Countless sermons and devotions have been based on Jesus' exchange with the man we know as the "rich young ruler." The first three gospels recount the story using largely identical words and phrases. Indeed, this passage is one of those upon which scholars base their conviction that Matthew and Luke founded their writings upon Mark's gospel.
From the elusive Command, Lose your life, we now encounter one of the most down to earth of all the Commands: Be a servant. No mystery exists here. We all know what it means to serve, to put someone else's need ahead of our own...the good deed, the kindness shown, the helping hand, the burden shared, the load lifted, the feet washed, the cup for the thirsty wayfarer. Opportunities for service are presented us every moment of every day.
Most of Jesus' Commands are reasonably straightforward, easy enough to understand, uncomplicated, unambiguous. Easy to obey--no. Easy to understand--yes. It is not usually a question of being confused about what is required. Rather it is a question of how serious we are about wanting to obey.
Why is Jesus an obedient Son? Because He did the will of the Father.
The great moral teacher interpretation of the life and impact of Jesus Christ is surely one of the most naive perspectives ever proposed for such an important historical figure. C.S. Lewis has memorably argued that anyone making the claims Jesus did must either be a lunatic, a madman, or what he claimed to be. It is not merely Jesus' claim to be one with God that is astonishing and revolutionary, however, so too is much of the rest of his teaching. Far from being a traditional "moralist," a great deal of what Jesus said turned conventional wisdom upside-down.
In recognizing the reality of our Lord's humanity, I would not be misunderstood as saying that we are more like Him, or He more like us, than I intend.
The enormity of this Command is of such scope and magnitude that it is impossible to overstate. If Love is the first Command, this surely represents one of the most important dimensions of Love itself. Indeed, unity with our fellow man is one of Love's significant visible expressions. If we would "Be righteous," this is where it begins.
I would like to pass on a truth that has been wonderfully illuminating and helpful to me as I have experienced more through the years of "dying with Christ." It comes from my spiritual and literary mentor George MacDonald (1824-1905), 19th-century pastor, theologian, and novelist.
It has been mentioned before that Jesus occasionally uses overstatement and exaggeration to get his point across. This is obviously again the case here. No one seriously believes this Command is to be obeyed literally. None of Jesus' own disciples, to our knowledge, obeyed this Command as it stands, nor did Jesus expect them to.
The idea of a progressively dawning revelation of sonship in the life of Jesus, and the notion that He could have made different choices than He did, will undoubtedly cause some to squirm.