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Twenty-fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Mark 12:38–44

James T. Batchelor

Pentecost 24, Proper 27, series B
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Sun, Nov 8, 2015 

It is fairly rare for our culture to agree with Jesus, but there is one condemnation that Jesus makes with which many agree.  Jesus condemns hypocrisy more than any other sin.  Todays reading from the Gospel informs us that Jesus had a greater condemnation for the hypocrites among the scribes.

Todays reading is a record of Jesus teaching in the temple during the week that led up to His crucifixion.  The scribes He is talking about are the temple scribes.  These are the ones who were actually in charge of copying the Holy Scriptures from one scroll onto another.  As such, they wrote the holy words of God over and over again.  This repetition meant that they knew the Scriptures very, very well.  Never the less, they used their great knowledge to rob widows.

Jesus reserved His greatest condemnation for hypocrites because, by definition, hypocrites know better.  You cannot put on an act that fools others unless you know at least as much as they do.  Hypocrites know that what they are doing is wrong.  Never the less, they wear their consciences down to nothing and live a lie.

Sadly, hypocrites lie to themselves more than anyone else.  Someday, every hypocrite will stand before God in judgment, but most hypocrites dont think about that day.  Perhaps they have convinced themselves that there is no God and therefore no judgment.  Perhaps they rationalize that their hypocrisy is justified and God will not hold them accountable for it.  Perhaps they are hypocrites and dont even realize it.  Never the less, Jesus said, I tell you, on the Day of Judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned. (Matthew 12:3637)

The really sad thing about hypocrites lying to themselves is that some of them would hear a sermon like this and say something like, You tellem pastor.  There are a lot of hypocrites sitting around here who need to hear this. Of course the hard core hypocrites havent got a clue that I am talking to them.

The first thing that I, as your pastor, must do is preach this sermon to myself.  I regularly engage in hypocrisy.  I lie to myself.  I lie to others.  I even lie to God.  When I hear Jesus condemn hypocrites, I need to understand that He is talking to me.  I am the one who needs to hear this sermon.

You too need to hear this sermon.  How many times have you been a hypocrite since this service started?  Earlier in this service, you said, I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto You all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You and justly deserved Your temporal and eternal punishment. But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them, and I pray You of Your boundless mercy and for the sake of the holy, innocent, bitter sufferings and death of Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, to be gracious and merciful to me, a poor sinful being.

You said that you are a poor miserable sinner.  Did you really mean it?  You said you deserved temporal and eternal punishment.  That means that you deserve a miserable life here on earth and eternal punishment in hell.  Did you really mean it?  Were you heartily sorry or just kinda half-hearted about your sorrow.  Did you sincerely repent, or just sorta repent?  How much of the service have you done on auto-pilot while thinking about something else?

What about the life you lead after the service is over.  What are you like when you are alone?  Does your attitude toward sin change when you dont think you will get caught?  Does the Word of God that you hear here actually guide the way you live out there?

Many people criticize the church by noting that it is full of hypocrites.  I have often said that that remark is a little bit like criticizing a hospital because it is full of sick people.  An honest examination shows that all of us are indeed hypocrites and murderers and adulterers and thieves.  I have broken all of the commandments and so have you.  We are in desperate need of healing from our sin.  We are not members of the church because we are so good or wonderful or righteous.  We are members of the church because we are sinners who need forgiveness.

We can get a hint for the source of the forgiveness that we need when we examine the second part of todays Gospel.  Here we encounter a widow who gave all she had.  It is possible that this woman was one of the victims of the hypocrites that Jesus condemned.  Jesus did something that only God can do.  He looked into her heart and saw a faith that relied on the promises of God.

This widows gift is a foreshadowing of the gift that Jesus would give a few days after this incident.  This widow gave all she had financially.  In a few days Jesus would give all that He had period!

Just as this poor widow offered her whole life at that offering box, so the Holy One who watched her, offered His whole life on the cross.  Here is One who was never a hypocrite who never did anything that deserved condemnation.  Here is One who endured the greatest condemnation and made payment for the sins of the world.  When Jesus Christ suffered and then died on the cross for us, He offered up His life as the perfect sacrifice that satisfied the justice of God.

Because Jesus Christ lived a perfect life that was free of hypocrisy and every other sin, the grave could not hold Him.  Although His friends laid Him in the tomb on Friday, He rose from the dead on Sunday.  He now lives forever and offers us a whole life.  Through His sacrificial death and His triumphant resurrection He offers us forgiveness for all our sins including the sin of hypocrisy.  AND where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.

The Holy Spirit works through the Word of God to give us the same faith that the poor widow in todays Gospel had.  He works through the audible Word of God as we hear the readings and He works through the tangible Word of God that we eat and drink in the sacrament.  The faith that the Holy Spirit gives us, receives the gifts that Jesus Christ earned for us as He gave His life for us.  The faith that the Holy Spirit works in us through Word and Sacrament, gives us a share in the Kingdom of God.  In that kingdom, we receive forgiveness, life, and salvation.

The church is full of hypocrites because the world is full of hypocrites.  Hypocrisy is but one aspect of the sin that plagues us all.  As sinful human beings, we all want to reject Gods will for us even if that will is the forgiveness of our sins.  The world doesnt understand that forgiveness is the true purpose of the church.  Therefore, it does not see the true difference between the church and the world.

The real difference between the world and the church is that the church is full of hypocrites who are forgiven.  It is also full of thieves who are forgiven, liars who are forgiven, murderers who are forgiven, and adulterers who are forgiven.  The church is full of sinners who are forgiven.  The world does not understand this forgiveness and therefore sees no point to the church.

A day is coming when every person will leave this world behind.  Those who leave without faith in Jesus Christ will leave without forgiveness.  They will suffer the eternal condemnation that their hypocrisy and other sins have earned.  Those who have faith in Jesus Christ already have forgiveness.  They have left their sin and its condemnation behind.  They will enter the eternal joy of heaven.  They will enjoy the eternal peace of Him who gave all that He had, even His whole life, for us.  Amen

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