A rich young ruler came to Jesus seeking answers to questions. His questions were sincere, for he did not have any ulterior motives. The man had much going for him. He was moral, rich, and obedient to the Laws of Moses, yet he knew God was requiring more of him. He asked, “What … must I do to get eternal life?” What does eternal life mean? Does it mean a continuation of the life we presently live? No, for the young man was aware that his present life was lacking.
The young man sounds like us, for we too know our present life is lacking. We seek eternal life, yet we do not know how to obtain it. We are aware of the infinite and hear its call, yet do not know how to grasp it. We hear echoes of the eternal, and do not know how to obtain it. Our record appears clean, yet we know it is not. The answers to our questions leaves us hungry, thus we ache for more. Nothing we do brings us rest, and so we attempt to take hold of a life that will satisfy the deepest in us. We know there is more than flesh. We know there is more than we already possess.
In summary what is our cry? It is the cry of God’s lost child calling out after their Abba God. We are seeking God, seeking life, and all this before we ever come to Christ.
The Pharisees continually confronted Jesus with their interpretations of the law. In order to be right they had to make God wrong. When anyone attempts to make God wrong they essentially make gods of themselves. Jesus response to such god making is to take us back to the narrow gate with its narrow road (Cf. Matt 7:14).
Jesus takes us back because he desires to restore what was lost in the garden. He beckons us back so that he can restore our life to the way it is supposed to be with God. Go back with Him. Walk with Him. Talk to Him, and let him talk to you. Then, suddenly, in the midst of the conversation you will say, “Did not my heart burn within me while He talked to me by the way,” (Cf. Luke 24:32).
Jesus takes us back not to live in the past, but so that we will know where he is leading. Where is Jesus leading us? He is leading us out of this world so that he can lead us into a place where, “There will be no curse, the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in the city, and his servant will serve him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. There will be no more night. They will not need the light of a lamb or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light. And they will reign for ever and ever.”
Jesus took three of the disciples to a mountaintop where he was transfigured before them; they saw his inner glory shine through. During that grand event God’s voice was heard saying, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him,” (Matt 17:5).
God said, “Listen to Him,” yet in the next set of verses we read how Jesus told the disciples what was going to happen to Him in Jerusalem, and instead of listening to what He said, they were, “Grieved,” (23) by what he said. They were grieved because they heard something that did not fit their world-view of a Messiah. Yet they were the very words from the Divine Son, so they must be true.
As Christians we often think we have it all figured out, but then something causes us to listen to Jesus and we find ourselves grieved. When we listen to Jesus we find Him bringing us back to the narrow gate of Matt 7:13. The command to listen reminds me of a poem by Edward H. Richards, “A wise old owl sat on an oak; the more he saw the less he spoke; the less he spoke the more he heard; why aren’t we like that wise old bird? The poem makes a good point: We should listen more than we speak. Unfortunately we can’t get past the conversation of self-righteousness that is going on in our head to hear what Jesus is saying. The Proverb is correct that says, “He that has knowledge spares his word,” (17:27).
Have you noticed how in the Gospel accounts of Jesus that everywhere He traveled, “Great crowds” (Matt 15:30), of people flocked to Jesus? Whether in a Jewish, or Gentile setting Jesus was the one person everyone turned to for the answer to the problems that plague them. Even today go anywhere in the world and proclaim the Gospel of Jesus and you will have men and women flocking to him. Place Jesus anywhere and in any setting today and men will make Him their leader. That is because Jesus has ability in the presence of our inability.
The mistake the disciples made was they limited their view of Christ based on a personal view, and they thereby limited Jesus. Thus today we learn that the work of Christ is limited by our unbelief. There is much that Jesus would like to do for us, but He limits His actions to where and when the results of his actions will be recognized as coming from Him as the Son of God, and not from our own achievements. Jesus moves in our lives when he knows his movement will bring glory to God.
Here lies a lesson: What stops Jesus, what halts His power from being revealed in our lives is our lack of faith in him. What gives the Christian power to overcome any obstacle, to say to a mountain, “Be moved,” and seeing it move, is a belief that he is able in the midst our inability.
He is Able,
When we read the Gospel accounts of Jesus we can’t help but notice Jesus continually came into conflict with the Pharisees. The reason for the conflict was He revealed the truth that was hidden in their hearts – hypocrisy. Today many are in conflict with Jesus because they resent what Jesus reveals in their heart – hypocrisy. Thus Jesus always puts mankind at the crossroads; either Jesus Christ is the supreme authority on the human heart, or He is not. Let me just say that if Jesus is not the supreme authority of our heart then he is not worthy of our attention.
Reading the Bible is like looking into a mirror and seeing ourselves. We see the hypocrisy of our heart, the emptiness of our good works, and we come away appalled at the possibilities of evil that lies within us. We are awakened to the fact that all Jesus said is absolutely true, and, if for a moment just have some honesty, we have to admit that purity is something far too deep for any of us to arrive at naturally. Therefore, the only thing that truly provides protection against these appalling possibilities is Jesus’ redemption.
The word redemption is a great word. It means the chains are removed, the cell doors are opened, and the prisoners are set free because the price has been paid. Accepting Jesus redemption means handing yourself over to him every-day and in every-way, and you will not have to experience the terrible possibilities that lie within your heart.
Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul.” Jesus invites people to “come,” and in so doing they will have rest. “Take my yoke,” means become a follower of Jesus. If a person accepts Jesus’ invitation they will “learn” from him, and find rest for their souls.
What is this rest that Jesus offers? Jesus said of the people, “They were like sheep without a shepherd.” He meant they were: Sorrowful, suffering, wave-tossed, tired, wearied, and heavy-laden people. Thus in His invitation He is saying, “All your restlessness is caused by the lack of God in your life. If you could know God all your restlessness would cease, but you cannot know Him except through me. If you will come to Me, I will reveal God to you, and you will find rest.”
Jesus’ invitation is music to our ears, and a balm to our souls, and that is because He does not offer pity, but he offers the power to overcome. His invitation is not an opiate that puts us to sleep, but an offer of a life that awakens us to what we were meant to be – something holy. Jesus’ invites us to get right with God, and that can only be done through Him.
John the Baptist preached the truth, and for that he suffered imprisonment from King Herod. A question that often arises out of suffering is, “Why does God allow the Christian to suffer?” After all when we became a Christian we were not looking to join the suffering Olympics, but we find that as Christians we do suffer.
2Corinthians 1 gives us several answers to our question. The first answer is found in verse 4, “So that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God.” There is a saying that, “Bruises attract one another.” The saying means that from our suffering we learn to comfort another who is suffering.
Another reason we are allowed to suffer is seen just a few verses later, “That we might not rely on ourselves, but on God” (9). This means that God allows us to suffer so that we will not trust ourselves, but learn to trust in God. It has been said, “Our self-pride is smashed most effectively when suffering happens.”
A third reason for suffering is found in verse 11, “Then many will give thanks” (11). It has also been said that, “Pain plants the flag of reality in the fortress of a rebel’s heart.” When God wants to do an impossible task, He takes an impossible individual and allows him to suffer. The best example of this is Paul on the road to Damascus in Act 9.