Job 23:1-9, 16-17 Psalm 22:1-15 Mark 10:17-31
What happened to our kind and gentle Jesus? …
What happened to the baby in the manger? THAT Jesus seemed sweet, tender, pliable. Who is this man who tells the rich young ruler to give away his possessions and his money? Apparently Jesus does not understand that “rich” is a defining word for this man – he is the “richyoungruler,” and not a ruler who happens also to have lots of stuff and money. Rich is a characteristic of himself; surely Jesus must have missed that. This man follows all of the laws… I guess Jesus wasn’t listening.
Job isn’t faring much better with God. “His hand is heavy despite my groaning. Oh, that I knew where I might find him … he would give heed to me.” If I could just find God, I know that he would listen to me.
The psalmist adds to outcry; we hear heartfelt, agonized words: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”
Yes, God, where ARE you when life is hard, when there is pain, when we are suffering?
It might be helpful for us to go back in time, all the way back to the beginning. “God said … and it was so.”
Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil….The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the Lord God commanded the man, ‘You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.’
The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.” ’
God is, indeed, good. All that God creates is good. God does hear our prayers, our anguished cries, the desires of our hearts. It is we who have forgotten our time in the garden. We love to think about the lushness of Eden, of plants and birds and even creepy crawly things and creatures of the deep. There are herbs and trees … it is beautiful. What we have forgotten is one of the lessons of the garden. For in the middle of the garden was something that we could not have. “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it.” We were never meant to have everything.
Yes, we were never meant to have everything. Sometimes that which we cannot have is right in front of us, and it looks good enough to eat.
The rich young ruler could see that he was obedient to the law; his understanding and his obedience are not, in themselves, bad things. What the ruler could not see is that “rich” was never meant to be a defining characteristic when “rich” means money or wealth. We can be rich in faith, love, hope, generosity, hospitality. Then Jesus looked “with love” at this man (not with derision or ridicule). And the man would need to give away his money and his possessions in order to find heaven. He was shocked and grieved, “for he had many possessions.” The man’s possessions were keeping him from heaven, were keeping him from Jesus.
Our loving Jesus – and he is loving – will not be molded by our expectations.
Job loses his property and his children, is afflicted with a loathsome disease, and “sorrow oppresses his soul (NAB p. 612). Job calls for a response to his suffering from God. We remember God’s reply. “Where were you when I founded earth? … Tell me, if you know all, which is the way to the dwelling place of light, and where is the abode of darkness?” God, we hear, is God … are we are not.
We were never meant to have everything – money, wealth, possessions, or knowledge.
The psalmist’s cry is the hardest one for me to read. We read this psalm on Good Friday; the tune rarely escapes my consciousness. “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Such sorrow, such loss. The sorrow is answered on the cross, Jesus’ cross, and our salvation. Oh, God!
We were never meant to have everything. We are meant to have God, to have a relationship with the One who creates everything, redeems everything, and gave up His Son that we might know Him.
What is it that is standing in our way from having this relationship? Maybe, like the tree in the garden, there is something that is right in front of us. Maybe that something is beautiful, good enough to eat, we’d say. What is it in your life that is keeping you from God?
For some of us, our tree in the garden might be a whole lot of television, a massive state-of-art flatscreen, widescreen, wall mounted latest and greatest in front of which we anesthetize ourselves. It is not that the TV is bad; it is that we do not know how to stay away from it, how to enjoy it without letting it devour our lives and deprive us of a relationship with God.
For some of us, that which keeps us from God is shopping or eating or … what is it for you? What might we need to quit adoring, admiring, counting (as in money) that we might adore, admire, and worship God instead? What is the forbidden tree in your life?
Pray, dear friends, that the things that keep you from God will be revealed. Talk to God – ask, lament, cry out, be silent – whatever it takes for you to listen for and to the voice of God. Ask God to tell you what it is you need to let go of in order to find heaven. Then, my friends, seek heaven.
Choose heaven. Choose God. Let the God who loves us, yearns for us, give us the riches that we cannot count and may not see. Bless us, dear God, with You.