22nd Sunday after Pentecost | Mk. 10.23-31
At the sound of Jesus’ first words this morning,
The rich young ruler from last week is still walking away sad.
Though he was personally invited to be disciple #13,
He simply wasn’t ready to get rid of the stuff coming between him and Jesus.
The hard part of that whole episode was that if anybody was getting into heaven,
It was supposed to be him.
He was pious, but not self-righteous;
He was religious and even zealous;
But didn’t trust in the Law to save him.
He was one of the good guys.
And if even he isn’t going to make the team, then…who will?
What do you do when a gigantic camel trying to fit through the eye of a needle has a better shot than that guy?
You look for a loophole.
Maybe you read verse 23 this way:
“How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God…
so if you don’t have wealth it will be easier.”
You could attempt that kind of a reading –
Where the inverse of the statement is just as true as what Jesus actually said.
But the disciples don’t.
They knew the Bible.
They knew Solomon’s words in Ecclesiastes –
The same ones you heard this morning:
“Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoymentin all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot.
Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them, and to accept his lot and rejoice in his toil—this is the gift of God.
For he will not much remember the days of his life because God keeps him occupied with joy in his heart.”
They knew that the joyful receiving and good use of God’s gifts was just fine.
“They were exceedingly astonished and said to Him, ‘Then who can be saved?’”
It was no comfort to the disciples that they were poor.
The sin that caused the rich young ruler to turn and walk away,
Infected them, too.
The rich young man does not trust Jesus.
He does not have faith in Him as the Messiah, as the Christ of God.
So he is walking away today,
But all the others will walk away tomorrow.
By Good Friday, everyone, rich and poor, will have abandoned Him.
The disciples don’t know all of that now,
But they know what Jesus is saying.
“With man it is impossible, but not with God.
For all things are possible with God.”
The rich man could not make himself poor enough to enter the kingdom of God.
The disciples could not make themselves poor enough to enter it either.
It’s not just “difficult.”
Jesus says that for you it is “impossible.”
There’s nothing you can do – self-appointed cross or sacrifice;
There’s nothing you can say – no sinner’s prayer,
Which no Christian in history had ever heard or said before coming back from a Billy Graham revival;
Would you like to see Jesus get a camel through a needle?
That’s a parlor trick, compared to what He has done.
Jesus has accomplished the impossible for you.
Born of a virgin for you;
Crucified, died, and buried for you;
Descended into hell for you;
Raised again on the third day for you;
Ascended to the right hand of the Father for you.
If you think that a camel going through a needle would be impressive,
You should witness Holy Baptism,
Where Jesus makes the Kingdom of God child sized.
Where he takes those who can do nothing, who have nothing,
And gives them everything.
If you think a camel going through the eye of a needle would be impressive,
You should imagine what happens here every Sunday in Holy Absolution:
That Jesus speaks away your sins.
People would pay good money to see a camel go through the eye of a needle.
But are ignorant to what is offered them for free right here at this altar.
Jesus of Nazareth, Crucified and Risen Body and Blood, placed onto your tongue,
The impossible Feast of a Kingdom it is impossible to enter.
By God’s grace the Holy Spirit has worked this faith in you, and so you believe it.
Believe this also:
For Jesus said:
“Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
Believe this also.
That in your humble homes,
Full of your modest possessions,
You have a hundred times more than the world’s richest men,
Who think this is all there is.
Knowing and praising the God from who all blessings flow actually gives you,
Right now, even today, infinitely more than all the kingdoms of this world.
For that faith you will be persecuted along with those blessings.
Jesus knows it.
Jesus promises it.
But because Jesus has suffered it, Jesus also understands.
“Since then we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
For we do not have a High Priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”