Dr. Rachel Coleman
“Repent and believe, leave and follow”—Mark’s Gospel is giving us an extended look into the real-life implications of the gospel’s invitation-imperative package. (See the previous parts of the series here.) In this installment, we’ll consider some of those implications from Mark 10. Warning—these come with a serious “ouch!” factor.
In Mark 10:13–16, the Evangelist gives us a glimpse of something that makes Jesus angry. Mark observes that Jesus becomes “indignant” (v. 14) when his people put up barriers to keep the powerless, the humble, and the vulnerable (like children) away from him. “Repent and believe” means recognizing that we bring nothing of power or privilege or status to the table—the invitation we have accepted is sheer grace. Out of that “graced” reality, we fling wide the gates and clear a path so that other “unworthy” sinners have direct access to Jesus. We don’t have to “keep Jesus safe” from the unruly, rambunctious realities of the human condition.
On the heels of that encounter with some of the “least” in that culture (children), Jesus meets a representative of “the greatest”—a very wealthy man who is contemplating the gospel’s invitation and imperative (Mark 10:17–22). Jesus loves this man who is enslaved to his possessions, and his heart must have broken when the man allowed his wealth to stand as an insurmountable barrier to intimacy and commitment. “Repent and believe” means the deliberate act of releasing ourselves from self-imposed bondage to other masters; it means resolutely relinquishing any other loyalties that would keep us from honestly acknowledging Jesus as Lord.
As the rich man goes away submerged in a grief of his own making, Jesus makes this disconcerting announcement: “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:23). The disciples are dumb-founded—isn’t material wealth to be interpreted as a sign of God’s blessing? In that kind of worldview, if the rich can’t get in, what hope is there for the un-rich? And what are the implications for disciples who have given up everything to follow Jesus (v. 28)? Jesus offers them a promise—whatever security or relationships or possessions they have left behind to “leave and follow,” they will receive from him an extravagant abundance in return. “Repent and believe” means embracing the “different abundance” of the kingdom, which is only possible when we lay aside the world’s definitions of success and greatness to accept the cross-shaped path of service and humility (see Mark 10:32–43).
Questions to consider:
- How am I involved in putting up barriers that keep “those people” from entering into relationship with Jesus? What will “repent and believe” look like for me at this point?
- Are there “little loyalties” that I have allowed to become lords in my life? What will it take to de-throne them so that Jesus is truly Lord?
- Am I willing to embrace the different kind of abundance that Jesus offers? What are the obstacles to that choice?