Israel falls back into idolatry, their favorite national sin and a consequence of them failing to complete the conquest started by Joshua, and so the Midianites start to oppress them and make life exceptionally hard on them. During this time an angel appears to a young man named Gideon and promises deliverance for Israel, and reminds Gideon that this is all the consequences of their idolatry.
After a quick test, and a proof of who he was talking to, Gideon gains some courage and takes on his first task. He destroys an altar to Baal and cuts down a pole referred to as an asherah, it was a sacred altar-like wooden pole that represented the deity’s divine wife. So he rebuilds an altar to the God of Israel with the stones and uses the wood of the asherah to make the fire for the burnt offering. Imagine how much a slap in the face this would be to his father, who was the one that erected these pagan altars.
The townsfolk wanted to kill Gideon when they found out what he’d done, but his father stood up for him and said let Baal fight his own battles. After this Gideon begins to raise an army to resist the oppressors and leads to him becoming one of Israel’s greatest Judges in this period. Read more The Story of Salvation; Gideon
A man identified as a ruler, in Mark and Matthew they add that he was both rich and young, approaches Jesus and asks what must he do to inherit eternal life. Jesus responds by listing off the Ten Commandments and the man says that he’s done all these his whole life, so Jesus tells him to sell all that he has and give it to the poor.
This doesn’t mean that everyone is called to vows of poverty like a monk, but that Jesus saw the attachment this man had to wealth and was telling him that to follow Jesus is to place Him above all. This detachment from material goods becomes more difficult if a person has great wealth, and Jesus gives an impossible comparison between a rich person entering heaven as a camel passing thru a needle. The disciples marvel at this and ask who can possibly be saved, and Jesus! reply is essentially that nobody can be saved without the direct intervention of God.
This idea is debated by a theologian named Pelagius and Saint Augustine in the early 5th century. The church ends up siding with Augustine at the council of Carthage and condemns pelagianism, who’s main thesis is that men have the ability to save themselves without the direct grace of God intervening on their behalf. That essentially by choosing good we can be saved.
It’s funny that many in the Protestant communities accuse the Catholic Church of teaching works based salvation, when it was the Catholic Church that condemned that very idea in pelagianism.
This young man was trying to work his way into the kingdom, so Jesus gives him an impossible task. Just as it’s impossible for us to do anything worthy of our salvation, we can’t pass through the eye of a needle, and we can’t save ourselves. But with God, all things are possible.
The chapter closes out with the healing of an unnamed blind man, but Mark gives us his name as Bartimaus in chapter 10 of his gospel. He cries out to Jesus with a messianic title of “Son of David” and when the crowd tries to silence him he cries out even more. The crowd would be people that knew this man, and knew how badly he needed to be healed. They also were there because they had heard of this miracle working rabbi who was passing through, but still they said for him to be quiet.
Sometimes we cry out to God and well meaning friends might discourage us from praying, going to church, going to confession, or many other examples, but we have to ignore them and follow our conscience that is telling us to cry out to the Lord.
Bartimaeus signifies the Gentile nations saved by Christ. Jesus bids them to rise up from their spiritual blindness, throw aside the mantle of their sinful habits, and follow him down the road to glory.Saint Bede