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    Rev. Cameron Schnarr

Beautiful Savior Lutheran School

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Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, Canada
The End of Yourself, Christ the New Beginning: Part II

The End of Yourself, Christ the New Beginning: Part II

Based on Mt. 5:38-48

Preached on February 19, 2017,

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Fellow baptized saints, you who have been put in Christ through the waters of Holy Baptism, Jesus is back again this week – with His hand firmly on the volume dial. He is cranking up the Law. Saying things that seem impossible. Working to bring us to the end of ourselves – that He might save us by His love alone.

This is now the second week of squirming, because Jesus is challenging the religious part of us. Old Adam. That part that’s been working hard to show God we’re worthy. You know, trying to prove we’re good so we can be proud of ourselves. Old Adam wants there to be something, even the smallest thing, that he can say – he’s done right. But the entire point of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is that there is nothing, that we truly need to be saved from everything we’ve done.

Sinful old Adam needs to die, so Christ can give us God’s righteousness. His righteousness is a free gift that He wants us to have, but old Adam doesn’t want it. Old Adam needs to die. So Jesus brings us to the end of ourselves with these words:

“You therefore must be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

You must be perfect. Perfect. Not trying hard, not making good progress, not 95 on a scale of 100. Perfect – the way your Father in heaven is perfect. Heaven’s perfection now. What do you think? If these are the kingdom standards, are you able to rise up to meet them? Jesus’ last two “but I say to you” statements should put that notion to rest.

You’ve heard it said, “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.” It was the law of retaliation. It wasn’t, as some supposed and still do today, what entitled you to your pound of flesh. No, God spoke this to set a limit on retaliation. You could not exact more than was taken from you – though in your anger you certainly wanted to. An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” You could take your pound of flesh but not an ounce more. Retaliation could not become revenge. You were not entitled to escalate a conflict. All well and good.

But Jesus takes this to a whole new level. Don’t even take what you’re entitled to. Don’t even resist the one who is evil. If someone slaps you on one cheek, which was an incredible insult in Jesus’ day, offer him the other one too. If someone tries to sue the shirt off your back, give him your coat as well. If someone forces you to walk a mile, walk two. Give to beggar and borrower alike.

Oh, and be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.

How’s old Adam doing? How’s the perfection coming? 60 out of 100. Eighty perhaps. When someone cuts you off, you just let him in with a smile on your face, right? When someone strikes you, you offer no resistance; rather you invite him to strike you again for good measure, don’t you? If someone were suing you for $50,000, you’d certainly rush to his home with a cheque for $100,000 wouldn’t you? And you’re always willing to go out of your way for someone else? And beggars and borrowers always find something with you, don’t they?

Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Jesus offered His cheek to His strikers. His back to those who whipped. He carried His cross down the lonely road of sorrows. He walked the extra mile with His enemies. He gave His tunic to those who gambled for it. He took no revenge on those who falsely accused him. Instead, He prayed for them all. “Father, forgive them; they know not what they do.” He gave to those who begged of Him. He still does. He is holy as the Lord is holy. He is perfect as His Father in heaven is perfect.

You’ve heard it said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy,” which seems reasonable and even doable. Love those close to you – your family, your countrymen, the people of your community. And hate your enemy – those who would take your peace. Who would actively try to ruin your life and the lives of those you know. In fact, if you have a chance, kill them. They’re the enemy after all. They deserve to die. Mankind does that, don’t we? We always demonize the enemy. That’s what you do in war. You give your enemy names; you demonize him, and make him less than human. It’s easier to justify killing him that way.

But along comes Jesus – with His “but I say to you.” Love our enemies. That’s right. Love your enemies. Those who oppose you and want you out of their way. Love them. Pray for your persecutors. Don’t be like the world that loves the friend and hates the enemy. Be like your Father in heaven who causes the sun to rise on good and evil. Just and unjust. Saint and sinner. Even more than that, who sent His Son to take away the sin of the world, to redeem and justify the world in His own death, who came to save sinners and to die for the ungodly.

Love your haters. When you go that extra mile with your enemy, you are venturing into Jesus-territory, the wilderness where love is for the loveless, mercy for the merciless, redemption for the unredeemable, salvation for the unsalvageable. And here you will find just how deep the corruption of Sin goes and how high the demands of the Law are. Step by step, law by law, iota by dot, Jesus has raised the bar of the law to insurmountable heights. From murder and divorce and adultery of the heart to love for the enemy and a second cheek to one who would smack you in the face.

Be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.

The Law can’t get you there – no matter what old Adam says. It can hold out the standard but it can’t help you meet it. It can raise the bar, but it can’t lift you over. It can hold out the hope of life with God, but it can only deliver you dead at His doorstep. Were you a sinless saint, this Law would be automatic. You would do it without thought or struggle. You would do it as naturally as breathing. You would automatically turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile, give to beggar and borrower, love your enemy, pray for your persecutor. You would be Adam before the Fall. Brand new Adam. You would be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect. You would be His son. His Son.

There is only One sinless Son of God. No other human being in the history of this world lived this Law. No other person, no matter how holy and perfect in the eyes of men, lived up to the standards that Jesus sets here. Close doesn’t count. Trying hard doesn’t cut it. Forgiveness is not making up the difference after you’ve tried the best you could. James says it plainly; whoever is guilty in one point of the law is guilty of the whole law. The law can’t be cut apart into little pieces. It’s all or it’s nothing. Death or life. Curse or blessing. Hell or heaven.

Jesus came to do the Law. He left His Father’s glory; He emptied Himself of all the perks and privileges of being the eternal Son of God. He took up our humanity, our weakness. He humbled Himself and became obedient to His own Law. He did it perfectly and it killed Him. The Law always kills. It killed Jesus. I know - we can talk about the agents and instruments of His death, the Sanhedrin and Pontius Pilate and the others who conspired against Him. But underneath it all is the Law that always accuses, always demands, always kills. The Law kills Sin. Jesus became Sin so that the Law would kill Him, so that your Sin was put to death in His flesh.

The Law still kills and it kills you. Kills old Adam. But thanks be to God, the Law is not the last word. Christ is. He is first and last. End and Beginning. The Law brings you to Christ. Not as a living saint, but as a dead sinner. The Law deposits you dead at the feet of Jesus. Just where you need to be. Just where every sinner needs to be. Dead at the feet of Jesus. “You were dead in your trespasses and sin, but God made you alive in Christ Jesus.” “He became Sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

The Law drops us dead at the feet of Jesus, so that Jesus can raise us from the dead new. In raising us, Jesus does two things for us. First, He forgives. He has taken your sin from you and placed it as far from you as the east is from the west. He has buried every infraction of the Law, all your murders, adulteries, divorces, your anger, resentment, bitterness, your failure to love the enemy and give to the beggar – buried it all in His own tomb. You are forgiven in Christ. He has washed you in His blood and buried you in His death. You are baptized, a reborn child of God.

Second, He gives you something you don’t have: His holiness, His righteousness, His perfection under the Law. They’re yours in Him. In Him, you are holy. In Him, you are righteous. In Him you are innocent, blameless, perfect. Not in yourself. Only in Christ you are these things. He takes the Law into His own hands and gives it to you as a fulfilled gift. He is your holiness, your righteousness, your innocence and perfection under the Law so that when the devil, the world, or your conscience accuse you with the Law and say, “Look at you! How can you call yourself a child of God?” you hide behind Jesus in your Baptism and say with the Large Catechism, “Nevertheless, I am baptized! And if I am baptized, I have the promise that I shall be saved and have eternal life, both in soul and body.”

Fellow baptized saints, He was made Sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God. In Christ, you are holy as the Lord your God is holy. In Christ, you are perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect. In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Rev. Cameron Schnarr