20 And he [the young rich man] said to him [Jesus] , “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him…
And Jesus, looking at him, loved him…. The tender compassion Jesus displays through these words is tangible. The Son of God, the sinless One who would choose to die for our sins, didn’t just glance at the young man, He didn’t even just look at him. No. He did more. Jesus looked at and loved him.
Jesus–the One who knows our hearts more than we know our hearts–looked at this young man and loved him. He loved this young man even though He knew the young man did not truly love him. Jesus was consciously sympathetic of this young man’s plight–He could look at this man’s heart and see the stronghold–the stronghold He came to destroy. But Jesus did not just look, see the stronghold, then turn away. No, He looked, He loved, and then out of compassion He shared the Truth. Jesus longed for this young man to let go of the stronghold of earthy treasures and cling to the true treasures of heaven. And even though Jesus knew the young man would walk away disheartened, Jesus still looked at him and loved him.
And loved him!
Jesus did not come to earth for His own sake. He came for the young man mentioned in this passage. He came for me. He came for you. He came to earth to save the lost, to heal the sick, to bind the brokenhearted, and to bring freedom to the captives (Isaiah 61). Why? Why did He surrender His own life for the sake of the world?
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:16-17).
Today is Palm Sunday–the day we commemorate Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. I am sure we all remember the story well. Jesus, God in the flesh, rides into town on the colt of a donkey. The people of the city wave palm branches and spread their cloaks before Him, declaring, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9). Both young and old were rejoicing at the coming of Jesus, treating Him as royalty–treating Him as they should: as the One who had come to save them.
Yet hindsight is indeed 20/20, for as we look back on this moment now, we know what was to come. And Jesus, as He was riding into Jerusalem, as He was receiving the praise due Him, as He was declaring to skeptics, “I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out” (Luke 19:40), also knew what was coming. He knew full well the voices declaring “Hosanna” this day–the voices praising Him as one sent from God–would soon cry out “Crucify Him!” only a few short days later.
Nevertheless, not just despite knowing their fickle hearts did Jesus continue on, but I dare say because He knew their fickle hearts, Jesus not only continued on but He also loved as He went. I believe Jesus looking at them, loved them. Yes–He loved the very ones who would turn on Him. For it is while we were yet sinners Christ chose to die for us (Romans 5:8).
So what kept Him focused? What gave Jesus the strength to not only accept the fickle praises of the people during the Triumphal entry but also to quietly endure every curse, every beating, and every accusation that would follow? What kept Jesus moving forward in subjecting Himself to death, even death on a cross, for sins He never committed?
It is the same thing that enabled Him to look at the rich young man with compassion: love.
Jesus loved the ones who crucified Him. It is His love that kept Him from calling out those praising Him who would be calling for His crucifixion in a few days. It is His love that enabled Him to endure beatings, ridicule, and death. It is His love that filled Him with compassion for the hearts of those who knew not who He really was: the Son of God sent to save the very ones who were condemning Him to death.
And guess what? Jesus loves you. In fact, Jesus loves you even though you will never be able to fully love Him in the way He deserves. The rich man wanted to love Jesus, but he just couldn’t give up his earthly treasures. Yet Jesus looked at him and loved him. The people of Jerusalem thought they loved Him but would turn on him days later. Yet Jesus looked at them and loved them. I make mistakes; I sin. Yet Jesus looks at me and loves me. The fickleness and selfishness of man’s heart will never change the heart of God. God’s love is steadfast. God’s love endures forever (Psalm 136). Forever. Whether or not we choose to love, choose to disobey, choose our own selfish desires or choose surrender, Jesus looks at and loves each of us.
Jesus is looking at and loving you right now.
Let that truth sink in. Jesus loves you. He isn’t just with you. He isn’t just watching you. He’s loving you this very moment. The One who knows your heart more than you know your heart–the One who knows every word, thought, and action you have and will ever make–loves you. And nothing–that’s right, nothing–could ever separate you from His love. Nothing. Ever.
“I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.