Lent 2017 - The Rich Man

For the third time, Jesus shares with his followers that he is going to be handed over to death and will rise again three days later. The surrounding stories are rich with meaning, but they all reinforce Jesus’ teaching that the way of the Messiah is one of suffering and self-sacrifice. For example, a rich and righteous man asks Jesus how to inherit eternal life. He is not like the others trying to trap Jesus; he is genuinely seeking God’s way. He is not lost, but he is stuck. When Jesus calls him to sell everything he has, the price is too steep. Once again, the apostles are stuck in patterns of petty power struggles. To the outrage of the others, James and John sneak around to try to secure seats of power (still assuming that Jesus is planning a political revolt). Jesus tells them that they still don’t understand how things work. His “seat of glory” is the cross. His cup is sorrow. His baptism is death. 

This is not, however, just something Jesus had undergo so that we don’t have to. Honestly, most of us usually want what Jesus did to guarantee us a life of safety, security, and happiness. But he calls us to his same life of servitude, suffering, and sacrifice. Even if we do serve and suffer and sacrifice, we often try to make it an investment or exchange, vying for that seat on Jesus’ right or left. We are willing to sacrifice, but we want the reward. All of this invites us into Igantius’ radical third kind of humility—to actually want poverty and suffering for their own sake, in order to live like Jesus. If wealth itself is an obstacle to entering the kingdom, shouldn’t we prefer poverty? If Jesus came to be “slave of all,” shouldn’t desire to do the same?

  1. Read Mark 10:13–45.
  2. Ask God for the real desire to serve and suffer in his name.
  3. Imagine yourself in the midst of this series of stories. Watch the rich man run up and hear his enthusiasm. Observe Jesus’ face as he “looks at him and loves him.” Then watch the man walk away in disappointment. Hear Peter defend and commend himself—“Look what we did, Jesus!” Watch the quarrel unfold as James and John’s ambition is revealed. Throughout all of this, how does Jesus respond? What is his demeanor?
  4. Reflect on Ignatius’ third kind of humility—to desire to imitate Jesus in all things, actually preferring poverty rather than riches, insults and insignificance rather than honor, and to be considered foolish rather than wise. Consider the rich man. What kind of humility does he possess, and what is holding him back from growing? Consider Peter when he responds to Jesus’ teaching (10:28). What kind of humility does he possess, and what is he concerned with?
  5. Tell Jesus “what you want out of life.” Where do these desires and expectations come from? Ask him for the very thing James and John unwittingly requested: to actually share in his suffering and sacrifice. Pray with Paul’s words: “I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death” (Philippians 3:10).

About the Author
Nick Chambers is the Associate Minister at Peachtree Christian Church in Atlanta, GA and the former Director of Spiritual Formation at Calvary UMC.