O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Harsh yet Beautiful
Harsh yet Beautiful
Based on Mt. 5:21-37
Preached on February 16, 2014
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Fellow baptized saints, hold on! And I mean, hold on! Because no one is going to survive God's Word this morning. I don't pick the text, and thank God I don't, because if I did, my flesh would never preach the words that Jesus speaks today. Because they are impossible. Hopeless. They cut you down for the sinner you are, and in the end there is only One Man left standing.
Because these words are Law. God only speaks two words in the Bible - two different words that unless you understand them you cannot understand the Bible - They are the Law and the Gospel - the commands and the promises. The Law says "Do" and it is never done. The Gospel says "It is already done - for you." The Law always accuses you - always shows you what you're missing. The Gospel what God has given you and done for you and promised to you in Christ for free. Both are true. Both are good and right and holy. But because of our sin, our nature, we don't always like the Law. And these words - today - are Law. So hold on as Jesus preaches to you this morning, wait it out, because Law is always followed by sweet, sweet Gospel.
The Sermon on the Mount - this is now our third week listening to Jesus teach His disciples, and pretty much until the start of Lent, we are going to be immersed in this sermon of His. Jesus started out with His beatitudes, or Gospel blessings, in which He promised forgiveness, life and salvation to all who trust in Him. This is how He started His sermon. I bless you. I speak My life upon you. These words of life I speak are the only thing living in you. They make you new in Me. They bring you into My Kingdom. For I have chosen you. You are mine. Now let me tell you about the kingdom I am creating. Let me describe what will be, and what is already - in Me.
This is where we come to our text. Jesus ploughs right in. There are those that teach you, you can keep the Law. Like the Pharisees. But this is because they do not understand my Law. They presume it is a matter of outward obedience, a matter of what is seen by others, but I am going to teach you the Spirit of the Law. I am going to show you the kingdom that is only fulfilled and found in Me. And not so that you can loosen it, or relax it - but so that you may know its truth, so that you may see its beauty and take comfort that in Me - you are safe from yourselves, in Me is completed for you what you were never going to do on your own.
You have heard that it was said to those of old, "You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.' 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. Do you want to understand my kingdom? So you haven't murdered your brother? Good for you, even the Pagans don't murder their brothers - but I tell you if the flame of anger has arisen in you, then you are liable to the eternal fires of hell. You deserve unending punishment. This is the truth of my kingdom. So much so that if you are seeking God's grace - if you are kneeling before Him in repentance, such as when you come to the Lord's Supper - and there you realize that you are not reconciled with someone, that you hold something against someone - leave - do not commune - go immediately to be reconciled. For if you are unforgiving towards anyone - this is an act of murder and you must repent.
Wow! I mean, what do we say to that? It is like we don't have the foggiest idea what sin is, and how destructive it is in our lives. It is like we don't realize that the reason our life is so difficult, the reason there is so much pain and hurt in our life, and in the lives of everyone around us is because of sin. Adam's, ours, theirs, all of it. We can't escape it. This is our kingdom come. This is the kingdom of suffering and death that man has made.
But He doesn't let up there. "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. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.
The Greek word here is "moikousais." Adultery. The word really means pollution - like the mixing together of two things that should not be mixed. Jesus is not just talking about sexual immorality, although it is certainly tied up in what He is saying - Jesus is talking about marriage - that one man and one woman which He unites are the only two things that should be mixed into one - and not only for a little while, until someone is unhappy - but right to the end - not after dating a bunch of people and test driving all the cars - and not just trying it out for a while because we are in love - If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away - and He is dead serious - that if you intend to keep the Law - this is what it will take - that before you would break it in its spiritual intent - you would shield your eye and rip it out and throw it away - but we all know that defeating sin isn't that easy -we all know it wouldn't work - we can't stop our anger and we can't stop our lust - we don't have the ability - but that doesn't change the fact that this is what a true life of goodness would be like - this is the way God created the world to be - and it is the way His eternal kingdom shall be in heaven.
So instead of trying to prove to God that you are good when you are not. Trust His Word when it declares that you are forgiven, that you are righteous in Christ. For that is why Christ came. Christ, the One who never got angry, who never turned away from His bride - not even when we were nailing Him to the tree. Christ, the One who would not have us commit adultery by divorcing us though He had every right. Not His Israel. Not His Church. Not you, His dear One. No, He would rather take your punishment. He would rather burn in your sin. He would rather suffer hell for you, so He did - on the cross.
Do you see the beauty now? All this Law shows us what Christ is doing in our midst, how He is the fulfillment of the Law. Standing beside Him, He wears a kingly robe and we all wear filthy rags - Standing beside Him we are all murderers and He alone is the one loving His neighbour - Standing beside Him we are all adulterers divorced from the true God by our lusts and passions while He remains faithful in the face of our faithlessness - Standing beside Him every word we speak is useless, unable to make a white hair black again - while His Word, His promises are creating a new kingdom - creating a new reality in you - creating a new heart, even now as you hear it in that wooden pew - His grace declares you clean and believing this you are - not by doing any Law, but simply by trusting His Gospel promise. You are forgiven. Clean. Free because God has said so for the sake of Christ. And He will keep saying this same thing, though heaven and earth should pass away - His Word will remain in you, on you, but most importantly for you. He is the rock - the foundation on which we stand - both Law and Gospel - Law for our neighbours sake - and Gospel for our own. Thanks be to God.
So did you do it? Did you hold on? No, I know, no one survived. Not even Christ. He was killed and made alive again. Death and resurrection. And so with you His Christian in the preaching of His Law and Gospel. Killed and made alive again in Christ, in the Only Man left standing before the Father. This is faith - faith that learns to love God's Law even though it kills you - faith that would preach the words of Jesus today as tough as they may be - faith that holds onto Jesus, because it knows that Jesus will never let go. I have chosen you. You are mine. In His Holy Name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr