“You don’t know what you don’t know.”
This statement speaks to the reality of our unintentional ignorance. It’s true that we often do not know what we do not know.
What is worse is when we totally miss it. When we’re completely and thoroughly informed, but still totally miss it. Parents know this scenario full well. You’re looking your kid straight in the eyes, going over instructions in detail, they are nodding their head in agreement, but you know that they have no clue what you are asking them to do.
We often don’t know what we don’t know, but what’s worse is when we’re aware, but still just don’t get it.
It’s when we can quote something, but not really know what it means. It’s when we can solve the mathematic equation, but have no idea what it is used for. It’s when you laugh along with everyone, but didn’t get the punchline. It’s when you do what you’re asked to do at work, but don’t understand why you’re doing it.
All of us are this way when it comes to following Jesus from time to time. Sometimes, we go through the motions, but don’t really grasp the purpose behind why we’re doing what we’re doing. We quote His word, but don’t fully understand what He was saying.
We’re not alone when it comes to missing it in this way. His very first disciples had those moments fairly often!
Several times, Jesus warned His disciples about His death and resurrection in detail. This threat was the buzz of the town as the religious leaders were waiting for the right moment to kill Jesus. He and His disciples were about to enter Jerusalem where this would all soon take place.
His disciples were still amazed by His teaching that many who are first here on the earth will be last in Heaven and vice-versa. All of the others were terrified of what was about to take place.
32 They were on their way up to Jerusalem, with Jesus leading the way, and the disciples were astonished, while those who followed were afraid. Again he took the Twelve aside and told them what was going to happen to him. 33 “We are going up to Jerusalem,” he said, “and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the teachers of the law. They will condemn him to death and will hand him over to the Gentiles, 34 who will mock him and spit on him, flog him and kill him. Three days later he will rise.”
If Jesus’ disciples were physically there with Him, face-to-face, and were bluntly told exactly what was going to take place missed it, how easy is it for us to do the same?
Just before Jesus had this side-chat with them, He had such an encounter. Hopefully, this morning, we can learn from this young man’s mistake so that we don’t miss it as He did.
This morning, let’s ask God for ourselves, “Where am I missing it?” This encounter was so memorable and important that Matthew, Mark, and Luke record it in their accounts.
Mark 10:17-34 (Matthew 19:16-30; Luke 18:18-30)
17 As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Reading this, we would think, “Awesome! Praise God! Let’s get this man saved!” However, Jesus responds a bit differently than we would expect.
18 “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’”
20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
21 Jesus looked at him and loved him.
This short, simple statement gives us a bold reminder of the context of what Jesus is about to say. At this point, Jesus is looking at the man with sincerity. His attitude toward Him is motivated by His love and appreciation for this public display desiring eternal life.
By the world’s standards and by outward appearances, this man has been doing everything right. In fact, the other gospel accounts indicate that this man is wealthy and a leader, often marks of God’s blessing on one’s life. However, in his heart, this man knows that something isn’t right. He knows that he is missing it. He is uncertain of his own eternal destination and he has a sense of urgency wanting to know exactly what he is missing before Jesus walks to His death. Jesus responds:
“One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
This doesn’t seem right to us from our worldly perspective. We would think that having a rich, young leader join the cause of Christ just before His death would be a great launch to the first church. We would think that this man would be a great asset here on the earth for the ministry of Jesus.
Beyond this, when we love someone, we like to give them things. We buy them gifts, send them cards, invite them to join us, try not to discourage them or push them away. Jesus’ love for this man was expressed by taking away from him and having him give his possessions away to others. Jesus said that by giving, he was earning treasure in heaven through investing in the poor.
Love that takes things away doesn’t appear to be loving from outward appearances. Only through experience can we fully understand and appreciate how sacrificially giving something away solely for the good and benefit of another becomes an incredibly rich reward! We gain by losing, we receive by giving away. It is the greatest expression of love!
Jesus intentionally used this language as well. If you recall, this young, rich ruler fell on his knees before Jesus not asking for forgiveness, not asking how to be saved, not asking for mercy or grace; he asked how to gain an inheritance of eternal life. He was looking for an investment. What do I have to give in order to gain eternal life?
Jesus saw right to the heart issue that this man was dealing with that caused his uncertainty about his own salvation. Because Jesus loved him and because the man asked, Jesus went straight to the heart motive issue hold the man back. Even from an investment perspective, giving up earthly possessions that you leave behind everything is an incredible deal for gaining eternal life AND treasure in heaven. However, this young ruler missed it…
Jesus wasn’t setting an example that being rich or wealthy is bad, but that anything that we hold more valuable than Him is. #1 is the spot that he rightfully deserves in our lives. Anything else that we place above or equal to him in our lives becomes an idol. It is that thing which we truly worship. In this man’s life, wealth held that place. As Jesus will go on to teach, wealth is very often this idol in people’s lives. If they have everything that they need, why would they need to turn to Him?
22 At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.
How often do we miss it as well? We look at ourselves. We look at what it will cost us, the commitment level, the sacrifices that may lay ahead instead of focusing on the reward. We look at what we might lose and not at the cost, commitment, and sacrifice already made by Jesus on our behalf!
Jesus had to be disappointed knowing full well what He was about to sacrifice and endure all of the benefit of others in that moment watching this man walk away. Consider and meditate the stark contrast of what Jesus was about to give and do compared to what this man was unwilling to give.
It’s easy for us to scoff at such a choice. However, you and I make that same choice every day. Every day, there are moments when we go from crying out to Jesus to walking away from Him. All the while, His faithful commitment to loving us never wavers!
23 Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”
24 The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”
26 The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?”
Transitioning from disappointment to faith, from discouragement to hope. This one man may have walked away from the offer to be His disciple, but Jesus didn’t want to allow that to deteriorate the faith of those who had been faithfully following His lead! It was time to shift the focus from the sacrifice to the reward!
27 Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
28 Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!”
29 “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields – along with persecutions – and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
We don’t want to miss it when it comes to the choice to be a disciple – a follower of Jesus. There is a cost, but there is absolutely no comparison to the reward. Nothing that we can ever sacrifice in this lifetime can begin to compare to the riches that we’ve been freely and abundantly given through Jesus!
23 Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. 24 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. 25 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very soul?
We don’t want to miss it. To save our lives, we lose them. To gain life, we die to self. We invest in what truly matters. We value what will never rust, spoil, or fade away – heavenly treasure. We gain by losing, we receive by giving away. These are the greatest expressions of love!
After planting the church in Ephesus, Paul was facing a situation similar to Jesus. May His life perspective and attitude challenge you and I not to miss it in our lives, but to take full advantage and to make the most of every opportunity given to us. Paul brought together the elders of the Ephesian church and said:
22 “And now, compelled by the Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. 23 I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me. 24 However, I consider my life worth nothing to me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me – the task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace.
25 “Now I know that none of you among whom I have gone about preaching the kingdom will ever see me again. 26 Therefore, I declare to you today that I am innocent of the blood of any of you. 27 For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God. 28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.
32 “Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified. 33 I have not coveted anyone’s silver or gold or clothing. 34 You yourselves know that these hands of mine have supplied my own needs and the needs of my companions. 35 In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’ ”
May our lives be laid down for the benefit of others. May our aim be to finish the race. May our goal be to complete the task Jesus gives us. May we not miss it, but rather, fully grasp and understand the call of Jesus on our lives to follow Him. May we keep our focus not on the sacrifice, commitment, or cost that we are giving up, but on the sacrifice, commitment, and cost that Jesus paid for us. The rewards outweigh anything that we give up!
As Paul wrote:
2 Corinthians 4:16-18
16 Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. 17 For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. 18 So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.