Rev. Vincent Gardner Rich young ruler 11/10/15
Do you know what one of my fantasies is? To be able to look out from a balcony window on the Amalifi coast in Italy with a glass of red Barolo wine in hand, good company, sun on my face… while lying on a bed of hard cash….Gorgeous. Money is one of the life’s pleasures. It has never done any ‘evil’ too me.
Money is great! Having loads of money must be brilliant! So before we start today, that’s where I am coming from. And I am no fool.
On April 1st 1976 British astronomer Patrick Moore made an announcement on BBC Radio 2: “At 9:47 a.m. today there will be a ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ astronomical event occurring.” The planet Pluto would pass behind Jupiter, he said, temporarily causing a gravitational alignment that would counteract and lessen the Earth’s own gravity. Astronomer Patrick Moore explained that if people were to jump in the air at the exact moment that this planetary alignment occurred, they would experience a strange floating sensation.
When 9:47 AM arrived, BBC Radio 2 began to receive 100s of phone calls from listeners claiming to have felt the sensation. One woman even reported that she and her 11 friends had risen from their chairs and floated around the room….It was an April Fool’s joke.
Then (2005) April 1st the media reported that NASA had discovered water on Mars and that they had actual pictures on the official NASA website. Those who went to the website to check it out, saw this picture: (picture of a glass of water balanced on a chocolate Mars bar) April Fools! Now, what is it that makes an April Fool joke funny? (Someone shouted out “fools”, which is technically correct, I guess) It’s when someone can be fooled into believing something that’s not true.
In the incidences I just cited (about Jupiter/Pluto and about Mars) people were made to believe something about the HEAVENS that wasn’t true. And in our story today, we encounter a young man who believed something about HEAVEN that wasn’t true. Now, before we get to what he believed that was NOT true, let’s first understand what he believed that WAS true.
Notice what this man does “As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him” (vs. 17) He RUNS up to Jesus. Why does he do that?
Well, when was the last time you ran? If you’re like me, you ran because you were in a hurry. You needed to do something/get somewhere and you needed to run. This man RAN to Jesus because he needed to get somewhere… to Jesus. And he needed to get something – something he was sure Jesus had. But what was it that Jesus had that this man needed so badly?
Well, look at his first question: “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” verse 17. Now, that’s kind of a bizarre question for him to ask. I mean – think about it. This man would seem to be a shoe-in for salvation.
• He’s young, rich and professional. He’s not a near-do-well. He doesn’t live off others. He may very well, be handsome, and likable and an accomplished businessman. In my eyes ‘Ryan Gosling’.• But he’s HUMBLE (he kneels before Jesus). • And he’s EAGER to know what he needs to do to please God. • On top of that he’s a highly MORAL man. He strives to keep the 10 commandments. In fact he believes he’s kept those commandments ever since he was a boy. Even Jesus likes him. Mark 10:21
This rich young ruler is so impressive that when Jesus says: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
They ask: “Who then can be saved?”
I mean – if this guy can’t do it, who can????
But this rich young ruler BELIEVED all the right stuff
1. He believed that he was lost (He doubted he had eternal life).
2. He believed that he needed to DO something to please God (“what must I DO?).
3. And he believed that Jesus could give him the answers he so desperately sought.
But his problem was – he was a FOOL. He walked away from the only one who could answer his question.
And he walked away because he believed something about Heaven that was not true. What he believed was that he could get into heaven while putting his money before God. But he was seriously and foolishly wrong about that.
“I always point out that the man’s sin was not that he had money, but rather that money had him. In a sense his god was wealth. He was self sufficient.” (Paul Humphrey)
How do we know money was his god?
Because Jesus pointed it out to him (and to us) in a very clever way.
Jesus says to this young man “You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.’” Mark 10:19
19 You know the commandments: ‘You shall not murder, you shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not give false testimony, you shall not defraud, honor your father and mother.’ ”
You can almost sense the relief in the young ruler’s response
“Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.” Mark 10:20
20 “Teacher,” he declared, “all these I have kept since I was a boy.”
He’s thinking to himself “Hey this is a shoe-in. I’ve got it made. I’ve studied for this test – and I’ve passed!”
But in his sudden excitement, he missed the one commandment Jesus had left out.
Do you know which one it was? “Thou shalt not COVET” Exodus 20:17 17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”
This rich young ruler was a covetous man. His money and his possessions were important to him. And they were SO important they were robbing him of his closeness to God. Money can blind you to God.
No one can serve both God and money! Why not? Well, there are two basic reasons that is true:
1st – God won’t stand still for it. The very idea of placing anything between yourself and your loyalty to God is something He will not tolerate. To love your money (or anything else) more than you love Him is idolatry.
2nd – The love of money will enslave you and rob you of God’s peace.
But we have to be careful Jesus wasn’t criticizing the man for being rich, lots of Jesus followers would have been regarded as wealthy or at least comfortable. Jesus himself was probably from a comfortable situation. Nicodemus. We might class some people as poor within our community/country but wouldn’t be in another country/situation. What we might perceive as rich another group wouldn’t. Jesus was comfortable around rich people and partied with them. No being rich itself wasn’t the issue, being controlled by it rather than God was the issue.
A friend mentioned ‘I was in Hollywood, Florida… on the so-called “gold coast” of Florida. Every morning I taught the Scriptures to a crowd of five hundred or more. These people, I was told, represented well over a billion dollars’ worth of accumulated wealth. I had the opportunity to talk with many of them individually. I found that most of these, by their own testimony, though they had all the money to buy anything they wanted, had arrived at the place where they were suffering from what someone has so aptly called “Destination sickness” – the malady of having everything that you want, but not wanting anything you have, and being sick and empty.’
Truth is universal, but Jesus was unique. He taught with authority, which amazed His followers. Something about the way in which He taught was distinctly different from that of anyone else they had ever heard. Maybe it was a bit like hearing an author read his own poetry aloud – it is quite different from having a friend read it to you! Jesus had a moral authority.
Some of the parallels between his teachings and that of the rabbis of his day are quite subtle, yet revolutionary. For example, Hillel said, “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbour” (Shabbat 31a). Jesus said, “Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them” (Matthew 7:12). The difference is subtle yet profound.
When you leave this morning and you speak to the clergy on the door and you say. ‘Good Morning Vicar, another wonderful sermon’ etc. Don’t be surprised if you receive the reply ‘tell me three things why this morning is good?.’ This is not another grumpy response but just the vicar demonstrating Rabbinical teaching practice.