Three Sermons, Three Servants, One Passage:
On Sunday, three of the men I get to work with, two vicars and a deacon served people by proclaiming the Gospel. All three wrote solid sermons, and I couldn’t pick one over the other two, so here are all three. Enjoy and be blessed!
From Vicar Mark:
Mark 10: 17-22
Greetings brothers and sisters in the name of Christ who considered it pure joy to go to the cross for our sin and in whom we now live forever!
You ever have one of those days that seem like a perfect day and nothing can go wrong?
You think you’ve got it all figured out. Everything is firing on all eight cylinders, the coast is clear. All systems are go!
In the words of Marsha Brady, “The birds are blooming and the daffodils are singing!”
Then things hit the fan and you realize you have locked your keys in the car and your not in it or that perfect dessert you made for the church potluck and are so proud of is now face down on a street somewhere because you left it on the roof of the car and forgot to load it.
Maybe you crammed and studied like crazy for that test and you know that you are going to ace it until you realized when you get to class that you studied the wrong chapters.
You sound like that young, wealthy ruler who thought he had everything in his pocket and under control and then meets Jesus on the road and asks Him,” Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
What must I do?
You, you, you. Me, me, me. I.I I.
Between this account in the Gospel and you and I it appears to be all about us! Tell me what to do and I’ll make it happen, I think. Did he really want to know or did he want confirmation that he had already done it by his own accord?
Jesus answers this self-confident young wealthy ruler by saying, “ Why do you call me good? No one is good but One-God.”
Right away Jesus keys in and tells this guy that no one is good except for God! Only God is righteous and Holy. No matter what this guy says or thinks he falls short in his ‘goodness’.
Jesus tells him, “ You know the commandments: do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, don’t defraud and honor your father and mother.”
I’m sure at hearing this; the wealthy, powerful young man had to be thinking, “Not a problem, I got this. It’s a homerun!”
He answers Jesus, “ Teacher, I have kept all these from my youth.”
Well this is where things go bad for the rich guy in his way of thinking. After what Jesus says next, our boy’s day is going to be a dreary dismal day for sure in his eyes!
As Jesus looks at him, Mark tells us something else that is incredible. We learn that not only did Jesus look at him but Jesus loved him as He says, “ You lack one thing, Go and sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have your treasure in Heaven. Then come, follow me!”
Jesus didn’t look at him with scorn and ridicule or sarcasm but instead looks at him with love in the same way that He looked at those who hung Him on that cross and said, “ Father forgive them.” He looks at him the same way he looks at us when He says, “Follow me!”
Upon hearing this Mark records that He was disheartened, he was stunned by what Jesus tells him and he went away grieving because he had many possessions.
So in order for you to follow Christ, you must sell everything and give it to the poor.
Is that what Jesus is saying here?
Yes and no.
Three things really come to the forefront in this account.
- A. Goodness. As the man raced to ask Jesus, he called him Good Teacher and Jesus responded that only God is good.
Only God is perfect, righteous, holy and good. No matter how good and how hard we try to be good by what we think we do and by trying to keep the commandments, we are not righteous, holy and good by and on our own.
Romans 3:23 says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Thus young ruler thought that he had kept the commandments since he was a youth and maybe he did in deed or action but throw in thought and word and he like us was not able to keep those commandments. He wasn’t good and neither are we.
So that brings us to the second thing.
An idol is anything that becomes your god, a false god and takes the place of and prevents you form seeing God. It can be anything from football or your job or your kids or pride in yourself and your accomplishments. It can be things even at church.
For the young man it was his possessions and his wealth. Basically it boils down to Jesus telling him and us that if anything gets in the way of your view and focus of God, dump it, get rid of it. It’s garbage! For the real treasure, follow Christ.
Matthew 6: 20 says, “But lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.”
This brings us to the third point and the most important part.
Did you notice in our Gospel today that something was missing? When the young man asked Jesus and Jesus quoted the commandments back to him, he left the first three out. Jesus quoted what is commonly referred to as the Second Table or the Commandments for living and dealing with your fellow man. Why would he do that being God and all, did He forget them?
No, not at all!
You see the first three Commandments or the First Table tell of our relationship with God. They confront our basic belief and structure about God. They talk about the perfect relationship that God created for His children. It’s an invitation to a give and take relationship. Don’t we see that in the Sacraments? “Take and eat and take and drink.” He willingly gives us forgiveness of sins, salvation and eternal life through this gift given to us through His Son as we gatheris SonH and we as His called and redeemed children thank, praise and glorify His name calling on Him for everything because He is our loving Father and because He is God.
This rich man’s relationship was lacking in this because he was focused on the idol of himself and his idol of wealth and fortune. So Jesus told him to dump it and follow Him in that perfect relationship of grace, peace and love bought and paid for with His holy blood. Jesus tells us that exact same thing and we hear it and read it in His Holy Word. Our relationship with God has been rewon and regained and taken back from the sin that we caused to break it in the first place. Through our High Priest who is the Christ, perfect atonement and fulfillment of that priestly sacrifice we are now made His. It is only through Christ that we can ask Him to smash those evil and unholy idols that prevent us from the very relationship with Him. It is only through Jesus that we have the strength given to us in our Baptisms and shared with us in the foretaste of the feast to come found in that meal of Holy Communion.
It is only through the glory found at the cross that any of this is possible and that we are now counted as righteous and holy and good enough to be in the sight and presence of God.
Think about what’s been done for you. God says call him by His name, YAHWEH, then we Have Jesus tell us and His Father that he is not ashamed to call us brothers and we because of YAHWEH’s plan of redemption through Jesus are now heirs of Heaven.
The rich young man didn’t get it that when Jesus called him to follow, He ws calling him to inherit gifts far beyond the measure of a mortal man.
Instead he went away dejected, stunned and disheartened because he couldn’t let go of his idol while the Good Teacher set His face like flint and proceeded to walk that path to the cross, “ Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2.
He walked that path in complete obedience knowing what was waiting for Him.
Was it death and destruction? Yes, through Jesus dying for our sin and idol worship it was the destruction of death and the grave and through Jesus dying for all it was the death of the power that sin had on us. We now have abundant life that no idol could ever give us but only through what God can give us and keeps on giving to us.
So I guess the final question again comes down to this. Do you have to get rid of everything you have to follow God?
Quite simply yes, if it has become an idol to you and prevents you from seeing God and His goodness, grace and love for you.
We can only truly trust and have faith in He who claims us as His knowing with certain hope and confidence that we who confess Christ as King and Savior will all gather at the throne with Him for eternity and that will be the perfect day where only things go perfectly right!
“Come and follow me!”
From Vicar Eddie
Mark 10:17-22 (using HCSB)
The story of the rich young ruler causes some to pity the man…he was so close…if only he had trusted Jesus more…if only he knew. But perhaps there is more to this story if we scratch the surface…if we scratch the surface we might see that we are more like the rich young man than we would like to admit.
Right from the start this story is different than most accounts in the Bible of people coming to Jesus…usually those that approached Jesus were looking for healing either for themselves or a loved one…or they were trying to find fault with the teachings of Jesus. But this man asks a completely different question…maybe one you yourself have contemplated during your life…he approaches Christ, calls him “good teacher” and then asks how he might attain eternal life…AND, he is not asking what he has to do…he is not asking where he can buy it…but how should he align his life, what should his purpose in life be so that he might inherit eternal life…inherit eternal life. How do I get this gift that can only come from God? How do I get eternal life? Jesus knew this young man was on to something, so He asks him, “Why do you say I am good?” Only God is good…are you saying I am God? Are you saying I can give you the gift of eternal life? And then Jesus skips the commandments that have to do with God and lists the commandments that have to do with other people, and the young man says he has kept all of them close to his heart. Jesus accepts this… He does not call him a liar but instead hits him right between the eyes…very well then… sell everything, give the money to the poor and follow me. Stunned…shocked…flabbergasted… he realizes Jesus is asking him to give up the one thing he knows he cannot give up… his treasures! Why did it have to be that? Why couldn’t it be spending more time at the synagogue? Why couldn’t it be helping out those less fortunate? Why couldn’t it be spending more time in scripture? No… he asked the young man for his wealth…a dark cloud comes over the man and he went away dejected, sorrowful, he went away grieving. It is indeed sad…some might say that the young man rejects Jesus, that he turns his back on Jesus, but the young man was seeking God, the young man was looking for a closer walk with God, and yet there was a barrier…a barrier so large that it kept him from fully experiencing the grace and mercy of Christ. A barrier so large that it kept him from the inheritance he so desperately sought… and so that begs the question…What barrier have we created? What keeps us from fully experiencing the grace and mercy of Christ?
You see this story is not just about a rich young man… this story is about us…each one of us has put up barriers that keep us from fully experiencing the love and grace of Christ; we have all created barriers that keep us from having a closer walk with God and maybe that is why Jesus skipped the 1st commandment when He spoke to the young man. Jesus knew that this young man had other gods…as Luther explained the first commandment in the Large Catechism; a god is something on which we set our whole heart. Jesus knew that this man had placed his wealth ahead of God, he trusted in his wealth above trusting God…and so what have we placed before God? You see it doesn’t always have to be wealth…it can be anything that we treasure in our hearts above God. And it can take a numerous of forms – it can come in a bottle that we desperately need after another rough day; it can be the football games that keep us from worshipping God with our brothers and sisters on Sunday mornings, it can come in the form of a keyboard; a keyboard that logs us into facebook for hours on end instead of spending time in scripture, or it can be staying up late to view adult material and feeling ashamed that we do, so we draw away from others for fear they might discover our dark habit. Really we can fashion anything into a barrier between is and God; even something we would find good, like family, exercise or even work. These things that God has given us to bring us joy, relaxation and a sense of accomplishment can become so important in our lives that they interfere with our relationship with God. They draw us away from God.
I worked for many years with a company that had such an outstanding president of sales. We used to say that she could sell ice to eskimo, and we knew she worked hard, but we didn’t realize to what extent. During a sales meeting in New Jersey, her husband called and told her that he wasn’t feeling good…that he really wanted her to come home. This was very odd behavior on his part – they talked often when she would go away on trips, and as president of sales, she traveled extensively, but he had not once ever asked her to come home. She said, she couldn’t leave…this sales meeting was too important and that she would be home the next day. Well, he didn’t make it the next day and she never forgave herself for not going home. Work had become her god, above family, above her own health and even above God.
Certainly we know we are going to have activities outside of church, certainly we know we will have other interests and certainly we know that we can’t keep all of God’s commands perfectly, but it comes down to priorities. Is God a priority in my life? Or is God an afterthought…a parachute we grasp only when we run into problem; when our life seems to be spiraling out of control? In Luke 9:23 Jesus tells us “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” This is not to say that we need to try to bear the weight of our sins and thus by our own power overcome our sinfulness, but instead we are to daily surrender our sinful and lustful desires to Christ…and follow him.
But our story of the young man does not end there. Yes, the young man goes away dejected, lost and maybe even ashamed, but what about Jesus? We know that Jesus was on His way to the cross of Calvary and we know that in His death and resurrection we find the very thing that young man sought…life everlasting…eternal life. And Jesus did this with JOY! Hebrews 12:
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.
You see God knows that we cannot of our own accord lift ourselves over the barriers we have created; He knows that we cannot overcome the sin that keeps us from Him. At the cross which is meant for torture and death we find life…at the cross we find the gift of eternal life. And this gift is not just for that young man, it is not just for those of us that showed up this Sunday morning…no this gift of eternal life is a gift God has given to the whole world. Just as Jesus invited the young man to leave behind those things that hindered Him from fully experiencing the love, grace and mercy of God, Jesus extends that offer to the entire world even today. Jesus stands ready to walk with you, each and every day of your life. With joy Jesus went to the cross, knowing He was breaking the bondage of sin that impeded this man from fully experiencing the love, grace and mercy of God. So, we have a choice…we can either walk away with our baggage…those things that bring us shame and draw us away from God, or we can leave them at the foot of the cross and walk with Jesus…Jesus invites you to walk with Him each and every day of your life…will you walk in the JOY of Jesus today?
and from Deacon Don