By Pastor Nathan Clements, American Lutheran Church
As [Jesus] was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’” He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
-Mark 10:17-22 (NRSV)
I wonder where the man went after his conversation with Jesus. I wonder how he felt when Jesus told him he lacked one thing in his faith. I wonder how long he grieved. I wonder if he ever sold any of his possessions. I wonder if he ever knew that Jesus loved him deeply.
This passage hinges on Jesus’ love for a person who lived a life of abundance while others around him lived in poverty. Jesus is the bridge between those who want and those who truly need. The man wanted to know what he could do to inherit eternal life, while others around him struggled to live life in the present. Jesus spoke of a way he could serve his neighbors, but trading his treasure on earth for treasure in heaven seemed too difficult to the man. He could not fathom such a drastic change in lifestyle. We never do find out how this exchange may have affected the man’s life, but we do know that Jesus loved him.
When you love someone you desire the best for them. For the man in this passage, Jesus’ love meant encouraging him to share his gifts and resources to care compassionately for those in need. By doing so, treasure would be stored for him in heaven. But the human desire to preserve himself in this life was his stumbling block. He simply could not allow himself to let go of his possessions in this way. But, despite his inability to let go, Jesus’ love for him remained nonetheless.
Many of us can relate to this man. Many of us find it difficult to care for others in the way Jesus has commanded us. We may even feel grieved at times by our own inabilities to love others. Yet we are consistently invited by Christ to envision a new way of life where we can see beyond our wants and address the needs of others. We will never be perfect in our care, nor will we ever fully empty ourselves for others as Christ did for us. But, the invitation to follow in his way has no expiration date. We know this way of living is hard, and so does Jesus. This is why he walks with us and encourages us each day to follow his lead.
Take some time this week to listen to God’s call to love and serve those around you. Act upon that call. When you don’t act perfectly, do not be grieved. Christ’s love for you remains. We are on this journey of faith together.