Sermon / Pr. Ted Giese / Sunday February 12th 2017 - / Matthew 5:21-37 / Jesus preaches about sin and hell and sex and marriage and divorce and murder and adultery and trustworthiness.
Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday February 12th 2017: Season of Epiphany / Matthew 5:21-37 "Jesus preaches about sin and hell and sex and marriage and divorce and murder and adultery and trustworthiness.”
“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.
“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is His footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.”
Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen.
Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. This is the third week in a row where we have had a portion of a sermon preached by Jesus; historically this sermon is called the Sermon on the Mount.
Most of you hear me preach sermons all the time, it’s expected of pastors, but how quick the World is to forget that Jesus also is a preacher. Some who don’t know Jesus all that well yet might expect that Jesus wouldn’t preach at them! Preaching has in modern times - in some circles - received a bad rap, it’s considered rude and impolite, but that mainly comes from the spirit of individual independence that saturates our culture. Everyone believes that they know what’s best for them and they only want to listen to someone else if they choose to. ‘Don’t preach at me!’ The World says. “Don’t preach at me about sex, and marriage, and divorce, keep your nose out of my business!” the World says. ‘Keep all that to yourself … if you keep it up I’ll get angry with you,” the World says, “Don’t preach at me about sin and hell!” the Word says. And yet here in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount Jesus preaches about sin and hell and sex and marriage and divorce and murder and adultery and trustworthiness – letting your ‘Yes’ be a yes and your ‘No’ be a no.
At different times these topics can cause great friction to the hearer. Jesus isn’t sugar coating anything. He’s not preaching soft words to you today. When words grate against the ears, the temptation is to stop listening and to disrespect the one preaching. We Lutherans know that this is a temptation and that there are people who fall prey to such temptations, yet all the more we as Lutherans then believe, teach and confess that the preacher is worthy not only of a wage (even when he speaks hard words like these words from Jesus today), but is also worthy of honour as Saint Paul says to Pastor Timothy in his first letter to Timothy, and more than that, that we believe, teach and confess that the preacher would be listened too. So even here in this Gospel Reading today, this portion of the Sermon on the Mount, from Matthew chapter 5 when the words are hard words, words that are hard to hear, you are asked to listen to the preacher Jesus as He preaches to you.
But why, you ask, in a world where individual independence is so highly valued aren’t Jesus’ words just His personal opinion? Some will ask that, but they are likely missing a detail that we talked about last week when we talked about how the very Word of God is active and how it works at changing the one who hears it as they listen and later as they think on it, that Jesus’ words to you change who you are. So while you cannot make even one of the hairs of your head white or black by your own willpower, by your own reason, or strength, by your own words, the Words of Jesus have power to change you. Do you believe this? Listen and see what happens. You may be surprised.
Remember again the theme of the season of Epiphany, this season is about the revealing of Jesus to the World, about the surprise that Jesus is to a World shroud in darkness. Here, in this part of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus surprises his hearers, and His words may also have surprised you, for those who have heard them before think back to the first time you heard them: Think back to the day when you had the realization that murder is also anger, and insults and unkind words; that adultery is also lust for someone other than your spouse, and that to ‘look but not touch’ is the same as having touched, that wanting the best for me - that wanting what the World says is ‘my best life now’ - is not sufficient grounds for divorce, that you seeking your “happiness” might just be callous selfishness, that it may in fact be a sinful failure to love. That short of sexual immorality there are no air tight reasons for divorce. This might make you angry at me just hearing me say these words, but remember these are not originally my words to say, they are the words given to us in the Gospel of Matthew, they are Jesus’ words. Notice also that when Jesus speaks of marriage He speaks of a husband and a wife, a man and a woman, that is how Jesus speaks of marriage, one man and one woman, again this is Jesus speaking, it might make you angry to hear me say it, but your anger is not truly with me.
Hear His words again: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” And “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.”
We preachers work at being careful to reflect the light of Christ Jesus in our preaching we do not want to soften the edge of Jesus’ words to suit your ears. This is because we pastors are sent by Jesus to preach, in Mark’s Gospel Jesus says, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” Today we will install our new associate pastor, Pastor Lucas Albrecht, he has been a preacher in Brazil – a world away from Canada – and now he has come here to Canada which is a world away from Brazil. He has received the same command from Jesus to go and preach as I have received just as the various men who have preached to you from this pulpit have likewise received this command. This responsibility is not a new one, in fact, standing in the wings that day as Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount were the 12 disciples, they were learning from Jesus as the listened. His words were moulding and shaping them to be preachers of God’s Word. In the same sort of way Jesus’ words mould and shape you into being hearers of God’s Word: All Christians, from the youngest to the oldest, and everyone in between, need to be hearers of God’s Word. For as saint Paul says, Christian “faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”
Faith in Christ then is what apprehends and holds fast to the forgiveness He gives. No faith no ability to hold onto the gift of forgiveness. No faith, no return to the Lord when you have failed, that means no repentance for sin. No sorrow for sin. No faith no respect for the Word Jesus preaches to you. This is why Jesus will often say, “He who has ears to hear let him hear.” If the Father has not opened the ear, the Holy Spirit will not entre the heart, and the Words of Christ will be scattered on ears of stone, hearts of stone. This is why a good prayer is “O Lord keep my ears open, circumcise my heart of stone and plant the seed of Your Word there, water it, prune it, make it grow, give me everything I need to do the works You lay out before me, and bring forth the fruit You desire to bring forth from me.” Remember if you and I can't change even one hair of our head to be white or black how then can we change our own hearts? How can we change our minds? How can we make our soul clean? Who then has the power to change you? Change your heart, your mind, your soul? Jesus is the one with the power to change you. His word is sure. His "Yes" is yes and His "No" is no.
When talking about the trouble we all have with sin and evil in our lives Saint Paul asks a great question, he says, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” He continues to say, “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” Yes Saint Paul says it is through Jesus Christ that he, and you and I are saved from ourselves. Keep this in mind …. And listen again to what Jesus says to you. “If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.” Your Christ Jesus, Christ Jesus the Saviour and Redeemer who God the Father sent out of love for the whole world had, and has eyes that never sinned, not once. This is good news! He had and has hands that never sinned, not once. This is good news! He never engaged in unrighteous anger, He is faultlessly patient and kind. This is good news! This means that Jesus went to His death at the cross without any personal guilt over the kinds of sin that we are guilty of. Yes, at the cross it was your sin was put on Him, He nailed your sin to the cross there and it all died when He breathed His last. Because of Jesus your whole body will not go to hell, in fact no part of you will ever see hell. Your eye will not see it; your hand will not feel the heat of the unquenchable fire of hell because of Jesus’ life death and resurrection.
An interesting thing to think about in connection to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is that while you will not see or touch hell because of Jesus, Jesus Himself did go there. This was not to suffer in any way. After His death and before His resurrection we confess that Jesus “descended into hell.” In this we “simply believe that the entire person [of Christ Jesus], God and man [the 2nd person of the Holy Trinity, who was made flesh in His incarnation and was born of the Virgin Mary], after [His death and] burial descended into hell, [when He was there He] conquered the devil, destroyed the power of hell, and took from the devil all his might.” Which means that in Christ Jesus the devil, and hell, have no dominion over you. You belong to Jesus. Why do we believe this? Because God’s Word says it in 1 Peter 3, where Saint Peter writes, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which He went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison,” that is in Hell. You then received full assurance of this victory in your baptism. As the water and the Word, by the command of Christ was poured over you, you received this precious gift. Today in our 11am Service little Van receives this same precious, perfect, faultless Christ Jesus, the one who preaches to you today with the Words of the Gospel of Matthew. Listen to His Words, live lives worthy of Him and when you fail do not turn to yourself for comfort or forgiveness, turn to Him. Turn to His Supper, to His Word, and receive His forgiveness. He has paid every penny for your release from the prison of sin and death. Amen.
Let us pray:
Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.
 1 Timothy 5:17-18
 Mark 16:15-16
 Romans 10:17
 Romans 7:24-25
 Concordia The Lutheran Confessions Reader’s Pocket Edition, Solid Declaration IX: The Descent of Christ to Hell, Concordia Publishing House 2006, pg 863.
 1 Peter 3:18-19