Year B 28th Sunday: Mark 10:17-30

10:17 He was setting out on a journey when a man ran up,
knelt before him and put this question to him,
'Good master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?'
10:18 Jesus said to him, 'Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.
10:19 You know the commandments:
You shall not kill;
You shall not commit adultery;
You shall not steal;
You shall not give false witness;
You shall not defraud;
Honour your father and mother.'
10:20 And he said to him, 'Master, I have kept all these since my earliest days.'
10:21 Jesus looked steadily at him and he was filled with love for him, and he said,
'You need to do one thing more.
Go and sell what you own and give the money to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.'
10:22 But his face fell at these words and he went away sad,
for he was a man of great wealth.

10:23 Jesus looked round and said to his disciples,
'How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!'
10:24 The disciples were astounded by these words, but Jesus insisted,
'My children,' he said to them, 'how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!
10:25 It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle
than for someone rich to enter the kingdom of God.'
10:26 They were more astonished than ever, saying to one another,
'In that case, who can be saved?'
10:27 Jesus gazed at them and said,
'By human resources it is impossible, but not for God:
because for God everything is possible.'
10:28 Peter took this up. 'Look,' he said to him, 'we have left everything and followed you.'
10:29 Jesus said, 'In truth I tell you, there is no one
who has left house, brothers, sisters, mother, father, children or land for my sake
and for the sake of the gospel
10:30 who will not receive a hundred times as much,
houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and land -- and persecutions too --
now in this present time and, in the world to come, eternal life.

Context & Information
The Greek text doesn't say that 'a man' ran up to Jesus, but 'one' ran up. In this story Mark is playing with this word 'one'. A few moments later Jesus answers this 'one', 'Nobody is good except the one(!) God' (vs.18). And again, a few moments later (vs.21), 'One(!) thing you are missing...' In contrast with this word 'one', repeated three times over, at the end we hear about a 'hundredfold’ (vs.30), just as we heard in the parable of the seed (4:9.20).
Mark underlines the uniqueness of this 'one' by telling us that Jesus looked at him and loved him. This is the only time in Mark's Gospel that we hear that Jesus 'loved' a person. However, twice we have heard a voice from heaven say that Jesus was 'the beloved son' (1:11; 9:7). Jesus does with this 'one' as heaven does with Jesus.

Eternal life
To inherit eternal life, you have to keep the commandments. It is striking that Jesus only enumerates the commandments which are related to the neighbour. He doesn't mention any of the first commandments which are related to God! The best way to serve the Lord is to do good to your neighbour (cf. 12,33).
Note that the question of the 'one' how to inherit eternal life is only answered in the very last verse, 'When you leave all what is dear to you because of me, you will inherit eternal life.'

Eye of the Needle
Sometimes 'the eye of the needle' is said to have been a very low and small gate to enter into Jerusalem, so small and low that a camel could only go through it upon its knees. Till today there is no trace at all of such a gate, neither in old texts nor in archaeological findings.

Picture Meditation

We are looking at a wall painting in the Saint-Lucy Church in Eschfeld, Eifel, Germany. This is a fragment of a church full of wall paintings made in the years 1906 -1921 by the parish priest, Christoph März.

The picture shows Jesus, standing between the 'one' and a meagre beggar. The poverty of the beggar is shown by his meagreness, by the bandage around his foot and by his (empty?) begging bowl. The riches of the 'one' is emphasised by his expensive clothes and by the money-bag. I notice the difference between the right and the left hand of the rich 'one': the left hand which refuses to give anything is much bigger than the right hand which holds the money.

This picture is an illustration of Jesus' words, 'Go, sell as much as you have and give (it) to (the) poor...' The rich 'one' doesn't do it. Jesus' gesture is clear, 'I receive the poor one and I resist the rich one.'

It is striking that the painting zooms in on these three persons. Mark's story suggests that the disciples were around. The artist doesn't picture them. Or... could it be that I am part of the scene by looking at it? Do I stand on the spot where the disciples are meant to be? If so, what does it mean to me to see and to hear Jesus in this moment of his life?

by Fr Dries van den Akker SJ