62 – Jesus Leaves for Jerusalem
Where: Bethany, Perea
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On Thursday, Jesus “set his face” toward Jerusalem. Jesus would leave Bethany, Perea for the last time, and planned to be in Bethany, Judea by evening. In the morning Jesus and his followers finished “packing”, and were leaving, when a man in his mid 20’s hurried up to Jesus.
‘Good teacher, how can I earn my salvation?’ the young man asked.
When he addressed Jesus as “good” teacher he was stating a belief that Jesus was sent by God. The young man had called Jesus “good”. Jesus therefore must be sent by God who alone is truly good! Jesus saw an opportunity to teach the disciples an important lesson.
Here was Jesus, a traveling rabbi, with no wife, no children, no social standing, no personal wealth, and not many followers. By the standards of the day, Jesus and his message were failures. If Jesus were delivering God’s message, then he should have been blessed with family, wealth, and success in preaching.
Yet Jesus was obviously doing God’s will. Jesus called this to the attention of the disciples. This young man had accidentally stated a belief that Jesus was sent by God, despite appearances!
Jesus proceeded to answer the question the young man was asking. The “traditional” answer as to who would gain eternal life and enter the kingdom, was “those who keep the Law”. God’s will for Israel was given in the commandments, and the young man knew that. The commandments he had strictly followed since he had become a man at his bar mitzvah. If Jesus had said nothing else, then the young man would have been blindly satisfied.
Jesus asked, ‘What does the Torah say is God’s will?’ The young man quickly and correctly answered that all commandments came down to two. Love God and your neighbor. But then Jesus continued. ‘Only by putting God’s will first, and responding to that blessing by being a good neighbor, could this be done’.
When the young man asked, ‘who is my neighbor?’ Jesus, facing the journey up the road from Jericho to Jerusalem, told the parable of the Good Samaritan in order to clarify what he meant by “loving your neighbor”. Everyone knew how dangerous the road up the Wadi Qelt was. Everyone knew of the vows of ritual purity the priests took. Everyone knew of the antagonism between the Jerusalem temple cult and the Samaritans. Yet it was the Samaritan that took the man to the inn [today] and paid the two denarius for his care. That brought a very serious expression of confusion to the young man’s face.
As Jesus looked into the face of this honest young man, Jesus felt a love for him that demanded that he be told the whole truth. When all is said and done, the essential truth of entry into the Kingdom was that each person must be prepared to put the will of God above ALL other things. And Jesus decided to open this young man’s mind to his greatest weakness. ‘Give up everything. Your wealth and your lifestyle, all the trappings of success, and follow me. Burn all your bridges and lead a life of faith’, said Jesus.
The young man was taken aback. This was more then he had bargained for. This is something he would have to consider. He was sure of the Law of Moses, but not ALL THAT sure of “Rabbi Jesus”. Give up God’s blessings? For what? When the man realized just how much was being asked, and realized that he was not willing to make such a total commitment at this time, he withdrew.
Then Jesus turned to the disciples. ‘How very hard it is to put God first, over everything’ he said. ‘Those who seem to be blessed, won’t even get into the kingdom.’
The disciples were astonished. They had always been taught that wealth was God’s reward for being good. If those who were blessed by God could not get into the Kingdom, then who could? This made no sense! But Jesus knew that having anything as a higher priority then loving God and one’s neighbor, was a “breaking” of God’s Law and that would make “earning” access to the Kingdom impossible.
Then Peter shot his arrow and missed the mark again [as usual]. ‘We will enter the Kingdom, right? We’ve earned God’s blessings, right?’
And Jesus answered, ‘Yes, you will be rewarded [though he was not specific about the rewards], but NOT because you have “earned” it. You will gain a new family here in this life, and eternal life with that new family…provided that you place your entire faith in the gospel.’
And as they walked westward, toward the Jordan River and Jericho, Jesus continued to teach the disciples about the generous nature of God, and how God expects a response and commitment.
No questions have been asked yet.