Proper 22B: Mark 10:2-16, Gen. 2:18-25
There are many things that are basic in life. The basics are needed for a person to build on. Learning the ABCs is basic for education. Learning to boil water is a basic for culinary skills. As Vince Lombardi brought his team back to basics at the start of the season when he said, “Gentlemen, this is a football.”
And today we get this wonderful text which does the same thing, brings us back to basics. Ladies and gentlemen this is how God created you. This is His desire for creation, in the midst of a perfect garden, with everything necessary provided and living life with God.
And yet note what is said toward the end of the creation wee, something is said to be “not good.” This is in contrast to the end of the first five days of creation where everything was always good. Now it wasn’t said to be “bad,” but rather “not good.” Not good for whom? All is good for Adam, newly created, new life given, complete dominion over the creation, even naming the animals. God says it is “not good,” not bad but more along the lines of “not yet complete.”
With the exception of God Himself everything is complimentary with something in function. The land incomplete without vegetation and animals. The skies are incomplete without the stars and birds. The seas are incomplete without fish. God alone makes the judgment call that it is not good for Adam to be alone.
Adam needed a helper, one who is opposite to him and yet corresponds to him. Eve would be like Adam and yet very different. She isn’t made from the earth like Adam, but from his side. Men are not “from Mars” and women are not “from Venus,” though at times it may seem that way. He is from the mud, and she is from his side.
Adam awoke and instantly recognized his own reflection in her. “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh.” She was like him but not interchangeable with him. And so, the bridegroom is joined with his bride and that which is united is one flesh. Joined together to have and to hold, to love and to cherish, given the Lord’s gift of relationship with each other. A perfect relationship with each other and with God.
For only the short time would this reality remain. Sin changed all that. The hardness of hearts dwells now. It brought shame, self-awareness, self-centeredness. They tried to cover themselves with their own fig leaves. They hid from God. They blamed each other. The complementarity between man and woman became a competition to see who would rule. Their “one flesh” union became a struggle leading to divorce and adultery.
The most basic form of life together has been completely corrupted by sin. Our sin has changed the nature of relationships: with our spouses, with our parents, with our children. Corrupt relationships exist beyond the family in friendships, amongst coworkers, and even within the church.
For only the short time was life, love, health, and perfection the reality. The reality we live in is not life with fullness provided in the garden. We live in hunger, in sickness, in poverty, and in a world that faces death every day. We are in desperate need for our relationships to be restored. Broken relationships and broken people cannot restore themselves and make all things whole and new.
This is why Jesus has come. We can’t restore ourselves. We can’t make our relationships better, especially our relationship with God. Though we try. Like the Pharisees we are tempted to look for the loophole that makes our sin not so bad. What we need is simply repentance. Repent for the bridegroom has come to restore us back to this perfect relationship. Jesus allows no hiding place – no room for self-righteousness – no room for qualified morality. Simply to receive God’s Word, to repent while the bridegroom unites Himself to His bride.
Our place of hope is not what came out of the side of the first Adam when God caused a deep sleep to fall upon him. Our place of hope is not in earthly marriages and relationships. Our place of hope is what came out of the side of the Second Adam when God caused the sleep of death to fall upon Him. We read, when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” (John 19:34).
The church fathers asked – “What Bride ever chose a crucified man as her husband?” They also wrote – “Death separates wives from husbands, but in this case it is death that unites the bride to her beloved.” Our bridegroom has paid it all for you and restores you. The reality of the fallen world remains, there is sickness, there is still poverty, there is still prejudice, there are still broken relationships. But death no longer has dominion over you. Your sins are forgiven in the death and resurrection of Jesus and you have life.
Alleluia, Christ is risen! He is risen indeed, alleluia!
The gifts of Christ are so basic and often overlooked. Ladies and gentlemen, this is the Lord’s Christ, crucified and risen for you. He gives Himself in such basic ways that we often are tempted to overlook them. We expect the extra-ordinary and overlook the ordinary that is given to us.
The words Jesus speaks in our midst about marriage today are no less hard-hitting than on the day He first spoke them. They show us the brokenness of our hearts and our lives. We can only gather up the pieces and place them before our heavenly Father in confession and say, “I’m sorry – I broke it”. No loopholes, no excuses, no passing the blame, no rewriting Jesus’ words. We can only keep on burying the mess of our sin in Jesus’ death, drowning it in Baptism, and receiving the cleansing that comes by way of Jesus’ blood.
The Kingdom of God, the restoration of the bride united with Christ, is given in such basic and ordinary ways that a child can and does receive them. Our Lord doesn’t talk about a child who has years of reason, or a child that has had time to think for himself and decide for himself what is true. “Let the children come to me and do not hinder them.” But the child that simply receives, simply believes, the youngest and simplest amongst us.
Notice how the only ones who get it right in the tenth chapter of Mark are the little children? Only the little ones get blessed by Jesus. The little children didn’t come to test Him or to find fault with His teaching or looking for legal – self-justifying loopholes. They don’t come thinking they had kept His commandments and looking down their noses at others. They simply came to receive the love of God in Christ. These little ones are the ones whom Jesus lays His hands upon and blesses.
It’s not that they’re sinless. It’s not that their “innocent.” It’s that they are utterly giveable to. Trusting their parents. They have to be carried, they can’t bring themselves. They receive it all as a gift. And Jesus takes them in His arms and He blesses them. That’s rather humbling, isn’t it? We grown ups in all our sophistication and education and experience are being told that the way into the kingdom is very, very small. And we must become very, very small. As tiny babies. Newborns.
And in the littleness of faith, you receive the gifts from God the Giver – forgiveness, life, salvation. Today He touches you with His Word, He has taken you in His arms and blessed you as He marks you with His cross upon your forehead and upon your heart as one redeemed by Christ, He forgives your sin. He comes once again to join Himself with you; to commune with you, His beautiful, spotless, blameless Bride. This is the Jesus, your bridegroom, from His pierced side He unites and gives His body and blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. You are united with Christ, joined together by God, restored in the joy of His salvation. Amen.