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  • John Bryant

Mark 10: 17-31: The Fulfillment of Being Human

Updated: Sep 8


17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

23 And Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24 And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” 28 Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29 Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

There are three things my soul has felt like: a crying child, a wounded animal, a flightless bird. The crying child says “I don’t matter,” the wounded animal says “Nothing is safe,” the flightless bird says, “All is lost.” The soul then has three real needs: recognition, rest, meaning. To be seen, safe, and fed. The soul then struggles with three things: shame, fear, despair. The soul needs an answer to shame, fear, and despair, and is always seeking an answer.


There are three things that have haunted my soul, three ghosts it lives with: the mind’s intimidation, the body’s anticipation, the devil’s accusations. They are shrieking, false testimony I have to walk by, the hysterical commentaries I walk through every day. A kind of curtain or shroud over the wilderness of normal human experience. They can make me feel miserable, threatened, condemned. When I feel miserable, threatened, condemned, the crying child, the wounded animal, the flightless bird (my anguished soul) says,


“All is lost”

“Nothing is safe”

“I don’t matter.”


Miserable because my mind says something is loathsome, wrong, excruciating, perilous or missing. And because of that, certain things–compulsions–have to happen.

Threatened because my body says something is unsettled, unsafe, at stake, at risk, in trouble.


Condemned because lies, verdicts, and accusations seemed to have revoked a future that is meaningful.


I wake up wondering, “Which ghost is speaking?” And I’ve learned to be quiet with whose speaking, to be quiet with the understanding won for me by beholding Christ. Learning to be claimed by Christ. To be claimed by hearing. The Christ I behold by hearing.


These three shrieking, false testimonies are a shroud over the wilderness of experience, the complication, alienations, temptations, uncertainties and sufferings of ordinary life. They make these appear as what they are not. The Wilderness of Experience is bad enough already, but the shrieking, false testimony helps drive the soul to shame, fear, despair. And makes life a haunted house.


Upset because being miserable, threatened, and condemned makes me feel ashamed, afraid, and in despair.


What do I have when I am miserable, threatened, condemned, upset?


There are two shepherds of the soul’s shame, fear, and despair:

The Lord Jesus Christ and the hardness of my own heart.


Jesus Christ is the careful shepherd of soul, but so is the hardness of my heart. Both have different ideas about why I need to be okay. About how the soul will be seen, safe, and fed. Both lead the soul in solemn procession. Both have different ideas about how we will to clothe the shame, cast out the fear, and end the despair.


The hardness of my heart says I can clothe my own shame, make myself safe, give my life meaning.


Christ says he will clothe my shame, cast out my fear, and give my life meaning.


The soul’s solemn procession under the hardness of my heart: figure out, know for sure, defend myself, make it right. To win instead of lose, to take back what has been taken. To devour instead of hallow.


The soul’s solemn procession under Christ: to hear, to pray, to offer. To behold, be patient, bear witness. To be claimed, be led, and be given to the world..


I often spoken of this rhythm, the soul’s solemn procession: hear, pray, offer.


I said this rhythm was how I trusted Christ with my ordinary life.This rhythm was my life with Christ, an ordinary life of regular worship. Learning to be quiet, simple, available: trusting in Christ, trusting Christ with things, entrusting myself to others.


Because it is the company I keep with Christ, this rhythm is the careful shepherd of my soul. And this rhythm is the soul’s solemn procession.

From hearing through prayer to offering.


It is this rhythm that has been trusted to take care of the question of recognition, rest, and meaning, of shame, fear, and despair. It’s goal is slow growth in faith, hope, and love by His Word, through His Spirit, in HIs Fellowship.


It’s about learning to become quiet by hearing, simple through prayer, available in offering.


It is a kind of prayer I make with my body, with my habits. A habit, a practice that says

Lord Jesus Christ,

By your Word, rescue my trust. Because my trust is a crying child.

Through your Spirit, shepherd my attention. Because my attention is a wounded animal.

In your Fellowship, establish my gentleness. Because my gentleness is a flightless bird.

Because this rhythm, the soul’s procession, the careful shepherd of the soul–is available when I am miserable, threatened, condemned, and upset–it means my trust, attention, and gentleness have begun–by Word, Spirit, and Fellowship–to become mine again. This rhythm has been the careful shepherd of my soul, the deepening of my trust, my attention, and my capacity for gentleness.


I asked the Lord for a different situation, and what he gave me was a way to live, a way to live in any situation. It’s taken three years to even begin to feel like I have a handle on this rhythm, this practice, this procession, this rule of life.


I have felt this solemn procession as the soul being led out of shame, through fear, toward meaning. By the careful shepherd of Christ. It was a procession made each day, each week, each month, each year. Over a lifetime.


The first year, the hardest to deal with the soul’s shame, the part of me that said I am alone and I don’t matter.


The second year, the hardest part was the soul’s fear, the part of me that said nothing is safe and there is no security.


And this third year its been the soul’s despair. It’s intolerable dissatisfaction. It’s lack of meaning and fulfillment.


Where is meaning to be found? Where is satisfaction to be found? Where are such things given? Where might they be found. Where do our longings take us?


We think our longings, our desires our wrong, but what if they just need the right shepherd? The right overseer of the soul.


The rich man could not accept Christ as the shepherd of his soul, could not trust Christ with everything, could nothing accept. He could bear obedience, he could follow the law.


What could not bear? Parting with his belongings. Parting with the things that gave life meaning and fulfillment.


He could not bear to have the longings of the soul be severed from the hardness of his heart by the Word of God. I think that is what it means to have the Gospel as a two edge sword: splitting the soul’s anguish from the hardness of the heart.


I’ve thought about this. I’ve thought about what has given meaning and satisfaction. I’ve thought of my sharp tongue and my penchant for cruelty.


I’ve thought of how the use of words has given satisfaction and cruelty.

And I’ve thought of how the cruel use of words has given its own grim satisfaction.


If I am the rich man, I am rich in language and cruelty.


Cruelty, any kind of cruelty, is about longing and fulfillment and satisfaction. Cruelty is the cruel shepherd of legitimate needs of the soul. It is a way of being satisfied.


That cruelty, that longing comes out whenever I feel disrespected, condescended to, dishonored. It flares up to shepherd my reputation, to make the world right again. By saying something, by being cruel.


I'm learning disrespect is not intolerable. It's important to be respected. But there is something more important. Jesus is more important than feeling respected.


But I’ve learned, am learning, am continuing to learn it. It's an understanding only given by being forgiven. That it is the forgiveness of sin that gives us back to ourselves.


And that all the joy, grief, and meaning is in offering. That offering is the fulfillment of being human. Because he has offered it to those who follow him, we demand it.




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