21 Pentecost, October 14
Jesus Christ is both priest and victim. He is truly divine and the true human being. He is from everlasting to everlasting, and he is a thin sliver of time. To see him, one has to see contracts and intervening shades. So often in a Bible story Jesus is both himself and one or more characters, the interchange of question and answer.
“As [Jesus] was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him” (Mark 10:17). In the course of the story, it is said that that the man “had many possessions.” Jesus, likewise, had many possessions, for he was filled with all the fullness of God and therefore lacked nothing. In the story, the man asks, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” to which Jesus responds, “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” (Mark 10:19). The man, we learn, has kept these from his youth. Jesus has kept them from the timeless moment of eternity. Jesus is all wealth and he is the fulfillment of the law and the prophets. The man fails, however, to mirror Jesus in one most important way. Jesus is poor. Following him requires poverty of spirit and detachment toward the relative good of this world. “How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of heaven!”
Consider both the wealth and the poverty of Jesus. “For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). Jesus has everything, and yet he gives it all to us through the power and ministration of his Spirit. “When the Spirit of truth comes he will guide you into all truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:13-15).
Jesus is all the wealth of divine life. The Spirit takes that treasure and gives it to us. So Jesus is stripped and naked, crucified and empty. Diminished to near nothingness, he passes through the eye of a needle into the kingdom of heaven of which he is the embodiment. And yet, giving all that he is and all that he has, the fount of divinity is not diminished. He is rich and he is poor.
What is it like to follow Jesus? At first we are rich with the clutter of our lives, until at last, by his command and grace, we leave it all aside. At the moment of faith and at the waters of baptism, we are stripped, buried, and marked with a cross. We seem to disappear. The life of Jesus, which is all that the Father has, pours out into the newly baptized. Is there a treasure greater than this? We are the poverty and wealth of Jesus. At first we are rich, at last we are poor. Being poor, we become rich with the abounding grace of God.
Look It Up
Read Hebrews 4:13-14.
Think About It
We are naked and laid bare to the eyes of the one who sees and sympathizes, who gives grace and mercy in time of need.