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Archive for October 15th, 2018

Text: St. Mark 10: 17-22

We can see that the rich young man was quite eager to talk with Jesus because the young man ran, actually ran, and knelt before Him. We should want more and more to run to Jesus!  But why did he run to Jesus?  The young man had a question: What must I do to inherit eternal life? He wanted eternal life.

The young man wanted to talk Torah, the Law of God, what must I do?   So, Jesus answered with the Law.    He begins with the 2nd Table of the Law, runs through those commandments, which the Lord summed up on another occasion:   “Love your neighbor as yourself.” These I have done since I was a youth.  As if the second table of the law is a snap.  It is when it is only external actions. I am sure the young man had not murdered, stolen, committed adultery, and he did what Father and Mother told him to do.  However, internally, in heart, soul, and mind, I can barely make it through an hour without sinning.  Anger, covetousness, lust come to mind very easy.  You joyously do as Mother and Father command?  No wandering eye?  No anger?

Jesus responded to the young man with the 1st Table of the Law:  Leave behind everything, sell all that you have which is all that has you, come follow Me. The rich young man went away disheartened.  A man usually is sorrowful when someone one loves dies. …let go of all that you have…but also, let go of all that has you. He received more than he expected but not what he wanted. We can’t do that, especially in our will, that is, our heart.  Only the One who has you, baptized you, died and rose for you, can free us from all that has us.

What is the largest church in the world? The Roman Catholic Church?  Lutheran Church?  Pentecostalism?  The largest church in the world encompasses all 6 billion people on earth.  This church calls for no conversion, no repentance. This god’s faith feels so natural. This church can do famously well and is quite powerful and influential. People die for it, or short of that, spending their whole lives in gaining this church’s god and this god’s altar is willingly erected in the heart.  I would guess that each one of us has yearned for the god of this church. 

What is this church?  Answer:  The church of mammon, or money.  It does not love, care, die and rise for us and our salvation. This god is as cold as gold.  This god does not make for love, but only loves what it makes. This god makes envy and jealousy.  This god does not come from heaven, but comes from the lusts of the heart. There are no atheists in corporate boardrooms, or banks or for that matter, the human heart.  In fact, in this church, there are no atheists, no non-believers, as those who follow mammon are true believers and boast of their wealth and power.  In fact, there are no atheists, for,

“…a god is that to which we look for all good and in which we find refuge in every time of need.  To have a god is nothing else that to trust and believe in him with our whole heart.”  (The Large Catechism by Dr. Martin Luther)

Everyone has a god, as we were made for faith and love.  True Faith and God go together.  False gods are dead ends, the true and living God and His Christ is eternal life.  No one ever on his death bed asked to hold his wallet one more time.  People save money, but money cannot save. 

Maybe Jesus had the road map to eternal life that the young man could follow? Some new teaching that the young man could do, accomplish some extra commandments in order to obtain the biggest goal of all: eternal life. As eager as trying to find the holy grail in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Can you imagine a son coming up to his father and ask, what must I do to get your inheritance? What must I do to be put into your last will and testament?  How many good works do I do to get you Father to leave me your living, your estate?  Do you think that Dad would detect a brownnose? Gets down to it: Either Dad puts you into his will or not.  Jesus loved the young man.  The young man saw something in Jesus as his question indicated and the Lord saw in the young man a unique soul to save, as each of us. The rich man’s question was definitely sincere and it was sincerely wrong.  When the Evangelist tells us the sterling fact that Jesus looked at the man and  loved him. There is a saying, “If looks could kill.”  If looks could kill, then everyone would be dead. The gaze of the Lord God does kill, kill sin dead. The gaze of the Lord God, Jesus, gives life.

Money is most common idol, Luther observed.  Money is not the root of all evil, but the love of money which is a root of all kinds of evil as it is written in the Scripture. You cannot serve God and mammon.  He went away sorrowful because he finally knew he could not keep the Law of God to gain eternal life. None of us can.  The only way is Jesus Christ.  Jesus loved the young man so that he might die and live by faith alone in His grace alone. He would die…for sinners, like him, like me, like thee, like Paul, like Peter, like Moses, like David, like James.

Ayn Rand, a Russian immigrant who came  to these blessed shores. She was a champion for capitalism, not Christ. She was against the totalitarian state which is good.  She wrote novels about capitalism.  When she died her floral tributes were in the shape of dollar signs. Too many Christians these days are more concerned with dollar signs rather than the sign of the cross.  Dollars are for saving but they are not saving.  I have never seen a woman wearing a dollar sign necklace around her neck given by her husband. There is no love portrayed by a dollar sign, but upon the Cross…The young man and us all would know Jesus said tough things and did the toughest thing of all: crucified.  He died for sinners including the nice young man. The sign of His cross is traced upon our bodies and was sunk deep into the soil of His earth, like a treasure hidden in a field.

Jesus put the full spiritual weight of God’s Law on the kneeling rich young man and the crush of the debt overwhelmed him. Jesus responded with the 1st Table of the Law. He loved him to do that. He did not choose the easy part, the part that won Him a popularity contest and votes. Many run to Jesus and quickly turn tail and walk away, even run away. We are told He looked at the man, all the focus of heaven upon the young man. He loved him to do that.  Jesus knew the burden the young man had on his heart with his wealth.  Martin Luther: 

“He who has money and property feels secure, happy, fearless, as if he were sitting in the midst of paradise.  On the other hand, he who has nothing doubts and despairs as if he never heard of God.” 

The Lord killed the young man so that the young man might live, so he leave behind the desire of his heart, his possessions, and cling to the One who loved him, who left  behind everything and took upon Himself everyone and everyone’s sin, and the sin of the entire world.  Jesus loved him and would love him and you to death, His death upon the cross.  Jesus had no pockets on the Cross.  He loved the rich young man to do that for him, for us all. 

“Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. This is the sharp retort by Jesus to the rich young man. At first it can take the Christian aback: I thought Jesus is God.  He is 100% God and 100% man.  When Jesus asks him if he has kept the law, in the young man next response, he began, “Teacher…” He learned quickly but probably did not understand.  Jesus gave it all up.

“… he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2)

And in a few more verses, at 10: 34, Jesus will prophesy for a third time:  And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him.  Only by bearing the full weight of the Law and our sin, He has reconciled the crushing debt of the sin of the world, stamped it forgiven, all of us so that by faith we daily die and rise in Him, in His love by which He has loved us even when we have loved Him not.

The only way to inherit anything is for the testator to put you into the will and then die.  Beloved in the Lord!  He has written you into His will and testament, His last will and testament, not because we deserved, but we need it, no, more:  Him. Eventually all earthly inheritances run out.  Not the Lord’s:   He is risen, so, “…that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints.” Eternal life is not a good, a thing to be had, eternal life is a Person, as in “I am the resurrection and life.  Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” (John 11: 25)   Eternal life has a Name:  Jesus Christ, as He is risen, we too shall rise.

It is written Hebrews says that we are to encourage one another…so that we are not hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Sin’s deceits are our flesh’s conceits to look to man-made gods, like Mammon or money to save, and so retreat from Him who alone has saved us.  And hardening here means absolutely everything that makes it difficult to believe (Martin Luther).  The church of mammon is unrelenting in it’s pursuit of money to lure the Christian with its siren song to the rocky shoals for a shipwreck. When the dollar sign lures and the signs of these dark times attract, only the sign of His Cross reminds us of His unconquerable love, we are more than conquerors in Him who loved us.

From today’s Epistle Reading: “…exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 1 4 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 

  • Exhort and Encourage each other to serve our neighbor in live and we soon discover in serving our neighbor that it is not a snap!  And I find out that I am not eminently lovable!  We will learn the truth of Jesus’ Word: “I am the Vine, ye are the branches, without Me you can do nothing.”

  • Encourage each other in our prayers and to pray, as in Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.  Hold on to Him who has taken hold of you.

  • Encourage each other and others to come and hear the Word of God and receive His body and blood.

  • Encourage each other so our hearts are not hardened, sclerosis of the heart, turned into you self in desires that are never satisfied by the goods of this world, but opened up by His Word to us all.

  • Encourage each other to true repentance. We are to encourage each other daily every time we pray at table together.

Good encouragement is read in the prophet Amos. Seek good, not evil. The rich young man knew Jesus was actually good, so good Jesus did not hold onto it for our sake.  Seek the immeasurable good of God and His will for you always in Jesus Christ.  Seek good, do not seek goods…seek the Kingdom of God and as Jesus said regarding food, shelter and clothing, all these things will be yours as well.  But they perish but the Word of God endures forever. He is risen. One of my hospice patients I try see at 11:00am (usually Tuesdays) because we watch the game show, “The Price is Right”.  One day it hit:  The price is right in Jesus.  The price He paid for our sins was right and just and more priceless.  In next chapter in Mark’s Gospel is the Lord’s Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem to pay redemption’s price once and for you all.

The Word says:  Love good, hate evil… not love goods and so court with evil, and love and desire it.   We need a full-hearted and full throated love of the Gospel, as He first loved us,  in these dark days by the only sign by which we are all saved and will be, In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

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