Mark 10:17-22 reads as follows:
As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honour your father and mother.” ’ He said to him, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.’ Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
I heard a sermon from a friend of mine yesterday who addressed this passage. It was a great sermon. He posed this question:
If Jesus came into your sanctuary during worship and said: “You lack one thing; go, sell your stained glass windows, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me,” how would you respond?
Seriously, how would you respond?
What if Jesus said: “Go, sell your building, and use the money to serve the poor. Then come, follow me.”
Is the building off-limits? Even to Jesus? Are we so attached to our buildings that we can’t imagine selling them, using the proceeds for ministry, and still being church in other ways? Or is that just too radical? Since when did following Christ become a focus on being safe?
Would we respond the same way that the man in the Gospel did? Would the passage written about Jesus’ encounter with our congregation be written like this: “When the congregation heard this, they were shocked and ushered Jesus out the door, for they loved their building.”
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people proclaim that the church isn’t the building – it’s the Body of Christ. Yet, so often, churches seem to ignore this.
Am I, a pastor of a congregation, suggesting that we sell the building?
The answer to that question doesn’t really matter and I’m not going answer it either. I’m not going to give you something that is a pressure valve release from the question that is asked to each one of us – including you. The real question is this – are we willing to follow Jesus? Are we committed to him? When Jesus tells us to leave it all behind to follow him, do we do just that? Or do come up with excuses as to why we can’t or won’t?
Keeping or selling the building isn’t the real issue here. If Jesus’ command to put him first above all else bothers you, makes you put up resistance, makes you want to walk away grieving…well…then we need to talk. We need to be seriously open and vulnerable with each other.
Following Jesus isn’t easy – Jesus never claimed it would be. Following Jesus isn’t comfortable – often, it’s extremely uncomfortable and costly. Following Jesus pushes our limits and forces us to make decisions we would rather not make.
‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.’
Jesus plays for keeps. He calls us out when he sees that we have placed something as more important than him. He calls on us to pick up our cross. He calls on us to die. He calls on us to reject the lie that we are in control.
And in this, we are called to new life with him. This is what faith is about – life, death, resurrection.