My personal thoughts on Mark 10 verse 21:
17. And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
18. And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.
19. Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.
20. And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.
21. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
22. And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
23. And Jesus looked round about, and saith unto his disciples, How hardly shall they that have riches enter into the kingdom of God!
24. And the disciples were astonished at his words. But Jesus answereth again, and saith unto them, Children, how hard is it for them that trust in riches to enter into the kingdom of God!
25. It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
I’m going to focus on 10:21:
Mark 10:21. Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
The teaching here is addressed to a Jewish man who has asked what he lacks before God. The man professes to have followed the commandments, by which it means the law of Moses. This is part of the covenant between God and his chosen nation; however what Jesus mentions is not directly from the law of Moses. This disappoints the man, who it is likely had hoped to be told he was righteousness in the eyes of God.
There is a juxtaposition here between two covenants; the first is the Davidic covenant, which was given through Abraham and renewed in David – a covenant of inheritance within the world. The second is the new covenant, which is with all peoples – a covenant of inheritance in the world to come. The words ‘and come, take up the cross, and follow me’ are an invitation to join into the new covenant. The reference to the cross has two meanings; the first is that to follow Christ is to die to the sinful world, the second is a reference to future events. To take up the cross, before the crucifixion would have been understood in terms of loyalty even unto death; not unlike a solider who pledges to serve even if it means being killed.
This mix of the two covenants is the key to the passage; the old covenant prefigures the new. It is a model on earth of what is to come to pass later. Where the old covenant was concerned with outwards cleanliness or that which is kosher, the new is concerned in just the same way with inward cleanliness and purity of heart.
Mat 15:11. Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.
Before Christ, the Proverbs already point out the fallacy of riches – that having riches on earth does not make one rich.
Prov 13:7. There is that maketh himself rich, yet hath nothing: There is that maketh himself poor, yet hath great wealth.
Later, Paul echoes this proverb in his letter to the church at Corinth. He is to be understood as saying that they are to bring the great gift of God to enrich others, though in terms of money they are poor:
2 Cor 6:10. as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing all things.
Perhaps this can be learnt from the passage in Mark: that God requires us to forsake building earthly wealth for oursleves and instead give it to the poor, that they might not be poor. The way that we treat others who are in need is the way that we treat God Himself. If we do not show love to those who are poor and needy, we do not show love to God.
The groundwork already existed from the Old Testment (e.g. Ezekiel 18 5-9) but it related very powerfully by Jesus in Matthew 25 34-40:
34. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35. for I was hungry, and ye gave me to eat; I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink; I was a stranger, and ye took me in;
36. naked, and ye clothed me; I was sick, and ye visited me; I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungry, and fed thee? or athirst, and gave thee drink?
38. And when saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39. And when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40. And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of these my brethren, even these least, ye did it unto me.
So; if a man has money, land or property beyond his needs, it is contrary to what God wishes, because his neighbour (by whom we mean any fellow man) who is poor and in need of support has not been given help. It is not even encouraged to save up riches for our own future needs, for God knows our requirements and if we trust him, he will give us what is right in his sight.
What man can meet this standard? Surely even the monks who claim to take these works literally have safeguarded for their future by joining the monastry. Indeed, if this is part of the standard, who can be saved?
At the last, we must realise that we cannot by our own means achieve righteousness, even though we might strive to do so. It is a mission doomed to failure. Therefore it is only through the atoning work of Christ that we are able to meet the standard; through faith in him whom God has sent we are made righteous before the Almighty.
Mat 6:31. Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?
32. (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things.
33. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.
34. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
So what do you think? Do I have the wrong end of the stick? Have I grossly misunderstood something? Leave me a comment and let me know!