"Follow Me" Sermon / Mark 10:17-22 / Pr. Ted Giese / Sunday October 14th 2018: Season Of Pentecost / Mount Olive Lutheran Church
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday October 14th 2018: Season of Pentecost / Mark 10:17-22 "Follow Me"
And as [Jesus] 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?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone. You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” And he said to Him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 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 went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. “No one is good except God alone.” This rich young man comes to Jesus, bends his knee and kneels down before Jesus and asks, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone.” Now the rich young man has said something true, he called Jesus good and Jesus is in fact good … but does he know what he has said? Does the young man trust the words that have come out of his very own mouth?
Later St. Paul would write these words to the Christians in Rome referencing back to Psalm 14 and Psalm 53, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” In Psalm 14 and 53 these words are linked to the fool who says in his heart “there is no God.” Jesus has this rich young man before Him and the questions this Gospel reading presents are these: who is this Jesus and also who is this man? Is Jesus Good? Where all others are not? If so then Jesus is more than a teacher. What does Jesus say? “No one is good except God alone;” If this rich young man’s words are a true confession of faith from his heart then he is saying that Jesus is God for “no one is good except God alone.” If this is not a true confession from the heart but only hollow words meant to butter Jesus up then the rich young man has no wisdom and is a fool. Is this a momentary thing or is it bonafide, is it good faith? Add to all of this, later St. Paul writing to the Christians in Corinth teaches them, “that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.” So again is the rich young man wise full of the Holy Spirit or is he a fool who doesn’t even know or believe the words that come out of his own mouth?
Our reading begins by saying that this rich young man came to “[Jesus] as He was setting out on His journey,” which journey was that? It was Jesus’ final journey to Jerusalem, the journey that would lead to the cross of Good Friday and His crucifixion, where Jesus would give up everything, where Jesus would show His faultless fear, love and trust placed in God the Father, where He would die naked and penniless nailed to the wooden beams of His blood soaked cross. Earlier in the Gospel of Mark Jesus had said to His disciples and the crowds that followed Him, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel's will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul? For what can a man give in return for his soul? For whoever is ashamed of Me and of My words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when He comes in the glory of His Father with the holy angels.”
Jesus continues His conversation with the Rich young, saying, “You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’” Notice that these are all out of the second table of the law; they are all from the 4th to the 10th Commandments, the Commandments that are focused on living the faithful life in community with your neighbour. Jesus doesn’t include any from the first three Commandments about a right relationship with God. How does the rich young man respond? “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” And perhaps the rich young man had in fact done as he said however unlikely that would be as we all confess and know that, “we daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment” as the Small Catechism says. He, this rich young man, is perhaps more than just rich and young; in the Gospel of Luke we are told that he is also a ruler, the suggestion being that he is a lay person in charge of a synagogue, a Jewish house of prayer and Scriptural study. Add all of this up and the rich young man could be part of the Pharisee movement, they were often rich and involved in their local synagogues; they also often approached Jesus on matters of doctrine and practice.
So what is lacking? He’s rich, he’s young, and he’s a public do-gooder who carefully follows the Commandments (at least in a public way)? What the rich young man has as his problem is a lack of trust in God. His problem is the first Commandment. First he has Jesus right in front of him; he recognizes Jesus in part but can’t see who Jesus really is in full. This is a problem for many of the people of his day and for many people of our day. We all know men who are respected, hardworking, fair-minded, diligent, even charitable, who have material blessings and yet toward God they are cold and distant or even hostile taking the Lord’s name in vain, failing to attend church, putting other things before God. In this case the rich young man isn’t hostile toward God, he may even be involved in his local synagogue; no in his case he simply doesn’t trust God. And as it turns out he doesn’t actually believe that Jesus is good, or that Jesus is God.
Why can we say this? Because Jesus in love says 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, [the rich young man] went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Remember what St. James asks, “What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?”
Peter, James and John, and the other disciples displayed their fear, love and trust in God when at the call of Jesus they left their fishing nets, their boats, their lucrative tax collecting business, their various professions and occupations and followed Jesus. This man did not. They displayed the trust of a child, today’s reading follows Mark 10:14-15 in which Jesus says, “Let the children come to me; do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it.” Whether Jesus’ disciples fully understood it yet or not they had shown this kind of faith in fulfilment of the first commandment when they followed Jesus and this rich young man asking “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” did not, as it turned out he had another god that that he placed above God, he had “great possessions,” or as St. Luke puts it, “he was extremely rich.”
Another time a scribe came up and said to Jesus, “Teacher, I will follow you wherever you go.” And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.” Jesus was willing to set everything aside in order to give you everything, in this life Jesus teaches you saying, “do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will He not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”
The trouble the rich young man had was his lack of faith that God would provide for him. His trouble that day was that he didn’t recognize Jesus as God even while he knelt before Jesus and called Jesus good. In our thanksgiving Service we had the account of Jesus healing the 10 lepers where one of them seeing he was healed returned with praise and thanksgiving to Jesus for what Jesus had done, had the rich young man gone away and upon reflection returned to Jesus having done as Jesus asked, having sold all that he had, and knelt before Jesus asking for forgiveness would Jesus have forgiven him? Yes. This account of the rich young man is descriptive not prescriptive. A reading like this is not meant to encourage you to sell everything you have and give to the poor. While on the one hand there is a lesson to be learned about stewardship and contentment, on the other hand the true lesson is one of self denial. For you it may not be money, you might manage your money well; you may be generous in your community and with the church; for you there may be a different Commandment that you stumble over week in and week out where you are being called to a life of self denial, where you are being called to pick up your cross and follow Jesus: Anger, gossip, greed, lust, spiritual laziness, selfishness, respecting authority. Whatever the thing may be however general or specific be encouraged. Let it go and cling to Jesus, trusting that Jesus is already clinging to you. He has abandoned all things, “and being found in human form, [Jesus] humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted [Jesus] 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” … to the glory of God the Father, this is what was missing when the rich young man knelt down before Jesus and called Him good, he did not do so to the glory of God the Father.
The Holy Spirit points us to Jesus and Jesus points us to God the Father and we confess that we have no other God aside from Him, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, “one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” as St. Paul writes in his letter to the Christians of Ephesus. And should we fail in our trust, should we fail in or fear, should we fail in our love toward God, we pray that we would always be returned to our Triune God for forgiveness in Christ Jesus: forgiveness that await everyone, forgiveness won at the cross and flowing from it to every ear, to every heart, to everyone who will receive it. The fool refuses to take what is already his; the wise know how to set aside momentary riches and pleasures for greater “treasure in heaven.” Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 Romans 3:10–12
 Psalm 14:1, Psalm 53:1
 1 Corinthians 12:3
 Mark 8:34-38
 Luther’s Small Catechism, The Lord’s Prayer: The Fifth Petition, “forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us” explanation, Concordia Publishing House 2005, pg 21.
 Luke 18:18
 James 2:14
 Mark 10:14-15
 Luke 18:23
 Matthew 8:19–20
 Matthew 6:25–34
 Philippians 2:8–11
 Ephesians 4:5–6