Imaginative Contemplation: The Rich Young Ruler

Posted: July 26, 2017 by leighannegreenwood in Uncategorized

We have spoken before about the importance of reading scripture with open hands, and imaginative contemplation is one way of doing that. The reader places themselves in the story and engages their sense and emotions, in order to bring the action to life and create a space in which they are open to new insight and revelation. It can be as simple as reading a passage and then let the imagination take over, but a little bit of guidance can be helpful, especially if this is a new practice, so while we are on our summer break I will be offering a few written contemplations for you to use. Obviously this is a less analytical approach to the Bible than we have been taking over the past few months, but I hope it will provide some balance and refreshment.

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Jesus and the Rich Young Ruler (Matthew 19:16-30, Mark 10:17-31, Luke 18:18-23)

Imagine the scene. It is a hot and dusty day, and you are on the road out of town. The road is busy at this time, with people heading home from the market with arms full of cloths and spices, and others pushing the other way, hoping to find a last minute bargain.

The group you are with is animated, but more interested in picking over the finer details of the day’s teaching than comparing notes on merchants or indulging in gossip. Suddenly your chatter is interrupted by the sound of someone calling Jesus’ name. A young man runs past you and throws himself onto the ground at Jesus’s feet.

You notice the dust spoiling the hem of his fine robe, and the sweat staining his expensive shawl where he has used it to wipe his face. He doesn’t seem to care though, as his eyes are fixed on Jesus. You smile at his enthusiasm, and then you begin to wonder. Do you feel so passionately about approaching Jesus?

“Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” the young man asks. You think you know where this is going so you are surprised when Jesus replies “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” Jesus has never asked that question before but it gets you thinking. Do you call Jesus good? 

Jesus continues “You know the commandments”, and the young man declares “I have kept all these since my youth.” When he says that, Jesus gives him a curious look, a look so full of love that it must fill his soul. You start to think back over your time with Jesus. How does it feel to know that Jesus looks at you like that too?

Jesus tells the young man “You lack one thing. Go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, then come and follow me.” You feel a shockwave go through the crowd. It’s such a big thing to ask and it makes you nervous. What one thing are you lacking?

The young man leaves and you can see that he is struggling. He clearly has much to sell and it will be hard for him. You wonder what he will do now, if he will do as Jesus has commanded and how long it may take him. Are you ready to do as Jesus calls and follow him?

As you think about this, you lose the thread of the conversation, but then you hear Jesus say “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God”. It makes you gasp. You are not as rich as the young man appeared to be, but you have a house and food and clothes to fill it. And you have other riches too, things that can’t be measured but are certainly valued. You wonder if Jesus is talking to you.

The others seem to have the same idea, as they ask “Who then can be saved?” Jesus smiles gently and says “For God all things are possible.” In that moment, you know that what he asks of you will not always be easy, and that there will be things you will have to give up in order to follow him, but you also know that you will not have to struggle through on your own, and that there will be far greater rewards.

The group start to move on, and as people discuss what has just happened, you seek out Jesus, knowing that you must learn something of his heart for you, just as the young man did. What is that you need to ask him and what is it that he says in response?

Someone else needs to speak to Jesus, and so you step away for the moment, falling back into the crowd to reflect on all that has happened.

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