This is a guest post by author Dr. Frank Chase Jr, Th.D
Studying Christ’s interaction with people gives profound insight to ministers, laypeople and believers. Understanding the character of Christ, especially his people skills, helps us know how to treat other people in and around the world. If we pattern ourselves after His examples of interacting with people, the God factor outreach will be received in an atmosphere invigorated with grace.
In Mark 10:17-27, Jesus is candid with the rich young ruler by asking him to relinquish wealth he holds dear. Jesus engages him on the matter of what captures his heart. As the young ruler runs to Jesus and humbly kneels at his feet, no one can doubt that his conversation is sincere. Jesus deflects his accolades by not accepting the title “good” and reminds the young man that he already knows the commandments. The ruler replies that he has kept the commandments from his youth.
In the follow-on conversation, Jesus does something astounding. Rather than engage this man in theological debate about his relationship to God or the rightness or wrongness of his inquiry, verse 21of the text says “Then Jesus beholding him loved him….” Jesus beholding him and loving him demonstrates Jesus’ nature as the Son of Man. The word “beholding” comes from the Greek word “emblepo” (Strong’s Concordance #1689), which means “to look upon, to observe, to discern clearly.” Have you ever engaged in a one-on-one conversation and realized the person’s attention drifted? Or perhaps he seemed unengaged by your dialogue by frequently looking away or taking deep breaths? That was not the case with Christ and this young man. The Master blessed this man by beholding him and loving him exclusively and without distraction. If one happened upon this meeting, one might recount and describe the conversation this way: I saw Jesus talking to this rich young ruler. He reached out to him with a penetrating gaze that reached beyond words straight into the matter of his heart.
Jesus’ interest in this man is an example of “beholding” in our relationships. Beholding people with the intensity Christ beheld this man speaks volumes about His ability to connect with others to soften their heart and to see the god factor within themselves.
In the following verses, Jesus responds with truth. He did not respond with arrogant truth or self-righteous truth. Instead, the gaze of love preceded truth. When love is preeminent, the door of the heart opens and is receptive to explanations of what’s lacking in our lives. In this case, Jesus went beyond the rich man’s possessions. He went beyond his ability, his great potential and his obvious observance of the law. And when Jesus asked the rich ruler to give up his wealth, the man became aware that his money and possessions stood between him and God.
Jesus never focused on the first section of the Ten Commandments that dealt with man’s sins against God. Instead, it is the second half of the Ten Commandments that addresses man’s relationship to man that Jesus spoke to the rich young ruler about. Jesus unveils the reality that if the young man could not sell all that he had and give the proceeds to the poor, he still sinned against man. And since God created man is His image, the young man in turn sinned against God. The lesson points out that Jesus’ encounter was not so much about the young ruler’s money, but about the man’s priorities. What this man didn’t hear from Jesus was, For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also(Luke 12:34).
The word “loved” in verse 21 also ties into the young man’s relationship to man. The Greek word agapao(Strong’s Concordance #25) is the form of “love” that is used here. It means to love in a social and moral sense. Giving of his wealth was a sign of the man’s moral and social concern for his fellowman, especially the poor. But it must be understood that Jesus’ motive was not for him to surrender his wealth to the poor. Jesus’ concern was the relationship the man had with his money and if he could put that relationship aside for the sake of his fellowman. The man lacked the saving graceof Jesus Christ.
In this story, we see the character of an approachable Savior. He is a Jew trying to explain to another Jew how to inherit eternal life. It is Christ’s nature to explain the facts of eternal life. Should not we be like the Savior and patiently explain our faith to people if they ask like the rich man asked Jesus? Look at his patience with this man. Look at how he approached and answered his Jewish brother. Based on the land, the language and the literature, note that “[his] question plainly reflects the typical Jewish perspective. According to common Jewish theology of that time, eternal life was a privilege that belonged to the age to come. Moreover, it could only be acquired by those whom God deemed worthy to have. The man’s choice of the word “inherit” simply underscored this perception of things. That was a word, which the rabbis often used to describe the meritorious acquisition of bliss in the future world.No wonder, then, that the young man thought he must do something to get eternal life.”
In the end, the young rich ruler did not understand that parentage, possessions, popularity, power, piety and his Jewish philosophy remained insufficient and that his spiritual life bank account needed deposits of free grace obtained by faith and trust in the Master. But what does this encounter with the rich young ruler tell us about the story of the Messiah across all the Gospels?
The four Gospels do not discuss the early years of Christ’s biography in complete detail. As students of the Bible, we must acknowledge the gospel writers never felt that a written account of continuous growth, training, youthful aspirations and self-consecration to a future mission was necessary for their purpose.
In Matthew, Mark and Luke, John the Baptist, does not think himself worthy to baptize Jesus, but does so when Jesus insists. Some view this baptismal event as Jesus’ inauguration into public ministry. From the time Jesus was twelve years old, he lived in obscurity, and at age thirty he is center stage. After baptism, God the Father spoke from heaven, This is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased. What a powerful statement from God!
It would have been enough for Yehwah to say my Son, but to add the word beloveddescribes the deeper unquenchable relationship Jesus has with his Father. The Father wants no doubt about how He feels about Jesus, and the message He speaks from heaven is clear to those listening. Jews recognize the Father’s words as the text from Psalm 2:7, which they believe describes the Messiah.
In Matthew 3:17, my beloved son is a statement of affection from the Father to His Son. The words in whom I am well pleasedare a description of the Father’s approval for His Son. The Father thought well of Jesus and never hesitated in expressing his approval. The expression in whom I am well pleased is also familiar to the Jews. When they hear these words, they are hearing a quote from Isaiah 42:1, describing Christ as the suffering servant. The Father gives an abiding word for His Son in Matthew 17:5 at the mount of transfiguration. The Father just doesn’t give a onetime word, but speaks reaffirming words of assurance to eliminate doubt for the hearer. Saying good words once is OK, but saying them more than once gives infallible proof how affectionate, approving and abiding the Father feels toward Jesus.
After Jesus’ baptism, his story continues as he squares off against Satan’s temptation in Matthew, Chapter 4. After Jesus hears his Father’s blessing that he is the beloved Son, the Bible says Jesus is led of the spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. Armed with this knowledge, the architect of temptation employs a tactic to attack Jesus. The word temptedcomes from the Greek word peirazo(Strong’s Concordance #3985),which means to test, scrutinize, entice, discipline:–assay, examine, go about, prove, try. Testing Jesus, putting him under scrutiny, enticing him, and questioning him was Satan’s attempt to cause the recipient (Jesus) to appear as what He’s always been—and that’s not who the Father said Jesus is—a beloved Son.
In verse 3, the tempter appeals to Jesus as the Son of Man by targeting his appetite at the weakest point—when he is hungry. He appeals to His human nature by soliciting doubt that if he be the Son of God, he should turn stones into bread to satisfy his hunger. Satan’s appeal to the desire for food comes after a victory. The lust of the flesh (1 John 2:16) is one method Satan uses to offer us a trade for what he wants in place of what God wants.
In verses 8 and 9, the tempter appeals to the lust of the eyes (1 John 2:16) by offering Jesus the kingdoms of this world with its riches and beauty as a reminder of the former praise and worship He received in heaven. Jesus can once again experience that glory by bowing down and accepting Satan as a god to worship. In return, Satan says he will give up his power over the world “in exchange for the satisfaction of ruling over the Son of God.”
In verses 5 and 6, the tempter appeals to the pride of life (1 John 2:16) by telling Jesus His father cares for him so much that if he casts himself down from the temple, the angels will rescue him and permit no harm. The problem with Satan’s tactic is that he leaves out part of Psalm 91:12, something he does frequently when he quotes scripture. Jesus does not succumb to the temptation of prideful opinion or the perilous omission of scripture.
Every request Satan makes of Jesus does not seem evil in itself. Later, despite refusing Satan’s offers, Jesus multiplies bread for thousands (miracle), conquers death (mystery), and becomes King of Kings (authority). Yes, Jesus resists Satan’s proposal using restraint. He does not display his powers of miracle, mystery and authority, which he knows he has. Satan knows what Jesus came to do, so he offers him a quick way to accomplish his purpose instead of going the way of the cross. Satan’s effort to undo the plan of God reveals him as the conniver he is. God would never stoop to such low tactics as bribery to extract worship from humanity. For the Bible declares that they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and truth. No amount of money is expected from any worshipper to receive the blessings of God. Paying money or tithing money in church is not a form of worship because Yahweh does not need money when he owns all the cattle on a thousand hills and the earth his footstool. So like Peter said to the man who tried to purchase God’s power with money, may your money perish with you for trying to worship God with money.
In the face of temptation, Jesus does what Apostle Paul encourages believers to do—to put on the whole armor of God that ye may be able to stand against the whiles of the devil. Jesus understands the whiles of the devil. Meth-od-i’ahis the Greek word for “whiles.” It means method. Jesus understands Satan’s methods of craftiness, deceitfulness and cunning ways of tempting.
After Satan’s temptation ends, we should understand that being led of the spirit, and learning of scripture and the life of Christ in us (incarnation), leads to victory over temptation. As Paul writes in Galatians 2:20, we can be victorious through the incarnation of Christ.