By Paul Knudtson
Life involves both leaving and receiving. We hear about this in the gospel.
Disciples say to Jesus: “Look we have left everything and followed you.”
Jesus says, “there is no one who has left house or brothers and sisters or mother or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life.” (Luke 18:28-30)
I’ve thought about the kinds of leaving that this life involves at all stages:
- Children leave the comfort of home and go to school with strangers, leaving toys, free time, and the familiarity of routines with parents.
- Companies downsize and restructure, opportunities for advancement arise elsewhere, or working conditions become intolerable, forcing people to leave their place of work.
- Seniors move out of their homes to go into assisted living, losing their independence and freedom.
- The empty farm house where I grew up is a mere shadow of its former glory in the days when it thrived as an active farm. Leaving what once was, is painful.
- Visiting family is colored by the question, “When are you leaving?” even before the suitcases are put into the spare bedroom.
And the leaving of this life is often painful. That’s why the rich man in Mark 10 was “grieving.” He didn’t want to leave it all behind.
These words from Psalm 38 may express how we feel when we must leave something we love:
“6I am utterly bowed down and prostrate; I go about in mourning all the day long.” “8I am utterly numb and crushed; I wail, because of the groaning of my heart.”
But the leaving referred to in the gospel is matched by a much greater receiving:
One who has left home and family . . . will receive “a hundredfold now in this age . . . and in the age to come eternal life” (Luke 18:30)
Just so, our leaving needs to be balanced by the much more of the receiving.
It is like the leaving referred to at the beginning of Mark 10, that which refers to the creation story in Genesis 2. Jesus says,
“But from the beginning of creation, ‘God made them male and female.” ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall be one flesh.’” (Mark 10:6-8; Gen 1:27; 2:24)
It may be hard to leave father and mother, but one receives so much more through marriage and having a family of one’s own.
I think of all that I have received by leaving my own father and mother for marriage:
I have children and grandchildren of my own along with a partner who is a witness to my life.
What a joy they have brought to us. Our five-year-old grandson at breakfast one morning said this to his dad as he was eating a piece of bread:
“I’m eating Jesus’ skin, right?” His dad replied, “Well, not really.” To which he replied, “It’s in the Bible!”
We rejoice each time a new child enters our family. Our hearts are enlarged with each new person.
Such joys are part of the receiving that has gone with leaving my father and mother for marriage.
But the attachment to that which is precious can prevent us from receiving what is far better and far more valuable.
- Attachment to parents has prevented many marriages from thriving.
- The rich man’s attachment to money in Mark 10 kept him from following Jesus.
Mark 10 speaks of these attachments that one must give up: “house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields.”
What have you had to give up in life? What leaving has defined you?
What does Jesus ask you to leave in order that you may follow him?
Christian faith does not eliminate the pain of leaving that we experience in this life—in some ways it intensifies it, even as Jesus asks people to leave what others do not leave.
The rich young man in Mark 10 had to choose between his wealth and Jesus.
Either / Or — his wealth or Jesus.
What either/or defines your life of faith?
Yet, there is something drastic—seemingly reckless or irresponsible—in what Jesus calls the rich man to do—to sell everything he owns and follow him. In my experience, money and possessions give one a sense of security. Who would want to give away this security?
But it is good to be reminded that not even money in the bank can give us ultimate security in this life.
One day this week as I thought about the struggles our families have faced through the years. No one is immune. I read the words of Psalm 36 that speaks of the much more that we receive from God.
5Your love, O LORD, reaches to the heavens, and your faithfulness to the clouds. 7How priceless is your love, O God! Your people take refuge under the shadow of your wings. 8They feast upon the abundance of your house; you give them drink from the river of your delights.”
Jesus invites us to follow him and to trust in him above all, and to find our ultimate security in him alone. He invites us to throw caution to the wind as we follow him on the great adventure of faith.
Oftentimes Jesus directs our attention to what is most dear, most precious to us, and even asks us to give this up in order to follow him.
He wishes us to find our ultimate security in him and in his love.
“Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.” (Psalm 20:7)
Trusting in the Lord isn’t always easy for us, but Jesus doesn’t play it safe.
Sell it all and give it away, every bit of it, and come follow me.
Thomas Green likens the life of faith to learning how to float in the ocean. Floating rather than swimming. In swimming, one is in control, energetically swimming to a certain destination; when one floats, one surrenders to the current, allowing it to carry one wherever it will. (Thomas H. Green, S.J. When the Well Runs Dry: Prayer Beyond the Beginnings. Ave Maria Press, 2007)
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yolk upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yolk is easy and my burden is light.” (Matt11)
Do you like to feel in control of everything in your life? Are you a swimmer rather than a floater?
As we see early in Mark 10, Jesus calls us also to give up our self-sufficiency and to become like children. To leave adulthood in order to receive the kingdom of God.
“Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. 15Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, will never enter it.” 16And he took them up in his arms, laid his hands on them, and blessed them. (Matthew 18)
Kids know that they are not responsible for everything in the world. They don’t usually carry the weight of the world of their shoulders.
This week I watched a mother with three pre-school children walk into Safeway and then a few minutes later leave Safeway. She carried one child, followed by a boy and a girl following him. This girl, perhaps 3 years old, seemed completely lost in the wonder of being a child. She took huge giant steps as she walked across the marked cross walk leading from the store—then tried to balance on the cement parking bumper.
Jesus invites us to leave the burden of adult life for childlike, joyful, carefree living.
Is Jesus saying these words to you?
“Come to me all you who are weary and are carrying heavy burdens and I will give you rest.”
Psalm 127 adds:
“It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives sleep to his beloved.” (v.3)
Jesus looks at us, and loves us, and wants us to be free of all the encumbrances that we are so attached to and that prevent us from finding our rest and security in God.
- Childhood traumas
- The painful memories of hurt, abandonment and loss
- The fear of an uncertain future
- Unresolved conflicts, broken relationships, estrangement
- Health worries
- Financial strains
- Death and mortality
At the heart of this rest is knowing that we are God’s beloved.
The disciples had taken the plunge of discipleship, as Peter reminds the Lord: “Look, we have left everything and followed you.”
But the gospel is not simply about leaving; instead, the gospel is about leaving in order to receive much more in the company of Jesus:
“a hundredfold now in this age . . . and in the age to come eternal life.”
Though it is hard or impossible to conceive of such a thing, we will one day be asked to give up what is most dear to us—our very lives.
We may think that it was cruel of Jesus to ask that rich man to give up everything he owned, and that it is cruel that God should require all the leaving that is required of us in this life.
But we need to always remember the “much more” quality of the gospel. We will receive a hundredfold now in this age—and in the age to come eternal life.”