Monday, 10 May 2021

First Lutheran Corner: 1 + 1 = 10 (revisited)

"Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?"

Two weeks on one passage (Mark 10:17-31) … tell me it is not so! This is an important passage for teaching in today’s society so let’s look at it more closely.

The statement above comes from a slightly breathless man who obviously has it all together. He is young and wealthy, so the text tells us.

The fact that he's concerned about his salvation tells us he's wise. The fact that he's come running to Jesus to ask the question tells us that this is a zealous man who wants to follow the Lord.

To the disciples and others gathered around, this is an excellent prospect for a follower. He's the kind of guy who would volunteer to serve on committees and get a lot of work done. He's the kind of guy who would be an asset for whatever sort of plan or strategy needs to be launched by Jesus.

But the conversation doesn't go the way it's supposed to. At least, it doesn't go the way the disciples think it's supposed to … who would ever imagine that this slam-dunk disciple would walk away sorrowful a few minutes later? What happened?

Let's examine the exchange: "Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" The problem has already begun, because the question he asks is flawed.

Listen again: "Good Teacher, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?" The question tells us that man assumes that he can work his way into heaven by the things he does.

What he is asking Jesus is this: "How much more of God's Law do I have to keep in order to earn my way into eternal life? What do I have to do?"

Although the man is sincere, he is far from faith. He doesn't want Jesus to save him from sin, but to approve of who he is and the good that he has done.

"Teacher, all these things (the commandments) I have kept from my youth!" Then, Jesus, who loves this man, preaches one more bit of Law: "One thing you lack," says the Lord. "Go your way, sell whatever you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, take up the cross, and follow Me."

This time, the man sees how the Law accuses him, and it crushes him. Jesus has just pointed out to him his sin. But what sin is that, exactly?

The sin our Lord condemns here is not wealth; Jesus is not preaching a sermon against being rich. We must make this clear so that we can understand the true sin and the marvelous Gospel of this text.

Bible stories like this one have been used to declare that wealth is innately sinful; that is not true. In Luther's time it was considered a great work to sell all and make a vow of poverty, for poverty was considered to be more pleasing to God.

But this is not what the Lord is saying. So, is the sin greed? There is greed here, yes, but the greed is not the big problem here: There is a far more dangerous sin at work.

The greater sin is this: The man thinks that he can save himself by how well he works at keeping God's commands. He believes that he can work his way into heaven by being good enough.

For greed alone, the man can be forgiven as he trusts in Jesus, the Savior. But as long as the man believes that he can save himself, he does not trust in Jesus to save him; thus, there is no forgiveness.

In other words, Jesus says to the man: "You can't save yourself. But I can save you. I will save you by going to the cross and dying for your sin. Do not trust in your own efforts, but in mine.”

Here at First Lutheran Church, we are trying our best to prayerfully respond to putting it all in Jesus’ hands as this passage commands us.

If you need help to recover from the fires of this summer, we do have some financial and food supply assistance available.

Please join us Sunday, Oct. 21, and approach one of the leaders for a form to fill out.

Worship is at 11 a.m., lunch following the service, and then our monthly food cupboard for those in need of food and personal hygiene products.

All are welcome so please come as you are!

Chris DelCol is pastor of First Lutheran Church in Lucerne, Calif. The church is located at 3863 Country Club Drive, telephone 707-274-5572. Email Pastor Chris at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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