1. Mark 10:21 (ESV)
  2. Exposition

What was lacking in the man?

Mark 10:21 (ESV)

21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”

Many exegetes place exclusive emphasis on the selling of all possessions, as if this was the only thing lacking in the man. Then the question immediately arises whether this applies to all people (get rid of all possessions when becoming a Christian) and whether we must spiritualize it (there is no humility and this is shown by the command that will not be followed). The one thing lacking, however, is not that the man keeps his money, but that he does not yet follow Jesus in his poverty and suffering. According to the majority of manuscripts Jesus says also that the man, in following, “must take up the cross.” Even if one should be unwilling to consider these words as original, the fact remains that Jesus calls the man to follow at a very special moment: he is on the way to die (the rich man as a “ruler” (Luke 18:18) must certainly have known that the Sanhedrin is already planning his death). At this moment Jesus leaves the house to set out on a journey. It is a journey whereby he leaves everything behind and those who follow him become fellow travellers of a poor and suffering Mediator. That is how one has to be willing to accept the good Teacher—not only as one before whom the young man kneels down, but as one for whom humiliation unto poverty is necessary in order to reach life. The emphasis is not on the giving to the poor, but on the willingness to be poor with Jesus oneself. As Paul writes later, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9).1