Saturday, 13 October 2012

Snakes and Ladders

GospelMark 10:17-30 

Jesus was setting out on a journey when a man ran up, knelt before him and put this question to him, ‘Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You must not kill; You must not commit adultery; You must not steal; You must not bring false witness; You must not defraud; Honour your father and mother.’ And he said to him, ‘Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days.’ Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, ‘There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.
  Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!’ The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted, ‘My children,’ he said to them ‘how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.’ They were more astonished than ever. ‘In that case’ they said to one another ‘who can be saved?’ Jesus gazed at them. ‘For men’ he said ‘it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God.’
  Peter took this up. ‘What about us?’ he asked him. ‘We have left everything and followed you.’ Jesus said, ‘I tell you solemnly, there is no one who has left house, brothers, sisters, father, children or land for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not be repaid a hundred times over, houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land – not without persecutions – now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life.’

 “Face the first death and the second death can do you no harm.'  Francis of Assisi

The sparseness of Mark doesn't offer Matthew's title of the Rich Young Man nor is Jesus is acknowledged as a teacher. 

In Mark, whilst the man may be on his knees; this is not the position of a Rabbi and student. The title of 'master' suggests that the man feels he is here to strike a bargain;  the gesture of subservience is the etiquette of diplomatic negotiation; a role to be acted out with both players understanding what the outcome should be. But Jesus isn't playing.

The man's wealth is, of course, revealed later in the passage. Perhaps an inheritance; a legacy of business, property and position? A wealth that, it seems, has been easy to come by and now is impossible to let go of. 

That he is young is suggested by the look of love Jesus gives him. A similar request by one of the elders would have deserved a different response. Surely, only the young; those who have been untouched by the challenge of life; would believe that it was really so simple; would believe that it was no more than a game of strategy. The man wants to be guided to the next ladder; Jesus points him towards the snake. 

It seems that, whenever we believe we have an answer; whenever the path we are on seems like the right one; whenever we start to get that feeling of righteousness - we have, in fact, come to a standstill. 

We cannot feel justified by anything we have done ourselves. Even good things fill us up with a sense, like this young man, of our own entitlement to God's favour. Filling ourselves with ourselves - what place is there for God; for grace; for that look of love from Jesus?

A friend wrote to me today -

'Turn everything into prayer .

Abandon everything even the most humble and simple task to God'

When we consider ourselves 'spiritual' - the man did keep all the Commandments - we can be overly rich in more ways than one. 

If the spiritual life feeds only us; gives only ourselves peace; leads only to our informed understanding; then we can be as rich as Midas, and as cursed, parted from the world by that which should have given him the world. If it is so precious we must give it away.

In following him, Jesus asks us to live a life of self-emptying; of restlessness; of seeking to fulfil the Father's will. In following his Father's will, Jesus lives for others; Jesus dies for others; and his resurrection is, not for himself, but for others.

The sacrifice that this entails is not meant to bring us sorrow or denial. We are here to love others; for the mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters that we gather through love rather than blood. For the land that is given by the Father and cared for for all generations; for the houses that will be built from the treasure of a living community rather than a storehouse of cold stone. 

For the Kingdom that is now here.


Lynda said...

There is a lot in this post for me to think about. We are here to give ourselves away and there is such blessing in that. Thank you.

Philomena Ewing said...

Loving this one so much and especially the snakes and ladders analogy. Brilliant !!

Word in the Hand said...

Thanks to you both blessings to you +x