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Evening Prayer sermon

John 7:14-24

Rev. Andrew Eckert

Wed. after Easter 4
Our Savior Lutheran Church  
Stevensville, MT

Wed, Apr 28, 2021 

The Jews marveled, saying, “How does this Man know letters, having never studied?” They acknowledge that His wise teaching exceeds what is humanly possible.  A few verses earlier some said, “He is a good Man.” Yet so many people who heard Christ’s wisdom and saw His obvious, manifest goodness did not follow Him.  How is that be possible?

It happens all the time.  Someone says, “I think Christ was a good Man and a wise Teacher.  But I do not believe He was the Son of God or the Savior.” Let us ignore for a moment that the main content of Christ’s teaching was to reveal that He was sent from the Father and that there was no unrighteousness in Him, as He said tonight.  Instead, marvel at the way people can see the goodness of Christ yet push away this goodness which Christ offers for free, as if to say, “Christ is good, but I don’t need His goodness.” People are willing to think that they are good enough themselves.

Marvel at the way people can hear the wisdom of Christ, yet only accept the parts they like and reject the parts they don’t.  They don’t like when He points to Himself and says, “I Am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father but by Me.” If Christ really is a wise Teacher as they say, then shouldn’t they heed His wisdom?  But no, they only accept what they like.

Do you trust in Christ?  That is the real question.  If you stare at Him at arm’s length and examine Him as if He were a piece of art, and say, “I like this part, this is nice,” is to treat the Savior of the world as if He is something to be critiqued.

That is exactly what the Old Man wants to do.  The sinful flesh asks, “What serves me?  What makes me feel like I am wise?  What tickles my fancy?” The Old Adam also says, “What makes me appear more righteous in the eyes of others?” If Christ is obviously righteous, then we need to let others see us approving of how righteous He is.  But trust in Him?  That is not what the Old Man wants.

The Jewish leaders went a step beyond into outright legalism.  They found fault with Christ in chapter five when He healed on the Sabbath.  Their legalistic mindset tried to forbid doing merciful acts of kindness.  The whole point of the commandments is love, yet they interpreted the law in opposition to love.

Christ exposes the hypocrisy of the Old Man by showing that even the Law is opposed to their legalistic interpretation.  When a child is born eight days before the Sabbath, the Law of Moses says that it must be circumcised on the eight day, that is, the Sabbath.  But that would mean doing work on the Sabbath!  Heaven forbid! 

Yet the act of circumcising the child connected him to the covenant promises given to Abraham and Moses.  This was an act of obeying God’s command as well as bringing the child into the covenant of grace.  But all that would be held back if no work is done on the Sabbath. 

Of course, the real issue was not obedience to the Law, but finding fault with Christ.  He had released a man from his infirmity that he had suffered for thirty-eight years, stuck in his bed and scarcely able to move at all.  But instead of praising Christ for His merciful love and kindness and healing power, they found fault.  So Christ makes His point that if He is not allowed to show love to a suffering sick man on the Sabbath, then they are not allowed under the Law of Moses to circumcise on the Sabbath.

Of course, today circumcision is of no importance with regard to grace.  Christ has come and fulfilled all the ceremonial law.  So circumcision is nothing.  Christ is everything.  And how much better is that!  Besides, we have a circumcision not made with hands, holy Baptism.  In this we have eternal life and forgiveness of sins and salvation from death and the devil.  With such wondrous gifts given by Christ, the sinful flesh will find plenty of ways to find fault, just as the Jews found fault with the righteous One when He came to save them and said He had a demon.

So when Christ says, “Not one of you keeps the Law,” He was not so much talking about how every man is born in sin and cannot keep the commandments.  This is also true.  But Christ is referring here to His point that they had to set break the Sabbath commandment in order to keep the commandment of circumcision.  From a legalistic standpoint they were breaking the law.

To be totally clear, keeping the law is extremely difficult for sinners.  When does one Law yield to another?  The Sabbath yields to acts of mercy.  Yet sometimes the Old Adam likes to paint most anything as an act of mercy.  “I have to take my kids to their sports on Sunday.” “I have to work on Sunday to support my family.” “I have to sleep in on Sunday because I was spending time with friends.” Most any excuse will do to ignore the Sabbath for the carnal mind that we cannot quite get rid of in this life.

Christ, the wise and true Righteous One, sees all things accurately.  Without Him, we would be helpless.  We would fumble and bumble our way through the commandments, perhaps thinking that we are righteous even though we are fallible, or perhaps in despair thinking that we are hopeless to keep the law.  The second view is more accurate.  Thanks be to God in Christ Jesus, the Righteous One who is our righteousness.  We are hopeless without Christ, but He is our hope.  In Him we trust and believe.

Since we trust in Him, let us act like it.  Let us not judge others harshly, as the Jews harshly judged Christ.  To be sure, those we judge are sinners, whereas He was not.  Yet we often slant our perceptions of them.  Our heart may hate them (even though we would almost never admit to having hateful thoughts).  We judge them with a poor construction on their words and actions.  We assume the worst, whereas for ourselves we are always willing to assume the best.

To us Christ says, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” Righteous judgment seeks truth, and where the truth is not completely clear, assumes the best.  But often we only have an appearance to work with.  We see a person do something, and we do not know the reason why.  How quickly our sinful mind wants to jump to unflattering conclusions!  But we should withhold judgment where possible, or seek truth where possible.

When Christ uses righteous judgment, He judges us through His Blood.  With other Christians, we should do the same.  Do not view them as sinners, but righteous in Christ.  See them as fellow saints like you who may struggle with sin, yet are declared innocent by the Lord. 

This does not mean that we ignore outright sins, especially if it is to be doubted that they have repentance.  But it means that we approach them gently, as we would want people to approach us.  Especially, do not judge harshly and then speak behind their backs based on the appearance that we see.

The Spirit keep us in the grace of our Lord.  Amen.



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