Sunday, October 11, 2009
Sermon - Pentecost 19 - Mark 10:17-22
Pentecost 19 – October 11th, 2009
The Rich young man makes a big show about falling on his knees and asking Jesus, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answers, “You know the commandments....” and then lists some off.
You know. You know what you need to do – keep the law.
You know the law – the law God. The rules and regulations he sets forth in Holy Scripture, and has even written in the hearts of all mankind. You know it, right? That little voice we call the conscience, that tells you when you are doing something wrong.
Oh, but many people don't. Willful ignorance, perhaps. How many have hardened hearts that obscure that natural law? How many consciences are numb and dead to sin?
And how many people could recite all 10 commandments (much less what they mean)? Do you know the law even as well as that rich young man who came to Jesus? Oh, but pastor, I know the basic gist.... Is that how seriously God wants us to know his law? He wants us to know the gist of it? Or does he say, “Talk about these laws when you sit down and stand up; write them on your doorposts; teach them to your children”?
But what you know and the rich young man didn't know, is that you can't keep the law. He tried to fool himself (and Jesus too). “All these laws I have kept since I was a boy!”. Was it arrogance? Self-delusion? Or a false understanding of just what the law requires – which leads to a false sense of security and righteousness before God? What he didn't know was his sin – at least he didn't take it seriously.
Jesus pointed him to the law, not so that he would be self assured of his righteous state. Jesus was holding up the mirror – so he could see his own shortcomings and failures. Take a look. Do you keep all these laws? Are you kind and loving and respectful and generous? Do you watch your tongue and defend your neighbor? Do you obey the authorities, or do you cut corners here and there? Do you think you can get away with it? No one is good but God alone, Jesus reminds us. Not the rich young man, not you or me.
You know, don't you, that you can't keep the law?
You try, of course, we all do... but not as hard as we should. We try, but we make excuses. We try, but fail in deeds, words and thoughts. Sometimes we fail in little ways, sometimes in spectacular ways. But failure it is, for God demands perfection.
Or maybe you know the law well. And you know your sin well. Maybe there's that one sin that troubles you, that one dark deed from your past, or that one vice or habit you just can't shake – you know it oh so well. But maybe it drives you to despair. You fear God can't or won't forgive the burden of guilt you know so well. Or maybe you just don't know.
You need to know the law, and to know your sin. The rich young man may have fallen on his knees, but he wasn't there in confession. He knew the law, but only a thin outward veneer. He didn't know – didn't want to know – the depth and reality of his sin.
The first thing you need to know is your sin. But if that's all you know, you will only know despair. You know the bad news. And if you truly know the bad news, then you need to know the good news!
Know he Gospel – and know it well! Not in a book knowledge sort of way, but in faith and trust – to know the Lord. To know Jesus Christ, your Savior. To believe that God forgives your sins for Jesus' sake.
You know he is the “good teacher”. No one is good but God alone – it's true. But God Alone he is! Jesus Christ, Son of God in human flesh. He knew the law, and he knew how to keep it. Though he was like us in every way – he was without sin. And we know that he was good FOR us. He kept the law that we can't and don't keep. He earned the inheritance that was out of our reach.
Still he knows what it is like to be tempted, to thirst and hunger, to grieve at the grave of a loved one. He knows us – better than we know ourselves.
We know who he is – for he tells us and shows us. He is the one who came from the Father, and he is the only way to the Father. He is the one who lays down his life, and he takes it back again. He knew he would die. He knew he would be buried. He knew he would rise again!
We know he sits at the right hand of God, ruling all things for us. And we know he will come again to judge the living and the dead. We know his kingdom will never end.
We know him, by his word. But even better, he knows us. He calls us, he seals us, feeds us and leads us. “I know my sheep” he promises. And again, it's not an intellectual exercise. His knowledge of us means care and love – it means a relationship in which we belong to him, and he belongs to us. It's a blessed assurance that he will not forget you or forsake you. He knows you. And that's good to know!
Knowing the Gospel of Jesus Christ means knowing where true treasure is found. It's not in your wallet or you bank account. It's not even in the people you know and love. True treasure is in heaven – it is the eternal life that Jesus delivers to us by his perfect life, death, and resurrection. Knowing him is the true and lasting wealth. You can't take earthly riches with you, but Jesus takes you with him to eternity.
In the Christian faith, there's always more to know. We grow and learn and expand our horizons through study and devotion to his Word. The faith is incredibly deep and profound. But it's also very simple. There's really only one thing to know – one person to know – the Savior, the Christ, and him crucified for you.
You know the law. But you also know the Gospel. You know the Lord, Jesus Christ, and you know what he has done for you. Know it, believe it, and live it, for his sake! Amen.