The rich young ruler and Jesus – quite an encounter! From all that we can tell from this text, the young man walked away and never came back, shocked and perhaps embarrassed and disillusioned by all that had occurred. It likely seemed to him that he had asked for a loaf of bread and had been given a stone, a word that broke one’s teeth and lodged in the throat. No life here,” the rich young ruler perhaps said to himself as he slouched away. I had hoped for so much and was given so little.” Or so it seems, at least on the basis of appearances.

Mark comments that Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!’” (Mark 10:23) A significant sign of covenant blessing – at least in this young man’s life – had mutated into a stumbling stone. Who would have expected such a reversal of hopes? Who could have foreseen such a thing? Only Jesus. Only Jesus could spot the cancer. Only Jesus realized that radical surgery was necessary. Jesus flashed a spotlight into this young, Jewish image-bearer’s life and illuminated the presence of spreading decay; this young man was crumbling on the inside and had no awareness of his peril. And so Jesus asked him to release something and to receive something. Something had to be discarded to obtain a treasure – the life of the kingdom of God.

Though the disciples were amazed at his words,” Jesus continued in his insistence that the possession of great wealth may cripple rather than bless as an image-bearer seeks to enter the kingdom of God: 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 a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:24) These words – surely shocking to most North Americans – confused the disciples. The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, Who then can be saved?’” (Mark 10:26). Jesus didn’t disagree. With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27NIV). 

What frightened the rich, young man? What caused him to walk away? He had wanted to be in relationship with Jesus. Jesus had invited him to follow, with only one condition attached to his invitation. Yet, with a downcast, wounded heart the young man walked away and Jesus allowed him to go. 

The rich, young ruler was clearly pulled in two directions. And so am I. What am I to do with my divided self, the self that is so stuffed with me there’s no room for anyone else to get in?

Oh how strange are your ways, O Lord, how beyond our comprehension. You do things I do not wish for you to do. You see things I do not wish for you to see. I want to be in relationship with you – and I want to be left alone. I want to follow you and I want to be left to myself. I want you to be my king and I want to rule my own world. I want to say yes to you and I want to say yes to me. What a mess I am. And yet I am your beloved. I am the apple of your eye. This is a mystery to me. It is beyond my comprehension.”

Continued next week.

You can catch up with all of Chris’s posts at Conversations with Chris.”