Posted on Thu, Oct 15, 2015
October 11, 2015
20th Sunday after Pentecost
Gospel Text: Mark 10:17-31 “The Word IS a Sword”
The Rich Man
17 As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ 18 Jesus said to him, ‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19 You know the commandments: “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.” ’ 20 He said to him, ‘Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.’ 21 Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ 22 When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
23 Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, ‘How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!’ 24 And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them 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 They were greatly astounded and said to one another, ‘Then who can be saved?’ 27 Jesus looked at them and said, ‘For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.’
28 Peter began to say to him, ‘Look, we have left everything and followed you.’ 29 Jesus said, ‘Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.’
I have been in so many conversations about this text where all the people seem to see, or complain about, is that it seems that in order to be saved, we better sell all that we own and go off being wandering monks or something like that… Or, we literally need to just believe like children, insinuating we are not to think seriously about what it means to follow Jesus, in order to “be saved.” Or, people read this text, as is, and then make up their minds about what Jesus’ apparent demands require to be saved, and then blow off the entire message of the Gospel after that… There is nothing more dangerous than reading the Bible piecemeal to establish points of judgment. That just goes to show you, proper Bible Study, or at least a minimal understanding of the Bible is necessary.
The part I find most interesting about human behavior is that I believe people, deep down, are actually interested, or at least in some minimalist way, they are actually concerned about their very own salvation. People are more than concerned about their life after death experience than I think we would guess. But even if someone was concerned about his or her own salvation, they still demand that they are able to attain salvation on their own terms… the terms of the Savior…
The young man comes to Jesus with a clear heart and a good question, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” He has no clue as to who Jesus truly is, and addresses him as “teacher.” We can see Jesus see this as an incredible teaching opportunity when He responds first and foremost, even before addressing the young man’s question about Jesus insightfulness and wisdom, “‘Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone…” Then like any good rabbi, Jesus questions him by checking off main topics of the Ten Commandments that just require ATTENTION. No problem, following the commandments are very doable. But then, Jesus makes a demand that would require complete FAITH and TRUST to accomplish, “Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, ‘You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” Notice the first qualifier illuminating Jesus’ real feelings for the man? “Jesus, looking at him, loved him…”
Jesus knows the answer the man will give; Jesus knows the answer 99.99% of the people would answer. People would answer in the negative, but Jesus would still look at us with a compassionate look, and offer a sigh of love.
Jesus is speaking to people of His day, on the way to Jerusalem; Pre-Passion, Pre-Resurrection times. Mark is writing down this event for us, after Jesus had given his life and rose from the dead; Post-resurrection times. For those of us with a basic understanding of Lutheran theology, there is no, “What do we have to do to earn salvation!” Jesus took care of that issue on the Cross; this issue for us is to believe. The requirement for eternal life is to ‘die to sin’ and Jesus has taken all of our sins with Him to the cross and sent them to the grave.
In a post-resurrection era, we need to be asking God, “What must we do, to stay focused on the Good News of unconditional mercy and love you rain down upon us everyday? Or, how can we give thanks for this amazing grace we receive every single day?
Again, rather than trusting a God that has done nothing but demonstrate faithfulness through human history, human beings still demand to control even their own sense of salvation and certainty of eternal life according to their own rules… without the strings of faith attached.
The issue for us today, is to constantly be in a state of prayer giving thanks for what God has done through the Cross of Jesus, and the promise Jesus made to us, “I will never leave you, and I promise to be with you to the end of the age.”
Can we stay that focused? Are we able to be in a constant state of thankfulness to God for even a few moments without some thoughts, worries, concerns, mental to-do lists, or even hopes filling our minds and distracting us?
I want to try an exercise. (1 or 2 minute meditation on the word, Grace, Jesus, Love, Joy, etc.)
Even if we are trying to focus on the gifts of God, our minds wonder like children running outside on a beach.
We already live in the age of forgiveness, mercy, and grace. This was all accomplished by Jesus’ obedience to God’s promise of salvation. The issue is for us is to stay focused on Jesus whether we are millionaires or beggars. The issue is that when it comes to standing before God, we are all the same. Jesus is looking for hearts of gratitude and faith, rather than hearts of control and imagined certainty.
We have confessed our brokenness, and in response God has announced forgiveness and healing. I proclaim to you that as we worship around the empty Cross of Christ, Jesus promises to never leave you and will be with you in all circumstances. Let the Good News of God permeate your heart, mind and soul so that you will begin to see Jesus in all the people you meet, God’s grace and goodness in everything natural, and God’s calling to you to be an advocate for the poor and injustice in times of need.
Try that little meditation exercise everyday… see if you can leash in that fickle and playful mind we have all been blessed with, and allow that message of grace fill us and give us joy and hope everyday. Amen.
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