Bible Study “The end, the beginning” Part 4 (Week of September 25)

Week 7. READ: Mark 10:17-31

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The ancient question that remains relevant to many people today asks: if there is such a reality as life after death or eternal life, how can I obtain it? Someone recently expressed this sentiment about a very successful and rich school classmate who died: His parents never went to church nor did he but he was a good man. He did a lot of good in our community and much of it very privately. The scriptures are clear that God alone issues judgement and not us (Matthew 7:1ff; 2 Timothy 4:1).  Let us not foolishly try and step into God’s business who is a God of mercy and knows what we will never know about anyone’s life including their faith in God.

Returning to the question of the man who in his urgency for an answer from the teacher ran to him and knelt down in respect and asked: what must I do to inherit eternal life (v. 17)?  Jesus rebuffs the man when he referred to Jesus as “good,” because God alone is good.  In a spirit of true humility, Jesus always defers all honor and praise for anything good that he may do or say to God.  It is interesting to note that when the man refers to the teacher again at the end of this story, he no longer calls Jesus good but only “teacher” (v. 20).

Because this question of receiving eternal life is so central in the minds of people, religious leaders and other rabbi’s offer a variety of answers including the keeping of the Torah – the law in the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures (Genesis – Deuteronomy).  Jesus reminds the man (the ruler in Luke 18:18) of the second part of the Ten Commandments dealing with relationships with one’s neighbor (see Leviticus 18:5).

Jesus quotes certain commandments:

  • Do not kill (commandment 5 for Catholics & Lutherans and 6 for Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox and Reformed churches.  See also Exodus 20:12-16 & Deuteronomy 5:16-20 for each of the commandments named by Jesus).
  • Do not commit adultery (commandment 6 for Catholics & Lutherans and 7 for Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox and Reformed churches).
  • Do not steal (commandment 7 for Catholics & Lutherans and 8 for Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox and Reformed churches).
  • Do not bear false witness (commandment 8 for Catholics & Lutherans and 9 for Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox and Reformed churches).
  • Do not defraud (which is not one of the Ten Commandments and is removed from the story in Matthew 19:16-22 & Luke 18:18-23.  It may summarize a teaching about the sin of defrauding others in Leviticus 6:1-7).
  • The final commandment Jesus names is: honor your father and your mother (commandment 4 for Catholics and Lutherans and 5 for Anglicans, Eastern Orthodox and Reformed churches).The response of the man to Jesus says that he has met the requirements since his youth.  “Jesus’ looking intently at him and loving him indicates that he recognizes that the man has great potential as a disciple.  He then tells the man that he lacks one thing. The dialogue implies that, as far as Jesus is concerned, keeping the commandments is sufficient for inheriting eternal life.  The man, however, seeks something more,” (Collins, p. 479).  If the man was content with his obedience in fulfilling the Commandments as enough to receive eternal life, he would have said “thank you” and walked away praising God.  Instead, he speaks of his obedience and looks at Jesus. In a spirit of compassion, Jesus looks at the man and names one more thing he must do to be freed from the distraction of possessions: sell them and share the wealth with the poor, then come and be a disciple.  Instead of taking on this action, the man is crushed because his possessions have him by the ankle.
  • Soul Sower While Jesus got the fun question about how to make sure you are doing what you need to do to inherit eternal life, as a pastor, this is not the question or comment I hear today.  Here are questions and comments I have heard in the last couple of years.  I invite you to think about how you would respond.  Do not judge.  How can you invite further conversation and exploration?  You do not need to answer the questions correctly.  It can simply be a dialogue.  The best learning happens when we discover for ourselves rather than being given a pat answer.
  • My family and I have been through so much recently, I find it next to impossible to believe that there can be a loving God somewhere.
  • I am spiritual but not religious.  I have found my own path.  My parents forced me to go to Mass when I was a kid.  I was an altar boy and did all that.  I have not been back since.  I don’t miss it.  I don’t need it.  It may be good for some people but not me.
  • My wife does the church stuff for the family.  I work all week sometimes even on Saturdays.  Sunday is my only day all week to sleep in and get caught up on my rest.
  • My parents forced me to go to church when I was a kid even though they never went.  I am not doing that to my kids.  When they get old enough, they can choose for themselves.
  • I used to go to Grace when I was a kid and the church was bursting at the seams.  Occasionally I will watch a video of the sermon online and I have to ask, where are all the people?  It looks like a ghost town.  What happened?
  • Don’t bother me with all that religious mumbo jumbo.  I just don’t buy that.
  • My wife and I try and get there when we can.  But our kids, that is a different story.  We brought them up in the church but they don’t have the time of day for it now.  Our grandkids have never been to church.  Don’t get me wrong, they say a prayer before they eat and on holidays we pray the Lord’s Prayer together.  But talk to them about getting the kids baptized?  Nope, not having it.
  • Questions to Consider:
  1. Who is a model for you of being a loving witness of Jesus?
  2. What can our lay people do to show Jesus love to our family members and neighbors?
  3. What do you think is the main reasons people are turned off by church and religion?
  4. What should we learn from this?