Pastor Jeremy Husby delivers a sermon entitled “All Things Are Possible With God” based on Mark 10:17-27 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.
Delivered on Sunday, October 14, 2018
The young man had been doing well for himself. He had climbed the proverbial corporate ladder. He was in charge of others and was, already at a young age, accomplished in his career. And, yet, he still found himself lacking.
In the context of the Scriptures, hearing this particular reading, in this building, on a day that you have come to worship your God, the answer to this man’s problem isn’t all that difficult to see or surmise.
Whether this was the first time or the four hundredth time you have heard this reading, did you find yourself wanting to shake this man silly? He was talking to Jesus! How could he have missed the point of what Jesus told him? Even if it was difficult to actually and practically accomplish, why didn’t this man just do what Jesus told him to do?
In the context of the Scriptures, hearing this particular reading, in this building, on a day that you have come to worship your God, it all sounds and seems so simple, especially for someone who was so determined to follow the Commandments God had set out for him.
It seems and sounds so simple in this context, but what about if you were to change the context? What if, instead looking at this man in Mark chapter 10, you applied the same mandate from Jesus to the man or woman in the mirror?
Have the excuses already started pouring through your mind?
Too bad this doesn’t apply to me. I’m not rich.
Too bad this doesn’t apply to me. I’m not young.
Too bad this doesn’t apply to me. I’m not a man.
It’s good and fine to play hypothetical games, but the truth of the matter is that context does matter. Jesus said these words to this man at that time and hasn’t said them to me, so this doesn’t apply to me.
I know Jesus didn’t really care about the actual action of selling possessions, but he was getting at the man’s heart. Jesus already has my heart, so this doesn’t apply to me.
Jesus said these words to a man who wanted to inherit eternal life. I already have eternal life, so this doesn’t apply to me.
The reason why those thoughts, or something somewhat similar, may have come to your mind is the same that caused this man’s face to fall and to go away sad. And that reason might become a little clearer if you know a little bit more about the very word that described this man’s reaction to Jesus’ loving statement.
The translation in your bulletin is a good one when it says that the man’s face fell. It is easy to picture in your mind’s eye. You can probably recall a time when you have seen someone else’s face fall and that really does convey the emotional impact of Jesus’ words to this man and why he went away sad. But, there is a little something lost in this translation that might explain why he experienced this reaction.
This word is used in the Greek language to describe a change in human demeanor, but it is also used, at times, to describe a change in nature, particularly in the sky.
When a sunny day turns to overcast and eventually into a stormy day, the Greeks would say that the sky, itself, fell. It became cloudy. The warmth and energy of the sun became blocked. The sun became difficult to see and feel because of the clouds.
It wouldn’t be a very readable translation, but you could say that the reason this man went away sad was because he became cloudy. It wouldn’t be very readable, but you would be able to understand what it means to be cloudy.
Now, look again in the mirror. Would it be all that foreign to you to say that the reason that those defenses came to your mind was because you became cloudy? You know what it’s like to have clouded judgment, don’t you? And, you know what so often clouds your judgment, don’t you?
The answer, of course, is sin. It might be the sin of greed. It could be pride. It may be selfishness or self-centeredness. Ultimately though, no matter how it might manifest itself in your thoughts, words, or actions, the clouds all appear and have their source in the same place: your sinful nature.
That sinful nature will do whatever it can to convince you to murder, commit adultery, steal, give false testimony, defraud, and dishonor your father and mother by doing exactly what this rich, young man’s sinful nature did to him. It worked against him and it works against you to disobey the very First Commandment.
This man knew that he was lacking in something, but he didn’t know what it was. Brothers and sisters, he lacked faith. He didn’t fear, love, and trust in God above all things. And, when things become cloudy for you, that is exactly what your sinful nature wants you to lack as well.
Your sinful nature connives to convince you to put your fear, love, and trust in anything and everything but your God. Whether it is a difficult financial situation, a hiccup in your health, a rift in your relationships, a dip into the dangerous waters of addiction, or, like the rich, young man, a question about where you will spend all of eternity, the sin inside of you seeks a solution outside of that which your God has provided for you in his Word.
You aren’t going to find the strength to overcome your particular issues in your wallet, a clean bill of health, your loving and well-meaning spouse, or that bottle of booze. Though it sounds right, and may even, at times, feel right, with your man-made solutions, this is impossible. But not with God; all things are possible with God.
Jesus said it was impossible for this rich, young man to inherit eternal life because he was cloudy. His cloudiness caused him to ask the wrong question. Did you catch it? What must I do to inherit eternal life? What must I do? Sin clouded his judgment. Sin caused him to think that his eternal life rested its destiny in his own hands. And, if eternity did rest its destiny in the hands of human beings, it would be impossible for anyone to inherit eternal life. But not with God; all things are possible with God.
God took salvation out of the hands of humanity and accomplished it himself. He finished it with words wailed from a cursed man on a cross. It is not a question of what you must do or must not do, but, rather, what has been done for you. The gift God gave in the perfect life of his Son, substituted in place of yours, and the death he died, enduring the wrath your sins deserved is what was done for you to inherit eternal life.
Faith, given through his powerful Word and sacraments and worked by the Holy Spirit in your heart, fears, loves, and trusts in Jesus’ work above any and all man-made solutions to sin’s consequences.
And, to paraphrase King David, when you have faith, you shall not lack anything. That doesn’t mean that when you have faith your bank account blossoms with a few extra zeros at the end, that cancer is eradicated, that your wife will love you unconditionally, or that you’ll stop desiring to see the bottom of that bottle. But, the reason you will not be lacking is because your faith will clear the clouds away from your judgment.
You will see clearly how money is not the answer to your problems, but a gift that God gives for you to manage appropriately. You will endure pain and sickness from the perspective of a temporary traveler on this earth who looks forward to the immortality that awaits you. You will find not only the strength, but even the desire to show love to those who surround you, whether they deserve it or not, whether it is reciprocated or not, because of the unconditional love that you receive from your Savior.
When your face falls, feed your faith with Word, water, wafer, and wine and watch as he clears the clouds and shows you his Son, shining for you. Amen.