Those at All Souls Southey probably have heard me going on about reading the Bible like a beer rather than a sherry.
Sherry drinkers take small sips.
Whereas a beer is a long drink.
In other words, when we read the Bible, don’t just read a verse or two, read a whole book (lots of them are just a few chapters, a few pages).
Or if you are reading a longer book, read it in a couple of sittings.
Because context matters!
You wouldn’t with any other form of literature read chapter 39 of Bleak House and then next day read chapter 7 or David Copperfield and then the next day read the last page of Oliver Twist… We don’t read Dickens like this, but that is how we read the Bible.
Such is the case with Luke’s Gospel, we see two very different blokes, with stories that are a chapter apart and (18 & 19), Luke wants us to make a comparison/contrast between the two, a message Luke is shouting at the reader, but most of us have missed this because we have learned to read the Bible in a way which is frankly bonkers!
So, who are these two guys?
One is the Rich Young Ruler, who wants to follow Jesus but also wants to keep his cash, he wants to have his cake and eat it, follow Jesus but do want he wants with his life and his cash… Although Jesus looks at him and loves him… Jesus says to him “go and sell all your possessions and give it to the poor” and the guy walked away from Jesus as the cost of true discipleship and cross carrying was too much for him.
The other guy, is call Zacheus, he’s a rich guy, money probably has been his God, yet when he encounters Jesus, who speaks with him (and his controversial friends)… and Zachaeus’ first response after his encounter with Jesus is to give half his cash away and refund (plus extra) those he’s ripped off and exploited.
It is a very different response.
Yet I wonder, whether if the Rich Young Ruler wandered into our Churches he’d probably be welcomed with open arms, his piety would probably get him parachutted onto the leadership… Yet Jesus turned him away.
And would a Zacheaus character be welcomed the same way? I think sadly not, yet he was the one Jesus described as ‘Salvation coming to this house’.
Jesus urges anyone who follows him to think carefully, count the cost, before people come and follow him.
I’m currently reading Francis Chan who said he hates running, but would like to join the marines, and said he wouldn’t be able to say to the recruitment officer “I want to be a marine, but I don’t want to run anywhere!”
We can’t accept Christ on our own terms.
Both get it.
Both get that results is cost, sacrifice and surrender.
One can do it.
And the one who can, isn’t the one you think it would be.