He knew all the rules.
The young man who approached Jesus on the road had kept all the commandments since he was young. He had done all that was required of him by his religion. Yet he knew there was something missing. He couldn’t put his finger on it, but he knew that simply keeping the law would not alone bring eternal life. Otherwise, why would he have approached Jesus and asked him “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
As their brief encounter concluded, Mark 10:21 tells us, “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.'”
Jesus looked at him.
He did more than give the young man a pat answer or a generic response. Jesus looked at him. He saw through the law-abiding citizen to the heart of the man. Everyone else saw a good boy who kept all the rules and did what he was supposed to do. But Jesus saw what held that young man’s heart. His gaze pierced the veil of outward righteousness and exposed the inward idolatry.
All of us have something that we are unwilling to give up. Perhaps, like the young rich man, it is money or wealth. Or maybe it’s the approval of others or a relationship. It could be security, standing in the community, or friends. In spite of all the good we have done, Jesus looks at our heart and sees what possesses us and prevents us from treasure in heaven.
Jesus didn’t ask that young man to give away all his possessions because He wanted him to be miserable. It was with a heart of love that Jesus asked him to divest himself of what ultimately could not satisfy.
It is in our own best interest to lose everything, that we may win Christ. Paul knew this when, in Philippians 3 he said, “I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having my own righteousness, which is from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which is from God by faith; that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death, if, by any means, I may attain to the resurrection from the dead.”
Paul knew that, ultimately, giving up everything for Christ is the only thing that satisfies, and that it is the only way to inherit what that young man so desperately desired: eternal life. And it was with a heart of love that Jesus asked him to give up everything. In the words of the late missionary Jim Elliott, Jesus called him to give up what he could not keep, that he might gain what he could not lose.
And said to him…
Jesus doesn’t leave us to wonder. In His loving yet firm voice, He tells us exactly what we need to do. There is no mystery. There is no uncertainty. We have all heard the voice of His Spirit, leading us in the way we should go. We all know what is keeping us from following Him like we should. I think we all, deep inside, know what holds our hearts.
Will we, like that young man who approached Jesus on the road, walk away with sadness? Will we refuse to give up that to which we cling so dearly? Will we allow our lovers to sway us from the One who loves us most?
Or will we sell our possessions, stop allowing them to possess us, and find what we so desperately seek?