21st Sunday After Pentecost (Series B)
October 14, 2018icon-download-pdf-wp

Gospel: Mark 10:17-22
Epistle: Heb 3:12-19
Lesson: Amos 5:6-7, 10-15
Psalm: Psalm 90:12-17

CLB Commentary: Pastor Ken Narvesen

6 Seek the Lord and live,
lest he break out like fire in the house of Joseph,
and it devour, with none to quench it for Bethel,
7 O you who turn justice to wormwood
and cast down righteousness to the earth!
10 They hate him who reproves in the gate,
and they abhor him who speaks the truth.
11 Therefore because you trample on the poor
and you exact taxes of grain from him,
you have built houses of hewn stone,
but you shall not dwell in them;
you have planted pleasant vineyards,
but you shall not drink their wine.
12 For I know how many are your transgressions
and how great are your sins—
you who afflict the righteous, who take a bribe,
and turn aside the needy in the gate.
13 Therefore he who is prudent will keep silent in such a time,
for it is an evil time.
14 Seek good, and not evil, that you may live;
and so the Lord, the God of hosts, will be with you, as you have said. 15 Hate evil, and love good,
and establish justice in the gate;
it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts,
will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

-Amos 5:6,7,10—15

17 And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him and asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 18 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 19 You know the commandments: ‘Do not murder, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.’ ” 20 And he said to him, “Teacher, all these I have kept from my youth.” 21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

-Mark 10:17—22

12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. 15 As it is said,

“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”

16 For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

-Hebrews 3:12—19

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Reading the Old Testament, Gospel, and Epistle texts together is always a good way to begin the study of any pericope. This week I find it to be especially helpful in clarifying the themes central to this 20th Sunday after Pentecost. We find the text facing up to these questions: What is good? What is evil? What is the nature of faith in a world that seeks to blur the difference between good and evil? Where is there hope for people who are oppressed by our human inability to keep the law which defines what is indeed good?

In Amos 5, we see that even the people of God are unable to consistently treat their neighbor with justice. Even in building lives for ourselves we “trample on the poor.” More than a discussion of capitalism versus socialism, this is commentary on the human heart. Throughout the Old Testament God builds the case that we human beings are thoroughly tainted by sin and need the Messiah. Even in the realm of civil righteousness, we simply do not seek justice and look out for the needs of others as we should. If we continually fall short in the way we treat other people, how much more do we fall short when we come into the presence of a holy God? And whenever some prophet reminds us of our failure to keep the law of righteousness, we hate the messenger who speaks the truth and shows us our sin. Such is the human dilemma.

As we move specifically into the Mark text, we see how even “good” people, people who are at least trying to avoid evil fail to attain righteousness. Jesus was not about to accept the title of “Good Teacher,” knowing how inadequate the Rich Young Ruler’s understanding of good was. There is none good but God. All humanity stands broken before him.

Jesus proceeds to teach this man that if he wants to do what it takes to inherit eternal life, he must use the measure of God’s holy law, not in part but the whole. And so we are thoroughly humbled by the law. We see how clearly we fail to attain justice before man and righteousness before a holy good God.

What hope is there for sinners like us? It is not in our failed attempts to do our best. It is not in standing defiantly before a holy God demanding that he accept us when we at least try to be good. Our only hope is that as we hear the law in all its clarity about our sin and God’s perfect goodness, we don’t allow ourselves to be “hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” Instead of hardening, we come as broken sinners to God, and instead of seeing Jesus as just that “Good Teacher,” we cling to him as our only savior.

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