Jesus also, that he might sanctify the people with his own blood, suffered outside the gate. Therefore, let us go forth to him outside the camp, bearing his reproach. For we have no continuing city here, but we seek one to come.
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“And as he was going out to the road, one ran up to him and fell on his knees,
and he asked him, ‘Good teacher, what shall I do, that I might inherit eternal life?’
But Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good except One, that is, God.
You know the commandments: Do not commit adultery; Do not murder; Do not steal;
Do not bear false witness; Do not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’
He answered and said to him, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these things from my youth.’
Then Jesus, looking intently at him, loved him, and he said to him,
‘There is one thing lacking in you. Go away, sell whatever you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven, and then, taking up the cross, come follow me.’
But he was appalled at this statement, and he went away feeling heavy,
for he had many possessions.”
The wealthy young ruler in the story above had obeyed the commandments of God his entire life, and Jesus loved him for that. He loved him so much that he invited him to come follow him — if the young man would first sell his many possessions and distribute the money to the poor. Jesus loved this young man so much that he wanted to heal him of the one thing that was lacking in his soul. But in order to do that, the young man had to follow Jesus . . . to Pentecost.
Pentecost, the day when Jesus’ followers would receive the kind of life God has, was the point of following Jesus. That would be the day Jesus’ followers would at last be delivered from their fallen, sinful nature and be given eternal life, God’s life. The holy Spirit is what Jesus was talking about when he said, “I am come that they might have life, and have it abundantly.” And if any of Jesus’ disciples quit following him before receiving God’s life on the day of Pentecost, their previous faith in Christ profited them nothing. In fact, it would have been better for them to have never followed Jesus at all, for “it were better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than, after knowing it, to turn from the holy commandment that was delivered to them” (2Pet. 2:21).
Merely selling all his possessions and then giving the money to the poor was not going to perfect that young man’s faith. He had to follow Jesus all the way to life, not just until Jesus said something to him that made him uncomfortable. The apostle Paul said that even if you give all your goods to the poor, it will not benefit your soul at all unless you have the love of God, which is brought into the heart by the life of God (1Cor. 13:3; Rom. 5:5). Jesus knew that. He knew that what that young man lacked in his soul would not be supplied just by getting rid of earthly possessions; Jesus wanted him to follow him to Pentecost! The rich young man had to do what Jesus’ other disciples had done; that is, leave all things behind and follow Jesus, but, alas, he was unwilling to do it.