Bible Study October 1 for Worship October 14Posted: September 27, 2012
Bible Study October 1 for Worship October 14
Mark 10:17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.
19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'”
20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth.”
21 And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”
22 At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.
23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!”
24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!
25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?”
27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”
28 Peter began to say to him, “Lo, we have left everything and followed you.”
29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel,
30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life.
31 But many that are first will be last, and the last first.”
As we approach this passage we have to ask how much of this passage is material we can trace back to Jesus, and how much of the passage is the work and interpretation of the early church? The question asked in verse 17 “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” is asked of Jesus at least three times. The repetition of the question suggests that it may be traceable to the ministry of Jesus.
Verse 18 seems somewhat odd, and certainly contradicts the more orthodox interpretation of Jesus. “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” And this may represent authentic Jesus material, that would prove an embarrassment to the Orthodox Church, as represented by John 10:30, “I and the Father are One.”
In Verses 19 Jesus is offering the standard rabbinical answer to what must I do to inherit eternal life – keep the Law. Again this sounds like authentic Jesus, because Jesus wasn’t saying something like, “believe in me.” The man’s response in verse 20 is interesting. He claims to have fully kept the Law from the time he was a youth. This may display either naiveté or narcissism. The presumption that he had fully kept the law may have been part of his problem.
Many commentators interpret Jesus’ response in verse 20 as harsh, however, I think Jesus was very kind and gentle. The text says, he looked upon the man and “loved him.” What Jesus said next was not from spite or contempt but rather spoken in love. “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” The rich man was not judged, Jesus simply told him, if you want joy, share with others. But people with great wealth often have difficulty sharing. The rich man had a choice, to share or not to share, and he chose not to share, because his possessions owned him.
Verse 23 “You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me,” may have been an independent saying that Mark has joined to this story about the rich man. We might also guess that verse 25 was originally an independent saying: It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
Can these saying be reliably attributed to Jesus? We know that some of the followers of Jesus had money. In the Gospel of Luke we learn several well to do women were instrumental in bank rolling the ministry.
Luke 8:And the twelve were with him,
2 and also some women who had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out,
3 and Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Herod’s steward, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their means.
Verses 23 – 27 may represent an internal discussion within the early church about wealth. Some members of the early church interpreted the words of Jesus to advocate itinerant poverty. Only the barest possessions were to be allowed. Mark 6:8 “Take nothing for the journey except a staff–no bread, no bag, no moneyin your belts.”
Verses 28-30 seem to be a later addition inspired by the need to comfort and encourage people in the early church who were suffering persecution. Is there any compensation for our present suffering? The simple answer devised in the early church was Yes!
The passage concludes with the reiteration of a popular saying of Jesus: ”
But many that are first will be last, and the last first.” This phrase is repeated so often in the gospels we can guess this is authentic Jesus. Whether or not this saying can genuinely be associated with the story of the rich man is subject to debate. First and the last would seem to be more appropriate for a story about hierarchy, rather than a straight forward lesson about wealth.
Since Jesus did not automatically reject people of wealth, the primary issue in this passage may not be wealth at all, but rather the willingness to share. The story of the Rich Fool laying up riches for himself, when he is scheduled to die that night, suggests that earning the money is not a problem, but hoarding it is. Similarly the Parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, where the Rich man is feasting sumptuously and is dressed in fine clothing enjoying his wealth, while poor Lazarus is starving to death in rags laying on the Rich man’s door step, again suggests that it was not the accumulation of wealth by itself that was the problem, but the failure to share the wealth that sent the rich man to Gehenna.
Inevitably people ask, well how much do I have to share? My guess is that if we have to ask how much, we haven’t shared enough. Trying to fix a percentage of sharing is not what Jesus was about. He wants us to share compassionately and generously. The truth the poor usually share a far higher percentage of their income than the wealth. Material poverty tends to lead to generosity and spiritual riches, while riches tend to lead to miserliness and spiritual impoverishment.
LET’S ASK SOME QUESTIONS OF THE TEXT
1. What was Jesus doing when confronted by the rich man?
2. What did the rich man call Jesus?
3. Why did Jesus seem to be uncomfortable with that title?
4. What is the essence of the Rich man’s question of Jesus?
5. How did Jesus initially answer him?
6. When the Rich man protests he has already done what Jesus has indicated, what does Jesus suggest he do?
7. What was the Rich man’s response?
8. Who did Jesus indicate would have difficulty entering the Kingdom of God?
9. Jesus disciples ask the question, “well who then can be saved.” How did Jesus respond?
10. What does the passage promise to faithful followers of Jesus?
11. Who will be first?
LET’S ALLOW THE TEXT TO ASK QUESTIONS OF US
1. Do you ever think about whether or not you will inherit eternal life?
2. Do you think Jesus was too hard on the rich man?
3. Using your imagination how do you think the rich man felt, when he heard about Jesus’s execution and resurrection?
4. Do you think there are any requirements for inheriting eternal life, and if so, what do you think they are?
5. Do you think having wealth is an impediment to following Jesus?
6. How do you interpret Jesus’ answer in verse, with men it is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God?
7. Are there any things in your life that seem impossible?
8. What difference do you think it might make if you offered those impossibilities to God in prayer?
9. What do you think of the compensation plan in verses 29 and 30?
10. Do you think you are presently the first, the last, or somewhere in between?
Week of October 8 – October 14: Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost – Mark 10:17-31 – What Must I Do? – Job 23:1-9, 16-17, Psalm 22:1-15, Amos 5:6-7, 10-15, Psalm 90:12-17, Hebrews 4:12-16.