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Mark 10: 22

As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do so that I may inherit eternal life?” But Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘DO NOT MURDER, DO NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, DO NOT STEAL, DO NOT GIVE FALSE TESTIMONY, Do not defraud, HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER.’” And he said to Him, “Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth.” Looking at him, Jesus showed love to him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”

22 But he was deeply dismayed by these words, and he went away grieving; for he was one who owned much property.

I believe in second chances. Don’t you? Last week we saw the beginning of this young man’s story. Today we see his response to Jesus’ invitation to join his band. Unfortunately, he didn’t choose Jesus, at least not immediately.

In the Ivey version of the Bible, this young man returns to Jesus. I have always been fond of this story and chagrined that this fellow missed out on the thing we crave and desire more than anything, being with Jesus. This man received a personal invitation from Jesus himself to join Jesus’ team, to be in the inner circle. Wouldn’t you have loved to have been in those shoes and responded, “Yes!”

One of the things which is disturbing about this passage is that we fear we, like the rich, young ruler, may have also walked away. This young man didn’t know what he said, “No,” to. In my version of events, I imagine him pondering the invitation and receiving the revelation of what was offered and the cost. He was grieved because, at some level, he was married to his wealth and the security it offered him. He was probably accustomed to the doors his money opened for him and he probably functioned according to the power of his wealth. To divest himself of his wealth was to divest himself, not only of his power, but also his understanding of how things worked in his society. I imagine that much of his way of doing life was tied up in his wealth so to lose it meant to strip him of a large part of what he knew.

His denial of Christ is the echo of another thing which causes a deep disturbance within us. Do we not immediately fear that Jesus will ask us to sell our possessions and give away the proceeds. In our heart of hearts, a small panic erupts. Our breath halts for one moment hoping we do not hear the voice of a quiet whisper in our ear. As that moment passes, we may have several reactions to the young ruler. Some will, undoubtedly, feel superior to him because from a removed perspective they understand that he chose money over Christ and certainly, none of us would do that. Then others of us react to the young man with empathy and a certain feeling of companionship because we know, deep in our hearts, that we would have been every bit as challenged as he and would have likely made the same wrong decision.

That is me. I feel a camaraderie with this man. I am a bit envious of his devout walk, jealous of the love that poured out of Jesus for him, and frightened that I, too would have erred. So, in my version of the story which is never told, the young man goes home and considers the encounter with Jesus. He begins to recognize that he values his wealth and the security it gives him, more than his walk of faith. He recalls the inquiry which began the encounter. “Good Teacher, what shall I do so that I may inherit eternal life?” Why did he ask this question if not for the desire in his heart and spirit to follow God into eternity? Why did he spend all his life following the commandments if not to be pleasing unto God? When Jesus looked at him, what did he see in the man’s heart that caused him to manifest great love for him?

Jesus cries out to each and every one of us, “Come, follow me.” Lest we fool ourselves, there is a cost to each of us. Perhaps we are not rich and asked to sell off our assets, but there is something each of us needs to put upon the altar. What would I do if Jesus said to me, “Give up cycling and spend that time with me?” What would you do if he asked something of you which was uncomfortable? What is in your life that challenges your love walk with him? Is there anything you value more than time with him?

In my version of the story, the young man returned to his home that day and began to meditate on that experience. For the next several days he couldn’t get it off his mind. He stayed at home, surrounded by all the trappings of luxury. Yet, his servants worried for he barely took any meals. Instead, he sat huddled before a fire, reading his Torah by the dim light. Then, one night, late and unable to sleep, he sat before the fire and prayed to his Heavenly Father. The Father, ever faithful, met the young man at the point of his need. Calling the young ruler’s name, Father God revealed that this great and good teacher is the Christ. The young ruler, in that moment, came to know that there was nothing more valuable on the face of the earth or in the heavens than to be with the Christ. Before the heavenly host, he poured out his heart to the Father. The following morning, nothing stood between him and finding this Jesus, now known to him as the Christ. In my heart, I see that rich, young ruler as a devout follower of Christ all the days of his life. He repented of the mistake so many of us have made and spent the rest of his life fulfilling the call of Christ.

Hopefully, each of us has a moment of clarity where we realize there is nothing more valuable than to sit at the feet of Christ and just BE with him. It is “the One Thing.” There is only one thing that is important, Jesus said, (Luke 10: 42) and this is it, to BE with him. I hope your story ends with you choosing Christ above all else.

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