Studying the story of the so-called “rich young man/ruler” for last night. In each of the three accounts, the opening question from the man is a version of “what good thing must I do to have/get/inherit eternal life”?
While I’m not an expert, my hunch (in reading through the the balance of scripture) is that inheritance was something earned and not merely given, owed or deserved. I essence, the man was asking, “how can I secure my place in heaven?”
Jesus plays along, telling him about keeping the commandments, all of them, in fact. When the man admits that he’s done so, what Jesus tells him to sell all that he has, give the $ to the poor, and only then can he join Jesus. Then man walks away sad, because of his great wealth. The disciples ask Jesus about who can enter God’s kingdom and the difficulty of it all. Then and only then does Jesus show his hand.
Like the younger son in the story of the prodigal son, we demand inheritance based on our own works, efforts and perceived goodness. We approach Jesus proud and arrogant. And Jesus tells us, simply, that it’s not enough. There is always something else that Jesus will insist that we give up when we pursue eternity on our own terms. Jesus does this to reveal to us that there is nothing that we can do to have/get/inherit this eternal life. It’s impossible with man.
Instead, we see Jesus revealed as the father in the story of the prodigal, willing and ready to give us what is most certainly not ours to have. He gives us what is not ours, whether we keep the commands or not. He gives us that which we do not deserve.
And it is because of this gift that we respond open-handed, broken, despondent into the arms of a loving Father who wants us to simply come home.
This is grace. Shocking, offensive, and beautiful grace.