October 11, 2015 — Proper 23
Sermon Text — Mark 10:17-22
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 chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
What is Life?
The desire for life is deeply imbedded within humanity’s nature. It is also equally corrupted by humanity’s depravity. Fallen as we are, humanity seeks after life from poisoned fountains and spoiled desserts. Unable to discern life’s author according to creation we falsely assume life’s existence according to activity. Humanity can only observe life’s actions. It cannot behold life’s source. Scientisim can only measure and gauge brain patterns, blood pressure, and organ activity. It cannot answer why such things exist or even how such things came into existence. Held captive to a materialistic worldview, none of the world’s scholars can fathom the possibility of the power of the invisible God. None can fully explain the why or how of life, and most certainly they cannot comprehend death. Yet the desire to live and to live forever remains. Why?
The rich young man in our text desires life, not just for today, but forever. He comes to Jesus not just for himself, but for every man. For every man, woman, and child years for the same. And like every man, woman, and child today, like you and like me, this man’s fallenness prevents him from knowing what is truly good and life-giving. In his fallenness this rich young man cannot see past himself. Suffering from the original sin, this man, like all men, women, and children conceived and born according to nature, is curved in on himself. He lives, yet he is dead. His heart beats but is as cold as stone. Oh, this rich young man is a good man, good according to the Pharisees, good in his own eyes. But let’s face it, we all think we’re good in our own eyes. Despite his perceived goodness this rich young man knows he does not have eternal life. That’s why he comes to Jesus. “Good teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
“Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone.” And with these words Jesus gives us more than we can fathom. For not only has He shifted the man’s perceptions of Jesus, but also of life itself. The rich young man asked about eternal life and Jesus links his comments about goodness to God who alone is the source of all life, temporal and eternal. Jesus connects “goodness” with eternal life and then speaks the Law. For the Law is good and holy, not for the giving of eternal life but for the diagnosing of what leads to death. And like a good humanist the rich young man assumes too much of himself. “All these I have kept since a youth.”
Following Himself He is Lacking One Thing
Think on this for a moment beloved, let the man’s words sink in. Does he not echo our own hearts? This rich young man is exemplary! He is morally upright, the son of wealthy parents, but not spoiled by wealth. He is religious, and an esteemed member of the synagogue. What parent would not be proud to have such a son? What church would not give him a prominent place? What young lady would not be drawn to his social position and personal excellence? Yet all of this is worthless in the eyes of Jesus. And even he is unsatisfied with such a life. This rich young man still hasn’t found what he’s looking for. The same can be said of You too (U2!). When looking at ourselves we must confess with our Lord that we are lacking.
Ever aware of our own insufficiencies we like this man attempt to comfort our souls with that which we believe is the sign of life. There is nothing more sure and certain about life than our own consciousness. We know we are alive because we feel like we’re alive. When doubts creep in, as they are sure to do, we want to recapture that feeling of being alive. Pursuing the feelings of life costs money because such a pursuit involves activity. That is how we measure life in our fallenness. The more active we are the more we feel alive. The more we do the more we sense life’s existence. The more we experience the more we acknowledge that we are living life to the fullest. The same is true for the opposite. The less we do and experience the less we feel alive and the less we feel like living. Depression sets in because we lack the signs of life in our life. Quality of life becomes a reason for living or dying and so also becomes a measuring stick for the value, dignity and worth of the lives of others.
You see beloved, original sin has turned us so inward upon ourselves that we search for life by taking for ourselves, storing up treasures, memories, experiences, peoples, places and things so much so that we also neglect the lives of those around us. And the lives of those around us aren’t worth nearly as much to us as we believe we are worth to ourselves and the world. All such pursuit leads away from the source of life, eternal life because it leads away from the Lord of life, the only source of all life temporal and eternal. Such a burden on the heart cannot be easily borne. Truly, it is a heavy burden for the heart of one who trusts in himself to sustain such a life for today, tomorrow, and forever. The heart was not created for such a yoke. Hence our discontent with what we have and our neglect of those things God has given to satisfy our hunger and thirst for life eternal. For the issue with this rich young man, and with every man, woman, and child is not one of morality. Morality has to do with activity. No beloved, the issue is one of faith. The rich young man has faith in himself and such faith will always be lacking. He knows this. You know this. For your conscience echoes the Law’s pronouncement. “You have been weighed, you have been measured, you have been found wanting. In what world could you possibly fulfill me?” (Paraphrase of Adhemar in A Knight’s Tale)
Jesus Loved Him
Such is a revelation our hearts long to silence. The law always accuses. It is not given as a means to salvation but as a revealing of that which is the wages of our death. It is brutally honest. It steals away our illusions of this life and crushes the idols we’ve stored up in our hearts. To hope in ourselves is to eternally disappointed.
It is for this reason that Jesus, looking upon this rich young man, looking upon our fallen humanity, loves him and us and says, “go, sell what you have and give to the poor . . . and be following me.” Jesus’ ultimate concern is eternal life, the rich young man’s and yours! Jesus gives the man’s heart an object to lay of hold of and live forever. Jesus calls us to Himself for He alone has been weighed, measured, judged, condemned, crucified, dead and buried. He alone is without sin. He alone has overcome the accusations of the Law. Though the Law saw Him as any other man, as lacking the goodness that avails unto eternity, Jesus triumphed over the Law by fulfilling the law perfectly, not only for Himself, but for all men, women, and children, for you and me and the world.
The law did its worst, pierced Him through, brought Him into death’s cage. But the Law overstepped itself. Seeing Jesus as a sinner the Law crucified Him. But Jesus is Lord of the Law, its source and its fulfillment. Submitting to the Father’s will and the Law’s demands Jesus accomplished for all people that which we could never work on our own. Thus, receiving the Law’s condemnations Jesus has actually brought condemnation to the Law. Suffering the wages of sin, though He Himself is without sin, Jesus shattered the strength of sin and the power of the Law by shedding Holy Blood. Rising from the dead on the third day, the goodness of God overcame the wickedness of men. Life triumphed! The death He died He died to sin, once and for all. The life He lives He lives to God. Death no longer has dominion over Him! Christ is risen from the grave and with Him all who share in His death and resurrection. This is the object of our faith for this is the triumph of life eternal over sin, death, devil, and hell!
Follow Christ is ever Receiving The Gifts of God
And so beloved there is a righteousness from God that has been manifested apart from the Law! This is the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ! This is God’s gift of love to you and me and the world! It is a gift freely given. It is a gift to be received – not earned. It is a gift that is readily shared wherever Jesus is present giving out His good gifts. Thus when Jesus call the man to be “following me” He is also calling you and me to be wherever He is. To be following Jesus is to be where Jesus is and be receiving what Jesus gives out. Jesus has promised to be where two or three are gathered in His Name. We gather this morning because Jesus is here. We come to receive life not to give evidence of life. We come before our Savior that He share with us His healing Words and nourish us with the medicine of immortality. The wages of sin is death. And we were dead in our sins and trespasses. But Jesus has come among us to give us life, life that endures, life for today, tomorrow, and forever. Such a life is found only in the receiving of His life, in sharing in His death and resurrection.
Its for this reason that we follow the Savior’s voice to the waters of baptism. For joined with that water is the Word of God and hidden beneath that water is the passion of our God for us. We who are baptized have died with Christ. We have been buried with Him in baptism and we also have been raised with Him. What He has done has been given to us. What He has earned has been crossed upon our heads and our hearts. What He has promised has been poured out upon us richly through His Holy Spirit.
And unlike the giving men, our God continues to give us more. As His baptized we follow Him to the altar. There He feeds us with His resurrected body and blood. There, under bread and wine our hungering souls are fed, our thirst for life is slaked. We offer nothing but receive everything. We come as poor miserable sinners and we depart with the pledge of the resurrection on the last day within us. We taste and see the goodness of the Lord for ourselves. We receive as He gives. We listen as He speaks. We believe as He teaches. We live as He lives. Death no longer has dominion over Him so then death no longer has dominion over us. The life we once lived has been crucified with Christ. The life we now live, we live by faith in the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself up for us.
This is Life
Beloved in the Lord, lift up your heads and behold your Savior’s heart for you. Cast off the sins that so easily entangle you and seek your demise. Look to Christ who alone is good and gives good gifts for life. Here is your heart’s desire! Here is the life you long for! Here is your God! Eat! Drink! Rejoice! Be following Him all your days and all your days will be filled to the fullest. In Christ you are rich. In Christ you are righteous. In Christ you redeemed. In Christ you are saved. And as such your following of Him in this place now leads you to follow Him out into the world. His love has been given to you. Now, you are to be moved toward your neighbor.
In Christ-like fashion you are given to look upon your neighbor as Jesus looks upon you. You are to love those whom the Lord sets before you. You are to love as He has loved you, willingly offering yourself in service to the lives of those in your life. No longer are you concerned with finding life, pursuing the experience, searching for certainty of tomorrow, but now you are given to your families, your friends, your co-workers and even perfect strangers that they, receiving your love may give glory to God. Following Jesus, receiving Jesus in Word and Sacrament and then serving your neighbor you will find contentment, joy, true happiness. For you will be living life eternal even now, even today. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!