(Begin by reading the Gospel. Sometimes it is good to have someone read it to you. The Word is meant to be heard.)
In the Gospel for this Sunday, a man comes to Jesus with a question about eternal life. He knows Jesus often speaks about the Kingdom of God. We wonder if eternal life and the Kingdom of God are exactly the same.
As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, 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.
This is a strange beginning to an answer. Jesus seems to challenge the man for calling him "good." God alone is good, Jesus says. Jesus reminds the man of the order of things: there is One God. God alone. Jesus wants the man to think. Why is he calling Jesus good? Who does he understand Jesus to be?
You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honour your father and mother.’”
Jesus lists some of the Ten Commandments. We hear these commandments in Exodus, the second book of the Bible. It is interesting; Jesus skips the commandments about relationship with God:
I am the Lord your God...you shall have no other gods before me...
You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God...
Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy...
Does Jesus skip these because he has already reminded the man of the proper order, that God alone is good?
The order of the remaining commandments, the ones about relationships with other people, is wrong. Jesus ends with the fourth commandment, honour your father and your mother. Why might Jesus change the order? Why might he end with this commandment?
The man responds,
“Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.”
Why does the man say this? Is he thinking, "Great, then I will have eternal life," or does he feel dissatisfied deep inside? Perhaps he wants something more. Perhaps he does not feel close enough to God. We notice that he has stopped calling Jesus "good".
Jesus, looking at him, loved him
Jesus must know that the man wants more, that he does not feel satisfied. Jesus looks at him. The man kneels before him with a heart that is not satisfied, a heart that is questioning—with a restless heart—and Jesus loves him.
“You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
Jesus knows the man's heart is restless so he offers him more. He offers him something that will satisfy all his longing: treasure in heaven. He offers him answers to questions: come, follow me. It is an invitation.
It is an invitation to change the order of his life. Is God alone first in this man's life? Apparently not. His heart is grieving. We wonder what he will decide to do.
Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” And the disciples were perplexed at these words.
The disciples are confused because this is not the way the world works. The rich can do just about whatever they want. This is the world's order of things, but it is not the order of the Kingdom of God. The man's wealth, his possessions, are an obstacle. He cannot follow Jesus, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God, because God is not first in his life.
But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?”
This crazy comparison of trying to fit a camel through the hole in a needle, convinces the disciples that Jesus is serious. The rich have a problem. It is too easy to value wealth over God.
But who are the rich? We can always find someone who is richer than we are. But we can also always find someone who is poorer. We are all rich in some way. Is Jesus speaking about us?
We all have things that are important to us. Some are our possessions: our clothes, our bikes, our technology. Some are our choices: what we watch, what we buy, who we spend time with. It is so easy to value these things more than God alone. Perhaps we need to start worrying that we will not enter the Kingdom of God.
Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”
Worrying is not helpful. When we worry, we look to ourselves to find a solution. Jesus reminds us of the proper order. God alone saves us. With God alone, all things are possible.
“Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.
Is Jesus telling us to walk away from our homes and our families? Or is he, instead, inviting us to come and follow him?
Notice all the things Jesus lists as left behind.
Notice the list of all the things that we receive a hundredfold.
What one thing is missing? Why?
If we follow Jesus, the proper order is established, and then, who is Our Father?
If we allow God to be first—God alone—will we have nothing at all? No, Jesus says. With our lives in the proper order, all else follows. We will receive now, in this age. The Kingdom of God now.
With obstacles removed, with God alone first, what prevents us from entering the Kingdom of God now? And later, in the age to come, eternal life.