Posted by: Andrew | September 3, 2015

Loving the Rich?

I’ve read, studied and preached on the account of Jesus meeting the rich young ruler from Mark chapter 10 many, many times. Yet this morning I read it more slowly and reflectively and things leapt out at me that I’d never seen before.

The story started familiarly enough, the rich young ruler comes to Jesus

1st surprise: He kneels in front of him. Never noticed that I always pictured him standing arrogantly and confidently. But the image is of him kneeling in front of Jesus.

Then the story continued as expected. He asks how he can receive eternal life, Jesus tells him to obey the commandments and famously the ruler claims to have kept them all. So he might be kneeling but the image is familiar of the boastful, proud ruler wanting eternal life (perhaps he sees it as a commodity to add to all his other possessions and achievements).

2nd surprise. Jesus looked at him and LOVED him. That’s right Jesus loved the arrogant, proud, rich ruler. Recently the church here in the UK has really embraced Jesus’ love for the poor and marginalised. It’s brilliant to see how many churches are challenging injustice, siding with the poor, speaking up for the marginalised etc. Brilliant, and I think they’re being obedient to Jesus’ teaching and example. BUT with almost everything Jesus said and did there’s more to his ministry. Here in the small story we see another side of Jesus, one who also loved the rich, in all their arrogance and pride he still saw a lost man seeking after God (perhaps with motives that we would question) but Jesus still loved him.

The next part of the story is perhaps the most famous – when he tells him to go and sell all he has. That always had a harshness to me, Jesus was revealing the truth of the man’s condition (greed) and challenging him to get rid of that. But if Jesus loved him maybe this was spoken with deep compassion. Because…

3rd surprise. Jesus says that when he has given his wealth to the poor Then he will have rewards in heaven and only then does he say ‘come follow me’. The rewards in heaven come not as a result of following Jesus but as a result of getting rid of the things he held more dear that obeying God.

Perhaps we can read this as Jesus longing for the man to follow him, but knowing that he’ll never be able to unless he puts aside his greed and love of money, but he offers him other rewards immediately. Jesus offered the man just what he wanted out of his love for him.

And the man said No! It must have been heart-breaking for Jesus, yet he doesn’t chase him and say ‘it doesn’t matter’ or plead with him to come back. He let’s him leave.

So I’m now challenged to think about whether we can also love rich, proud, boastful rulers? Would we be able to challenge not out of anger or jealousy but compassion? Do we let people reject Jesus when we tell them about him or are we so desperate for converts we’ll do anything and say anything to get them ‘in’?

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