Today we look at one of the more famous passages in the Gospels. I love the drama in Mark's writing: this is not a man who politely approaches Jesus with a question, but someone who is driven with a passion-a well-regarded wealthy young man who is so desperate to have answers that He throws Himself at the feet of Jesus. Looking back over the Gospel so far, you will have noted that the vast majority of the encounters of Jesus with individuals has been with those on the outskirts of society-shepherds, tax collectors, women, lepers, blind men and so on-rather than society's establishment, apart from those in opposition to Him. Let us study these verses:
1. It is clear that Jesus exercised a personal fascination for the young man. It appears that he is highly emotional when he runs to Jesus and Jesus does His best to calm him. Instead of welcoming the man into God's Kingdom, He urges him to take his time and consider the costs first. Would that church leaders did that as a matter of routine: so many teenagers who declared their love and faith in God who are no longer walking with God and deny any belief in Him: would that we had the patience of Christ!
2. Jesus tells the young man that he cannot become a lifetime follower just through his devotion to Him, but by seeking to know God, to know the whole counsel of God. Have you read the Old Testament? Surely that reveals who God is just as the New Testament does?
3. Jesus makes clear that respectability is not enough. The man had kept the Commandments, but what Jesus insisted to know was had he done any good with the gifts he had, notably his wealth? Christianity consists in doing good things-remember the parable of the sheep and the goats-whilst respectability is not doing the bad things. Are you maintaining a respectable life only? Doing the good thing can often mean taking a risk, sometimes it can cause us to be less than respectable in our doing good. Look at Jesus, spending time with those who were far from respectable, allowing a woman to pour oil over Him, talking with a woman of ill-repute at a well: scandalous, but good!
4. Jesus confronted the young man with a radical alternative to the life he was living: spend all that you have on others. ''If you really want to follow me, then give all of your wealth away. Use it to bless and benefit others.'' This was not a place and age such as the first world in the twenty first century when we try often successfully to hide the poor, marginalised, asylum seeker and mentally sick, the young man would have seen this all around him: how easy it would have been to give what he had. Only there was one big issue: he loved his money more than he admired Jesus.
5. I think there was still hope for this man. Jesus looked on him and loved him. He wasn't angry with him, but He grieved for him. If only he had the moral courage to accept that challenge, what joy could be his!
What I see around me is many dear Christians ensuring that they have an absolutely secure future. What I don't see is believers giving themselves sacrificially. I ask myself and I ask you: ''Are you willing to go on the adventure God has for you? Or do the eyes of sadness rest upon you? You cannot say that you are too old: Moses was 80 when he led the Israelites out of Egypt and Abraham was 100 when he had Isaac, his first son. I don't see from the Bible that God only calls the young, He calls the aged too!''