“Sell it All”
Rev. Sandy Johnson
October 11, 2015
I heard a story this week that “before joining a crusade, a knight was required to be baptized. Baptism was a sign of his surrender, his commitment and his ultimate loyalty to the church. “The knight himself was willing to submit to the church and be baptized. But it did present a problem. In battle the knight placed his trust in his sword and his ability to use it. The knight was not willing to surrender the control of his sword to anyone, not even God.
“As you may know, many knights fought in the crusades. These knights were baptized. But when they were baptized they held their sword above the water, signifying that they retained the control of their sword. Before he was baptized the sword was the knight’s object of trust. He placed his faith in his sword and his ability to use it. After he was baptized the sword was still the object of his faith and trust.
So, when the knight refused to commit his sword to God, baptism for him was merely a ritual that allowed him to pursue his own agenda––joining the battle of the crusades. In Matthew 6:24 Jesus said, “No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.” Holding his sword above the water the knight made the choice of the master he loved and would be devoted to.”
Our scripture lesson this morning shows us a rich man who held his great wealth out of the water. He too was asked to demonstrate his allegiance to God and what seemed like a simple exchange turned into a time of grieving. This man was incredibly wealthy, he had everything material that he would ever want or need, and he was seeking what was eternal. But he was unable to surrender his whole self to God.
Some will read this scripture and think that it is a scripture to entice us to give more to the church. Certainly it may seem like a great tithing scripture: Give it all! And following the advice of 2 Corinthians 9:7 we are to “Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” This rich man was anything but cheerful.
But the real meat of this scripture is making the decision about who your god is. This scripture is more about idolatry and those things that stand between a person and God. “This passage is about decision making, commitment, and separation from God. It’s wrapped around wealth and a rich man’s struggle. It calls into question the things, attitudes and practices in our lives that keep us from total commitment. It’s about ending the separation and taking that last step.”
Last summer I participated with the DCYM junior high mission trip. One afternoon we took the kids to the swimming pool across from Desert Spring for an afternoon of fun. One of the youth had wanted to jump off of the high dive. It was a three meter spring board and it seemed like it nearly touched the ceiling. They climbed up the ladder, holding on fiercely to the hand rails and when they got to the top of the ladder, they inched themselves out onto the board. He stood there for what seemed like hours, probably only a few minutes before deciding to turn around, and climb back down the ladder. He stood on the brink of a momentous decision but was unable to take the last step.
The last step is usually the most difficult. “The rich young man responded to the compelling nature of Jesus voice and message. He was good and faithful, but he realized something was missing. So he came seeking answers. Jesus, it says, loved him immediately. Jesus saw the boundless potential in him.
“The Great Physician diagnosed the problem and said, “You lack one thing; go, sell what you own, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me” (v. 21). But the price was too high. With shaky knees, the rich man slowly backed down. He couldn’t take the last step and “went away grieving.”
“The rich young ruler’s wealth was a rival god seeking his complete devotion. It had become an all-consuming idol and it had to be rejected totally.”
“Jesus wasn’t condemning money or wealth. Jesus was warning the disciples, the crowds, and us about decisions concerning money. Money and things cannot have first place in our lives. When they take first place we view everything in terms of price, not value. Money and things fix our heart on the world, not God. Those things can separate us from God.”
1 Timothy 6:10 says that it is the love of money that is the root of all kinds of evil. “Some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.”
“It’s not just love of money that separates. A thousand things can separate us from God. An attitude. A prejudice. Pride. Jealousy, political positions, indifference, a hobby, an unforgiving spirit, even a theological position; all of these can separate us from God, if they take first place in our lives. We’re called to fix our heart on God. God will not take second place in our lives.”
“The disciples were amazed at Jesus pronouncement concerning the rich. It was popular belief that riches were a sign of God’s favor. They asked, “Then who can be saved?” Jesus said, “For mortals it is impossible, but not for God; for God all things are possible” (v. 27).
“We can’t do it on our own. But God can do it for us. That’s grace. Salvation comes through faith in God through Christ. That’s the step the rich young man couldn’t take, giving up all and following Jesus. This passage confronts us in the one area we don’t like being confronted—our commitment. It challenges us to probe deeply and honestly into our faith relationship with God. It calls us to stand on the brink with shaky knees. It challenges us to take that last step.”
The last portion of the lesson this morning shows the disciples feeling a bit dejected and afraid that they will somehow they would not measure up. Peter in his usual brash way says, “Look, we have left everything and followed you.” He seems to be challenging Jesus. Pressing him to assure them, that since they had literally given up everything: their home, their families, their children and their businesses; all for the sake of Jesus that they were indeed to inherit eternal life.
And Jesus does just that. Mark 10:29-31:
29 Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields, for my sake and for the sake of the good news, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this age—houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and fields, with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last will be first.”
We have to give up our need to be first, our demand to be served, our desire to be more important than the “other” and be servants to all, as Jesus has showed us. This last line, the paradox that the first will be last and the last will in fact be the first, is a warning to avoid pride. “It is a warning that the ultimate judgments belong to God who alone knows the motives of our hearts. It is a warning that the judgments of heaven may well upset the reputations of earth. We must chose to be acknowledged by the judgment of the world, or the judgment of God.”
So it comes down to choice. “Today many Christians have “swords we hold above the water.” It may be our wallet, our family, a relationship, our career, our house, a car or even a dream. It could be an addiction, anger, deceit, or laziness. As a disciple of “Christ must be willing to commit everything to the master. We must hold nothing back. We may say we have placed our faith and trust in God, but when we hold something back it becomes the master we love. It becomes the object of our trust and faith.
So we have to ask ourselves, “What am I holding back from God?”
“If the answer to that question began with the word “my” you have found a sword you are holding above the water. You have found a master you love more than Christ. Take some time in prayer and ask God to reveal to you what stands between Him and you. When He reveals it to you, commit that thing, person or attitude to Him. Being a disciple of Christ demands surrendering all we are and have to Him, this is the mindset of a faithful steward.”
Let us pray: Lord of heaven and earth, we stand at the brink of total surrender to your will for our lives. Give us the courage to let go of those things we are holding over our head in the pool of our baptism. Allow us the strength to “sell it all” in honor and glory of you. We ask this in Jesus name. Amen.
 1 Timothy 6:10
 Barclay, William. The Daily Study Bible Series: The Gospel of Mark, Revised Edition. Westminster Press, Philadelphia. 1975.