The story of the rich young man for children, followed by some reflections on the story.
The story of the rich young man.
Mark 10: 17-31
adapted from "Woord voor Woord" kinderbijbel, Karel Eykman.
One day, when Jesus was travelling around and talking to people he met on the road, a young man came up to him. He came trotting down the street on a nice horse with a shiny saddle with lovely gold leaf decorations on it. He stopped when he saw Jesus, jumped of his horse and tied it to a tree and walked up towards where Jesus was.
People made room hastily as soon as he appeared, and from their reactions Jesus understood that he was a very important person. His clothes looked expensive and it was clear from the way he spoke that he was used to people paying attention to him and obeying his orders. He had presence and carried himself with the dignity of somebody important.
He said to Jesus: "Hello, I believe you are Jesus of Nazareth, I have heard about you and Id like to introduce myself, my name is James and it is very nice to meet you. I have been looking forward to it. Can I offer you a drink or something to eat perhaps in the nearby cafe? I will pay, Id like to make your acquaintance and have a bit of a chat if I may . I hear good stories about you from the people who work for me and now I have met you in person I have to admit: You do look like a good person. Seriously. Id like to be like you, so people will tell good stories about me too. Can you tell me how I would go about that? Give me some advice as to how I become someone like you? Someone who helps people and makes the world a better place? Someone as free and easy as yourself, content with life and at peace with himself?
"So you think I am good news and you want to be like me?" said Jesus, "well really, if you are just the way you are and do what you got to do, that is more than enough".
"But what is it I got to do?" insisted the young man. "What is it I do to become a good person like yourself?"
"You know what that is, you live life the way God has ordained it, you honour your parents, you do not kill, you do not steal, that sort of stuff "said Jesus.
"Of course I know", said the young man, interrupting Jesus, "those are the ten commandments and I have kept those since I was a child. Thats easy. But it hasnt really given me what I am looking for, not what you seem to have. I still feel I havent done anything that is really worth while. Just doing what is right is not the life Im after! I want to do more, I want to take it further!"
Jesus looked at him. He noticed the impatience and longing in the eyes of the young man, the feeling of dissatisfaction that radiated from him. And he started to like him.
"Alright" he said, "Ill tell you what I think would help: You have plenty of everything, you are rich and you got power and you still feel somehow it is not enough. Perhaps if you gave all of that up, gave everything away, leave somebody else in charge, perhaps if you gave up trying to fill the emptiness you feel inside with hard work and lots of things, perhaps then you would be free enough to find what you are looking for. Perhaps then life could be different."
James jaw dropped, and there was panic in his eyes when he looked at Jesus:
"Me, give away everything?"
"Yes" said Jesus, "come with us, leave everything behind, let go and free up your time to become part of the Kingdom "
Me? said James, incredulous, ME???? He couldnt believe it!
"Yes" said Jesus, "so we can be friends. Well, are you going to join us?"
James considered, and his face fell.
"I cant" he said "I would love to, really, and I can see how you would think it would help me, but I am sorry, I cant, there is too much I have to take care of. I have farms and businesses, I have servants and family, I have money. I have to look after all of it, I would be lost without it, I am sorry, I cant. I just cant .."
Then the young man walked away, his shoulders slumped, shaking his head, muttering under his breath, with the horse following him down the street and around the corner, out of sight, to where his house was.
"So sad", said Jesus, "He wanted to and he could not. Being rich is hard. It makes it hard to change, to let go, because there is so much to loose. It is easier when you havent got much to dedicate your life to God and his Kingdom more than by just following the 10 commandments."
"Is it impossible to really serve the Kingdom when you are rich", asked Peter, "are rich people a hopeless case as far as the Kingdom is concerned?"
"No" said Jesus, "because God believes all people can make a change, it is just that for some it is harder than for others "
Reflection: Let go, let God.
When I googled "rich young man" earlier this week to see what would come up, I found an article in the San Franciscan Chronicle about Silicon Valley millionaires and the problems they face.
(http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/1999/06/04/TZ121.DTL) Apparently there are many who have done well in the IT boom and are, before they are 33, millionaires and not really sure what to do with the rest of their lives. They have 5, 10 or 20 million in the bank for retirement, they have got the house with pool, tennis courts and billiard room, they have, or can buy, anything that takes their fancy and not feel theyve been set back in any significant way. And apparently, most of them are desperately looking for something meaningful to do with their lives.
I imagine thats what the young man who came to see Jesus was like. He had everything he could wish for, could buy anything he wanted, but was still left with a feeling of dissatisfaction and lack of fulfilment.
What was it about Jesus that drew this young man to Jesus and made him want to be like him? What did the rich young man see in Jesus that made him feel that if he could only be like Jesus he would find fulfilment?
My guess is there was a freedom there and a dedication to envy. There probably was an atmosphere of being at peace and the radiance of a healing presence. No worries, just lots of energy and purpose.
"Live a good life" says Jesus, "follow the commandments and do what needs to be done. That is all." No", says the rich young man, "I have tried that and it doesnt work for me. I still feel there is something missing, that there is more .."
20 million in the bank and still dissatisfied. Jesus looks at him with affection.
"Let go" he says, "let go of everything".
And at this point I would like you to take a step back and reflect.
What would happen if Jesus told you, here and now, to let go and come with him to God only knows where? What is so important in your life that you would find it difficult to walk away from it? What are the things that keep you "in place" for better or worse and would make it difficult for you to get up and go? Family, friends, career, commitments, possessions, mortgages, school fees, sense of belonging, fear, comfort . whatever.
And what do you think would happen if you let go?
What was it about Jesus that made the young man want to be like him? And what was it that held him back?
Where would you want to be more like Jesus?
And what is holding you back?
I think that this is what the story is asking us to consider: to become aware of what is holding us back and is making it difficult for us to love, serve and live the life of Christ. To become aware of where we are held captive by things that draw us away from Gods intentions and consider if we would let ourselves be liberated to a life that has more Kingdom quality to it than it has now.
If you discern that same yearning in yourself as the rich young man, a yearning for more and different in life, the answer may be to let go and let God care for whatever you worry about may not be alright if you did. To trust God with your life and feel free to do what needs to be done in the Christs name.
God wants us free to do his will and not be held back by things that will, in the end, not fulfil. Amen.