I heard a sermon months ago about the story of Jesus’ encounter with a young man who wanted to know what he needed to do to have eternal life.
The story is told in three of the Gospels…Matthew 19: 16-30; Mark 10:17-31 and Luke 18:18-30.
From the details in the three accounts, we piece together that he was wealthy, a younger man so not an elderly one and a ruler of some kind.
He recognized the goodness of Jesus and the authenticity of His teachings.
He was a morally good person who wanted to do the right thing and sought the fullest level of spirituality attainable.
In his search for assurance of his own goodness, he asked Jesus what he must do to gain eternal life.
Jesus answered, it would seem, with the works the man was already pouring his life into.
I can almost sense the man beginning to breathe a sigh of relief as Jesus ticks off the list of do’s that will earn him a final reward in heaven.
Don’t murder. Check!
Don’t commit adultery. Check!
Don’t steal or lie. Check…check!
Honor your father and mother. Done it!
Love your neighbor as yourself. Done and done!
And then Jesus adds one more thing to the list…
the one thing he lacked, as Jesus put it…
to sell all he had and give to the poor…
he would have that heavenly treasure his heart was longing for.
Suddenly the door of hope slams shut.
The countenance that was, just moments before, beaming with assurance of success, fell in sorrow as the young man turned and walked away.
Because he was willing to give a lot, but not all.
We don’t know if it was his love of money that saddened him or what his money could do that he could not do without.
Perhaps he had a family and employees, properties and responsibilities that were funded by his wealth.
Maybe he couldn’t imagine, even for a few seconds, what kind of life he could manage without his status and provisions.
We do know one thing, thanks to Mark’s account, about Jesus.
Before Jesus told him the one thing he lacked to follow Him whole-heartedly, Mark tells us that Jesus LOOKED at this young man…and He LOVED him.
He looked at him…saw him…knew in advance that He soon would be watching him walk away with a downcast head.
And yet He LOVED him.
Knew that the young man would return to his possessions and great wealth with a poverty of spirit that no good deed or bonus check would ever be able to fill.
And yet He LOVED him.
Loved him in spite of the fact that the man missed the whole point.
He wanted to gain eternal life but not enough to give up everything.
And I wonder.
What do I love that keeps me from following Him?
What do I rely on?
What do I think I need and could not live without…
that if He asked me to give it all away and come follow Him would cause me to be saddened in my heart because I simply couldn’t?
And what if I remembered that He already knows it will be hard for me and yet loves me?
What if I asked Him to help me to be able to give up everything else?
What if I trusted in His love so much that I didn’t ever fear what following Him might cost me because I know that I know that He will help me every step of the way?
I know that one of the disciples tells us that they couldn’t possibly have recorded all the wonderful things Jesus did in His three year ministry…
that they would fill so many books…
and sometimes I wonder if one of those stories would include how this rich, young, ruler one day gave up everything and followed the One who knew him and loved him best of all <3