【2012년 10월 14일(주일)】VKC 성령강림절 후(20)주일
【제목】한가지 부족한 것 (One thing you lack)
A pastor received a letter from a senior member that began with ‘Dear my honorable pastor,’ and said about the pastor’s merits, numbered from 1 to 100, written with very small characters. Some of them didn’t look like ‘merits’ but he was happy to read them. So he showed off the letter to his wife. However, while he happily read the letter before his wife, he suddenly became to feel some fear. It was because there were many things written on the letter that he couldn’t even remember. And he thought that many of his strengths actually were not real merits. He became uncomfortable when he inferred that if she tried to find faults instead of merits from him, she could find more than these.
Please look around! We evaluate all the people even though we don’t disclose the evaluations. ‘He has problems in this and that.’ ‘She has a 2% insufficiency in her personality.’ And so on… Like this, you can write too many faults of others.
What if God evaluates us? How many our flaws could God who is able to read our mind see while even human can easily find many others’ faults only from their behaviors? If we think so, we cannot help but humbly lower our heads before God.
Which comments would you give a man who says that he has always kept God’s words without breaking any of them? We might say to him as Socrates says “Know thyself!”
Today, unfortunately, there are many Christians who suffer from ‘the symptom of young rich man.’ They superficially look like good believers, but have one thing that they lack. And, the weakness is even critical. If a man thinks he himself is a pretty good Christian, it means he actually has a critical problem, suffering the symptom of young rich man. Today, we will think about what the symptom of young rich man is and what one thing we lack.
First of all, we must take a look at who this person is in our scripture today. Verse 17 says, that he is ‘a man,’ verse 22 and Matthews 19:22 say, ‘he had great wealth’ and Luke 18:18 says that he was ‘a certain ruler.’ In other words, this man was not only young but talented, rich and powerful.
Furthermore, verse 17 says, “As Jesus stared on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him, ‘Good teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’” Not only did he run to meet Jesus but the young man was also serious enough to kneel in front of Jesus and ask. Just like Jairus in Mark 5:22, “Then one of the synagogue rulers, named Jairus, came there. Seeing Jesus, he fell at his feet.” Just like Jairus, the young man was modest and sincere.
Additionally, when we look at what this young man had asked, we can see that the question itself is quite different from those of the disciples. The disciples had been arguing about who was greater and yet this young man asks about obtaining eternal life. He was not after the materialistic and worldly goods. Instead, he was asking a sincere question about eternal life.
We can also tell that this young man was well-educated. When Jesus says in verse 19, “You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honour your father and mother’” he responds, “‘Teacher,’ he declared, ‘all these I have kept since I was a boy.” In other words, he has been trained from a young age in the proper ways of God.
Thus, it seems that the young man lacked nothing. Even Jesus, in verse 21 says, “Jesus looked at him and loved him” emphasizing how special he was.
If we were to rate this man, what would we give him? Is there anyone among us, who’d receive a higher grade than him? If I had met him in person, I would’ve said, “Everyone! Look at this young man! He is powerful and wealthy and yet was well-trained and well-educated from a young age, so much so that he is modest, talented, and knows to seek for eternal life. I hope you all would follow after him.”
Yet, Jesus tells him that there is “one thing you lack” (Mark 10:21). He seemed flawless in my mind, what could he possibly have lacked?
To answer this question, I had to look at verse 18 again. “As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. ‘Good teacher,’ he asked, ‘what must I do to inherit eternal life?’” He is asking what he can do to inherit eternal life.
The young man probably had become rich through his inheritance, and as a result, thought that eternal life can only be inherited by those who deserved it. By those who meet certain requirements – such as being the child of rich parents.
Simply put, he is asking what requirement he has to meet in order to become eligible to inherit eternal life. On the other hand, however, he is also hinting the fact that he believes he is worthy of the inheritance.
The young man wasn’t asking because he didn’t know the answer to the question. Instead, he was asking to get a specific answer out of him. He was subtly boasting the fact that there is no one who is as powerful as him who is also modest enough to kneel in front of Jesus and that there was no one who also adhered the commandments from a young age. Thus, trying to receive assurance from Jesus that he is more than eligible to inherit eternal life.
But then Jesus said, “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” Jesus knew the young man’s “Achilles heel. He knew the young man’s obsession and possessiveness for material things. He was a man who had done many commendable things, but he apparently had a crucial weakness. He had a lot of wealth that he couldn’t give up for anyone.
First, Jesus tells the rich young man to “go.” This does not purely mean “walk over there.” It means “go toward a new direction beyond the life that you have lived until now.” The young man until then had been caught in a net by “his accumulation of wealth.” And so Jesus was telling the man he should free himself from that net.
Jesus then speaks, “sell and give.” We need to accumulate true wealth in heaven, not in this land. But many people try to grab wealth down here because they think it will make them rich. Who is the richest person in the world? It is Jesus Christ who has thoroughly shared his life with us on the cross. He had a truly wealthy life and through him, we can also live a wealthy life. Then we can become the followers of the Christ.
But can we really do this as Jesus tells us? “At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.” If we were him, we probably would have been very disappointed as well. So why did Jesus tell the young man to do that when he knew the man would not be able to accept or actually do it?
If you actually look at the next verse, Mark 10:23 says, “Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!"” If any people who are rich and wealthy heard this, they would feel very discomforted right now.
In fact, Mark 10:24-25 says, “The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, "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."”
There have been numerous efforts to interpret what Jesus said here. The Greek word for “camel” is “camelos.” A Greek word for “rope” is “camilos.” A change in one alphabet character could change the meaning of the word completely. So some people even think that the Bible has been recorded wrong and that Jesus is actually talking about a rope, not a camel. That is because it is impossible for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, whereas it is possible for a rope to go through the eye of needle, especially if the needle is huge.
Others interpret the “eye of a needle” as the curfew passage door in the Jerusalem castle. Then it means that it is difficult (not impossible) for the hulking camel to go through that small door…
Many people have been trying to interpret the sentence as differently from its literal meaning because they wanted to emphasize the fact that it is difficult, but not completely impossible for a rich person to go to heaven.
Although they interpretations seem plausible, the interpretation does not pierce the essence of the sentence. Regardless whether Jesus meant a camel, a rope, the eye of a needle, or a small door, Jesus is saying that it is impossible for a person to be able to go to heaven, just because he has some wealth.
In other words, Jesus is not saying a rich person cannot go to heaven. He is saying that a person cannot go to heaven even if he is rich. The fact (that he is able to go to heaven because he is rich) is just as impossible as a camel going through the eye of a needle.
So then who will be able to go to heaven? In order to answer this, verse 27 is important: “Jesus looked at them and said, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."”
Even if the rich young man does sell everything he has and give to the poor, he will always lack one thing. It is just impossible for the rich young man to go to heaven just by his own effort. Only God’s way will make it possible for the man to go to heaven.
And so we need to know what God’s way is…
In order to understand today’s scripture properly, we must look at the event just before. In verses 13-16, Jesus hugs children, blesses them, tells others that God’s kingdom belongs to them. We need to compare these verses to today’s scripture because they make an interesting comparison. Children in Jesus’ arms did not do anything. They are just in His arms. Yet, He tells that they are the main characters in heaven.
On the other hand, this man in today’s scripture kept God’s commandments and kneeled before Jesus. He was serious about eternal life. But, he had to hear "How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! (verse 23)" and “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. (verse 25)"
What is the bible telling us through this contrast? People think that things like, whether keeping commandments, whether first or last, whether rich or poor, are important. So, we typically think that some conditions must be met in order to have salvation and eternal life.
However, God’s kingdom and salvation are gift given by grace not something obtained from our efforts. So, this gift is given to children who hug Jesus and life in God’s kingdom is given by grace. That is why Jesus says, "With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God."
So, this story is not about whether the rich can enter the kingdom of God. Also, it is not about doing charity work to enter the kingdom of God. Rather, what is more emphasized here is about absolute trust and dedication toward God. It is asking what is blocking between God and me and what I depend on or trust more.
Especially for the rich man, it is asking how much his relation to wealth influences his relation to God. What is more fundamental in relationship?
In other words, Jesus points out ‘one thing [he] lacks’, which is the fact he depends on wealth more than God. The thinking that what I have done can get me into heaven and I can get to heaven with my strength and power. This is absolutely impossible thinking.
In verse 21, it says, ‘Jesus looked at him and loved him’. As I mentioned before, in the Gospel, this is the only verse that says directly that ’Jesus loved’. Jesus did not say to the rich man about ‘one thing he lacks’ in order to judge him, condemn him, or put him in difficult situation. Rather, Jesus said it because he loved him. To help him understand his problem and overcome his weakness. He says the same thing to us because he loves us.
Jesus, am I not good? I keep God’s commandments, so am I not doing alright? When we say these, Jesus says, ‘Yes, well done. Can you now sell everything you have and give to the poor and follow me?’ What will you answer then? Will you return sad because of this?
On the outside, we seem to be good people. But, we all have ‘one thing we lack’. Something is blocking between Jesus and me. Today’s scripture is about realizing that. Thus, it is telling us that we can never inherit eternal life through our efforts, power, qualification, or any other methods. We have too much and living a life like a camel who cannot go through the eye of a needle. Thus, only God’s method, God’s grace can make it possible.
As I think more about today’s scripture, I prayed this prayer. ‘God, I have many weaknesses and flaws. Do not let these weaknesses and flaws become a critical one that blocks the way to eternal life. Let there be nothing that I rely more than God. Help me love and seek grace because of the ‘one thing’ I lack as Jesus pointed out.
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