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Pentecost 5, 2020 Proper 9
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud
July 5, 2020
Zechariah 9:9-12, Romans 7:14-25a, Matthew 11:25-30

 

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

 

“Everybody loves a winner.”  “Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”  “Winners never quit.  Quitters never win.”  There are a lot of inspirational quotes about winners and winning.  We want to be winners.  I want to think that I am doing it better than others.  I want to think that I am the best.  I want to believe that I am a winner.  We learn self-talk for winners, “I am good enough, I am smart enough, and doggone it, people like me.”  Everybody loves a winner.

I so much want to be a winner.  I want to be the best pastor ever.  Today, in our Epistle reading we get some insights from arguably the greatest missionary of all times, Paul of Tarsus; St. Paul, the author of at least 13 books of the New Testament.  What can I learn from Paul that will help make me a winner?  What are his insights for living a victorious life?  What makes Paul tick?

Romans 7:15 (ESV) 15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.[1] Whoa!  Wait a minute.  What is Paul talking about?  What kind of victorious life is this?  He cannot even control himself.  Romans 7:18 (ESV) 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.[2]

What kind of loser self-talk is this?  “I can’t do it.  I can’t control my own actions.  I’m a loser. I’m a wretch.”  This is St. Paul.  We name churches after this guy.  He is the one whose writings are God-breathed Holy Scripture.  And here he is, admitting that he is a wretched sinner; just like the rest of us.  Paul’s honesty here is amazing…and brutally accurate for all of us.  You so much want to be a winner, but you do not understand your own actions.  For you do not do what you want, but you do the very thing you hate; me too.  This kind of honesty regarding the battle with sin is a hard truth to face.  But you know it is the truth.  Romans 7:24 (ESV) 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?[3]

Who? Who will save me?  Oh, there He is, prophesied in Zechariah, chapter 9, coming down the mountain, in a majestic procession into Jerusalem.  Zechariah 9:9 (ESV) 9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.[4]  Here the Savior comes in His Palm Sunday procession; but hold on…wait just a minute.  What is He riding?  Is He proudly astride a large, powerful, warhorse?  No.  He is sitting humbly on a baby donkey taking awkward little steps down the path into Jerusalem.  What kind of King is this?  This is Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.  He is a loser King, and King of the losers.  As we watch Him ride the little donkey colt into Jerusalem we know He is riding into a trap set by the winners of Jerusalem.  They are going to win in their conflict with Jesus even if it means killing Him; and that is exactly what they plan to do.

They arrest this itinerant preacher on Thursday evening and tie Him up, blindfold Him, bully Him and torment Him.  We watch the strong abuse the weak; the winners humiliate the loser.  In the morning the cruelty heats up as they bring Jesus to the Roman governor who is himself too weak to stand up to the Jewish leaders and He allows Jesus to be brutally flogged then dressed up as a king and mocked as He is crowned with thorns to cries of “Hail! King of the Jews!”  Pilate washes his hands of the whole affair and lets the Jewish leaders crucify Jesus.  The bloody, loser King is paraded through the streets to Calvary where He is stripped naked and nailed to a cross to slowly suffer and die in humiliation and agony as the ultimate loser.  Above His head is a sign mocking Him, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”  Everybody loves a winner and Jesus is the ultimate loser. He is king of the losers.

Who are the people Jesus reaches out to in His ministry?  Kings and princes?  The wealthy and powerful?  The popular, cool kids?  No.  Jesus seeks after tax collectors, prostitutes, foreigners, little children, adulterers, lepers, the blind, the lame, the hungry, the demon possessed.  Jesus comes for the losers of society.  He is the loser King who is king of the losers.

Authentic Christianity is tough to market. You want to be able to put on the church sign, “Come and learn how to be a winner and succeed in life.”  But to be honest the sign should say, “Come and learn that you are a loser.”  Everybody loves a winner and Christianity is not about being a winner; it’s about knowing; along with St. Paul, that you’re are a loser.  Romans 7:24 (ESV) 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?[5]

If you stay at Calvary with dead Jesus you are left in your sin; condemned by the law, dead in your trespasses.  But Jesus’ story does not end at Calvary.  Just as He said He would, Jesus rose from the dead.  Jesus conquered sin.  Jesus conquered death.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia! This makes all the difference.  Jesus died for the sins of the world and rose again to save you.  Romans 7:24-25 (ESV) 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! … [6]  Jesus saves you, you, a sinner who struggles with temptation and gives in way too often.  Jesus comes to save sinners.  As St. Paul write in 1 Timothy 1:15 (ESV)  15 The saying is trustworthy and deserving of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost.[7]  You are a sinner, and you have been saved by Jesus.  You are, at the same time, a Sinner and a Saint.  Martin Luther coined this phrase in Latin; simul justus et peccator.  This is such great good news for the losers of the world who know they cannot be good enough; who know they need help.  Jesus saves sinners.

Matthew 11:25 (ESV)  25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children;[8] Jesus comes for the weak and broken.  He comes to those who are outcasts of society; the sick and the suffering.  He comes for little children; those without status or standing; those without the wisdom and understanding of the world.  Matthew 18:1-4 (ESV) 1 At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” 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.[9]

Jesus comes for hurting, helpless people who know their sin.  He comes for those burdened by their sin.  He opens his arms to them and says, Matthew 11:28-30 (ESV) 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” [10]

Being bound to Jesus is having the weight of your sin lifted off.  Being yoked to Jesus means you are set free from the heavy load of the law.  As a baptized follower of Jesus you live knowing you are in Christ who is gentle and lowly.  In Christ you find rest and restoration.

The world believes that everybody loves a winner, and that winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing, but they are wrong.  Jesus comes for the outcasts, the weak, those that know they cannot be good enough.  What people think is winning in this life will lead to eternal death.  The humble, loser King, King of the losers, came to save you and give you eternal life with God in the heavenly city.  In Christ you are a winner.  In Jesus you will rise from the dead to eternal victory.  1 Corinthians 15:54-58 (ESV)
54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” 55 “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain. [11]         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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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