February 21, 2016 — Lent II
Sermon Text — Luke 13:31-35
Come back later for audio of this sermon.
For Sinners Only
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. Luke’s gospel account the thirteenth chapter.
Beloved in the Lord,
The Pharisees were not happy with Jesus. Oh, they followed him around everywhere He went, but they were not happy with Jesus. Jesus was not their homeboy, Jesus was – for many of them – their nemesis. They followed, they listened, and they didn’t like what they were hearing. “The way to heave is narrow but broad is the way to destruction?” “The first shall be last and the last shall be first?” “People will come from the east and the west and the north and the south and recline at table in the Kingdom of God.” Tax collectors and prostitutes will enter paradise while “you” will be cast out. Oh, the Pharisees really weren’t happy with Jesus AT ALL! The Pharisees were the good people, the synagogue going people, the people who followed the tradition of the elders, the law of Moses, and made sure they washed when they didn’t need to, and didn’t walk where they weren’t supposed to walk and the days they weren’t supposed to walk.
The Pharisees were the good people, the first of the Jews, sons of Abraham. It’s the tax collectors and prostitutes Jesus should be preaching against. It’s the sinners who should be cast out where there’s weeping and gnashing of teeth. So go on Jesus, get out of here. We don’t want to listen to you anymore. Herod wants to kill you (and we Pharisees do too, but we’re too pious to say it out loud). So go on. Get out. It’s for your own good.
The Pharisees displeasure with Jesus in our text is a wonderful reflection of every man’s displeasure with Jesus. I say, a wonderful reflection, because no one wants to be like the Pharisees, though everyone to some degree suffers their faults. The Pharisees were the good people. Of all the Jews the Pharisees had the most in common with Jesus. That’s why they’re constantly following Him around. They think He’s one of their own. But the Pharisees don’t get Jesus because the Pharisees get themselves all wrong. They don’t like Jesus’ talk about narrow ways, the least being first and tax collectors and prostitutes entering paradise before them because Jesus makes Himself the savior of sinners not the rewarder of the righteous.
You see, it is our fallen nature to believe like the Pharisees. Old Adam wants to be rewarded for being good. Old Adam wants to be praised by God or by his neighbor, for his efforts, his good intentions, his pious emotions, his devout habits, his own goodness. But Jesus doesn’t allow for such things. The way is too narrow for good people to get through with their own works. There is no room for your righteousness, no room for your goodness. There’s simply no room for you to save yourself. Because when we bring our goodness to God we make ourselves too big. We’re puffed up. We’re proud. We’re arrogant. We’re stiff necked and stubborn. And so we don’t fit. The way is that narrow.
There is however room for the broken hearted, the weak kneed, the smoldering wick’s of this world. To these Jesus has been sent. That’s why he replies to the Pharisees the way He does. Jesus has come to set the captives free from Satan’s tyranny. It’s hard to be proud when bearing the yolk of slavery. It’s hard to be arrogant when lugging around so much baggage. Oh, it can happen to be sure. There’s plenty of proud and arrogant tax collectors and prostitutes and sinners everywhere you turn. But to whom does Jesus go. He says, “I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow and the third day.” Jesus doesn’t go after the good people, the synagogue goers, those strictly following the tradition of the elders. No, He’s come for the sick not the well, for the sinner, not those thinking they’re righteous enough to get themselves into heaven. He’s come for tax collectors, prostitutes, adulterers, fornicators, murderers, haters, slanderers, cheaters, slackers, those broken by sin, those who’ve broken others by their sin. Jesus has come to save sinners, of whom I am chief. He’s come for people like these, people like me, people like you.
His coming among sinners like us leads Him to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the place of destiny. Jerusalem is the place where peace between God and humanity will be purchased, ironically, through Jerusalem’s rejection of God’s Son. The city of peace does not recognize the hour of its visitation. They have covered their ears, shut their eyes, and opened their mouth in stubbornness. “Crucify Him! Crucify Him! “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city who kills the prophets and stones those sent to her!” Behold the Man who takes away the sins of the world. Look at Him! Look with the eyes of faith and see the One whom God has sent to shed His blood and cover over your sins! Look at Him and believe! There, in His body, hang the sins of the world. There, in His body, are your sins. There, Christ Jesus puts sin to death. There, Christ Jesus receives the will of men who cannot surrender their strength and merit to God but cast all their strength against God and man in the cross of Jesus. There is God’s best and man’s worst all in one place, all hanging on a tree for you. There is God reconciling Himself to the world. There is God loving His enemies and winning salvation for tax collectors, prostitutes, sinners like you and me. There is God’s heart poured out upon the earth. There is God’s mercy for the world. There is God’s Son enduring the humiliation necessary for your salvation. There on the cross God becomes small for you!
There He is today, tomorrow and on the third day He is perfected.
ON the third day He has reached His goal.
ON the third day Jesus is risen!
On the third day, death is defeated.
On the third day, the grave has lost its sting.
On the third day, the power of sin is shattered.
On the third day, Christ wins.
On the third day, Satan loses.
On the third day, sinners are justified!
On the third day, the fox has been outfoxed, the powerful have been brought low, the wise have been stupefied, and the foolish are drawn to the wonders of a God who delights Himself in forgiving, washing, saving, rescuing, liberating, strengthening, and regenerating fallen humanity!
The Will of Jesus
This is the will of Jesus as He makes His way through the land of Israel. This is the will of Jesus as He laments over Jerusalem. O Jerusalem, Jerusalem . . . how often I have willed to gather together your children as a hen gathers her brook under her wings, but you would not.” Let the Savior’s words penetrate your hearts this morning. Let them echo within you. Do not doubt His call. What the savior wills for Jerusalem He wills for every man, woman, and child. He takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked but desires that all repent and believe the gospel. (Ezekiel 33:11) God wills all people to be saved and come the knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4). Christ has died once for all. God so loved the world, God so loved you that He sent His Son to the cross. “All” means “all” and the “world” means you. There is no one left out. Jesus has come to save sinners.
Are you a sinner? Then repent and believe the gospel. Do not turn a deaf ear. Do not shield your eyes from the Savior’s passion. Do not be like the Pharisees in our text and urge Jesus to depart, or worse, attempt to convince Jesus of your own goodness. Humble yourself under the Word of God. Confess your sins. Hold nothing back, hide nothing in the depths of your heart, bring to Him your brokenness and He will heal you by His stripes. Offer Him your spots, stains, and blemishes, and He will wash you with pure, blood bought water. Set before Him your faults and He will lift you up and carry you along the narrow way. There is room enough for Jesus, for Jesus alone is small enough to walk the narrow way. You who believe and are baptized are hidden with God in Christ. Therefore, you also, by the grace and mercy of God, are made small, small enough to go with Jesus and recline at table in the Kingdom of God.
The Faithful’s Reception
Beloved in the Lord, reclining at table is exactly what we Christians do when we gather around His Word and Sacraments. For we have been reconciled to our heavenly Father through precious blood and the holy, innocent suffering and death of our Lord Jesus. We are at peace with God and at peace with one another. We gather together to rest and to be nourished with heavenly food. Here is the table set for God’s children. Christ Himself is the host and Christ Himself is the food. He is here for sinners to be near sinners, to forgive sinners. He is here for you. Thus we sing Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord. We welcome His appearing and rejoice at His merciful presence. We approach in humility. We bow in reverence. We kneel in adoration. We eat and we drink in faith. We speak our “amen” for this is most certainly true and we depart in peace eager to return again and again, and again, today and tomorrow, as often as He offers Himself, until the day we’ve finished our course, the day when He calls us to join Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the saints in heaven. To God alone be all glory. AMEN!
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus. AMEN!