Our October 10 Sunday worship service is available on video through Facebook. You may view it without being a member of Facebook. We are excited to say that our Sunday 8 & 10:30 am services are open again for in-person worship. Services will continue to be streamed online.
The October 17 Sunday worship service will be held with in-person attendance. We have returned to regular in-person worship services. With an upturn in county COVID cases, we recommend masks even for those who are vaccinated.
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Amos 5:6-7, 10-15 | Psalm 90:12-17
Hebrews 4:12-16 | Mark 10:17-31
The Gospel text today is usually called, “The Rich Young Ruler.” Who decided to call it that? Nowhere does it say that he is young nor a ruler. He could have been an old peasant, a middle aged craftsman, anything else. He may well have been rich, being a man who “had many possessions.” We are just told by Mark that he is a man. Maybe we should rename this one “The Man Who Had Many Possessions,” or better yet, “The Man with the Burning Question!” That’s the point of the story.
He comes to Jesus with a question, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” That is a question which many people have, and may be one of the oldest questions going. People have been asking it since time memorial. That, and another question, “Why me?” I’ve noticed people are more worried about the answer to the question in the text the older they become. So, again, he may have been and old peasant! Jesus reply is simple, “Keep the commandments.” He then names a couple of them. It’s ironic, or maybe purposeful on Jesus’ part, that Jesus doesn’t name the ones which the man has trouble with. He doesn’t list “covet.” Which is what the man suffers from. He wants. He desires. And, he wants more what he does not have. At the moment, he covets eternal life. Though we are told later that he has many possessions, he is not really fulfilled by them. He realizes that they do not make him complete, which is true of all earthly things. They don’t ultimately measure up, and they will all ultimately break, rust, mildew, or fall apart. They have left him wanting, empty. True, they may have given him security in this world, but he desires more. It even seems that those many possessions are a stumbling block for his desire for eternal life. He desires now things outside of this world, eternal life – that is the ultimate of wants. He wants security in the next life.
It is strange that Jesus doesn’t list any of the commandments from the first table of the Law, those which deal with our relationship with God. These are usually considered the most important Commandments. He doesn’t mention, “You shall have no other gods.” That one turns out to be another of the man’s problems. His possessions have become his gods; idolatry which is his chief trouble (and really most peoples). The First Commandment is the hardest to keep. It always has been. The Jews had recognized that for centuries. All persons tend to set up their own little gods. One article I read a long ago said, “For American men, it is their car; for American women, it is becoming the shopping mall” – an interesting place of worship, and gather more possessions. But, the shopping malls are closing. So, women are now safer! Men are still stuck with cars, and they are much more expensive. But, Jesus doesn’t hit him with the First Commandment in the course of their discussion. I find that interesting. I think that Jesus just sort of assumes that the man has trouble with that one. We all do.
The man says that he has kept all of the commandments since his youth. That is a big claim, actually a boast, an impossible one. He is basically saying, “I don’t sin.” Think about that one for a while. But, I know a couple of people who have basically, and ignorantly, made the same claim. And yet again, Jesus response is interesting. “He looks at him, and loves him.” He must have admired the fact that the man is trying; that he at least believes himself to be sincere. “You lack one thing…” The man’s problem is that he feels he is lacking (and in terms of making our own salvation, we are always lacking something). “Go! Sell! Give to the poor! Follow me!” Did you notice that all of those are commands, not statements nor suggestions. But the man is thinking in terms of law here. And the man is appalled! Jesus has hit him right between the eyes with the First Commandment. His possessions are his idol. Get rid of your idol! That is what is preventing you from keeping the commandments. That is what is blocking your way.
The key, “You lack one thing.” We always will lack at least one thing when we are trying to earn salvation, eternal life. Hence, “For mortals it is impossible.” The Greek original is even a bit stronger. A better translation is, “Humans are powerless.” We do not have the power. The power must come from beyond us when it comes to the eternal. We shall always lack, want, at least one thing. We just don’t have it in us. We are not able!
But then Jesus says, “For God all things are possible.” Again, the Greek says, “God has the power.” It is not up to us. It is up to God. It is God’s gift to bestow. It is not something which we may earn. That’s why we reject Works Righteousness out of hand. That brings us to the camel through the eye of a needle. Many Biblical scholars will point out that “The Eye of the Needle” was Jerusalem’s shortest gate, camels had to go through on their knees. It was difficult. I think that Jesus is going even further than that illustration. It is impossible, not just for the rich, or poor, or middle class, but for all those who have fallen into sin. We human beings are faced with an impossible dilemma. But it is not impossible for God! God has the power. And God, from His divine generosity, has given us the gift of eternal life, through our faith in his Son, Jesus Christ.
God gives to us, freely, what we cannot hope to make, earn or accomplish. A possession which is only His to give. He gives to us that which is the impossible for us, the gift of eternal life, everlasting salvation and the forgiveness of our sins. He does this out of His steadfast love for us, as a gift of His grace. It is not something which we must do. It is a gift freely given to all who believe. That is why, truly, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is, indeed, the Good News.