By Steve Hager
I cannot imagine it; the times, the culture, the language, the customs, they are all foreign to me. Yet, I try. It is the last night of Jesus’s life. The man pulling the strings of the chief priest ushers Christ from one place to another, from one trial to the next, in search of a death sentence. Jesus has been abandoned; his disciples fled. Peter, one of the three men closest to Jesus, hovers at a distance, in the shadows, on edge, watching, and listening. Just hours before, he had picked up a sword to fight on behalf of Jesus. Now, he cowers. Perhaps, he stays close to watch and pray for Jesus, or, perhaps, he hopes that Jesus will see him and draw comfort from the fact that he has not been totally abandoned. Perhaps, Peter stays on the edge of the proceedings so that he may be forewarned if the authorities go searching for the disciples.
Peter had promised that he would not flee. Since Peter had met Jesus, the rabbi had spoken of the possibility of his arrest and death. Since the beginning, Peter and the others had simply discounted such talk. Jesus was worried for nothing, they thought, at least at first. Later, when thousands thronged to see Jesus, the disciples were emboldened. If they come to arrest him, they thought, then the people will rebel; mobs will come to his defense. We will lead a revolution.
Yet, as he hid in the shadows, the words of Jesus resonated in his mind. His teachings seemed contradictory. Jesus said his would be a spiritual kingdom. Yet, he had given him the metaphorical keys to the kingdom. He had said that they would sit as judges over the Kingdom of Israel, but how can one judge a spiritual kingdom? Peter was confused.
I imagine not only the confusion in Peter’s mind, but the things going through the mind of Christ. It is hard to fathom how Christ is fully God and – at the same time – fully man. As God, he knew the path that lay ahead of him. As man, he was wary of that path. As God, he knew that he must endure the torture, the beating that would take him to death’s door. He knew that the Roman soldiers would drive spikes through his wrists and through his feet. He knew that he would suffocate and die, and that a soldier would drive a spear between his ribs to assure he was dead. He knew that this was necessary for the salvation of the world; the sacrifice of God’s perfect Son was the only sacrifice that was sufficient. He knew this that day, when the cock crowed. He knew it before he spoke the world into existence.
He knew also the pain that he was to endure. Jesus had surely witnessed many crucifixions in his lifetime. It was a common site in the Roman Empire. It was a part of their lore, their history, and their society. Public torture and public execution had been a part of life since well before Jesus’s birth. One wonders how many times in his life, he had seen a crucifixion and cringed at the sight, knowing that someday it would be him. He knew the Romans had perfected that form of execution, had made it a science. They knew just how much pain and bodily damage they could inflict in their beatings, exactly where to place the nails in the wrists, and how high to hang the cross. No wonder Christ prayed, “Take this cup from me.”
To many Christians, it is borderline heresy to speak of the human part of Jesus. To wonder what was in his heart and mind is to many to delve in the realm of the sacrilegious. It is the human side of Christ, though, that gives us hope. To know that one man, even just one, lived a life without sin and that gives us hope that we, too, can be delivered from sin. To know that he went to the cross willingly, in spite of his dread, proves to us how much he loves us.
Yet, we are told little about the inner life of Christ. He wrote no part of the Bible himself. Only once does the Bible speak of him writing, and we are not told what he wrote. The writers of the Gospels give us little insight into his thoughts, and only tell us what Jesus was thinking when it is in the interest of clarifying his actions.
As example, we are told twice that Jesus overturned the tables of the moneychangers in the temple, but his motives were only partly revealed. We know that he was upset because they had made his house a “den of thieves.” We have to dig deeper to learn his full motives. The former chief priest, Annas, had set up an while in office, but even after he had relinquished his title, he still held power. He had arranged with the Roman government for his son-in-law to become chief priest. Other family members and close associates held other offices, and each were corrupt. The entire system was corrupt, and Annas had gotten very rich by taking a cut of all the action. So greedy was he that he had set up merchants selling sacrificial animals within the Court of the Gentiles, the section of the temple that God had commanded to be reserved as a place of worship for God-fearing Gentiles.
Jesus had witnessed the menagerie. He had seen the animals in their cages, the piles of dung, and the puddles of blood, and the stench. Oh, such a stench. It wasn’t just about the temple space, though. The misused space was representative of a deeper sin. God’s children were to be a shining light to the entire world, but the world was no longer welcomed into God’s house. Christ knew this, and that is why he drove the moneychangers out of the temple.
How does it help us to examine more closely the mind of Christ? We are told to be like him. The more we know about him, the more we can imitate him. More than that, we are not only told to be like Christ, we are told to renew our minds, to take on the mind of Christ. We are told to imitate him in every way. Paul speaks of this frequently. In Romans 12, he tells us to transform our lives through the renewing of our minds.
Discovering the heart of Christ is a little easier than the quest for the mind of Christ. His heart is an open book. He is driven by love and compassion. He is driven by devotion to his father. He talks very little of laws and rules and regulations, and, in fact, he is often accused of breaking the laws. Instead, tells us that if we love God and each other enough that we will naturally uphold the real laws of God. On closer examination, we learn that what we traditionally call the Lord’s Prayer is not his prayer at all. It is a model prayer for his disciples. Instead, the prayer of our Lord is that we love one another, become unified, and love God with all our hearts.
In our quest to discover the heart and mind of Christ we learn that we cannot renew our own heart and minds without paying attention to our bodies as well, for our bodies are temples for the Holy Spirit. We also learn that we are powerless to change, at least we are powerless to make true and permanent change. We learn that without Christ, we are nothing, and only with him and through him do we find our true worth. Our worth, we discover, is infinite. We are worth so much, that God sent His own Son to die for us. Can you imagine that? I cannot.
We learn that living a holy life is somewhat of a paradox. The more we try to be holy, the more we realize that we never can. The more we struggle with it, the weaker we get. The closer we draw to Christ, the more sin is revealed. We are to surrender absolutely, and we are to be disciplined. We are to love sinners, and hate sin. We are to be a part of a pure and holy spiritual kingdom in a putrid sin-filled physical world. We are to be weak, so that Christ may give us strength. And, yes, we must die that we may truly live.
A warning, though, if you plan to be a part of this quest, the quest to discover the heart and mind of Jesus Christ, you must ask the Holy Spirit to go on this journey with you.
THE HEART OF CHRIST
I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the voice I hear falling on my ear
The Son of God discloses
–C. Austin Miles
Hiding from God
How can Christ love me? I am so unworthy of His love. Yet, as He faced trial after trial – five or six in total – I was in His heart. Me. And, you. As He offered His back to those who beat Him, did He think of you, and say to Himself, “It is for you that I take this beating”? As they pummeled Him and ripped His beard from His face, was your sin upon His heart? Christ’s heart is full of love, compassion, and obedience.
“But, why? Why me?” You and I are so unworthy. We can never make recompense for our sins. We have all heard a preacher say that when Christ took our sin upon Himself, God turned His head away. Christ cried out, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” Why would God love you and I so much that He sent His Son to die? Why would Christ endure something so painful that God could not watch?
No one is worthy to be loved by God; this is true. Yet, this misses the point. We are worthy because God wanted us to be worthy. It hurt God more to watch his creation – you and me – live in bondage to sin and ultimately face eternal damnation than to watch His Son die on the cross. “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21 NKJV). Because Christ took upon Himself our sins, because He died as the sacrifice for our sins, because He conquered death, God has declared us worthy of His love. Only because of His sacrifice, are we – sinful humans – able to enter into the presence of a perfect and holy God.
Sin has always confounded me. One of the first Bible stories I learned as a child in Sunday school was the account of Adam and Eve. It was not the creation story that stuck out in my four-year-old mind, as wondrous as it is. It was not the beautiful garden portrayed in flannel-graph cutouts that I found significant, rather it was Adam and Eve hiding from God after eating of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. This is what seized my four-year-old mind. I could not understand why they would hide, for I did not yet understand good and evil. Even at that tender age, though, the thought of walking hand-in-hand with God in the Garden of Eden was irresistible. Why would they hide? I would not have hidden from God. Yet, Adam and Eve did.
The wonder of creation is not the creation itself. It is what happened sometime prior to creation. Before a single star burned, and before a single planet spun on its axis, an all-knowing God created the universe with the full knowledge that that He would have to pay the ultimate price for our sins. Yet, He did.
With a single breath, He spoke the Word that created all matter. Countless millions of galaxies spun forth in a single explosion. At that instant, time began. Were it possible to go back, even a nanosecond we would learn that He considered our faces, and our names, and our sins as He spoke the words, “Let there be light.”
We don’t know how long Adam lived before God created Eve, and we don’t know how long the two managed to live before giving in to temptation, but it does seem that God had a habit of joining them for a walk in the garden in the cool of the day. This is God’s perfect world. This is a picture of heaven. This is a picture of God’s ideal relationship with man. Food was abundant. Eden was a beautiful garden with an endless variety of trees, including fruit trees. Four springs watered the garden. There were no thorny, prickly plants or weeds. The animals were tame and friendly. Adam and Eve were innocent, and knew no sin. Daily, God would visit with His creation.
What conversations they had! While we are not told what they talked about, it is reasonable to assume that they did. What would you ask God if He knocked on your door one morning and said, “Let’s go walk”? The questions you and I would ask are quite different from the questions that Adam and Eve would have asked. Remember, they knew no sin.
I imagine that Adam may have asked God why He had created mankind. Why do leopards have spots and tigers have stripes? Why do stars twinkle or bees buzz? Where does God go when He’s not in the garden? Why did God create the universe by speaking, but hand-fashioned man and woman from dust?
What did God ask Adam and Eve? I imagine God – the embodiment of pure love – simply listened, like a parent who needs nothing of his children but to spend time with them; being in their presence is enough.
When Adam and Eve chose to disobey God, they sacrificed that intimate relationship with Him. They would be banned from the garden. They would labor with sweat and blood for their food. Childbearing would be painful. Hatred and murder would visit pain upon their home. Because of their, they would die. The loss of that intimate walk with God in the cool of the day, though, was perhaps the worst. That sin causes a separation between man and God is perhaps the worst punishment one can imagine.
God, too, must have been heartbroken. He was a parent who, for the good of His child, was forced to mete out punishment that was as painful to Him as it was to the child. No longer would He relate to his son and daughter as innocent children. Their eyes were opened, and He must use a firm hand or they would remain rebellious and be permanently lost.
I imagine God weeping at the original sin. No longer would He be able to walk in the garden in the cool of the day with His children. The intimately conversations with Adam and Eve were lost. No longer would the lions lay down with the lambs. Thistles and thorns and weeds would grow and destroy his edenic world. The garden would be hidden. Sin would fester, grow, and propagate in the hearts of his children. God was heartbroken.
Christ’s heart was broken, too, when Peter denied Him. Why did Christ tell Peter ahead of time that he would deny him three times before the cock crowed? Of course, it was the prediction was a wondrous sign, but there is more. On a personal level – within the context of the close personal friendship between Christ and one of His closest friends – Christ was telling Peter that he knew his heart. As He was being beaten, his heart was concerned with Peter. When Christ was fully submitted to the Will of the Father, His heart was ministering to Peter in one of his weakest moments. He looked deep into the shadows and found Peter and shined His light upon the heart of the man to whom He had given the keys of the Kingdom. Wherever there is sin, God offers forgiveness. Wherever there is repentance, Christ offers the ransom. God sees us in our failures and shortcomings, but does not look on us with judgement, but with pity and mercy. Judgment comes only to those who refuse to repent.
When one takes a close look at Adam and Eve’s sin, or at Peter’s denial of Christ, it was they who hid themselves from God. Peter hid in the shadows of the portico, and then retreated into the courtyard, and finally fled. Adam and Eve hid beneath the trees. If one takes a look at the life of David, one finds that after he sinned with Bathsheba and orchestrated the death of her husband, Uriah, he went into denial, affectively hiding from God. Mankind was imbued with shame so that we would turn back to God, not so that we would turn our backs on God.
Denial is indeed a way of hiding from God. If one takes a close look at the story of David and Bathsheba, many weeks or months passes in the matter of just a few paragraphs. David had many opportunities to repent. Yet it took months for him to repent, and it took confrontation from one of his closest advisers. We learn in 2 Samuel 12:1 that the Lord sent Nathan to confront David. That God sent him is an act of love. Nathan represented God looking for David under the trees. David’s denial, his hiding, had affected his prayer life, his worship of God, and the entire Kingdom of Israel. Where are the psalms that David wrote between this sin and his repentance? They do not exist; one cannot properly worship God when living with unrepented sin. Sin and shame separates us from God.
We cannot hide from God, not really. He knows where we are and what we do. God did not let David hide for long. God never allows us to stray without calling us to repent. He is the father, standing in the front door, looking for his prodigal son to return home. He calls us to repent, and He calls us with love in His voice. He calls us softly and tenderly. “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Mt. 11:28-29 KJV).
Yes, in Adam and Eve’s case, and in David’s case, there were consequences for their sin. A good father disciplines his children. Even in the punishment, though, we see mercy. Adam and Eve had been promised that they would die the day they eat of the fruit. Though death began to work in them that day, and though it can be said they suffered spiritual death that day, they did not die a physical death for many more years. During that time, they were guided through repentance, sacrifice, and spiritual growth, learning to relate to God in a new way.
David’s judgement as pronounced by Nathan included the promise that David would not die as punishment. Perhaps he would have rather died than to see the child die, but God chose to bring the child immediately home. David was allowed to repent, grow, and learn the mercies of God.
Repentance is a complete turnaround, a willingness to change. God never offers forgiveness unless accompanied by a willingness to change. Salvation is free and easy, but it requires repentance. To some, this seems sacrilegious, and they will not accept that repentance is mandatory. I may have just lost many of my readers. Yet, a complete change of heart is necessary for forgiveness. We must be willing to change.
Yet, God would not be a loving God if He did not ask us to change. What kind of a dad would allow a child who had discovered matches and burnt her fingers continue to play with matches? What kind of a life guard would allow a child to continue to swim in the adult pool after falling in and nearly drowning? Christ’s heart is full of love, and He loves us so much that he compels us to change.
God called David a “man after My own heart.” Yes, this is the same David who committed adultery with Bathsheba and had her husband killed to cover up his sin. Yes, the same David who acted like he had done no wrong, and pretended that things were normal, who hid from God for months. That God called him a man after His heart can only be attributed to the fact that David was truly repentant. True repentance leads to an ever deeper relationship with God. An ever-deepening relationship with God leads to a heart that thirsts for righteousness. This is the heart that was David’s. It is such a thirst for the things of God that led God to call him a man after his heart. And, it would not have been possible had David not repented.
Think of Psalms – and what they would lack – had David not repented of his sin of adultery and murder. Had he never repented, we may never have known the 32nd Psalm, the 3rd Psalm, or the 63rd Psalm. Without a doubt, we never have read the beautiful words of the 51st Psalm had David never repented of that sin.
The 51st Psalm, was written as a plea for God’s forgiveness after he had repented, and it is a guideline for us as we repent a seek forgiveness.
Psalm 51New King James Version (NKJV)
A Prayer of Repentance
To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
Have mercy upon me, O God,
According to Your lovingkindness;
According to the multitude of Your tender mercies,
Blot out my transgressions.
2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity,
And cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I acknowledge my transgressions,
And my sin is always before me.
4 Against You, You only, have I sinned,
And done this evil in Your sight—
That You may be found just when You speak,[a]
And blameless when You judge.
5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity,
And in sin my mother conceived me.
6 Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts,
And in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom.
7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean;
Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.
8 Make me hear joy and gladness,
That the bones You have broken may rejoice.
9 Hide Your face from my sins,
And blot out all my iniquities.
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Your presence,
And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation,
And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.
13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways,
And sinners shall be converted to You.
14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God,
The God of my salvation,
And my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips,
And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.
16 For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it;
You do not delight in burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,
A broken and a contrite heart—
These, O God, You will not despise.
18 Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion;
Build the walls of Jerusalem.
19 Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness,
With burnt offering and whole burnt offering;
Then they shall offer bulls on Your altar.
When I was growing up, the first Bible verse I learned was John 3:16. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.” That’s easy. This is all one has to do to be saved, believe in Jesus Christ. There is no other stipulation. Anyone who believes will be saved. Paul reiterates this in Romans 10:13.
I do not believe that in order to be saved, one has to live a life without sin. You don’t have to be a perfect Christian to be saved. That is impossible. If that were possible, there would be no need for Jesus in our lives, for we could save ourselves. I do believe, however, that repentance is integral to true belief in Jesus Christ. Godly contrition and a desire to change is a natural result of acknowledging your sins. Contrition and the conviction of the Holy Spirit compels the new believer to commit to live like Jesus and that is a commitment to change.
There is a disturbing trend in churches that still teach that one must be born again. It is not a new trend; it actually can be traced back to the late 18th Century, but it continues to this day. It is this: that one can be saved without repentance. It is usually taught like this, which is the way I learned it as a child:
- A – Acknowledge that you are a sinner.
- B – Believe in the name of Jesus Christ with all your heart.
- C – Confess your sins and you are saved.
This makes salvation easy to understand. This is perfectly acceptable and biblically sound so far as it goes. Without a call to repentance, though, it lacks substance. Many people latch onto this “easy-believism” and never acknowledge their sin, and ignore the conviction of the Holy Spirit, and end up remaining in a life of sin and bondage. Are they really saved if they do not repent? That is not for me to judge, but we will take a look at what the Bible says about it.
Easy-believism does have one thing right: Salvation is as easy as ABC. Billy Graham preached to more people than any man in the history of the world. He filled stadiums that held tens of thousands of people and broadcasted those rallies live to millions more the world over. When you have but one chance to reach lost souls, you want to make the Gospel of Christ as easy to comprehend as a pre-school child’s phonics lesson. So, he broke down the Gospel into terms so easy that even a preschooler could understand:
- God loves you and has a plan for you.
- We are all sinners and separated from God.
- God sent His son to die for you.
- Ask forgiveness and turn from your sins.
Billy Graham taught salvation the right way. One must repent, or turn from sin. That is how Christ taught it. Mark 2:17 reads, “When Jesus heard it, He said to them, ‘Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance.’” Later, Jesus sends out the twelve apostles to preach “that people should repent” (Mark 6:12 NKJV).
Repentance is the hardest thing about salvation, and not the least controversial. As the rooster crows, and the mob plucks His beard, perhaps Jesus remembers that He had forewarned His disciples of this. Just days earlier, Jesus told them, “We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.”
He knew then that they didn’t comprehend His looming death. This was the third time that He had told them directly that he would be mocked, beaten, and put to death. And this was the third time that He had told them that He would rise again from the grave. How could they not understand? How could they, though? They are fallible humans who too easily deny that which is too painful to face.
That day – the day that He foretold of His death for the third time – had been one full of lessons that the disciples struggled to comprehend, lessons about denial, and admitting the truth. Jesus had been teaching on the Kingdom of God that day, and – even at that time, just days before Christ would sacrifice His life for the salvation of the world – many of His disciples still thought of the Kingdom as a one that was physical. They envisioned a grand palace, and a throne, and even debated as to which of them would be the greatest in the Kingdom. In their minds, they would be great leaders, generals of the armies of Jesus, wise judges hearing cases and handing down rulings. Of all his disciples, Jesus thought, perhaps only John, the youngest, has an inkling of understanding about the nature of His kingdom.
Perhaps John’s youth is the very reason that he has a better understanding of this matter. He smiled with brotherly affection at John as he finished a parable. “For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
That’s easy enough, He thought. Still, sometimes concepts must be illustrated. To drill home the lesson on humbling one’s self, He turned to a cluster of families who stood nearby, listening to Him teach. Jesus smiled at the parents with such a welcoming smile that many of them were compelled to take Him their children for a blessing.
Before they could approach, His disciples cut them off. How dare they bring children to a man of such importance. Don’t they know this is the future King? The Christ?
Jesus nearly cried. They just don’t get it. “Stop,” he called to his disciples. And, here was the illustration that would drive home his lesson on becoming humble. “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
Do you get it, now? Did the disciples finally understand that, compared to everything they knew, His Kingdom would seem to be upside down? Did they yet understand that the world in which they lived had been corrupted, turned completely upside down by the prince of this world, Satan? Did they finally realize that He would right things? Those who wish to lead will serve. Those who wish to be exalted must humble themselves. Those who wish to be wise must seem to the world to be foolish. Those who wish to be rich must become poor. The poor may become rich by storing up their treasures in Heaven.
They still didn’t get it. Little children are helpless, totally dependent upon their fathers to provide. They desperately need to be loved and nourished, both physically and emotionally. The soak up everything, displaying an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. They are not too proud to admit that they need to learn, and eagerly ask every comprehensible (and many incomprehensible) questions about every subject matter imaginable. They find every topic of interest. They want to spend every waking moment with their fathers and wish only to cuddle with their parents at night.
Little children are not afraid to admit when they are wrong, and wish to learn what is right. Once confronted about misbehavior, they take correction and apply it to their lives and then eagerly move on to the next life lesson. Some might say that they naively have no fear, but Christ knew that they had no fear because they trust their fathers.
The Kingdom of God belongs to such as these. The humble, those who confess their sins, those who acknowledge that without God, they are nothing. Those who trust in their Father and eagerly soak up every minute they can spend with Him. These are the children of God.
Now, let’s demonstrate what the Kingdom of Heaven is not, thought Jesus as He saw a rich young man approaching. Perhaps He had watched this man for many days, even years. He knew the young man, as He knew everyone. He was rich, which was obvious by his clothes. That he was not humble, was obvious to Jesus as He looked into the man’s heart.
“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Eternal life, Kingdom of God, the terms were, to Jesus, synonymous.
Christ answered by confronting the rich man about what Jesus saw in the man’s heart. “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.” Jesus sincerely hoped that the man would draw meaning from those words. Jesus was indeed good, and of all the men who had walked the face of the earth since the creation of time, and of all the men who ever would walk the earth, He alone deserves to be called “Good Teacher.” Jesus did not shrug off that title, rather he was telling the young man that he, in spite of his riches and in spite of his attitude, he was not a good man.
It didn’t sink in. So, He would give the rich man food for thought. Do you really think you are good? Let’s see. “You know the commandments,” said Jesus. “‘You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, honor your father and mother.’”
Jesus knew the man would be able to proclaim innocence in the matter of these commandments. These are the biggies. Christ didn’t mention the others. Was God truly the man’s only god, or was money his idol. Was he covetous? Greedy? Did he worship material things? Outwardly, this was a fine, morally upstanding citizen. Were you able to ask anyone who knew the man, and they would have likely told you that this man deserved to go to heaven. If anyone makes it to heaven, then this guy does.
Jesus knew the truth.
The man replied, “All these I have kept since I was a boy.” He should have continued, humbled himself before Jesus, and said, “But I am a sinner. I covet after things. Money is my god, but after listening to you, I now know that you are the Christ, and I will give up everything – if necessary – to serve you. I am nothing, but all that I am I give to you.”
The man would never say that, Jesus knew. He would never even admit his sins, much less repent of them. To prove that point, Jesus thought, if you are so good, then prove it. “You still lack one thing,” Jesus said. The one thing that he lacked was to humble himself, or to confess and repent. “Sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
When he heard this, he became very sad, because he was very wealthy. Had the rich young man been really paying attention to what Jesus had to say, then perhaps he would have learned a lesson from the parable of the widow who pestered the judge until he gave in to her wishes. Perhaps he should have said, “Yes, I will do whatever it takes to be a part of your kingdom. Perhaps he should have followed Jesus.
The lesson that is usually drawn from the story of the Rich Young Ruler is that, though it is nearly impossible for a rich man to humble himself, it is just a difficult for many poor people to do the same. While this is true, it is not a complete lesson. The lesson here is that one must come to the end of oneself. The widow didn’t give up because she couldn’t. That judge was her only hope. The tax collector hung his head and beat his chest because he had fully realized that he was a desperate sinner; he had hit rock bottom.
What a shocking message this was! Not just to the rich man who went away sad, but to Peter, James and John. To all the disciples. The parents of the children whom Jesus blessed must have been shocked as well. The masses who listened to Jesus thought that if this man, this good man, this rich man, this man with a position of power in the community, if he could not obtain a place in the Kingdom of God, then no one could.
“What is impossible with man is possible with God.” Here is the key to repentance. It was impossible for the rich young man, though a good man, to do anything that would be deserving of eternal life. It was impossible for the tax collector to do anything to lift himself up from his desperate position and become worthy of eternal life. Yet, of the two, the tax collector was the only one who repented. And, so God – seeing that he had repented – reached down to him and took him by the hand, and said, I will give you the strength to change your ways. And, that is the key to holiness.
Always eager to remind Jesus of their value to his kingdom, which they still perceived as an earthly domain, Peter chose to speak out for the twelve disciples. “We have left all we had to follow you!”
Christ promised his disciples an eternal reward in the “age to come,” in His Kingdom. Then, He explained again how His Kingdom would come about. He “took the Twelve aside and told them, ‘We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. He will be delivered over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him and spit on him; they will flog him and kill him. On the third day he will rise again.’
“The disciples did not understand any of this. Its meaning was hidden from them, and they did not know what he was talking about.”
They didn’t yet understand, but His torture, death, and resurrection were an essential part of our salvation. Only later would they realize that every single man and woman are as helpless to save themselves as the Rich Young Ruler. The only thing that we can do is to repent of our sins and allow Jesus to rescue us from sin and death. Without His sacrificial death, we are eternally damned. Without His victory, we are eternally bound to sin and shame. Salvation is free, but it to grasp it, we must also release our sins.
 God walking in the Garden is considered by many to be the first appearance in the Bible of a Theophany, God appearing to man. Some theologians consider this to be a Christophany, the person of Jesus Christ appearing on earth before His immaculate conception.
 Luke 8:31-33 NIV
 Luke 18:16-17
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