Sermon — Pr. Tony Sikora — Watch out for “Sheep” with Bad Breath

Sermon Text — Mark 13:1-13
November 15, 2015 — Proper 28
Audio —


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. Mark’s gospel account the 13th chapter.

Beloved in the Lord,

Jesus is through with the Temple

Steadfast Sermons GraphicThough most are unawares, it is a sad day in the midst of a holy week.  While pilgrims stream through Zion’s gates in order to celebrate the coming Passover, Jesus departs.  He leaves the city and her temple and in so doing leaves her desolate. For no matter how busy her priests, no matter how full her borders, no matter how pious and fervent her rituals, without Jesus, both the time and the space are empty.  Without Jesus the city is but a gathering of clanging cymbals.  There is much noise but there is no dirge – the Baptist calls no more.  There is no dancing – Simeon’s song is but a faint memory.  There is no sad song of repentance nor festal celebrations of God’s grace and mercy.  Without Jesus all is meaningless.

Why does He leave?  He approached the city gates in the midst of shouting crowds and singing children.  Hosannas filled the air and palm branches cast their shadow upon His path.  Everyone welcomed Him, everyone that is except the scribes – they put Him to the test.  The Pharisees too set a trap for Him.  The Herodians were plotting his death.  Jesus patiently answered their questions, rebuked their ignorance, taught in the temple every day since Sunday.  But now He leaves.  He leaves because there is no longer any reason for Him to stay.

Walking out of the temple and exiting the city Jesus disciples marvel – not at the stubbornness of the Jews, not at the hardness of heart of the priests, scribes, and Pharisees, but at the works of men.  “Teacher, behold what manner of stones and what buildings are here!”  Isn’t that just like Old Adam?  These men completely miss what’s happening.  They didn’t hear with open ears. They didn’t see with open eyes.  They too were caught up in the fervor of meaninglessness and their hearts and minds, their eyes and ears were taken captive by the glory of men.

Wolves have Bad Breath

“Do you see these buildings?”  Jesus turns the table on them and on us.  “Not one stone shall be left standing upon another that shall not be thrown down.”  The temple is left desolate.  They did not recognize the day of the Lord’s visitation.  They were too busy with other things.  They weren’t like Simeon who took the Lord up in His arms and swaddled the Christ with His heart.  The people turned a deaf ear to Christ even while pursuing the words and works of others.

But just as Jesus pronounced judgement upon Jerusalem and her temple, so also does He give warning against these words and works of others.  Though there are many things that will happen which will the enemy intends to terrorize our hearts, things like wars and rumors of wars, pestilence and famines, earthquakes in various places, troubles and trials, there is one in particular that we are told to heed.  “Take heed that no one deceives you,” Jesus says.  Wars and rumors of wars cannot deceive.  Famines and pestilence cannot mis-lead. Troubles and Trials cannot steal away the people of God.  These things will happen, are happening, and will only get worse.  But these will not destroy our faith.  The greatest danger you and I face today is not the troubling economy, not the changing of the climate, nor the shift political landscape, not even the germs shared between friends and family or strangers and foreigners.  No, the greatest danger is the wrong teaching. Wrong teaching leads to wrong faith. Wrong faith is no faith.  And wrong faith or no faith is damning.

Beware beloved of wolves in sheep’s clothing.  You may not be able to tell a wolf but his appearance for many such wolves have clothed themselves with the sheep they have fleeced. They are cloaked in the revelation of Jesus Christ.  They use His Name.  They use His Word.  They talk churchy talk and all the while scratch the itching ear of old Adam.  They do not lead you to Jesus but lead you away from Jesus.  Don’t look here in water, bread or wine but look in yourself.  Look inside, see the divine in everyone – Old Adam loves this sort of talk.  He loves to hear about the divine within Himself.   He delights in the power of positive words.  He loves hearing the praise of men.

Good job.
Good work.
Keep it up.
Don’t give up.
Work harder.
You deserve better.
Dig deeper.
Love more.
You’re not doing it good enough.  Are you really trying?
You can do better.
You can be better, more sincere, more passionate, more involved.
Buy this book.  Pray this prayer.  Follow this method.

And you will be proud of all that you’ve done.  And like the disciples you want Jesus to be proud of you too.  “Teacher, see what manner of stones are here – – –  in my heart.”  For all along you’ve been inhaling not the Spirit of the living God, but the bad breath of wolves in sheep’s clothing.  And not one stone will be left standing one upon another.  They will all come tumbling down.

The Greater Temple

The temple will be destroyed.  The gods of this age will be shattered to pieces.  Though some might point to Titus and the events surrounding the destruction of the temple in 70 AD – the truth is that the temple was fallen long before.  Jesus departs the temple and Jerusalem in our text this morning never to return.  That temple will fall in less than a week’s time.  There is another temple to which all who would be saved must turn.  Jesus is the greater temple – the tabernacle of God in the flesh.  Where He goes there goes the temple and there we should follow.  He leaves the temple made with hands that the destruction of the temple not made with hands commences.  He departs in order to die.  His death is the destruction of the temple not made with hands.  And through such destruction all sin, death, devil, and hell is brought down.

Every stone stacked upon selfish ambitions.
Every rock rolled against our neighbor.
Every façade forged by our hands
Every idol integrated into our lives

All of man’s attempts to please God with his own works, his own love, his own piety, his own manufactured lifestyle  – all of it is crucified when Jesus is crucified.  All of it is torn asunder when the curtain is rent.  All of it is undone by the cross.

And unlike the temple made by hands – which shall never be rebuilt, Jesus rose on the third day.  The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone. The Father has received the Son’s labors in your place.  The Father delighted to bruise Him, exacting the pangs of justice upon Him. So that in Christ God is both just and justifier.  His wrath against sin and idolatry is vented on Friday and the seal and pledge of our salvation is manifested on Sunday.  Though Jesus was dead and buried today He lives and is seated at the right hand of the Father.

Blessed Conversation and Consolation of the Shepherd

Thus the greater temple continues His ministry today through the words and works of His sent ones.  Having risen from the dead Jesus greeted His apostles in the upper room and gave them Holy Orders.  “As the Father has sent me I am sending you.  Whosoever sins you forgive they are forgiven.  Whosoever sins you retain they are retained.”  The Shepherd sends His under-shepherds to the flock.  They are not only given to go unto all nations but they are given to go in the full authority of the one who sent them to forgive sins. Theirs is a mission of the gospel.  The preaching of the gospel directs the hearts and minds of the sheep to Jesus the Good Shepherd.  If we are to be called by His name in baptism and desire to hear Him call us by name on the last day then we are to be continually hearing Him.  Hearing the pastor sent by the Savior is hearing Him.  For Jesus says, “whoever hears you hears me.”  You cannot hear the savior apart from His messengers who proclaim the message to you and point you outside of yourself to the means of His grace. For the Savior has given His Word and His Sacraments to His bride the Church that you and I get the right faith, the faith that saves, the faith that latches itself to the external Word and promises of God while repenting of the sin and idolatry found within.

Jesus teaches us how we can tell if our pastor is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  “Many will come in my name” – they will look and sound like Christians, they may even have the blessing of being trained at the seminary.  “Many will come in my name saying “I am He.”  In other words they will set themselves up against the Savior, instead of the savior and you will be tempted to follow their dynamic personality, with well styled clothes, perfectly groomed hair and bright shining teeth.  The devil will dress himself as an angel of light promising the wealth of the nations to anyone and everyone who will listen.  But you must beware.  He has bad breath and a foul spirit.  And such a foul spirit will point over here or over there or in here (the heart) but he will not point to the fount or the altar or the cross. Brimstone wafts from his lips and seduces many.  Take heed beloved, listen to the words and observe the works of such false prophets.  Test the Spirits.  Learn the catechism.  Study the bible.  If anyone proclaims to you a Jesus who is not present in baptism or the Lord’s Supper what sort of Jesus is he (or she) proclaiming?  If anyone preaches about the coming of the Spirit apart from the means of grace, he is more likely a devil with a forked tongue.  Avoid them all. Watch out that no one deceives you.

Jesus is Here

Beloved in the Lord, this is not a trivial matter.  Your eternal destiny is at stake.  If it were not so Jesus would have told us.  As fallen people we are always given to glory in our own words and works and we’ll follow anyone who tells us as much.  The disciples did as much as they walked out of Jerusalem in our text.  “Look what manner of stones!”  But such stones are void of Christ.  Jerusalem is left desolate.  And without Jesus everything is meaningless.

Jesus is here for you this morning.  His words of warning are for your good, that you not be tempted to follow where Jesus is not but rather that you be bound to those things, places, elements where Jesus has promised to be.  Jesus is here in His Church giving out the blessings of His passion.  His voice is the voice of His sent one.  Hear His voice.  Look to the water and behold His blood.  Kneel before His altar and receive His sacrifice on your lips. Lend your ear to His Word and grow in His grace.  All of these are outside of you to save you from the stones, rocks, and boulders you have accumulated in your hearts.  All of these are where Jesus has promised to be for your good.  Watch out for those who say otherwise.  Blessed is the one who clings to Christ like a burr on their pant leg!  Amen!

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding keep your heart and mind through faith in Christ Jesus.  AMEN!


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