And looking at him, Jesus felt a love for him, and said to him, “One thing you lack: go and sell all you possess . . .” Mark 10:21
Felt A Love For Him – Don’t make this mistake! Don’t convert the intensity of the real Greek expression here for a feeling. The Greek text says, “Jesus loved him”. It uses the word egapesen from the word agapao. You’ll see the familiar word for sacrificial love here (agape). Jesus didn’t just feel something about this man. Jesus was moved to act sacrificially on his behalf. [The NIV got it right.]
But once we understand that the word is about sacrificial love, then the whole story is turned on its head. How can it be sacrificial love to tell the man to sell all he has and give it to the poor? That doesn’t sound like love to us. That sounds like punishment. How would you feel if you met Jesus and he told you to give up everything you spent your entire life accumulating? How would you react to the idea of taking all that you possess and giving it to the poor who did nothing to deserve it? Would you still think that Jesus loved you?
In a world where possessions provide security, status and identity, we are hard pressed to think that love means giving it all away. But Jesus sees beyond our delusions. He sees that what we really need cannot be purchased at any price. He sees that what we must release is the bondage of accumulating our own worth. Jesus loves us so deeply that he cuts through our fabricated lives and exposes whom we really serve. It is love that crucifies our false ideals. Jesus loves us to death!
Few understand that agape love is intimately connected to death. Agape love does not placate what is ultimately disastrous, deluded and destructive. The love Jesus shows is a love for what really matters; a love that is willing to expose all the lies and put them to death. What Jesus shows us is that “loving” someone without reaching into the depths of their deception is nothing more than pretense. If I really care about you, I cannot let you take a road that will destroy you. I must intervene on your behalf. I must act to crucify your illusions.
Oh how we fear to tread this path! How we shudder to think that we will hurt your feelings or feel your rejection! But that is not love. Love does not let its adored ones walk to their unwitting funerals. If I really love you, I enter into your world and lift you out, even if I must spend myself empty to do it.
“Preach the gospel at all times,” said St. Francis, “and when necessary, use words.” If my life doesn’t embrace your life, if I don’t touch you with the deepest part of me, my act to save is nothing more than empty proclamation. I have not loved. But when I am ready to die to lift you from deception, then I can say with Jesus, “I loved you.”