|by Angela Lambert|
Gospel of Mark 10:17-30 NAB
As Jesus was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.” He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions. Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. So Jesus again said to them in reply, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “For human beings it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.” Peter began to say to him, “We have given up everything and followed you.” Jesus said, “Amen, I say to you, there is no one who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands for my sake and for the sake of the gospel who will not receive a hundred times more now in this present age: houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and eternal life in the age to come.”
Jesus is about to leave when the young man comes running to Him. The question must have been burning on his heart and he knew he had to get to Jesus and ask Him before He left. In every human soul, the question of eternal life singes until satisfied.
In his work, Pensees, the philosopher Pascal observed that we fill our lives with distractions just to avoid this very question. When we are quiet or alone, it surges up and must be dealt with. We realize the feebleness of our nature and our true vulnerability. We are then faced with the clear decision that either there is no God in which case I can live as I want but my life is meaningless, or there is a God and I can live forever but I must acknowledge His authority and live by His precepts.
Many of us make something of an effort. Like the rich young man, many of us modern religious persons live comfortable and fairly moral lives. We follow God’s rules while we pursue the average American dream. Yet, our hearts still burn for more. Thankfully, the man in the passage pushes Jesus on the issue. Jesus affirms that the man has done the minimum requirement for eternal life. So why isn’t he satisfied? This is why “Jesus, looking at him, loved him.” The man had opened his heart with a listening ear, courageous enough to seek out the answer rather than bury the discomfort. He asked Jesus that challenging question I have suggested in past posts – “Lord show me my blind spot.” And Jesus does, out of love.
Christ calls us beyond the minimum.
|“You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48)|
The philosophical and theological definition of “perfect” is “full or complete.” This is why He tells the man he is “lacking” one thing only. Christ, God incarnate, is about to set out for a journey. He offers the man the opportunity to come follow Him. What a privilege! Yet to do this, he would have to leave everything behind – another fork in the road.
How many times do we turn down incredible opportunities to stay in our comfort zone? We get sentimental or attached to any number of our possessions and it undermines our freedom to say yes to the gifts of Christ that come in the form of service opportunities, vocation, relationships, even careers we may end up finding more fulfilling but less lucrative. When we let fear, comfort, or greed hold even a small part of us back from God, we experience a nagging feeling of hunger because we are not quite full. It’s normal to feel this divided heart – a simultaneous desire for complete abandonment to God and the fullness of joy and peace that accompany it, and the safe visible comforts of a worldly success which give us a kind of safety net but leave us feeling a bit cowardly.
I appreciate that Jesus says it’s impossible for us to make this leap by human effort alone because it speaks to my own experience. Rather than being discouraged by my own failure, I find hope in Jesus’ words that “all is possible for God.” The difference between the Old and New Covenant, is that in the first God gave His saving truth but in the second He gave us the grace to live by that truth. The young man in this passage encountered Christ and saw His gaze of love. May we too be blessed to see this gaze of love for us and say yes to perfect fullness. It’s okay if we leave feeling sad. It’s difficult to give up attachments. We don’t actually know if the man in this passage is sad because he won’t give up his possessions or because he will. The important thing is that we respond to grace, confident in Christ’s promise that our “sadness will be turned to joy” (John 16:20).
- Do you avoid solitude or quiet? Do you have a nagging feeling inside? Do you know why? With the help of Christ, consider honestly what fears, comforts, or ambitions hold you back from following Him with complete freedom and abandonment.
- When did you make a sacrifice for Christ that turned out to be a terrific blessing? What held you back at first? How did you overcome those inhibitions? How did Christ exceed your expectations?
- (for example: when I personally felt called by Christ to stay home with my children I found it hard to leave my job and the feeling of achievement. However, I came to experience freedom from taking my identity in accomplishments and a fullness of love in my heart I had never imagined. When my kids were school aged and Christ called me back to teaching, I found it difficult to transition again. However, I have a richer experience at work than before because now it’s more fully in union with Christ and I am less pulled by earlier attachments. It has also enriched my relationship with my kids as God has purified me of attachments I had grown while at home with them.)
Make a Resolution (Practical Application):
- Christ challenges that possessions hold us back. Give away a possession this week.
- Choose one fear, comfort, or ambition that is holding you back from following Christ’s lead completely. Practice the opposite virtue and do concrete actions to detach yourself. Be sure to pray and ask for grace. You will need Christ to help. Talk with a Christian who knows and cares about you so they can offer ideas and perspective.
- Thank God for His grace in your life. Make a list of His gifts and of all the fears He has already freed you from up to now.
- If God’s providence creates the opportunity, have the courage and humility to encourage someone else with your witness about how God freed and fulfilled you.
~ Written by Angela Lambert © 2015
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