Do not murder. Check. Do not commit adultery. Check that one too. Do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud. Check, check, and check again! Honor your father and mother. Bam! Check one more. Six for six! The young man of some means was feeling pretty could about how this Q & A session with the Good Teacher was going (Mark 10:17-20).
That he was a sincere man seems evident . . . he ran to Jesus to ask about eternal life. That he was a humble man also seems clear . . . he knelt before Jesus and asked what he must do. And, if but for a few moments, it seems he might have also been a hopeful man as Jesus talked about keeping the commandments of Moses. The man was batting 100. Not two-thirds, not even eighty-three-and-a-third percent. But every command Jesus had mentioned he could honestly say he had kept. Everything he shouldn’t have done, he hadn’t. What he should have done, he did. Hello eternal life!
But then, Mark records, Jesus loved him.
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.”
(Mark 10:21 ESV)
Jesus moved from the external to the internal. Jesus shifts the focus from what to do and what not to do to what to worship. Jesus plays the “do not covet” commandment . . . a commandment focused on not just the hands but on the heart. One thing you lack, says the Source of abundant provision, sell it all for the sake of true wealth, heavenly wealth, and come follow Me.
That’s how Jesus loved him. Probably violates any number of principles implicit in so many of our modern approaches to “building bridges” and making people comfortable in order to hear the gospel. Might even be considered a “fail tactic” based on the nature of the man’s response and “number of salvations” not counted that day.
Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
(Mark 10:22 ESV)
“The man’s face clouded over. This was the last thing he expected to hear, and he walked off with a heavy heart. He was holding on tight to a lot of things, and not about to let go” (MSG).
Jesus loved him . . . and let him leave.
Jesus loved the man too much to let him think the road was wider than it actually was. Loved this one, who was so close, too much to reduce the good news to simply a checklist. Loved him too much to not direct his eyes toward his heart. “How difficult,” Jesus would tell His disciples, “it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God” (10:23). Difficult. In fact, with man impossible. But not for God. “For all things are possible with God” (10:27). Jesus wouldn’t have loved the man if He had arbitrarily made it about what he could do and not require that it be about what he worshiped and what God must do.
So Jesus loved him so much that he let him leave. Rather than dimming the light, Jesus shone it on the man’s sin darkened heart. Instead of watering down truth, He applied it knowing that it would be the truth that would set this man free. Instead of leaving the Word of God out of the discussion, Jesus drew His sword and trusted in the living and active two-edged sword of the Word of God to pierce “to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow”, and discern “the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Heb. 4:12). And having wounded him, Jesus allowed him to leave. Because Jesus loved him.
I like to think that the young man eventually cashed in his worldly wealth for eternal investments. I want to believe that a sincere and humble man who is seeking truth will respond to it when it is found. That the kindness, forbearance, and patience of God in allowing this man to walk away eventually led this man to repentance (Rom. 2:4).
Our is to love ’em. Ours is to speak truth. His is to deal with the heart . . . to deal with what they lack. For all things are possible with God.
All by grace. All for His glory.