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Always more with Jesus

October 14th 2012 by Joel Schultz

Proper 23B – Mark 10:17-22 – “Always More With Jesus” – October 14, 2012

“As [Jesus] was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, ‘Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?’” (v.17). Following our text from last Sunday, when we heard Jesus teaching that even the youngest of children are part of His kingdom through faith, Jesus now continues on His way to Jerusalem where He would pay the price for man=s salvation.

It is here that a rich young man (according to Matthew) who was a ruler in the synagogue (according to Luke) casts himself on his knees with a question for Jesus. He thought eternal life is gained by the deeds a person performs, but what exactly were those deeds? So he asked Jesus, “What must I do?”

As a ruler in the synagogue he had undoubtedly answered this question for many others. Jesus now gives him the same answer – God=s commandments. Jesus said, “You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not bear false witness, do not defraud, honor your father and mother’” (v.20).

And the man responded, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth” (v.20). This young man had evidently strove to live according to God’s Law. He undoubtedly desired to do the right things and to improve himself. No doubt he was admired and respected for all he did.

Why then the question? Although to him he had done everything, perhaps he felt dissatisfied. Perhaps he felt that it was not yet enough. For all he had done, something was missing. Therein lies the problem. The wrong answer to the question, “What must I do?” can leave a person empty, longing, and with an aching heart and an accusing conscience.

St. Paul reminds us in Romans 3:23 that we have all sinned and fall short of the glory of God. The Law points us to what we cannot do and makes us despair in our own deeds. Jesus used the Law to reveal what this particular young man cannot do.

Jesus’ heart went out to the man. Instead of pointing out how wrong the man’s notions of his performance under the law were, Jesus requested a dramatic demonstration of the spirit of the Law. In fact, Jesus demands MORE than expected. “Go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” (v.21).

The Law did its work. The man was crushed – convicted in his sin. Sadly, he doesn’t recognize the Savior and goes away sad – the Greek word literally means downcast, gloomy, darkened. The weight of the Law is too much for him. Did he ever return to Jesus in repentant faith? We don=t know.

How about us? We know those same words Jesus speaks apply to us, right? “Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.” Jesus demands MORE than is expected from us also. “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48).

So how’s that going for you? Well we know Jesus and the cross so we should do better than the man in our text. In fact, you left church last Sunday having confessed your sins and promising to do better in regard to God’s Law. How did that go this week?

I don’t think most of us would be as brazen as the man in our text to say we have kept the Law since our youth. Anyone close to you knows better. But at times we do minimize the demands of the Law in our lives. It is easy to hear the commandments and say that I do pretty well at them. I haven=t cheated on my wife. I haven’t killed anyone. I haven’t stolen anything. I have even treated my mom well since she has been visiting this week.

As for those little sins, well they are little sins and don’t really matter, do they? Well, we must not forget words Jesus speaks in other portions of Scripture. Like – If you look lustfully, you’ve committed adultery. If you become angry with your children, you’ve murdered.

The OT reading from Amos articulates how nothing escapes God’s attention He knows our offenses in all their detail. He knows the death lurking within us, for that is what our sin deserves, even the small seemingly insignificant sins.

But unlike the man in our text, we do not go away downcast, for although the Law always demands MORE, Jesus always give MORE. Since the Law’s demands are beyond our ability, Jesus takes the burden of the Law upon Himself and lives the perfect life under the Law that God demands.

At the time of this story, Jesus is on His journey to the cross, having predicted His death already two times in Mark’s Gospel and about to predict it a third time. In the cross, we view the severity of our sin and the abundant mercy of God. Jesus required this man to give up everything for Him. But he could not, and neither can we. So, Jesus gave up everything for us, even to the point of death on the cross.

And He continues to give MORE. Today, Jesus comes to us in His Gospel and the Sacraments to remove the burden of the Law – the demand for perfection in order to be saved – and grant us His loving forgiveness. As we again this day have confessed our sins – the good we don=t do, the wrongs we do – the thoughts, words and actions that are not right in the sight of our Lord – the big sins and the little sins – all of it – as we have confessed our sins God is faithful and just and on account of Jesus forgives our sins – forgiveness heard in the Absolution and through God’s Word and receive in His holy body and blood in the Supper.

Through the means of grace, He joins us to His sacrificial death and His victorious life. And we are changed. There is an old adage that says, “A leopard can’t change its spots.” Well, in Christ we are changed. The Holy Spirit is within us restoring the image of God lost at the fall into sin. Because of Christ you are a new creation – created in Christ Jesus to do the good works God has planned for us to do. Not as a way to be saved, but because we are part of His family.

He strengthens and empowers us to live a life that is pleasing to Him – a life which seeks to shun evil – a life which seeks to obey His commands and follow His will – a life that serves our neighbors with good deeds – not to merit or receive anything from God but because we have received forgiveness, life, and salvation freely from Him.

So, we leave again today, not downcast or discouraged, but forgiven and strengthened, as children of God who rely on Jesus who always give MORE of His grace.

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