Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. Mark’s gospel account the 10th (Mark 10:23-31) chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
“The rich young man went away sad, for he had many possessions.” He made a choice. He chose his idols over Jesus, his heart’s desire over God’s. So he departs after his gods and clings to those things which cannot save. He abandons the Savior even as the Savior looks on him and loves him. Jesus loves this rich young man, but this rich young man loves the wrong things. His departure, his absence, his unwillingness to listen to the words of Jesus, are evidence of his unbelief and the emptiness of his heart. His sadness is the fruit of his love, and the fruit of all who love the wrong things.
But Jesus still loves this rich young man. And Jesus loves his disciples. He has more to say, more for them to hear. Faith comes by hearing and Jesus would have His disciples listen, repent and believe. Thus, looking around Jesus says to his disciples, “How hard it is for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God.” He speaks reality to a people bound up in an illusion. The illusion is that riches are evidence of the love and favor of God, that acquiring riches are the sure and certain sign of salvation. The more wealth a person has the more sure he or she can be of their eternal destiny. But Jesus turns the tables, moves things around. He sets before the disciples reality. And the reality is that riches are a stumbling block to faith and salvation. Riches make heaven difficult to receive. Wealth, power, and success don’t necessarily equal salvation. Glory in this world doesn’t translate to glory in heaven. In fact, they deceive, mislead, and make the Kingdom hard to enter for such things are in reality a false security.
With these words Jesus strikes his audience where it hurts. He upsets the balance they’ve created in their own minds. He rocks the boat, shakes the cart, stirs the soul. He goes to their hearts, our hearts. He goes after our idols. We are no different than this rich young man. We are no different than the disciples gathered round about Jesus in our text. We are tempted by wealth and we fall and we fail. We like our money. No! We love our money, our possessions, our things, our cars, our shiny, fast, blue cars that everyone admires as we drive by. We treasure our status. And we labor for more. More in our world means happiness. More in our world means comfort. More means success. And success means certainty. We want certainty for ourselves and our children, so much so that we often neglect eternal things for the things of this world. We value the lesser things and disregard holy things. We turn away from the gifts God wants to give us in Divine Service – we walk away from Jesus so to speak – and depart after things that moth and rust destroy.
Our lust for things, money, certainty in this world is idolatry. When we absent ourselves from the Divine Service, when we fail to make God’s Word our life, and instead indulge ourselves in the ways of this world laboring for the wrong things we needlessly sadden our hearts burdening them with a task we were never created to earn. When we with hold from the Lord his tithes, when we store up treasures for a rainy day, days when life is tough, when we fail to walk, live, and give in faith according to the promises of God, we then manifest our heart’s desires. We prove that we still have an idol or two tucked away in the depths of our hearts whose sole purpose is to comfort us. But . . . we’re never comforted because we never have enough. As King Solomon says, “He who loves silver will not be satisfied with silver; Nor he who loves abundance, with increase. This also is vanity.” Chasing after vanity we get no rest. The soul grows weary and uncertainty increases because in the depths of our hearts we know that temporal things have a habit of disappearing. Stock markets crash. Cars break down. Banks go under. Economies suffer recession and depression. Jobs are lost. With them goes the certainty we once hoped for. Despair overcomes us. Though we once sought to be first, we realize reality. We have made ourselves last, least, chief of sinners.
Sinners cannot enter the kingdom of God. Therefore, “how hard it is for those with riches to enter the kingdom of God.” “Who then can be saved?” ask the disciples. If not the rich, if not those who have received good gifts in this life, then who? Such a question is a good question. It’s not a law question for these are not seeking to justify themselves. It’s a gospel question. Ask a gospel question and you get a gospel answer. “With man this is impossible. But with God nothing is impossible.” God is the gospel answer. Jesus is the good news made flesh. If neither you nor I can justify ourselves we must despair of such things and seek after the God who justifies sinners. Jesus is such a God for you.
Thus our Lord through His conversation has turned the hearts of His hearers, and us as well, away from riches, power, success and glory and towards Himself. Jesus, through the use of mere words has moved stubborn mountains and brought them to the heart of Salvation. It is not men who win salvation. It is God, who alone is good, who stands before you and me and the World as His Word is preached and His sacraments are given out. Through Jesus the certainty we sought to earn, purchase, save up, store away, is made manifest for us. He earns our salvation through His righteous life. He knew no sin but became sin for all people, including you and me and your children. He purchased our eternity shedding His blood on the beams of the cross. Sin demands death. Jesus died in your place. Your sin has been atoned for – not by you or even the blood of an animal – but by Jesus, God in the flesh for you. Through His ascension in to Heaven Jesus saves up and stores away a treasury of merits in your place. His goodness, His love, His passion, His suffering, death and resurrection fill up the heart of God on your behalf and now He makes them manifest for you in the preaching of the Word and the given of His baptism and His supper. He becomes your rest, rest for your weary souls. He would be your treasure, a treasure that endures for eternity. And He would be your certainty. For the death He died He died once for you, thus once for you. Once is enough, sufficient, satisfactory. No need for you to add anything. No need for more. It is finished. Finished, it is offered to all and given to those who believe on His name.
Therefore beloved note well the Lord’s heart for you. Repent. Turn away. Surrender your idols. And do so with more than mere words or feelings. Put your repentance into action. Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Re-order your life. Re-arrange your time. Renew your tithe. Give of the Lord’s blessings to the preaching of the gospel. Offer yourself in Divine Service. Change your priorities. Let the world see that you value the Word more than money and possessions.
The rich young man departed Jesus and clung to his house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands. The rich young man clung to the wrong things, walked away from the wrong person, and suffered gods. Jesus promises, “there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, “who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time — houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions — and in the age to come, eternal life.” With Jesus and His Word comes peace, rest, and joy.
And so, note well beloved the kind of riches God loves. Note the wealth He would have you store up for yourselves and for your children. Note the possessions He especially would have us guard: Faith, fear of God, modesty, holiness in life, and discipleship. Nothing earthly, nothing base, nothing perishable or transitory but those things which endure because you and they have been sanctified with the Word of God and prayer. These things you must give to your children not as time allows, not as long as you don’t have company, not if you or they slept well the night before, but as is fitting of one who has been called out of darkness and into His marvelous light. For, here, in this place, on this day, at this time Jesus sets before you eternal life and salvation. If you’re not here you miss out. If you choose other things, no matter how pious they may be, like the rich young man – you miss out. Don’t miss out beloved. Don’t choose the wrong things when Jesus is standing right in front of you. Don’t walk away when the Savior has words of life for you. Humbles yourselves under the Word of God. Repent. Believe the gospel and find your Sabbath rest in Jesus.
Beloved in the Lord, those who strive to be first in this life, to be successful, wealthy, of high and noble status will in the end be last. There is no glory in the glories of this world. But Jesus, who being first, who being Son of God, became last for you. Look to Him who is least in this world. Look to Him who knew no sin but became your sin, the world’s sin, that you might become the righteousness of God. Look to Him and gather with His disciples. Listen as He speaks His heart to you. Listen and believe. Believe and then serve with joy and gladness. Put the love and mercy you receive into action for your neighbor. And let there be joy in your heart knowing that no matter what comes from the devil and this broken world, you are safe and secure in Christ. In Christ you are rich. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!