Sunday, January 6, 2013

Seen and Loved (Year B, Proper 23)

Mark 10: 17-31

I want to offer some thoughts about the gospel passage today.

In our reading of Knowing Her Place this week we have been looking at two healing stories. Interestingly, today’s gospel story is part of that same section in Mark. It is in the midst of the many healing stories Mark gives us. This particular passage falls just before the healing of Blind Bartimaeus. These healing stories are often interspersed with dialogue about who is the greatest. The disciples seem to be trying to establish hierarchy.

The Thurston chapter talks about the healing of the woman with the issue of blood clearing space for the girl who was healed. The girl was able to move in as her own person rather than under her father’s shadow. Thurston says, “It is as if the young woman may now walk freely in the space cleared for her by the older woman with whose fate and whose faith she has been linked.” (pg 23)

I do want to read today’s text as one of the healing stories. As I read it I want to ask myself what does this young man need to be healed from? I also want to ask myself who or what does this story clear space for (if anything)?

The actual dialogue, as recorded by Mark, is really interesting. The young man comes to Jesus calling him “good teacher” an appellation which Jesus points out is usually reserved for God. This in itself could lead us to a great discussion about the divinity of Jesus however I do not want to linger there today.

I do want to note that by the way this young man approached Jesus he probably knew something was missing in his life. He knew something wasn’t quite right. He doesn’t seem to know what he needed “healing” from, but felt sufficient unease that he approached Jesus and fell on his knees

Jesus tells the young man he knows what to do as he has the commandments to guide him. Jesus mentions several of the commandments. However what is really interesting is in the middle of the list Jesus adds a new commandment. “You shall not defraud”.

I think that should have been striking to this young man who obviously was schooled in the commandments. Yet it doesn’t seem to have been. His response is that he has kept them all.

Jesus looked at him and loved him. I really like that. Jesus didn’t look at him and condemn or criticize. Jesus knew the shortcomings but had compassion. I think there is a lesson for all of us in how we approach our friends and acquaintances.

Then Jesus told him to go and sell his belongings and give to the poor. Throughout the gospels we see this bias towards helping the poor. Yet, Jesus did not give this command to others. Just a couple of weeks ago in Thurston we talked about Mary and Martha entertaining Jesus. It was obviously a rich household with servants, yet Jesus didn’t tell them to sell it all and give it to the poor. There are many other occasions where Jesus enjoyed hospitality by those who were rich. So what was it with this young man that evoked this response.

Personally (and I emphasize this is only my opinion), I wonder if the young man’s riches are connected with the additional commandment of not defrauding. Perhaps, he had gained the riches illicitly. Perhaps he needs healing from his greediness. Sadly, he couldn’t take the help offered. I find that makes much more sense of the story.

So who or what does this story create space for. It seems to create space for Jesus to continue to teach about the nature of the realm of God. It serves as an introduction to teaching the idea that all things are possible for God. It also seeks to emphasize the gender inclusiveness of the realm of God. Look at the list of the valuable things that one has may have to leave behind it includes women, children as well as men and possessions. Finally, this passages serves as a prelude to Jesus teaching about the journey to the cross.