Saturday, January 28, 2017

Mark: Rich young man and the only perfect God-man, plus all of us

Mark 10:17-30

This is the story of the rich young ruler and Jesus's discussion with his disciples afterwards.  Something dawned on me this week from re-reading commentaries on this passage.  Although this passage addresses riches and idols, it is not the main point of the passage.

First, the young guy comes to Jesus and calls him "good teacher."  He asks, "what must I do to be saved?".  Somehow, the man has an idea that there are good people and that goodness can be attained through some act or deed.  Jesus truly is the only good human ever to live.  However, the man did not know that, and Jesus was helping him to consider why he would consider anybody good.

Next, Jesus names some of the commandments but not all.  The guy has kept those commandments, but he knows he still is missing something.  He has not kept all the commandments.  He loves things and possessions and influence more than God.  He has made graven images.  He has taken the Lord's name in vain.  Even the slightest sin is permanent and deserving of eternal punishment in hell.  And the man has committed sins.

Then, Jesus tells him to sell all his possessions and to follow him.  He also shocks his disciples by telling them that it is easier to get a huge camel through a very small needle's eye than it is for a rich person to get into heaven.  The disciples, in their Jewish culture, grew up believing that riches were a sign of God's favor and blessing!  Even a seemingly blessed person cannot get to heaven.  Why?  Because people in their own power cannot save themselves from their sins.  Somebody else, somebody perfect has to save them and correct them into holy living.

The story is not about idolatry and riches.  It is about everybody and their desperate need for a Savior.  And there is only one Savior.  The perfect man who was also God, Jesus Christ.  Only God can forgive sins, and only a human could atone for human sins.  So only the God-man can save you.

At first the rich young man walks away disappointed.  But the story doesn't say if he came back or not.  Some traditions say that this is John Mark himself, the gospel's author.  I believe that since the text says that Jesus loved the man, that he came back and followed Jesus.  Jesus is so patient with us and always giving us chances to turn to him and to put away our idols.  Would you do that today?

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