This guy had it all. He was extremely wealthy. He had a position of great influence. Like Donald Trump, except he still had his youth. But it wasn’t enough; he was missing something.
And as he [Jesus] was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17)
He knew he couldn’t buy his way into heaven and, like so many of us, he sensed that he needed to do something. Some good deed, some act of penance or sacrifice. Jesus began by telling him a sobering truth.
And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. (Mark 10:18)
Translation? Nobody could do enough to get to heaven except God. If you want to get to heaven by doing, you’ll have to be perfect. In order to help the guy understand, Jesus said:
You know the commandments: Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” (Mark 10:19-20)
Really? He somehow had accumulated great wealth and had never taken something that didn’t rightfully belong to him or told a lie? Not likely. Even the last thing he’d said to Jesus wasn’t true!
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.” (Mark 10:21)
Now, take this one step at a time. First pay careful attention to Jesus’ attitude toward the man. Because He has the same attitude toward you. Then, notice that Jesus took him all the way down the road to understanding he could never do enough. He said, “Ok, you want to do something, go sell everything and give it all to the poor.” Jesus knew, even if the man had done all that, he still would be in the same, empty, desperate condition. Because, even doing such an extreme act of personal sacrifice would not earn you a spot in heaven. What he really needed was to “come and follow” Jesus.
The man was already on his knees before Jesus and yet Jesus still told him to “come.” “Come” meant stop relying on what he could do and instead, fully trust or surrender to Jesus. And follow Him. But even doing that would not be enough. What is enough to qualify a person for eternal life is what Jesus has already done and what He does for those who fully trust Him. He gives them His eternal, Holy Spirit. Jesus has done everything needed. Our part is to come and follow. And receive.
I don’t have words to explain why this is so. But, I have discovered, to my own amazement and joy that it is.