The Gospel of Mark only specifically records one person Jesus loved.
It wasn’t one of the disciples. It wasn’t his mother. It wasn’t any of the familiar cast of characters like Mary and Martha or Mary Magdalene. It wasn’t even a person he healed, like the paralyzed man with his four friends or the little girl Jesus raised from the dead.
No, the only person Mark says Jesus loved is a young man who came to him one day with a question.
“Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
He was sincere, but the man’s question revealed a fundamental flaw in his thinking. We don’t inherit eternal life because of what we do but through what Jesus has done for us.
But the man doesn’t understand this. Jesus’ response that none of us are good but God alone only confuses him. Of course he’s good, the man thinks-hasn’t he kept all the commandments since his youth? But there’s one thing he lacks–one command he can’t fulfill.
And Jesus loved him too much not to call him to more.
Jesus looked at him and loved him.“One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me (Mark 10:21).
Jesus loved him. What Jesus had to say to him wasn’t meant as rebuke, but loving correction. Hard? Yes. Isn’t it always hard when God throws open the windows and shines light on the secret places of our soul? Like Eustace shedding the dragon skin, we need Jesus to strip us clean so he can wash us new.
Jesus’ words stripped the man right down to his soul. The man treasured his wealth more than eternal life. He may have been concerned about his inheritance in the age to come, but not at the cost of jeopardizing his inheritance in this world. Hadn’t he obeyed the commandments? Wasn’t his wealth a sign of God’s pleasure? And so the one thing Jesus asked was the one thing he would not do. He went away sadly, missing the treasure of an invitation few ever heard: come, follow me.
What must I do to inherit eternal life? Come, follow me. Jesus answered the man’s question as he answers ours. What must I do to be saved? Come, follow me.
What keeps you from following? Riches, like the man? Or is it respectability and reputation? Fear of looking foolish? Or just your inability to believe it really all comes down to grace in the end.
It hurts to peel the dragon skin away, to let go of the things we’ve clung to for so long. It’s hard. But when Jesus tells us to let go, it’s not because he’s angry or scolding. Jesus’ hard words always flow from love, and he loves us too much to settle for less than our everything.
Jesus looks at us and loves us. And he says, “Come, follow me.”
Are you willing to follow?
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