St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches

When You Feel Proud

Sermon on Mark 10:17-27
 
Text:  As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him.  “Good teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 
     “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered.  “No one is good—except God alone.  You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’” 
      “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” 
     Jesus looked at him and loved him.  “One thing you lack,” he said.  “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.” 
     At this the man’s face fell.  He went away sad, because he had great wealth. 
     Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” 
     The disciples were amazed at his words.  But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!   It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” 
     The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” 
     Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
 
     You may have heard of the phrase “the seven deadly sins.”  These were sins that the church felt were the cause of all other sins.  By the way, the seven deadly sins are: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony.  This morning, we are going to focus on one of these sins: pride.  We will watch a man who was filled with pride and how Jesus dealt with him.  In doing so, we will find a warning for us.  Dear friends, WHEN YOU FEEL PROUD 1. Remember The Rich Young Man.  When you do so, may you 2. React Like The Disciples.
 
     As Jesus was walking down the road, a man came to Jesus.  He came in a very respectful way.  He fell on his knees in front of Jesus.  He was not like one of the enemies, who tried time and again to trip up Jesus in his words, so that they could accuse him.  Here was a young man with a serious question on his mind.  He asked, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  He was a religious man.  Yet, he felt that there was something missing in his life.
 
     Jesus replied, “Why do you call me good?  No one is good—except God alone.”  Jesus did not want the man’s admiration.  He did not want the man to think of him as only another good teacher, who could help him on his quest toward perfection.  The man needed to realize that Jesus was more than a good teacher.  He was God.  The only way that the man could be freed from the enslaving chains of self trust was if he went from believing in Jesus only as a “good teacher” to believing that Jesus is God.
 
    Jesus continues, “You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’” Jesus runs down the list of commandments.  The man had asked what he had to do to inherit eternal life.  The answer was quite simple.  If you want to earn eternal life, you have to keep the law.  To this, the man replied, “Teacher, all these I have kept since I was a boy.”  This was no idle boasting or bragging.  The young man felt that he had done all of these things.  As he ran down the list of commandments, he felt that he had kept every one of them.  No doubt, people had probably complimented him on his kindness, his clean living, his obedience to his parents.  He was the type of young man that every Jewish mother would love to call her son-in-law.  Yes, he felt that he had kept the commandments.  However, there was still a void in his heart.  There was still something lacking.
 
     Then, we read, “Jesus looked at him and loved him.”  We might ask, how in the world could Jesus love this self-righteous man?  Jesus could look at this young man in love the same way that he looked at Peter in love after Peter denied knowing Jesus on Maundy Thursday.  Here was a young man, who so obviously needed what Jesus had come to the earth to do.  Jesus said, “One thing you lack.  Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.”  ‘What must I do?’ was the question.  The answer, ‘Go and sell and follow.’  When the young man heard this, “the man’s face fell.  He went away sad, because he had great wealth.”  The once happy, radiant face of the nice young man suddenly turned sad.  The reason is that he didn’t want to do this.  The wind had been taken out of his sails.  Through these words, Jesus was showing the young man that he hadn’t even kept the First Commandment.  His wealth, his possessions were more important to him than his relationship with God.  The law hit the man squarely on the jaw.  He went away dejected.
 
     When we hear this encounter, there probably is a little part of us that cheers.  We think to ourselves that the young man had it coming to him.  Who did he think he was, saying that he had kept all of the commandments?  This young man was put in his place, and rightfully so!  However, my dear friends, are we, at times, so much different than that young man?  We look at those around us, and we start to pat ourselves on the back for being such wonderful people.  We go down the list of commandments and we think to ourselves that we really haven’t broken them.  We have never murdered.  We haven’t stolen anything.  If we should think of ourselves in this way, what is the one thing that Jesus could ask you to do that would show that you haven’t kept the commandments.  Jesus asked the young man to sell what he had and give in to the poor.  What if Jesus were to ask you to sell something of yours that was near and dear to your heart?  What if Jesus were to ask us what is our motivation at times for putting our offering in the plate?  Can we always say we have done it for the right reasons?  Can we always say that we have given God the best that we have to give, rather than the leftovers?  Do we rely on our possessions at times more than we rely on God?  Truth be told that, no matter how good we might be, we aren’t perfect.  For some things that is OK.  However, it is not OK with God.  God demands perfection.  When it is not there, there is only God’s wrath and punishment.  This is what every one of us deserves.  Dear friends, when you start to look at your life and think that God owes you a special spot in heaven, when you start to feel proud, remember the rich young man.  He couldn’t save himself and neither can you.
 
     After the young man left, Jesus said, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!”  The disciples were amazed at Jesus’ words.  Then Jesus said, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!   It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”  Please note that Jesus is not saying that rich people cannot enter into heaven.  There are many wealthy people, such as Abraham and David, who are in heaven.  Jesus is pointing out that there is a special temptation of relying on wealth, which shows that it is more important than God.  The emphasis isn’t so much the wealth as it is the thought that we don’t need God to get into heaven.  We can get there on our own by what we do.
 
     When the disciples heard Jesus’ words, they were even more amazed.  They asked, “Who then can be saved?”  ‘If this young man, who was seemingly doing everything right couldn’t be saved, who could?’  Jesus answered, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”  There is the answer.  It is impossible for us to save ourselves by what we do.  God demands perfection.  We see that we can’t do it.  “Who, then, can be saved?”  Yet, what is impossible for you and me, is possible with God.  “All things are possible with God.”  Think of all of the things that only God could do.  We think of the fact that he created all things with his word.  We think of Jesus’ life: the virgin birth, the feeding of the five thousand, the raising of the dead, etc.  These things are all impossible for mankind.  Yet, God accomplished every one of them.  The fact is that we can never enter heaven on our own.  It is impossible for us to do.  Yet, God made it possible for us to inherit eternal life.  This is because he sent his Son into the world.  He did what was impossible for us to do.  He perfectly followed all of the commandments.  That list that Jesus mentioned to the young man was kept in every way by Jesus.  Never once did he waver from his resolve to do all that his Father asked of him.  What was impossible for us, was perfectly done by Jesus.  Yet, even then, we would not be able to enter heaven because we have sinned.  It would have been impossible for us.  Jesus also took care of that when he willingly went to the cross.  He paid for every single sin that you and I have ever committed.  We could have never paid the price for our sins.  It was impossible for us.  Jesus stepped up and took the full force of God’s anger because of our sins.  It would have been impossible for us to ever earn God’s favor.  Jesus paid for all of our sins and, when he rose from the dead, he showed that his Father was satisfied with his work.  It would have been impossible for us to enter heaven on our own.  Jesus did everything so that we could go to heaven.  
 
     How we rejoice to hear Jesus say, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”  First, we have to be shown that we cannot save ourselves.  This is not something that we like to hear, nor do we want to hear it.  Yet, as Dr. Luther once said, “God must make us sad before he can make us glad.”  Once I give up any hope of saving myself, then I can rejoice, because then I am sure that I have been saved.  No longer will I be like that rich man, wondering what do I still have to do to get into God’s good graces.  My salvation does not depend on me.  It depends completely on what Jesus has done for me.  This knowledge fills me with joy and confidence.  It also motivates me in my day-to-day life.  Now, I look at those commandments not as something I have to do, but as my way to thank God for all that he has done for me.  Now, when I help someone else take care of their possessions, I am thanking God.  Now when I speak the best about people, rather than the worst, I am thanking God.  The list goes on and on of ways to thank God.  We have every reason to.  I could not save myself.  God has saved me.  It was impossible for me on my own.  God has made it possible for me to be saved.  There is no better news that we will ever hear.  This is the message that God wants us to share with all people.
 
     It is easy for us to identify with the young man in our text.  Our sinful nature likes to puff itself up and say that, though we are not perfect, we are still better than others, and God has to give us some credit for that.  When we are tempted to feel that way, may we hear God’s law speaking to us clearly, which tells us that we cannot save ourselves.  Yet, we also hear the Gospel’s sweet message which reminds us, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”  We thank God for this beautiful message of hope and confidence.  Amen.