Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Now the serpent was more crafty than any other in God’s creation. And he dressed in his best suit and went to the Church this Sunday. He heard today’s Gospel reading on the temptation of Jesus. And he said to the Church, “Did God really say to be hateful, narrow people? That you should really live by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord?”
And the Church said to the serpent, “We live by the Word of the Lord not to be hateful or narrow, but because God’s Word speaks what is right.”
But the serpent said to the Church, “Surely, it is not right. I have seen with my own eyes someone who claimed that very thing, yet let a man go hungry when bread was readily available. Surely it is not right. I have seen a person ridiculed, beaten, and even killed under the guise of the word of the Lord. Surely it cannot be right. The wisest people in the world have given reason to reject even the most basic premises. You cannot be so arrogant to say that you are smarter than they, can you? You need not leave it all, for there is still much good there. But there is also much that needs left out for the good of all.”
And the Church saw that leaving parts of God’s Word behind was good for social acceptance. And that doing that was a delight to their heart. And was desirable for making one wise.
But the serpent was not yet done. The serpent said to the Church, “Did God really say that you cannot trust Him to do anything for you because He doesn’t want you to put Him to the test?”
And the Church said to the serpent, “It’s not that God doesn’t want us to trust Him, but that we should not see how much sin we can get away with.”
But the serpent said to the Church, “Surely God is unconcerned about sin. What has he done lately to punish even the most egregious sins? Nothing. way. Surely God is unconcerned about sin. Isn’t He supposed to be a God of love? What could possibly be loving about calling someone a sinner? Surely God is unconcerned about sin. He is unconcerned with all of humanity. I saw someone who trusted God with everything. And He ended up with nothing at all. No home. No family. No friends when it really counted. Left all alone. Even God had turned His back on Him. Maybe you don’t have to give up all your trust in God. After all, the sun still rises every morning. But for your own good, you are going to have to learn to trust yourself.”
And the Church saw that trusting itself instead of God was good for survival. For bringing the right people in the doors. For prosperity in this world. And that doing that was a delight to their heart. And was desirable for making one wise.
But the serpent was still not done. The serpent said to the Church, “Did God really say to not serve your neighbor in need, because that selfish God wants you to serve Him only?”
And the Church said to the serpent, “It’s not that God is selfish. It’s that It’s that God has given so much. And we respond in thanks. That, and we serve Him best by serving our neighbor.”
But the serpent said to the Church, “Surely you should not serve this God. How many neighbors are turned away by the fact that you worship this God? There are so many more people you could help if you didn’t. Surely you should not serve God. I saw someone who had a chance to make a real difference. Someone who could have changed the world. But He insisted that He worship only this God, and that chance slipped through His fingers. Surely you should not serve God. The whole system is tyrannical, manipulative, and a total scam. I suppose you might have a token amount of service. Just enough to make people feel welcome. That people can serve whichever God they wish. And that’s good for them. How wide would those doors open then?”
And the Church saw that not serving God was good for popularity. And that doing that was a delight to their heart. And was desirable for making one wise. And so the Church picked the fruit off the tree and was about to eat.
However, the second Adam does what the first Adam did not. He stops His bride. And He answers the serpent. “You have seen me before,” Jesus says. “I am the one the who you saw that lived by everything that came from the mouth of the Lord. And I am the one you saw who went without the bread. Because it was you who tempted me to live for myself alone. And I stood up to you. I am the one you saw who was ridiculed, beaten and killed for that Word. Exactly as it had been written about Me. All in order to save the people I love.
“I am the one you saw who trusted God in everything. Because it was you who tempted me to seek my own glory. I am the one you saw who went without home family, friends, even life. Because I gave it all up. All in order to save the people I love.
“I am the one you saw who worshipped God alone. Because you were the one who tempted me to forsake the people I love to eternal death in exchange for temporary rewards. I am the one you saw who went without your so-called chance to make a difference. I am the one you saw who refused to change the world. And instead saved the people I love.”
I am the Second Adam,” Jesus says. “The fruit my bride has picked, I eat alone. The fruit of evil. The fruit of sin. The fruit of death. I take it away from her. I eat it, and not another. And yes, it’s poisonous bitterness will kill me. But it will not kill her. It will not kill my beloved, my bride, my Church. This is my gift to her. My righteousness given to her. Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.”
Therefore there was enmity between the offspring of Eve and the Serpent. Between Jesus and Satan. And in the taking away of the fruit, in the eating it by Himself, in His death on the cross, Jesus crushed the serpents head. The accuser has nothing left with which to accuse. It is taken away. It is forgiven. Because you are the people Jesus loves. You are His Church. You are His bride. And as His bride, you are entitled to all that is His. Even resurrection from the dead. Thanks be to God.
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our text for Ash Wednesday tonight is the Wedding at Cana, where Jesus joins the celebration and turns water into wine.
Uh, what? Are you sure we’ve got the right text for today? Today is Ash Wednesday. A day of repentance. A day of solemn reflection. A day we earnestly seek the mercy of God. That’s not at all what we think of when there’s a wedding. In fact, because of the penitential nature of Lent, it is generally inappropriate to hold weddings during this time. That sentiment is even printed in the notes at the top of the pastor’s copy of the wedding service itself.
So what are we doing with a wedding text on Ash Wednesday? These two things are totally different. One is a celebration. The other is reflective penitence. One is a time of great joy. The other is a time of contrition over sin. One gives hope for new life. As one plus one can equal three, or four, or seven. The other is a reminder of death. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” And that’s just the wedding. We also have the miracle in the text. Where Jesus has the servers fill jars for ceremonial washing. However, we today undergo ceremonial dirtying. With ashes on our foreheads. Everything in this text is totally wrong for this day in the Church year.
However, the wedding at Cana, the miracle Jesus performed, and the ash on our foreheads tonight are signs. Signs represent things. Signs point to things that are bigger than themselves. The sign saying Mountain View Avenue isn’t itself Mountain View Avenue. Just a marker to let people know it’s there. The sign outside the church isn’t itself the church. Just a marker to let people know it’s here.
The ash on our foreheads tonight is a sign. A sign of repentance. A sign of contrition. A sign of death. The marriage in our text is also a sign. In fact, marriage itself is a sign. A marker of something bigger. A sign of how God loves us. God’s relationship with us is not like a marriage. Marriage is like God’s relationship with us. Signs always point to the greater thing. So also it is with Jesus’ sign. Changing water into wine. The first of signs, as John writes in the text.
And these signs, as different as they are, all go together. Because they all point to the death and resurrection of Jesus. For the ash is drawn as a cross on your forehead. A proper marriage is Jesus eager to die for you in love. And the wine. How can we not instantly remember the words Jesus spoke over wine in the Lord’s Supper? This is my blood shed for your forgiveness. Everything takes you to the cross.
Signs point forward to something. Therefore, the crucifixion of Jesus is not a sign. The resurrection of Jesus is not a sign. Because everything else points here. This is where repentance brings us. This is where contrition brings us. Where ash brings us. Where marriage brings us. Where purification rituals bring us. Where celebration brings us. It’s all right here. God is with His people. God is with you. God forgives you. God loves you. And it all comes down to this.
You know what else isn’t a sign? Isn’t a symbol representing something even better? The gifts God gives to His Church. Word and Sacrament. These are not signs. And sometimes we miss that very important point. Because the other symbols are so beautiful. So perfectly carried out. So wonderfully directed at Jesus and His cross, that we forget that Word and Sacrament are an indispensable part of Christ for you.
There are lots of signs that point to baptism. The Spirit hovering over the waters in Genesis 1:2. The flood in Genesis 6-9. The exodus out of Egypt and the crossing of the Red Sea in Exodus 15. The crossing the river Jordan in Joshua 3. And so many more. But baptism itself is no sign. It doesn’t point to something greater than itself. Because baptism is where God buries you with the crucified Christ, and raises you to life with Him. What can be greater than this?
There are lots of signs that point to the Lord’s Supper. The gift of Melchizedek to Abraham in Genesis 14. The dreams Joseph interpreted in Genesis 40. The Passover in Exodus 12. The manna from heaven in Exodus 16. The bread of presence in Leviticus. And so many more. Including our text tonight. But the Lord’s Supper itself is no sign. It is the body of our crucified Lord given for you. The blood of Jesus poured out over your sins. There is nothing greater than God in the flesh, right here for you.
With the Word of God, it is the same. These words written down aren’t just some sign of something better. These words are Jesus for you. The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. And He still dwells. As God. As Flesh and blood. As Word. All the signs. All the symbols. As good as they are, are only good for pointing here. To this reality. A reality the Church celebrates. A reality the Church lives. Because here in this place, we have all the things those signs point to.
But that doesn’t mean we need to give up the signs. After all, at that wedding in Cana, all the people there were in the presence of the one to whom all the signs pointed. Yet Jesus gives a sign pointing to the bigger reality. Even when that bigger reality is standing right beside them. It’s okay. Because the signs help them to see.
Likewise, we still keep the sign of the ashen cross this night. Even though the reality of Jesus is given here right now. And given over and over. Even though Jesus is present in baptism. Even though Jesus is present is Supper. Even though Jesus is present in His Word proclaimed. We can still keep the signs. Because the signs help us to see who He is. And what He’s done.
We keep things like ashes and altars, vestments and candles. We keep things like marriage and family, community and relationships. Even though all are signs pointing to something bigger than those things. They point to who God is, and what He has done through Jesus Christ our Lord. Pointing to the death and resurrection of Jesus on our behalf.
So maybe this Wedding at Cana text, and Ash Wednesday have more in common than we thought? And that’s okay. The signs don’t need to all be the same. Just point to the right place. And that place is where we’ll be looking all throughout Lent. It’s where we always look. Because that’s the only place where God has saved you. There is Jesus. Born. Lived. Died. Risen again. Ascended. And bringing you with Him. Thanks be to God.
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our text this morning is the Gospel lesson, where Peter, James, and John get to see Jesus transfigured in glory. Yet they find themselves completely helpless when the cloud covers the mountain and the voice of the Father speaks.
If there’s one thing we’re scared of more than anything else in the whole world, it’s being helpless. Frankly, we’d rather be dead, than helpless. Because at least when you’re dead, you can’t do anything. When you’re helpless, you can do all you want, but none of it makes any difference at all. There are a lot of ways we end up helpless. Circumstances at our jobs. Circumstances at home. Health. Age. It could be anything. And life just comes crashing down. No matter what we do, things will never be the same. No matter what we do, we can’t change a thing.
We hate being helpless. Because when we are, those little voices get louder. They tell us that we’re not good enough. That we don’t deserve to be here. That we don’t even deserve to live. Helplessness means that I’m broken, and not worth anything at all. When you’re helpless, you’re all alone.
And in that helplessness, we recognize Satan’s accusing voice. There He is, in the middle of it all. Therefore this must be a place we should avoid at all costs. A place where only bad things can happen. So we dig deep down, and muster everything we can to leave helplessness behind. After all, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. Why ask for a fish when you can learn to fish for yourself? And doesn’t God help those who help themselves? So also we pull ourselves up by the bootstraps. And find a way to make sure we’re not as helpless next time.
Peter, James and John did that very thing as well. After they were helpless up on that mountain, they made some changes in how they went about things. Before, they were a pretty timid bunch. Watching, listening, occasionally stepping up when asked. But after the transfiguration, they took things into their own hands. James and John were bold enough to ask for the right and left hands of Jesus when He entered His kingdom. Peter was bold enough to take on the entire temple guard singlehandedly.
However, when Jesus was arrested, there they were again. Completely and utterly helpless. The once bold Peter, who told Jesus that he’d rather die than deny Him, denied Jesus three times. The once bold John, could only stand at a distance at watch as Jesus was crucified. The once bold James was no where to be found, period. And there they were, helpless once again. Hearing Satan’s accusing voice. Unable to do anything at all. Helpless and alone.
Why does God keep bringing us back to this place? Even though we try my hardest to stay away? Why helplessness? The place where Satan’s accusations ring the loudest. Because those accusations are true. I cannot deny them. I can’t even put any resistance against them. There’s nothing left with which to fight back. It hurts. And I’m afraid. Why helplessness? Why does God bring me to this point of despair? Doesn’t He love me? Doesn’t He care about me? Doesn’t He want me to be the best Christian I can be? How can I do that when I am helpless to do anything? How can I do that, when I’m all alone?
But when we’re helpless we’re not alone. Nor were Peter, James and John. Jesus came and touched them saying, “Rise and have no fear.” And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw Jesus. When we’re helpless, there is Jesus, putting His hand on our shoulder. Saying to us, “Rise and have no fear.” And Jesus can say that, because He too knows what it is to be helpless. He knows what it is to be afraid. He knows what it is to really be alone.
There was no one to help Jesus when He was nailed to that cross. No one to tell Him to not be afraid. No one to understand what He was going through. And that’s why the crucified Christ is so hard to look at. He is truly helpless up there. In thorns and nails and blood. And we are helpless to do anything for Him. We stare helplessly at the cross as Jesus helplessly dies.
But helplessness prepares the way for the Gospel. In helplessness, Jesus put to death the sin of the world, your own sin included with Him. In helplessness, Jesus joined you in death’s clutches. In helplessness, Jesus makes you a part of His bride, the Church. In helplessness, Jesus brings to you the eternal feast. In helplessness, Jesus clothes you in His righteousness. In that helplessness, Jesus has more glory than He did on that mountain between Moses and Elijah. Because in that helplessness, He has saved you.
Helplessness prepares the way for the Gospel. Because Jesus was helplessly dead. Helplessly buried. Helplessly sealed away by a stone in front of the entrance of the tomb. And yet Jesus rose from the dead. And that same risen Jesus says to you, “Rise, and have no fear.”
Maybe that’s easy for Jesus to say. He knew what was going to happen. He knew what He was doing when He went to that cross. He knew that resurrection was on the other side. We, on the other hand, don’t know what is going to happen. We don’t know how things will turn out. There are so many things that can go wrong. That have already gone wrong. Things that we can’t stop. Things we can’t undo.
But Jesus is still there for you. Jesus still touches your shoulder gently. Jesus still says, “Rise and have no fear.” Because all those things are in His hands. And maybe that’s the toughest part of feeling helpless. That all these things are in someone else’s hands besides ours. And in those hands, things may turn out differently that we want. In those hands, we might have to face suffering, and sadness. We might have to face rejection and anger. We might have to face the loss of all the things, or even all the people we love the most. And we don’t know how we would be able to live without them.
We don’t how God will work in any particular situation. And the things we think are best, aren’t always the things that happen. And so, to trust God in all things is in itself to be helpless. And as we said in the very beginning of today’s sermon, being helpless is a scary thing.
But helplessness is also how Jesus has given His greatest gifts. Because Jesus gives the free lunch. Jesus hands out the fish. Jesus helps those who cannot help themselves. And Jesus pulls you up, not by your bootstraps, but by grabbing your hand, and not letting go. Rise, and have no fear. Jesus is the help of the helpless. And you are helpless. Thanks be to God.
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our text this morning is the Gospel lesson. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil.’” This really isn’t that hard to get. Everyone is familiar with the line, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” But Jesus means more than that. And after the last couple of weeks in our reading the Sermon on the Mount, we might have this one down.
Yes, turn the other cheek, but when you don’t, Jesus did. He turned the other cheek when He was slapped by the chief priests and teachers of the Law on the night when He was betrayed. Jesus let them take His clothes. Jesus went that mile. Jesus gave to those who asked. And Jesus loved His enemies. All while going to the cross on their behalf. On your behalf. Those are all good things. All Gospel things. All things Christ has given to you.
We could end the sermon there and go home , if it weren’t for one small question. All the other Laws in the Sermon on the Mount so far Jesus magnifies. This Law Jesus says to ignore when it comes to you. And if that’s not confusing enough, when we go look up this law in Leviticus 24, we find something even more confusing. We find that God doesn’t always turn the other cheek.
In the days of Moses, there was a man who had an Egyptian father and an Israelite mother who blasphemed the name of Yahweh in anger. He was imprisoned until the Lord Himself pronounced the sentence. the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Bring out of the camp the one who cursed, and let all who heard him lay their hands on his head, and let all the congregation stone him. And speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death… If anyone injures his neighbor, as he has done it shall be done to him, fracture for fracture, eye for eye, tooth for tooth…
Was that turning the other cheek? Was that giving away what was taken by force? Was that forgiveness? No. No it wasn’t. It was the exact opposite. It was retribution for damages. Sure, we know that the wages of sin is death. And that God was justified in His role as judge. But that doesn’t really make it sit better with us. Especially given what Jesus says in the Gospel lesson this morning. Why can God turn the other cheek to the Sanhedrin, but not to this one Half-Egyptian? Especially since it meant that man’s death?
And right there’s our real problem with all of this. Death. It’s just so final. I don’t think we would have blinked if the man any other punishment. Sacrifice a lamb or a couple of doves, like any other sin offering. Maybe spend the rest of his life outside the camp. All tolerable options. But the finality of death makes this a hard pill to swallow.
Except death isn’t final. Death doesn’t have the last word. And we should know that. Because Jesus rose from the dead. But that’s where we complete the triangle of these three texts. To rise from the dead, Jesus had to die. And for all the Sanhedrin’s plotting, they could not justify the death sentence. False witnesses couldn’t get their stories straight. The evidence did not convict. And that Maundy Thursday night, Good Friday morning, Jesus was in real danger of being set free. Bloodied, bruised, hurting, but free.
Until Caiphas asked the right question. He said to Jesus that night, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death.”
And the only reason Jesus deserved death was because of Leviticus 24, and the half-Egyptian man, whom God treated just a differently than normal. From whose story we get a fracture for a fracture, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Even, if not especially, when it comes to misusing the name of the Lord. It was because of this Law they took Jesus before Pilate and said to him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” And so Jesus was crucified.
And on that cross, Jesus endured the retribution for every fracture, every eye, every tooth, every sin. Retribution for every slap in the face, every needed thing stolen away, every mile forced, every enemy hated. And on that cross, Jesus died. Joining all who have died, and all who will die.
When that half-Egyptian was buried in a grave, there was Jesus with Him. When our loved ones are buried in their graves, there is Jesus with them. When our enemies are buried in their graves, there is Jesus with them. When we are in our graves, there is Jesus with us. And with Jesus in the grave, death can never be final.
Turns out that an eye for an eye doesn’t make the whole world blind. Not when Jesus takes the retribution in our place. Instead, an eye for an eye allows the whole world to see. Opening the eyes of the blind. Shining light in the darkness. Opening the grave. All so we can see who Jesus is. What He has done on our behalf. See His death and resurrection. Gods gift to you. Forgiving not only your sin, but the sin of your neighbor. And even the sin of your enemies. Death no longer has the final say. Jesus does. Thanks be to God.
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our text this morning is the Gospel lesson, where Jesus lays down the Law.
Or at least, that’s how we’ve trained ourselves to look at this text. I mean, you know what this text is for, right? This is the text we go to when we explain the commandments. Second Commandment. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not curse, swear, use satanic arts, lie or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks. How do we know we shouldn’t swear by God’s name?Jesus says, “I say to you do not swear at all.” “Let what you say be simply yes or no; anything more than this comes from the evil one.”
Fifth commandment. You shall not murder. You want more details? Jesus says, ““You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment;”
Sixth Commandment. You shall not commit adultery. You want more details? Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart…. “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
So today’s text is just one big prooftext to explain the commandments. All Law. All what we’re supposed to do for God. All what we have failed to do. So this text shows us that we’re sinners. Fortunately, Jesus died for your sins. So now everything is okay again. There you go. Law and Gospel. Everything you could ever need from a sermon.
This is kind of how we treat the Bible isn’t it? Like the Boyscout Handbook. A roadmap to eternal life. God’s encyclopedia. Or His version of Wikipedia for those more internet savvy. You come with a topic you want to learn more about. Look up the right verses, and there you go. 1 Corinthians 13 for love. Matthew 28:18-20 for evangelism. John 14:13 for prayer. How do you know Jesus is God? Go to John 20:28, Romans 9:5, 1 John 5:20. How do you know baptism saves you? Go to Acts 2:38, 1 Peter 3:21, Romans 6:3-5. Any problem you have. Any topic you want more information on. Just look up the prooftext. And your questions will be answered.
Today’s text might come up in a study on anger. Or lust. Or divorce. It might come up when you have a question on what to do in civil court. But odds are it will never come up when trying to find out what Jesus has done for you. Nobody goes here to find the prooftext showing them God’s gifts. Nobody goes here to find the Gospel proclaimed. Which means we always ignore the best thing in today’s text.
Proof texting does this regularly. We’re too busy thinking about the wedding to realize that the love in 1 Corinthians 13 is about what Jesus did for you. We’re too busy thinking about evangelism to realize that Matthew 28:20 shows us how God divided His own name to put us with Him. And we’re too busy proving the Law in today’s text to hear the Gospel.
It is true, you should not be angry with your neighbor. But when you are, there is one there is one who has become liable to hell for you. One who has left it all at the altar. Even his own life, in order to come and be reconciled with you. One who has come to terms with the accuser by paying our debt in full with His own blood.
It is true that you should not look at other people lustfully. But when you do, there is one who sacrificed not only His eye, but his whole body. One who is Himself the right hand of God cut off and thrown away. Thrown into the hell of the cross where He endured the entire wrath of God on your behalf.
It is true that you should not commit adultery. But when you do, there is one who will still consider you His bride. Who will be married to His church to which you belong, despite the sin. Who will bear your sin Himself, even though He is innocent. And have your sin buried with Him in the tomb on Good Friday.
It is true that you should swear falsely, not misuse the name of God. But when you do, there is one who says yes, and needs no oath to back it up. Says yes to saving you. Yes to raising you from the dead. Yes to bringing you with Him out of the grave through His own resurrection.
And Jesus is that one. Jesus, in a light we’d never see through prooftexting. Jesus, in far more detail than a handbook can give. Jesus, far more precisely than on a map to to eternal life. Jesus with far more to give than an encyclopedia entry. This is the Jesus of the Bible.
Turns out the whole thing is all about Him, and what He’s done for us. Even if we don’t always see it. Even if in some texts we don’t always catch it. Even in those places we may never quite understand. Jesus is what every verse, every word in there is all about. Genesis to Revelation. And He is who we look for. Everything else, whether it be love, or evangelism, or prayer, or Law, or whatever, is there to point to Him.
As Moses said to the people of Israel in today’s Old Testament Lesson, I say to you today. “I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse.” All found bundled together as one. Jesus Christ. Crucified and risen on your behalf. He gives life, so that you and your children may live. He is your life and length of days. And after that, life eternal as well. Thanks be to God.
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our text this morning is the Gospel lesson, where Jesus is preaching the Sermon on the Mount. The most highlighted and underlined parts of Scripture.
Most people love the Sermon on the mount. Because in here, Jesus gives us something to do. Be salt. Be light. Teach throughly. Be righteous. Alright! Finally, a goal to achieve. Expectations to meet. A way to measure ourselves against the world. A list to check off and see how well we’re doing.
So how well are we doing? Maybe you’re doing really well. Maybe you’re as salty as you can be. Maybe you’re shining that light of Christ out there in your life as brightly as possible. Maybe you’re keeping those commandments on your heart at all times. Maybe you can put those Pharisees to shame with your righteousness that comes by faith through Christ Jesus.
Then again, maybe you’re just doing it better than that other guy. Certainly we’re not perfect, and we just do the best we can. But we’re trying. And our heart is in the right place. And that’s what really matters.
Or, maybe, we look at what we’re doing, and find that it really doesn’t measure up. Maybe we’re afraid we lost our saltiness a long time ago. Maybe we’re afraid that light might have already gone out for us. Maybe we’ve already relaxed those commandments. And even those Pharisees have been better than us. And how can we ever make up that ground already lost?
But in every one of those cases, where are we looking? Where is our focus? We’re looking in ourselves. It’s all about the self. We are the subject of our verbs. And everything is in the context of ‘me.’ And so we say things like, “I am better than,” or, “I’m not as good as,” or, “I’m with these people,” and “I’m not with those people.” And every time we do that, every time we compare ourselves to others to see how we’re doing, we relax the Law of God
Take the one sin most Christians today rail against the loudest. Homosexuality. To most people, this just isn’t a temptation they face. But there are those who do. And will for the rest of their lives. How easy it is to say “I’m better than they,” and “I’m not with that group.” How easy it is to have verse nineteen in our text ready to go and say to them, “Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.”
And then in the same breath, forget those same words when it comes to us. When God’s Law confronts us in our struggles we say, “God, just relax. I’m doing the best I can.” Next week we’ll read Jesus’ words concerning murder and adultery. Yet we justify calling people fools, because we’re just saying what’s true. We justify looking at other men or women by saying that we’re just admiring God’s beautiful creation. Yet whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments…
If the Sermon on the Mount is about what we do, how can our righteousness possibly exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees? Because nobody, and I mean nobody, could out-salt, out-shine, out-righteousness them. Keep the Law? I guarantee you did not come close to out-doing them. But even though they were blameless in the sight of the people, and perhaps even in their own estimation, they were not blameless in the sight of God.
Jesus isn’t telling us to look inside ourselves in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus is calling us to look to Him instead. Because the salt is not our own salt. The light is not our own light. The Law is not our own Law. And the righteousness is not our own righteousness.
We look to Jesus because Jesus does what we cannot do. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets,” Jesus says. “I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Jesus fulfills the Old Testament. Jesus fulfills every Law we find in there. Jesus fulfills the Law that others out there have failed to keep. Jesus fulfills the Law that we ourselves cannot do. Not a single requirement was relaxed for Him. Not one iota, not one dot was taken away. Jesus accomplished the whole Law.
And by doing that, Jesus showed that He is the salt of the earth. He the light of the world. His righteousness was greater than the scribes and Pharisees. Which is great for Jesus. But it doesn’t mean anything for you. Not without the cross. Not without death and resurrection. Jesus died, despite keeping the whole Law. Jesus died, despite accomplishing what we could never accomplish. Jesus died, because He has taken your place at that cross, and given you His in return.
Our unrighteousness. Our self-centeredness. Our being our own god. Our enforcing of the Laws that suited us. Our relaxing of the Laws that fit our personal narratives. How could we ever be righteous enough to enter the kingdom of heaven like that? Jesus joined us in our humanity. Traded places with us. He shared His righteousness with us. Shared every iota, every dot of that Law fulfilled. A righteousness not from our own doing. But from God’s gift given to you.
We were in darkness. It didn’t matter which ones. All sin is the same in the eyes of God. How could we ever be the light of the world? Jesus joined us in our darkness. Jesus died on our behalf. To deliver that light to us. It’s His light that shines in us. God’s gift, given to you.
We were made tasteless in our sin. Useless. Only good for being thrown out and trampled underfoot. How could we ever be made salty? Worse even, we were dead in our sin, thrown into a grave. Trampled by all who likewise bury their dead. How could we ever be made alive? Jesus rose from the dead to give us life. Jesus rose so that His resurrection would also be ours. The tasteless and useless, made salty again, made alive again.
This Sermon on the Mount which Jesus gives. At first glance, it’s easy to think it’s all about us, and what we’re supposed to do. It’s easy to take our eyes off of Jesus, and put them on ourselves. To make the whole text all about me. But that’s not what it’s about. It’s about Jesus . Jesus makes us salt. Jesus makes us light. Jesus makes us righteous. And you should be those things, certainly. Not to show everyone else how great you are. But to show everyone else who Jesus is for them. That if Jesus can save even you from your sin and from your death, He can certainly save them as well. And has, through His death and resurrection. Not by relaxing the Law. But by upholding it to the fullest on behalf of us all. Thanks be to God.
Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our text this morning is the Gospel lesson, where 40 days after Jesus’ birth, He is brought to the temple according to the Levitical Law. Also there at the temple is a man named Simeon. A righteous man, to whom the Holy Spirit revealed that he would not die until seeing the Lord’s Christ. And this day will be that day.
I suppose Simeon could’ve taken that promise and ran with it. He knows the Christ is coming to Israel. That’s what God promised through the prophets. Might be a great time to go see the world. Visit Rome, Visit the East. See how big God’s world really is. He had all the time in the world. As long as he refused to look for the Lord’s Christ.
Turns out, that line of thinking is prevalent today. Somehow, this world of ours started believing that we could avoid death. Any time the day of death threatens to show, all we have to do is hide our faces, close our eyes, and go to a happier place. If we just look elsewhere everything will turn out fine. If we look elsewhere, we’ll have all the time in the world.
So we refuse to talk about death. We insist that funerals be a celebration of life. We demand that the dying aren’t told the truth of their condition, for their own good. And we pretend that moment of death never actually happens to anyone. Only the before and after. Here happy with us, or there, happy with Jesus. Nobody actually dies in the world’s eyes, because no one has seen it happen. Ignorance is bliss. Ignorance is to never die.
This is one of the biggest reasons why the world hates Jesus. Because to see Jesus is to see death. You cannot look at Jesus, hanging there on that cross, and not talk about death. You cannot look at Jesus, with the nails in His hands and feet, and think it’s a celebration of life. You can’t look at Jesus, saying “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” and hide the truth of death away. You can’t look at Jesus giving up His Spirit with a great shout, and pretend death doesn’t really happen. You can’t look at Jesus and be ignorant about death any longer. So the world refuses to look for the Lord’s Christ.
But here stands Simeon. He hadn’t escaped. He hadn’t refused to look. Simeon came to temple, probably every day, hoping to see the sign of his death. That was the price it cost to see the Lord’s Christ. And today, he saw Him with his own eyes in flesh and blood. He held Him in his own arms. There would be no way to avoid death now. No way to pretend it wasn’t at his door. Simeon only had moments left to live. And he knew it. And this is what he said.
Lord, now you let your servant depart in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the sight of every people. A light to reveal you to the Gentiles and glory to your people Israel.
Don’t misunderstand. Simeon wasn’t at peace with death. And don’t you be either. For God Himself is not at peace with death. And Jesus’ own death was anything but peaceful. The reason death and Jesus are so intertwined is because death is what Jesus came both to do and to destroy. Jesus dies. And that is the very center of the Christian faith. Jesus dies. And that is how our sins are forgiven. Jesus dies. And that is how He is with us always. Jesus dies. And that is what had to happen first before there could ever be a resurrection.
Simeon is not at peace with death. Simeon is at peace with God. For He held in his own arms, he saw with his own eyes in flesh and blood, God’s salvation from death for him. Because of this infant Jesus, all who die will live again. You will live again. That’s why we use this text at funerals. Because those words of Simeon are about the victory over death that Jesus won for us through His resurrection from the dead. That’s why we also use this text in the liturgy. After communion, after we have held Jesus in our hands, seen Him in flesh and blood, we too can say, Lord, now you let your servant depart in peace, according to your word, for my eyes have seen your salvation.
The world is afraid to look at death. Afraid that they might be taken next. Afraid that they might have to deal with the pain, the tears, the grief. So we’re asked only to remember the happy times. Only to bring up the good stories. Celebrate. Be happy. Anything to chase death away.
Therefore the world is afraid to look at a Jesus who dies. Refuses to look for the Lord’s Christ. Even though in that death, all the things they fear die with Him. Even though death comes for all, no matter how deep they hide their head in the sand. If all we remember of Jesus are the happy times. If all we bring up are the good stories. If all we do is celebrate. If all we look for is to be happy, then there is no Gospel. There is no good news. There is no need for Jesus. Because there is no need to conquer a death we refuse to acknowledge.
We look to Jesus, even though to do so is to see death. Because we’re no longer afraid to look at death. Even our own. Because we have seen Jesus fight death head on and win. And that victory, that resurrection is ours through Him. We have seen the salvation of our God with our own eyes. Therefore we depart now, and will depart then, in His peace, according to His Word. Thanks be to God.