READ: Psalm 66, Ezekiel 31-33, Mark 10, 1 Corinthians 1
It is noteworthy that one of the most well recognized passages of scripture concerning proclamation was written by a muted prophet. Ezekiel was stricken mute by the Lord, and while unable to speak, God reminds him that he is a watchman and that “you shall hear a word from my mouth and warn them for me” (Eze. 33:7). It is only after this famous passage on the blood-guilt we bear for not warning sinners of their peril that God again opens Ezekiel’s mouth (v. 22). God is in effect saying: “There are no excuses–even the mute must shout out warning!” God is so concerned about the welfare of the wicked [takes no pleasure in their demise (v. 11)] that He removes any excuses from His representatives. All are expected to preach repentance, and an active obedience is always more difficult than a passive disobedience. The “do’s” are harder than the “do not’s.”
In Mark 10 the rich young ruler comes to Jesus asking what He should do. Jesus responds with five “do not’s”–all of which were easily accomplished by this young man. In Christianity we tend to focus on what we should not do, and that is right, albeit a lower form of compliance. What Jesus really wants is our energetic obedience towards the positives of what He requires. The rich young ruler had done the do not’s but not done the do’s. Jesus firmly and lovingly puts His finger on an essential omission–knowing clearly it was difficult for the young man–that the young man was in fact hiding behind a lower level of obedience. Jesus intentionally makes His requirements so lofty that no one can comply without divine help that “no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Cor. 1:29).
The Mark 10 narrative about the rich young ruler is essentially a missions (not a money) text. Jesus tells the young man to divest himself of all excuses–all that would hinder him from taking up a cross and following Jesus. The immediate verses following this charge explain that the impossible (giving up wealth, family, lands, security) for the sake of the gospel is not only possible with Jesus, but will be rewarded (Mark 10:29). There are no excuses–not being mute, not being monied, not being a minority, not being marginalized. We must all breathe out loving invitations (which is what warnings are) to those Jesus hates to see perish. Never one to mince words, Jesus reminds us that those who actively obey will be rewarded and that persecution is part of the reward (v. 30). There is a rich fulfillment (Psalm 66:12) for those who go through fire and water for Jesus. Some joys can only be found on the other side of radical obedience and rigorous trial. Our flesh resists God’s call to be His loving warner; our spirits have the most to gain if we will obey.