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Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

Mark 6:1–13

James T. Batchelor

Pentecost 6, Proper 9, series B
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Sun, Jul 5, 2015 

One of the things that makes any language difficult is that it is possible for a single word to have a wide variety of meanings.  This is most certainly true of the English word love. I love pizza.  I love a gentle breeze on a spring day.  I love my family.  I love my wife.  I love my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  I used the word love properly in each sentence and yet the word meant something different in each sentence.  A quick check in a typical dictionary will yield almost two dozen entries under the word love.

Many people in our culture seem to think that love means letting others do whatever they want to do.  Others think that love is all about keeping people happy building up their self-esteem telling them what they want to hear and so forth.

The love of a parent for a child demonstrates that most of these ideas about love are wrong.  Consider the toddler who sees an open flame for the first time.  It could be a burning candle a camp fire a fire place or whatever.  The flame is bright and shiny.  It almost seems alive.  Ordinarily, a toddlers curiosity is a good thing, but not this time.  The toddler reaches out to touch the flame.  The loving parent intervenes and says, No!  Hot!  Ow! The toddler is not happy.  The toddler, who loves to say the word no, hates it when others say it to him.  The loving parent has deeply offended the toddler.  The toddler is unhappy.  Never the less, this is love.

The lover wants what is best for his belovd.  The lover wants what is best even if it means that the belovd will hate him.  How many times has a parent lovingly said no only to hear the angry shout, I hate you!? The example of the parents love shows that it is possible to tell someone that he is wrong and still love him.  Sometimes, love offends.  Sometimes, love is divisive.

The Gospel we just heard told us that Jesus encountered this kind of offense in His hometown of Nazareth.  In the perfect love that only God has for us, Jesus proclaimed the truth that the people of Nazareth needed to hear.  The people responded to Jesus perfect loving words with offense.  The parallel record of this event in the other Gospel accounts tell us that the people were ready to throw Jesus over a nearby cliff because they were so offended.

This offense was nothing new.  Down through the centuries, the prophets foreshadowed this rejection.  The reading we just heard from the Old Testament tells us that God wanted to give His words through the mouth of the prophet Ezekiel.  God gave words of warning that Israel needed to hear, but He also warned Ezekiel that the people were rebellious.  He described them as impudent and stubborn.  Even after their stubborn rebellion handed Jerusalem over to Nebuchadnezzar, they still would not listen.  Even after they found themselves in exile in Babylon, they still took offense at the words God gave to His prophet.

Jesus will always offend the devil, the world, and our own sinful nature.  This offense has expressed itself in many ways down through the centuries.  Torture, death, and other blatant forms of persecution have expressed this offense all the way from the Coliseum in Rome to the beheadings of ISIS in our modern day.

As bad as these are, the worst expression of offense happens when the forces of evil infiltrate the earthly institutions of the church.  Then the world can point to events like the Spanish Inquisition, the Salem Witchcraft Trials, and so forth, and say, See! Those self-righteous jerks in the church are the greatest source of trouble in the world! It is then that they fulfill the words of Jesus when He said, The hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. (John 16:2)

For several centuries, we in the United States have not had to suffer such blatant, aggressive offense.  Yesterday we celebrated the signing of a document that incudes these words: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. The very first amendment to the constitution of the United States begins with these words: Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

The institutional church in the United States has gotten used to these freedoms.  The institutional church has grown complacent.  Slowly, over the generations, she has forgotten that while she lives in this world, she is not of this world.  Because the culture has not taken any outward offense at her, she has gotten used to the idea that the culture, more or less, agrees with her teachings.  She has gotten used to the idea that her values for the most part are more or less the same as the values of the culture around her.  She dropped her guard.  The culture has taken advantage of this lapse to infiltrate the church.

As the culture infiltrated the institutional church in the United States, the institutional church has forgotten that there are times to be offensive.  Jesus offended the culture in Nazareth, and His bride, the Church, will also offend the culture of this world.  Sadly, here in the United States and the other parts of the western culture, we have forgotten this.  In fact, some people even talk as though it is a sin to be offensive to the world.  In fact, the institutional church in the United States often goes out of its way to offend God Almighty rather than offend the culture around us.

On Mount Sinai, God told His people, You shall not murder. (Exodus 20:13) Jesus unpacked that commandment in the Sermon on the Mount when He taught, You have heard that it was said to those of old, You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment. 22But 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. (Matthew 5:2122) Never the less, when our culture decided to kill children in the womb, many who call themselves Christian, decided to offend God rather than offend the culture.  Instead of loving the culture enough to call it to repentance, they were silent.  They forgot the love of the parent who must sometimes do what is best for the child even though it means the child hates him.

On Mount Sinai, God told His people, 14You shall not commit adultery. (Exodus 20:14) Jesus expanded on that in the Sermon on the Mount when He taught, You have heard that it was said, You shall not commit adultery. 28But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:2728) Never the less, when our children co-habit and begin to raise families without the benefit of marriage, we decide to offend God rather than offend our children.  Instead of loving our children enough to call them to repentance, we allow them to continue in their sin.  We have forgotten the love of the parent who must sometimes do what is best for the child even though it means the child hates him.

When Jesus was debating the nature of marriage with the Pharisees, He said, Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, 5and said, Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh? 6So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate. (Matthew 19:46) Jesus went on to say, Because of your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. 9And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery. (Matthew 19:89) Never the less, many who call themselves Christian claim that Jesus had nothing to say about marriage.  Instead of calling the culture to repentance, they went along to get along.  We have forgotten that true love does what is best for others even if it means hatred from them.

Because we in the United States have had a peaceful coexistence with western culture for so long, we have forgotten the words of Jesus when He said, If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20Remember the word that I said to you: A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. (John 15:1820) We have forgotten that the world hates those who belong to Christ.

A preacher by the name of Adrian Rogers once said, It is better to be divided by truth, than to be united in error. It is better to speak the truth that hurts and then heals, than to speak a lie that will comfort and then kill. It is better to be hated for telling the truth, than to be loved for telling a lie. It is better to stand alone with the truth, than to be wrong with a multitude. It is better to ultimately die with the truth, than to live with a lie.

In our complaisance we have not followed Christs example to endure offense for the truth.  What then shall we do?

The first step is what it always is.  We all have sins that separate us from God.  While different sins have different consequences here on this earth, every sin condemns us in the eyes of God.  It is time to repent and look to our Lord Jesus Christ hanging on the cross for all our sins.  It is on that cross that Jesus took away the offense of our sins and made us holy in Gods eyes.

The earthly reason for that cross was the offense that the culture took at His teachings.  The religious leaders were so offended at Jesus that they arranged His death.  They used all their influence to force the Roman Governor, Pontius Pilate, to condemn Jesus to crucifixion.  Jesus hung on the cross because He was an offense to the religious leaders of that day.

While He hung on the cross He not only endured the offense of man, but He also endured the righteous offense that God has against every one of our sins.  He endured the holy wrath of God for all the offense we have accumulated in our sin against God and each other.  That includes our acts of cowardice for not being ready to endure the offense of the world for proclaiming the love of God.

Right now it seems as though Christs teachings on the family are the most offensive teachings to the world, but there is one teaching that the world hates even more.  6Jesus said, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6) The world hates it that Jesus is the only way to salvation.  They find this teaching offensive.

Never the less, Jesus is the only Son of God who took on human flesh in order to keep Gods law perfectly in our place.  He is the only one who can or wants to give us that righteousness in exchange for our sin.  He is the only one who made the exchange of His righteousness for our sin on the cross.  He is the first one to rise from the dead with a human body that is as eternal as His divine essence.  He is the only one who has promised to raise us in the same way on the Last Day.

Even though the message of Jesus offends the world, it is a message of the purist love.  Like the parent who disciplines his child in love even if means that the child hates him, so also Jesus has a message for the world: God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8) Amen



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