Jul 25 2013
The Rich Man and Jesus – An imaginative but possible rendering of Mark 10:17-31
The sound of running feet made Jesus and the disciples turn. It was a young man, finely dressed. He was full of energy and his eyes danced with enthusiasm. Looking directly into Jesus’ face he dropped to one knee and said, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” The disciples grinned, it was a warm sight. The man was obviously wealthy and successful and it was good to see him taking an interest in spiritual matters; so many who came to Jesus were poor and broken.
Noticing the Jewish tassels on the man’s cloak Jesus said “You know the commandments.” “Teacher” he replied “I have kept them since a boy.” Now it was Jesus’ chance to smile. Here was a model Jewish man, diligent in all matters, the kind of man every father would want for his daughter. ♦ Jesus stalled for a moment as if he was getting inside information, then looked into the man’s eyes and he said, “One thing you lack. Go sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me.” The man’s eager face turned to blank bewilderment, his gaze dropped to the ground for a moment, then looking back at Jesus, he put his hands up as if to say ‘that’s enough’, and walked away.
The disciples stared at Jesus in shock. How could he do that? This man was eager, he wanted eternal life. Why was Jesus being so hard on him? But Jesus read their thoughts. “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God,” he said. But the dismay in the disciple’s faces just increased. “HOW HARD IT IS TO ENTER THE KINGDOM!” Jesus repeated loudly, his eyes now darting from one disciple to another. “It’s easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle!” They all looked at each other, their thoughts now racing. ‘Impossible, that’s what he’s saying, it’s impossible!’ “Who then can be saved?” they asked. Jesus’ face was now a picture of seriousness. “With man this is impossible, but not with God,” he said firmly. And the disciple’s minds began to buzz once more.
With time they realized what Jesus meant. Entering the kingdom of God required a converted heart. A converted heart was a heart that had switched from focus on itself to focus on Christ. Such a change of heart was hard; especially for those who had their own kingdoms. Christ calls us to a life that is about him and not about us. Such a change can only come by the Holy Spirit doing a miracle on the inside of us.
But now as the disciples looked at Jesus the words ‘It’s hard to enter the kingdom’ kept ringing in their ears, and Peter finally blurted out, “We have left everything to follow you!” He was expressing what they were all thinking, ‘The rich guy couldn’t do it, but we have! Are we okay? Has God accepted us?’ And Jesus nodded, and said, “No one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age and in the age to come, eternal life.”
Peter had a house in Capernaum with family in it. It had become a meeting place for believers and would continue to be for years to come. Giving up a possession did not always imply selling it, but it did mean it belonged to the Lord and was available for his purposes. The issue is not having things, it’s your things having you!
But at this moment Peter’s eyes were fixed on the man he had publically declared to be ‘The Christ.’ And Peter thought ‘He’s doing it!’ Jesus practiced what he preached. Where was his family? Where was his house? He didn’t even have a donkey, let alone a field! And it didn’t seem to bother him.
‘Seek first the kingdom and all these things will be given to you as well’ he once said. How easy it is to emphasize the last part of that statement. But what Jesus really meant was ‘Seek first the kingdom and forget the rest!’ Would the followers of Jesus ever learn this?
Jesus lived for the Father, not himself. ‘My food is to do the will of him who sent me’ he said once (John 4.34). What is our food? What makes us tick? Is it his kingdom or ours? Are we converted or do we just believe? If Jesus says give it up, or sell it, will we walk away like the rich man because our kingdom is too precious? ‘One thing you lack,’ Jesus said to the rich man. ‘Only one thing is needed,’ he said to Martha (Lk 10:42). Will we make the one thing the main thing? Are our hearts really converted?
Other Illustrations used: Selling Your House (Kingdom) | When Eternal Life is one more thing |The ‘our time to eat’ syndrome | Marrying for Money & other Benefits| Vitamins & Money in small doses | Rabbi where’s your furniture!
Word to the congregation: Only one thing is needed. Make the main thing the main thing
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