Hang on to God, not gods, a sermon on Mark 10:23-31

The Companions of the Cross

Hang on to GOD, not gods

Mark 10:23–31

May the grace of God our Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ so leave you in awe, that no idol, no other desire would distract you from their love and mercy.  Amen!

Can’t get in!

I remember almost thirty years ago, standing at the desk at St joseph’s hospital in Orange.  A young man was standing outside the obstetrics ward, as his girlfriend had given birth to his son.  Big kid, some 13 pounds 8 ounces. He was frustrated, because it wasn’t visiting hours, he was there too early, and he wanted to see his son and his lady.

But there are rules, and at that hospital, back in those days, no one was allowed on a floor.

I remember the tiny little nun and the nurse, standing there, telling him there was no way they would let him in, never mind any of the other family standing around. He tried every argument, even suggesting a small bribe and then a bigger bribe.  Well, that didn’t make things much better,

No access.  No way.

I think the camel would have passed through the needle twice before he would get in past the nun and nurse prior to visiting hours.  .

No access.  No way.

Last week we saw the rich young man walk away because he owned too much property, and it was his idol, how he identified himself, and to give it all up to follow Jesus.

The rich man so wanted to find a way to get into heaven, and walked away realizing it would cost him more than he was willing to part with, it would cost him everything to walk with Jesus.

In today’s gospel, the story continues.  The apostles are amazed that the rich man can’t get into to heaven. They were astounded that Jesus compared the difficulty of taking a camel weighing 2000 pounds and forcing it through a sewing needle.

About the same likelihood of a young father getting to see his son in a Catholic hospital thirty years ago, a son born to a woman he was not married to…

Astounded and amazed – Powerless – really

It says twice in our gospel reading that the apostles were amazed and astounded by the fact the man couldn’t be among those blessed.  After all, the man they saw before Jesus had EVERYTHING they believed marked one as a blessed son of God.

He had property in the holy land, what God had promised to Israel, or so they thought.

He was able to keep the commandments and claim it before Jesus, something Jesus didn’t contest.  That didn’t mean he broke them, but that when he did, he offered the appropriate sacrifices to atone for them.

Mark even records that he was greatly loved by Jesus.  Either this was based on a comment or observation, but the proof was evident, so evident that the holy spirit recorded it in the scriptures.

With all of that, he wasn’t able to be given a free pass into the kingdom of God.

If anyone should have been, it should have been him.

Reminds me of paul’s words in Philippians

4  though I could have confidence in my own effort if anyone could. Indeed, if others have reason for confidence in their own efforts, I have even more! 5  I was circumcised when I was eight days old. I am a pure-blooded citizen of Israel and a member of the tribe of Benjamin—a real Hebrew if there ever was one! I was a member of the Pharisees, who demand the strictest obedience to the Jewish law. 6  I was so zealous that I harshly persecuted the church. And as for righteousness, I obeyed the law without fault. Philippians 3:4-6 (NLT)

Sounds like the young rich young man, doesn’t it.

Matter of fact, some in the early church thought it might have been.  A man with all the right stuff, all the right credentials, and he couldn’t get into heaven on his own.

The barriers were still up, and the idols he clung too were too much.

Amazed he can’t, the disciples are dismayed.  They wonder who can be saved, they ask the same question, what will it ake.  And if the apostles and the rich man can’t impressed Jesus enough, how in the world do you and I have a chance.

I guarantee I am not able to measure up to someone like Paul, and sorry, there isn’t one of you who can either.

Let’s be serious, we have as many false gods we cling too, we have our idols, and the things that control us, our identities, our sins.

And if it is impossible for a man who was, by all accounts a saint, who desired to be in heaven, to see the fulfillment of all of God’s promises, then it is impossible for us as well.

What hope is there then Peter says, we’ve given it all up.. is there any hope/


While Jesus says it is impossible for man, it is possible for God.

The man, impatient to see his son and lady, realized someone walked up behind him.  It was his younger brother, who had a name badge identifying himself as a chaplain at another hospital.  The nun and nurse greeted him warmly, noting the badge.

He asked if he could see his brother’s lady, and the nun graciously said she would immediately show the young chaplain into see her.  The chaplain asked if his brother would come, and was told, ‘yes, chaplain.’  The man went in and saw his newborn son and lady.

What power and money couldn’t do, having a connection to the right person could. As we said in Boston,  click  “ya gotta know somebody.”

It is as Jesus said, what is impossible for man, God is able to do.

Or as Paul the apostle wrote,

7  I once thought these things were valuable, but now I consider them worthless because of what Christ has done. 8  Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have discarded everything else, counting it all as garbage, so that I could gain Christ 9  and become one with him. I no longer count on my own righteousness through obeying the law; rather, I become righteous through faith in Christ. For God’s way of making us right with himself depends on faith. Philippians 3:7-9 (NLT)

That is what heaven is about.  About having a relationship with the creator of the universe.  It is about knowing his grace, his mercy, and his love. That we become one with Him, that we know we are the kids that God has given birth to in our baptism.

Nothing is more valuable, nothing is even comparable to knowing the love of God, love so incredible that St. Paul talked of our exploring its height, its depth, its width and breadth.

It is worth abandoning all, as peter indicated that he and the other apostles had.

And then heard Jesus remark something incredible,

I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, 30 will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life.

my brothers, sisters, we have been given each other, a gift from God as we’ve been born again.  We are going to have some struggles, but together, as His family, we will one day be home with our Father, and with our Lord and the Holy Spirit.

Until that day, we are His, and will dwell, guarded in peace, a peace that passes all understanding.


About justifiedandsinner

I am a pastor of a Concordia Lutheran Church in Cerritos, California, where we rejoice in God's saving us from our sin, and the unrighteousness of the world. It is all about His work, the gift of salvation given to all who trust in Jesus Christ, and what He has done that is revealed in Scripture. God deserves all the glory, honor and praise, for He has rescued and redeemed His people.

Posted on October 18, 2015, in Sermons and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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