What Really Matters
October 17, 2021
Scripture Reading: Mark 10:23-31
“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.” [Revelation 22:21]
My pastoral colleague Phillip told me a funny story from his childhood this past week. He came from a fairly large Midwestern family with 7 kids and Phillip was on the younger end of the family. His Dad was a pastor. Phillip learned in a family that large to fend for his food when he was growing up. And that went for church potlucks, too. Phillip discovered that when his Dad got the attention of the people gathered in the church hall, calling them to bow their heads in prayer, that it was time for him to spring into action. Phillip knew that in just a couple of minutes – after his Dad blessed the food – the serving line would form. Phillip knew just where the line would start, so, while his Dad gathered everyone together and offered the prayer, Phillip would strategically move through the crowd so that he would magically be right at the very start of the line. His Dad quickly caught on to Phillip’s shenanigans and, as soon as he would finish the “Amen” of his prayer, he would announce “The first shall be last” and would command Phillip to the end of the line.
There – sadly at the end of the Lutheran potluck line – Phillip leaned an important life lesson. That lesson was that “It Really Didn’t Matter.” Little Phillip might not have gotten exactly what he had his eyes set on and what his mouth was drooling over, but – like the miraculous Feeding of the Five Thousand – there was always plenty of food and the most important thing was that he ate – and ate plenty of good food!
Fast forward into today’s assigned Gospel. We already know from previous interactions that the disciples of Jesus were hung up on which among them was the greatest [Mark 9:33-37; Mark 10:35-45]. And, in today’s Gospel, the prevalent thought is seen that riches were often believed to be a sign of God’s blessings and poverty was a sign of God’s displeasure. But Jesus turns it all upside down once again and teaches an important lesson, that “the first shall be last and that the last shall be first,” but that, with our “Nothing is Impossible” God, we’re all in the line and there’s only good stuff ahead of us and for us.
You see, our riches do not impress God.
And – equally as important – our poverty does not release God’s sympathy for us.
The reality is that none of us deserves to be in the line of Heaven period! We’re only there because of the Grace of God! It really doesn’t matter if we are the first or the last. It really doesn’t matter if we are the richest or the poorest. It really doesn’t matter if we have the largest monument in the cemetery or lie in an unmarked pauper’s grave, known only unto God. What really matters is that we are in the line!
“For it is by Grace you have been saved – through faith – and this is not of yourself. It is the gift of God – not by works – so that no one can boast” [Ephesians 2:8-9].
It is difficult for the rich to enter the Kingdom of God [Mark 10:24]. It’s equally difficult for the poor to enter the Kingdom of God. Truth be told – it’s impossible for either to enter the Kingdom of God [Mark 10:26]! But – with God – nothing is impossible [Mark 10:27]!
Truth be told, Jesus had it all left it all – set it all aside – relinquished control of it all – so that He could do the impossible and guarantee for us a place in His Kingdom eternally! The disciples boasted that they had “left everything” to follow Jesus, but nothing could compare with what Jesus had left for them [Philippians 2:1-11] – and for you and for me! Jesus set aside everything to inherit our cross and our death. The last became the first because the First had become the Last [Revelation 22:13] – the First to suffer; the First to die; the First to rise; the Firstfruits of eternal life [1 Corinthians 15:20-23]. At Calvary’s Cross, Jesus did the impossible! At Calvary’s Cross, Jesus defeated sin and death and the power of the devil [1 Corinthians 15:24-26] – not for Himself but so that we might inherit His position as dearly loved Children of God.
One day, we will each stand at the very front of the line. There our eyes will lock with those of Jesus, the Lamb of God Who was slain [Revelation 5:6-10; Revelation 13:8]. With the same Voice that created the world, Jesus will call us by name [Isaiah 43:1-3]. With the same Hands that created us [Genesis 2:7] and with the same Hands that were pierced on Calvary [Isaiah 49:16], Jesus will take us by the hand: “Enter now the Kingdom I’ve prepared for you” [Matthew 25:34; John 14:1-6].
And, in that split second, we will learn the lesson learned by Phillip: it really doesn’t matter if we are first or last, greatest or least. What really matters is that we are in the line for the Feast that Jesus has prepared for us [Psalm 23:5-6].
Grace and peace to you!
Pastor Christopher Schaar