First Lesson: Job 23: 1-9, 16-17
Responsive Reading: Psalm 22: 1-15
Second Lesson: Hebrews 4: 12-16
Gospel Lesson: Mark 10: 17-31
Grace and Peace from Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ,
Today, we come to one of the most famous stories in the Christian Gospels in the tale of Jesus’ encounter with the Rich Young Ruler.
Everyone knows the famous verse from this passage “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the Kingdom of God.”
Plenty of people will assume that the point of this passage is to demonize the rich, demand that they give more of their money to less rich people like us.
Even the name Rich Young Ruler implies a villain like “corporate overlord” or “evil CEO”. The Rich Young Ruler sounds like the type of guy that would steal presents from children. Perhaps when people think of bad guys, then they’ll think of the Rich Young Ruler.
Let me tell you a little secret about the Rich Young Ruler, your life is way easier than his. The Rich Young Ruler would want you to share some of your wealth with him.
Consider the realities of the Rich Young Ruler’s life versus your own. Where you enjoy indoor plumbing, the Rich Young Ruler did his business in a latrine. Where you enjoy the convenience of just flipping a light switch, the Rich Young Ruler had to make due with oil lamps. Hot water, washing machines, the ability to zap meals in the microwave within minutes would have been things beyond even imagination for the Rich Young Ruler. In fact, our standard of living blows away that off even the richest men in Jesus’ day. So if the problem is his comfortable lifestyle, then everyone born in the Western World in the last hundred years would be in a world of hurt.
Perhaps though there is something else wrong with the Rich Young Ruler. The truth of the story was that the Rich Young Ruler seems like a pretty good guy. He seems like the type of guy that any parent would want to have date their daughter.
The Rich Young Ruler is well-mannered: He refers to Jesus as a “good teacher.”
The Rich Young Ruler is devout “Teacher, what must I do to inherit Eternal Life?”
The Rich Young Ruler is well-behaved “I have kept all the commandments: you shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother. This guy had kept all these things since the day of his birth!
The Rich Young Ruler was probably an honors student, varsity lettermen, pretty smile, and did all sorts of service projects and charity work within the community. The Rich Young Ruler had all kinds of friends. The Rich Young Ruler was probably kind to his girlfriend. If the Rich Young Ruler wanted to join our church, we would be shouting “Hallelujah.” What is worth knowing about the Rich Young Ruler is that he probably had a limitless future ahead of him.
Here’s a secret to understanding our story: Jesus knew all this. Jesus knew that the Rich Young Ruler would seem to be the ideal applicant to the Kingdom of God, only the Kingdom of God looks beyond resumes.
Then Jesus puts another demand upon the Rich Young Ruler “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.”
We know that the young man went away sad and assumed he was sad because he was being asked to give up his money. Those who he heard Jesus speak to the Rich Young Ruler were amazed at Jesus’ words.
“‘Who then can be saved,’ if not this guy” the Disciples said. These words coming from the very men who seemingly did everything Jesus asked in leaving their fishing nets and boats behind to follow him. The Disciples knew that this wasn't so much a passage about wealth, but rather the standards of salvation.
The key question that the Rich Young Ruler asks comes in verse 17 ‘What must I do to inherit eternal life?”
The answer to the Rich Young Ruler’s question though does not come till verse 27 “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”
Jesus wants the Disciples and the Rich Young Ruler both to think about salvation in an entirely new way “But many who are first will be last, and the last shall be first.”
The thing about the Rich Young Ruler is that he thinks he can deal with God as he has dealt with others. The Rich Young Ruler could merely pull out his gold coins, disperse them liberally without having to do anything more uncomfortable than that. The Rich Young Ruler had gone through life knowing and expecting that he had the best of everything. The Rich Young Ruler had never lost at anything in his life. This guy Jesus wanted to give him a tip how to handle this tricky “eternal life” situation.
The Rich Young Ruler is not arrogant. The Rich Young Ruler hears Jesus’ words and walks away sad. The Rich Young Ruler didn’t want to make the ultimate sacrifice.
This tale brings up current events, last week’s big news story had to do with the Oregon community college shooting. The Gunman according to reports asked people in the classroom about their religion. The Gunman then declared “Good, because you’re a Christian, you’re going to see God in just about one second.” There seems to be some history of animus by the gunman towards Christians, and a few of the victims were publically professing believers. In the wake of this it raises an interesting question “If a gun is pointed at you, what would you say?”
Everyone after the fact can say they would have said “yes” that they would choose to enter “heaven.” The gunmen dare gets more complicated say if you have young children at home or are their elderly parents or spouses’ only caregiver. Answering this challenge also raises the issue of whether martyrdom is dying before a government or a mentally ill gunmen?
Being forced to give of our faith with such high stakes are hard. We can demonize the Rich Young Ruler for walking away sad, but these people often drive nice cars, play on I-Pads, and live in warm, comfortable homes. We probably aren’t even as devout as the Rich Young Ruler.
The question that Jesus is posing to the Rich Young Ruler is not whether he’d be willing to die for Jesus, the question is rather would we be willing to let Jesus die for us.
For everyone following Jesus, that day was not a believer that went through life with limitless courage. Peter stood and watched the Rich Young Ruler walk away sad. Peter was the member of the Disciples that Jesus trusted so much that he was going to take over for him upon his death, yet Peter would deny knowing him on three separate occasions.
The moral of our story is Jesus’ followers’ humanity. Peter was human, and the Rich Young Ruler was human. We are human.
When Jesus heard the Rich Young Ruler claim to have followed all of the Commandments, He knew having spent time on the lakes in Galilee that something smelled fishy.
D.L. Moody was a great traveling evangelist in the 19th century. Moody starts preaching about sin “one day.” A man from the crowd starts encouraging Moody’s sermon by shooting out “I haven’t sinned preacher in five years”. Moody at first ignores him, but the man wouldn’t be quiet about not having sinned in five years. Moody interprets the meeting to ask the man “Brother, you haven’t sinned in five years.” The man nods his head with vigor. Moody says, “Sir, that’s quite a feat what I want you to do is go home, find your wife, bring her back here, and have her confirm your story about not sinning for five years.” The man snuck out the back of the tent never to be heard from again.
The famous phrase about “the camel going through the eye of the needle” is pure hyperbole, given for dramatic effect. This illustration is used to make a spiritual point that in the words of Romans 3 “No one is worthy of salvation, no one”.
This week I came across an article about the pop singer Justin Bieber. Bieber had recently said the following “that he loves Jesus and wants to be like him”. But on the other hand, “You don’t need to go to church to be a Christian. If you go to Taco Bell that doesn’t make you a taco.”
Justin Bieber seems to be the modern definition of the Rich Young Ruler. What Bieber is saying is true on some level that there are plenty of bad people that go to church, and plenty of people that appear to be saints that don’t. Yet where Bieber is like the Rich Young Ruler is he doesn’t see the need to bow down before the almighty. Christianity is more than just a lifestyle, Christianity is about encountering Christ in your life. We only encounter Christ when we humble ourselves in the Lord’s presence receiving the gifts of the Gospel given in Word and Sacrament. We receive the Lord’s blessing when we gather with fellow believers in need of spiritual healing that don’t necessarily look like us or think like us. The Rich Young Ruler like many people is unwilling to surrender the spiritual pride they desperately long to cling.
In the words of Robert Farrar Capon, Jesus is meaning to illustrate that salvation “is for the last, the lost, the least, and the little.” Basically everyone that the Rich Young Ruler was not.
To paraphrase Capon, We can conceive the world like the Rich Young Ruler thought existed: sinners cast into hell, whereas the holy are lifted up to heaven. The problem is that there’s way too many sinners on the nightly news, and everyone else’s s sins seemingly lead to death, so, therefore, the cross of Christ becomes the means through which all things are made possible.
The thing about the Rich Young Ruler is he had a lot of possessions just like we have a lot of possessions this much is certainly true. The problem with the Rich Young Ruler though is he was letting his possesions define who he was. The truth is no matter what you may own today; it will not possess any value where you are going. In fact, we take a whole lot of different things to death: we take regrets, we take failed relationships, we take sin, and we take judgment. What Jesus is trying to get at today is that winners in the end don’t end up as winners whereas losers encounter an outcome beyond what they themselves can pay. Amen
 Mark 10:17-31
 Mark 10:25
 Mark 10:17
 Mark 10:17
 Mark 10:19-20
 Mark 10:21
 Mark 10:26
 Mark 10:31
 Mark 10:22
 Stetzer, Ed. The Targeting of Christians and How Christians Respond: Reflections on the Oregon Shootings “. Christianity Today. 2. Oct.2015. Web. Oct.8.2015
 Stetzer, Ed. “The Targeting of Christians and How Christians Respond: Reflections on the Oregon Shootings.”
 I came across a really interesting discussion of this question on Reddit’s Christianity page in a discussion thread entitled “I have an unpopular opinion” posted on Oct.6.2015.
 Taken from Reddit poster GoMustard in the “I have an unpopular opinion” thread.
 Capon, Robert Farrar. Kingdom, Grace, and Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus. Eerdman’s Publishing. Grand Rapids, MI. 2002. Page 388.
 Romans 3:10
 Nussbaum Keating, Anna. “Go to Church, Justin Bieber”. First Things.6.Oct.2015. Web. Oct.8.2015.
 Nussbaum Keating, Anna. “Go to Church, Justin Bieber”.
 Capon, Robert Farrar. Kingdom, Grace, and Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus. Page 388
 Capon, Robert Farrar. Kingdom, Grace, and Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus. Taken from page 389.
 Capon, Robert Farrar. Kingdom, Grace, and Judgment: Paradox, Outrage, and Vindication in the Parables of Jesus. The reference comes from C.J. Green in an article entitled “Grace in A Most Violent Year”. Mockingbird. 12.Aug.2015. Web. Oct.6.2015.