‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ Mark 10:17-31
I remember the first time I met Maya Angelou. I don’t remember the exact question I asked her but it was something along the lines of “What must I do?” However, what I clearly remember was her answer “read.” I have to say at the time I was a bit perplexed on one hand and disappointed on the other. “Read what?” Why hadn’t I asked her something else? Maybe she would have given me something I could use. Today of course I read all the time but thirty plus years ago I only read out of necessity. It’s no wonder I was perplexed. Consequently, for some time I dismissed the advice of someone I still admire today. The old statement about being careful of what you ask for is very important in today’s gospel message. You’re not always going to like the answer that you get, particularly when the answer requires you to do something you don’t really want to do, regardless of how simple or complex. So, you go about finding other solutions to your quest, never fully fulfilling your desire.
The man in the gospel reading called Jesus “Good Teacher.” So we can assume that he valued Jesus’ authority. However, when he was advised to sell everything he had, he was left perplexed and discerning his true desire for eternal life. Honestly for me, asking us today to sell everything we have seems drastic and extreme. This is one of several events where Jesus advises drastic actions, including cutting off body parts (Matt. 5:30) and leaving the dead to bury the dead (Matt. 8:20). But I really believe Christ makes the point that no obstacle tangible or intangible should come between our desires to be in relationship with God. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence (Eph. 3:12). If we are bold enough to ask the question, we must be bold enough to accept the answer that challenges our commitment to God’s will. “Follow me.” Sometimes that means we have to let some things go completely. When we do, God’s graciousness rewards us a hundredfold in this life. Yet with the persecutions we will have to endure, the greater reward is eternal life, that being the assurance of God’s presence with us today and the life to come.
Hebrews 4:12-16 Indeed, the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing until it divides soul from spirit, joints from marrow; it is able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
The word is vexation, a state of being frustrated, annoyed or worried. Job went through a period of vexation. He pleaded for understanding of his friends’ reprimand as to what he had done to render such devastation in his life. Of course we know from the scripture that Job was innocent, guilty only of serving God. I believe Job had every right to plead his case. However, fear of God (Job 28:28) does not mean that we should be afraid to question God concerning the trials and tribulations in our lives. Wisdom is it’s own teacher. There will be many times that we are frustrated, annoyed or worried about a negative situation of which we are unaware as to why we are being challenged with this experience. Let us pray that seeking God will be our first and only recourse. Of course seeking wisdom about the situation will require that we believe God is present and at work even when what we see is to the contrary and all we are able to do is praise a truly just and loving God as we wait it out. All the while we know that redemption, reconciliation and healing is God’s blessed assurance.
Job 4:6 Is not your fear of God your confidence and the integrity of your ways your hope?
Proverbs 14:26 In the fear of the Lord one has strong confidence, and one’s children will have a refuge.
Hebrews 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.
I had a very troubling experience yesterday which for a short period left me in a difficult place. I wasn’t there very long because by the grace of God I was able to recognize and accept the reality of the situation. Stepping back from the event and not running from it, I was able to find a place of peace and when I awoke this morning I found myself in a place of strength with the ability to say “no” to a familiar situation, which in the past, would have left me struggling. Today however, there was no struggle. I didn’t have to think about it. I had no feeling of guilt and no worry about the impression I may have left.
We often find ourselves in very uncomfortable places. The good news is that God is in each and every one of them. Where are you today? Seek God while he wills to be found (Isaiah 55:6). He will never leave you or forsake you (Hebrews 13:5). Let all who seek God rejoice and be glad and be confident in your salvation!
Psalm 118: 1, 5-6 O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; His mercy endures forever…In my constraint I called to the Lord; the Lord answered and set me free. The Lord is at my side; I will not fear; what can flesh do to me?
Today perhaps we are the seed, but rest assured eventually, like Christ, Moses, David, the Disciples, Paul and the rest, God also intends us to be the sower. As the child who comes full circle in her relationship with a parent, our reconciliation with God is a process of challenges, questioning and growth, and graciously the seed that is sown is our faith in God. Eventually that faith becomes like home; a familiar place that we, and others will come back to time and again. Faith is the key that encourages us to knock and opens the doors that we by our selves would not have otherwise confronted. Faith is the confidence in knowing that in spite of our selves we will move forward because even through us, surely our God can do anything.
Mark 4: 26-34 The Kingdom of God is as if someone would scatter seed on the ground, and would sleep and rise night and day, and the seed would sprout and grow, he does not know how. The earth produces of itself, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. But when the grain is ripe, at once he goes in with his sickle, because the harvest has come.”
“With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable will we use for it? It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth; yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes the greatest of all shrubs, and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”
Do not have confidence in what we see when we look in the mirror, nor by what others see when they merely look at us. If we have confidence in nothing else, have confidence in the spirit of God within us, the measure of faith, which we inherit as children of God, and through the works, which demonstrate that faith. As children of God we know that from the beginning everything God made is good. We therefore know that God sees us as good. Have confidence in how God sees and do what is good in his sight. All glory be to God!
…if I find favor with you, then accept my present from my hand; for truly to see your face is like seeing the face of God… Genesis 32:22 – 33:17
…‘Is it not written in your law,“I said, you are gods”? …believe the works, so that you may know and understand– that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.’ John 10:31-42
…See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. 1 John 3:1-10
Absolutely nothing we do or say today is insignificant. Everything we do and say will affect either our selves or someone else in both small and large ways. With five barley loaves and two fish, Jesus fed five thousand people. When a task seems insurmountable to us, God will (if we allow him by giving him the glory) take whatever we have to offer regardless of its size, and make it work in our favor. Walk everyday in confidence knowing that with God our life has both purpose and meaning!
Nothing Insignificant; Insurmountable Tasks; God’s Favor