His Death for Our Life
As [Jesus] was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17 ESV). Appreciating the moment is something we all need to do. Here at International Lutheran Church, we have been reading through the Gospel of Mark. The question of this young man forms the focus of our meditation today as we move closer to the cross. Coming face-to-face with our own idols is the first and necessary step in following our Savior as our very possessions can so easily end up possessing us.
Certainly, the young man that came to Jesus that day was not thinking about idols. In fact, we know that he was keen to know the very deep questions about God, who He is and how we can be in a relationship with Him. Jesus’ initial response to his polite greeting (“good teacher”) might surprise us: “Only God is good.” This is the truth of why Jesus is there and where He is going. No doubt this young man was familiar with this truth as it is one of the most repeated phrases in the Psalms – “O give thanks unto the LORD for He is good! And His mercy endures forever!” (Psalm 136:1 ESV). But sometimes frequency can breed contempt. We too frequently use these words at the close of our meals or the close of the day, but do we ponder how they point to a life that is more than the possession of many things? Do we see in them the good news that life itself is a gift of an eternal God?
Now, eternal and eternity are beautiful concepts. Years ago, Chenhsi and I had a neighbor who was a dentist. Besides caring for teeth of many people - including my own - he had a tremendous love of the human smile and took great care to help those who by accident or by natural birth felt a sense of self-consciousness of their own appearance. I discovered his aesthetic talent when he shared with me his favorite character in the Chinese traditional calligraphy system – the word “eternal” (永 - yong). He noted that all the different strokes could be found in this one character. While we have no way to fathom the depth and breadth of eternity, we understand its beauty and goodness and long for a personal connection. “He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 NIV). This unfathomable work is, of course, the very heart of God’s work from beginning to end. When the young man connected the word “inherit” or simply “receive” with the idea of his own work, Jesus looked at him with love. He needed to see first-hand just who had become his god. Our works are never enough because in the end they only serve ourselves. We need to be completely free to hold on only to Him. Jesus is there to complete the work of God. He forsakes all to embrace us on the cross. While our possessions often only end up possessing us, He becomes our inheritance in His death to give us life. Jesus gave Himself to us so that we would not walk away sad but would gladly forsake all and follow Him.
As Jesus moves closer to the cross, even the actions and questions of others point us to the most wonderful news of all – His death for our life!