On Being Good
October 13, 2018
Verse: Mark 10:17–10:22
Christ Lutheran Church
October 14, 2018
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
On Being Good
As Jesus continued on the Way (to the cross) a man ran up to him and threw himself down on his knees before him and asked him, "Good Teacher what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus responded, "Why do you call me good? No one is Good except God. You know the commandments: Do not kill. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not give false witness. Do not defraud. Honor your father and mother." He answered Jesus, "Teacher! I have observed all of these for my whole life."
Looking at him, Jesus loved him and said to him, "You need to do one more thing, then. Go! Sell all that you have and give it to the poor; and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow me." Stung by this answer he went away aggrieved because he possessed great wealth. Mark 10:17-22
In the New Testament we find two kinds of people. Those who want to manage Jesus. And those wxho heed his invitation to come to him, take up the cross and follow him to Calvary. Which in today’s terms means to live the baptismal life: which is the way of the cross; which is the way to eternal life.
We find no shortage of managers in this part of St. Mark’s gospel. Last week we heard about a contingent of Pharisees who posed a trick question so that they could catch Jesus in an error. It concerned their rules about divorce, but Jesus knows when he is being played.
The Pharisee’s asked about marriage between a man and a woman; but Jesus’ answer is about another marriage. Israel’s marriage to the LORD, the adultery she committed against him, and her divorce from the Glorious Husband who rescued her from an abusive relationship; who saved her, cleansed her wounds, made her whole, and loved her like no woman was ever loved before.
Following this fiasco we find the Lord’s own disciples trying to manage him. People brought their children to Jesus so that he would bless them. So that with the Lord’s touch they would be kept safe from the Evil One for their whole life long; and inherit eternal life. But the dim-witted disciples did not get it and turned them away.
To say the Lord was perturbed in the extreme is an understatement. Not because he shares the sloppy sentimental thinking that our godless culture does towards children. But because no child can survive sin, death or the devil without the divine touch of Holy Baptism. And so bring your children to Jesus today where at the font, and at the altar they will obtain the remission of sins, life, salvation and every blessing from God.
Still later we find two of the Lord’s chief disciples, James and John, going for the gold. “Teacher,” they said, “we want you to do for us whatever we ask … Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory." Talk about managing Jesus!
But today St. Mark teaches us about an un-named man who also wants to manage Jesus. He wasn’t only rich, however, but we learn from the other gospels he was Young and a Ruler – a very bad combination!
A snot-nosed kid with money and power, but lacking the great store of wisdom needed to sit in the city gate as he did where business was transacted, and court held to decide the fate of the people brought before him. The city gate where the rich paid bribes to tip the scales in their favor; leaving the poor and the innocent to pay heavy fines; that filled the pockets of greedy men: just like the one St. Mark teaches us about today.
It is a dramatic scene that St. Mark records for us here – the picture is of an arrogant young man, who throws himself down at the Lord’s feet with a flourish, a flair - and in a voice dripping with sarcasm asks: “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
But Jesus, who knows that he’s being managed, doesn’t fall for it, but manages the man instead. He turns the man’s focus away from himself; to where all human focus must be: on God who alone is Good! And then he quotes the catechism:
You know the commandments: Do not kill. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not give false witness. Do not defraud. Honor your father and mother." But the man is unfazed.
A hard case if ever there was: But not too hard for Jesus!
St. Mark tells us that Jesus looked at him. What does this mean? It means that Jesus was making a full assessment of him. Jesus understood the depth of the corruption of his sin better than he did. Better than we do. Indeed, our Lutheran Confessions, under the article on Original Sin state that the corruption of our hearts, minds, intellects and wills is so complete that, apart from Sacred Scripture explaining it to us, we cannot know how hopeless we are before God. But Jesus saw right through him, and he sees through you, too.
But St. Mark doesn’t stop there. He also writes: And looking at him, he loved him! Yes, Jesus loved him. And Jesus loves you also!
That is why instead of applauding the man he demolished his hope. Demolished it because nothing the man possessed: neither money, nor youth, nor power nor especially self-righteousness can help a man before God. But only one thing can: to sell all that we have, take up the cross and walk with Jesus to Calvary to die.
But what does that mean? Does it mean that you need to sell all your worldly possessions, move to Southern Ohio and join the Amish religion? No. That would be easy. But the wealth that Jesus asks us to sell is the title we have bestowed upon ourselves. Good! The one that belongs to God alone, because “No one is good except God.” (Mark 10:18)
You are not good. Culture is not good. Your dog is not good. Indeed none of the things upon which you bestow the title good, are good, because “No one is good except God.” Full stop. End of sentence.
There is none that is good except Jesus: who for the joy that was set before him: endured the cross for you; despised its shame for you; and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God for you. (Heb. 12:2) “ … Who though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” (2 Cor. 8:9)
Yes, God is good! Jesus is Good! And everyone who follows Jesus into baptismal death, and dies daily to self (1 Cor. 15:31) that person, too, is Good and will inherit eternal life. Amen.