Mark 10:31

But many who are first now will then be last, and the last will be first.”

sticking to business
no R&D invested
is a quick ride to obsolescence

there is no holding on
when a pendulum reversed
our momentum flies on to nothing

we swing back to a previous setting
or anticipate a next swing
acrobatedly placed for landing

pumping a swing
for a next launch
takes all our attention

first to last
rhythms our way
linear to circular

and back again
and forth again
in joy always

Small words are often the pivot of a sentence. One example is the indiscriminate use of the particular article “the” when all that can really be said is “a” or “an” when talking about an incident or experience. Our tendency to universalize gets us in trouble.

Here is Bratcher327 on the very first small word in this verse:

…as [Vincent] Taylor says, it is impossible to dogmatize whether the particle is here adversative ‘but’ or explanatory ‘for’. The interpretation of the saying is vitally affected by the question. Almost without exception commentators and translations adopt the adversative meaning ‘but’; Lagrange, however, understands it to mean ‘for’ and thus interprets the saying.

A second small word is the next one, “many”. The Jesus Seminar reports:

Mark has taken the edge off the aphorism by limiting the reversal to “many” of the first. In this he is followed by Matt 19:30. The Markan version drew a gray designation because it has been softened, while the categorical form in Matt 20:16 was designate pink as something Jesus might plausibly have said. ~Funk94

Rather than see this as a warning (‘but’) or something generalized, so maybe a camel can get through a needle’s eye, the stronger and more parabolic assertion reads as a more complete conclusion to this scene. — For the first will be last; and the last first. End of a resurrection story that follows living, suffering, and dying.

Mark 10:30

who will not receive a hundred times as much, even now in the present – houses, and brothers, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and land, though not without persecutions – and in the age that is coming, eternal life.

what proportion gain
will satisfy your desire

now we can bargain
twice thrice hundreds

whatever your imagination limit
there is still more available

don’t stop with the imaginable
that hopeful stretch

when we are satisfied
a difference will be made

a too-soon bargain
leaves unborn scars

our mark on history
will fade from view

leaving basic frustrations
alive and well for next generations

changing the ground rules
goes beyond reasonable progress

Oh, good, we had hoped for a return on our investment of 30 or 60 times. Now we hear about 100 times. All the seeds we have sown will leave us sitting pretty.

Note how slyly the phrase, “with harassment” or “persecution” was slid in. This is parallelism with a kicker.

We might imagine Jesus crooning this as a lullaby to soothe Peter and the others. With this quieting the disturbing phrase is in an even quieter, soto voce.

This subliminal message hearkens back the long-range question of the one we now know as wealthy. What investment is needed for a desired outcome? Or, “What must I do that in the resurrection from the dead eternal life will be my lot?” ~Bratcher317

This message essentially says that the wrong question is being asked. Instead of trusting some spiritual portfolio, the question is one of being trustworthy. Not what will we get out of our investment, but how can we not invest even if the consequence is that of suffering and death. Only after dealing with these can a third consideration of resurrection find its appropriate place.

There will have to be more assurance given than this long convoluted response. It’s internal contradiction needs to be dealt with.

Mark 10:29

“I tell you,” said Jesus, “there is no one who has left house, or brothers, or sisters, or mother, or father, or children, or land, for my sake and for the good news,

an incomplete verse
set up a yet unknown
reversal of fortune
unless of course
it is a fulfillment

assurance is one thing
that can be offered
and not received
until its time has come
and become beside the point

what we mean by everything
is always conditioned
in light of economics
valuing tomorrow’s innovations
over and above today’s limits

for person and cause
we commit our resources
in expectation of more
than mere replacement
an extravagant eternity more

There is translational trouble with the Greek that comes not only from the length of the rebuttal, but its double negative construct. Still, the variants in Matthew and Luke indicate that this is not a direct quote but a list that simply points a direction and can be added to with friends or hometown or political party or ….

The last phrase can get played a couple of ways. The word “because” above ἕνεκα (heneka, for the sake of, for the cause of) can be “treated either as causal ‘because of me…’ or purposive ‘for the benefit of…’ In some instances for my sake and for the gospel may be combined as ‘to help me and good news’.” ~Bratcher327

This soft response to a very hard question can be seen to first diffuse the anger at having been caught out about why Peter and others agreed to sign on in the first place. It wasn’t just the charisma of Jesus or a trusting response to a call or a way out of current situation. This self orientation can go a long way in explaining the apparent obtuseness of the disciples in regard to the healings, teachings, and signs Jesus has presented in their presence.

When our expectations are that our investment will be returned many times over, more than FICA guaranteed, there is no need to work at discerning how the presence of Life differs from the necessities of living. It is all going to be taken care of. And, then, along comes a winsome, wealthy, person and he is the cause of a pronouncement that discounts our expectation.

Well, it’s just not fair! Such an assurance is not believable.

Mark 10:28

“But we,” began Peter, “we left everything and have followed you.” 

look there has to be an easier way
when we hitched our star to yours
that’s supposed to have value
for us as well as for you

if this way is going to be marketable
you’d best figure out
how to sell the comfort angle
without daily attention

heaven sounds like a good outcome
but it keeps having growing pains
every time it is about to come on earth
and we have to open a still larger door

this is fair warning
back off your stringency
or we’re out of here
raise us or get out of the pot

It is very difficult to get past the suffering and death part of new life. This is something any addict who has given up every other thing for a next fix will affirm.

This falls in the “impossible” realm of what we can do on our own.

It is easy to fall into a binary way of dealing with spiritual matters that divides things into body and soul, into the nothing I can do and the everything G*D can do. This means we need to be careful not to submerge our needed agency into being a pale image cast on some cave wall.

It is easy to claim that one move we made toward health and whatever is beyond that is all that is needed. In this way we insulate ourselves from ever having to make another adjustment. Our life can settle in to “what’s in it for me” and that’s all we need to know.

And we are back again to a previous scene with Peter affirming that Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ, but one who was exempt from the consequences of such a location. Let’s hear it for Peter whose rockiness, trying to block a river, reveals the impetus of the river with the eddies around its resistance. Such a block helps clarify the underlying gravity that pulls the river on.

If discipleship is primarily a quid pro quo arrangement, the energy needed to be as expansive as its avatar will constrict. This is a basic understanding of the Constantinian conversion of Christ’s way from persecuted to privileged, from non-violence to violence, from invitational to required. Even though it took 300 years to shift, this question is instrumental in continued schisms.

Mark 10:27 Correction

In the previous posting there was a typo in the last stanza.

It should read

when asking zero step questions
it is of very little help
to respond three big stages
down the way

The language and imagery for the 12 Step Program is taken from Russell Brand’s book, Recovery: Freedom from Our Addictions.

Mark 10:27

Jesus looked at them, and answered, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for everything is possible with God.”

the rich don’t make it
all the way to heaven
on their present path
of self-presents

without a first step awareness
that “you’re a bit fucked”
our eyes will mysteriously
find themselves averted

without a second step agreement
that we could be elseways
there is not much room or time
to stop a spinning wheel

there is then no third step open
how then might you think
you’ll get off this wheel
all by your little lonesome

when asking zero step questions
it is of very little help
to respond three big stages
down the way

If money, property, or other accumulated asset doesn’t talk, how will we be able to do an adequate triage of who most needs our healing service. If we don’t have this to soothe our soul in times of trouble (at least we have enough to have more than someone else), what difference does a next-world salvation make?

It can’t be said in too many different ways, there is no sure sign of assurance in a world that is continually moving on. At best a deepening relationship with one another and a however-named source of strange attraction of one-part-to-another and between yesterday, today, and tomorrow caught red-handed in the act of moving on has enough fuzzy-logic presence to intrigue and beckon.

Money is the easiest surface on which to draw a Mammon-G*D line. But it goes much further into our ideation. Each time we find our bedrock jostled, we involuntarily respond, “How then will I be healed? How then may I be saved? How then is life meaningful? How then will our picture be focused? How then will I hear a voice identifying a holistic path in the wilderness?

All of these are found between partners, not in one or the other or any byproduct of one or the other or, even, both.

In this way we might broaden the teaching, “Sōzō is communal—in and of and beyond an ordinary-of-days. Impossible alone. Expected when partnered. Live it into being.”

Now, on to the possible!

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.