Be joyful in HOPE,
patient in affliction,
faithful in prayer.
Share with the Lord’s
people who are in need.
Romans 12:12-13

7th Sunday of Pentecost-2022

Sermon text: Matthew 5:20-28:
In these words from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus is speaking the Law that condemns. This preaching condemns sins and it condemns people. At first, it doesn’t seem right that Jesus is condemning sins. Right outside our church on our sign, all day long it shows the verse that says: “God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through Him” (Jn 3:17 EHV).
This leads people to say that Jesus doesn’t condemn anything, so His Church is unlike Jesus when it condemns sins. Jesus appears to be agreeing with them when He says, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” He is saying that when it comes to the commandments you are not to be a Pharisee. You are not to look at the sins of someone else, even the depravity in society, and shake your head at how bad everyone else is. You are to look in the mirror and see if you are perfect – because that is the only righteousness by which you can enter the kingdom of heaven.
This might lead people to think that Jesus is saying not to talk about the sins, that you have to “shut up about it” when it comes to actual sins. This is how people react when we speak against the 5th commandment sins such as abortion, suicide, drug use, and the body mutilation that happens in transgender surgeries. And when we speak against 6th commandment sins such as sexual promiscuity, couples living together before marriage, and what is now rampant: homosexual behavior and so-called same-sex “marriage,” declaring alternative sexual identities, changing gender, etc. To speak against these sins gets you accused of being unkind, unlike Jesus. “He would never do that!” they say.
But that’s wrong. Notice, that Jesus does talk about the sins. So He’s not saying to shut up about these sins. He condemns them. But this is known as His foreign or strange work, it isn’t natural for Him to speak words of condemnation. On the other hand, His proper work, His intended work, the reason He’s here, is to forgive sins. The main issue, which goes to the point of not being a Pharisee, is to not hear Jesus speaking about them. He’s speaking to you. But His goal isn’t to condemn the sins; His goal is to forgive the sins.
1. Jesus demands that we hate these sins as a grievous foe.
That’s the language in the confession of sins in our ELS hymnal. The world that we live in takes these two commandments and demands the opposite: at first, to be non-committal about these sins, to take a live-and-let-live approach, but then to approve of them and say this evil is good.
Jesus isn’t only teaching about the outward act, but He’s teaching about inward obedience, which means: in the heart, the thoughts, the desires. Which would include whether you approve or are non-committal toward these sins. He doesn’t give you that latter position as an option. Because that’s where the sin starts, in the heart.
So Jesus says such things as “whoever is angry with his brother without a cause” is guilty of murder, and “whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
So what do you think? Is Jesus non-committal on the 5th commandment sins which include abortion, euthanasia, and suicide? Does He condemn murder? Does Jesus think it’s not a big deal if you have sinful anger or if you won’t forgive? Is it OK with Him if a person abuses alcohol or recreational drugs? What about surgeries that mutilate the body in changing someone’s gender? Jesus isn’t neutral about it.
Then the 6th commandment, “You shall not commit adultery.” Does Jesus think a person can do whatever they want with their body and with their sexual desires? Does Jesus think that if two people of the same sex “love” each other then who is He to stand in the way of what they’re doing?
Going on with the 6th commandment: Does Jesus think divorce is just what happens? Does Jesus think “hooking up” is just what teenagers are going to do? Would He tell people not to watch or listen to things that treat someone else as an object for the passion of lust? Would Jesus support a person changing their gender because they don’t “feel” male or female? Would He approve of parents helping this happen?
The answers to all of these questions are consistent. Jesus is serious about sin. He does not tolerate it or excuse it.
We see the approval of these sins in today’s world. But we even have a hard time holding back the approval of these sins in our midst. Because we’re affected by the world we live in, which is always trying to get us to accept what God forbids. The devil uses this to change our faith. So we do need Jesus to teach the 5th and 6th commandments.
But the main reason we need Him to teach the 5th and 6th commandments is not about what others are doing wrong, or even avoiding having sins – which might lead us to think we have our own righteousness which is from the law, and to rely on our works – but it’s so that we repent.
We need Jesus to teach the 5th and 6th commandments because we all have an Old Adam. It will tell you other people are way worse than you. It will tell you that you know better. It will tell you to get all worked up about gay marriage or transgenderism and not see how you are not taking care of your marriage. It will tell you to be indignant about abortion and not look at how you don’t do a good job of treasuring your own children in how you worship your work.
Your Old Adam will also seek the approval of others and lead you to change what you think based on what others say. It’s another way that we seek our own righteousness, even in the eyes of others. Or your Old Adam will simply lead you to say: “I want to do what I want to do.”
So Jesus does condemn these sins of yours against the 5th and 6th commandments. But remember why:
2. Jesus loves to forgive these sins.
He wants you to look in the mirror and see that you are not perfect and your righteousness is not good enough. He wants you to repent. He wants the 5th and 6th commandments to condemn you – so He can save you.
He is your righteousness. He has, and He is, the perfect righteousness by which you enter, and you are actually in, the kingdom of heaven. He was tempted in every way as you are, and He did not sin. He gives this perfect righteousness to you. In Christ, you are nothing but forgiven.
This is the good news Jesus has for all people. But you, who are baptized, have an advantage. You traveled to the baptismal font and drowned your Old Adam. As today’s epistle said (Rom. 6:3-11), your old self was crucified with Him and you received a new nature, your forgiven self, that wants to die to sin and live to Him and walk with Him in a new kind of life. You are a baptized child of God, so you know He doesn’t want to condemn you but wants to save and forgive you. You know that He wants to wash you clean from these sins.
This is why you’re here. We begin each service “in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” so you’re returning to your baptism. You’re here to confess the sins He condemns, and you know that through His servant He forgives all your sins. You come to the Lord’s Supper to be cleansed with His blood. The chalice, the one cup, in holy communion is a visual sign of the fountain of God’s mercy and forgiveness from His blood flowing into and cleansing each communicant.
For those who are guilty of “You shall not kill,” those who have had an abortion, those who have been addicted to drugs or alcohol, those who struggle with hatred, prejudice, and refusal to forgive, for those who have entertained thoughts of self-harm or acted on them, for those who hate the body He made, what does Jesus say to them, to you?
For those who are guilty of “You shall not commit adultery,” those who have looked with lust at a woman or man who is not your spouse, those who struggle with wrong desires, and those who have looked at or listened to things that presented another person’s body as an object to be used, those who have broken apart what God joined together with a divorce, those who have been sinned against sexually, what does Jesus say to them, to you?
He says: “Forgiven.” He says: “I love you.” He says: “Peace to you.” He wants them all. He wants you. Unlike the unbelieving world, He doesn’t ignore these sins or say they don’t matter. Because He actually loves you. You and your salvation matter. He deals with the sins, just as He did not shrink from them but dealt with them on the cross. He teaches about these things so you repent, so you bring your sinful thoughts, words, and deeds to Him. So that He can say to you, through His called servant, that He has put away these sins completely. You are forgiven. You are clean.
If it’s hard to believe, He tells it to you some more. He even joins His flesh with yours in His Supper, to show you that He is one with you, one flesh, so you’ll believe that your body is not defiled. He, the Holy One, dwells in you.
Jesus teaches the commandments so He can powerfully speak your sins away, and powerfully speak the Gospel into you, and make you His new creation, pure and holy. Amen!