Lent Reflections @ CEC (3/24/20)
“It is one thing to believe in God; it is quite another to believe God.”
SCRIPTURE & DEVOTION: Mark 10:1-31; focused on Mark 10:17, 19-22
As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”…
… Jesus answered, “You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”
“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
At this, the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
The man who approaches Jesus in this story seems to have a sincere desire to learn, for, more than once in this brief passage, he addresses Jesus as “Teacher”. From his youth, the man had kept God’s commandments faithfully, and yet, he sensed that something was lacking, that his understand was incomplete. In a culture where financial prosperity was often interpreted as a sign of God’s favor, he was richly blessed. His question, “What must I do?” indicates that he truly does want to please God.
How shocked and surprised he must have been by Jesus’ answer. As a matter of fact, this entire chapter of Mark’s entire gospel is full of surprises. It begins with the Pharisees testing Jesus about his opinion of the legality of divorce. Their intent was to trap him into giving an answer that would get him into trouble. Rather than answer their questions in the way they expected, Jesus quotes from the book of Genesis, implying that they already knew what God had said in the scriptures, so why were they asking him for a different answer?
The verses immediately following this passage tell that the disciples began to rebuke people who were bring little children to Jesus so that he could bless them. In the culture of that time, children were mainly valued for who they would become as adults: heirs to the family name and fortune, landowners, business people, tradesmen, etc. Until the formal rite of passage when a child became an adult, children were not taken very seriously. And yet, Jesus astonishes the disciples by taking a child into his arms and saying that, unless a person came to God with the attitude of dependence and trust, like a little child, he would not enter God’s kingdom.
But these are just the latest in a long list of surprises. In the previous chapter, for example, the disciples are taken aback when Jesus tells them not to prevent a man from casting out demons in his name, even though he was not a part of their group (Mark 9:39). When they argued among themselves about which one of them was the greatest, Jesus astonished them by saying that whoever would be first must be the servant of all (Mark 9:35).
What these examples from scripture tell me is that Jesus is constantly in the business of bridging the gap between what we human beings think we know about God and what God is truly like. When we try to understand the nature of God, we do so by looking through the lens of human perception which is, at best, incomplete and fallible. It is no wonder that we are surprised and astonished when we come face to face with our misconceptions and misinterpretations. It gives an entirely new meaning to the phrase “shock and awe.” In this Lenten season, may we be open to learning more about the true character of God as expressed through the life and words and of our Lord and Savior. Despite our shortcomings, he is still looking at us with love.
Lord, as we come to know you better and better, may we surrender all of who we are to You, that You may be made known in us and through us.