Jesus And The Rich Young Man

Passage: Mark 10:17-31

I hate applying for jobs. I absolutely hate it. I don’t know if any of you feel the same way but personally just the thought of it is enough to make me feel stressed! In particular, CVs are all a nightmare. I find writing them really awkward, and tailoring them to make them fit the job I’m applying for really difficult. It’s easy to see how people could make mistakes. One of my favourite CV mistakes was from a guy who explained a gap in his employment history like this: “Between October 2008 and May 2009 I took a career break to renovate my horse” I might be wrong but I think, perhaps, he meant house.

To the disciples, the rich man in Mark’s gospel looked like he had a pretty good CV. The other gospels tell us that he was a leader, someone of standing in the community. He is a religious guy; he had the commandments that Jesus listed down to a T. And he was rich. Many people at that time believed that a person’s wealth showed that God was pleased with that person, blessing them with good things.

If the disciples had been interviewing for new members of the kingdom of God this guy would have been a shoo-in, a dead cert. Which explains why Mark tells us that they were “amazed” to hear Jesus say “how hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God” and astounded when he said “In fact, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God” It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle?

Some people have suggested that when Jesus uses the phrase “the eye of a needle” he was talking about a really small gate through which a camel could just about pass through if it had all of the goods it was carrying removed. But historians have never found any evidence for that gate. I’m believe that Jesus meant what he said literally. That it would be easier for an actual camel to pass through the eye of an actual needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of god, i.e.: it is impossible.

The reaction of the disciples is unsurprising. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they ask. If someone with a CV like the rich young ruler doesn’t make the grade what hope is there for the rest of us?

The clue is in Jesus next few words. “Humanly speaking it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God. I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, 30 will receive in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life. 31 But many who are the greatest now will be least important then, and those who seem least important now will be the greatest then”

Jesus does not want us to come to him with a fancy CV. A list of our personal strengths is not what He is looking for. Nor a catalogue of our qualifications or relevant experience.

In fact it is in many ways the opposite. Our money, our status, our good behaviour are not bad things in and of themselves; they simply won’t last into God’s new Kingdom.
What Jesus wants from us is an acknowledgement that we come to him empty handed, letting go of everything else.
This talk was originally followed by these prayer stations:

Jesus and the rich young man – Letting Go
Jesus and the rich young man – Empty Handed