ayear1112gcEpiphany 6 2017
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
February 12, 2017
Psalm 119:1-8, Deuteronomy 30:15-20, 1 Corinthians 3:1-9, Matthew 5:21-37

There is a phrase that children hate to hear.  It is one that children promise that they will never say to their own children, but then they do.  It is that terrible answer to the question, “Why?”, when a parent asks a child to do something.

What is this terrible, awful phrase?  “Because I said so.”  “Why should I clean up?”  “Because I said so?”  “Why do I need to go to bed?”  “Because I said so.”  It seems so random and arbitrary.

Why do we follow God’s laws?  Because God said so?  That should be enough.  Why do we try to follow God’s law?  Or why should we try to follow God’s law?

Do you try to follow God’s law in order to be a Christian?

Is that the purpose of God’s law?  So you can achieve salvation?

Today’s Gospel reading is a lot of law.  Sometimes we try to simplify the Bible by saying that the Old Testament is law and the New Testament is Gospel.  Well, these passages from Matthew are pretty stern law coming to us from the New Testament right from the lips of Jesus who is speaking with authority.

And Jesus is not just reiterating the Old Testament law; he is cranking up the law to a point of being unachievable.  Most of us as we study the Ten Commandments get to the fifth commandment, “You shall not murder” and we think.  Okay, I may not be so good on a lot of these commandments, but at least I haven’t murdered anyone.  I have this commandment down.  I can check this one off the list.  Until Jesus speaks.

Matthew 5:21-22 (ESV)  21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.[1]

Anger is a sin like murder?  Insults are a sin like murder?  But anger is just human nature.  It is just human nature.  But human nature has been corrupted.  I am, by nature, sinful and unclean.  If anger is a sin, then I have no hope of being good enough.

And indeed, anger is an acid that eats away at your relationships.  Anger is a cancer that eats away at your soul.  Anger burns destructively from within.  Murder itself begins in the heart with anger.

And the Sixth Commandment.  “You shall not commit adultery.”  That’s another commandment that for many we think we can say we have done it.  I may not be perfect, but I have not had an affair.  Another commandment checked off the list.  Until Jesus speaks.

Matthew 5:27-28 (ESV)  27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.[2]

Just looking lustfully is a sin?  In this oversexed world you can’t even drive down the highway looking at billboards or watch a little television without being prompted to lustful thoughts.  If lust is a sin, there is no hope to be able to be good enough.  And indeed, lust is a powerful tool of the darkness that takes what God has made good and twists it and perverts it into a force for abuse and exploitation and destruction.  Lust is powerful and, like anger, it comes to us quite naturally.

If anger and lust are sins then I truly am, by nature, a sinner.

Jesus addresses these sins and others, tightening up the commandments beyond just the letter of the law to the spirit of the law.  Tightening up the commandments to a point where every honest person has to admit they are indeed a sinner who needs a savior.  This leaves people in a bit of a quandary.  The law is so strict I cannot be successful in keeping the law, so what do I do?  What does Jesus want me to do?  He has set up an impossible situation.  What do I do?

One option is to simply view your failure to be able to keep the law as permission to abandon the law and become a law unto yourself.  This is what is known as antinomianism.  Nomos is the word for law.  An antinomian says the law does not apply.  Antinomianism is our natural state.  We do not like rules.  We do not like the law.  We don’t like anyone telling us what to do.  Because of the fall into sin we naturally want to rebel against God’s law and do our own thing.  That’s one option.

Another option is to find in your failure to keep the law your great need for a savior.  You cannot keep the law, but someone has kept it for you.  Your inability to keep the law shows the need for someone who can keep the law.  It shows your need for Jesus.  You cannot control your anger.  Jesus does.  Jesus does not lose his temper and He endures the anger of those who will kill him.  You repeatedly fall into the sin of lust; Jesus loves perfectly, untainted by lust, even to the point of offering himself as a sacrifice for your sins.  So in your failure to keep the law you see the great of love of Jesus who kept the law for you and has covered over your sin with his perfection.

And so what do you now do with the law of God?  Why should you try to keep God’s law?  It is not to achieve salvation; that would be impossible.  Rather you should follow the law of God because God loves you so much He sent His Son to die on the cross for you.  You follow the law of God because God loves you and wants the best for you.  You follow God’s law because He said so.  He is God.  He is your Lord and Master.  He is your Savior.  God is God and you are not.

You are a follower of Jesus; you are disciple; you are the salt of the earth, you are the light of the world.  You live out your Christian faith in your various vocations living your ordinary life in an extraordinary way.

And so if you find anger in your life toward another, go to that person to be reconciled before coming to the altar of the Lord in repentance to receive His Body and Blood.  We actually have this as a part of our worship service; a time set aside to show you are at peace with those around you.  The sharing of the peace is not so much a time to say, “good morning,” as it is a time to demonstrate unity and reconciliation.  If you are harboring anger toward another, this is the time to let the anger go and be reconciled.  If you cannot let the anger go then that is a sin to confess.  You don’t want to pretend that everything is good between you and God when you harbor anger or hatred toward another child of God.  This is a hard teaching from Jesus.  It is contrary to our human nature that wants to hold on to hurts and anger.

The Gospel reading today is a hard one with a lot of law.  You want loopholes to excuse your behavior but there are no loopholes.  You are left knowing you are sinner with your only hope being Jesus on the cross for you.

Jesus warns about the dangers of lust using exaggerated ideas of tearing out your eye and cutting off your hand if they cause you to sin.  Nowhere do we see anyone practicing this kind of mutilation in the Bible, but we can all agree that it would be better to give up an eye than to go to hell.  It would be better to give up a hand than to go to hell.  Is there something you need to give up before it pulls you away from God and into the depths of hell?  Like other sins, sexual sins pull you in little by little.  It begins in your mind and heart and then works its way to your eyes and your body.  The Lord Jesus warns about the danger of sexual sins and yet you live in a world that says if you don’t partake in sexual immorality then you are repressed; there is something wrong with you.  The devil tempts you with the same lie he used in the Garden, “did God really say that intimacy is only between a man and woman in lifelong marriage?”  “Did God really say?”  The world tells you to just follow your desires; go with your nature.  But you know that by nature you are a sinner.

You follow God’s law because you are Christian blessed now and for eternity.  You follow God’s law because God is God and you are not.  Jesus has some stern teaching about divorce.  There was a practice at Jesus’ time that a man could divorce his wife for any and every reason just by giving her a certificate of divorce.  Today, in our country, we have the practice of no fault divorce where you can get divorced for any and every reason and people do.

Jesus teaches that divorce is wrong.  Divorce breaks down a basic building block of society; marriage.  Divorce always brings great trouble as we try to separate what God has joined together.  Trying to pry apart two boards glued together will not make for a clean break.  Divorce is sin and divorce is caused by sin.  At times divorce may be the lesser of two evils due to the great trouble and sin in the marriage but divorce is never God’s plan.

As a married follower of Jesus you are called to live out married life in humble service to one another and to your children if you are so blessed.  Humble, loving service and day to day perseverance is not exciting or flashy but it is what marriage is.  Marriage is living out your vows day by day, choosing to love each other.

The Gospel reading today is a hard one with a lot of law.  You want loopholes to excuse your behavior but there are no loopholes.  You are left knowing you are sinner with your only hope being Jesus on the cross for you.

God’s law is good even though you chafe against it.  You follow God’s law not in order to be a Christian, but because you are already a Christian.  You already are blessed by God.  You already have eternal life in Christ.  You know Jesus is God in flesh and you know that He speaks the truth.  You know God is God and so you do what He says because He said so.

And when you fail, do not let the devil twist that failure around so you give up on the law, but rather when you fail, look to the one who has fulfilled the law for you.  Look to Jesus on the cross and know your sins are forgiven in Him.  Repent.  Turn from sin and walk once more following Jesus because you are in Christ.

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

 

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