Given the quantity of material in these chapters, rather than try to cover everything, I will focus my questions on the verses from Mark and selections from the verses in Luke.
As you read this material, be sure to ask how it applies to us who live in the latter-days. What do these verses teach us about taking up our cross (cf. Jacob 1:8, 3 Nephi 12:30, and perhaps Alma 39:9)? What do they teach about riches (not what do we recall others saying that they teach, but what do they really teach)? What does the parable and explanation in Luke 16:1-12 teach us about our relation to the world?
How is the story of verses 13-16 connected to that in verses 17-30? Why does the fact that the man is running suggest? Why does he kneel? That is an unusual thing to do before a teacher, which is a more accurate translation of the word that the King James version translates “Master.”
Why do you think the man uses the unusual title “good teacher”? Why does Jesus reject being called “good” (verse 18)? What does this person want?
Compare this story to that in Matthew 12:28-34. How is the scribe in that story like the person in this one?
Jesus says that the man in this story knows the commandments (verse 19). What does that tell us about that person?
Why might Jesus have reworded the commandment “Do not covet” as “Defraud not”? Which of the Ten Commandments does Jesus not mention in his initial response (verse 19)? Is that relevant? Are the first four of the Ten Commandments implied in his second response (verse 21)? If so, how so?
What do we learn from the first part of verse 21, “then Jesus beholding him loved him”? What does it mean to say that Jesus beheld him? Clearly he was already looking at him. Doesn’t Jesus love everyone?
Jesus tells the man that, in terms of observing the Torah, he lacks only one thing (verse 21). What is that one thing? What is the most important part of the commandment in the second part of verse 21? What does “take up your cross” mean? (Compare Matthew 16:24, Mark 8:34, and Luke 9:23; see also Jacob 1:8, 3 Nephi 13:20 and D&C 23:6 and 112:14). How does this story compare to Matthew 8:18-22 (Luke 9:57-62)?
Jesus says little about property, but what he does say consistently has a negative slant. Why? What does that mean for us?
The King James version translates the first part of verse 22 merely as “and he was sad at that saying,” but a more literal and, I think, better translation is “but he, becoming gloomy at the word.” What makes this man gloomy? Why did the prospect of giving away his possessions grieve (literally “pain”) him?
What does it mean to be rich? Is that an absolute description or a comparative one? If it is comparative, to whom ought we to compare ourselves in deciding whether we are rich?
When Jesus exclaims, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the Kingdom of God” (verse 23), why are the disciples astonished (verse 24)? What does their astonishment show about their belief? If we go behind what we say about riches (both publically and to ourselves) to our behaviors and attitudes, are we ever astonished that it is difficult for the rich to be saved? How does this story relate to Jesus’ admonition in Matthew 6:24 (Luke 16:13)?
Why does Jesus call the disciples children (verse 24)?
At verse 24, many New Testament manuscripts differ from the manuscripts used by the KJV. They omit “for them that trust in riches,” so that instead the last part of the verse says merely “How hard is it to enter into the kingdom of God!” What difference does that make to what Jesus is saying? Which version of the verse do you think is probably right? Why?
What is the point of verse 25?
Many stories have been told to indicate that the “eye of the needle” is a small postern gate that was opened at night when the city gate had been shut, and that a camel could get through it provided it had been fully unloaded. It is a nice story but not true in biblical terms. The eye of a needle is a surgeon’s needle. In both Matthew 19 and Matthew 23, the point was that the camel was the largest animal with which people of the day were familiar. Jesus was using the term much as we would use the word elephant as the largest creature in our experience. Jesus may also have used the camel as an illustration because it was ritually unclean. (Gower, R., & F. Wright. The New Manners and Customs of Bible Times. Chicago: Moody Press, 1997, c1987)
A century or two later in Judaism there was a similar rabbinic parable that spoke of an elephant rather than a camel.
In verse 26 the disciples are even more astonished and they seem to ask “If the rich can’t be saved, then who can?” If that isn’t what they are asking, what is it? Is what Jesus teaches here related to his teaching about the narrow gate and how one enters that gate (Matthew 7:13-14; Luke 13:23-24)?
Verse 27 begins “Jesus looking upon them saith.” Why is important that he looked at his disciples? Is that parallel to him beholding the man in verse 21? What does Jesus see that caused him to say what he does in verse 27? When does he look on us? What does he see when he does?
In verses 29-30, Jesus promises that those who deny themselves will receive a hundredfold “in this time.” What does that phrase mean? What does it mean to receive a hundredfold “with persecutions”?
Two mites were approximately 1/100 of a day laborer’s wages (Word Biblical Commentary 34b:283), in today’s wages no more than about $2.00 or less. How does this story contrast with the rest of chapter 12? How might it have given the disciples hope? In verse 44 what do you make of the comparison between the abundance (which could also be translated “excess”) of the wealthy and the want (or “lack”) of the widow?
In verse 13, what is the man asking Jesus to do? It seems that rabbis were often called to settle family disputes. Many recognized Jesus as a rabbi. Why, then, does he refuse to settle this (verse 14)? Isn’t he the ultimate Judge? (Compare John 3:17-18, remembering that the word “condemn” could also be translated “judge.”)
Why does the man’s demand cause Jesus to speak to his disciples about covetousness? What is covetousness? The Greek word translated “covetousness” means “wanting more.” Does that tell us anything about what Jesus is criticizing? What does it mean to say “a man’s life consisteth not in the abundance [excess] of the things which he possesseth” (verse 15)?
How is what the wealthy farmer does in Jesus’ story (verse 16-20) different than what Joseph did in Egypt? What does God’s reproof in verse 20 mean? Does this story teach that we ought not to retire or to prepare for retirement? If it doesn’t teach that, why doesn’t it? What does it teach?
What would it mean to be “rich toward God” (verse 21)? The Greek word translated “to be rich” means also “to have abundance.” How do we have abundance toward God?
Jesus gives a brief sermon explaining this parable in verses 22-40. Compare the two and ask yourself what the parable means for your own life. Is it significant that this parable is addressed to “his disciples” (verse 22)? If so, how? Some have said that it was intended only for his disciples, but if that is true, why has it been recorded and given to us all?
How are the excuses that the invitees offer like that of the young man in Mark 10:17-22?
How would those listening to Jesus probably have responded to what he says in verses 26-27? ? Is he intentionally alienating them? If so, why? If not, how so?
Read the JST for verse 27. Does it change the meaning of these verses or does it augment that meaning?
The comparisons that Jesus makes in verses 28-32 are to people who carefully take into account what their actions will cost them before they proceed: a builder and a king going to war. Why does Jesus tell two parables that make the same point? What do these parables tell us about forsaking all and following Christ? Verse 33 says that if we do not forsake all, we cannot be disciples of Christ or, conversely, if we are his disciples, then we have forsaken all. In our context, what does it mean to forsake all? How do we do so—and have we done so? Look at the verses inserted in the JST. (They are in the JST material in the back of your LDS Bible.) What do they mean in the context of forsaking all and counting the cost of discipleship?
A steward was usually a slave entrusted with the management of a household. What that entailed would depend on the type and size of the household he was to manage. Some speculate that the master in question is one who did not reside at the household managed by the steward, an absentee landlord as it were. That isn’t necessarily the case.
A steward entrusted with money was expected to make a profit for his master, but stewards often also made money for themselves by manipulating the master’s loans and by charging extra interest. Within limits, it seems that such practices were either tolerated or even expected.
We might substitute the word “squandered” for “wasted” in verse 1 and understand the meaning more accurately.
In verse 4 the phrase “I am resolved” means “I’ve known all along.” What do we see the steward doing?
Why does his master commend the steward rather than condemn him (verse 8)?
In the same verse Jesus says “for the children of this world are in their generation [i.e., in their time] wiser than the children of light.” What does that mean?
The word mammon (verse 9) seems to mean “that in which one trusts.” What is Jesus recommending in verse 9? Is it related to any of the teachings of Ecclesiastes (for example, Ecclesiastes 2:24-26; 3:11-12)?
Are verse 11 and verse 12 parallel? Can you see different ways of reading “if ye have not been faithful in that which is another man’s, who shall give you that which is your own?” (verse 12). Who might the “other man” be in this life? In the eternities?
Please post your responses at Feast upon the Word.