When you read the breathless, impatient, earthy story of Jesus in the earliest gospel, the book of Mark, you see Jesus toss the economy of society on its head. Back then there were religious leaders who wore fancy robes, who dissected the law into hundreds of rules, who figured they were better – far better – than the rough and tumble fishermen that Jesus chose to learn about the Kingdom of God. The economy worked pretty much like this:
rich = powerful = favored by God.
The formula also worked the other way:
Favored by God = powerful = rich.
And 2,000 years later, most of the population of planet earth still think that’s how it works. Are you rich, powerful and think you are favored by God? There’s a good chance you’re going straight to hell.
Jesus stunned his disciples by shattering this equation.
“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the Kingdom of God.
The disciples were astounded.
Who, then, in all the world, can be saved?” (Mark 10:25-26)
The disciples thought that being rich meant being in God’s good favor. And the rich kind of thought that, too.
Again and again Jesus chipped away at this backward thinking.
“Blessed are the poor,”
“Whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all.”
“Go and sell all you have and give the money to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven.”
“The Son of Man will be betrayed to the leading priests and the teachers of religious law. They will sentence him to die and hand him over to the Romans. They will mock him, spit on him, beat him with the whips and kill him, but after three days he will rise again.”
Becoming a follower of Jesus may mean surrendering your fine robes, stepping back from your place of honor in the church, losing your home, your job, not having enough to eat and learning to accept the charity of others. It may mean you will be gossiped about and mocked. It may mean being beaten and killed.
And the new equation looks like this:
Surrendered = powerful faith = favored by God
It’s not rocket science. The more you depend on God, the more your faith has a chance to grow strong; the stronger your faith, the more God is pleased. It actually makes sense if you can get past the beaten and killed part. Which you should, since past that is the rise up part.
You, too, will rise. And it won’t be your riches or your power or your status or your poverty or your martyrdom that gets you there.It is not something that you can buy or earn. It’s not that you deserve it. It will be because of your faith that this world has been doing it backwards and Jesus split open the curtain on eternity so we can follow him through it into a kingdom of justice and mercy and righteousness. Forever.