Monday, August 30, 2010

Riches and Eternal Life

Mark 10:17-27 NLT  
  17 As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him, knelt down, and 
  18  “Why do you call me good?” Jesus asked. “Only God is truly good. 19 But to answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother.’”
  20  “Teacher,” the man replied, “I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young.” 
  21 Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. “There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
  22  At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. 
  23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God!” 24 This amazed them. But Jesus said again, “Dear children, it is very hard to enter the Kingdom of God. 25 In fact, 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!”
  26 The disciples were astounded. “Then who in the world can be saved?” they asked. 
  27 Jesus looked at them intently and said, “Humanly speaking, it is impossible. But not with God. Everything is possible with God.”

Some details in Mark's account of this interaction with the one Christian history has come to call "the rich young ruler" offer important insights into the entire question of total submission to the Lordship of God in Jesus Christ. Notice that Mark says  that the man "came running up to him." This was an impetuous man not wanting to miss this opportunity to ask Jesus a question burning on his heart. Next, notice that he "knelt down" to ask his question. Jews did not kneel to other people-- it was forbidden. To do so was to recognize equity with God in that person. Then the man called Jesus "Good Teacher" something even Jesus questioned to reveal truth. He knew that only God was Good and used that term deliberately. It was much like today's believers calling Jesus "Lord."

The exchange that followed involved a masterful instruction by the Master Teacher. He related to what the man knew-- "the commandments. The man affirmed faithfulness in those areas, as far as he understood. But Jesus knew the problem was not in how this man revered God but in how he obeyed God with regard to human relationships. Jesus spotted the obvious wealth in the young man and knew how to lead him with a next question.  Since the man was asking , then he obviously did not know how be certain he would 'inherit eternal live.'  Building upon the man's own confession that he had obeyed at least the first four commands his who life, Jesus took him right to his point of need. Jesus does that with you and me as well. He meets us where we are and, if we will permit his honesty, will take us right to our need. Jesus nailed it for the young man. Did he also nail it for you and me at the same time?

Scripture says that Jesus 'Looking at the man, . . felt genuine love him. Other passages reveal how Jesus had the ability to see into the heart of people when he looked at them. He could tell if they were truthful or not. He could accurately assess their honesty. He loved this man because he possessed the infinite unconditional love of God the Father. He loved the man because the man was sincerely seeking to make God first in his live, as far as the man understood. But now the ultimate test of his commitment would fall upon him like boulders from a cliff.

"There is still one ting you haven't done" the Scripture records Jesus' challenge. "Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come and follow me."  This was a two-fold challenge. The first was to lay aside all that was actually preventing the man from finding what he sought. His great wealth had become a source of his strength and was preventing him from having to trust in God as the poor have to do. So first, to inherit eternal life, the man had to divest himself of all that hindered his search. He could not see God so long as his god was his wealth.  Mark records the man's reaction that "his face fell, for he had many possessions." He was excited enough to run up to Jesus. He, apparently recognized Jesus as Lord, Messiah. He was excited to hear Jesus affirm him for his adherence tot he commandments. But this one last thing was more than he could endure. It was not a command. Jesus said "there is one thing you lack."  Jesus loved him and wanted to help him find what he sought. Jesus was revealing to him that which hindered his search for eternal life. The second step was that THEN the man could come and follow Jesus.

Your servant in Christ's love

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