Sunday, January 12, 2014

Lacking One Thing


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.” – Mark 10:21

What do you give the one that has everything?  That’s the question we often ask when we’re trying to find that perfect gift for someone that has all the things they need.  Jesus had the answer to this question when He spoke to the rich young ruler in Mark 10.
Picture this young man.  He was wealthy and he was energetic!  On this day, in spite of all he had, he still desired one thing.  And he desired it so much that when he saw Jesus in the distance he ran to him!  Kneeling at His feet, all he wanted to know was how to get what he wanted.  His words were few as he addressed Jesus saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?”

I imagine he had spent considerable time thinking about death, pondering the brevity of life, and realizing the riches he would leave behind.  At some point, he had decided that what he needed most wasn’t more stuff, but everlasting life in order to enjoy the things he had.  So he ran to Jesus looking for eternal life.
Jesus, in Mark 10:21 looked at the young man and loved him.  What Jesus saw when He looked at the young man was who he really was, from His heart.  But even in looking at Him, Jesus saw one deadly flaw.  The love of Christ is seen in how He doesn’t condemn the young man with that flaw.

Jesus tells him, “You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery,’ ‘Do not murder,’ ‘Do not steal,’ ‘Do not bear false witness,’ ‘Do not defraud,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother.’   Jesus lists the commandments regarding how we are to treat each other, but omits one, the last one.  He chooses not bring up the command regarding covetousness, the desire for things and possessions.  I believe He already knew the heart of this young man, and that even though he desired eternal life, there was one thing that prevented him from truly wanting to receive the free gift.   The young man had kept these commandments since he was just a young boy.  That’s commendable!  Not many of us could say we’ve done that.

Then Jesus answers the one who has everything by saying, “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.”  He lacked “one thing”.  He lacked the willingness to sacrifice, to suffer, to give it all away for the cause of Christ.
We often read this and think about how the young man couldn’t deal with losing his riches.  But I believe it’s more than that.  “Take up your cross” had purpose.  Jesus was speaking to him about crucifixion.  You only need a cross if you’re going to be crucified, and Jesus told him to go get one.  No one was going to kill the young man, but what he needed most was to die to himself. 

We’ve all read the poem about going through ‘God’s grocery store’ and picking up the spiritual fruits along the way and putting them in an imaginary shopping cart.  But the truth is, being a Christian is not a trip to the mall, but more like a trip to the morgue.  Those spiritual fruits are grown from your life by dying to yourself and following Christ, by trading in your will and ways for His. 
Being a Christian is an invitation to your own crucifixion.  It’s an invitation to be tried, tested, and to persevere.  It’s an appointment with things that will challenge your patience.  Its pathway may tear away from you the things and people you hold all too dear.  And all this, all these painful times, God will work to your good (Romans 8:28), because He has said that “He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6)”.  He continues to purify us through trials, suffering, and sacrifice, so that we can be equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:17).

It is so sad to read that the rich young ruler went away saddened because of his riches.  He gave up so much more than he would have lost in following Christ.  He chose to keep what he had and didn’t consider what more he could have had.  What Jesus had promised in return for His sacrifice was that he would have treasure in heaven, eternal treasure, which was a bonus to what the young man was seeking, eternal life. 
The young man went away and Jesus spoke to his disciples, saying, “there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life (Mark 10:29-30).

We are promised that if we will follow him, devote our life to him and the gospel message, dying to ourselves, we will have the things we desire in this life through persecutions.  But this life is so short in the span of eternity!  The greatest reward will come when we are awakened to eternal life and all the riches of Heaven.  Yet, just like the rich young ruler, we lack one thing: the willingness to be crucified. 

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