Pentecost 20B October 10, 2021 Mark 10:17-30
Let me admit right now that if you were to grade my preaching today, you’d probably have to flunk me for missing the main point of our gospel reading. I know this is a reading about stewardship, but this isn’t going to be a stewardship sermon even though we are in the stewardship season. I know this is a lesson about what we are to do with our money and our stuff, but I’m not going to talk about how much we should give away and how much we should keep. So flunk me for not saying anything about how hard it is for the rich to get into heaven.
Instead, I’m going to focus on one little incident in this reading that almost always goes unnoticed; it is the look in Jesus’ eye and the love in Jesus’ heart for this man who comes running up to him and who throws himself at Jesus’ feet. Our reading says that Jesus looked at him and loved him. Another version, Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase of the Bible called “The Message” puts it this way: “Jesus looked him hard in the eye and loved him.”
I think what he means by that is the hard look in the eye is a way of saying that Jesus really saw him for who he really was. He saw his yearning for something more in his life. He saw his desperation to be whole. He saw his sense of lacking even though he had so much. And, still, he loved him.
And here is the point I’m going to be making in my sermon today. The hard look in the eye and the soft heart of love that Jesus gave this man isn’t just meant for him, but it is meant for us too. And this look and this love is the only thing that can change the way we live and change what we do with our lives.
You see, Jesus looked upon this man and loved him not only before he told him of the full cost of eternal life, but even after he walked away dejected by what he had heard. After everything was said and done, Jesus looked on him and loved him still. He looked at him and loved him all the way up to the day he died on the cross and the day he rose from the dead. And I really believe that Jesus still looks upon him and loves him from his heavenly throne of mercy and grace.
Nothing can ever change that hard look that knows him completely and nothing can ever change that deep love that Jesus has for him, no matter what. And likewise, nothing can ever change that hard look of Jesus that knows you and me better than we know ourselves. And nothing can ever change that unconditional love Jesus offers us so freely. And here is the thing, it is this hard look and this absolute love that has any chance of melting away our icy hearts and warming a generous and charitable spirit within us.
We are told that the young man even though he is known and loved completely by Jesus, he can’t embrace the invitation Jesus offers him to give all that he has away. He is shocked by the one thing he needs to do, and he walks away grieving because it is more than he can bear. Maybe he is shocked because he has always considered his wealth as a reward from God for living a faithful life. Maybe he is shocked because he has never considered his wealth to be to be, in fact, a liability and a burden that is keeping him from the true life he seeks.
And Jesus just lets him leave. He doesn’t coax. He doesn’t plead. He doesn’t manipulate. He doesn’t judge. Jesus honors the man’s freedom … even if it is his freedom to refuse eternal life … and allows him to walk away. I wonder if Jesus does so knowing that eventually he will have to do the hard thing he can’t do right now.
I can’t help but wonder what would grieve and shock me in such a way if Jesus asked me to surrender it for the sake of my spiritual growth and well-being? What do I hold so dear that I can’t let go of? What is keeping me from claiming my place in God’s kingdom? I am afraid there is a lot on that list.
But this I know, one day I will die and all that I hold on to so tightly will disappear from my hands and finally, I will be ready to inherit eternal life. At that day when I breath my last breath, it is all in God’s hands and with God all things are possible.