In the central section of Mark’s gospel, Mark presents Jesus’ collective identity three times as the suffering Son of Man whom true disciples imitate by following and taking up their crosses. Three times they misunderstand, and each time they are corrected.
As a counterpoint to this teaching, Jesus encounters a rich man whose possessions impede progress towards the kingdom. In response to his question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus lists the commandments including the injunction not to defraud. The young man declares that he has kept all these things from his youth. Then the narrative records, “Jesus, looking intently at him, loved him and said, ‘Go, sell your possessions and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven, and come, follow me.’” Jesus’ additional demand is not a dismissive trap but stems instead from a deep desire to free the man from “the cares of the world and the delight in riches which enter in like thorns and choke the word.” (Mark 4:19)Jesus perceives, both narratively and personally, the impossible challenge his words pose. And his perception proves correct: at Jesus’ word, the man’s face fell, and he went away grieving, for he was unwilling to give up his many possessions. Jesus’ reaction empathizes with the rich man’s plight. He does not judge.
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