A man comes to Jesus wanting to know how to get eternal life. It’s the one thing that he’s not sure of right now, though it seems that he’s doing everything possible to be prepared for it.
This man is doing everything he knows to do spiritually to be right with God. He’s keeping the commandments. Jesus asks him about that, running through several of the 10 commandments. The man says, “I’m doing those things.”
And many of us think, “He’s got it made.” Because many of us think that following God is keeping the rules carefully, and confessing to our failure when we mess up.
Jesus looks at the man. He loves the man. And he says, “Here’s what do to. Get rid of all your stuff and follow me.”
The man is devastated. He turns and walks away. The sense of the text is that he can’t imagine doing that, he can’t imagine taking that step, doing that kind of putting following God first.
Jesus doesn’t go after him, offering alternatives. Instead, he talks to the disciples about how much of an obstacle riches can be. The disciples were stunned. How could anyone do that? How would it be possible to leave everything and follow.
Until Peter finally realized that it was what he was doing.
He had walked away from his livelihood and was following Jesus. So had Matthew, the tax collector. So had James and John and Andrew. So had all the rest who simply followed along with Jesus when he invited them.
For all of us who give Peter a hard time, he gives us a reminder that following Jesus isn’t becoming perfect. It’s often being in conversation with Jesus about how imperfect we are. And actually, it’s sometimes being in imperfect conversations.
I wonder what would have happened if the rich man had said, “help me do that”
You know? If he would have said, “Jesus, that would be really hard. I’m not sure how, could you help?”
Crying out to God is an okay thing. Because we have a great high priest who understands what it is to be hungry, homeless, rejected. He knows what it’s like to be poured out, to feel like your body is being crushed. When we ask, he understands.
It’s not a matter of getting the words right. It’s a matter of being honest in conversation, speaking our hearts, responding with our lives, not to what we think God is going to want, but responding to what God actually wants.
And what he wants is us.