“The Choices We Make”

The Twenty-First Sunday after Pentecost (B)
“The Choices We Make”
October 14, 2018
Sermon Text: Mark 10:17-22

Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father, and from our  Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

Dearly Beloved of the Lord,

In a world where it is so easy to gloss over something… where we are trained to skim through and fast forward to what might be considered salient points… much can be missed… overlooked.

There is no greater example of this than in how people read Holy Scripture… if this is even taking place. For some, believe it or not, their only exposure to Scripture is what they hear read, briefly read, on Sunday mornings.

Lest anyone think otherwise, that is not being in the Word. That is not being connected to the Word… the living Word which God would have us carefully consider and take to heart for it is His divine message of love to each and every one of us where nothing is fluff or filler… nothing is of little or no importance. Rather it is all crucial… all critical to know and be reminded of.

It is interesting that St. Mark relays this Gospel account before us by first mentioning that Jesus was “setting out on His journey.” (Mark 10:17)  Yes, this certainly refers to the next places where He will go preaching and teaching about the Kingdom of God, healing the sick and casting out demons. But in this statement and how he words it, Mark would have us keep in mind that Christ’s “journey” while here on earth was but one journey… from a lowly manger to a lowly cross where He will affect our salvation… where He will win for us eternal life by offering up the perfect sacrifice of Himself… His Body and Blood.

I mention this because the question that the man poses to our Lord is “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Mark 10:17)

Little did he know that he was looking at the answer. Christ is the answer for this individual as He alone is for you and me. The answer… the only source of eternal life.

So, the man came to the right place… to the right person, but then poses the wrong question – What must I do to inherit eternal life?” If one glosses over this text, it would be easy to miss the fact that an inheritance is not earned… it is given. There is no doing… only receiving.

Although it can be given early, an inheritance is usually received upon the death of the testator. And indeed, there would soon be a death, a most holy and innocent one, though this rich man had no clue of what was about to take place for him and for everyone’s salvation.

“Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Our Lord will answer his question in a moment, but first takes the opportunity to connect this man calling Him “good” with the fact that there is only one who is good… God! So in a subtle and masterful way, Christ here attests that He is true God. But it doesn’t register with this man… he is too focused on himself.

And as if to say, “You want to talk about what you must do in order to have eternal life” our Lord declares to the man, “You know the Commandments.” Anyone who keeps them perfectly… who does the will of God perfectly, has eternal life.

And then our Lord proceeds to list off some of the Commandments found in the second Table of the Law – Commandments 4 thru 10… those having to do with our love for our neighbor. He holds off on the First Table of the Law dealing with our love… first and foremost… for God. That will be the critical factor here for this man… as it is for us

To the Commandments which Jesus mentions, the man answers by saying, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” (Mark 10:20)  Oh really! All of them? Perfectly? And to this clear lie, Jesus strikes the man dead.

What? That’s not what happened? No, it is not. Thankfully for our sake as well as this man’s… it is not. For our Lord’s actions here reflect His actions toward us and to all people… He who would have everyone to be saved… He who won salvation for everyone on the cross.

What does it say here? What is Christ’s response? May we not skim over it, but ponder it. Savor it. “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.” (Mark 10:21)

Our Savior loved this man… dearly loved this man… as He dearly loves us… you and me. All we need do is look to the cross to see the length, depth and height of the same. How easy it is for all of us to gloss over His love… to let the reality of the same pass us by too often… too many times.

This rich man wanted to know what he must do to inherit eternal life. It was right there for him as a free gift!  Free to all who follow this Good Teacher, our Savior, Jesus Christ, to the very gates of heaven.

But we see the harsh and incredibly tragic outcome for this man and for the vast majority of men, women and children who will ever walk this earth. They will not let go.

They will not let go of their possessions. They will not let go of their own beliefs, faulty wisdom and knowledge. They will not let go of their pride and ego.

They will not let go of their gods… that which claims first place in their lives as they, like this rich man break the first and greatest of Commandments from which all others proceed, namely “You shall have no other gods.” (Exodus 20:3)

So many people choose the world and the things of this world over the Lord their God… over their Savior, Christ Jesus. How about you?

“Pastor, how can you ask such a question of me… of us?” Because I ask it of myself daily… constantly.

Yes, by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in me, I seek to follow the Good Teacher all of the days of my life. Yes, I have made the good confession that He, Jesus, is Lord… that He is my everything.

But such a choice, such a confession is made or not made by you and me literally every second of every hour of every day of our lives. And the fact of the matter is, there have been so many seconds of so many hours of so many days when we have failed miserably to do just that… to do what is right.

But thanks be to God for His great love for us in Christ Jesus. Thanks be to God that again and again we are forgiven of our sins… forgiven for breaking God’s Commandments and lovingly placed back on the path of righteousness where we follow our Lord to our eternal home.

And so it is that His love for us comes to be our love for Him. A love that, by the Spirit’s power, continues to grow and deepen.

“Thee will I love, my strength, my tower; Thee will I love, my hope, my joy. Thee will Iove with all my power, With ardor time shall ne’er destroy. Thee will I love, O Light divine, So long as life is mine.” (LSB 694:1)


“The Choices We Make” The Rev. Mark H. Hein, St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL, October 14, 2018