September 9, 2020 | by: Brandon Flynn | 0 Comments
"See, we have left everything and followed you." — Mark 10:28
As I have recently been rereading through the gospels in preparation for some of the classes I’m teaching this semester, I have been struck by the theme of following Jesus. In particular I have been amazed at how Jesus’s call for people to follow him can seem almost impossibly difficult.
The story of the rich young man in Mark is a good example of this. A well-meaning, rich young man comes up to Jesus asking, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17). Jesus asks him if he has kept the commandments, and he says he has from his youth. And then Mark tells us, Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (10:21). And so Mark tells us the man went away in sadness, for he had great possessions (10:22).
Ultimately what Jesus asks of this young man is that he leave everything behind to follow him. This is made clear in what follows. When Jesus tells the disciples, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of the needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God” (10:25), the disciples exclaim in astonishment, “Then who can be saved?” (10:26). Jesus tells them that all things are possible with God, and Peter’s response is, “See, we have left everything and followed you” (10:28). It might be tempting to read this as a sort of boast from Peter, and we might expect that Jesus will rebuke him. But this is not the case; Jesus tells Peter that everyone who has left houses, family, and even children for Jesus and his gospel will be rewarded, especially in the age to come. And indeed, early in Mark’s gospel Peter and Andrew, James and John left their jobs and their families (and Peter his wife) behind when Jesus called them to follow (1:16-20).
What Jesus seems to be getting at here is that to follow him we have to be willing to leave everything behind. And this is undoubtedly more difficult the more you have to leave behind, which is why Jesus says it is difficult for the rich to enter the kingdom of God.
This is a challenging aspect of Jesus’ teaching, and I tend to let myself off the hook by thinking, “Well, he doesn’t call everyone to leave everything to follow him.” I suppose I am counting myself lucky that Jesus hasn’t come to me in person to call me to follow him. But in my heart I know that this is self-deception; I know that Jesus is calling me through Mark’s gospel to the same commitment as he did of the rich young man. What would I say if he called me to leave everything to follow him? What excuses would I grasp at? This thought experiment drives me straight to the areas where I know I am holding back in my commitment to Christ, and I am praying that he will continue to reshape my desires even as I resolve to give more to him. And I encourage all of us to read the gospels in a way that our current way of life is vulnerable to Jesus’s all-encompassing call to follow him into all manner of earthly insecurity, and even danger, for his sake and for the gospel.