It’s Christmas season (my tree is already up and the candles are in the windows), and the world expresses its readiness to capture a childlike sense of wonder. I recently heard a researcher express in a television interview that playing Christmas music at any time of year is actually beneficial because it connects you to good memories from your youth and releases feelings of euphoria to replace heaviness and stress.
Something about that statement grabbed me. I think we might be cheaply using Christmas in the same way an addict goes to his choice substance for a hit and a high. Let me just get a dose of Christmas so I can capture that carefree nature I had as a kid and momentarily escape the harshness of life…
These thoughts swirl in my mind at the same time I’m studying chapters nine and ten of Mark’s gospel. The following are references I found of Jesus relating to children:
- A boy possessed by a spirit is delivered when Jesus rebuked the spirit and told it to come out of him and never enter him again (See Mark 9:14-27).
- “Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes Me” (Mark 9:37).
- “And if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a large millstone tied around his neck” (Mark 9:42).
- “Let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these” (Mark 10:14).
But here’s where I started to make a connection that unlocks revelation- In verse 17 of Mark 10, we read about a man who runs up to Jesus and falls on his knees before Him. What kind of message does a scene described like this convey to you? Do you imagine the man to be in a desperate state to act in such a way?
Read his request: “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Oh yeah. Definitely desperate. Life hangs in the balance, and he needs to grasp onto something certain.
Jesus quickly ascertains that the man on his knees before Him is not presenting himself in worship but in a desperate attempt for a quick fix. He doesn’t call Jesus Son of David as Bartimaeus did in a desperate plea for sight. No, this young man failed to connect the reality of Jesus’ divinity to his need for eternal security. He blindly regarded God’s Son as Good Teacher.
Jesus responds to the man’s request in His typical fashion. He asks a question. “Why do you call me good? No one is good- except God alone.” Translation: God is good. If you knew that I came from God, you would not call me “teacher.” But, okay. Let’s do this. I’ll answer you on your level. You want assurance that all is well with your life and its outcome.
Jesus continued, “You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother” (Mark 10:19).
“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy” (Mark 10:20).
“….since I was a boy.” Childhood. Youth. Trust. Obedience. What happened to this man’s faith to cause him now to be on his knees before the Son of God and calling him by the mere title of teacher?
Get ready. It’s so obvious, but it hits us with fresh amazement. Although the young man began his faith in childhood as one devoted to God in keeping the commandments by honoring God and his fellow man, he abandoned the primary tenent of the faith when he entered into adulthood.
“Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ He said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow Me'” (Mark 10:21).
Translation: You shall have no other gods before Me.
Jesus, in essence, told the man he is not fit for God’s eternal kingdom because he has forsaken God by breaking the first commandment. He has been faithful from boyhood until now in honoring the commandments dealing with his lateral relationships, but upon entering into adulthood, he discontinued the vertical- the honor of God. It’s true, and Jesus proved it was true. And the poor man, who happened to be materially rich, left the “good teacher’s” presence very downcast, for he loved his wealth more than he loved God the Father (See verses 22-23).
Childhood Wonder= all trust, all hope, all eagerness to please God and family.
Adulthood Desperation= grasping for childlike wonder while maintaining a trust in wealth.
Think about it: Would Jesus really ask you and me to forsake all our wealth and possessions? If we, like the young man, had one thing standing between us and eternal life, yes. He would ask us to surrender it.
Sounds extreme, doesn’t it?
“If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell…” (Mark 9:43-47).
When we read those desperate words of Jesus, we realize the truly extreme is forsaking all the glory of God’s eternal kingdom for a quick fix of earthly pleasure followed by a never-ending plight of suffering.
Let’s get this one right. We will never inherit the wonder of Christmas, nor will we inherit eternal life with God as long as we superimpose anything of this earth above Him whose name is WONDERFUL. It’s a childlike abandonment to Jesus- a heart that says there is nothing on earth I desire. Only You, King Jesus.
One more beautiful thought: When you encounter the love of Jesus (and I have to believe that the look of love Jesus gave the young man pierced his heart and gave him cause for reflection in the days to follow), you know that He is the treasure your soul has been searching for. Giving up anything that defined your life before Jesus is much easier than it sounds. If He remains a good teacher in your eyes, you probably won’t do a childlike act of total abandonment; but if He looks at you and your heart knows His intense and desperate love for you, you will lay down every “lower-case-g” god you ever esteemed.