The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.
“Teacher, which Law is the greatest? Which one can you absolutely not break? If you could only keep one, to the exclusion of all the others, which one would it be?” We understand why the Pharisees would ask Jesus this question. They weren’t genuinely curious. They weren’t worried or stumped, figuring that Jesus must have the right answer. They were only setting Jesus up with the question because they wanted to trap Him. Whatever He said would be wrong, which was the whole plan. What a bunch of wicked jerks, right?
Well… what about us? If we’re honest, we ask very similar questions all the time. Granted, we’re not out to trap God in His Words so as to condemn Him (like the Pharisees were), but we do ask very similar questions, if not with our words, then certainly with the fruits we bear in our daily lives. Just like the Pharisees, we do like to think in terms of technicalities. Which of God’s commandments are technically more important? Said another way, which of God’s commandments do I not have to worry about as much? Which of God’s commandments can I get away with breaking?
Now, you may not believe that this is true of you. However, ask yourself which is more important: Not taking God’s name in vain, or not committing adultery? Admit it: You’d be more upset if your spouse cheated on you than if your spouse used profane language. Why? Is the 6th commandment more important than the 2nd commandment? Which is more important: Honoring the Sabbath by being in worship, or not murdering someone? Well, that’s kind of a no-brainer, right? Technically, I don’t have to be in church in order to honor/love God, right? I can miss church, but taking the life of someone else is really bad. And even here we dive deep into the technicalities. Our Lord Christ clearly states that if you even insult your brother or call him a fool, you’ve murdered him. You’ve transgressed the commandment, and you’re liable to the fires of hell. “Yeah… but I didn’t take his life. Technically speaking, I didn’t really murder him.” Either way, though, blowing off worship isn’t as a big of deal as calling somebody a bad name, right?
Don’t believe me? Just flip it around. If someone you don’t like misses church, does it bother you? Does it upset you? What if their “great and unpardonable sin” is that they have a different opinion than you? That’s different, right? If someone believes differently than I do regarding masks or vaccines, then they are clearly of the devil and it is our duty to let them and everyone else know, right? What if they call you a fool or insult you, especially in a very public manner? We’re ready to call down the fires of heaven ourselves upon such wickedness! Why? Is the 5th commandment more important than the 3rd commandment, or any other commandment, for that matter?
Now, before we get too far into this, let’s bring everything back into proper focus, and I’ll do this by asking another question: What do you think about the Christ? Understand: I’m not looking for the technically-correct answers that even the Pharisees could provide; e.g., the Christ is the offspring of David. I want you to look at the Christ of God, brutalized and bloodied, hanging lifeless on the cross. What do you think about this Christ? I’ll tell you what: This is what He thinks of you and your sin… all of your sin, as in each and every one of them, even the ones that you don’t think are that big of deal.
You see, Jesus didn’t just die for certain sins. Jesus didn’t just die for the really big sins that you couldn’t handle on your own. Jesus died for all sins. Again, look to this cross and give this some serious thought. Almighty God Himself gave up all of heaven’s majesty and took on flesh and blood for the sole purpose of putting that flesh and blood to death in order to make atonement for all those sins. Almighty God Himself died, not just for wicked murderers and adulterers, but for “good Christian” potty-mouths and busy-bodies and gossips and people too lazy or too busy to come to church. Christ Jesus died for people with good-intentions and wrong priorities. He died, not just for bald-faced liars and traitors, but for the little white lies we tell. He died, not just for rank pagans and hardcore unbelievers, but for fools who boast of being martyrs of the faith, willing to die for Jesus, but not willing to ruffle feathers or hurt feelings; willing to die for Jesus, but not willing to go to church for Jesus. He died for people who put themselves before anybody else (including Him and His good gifts). Jesus Christ died for jealous covetousness; i.e., those who think it’s not fair that someone else has something they don’t. He died for the politicians who coddle and reward such sinful covetousness, campaigning on the promise to give you whatever it is you think you deserve and it’s not fair that you don’t have it. This Christ of God suffered the Father’s hellish wrath for people who will wake up at 4am to drive a hundred miles for youth sports, but won’t get out of bed and drive ten minutes to be in His holy presence and receive His holy gifts. Jesus died for people who put more money in the slot machine than in the offering plate. He died for people who spend more time and money on toys than on His means of grace for them. He shed His life blood for those who take care of every personal financial concern first, only to give Him whatever is left over; whatever they can spare afterwards.
You may take offense at all this, but it is what it is. Sin is sin is sin, the wage of which is death. God’s not like us. He doesn’t work on a sliding scale. Christ died for all sins; all of yours sin, all of my sins, and even all of the sins of the people you don’t like. “It is finished” was spoken for all sinners and all their sins. Here [crucifix] is exactly what God has been saying throughout Scripture! Here is the full wrath of God against sin—all sin—and here, at the same time, is the unconditional grace, mercy, peace, and love He has for you and all sinners.
Look to this cross. Look to this bloodied corpse of Christ. This is why the faithful endeavor to keep the Law of God; to love God with ALL our heart, soul and mind, and to love our neighbors… even the ones we don’t like; all those whom Christ loved enough to die for. We endeavor to keep His Law—His Word—not in order to be saved, but out of the repentant joy that we are saved, in Christ and because of Christ. This is why Moses words it so simply. “What does the Lord require of you?”
I’ll admit: Fearing God (properly), walking in all His ways (all the time), loving Him with all my heart, soul, and mind, serving Him all my heart, soul, and mind, and keeping all His commandments and statutes all sounds so very daunting. “What does the Lord require of me?! Are you kidding?!” And don’t even get me started on loving my neighbor. It’s hard enough to properly love people I like. What about all those people I don’t like? What about all those people who don’t like me? They’re my neighbor too. How am I supposed to love them? Moses makes it sound so simple. Jesus makes it sound so simple. Love God and love your neighbor. It’s not simple at all! In fact, it’s utterly impossible.
Well… if you’re looking at all this from the perspective of having to do all these things in order to merit God’s grace and favor, then—yes—it is utterly impossible. However, when viewed through the lens of Christ’s all-atoning cross; when viewed through the lens of your justification in Christ alone and because of Christ alone, it really is so simple. It’s all just faithful, thank-filled response to what God has already so richly and abundantly done for you in Christ. Love God and love your neighbor. Because of Christ, we have the privilege to love God and love our neighbor… just like He loves us. We love because He first loved us. We forgive and show mercy and grace and patience with all others because He forgives us and shows us His mercy and grace and patience in Christ and because of Christ.
And make no mistake: You can do this! In fact, God calls you to do this. Nothing prevents you from doing this. You lack nothing! I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. St. Paul says that you have been enriched in Christ in all speech and knowledge because of the grace first given you in Christ Jesus. You are not lacking in any gift. That Greek word—charismata—comes from the root word for “grace.” In a very wooden translation, God has gifted you with His grace in Christ, which means that in Christ you are not lacking in any “grace gift.” In Christ, you have 100% of God’s free gift of grace. In fact, we could go so far as to say that in Christ and through Christ your cup overflows. God gives you overflowing grace, which means that He gives you His grace in abundance to overflow to your neighbor. You’re not lacking in anything required to love God and love your neighbor. You have His overflowing grace, and you have it in never-ending abundance. What do you think of that?
I’ll end by again putting all the focus right where it needs to be—on Christ; on God’s mercy and grace and love for you, in the flesh. Look to this cross. Look to the Word and Sacraments in your midst. Here is Christ. Here is what God thinks about sin, and here is what God does for the sinner! It’s so easy. It’s so simple. Don’t over-think it. You are forgiven—100%. You are baptized and redeemed. You are a child of God and a co-heir of the Christ; no strings attached, no caveats, no terms and conditions may apply. What do you think of that?
May your thoughts, your words and your deeds—all of them—reflect this. May your words, thoughts, and deeds ever and always confess this gift of grace. May all that you say, think, and do be joyful response to all that He has done and continues to do for you, in Christ, through Christ, and because of Christ.
In His name and to His glory… AMEN.
Feel free to use any or all of this sermon for the edification of God's people. It is NOT necessary to ask my permission for any of it! In fact, you don't have to mention me at all. (I think it's highly problematic when pastors seek credit/glory for sermons inspired by the Holy Spirit!) Give praise to God for the fact that He continues to provide for His people.
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