Monday, October 19, 2009

Opting Out ! :Sunday School Lesson

International Sunday School Lesson
For Week Ending October 25, 2009

Purpose: To explore in what ways wealth and possessions can hinder love of God and neighbor.

Scripture Text: Mark 10:17-31 (NRSV)

Mark 10:17-31
(17)As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life? (18)Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. (19)You know the commandments: “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.” (20)He said to him, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth. (21)Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.(22)When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

(23)Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! (24)And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! (25)It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God. (26)They were greatly astounded and said to one another, then who can be saved? (27)Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible. (28) Peter began to say to him, ‘Look, we have left everything and followed you. (29)Jesus said, Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, (30)who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.

My Thoughts by Burgess Walter

As you read this text some very interesting questions immediately come to mind. The first is what would be Jesus answer to us if we ask the same question as this “rich young ruler”? Second, why is there no mention of the things we normally associate with being saved, such as faith, grace, repentance?

There are many things, in addition to wealth, that can keep us from following Jesus and obtaining eternal life. In today's news we see what a person’s desire for attention and fame can do, not just to an individual but also to the children and family of one so demented and star crazed. With many of us it would not be asking so much to sell all we have and follow Jesus, unless He said leave you pride and worldly desires and follow me. Come; follow me, but no more golf or watching football. No more cheering for Tebow, and the Gators.

What are the things that keep us from surrendering everything to Christ? The rich young ruler went away sad because he had great wealth, but it may have been more than that, he probably also a position in the community of influence and power. Is it possible that Jesus saw that the man was not as truthful as the text implies? In the text Jesus only questions him about the last six commandments. If we break those down as Jesus did when he said there were really only two commandments, love the Lord with all you heart, mind and soul, and thy neighbor as thyself,the only commandments Jesus questions him about are grouped together in, “love thy neighbor as thyself.” Was he loving his neighbors while withholding his wealth from helping some that may have been in need?

The young man does deserve some credit for seeking out Jesus, and trying in his own strength and wisdom to do what he was taught as right. I am afraid the world is full of well meaning individuals that are doing what they feel is right, but it appears that they may fall short when it comes to eternal life with Jesus.

Jesus wants us to be willing to give up what we want and our desires, for working towards increasing His kingdom. Almost everyone called to follow Jesus in the Gospels was asked to leave something behind and follow Jesus, one exception being the thief on the cross; he was rewarded for His belief. Another was Legion the demonic, he was told he could not go with Jesus, but was to return and share with his community what Jesus had done for him.

One thing we can take from a compilation of all those called and saved, in the Gospel stories is they were all treated as individuals, from Mary Magdalene, to Zacchaeus, to Paul; it seems they all had different issues.The two things that are consistent are God's love and grace, and the faith of the individual. None of those called had merited God's favor by their deeds or wealth, but rather by their belief, faith and trust that Jesus was who He said He was, the Son of God.

It is because of God's grace and the faith that He gives to those that seek him, that Jesus can make the statement, “for mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”

The rich young ruler chose not to follow Christ, because the price seemed too high, we have no record of him ever changing that decision, but the scriptures tell us “Jesus looked at him, and loved him.” Hopefully the young man responded to that love at some point in his life.

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