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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

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