Sermon: Jesus Loved Him, Too

October 14, 2018
Twenty-first Sunday after Pentecost
Mark 10:17-31

“Jesus, looking at him, loved him.”

I don’t know about you, but these words tend to roll past me without getting much of my attention. For one thing, they get followed by something really shocking. For another, I guess I’m accustomed to the idea of Jesus loving people. My picture of Jesus is founded upon the chorus of that old song, “Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! Yes, Jesus loves me! The Bible tells me so.”

The Bible does tell me so. In the Gospel of John: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son.” The First Letter of John: “In this is love, not that we loved God but that he loved us.” The Apostle Paul, writing to the church in Rome: “But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us.”

And the Gospel of John again, this time with Jesus speaking: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.”

“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.”

“Jesus, looking at him, loved him.”

Jesus’ love is well attested in other books of the New Testament, but not so much in the Gospel of Mark – at least, not so directly. Sarah Hinlicky Wilson writes, “[The rich young man is] the only person in the entire Gospel of Mark singled out as loved by Jesus (in fact, the only other three uses of ‘love’ in this Gospel appear in chapter 12 where Jesus quotes Leviticus and Deuteronomy in his summation of the law).”

The Greek word Mark used is the verb “agape,” meaning a deep, sacrificial, fully committed love – not the love between brothers or sisters, not the love of romance – a love that does good for the other.

“Jesus, looking at him, loved him.”

Dr. Wilson continues: “And this one dearly, uniquely loved person just walks away, ‘disheartened’ and ‘sorrowful.’ How terribly shocking to discover that, after all, you love your stuff more than you love eternal life.”

Ah, yes. That part.

“Jesus, looking at him, loved him 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.’”

Yes. That part.

I didn’t take a poll this week during Bible Study, but I can confidently report that nobody liked this section of our passage.

There were a number of objections. Without concentration of wealth, modern banking could not exist, and without modern banking, it would be tremendously difficult if not impossible to run most of our economy. Imagine building a business without loans. Imagine our farms being able to plant, nurture, harvest, and distribute their produce without loans.

Our productivity would probably plummet.

People offered the argument as well that the wealthy are able to give more toward charitable causes, and that is clearly true. In absolute terms, they give a lot more money per person. As a proportion of their resources, however, they do not. According to Matthew Frankel’s 2016 analysis of giving based on tax returns – and this only covers charitable contributions made by those who itemize their deductions – people earning over $2 million a year gave away 5.6%. Those with somewhat lower incomes did less well, I’m afraid, with the proportion falling with each group until you get to those earning between $200,000 and $500,000 a year, who contributed 2.6% of their income.

But then, as the incomes fall, the percentage of charitable contributions rises again. Those earning $50,000 to $75,000 give away 4.8% of their income, those earning $25,000 to $50,000 give away 6.8% of their income, and those earning less that $25,000 a year give away a whopping 12.3% of what they’ve brought home.

I can’t help thinking that if income inequality weren’t quite so great, total charitable giving would rise.

“Jesus, looking at him, loved him 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.’”

In 2011, Michael Norton and Dan Ariely asked Americans to guess the percentage of wealth held by each 20% of the American population, from the poorest to the wealthiest (click here for Scientific American coverage; click here for an infographic video). Then they asked what they thought the ideal was.

The ideal was not flat. Americans, by and large, seem comfortable with the idea that some will have more and some will have less. In their ideal America, the top 20% would own a little over 30%. The next two brackets would own a little over 20% each, leaving about 15% for the next to last group and 10% of total wealth for the poorest.

I know this is hard to imagine without a picture. The poorest would have about 10%. The richest about three times that. The three groups in the middle would be mostly even.

That’s not what they thought it looked like, though. When asked to estimate wealth inequality, they thought the bottom 20% of Americans held about 4% of the wealth, and that the wealthiest had about 59%. It turns out that they were pretty dramatically wrong. In 2011, the bottom 20% of Americans possessed 0.1% of the nation’s wealth. The next 20% held an additional 0.2% of the wealth. Or in other words, 40% of the population possesses three one-thousandths of the nation’s treasure.

And the wealthiest 20%? They’ve got 84%.

During our Bible Study this week, one of the most heart-felt responses to Jesus’ summons to give it all away was a variant on, “I worked hard for this.” And indeed, we are a congregation of people who do work hard.

But when I look at 20% of Americans possessing 84% of the resources, I can’t imagine anyone working so hard as to earn that.

“Jesus, looking at him, loved him 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.’”

Honestly? I like my comfort. I like my rocking chairs and my television and my bed linens. I like to choose between aloha shirts each morning, and the ability to clean them without doing much work – at least, not much work until it’s time to fold the fitted sheets. I like to eat food that tastes good and to have the privilege of turning down dessert because I’ve already eaten more than I probably should. I like the freedom of a personal car. I like to be constantly in contact on my portable phone.

I am the one shocked and grieving, aware of how much I love my stuff.

“Jesus, looking at him, loved him.”

This is the only person in this book of whom Mark said, “Jesus loved him.”

I can’t soften Jesus’ words. I can’t explain them away. I can’t minimize them. I can’t tell you, “Oh, he didn’t mean it,” because I’m pretty sure he did.

I also can’t – or won’t (let’s be honest, it’s won’t) – serve as your example for following them. There are people like that in the history of the world. One was a rich man from Assisi, in Italy, named Giovanni di Pietro di Bernardone, nicknamed Francesco. His father sold cloth, and Francesco loved to wear bright colors. Around the age of 25 he renounced his family’s wealth, went to care for the sick, and ended up founding a monastic order called “The Friars Minor,” preaching peace and caring for lepers.

He died on October 3rd, 1226, at the age of forty-four. We know Francesco as Saint Francis. This man who renounced his wealth: he made a big difference in the world.

“Jesus, looking at him, loved him.”

I am not Jesus. I am not Saint Francis. I am also not the rich young man. I may be shocked, and I may be grieving, but I am not going away. I’m going to stick right here with Jesus who loves me, even if Jesus does shake his head at me every time he sees me. I’m going to stick right here and give a little more and a little more and a little more, I hope, until maybe I see a slight smile in the head shake. I’m going to love Jesus a little more and, please God, my stuff a little less.

As for you: For once, I’m not going to tell you what to do – at least, not until Loyalty Sunday come along. I want you to remember this: “Jesus, looking at him, loved him.” “Jesus, looking at him, loved him.”

Jesus, looking at you, loves you. Loves you heart and soul, mind and body, passion and strength. Jesus loves you, more than what you do, more than what you don’t do, more than what you give, more than what you have. Jesus, looking at you, loves you.

Jesus loves you enough to challenge you. Oh, my, yes.

But most of all: Jesus, looking at you, loves you.


Listen to the Recorded Sermon:

Yes, there are differences between the text above and the recorded text: and Jesus still loves you.

The illustration is a fresco in the upper Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi. The series of depictions of the life of Saint Francis was formerly attributed to Giotto di Bondone. Public Domain,

Categories Sermons | Tags: , , , | Posted on October 14, 2018

Social Networks: RSS Facebook Twitter Google Stumble Upon Digg Reddit

Leave a Reply

close window

Service Times & Directions

Sunday School Classes

Sunday 8:45 am

Sunday Worship Service

Sunday 10:00 am

Adult Bible Study

Monday 6:30 pm, Wednesday 9:00 am

(International Young Adults Association)
Bible Study

Wednesday 7:30 pm

The Free Wesleyan Church of Tonga

(The Rev. Tevita) Sunday 1:00 pm Wednesday 7:00 pm (Sanctuary)

The United Church of Christ, Pohnpei - Hilo

(The Rev. Ichiro) Sunday 10:00 am (Bdg. of Faith)

The Samoan Church

(The Rev. Sunia) Sunday 4:00 pm (Sanctuary)

440 W. Lanikaula Street
Hilo, HI 96720
(808) 935-1283