daily biblical sermons

Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Saturday, Seventh Week of the Year, May 21, 2016
James 5:13-20, Psalm 140, Mark 10:13-16

Scripture quotations are from the RSV unless otherwise noted.


"Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it" (Mark 10:14-15).

If we want to enter the kingdom of God, we must turn and become like children. The only way to enter it is to receive it as a child. That means that we must receive it as a gift, not as something we earn by our own merits or good works. The kingdom is not for the proud who want to lord it over others or who think they are better than others.

A child has nothing to offer. He only asks for gifts and receives what he gets as a gift. He does not earn his food and shelter by his work. He asks for what he needs and receives it as a gift. This is how we are to approach the kingdom of God, with the simplicity and humility of a child. No child can be great in this world by his own merits, not even the child of a king. He has no merits at all. Everything a child has is given to him as a free gift.

That is how we are to approach the kingdom of God. Entering the kingdom is salvation and justification. These are unearned gifts that we receive by faith, and faith always includes repentance for our sins and the firm purpose of amendment. To be saved, to enter the kingdom, we must "repent, and believe in the gospel" (Mark 1:15). A proud man who refuses to repent of his sins and leave behind his sinful ways, cannot be saved or justified, cannot enter the kingdom of God, because he lacks saving faith, which always includes genuine repentance.

So what must we do to be saved, to enter the kingdom of God as a child? St. Paul tells us, "If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved" (Romans 10:9-10 NRSV).

God is the one who saves and justifies us. Our part is simply to ask to be saved. We must do so sincerely with faith and repentance, and then receive salvation and justification as a gift, not as something we ourselves merited or earned or deserved. We simply receive it as a gift.

But we must have faith. We must know Jesus. We must have heard the gospel and freely put our faith in it.

And what is the gospel? It is the good news that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died for our sins to make full and just reparation for them so that God could declare us righteous, just, and holy, when we cry out to him in genuine repentance for our sins and faith. Then this gift of justification is given to me, and I rejoice in it like a little child who has just received a wonderful free gift. This gift is my entrance into the kingdom of God. I enter it with gratitude like a child who in no way earns or deserves what he is given. We receive it for the asking with faith, because of the work of Christ on the cross in dying for our sins so that God might be able to justly forgive them.

Jesus said, "The Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). We are to imitate Christ's humility in coming to serve us. We also are to lay down our life in the service of others. As Jesus' followers, we are not here to be served by others but to lay down our life in the service of the truth, in the service of God's word. He laid down his life to ransom us from our sins, to pay the price we owed to God for our sins, to serve our death sentence for our sins for us so that we could be acquitted and go free, declared righteous, just, and holy by believing in him, confessing and renouncing our sins.

Now ransomed by his death on the cross, through our faith in him and by repenting and renouncing our sins, we are ready to preach to the world, to the nations, to the poor, and to the lost. "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation," Jesus said (Mark 16:15).

Why did he say that? He said it because it is important that all people hear the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ and have the opportunity to come to faith in him for the forgiveness of their sins, to free them from their burden of guilt, and to grant them eternal salvation, because this is the way - through faith in Jesus Christ - that God wants all peoples everywhere to be redeemed from their sins and saved.

So Jesus tells us, "Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:43-45).

Not only must we become like children, but even like slaves and servants of all, laying down our life, preaching to others for their salvation. Christ's laying down his life saved us. We in turn are to lay down our life preaching him to others to bring them salvation. The one who enters the kingdom like a child with faith, receiving a gift, and who then lays down his life preaching Christ to others like the slave of all will be the greatest and the first in the kingdom of God. "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (1 John 3:16).

"Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 18:4). "Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all" (Mark 10:43-44). We become slaves of all by preaching the gospel to the lost, to the poor, to the peoples, to the world, calling them to repentance and faith for their salvation.

It is an error to think that we can gain our salvation in any other way than by repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, in other words, like little children, completely dependent on Christ for all we need, unable to earn salvation for ourselves. It is also an error to think that we can be saved without repenting of our sins and calling out to Christ with faith. And finally, it is an error to think that we cannot preach to the poor. Preaching to the poor the good news of Jesus Christ is precisely what we are called to do. Preaching to the poor is the very essence of mission, the Church's mission to the world. Preaching the riches of salvation in Jesus Christ to the poor and lost of this world is precisely what a Christian is called to do. This is how we lay down our life for others, as Christ laid down his life for us. We preach Christ, repentance, and faith to the poor and lost so that they might be justified and saved. This is the essence of the mission of the Church.

Those who accept the kingdom as a gift with childlike faith and then lay down their life for others as servants and slaves of all, preaching to them the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ, are the greatest in the kingdom of God.


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