Saturday, July 27, 2019

Trinity 6 Sermon

Trinity 6 – July 27th and 28th, 2019 – Matthew 5:17-26

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +
Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. This is how Jesus starts a long stretch of the sermon on the Mount, the next 31 verses. For the rest of the chapter, Jesus focuses on the depth of God's Law, how serious it is – and how we sinful human beings here, have broken it, and how we continue to break it and violate it. You, you right there, under the law, judged by its standards, are a sinner. Period.

We don't like that. We don't like being told that we are wrong, even when we know we are wrong. And we certainly don't like finding out we were actually wrong when we thought we were right. And the Good and Perfect Law of God comes sweeping in, and in our sinfulness, we panic. And sometimes that panic results in an attempt to abolish the Law. This is a quite popular tact today. Think about how many people try to write out, fuzz out things in the law that they don't like. I mean, the obvious ones to us that come to mind quickly are those dirty, rotten liberal churches that are going on lax on sexuality and so on and so forth. Of course we think of that – because as we heard a few weeks ago, it's a lot easier to spot the speck in the neighbor's eye rather than the log in our own.

How about it – how do you try to relax the law, abolish it – justify your own ignoring of it? Because really what Jesus does the rest of this chapter is point out how people have justified their own weakening or abolishing of the law. He starts with the 5th commandment and He builds on it. Let's think about the fifth commandment for a bit – You shall not murder. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need. Every. Physical. Need. So, did past week did you think of a reason why you couldn't or didn't really need to help someone? That's abolishing the law of God. And let's consider the 8th Commandment as well, since Jesus ties it to the fifth, because Jesus warns against speaking ill of your neighbor. - You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him, slander him, or hurt his reputation, but defend him, speak well of him, and explain everything in the kindest way. So, did you defend everyone this week. Did you explain everything kindly – put the best construction on everything? Then you were abolishing the law.

Okay, if you are squirming a bit right now – I was squirming as I wrote this Monday morning, because I knew what would happen. I'd write this down, go about my week, and the time to preach it would come, and while I'm preaching so many of the things I will have done in the mean time will pop into my head and smack me upside the back of my head. Because we here in this room are sinners. We abolish, we destroy, we come up with every excuse in our own self-righteous book to ignore the law of God. To find loopholes and work arounds – that's our default approach as sinners. And it's lousy.

But wait! There's more! There's a second way we utterly trash God's Law. We hear what Jesus says – I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them – and we think, “That's it, that's the ticket! Instead of doing bad, how about I just start doing good.” Easy peasy – I'll just do better. I will start fulfilling the law, I'll make myself a nice righteous person. And we start playing this holy one-upsmanship game – we start signaling virtue, showing everyone what a good little Christian we are. Or maybe, maybe if we are really, really good – we remember things like the parable of the pharisee and the tax collector, and we remember to be humble and not brag about all of the good we do, and we do it quietly and in secret – and we think, oh, yeah, it is totally and completely the way I am to do stuff.

For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. It doesn't work. I mean, you can try – and yes, I'm going to encourage you to strive to do good, and to be humble about it – I mean that is really good for your neighbor. But for you, well, in terms of the law, it doesn't really fix things. Doing the law, breaking it less, doesn't fill anything. It doesn't fulfill the law. This is the verse from Salvation Unto Us Has Come, which I'd be happy singing every week, but I know y'all would get sick of it, so we don't – but this is that third verse that we should all have memorized - “It was a false, misleading dream, that God His Law had given, that sinners could themselves redeem, and by their works gain heaven. The Law is but a mirror bright, to bring the inbred sin to light that lurks within our nature.” We hear this idea of fulfilling the law, and our sinful flesh jumps – there's my way out. I can work my way to heaven – that's what the Law says! No it doesn't. The Law must be fulfilled – and fulfilling the law doesn't simply mean “doing” the law. The Law is an if-then sort of statement. Suppose mom says, “If you don't take out the trash, then you don't get to play video games tomorrow” - and it's tomorrow and the trash has not been taken out... how is that law fulfilled? It's not fulfilled by me whining at my mom and promising to take the trash out all the better next week – the law is fulfilled by its designated punishment being executed. If you get a ticket for speeding, the law is fulfilled not by you promising the officer to drive more slowly, but by paying the fine. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

And what is the if-then for God's law? But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, 'You fool,' will be liable to the hell of fire. Oh. Or perhaps we should be a bit more blunt. For in the day that you eat of it, you shall surely die. - The wages of sin is death. You see, God's Law is not something we can casually avoid or change on our whim. God's Law isn't something that we can placate or bargain with. You know what God's Law is like? It's like a Bounty Hunter – it's like Rooster Cogburn in True Grit. The hunter has found the 4 villains and they ask,
“What are your intentions.” And Rooster says, “
I mean to kill you in one minute, Ned. Or see you hanged in Fort Smith at Judge Parker's convenience. Which'll it be?” If you understand that – then you understand what the Law of God says to sinners. You have transgressed, and you are going to die, and you aren't talking your way out of it. The wages of sin is death.

Now hear Jesus again – Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. Jesus comes because the sinner needs to die. And He isn't going to change that fact – the sinner needs to die. That law's not going to be abolished or annulled or lessened in any single way – not a by an iota or a dot. So Jesus comes to fulfill the law. He comes to die. You do realize that Jesus here is announcing His death, that He will be the One to die on account of sin? That is the entirety of the Law and the Prophets – that is what the entire Old Testament points towards and drives towards – that the Christ would come, that God Himself would come and be the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world, that it was necessary that the Christ be Crucified – that His heel must be bruised to crush the head of the serpent. And what Jesus does is He takes up the sin of the world – your sin, and He carries it to the cross and He is killed. The law is fulfilled. It is finished, it is completed. The sentence is carried out, now and for all time. This is why we confess that all people, believer and unbeliever alike will be raised again on the last day – Christ died for all.

But there is a second aspect to this that we need note. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. This is another if-then sort of statement, a barrier statement. If your righteousness isn't beyond that of the Scribes and Pharisees, then you don't get to enter the kingdom of heaven. And again, this is something you cannot do yourself. And again, this is something that Christ comes to fulfill for you. He gives you His righteousness. He declares, He officially states that His righteousness is yours. Your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and the Pharisees because your righteousness is Christ's righteousness. You are not and will not be judged on the basis of your own works – your works were judged upon the Cross when Christ was put to death. No – you are baptized into Christ Jesus, you have been declared righteous by Him – and so you are judged on the basis of Christ Jesus. When the Father sees you, O Baptized Christian, O Baptized “little Christ”, He sees Jesus. And this is in reality what your life is. Even as your sinful flesh fights tooth and nail against the Law of God and against your neighbor – you are a new creation in Christ, and He dwells in you, and His righteousness covers you, and He works in you and through you, and the Father sees you and sees Jesus at the exact same time, for your righteousness is Christ's righteousness now – you are united to Christ – For if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His. And this is all what Christ has done. This is Christ coming to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, and do to so for you, to rescue you from sin and death, to see you forgiven, to give you life now and forever. And it is what He has done for you, and what He pours out upon you again today in His Word and in His Supper. Amen. In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit +

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