Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him … [Mk. 10:21].
The truth that Jesus beholds others and loves them is not surprising. This truth is so profound and full of rich meaning that lies below the surface. Insight that is waiting to be mined, discovered, and appropriated. A great place to start digging is Jesus’ encounter with the rich young ruler.
Matthew, Mark, and Luke record the rich young ruler’s quest for eternal life [Matt. 19:16-23, Lu. 18:18-23, Mk. 10:17-27]. The young man is wealthy, presumed to be an elder of the synagogue, and is religious. Despite abundant possessions, prominence, and practical religion he is aware that something is lacking in his life. Thus he desperately pursues Jesus to ask, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”
- How did Jesus love him? Jesus is compassionate. He sorrows over choices that keep us separated from God. He communicates truth directly, and uses questions that are intended to cause us to reflect, contemplate, and discover self and God better. His questions have often caused me to reflect and receive insight from Him.
This has helped me to see myself, and my sin, in a new light. Yet, like the parables they often require additional effort on the part those seeking eternal life. Nevertheless, Jesus’ gospel provides assurance of eternal life, and explains what we must do to experience eternal life.
- What does good really mean? So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is,God [Mk. 10:18]. Jesus’ answer affirms that only God is good. Thus, the rich young ruler must recognize that Jesus is God and therefore must submit to Him. This in effect would answer the question what must one do to experience eternal life. Or an alternative discovery that God’s standard of “good” is much higher than man’s. Jesus’ discussion of the commandments begins to reveal God’s perfect standard of goodness.
Jesus loved me by revealing that I’m not a good person. The world seeks to affirm that everyone is good, all deserve a trophy, and that no one is really all bad so there must be good in all. This may be how the world seeks to love. But when I consider “good” in light of God’s standard I realize that I don’t measure up. That realization is critical to growth, development, and discovery of eternal life.
- What does it mean to love your neighbor as yourself? The man asks Jesus which of the commandments that he should keep. Jesus recites six of the Ten Commandments that focus on the relationship between people [Ex. 20:12-16], “Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.” And Jesus adds the command to, “love your neighbor as you love yourself” [Matt. 19:19, Lev. 19:18].
The rich young ruler was quick to affirm, “Teacher, all these things I have kept from my youth.” It appears that he was genuinely seeking to be right and do right with God. And he also realized that something was missing, “What do I still lack?” [Matt. 19:20]. He assumes that he loves his neighbor as he loves himself, but also realizes there is something lacking.
It wasn’t until I began to contemplate that I don’t really love my neighbors that I began to discover what was lacking. Do you ever feel that you don’t’ love your neighbors? Do you ever feel that something is lacking? Do you ever wonder what it might be?
- What was lacking? Then Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me” [Mk. 10:21]. What was lacking was a supreme love for God and neighbors. Jesus had not referenced the first four of the Ten Commandments related to revering God supremely. Nor did Jesus mention the last of the Ten Commandments related to coveting. When Jesus challenged the young man to give up his wealth a conflict was revealed. The rich young ruler’s external behavior masked a heart that was divided between a love for God, love for possessions, and love for this world. That division was an obstacle to allowing God to fill the void. People have to choose between temporal comfort from this world or God’s completeness.
Jesus was not suggesting that charity or perfect obedience was the means to salvation [Eph. 2:8-9]. But was seeking to help a man, and mankind, to understand that we must love God and neighbors more than our possessions or this world. The rich young ruler had a choice. He chose his possessions rather than submit to God, and he went away sad. Jesus was sad too for He loved him; and he understood the consequences of his decision. The man was exchanging temporal pleasure from wealth for a relationship with God in this life and the life to come. Thus he would continue to lack. Which will you choose?
- Which is more valuable, treasure on earth or in heaven? Jesus assured the rich young ruler that he could trade earthly treasure for heavenly treasure, “One thing you lack: Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me” [Mk. 10:21]. Jesus was offering an exchange, temporal pleasure and treasure for eternal pleasure and treasure.
Jesus observed how difficult it is for those with wealth to enter the kingdom [Mt. 19:23-26]. But Peter inquired about treasure in heaven. He asked the Lord how the disciples would be rewarded in light of all that they had left behind to follow Him. Jesus assured that all who followed Him would receive a hundredfold increase and eternal life [Matt. 19:26-29].
Most investors would be impressed with a hundred percent increase, but Jesus offers a hundred times increase. He is appealing to our sense of reason, because He loves us and knows the perverse value we place on earthly treasure. And He assures of eternal life, because He loves us, and understands the eternal consequences to our soul.
I am so grateful that He beholds you and I and loves. It has helped me to love God and neighbors better, and stop loving this world so much. How about you?