Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany (A)
February 13, 2011
Text: Matthew 5:21-37

You see, what Jesus has done here is cast every last one of us into hell. That is what the Law does. The Law of God is good and wise. It sets God’s will before our eyes. In the Law, God shows us how we should live as His people, what it means to live the Christian life. God would not have us think or speak evil of our neighbors, much less murder them. Rather, He would have us help and support our neighbor in every physical need, and love our neighbors as ourselves. God would not have us look lustfully at another, especially one who is not our spouse, much less fornicate or commit adultery or dissolve a marriage. Rather, God would have us lead sexually pure and decent lives in what we say and do, and husband and wife love and honor each other. God would not have us give false testimony, go against our word even if it simply be yes and no, much less swear falsely, whether by His Name, or by heaven and earth, or even by our own life. Rather, the Christian’s yes should be yes, his no, no. But you see, we have not kept his Law of God, so good and wise. In our sinful flesh, we cannot. Jesus makes clear to us here that there is no getting around His righteous and holy Law. There are no loopholes. The Law always accuses. The Law kills. The Law damns. “The Law is good; but since the fall Its holiness condemns us all; It dooms us for our sins to die And has no pow’r to justify” (LSB 579:5).

You may say in all truthfulness that you have never murdered anyone, as in actually, physically, and wrongfully taking the life of another human being. But Jesus does not let you off the hook here. For God is not interested only in your outward behavior. He is interested in your heart. And your heart has murdered many times over. For you have harbored unrighteous anger against your brother. You have insulted him. You have called him a fool, treated him as of no account, dismissed him as a non-person. Do you deny it? Have you not cursed the fool who cut you off in traffic? Have you not directed your piercing stare upon the cashier who has so inconvenienced you by scanning the groceries of the person in front of you too slowly? But of course, it strikes closer to home than that. You have said things in anger to your spouse that no human being should ever have to hear from another. You have humiliated your children by taking your frustrations with yourself out on them. You have dishonored your parents and other authorities. You have spoken evil of your fellow Christians behind their backs. In your heart, you have murdered those closest to you. Repent.

As far as looking at others with lustful intent, this seems to be the main agenda of our culture, or at least its main distraction. And we all get sucked into it. Someone said that the eyes are the windows of the soul, and that is true in this sense… Whatever you allow to flow in through the eyes affects your soul for the good or the bad. You seek images that fill you with lustful intent in television and movies, on the internet, and in gaudy romance novels. You cast lustful glances at your co-workers or your peers at school. Your eyes immodestly scan the crowd at the shopping mall or at the beach to settle upon someone who looks desirable. We should all be walking around without any eyes. But of course, our eyes don’t cause us to sin. Our heart does. If we gouged out our eyes, we would find that we are still just as corrupt as we were before. If we lopped off our hands every time we used them for sin, not only would every last one of us be without hands, we would find that we were just as sinful as when we had our hands. Finally we would run out of body parts to mutilate, because the problem ultimately is not our eyes or our hands, but our hearts. For from within, “out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander” (Matt. 15:19; ESV). What we need to cut out is our heart. We need a heart transplant. Our hearts are no good. Our hearts need to be cut out of us and nailed to the cross. The Spirit of God must create in us a new heart. This is what happens in Baptism, and in our daily return to Baptism in repentance. Repent, beloved. Confess your sins. Put off the old sinful flesh. Turn to God in Christ for forgiveness. His blood covers you. In Him you are forgiven of your murder and adultery and false witness and every other sin. He paid the penalty for your sins on the cross. He gives you His heart.

For He has fulfilled the Law for you. He did not murder. Not even with His lips. Not even in His heart. When He was beaten, He did not strike back, though at any moment He could have appealed to His Father and twelve legions of angels would have been at His disposal (Matt. 26:53). He did not commit adultery. He did not fornicate. He did not cast His eyes impurely on anyone. He did not lust. Though He loved all, He loved with a pure and chaste love, a love that sacrifices all selfish pleasure for the sake of its object, for those who are loved. This is a love that led Jesus not into impure relationships, but to the cross, for you, for me. He did not divorce His unfaithful wife, the Church, you and me. Instead He died for her, and lives for her, to present her holy and blameless to His Father, washed clean by His blood. And Jesus has never borne false testimony. In His trial before the Sanhedrin, and again before Pontius Pilate, He only told the truth. And in His Word, He speaks the absolute truth to you and me. You and I cannot even trust our own word. Thus we should not swear in untrue or unimportant matters, but only when the good of our neighbor demands it. And when we do swear in such situations, we must be very careful to keep our word. But Jesus, who is the Truth, does not lie. He cannot. His Word is absolutely trustworthy. We can believe it, trust it, and steak our very eternal lives on it. Our Lord Jesus has fulfilled the whole Law of God for us, in our place, for our salvation.

And this morning, He speaks the Law to us for our good. He kills us, that He may make us alive. Jesus does not preach us all into hell this morning because He is mean. He does so because He loves us. He preaches us into hell, because that is where we must be if He is to lead us out of hell and into heaven by His Gospel. We must realize our utter depravity, our sheer inability to keep the Law, the absolute futility of seeking to please God by our works. We must realize that outside of Christ we are in slavery to sin and to death, to the very devil and to hell. It isn’t pretty. But we can go on deceiving ourselves, thinking that we’re pretty good people, that we have good hearts, and so we can perish eternally in hell, or we can realize the dire predicament we are in thanks to our sin, tear out our hearts, and cast ourselves in faith on the merits of Jesus Christ alone for salvation. The chief function of the Law is to show us our sin, to hold up the mirror so that we see ourselves in all the ugly truth. Thus knowing our great need for salvation, the Savior appears. We will not cling to Him unless we know the bitter truth about ourselves. And so in Jesus’ preaching this morning, there is no escaping the condemnation of the Law outside of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the only escape. Jesus is the only Savior. There is no other Name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved (Acts 4:12).

And you are saved in Him, by Him, by His fulfilling the Law for you, by His suffering and death on the cross, by His resurrection from the dead and ascension into heaven. And He delivers the goods to you now in the Word and the Sacrament of His body and blood. You receive the goods by faith. And faith delights in the Torah of God. You want to live according to His Torah, the good life that He has set out for you in His instruction. God has graciously set before you today life and good, death and evil (Deut. 30:15). To walk according to the flesh is death and evil. To walk according to God’s will, His commandments, forgiven of your sins, being covered by the blood of Jesus Christ, baptized into Christ… This is life and good. The Law of God is good and wise. Since the fall of our first parents, however, you cannot keep the Law. Nonetheless, you rejoice, for Christ is the whole Law’s fulfillment, and He is the sacrifice of atonement for your transgressions. So now you walk in Him, repenting of your sins, and by His Spirit increasing in faith toward God and fervent love toward one another. This is the Christian life. It is God’s good gift. The Lord has heard your prayers and mercifully delivered you by His goodness, to be His servants, the salt of the earth, and the light of the world. The Lord has snatched you out of hell, and brought you into His life, eternal and abundant. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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