Here is a free chapter from my new book, Encounters With Jesus. The book contains forty such encounters, looking at the life of Jesus from conception to resurrection through the eyes of dozens whose lives He touched.
Encounters With Jesus makes a great forty day devotional walk through the life of Christ. Each short retelling includes the original references so you can go and read the Gospel account.
“I’d say it’s easier for a camel to go through
a needle’s eye than for the rich to get into God’s kingdom.”
What am I Lacking?
Rich Young Ruler
Growing up with wealth, I never thought much about the things that worry other people. I can’t remember ever being hungry or wondering whether another meal was in the offing. I never wore secondhand clothes.
My father was wealthy, and I’m not talking about money. Sure, there was always money, but money is a by-product of wealth. Many people get that turned around. They think, “If I only had ten thousand denarii, I’d be set.” What they don’t get is that wealth produces money. The lands my father passed into my hands and the herds and flocks I own produce all I could ever need.
I am always well dressed, and when I’m out and about, I usually have a few of my closest and dearest servants with me. I have always been able to afford entertainment. I can lay down enough coin to buy some happiness, but there has always been an empty place deep within me.
Recently, one of my attendants, a Jew like me, experienced something that changed him. Don’t misunderstand—there was nothing wrong with him before. He was always on time and faithful to me. He was trustworthy, and I could allow him to handle my money and manage my holdings.
But one day when he came into my presence, he . . . I don’t know. He just lit up. When I asked him about it, he told me he’d been passing through town and stumbled upon a crowd. His curiosity drew him in, and the words he heard held him there.
He said, “Now I am a disciple of Jesus.” He asked me if I would allow him to spend time listening to Jesus’s teachings while He was in town.
I have to tell you, he was so different. For the first time, I felt he had something I didn’t. He kept talking about eternal life and living water. Though he was an indentured servant and subject to my command, he seemed to stand in greater freedom than I.
Since he said this man, this Jesus, was going to be in town for a few more days, I told him we could go together to hear Him talk.
When we arrived, He was having a conversation with the Jewish leaders, and it seemed like they were laying a trap for Him. They were pressing Him with leading questions. It was an obvious attempt to discredit Him in front of His rather large following.
I couldn’t hear the whole conversation, but the leaders from the synagogue walked away perturbed. As they left, the crowd began to press Him. Women sent their children in to touch this Jesus. I could tell His entourage was getting upset with the way people were crowding Him. But He put His hands on each of the children as they came to Him and spoke a blessing over each one. No two of the blessings were alike. He was speaking into their future and creating a path for them to follow. I was so impressed with every word He uttered. He never wavered, but spoke with a profound authority. My parents never spoke into my life like that. Yet here is this man from Nazareth picking up the children of total strangers and giving them a destiny. It was wonderful to behold!
I wanted Him to speak into my life. I wanted the eternal life my servant spoke of. I wanted Jesus to speak words of hope over me. The child inside me cried out for His touch.
Before I thought better of it, I dashed right into the middle of everything, fell to my knees before Him, and revealed what was in my heart.
“Good Teacher, what must I do to get eternal life?”
There I was, on my knees before Him, feeling quite foolish and just a little hopeful.
He looked at me—honestly, it felt more like a probe than a look—and He said:
“Why are you calling me good? No one is good, only God.”
I got the impression He was asking me if I thought He was God. I grew up in a good Jewish home. I know the Lord God is One. But He kept speaking.
“If you want to enter the life of God, just do what he tells you. You know the commandments . . .”
The commandments. Excellent! I grew up in the home of a Jewish businessman. From a young age, the commandments were pounded into my brain. Business is built on trust, and wealth flows from righteousness. We read the proverbs over and over, and the commandments hung on the kitchen wall.
“Which ones?” I asked Him.
He started to list them:
“Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t lie, honor your father and mother, and love your neighbor as you do yourself.”
As He was listing, I was counting to myself and trying to figure out which ones He missed. But when He finished, I told Him I had always kept the commandments. I was beginning to feel like this whole conversation was kind of strange. I thought He was going to speak a blessing over me. I thought He was going to receive me with open arms. I thought He would be eager to have such an important and outstanding follower. Why were we talking about me keeping the commandments? You know how things race through your mind.
“Teacher, I have—from my youth—kept them all!” I said. “What am I lacking?”
He got quiet for a minute, and then a new look crossed His face. What was it? Love? Compassion? Pity? Sorrow?
“There’s one thing left: Go sell whatever you own and give it to the poor. All your wealth will then be heavenly wealth. And come follow me.”
Now I got quiet. Was this a joke? A trick? A test? Sell it all and then just give the money away? And to the poor, no less. I am okay with giving alms. In fact, a portion of my earnings is set aside every year for the poor. But to give the indigent great sums of money can create an entitlement mentality. It undermines their ambition. It’s not a good idea. Why doesn’t Jesus know this?
Besides, how would I live? These guys look like nomads. They travel constantly from place to place. They have no visible means of support, and I’m not sure I trust the one holding their money. You learn to get the measure of a man in my line of work.
What is He asking? Is He really demanding I just walk away from a fortune accumulated over the course of generations? What if I have children someday? What would I leave them? Didn’t wise Solomon tell us to leave an inheritance to our children’s children?
I’m not sure if He knew what I was thinking, but His gaze never faltered.
My eyes must have been asking what my heart was calculating, because He nodded.
My servant came over and helped me back to my feet. I turned away from this frustrating man. This was not how I expected the scenario to play out. I wanted what my servant had—that joy, peace, and freedom. But instead, my emptiness was deeper than ever.
To this day, I can’t figure out if I rejected Him or He rejected me, but in the end, I know we both walked away saddened.
Occasionally I wonder if I could do it, if I could forsake all and follow Him. But I realize it would be like putting the very core of my being to death. He was asking me to turn away from my identity, from who I am.
I can’t. I just can’t.
To read the original story, see Matthew 19:16-31, Mark 10:17-31,
and Luke 18:18-30.
Copyright - 2015 - Benjamin Nelson
If you would like to buy these books in quantities, or get a supply for your church's bookstore contact me via email - Ben@AnotherRedLetterDay.com.
Don't forget to shine!