Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Rich Young Ruler

 Mark 10

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.  You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.”
“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
As typical twenty first century Westerners, we love to focus on the "rich young ruler", his wealth, his refusal to let go of it, and what that means to us. But to the first century Jewish audience who witnessed this first hand, it had a much deeper meaning. 
It wasn't a serious lesson on the dangers of loving wealth. It was a theology shattering experience. A common belief at the time was that if you were wealthy, then you had found God's favor. You were blessed and almost certainly guaranteed a place in heaven. 
So when Jesus says that it is hard for the rich to enter the Kingdom, the disciples were "amazed" and even questioned "If it's not the rich who are blessed, then who are? If the rich can't be saved, then who can?"
Personally, I have a hard time understanding how this belief came to be in the first place. Sure there are some instances in the Bible where God blesses people physically, but He makes very clear that it doesn't always work like that. The book of Job for example is basically saying, "I'm God, and I allow what I allow. I created the Heavens and the Earth and I have understanding that you don't. Trust me when I give. Trust me when I take away." 
But, I guess they simply took a few verses and stories that they liked out of context and ran with it. (sound familiar??) 
Anyway, it doesn't really matter HOW or WHY.  It just matters that that is what they believed. And Jesus just rocked that belief. In the words of some of our PNG brothers and sisters, He "broke their heads open" or "changed their thinking". 
Earlier this week I read Hebrews 10. In verses 32-34 the author talks about the persecution and suffering of the early Jewish converts to Christianity. I didn't miss the fact that they had all their property taken. Once again, rocking this belief that God blesses the faithful financially.
I also didn't miss the fact that their Jewish persecutors were probably feeling validated as they held onto this belief. "See, God must not be happy with these 'Jesus' people. He is taking away everything they own. This must prove that we are right and they are wrong."
And I could be totally wrong, but I imagine those early Christians thinking something like this, "Why God? Why are you doing this thing that validates their unbelief? We still believe you, but don't you want them to as well?" 
I believe this because this is exactly what I thought in a similar situation.  "Why God? Why would you allow these deaths that "prove" to these people that their ancestral beliefs are true?"

Don't you want them to believe, God?
I am faced with this yet again, though, not with the tribal believers, but with some situations with my Western friends.  Plane and helicopter crashes when I have fought very hard this furlough to overcome my fear of flying.
Don't you want me to get back on a plane, God? Don't you want me to be able to continue to go to this place you have called me?
Inexplicable sickness and death that takes people off the field. 
Don't you want this work to be finished, God? There are already so few laborers, why are you taking away the ones who want to be here?

I desperately want God to prove Himself to the doubters. I want Him to prove Himself to the doubter in me.

But I was recently reminded through a sermon of my husband's that Jesus calls us to follow in His footsteps of suffering and death. Jesus calls us to follow in His footsteps of doing the things that don't make any sense to the outside world (sometimes they don't make any sense to the "inside" world of Christianity). He doesn't do things the way we do. He brings glory to Himself in ways that the world never would. 

He perfects us through trials and asks us to have joy in that. (James 1:2-3)

He brings beauty out of ashes, and turns mourning into dancing. (Isaiah 61:3 and Psalm 30:11)

He calls things that are not as though they are. (Romans 4:17)
And the strangest, most inexplicable, most wonderful of all...

He brings life from death. (the entire new testament)

So, though my flesh and my heart may fail in understanding, and even rebel in accepting. His Holy Spirit brings forth His Word in my soul. It bubbles over and covers all my unbelief like a healing balm. It "breaks my head open" and "changes my thinking."

James 1:3-4
 For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow.  So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

So let it grow.

No comments:

Post a Comment