Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost 2015

Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost | Mark 10:17-22


“And as He was setting out on His journey, a man ran up and knelt before Him and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’”

So a rich young man comes to Jesus on his knees. That’s not a bad start. From there, he even calls Jesus Good. Two for two. In his very next word, he confesses that Jesus is not only Good, but also a Rabbi, a teacher. Right again. By all accounts, this is going quite well. There, on his knees at Jesus’ feet, the rich young man is in the exactly the right place, asking the biggest question there ever was, hoping beyond hope that Jesus would give him the answer.

And though it is the question that has stumped the greatest thinkers in history, Jesus replies so casually, so matter-of-factly, that it’s borderline annoying. ‘You’re a bright boy,’ Jesus said. ‘You know the commandments, don’t you?’ ‘Don’t hurt anybody. Don’t even talk bad about someone. No hanky-panky outside of your marriage. Don’t lie, cheat, or steal. Listen to your mommy and daddy, and do what they say.’ So there you go. Jesus says, “Be Good. Have a nice eternal life.”

Maybe you’re not as confident in your resume as this young man, who thinks that he has done all of this pretty well since he was a kid, but pretend for a moment that you were. It’s an exercise sure to flex our imaginations, but try. Close your eyes and forget all the times you talked about your friend behind his or her back. Ignore your selfishness, your complaints, and your schemes to get your way. Forget your little lies and your big ones too. Now, vanquish the thought that you ever had an impure motive. Finally, imagine you have lived an pure life, from your first day to this day. How are we doing? Good? Good. That’s now the rich young ruler feels.

“And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, ‘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.’ Disheartened by the saying, he want away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”

The man of success and wealth, who was sure he’d never done anything wrong in his whole life, with the invitation to be disciple 13 walked away from Jesus with tears in his eyes. And you would, too.

Even if you got an A+ with extra credit in the Ten Commandments, the Good Teacher’s invitation to discipleship is not met with excitement, because discipleship the Jesus way means that you and I will experience loss.

Gifts given to you will be surrendered to satisfy the needs of others. Your talents and skills will be put into the service of your neighbor; your own will and purpose – conformed to Jesus’ will and Jesus’ purpose. Even the clothes on your back will not stay there, but eventually be worn by another.

But that has not been the picture of our discipleship. That is not what the world sees when she looks at Jesus’ Bride. Instead, we have offered the world a cheap grace. Thinking we know better than Jesus, we’ve turned Him into a God who makes no demands, who expects nothing of us; a God who says that everything is fine and leaves us just the way He found us, unchanged, selfish, and self-reliant, having everything our own way. And then we act surprised when the world finds that Jesus and that Kingdom unimportant, unimpressive, and irrelevant.  But that is not the Jesus we meet this morning. Discipleship the Jesus way means sacrifice and loss – not just of your stuff, but of your own will and your own way.

This, of course, can be scary. And so maybe that kind of talk makes you nervous or fearful that you could walk out of here today sorrowful, too. If it does, keep in mind that Jesus is not just any teacher, but He is, as St. Mark confesses, the Good Teacher; which means that He does not give up on you – and that in addition to being powerful and active, Jesus and His Word are persistent.

Jesus does not leave you to struggle on your own. His Word is on you and in you; constantly working; strengthening you, changing you, and conforming you into His Image. Even when you’ve done your very best to walk away, Jesus doesn’t. Which is why, though he goes off sad today, this is not the last we see of the rich young man. Recalling the arrest of Jesus at Gethsemane, St. Mark writes:

“And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.”(Mark 14.51)

The rich young man is now just a young man with nothing but a linen cloth; and then, nothing but his life. In the end, he’d lost that too: upon his return to the church he founded in Alexandria, on Easter Sunday, the people tied a rope around Mark’s neck, and dragged him through the streets until he was dead.

That’s tough to hear because idea of losing everything, the clothes off our back, or even our lives, can simply too much for us. Thankfully, though, it is not too much for Jesus. It was His idea all along. From the moment the fruit touched Eve’s lips, when we traded everything for nothing, Christ was determined to come and give it all back. And so he gave up His everything. He left His heavenly home, His Father, and all His glory, and made His home among us. St. Paul puts it this way: That Jesus

…emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Philippians 2:7-11)

Jesus gave everything, with no holding back. And now, Jesus gives you that everything week in and week out, here in this place. The Commandments say you are a sinner? Christ declares you righteous. You’re dirty? There, in your Baptism, He has made you clean. You’re broken? Here, Christ makes you whole. You’re a bad student? He makes you His disciple.

It’s an easy line to skip over, but Jesus said something about treasure as well.  Of course the New Creation will be better than the first, and there is a Beauty waiting for us that is richer and greater than anything we can think of. But consider that this comment about treasure is true about Jesus before it is true of us. That because He behind everything we would not; Jesus will enjoy treasure in heaven – not gold or silver; that, He has always had – but every one of you. You, His Disciples, are the treasure for which the Good Teacher traded everything.

To Christ be all the glory, now and forever.


About Pastor Hopkins

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