Sunday’s Gospel, Mark 10.17-31
In Matthew this man is said to be young, and in Luke he is said to be a ruler; but here in Mark he is just ‘a man’, which might be Mark’s way of making the message of the incident more general.
When Jesus calls people to follow, there is always a price to pay – the fishermen leave their nets and their families, Matthew leaves the profitable position of a tax collector and so on. This man is asked to leave his riches. He might have regarded them as a sign of God’s favour, but other parts of scripture regard God’s favour as resting on the poor, or the hungry. For Jesus riches are getting in the way of compassion – sell all you have and give to the poor. Jesus is not setting out a political manifesto or a blanket condemnation of richer people, but is asking all his followers to be people of genuine compassion who will not hang onto possessions if they can help the poor.
Jesus rejects the description of ‘good teacher’, saying only God is good. This might be ironic – ‘have you really seen that I am Son of God or are you just giving me a nice title’ – but given Jesus’ desire to be the servant and his instructions to tell no one of his true identity, this is not so very surprising; it certainly cannot be seen as evidence that Jesus is not divine.
Not surprisingly the disciples ask about their own sacrifices – we have left everything and followed you. Jesus assures them they will have their heavenly reward as well as their earthly one. But the earthly rewards will not be materialistic, and may even come with persecution. But they will be in the knowledge that the disciple is treading in the footsteps of his/her master.