I Corinthians 13 is the famous “love chapter” of the Bible. Its poetry defines love in exquisite detail. I think Mark 10 deserves a similar designation: the “Jesus Loves Me” chapter. In it, right after we watch Jesus drawing the little children close and blessing them, we get to gaze at a person through Jesus’s eyes.
“Jesus looked at him and loved him.” Mark 10:21 (NIV)
In this verse, Jesus is looking at the rich young ruler, who came to Him asking how he could have eternal life. Jesus sees how hard this man has been trying. He also sees that this man has idolized his possessions, and He feels “genuine love” (NLT) for him. (Biblical scholars have noted that it isn’t the possessions themselves that are the issue; rather, it is the significance the young ruler has placed upon them, putting them above God. His identity is tangled up in his wealth.) Jesus sees everything about him, and He loves him! Then, Jesus gently urges him to sell all that he owns, to give the money to the poor, and to “ ‘Come. Follow Me.’ ”
Isn’t reading Mark 10:21 like standing in a patch of warm sunshine on a winter day? My reaction is twofold:
First, tears fill my eyes. I get chill bumps, sensing His presence. Jesus loves me! I can hardly grasp it. I want to skip, barefoot, through a field of wildflowers. He sees me through and through and loves me!
Secondly, I feel like shouting the news: It’s alright to love people who haven’t done right by you, who need your forgiveness. No, more than that . . . It’s right to love broken, imperfect people! (We are all struggling with something.)
Jesus clearly sees the man’s messed-up priorities, his wayward heart, and He is filled with love for him!
Please flip with me, now, through the pages of the classic 48-year-old picture book, Corduroy by Don Freeman. It might not top the list of Valentine’s Day books in your mind, but look at how it mirrors the “Jesus Loves Me” chapter.
Corduroy is a teddy bear with a missing button. None of the shoppers at the department store want to buy him. When he realizes why, he goes on a child-mesmerizing adventure trying to pry a button from a mattress in the home section. His efforts are for naught, but the next morning Corduroy is wrapped in loving arms! A little girl, who looked at him the day before and thought he was wonderful, has bought him with her own money. Here is the scene that I return to often in my mind:
Upon arriving home, the girl takes out her sewing notions and says to the bear, “I like you the way you are, . . . but you’ll be more comfortable with your shoulder strap fastened.”
Corduroy has been tugging on a silly mattress button, longing to be whole, but only the arms of love can give him what he has been seeking.
“I like you the way you are!” This is how Jesus looks at the broken young ruler. “But you’ll be more comfortable . . . ” if you let me mend your heart. Stop grasping for mattress buttons. Drop them, all of them, and I will give you the life you are seeking. Come.
The man can’t do it yet. He walks away, sadly. It is so hard to let go of the things we think will make us worthy! Why is it so hard to believe the song we sing our children: “Jesus Loves Me”?
I think it is because we are all like that little bear, with different variations of unfastened shoulder straps. Focusing on all that is wrong with us, we don’t think anyone (let alone God) would ever want us. So, we work hard trying to fix ourselves, to make ourselves feel special enough. We climb up a few steps only to tumble back down again. It feels impossible!
I’m grateful for Jesus’s comment to his disciples as the young ruler walks away, struggling with the thought of giving away his wealth. “ ‘Everything is possible with God.’ ” Mark 10: 27b (NLT)
Let us speak this comfort to our own hearts and to the hearts of others: Jesus looks at us and loves us now! He wants us with all our missing buttons.
“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 (NIV)
If we let this truth sink deeply into our souls, we will soon be ready to rest in His loving arms as He “mends our shoulder straps.”
Happy Valentine’s Month!