Mark 10:26

“Then who can be saved?” they exclaimed in the greatest astonishment.

looking on fortunate others
knowing our own plans
fractured and faded
we project consistency
in both directions

upward always and onward
those with the most more
have too much to fail
even their bankruptcies
bring advantages

with heaven already on them
how could they miss heaven’s mark
such a construct
simply doesn’t compute
we don’t get it

The disciples have been shocked before by Jesus’ actions, directions, and responses to them. It has not just been the crowds that have been amazed.

In the realm of such mysteries as parables, multiplications of bread, and various healings we can claim to be out of our depth and come to simply accept that which goes beyond our usual experience is foundational.

However, when it comes to the place where we swim, within an economic system, here we have enough immersion to have our foundations shaken. Here we think we know what we are talking about.

In the first part of Mark, σῴζω (sōzō, be safe/healed/saved) was present in some diminished setting of illness, possession, or nearing death. Remember the man with a withered hand, Jairus’ unnamed daughter, a hemorrhaging woman.

We are now well into the second part. Where once sōzō, salvation, showed itself in the giving and receiving of health and life, now sōzō shifts away from “salvation from death to salvation through death” (LaVerdiere-2102).

The shift from preparing fisher-folk to go out with a staff and a cloak to find hospitable spots from which to radiate health has morphed into preparing their being to be hospitable spots from the non-attached spot of suffering, death, and next life.

This is the sort of quantum shift that more and more people are seeing as needed in this world—a next line and stage that a few will take in advance of additional people joining through time and setting out on whatever a next Axial Age will later be termed. This is more than a generational shift. An invitation to sōzō is on the loose.

Mark 10:25

It is easier for a camel to get through a needle’s eye, than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 

practice as many impossibilities
as you can before noon
or supper or bed
and still there is no
camel going through
any needle’s eye

no one possessed
gets out under the auspices
of their own bootstraps
or they wouldn’t
have been possessed
in the first place

the poor search for riches
the rich search for heaven
both lose their bearings
the poor poorer
the rich richer
unpartnered death spirals

My own bias is to have this verse come before v. 24. It has a sense of sorrow about it. A man asks an important ethical question and can’t deal with the import of the response. How sad that property, wealth, privilege, prestige of any economic system hold spirit in such a tight grasp.

This is not simply a hyperbolic statement, but a realization of how difficult are good news and fishing. We are back again at the foot of a mountain where the disciples have been thrown for a loop by trying to heal through a technique of repeating what worked last time.

It is one thing to look for places where hospitality welcomes the throwing out of possessive demons and quite another when people who show such promise, as this man seeking a larger life, in the final analysis fall short of being able to take a needed next step. In the first instance there is great rejoicing, in this scene there is a resigned sense of deaf, mute, blindness closing down any glimmer of changed behavior.

Our fantasy of waking up a lottery winner without ever buying a ticket is of the same nature as someone who is a winner in the economic calculus of success and who refuses to see their personal benefaction as based on the besting of others. This is one of those journeys that takes the longest stay in the wilderness to go deep enough for a retreat awareness that can look the temptation of “more” in the eye and rejoice in “enough”.

Here we are facing the old choice about belovedness. Is it a free ticket to the best of all possible worlds? Is it the entrance fee to a wilderness of temptation in the presence of beasts and angels?

Mark 10:24

The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “My children, how hard a thing it is to enter the kingdom of God!

possessions are not
the only catch point
for a larger present
to be hooked fore and aft
into living presence

appreciation easily erodes
with every learned control
over self and others
and we are coded
for dominion

heads do not rest easy
with dreams of more
addicting our fantasies
driving our ambitions
erasing our connections

there is much to not do
to not claim hospitality
to not restrict hospitality
to not limit mercy
to not presume mercy

for every catch
a release
constrained by caughtness
resisting release
ease is not easy

There are some commentators who suggest that verses 24 and 25 are reversed. Regardless of which comes first the combination packs a punch.

It is difficult to enter the presence of a Wisdom-oriented G*D that moves as she will. That which we have come to rely upon shifts right under our feet. We become disoriented when our theories of how the world works turn out to no longer have a bearing. From dominion and land we presume privilege and power, control over our lives as we dance around a golden calf that gives the answers we desire.

Again and again such a constructed world comes crashing down. It is difficult. And that is an understatement.

Whether then or now there are fantasies about having our cake and eating it, too. In recent days there has been an adjustment to the American tax code that greatly benefits those with property. Here is a description of the difficulty—Swanson231.

While you are digging around in this scene about giving everything away, you might listen in on discussions about levels of taxation in the United States. Sometimes those who oppose taxes argue that taxes are too high because there is corruption in the federal government. There surely is such corruption, but it exists in equal measure in the corporate world, or in any world you would choose to specify. But the argument against taxation gets interesting, at least in terms of this scene in Mark’s story, when the argument for lowering taxes swings to the notion that “it’s your money.” Which side of this argument would the young man find himself on? Why?

Mark 10:23

Then Jesus looked around, and said to his disciples,“How hard it will be for people of wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”

many possessions
carry weight
whether used
or lost track of

their gravity
pulls attention
whether seen or not
into their center

their shininess
blinds to any value
other than their own
bright star

a goody in hand
is better by far
than anything afar
beyond grasping

to swim in one’s own
removes an ability
to breathe
in any other picture

As the propertied man went gloomily away, Jesus looked around and found there were yet trails of “stugnasas” that had not left with him.

A gloom of doom has settled over the disciples, perhaps, particularly, the Twelve.

Teachers are particularly aware of teachable moments and so the hidden ideas of the disciples needs to be addressed then, and now.

“Did you also have a hoarded hope that your reward would be great? Well, let’s be clear—It is impossible for those who treasure possessions to move beyond them.”

As Mann402 puts it:

The teaching on wealth in the conversation which follows certainly goes far beyond exhortations to almsgiving and certainly (so far as Jesus is concerned) contradicts any unqualified assertion that wealth is a sign of divine blessing. For the rich the difficulty lies in making a choice between caring for wealth and caring for the things of God.

In spite of a basic good-will toward the person seeking a moral compass that will work in life’s experience and whatever might be beyond this life and even Jesus looking upon him with a love that was the equivalent of Jesus’ love of G*D and Neighb*r, there is no automatic way to deal with a new norm of holiness that puts any form of blessedness in front of an appreciation for journeying with others into a wilderness that can only be appreciated on its own terms. Privilege and power lead us to turning back before we have had a wilderness retreat from which we return changed.

What seemed so easily said, “Extend love to the poor”, reveals the underlying sadness of not being able to choose for one’s heart’s desire—life in fullness. To be open to the mystical not bounded by the rational is to be open to change how and where we look.

Mark 10:22

But the man’s face clouded at these words, and he went away distressed, for he had great possessions.

it’s turtles all the way down
today and tomorrow
names for nascent turtles
for their time and turn

as much as we work to gather
comfort and ease
for some later protection
this is as nothing

it is harder to give
ease and comfort
in a zero-sum game
we fear is rigged

our fondest hope founders
day after day
on simple solutions
reversing course

Askers of questions are often dismayed at the responses they get. As questions often mask an idea, when a response doesn’t match up with the often sublimated idea there is disappointment at the realization that we are not justified in our position. Sadness can be expected.

The Greek here is στυγνάσας (stugnasas, to be sorrowful), which may be a good word to bring back into a depressed society.

Listen to Swanson232 describe his experience with these sorts of questions:

… we misunderstand this scene about giving everything away if we forget that we do not, not for a minute, believe that the young man should give everything away, at least not if the young man were our own son. Watch interpreters carefully. When faced with a passage like this one, they valorize self-denial mightily. They urge similar self-denial on the part of the audience. And then they go home and plan for their retirement, or for their child’s career. I teach American undergraduates. They are a good lot, devoted to lives of service. I also talk to the parents with some frequency. Their parents are also a good lot, concerned for the well-being of their offspring. Parents sing a regular refrain in these conversations. It begins something like this: “But what can you do with a major in … ?” It does not matter what word comes next. If the major field in question is biology/pre-med, no one asks. But any other field can be a cause for concern. I teach religion. You can imagine the questions I get asked. So far no parent has said, “I hope my daughter picks up dying people off the street for no pay.” Why not?

The possessions in question are specifically land, property. It doesn’t matter if it is land possessed by an individual or an Empire. In the end, land is for the benefit of all, dominion does not work here.

Mark 10:21

Jesus looked at the man, and his heart went out to him, and he said, “There is still one thing wanting in you; go and sell all that you have, and give to the poor, and you will have wealth in heaven; then come and follow me.”

peering searching
laser-like gaze
sees accumulated good
hell-proof armor
thickening immobilizing

assessing assaying
clear-eyed evaluation
focuses on repentant action
a spirited can-opener
reducing toning

claiming calling
bell-pealed alarm
strips all yesterdays
eternity-revealed prescription
selling voiding

offering beckoning
soul-tuned song
keying a locked treasure
denying an eternity
joying rejoicing

Love is many splendored. Trying to parse it too closely turns into vivisection in search for a soul. Here we simply note that ἀγαπάω (agapō, dearly loved, greatly welcomed) will again show up in reference to the partnered acts of repentance: to love G*D; to love Neighb*r.

The depth of this deep gaze into another does not stop with loving another “as we find them”, but goes, in the words of the songwriter Fred Kaan, to love them “as they may become”.

In this way love is able to not only support, but amend.

Before us we have a loveable person. That is all that is known at this point. Recent Bibles spoil the fun of reading these ancient stories by titling sections. In this way they spoil the action.

We’ve seen people come up to Jesus before—a wild man in the land of the Gerasenes, a leader of a synagogue, a woman to touch his garment. The only difference here is that we are dealing with the ethics of living, rather than the physics of living. In this realm the only thing that can satisfy is a baptismal metanoia or turning around that comes with a shift of focus from accumulation of precious seeds to an extravagant sowing of them.

We are now shocked to learn that a usual marker of success, wealth, is a barrier to going any further than we now are. It is a block to what we may become. If we can read this without the spoiler alert of a heading, it may be a needed shock to whatever our current addiction may be. Now we can again choose a less-traveled road.

Mark 10:20

“Teacher,” he replied, “I have observed all these from my childhood.”

everything I’ve done
all those good bits
in my favor

I’ll claim it all
those naughty bits
now by confession

I’m looking beyond
already completed
tomorrow’s assurance

this day by day
wearies my judgment
unto an extended warranty

“I’ve met all the prerequisites for your course. Now I want your syllabus and be able to glean from it what I need for a final exam. Thanks, in advance, for your synopsis of your teaching as I have more enriching things to do than come to class on a regular basis.”

And we come to an important point of presence.

Where are we going to show-up as there is no substitute for experience? That blanket statement is particularly important for woo-woo disciplines such as religious studies. To even go through the motions of processes (take what you have seen and heard and go, be hospitable) and rituals (prayer) is to be affected by whatever power they have.

As creatures with a built-in bias of partnership, simply being in the presence of another builds in strands of relationship. The more there are the stronger the bond. This is most revealed in troublesome relationships that become so difficult to break.

We are also at a point of revelation.

The invoking of the very best of our tradition is never sufficient for keeping up on a journey to new life. Every tradition brings value, but never enough value to simply be repeated and expect the same return in a different time and setting.

It is important to not murder (within the group). It is also important to grow this understanding to the murder of hope as well as that of breath. It is, likewise, important to expand a restriction on murder beyond the group. This expansion even goes beyond a category of human to include other living beings, including the earth.

Mark 10:19

You know the commandments – ‘Do not kill. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not say what is false about others. Do not cheat. Honor your father and your mother.’”

our every question
arises from our undoing
of every value held dear

each disconnect forces fantasies
of doing better than we are
lest we see how far away we are

we play our gifts and fears
against one another
barely making a passing grade

don’t this and don’t that
do and do and do
can meet law’s letter

all the while knowing our discord
how hard we work at minimal response
how sporadic our persistence

yes we know
but from a distance
how little we soar

It is comforting to know that Jesus doesn’t just roll off the highly honored 10 Commandments.

Why aren’t the injunctions about putting G*D first, idolatry, the use of G*D’s name, and Sabbath listed here? Why not curry direct favor with the Layer-Down-of-Rules?

Instead we have Commandments about ordinary human relationships — Commandments 6–9 (murder, adultery, stealing, and lying), a variant on 10 (coveting realized through cheating/defrauding), and ending with 5 (parents).

Cheating or Defrauding comes from Deuteronomy’s concern with justice, equity, and charity (see Deuteronomy 24:14–15). It is also used later in 1 Corinthians 6:7–8. This is very important for religious people in today’s world of an increasing gap between the rich and the poor. The rich cannot become even more so except through tilting the coveting field in their direction or defrauding the poor. A simple look at tax codes in America will reveal the importance of this commandment that goes beyond personal virtue. Fraud reminds us to follow the money and it will eventually lead to the fatal flaw in every economic system that will get played with an appeal to a prosperity gospel equating riches now with more riches to come.

Cheating is the antithesis of welcoming and hospitality, of suffering, death, and resurrection, of detaching from power and privilege by partnering with children.

Mark 10:18

“Why do you call me good?” answered Jesus. “No one is good but God.

hmm another testing
and ain’t it the case
the bigger the good
the larger the test

makes it seem the worse
for our sense of awe
its very awesome aweness
holds its greatest danger

infatuation and intoxication
are easy addictions
changing our brain chemistry
and time between hits

we fall from an easy integrity
to an advertiser’s new New NEW
requiring ever purer awesomeness
rising from within

After a trapping question about divorce we come to a seemingly appropriate question about moral and ethical development by a seemingly regular guy. We are inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Why shouldn’t Jesus simply accept the compliment just paid to him? Malina244 suggests:

In a limited good society, compliments indicate aggression; they implicitly accuse a person of rising above the rest of one’s fellows at their expense. Compliments conceal envy, not unlike the evil eye. Jesus must fend off the aggressive accusation by denying any special quality of the sort that might give offense to others. Such a procedure is fully in line with the canons of honor. The honorable person, when challenged, pushes away the challenge and diffuses any accusation that might fuel the position of his opponents. Here the counterquestion serves to ward off the unwitting challenge, while the proverb “No one is good but God alone” wards off the envy.

In addition to this cultural aspect, on the simplest of levels a good teacher doesn’t let their student get away with extraneous details that distract from whatever issue is at hand. The matter of seeking whatever might be meant by “eternal life” or a life no longer under occupation but lived in accordance with everything wrong put right is not to be confused with some unknown quality of “goodness” or “wholeness”. The goodness of the teacher is not relevant to import of the quest anymore than the purity of a priest defines the value of any ritual in which they participate. If a search for “eternal life” has brought this person running, that is enough to go on.

In the end, none of us carry virtue by ourselves. We engage in being a partner (ally, advocate, accomplice) on a good journey.

Mark 10:17

As Jesus was resuming his journey, a man came running up to him, and threw himself on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to gain eternal life?”

hey you
yeah you
hold on
got a question

what’s the rule
guaranteed ’til then
about landing better
prospects than now

folks say you’ve got
good insight for today
and a better tomorrow
so what gives huh

I’ve got a five
says it’s nothing
what you say
so show me

now’s good
for me
how’s it
by you

Jesus has encountered his disciples essentially claiming, “For now the presence of children is incompatible with following Jesus”. For whatever reason they used in the moment, Jesus countered that with a welcome and a blessing before continuing on his way.

Before continuing on our way, the church has continually used this same formula of incompatibility regarding art, science, women, people of color, the poor, the colonized, and LGBTQ+ people, and other marginalized groups. An example of this is the current claim of United Methodists sending of children away—“the practice of homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching”.

It is in this context, some restricting others from the limited viewpoint of claiming their greatness, that we hear of a person hurrying toward Jesus to ask a question about a holistic way of life. This is a question the disciples and the church seem to always answer for themselves from a viewpoint that requires a scapegoat for its own sense of purity.

It is as if this never-ending constriction is sufficient without reflection, much less practice of what has been indicated as a next step. In this way the accusation of hypocrisy is an ever-present reality for disciples in each age.

A legal approach to the experience of life sets the stage for an aborted healing. The premise of finding a guarantee of a future state through a present action is faulty. Though we are getting better with weather predictions, there is no reliable way of modifying it to get a season of “perfect” days (other than on the macro-scale of climate change and this seems to be heading in a negative direction in regard to our short-term adaptability).