Sermon Text: Matthew 5:21-37
February 16, 2014 AD
Grace, mercy and peace be unto you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. AMEN! Our text for this morning’s sermon is taken from St. Matthew’s gospel account the 5th chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
Nowhere to Hide
The Lord loves His people. Loving His people He draws to them. Drawing near He preaches. It’s for this reason that He has come and for this reason that Jesus goes from village to village, region to region, from the shore and from the sea, on the plain and on the mount. His Words are light unto our feet and a lamp unto our path. His Words wound and kill, bind up and heal. Like a two-edged sword He wields His Word to cut to the quick, get to the depths, touch the soul of those who hear with open ears. His Words are His heart to and for your heart.
Thus His Words are both Law and they are Gospel. The Lord loves His people. Loving His people He draws near to them, near to preach, near to save. From the mount He preaches His sermon. And His words echo through space and time, from then to now, for them and for you. The Lord loves you. And because He loves you He will not let you remain in your sin, He will not let you hide in the bushes. He will not let you try to justify yourself, wiggle out from under the truth of His Law, but rather He will back you into a corner, take the rug out from under your feet, leave you with nothing to hide behind, nothing to shield you or cover you, or protect you, nothing other than Himself.
Thus when Jesus preaches the Law He preaches it to the fullest extent. Your righteousness, your goodness, your holiness, must exceed that of the Pharisees and the scribes. It must be better than the best. It must be perfect. And just so don’t begin to think that you have or can get yourself to perfection Jesus goes straight for the heart.
If you’re angry with someone you’re guilty of murder. If you call someone a fool, you’re liable to hell fire. If you hold a grudge, refuse to reconcile, you can’t approach God’s altar. If you lust after women or men, you’re an adulterer, if you divorce – except for sexual immorality, you’re an adulterer. If you swear falsely, you’re a liar. You see, beloved, there’s no wiggle room with Jesus. There’s no way out from under God’s wrath and justice. God’s mirror reveals more than the outward appearance. His Law sees into the shadows of your heart. If you’re heart isn’t right, you’re not right with God or your neighbor.
Seeking the extravagance of the Bushes
You and I, we’re just like those back then and we’re just like Adam and Eve so long ago. When the heart isn’t right with God and our neighbor we run away and we hide in the bushes. Let’s be honest, isn’t fear of saying our sins out loud a major reason most Christians don’t come to confession and absolution. We don’t want to hear it, not even from our own lips. We’re afraid of God’s judgment and we refuse to believe the gospel; that the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.
Instead, we deceive ourselves and glory in the bushes. We relish the opportunity to paste on fig leaves and cover our shame. We’ve done wrong and so we want to do right, but we make up our own right and wrong and never really face up to the truth, “what is truth, anyway?” We even make up our own truth.
Making up our own truth we ascribe glory to the wrong things. Prickly bushes become amazing floral arrangements. Uncomfortable fig leaves are transformed into the latest and greatest of Parisian fashion. Our works are exalted and God’s Works are ignored. We chase after the extravagant, the fabulous, the exciting and the extraordinary, not because God has attached any sort of promise to them but because these things stimulate the senses, appeal to the heart and make us feel loved and alive. But with each experience the extraordinary becomes ordinary. The exciting gradually becomes boring and the spontaneous becomes predictable, even routine. All the while we’ve been teaching ourselves to ignore the ordinary, the common things of life, and to despise ritual and routine. Thus we miss out while we’re trying to do it ourselves.
Friends miss out on reconciliation as they try to make up for hurting one another rather than seeking and receiving forgiveness. Men and women miss out as they seek after and are aroused by what they see, be it at the mall, on the computer screen, or between the pages of a magazine or smutty novel. They fail to see the beauty of their own wife or the strength of their own husband or the joy and laughter God gives in a house full of children. Seeking the extraordinary life we miss the gifts God gives in the ordinary and the common. Thus we miss out on the joy of simple things. We’re simply too busy, too busy chasing dreams we thought we needed to dream and doing works we thought we needed to be doing in order to live a good life, a full life, a life blessed by God. Really, we’re still hiding in the bushes, because unless we receive the life God gives through faith in His Son, we’re still in our sins, still trying to feel alive as we attempt to make the extraordinary salutary.
The God who seeks and Saves
Bushes and fig leaves will never cover over sins nor provide the good life, the life we all want. Bushes and fig lives, searching for the extraordinary all of the time will only exhaust us and lead us along a harrowing path to hell. The Lord loves His people. The Lord loves you. In drawing near the Lord preaches to you and His preaching is to call you out of the bushes, away from your excuses and to be still and know that He is God. With Jesus’ preaching of the Law He takes away all of your extraordinary ways and means to save yourself, cover yourself, hide yourself, or deceive yourself. Jesus backs you into a corner so that you face, not your sins, not even yourself, but Him. Jesus would have you look up to Him and Him alone.
Yes, beloved, life up your heads and behold the Lord strong and mighty. For the Lord approaches in glory, and His glory is unlike the glory of this world. For the Lord approaches in the glory of His humiliation. He draws near to suffer. He comes to die. Yes, beloved, lift up your eyes unto the hills, to the mount, to Calvary, from whence comes your help. Your help comes from the Lord who made heaven and earth, who formed you in your mother’s womb, fashioned you in His image, and seeks to redeem you not with gold or silver, not with bushes or fig leaves, not even with the blood of bulls and goats, but with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death. In weakness the Lord is strong for you. In death, the Lord gives His life for you. In humility, the Lord triumphs for you. In blood the Lord covers over you, His blood! His holy and righteous blood! Blood that atones for your sins, blood that reconciles you to God and your neighbor, blood that makes things right, as right as they need to be, righter than that of the scribes and Pharisees, righter than that which the world would offer you, as right as the righteousness of Christ Jesus Himself! His righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees. His righteousness endures for eternity. His righteousness is for you, if you would but be still and know that He is Lord.
Receiving Heaven in the Ordinary
This righteousness is not given through extraordinary ways and means. You don’t need to do anything special for it. You don’t need to ask Jesus into your heart to get it. You don’t need to sincerely pray words that are nowhere in the bible. You don’t need to sing louder and longer to be sure you have it. You don’t need to stimulate your senses to comfort your heart. You don’t need to rise to the heights of heaven to attain it. No, beloved! The savior Himself approaches, He draws near, and His advent is for the preaching of His Word to you. His Word gives His heart and He gives His heart with His Word in the ordinary pouring of water, the simple giving of bread and wine, and the not so exciting speaking of a guy like me.
Heaven is received in the ordinary and thus the ordinary become salutary. The common becomes holy. Through these the sinner is sanctified. The unrighteous becomes righteous. For, “do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,
10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you werejustified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1Co 6:9-11 ESV) In other words the Savior came near to you and changed you, changed your eternal destiny. He spoke His Words and poured them over you in your baptism. His Words gave you His Name and His heart and His life and His death and His resurrection. His Words gave the “ordinary,” heaven, the dead, life. His Words gave you Himself.
Therefore, you are not ordinary, nor is the life you live. You are redeemed, you and your whole life, every aspect of it. For the Christian, nothing is common, everything is holy, sanctified by His Word. The world may seek after the extraordinary and the exciting, but you, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb of God, you no longer the desire this world’s narcotics. No more hits of adrenaline for you, and no more exhausting attempts to evade God’s law and acquire what hasn’t been given you.
Now, the gifts God gives in ordinary things and people are given to receive and enjoy, gifts like your wife and your husband and your children and your job and your neighbors and your church and your friends and other family, gifts through whom God loves you and has given you to love in return. These things are common, these things are ordinary, but these are beautiful, wonderful, and amazingly joyful gifts of God to you and for you.
Your heart has been changed by His Word. Your desires have been redeemed by His passion. You used to be like the world. But you were washed, sanctified and justified in the Divine Name. The ordinary has become salutary and the heart has been quickened to God’s joy. You see now home and family what you only hoped for in the world. You find in your life, what has always been right there in front of you.
Hiding in Christ
Beloved in the Lord, the Lord loves His people. The Lord loves you. And He will not allow you to remain in the bushes covered with fig leaves. He draws near to preach. And His preaching, yes . . . backs us into a corner. It removes any excuse for our sin, forces us to face Him, to behold that He is our Savior from sin, and death, and hell. When Jesus preaches God’s Law it quickly becomes evident that there is nowhere to hide, nowhere to run, nowhere to flee, nowhere that is except in Him. As the psalmist sings, “You are my hiding place O Lord. You preserve me from trouble; you surround me shouts of deliverance.” (Psalm 32:7). And that is the gospel; there is nowhere to hide, except in Jesus, who comes to you this morning. In baptism you have died and now your whole life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:7). You no longer live but Christ lives in you and the life you now live you live by faith in the Son of God who loved you and gave Himself up for you. Be still, beloved, and know that He is God. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!