nullPentecost 21, 2018
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
Oct. 14, 2018
Amos 5:6-7, 10-15; Heb. 3:12-19; Mark 10:17-22

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Long story short.  This rich man gets to meet Jesus but then goes away full of sorrow.  What happened?  The man must have some prominence because he is able to get through the disciples right to Jesus and kneel down before Him.  Just prior to this we see the disciples keeping children away from Jesus.

The disciples rebuke the children and welcome the rich man.  Jesus welcomes the children and rebukes the rich man.  Why is that?  What is going on here?  What we have here is a first commandment problem.  What is the first commandment?

“You shall have no other Gods.”  And who remembers Luther’s explanation in the Small Catechism?  “We should fear, love and trust in God above all things.”

Children have little trouble fearing, loving and trusting.  Children are small and weak and powerless.  Children are well equipped to fear, love and trust others.  This is how they deal with their parents, teachers and other adults.  Not so much for the rich man.  “You shall have no other Gods.”

The young man knows this commandment, he thinks he understands it and is obeying it, but Jesus will show him that he has another god.  The young man comes to Jesus because he has heard about this eternal life stuff, and he has heard about this teacher Jesus, and he wants to get eternal life.

Mark 10:17 (ESV) 17 … “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”[1]  At first glance this seems like a pretty normal question.  What must I do?  But when we look more carefully we can tell just from his question that he doesn’t get it.  What must I do to inherit?  Inheritance does not come from what you do, but rather from who you are.  It comes from your identity.  A child inherits from her parents because she is their child.  Eternal life is an inheritance for the children of God.  It is an inheritance for those who are in Christ; those who are marked by God in the waters of baptism and covered by Jesus’ blood.  Eternal life is for those who wear the robe of Jesus’ righteousness covering over all their sins.  The rich young man wants to know what he can do to obtain a gift which is freely given to the children of God.

Jesus tries to give the young man some clues.  Mark 10:18 (ESV) 18 …“Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.[2]

Jesus then says, Mark 10:19-20 (ESV) 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’ ” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.”[3]

The man is rich and he believes he is good enough.  He has kept all the commandments.  He is a good guy and he knows he is good with God because he is wealthy, and wealth, as everyone thinks they know, is how God shows his blessings to you. This man has a lot of possessions so he must be blessed.  The man believes he is good enough and just needs to know what he must do to inherit eternal life.  Maybe make a donation?  Feed some poor people?  Build someone a home?  Pay someone?  What must he do?

Jesus looks at the man and loves him.  He knows what the man is thinking and he knows the man fears, loves and trusts in something other than God.  Jesus wants to correct the man’s thinking and believing and bring him into the kingdom of God.

Jesus gives it to him straight.  Jesus does not soften the truth, or spin the truth to be more palatable.  He does not give a spoon full of sugar to help the medicine go down.  Jesus gives the man the full, hard truth. Mark 10:21 (ESV) 21 … “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”[4]

Jesus knows what it is that this young man fears, loves and trusts…it is his wealth; his possessions.  Jesus gives him strong medicine and the man goes away sorrowful.  “You lack one thing.”  The man lacks fear, love and trust in God above all things.

The man’s fist is closed so tightly around his wealth there is no room for anything else.  There is no room for Jesus.

Money is not evil, but the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil.  Money and possessions must always be held in an open hand so that wealth is used in service to others.  Wealth can come and wealth can go.  It is a tool, but it cannot become the object of fear, love and trust.

Jesus gives the rich young man strong medicine but the man is not willing to take it.  The man wants eternal life, but he loves his possessions more.  We hear this strong warning in our own lives.  We hear this warning from Jesus not to cling to anything except the cross of Christ.

Cling to the cross of Christ.  Fear, love and trust in God alone.  Salvation comes from Jesus alone.  Fear, love and trust Jesus, God in flesh, God with us, as a child trusts her parents.  The other nine commandments all point us back to the first commandment because when we break any of them we are also breaking the first.  Luther reminds of this in the explanations to the other commandments which all begin: “We should fear and love God so that…”  When we break any commandment it is because we are fearing, loving and trusting something else more than God.  We all have a lot to repent for and so we turn back to Jesus and cling to the cross.

Still today there is great temptation to trust in wealth as evidence of God’s favor.  Quarterly statements just came out and we are tempted to judge our value as people by what is reported by T. Rowe Price or Fidelity.  We are tempted to fear, love and trust money and possessions.

We are tempted to cling to other things as well.  Many are brought to ruin because they cling to their own wisdom and they twist God’s word to conform to their own understanding and believe God is pleased with them.  Others are brought to destruction because they cling to their own good works as evidence that they are in good standing with God.  But the evidence of God’s favor is not a fat 401K.  It is not wisdom and knowledge.  It is not your good works.  The strange evidence of God’s favor is the bleeding, dying Jesus hanging in agony on the cross that Friday for you.  The evidence is that same Jesus risen from the dead on Sunday morning.

Beware of what you cling to.  Fear, love and trust in God alone.  You are a baptized child of God.  You have the inheritance of eternal life.  Not from anything that you have done, but from what Jesus has done for you.  Come to the altar of the Lord to receive the fruits of that cross.  Come as humble children fearing, loving and trusting God.

Is there something you are clinging to other than the cross of Christ?  Let go.  Open your hand.  Release your grip on anything other than the cross of Christ.  Hold money and possessions and knowledge and works in an open hand where things can come and go.  Fear, love and trust in God alone.  You are a baptized child of God.  You live in the inheritance of eternal life.  Cling only to the cross of Jesus.  And know that in Christ you are safe, because when you cling to the cross it is not you holding on the Jesus.  Jesus holding on to you.

Amen.


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

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