"He went away sad."
17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”
20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
21 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.”
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
When people left Jesus, there were often one or two strong reactions -jubilant joy or horrific hate. The paralytic, now healed, ran down the dusty road skipping with joy. When Jesus read the Isaiah scroll in the temple and declared that the prophecy was fulfilled that day, the people drove him to the edge of the cliff. But of all the powerful reactions to Jesus and his ministry, sorrow was not one of them. But sorrow certainly was the reaction for the man in our text.
“He went away sad.”
He came to Jesus filled with vigor and pride and admirably ran up to Jesus and fell on his knees. He then asked a question, a question laced with humility and backed by a record of good works. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus proceeded to tell the man that, “No one is good except God alone,” and that this man is to keep all the commandments. Seemingly, without hesitation and with great confidence, the man declared, “all these I have kept since I was boy.” An arrogant claim indeed.
Jesus could have scolded him, but he didn’t raise his voice. Jesus could have mocked him and had him list all his good works, but that would be pointless, so he didn’t do that either. Jesus instead looked upon the man and “loved him.”
“One thing you lack,” he said. “Go and sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
Jesus uses the same word for “lack” that the Psalmist uses in Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.” It is as if the man had seen a ghost. Mark tells us, “the man’s face fell.” Like Jacob Marley, he had seen a ghost that would haunt him the rest of his life. This man was sad because his wealth had become his god, and his god could not give him eternal life. So he walked away from Jesus “sad.”
Money isn’t bad, in fact, it's a wonderful blessing that God gives us to enjoy homes, food, clothing, transportation, recreating, and time with family. Moreover, God entrusts us with money to bless those in need, to proclaim the Gospel message of his Son Jesus to the world through his church.
But if money, or anything else becomes more precious to us then Jesus, it is idolatry. Our Lord commands, “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” The man’s possessions were his god.
“How could he be so foolish!” We proudly declare. But this text forces us to ask the question to the man or woman in the mirror . “What is more precious to me in my life than Jesus?”
There are two types of sorrow that help us understand this man’s reaction of sadness to Jesus’ statement. Loss and Lack.
When we lose something, we are sad. The loss of a family member, the end of a relationship, the loss of a job. This sorrow derives from loss. When we lack something, we are sorrowful because we fail to get something we never had in the first place. We are sad because of what our lives might have been, what we could have had, what we want but have never had. The couple that cannot have a baby, the home you will not live in, the boyfriend that never pops the question.
Sorrow comes from loss and lack. But joy comes from contentment in Jesus. The rich young man thought he had done everything right, except our Lord Jesus knew his heart. Jesus told him, “One thing you lack…” What is more precious to you in your life than Jesus?
Thanks be to God, nothing is more precious to God than you. You lack nothing! He sent his son Jesus to die for you, to take away your sins, and mine. We can cling to the things of this world refusing to let hold or our grip and we walk away sad. (see Gollum Lord of the Rings). Or, we can be content in Christ in all situations knowing that in Him we have all that we need.
Our Lord Jesus knows our hearts, our struggles, and our pain. Jesus looks upon us with that same look he gave the young man.
“Jesus looked at him and loved him.”
Prayer: The Lord is my Shepherd, I lack nothing. AMEN
Join us Sunday as we continue our sermon series The Secret of a Content Heart. I can’t wait!