Text: Mark 10: 17- 22
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?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 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.’ ” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 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.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
Story of the rich fool is a popular whipping boy for most of our sermons and meditations. Was he so outrageous or at fault? Or is he like us? I think it is the latter. He is very much like us and is very comfortable in life. But he is confused. In such a background he must have heard of Jesus and his acts must have thrilled him. And seeing the wonder maker he was overwhelmed and fell on his knees saying “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” But Jesus instead of answering his question directly tries to correct him by saying “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone” This actually is a very confusing statement but Jesus deemed it necessary to say so. Jesus saw the yearning and sparkle in his eyes that was full of awe and admiration. Jesus understood that the young man was Hero worshipping him.
We all have heroes that we look up to. Having a hero is very human. It gives us a meaning and cause to our lives. Rahul Dravid has been my hero for a long time now. Similarly I adore Raphael Nadal and Lionel Messi. I am also a huge fan of Amitabh Bachchan. I recently read that the brand of the New Gen cricket star Virat Kohli’s brand is getting bigger day by day. The heroes we have reflect who we are. They fulfill some of our desires that we cannot achieve. Their achievements give us a vicarious pleasure of living a parallel life through them. I have a friend who is very graceful when I criticize him but he goes violent and berserk when I condemn or make fun of the Master Blaster Sachin Tendulkar. I am sure many of us too have this compulsion to safeguard our heroes. It was tragic to read about the fall of an inspirational hero and 7 times Tour de France champion cyclist Lance Armstrong. The papers condemn him for having polluted the cleanest mode of transport. Cycling. Heroes are not supposed to be fallible. They cannot cheat nor are they supposed to do wrong. If so they destroy a certain part of being that we anchored upon them.
So then the problem of depending on a hero is that it shifts the focus from us to the heroes that we worship. What they say, what they wear, what they do is important. Instead of realizing what we can do with our talents and potentials to transform the world around us, we are fixated on a vicarious alter being of us that just massages our egos. In the range of heroes Jesus too can be our hero. The stories of his majesty and his compassion place him on a pedestal that puts a gap between Him and us. Jesus today is used as an idol that justifies our living. When somebody marvels at our riches or our prosperity we like parrots affirm “It is all by His Grace. Praise the Lord”. Like the young man we too need a set formula to follow where in we can have the riches and as a bonus have eternal life too. For us good people are those who go to church, do all that is right and also people of great success. Sounds so much like the rich young man in the story. But Jesus shifts the focus from the blind Hero worship to a life focused on God. Discipleship is not saying “Praise the Lord” and sounding religious. Discipleship is faith that helps us to step out of our comfort zones. Faith transforms us from self obsession to the process of being a “Grain of wheat ready to die so that many can have life.” Faith is the sense of surrender where we can sell everything and give the money to the poor. And then follow Christ in transforming the world. It is a costly call. When I type this I am being convicted of my own hypocrisy.
I have a friend who is an Engineer by profession. His name is Sameer Pethe. I first met him when he was an engineering student participating in a debate module called Model United Nations. I was conducting the training sessions. He came across as a guy who was happy go lucky and just wanted a great job and a lot of money. I lost touch with him. When I met him he did have a great job that paid him well. But he was dissatisfied with life. Just earning money and being successful looked meaningless. Struggling with all these questions he took a daring step. He joined an organization that helps in planned social intervention. This is way out of his comfort zone.A week back he came to a place called Morigaon in Assam that was mercilessly ruined by the floods. He is in a project that rehabilitates the flood affected people. The conditions he works under are rather risky. I felt very proud of him as he was ready to step out to transform the world around him. I have been in Assam during the flood and the riots and I fit the song that says “All the good things that nobody did.” Now to placate my conscience I will visit him this Tuesday, to gauge what exactly he is into.
In the end, my question to myself and those reading is just this. “Is Jesus our Hero that comforts us and keeps telling us I love you as you are. Be the way you are.” There is an aspect of truth in this. But this part is way too emphasized. If Jesus is our Lord and savior he demands us to step out of our comfort zones. He demands us to stop using him for self preservation and as a lucky charm. He calls us to follow him without clinging to our securities and comforts. Do we believe that faith helps us to be a blessing to others, to transform the society around us? Jesus does not call us to be successful. He calls us to be fruitful. Are we ready is the question.
Rev Merin Mathew
Mar Thoma Syrian Church