Friday, May 09, 2014

What Must I Do?

Mark 10:1-31

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?”

It’s so subtle. We ask the question, we want the rule. Then we look at the rule for the loop hole. What is it? Do we want the list of commandments  follow? Not really. We want to justify ourselves. Likewise, this man wanted Jesus to tell him that he was good enough, that he was all right just as he was. We can see this, because he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

But Jesus could not do that because Jesus is truth. And Jesus loved him. So Jesus told him how much he needed to do in order to be righteous and perfect on his own merit. 

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.”

With one sentence, Jesus removed any possibility of a loophole and he grasps he couldn't do it, not on his own. I cannot do it either. On my own, even trying hard, I end up like the man who came to Jesus: At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Or if we are “religious” we come at Jesus another way. We ask the question: are your rules as good as our rules? Are you as holy as we are? The Pharisees were like this, but hey, some days I am too!

Some Pharisees came and tested Him by asking, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?”  

The Pharisees wanted to hear Jesus’ rule not because they wanted His wisdom, but because they wanted to evaluate Him. Jesus knew He was being tested and His followers were listening. He loved them all, so He gave them the trut, God’s beautiful intention for marriage: a sacred, exclusive, intimate, life-long union of one man and one woman.  

But Jesus’ answer is so narrowly defined, so hard to accept that we have been looking at it and debating ever since. We know the story of our divorced friends. We know our own story. Do I stay with him even though he prefers alcohol to me? Do I stay with her even though she berates me day after day? He had an affair and left me for another woman; am I never to marry again? Life brings hard questions, with real people, who are deeply hurt.

I would venture to say, the rules are not Jesus’ point. Jesus paints a picture for us of God’s original purpose for marriage at creation. But Jesus knows we live in a broken world. The point is wedged in the middle of these two questions.

Come to Grandpa and get love and ice cream!
“Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And He took the children in his arms, placed His hands on them and blessed them.

The children came to Jesus not for rules, not looking for loop holes, not to evaluate Him, or even to evaluate themselves. They came to Jesus. And He freely gave them His love and blessing. Children know what we have forgotten. We are weak. We need love. We are not self-righteous or self-sufficient. We are not good. So Jesus reminds us. “No one is good—except God alone.”

Jesus knows we cannot keep the rules. The world is broken and hurting people hurt each other. In this world, sullied by sin, we will never be good. Not like God. We can be better than others on some days perhaps, but in our heart, we know we are not good enough.That’s why we need a Savior! Jesus didn’t come to give us more rules, harder rules, different rules. He came to break the power of sin and death. He came to get us and bring us back to Himself. 

The more faith we have, like a child, the more we can trust Jesus, the more we will be able to run to Him for comfort when we have been hurt and for forgiveness when we sin. That’s all He wants, for us to come to Him.  He will not hinder us because the Kingdom of God belongs to us, His children.

Thank You, Jesus, for clearly showing us that we ask the wrong questions. It is not about what we need to do.  It is about what You have already done: opened the doors of Heaven to us, by Your mercy, power, and sacrifice. It is never about what we do. It is what You have already completed. It is finished and we are welcomed home. What must I do? Run to Jesus. That’s all.

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