October 10, 2021: Pentecost 21

Let us pray: Dear Savior, since we don’t come by it naturally, it’s hard to wrap our head around grace and what it truly means.  Today instruct us more fully in all this so that we may all possess the comfort of your grace and the inner peace that it brings.  Amen


TEXT: Mark 10: 17-27

Dearly Beloved By Christ: 

          All ages from senior to baby boomers to millennials to Gen X’ers have a problem when it comes to being and feeling in control of the future.  That’s why all the uncertainty we’ve faced over the past few years is so unsettling.  But, with age comes a certain patience, so the younger folks are hit harder than the older.


          Today we come across a rich young man who wanted to  be sure of his future—even after he died.  He knew about Christ.  He knew Jesus had a direct pipeline to God.  So, he fell on his knees before Him and asked: “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  The word used which is here translated “inherit” conveys the meaning of getting something, often an inheritance.  Usually an inheritance is something a person receives because of who they are—a blood relation—or something  they’ve done to deserve  it. 

          Christ doesn’t answer with a recapitulation of the 1st table of God’s Law which deals with loving God first and foremost and then showing it by your lifestyle (Commandments 1-3), but with the 2nd table of the Law which deals with loving your neighbor as yourself.  So, He reminds this young fellow: “Don’t murder, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t give false testimony, don’t defraud another, and honor and love your parents.”  “Teacher, all these I have kept since I was a boy.”

          Ding, ding, ding!  Wrong answer!   It’s a superficial answer. It’s what you’d expect when attending a funeral of a non-believer and a eulogy is given which accentuates outward actions of the deceased while glossing over their motivation and ignoring  the inner sins of the heart.  It ignores that truth: “Whoever breaks even one commandment and fails to keep it perfectly in thought, word, and deed, is guilty of breaking them all.”  This young man is hung up on external actions.  And he thinks his actions can buy God off.  The whole concept of grace, or God’s undeserved love, doesn’t register with him. 


          We’re told: “Jesus looked at him and loved him.”  That verse conveys that Christ wasn’t just friendly towards him but instead had a   deep emotional commitment of unconditional love towards this struggling, ignorant sinner.  Jesus wanted to get to the heart and source of that young man’s problem which was all about his inability to grasp the free forgiveness for all sins.  Only such forgiveness could heal the rupture in his heart’s relationship with God Almighty.  Only such forgiveness could make him whole and take away his uncertainty over the future.  So now Christ keys in on it, laid out in the first commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind.”  Jesus hits the central issue bothering this fellow: “One thing you lack, Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow Me.”

          One of my favorite passages is: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.” Then comes the 2nd half of it: “in all your ways acknowledge him and he will make your paths straight.” This fellow’s wealth and pride over keeping up appearances was more important to him than simple, humble faith.  He just couldn’t imagine something as simple yet profound as: grace.  It was all so impossible and counterintuitive to his lifestyle.  So, his face fell and he walked away. 

          Every Christian Pastor has had this happen in his ministry.  The world’s influences—judging others by externals, ignoring the motivation of the heart, and thinking God does the same when it comes to salvation—all of that ignores and denigrates grace.  The very fact that Jesus, God’s Son, worked out our salvation by dying on a cross and rising to life and then freely giving to us the forgiveness He won through the gift of faith—it all seems impossible to sinful men.  That’s because we judge God and think He’s just like us.  But He’s not!  As the Lord says via Isaiah: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are my ways, your ways.”  Good thing, too, otherwise no comfort, no joy, no eternal life, no salvation for any of us.  The disciples, like us, had questions about this interchange.  All believers  stand in awe of the simple profundity of God’s timeless love in Christ.  So, Jesus closes it all by reminding everyone: “With man this is impossible, but not with God, all things are possible with God.”  Alleluia! And Amen to that!

THE peace of God which….

Pastor Thomas H. Fox

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