Have you ever asked yourself, 'I wonder what I need to do to get on God's good side?' Have you ever felt like God is pressing you against the wall like a thumbtack and saying, 'You need to do this if you really want to follow me.'? Do you ever feel like no matter how many good things you do and how many days you are faithful, it's never enough? Like God is never happy with you? Or maybe you feel like God doesn't give you a second thought; that you're not worthy of His attention and He won't even notice if you're not following Him.
In Mark 9:33-10:52, we can read about the Disciples' need to be seen as important and "great". In one instance they are arguing amongst themselves about who is the greatest, and on another occasion two of them are asking Jesus if they are great enough to be seated on His right and His left in His Kingdom. In both cases Jesus says the same thing about what awaits those who have their sights set on greatness and a desire to be first: it's a lot of work! And while some may interpret Jesus' words in a challenging way, as something to strive for through servanthood, I'm not so sure that's His recommendation. I think it's more of a warning to not get the wrong impression about what it means to truly follow Him.
The purpose of following Jesus is not to earn God's favor. It's not to show God or others how good and committed I can be. He's not looking for me to sacrifice more or to be perfect or to become worthy of His attention and love. People often expect that of me, but God is interested in something else. He wants me to recognize how much I need Him. Like a child needs a parent's care. Like a sick person needs a doctor. Like a blind man needs a miracle. I have nothing to offer Him, but He has everything to offer me.
When a rich man came to Jesus and asked Him what he needed to do to inherit eternal life, I think he may have expected Jesus to say, 'Give twenty percent of your income to the Temple instead of only ten: give me a little more and I'll reward you for it.' But Jesus told him to give everything he had. Why? Because God really needed his money? I don't think so. God's resourcefulness is not dependent on us humans. So what was Jesus really asking for? He wanted the man to let go of his self-sufficiency. He didn't want him to be placing his trust and identity in his money because riches are fleeting and require a lot of time and energy to maintain. They can be gone in a moment and become the source of a lot of worry. Having money can be nice, but it can also be a tremendous burden. Just ask the man who went away sad in his wealth. Where was his joy? He didn't have any of that.
Contrast his story with the blind man's. The blind man has nothing to offer Jesus. All he could do was cry out for mercy. People told him to be quiet and not bother the good teacher. But he didn't listen to them. He had a need, and he wanted it met, and he wasn't ashamed to beg for it. 'Have mercy on me!' he cried. And how did Jesus respond? Did he ignore him or send him away or rebuke him or tell him what he needed to do to earn God's favor? No. He asked him what he needed, and He gave him his sight because he asked for it. That's faith. Believing in God's mercy. In unmerited favor. In God's concern for His people. In God's heart that loves beyond reason.
If I was to meet Jesus face to face today, and He had one question to ask me, I don't think He would say, 'How much have you done for Me, Melanie?' or 'How have you proved your love for Me?' or 'How much money have you given?' or 'How much have you sacrificed for Me?' Those are human standards of measurement. Performance based. Law based. Impossible standards for an impossible-to-please god.
But Jesus' standard of measurement is a little different. Not 'How much have you given?' but 'How much have you received? How much do you believe in My love--My unconditional love--and in My ability to meet your need and also My willingness to.' Why do I believe that? Because of all the people Jesus interacts with in these two chapters of Mark, the two He responds most favorably to are those who have the least to offer Him. This blind man. And the children. Why? Because they are completely open to His love. To His mercy. To His openness. To His heart. They're not asking, 'What do I need to do to get on God's good side?' It never even crosses their mind. They just come when He says, 'Come closer.' They just receive His warm embrace and His healing touch.
They are "the least of these" and they aren't striving for greatness. They don't feel ignored. And they aren't concerned with their own faithfulness, just His. They aren't consumed with performance, they're consumed with His presence and His love.
And so am I. Are you? I hope so, because it's a beautiful place to be.