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As Jesus left the group of parents with their little children, a young man suddenly broke with the ranks and chased after him.
As Jesus was going out on the road, one came running, knelt before him, and asked, "Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?"
Jesus said to him, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. You know the commandments: 'Do not commit adultery,' 'Do not murder,' 'Do not steal,' 'Do not bear false witness,' 'Do not defraud.' 'Honor your father and your mother.'"
He answered, "Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth." Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, "One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me."
But he was sad at this word, and went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Mark 10:17-22 NKJV, condensed
Young, Rich & Unfulfilled
This incident is about a little child that had grown up. He ran after Jesus, spun around just in front of him and fell on his knees at the feet of the traveling preacher, thus stopping any forward progress. His heart was saying, "Me too, Jesus, bless me, too." But being a man he had to sound like one. So he said, "Good Teacher . . .", thinking as he said it--that sounds pretty good!
When meeting a celebrity we ponder what to say so we won't come across like a fool. If anyone else overhears our comment, it must impress them at least as somewhat rational. It's something like leading in public prayer. We think too much about the people in the room and not enough about the God we're talking to, all the while trying to keep it real, safe and respectable
This grown-up child in our story asked an excellent question. In a unique and original way he asked the eternal question of how we connect with our Creator in a fulfilling way. He must have scored high points with his peers. What is required of me in this life so that in the next life I will survive the cut? How can I be sure I am on the right track? What must I do to make my days on earth really count for something? This young man was asking what many people have pondered. He was an upright individual, concerned with goodness, and placing high value on the virtues. He had done well in his opening sentence to Jesus. Anyone knowing him would have been proud.
But Jesus immediately started chipping away. Carefully choosing his words, he left no room for pride. Jesus shifted the spotlight off himself and onto God. God alone is good. But, we question, if only God is good, then what about this young man who, compared to most others, we would definitely call good. Jesus was cutting through outward appearances and going straight to the heart. The young man probably felt rebuked and began to regret his rash behavior.
The Teacher moved right ahead. What do the commandments instruct you to do? Jesus repeated some of them. The young man responded, this time dropping the disputed word. He was smart and didn't make the same mistake twice. "Teacher, I've done all the Law requires ever since my childhood." Implying, surely there must be something more! What am I missing?
That's when Jesus took another look at the person before him--really looked. His heart warmed and it says Jesus loved him. We know God loves all of us with unconditional loving kindness. But in this instance the love was stated in a special way. The kneeling man received exactly what he had hoped for. This was his and-Jesus-took-him-in-his-arms-and-blessed-him point in time. He had Jesus' full attention and was the object of his loving gaze. It was a magic moment unlike any other he would ever encounter.
Then Jesus spoke and the magic evaporated in an instance. "You lack one thing. Go sell your possessions. Invest everything you have in heaven, then come and follow me." This was the answer to the young man's yearning. It was an invitation to the intimacies of discipleship. Sell everything--but that doesn't leave anything left. Give it all away to those who have nothing--that requires faith greater than the proverbial mustard seed. Take up the cross and follow Jesus--What does that involve? It was such a great unknown he couldn't begin to visualize it.
In some ways we could say more was asked of this young man, whom Jesus looked upon and loved, than was asked of any other disciple we read about in the Gospels! All! Everything! Up front or nothing! He couldn't do that. Ask anything else, O Lord, anything; and I will do it. Clouds overshadowed the sunshine of Jesus' love. The young man's face fell. He turned and went the other way with a heavy heart, failing to learn heaven's paradoxical truth that we lose what we keep and we gain what we give away.
Shortly after this, Jesus was crucified and those who knew this young man sighed a huge sigh of relief that he had not gone after Jesus. Surely he had made the right choice. But those were people for whom death meant the last page of the final chapter. The disciples who followed Jesus knew differently because their Good Teacher had taught them that death is another beginning, like grain when it is planted is reborn into a new stalk that bears abundant fruit. These are the ones who would find by losing, save by spending, discover riches through poverty, joy through suffering, and life through dying.
Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further study or reflection.
Icebreaker: If you could ask Jesus one question (maybe one silly and one serious question), what would it be?
This young man had been on the side lines, listening and watching, but now Jesus has affected him to the point that he is willing to step out from the crowd. What does his running and falling on his knees say about the intensity of his desire to connect with Jesus? In what areas of life have you moved from watching to participating? What motivated you and how difficult was it to change?
If only God is good, then to call Jesus good is to equate him with God. Was Jesus saying, "Don't call me good unless you really believe I come from God."? Name other reasons why Jesus might reject his use of the word "good"?
What did the young man mean when he asked, "Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" Rephrase that question in your own words.
The commandments are a starting point, but what more is needed to satisfy what this young man was needing?
Think back to the time Jesus called his 12 disciples and the patience he had with them for three years. Then consider how the timing (so near to his death) of his conversation with the wealthy young man might have influenced this encounter.
Jesus looked attentively at this young man and loved him. Was it pity/compassion? Respect/admiration? Longing/regret? What was the love Jesus had for him?
Was it faith or was it foolishness that made this young man want to bow before Jesus, learn more, and take in all that Jesus had to offer? Giving up everything in order to follow Jesus was a decision which could not be reversed. Once done, he could never recover what he had given to the poor. Why was Jesus so drastic in asking so much of this one individual?
This man was at a crossroads. He had already gone farther than most people in the crowd. Now the question is would he go all the way in response to Jesus. Discuss the alternatives he had. What would you have done if you were in his place?Selling everything was a way of becoming empty so God could fill him up anew. When and how do you identify with being empty and then filled by God? When have you gained by giving something away?