Posted by: Jo | August 3, 2012

What Holds Us Back?

Face to Face with Jesus (Part 6 of 10)

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30)

imageWe, who live in North America, are well aware of the insidious power that wealth can wield in our society and today we witness its effect on two men, with vastly different backgrounds, who come face to face with Jesus. The first encounter is with a young wealthy ruler and for him to be so wealthy at a young age, probably meant that he had come from a rich and successful family and had never lacked for anything in his whole life. The second man, Zacchaeus, on the other hand had clawed his way to wealth by cheating his fellow Jews during his collecting of taxes for the hated Roman occupiers of Israel and is probably enjoying wealth for the first time. The two men have very different reactions when they meet Jesus.

The young ruler’s story is found in Mark 10:17 -23

Perhaps the first inkling we have about this young man is that he is realising something is missing, in what most outsiders looking at him would think is a perfect life, and this draws him to seek out Jesus. How often do we see the same scenario played out in others’ lives around us? Deep within us is that need to meet our Saviour and how often do we see others begin that search and then falter. We see the young man begin by justifying himself, in the way he has kept the commandments, but when we look closely at the commandments Jesus asks him about, we see the most important one has not been mentioned;

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30)

Jesus immediately recognises what has taken first place in the young ruler’s life, the young man has allowed his wealth to supersede his love for the Heavenly Father, and Jesus challenges him to first recognise it and then haveimage the courage to remove the obstacle that is preventing him from a full relationship with Jesus. Wealth in itself is not the problem; it is how the young man has let it rule his life to the point of overshadowing his love for God. The verse I love in this passage precedes what Jesus asks him to do;

“Jesus looked at him and loved him….” (Mark 10:21)

Jesus understands just how difficult the obstacles are in our lives and is always ready to help us overcome them.

Zacchaeus’ story is found in Luke 19:1 -10

Zacchaeus, just like the rich young ruler, is also drawn to find out who this Jesus is, but his approach is a very different one. He doesn’t want a close encounter with this Jesus and he wants to keep the distance between them so, as he is short, he climbs a tree for a better view. He is only too aware of his own shortcomings and is not full of self-righteousness like our other character, so imagine his surprise when Jesus stops at the very tree he is in and invites himself for dinner at Zaccheaus’ house. Here our story changes so dramatically from the first one. Without hesitation this happens;

“So he came down at once and welcomed him gladly.” (Luke 19:6)

imageOn spending time with Jesus, Zacchaeus is suddenly aware of the obstacles in his own life and willingly wants to get rid of that wealth if it is to endanger his relationship with Jesus. It is good to note that Jesus did not ask him to do that, but choosing to be with Jesus opened his eyes to look honestly at his dishonest dealings and made him want to put things right. Jesus is delighted with his actions and welcomes him as a true son.

Personal Reflection

Spending time with Jesus can also make us aware of what might have crept into our lives that is taking priority in our thinking and actions and we may want to ask ourselves if anything is holding us back from that close walk with him. What can we learn from these two stories?

Next week we will witness a wonderful messianic sign as Jesus heals two blind men.


  1. Thanks, Jo. Good insight into both the stories. That is a great verse Mark – Jesus’ compassion is so clear, and of course He already knew the man would walk away. And with Zaccheus, it’s a wonderful view of what happens when Jesus changes a heart.


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