The rich young man in all of us
June 23, 2015
Intertwined through the Gospel of Mark, the gospel that we are currently reading through in the liturgy now is a very interesting tale. The Church Fathers noticed this rather discreet young man through the entire gospel, a disparate figure, as the rich young man. Who was he? And what happened to him? Can it happen to us?
We first see him in Chapter 10 of Mark’s gospel. The scripture introduces him:
17. As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him, and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18. Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: 19. ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.’” 20. He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” 21. Jesus looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come follow me.” 22. At that statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
The young man seems like a pretty good guy. He has followed the commandments very well as he figures. Jesus sees one thing lacking in him. Christ knew the heart of that man, just as He knows ours. He knew the secret obstacle that kept that man from him, just as he knows ours.
Christ knew the secret that I was hiding, the one thing I was lacking. If it was money, that would have been easy for me to give. And I am betting there was more to the story for the rich man as well. It is the story of every man. It is that one major flaw that is keeping us from following Him. It was my flaw, my secret, the one thing I was lacking. I too was a pretty good guy.
A little later in Mark’s Gospel, we find the young man again in chapter 14 in the garden of Gethsemane when Christ is arrested:
46. … they laid hands on him and arrested him. 47. One of the bystanders drew his sword, struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his ear. 48. Jesus said to them in reply, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs, to seize me? 49. Day after day I was with you teaching in the temple area, yet you did not arrest me; but that the scriptures may be fulfilled”. 50. And they all left him and fled. 51. Now a young man followed him wearing nothing but a linen cloth about his body. They seized him, 52. but he left the cloth behind and ran off naked.
Who is this young man? The Church Fathers thought he was the rich young man featured four chapters earlier. Notice that at the point of Jesus’ betrayal, he was following Jesus. He had found his way past the one thing that was holding him back. In the narrative, the rich young man gave everything away as Jesus told him to do, and he ran off naked. What is the one thing that you have to let Jesus have? Go do it as the young man did. Go run off naked. Leave your past self, your garment. It is the one thing that is holding you back. Be free of this one thing; be free in Christ.
Transformed! We hear of the young man again in Chapter 16 of Mark’s gospel:
2. Very early when the sun had risen, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb. 3. They were saying to one another, “Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 4. When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back; it was very large. 5. On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and they were utterly amazed! 6. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold the place where they laid him. 7. But go tell his disciples and Peter, “He is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him as he told you.”
How can it be? What a wonderful thing has happened to this man! It can happen to you too. If you give Christ the one thing holding you back, as the rich young man his one thing; Christ will transform you.
Just as Christ waited for the rich young man, He waited for me… at a Project Joseph Retreat. Whether it’s Rachel’s Vineyard or Project Joseph, there is a pathway to grace despite what may seem like insurmountable obstacle – the loss of a child to abortion. Christ’s love and forgiveness awaits us all; He wants to transform us anew, to set us free.
Come on retreat and experience the joy only He can give: “I rejoice heartily in the LORD, in my God is the joy of my soul; For he has clothed me with a robe of salvation, and wrapped me in a mantle of justice, Like a bridegroom adorned with a diadem, like a bride bedecked with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10)
By a Project Joseph Retreatant
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