Luke 18: 18-30 (Pentecost 23 - 2013)
“The Lord Does What We Cannot Do”
Introduction: As Lot and his family were led by angels to flee Sodom and Gomorrah, they were warned to not look back. Lot’s wife could not resist the urge. She was holding on to something. A big part of her life was there. She could not resist the temptation to lament for what God’s wrath was about to destroy. Was she holding on to the lie that they could have the bounty of good things without being affected by the wickedness that went along with it? We are told in the story that Lot and his two daughters wrestled as well. Their angelic guides had to physically pull them by the arms away from the cities. Only by God’s power and strength were they led from destruction and brought to safety.
In the Gospel lesson today Jesus met a man who was holding on to something. He had such a firm grip on it that he refused to let it go. He was willing to ask what he needed to do to inherit eternal life. Jesus helped him, and us, with this lesson that tears down our idols while also replacing those idols with his own heavenly treasures.
He Tears Down our Idols:
The Idol of “Putting on Airs”The ruler was hoping that his outward obedience was good enough. He was exceptionally capable of reciting the commandments. He was confident that he had actually kept the law perfectly since he was a boy. He was likely thinking of the law according outward obedience. He did not know the inward truth: “If we claim to be without sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us.”
He was putting on airs. He was attempting to appease Jesus with a shallow shell of outward goodness. He did not deceive Jesus. He soon learned that he could not deceive himself either. All Jesus needed to do was to expose what was most important in his heart. When the simple request came to give up his wealth to follow Jesus, the man went away sad. His heart broke because he realized that he could not part with his true idol.
The Idols of Our Secrete Treasures The rich ruler was secretly holding on to his idol (his own wealth) while still hoping to professing faith in God for eternal life. What do you hide? What secrete treasure do you hold onto? It may not be $$$. It may be something from the past, something you will never get to share. It may be a constant thorn in the side in the form of temptation. It may be laziness carefully masked in weariness. It may be a controlling complex carefully placed in the vessel of prideful busyness. It may be godlessness masquerading as a much deserved R&R. It may be something else, but it is yours. What personal treasures turn your heads to “look back” and lament like Lot’s wife? Sin is personal to each of us. We have such a grip of steal on it that it takes the power of God and his holy angels to rip us away!
The rich ruler had a wish that was not so rare to us. He desired to hold on to his idol and yet have eternal life. We are champs when it comes to an outward shell of goodness. “These all I have kept since I was a boy.” But the people who know us well know better. We know better. Our Savior knows best. He knows the deep rooted idols that dwell in our hearts. He knows the white knuckle grip our sinful nature has on pleasures that become more important than a healthy relationship with Christ. His Word carries the power of the Spirit to rip us away and rid us of our secrete treasures.
He Replaces our Idols with His Treasures
The Treasure of the Truth Jesus used the truth to reach the heart of the ruler.Jesus knows our hearts and the truth puts our deceit to death. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and forgives.” Christ has earned the right to be number one in our hearts. He has given his life as the only ransom needed for the sin. His blood washes away the guilt of our sin. He has cast down every idol throne from our hearts and lifted up the humble. Jesus desires to tear down our secrete idols in order to replace them with his good things. From his cross, from his empty grave, and from the storehouse of heaven he has plenty of treasures to share!
Treasures for this Life The Lord’s specific application for the ruler was to give up his personal idol. For this man it was wealth. It is not Jesus’ intention to make anyone poor. In fact, God loves to give many good things. Search your catechism for explanations to the 1st Article and Fourth Petition. You will remember food and drink, house and home, spouse and children. You will recall good neighbors, good friends, good government, good weather, etc. From his grace, because he is my good and merciful Father in heaven, not because I have earned or deserved it; God loves to be the source of all things wonderful. He loves to let us have what he gives and use what he gives. God’s purpose is to graciously give us all things in order to move us to bow at the name of Jesus and give Glory to his Father (Philippians 2).
Treasures in HeavenThe treasure Christ intended for the rich ruler out-measured the treasures he would have given up to follow Jesus. On the path of the cross he would have learned those treasures. Jesus encourages us to store up treasures in heaven where moth and rust and thief cannot diminish. Those treasures are beyond what God gives us here. They are the things he purchased with his innocent sufferings and death. They are the treasures invested with the Holy Spirit’s guarantee to last for eternity. They are Christ Jesus as Lord. They are the removal of guilt before God. They are trust in our Heavenly Father. They are wisdom and comfort from His Spirit. They are the Gospel in his Word and Sacraments. They are the One Thing the ruler was hoping for in the first place: Inheritance of Eternal Life!
He Threads us Into His Kingdom
The Eye of the NeedleJesus used an illustration which led his disciples to see the point he was making with the ruler. Salvation is impossible for mankind. Salvation is not impossible with God. Nothing is impossible for God. People who want to hold on to their own idols, their own works, or their own resources of hope abandon the one Way the leads to salvation. It would be easier for a traveler to get their camel through the human being door, than it would be for a human being to get to heaven by trusting in themselves.
Jesus told his friends the night before he gave his life: “I am the Way the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Salvation is what God does for us in his Son Jesus. Eternal Life cannot be earned by man. It is given as gift of God’s grace. Faith is not from me, it is the gift of God by grace so that no one can boast. Jesus threads us into the kingdom of heaven. He does what we could never do for ourselves. He brings us into God’s kingdom now and will bring us into Eternal Life.
Peter’s Confession = Our Confession Peter, the all time spokesman for the group, is in true form. “Lord we have left everything to follow you!” The Lord has empowered you in Christ to not leave here sad! He has empowered you to make Peter’s confession your confession. Jesus confirms that confession with a promise: “no one who has left home … for the sake of the kingdom will fail to receive many times as much in the age, and in the age to come, eternal life.” Amen!