The Secret is Always to Stay
A famous moment, from Matthew 19, with some play-by-play notes in bold italics:
Then it happened that a man came up to Jesus - the perfect place to come with questions - and said, “Master what good thing must I do to secure eternal life?" This man is asking THE question which is "set in the hearts of men" (Ecclesiastes 3:11), and he is asking the only One who has, and is Himself, the Answer. For the so-called "Rich Young Ruler," so far, so good.
“I wonder why you ask me about what is good?” Jesus answered him. “Only one is good. But if you want to enter that life you must keep the commandments.” Jesus, in essence, casts the question back upon this man.
“Which ones?” the man asked, casting the question back upon Jesus.
“‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honour your father and your mother’, and ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’,” replied Jesus. To put the answer back upon some of the Ten Commandments, with the codicil of "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," is nearly a non-answer. Any Jewish male with any degree of Jewish education could've answered this question with a similar, and seemingly similarly non-helpful, response.
“I have carefully kept all these,” returned the young man. Which very well may have been perfectly true. “What is still missing in my life?” He is now, with beautiful vulnerability, opening his heart to admit that his personal religiosity is not working; that "the system" is not working. This is this man's "midlife crisis" of faith.
Then Jesus told him, “If you want to be perfect, go now and sell your property and give the money away to the poor — you will have riches in Heaven. Then come and follow me!” We modern believers usually fasten on the complete financial abandonment Jesus requests, and, ourselves, get terribly fearful there: "Oh, no. What if He should ask that of ME? I certainly HOPE that's not the actual requirement for actually following Him..." Yet it's our sense that our security is in our possessions that's actually the most troubling subtext to such internal questions. And, really, it's our unawareness that Jesus is BETTER THAN ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING THAT THIS WORLD CAN OFFER that proves we don't even begin to know Him yet...
When the young man heard that he turned away crestfallen, for he was very wealthy. This man's mistake is not his greed, his greatest sin is not his worldliness; his actual error is that "he turned away." He was standing in the presence of Eternal Life Himself, personally engaged with Him, and chose to turn aside. Hadn't Jesus proved that questions were acceptable, that He would've loved to have this man accompany Him down the road a little? Perhaps if this man had spent another twenty minutes in Jesus' presence, self-abandonment would've seemed like nothing, his possessions would've seemed like dross.
Brothers and Sisters, there is nowhere else to go with our initial questions, our follow-up questions, our pure and impure motives, our struggles with this world, our hopes for eternity, but to Life Himself. And then - haven't we already seen this to be so true, so many times, in so many situations? - the secret is always to stay.
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