TITLE: “An inheritance”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord, Jesus Christ. Amen. Our text for today is the Gospel just read from St. Mark chapter ten.
Jesus is getting ready for the journey, the road to Jerusalem to die on the cross for our salvation. While he is getting ready for the journey, someone comes up to him, kneels before him, and asks him the important question, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Now it is very popular today to say that we are past such questions. It is very popular to say that questions about heaven and hell are beyond us, that we have evolved as a species, and that now we can worry about more important questions like the environment who who is dating a Kardashian this week. But I don’t think we’re really past these questions. Most people in America still believe in heaven, even if they’re not too sure if there’s a hell. Most people today are spiritual, they just may not be religious. I don’t quite know what that means, either. But my point to this is that when we talk about spiritual life, eternity, and such, there is a sense, even in our messed-up world, that there is something beyond what you see and know here and now.
This religious man, then, comes to Jesus with this very simple, apparently honest question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” I know there’s something else out there, so how to I get there? What do I have to do, who do I have to bribe or what kind of work do I have to put in so that I can be assured that all of this won’t end when I die?
Now I want you to notice something in this question. The rich man’s presumption is that it is all up to him. Whatever happens, he is going to be the one doing it. Even if it means getting an inheritance, the rich man will be the one doing the work. But it won’t work that way, and so Jesus has to teach the man what is really at stake here. Jesus reply to him is pretty simple:
18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’”
In other words, Jesus is say, how are you doing on keeping the Law? Commandments 4–8 seem like a pretty good start. If you get five out of ten right, well, you’ve got a pretty good start going there. The man is then gives what I guess we could call a humble-brag, “These I have kept from my youth up”.
We by nature are not always the best at self-examination. Our society wants us to ignore flaws, to believe that everyone is the same, and that everything is always good all the time. But that is not reality. Jesus knows this man, knows his flaws, and He loved him.
It takes a lot to love a person in that state, at the their worst, their most arrogant and prideful. But Jesus does. Jesus loves the unloveable, and that doesn’t just means the poor and needy, the outcasts from society. Sometimes the most unloveable is the one who loves himself more than anyone else, like this rich young man.
So because Jesus loves the man, he tells the man what to do: ““You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.”” (Mark 10:21 ESV)
Come, follow me, says Jesus. Leave it all behind. The possessions, the stuff, and above all, leave yourself behind. For as long as you look to yourself, you will never be able to follow me.
The man was sorrowful, because he had great possessions. But I want you to notice something important here, because it unlocks this whole episode. Jesus does not ask the man to do anything that He Himself has not done. Jesus had everything, sitting at the right hand of the Father. The whole world was created through Him, yet He turned all that aside to become a poor, helpless child.
Jesus Christ fulfills and completes what you cannot do. You cannot give up your possessions on your own, so He gives them up for you. He gives up everything that you cannot, all the way to the point of His death on the cross. That is the sacrifice that Jesus Christ makes for you.
Your treasure is in heaven, because Jesus Christ died and rose again from the dead. Don’t be afraid of the things of this world, and don’t love them like they are the beginning and end of your life. They are not. Jesus Christ is your life, and He gives you that same life in His own body and blood. Follow Him to the Font, to the Pulpit, to the Table, even to the grave itself. Follow Him to eternal life by the resurrection of the dead. That is your path of life, and it is all gift for you.
In the name of Jesus. Amen.
And now the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith to life everlasting. Amen.
Proper 23b, (October 11, 2015)
Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Rocklin, California
Rev. Todd A. Peperkorn