I decided to catch up with my City Gate friends and their daily bible study. They are working their way through the gospels in chronological order – so you get to read different perspectives on the each of the stories as portrayed in each of the gospels on consecutive days. Frequently I think “I read this yesterday.” and I did, but yesterday I read Matthew’s version and today I am reading Mark’s view!
The story is about the rich young ruler. Mark doesn’t call him a ruler – just a man. He doesn’t even call him rich – just a man. Mark is the only one that says that the man ran up to Jesus just as he was about to leave town. He is also the only one that says the man threw himself on the ground before Jesus. It made me wonder if there was anything that would be so urgent in my life that I run after someone and throw myself on the ground in order to ask my question. There ought to be!
The bit about selling all that he has, giving the money to the poor and following Jesus cropped up in a third year lesson not so long ago. We were exploring Jesus teaching about poverty and riches. We had discussed the difference between treasure in heaven and treasure on the earth. I had described treasure in heaven as acts of kindness, though I am sure that it involves a lot more than just being kind.
One pupil turned to another pupil and commented that she thought that his treasure in heaven was non-existent because she never saw him do anything kind for people. He looked quite alarmed by her words and it seemed to have struck a chord. For the rest of the lesson he was kindness personified – picking up dropped workbooks, offering to sharpen pencils, run errands and refusing to become involved in other people’s silliness. At the end of the lesson, he turned to the girl who had challenged him and asked whether she thought his had earned any treasure in heaven yet!
It strikes me that just one forty minute lesson of doing kind things makes very little impression. The man was asking Jesus what he should do with his life. What Jesus was asking of the man was a complete change of lifestyle. Selling all that he had was not just going to affect his life for the next forty minutes but was a long term change of priorities.
I found a quote on a sermon page on the internet:-
“I think he is inviting the rich young man to join him on his journeys, to become one of the disciples who enjoy the immense and unspeakable privilege of spending time with Jesus and learning from him on a day-by-day basis. What a wonderful invitation!”
Thirty years ago I received that same invitation – to join Jesus on his journeys and enjoy the immense privilege of spending time with him. I think the “sell all you have and give the money to the poor” might have been the first of many challenges that Jesus set him.
There is a sense that every day we run to Jesus, spurred on by a sense of urgency, falling on our knees before him, asking him “What shall I do with my life today?” Sometimes we don’t do that because we are not sure what he is going to ask and not sure that we think we want do it.
Jesus said to the man, “One thing you lack.” What was it he lacked? Was it “treasure in heaven”? Was it courage to follow his heart and turn his back on materialism?
If Jesus turned to me and said to me, “One thing you lack,” would I know what he was talking about? If I am in Chrsit - can I be lacking anything?