Damariscotta Baptist Church
Monday, September 24, 2018
Growing personal relationships with God and community

10/14/12 Sermon

Mark 10:17-31

May the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Thy sight O Lord our Strength and our Redeemer, Amen

 How many of you have ever watched the TV game show “Deal or No Deal”??
 If you recall, the game show is about contestants who are faced with 26 briefcases held by 26 models. Each case has a hidden dollar value that can range from a penny to the top prize of $1 million dollars.

At the beginning the contestant chooses one case which contains his or her potential prize.

They then open the remaining cases, one by one, revealing the money that those cases contain.

As the cases are opened, more dollar amounts are taken off the board, thus changing the odds that the contestant’s originally chosen case contains the big money.

Now all the while there’s also this banker, a dark, anonymous figure who makes tempting offers to buy the contestants chosen case.

The producer of the show, David Goldberg, says that the reason the show has been such a hit is that it has something that we all can relate to which is Greed.

And it’s so true-----when you watch the show you sometimes can’t believe the greedy choices people will make, giving up tens of thousands of dollars hoping to score more.

But that’s the game: No matter how much you have, the game is driven by the potential of having more. 


Now our scripture today speaks to this desire for having more. But it’s not about a greediness in wanting more money.

It’s about a very rich man who is looking for something more; even with much wealth he’s looking for a different briefcase.
Obviously he had been following Jesus around listening to his teachings and he knew that the old way of legalism giving one eternal life wasn’t the ticket.

He wanted true eternal life---a life that really is life.

So he asks Jesus “what must I do to inherit eternal life?”
Now in today’s scripture, just like last week when the pharisees asked whether it was permissible to divorce, what we have here is another wrong question.

It’s the wrong place to start from. Asking what you must do to inherit eternal life was the wrong goal.

Eternal life is not a destination; eternal life is a way of life.
And so what we see happen is that Jesus reframes the rich man’s question; he redirects the conversation to get the man to see what it was that was preventing him from living the way of eternal life that he was longing for.

In verse 21 we read that Jesus looked at the man and loved him.

The phrase “looked at” in the Greek actually means to examine as a physician would look at you. So Jesus sees the rich man, examines him and diagnosis the real problem.
He then gives him the prescription: “Go, sell everything you have and give it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”
-----------Deal or No Deal???

Now as we see, that’s not what the rich man was wanting in his briefcase.

While he had been really good at following rules as we see in verses 19-20, this commandment was getting too personal.
Jesus was meddling.

But Jesus was giving him something more than just a rule. Again he was going right to the heart of the problem.

His money itself wasn’t the problem. But what was behind it was.

Jesus was speaking to was the power the money had over him.
Specifically his wealth represented where he put his trust.
His security was his money.
But even deeper than that, the real issue here was his self-reliance.
When Jesus said sell everything to come follow me, he was calling him to completely depend on Jesus and thus stripping him of his dependence on himself.
And he wanted no part of that deal……….
Now that can be a problem for us as well.

You see at the heart of what keeps us from truly experiencing a life eternal, is our struggle with giving up our self-reliance, our security in ourselves.

And as a result we are missing out on the wonderful deal that God wants for us to experience.
Jesus looked at this man and he loved him.
Jesus loved him as this man was awake; he was aware. This man was on the road---he was seeking a life that is truly life. He knew there was a restlessness within and he wanted to do something about it.
And so Jesus wants to help him.
He offers him the deal of all deals.  A life of true peace and joy; assurance and hope.
And he does the same for us if we really want it.
The question is do we want this deal? And if we do, how do we go about receiving it?
Well to receive the deal that Jesus is offering first calls us to understand that eternal life is not a goal. It’s instead a way of life.
As I mentioned earlier, the rich man went to Jesus with a wrong question. He asked what he needed to do to inherit eternal life.
His mindset was that eternal life was the goal; it was the destination.
And when we see something as a goal or a destination the next step is to think of how one might achieve that goal.

If you have a goal to win a race you have to do some training, if you have a goal of scoring well on a test you have to do some studying.

Now when we see eternal life as a goal it leads us to then think about what we need to do to obtain it.
So what do we do------We get baptized, we go to church, we give an offering, we serve on a committee, we attend Sunday school, we teach a class, we sing in the choir.

When we see eternal life as the goal it leads us to a self-reliant way of life that is about doing things to achieve that goal.

We fool ourselves into thinking that we’re following Christ but in reality we’re doing things to get to the goal we want.
And as a result we have many who call themselves Christians but in reality they are self-reliant legalists who always live in fear and doubt as this rich man did.

But when Jesus told him to sell everything to give to the poor and follow him it wasn’t another thing to do to obtain eternal life.

It was instead a surrendering of this self-reliance so as to follow Jesus in the way of eternal life.
And when we accept this deal of surrendering and following, we receive the peace and assurance of eternal life that we so long for and it becomes evident in how we live.

One day, while walking through the wilderness, a man encountered a vicious bear that began to chase him.

The man literally ran off a cliff, and as he fell he grabbed a branch.

He looked up and the bear was leaning over the cliff clawing at his head just missing him with each swipe.

As he looked down to the ground below, only a few inches away he sees a ferocious tiger leaping up, just missing his dangling feet.

As he looks at the branch he sees two groundhogs gnawing away at the branch. His lifeline is disappearing bite by bite.

As he takes a long, deep breath, he notices that growing our of the cliff is a clump of wild strawberries. In the middle of the clump is a red juicy strawberry.

With his one free hand, he reaches over, picks the strawberry, puts it in his mouth, chews it slowly and says “Ahh, delicious. The best strawberry I’ve ever tasted in my whole life”…..

When we accept Jesus’ deal of surrendering and following him as what eternal life is all about we are given peace and assurance right now.

But when we see eternal life as some goal in the future to work for out of our own strength we will always live in anxiousness and fear never experiencing what eternal life is all about.

Jesus calls us to surrender everything to him just as he called the rich man. Deal or No deal?
Now another way we receive the deal of surrendering our lives to Jesus is when we stop seeing our acts of virtue and faith as something we are doing.

Again at the heart of the rich man’s problem was his reliance on himself.

Many Christians can fall into an honest seeking of virtue and faith that at the heart has a prideful relying on our own strength, not on God.
So often we disconnect our acts of faith on anything God is doing in our lives.
We may help people, we give them rides, and we take them food and visit them.
But at the heart is a self-reliance where we’re showing God, showing others and showing ourselves just how strong and capable we are in our ability of being faithful and good.
Martin Buber in his parable “The Angel and World Dominion" tells the story of an angel who saw all the suffering in the world and so went to God and asked God to be in charge of the earth for a year’s time.

The rest of the angels trembled at this audacity. But God looked at the angel with great love and announced his agreement.

And so a year of joy and sweetness visited the earth. The angel poured out great abundance over the earth. The groans of the sick and dying were no longer heard.

The earth was fruitful with new vegetation. When summer was at its height, people sang through the full, yellow fields.

Never had there been such plenty. At harvest time the storage bins were overflowing.

Proud and contented, the shining angel basked in the glory of his own accomplishments.

But one cold day, late in the year, a multitude of voices rose heavenward in a great cry of anguish.

Frightened by the sound, the angel, dressed as a pilgrim, journeyed down to find out the problem.

The people there, having threshed the grain and ground it into flour, had then started baking bread.

But when they took the bread out of the oven it fell to pieces and the taste was like disgusting clay in their mouths.

And they began to curse the Lord of the World, who had deceived their miserable hearts with all of his false blessing.
The angel flew away and collapsed at God’s feet crying, “Lord, help me understand where my power and judgment were lacking.”
Then God raised his voice and spoke:
“Behold a truth too deep and dreadful for your delicate, generous hands---the earth must be nourished with decay and covered with the shadows that seeds may be brought forth—and it is in this, that souls must be made fertile with flood and sorrow, that through them the Great Work may be born.”3
Often our good deeds, our fixing, our faithful acts are done thru our self-reliance. We play God instead of following and trusting God.
But when we receive the deal that Christ has for us, our virtue and faith is not from our own strength but rather from the grace that Christ has given us as a result of following him.
We find peace of the way of eternal life because we are no longer trying to fix the world, fix situations or fix other people.
Instead we leave that up to God.
Now the final way I want to speak to in how we receive Jesus’ deal or no deal is when we decide to give Jesus the attachments that are keeping us from following him.
In verse 25 Jesus explains that it is easier for a camel to go thru the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

In the Medieval times, theologians said that there was actually a gate in Jerusalem that was called the “needles eye”.
They described it as a gate that was so small that merchants had to unload everything in order to get thru the gate.
Now that’s a great image for us.

The rich man needed to unload the attachments of his security of his wealth in order to follow Jesus.

And for us to receive the deal that Jesus offers us we need to look at what attachments we have that are keeping us from following Christ:

Perhaps it’s the issue of security in wealth like this rich man.
For others it can be the attitude of self-reliant pride, and power

For others it might be self-destructive addictions.
-Attachments of past hurts, a victim mentality
-Over commitment to career
-Prejudice, racism, political bias

Maybe it’s how you are using time, energy, talents.

Ask yourself what’s keeping me from fully committing to a life of following Christ.

We can’t just give Jesus a part of us and hold on to other attachments. We won’t be able to fit thru the gate.

To follow Jesus the road is narrow. It requires us to travel light, giving our complete devotion to Christ.
So examine yourself, reflect on your attachments and then give them over to Christ.

Christ will remove the attachments and give us the eternal life of assurance, peace and joy even as there are bears and tigers and groundhogs nibbling at our life line.

In closing this morning we are being reminded that Jesus offers us the best deal of all deals.
The deal you’re looking for is only found in a life of completely surrendering and following him.

It’s not an easy life as those who have committed their lives to Christ can testify, but it is the only life that’s worth living.

Today Jesus is calling you to surrender your whole self to follow him.
What’s your answer…..Deal or no deal?

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen