The Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany (A)
“In Case You Were Wondering”
February 5, 2017
Sermon Text: Matthew 5:17-20
Peace be unto you from the One who is God incarnate, our Savior, Christ Jesus. Amen.
Dearly Beloved of the Lord,
When you come right down to it, we are no different sitting here this morning in the house of the Lord, hearing the Word of the Lord, than those who were actually sitting with Christ back then… the Twelve and whoever else was present… as He, Jesus, the living Word of God, spoke to them.
We are no different in wanting to hear what He had to say… in seeking to understand what all of it means, including the true meaning and import of Christ’s coming… what He said He would do and what He actually did do… for us… for our salvation.
We constantly seek a greater understanding because, quite frankly, living in this flesh of ours, living in this world of ours, we can become so easily confused. Our minds are apt to wonder and wander and so, too, the heart and then our feet follow and before you know it, we are a long ways away from where we started… where the Lord graciously put us, placed us, in Holy Baptism. Not to mention where He has lovingly taken us in His Word, in His Church, since then.
And one thing that is so easily misunderstood, by those sitting with Jesus then and those… all of us… who are in His presence now… is the Law of God and what our Lord “did with it” so to speak.
There were those back then who believed that the Law which, by then, included a supplemental body of the man-made, man-added encumbrances and great burdens, would be done away with by the Messiah who they certainly hoped Jesus was… or would be.
Ah, to be free from it all. But as was the case then, is the case now, most people do not know what true freedom is… what it consists of. They are repulsed by the idea that such freedom, true freedom, is found in Christ as we gladly serve Christ, obey Christ, are “slaves” of Christ.
Well does St. Paul, in our Epistle lesson, contrast the “wisdom” of the world with the wisdom, the knowledge and understanding that is ours in Christ… ours here, in His Word. We read, “Among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.
(1 Corinthians 2:6-7)
Also, there are those today… and have been those down through the centuries… who believe that with Christ, the Law is no more. And here a quick lesson in Hebrew and also theology will help (This is great. You can amaze your friends).
What did our Lord say in our Gospel text? “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” (Matthew 5:17)
The “Law” He refers to is, yes, what we usually think it is, namely the Commandments which, as you know, He goes on to speak more about and uphold in our text.
But the word “Law” in the Hebrew language is “Torah” which also refers to the first five books of the Bible… the books of Moses… say them with me – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. Add to those the writings of “the Prophets” that Christ mentions… and you have the bulk of the Old Testament.
So when our Lord says He did not come to abolish “the Law or the Prophets” He is saying that He did not come to abolish God’s Word as spoken and written of old, but what? To fulfill them! To fulfill Scripture.
This is so important to know, my friends, because there are those… have been those and will always be those… who have written off the Old Testament saying that, in Christ, it is of no further use, no value or import any more. And that includes writing off everything found in the Old Testament where, oh look, there’s the Law of God in the “narrow sense” … again, the Ten Commandments, which are now supposedly of no significance because of Christ and what He did on the cross, effectively doing away with them.
No. He did not! And He says exactly that in our text telling the people then and all of us now that in case you are wondering, I did not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets… and certainly what is found therein, namely God’s commands, His Word, His will, His promises… but rather, to fulfill them.
This Christ certainly did in all of His life here on earth, beginning with His incarnation and birth, with His ministry in Word and deed, and in His salvific death on the cross and His glorious resurrection.
Take careful note that Christ did not say on the cross “It is abolished.” But rather, “It is finished.” (John 19:30) In other words, “It is fulfilled.” He… Jesus… the Son of God and the Son of Man… keeping the Law perfectly for us. Jesus offering up His very self, His holy life, His precious body and blood in full payment of the Law’s demands.
No. In case you are wondering… the Law of God is not gone. Far from it. What is gone, though, for us and for all the faithful, is the weight of the same, the immense weight of the Law crushing down upon us. Christ bore it all… the full weight of it all… the full weight of our sin… for us… on the cross. Done and done.
No. The Law is not gone. But what is for every Christian man, woman and child… is any fear of the same… any terror of the same in terms of what the Law brings to all who break it… to all who transgress it… who do not keep it perfectly… to the very last little part of it… namely the bringing of all sorts of woes here on earth, but then eternity in hell and torment.
To the unbeliever… the unfaithful and faithless who persist in sin… they have every reason to be afraid and then some… even if… given their obstinate heart and mind and due to the blindness of their sin, they are not afraid. They should be. They will be… the moment that they draw their last breath or the moment Christ comes again in glory… whatever comes first. It will be their last… the last moment of any so-called freedom from fear… any freedom at all… ever.
Yes, this is serious stuff, sobering stuff, as we consider what could have been and should have been for us, but is no longer in Christ Jesus… that which sadly is still the case… still very much reality… for those who live in the moment, for the moment and what makes them happy. Those, including dear family members and friends who want you to be happy for them. But you cannot, we cannot… not unless we ignore the truth and yes, the Law of God… or go against it ourselves. As hard as it is… we need to be honest with people we care about in light of what they face. To do otherwise certainly is not loving or caring.
Switching the focus here… what a different story it is for us… for all true believers… for all who confess Jesus Christ to be their Lord and Savior… those who fervently believe that He fulfilled the Law for them… that He defeated sin, death and the devil for them… and live accordingly. In our case… with us… all fear is gone, thanks be to God.
Every kind of fear… gone. Any kind of fear… gone…including, as was said, the fear of the Law. For you see, as Christians, we instead (and this just drives the people of the world nuts thinking we are nuts) find joy in the same. We find joy in the Law of God.
What? Why? How can this be? Because the Law of God… yes, the Ten Commandments of God and all that is divinely revealed in Scripture… is simply the will of God and what He wills that we do and not do… that which He knows is good for us, the very best for us.
And it is our great joy and good pleasure to carry out His will in our lives… to do His will… to keep His Word, His statutes… for we know it pleases God so and that we will be blessed, blessed beyond measure as we walk in His will and His ways all of our days… free… truly free in Christ.
That’s it. Just thought I would share all of this with you because… of infinitely greater importance… your loving God wants it shared with you… in case you were wondering! Amen.
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus, unto life everlasting. Amen.
“In Case You Were Wondering”
2/5/17 The Rev. Mark H. Hein
St. Paul’s Ev. Lutheran Church, Lockport, IL