There was only one person who encountered Jesus with a deep longing that was left unhealed. In fact, he left the presence of Jesus in tears and unchanged. Though “Jesus looked at him and loved him,” the man retreated from the Savior’s presence. Why?
Because Jesus demanded that the man release the very thing that had brought the man the greatest satisfication, that provided the man’s identity, that offered the man security.
Jesus looked at the Rich, Young Ruler and said, “You lack one thing.”
I am sure that the man, who seemed to have everything, had never been told there was something he lacked. However, even if he had been told he lacked something in the past, certainly through his influential charm, his youthful vigor, or his money he had filled that void.
This time, however, Jesus looked upon him with love and asked that the man, “Go, sell everything, and give it to the poor, and you will have treasures in heaven. Then come and follow me.”
Earlier the man had boasted about how he had been successful in keeping commandments 4 through 10: no murdering, adultery, stealing, lying, coveting. However, when Jesus subtly asks him to obey the first commandment, the man realizes that his love of his lifestyle was greater than his desire to be a follower of Jesus.
God was easy to obey when it brought benefits like youthfulness, money and influence for this man. However, it is hard to obey God when the benefits do not seem apparent.
In order to move from loving God for his benefits, towards loving God for Himself requires suffering. Suffering forces us to decide whether we will remain in the presence of God, or retreat back into our secure, little lives.
This is what Jesus was trying to call the man towards. Out of love, Jesus wanted the man to experience the freedom of letting go. To experience the joy of complete and utter dependence upon him.
There was no hedging, it was a costly, all-in call towards discipleship. The woman caught in adultery, the men born blind, those who had been demon-possessed, the crippled, the tax collectors, the salty fishermen…they all were able to accept this call because they had suffered in life.
The rich, young ruler, though, had never been given the chance to suffer.
This is what he lacked–a refining test that would transform his relationship with God. Most of us function with a belief system that is God+My Plan For My Life, where we obey God so long as He affirms our plans.
Tim Keller writes, “A life of goodness can make [sudden] affliction even harder for a person to take, since it makes it all seem completely senseless and unfair.” However, if we learn to make sacrifices and embrace mini-sufferings, then we discover that suffering is not senseless and unfair. We learn that suffering is actually redemptive and transformative.
The rich, young man could not accept Jesus’ offer because “he had great wealth.” Never before in his life had he been challenged to give a little…therefore, when he was called to give it all, it exposed for him his true heart.
If Jesus looked at you with love and said there is one thing you must give up in order to follow him, what would it be? Would you be willing to set down your plans in order to follow him?