December 27, 2011

Fourth Day of Christmas, Holy Innocents

Lectionary

Morning - Ps. 8, 26, Jer. 31:1-16, Mt.18:1-14
Evening - Ps. 19, 126, Is. 54:1-13, Mk. 10:13-31

Commentary
Mark 10:13-31

Three different attitudes toward Christ are found in this reading from Mark. First is that of the children. They come with nothing to offer, no wealth, no power. In the home, they are completely dependent on their parents. They can not earn their keep. In the time of Christ, children were taught to help in the gardens and housework as soon as they were able, but their consumption of time and resources was generally greater than their production. Yet their parents usually fed and clothed them, and lavished love and care upon them. They would have come to Christ in the same simple faith they had in their parents. They expected to be accepted and welcomed because of the love Christ had for them, not on the basis of anything they could give to Him. They are examples of receiving the things of God by grace through faith.

The second attitude toward Jesus is found in the rich man. He is a man of power and wealth, who considers himself righteous through his devotion to the law of God. He comes to Jesus with the attitude of self worth and self righteousness. He believes he has earned the eternal life, and he expects Jesus to receive him on the basis of his own accomplishments and worth. This is a direct contrast to the children. When Jesus tells him to give away everything, He is telling him to give up all his claims to earning the love of God, and to come as the children come, humble, dependent, and ready to receive the things of God as the gift of grace.

The third attitude is in the disciples. Their attitude is actually only a little different from the rich man's, for both think they have earned God's love by their own accomplishments. The main difference is that, while the rich man turned back rather than giving up his worldly goods, the disciples have left everything to follow Christ. Therefore, in their own minds, they have earned the love of God. Surely their reward will be great, they think.

The point is obvious; those who realise they have nothing to give and everything to gain are those God accepts. Those who believe they have earned Heaven by their morality, good lives, or their sacrifices in God's service will be disappointed when they stand before God and see their lives and good works were all about them instead of God. They will see that all they have to give falls far short of the cost of eternal life. No person can pay that price. No person can be good enough to earn it. It must be received as a gift, the way a child receives his home and love from his parents. We must trust God to receive us through Christ, not through our own works.

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