21st Sunday after Pentecost
October 14, 2018
“Who Do You Love?”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and our Good Shepherd Jesus. The text that engages us for the sermon today is the Gospel lesson read earlier from Mark 10.
My Dear Friends in Christ,
“Who Do You Love?” is a song first written and recorded in 1956 by Bo Diddley. The lyrics of the song speak of wearing a cobra for a necktie and having a house built of rattlesnake hides with a chimney made of human skulls…how charming. The song has been recorded by many other performers since Bo Diddley including The Grateful Dead, George Thorogood, Golden Earring, The Rolling Stones, The Yardbirds, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, and The Doors just to name a few.
Who do you love? It’s not just a popular song, but it also seems like a pretty good question, right? It is a question that we not only ask other people, but we ask ourselves – or at least we should ask ourselves from time to time. Who do you love, that is, what is it or whom is it that you love? That was most definitely a question to be asked and answered in today’s text from Mark 10. It is a question that Jesus didn’t ask in so many words, but He answered when it came to the rich man.
In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus and His disciples are in Judea where He is engaged by a number of different people and groups. As today’s Gospel lesson began, Jesus is approached by a man often identified as a rich young man who has an abundance of property or possessions, depending on how that word in verse 22 is translated, which is often translated “wealth” or “possessions” or “property.” This man wants something more from Jesus. He wants to know what HE must do to get or obtain eternal life. Jesus knows this is the wrong approach. He knows that this wealthy man wants to add everlasting life to his long list of possessions and what the price tag will be.
After their exchange, which I will address later, the rich man goes away empty handed because Jesus knows what this guy’s real priority was. The question “who do you love” was answered, and the rich man gave the wrong answer. And lest we make the same mistake, we also need to ask ourselves and then also answer the question – who do YOU love?
Who do you love? Do you love your spouse? Children? family and friends? I think we can answer that “yes”, we love our family and friends. And yet, look what has happened to our relationships. God’s intention of marriage is amazing, yet husbands abuse wives. Wives abuse husbands. Spouses abandon one another physically or emotionally. The one-flesh union that God creates is broken by sinful lusts and desires figuratively or sometimes literally! Children disobey and disrespect parents. There is never an age when children stop breaking their parent’s hearts: little kids, little heartache, big kids, big heartaches. Friends betray friends. They lie, spread rumors, speak ill of one another. Can we always depend on our families and friends? Sadly, the answer is no. I stand here today as living proof that your family can and will betray you. We love them just the same, but sinful people will always be sinful people and they will always let us down in some way. Maybe the answer to receiving eternal life is not found in loving family and friends first and foremost.
Who do you love? Maybe it’s the flashy things that are available in life. The list is as long as it is corrupting: money, home, car, “Alexa” enabled technology, cell phone, Facebook page, Iphone, laptop, 80” 4K Smart TV, your favorite sports franchise, et all. As sinful people we get so caught up in the pursuit and craving for each flashy object, obtaining it, and then moving on to the next one. These cravings and seekings drain our time and our resources and pull our attention away from the One True God. Maybe they’re not the answer either.
Case in point. In today’s lesson, the rich young man had “great possessions,” an abundance of wealth, he “had it all” as we might say. But the answer to the question “who do you love” isn’t to be found in “all.” It is found in One. The answer to the question “who do you love” isn’t found in “all.” It is found in One. One is the final test; a test that the rich man failed and went away truly empty-handed; how ironic! Because I can tell you this. While the rich man disappears from the pages of Scripture, I know for sure that at some point he died, and neither the quality of his family and friends nor the abundance of his possessions made one iota of difference when it came to the eternal salvation of his soul!
As I stated earlier, in response to the rich man’s question, Jesus showed him his sinfulness. Jesus summarized the Second Table (Commandments 4-10), to which the man replied “all these I have kept from my youth” (v. 20). Yeah…right. There is NO WAY he kept these commands. We know that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). There is no one that is truly good…no, not one (Romans 3:12). And yet, notice Jesus’ response! “Jesus, looking at him, loved him” (v. 21a).
Jesus told the rich man “go, sell all that you have…and come, follow me” because Jesus knew his love for wealth was getting in the way. The answer is in love for the One…love for the one True Triune God, not love for stuff. Eternal life is not in an abundance of stuff but in a right relationship with God.
To ensure that those who believe can inherit eternal life, Jesus went to the cross to pay for our sinful desires and greed and selfish wants. He shed His blood to provide the forgiveness of sins that we so badly need every day. He gave His body that we might have the means to restore the fractured relationships that sin creates in our families and in our homes and with friends. The peace and love and grace and mercy of God are given to those who believe that we would believe and be saved…that’s the ONE thing the rich man lacked.
Who do you love? Do you love cobra neckties, rattlesnake hide homes with skull chimneys (yuck!), or do you love the triune God – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – who loved you before time began? Enjoy the blessings that God gives you: faithful spouse and family, friends, material things, but don’t covet them above all else. Love God and your neighbor, lose your life for the Gospel, give yourself to the One who gave all for you. Who do you love? Truly…who do you love? Love the One who loved you first and did what was necessary to obtain for you eternal life through faith in Christ, who loved you before time began.