Formations lesson for May 5: The Impossible Possibility
April 19 2002 by Haven Parrott , Mark 10:17-31

Formations lesson for May 5: The Impossible Possibility | Friday, April 19, 2002

Friday, April 19, 2002

Formations lesson for May 5: The Impossible Possibility

By Haven Parrott Mark 10:17-31

Possessions - power - prestige. The man had them all. His portfolio provided for every possibility, save one. To tie up that loose end, the businessman went eagerly to God's broker, knelt respectfully and asked, "So what do I need to do to ensure eternal life?" ... as if he, or anyone, could do something worthy of gaining entrance to heaven!

What shall I do? It was the wrong question, to be sure - at least he asked the right person, for Jesus' specialty is meeting folks where they are and leading them beyond.

The man was no stranger to works-based theology, so Jesus started with the familiar. "You know the commandments," Jesus reminded him, the implication being "if you know the commandments, you know you can't possibly earn your way to heaven!" Interestingly, Jesus mentioned only the horizontal commandments: "Don't kill, don't commit adultery, don't steal, don't lie, don't cheat, honor your mother and father."

What about the vertical commandments - the first four of the top 10? Perhaps Jesus hoped the man would remember, "have no other gods before Me," and connect the dots - eternal life is about a relationship, not a rule book.

Jesus' comment, "You know the commandments" should have made the man wince, blush, look away or at least stutter a little. But he was either too arrogant or too ignorant to recognize the ridiculous folly of trying to climb the higher-than-Everest wall of perfection with a stepladder. His attitude was similar to that of my 2-year-old son, the time he got into my lipstick and proceeded to give himself a makeover. When I asked the obvious, "have you been in my lipstick?" would you believe ... he denied it! Flat out. Straight-faced. With lipstick smeared from one ear to the other, he denied it. Did he honestly think I couldn't see the evidence?

Did the rich young ruler honestly think he could claim perfection in the presence of God? "No problem," he confidently countered. "Check! Check! Check! Check! Anything else?"

One thing you lack "And looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him." Astounding! Jesus loved the man anyway - lipstick and all. Can you see the tenderness in His eyes, the softness in His smile? Can you hear the "oh-how-I-want-you-to-choose-Me" in His voice?

But after all, Jesus came so no one would have to perish. Jesus outlined the investment required for eternal life so clearly there could be no confusion, just in case the man was genuinely unaware of the graven image of self-sufficiency that he worshiped. "One thing you lack: go and sell all your possesses and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me."

Wait a minute. Isn't "going and selling" doing something? Can eternal life actually be bought by selling all one's material possessions? And is that what Jesus requires of you and me - just one big yard sale and then we are heaven bound?

Gaining eternal life isn't about becoming materially impoverished. It's about recognizing our poverty of spirit - the absolute impossibility of gaining heaven by any means other than God's glorious grace.

Matthew and Luke's gospels describe the man as a "rich, young, ruler." Now, there's nothing inherently wrong with being rich, young and in leadership - except those labels not only described this man, they defined him. Jesus knew the man's identity and security were wrapped up in his achievements and wealth; that he not only had it all - it all had him as well. Securing eternal life would require him to surrender the things he put first and trusted most. The encounter with Jesus forced him to reassess his assets and make a decision.

It happens every time. Give Jesus an inch, and He'll want to take you a mile. "What must I do?" is a long way from, "What must I surrender?"

But then, eternal life lasts an awfully long time.

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4/19/2002 12:00:00 AM by Haven Parrott , Mark 10:17-31 | with 0 comments
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