Jesus Wants "Yada" (pt 2)



In the previous post I asked a heart searching question: Do I know so much about God that I have convinced myself that I actually know him even though I don't?

This question is super relevant. I mean, Jesus says that when he returns there will be all kinds of people who thought they knew him but didn't really. The parable of the 10 virgins and the parable of the sheep and the goats are two of the primary examples. In both cases there are people who think they know Jesus, and yet Jesus says to them "I never knew you". So this question, far from being a useless exploration, is relevant to everyone who claims to be a God-follower.

In today's post, I would like to explore this question more by hanging out in Mark 10:17-22.

As Jesus was starting out on his way to Jerusalem, a man came running up to him.

Every story has a back story. In other words, every story begins way before it begins. When you lose your temper, that's not the start of the story. That's just the continuation. When you jump for joy because you got a new job, that's not the beginning of the story. Its a new chapter yes - but there is a back story to it. And while the Bible doesn't tell us anything about this man we can safely guess what his back story could have been. Whoever he was, to the human eye he was eager to discover Jesus. He wanted to meet him. He wanted to meet him so bad that he was running. There was something on his mind and he was really itching to get to Jesus.

[So he] knelt down, and asked, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?"

Notice what this guy says. "Good teacher." "Eternal life". "What must I do?" He wanted to "inherit" eternity. That's pretty impressive. I mean, he's using all the right words. To the naked eye this guy is nothing more than a sincere God seeker who is thirsting after truth. 

But there's more. Matthew calls him a young man, Luke calls him a ruler, and later on we discover that he was both religious and wealthy. It seems as though this guy had it all made. Youth. Wealth. Morals. Power. Religious and national identity. What more could you ask for? But he wasn't satisfied. He was still seeking. Somehow none of what he had gave him peace. He felt somehow that despite his excellent life something was missing. So he came to Jesus seeking an answer to his anxiety. He wanted assurance of eternal life. To a pastor, the baptismal sign would cha-ching on our eyeballs. But Jesus sees something no one else sees.

"Why do you call me good?" Jesus asked.

Jesus spots the phonyness. He calls the guy out. He knows the difference between living faith, an parrot faith. And this guy is parroting. He's saying the right words in the right way. But what he's not doing is being honest.

"Only God is truly good." [Jesus adds]

It's as if Jesus is drawing the guy to himself. Trying to help him see his own pretension. Because the worst kind of hypocrite is the sincere hypocrite. And while it sounds like an oxy-moron its true. There are hypocritical people who recognize their hypocrisy. But then there are those who sincerely think they are on the right path. Everyone else sees their phoniness, but they can't see it. Jesus continues:

"[T]o answer your question, you know the commandments: ‘You must not murder. You must not commit adultery. You must not steal. You must not testify falsely. You must not cheat anyone. Honor your father and mother."

I have to admit. This is weird. Jesus' answer to his question is actually kind of annoying. I mean, it was just common sense for the day. Everyone believed that in order to gain eternal life you just had to live a good life. And this guy would have known that so he came seeking a deeper answer. But Jesus didn't give him one. Instead he gave him the same thing everyone else would. Why?

"Teacher," the man replied, "I’ve obeyed all these commandments since I was young."

I can sense the frustration in his voice. He is looking for something deeper! But he isn't getting it. So he challenges Jesus to give him something deeper. But Jesus doesn't.

Why? Because the young man was not the only one looking for something deeper. Jesus was looking for something deeper as well. He was looking for the young mans honesty. He was craving authenticity. He was longing for true connection. But the young man could not give it. While he knew something was missing in his walk with God he was unwilling to admit that the missing piece was himself. And until he admitted that he was insufficient, until he admitted that he had not kept the law and in fact never could keep the law, until he admitted that his problem was not out there but in his own heart Jesus could never help him.

In a sense, those of us raised in church are in a bit of danger. In order to make us immune to the flu virus doctors and pharmacists will inject us with a small portion of the virus that strengthens our immune system and make us - ideally - immune to that strand of flu. In other words, they give us just enough of the flu to make us immune to the real thing. And most of us have just enough God to make us immune to truly knowing him. And that was the problem with this man. He had just enough God to make him immune to truly experiencing God. By quoting the commandments Jesus' wasn't telling the young man that he could go to heaven by being really good. He was trying to help him realize that he could never be good enough. If the ruler was honest he would have cried out to Jesus "I can't do what you ask! I'm too sinful and selfish." But instead of being honest, he decided to play holier-than-thou and said "I've done all this since I was a kid".

The first step to a true relationship with Jesus is transparency. Come to God thinking you are all that and a bag of chips and you will never experience him. You may learn and learn and learn about him and become the greatest Christian philosopher of the 21st century. But you will miss out on knowing him. Because in order to know God you have to let go of your pretensions, your masks, and your self-adulation and come before him naked, with your heart bleeding and broken, with your life falling to pieces, with your doubts and fears, with your frustrations and failures, and with your sin and shame.

Looking at the man, Jesus felt genuine love for him. "There is still one thing you haven’t done," he told him. "Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me."

Jesus is trying here. He's trying to help the young man realize that he hasn't kept the law. Because God's law is a law of love and this young man is selfish! So while he may keep the law externally, his heart is still out of harmony with God. His real god is money, success, wealth. And he used his religious knowledge and his pretentious philosophical questions as a way to cover the fact that he did not love God. He loved himself. And Jesus saw right though it. Because Jesus always sees right through us. You think you are all that? You think you are holy and without sin? You think you are sinless and godly? We'll let me put you to the test to find out if its really true. Take your god of money, and wealth, and success and give it away. Take all your worldly possessions and sell them, then give the money to those who are suffering, hungry, and destitute - give it to them. 


Then come and follow me.At this the man’s face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.

Now the truth emerges. he said the right words, performed the right motions, and could even boast that he had done the right things but he was a fake. in his heart, he didn't truly want God. Was Jesus suggesting you can go to heaven by being good enough? No. Jesus was trying to help the guy see he could never be good enough. He was trying to get this guy to admit his insufficiency, because until he admitted it he would never be able to truly experience God. But he didn't get it. Instead, he walked away from Jesus choosing to trade a real relationship with God for a fake, wanna-be religion that left him selfish, indifferent, and empty.

Some of us have not truly surrendered to Jesus. we just say the right things, and do the right things, and act the right ways, and post the right Facebook statuses, and sing the right songs, and quote the right verses, and pray the right prayer and all the while Jesus is standing by saying, I want something deeper! But you can never give him something deeper unless you give him all that you are and allow him to take it all. 

I don't know who or where you are, but whatever the case I invite you today. Come to the cross. Come broken. Come weak. Come humiliated. Come phony. Come selfish. Come lustful. Come ashamed. Come confused. Come tired. Come weary. Come lonely. Take off your mask. Remove the robe of pretension. Throw off the shackles of phoniness. And come to Jesus. And when you do that I promise you, you will not walk away with information. You will walk away with an experience. You will taste the heart of God full of forgiveness, and grace, and power, and cleansing, and joy, and freedom, and rebirth. You will never be the same again.

In Isaiah 29:13 it is written:

And so the Lord says, "These people say they are mine. They honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. And their worship of me is nothing but man-made rules learned by rote."

Sounds like the rich young ruler. But lets not stop there. Ask yourself, does this describe you as well. Jesus is longing for a deeper relationship with you. And you can have it today. Stop playing church. Stop acting the religious part. Just be real. Give him your heart as it is. Do it today. Do it again tomorrow. Do it the day after. Do it every day for the rest of your life and you will see that your faith will no longer be a theoretical concoction of philosophically plausible suppositions. Instead it will be a living, breathing, active, life-altering experience.

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