O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor
You shall not covet
Based on Matthew 26:57-68
Preached on Feb. 21, 2018
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In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Genesis 3: “Did God really say? Oh, come now. You won’t really die!” Lies – dirty rotten lies from the father of lies. “God’s holding out on you. You can’t trust Him! Go ahead and eat. Can’t you see how pleasing it looks?” Slander! Lies and slander. All in order to dethrone and kill the Lord and Giver of Life! And Adam and Eve believed in the lie. They believed the false witness! And the day they ate … death!
Fast forward to the New Testament. This time Satan uses very religious people as his instruments. His mouth. His tongue. To besmirch and ruin the Preacher from Nazareth’s reputation! And more! We can get rid of Him! All we need are a few lying tongues! That’s what the high priest Pashur did to Jeremiah. In order to justify themselves Pashur and his colleagues made plans. Schemed. Allowed Jeremiah to be arrested. Physically abused. Held captive. In order to ruin his reputation and ‘kill’ him with their tongues. And it all appeared to be so pious and right!
Now here stands Jesus! Before another high priest -- Caiaphas! And all his religious cronies! On trial! You hear the word “trial” and you automatically assume all will be fair and just. Judge and jury will hear the case impartially. Witnesses will have integrity. Yeah, right! They’ve got it in for this Jesus! And so do we. Yes, we too have it in for this Preacher! We too look for false evidence. We too look to betray and kill God – God in the flesh – the Lord Jesus with lies and slanders that flow from our tongues!
“ Bring in the scoundrels … we mean witnesses! Yes, that’s right! Hurry! Most Reverend High Priest, listen to what they have to say about the Preacher!”
But none of the lies and slander achieved the goal: putting the Preacher to death. Finally two rogues speak up: “ “Preacher Jesus declared that he could tear down this magnificent King Herod built temple here in the city and then three days later rebuild it!” “
At last! Now we’re on to something! This might just be the ticket. This may just get Him the gallows! I mean … really … who does this Jesus think He is? God? No man can do such things!
Brilliant move by the prosecution! Twist what the Preacher said and meant! Explain everything from His preaching in the worst possible way! After all, you remember that when Jesus preached that particular sermon, the temple He was talking about WAS HIS BODY – not the building! Jesus was referring to His Body as the dwelling of God on the earth. He was predicting His death and resurrection! (John 2) But who cares! Who will believe it?
There is a deeply sad truth about fallen humanity – our ears work the best when people say good things about us – or when they say bad things about others – but never the other way around. Our ears betray our hearts and expose them as utterly corrupt. Then our tongues join in – and make sure that corruption is broadcasted. We nearly choke when forced to praise the good of our neighbour, while their shortcomings seems to slip out without obstacle. Bad news travels fast – we say – it gets all the way around the world while good news is still tying its shoes. And we could chuckle. Sometimes that’s all we can do to cope – because it is so deeply sad. It is death.
But we love it. We love the gossip and the fake news and all the reports and salacious rumours. We can’t help it. Our ears itch for them. Our tongues feel powerful launching them. But look at us all – bitter, bitter people – trapped in demolition mode – constantly tearing each other down with our words – with no building up, no defending one another, no desire to see good for others.
So what have you to say about that Jesus? Is this true? Speak up man! Won’t you defend yourself?
But Jesus – amazingly remains silent! Not a word from His lips! Public lies are not worthy of an answer! Even when we distort His preaching! He patiently bears such malicious evil.
And so the High Priest tries something else. A different line of questioning. “All right Jesus – I remind you that you are under oath and that God Himself is our witness and I am God’s man here. So you’d better answer my question. This is no joke! This is very, very serious! So now I ask you before the living God: do you believe that you are the Christ – the Son of God?”
And that’s when Jesus finally speaks up! Boldly! All of a sudden His tongue works! He is not tongue-tied. He will confess and give witness TO THE TRUTH, the whole truth and nothing but the truth! Even though it puts Him in the gravest of danger! With this answer, His enemies – you, me, Caiaphas, and all his cronies – have finally caught the Preacher! We get exactly what we have wanted all along – that the preacher gets handed over to the hangman! Aren’t we so proud of ourselves? Doing God such service! And with such zeal! Justifying ourselves!
And so Jesus categorically states – categorically preaches another sermon. And what a sermon it is! “ Indeed I am! I am the Christ! I am the Son of God! I certainly am the Savior! Me and no one else. In just a little bit you’ll see the truth of this fact. I am the fulfillment of Psalm 110 and Daniel’s prophecy! I am the everlasting King who is given all authority in heaven and earth! And the Day will come when you will see Me sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming in the clouds of heaven! How’s that for an answer?”
Caiaphas’ ears are burning! Tears his robe in two! And his tongue goes wild! More lies! More slander! But all so religious! In what appears to be so right! “This Preacher is the most wicked of all! What irreverence! What blasphemy! What sacrilege! No man – especially this Preacher – can be the Son of God! The Messiah! We don’t need any more witnesses! Wouldn’t you agree? He deserves to die?”
“Yes! Absolutely! It’s a no brainer!” we all shout. “He certainly deserves to die.” And then we march right up to False Witnessed Jesus – gather up a boatload of spit with our tongues and expel it all in His face. Then some of us, as if our words and spit are not enough, clench our fists and pummel His face. Some of us hold our hands open and slap Him as hard as we possibly can! “After all, He deserves it! Claiming to be God’s Son! Caiaphas is dead on! Total blasphemy! So if you’re the Messiah, prophesy! Who just punched you? Who just slapped you silly?” “
But with the words from His mouth Jesus testifies to – witnesses for – SALVATION! FOR SINNERS! Yes, for sinners who use their tongues to give false testimony! For sinners who gossip about their neighbours. For sinners who spit out their bitterness at anyone and everyone, even against their very own Messiah!
“Yes. I am the Christ! I am the Son of God!”
That is His sermon! A message of salvation! Hidden in this captured, bound, despised, beaten, condemned, and rejected Preacher is God in the flesh. God’s eternal Son! Revealing and proclaiming the good news that the salvation of the world is here. Right before their very eyes! Right before our very eyes!
Now then, it is the time to use our tongues to confess and repent. We did Him in with our slanderous lies. With our false testimony. By perverting His words – His sermon about the temple of His Body. We tried to justify ourselves by arguing that He blasphemed. We were wrong. We sinned! We blasphemed by not confessing Him to be the Christ as He said. And then claiming that He deserved to die!
What sin! We deserve to die! We deserve God’s temporal and eternal punishment! That’s so true! Finally, using our tongues to speak the truth!
So I tell you. Listen to the words that Jesus has given me to speak. His words in my mouth! His words on my tongue! Here they are: God doesn’t give you what you deserve. He gave it to Jesus. Jesus used all your evil and turned it for your good – for salvation. For you! He took all your sin – thoughts of the heart, words of the tongue, and deeds of the body – into Himself. And He died with them on the cross! You are forgiven. Totally! And not in your name – but in God’s Holy Name – the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.
You are covered with Jesus’ blood from His cross. And now Jesus defends you and your reputation against the devil! “Oh yes, they’re sinners Devil! But all their sin now belongs to Me! I took it all in My Body on the Tree! You have no rights in this courtroom. Your accusations against them don’t work anymore! So get lost!”
Jesus speaks well of you! Explains everything about you before His Father in heaven in the kindest way! And it goes like this: “I died for them Father! My Body, the temple, was destroyed in death! But in three days I rebuilt it. I did something completely new! I rose from the dead! Just like I promised! For all these sinners and for their salvation! They are my brothers and sisters! And now I put into their mouths my most holy Body and Blood. For the cleansing – the sanctification -- of their mouths, tongues and hearts!”
So have a happy Lent beloved, because your reputation is spotless before your Father in heaven. All for the sake of Jesus. In His Holy Name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr