Monday, May 26, 2008

Today's Gospel

Mark 10: 17-27
Jesus 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?' Jesus said to him, 'Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You must not kill; You must not commit adultery; You must not steal; You must not bring false witness; You must not defraud; Honour your father and mother.' And he said to him, 'Master, I have kept all these from my earliest days'. Jesus looked steadily at him and loved him, and he said, 'There is one thing you lack. Go and sell everything you own and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.' But his face fell at these words and he went away sad, for he was a man of great wealth.

Jesus looked round and said to his disciples, 'How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!' 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! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.' They were more astonished than ever. 'In that case' they said to one another 'who can be saved?' Jesus gazed at them. 'For men' he said 'it is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God.'
One could write an awful lot about that gospel, but what strikes me as especially suggestive is that when Jesus examines this man on the commandments, he leaves out those commandments which have to do with God directly. When one considers the fact that at the root of the commandments is the first commandment which prohibits idolatry and the worship of any one or any thing apart from the One God of Israel, this omission is very thought-provoking, especially when put alongside Christ's question, 'Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.
Perhaps Christ realised that despite the seeming virtue of this man, that virtue was hollow at heart because he didn't 'do God'. Combine that with the instruction to the Apostles concerning how to enter heaven (It is impossible, but not for God: because everything is possible for God), and you have a decent starting point if you want to explore the relationship between the Pauline doctrine of grace and the synoptic Gospels, to say nothing of the question of the relationship between theology and morality.

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