Summary: Jesus encounters a man, who like us is collecting things. Also, like us, he is missing one thing. In this scripture reading Jesus tells him and us how to get that one missing piece we are missing.
In this morning’s Scripture reading, Jesus encounters a man who runs up and knells before him. Do you want to know something? I was right there with that man! I believe I know how he felt, because I have a reason to kneel before Jesus. What about you? Don’t you know, too? Don’t we all have reasons to kneel before Jesus? Haven’t you been there with the young man at Jesus’ feet?
As the story unfolds before us, we find that just as the man is tempted to follow Jesus, he is nevertheless compelled by his great possessions to hold back. I think this morning, if we were honest with ourselves; we should all admit that we identify with him.
We may think, at first, that the only possessions hard to let go of are riches, power, and high birth. Naturally, these would be very difficult to surrender. If we do not have them, they look very appealing, leading us to believe that any person who had them must be completely satisfied with life. Yet even if we do not have what we consider great possessions, we are able to identify with the man. Experience shows that great wealth is not the only thing that makes a person self-protective.
Notice it is the young man who seeks out Jesus not the other way around. He is drawn to Jesus. That’s the way it always is when you encounter Jesus. People are drawn to him. The young man runs and bows before Jesus. By bowing the young man acknowledges that Jesus is somehow special and worthy of homage.
The young man is like most folks; he wants to know what the secret is to inherit eternal life. He wants to know what work he has to do to inherit eternal life. What do I have to do, what to I have to accomplish to inherit eternal life? Don’t we all want to know the answer to his question? It is interesting to note that the word inherit in Greek means to posses and hold onto. This young man is like most folks. He wants to know how he might own eternal life.
One day when I was 18, my best friend, David called me and asked me to ride with him to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, to the town of Sweet Briar. Sweet Briar is the location of a very well know private Women’s College. I knew Sweet Briar because I had always wanted to kiss a girl from Sweet Briar. So I agreed to go along.
As we left David told me that we were going to Sweet Briar to find some center hubs for his 1967 Triumph TR4A IRS. For those of you who are not car nuts, that was a beautiful convertible British sports car. David owned one or rather it owned him. David was not going to put fake center hubs on his TR4A. He wanted the real thing.
We got to Sweet Briar and David found his center hubs. I never got my kiss from a Sweet Briar girl. David collected things for his car for almost 20 years. By the time he sold it 3 years ago, none of the parts were original from when he bought the car.
We went to Sweet Briar to collect kisses and car parts. This young man came to Jesus collecting eternal life. This man knows much about collecting things. He knows much about possessions. Now he wants to add eternal life to his collection of things. Notice Jesus’ reply to the man’s question. He reminds the man of the Ten Commandments. Jesus does not list all ten. Jesus only lists the ones that deal with our relationships with other humans. Jesus didn’t list the commandments that deal with our relationships with God.
I can just imagine the excitement on the young man’s face when he heard Jesus’ reply. The young man declared or exclaimed, "Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth." The passage could also be translated, Teacher, I have guarded all these since my youth.”
The young man clearly believes he posses these things. As C.E.B. Cranfield noted in his commentary on Mark’s gospel, the young man’s response makes it clear that he doesn’t understand eternal life or even take it seriously. Like most folks, this man thinks he can earn eternal like. The man has a collection of things. Some folks collect cars, kisses, and baseball cards. This man wants to add eternal life to his collection. He is missing a piece from his collection of things.
Jesus’ response is surprising to us. Mark tells us that Jesus looked at the young man and loved him. Jesus wasn’t angry with the man. He wasn’t disappointed. He loved him. And out of his love for the man he replied, “you are missing one thing, Go and sell all you have and give it to the poor then come and follow me.