As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.'”
He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.”
Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me. “When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!”
Gosh, this poor guy can’t win. He has been good. He has followed the rules. You know what? I bet it shows. Good school, good car, good job, gives to the United Way, nice teeth, pretty family, He’s got it all.
Now here is his chance to be publicly honored. He presents himself before Jesus expecting to be named valedictorian of the class. Certainly eternal life is just one more thing to be earned. He has the breeding, the looks, and the class, there is no reason that it shouldn’t be acknowledged that he truly has it all. He expects Jesus to say, “What must I do? Kid, you’ve done it! What do you think God made the world for? You, Baby, it’s you!”
Jesus has another idea.
Jesus always seems to have another idea.
The question is wrong. At least, for this guy in this place. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” It’s not a commodity that can be earned. You can’t buy it. It’s not an honor for a life well lived. It’s not a birthright of protestants, Catholics or Jews?
What does Jesus do?
He makes a suggestion. He points out one thing he could do. This fellow must have relaxed for a moment. After all, it is only one things he lacks. Just one thing. He must have been really doing it right.
Jesus leans into him. He is going to tell him an important secret. He whispers, “go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”
It is like that moment when you stop squeezing the end of the balloon you are holding. He deflates. I can almost hear the air go out of him. That one thing is enormous. For this man it may well seem impossible. I think it has supposed to seem impossible. Because it is not really about doing in the sense of the question that he asked. It is about being. It is about what happens in a life that it is lived not just doing but being in relationship with God. Eternal life is right now if we are living in this world in relationship with God.
Jesus was not playing with him. He was drop dead serious. It is all there in line 21, “Jesus, looking at him, loved him”, I think I always missed the “loved him” part. He loved him. He loves us. He wants us, in fact, to stop trying so hard because what we want to earn is too hard. We cannot win this battle because we are so burdened with our gold-plated selves. He loves us.
HE LOVES US!
If we let go, give up, collapse into his open arms, we can do it. We can do it by not doing it. We can win by losing; we can come in first by coming in last. Not by doing, because what we need to do is impossible, but by being loved.
Let go, let God.
Rev. Fred Hayes
October 14, 2015