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“All These I Have Kept”? No. All These Jesus Has Kept!

“All These I Have Kept”? No. All These Jesus Has Kept!

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Sermon on Mark 10:17–27 for the 21st Sunday after Pentecost, October 11 & 14, 2018

  1. We learned the First Commandment as “You shall have no other gods.” And the explanation we learned from the Catechism says, “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” In his Large Catechism, Martin Luther said this about the First Commandment: “What does it mean to have a god? Or, what is God? … A god means that from which we are to expect all good and in which we are to take refuge in all distress. So, to have a God is nothing other than trusting and believing Him with the heart. … Confidence and faith of the heart alone make both God and an idol. If your faith and trust is right, then your god is also true. On the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you do not have the true God.” When we teach this First Commandment we always make a distinction between open idolatry, which is the public worship of a false god, and secret idolatry, which is what Luther was talking about. Loving or trusting or looking for your blessings in something other than the true God.
  2. In today’s Gospel, we see a young man who is working very hard to make a good impression on Jesus. Jesus knows all things, so Jesus knows this. That’s why he doesn’t really accept his compliment. “‘Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’ ‘Why do you call me good? …” Then when Jesus recites most of the commandments, the young man says, “Teacher, I have kept all these since I was a child.” Whenever Jesus taught the commandments, he taught that keeping the commandments was a matter of the heart. It’s pretty easy to keep the commandments outwardly. “You shall not murder.” Don’t take out a gun and shoot anybody. Don’t take a knife and stab anyone. That is easy. But inwardly, it is very hard to keep. Perhaps you see some news story on TV: a report of some atrocity, or someone speaking who you really dislike. The anger builds. The thought crosses the mind that you’d love to punch that person in the nose if he were here. And then you’ve committed murder in the heart.   Murder begins in the heart. Adultery begins in the heart. Stealing begins with coveting in the heart. “Teacher, I have kept all these since I was a child.” I’m afraid not. “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “There is no one who does good, not even one” (Romans 3:12). Our human nature is broken—infected with sin. And the young man’s flattery of Jesus and his praise for himself showed where his love and trust were. In himself.
  3. Mark’s next sentence is so very tender. Tender, because we have a tender Savior. Jesus didn’t yell at him and say, “No, you haven’t kept the commandments.” He didn’t list all the ways the man hadn’t kept the commandments. No. “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” That doesn’t mean Jesus excused him. Jesus still wanted to reach him and teach him. So he said, “One thing you lack. Go, sell whatever you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” In the gentlest way possible, Jesus gave the young man an invitation—but it also revealed the condition of the young man’s heart. His gods were himself and his wealth. “He looked sad and went away grieving, because he had great wealth.” Perhaps this is a time to talk about materialism. You’ve probably heard us preachers preaching about materialism. Even Jimmy Carter complained about materialism in a speech when he was president. But the truth of materialism is that the material isn’t the god. It is self. Materialism is really me-ism. We gather money and goods for ourselves because we want to serve ourselves, loving self above all things. That’s why the young man walked away. Serving himself and stacking up wealth for himself were more important to him than following Jesus. Now wealth and money, all by themselves, are not evil. God gives us the ability to earn wealth as his way of providing for our needs (Deuteronomy 8:18). He wants us to work and earn to support ourselves (1 Timothy 5:8). But to pile it up and do nothing with it but serve self was not God’s plan for us (Luke 12:20). He wants us to reflect his generosity to us by sharing with those in need. He wants us to support the work of his church. He doesn’t want that wealth to become our idol, so we worship the gift rather than the Giver. When the young man walked away sad, he showed that he had not kept the first of the commandments.
  4. We often say, “Jesus died for us.” “Jesus died for our sins.” “Jesus gave himself as the atoning sacrifice for our sins.” And that is true. But just as important as Jesus’ death for us is Jesus’ life for us. He took the punishment for our sins on Good Friday’s cross, but he also kept every commandment every day in the previous thirty-some years. That’s why the Gospels tell us that Jesus went up to Nazareth and obeyed his parents (Luke 2:51). It’s also why those miracles of Jesus helping others in need are recorded for us. Jesus fulfilled the commandments. He fulfilled them above and beyond anything we could do. “He has done everything well” (Mark 7:37). Jesus certainly is the great Teacher. He is the best example we could follow—but more important than those—he is our Savior. He rescued us when we could not save ourselves. Jesus looks at us and loves us, even when we are full of ourselves. He speaks to us with his Word and invites us in the gentlest way possible. “Follow Receive me. Receive and take my forgiveness, holiness and redemption that I freely give you.” That was the one thing the rich young man lacked. Following and trusting Jesus alone.
  5. Paul wrote, “All of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ” (Galatians 3:27). Being “clothed with Christ” means that we wear him. Think of the fall holiday coming up where children wear all kinds of costumes. The doorbell rings, and there you see Batman and Wonder Woman, or maybe a Disney princess. That is a lot like what Paul wrote about. We are clothed with Christ, so when God looks at us, what does he see? He sees his own Son, Jesus, when he looks at us, because we are clothed with Christ. He doesn’t see all our mistakes, our willful sins, or our selfishness. He sees Jesus, and everything Jesus is, and everything Jesus has. We are clothed with his righteousness. As God’s children, clothed in holiness, God sees us as his own. He looks at us and loves us.
  6. And this righteousness of Jesus does something else for us. Being clothed with Christ means that we are Christ for the world, too. Why should we do things for the good of our neighbors? Because the goodness of Christ covers us, and we want to reflect that goodness. We want to share and reflect the love of God to us. We can’t do anything to earn eternal life. It has already been given to us. Instead, we do good to show the change God has worked in us. To his glory, and for our neighbor’s good. This change of heart, life and action is the “impossible” thing Jesus talks about that is possible for God. The change doesn’t come from within us. It comes as God gently comes to us. Turns us from selfishness to selflessness, powered by his love—powered by the love and sacrifice of Jesus.

Amen.

Mark 10:17–27

As Jesus was setting out on a journey, one man ran up to him and knelt in front of him. He asked, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  18Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except one—God. 19You know the commandments. ‘You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall not give false testimony. You shall not defraud. Honor your father and mother.’”  20The man replied, “Teacher, I have kept all these since I was a child.” 21Jesus looked at him, loved him, and said to him, “One thing you lack. Go, sell whatever you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” 22When he heard this, he looked sad and went away grieving, because he had great wealth. 23Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it will be for those who have riches to enter the kingdom of God!” 24The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus told them again, “Children, how hard it is for those who trust in their riches to enter the kingdom of God! 25It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 26They were even more astonished and said to one another, “Who then can be saved?” 27Jesus looked at them and said, “For people, it is impossible, but not for God, because all things are possible for God.” (EHV)

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