Commitment is serious business in all other relationships as well. Some Pharisees approach Jesus asking if it is lawful for a man to divorce his wife, interjecting Jesus right into the middle of a hot debate in his day over what grounds constitute a lawful divorce. Once again Jesus is not simply going to allow the conversation to be framed within the conventional wisdom of the day. He goes behind the law, he digs below the surface of regulations, in order to uncover motives and to expose truths that others prefer were left buried.
For Jesus the issue is not about what makes for a just divorce, but what makes for a committed relationship. Jesus says to the Pharisees, “It was because your hearts were hard that Moses wrote you this law...what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Commitment is serious business.
After blessing some children and rebuking his disciples for turning them away, Jesus is once again questioned on legal details, this time by a young man in reference to the inheritance of eternal life. Once again Jesus mines beneath the surface of the question. It is not only a matter of keeping the Ten Commandments, it is about embodying the ways of God in one’s life, which can only be done as those things that separate women and men from God are removed from their desires. What separated this man from his eternity was his great wealth, and Jesus knew it. Jesus’ love for the man led Jesus to speak the truth to him. “One thing you lack. Go, sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
It must not be overlooked, as it sometimes is, that Jesus is not demanding that the rich man rid himself of all his earthly possessions to live destitute on the street; in actuality Jesus is inviting the young man to begin a different journey. For so long his journey had been focused on the pursuit of wealth, but Jesus invites the man to join him on a journey in the pursuit of God. The rich man turns away, unwilling to part with what he obviously loved more than God. Commitment is serious business.
But for those who make such a commitment, God will surely reward them. In God’s Great Reversal, the first will be last and the last will be first. The rich will become poor and the poor will become rich. Jesus once again reminds the disciples that the way to resurrection will come through the cross; the road to victory will be paved with Jesus’ suffering.
Yet in typical fashion, the disciples continue not to get it. James and John approach with a request along the old order of things. They ask for the two most prestigious positions in Jesus’ Kingdom—the secretary of State and the secretary of the Treasury. The other ten disciples are angry with James and John, not because they had the audacity to ask Jesus for these high offices, but because James and John had trumped the rest of them by asking first. Jesus must have been quite irritated in having, once again, to instruct them on the upside-down nature of the Kingdom of God, as opposed to the ways of the kingdoms of the world. “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all.”
And as a reminder that Jesus’ words, though difficult to accept, do indeed depict the true nature of his Kingdom, Jesus gives sight to blind Bartimaeus. And unlike the rich young man who turns away from Jesus, Bartimaeus follows immediately along the way. Having been healed, he realizes that there are truly no other options for him. Whatever this journey will require of him, he must follow. Commitment is serious business.