Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost


Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost (B—Proper 24)

October 21, 2012

Text: Mark 10:23-31
            How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” (Mark 10:23; ESV).  Jesus’ Words, not mine.  He’s not saying here that wealth is bad, or that you shouldn’t enjoy what you have, especially if you acknowledge it as a good gift of God and share it with those in need.  But Jesus does say that wealth can pose a great obstacle to your salvation.  Wealth makes it difficult to enter the Kingdom of God.  And by any objective standard, even the poorest among us in this building are wealthy in comparison with the vast majority of the world population throughout history.  We live like kings and queens in our solid structures with indoor plumbing and electricity and upholstered couches, much less cable and the internet and cell phones, not to mention motor vehicles.  You’re very wealthy, whether you want to acknowledge it or not.  And I say this, not to guilt you.  You should give thanks to God for this.  Enjoy it.  Share it.  But you also need to take to heart what Jesus says to you in our Gospel.  How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God.”
            Jesus says this on the heels of last week’s text, where He told the rich young man to sell all his possessions and give to the poor, and then come follow Jesus.  That’s why wealth is the particular subject of this week’s Scripture lessons.  Remember, the rich young man went away sad, for he had great possessions (Mark 10:22).  Wealth was his idol, and he found it difficult to part with that idol as the cost of becoming Jesus’ disciple.  The point of our text today is that wealth can so easily become your idol.  The poor covet what the wealthy possess.  The wealthy covet even more wealth.  In either case, you and I worship at the altar of mammon.  No one ever says, “Okay, I have enough.  I don’t need anything more.”  Even Christians, who should say that Christ is enough, don’t say that.  Repent.  If wealth is your idol, it will hinder your entrance to the kingdom of God.  If wealth is your idol, confess that to God.  Give up your idolatry to Christ, to be covered by His blood and nailed to His cross.  Be absolved.  Fear, love, and trust in God alone. 
            The truth is, as Jesus indicates here in our text, that it isn’t just the wealthy who will have difficulty entering the Kingdom of God.  It’s every one of us.  As the disciples stand, mouths agape with amazement at Jesus’ Words, our Lord continues, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God!” (v. 24).  Entering the Kingdom is difficult, period.  In fact, impossible.  Utterly impossible for any sinful human being.  It’s impossible for the rich.  In fact, it’d be easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle (v. 25), a ridiculous notion.  It’s impossible for the poor, who long to be wealthy with the rest.  It is not possible for any one of us, not you, not me, to enter the Kingdom of God.  Without Jesus, that is.  That’s really the point of today’s Gospel.  And the disciples get it, all too clearly.  Then who can be saved?” they exclaim (v. 26).  With man it is impossible,” Jesus frankly responds (v. 27).  (B)ut not with God.  For all things are possible with God.”  With God, with Jesus Christ, it is even possible for you, rich or poor, to enter the Kingdom of God.  For the Lord Jesus Christ died for all your sins on the cross, even your sin of idolatry, and He is risen, triumphant over all your sins, and over sin’s wages, death and damnation.  By His death and resurrection, the Lord Jesus restores you to the Father as God’s own child, washing you by water and the Spirit in Baptism, calling you to repentance and faith and granting you new birth in Him, speaking your sins forgiven in Absolution, bringing you before His altar to feast on His true body and blood given and shed for you, for your forgiveness, life, and salvation.  He has reclaimed you for God from your idols, whatever they may be.  Impossible with man.  Possible, and the reality, with God, in Christ, by the Spirit.
            What we run into here is the bondage of the will.  You enter the Kingdom of God by faith in Jesus Christ, and Jesus says that is impossible for you.  If you are to enter the Kingdom, He must do it, because you are incapable on your own.  Your will is bound from birth.  It is bound to sin.  It is bound to death.  Because you are a child of Adam and Eve, the original sinners, who sold your freedom of will and life for a bite of forbidden fruit.  So you are in bondage.  You are born spiritually blind, dead, and an enemy of God.  Until the Holy Spirit comes by Word and Baptism to breathe new life into you, you cannot make your decision for Jesus.  You cannot choose to be a Christian.  Nor do you want to.  Because you’re spiritually blind.  You can’t see your need for Jesus, or why you’d want to believe in Him.  You’re spiritually dead.  What can a dead man choose to do?  What can a dead man do about his deadness?  You’re an enemy of God.  You hate Him.  Just look at the animosity the unbelieving world has toward Jesus Christ and His Christians.  This is the reality into which you were born.  That’s what you were.  Until Baptism.  Until Christ took possession of you by His Word, by His Spirit.  It is impossible for a man to come to faith in Jesus.  But what is impossible with man is possible with God.  God converts you.  God brings you to faith.  God leads you to repentance.  God forgives all your sins and gives you eternal life.  It is all God’s work, in Christ His Son, by the Spirit working in the means of grace.        
            But then, after God has done all of this, amazing things begin to happen.  The Spirit continues to nurture you in your Baptism by His Word and by the Supper of Jesus, and suddenly wealth doesn’t mean so much anymore.  It’s always a struggle, to give up your idolatry.  It will only be complete in heaven.  But you do struggle.  You don’t want to be an idolater anymore.  And sometimes, to your great surprise, you give up great things to be in God’s Kingdom, which is far better than any wealth.  Look what Peter and the other disciples gave up to be followers of Jesus.  See, we have left everything and followed you” (Mark 10:28).  And they had.  They left their boats and nets.  The sons of Zebedee left their father.  They left their family fishing business.   By the time all was said and done, the apostles left their wealth, their worldly honor, their freedom, their comfort, their health, their very lives for Jesus’ sake.  They were mocked, beaten, imprisoned, killed for the Gospel.  Who knows what Jesus may ask you to give up someday for His Name and Gospel?  But here is His promise to the disciples and to you: “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” (vv. 31-32).  Many of your brothers and sisters throughout the world suffer great persecution on account of Christ.  Many risk their lives to come to church.  It is increasingly harder to be a confessing Christian even in our own society.  Even our own family members can oppose us for our confession of Christ and His Word of Truth.  Perhaps someday you will have to leave behind your wealth to follow Jesus.  Perhaps someday they will imprison you or beat you because you bear the Name of Christ.  Maybe someday you will be called to die a martyr’s death.  It could happen.  So be it.  You can leave everything, even your life, to follow Jesus.  Because He is your life.  He is your wealth.  And He has called you by His Spirit and made you His own in Baptism, so that you have the power to leave everything and follow Jesus.  He’s given you new life.  He’s freed you from your bondage to sin and death.  There are many difficulties for one who enters the Kingdom of God.  But it is not impossible.  Not for God.  He brings you into His Kingdom.  He is faithful.  He will cause you to persevere.  He will bring you home to Himself. 
            In the meantime, enjoy all that God gives you.  It is good and fitting “to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him… Everyone also to whom God has given wealth and possessions and power to enjoy them… this is the gift of God” (Ecc. 5:18-19).  Just don’t hoard it all up for yourself or live for your stuff or worship it.  Instead, share it.  Give it away freely.  Recognize that it all belongs to God.  Use it for His glory, for the proclamation of His Word, and to provide for the needs of your brothers and sisters who have less.  That’s what a Christian does with his material blessings.  And again, if the Lord calls you to do so, give it up.  Because having Christ, you have all you need.  If you possess Him, you possess everything.  For He is your life.  And He is the very Kingdom of God.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.   

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