Everything Jesus does, He does with love.
Consider this story in Mark 10:
Christ and the Rich Young Ruler by Heinrich Hofmann (1889)
The Rich Young Ruler
As He was setting out on a journey, a man ran up to Him and knelt before Him, and asked Him, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. 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, I have kept all these things from my youth up.” Looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But at these words he was saddened, and he went away grieving, for he was one who owned much property.
And Jesus, looking around, said to His disciples, “How hard it will be for those who are wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at His words. But Jesus answered again and said to them,“Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” They were even more astonished and said to Him, “Then who can be saved?” Looking at them, Jesus said, “With people it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God.”
So, if Jesus loved the man, why did he send him away with such a strong demand? Doesn’t Jesus want more followers? Why wouldn’t he accept the “good enough” of this young man’s offer to follow Jesus and keep his possession?
I have to think the tension Jesus is trying to thread is that He will not be just another thing acquired in a do good life. The young man wanted eternal life–Jesus presses for the here and now of relationship. Seems Jesus isn’t interested in the I’m-Barely-A-Sinner’s prayer.
Maybe the story makes a little bit more sense when we consider where Mark situates his story. He drops in this encounter right after Jesus teaches about the divorce, receiving children, and is immediately followed by Jesus telling of the suffering he will face in Jerusalem. In point of fact, Jesus was already on his way to Jerusalem–approaching his death.
We might say that Jesus was doing what so many of us are doing right now in this Lenten season–reflecting, evaluating, and bringing things into proper focus. He wants his disciples to know that his demands on marriage are great because He views the love relationship of a man and woman on a different scale than those who see it only through eyes of power or pleasure. He wants to insure his disciples understand the value of the “least of these”–children being notable among them. Lastly, Jesus emphasizes that His disciples are servants–not lords, not the ones who are first, not the ones who acquire, they are not treasure pot seekers with Los Vegas shaped ideas about eternal life. No, Jesus followers are seeking the I’ve-got-it-all-easy-life. Instead they are the one who will follow their Rabbi in the art of learning to give up their lives so that others may live. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life a ransom for many” Mark 10:45. Why? Because everything Jesus does is love.
There’s no desire here to be unreasonably hard on the young man. We all know how often Jesus has asked us to drop what is in our hands to receive what he has to offer us. And we don’t. We clinch our fists and dig in our heals and let our minds race with rationalizations. What happens to the young man, or you and me, when we think we’re following Jesus on the golden brick road of blissdom only to discover it leads to Calvary? If that journey is not mapped out by the unique and specific love of Jesus–the kind that doesn’t seek gain or greatness, then there will always be the temptation to buy our way into privilege or power our way out of trouble.
This is a hard message for me. I see many ways in which my stuff keeps me from seeing a Jesus who is looking on me and feels love. Yes, maybe sometimes I would rather focus on knowing the eternal life is taken care of than to fill up this current life with true demands of Christ’s love. Yet, there is comfort too–if Jesus is asking me to set something down, He is doing it so that I might walk more freely with Him. Why? Because everything He does is love.
That’s a good thing for me to keep in mind today.