As [Jesus] was setting out on a journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. 19You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; You shall not defraud; Honor your father and mother.’ ” 20He said to him, “Teacher, I have kept all these since my youth.” 21Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22When he heard this, he was shocked and went away grieving, for he had many possessions. 23Then Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24And the disciples were perplexed at these words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 26They were greatly astounded and said to one another, “Then who can be saved?” 27Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.”
28Peter began to say to him, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” 29Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.” Mark 10:17-31
Confession and Forgiveness
All may make the sign of the cross, the sign marked at baptism, as the presiding minister begins.
P: Blessed be the holy Trinity, ☩ one God,
whose teaching is life,
whose presence is sure,
and whose love is endless.
Let us confess our sins to the one who welcomes us with an open heart.
Silence is kept for reflection.
P: God our comforter:
All: like lost sheep, we have gone astray.
We gaze upon abundance and see scarcity.
We turn our faces away from injustice and oppression.
We exploit the earth with our apathy and greed.
Free us from our sin, gracious God.
Listen when we call out to you for help.
Lead us by your love to love our neighbors as ourselves.
P: All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.
By the gift of grace in ☩ Christ Jesus, God makes you righteous.
Receive with glad hearts the forgiveness of all your sins.
“From the Pulpit” – reflections on the weekly texts, from Pastor Greg at Living Lord Lutheran Church – October 10th, 2021
We know this story from Mark's gospel. The wealthy man (whom God loves, and who all his life has done right as a good Jewish man) seeks the one thing that his money, his status, his privilege could not buy - eternal life. You can just imagine this successful man, having figured out most things in his life - how to make money; how to live "right"; how to be successful as his community then (and now) would define it - wealth, possessions, and the like. And I'm sure he's asked himself a million times how in the world he could do this - capture life eternal, to keep what he's got, going along forever. In some ways, haven't we all asked ourselves that question? What must I do to get into heaven? Will I be saved, or is there something more that I can and should do? What about that thing I did back in 1983? Will that disqualify me from receiving the eternal promise that God offers us? What more can I do to earn God's favor so that I can have a place in heaven?
The man in this story (which, by the way, shows up in all three synoptic gospels) is prepared to do whatever it takes, to make any sacrifice, to pay any price, to "inherit" eternal life. He's a transaction kind of guy, used to making deals. And so this is just one more "deal" he's prepared to make.
Coming to Jesus, looking for the answer (and maybe even knowing the answer before he even asks Jesus the question), he's hopeful that Jesus might say something like, "keep doing what you're doing. You're successful in life, you've been a good Jew until now. You've got it figured out." But no, the man hears exactly what he perhaps feared most - "sell all your belongings and give your money to the poor - then come and see me." How does Mark say the man receives Jesus' answer? He went away "grieving". Think of what other terms you might ascribe to the man's reaction. Disappointed. Bummed out. Devastated comes to mind. Even the disciples, those closest to Jesus himself, are completely taken aback. "Then who the heck can be saved?" they ask, perhaps rhetorically.
The truth is, there is nothing we can do to earn a place in the kingdom of heaven. Nothing. We can't work our way...we can't become poor enough to do it...we can't give our money away and earn it. Jesus shows us just how truly impossible it is to earn our way into eternal life, by using his example of the camel and the eye of the needle. It's impossible! But, there is good news here, and this is at the very heart of the gospel.
And the good news is...drum roll please...that the hard work of our salvation has already been done for us. By Jesus. At the cross. In his suffering, death, and resurrection, Jesus has carved a way for us to inherit the kingdom of God. Period. End of discussion. Jesus says I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. So take a deep breath, a sigh of relief. Your salvation and mine have already been worked out for us at the cross. Jesus takes on our sin, our death, and gives us in return, life eternal in God's kingdom. Right up there with all the saints of all times. It's that simple.
This Sunday, my message will look at two key words in this story. The first is the word "do", as in "What must I do to inherit eternal life? And the second word, and this is key, is the word "inherit". Think of what the word means. Dictionary.com shows the word to mean something like "to receive a property, a right, as an heir, by succession or will. To inherit. We are indeed inheritors to this amazing promise from God that eternal life is ours, free for the taking, because of what Jesus has done for us on the cross.
And so, take a chill pill, folks. Relax. Don't worry...be happy, as the song says. Your salvation and mine have been worked out by Jesus himself. We are inheritors of this great promise - there is nothing we can do to earn it. It's a free gift. Enjoy, and live into that promise in our own lives.