17 As he went out into the street, a man came running up, greeted him with great reverence, and asked, “Good Teacher, what must I do to get eternal life?” 18-19 Jesus said, “Why are you calling me good? No one is good, only God. You know the commandments: Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t cheat, honor your father and mother.” 20 He said, “Teacher, I have—from my youth—kept them all!”
21 Jesus looked him hard in the eye—and loved him! He said, “There’s one thing left: Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth. And come follow me.”
22 The man’s face clouded over. This was the last thing he expected to hear, and he walked off with a heavy heart. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go.
Mark 10:17-22 (The Message)
I do not want this edition to become a battle arena of which experience of tragedy is the worst. All tragedies are painful and that pain is real and must never be minimized. We are not in a spitting contest folks. I am not even suggesting that your individual tragedies are unimportant, because they are. I have wrestled and struggled over this post more than any other. But could it be that the greatest tragedy is to love Jesus, but on our terms?
The focus of this blog, and the reason the Spirit prompted (more like pushed me kicking and screaming) is to take our focus off of what we think it means to be a real Christian by making the story of our life bigger than the story of our local churches by entering the narrative of the Story of The Kingdom of God. And today’s edition is about asking the question: Do we love Jesus, but on our terms? How you and I answer this question determines how big, or how small, the story of our life becomes. Does the narrative of our life tell a story as big as the Kingdom of God, or is our story as small as the small amount of real estate our life covers?
Look again at this passage we call “The Story of The Rich Young Ruler”. He is called rich, meaning he has experienced financial success in life. But his wealth is not mentioned until the end of this encounter with Jesus. Look at his initial encounter with Jesus. The Message says he shows “great reverence” and other translations says he “kneels” or “bows”. It is obvious, at least to me, this young man recognizes at the very least that Jesus is someone special because he senses that Jesus holds the answer to the deepest need of his heart: “How can I find unending life?”
I know the translations say eternal life but the Greek word used here is interesting. There are two particular Greek words translated as “life”, bios—which means physical life; we get our word “biology” from this word; and zoe—which means life that is full with purpose and meaning. What I am trying to say is that this man is not asking “How do I get into heaven?” He is asking Jesus, “How do I find life that has lasting purpose and meaning that begins right now? I don’t wait to wait until I get to heaven. I need it NOW!”
Others had been around Jesus but no one asked the question that He loves to hear: “How do I find unending life that has purpose and meaning starting right now?” And when this young man came to Jesus with that question pay close attention to how Jesus responds: “Jesus looked him hard in the eye—and loved him!” Can’t you see the great big smile on the face of Jesus? Finally, someone asks the question that is at the core of why Jesus became one of us. Jesus came as one of us so that any of us, all of us could experience zoe life to the max.
Obviously this successful young man loved Jesus because he brought the question of his heart to Him. But when Jesus gave him the answer, it wasn’t the answer he wanted to hear. In that instant this young man realized by while he loved Jesus, it was on his terms. And when Jesus upped the ante and raised the bar, this young man knew he was unwilling to let go of his bios life in order to take hold of the zoe life. Look at how he leaves the presence of Jesus, the presence that once offered him hope: “This was the last thing he expected to hear, and he walked off with a heavy heart. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go.”
This is the epitome of the greatest tragedy. This passage from Mark’s Gospel has led me to believe and become convinced that the greatest tragedy in life is to love God but on our terms. And here is why:
1. He turned away from the only Hope!
Everything points to his quest. He knew the life he was pursuing would not get him to where he needed to be. There is only one hope to find this life. He choose to walk away from that Hope for life that could be rich with purpose and meaning.
2. He rejected the only Cure!
The Message puts this man’s spiritual condition with very clear words: “He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go.” He could not “fix” what was wrong with his heart, but Jesus could. Yet he chose to reject the cure for his pain and emptiness.
3. He walked away from the only Life!
He accepted a life that he wasn’t was designed for, a life that did not meet his created purpose. His created purpose, and our created purpose, is to join in with all that our Heavenly Father is doing.
Any experience that meets the definition of “tragedy” is awful and painful. But I see that the greatest tragedy for any human heart is to love Jesus but on our terms. Why do I call it the greatest tragedy? Because Jesus will not accept us on our terms and this means only one thing. We do what this rich young man did: we walk away from Jesus. To walk away from Jesus is to walk away from the only One who loves us enough to die for us. And that, my friends, is the greatest tragedy—to be so close to the zoe life, one word from zoe life but walk away from it. Jesus will never accept love on our terms. He is too good, too holy, too majestic for such a love. Such a love, a love on our terms, is unworthy of The Eternal One!
We cannot experience the life for which we are created by loving Jesus on our own terms. Those who know me know that I love to ask questions, even to the point of being annoying. But I must ask you, the reader, as I often ask myself: Do you love Jesus, but on your own terms?
Love God with all your heart; love others the way Jesus loves you; and make sure all the glory goes to Him!