage from Mark 3:35 regarding Jesus and His family, He also does not mention a “father” in those who do the will of God. One explanation for this is that this lack of a father represents an anti-patriarchal view of how the Christian community should be organized. In the ancient world, the father acted as the head overseer of the household. Without a father, it could imply that the community was supposed to be completely egalitarian within its structure, where no disciple had some kind of patriarchal authority over another. In the stories of “The Greatest in the Kingdom” (Mk 9:33-37) and “The Ambition of James and John” (Mk10: 35-45), we can see Jesus addressing controversies regarding titles of rank in leadership. The absence of the “father” reference in the community would be harmonious with Christ’s point that leadership is a leadership of service.

In the final lines of the passage, we once again have a reference to “eternal life.” We can see that Mark begins with the rich man’s question, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And now Mark is ending with a direct answer to that question. It also serves as a final contrast to the disciples who answer the call and of the one rich man who does not. Jesus’ final statement in this passage is, “But many that are first will be last, and the last will be first.” (Mk 10:31) This last statement is a warning to the disciples to whom He is addressing this message. Just because you are among the first to be called or the closest to Him, this “does not necessarily give them preeminence, nor any exclusive right to the blessings promised by him.” It also once again subverts the common view of the relationship between wealth and beatitude.

From a pastoral perspective, I would concentrate on three aspects of the story. The first would be that of impediments to the call. I would share with a congregation that all of us are called to follow Jesus, but we need to reflect on what is holding us back. In the case of the rich man, it was his possessions. As someone who loves material things (I am a collector of toys and comics), I understand this struggle. Am I able to prioritize God and others before my own material possessions? As the story points out, the giving of the possessions is necessary for the spiritual perfection of the man. But for many of us, material wealth may not be that obstacle. But if anything is preventing us from following Christ, we should consider if we will be like Peter and the disciples or like the rich man.

The second pastoral reflection is that only God can save. It tends to be a shock to us that we cannot save ourselves. Even if we have been walking the path of spiritual life for years, we may still hold a subtle notion that we can earn our way to Heaven. If I just do the right thing or pray the right prayers, I can be the agent of my salvation. But the story reminds us that we cannot save ourselves. We should not despair because God is the one who will save us. We are called like the rich man was called, to place all of our trust in Him.

The third is that we cannot outgive God in generosity. Like the rich man, we are called to let go of the things God has given to us. The sacrifice is real. But God will always return to us much more than we give. When I was younger, I wanted to be a priest. When I realized that this was not God’s calling, I had to sacrifice this dream. But. I was not only given an amazing gift in my wife, I have been blessed to preach God’s word to thousands of young people as a theology teacher. Candidly, my wife and I once had a relative who was in desperate need of immediate financial assistance. My wife and I turned over all of our cash reserves, trusting that God would take care of us. Within a few months, we inherited several times over the amount that we had given. While these are examples of material rewards, more important are the spiritual blessings from God. By being generous, He blesses us by changing our hearts to be generous like Him.

Copyright 2024, WL Grayson

W.L. Grayson

W.L. Grayson

I am a devoutly Catholic theology teacher who loves a popular culture that often, quite frankly, hates me. I grew up absorbing every movie, TV show, comic book, science fiction novel, etc. I could find. As of today I’ve watched over 2100 movies and tv shows. They take up a huge part of my life. I don’t know that this is a good thing, but it has given me a common vocabulary to draw from in order to illustrate whatever theological point I make in class. I’ve used American Pie the song to explain the Book of Revelation (I’ll post on this some time later) and American Pie the movie to help explain Eucharist (don’t ask). The point is that the popular culture is popular for a reason. It is woven into the fabric of our lives and imaginations, for good or ill. In this blog I will attempt to bring together the things of heaven with the things of earth. Of course this goal may be too lofty for someone like me.

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