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Follow the Money Or Follow Jesus!

October 11, 2015

Alexander Master Jesus and the Rich Young Man Koninklijke Bibliotheek The Hague, c.1430

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Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost     Trinity Lutheran Church

11 October 2015                                      Murdock, NE


+ Jesu Juva +


Mark 10:17-22


The man runs right up to Jesus. Falls on his knees and says: “Hey, good teacher Jesus! You love to preach. How about a real life sermon? How about a sermon on what I must do to inherit eternal life?”


Really? The only use this fellow has of Jesus is: TELL ME WHAT TO DO! Jesus is “good” only if He tells him what to do FOR SALVATION.


“What must I DO?” “For eternal life?” Really? Wow! The very gift of salvation stands right in front of this man and he dares to ask a question like that? But he’s bullish. Religiously bullish. “What must I DO? Tell me Jesus!”


Well, since the man insists on doing something for salvation, having the say-so for eternal life, Jesus interestingly recites Commandments 4-10. He ticks them off: “You want to do something for eternal life? How about this? You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not steal. You shall give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.” You’d think the guy would learn. But no! “Good grief Jesus!   Been there. Done all that,” the WHAT-MUST-I-DO-FOR ETERNAL-LIFE-MAN audaciously replies. “That easy! I’ve been doing all that since I was in diapers. So, I’m guessing I’ve done enough for eternal life, right good teacher Jesus?”


This guy really believes he’s kept Commandments 4-10 and therefore he’s entitled to eternal life? What an arrogant …! I can’t say what I really think. My sermons have to be G-rated. So I guess I’ll just roll my eyes. Poke my elbows. Laugh and mock him. What a theological maroon! Want to join me in the ridicule?


Jesus doesn’t. Looks him straight in the eye. Does it with incredible compassion and love. Why? Well, this fellow is in deep spiritual trouble. He tragically believes that when it comes to salvation, he has to do the verbs. “What must I do to inherit eternal life?”


When people insist on doing anything or something to be saved, they are in deep spiritual trouble. This is a salvation at stake problem. After all, no one is ever saved by what they do or don’t do. So, Jesus will give this massively mistaken-salvation-by-what-I-do-chap the highest of all care. It is the kind of care that is Jesus’ cup of tea.


Jesus looked at him and loved him. Jesus authoritatively declares: “Since you’re all in with DOING – because you insist with all your might on doing – have it your way. I’m going to ratchet up the DOING a notch. You’re lacking something in all your DOING. It’s go time Mr. Doer! Try this. Sell everything you have. Yes, that’s right sell it all. Give every penny of the profits from the auction to the poor. You won’t have treasure on earth. But I tell you the truth. You’ll have treasure in heaven! Why? Not because you did anything but because I’ll take care of you. I’ll be God FOR YOU. Come, follow me. I do the salvation verbs. You don’t have to do anything. Just mooch off of what I give. I give salvation. It’s my Good Friday death on the cross FOR YOU.”


Do you see what Jesus just did? He took the guy to the First Commandment! Jesus is God! Don’t have any other gods than Jesus! Trust only in Jesus. For eternal life. For salvation. God Jesus would lead sinners to despair of their doing and trust only in what He does. Good Friday. Again, when Jesus says, “Come, follow me,” to Mr. Doer, He’s categorically declaring and promising that, “I’m God and Savior FOR YOU! I’m totally and completely FOR YOU!”


Mr. Doer won’t be given-to by Jesus. Won’t suffer the pure gift of eternal life given to sinners by Jesus. Why is that? Well, it’s because Mr. Doer worships a different god. A false god. A liar god. An idol that promises heaven but only hands over hell. A false god that promises life but only delivers death. “The man’s face fell. He went away sad, BECAUSE HE HAD GREAT WEALTH.” It’s so true what people say: “Follow the money!”


This is a gigantic, spiritual tragedy. Mr. Doer, the supposed doer of commandments 4-10 since he was a boy in pull-ups is unmasked as a rank and blatant idolater! His heart clings not to Jesus. He will not trust Jesus only. His heart fatally clings and clutches to money, property, assets, belongings and possessions. His heart has created a false god. The false god? His great wealth! Nothing and nobody – not even Good Friday and Easter Morning Jesus – can separate him from his false trust, false belief, false worship – the idolization of his cash and earthly stuff.


Now, what about you? Beware of the perils of possessions! No doubt there’s loads of repenting to be done. What are your idols? False gods of your own making? What creaturely gift do you worship as god? To what does your heart cling for all its good? All its help? Is it your cash? Your possessions? Your stuff? I warn you, false gods, whatever they are, make total demands on their worshippers. False gods require 24-7-365 obedience. False gods never give a Sabbath Day’s rest. False gods require their devotees to be DOERS — TO DO SOMETHING and to do it perfectly for eternal life.


Not Jesus! As the only true God, He insists on doing something – NO – EVERYTHING / ALL FOR YOU and for your eternal life. And he did! Perfectly he lived. Without sin. Without blemish. Keeping all the Ten Commandments flawlessly FOR YOU.

Then, as He hung on the cross, He willingly took all your sin and suffered all its damnation in your place. “He who knew no sin was made to be sin,” is how St. Paul preaches it in 2 Corinthians 5:21. “Numbered with the transgressors” and all our sins laid on Suffering Servant Jesus is how the prophet Isaiah preached it (Isaiah 53). Jesus takes your sin in His body on the cross. He gets cursed with it. Answers for it. Atones for it. FOR YOU He became “poor” so that you may be “rich” with the bounty of salvation. He gives you His divine forgiveness and righteousness. All as gift for eternal life. For salvation. You do nothing. He does it all.


Jesus simply bids the wealthy man and you to “come and follow” Him. In other words, He calls you to believe and to trust that only He’s God FOR YOU! That He has already prepared the kingdom FOR YOU.


So, when it comes to eternal life, you’re a DO-NOTHING! It’s not what you must do, but rather what Jesus DID FOR YOU! What Jesus gives TO YOU! You never achieve eternal life in any way shape or form. Eternal life is only and always a gift. From God/Savior Jesus! FOR YOU!


That’s precisely why Christians go to the divine service. To be the hangers on of the Lord Jesus. To be given to. To be given the gift of Good Friday Jesus’ salvation.  In the absolution and the preaching of the gospel you are DO NOTHINGS. You passively are given the forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness is salvation. Salvation is forgiveness. Then at the end of the divine service the Lord Jesus bids you to once again come and follow Him. It’s the Lord’s Supper. Jesus is the host. He is the butler. He is the meal. You do nothing. Jesus does it all. He speaks. He promises. What He says and promises He gives. “My Body. My Blood. For you for the forgiveness of your sins.” Where He’s dishing out forgiveness, there is life and salvation. To which faith says: “Thank you. Amen.”


With such giving from Jesus, you then are free to do things. To give. Of yourselves. From your wealth. From your possessions. From your stuff. That God has GIVEN you. As the body and hands of Jesus Himself. To be a Christ, a servant. Not for the next life BUT FOR THIS LIFE. Not for the next world BUT FOR THIS WORLD. To help people in need. Your kids. Your family. Your community. Your congregation. Even the poor. Why? Because they need your love. Your help. Your giving. St. Paul put it this way in Romans 12:1, “In view of God’s mercy, offer your bodies as living sacrifices” for the sake of others.


Following Jesus is twofold. First, it is faith in Him. Jesus is everything. He has done everything for your salvation. You do nothing for that. You’re only given to. A RECEIVER.   Second, it is love. Given eternal life by Jesus, that’s when He uses you as a DOER. Doing works. And lots of them. In the way of Commandments 4-10. Protecting life and your neighbor’s possessions, stuff and income, living faithfully in marriage, defending and upholding your neighbor’s reputation and honoring the authority of parents. The life of love is the life of self-sacrificial service. Being a giver just like Jesus for others in need.


Happy living in faith toward Jesus and in love toward others.


In the Name of Jesus.



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