By Elder Larry Plank
Scripture Lesson: Job 23:1-9, 16-17; Mark 10:17-31
Our text opens with Jesus continuing on his journey…the path to the cross which will become a reality starting in Chapter 11 of Mark. He’s almost there to the passion he will endure in the last week of his life where he will fulfill his mission….to die for the sins of the world and in this process will defeat sin and death forever.
But we’re not there quiet yet, and we find Jesus today on the move again. As he and his disciples travel along when an unnamed man runs up to him, knells at his feet and asks a question that I’m sure we ask often. “Good Teacher, what must I do to earn eternal life?” The man is sincere which is shown how he approaches Jesus (kneeling) and calling him “Good Teacher”. Jesus does not answer the man’s question at first but lets him know only God is “Good” in this statement Jesus is joining humanity in its sinful state, just as he did when John the Baptizer baptized him. Jesus has no need to seek repentance of sin he is sinless….Jesus is God Incarnate…Emmanuel (God with us).
After saying this Jesus quotes the second part of the Ten Commandments which has to do with our relationship with other people. The man I’m sure is elated, because his response is….”Teacher, I have kept all these from my youth.” Jesus apparently agrees with him, but then gazes at him intensely, the text states “he loved him” and then tells him there is one thing he lacks…to sell all his possession give the money to the poor and he will have treasure in heaven, then come and follow him. The man is shocked, he thought he was on the saved list, instead he walks away sadly, because he had many possessions.
Jesus will now use this encounter to teach his disciples. He tells them how hard it is for someone wealthy to enter the kingdom of God. He in fact states this twice, stressing the point, children how hard is it for a wealthy person to enter the kingdom of heaven, it is harder for a camel to go through the eye of a needle that a wealthy person to enter heaven. His disciples are also shocked like the man that had just departed. In this day and time to be wealthy, have many possessions, and have good health was understood as a blessing from God, to show God’s approval of the person. If you were rich, you would, of course, enter the kingdom of God. This I’m sure also shocked the followers of Jesus that followed him also. His disciples question Jesus when they hear this and want to know…”then who can be saved?” Jesus answers…”for mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible.” Jesus is saying we can’t save ourselves….if this was true we could be saved by works. But thanks be to God for GRACE…and Jesus’ saving death which makes us acceptable to God, Christ’s righteousness is imputed (clothed) on us, so God only sees a righteous person….Westminster Confession Q. 33 – – -What is justification? “Justification is an act of God’s free grace, wherein he pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us as righteous in his sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone.” We are saved by grace through faith. Jesus closes our text today with another shocking statement for his disciples, in his kingdom the
first will be last and the last will be first, quite a reversal of the human way of thinking. Example…Matthew 21:31
So how can we apply this text today to our Christian life? Jesus is saying that if we desire to follow him, we must have priorities. We have choices to make. Discipleship with Jesus has a cost. Earthly things, Jesus says, distract or keep us from totally following him. First to remember is that Jesus requires all of us. Not 10%, 40%, or 80% of us, he wants all of us. His chosen 12 had a hard time with this demand in Jesus’ earthly ministry. Arguing over who would be the greatest in heaven, or asking to sit at the side of Jesus in heaven. It was only after his resurrection and ascension was this fully realized by them. Our Epistles after the Gospels affirm this. They gave all, unto death.
But this demand also filters into our daily walk with Jesus. What earthly things might keep us from following Jesus? Could it be possessions like our unnamed man in our text today? The worldly way tells us that to have happiness in life we must acquire things. Read the book of Ecclesiastes and see how the writer disproves the earthly thought about possessions.
I don’t think Jesus intends us to give all away including our life savings. In other accounts of Jesus encountering persons of wealth, thinking of Zacchaeus who chooses to follow Jesus gives some of his wealth to the needy, poor, widows and those who he might have defrauded he would pay back 4 times as much, this was much more than the law required. Jesus responds to his statement by saying “today salvation has come to this house.” Notice the text doesn’t say he left his job as a tax collector, or didn’t defraud anyone again. Obviously though the more we have the more we are able to give. Stewardship season is nearing, yes I know Presbyterians don’t like to talk about money, but stewardship is more than just monetary. Stewardship also includes our time and talents. As I stated earlier, God wants all of us. We all possess talents….these are abilities we are born with. We see this in athletes; some are born with great physical abilities. But we also have gifts…these are given by God. Sometimes we really don’t know our gifts because we don’t particularly think about them. Basically we have never used them so we don’t know we have them. Discovering our gifts has to do with what we call a “calling” from God. Callings come from God, or through people. People are called to various things in the life of the church. I was called to become a lay pastor; this calling was of the Holy Spirit. Did I respond when God called me, absolutely not? Answering God’s call only took about 3 years. Discerning this call took time, but I have never regretted answering it. When approached by someone in the church for some job in the church this too is a calling from God. Listen to God’s calling and pray about it, and then go one step further, accept the calling. And please don’t do like me and take years to accept the calling. But to give support to my calling to be a pastor is quite different than serving on a
committee, or even chairing a committee in the church.
I think you get the picture. We are followers of Christ, and are saved by grace, and in response to God’s grace we give… we give our treasures, our time and our talents. We give with joy to serve in the work of God’s church. Remember not to answer this calling is a waste of God’s good gifts.