Tuesday, October 2, 2012

"Jesus looked at him and loved him..."

For a long time, the story of the Rich Young Man has intrigued me, particularly Mark’s version. Mk. 10:21 – “Jesus looked at him and loved him…” First, if Jesus loved him, then the following command was meant for his good, not to destroy him. Jesus didn’t place an obstacle in the way of the young man following him (“go, sell all you have…”), but recognized an obstacle (his attachment to riches) and was warning him about it. Note that this interaction happened in the context of Jesus setting out for Jerusalem to be crucified. Jesus’ call for sacrifice to this young man was small compared to what Jesus was prepared to do for him.

Second, that same sentence leads me to suspect that the story didn’t end when the young man walking away. Yes, he walked away sad at that time, but did he come back later? No proof, but consider the following: (1) Peter (the main informant for the author, according to tradition), at that point, was really too dense to pick out that look of love – something neither Matthew nor Luke include; (2) the young man was rich and ran away when the going got tough – same as the young man in the garden of Gethsemane (Mk. 14:51-52, noting that linen was quite expensive). Also, the same as another ‘rich young man’ who accompanied and then abandoned Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey: a young man by the name of … John Mark.

Was John Mark, the author of the gospel of Mark according to tradition, the rich young man of Mark 10:17-25? It can’t be proven one way or the other, but it seems to fit well to me. Who else, besides the young man himself, would have been able to say definitively, “Jesus looked at him and loved him” before pronouncing such a hard word of love? Is this story also autobiographical, as many scholars hold Mark 14:51-52 to be? A ‘yes’ answer would not change the radical nature of Jesus’ call, and would be consistent with what Jesus said in v. 27: “Everything is possible for God.” We won't know this side of heaven, but the idea is worth considering.

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