Sunday October 14th, 2012
Brother’s and sisters, what’s the key to eternal life? How do we get there? What’s the secret? Some search for lifetimes to find the answer. Many other’s make up their own paths. Other’s don’t believe that eternal life exists. It seems that there are as many different ideas about it as there are people in the world. As Christians we believe it, we stake our lives on it, but too often there exists the question about how we get it. But rarely do we get that person who will ask; what if we have it already?
My friends we human beings can depress ourselves… some cheer for sports teams that perpetually lose. Other’s continue in sinful behaviors, relationships or choices that repeatedly lead to downtroddenness and broken hearts. Others, do nothing to find depression and anxiety; illnesses, disease, unemployment, bankruptcy and other bad breaks cause too many to believe that these things happen to them because of something they did or failed to do. We’re plagued by an incessant desire to be comfortable, our society, culture and even some churches tout the pursuit of happiness, but life this side of heaven is rough and the faith of even the most devout will be tested when loved ones lose jobs, money is tight, health fails, loved ones fall away from the family for one reason or another. We are burdened in so many ways already. Why is it then that so many, perhaps including you, burden themselves further by asking the question we see the rich young man asking in our Gospel text?
“What must I do in order to inherit eternal life?” And so many inside and outside the Christian Church are ready with a practical answer that plays right in to the very wicked nature of this question. So many are ready with the answers: Do your best, God loves when you try, other’s will say that it’s best to find your own way and your own path to eternal life, and still others will insist that perfect adherence to the law is possible and that we must fulfill it perfectly in order to be saved. But what makes this seemingly simple question so depraved and wicked is that so many Christians fail to see that this question is a question of the law. And the terrifying thing about questions of the law is this… they have answers that are dripping with more law; law questions always leave the questioner with tasks, law questions like what must I do to inherit eternal life, always leave the questioner with uncertainty because we can never be quite certain just how much goodness is enough. Law questions will leave you in despair, will burden you with unattainable tasks because the reality is this, humans argue over percentages, as you’ve noticed in this presidential campaign… but God has a very specific answer about percentages when it comes to how good you must be if you wish to inherit eternal life by what you do… 100%, no exceptions. If you wish to be saved by doing good, you must always be good. This is what we see today… A rich young man, filled with zeal and excitement, who leaves our Lord burdened and downtrodden because everything He has ever done for the sole purpose of inheriting eternal life amounts to nothing before God, his great life just wasn’t enough. The same is true for us.
But let’s get oriented before we move on. This young man had been brought up under the perfect law of God, he had been trained well in the workings of the law. He comes running to our Lord today for advice as to how he could refine his actions. You see, this man knew the law like the back of his hand, he thought that perfect outward obedience to the law was all that mattered, and in his own assessment he thought he had done enough as we see in verse 20; Teacher, I have done these things from my youth. He was an upright man. Any employer would have loved to have him work for them, any young jewish girl would have done well to have this man as her husband, he was a terrific neighbor, he had never stolen or lied, and he had never even uttered a word of gossip against any one. He was a good man, he had done everything right outwardly, he believed that he had the ability to reach the goal of eternal life, if only he did the things of God well… so why was it that he asked what more He could do? You’d think the young man would be confident that his works would procure eternal life… but yet here he is… kneeling before Jesus the Lord, doubting, earnestly desiring to know the secret. But there is a flaw in the man’s question. Listen closely: What must I do to inherit eternal life?
My friends… inheritances are never worked for, they are given never earned. Take Prince William, Duke of Cambridge as an example. He’s never worked a day to become the prince, yes he’s worked hard in study and military service but these endeavors were done in order that he would learn what being a prince meant. And so it is with you and me. We will never be part of the Royal Family but a tremendous truth still exists for we who have been bought and paid for by the True King. We have been marked, sealed by baptism and now bear the Royal name, Christian. We have done nothing to merit this inheritence in fact, this family is one which only forgiven sinners may be a part of. And like Prince William who studied and put in service befitting a prince, so to we learn through the preaching and teaching of the Word, through the Lord’s Supper and the Divine Service just what it means to be an heir… a child of the King, children of God.
Eternal life, truly the greatest gift ever given, can only be given by the one who possesses it. And goodness, all goodness can only come from the One who is truly good. This is what Jesus tells the man today. The young man calls Jesus good… to which Jesus responds; “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” The man understands the law… in the same way you and I understand the law, the man thinks that one becomes good after one keeps the law. God says otherwise… you have been made good, very good in fact. You are already beloved and cherished by God by virtue of what Christ has done for you. And this… is what Jesus remind the man and us of today. He reminds us that according to the law; No one is good… none of us; “You lack one thing… sell all you have and give to the poor” He says to the rich young man. The man is caught, Jesus has exposed him, and yet our text reminds us that this exposing has not come to belittle the man, but rather has come out of love, love which Only God gives, love which tells the truth, and opens eyes to see the gifts that are right before his eyes. There is no goodness in any of us save for what Christ has freely given us, we must be taught what this means.
Jesus love toward to man exposed to him, and so to does it expose to us that the rich man and yes even us; fear, love, and trust wealth more than we trust God who has given this man and us our money. My friends, the young man loved money more than he loved his neighbor as well. The man fully grasped this truth, swallowed hard and walked away humiliated in the face of God’s Law. The rich man thought he brought great virtue and righteousness to the table in the matter of his salvation, and so often so do we, but so often find instead, that even our greatest works are unclean and can not purchase eternal life.
Hear our Lord well here… He is not commanding us to sell all we have for selling all we have would still not be enough to earn eternal life. We are not to live in a van down by the river, or give all we have to the poor in order to win favor in God’s eyes, these works do not procure salvation. Only our Lord has sold everything, His own life and His precious blood served as payment for our sin. His perfect obedience to the law was done in our place. The law has been fulfilled by Christ. The payment for our sin too has already been levied. These things He has done that we might become the inheritors, the beneficiaries of the salvation, forgiveness and eternal life that He has freely given us.
Jesus calms us today… in the midsts of our fears, in the midst of terrible economic times, in the midst of trial and suffering, in the midst of our own doubts and fears and reminds us that the one thing necessary is in reality not a thing at all. Come, Jesus says in vv.21 of our text. Come, He says to the man who stands right in front of Him. Come, He says to you now who sit here receiving the Word of your Lord, my friends can you see the irony here? Our coming to the Lord is already fulfilled!!! We are the children Mark wrote about in our Gospel lesson for last week, have already been brought into His loving arms. We, like those little children, have received blessing upon blessing even today. Come to where I am, means nothing more than this… Come to understand the place where God has already placed you, forgiven, loved, watched over, fed by His body and blood and washed clean in baptism. Come, to this place, where He has promised to be.
Dear friends, we have been given to be stewards of this beautiful facility, the place where God meets us to bestow His wonderful gifts. We are stewards, or managers of this great gift of God. We are the ones who, by God’s grace and good workings, shall ensure that this place remains for generations to come. As such we enter now into an endeavor which shall test us, we are facing financial shortfalls; the gospel will prevail this is Christ’s promise, but this building, her beautiful grounds must be taken care of by her people and so I ask humbly, that as you are able, please give of your time, talents and physical resources to ensure, not your salvation but rather to show forth the great love that has first been given to you, to ensure the viability of this congregation for generations to come.
My friends, Our Lord reminds the rich young ruler to Follow Him… dear friends, hear this as an assurance, not law. You have been brought to Him through the waters of baptism, He still seeks you when you walk away, His Word bestows what it promises; following Jesus means nothing other than this… follow not those things which are not Jesus. Salvation unto us has come through God’s free grace and favor, eternal life is yours already. We shall follow Him, this is His promise, sealed by the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. We follow the One who has in every way conquered all our foes, who promises grace and forgiveness, who has given us all good things and shall continue until at the last we are with Him forever. My friends, as God’s love and care was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be. Amen.