May 3, 2014
Today’s Text and Thought of Encouragement:
“For with God nothing shall be impossible.”
Luke 1: 37
“Face it out to the end, cast away every shadow of hope on the human side as an absolute hindrance to the divine, heap up all the difficulties together recklessly, and pile as many more on as you can find; you cannot get beyond the blessed climax of impossibility. Let faith swing out to Him, He is the God of the impossible.”
Today’s Study Text:
“As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments. ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.”
Mark 10: 17-22
“Behold The Man” – Part 13
“What’s In The Will?” – Part A
“We can all get to heaven without health, without wealth, without fame, without learning, without culture, without beauty, without friends, without ten thousand things. But we can never get to heaven without Christ.”
Corrie ten Boom
He Cares, He Comforts
Do I think it is possible to “inherit” eternal life by the acts which I “do”?
“If we are trusting in our repentance and faith, we will never have assurance, because our faith and our repentance are never what they might be. Our salvation depends entirely on Christ. Faith is the open hand that receives what He offers, and repentance is the response of a heart that has received.”
“God became earth’s mockery to save His children. How absurd to think that such nobility would go to such poverty to share such a treasure with such thankless souls. But He did.”
God Came Near
Of all the stories contained in the Gospels about individuals who came to Jesus because of a need they had in their lives, none is so compelling and at the same time heart-breaking, in my personal opinion, as the story told in Mark 10 about the “rich young ruler,” as this individual is often referred to.
Author and editor David B. Howell shares the insightful fact that “in Mark, he (the young man) is first called ‘a man.’ Later, we find out that he is a wealthy man. He is a ‘ruler’ in Luke and ‘young’ in Matthew. In Christian tradition, he is often the ‘rich, young ruler.’ But for Mark, he is just a regular guy, although with ‘great possessions.’”
If we place the image created by this scene in our minds, we might wonder just what it was that compelled the young, wealthy ruler to make his way to Jesus in the first place? Had he, I wonder, found that all his riches had not satisfied some inner need in his heart? This thought came to me when I reread Mark 10: 17 and found that the man “ran up and knelt before Jesus.” As I picture the scene, this was someone who really wanted to find out what he needed to do to, as he put it “to inherit eternal life.”
Some commentators note that the young man’s approach to Jesus with the words, “Good Teacher,” were an attempt on his part to gain favor with Jesus. However, if we read Mark 10: 17-19, we will find what I believe to be the actions of an individual who recognized that Jesus had something he needed. There was something in the way Jesus lived and taught which drew this young man. And so with a polite and teachable spirit, this wealthy ruler asked, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” What really caught my eye as I was studying this passage was the word “inherit” which in the Greek means “to be an heir” or to have gotten possessions, which “in a sense have been partitioned off and received and gotten by apportionment.” Since the young man used as a reference the word “inherit,” it made me consider the fact that his wealth could have potentially been obtained as an inheritance. Possibly his father died, leaving him a great deal of money.
Interestingly, there have been some recent articles in the news here in the United States regarding the consequences, both good and bad, of inherited wealth. One particular article was about a well-known newscaster, whose mother’s family fortune has been estimated at over 200 million dollars. This young man clearly made the point known that he would not be inheriting any of his mother’s money. And he doesn’t mind at all. His opinion, when asked about the funds his family had in their possession is that inherited money can be an “initiative sucker” and a “curse.” I don’t know if the young man who came to Jesus felt this way, but something inside him certainly motivated him to want more than the things he possessed.
But there’s even more to this young man’s story for when Jesus began to focus on the word “do,” which was key to the “ruler’s” thinking process we find that there was a significant list containing quite a number of “works” which the young man could “do” or “perform” that would, according to Jewish law, make him a worthy candidate before God. At least this is how this young man’s thinking seemed to go. Performance equaled piety.
What we find in his response to Jesus was that this “good works” overachiever felt he was superlative in his performance. As he told Jesus, “Teacher, I have kept all these (laws) since my youth” (Mark 10: 20, N.R.S.V.)
Evidently, since he was a young boy, he had been the paragon of perfection for he had not murdered, committed adultery, borne false witness, not defrauded anyone and he had honored his father and mother. Frankly, there were probably many people who longed for a son like this young man.
So I don’t find it one bit surprising that Mark’s Gospel tells us that, “Jesus looking at him, loved him” (Mark 10: 21, N.R.S.V.). In commenting on this text, Professor C. Clifton Black states that “Mark deviates from Matthew and Luke by characterizing Jesus in affective terms. He looks the man in the eye (emblepsas) with love (êgapêsen).” As Professor Black observes, the young ruler had “respectfully asked a serious question; Jesus honored it and the one who had asked.”
However, Jesus’ response was direct and it was twofold. First, the young man needed to sell all he had and give the resulting funds to the poor. And second, Jesus asked the young man to personally “follow Me.” I found one comment from Professor Black effectively sums up the answer Jesus gave this young man. To those who long for eternal life, it “requires relinquishing control over this life’s treasure.” Professor Charles Campbell offers an interesting perspective when he points out that since the “rich young man wanted to know what he could do to inherit eternal life…Jesus seemed to confirm the man’s orientation by simply requiring an action that was more extreme than obedience to the commandments. Faced with this new demand, the man (went) away shocked and grieving, unable to fulfill Jesus requirement.”
Every time I read this story, I think of the pain Jesus must have felt as He watched this young man, who He loved, turn and walk away. The great author Hannah Whitall Smith, known for the beautiful way she expressed deep spiritual thoughts, wrote that “God’s salvation is not a purchase to be made, nor wages to be earned, nor a summit to be climbed, nor a task to be accomplished; but it is simply and only a gift to be accepted, and can only be accepted by faith.”
For the young man doing what he thought was the right thing turned out to be a lot easier than just holding out his empty hands and receiving God’s free gift. As evangelist Dwight L. Moody so simply stated many years ago, “You might say the whole plan of salvation is in two words – Giving; Receiving. God gives; I receive.”
The rich young man was invited by Jesus to follow Him and the price was just too high. When he looked at the “will,” his inheritance, if he followed Jesus, just didn’t seem to be enough and so as The Message Bible tells this story, “The man’s face clouded over. This was the last thing he expected to hear, and he walked off with a heavy heart. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go” (Mark 10: 22, The Message Bible).
“Our value does not lie in what we possess. It doesn’t spring from what we wear, what we drive, or where we live. Our value is wrapped up in the amazing fact that Jesus Christ, the mighty Son of God and Creator of the world loved us enough to pay the price for our salvation.”
Too Much Luggage
“Oh my Lord
I am carrying too much luggage,
And it’s weighing me down,
Holding me back
I worry about losing it.
But I don’t need most of the stuff
I’m dragging about.
It blocks up the aisles and gangways.
Getting in the way,
Making people cross
And wrapping itself round my ankles.
I need to learn to travel light,
But I don’t know what to do with all this stuff.
Here, you take it.
I’m leaving it with you.
Perhaps you can find a better use for it
For who knows me better than you,
Who has given me the substance of my life,
Bone and marrow, patterned in my
You are my unfolding and my unburdening.
You are the keeper of my deepest secrets.
Dorothy Valcàrcel, Author
When A Woman Meets Jesus
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