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.” Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. (Mark 10:21-22, ESV)
First, Jesus looks intently at him. The idea, I believe, is to get the young man to look at HIM and to quit looking at himself. This man is very wrapped up in what HE has done and what HE needs. Jesus already said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except one: God.” Jesus Himself IS good; Jesus Himself IS God. This young man needs to realize that – if he is to have eternal life.
Second, Jesus “loved him”.
- He doesn’t reject him.
- He doesn’t ignore him.
- He doesn’t despise him.
- He loves him.
And SO – because He loves him – He tells him what is wrong. He tells him what he needs in order to have the greatest joy.
What does He need? To do a great deed? To live up to a list of rules?
Remember this now: Jesus does not give him a list of requirements and say, “OK, hotshot, you want eternal life? – Go and perform a great deed.”
- He doesn’t say, “Go rescue the Holy Grail!”
- Nor does He say, “Go bring me the head of Medusa!”
- He does not even say, “Go destroy this powerful ring in the fires of Mt Doom!”
No. Jesus does not tell him to do a great deed at great danger and sacrifice to himself
Instead, although Jesus gives him five commands, He does not even tell him to give up anything of value.
Rather, Jesus tells him HOW TO FIND HIS GREATEST JOY.
He says, “Go, sell, give, come, follow – AND YOU WILL HAVE TREASURE IN HEAVEN!”
Jesus appeals to his desire. He emphasizes the greatness of the reward.
This rich young ruler wanted eternal life – so Jesus tells him how to have it.
- Eternal life is not the result of a heroic deed.
- Eternal life is not the result of living up to a set of rules.
- Instead, whether or not you have eternal life depends on how you answer the question: What do you value most?
As C.S. Lewis said:
Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling around with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.
Jesus tells this man: “Give up your weak desires! Quit making mud pies in the slum! Come on the holiday by the sea – find your greatest joy in ME.”