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Midweek Divine Service

Matthew 11:16-24

Rev. Andrew Eckert

Wed. after Trinity 10
Our Savior Lutheran Church  
Stevensville, MT

Wed, Aug 19, 2020 

Verses eight and nine say, “John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him!  A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”

That very last bit might be better translated another way: “And so Wisdom was declared innocent of her own works!” That translation fits the Greek text a little better.

What’s the difference?  If the translation should be, “Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds,” then it means that the wisdom of both Saint John the Baptist and Jesus would win out in the end.  The fact that John was sent to prepare the way of the Lord, preaching repentance and living a harsh life in the wilderness was the plan of God’s wisdom.  That Christ came as a friend of sinners, eating and drinking with them, is also the wisdom of God’s plan.  Even though the two men’s lives were very different, they both were doing what God sent them to do.

But if the translation should be, “Wisdom was declared innocent of her own works,” then the meaning points to the arrogance of the Jews who rejected both John and Christ.  They thought that surely God’s wisdom would never do the kinds of things that those two men did.  They declared wisdom innocent of the kinds of foolishness they saw in both John and Christ.

John acted like a crazy man in the desert without basic human enjoyment of civilized food and drink.  “That’s not how a wise man acts!” they as much as said.  So they did not listen to John.  They did not repent or get Baptized by John.

Christ our Lord came eating wine and drinking good food.  Especially He ate with sinners {gasp!}.  “He’s not a wise Man either!” was their reaction.  So they did not repent or trust in Christ.

Any excuse will do for some people.  “Look, the pastor drinks alcohol!  He is setting a bad example!  I’ll never go to his church!” “That preacher is not cheerful enough.  He always has an unhappy scowl on his face.  I’ll never go to his church!”

This is how the wicked generation at the time of Christ acted, and how the current generation today acts.  They cried out like little children to John, “Come on, you gloomy man.  Dance and be joyful!” but John was not sent to dance.  He was sent to preach the serious and gravely important message of repentance.  His lifestyle reflected the seriousness of his ministry.  But the little children took offense.

The little children of the wicked generation cried out to Christ, “You reckless partyer!  Be more serious!” but He was busy eating and drinking with sinners.  He drank wine, which He had created in the beginning to make glad the heart of man.  His lifestyle reflected the joyfulness of the Gospel that He was delivering to mankind, and His tremendous happiness at opening the gates of heaven to sinners.  But the little children cried out, “Be more serious!”

Keep in mind these are not literally little children.  They are the spiritually petulant and immature people of the ever-present wicked generation.  It is hard to tell which comes first, the rejection of the message or rejection of the lifestyle of the messenger.  Sometimes it is one way, sometimes another.

But beware that you are not lured to follow the little children.  There is a petulant child in each of us that wants to take offense at the behavior of others.  “They are acting foolish!” we want to cry out.  To be fair, there is a lot of foolishness to go around on all sides.  But do not let your fixation on other people’s foolishness make you forget that you too are one of the foolish ones.

There is a wickedness in our heart that wants to find an excuse to reject God’s call to repentance.  If we cannot find fault with the message, our heart will try to find fault with the messenger, or with some of the fellow listeners.

It helps to remember that the Wisdom of God is Christ Jesus, particularly Him crucified and risen.  The benefits of that Wisdom come from the preaching of the Gospel.  Both Christ crucified and preaching are foolishness to our ever-so-quick-to-be-offended flesh.  But to our new heart, created in us by God the Holy Spirit, this Gospel is the sweetest thing, worth any offense and any risk.

But then comes pride.  Christ says, “Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven?  No, you will be brought down to Hades.” The people of Capernaum may have thought that they were lofty and spiritual, worthy and exceptional.  They thought they were in no danger of Hades.  They were the good and loving people!  Of course they were safe and secure, they thought.

There is a lot of Capernaum to go around, not least of all in churches.  One would think that there is something about sitting in wooden pews that makes people prideful and secure.  Of course, we people in the pews are not the out of control wicked people.  We are not the awful sinners who sin without remorse.  Sure, we make mistakes, but we’re good people, and there’s no way we’re in danger of Hades.  Or at least, that is how we naturally think.

There is a good kind of security that trusts in Jesus Christ our gracious Savior.  But there is also the bad kind of security that trusts in ourselves.  It is natural when we ask, “Are we saved?” to look at ourselves to see if we are the kind of person who is saved.  But that is the wrong way to think about things.

So Christ talks about repentance.  “If the miracles done in Chorazin and Bethsaida had been done in Tyre and Sidon, then Tyre and Sidon would have repented in sackcloth and ashes.”

Are miracles a means of grace?  Not in themselves, but Christ’s miracles pointed to Himself and supported the authenticity of His message.  It is not the miracles but the Gospel of the kingdom that bestows repentance and faith.

Now we might be tempted to say, “Wouldn’t it be great if the mighty works of Christ were done here!  Then how many people would repent and believe!” The problem is, in order to say that, you have to think that the mighty works of Christ are not already being done here.  What work is mightier than the washing of regeneration and renewal, which washes us with the same power that raised Christ from the dead?  What miracle is more amazing or beneficial than Christ giving us His Body and Blood with the bread and wine in the Sacrament?  What could be better than hearing the Gospel of the kingdom from the mouth of a man, with the promise that we are not hearing the man, but hearing Christ?  What is more beneficial than hearing this Word forgive all our sins, bestow eternal life, and save from death and the devil?

Because we hear and believe these words, we will be lifted up to heaven.  We do not trust in our own goodness.  We do not think that our love will raise us up.  If our righteousness were somehow harnessed to levitate us upward, we would not even get off the ground.

But Christ raises us up.  He has already lifted us up to the right hand of glory, although we cannot see this yet.  On the last day, He will cause us to ascend into the clouds to meet Him.  Then He will bring us into the new heaven and the new earth, and our joy will be complete and unending.

So repent in sackcloth and ashes, if only in the depth of your sorrow.  Truly let your hearts feel the pangs of grief that your trespasses and iniquities deserve.  Do not trust that you are the loving ones and everybody should be like you.  Instead trust only in Christ.  He is the Loving One.

He will graciously receive you.  He knows your sins, but He is a safe haven for sinners who repent.  In other words, you need not fear that He will hear your repentance and say, “Wow!  You really ARE bad!  Forget you!” No, He will say, “Come, sit down with Me.  Eat and drink with Me.  You are My friend and brother forever.”

God strengthen us to trust always in this perfect Savior.  Amen.

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