Mark 10:17-31 presents us with the story of the (rich, young) man who came to Jesus asking, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”. Jesus’ response conveys to us the impossibility of faith. Jesus’ expectations of this man are so high, that the man goes away crestfallen. And Jesus’ engagement with his disciples after that serves only to make faith yet more impossible. No wonder the disciples asked each other, “Who then can be saved?”
The lectionary does nothing to soften Jesus’ hard words. Indeed, the other readings reinforce them yet further:
- Hebrews 4:12-13 says that the Word of God reveals everything about us to God – everything is uncovered, everything is laid bare. There is no place to hide, no place for modesty.
- Psalm 22 opens with the words “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”, which Jesus spoke on the cross. They remind us of the profound and utter devotion of Jesus towards God and his willingness to give up everything for us.
- Job 23 presents a man who has lost everything and who wants to encounter God, to challenge God, to confront God. But God is not to be found. Having lost everything, but still seeking faith, Job experiences God as unreachable.
Together these readings paint a picture of faith as utterly unattainable. It can leave us feeling perplexed and hopeless.
But, there are three lines in Mark 10 that provide us with some hope. In this sermon, I unpack each of these and show what they mean and how they provide a counterbalance to the impossibly high standards for faith that Jesus sets for us:
- Mark 10:21 “Jesus looked at him and loved him.”
- Mark 10:15 “Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
- Mark 10:27 “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
This juxtaposition of the impossible demands of faith that God makes of us, with the loving permissiveness and generosity of Jesus, suggests that while we should strive for faith and to be true disciples of Christ, we can and should also relax into his grace, not fretting and not losing hope.
See also: A little faith