Jesus isn’t who you think He is.

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Reformation Day 2020
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
October 24, 25, 2020
Revelation 14:6-7, Romans 3:19-28, Matthew 11:12-19

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

            If God is really God why does He allow so much evil?  Why is there war?  Why is there human trafficking?  Why do people abuse children?  Why do people harm themselves?  Why is there sickness and disability and dementia and death?  Why is there abortion?  Why is there murder, rape, and robbery?  Why is there poverty?  Why are so many politicians so corrupt, making themselves wealthy instead of serving the people?  Why is there so much evil in the world?  You know there is a loving God who created this world and yet you look around and think, “Things don’t look right.”

            This is what John the Baptist and his disciples are thinking just prior to our Gospel reading today as John is languishing in Herod’s prison.  He must be thinking, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness.  I am a prophet of God.  I am the one preparing the way for Jesus, and yet here I sit in the darkness of this prison. “Things don’t look right.”

            John’s disciples go to Jesus to question what is going on. Matthew 11:3 (ESV)
3 … “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”[1] They are really saying to Jesus, “If you really are the Messiah, why is John still in prison.”

            Matthew 11:4-6 (ESV) 4 And Jesus answered them, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. 6 And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.”[2]

            Jesus is offensive because He does not meet the people’s expectations.  Proof of Jesus’ identity is not found in earthly power and glory, but it is found in the blind, the lame, the lepers, the deaf, the dead and the poor.  Jesus commends John the Baptist as more than a prophet, but what does it mean to be great in the reign of God?  Matthew 11:11 (ESV) 11 Truly, I say to you, among those born of women there has arisen no one greater than John the Baptist. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.[3]

            Later, when the disciples are arguing about which of them is the greatest Jesus teaches about true greatness, Matthew 18:3-4 (ESV) 3 … “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.[4]

            The greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven is the one who knows he has nothing to offer.  Matthew 5:3 (ESV) 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.[5] Children…the blind…the lame…the deaf…the dead…the poor…these are the greatest.  This doesn’t look right.  What kind of greatness is this?

            And then we come to our Gospel reading today.  Matthew 11:12 (ESV) 12 From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.[6]

            John has been arrested and imprisoned and will soon have his head cut off because he spoke God’s truth about marriage and adultery to Herod Antipas. Jesus will also soon be arrested and whipped and mocked and crucified.  There is violent opposition to the kingdom of heaven.  Ten of Jesus’ remaining eleven disciples will meet violent deaths because they preach and teach about His life, death and resurrection. Jesus is God in flesh, He is the King of the universe, and yet He and His people suffer violence.  Things don’t look right.

            People violently attacked Jesus, so it should come as no surprise to us today that there are many influential people that hate anyone who believes the Bible is authoritative and true.  They want to relegate us to the fringes of society labeled as ignorant extremists.  It should be no surprise when violence is used to try to silence the Good News of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  There are certainly many places in the world today where confessing Jesus is Lord will get you beaten, imprisoned or killed, lately especially in Nigeria.

            In this environment of violent opposition, Jesus talks about how the people are indifferent and inconsistent in what they are looking for in a messiah.  The people want a savior of their own design and they are disappointed when Jesus does not fulfil their desires and dance to their tune.  Matthew 11:16-19 (ESV) 16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, 17 “ ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ 19 The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him! A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ …” [7] 

            Jesus and John do not meet the peoples’ expectations.  They are not doing what the people think they should be doing.  John is too harsh, Jesus is too loose.  John dresses funny and lives in the desert, Jesus hangs around with low-life sinners. The next line in the ESV Bible is Matthew 11:19 (ESV) 19 Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” [8]  A better, more natural translation is, “And so Wisdom was declared innocent of her own works.”  The people are familiar with the Wisdom of God but they assume God’s ways are the same as their ways.  What they cannot accept is that the Wisdom of God has sent John the Baptist and Jesus to do what they have been doing.  The people don’t like what they see.  They reject John and Jesus.  They want something different. 

The Emperor and the Pope wanted to burn Luther at the stake because He dared to teach that Jesus freely forgives sins.  Violence tried to snuff out the truth of the Gospel.

            It is an all too common thing for people to reject Jesus because He does not meet their expectations.  Today is Reformation Sunday when we remember that on the eve of All Saint’s Day in 1517 Martin Luther nailed the 95 Theses to the door of All Saints Church, the Castle Church, in Wittenberg Germany to protest the sale of indulgences.  Luther wanted to get back to scripture alone and stop the abuse of faithful Christians by those who did not accept the Jesus of the Bible who freely forgives sins. The Roman church rejected the free grace of God in Jesus and instead worked out schemes to raise huge amounts of money by selling forgiveness certificates.  The leaders’ lavish lifestyles and the exquisite buildings of the Roman Catholic Church required a great deal of money and Luther was getting in the way of collecting from German peasants. 

            Luther was bold in challenging the authority of Pope Leo X, and he was found guilty of heresy and sentenced to death.  He became a wanted man, dead or alive.  The Emperor and the Pope wanted to burn Luther at the stake because He dared to teach that Jesus freely forgives sins.  Violence tried to snuff out the truth of the Gospel.

            Violence is used against the reign of heaven in many places but another more subtle enemy of the Kingdom of Heaven is your rebellious desire for a Jesus to meet your own expectations.  So many people want a Jesus to make all things look right, right now. They want a Jesus to do what they want Him to do and teach what they want Him to teach.  There is a great temptation to dismiss the real Jesus and create a false Jesus will do what you want.

            We live together in fellowship with Jesus in this world where we look around and say, “Things don’t look right.”  We look at our own lives and say, “things don’t look right.” We know things don’t look right and so we are baptized into the kingdom of heaven.  We gather together to confess our sins and receive absolution.  Together we hear the truth of God’s Word and receive Jesus’ body and blood for the forgiveness of sins.  Forgiven, we live together in weakness and lowliness in a world that doesn’t look right and look forward to the last days when Jesus will return in power and glory and destroy evil forever and makes things forever right. Come, Lord Jesus.  Thy Kingdom come.  Amen.


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[5]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[6]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[7]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[8]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

Missing the truth standing in front of you

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Pentecost 20 2020 Proper 24
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
October 17, 18, 2020

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bsit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

            I pay federal tax, state tax, city tax, self-employment tax, real estate tax, sales tax and a tax on every gallon of gasoline. 

Recently there was a viral video going around on social media of a teenage boy excitedly opening the envelope containing his first paycheck.  The excitement turns to frustration and anger when he sees what is left after taxes.  His older brother helpfully tells him, “Welcome to the world.”  I haven’t met too many folks that like taxes. 

Now, taxes are necessary.  And in this nation taxes are sort of our own fault since we tax ourselves by voting for levies and voting for the people who write and administer the tax code.  We really don’t have anyone to blame but ourselves.

The people in Jesus’ time do not get to vote. Taxes are imposed on them by the Roman Empire and the local authorities.  The people have no say; they pay what Caesar tells them to pay, and probably more due to dishonest tax collectors.  There is a deep, ongoing tension between the Jewish people and their Roman overlords who enforce the laws through local, so-called Jewish kings and Roman governors. 

In our Gospel reading today it is shortly after Jesus’ triumphantly entered Jerusalem to the shouts of the crowd and cleared the Temple.  The Pharisees are working hard to nail Jesus down with His own words so that He will be caught up in the political abyss between the Jewish people and the Roman authorities and be discredited.  The Pharisees recruit their political enemies the Herodians who were in favor of the Romans to help trap Jesus in His words.  Such much political intrigue.  So much tension.  So much trying to get Jesus to condemn Himself.  The Pharisees have crafted a carefully prepared trap.  Matthew 22:17 (ESV) 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not?”[1]

            Over the years a lot of words have been spoken and a lot of ink has been spilled discussing what Jesus meant by “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”  We hear that Jesus is teaching that we should pay taxes to the government as if this is the main point of Matthew’s account of this confrontation. 

            Oh, those wily Pharisees, they’ve got Jesus right where they want Him. They are going to nail Him down on this question and that will be the end of Jesus.  But Jesus knows what they are doing.  Matthew 22:18 (ESV) 18 … “Why put me to the test, you hypocrites?[2]

The Pharisees are hypocrites because they themselves wouldn’t answer that same question out of fear of angering the Jewish people or the Roman authorities.  Jesus quickly dismantles their argument by having them show him a coin with Caesar’s picture on it.  Matthew 22:21 (ESV) 21 … “Therefore render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”[3]

            Over the years a lot of words have been spoken and a lot of ink has been spilled discussing what Jesus meant by “render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”  We hear that Jesus is teaching that we should pay taxes to the government as if this is the main point of Matthew’s account of this confrontation. 

            But, this is not a sermon from Jesus about paying taxes; this is only Jesus disarming the trap set by the Pharisees and Herodians to nail Jesus down with His own words.  The important words here are “render to God the things that are Gods.”  Pay to God; give to God, the things that are God’s. 

            So what belongs to God?  This is a big, scary question.  What belongs to God?  This is a question that we really do not want to answer because the answer is overwhelming. Give to God the things that are God’s.

            Well, maybe it is just ten percent?  Ten percent of your money should be given to God?  Ten percent is a lot.  That’s a car payment.  Is Jesus telling you to give ten percent of your money to God?  Maybe He means ten percent of your time?  If you have a 40 hour work week then ten percent would be four hours a week.  Is Jesus saying to give four hours a week to God?

            Render to God the things that are God’s.  What belongs to God?  Not ten percent…100 percent.  Everything belongs to God.  God created the world in six days and set in motion the ongoing creation that created you and all that you have.  Give to God the things that are God’s.  Your entire life…all your money…all your possessions…all your time…it all belongs to God. 

            Jesus is teaching that you should listen to the words of John the Baptist as he prepared the way for Jesus.  Matthew 3:2 (ESV) 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”[4] Repent because Jesus is King. Repent because Jesus is in charge. Repent because Jesus is God incarnate; God in flesh.  Repent. Turn away from the influences of the devil, the world and your own sinful nature and be fully dedicated to God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit. 

Now, this does not mean that you should give away everything you own and run off to a monastery.  It does mean that you should live your life doing what you are supposed to be doing; loving God, and loving and serving your neighbor in whatever vocations that you have; parent, child, grandparent, employer, employee, student, teacher, citizen, pastor, parishioner, neighbor.  It means cutting out sinful behaviors from your life no matter how much it hurts.  It means using your money to serve and love those you have been given to serve and love, and finding ways to love and serve others.  It means that you do not get a partition off a part your life or your money that you can use for selfish indulgence and evil.  Everything belongs to God. 

            These idiot Pharisees are all worried protecting their political power and influence; they are so worried about making money from the Jewish people; they are so worried about the day to day political intricacies of life.  They are even using their enemies, the Herodians, to try to pull Jesus into a dispute about taxes, but they are missing the infinite, divine truth standing right there in front of them.  Jesus is the Messiah, the Christ.  God, the King of the universe is standing right in front of them and they are missing it because they are so busy with their own stuff. They hear but do not understand. They see but do not perceive.  The Pharisees are so caught up in the politics that they miss out on Jesus’ identity.

            How many people today are like those idiot Pharisees missing the giant truth that Jesus is God?  In all the craziness of the world it is so easy to let the worries of day to day life blind you to the truth of Jesus.  Like the Pharisees so many do not understand who Jesus is but instead just want to manipulate Jesus in order to make Him say what they want.  So many reject the truth that Jesus is King. 

With the current 24 hour news cycle and ever present social media it is tempting to get so caught up in politics that you can start to believe that politicians are your savior.  This is especially true during the election season. Now, if you are a citizen you have a duty to stay informed and to vote, and as a Christian your duty is to vote in a way that loves and serves your neighbor.  You vote in a way that protects the vulnerable and weak.  You vote in a way that protects innocent life from those who would snuff it out.  You vote for taxes that are good for your neighbor.  Elections are important, but not eternally important. No matter who wins an election God is still God.  Jesus is still King and that is infinitely more important than who has temporary political power.

            Jesus has come to Jerusalem and is confronting the Pharisees and they are fighting back and are trying to nail Jesus down on a question of taxes but Jesus does not allow it.  Jesus does allow Himself to be nailed down on Friday morning.  The Jewish and Roman authorities team up to arrest Jesus. Beat Him.  Mock Him.  Flog Him. Crown Him with thorns and parade Him through the streets to the place of the skull where they nail Jesus down to a cross and lift Him up to suffer and slowly die in utter humiliation.  Jesus allows Himself to be the sacrifice for sin; your sin, my sin, the sin of the whole world.  Wearing a crown, Jesus allows Himself to be crucified to redeem you under a sign that announces to all that He is the King of the Jews.  Three days later He victoriously rises from the dead to conquer sin, death and hell forever.

            Jesus is King.  Jesus reigns; He rules.  Your whole being and everything you have belongs to Jesus.  Render to God the things that are God’s.  Amen. 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version.   Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

Why are some saved but others not.

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Pentecost 19 2020, Proper 23
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
October 11, 2020
Isaiah 25:6-9, Philippians 4:4-13, Matthew 22:1-14

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

            Matthew 22:14 (ESV) 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.” [1]  This is the Gospel of the Lord??  Gospel means Good News and yet this does not sound like good news.  This sounds like a dire warning, which it is.  Today’s Gospel reading is a warning to the Jewish religious leaders and the people of Jesus’ time and the warning is still there for us today.  Many are called, but few are chosen.  You are left to wonder, “What about me?  Am I one of the chosen?”

This is an issue about God’s election of people to salvation and it begs the question, “Why are some saved and others not?” This question is called the Crux Theologorum, which is Latin for the cross of the theologian.  It is an impossibly difficult question.

            These three things are true about salvation.  First, Jesus died for the sins of all people therefore there is universal grace. Second, You are saved by grace alone. Third, Hell is real and people will go there.  We know from the Bible that these things are all true and yet it seems they contradict each other.  It does not make sense and we like things to make sense, and so some folks, in order to try to solve the Crux Theologorum, will just pick two of the three.

            Calvinists reject universal grace.  They teach that we are saved by grace alone, but they teach that Jesus died only for the elect, not for all people.  They teach that those whom God does not elect will go to hell.

            Synergists hold that salvation involves some sort of cooperation between God’s grace and our human freedom.  This is what Martin Luther rebelled against in the Roman Catholic Church and it is also present in many churches today that teach decision theology.  Synergists believe in universal grace; that Jesus died for all people, but they reject that you are saved by God’s grace alone.  They believe that people are saved partly because they have made a decision for Jesus, or because they have done the right good works.

            Many liberal churches, including many liberal Lutherans, reject hell.  They believe that Jesus died for all and we are saved by grace, but that no one is condemned.  They are becoming universalists.

            In order to make God make sense, Calvinists reject universal grace, synergists reject grace alone, liberal theologians reject hell.  We so much want to make God make sense, but we cannot. We do not get to change God’s teachings to fit our rationalizations.  God’s ways are not our ways. 

All three of these teachings are true even though it does not make sense to us.  Jesus died for all people.  You are saved by grace alone.  Hell is real and some people are going there.  The Bible teaches all three are true and we do not get to change the Bible’s teachings. 

            Why are some saved and others are not?  Calvinists say it is God’s choice to save some and condemn others. Synergists say that it is man’s choice to be saved or not.  Universalists teach that all are saved.  The Bible teaches, and Bible-believing Lutherans teach, that God saves and man condemns.  God chooses to save you.  People choose to condemn themselves by rejecting God’s grace; by rejecting Jesus as the Savior from sin.  So the Lutheran answer to the question, “Why are some saved but others not?” is an unsatisfying, “We don’t know.  God does not tell us.”

            The Gospel reading today is difficult.  In the first part Jesus is teaching against the religious leaders who have been invited to the wedding feast of the Lamb in His Kingdom, but they are not interested.  They reject the Father and the Son and because of that they are destroyed.

            Then the king invites everyone to His Son’s wedding feast, both the good and the bad, and the wedding hall is filled with guests.  But one guest is not wearing a wedding garment and is speechless when asked how he got in.  That man is tied up and thrown into the outer darkness.  For many are called, but few are chosen.

            What does it mean to be “not worthy”?  What does it mean to not have the wedding garment?  The parable teaches that to be “not worthy” is to dishonor and reject the king and the wedding feast for his son.  This parable is about Jesus.  To be “not worthy” is to oppose, hate and seek to destroy God’s Son.  To not have a wedding garment is to reject Jesus and His forgiveness. 

            This parable is disturbing because it shows that God is indeed Almighty God and you are not.  God is in charge and God will judge those that reject Jesus.  The king destroys those people and their cities are burned.  God is also judgmental towards the man not wearing the wedding garment.  But, what is this wedding garment?  What does it mean to not have the wedding garment?  This man is thrown into hell and you ask yourself, “Could this be me?”

            What does it mean to be “not worthy”?  What does it mean to not have the wedding garment?  The parable teaches that to be “not worthy” is to dishonor and reject the king and the wedding feast for his son.  This parable is about Jesus.  To be “not worthy” is to oppose, hate and seek to destroy God’s Son.  To not have a wedding garment is to reject Jesus and His forgiveness. 

            Today is confirmation day for two of our young ladies at the 9:30 AM service. Confirmation is an opportunity for the young people to declare for themselves what was said for them at their baptism; that they renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways. That they believe in God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

            They also will confess they believe the Bible to be faithful and true and they will promise to remain a faithful followers of Jesus for the rest of their lives. One question is: “Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?” 

            Over the years I have presided over the confirmation of many young people. They each answered this question, “I do, by the grace of God.”  Sadly, for some of those young people, it was the last time I ever saw them at church.

            Now, I cannot know their faith.  But I fear that long term, voluntary separation from God’s Word and His Sacrament of Holy Communion can lead you to reject Jesus.  We all need Jesus and yet so many people live as if Jesus’ forgiveness is not essential; as if Jesus is an occasional accessory of life, but not necessary.  This parable is a warning about the spiritual dangers lurking that can harden your heart and slowly draw you away from a life of honoring the Son.  The Bible is full of these warnings.  1 Peter 5:8 (ESV) 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.[2]  Matthew 13:22 (ESV) 22 As for [the seed that] was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.[3]

            Many are called, but few are chosen.  How do you know if you have been chosen?  You know you have been chosen because God has called you by name and you have been born again in water and the Spirit.  God has marked you as His own and made a promise to you in your baptism.  You have been redeemed by the blood of Jesus shed on the cross for your sins.  You hear the Good News of God’s mercy and grace in Jesus.  You receive Jesus’ Body and Blood for the forgiveness of your sins. 

            The confirmands today are wearing white robes, often at baptism babies are clothed in white, at a funeral the casket is covered in a white pall.  What do these symbolize?  They are a picture of the white robe of Jesus’ righteousness that covers over all your sin.  You need the robe of Jesus’ righteousness because there is no robe of your own righteousness.  You cannot make yourself right with God.  You cannot do it on your own.  You need Jesus and you have Jesus. 

            God has chosen you in your baptism to be His own child. He has given you a place at the wedding feast of the Lamb.  It is yours. You are in Christ.  You wear the robe of Jesus’ righteousness.  You know you need Jesus.  You know you need His forgiveness.  Resist the devil with his lies and accusations.  James 4:7 (ESV) 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.[4] 

Stay connected to Jesus and His Body the Church.  Remain in Christ.  Remember your baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Gather together in person or online, if necessary, to hear the Words of God’s forgiveness.  Receive the Body and Blood of Christ for the forgiveness of your sins.  Live life as a forgiven child of God.  You have faith in Jesus, the Messiah, God’s Son.

            You are the chosen one of God. Amen. 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

The rejected stone

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Pentecost 18, 2020 Proper 22
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Hilbert Kamps 
Oct. 4, 2020
Isaiah 5:1-7, Phil. 3:4b-14, Matt. 21:33-46

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

            It was early in the morning. Just the day before, Jesus had turned over the tables at the temple, as He drove out all who were buying and selling in the  temple area. He then went to Bethany where He spent the night, likely with Lazarus and his two sisters, Martha and Mary. We can’t be sure, but He may have gotten up very early seeking not to disturb His hosts.  Matthew tells us that Jesus was hungry. Did He get up early and slip out so that Martha and Mary would not need to make Him breakfast?

            In any event, it is on His trip from Bethany back to Jerusalem that Jesus will curse

the tree which had nothing but leaves to offer His hunger. Now you talk about being bold! Jesus not only goes back to Jerusalem, but to the temple where He had created such a stir with the whips, tables, and such. Immediately He is met by the chief priests and  the elders of the people who demand to  know by what authority He is doing these things.                                  He sets up a situation where He forces the Jewish authorities  to back down  or  get  in trouble with the people over John the Baptizer’s ministry. Then He begins a  series of parables, the first of this series we had last Sunday. Today our Lord speaks of the Landowner, vineyard, evil tenants, righteous servants and Son, and the stone rejected by the builders.

As the Lord Jesus talks about a vineyard, all of the Jewish leaderswould immediately start thinking of Isaiah 5. The prophet Isaiah was inspired to speak of Israel as a “vine,” tenderly cared for by God, and yet it produced no fruit.  Let’s just stop here for a moment and consider…. The disciples had just that morning watched how the Lord responded to fruitlessness: He curses it! As Jesus started this parable of the vineyard, just picture it…….. the disciples looking around at each other with knowing looks and nods… they knew that something really big was being said…. They knew that the Jewish leaders had no idea what they were up against in Jesus…. the Son of the Living God.

            The vineyard described by Isaiah was not only fruitless, it produced in its place

injustice and bloodshed. Therefore, just as Jesus cursedthe fruitless tree,so God curses fruitless Israel by removing its protection and stopping the blessings of rain and strength to the ground.

            Here we see a spiritual principle at work, one that we see over and over again in the

Book of Judges. God will not bless a godless land. He will  not favor a nation which practices injustice and takes innocent human  life. Such a nation God will not protect, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God!”Hebrews 10:31

            Dear people of God, how about our own nation? How much security in God’s favor do you think that our nation can expect……. when Planned  Parenthood can legally kill innocent, preborn human life? Or when our streets are running red with blood coming from the nations ‘thin blue line’ of those whose job it is to protect us? Do you feel safe from our enemies when the institutions of law tell us that   (Isaiah 5:20 (ESV) 20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, …[1])  evil is good, and good is evil, and seeks to  silence us when we dare to speak-out against sin on the  street  and human vice in the  public square?  God tended to our nation when it was formed as an infant, blessing it with very Godly, Christian leaders. In our Lord’s words today, God’s care for Israel is suggested by the meaning of the parable itself. When God cared for ancient Israel, He took care of all the details. There were very precise horticultural procedures involved in caring for a vineyard.

The hedge was carefully measured and trimmed. There were measurements for the trenches, the voids spaces, and the size of the winepress.  Careful descriptions outlined how to prune the vines, including directions on where and where not to plant vines.

            Ancient authorities even noted which were the best, and the worst, varieties of vines to plant or not plant. A lot of care went into the vineyard, even as God so carefully tended to His dear people, Israel. But….what did God get for all His loving care?

Injustice! Unrighteousness!  Bloodshed!  Shouts of disobedience! God could have cursed Israel to death even as our Lord cursed the barren tree, but no! Israel was not merely some sort of a thing to God. Israel embodied the children of God. God wanted the vineyard to prosper!                                       So He sent the prophets to His servants.

They beat one…..killed another….. stonedanother…..

BEAT ONE- figurative of any number of the early prophets who were faithful, but when the people received them, sometimes it was with a whipping.

            KILLED ANOTHER- Amos is believed to have been killed by the use of a club.

Isaiah’s martyrdom took place under the evil king Manasseh who sawed the prophet in two.

            STONED ANOTHER- Tradition says that Jeremiah was killed by stoning.

            As Jesus spins out the parable, the priests and people are beginning to recognize that they are the tenants who persecuted the past prophets of God. They know that the Nazerene has claimed to be the Son of God… and in several passages from the Bible we are told that they want to stone Jesus for that claim!

            Jesus continues with His parable as He turns their attention to the Son of the

Vineyard. Mark’s Gospel points to the “son’s” preexistence when Mark writes, “He  had still one other, a beloved son.Mark 12:6 God so loved the world that He sent His one and only Son

There is something unreal about the story Jesus tells in the parable. How likely is it, that a man whose servants have been mistreated and killed by his tenants will then send his beloved son to try to collect his share of the harvest? But this unreal story illustrates the incredible patience of God. It is truly mind-boggling that God would send His Son into the world after He had seen how his people treated the prophets.

To our ears it also sounds unreal that the tenants who  murdered the son should expect to take possession of his inheritance…… especially while  his father, the vineyard owner, is still alive.  But selfish ambition and  greed all too often and all too easily cause us   to forget God’s presence.

            Did the tenants- the rulers of Israel- recognize that Jesus was the Son of God? The suggestion here is that they DID! So why did they crucify Him? Why do people continue to crucify Christ today through their sins that put Him on the cross! 

            Many today don’t want the King’s Son! They don’t want the Lord of Life to be the lord of their lives! We continue to live in a public square where the wants of the individual are valued to the exclusion of moral decency and justice. An increasing number of our leaders want Jesus and His followers out of the way, so that they can build America according to a godless standard.

            With many lies, and then even more lies, they failed in their attempts to ruin Brett Kavanaugh: as being morally unfit.  Now, they are determined to try and argue an opposite accusation. They also will most certainly fail in their efforts to paint Amy Coney Barrett as too dogmatic in her Christian faith to claim her rightful seat as a Supreme Court Justice.

            Some weeks ago in my sermon to you folks, I mentioned  the New York Times 1619 project. The project appears to be another attempt to reframe our countries history while at the same time making jabs at Christianity.

As I said then; this has become Public School Curriculum in thousands of school districts across  our country.  I got good  news last week from my daughter, who teaches 7th  & 8th grades in Central WI.; and has become my sleuth on the 1619 project. As of last Saturday anyway, she had heard absolutely  nothing  regarding this foolishness.  I told her to prepare by utilizing Bob Woodson’s 1776 project information instead. Woodson says….”(The 1619 Project) is a very corrosive and very dangerous challenge to the nation and her founding principles;” while, “1776 Unites is an aspirational and inspirational alternative to this diabolical message.”

            People of God, you know as well as I do, that it is not justthe Liberals of Washington DC; or just the Public Schools that are working 24/7 to erode Christianity. And it didn’t just start with my generation back in the 60’s. The Son of God is daily being rejected by our culture. By any secular standard, Jesus is the dominant figure of Western culture. Like much of what we now think of as Western ideas, inventions and values finds its source or inspiration in the religion that worships God in his name. Art and science, the self and society, politics and economics, marriage and the family, right and wrong, body and soul- all have been touched and often radically transformed by Christian influence.”

            Like the Jewish leaders standing before Jesus as he told this parable, a growing

number of our leaders want to get Christ out of the way. Note that our nation’s leaders are permitting all religious art and icons that speak of our Christian heritage to be systematically removed from our public buildings- get Christ out of the way!

            Jesus knew that then, and always, the multitudes with its leaders, would reject Him and His claim over the totality of their lives within the vineyard- God’s creation. He is the stone rejected!

            There was a tradition well known at the time of Christ that speaks about the building of the second temple. According to this tradition, a stone was brought to the builders and sent back again and again, until finally it was discovered to fit perfectly in the corner.

            The servants of Jesus in the Old Testament were rejected…. Jesus was rejected… Jesus is rejected today…. the servants of Jesus are rejected today… The Bible says that as the end of time draws close, the majority of people will reject Jesus as they also persecute His followers.

            But, not all…. there are many people today who have come to faith in Jesus Christ as the Holy Spirit has moved year after year through the Word and through the Sacraments. Yes, you have suffered rejections… yes, you may suffer worse in the future….But one thing the enemies of Christ cannot do is to remove how perfectly God fits you into His eternal plan and Kingdom. Jesus, you see, is the cornerstone that knits us all together- so we are told by Paul in his letter to the Ephesians. Eph. 2:19-22

            Jesus is the Servant King who came into the vineyard of this world, suffered and died for our sin, and then rose bodily from the grave so that He could prepare a place for us in heaven. May the Living Lord continue to inspire each of us not to push Him out of our lives, but to receive Him and all  His  benefits, so that we might have forgiveness of  sins, joy, life and salvation.

            For YOU, the workman of God, the way may be hard in this world. Never forget,

however, that what we are building will outlast the sands of time. To God in Christ Jesus be the glory and the honor and the dominion now and forever! Amen.


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

No if…then for Christians

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Pentecost 17 2020 Proper 21A
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
September 26, 27, 2020
Ezekiel 18:1–4, 25–32, Philippians 2:1–18, Matthew 21:23–27

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itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
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            I was in high school in the early 1980s and computers were just starting to become more main stream.  When I was a freshman, the computer lab was still using punch cards for memory, but by my senior year we had the black 5-1/4 inch floppy drives that could hold 360 kilobytes of data.  I think I would only need 355,000 of these discs to equal the storage capacity of the tiny micro sd card in my phone.

            The personal computer was just dawning on the scene and if you took a computer class in school you were taught basic programming using the computer language called BASIC (Beginners’ All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code).  In learning to write simple programs, one of the fundamental lines of code was the “if…then…else” statement. 

IF number<0 THEN

  PRINT “Number is negative”

ELSEIF number>0 THEN

  PRINT “Number is positive”

ELSE

  PRINT “Number is zero”

END IF

            If…then analysis is also used all the time in things having nothing to do with computers.  Playing games, especially a game like chess, you have think, if I do this then they will do that, else this other thing with happen.  Many times each day you use if…then…else to make calculated responses to things happening in life. 

            We see if…then analysis in politics all the time.  A candidate is asked, “What do you think about black lives matter?”  The three words are not controversial, but if I say I am in favor then they may think I support the Black Lives Matter organization with its fairly radical agenda.  Politicians, it seems, don’t just tell you what they believe, instead they filter everything through thinking about how this could be used against them.  What do they actually believe?  It’s hard to know.  Are they telling the truth, or just saying what they think certain people want to hear.

            You would think that the Jewish religious leaders at Jesus’ time would be concerned about God; about sin and forgiveness, but the chief priests and the elders of the people at Jesus’ time are basically just politicians trying to balance the demands of the Roman authorities with the desires of the Jewish people.  There is a fine balance that the religious leaders try to maintain so they can remain in their places of prominence and continue to line their own pockets with money.  

Jesus, this radical preacher from Galilee, has come to Jerusalem and is stirring up trouble. He is messing up the good thing the religious leaders have going.  He almost caused a riot at the temple as He went around driving out animals for sale and flipping over tables covered with coins.  The chief priests and elders want to get rid of Jesus and so they attack Him by questioning His authority.  Matthew 21:23 (ESV) 23 And when [Jesus] entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?”[1]

            Who told you that you could do this?  Where do you come from?  Who do you think you are?  If Jesus says He has human authority the chief priests and scribes have more authority. If Jesus says He has authority from God they will charge Him with blasphemy.  Jesus knows it is a trap, so He turns the question around on them.  Matthew 21:24-25 (ESV) 24 Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” [2] …Now the chief priests and scribes are faced with an if…then analysis.  They don’t just answer the question and say what they believe, instead they consider their answer and what effect it might have.  … Matthew 21:25-26 (ESV) 25 … And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.”[3] 

            The chief priests and the scribes are not worried about the truth, they are not worried about God, or sin and forgiveness.  They are worried about the political and social effects of what they say.  They are all about the if…then analysis of what they say.  They want to make the proper, calculated response. 

            As a Christian you are called to confess the truth regardless of the results and yet there are so many who call themselves Christians who are not concerned with God, sin and forgiveness, but rather with saying the right things so that no one is offended.  Entire church bodies are willing to give up on the truth of the Bible so that they can get along with the cultural elites.  When confronted with questions that might offend, they do an if…then analysis in order to make a calculated response to please others. 

            Is Jesus really God in flesh?

Is Jesus the only way to heaven?

            Did Jesus really rise from the dead?

            What is God’s plan for marriage?

            Is the Bible really true?

            Is Hell real?  Are people really going to go there?

            When confronted with these questions you are tempted to do the if…then analysis.  You are tempted to calculate your response in order to please others and fit in.  You are tempted to conform to the world and reject Jesus.  Resist the temptation.  Confess the truth.  Jesus is God in flesh.  Jesus is the only way to heaven.  Jesus did rise from the dead.  God’s plan for marriage is the lifelong union of a man and a woman.  The Bible is true and reliable.  Hell is real and people are choosing to go there by rejecting Jesus and His forgiveness. 

  Sinners rejoice at this good news.  Sinners know they are sinners who deserve death and Hell, but the Good News of the Bible is that Jesus came to save sinners.  

            Confess the truth of God and be honest about who you are in Christ.  It is easy for Christians to start to believe that they are better than others.  This is why we begin worship with the confession of sins.  You are, by nature, sinful and unclean.  Christians are not better; just forgiven.  Forgiveness is not something you earn, but is purely gift from Jesus to you. Jesus’ gift of forgiveness, life and salvation to you is the full gift that is given to all people who believe, not more to some and less to others.  Before God we are all equal.  We are all sinners needing forgiveness and Jesus pours out His forgiveness in His Word, in Baptism and Holy Communion.  Full forgiveness is found in Jesus’ life, death and resurrection. 

            Sinners rejoice at this good news.  Sinners know they are sinners who deserve death and Hell, but the Good News of the Bible is that Jesus came to save sinners.  Jesus promises sinners will not get what they deserve.  Jesus offers the gift of forgiveness to all sinners everywhere.  It is a free gift for everyone and yet so many reject the gift because they reject Jesus.  They do not want to Jesus to be Lord of their life because they are more concerned with fitting in to the world than they are about God, sin and forgiveness.

We see this in the chief priests and the elders who are not concerned about God. They are not concerned about sin and forgiveness.  They are concerned with political power.  They are concerned with what other people think of them.  And so Jesus tells them Matthew 21:31-32 (ESV) 31 … “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him. And even when you saw it, you did not afterward change your minds and believe him. [4]

            Brothers and sisters in Christ, reject if…then analysis when speaking about faith.  Reject giving calculated responses to fit in with the world. The truth of forgiveness of sins in Jesus is more important than being liked by others.  You do not need to be liked.  You need Jesus. 

            This is not a call for you to seek out confrontation but rather in the Words of St. Peter, 1 Peter 3:15-17 (ESV) 15 …in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; 16 yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. 17 For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.[5]

            When it comes to the truth of the Bible do not do if…then analysis.  Don’t calculate your response to make it palatable to the world. You know the truth.  Confess the truth.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluua! Amen.


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[3] The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[5]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

God is not fair!!!

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Pentecost 16 2020, Proper 20
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
September 19-20, 2020
Isaiah 55:6-9. Philippians 1:12-14, Matthew 20:1-16

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Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

            I enjoy getting into running every once in a while, but I have only ever run in one race which was when I was at seminary.  The seminary is very near to Forest Park in St. Louis which is a huge, beautiful park with Art Museum, Zoo and remnants from the 1904 World’s Fair. I generally ran four miles or so a few times a week and I felt pretty good about myself as a runner.  So when I saw the notice I signed up for the “Faster Pastor” 5K at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis in the spring of 2001.  During the race I was doing okay, running my regular pace, but then this classmate of mine, Matt Thompson, who I thought was kind of out of shape, ran by me like I was standing still.  I tried to speed up, but I couldn’t catch him.  It felt terrible.  I enjoyed running when it was just me running and keeping track of the time, but it really messed it up for me when I started to compare myself to others. 

            In our Gospel reading today we see an example of how people get messed up by comparing themselves with others.  The men working all day in the Vineyard were content with their daily wage of a denarius until they found out that the men who only worked one hour also got a denarius. 

            This parable is one that I believe gives people a lot of heartburn because we completely understand the workers’ frustration.  It is not fair.  These guys worked 12 hours through the heat of the day…those guys worked one hour in the cooler evening…and got paid the same.  It’s not fair.  When you are working it is easy to be content with your pay until you find out the gal next to you, doing the same thing, is making 50 cents an hour more than you are. You were content, now you are upset. You were happy, now you are jealous.

            This is the way of the world.  You are in competition with those around you.  You are told you get what you deserve.  You get what you earn.  This is the way of the world, but this is not God’s way.  God’s way is different. 

God’s way is different.  This is the profound message of Jesus’ parables about the Kingdom of Heaven; the Reign of Heaven.  God reigns, He rules, in ways very different from what you expect.  God does things that you do not understand.  God acts in ways that do not make sense. 

            God acts in ways that do not make sense and that is really disturbing in this parable, and yet this is where you find the beautiful Gospel truth.  Here in the midst of this troubling story, you get to see God’s mercy and grace so clearly because God does things differently than the way you would do them.  God’s mercy and grace are completely separate from your works.  God does not measure your accomplishments.  God does things differently.  Isaiah 55:8 (ESV) 8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord.[1]

            We are offended by the parable of the workers in the vineyard because we completely understand the position of the workers who worked all day.  It is not fair.  But as mom used to say, “Life is not fair.”  And an even greater truth is “God is not fair.”

            God is not fair.  And that is amazing, incomprehensible, good news.  God is not fair.  God is not going to give you your just deserts.  God is not going to give you what you earn.  Romans 6:23 (ESV) 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. [2] 

At the beginning of the service you confessed that you are by nature sinful and unclean. You have sinned against God in thought, word, and deed, by what you have done and by what you have left undone. You have not loved God with your whole heart; you have not loved your neighbors as yourself.  And then you said that you justly deserve God’s present and eternal punishment.

            You deserve God’s punishment.  You deserve to be punished now, and you deserve to go to Hell for eternity.  You said that is what you deserve.  The great, Good News of the Bible is that are not going to get what you deserve; because God is not fair. 

            God is not fair.  God the Father punished His Son, Jesus, the Christ, God in flesh, instead of you. Jesus took the punishment for your sins. Jesus is the perfect, sacrificial Lamb of God who is sacrificed in your place.  Jesus takes your sin to the cross and suffers and dies because of your sin. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (ESV) 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.[3]  God is not fair.  Praise God for that.

            Tell that liar that God is not fair and you will not get what you deserve.  This is incredible mercy of God.  You don’t get what you do deserve.  The genuine grace of God is that you get what you don’t deserve.  You get forgiveness and eternal life.

            Jesus got what you deserve, and you get what Jesus deserves.  In Christ you are the righteousness of God.  You are a citizen of the Kingdom of Heaven.  You are a child of God destined to inherit eternal life in the Heavenly City of New Jerusalem.  You are on the narrow way to that leads to life.

            Now the devil wants to derail you.  The devil wants to get you off the narrow way and onto the wide, easy way that leads to eternal death.  The devil wants you to take your eyes off of Jesus and instead compare yourself to others. The devil wants you to forget about the prize.  Forget about the crown of righteousness.  Forget about eternity with Jesus.  Forget about all that and instead worry about other people.  The devil wants you to keep score in church about who does more and who does less.  The devil wants you to feel prideful superiority over that other guy, or, if not that, the devil wants you to feel fearful crushing inferiority next to someone else.  The devil does all of this to get you off the narrow way to life because he wants to destroy you.  The devil will try to convince you that you are not good enough.  You have not done enough.  You deserve death and Hell.  It is only fair.

            Tell that liar that God is not fair and you will not get what you deserve.  This is incredible mercy of God.  You don’t get what you do deserve.  The genuine grace of God is that you get what you don’t deserve.  You get forgiveness and eternal life.

            Don’t worry about the other runners in the race; keep your eyes on Jesus.  Don’t compare yourself to others.  It is not about what you or the others are doing.  God’s mercy and grace is all you need.  Forgetting what lies behind strain forward to what lies ahead.  Press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.  Set your mind on the things of God rather than on the things of man.  Never forget, salvation unto us has come, by God’s free grace and favor.  Thank the Lord, God is not fair.

            Amen


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

It is necessary to forgive.

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Pentecost 15 2020 Proper 19
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
September 12, 13, 2020
Genesis 50:15-21, Romans 14:1-12, Matthew 18:21-35

Sermons online: 
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Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

            How many times have you sinned?  Today? This week?  This year?  Over your lifetime?  If each of your sins was a brick, how many bricks would you have piled up?  Every sinful thing you have done is another brick in the pile.  Every sinful word you have spoken in anger or hatred or lies is another brick.  Every sinful thought you have is another brick in the pile.  The bricks rain down on your pile and it grows and grows by the minute, the hour, the day, the year, the lifetime.  If every sin you have ever committed is a brick in the pile, how big is your pile of sin?

That is a lot of bricks; a lot of weight.  It is a great burden.  That is an insurmountable pile of bricks.  What do you do about that load of sin? 

            This world is a kingdom of sin; the kingdom of the Devil.  In this kingdom of sin it is a dog eat dog world.  Sin is everywhere and so, it seems, sin does not matter.  In this kingdom people get what they can get for themselves regardless of what it costs others; money…power…sex.  They blame and they hate and they seek revenge.  They live by the motto, “do unto others before they do it to you.”  In this kingdom there is pride in sin. There is boasting in sin.  This is normal life in the Kingdom of Sin with its ever growing piles of sin reaching up toward the sky.  The debt to God continually increases. 

Now, all people have an inbred sense of right and wrong.  In the Kingdom of Sin if someone becomes concerned about sin, they may try to do something about it.  They may try to make a deal with the gods.  They may try to excuse their sin or rationalize their sin or try to come up with their own way to work off the sin and pay the gods off.  But their gods are fiction and their sin debt is insurmountable.  It cannot be paid off.

            We see this in our Gospel lesson this week.  A servant has an overwhelming debt to his master.  To repay 10,000 talents the servant would have to work 60 million days.  The master calls the servant in, Matthew 18:25-26 (ESV) 25And since he could not pay, his master ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and payment to be made. 26 So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’[1] Patience?  Waiting 60 million days would be a lot of patience.  The man owes more than he could pay in 2,000 lifetimes.  There is no way the man can pay, but out of pity the master forgives the servant’s debt.  That huge, unpayable debt is erased.  It is wiped away.  Forgiven.

            That servant is you.  You owe God an insurmountable debt because of your sin.  You have that enormous, growing pile of sin.  You know you cannot pay this debt and you cry out for mercy and God has mercy on you.  God the Father sends Jesus to pay the price for your sin.  Jesus gives up everything on the cross to ransom you from sin, death and the devil.  Jesus is stripped of everything.  He gives up His dignity, His blood, His breath, His life, all to pay your debt.  Jesus forgives your sin. 

So the question is, how much of your sin does Jesus forgive?  How many bricks of your sin does Jesus remove?  How many are left for you?

            Jesus takes away all your sin.  Jesus removes all your sin and declares you to be righteous, innocent and blessed which means you are righteous, innocent and blessed.  Jesus takes you from the Kingdom of Sin; the Kingdom of the Devil, and brings you into the Kingdom of Heaven.  He takes you from darkness to the light.  Jesus delivers forgiveness to you in His Word, in the waters of baptism, in the Body and Blood of Christ in Holy Communion. 

In the Kingdom of Heaven your sin is gone; all gone.  Not one sin left.  Not one brick left of the giant pile.  This is a miracle of God.  Jesus, in His great mercy, forgives you all your sins.  Remain in Christ.  Hold onto His gift of mercy and live your life in the Kingdom of Heaven.  In this Kingdom, forgiveness reigns…love reigns…mercy reigns.  Love God and love your neighbor.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  Forgive others as God has forgiven you.  Cling to the mercy of the cross and have mercy on others.  Forgive and forgive and forgive and forgive.

            Forgiven means God is not going to hold your sin against you.  We say forgive and forget.  The “forget” part does not mean that God has no knowledge of your sin. The “forget” part means God no longer holds that sin against you. 

            And what does it mean to forgive?

            Sometimes when a person tells you they are sorry for something they did to you the response might be, “It’s okay.  No big deal.”  Sometimes things are no big deal, but saying this can make you believe that to forgive someone is to say that what they did is okay.  That is certainly not what forgiveness means.  When Jesus forgives all your sins He does not say that your sin is okay.  He is whipped for your sin.  He is crucified for your sin.  He sheds His blood for your sin.  He dies for your sin.  Your sin is not okay.  But it is forgiven.

            Forgiven means God is not going to hold your sin against you.  We say forgive and forget.  The “forget” part does not mean that God has no knowledge of your sin. The “forget” part means God no longer holds that sin against you. 

God has great mercy on you in Jesus. Hold on to that mercy and let go of bitterness and revenge.  Cling to the cross of Christ and forgive others even when they don’t deserve it.  Forgive them.  And this means you promise to not hold their sin against them.

            Forgiveness is easy to say… and hard to do.  It is easy to receive… and hard to give.  Forgiveness is very difficult…incredibly difficult.  Your natural reaction when someone hurts you is hurt them back, worse. That is the name of the game in the Kingdom of Sin.  We see the servant in Jesus’ parable doing this very thing.  He is shown great mercy, but falls right back into the Kingdom of Sin. The unmerciful servant lets go of the master’s mercy and grabs the club of revenge to exact repayment from a fellow servant.  The servant gives up His place in the Kingdom of Forgiveness in order to get what he has coming.  And, sadly, he does indeed get what he has coming…eternal punishment.

            This world is a kingdom of sin, but you have been transferred to the Kingdom of Heaven.  The rules are different.  The Kingdom of Heaven is ruled by forgiveness.  Live in the Kingdom of Heaven with all of your sins taken away; every last brick gone. As someone who has been forgiven all your sins, it is necessary for you to forgive those who sin against you.  If you cannot forgive someone, you need to repent of that sin, confess that sin, and receive forgiveness, and forgive.

            Peter knows about forgiveness but he thinks there should be limits.  Peter’s question to Jesus prompts the parable of the unmerciful servant.  Matthew 18:21 (ESV) 21 Then Peter came up and said to [Jesus], “Lord, how often will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?”[2] 

            Forgiving someone seven times is a lot; foolish really.  Once or twice, okay, but seven times.  That is absurdly generous.  It is absurdly generous, but Jesus says it is not enough.  Matthew 18:22 (ESV) 22 Jesus said to him, “I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.[3]  Jesus tells Peter that absurdly generous forgiveness is inadequate.  Forgiveness in the Kingdom of Heaven is much more than that.  Forgiveness in the Kingdom of Heaven is more because forgiveness in the Kingdom of Heaven is forgiving like Jesus forgives. 

            Jesus forgives you all your sins.  Jesus forgives you in a way that is beyond absurdly generous.  How many times has Jesus forgiven you for that same stupid sin?  It is more than seven times.  It is more than 490 times.  Jesus keeps on forgiving you.  Jesus’ forgiveness of you does not make sense.  But He keeps on forgiving. 

You live in the Kingdom of Heaven.  Hold onto God’s mercy.  Give up on revenge.  Release your bitterness.  Forgive. Promise to not hold it against them. Forgive others as God forgives you because, in Christ, you are righteous, innocent and blessed. 

            Amen.


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

Who is the Greatest?

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Pentecost 14 2020 Proper 18
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
September 5-6, 2020
Ezekiel 33:7-9. Romans 13:1-10, Matthew 18:1-20

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

            Have you ever been to the Emergency Room at the hospital?  It can often take hours and hours to be seen by the doctor. You sit patiently for hours and then someone else comes in and suddenly there is a swarm of people around them working feverishly.  What is the difference?  It doesn’t matter how long you have been waiting.  The person with the greatest need is the most important.

            What is the Church?  Is the Church a museum for saints or a hospital for sinners?  This is something we can get confused about. It is something the disciples are getting confused about in our Gospel reading today.  Matthew 18:1 (ESV) 1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”[1] Who is the greatest?  Who is the most important?  These are normal, natural human questions.  Who is the best?  Who is number one?  Who is Jesus’ favorite?

            We are, sadly, way too much like the disciples.  We also like to know who is the greatest.  Who is the most important in your department at work?  Who has the highest grades in your class?  Who is the best on your team?  Who has things the most together in your extended family?  Pastors measure themselves against other pastors by the size of our congregations.

            And then there is the natural, opposite classification.  Who is the least important?  Who is failing?  Who is the worst?  Whose life is falling apart?  Who can I look down on and feel better about myself? 

            You meet a new group of people and you start to classify and sort people into these categories of best and worst.  It is way too easy to do this also in the Church.  Who is the greatest?  Who is the least?  We check out other people and size them up based on their looks or clothing or how they sing or how their kids behave and we want to try to figure it out.  Who is the greatest?

            The disciples want to know who is the greatest and Jesus tells them that they have it all wrong.  Matthew 18:2-4 (ESV) 2 And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them 3 and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 4 Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.[2]

            Children, especially in Jesus’ time, are needy, helpless, vulnerable and powerless. There are some nowadays who almost idolize children, but they are still needy, helpless, vulnerable and powerless. If you hear that an adult is lost in the woods you get a little concerned.  If you hear that a 3-year-old is lost in the woods you become very concerned.  That child needs help.  Right away.

            This is revolutionary teaching.  This turns what is considered “normal” on its head.  The world teaches that you get what you deserve.  You get what you earn.  Jesus gives you what you don’t deserve and He doesn’t give you what you earn.

            The disciples are worried about who is the greatest.  Jesus tells greatest one is the one who knows that he is needy, helpless, vulnerable and powerless.  This brings us back to the Sermon on the Mount.  Matthew 5:3 (ESV) 3 “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.[3] The world is very worried about greatness; Jesus blesses those who know they are helpless; who know they cannot do it on their own.  You want to pretend that you have life pretty much together, but you know, as hard as it is to admit, that you are needy, helpless, vulnerable and powerless.  This is what Jesus calls you to do.  Whoever humbles himself like a child is the greatest.  Blessed are the poor in spirit.

            This is revolutionary teaching.  This turns what is considered “normal” on its head.  The world teaches that you get what you deserve.  You get what you earn.  Jesus gives you what you don’t deserve and He doesn’t give you what you earn.

            Christianity is counter-cultural.  Out of love, God sends Jesus to be the sacrificial Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world on the cross.  Being the Christ means suffering, dying and rising from the dead.  Jesus pays the price for your sins and Jesus gives this gift to you; free of charge.  You cannot buy it.  You cannot earn it.  Jesus gives it to those who know they are in need.

            The devil so much wants to get you to look down others and build yourself up.  The devil wants you to stay away from church because of all those hypocrites.  “They say they are Christians, but they are just a bunch of sinners.”  That is absolutely correct.  This is a gathering of sinners…and there is always room for one more.  When you are at church the devil wants you to look around and judge the others; look down on the others.  The devil wants you to think you are better than them.  The devil wants you to pray, “thank God I am not like that person.”  That is the devil trying to keep you from the forgiveness of sins.

            We welcome sinners to gather with us to receive God’s gifts.  We welcome sinners, but we can never welcome or encourage sin.  The devil wants to tempt you to embrace sin, share sin, and pull others into sin.  The devil wants you to get so used to sin that it becomes part of your identity and you want to invite others to participate with you. 

            You are a baptized child of God.  Sin does comes naturally, but it is not who you are.  Sin comes naturally, but it is still evil. Jesus clearly warns against causing others to sin.  Matthew 18:5-7 (ESV) 5 “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, 6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. 7 “Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes![4]

            Is the Church a museum for saints or a hospital for sinners? You know the answer…because you are here.  You are here to receive God’s gifts.  You are gathered to hear the words of absolution.  You are here to receive Jesus’ body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins.  You are here to receive the medicine of eternal life.  This is indeed a hospital for sinners and the greatest one here is the one who needs forgiveness the most.

In order to illustrate that we are indeed, by nature, sinful and unclean I sometimes say, “Imagine you have an IPad on your chest and the IPad reveals your thoughts to those around you.  It is a window revealing your inner self to the world.  What would you do?  I would run away pretty fast.

            Now, if everyone had one of these, one thing that it would do is show you that you are not alone in your struggles.  You are not the lone, sick sinner in a museum of saints.  It would show you that the church is indeed a hospital for sinners.  No one has it all together.  No one is being good enough.  We all struggle together.  A question like, “Who is the greatest?” is just the wrong question. 

            When someone in the ER is surrounded by doctors and nurses and technicians they are the most important person in the room at that moment. They are the most important because they have the greatest need; their life hangs in the balance.  When you gather here to receive God’s forgiveness the one who needs forgiveness the most is the most important, because they have the greatest need; their eternal life hangs in the balance.

            Be honest about your battle with sin.  Know your sin.  Name your sin.  Struggle against sin.  Cut it out of your life no matter how painful.  The struggle against sin is humbling because is marked by consistent failure.  It shows you that you are needy, helpless, vulnerable and powerless; like a little child. It shows you that you need Jesus. 

You need Jesus and you have come to the right place.  Jesus is here for you. 

            Amen. 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

Love does not drive theology. Faith does.

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Pentecost 13 2020, Proper 17
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
August 30, 2020
Jeremiah 15:15-21, Romans 12:9-21, Matthew 16:21-28

 

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

 

Jacob is in the kitchen making scrambled eggs.  He cracks the eggs into a water glass and stirs in some milk and cheddar cheese and bacon bits and beats the eggs in the glass with a spoon while the big frying pan is heating on the stove with a hunk of butter melting in it. Jacob’s wife Katie comes into the kitchen and sees what he is doing.  She loves Jacob. She wants the best for him, and he is doing it all wrong.  Katie takes the frying pan off the stove and puts it in the sink and then grabs the glass of eggs out of Jacob’s hands and pours it down the drain.  She looks at him and scolds him, saying, “That’s not how I would do it.  My way is better.”  This is what Peter does to Jesus in our Gospel reading today regarding something infinitely more important than an omelet.

Peter has just confessed that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Peter is right on the mark. He is confessing the right thing. Jesus commends Peter and says that on this rock He will build His church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.  Peter is saying the right things but then Jesus begins to explain what it means to be the Christ.

Matthew 16:21 (ESV) 21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.[1]  This is the first time that Jesus tells the disciples what is ahead.  He will tell them twice more before arriving in Jerusalem.  These are often called passion predictions; a prediction of Jesus’ suffering and death.  But calling this a passion prediction is missing something.

Matthew 16:21 (ESV) 21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.[2]

            Why does Peter say this?  What is his motivation?  This is where it gets tricky.  Peter loves Jesus.  Peter wants to protect Jesus.  Peter is motivated by love, but we see here how the demands of love can get things terribly wrong.

It is a passion and resurrection prediction.  Jesus gives the disciples both the bad news and the good news.  Jesus tells them plainly what is going to happen, but Peter is having none of it.  Peter basically tells Jesus, “That’s not how I would do it.  My way is better.”  Matthew 16:22 (ESV) 22 … “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.”[3]

Why does Peter say this?  What is his motivation?  This is where it gets tricky.  Peter loves Jesus.  Peter wants to protect Jesus.  Peter is motivated by love, but we see here how the demands of love can get things terribly wrong.

Because of Peter’s love for Jesus, Peter rejects Jesus’ Words, and this is from Satan.  Peter wants to take control of Jesus’ words and do them the way Peter wants them done. Peter, out of love, wants to prevent Jesus from going to the cross.  Peter, out of love, believes his way is better.  Matthew 16:23 (ESV) 23 But [Jesus] turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” [4]

We are very much guided by our emotions; our feelings.  Peter is an emotional person but his emotions are not a good guide.  Peter’s emotions lead him to sin.

Love is not where you get your theology; your understanding of God. Your feelings and emotions are not where you find truth.  You find truth in faith.  You find truth in faith because faith has nothing to say about itself, faith only speaks about what it is given in God’s Word.  Faith is focused on the object of faith given to you from God.  Your feelings; your emotions are focused on yourself and they can easily lead you into false belief.

The demands of love can get things terribly wrong.  Love can get you to call good evil and evil good.  It can have you rejecting God’s Word in order to conform to the ever changing ways of the world.  It can have you very concerned about the things of man while ignoring the things of God.

God gives you His gifts of forgiveness and eternal life with His Words, and His Words do what they say.  “I baptize you.  I forgive you all your sins.  Take eat, this is my body.  Take drink, this is my blood shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”  Jesus’ truth is not an easy truth.  Jesus truth is that there is a penalty for sin that needs to be paid.  Jesus’ truth is what we learn in Hebrews 9:22 (ESV) 22 …without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.[5]

Jesus’ declaration that He will suffer and be killed and on the third day rise from the dead is the hard truth about sin, but is also the great good news that in His resurrection Jesus conquers sin and death.

Faith does not talk about itself, but only about what it is given.  Faith comes first from God and love flows out of faith.  Love follows faith because love is the fulfilling of the Law.  Romans 13:10 (ESV) 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.[6]

It is very easy to fall into Peter’s error of letting love drive your theology rather than letting love flow out of faith.  When love drives your theology you can quickly fall into the satanic practice of commandeering God’s words and making them say what you want them to say. Letting love drive your theology brings you into a theology of glory in which emphasizes your own works and your own reason.

The late Rev. Dr. Norman Nagel, a retired professor at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis, and former Dean of the Chapel at Valparaiso, University, was not known for mincing words.  He says it like this, “Peter speaks for Satan even with a heart full of love, ‘This will never happen to you.’  You can confess, saying all the right words, with a heart full of love for an alternative Christ, and be the mouthpiece for Satan.”

The apostle Peter falls into this satanic trap, so be alert.  Don’t think that you are immune.  Be on guard against letting love drive your theology.  And as Jesus instructs, Matthew 16:24 (ESV) 24 … “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.[7] Christians under persecution in other countries know much more clearly what it means to take up their cross and follow Jesus.  Following Jesus is not a promise of an easy life; it is a promise of eternal life.  You want to find your own way, but Jesus is the only way.  Jesus clearly teaches that following Him means following Him.  “If anyone would come after me…follow me…for my sake.”  Faith follows Jesus.  Love flows from faith.

Deny yourself and follow Jesus.  Denying yourself is not a popular message in this world in which you are encouraged to indulge yourself, pamper yourself, fulfill yourself.  Because you earned it; you deserve it.  But Jesus says deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me.

Your sinful nature is not much of a fan of denying yourself; you are much more likely to want to deny the cross.  Your sinful nature so much wants to believe that the cross really is not necessary.  Your sinful nature so much wants to believe that your sins are not that big a deal, that you can take care of it yourself.  You don’t need to do it Jesus’ way because you have a better way.  You want to believe you can do it yourself…but you cannot.  You need Jesus.  You need the cross.  This is why you don’t follow your feelings…you follow Jesus.  You follow Jesus because sin is serious…deadly serious, and there is no forgiveness without the shedding of blood.

Thank God Jesus is who He says He is and He does what He says He will do.  Jesus goes to the cross as the ultimate blood sacrifice; shedding His blood for you.  Jesus rises from the dead in victory over sin and death.

Peter rebukes Jesus, and Jesus rebukes Peter, but Jesus doesn’t give up on Peter even after Peter denies Him three times, Jesus does not give up on Peter. Jesus forgives Peter and restores Peter three times, feed my lambs, tend my sheep, feed my sheep.

Jesus does not give up on you.  Jesus does not deny the cross.  Jesus does not avoid the cross.  Jesus goes to the cross for you.  Jesus rises from the dead for you.  For the forgiveness of your sins.  Jesus does it His way and gives His gift of forgiveness to you in His Word and in His sacraments of Baptism and Holy Communion.

Do not let your feelings and emotions control your theology.  Your faith is not in your emotions.  Your faith is in Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the Living God, who gave Himself as the offering for your sin and promises you forgiveness and eternal life.  Amen.

 

 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[5]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[6]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[7]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

Who is Jesus?

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Pentecost 12 2020, Proper 16
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
August 23, 2020
Isaiah 51:1-6, Romans 11:33-12:8, Matthew 16:13-20

 

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

 

When I was in high school the really cool car was a Pontiac Trans Am with the 6.6 liter engine, tail fin, hood scoop, and tires with raised white letters. That was a fast, cool looking car with cool looking tires.  Tires are kind of funny.  There is style in the look of tires.  Since 1914 when whitewall tires were first made by the Vogue Tyre and Rubber Co. in Chicago for their horse drawn carriages we have had many variations in the style of the sidewalls of tires.  There are wide whitewalls, there are skinny whitewalls, there are the raised white letters, and there are the plain black sidewalls which seems to be mostly the preference today.  As cool as the different style of tire sidewalls may or may not look, it doesn’t really matter as far as the function of the tire.  What matters is the tread; where the rubber meets the road.

In churches there are a lot of different looks and styles.  Different styles of buildings and different styles of worship and church publications, programs, fellowship and food.  But these things are a lot like the sidewall of the tire. It may look nice and stylish, but that is not where the rubber meets the road.

In today’s Gospel reading we have a fundamental truth; a foundational truth.  Matthew 16:13 (ESV) 13 … [Jesus] asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”[1] Who is Jesus?  This was a huge question 2,000 years ago and it is a huge question today.  It is a fundamental question.  It is indeed where the rubber meets the road.  Who is Jesus?  Lots of people talk about Jesus.  Some shout his name as an expletive.  Muslims say they believe in Jesus, so the big question is…Who is Jesus?

Matthew 16:14 (ESV) 14 [The disciples] said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”[2] People at Jesus’ time are confused about Jesus’ identity.  That is the same problem that we have today.

The Barna research group did a poll in 2015 entitled, “What do Americans believe about Jesus? 5 popular beliefs.”  92% of Americans believe that Jesus was a real person who actually lived.  Ok, most people believe there was a guy named Jesus, but only 56% believe Jesus was God.  26% believe Jesus was only a religious or spiritual leader and 18% are not sure.  46% of people believe Jesus was sinless, while 52% of Americans believe Jesus was human and committed sins like other people.  Interestingly, while only 46% of Americans believe Jesus was sinless, 62% claim they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today.  So, who is this sinful Jesus that the 16% of Americans are committed to?  62% claim a commitment, but only 56% believe Jesus is God.  Who is this normal guy Jesus the other 6% are committing to.

Of the 62% who have made a commitment to Jesus only 63% of them believe you go to heaven because of Jesus.  Now, polls can be skewed depending on the questions, but this certainly shows there is a lot of confusion about the question, “Who is Jesus?”

In our nation there is increasingly open hostility toward people who believe that Jesus is God in flesh. Atheists will deride Christians for believing in a magical sky daddy.  Others have a generic god; “the big guy upstairs.”  Some have reduced Jesus to a life coach who helps you navigate the struggles of life.  So the question remains.  Who is Jesus?

Jesus asks the disciples, Matthew 16:15-16 (ESV) 15 …“But who do you say that I am?” 16 Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”[3]  Peter gets it right.

            This is the fundamental truth of the Bible.  From Genesis to Revelation this is the foundational truth.  If you get this question wrong you get it all wrong. On Christ, the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.

Who is Jesus.  Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.  Jesus is the anointed one.  He is the Son of God.  He is the Messiah foretold by the prophets of the Old Testament.  Now what does it mean to be the Messiah; the Christ?  We will explore that more next week when well-meaning Peter gets it very wrong.

Who is Jesus?  Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.  Jesus is not your creation.  He is not someone you can mold and shape to your own understandings.  Jesus is not a comforting teddy-bear-type figure that you can put up on your shelf and ignore most of the time and then take Him down when you need to be comforted.  There is a great temptation to make Jesus be who you want Him to be; to be someone that you control.  But that is not Jesus.  You are not lord over Jesus.  Jesus is Lord over you and all creation.  Jesus is the Son of God.  Jesus is God in flesh.  Jesus is Lord.

This is the fundamental truth of the Bible.  From Genesis to Revelation this is the foundational truth.  If you get this question wrong you get it all wrong. On Christ, the solid rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.

Jesus commends Peter’s confession.  Matthew 16:17-19 (ESV) 17 And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”[4]

Peter’s confession that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God is the foundation of Christ’s Church.  This is the solid rock of your faith.  This truth will prevail against the horde of demons and evil flooding out of the gates of Hell to attack the Church.  The Church is built on this confession by Peter and the disciples who spread this truth in Jerusalem and Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.  This truth has spread over the world even to you, here in Hamilton, Ohio.

And the wonderful thing is that this truth is not from you.  It is not about you ginning up the necessary amount of faith. Faith does not proceed from your own intellect or feelings.  This truth is revealed by God.  For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.  Faith is a gift from God to you through the Holy Spirit.

What a great time to be the Church.  It is a wonderful time to be a Christian because we know the truth that so many people need.  So many churches and denominations are all worried about the style and perceptions, but so many have forgotten where the rubber meets the road.  They are busy polishing the whitewalls, but the tires are flat and bald with the steel belts showing and the stems cut off.  In order to be more acceptable to the world they have given up on the real Jesus.

Confessing the real Jesus will not make us popular with the world.  It may bring social and even governmental pressure.  Confessing the true Jesus will not make life easier, but we have Jesus’ own promise that the Church will stand on this rock.

In this time of generic religion and generic gods and so many people so confused about Jesus, it is a great time to be the Church and confess the truth about Jesus.  Who is Jesus? Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God.  Built on the rock the Church shall stand.         Amen.

 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[2]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[3]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001

 

[4]  The Holy Bible : English Standard Version. Wheaton : Standard Bible Society, 2001