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Sermon for Pentecost 17 [Pr 20]

September 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Mark 9:30-37

Augustana, 2012

Click here for mp3 audio 51 Sermon for Pent 17.mp3

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The text for the sermon is the Gospel reading for today from Mark chapter 9.

The Gospel today is really two different ideas and themes.  The first is Jesus prediction about His suffering and death, what we call His Passion, and the second is another issue entirely, but still closely related to the first, who is greatest in the kingdom heaven.  Remember what has just happened, Jesus had just taken Peter, James and John up on the transfiguration mount and revealed His glory in their presence.  We didn’t read that story recently, we skip it here so that we can have the transfiguration on the last Sunday in the Epiphany season before we head into Lent.  It can be a little confusing, I know.  So Peter, James, and John saw Jesus glory up on the mountain, while back down the mountain the rest of the disciples couldn’t cast the demon out of the man’s son.  That was last week’s lesson.  Given that set of circumstances, it’s not a wonder that a discussion arose among them as they were walking with Jesus about who was the greatest.  Remember how exasperated Jesus sounded last week?  “And he answered them, “O faithless generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him to me.” (Mk 9:19)  I’m thinking it was pretty evident it wasn’t the disciples who had failed to heal the boy.

That’s the setup for this week’s reading.  The first part is pretty straight forward.  As they went, Jesus taught the disciples quite plainly, “saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.” 32 But they did not understand the saying, and were afraid to ask him. (Mk 9:31–32)  The New Testament scholar Tom Wright says that he doesn’t know whether Mark wants to feel sorry for the disciples at this point or not but he sure does.  Jesus had been teaching using some parables that were not easy to understand and because they were so different than what they had learned to believe up to this point, they really didn’t understand what He was teaching them.  When Jesus has told them to beware the leaven of the Pharisees and Herod, they thought He was making a comment about them forgetting to pack the bread.  They had really struggled to try to understand something beyond the surface level of what Jesus was saying.  And now Jesus is speaking plainly with no secrets about what will happen and they don’t understand that either.  “He will be handed over; he will be killed; he will rise again.”[1]  Pretty clear stuff.

We should probably ask the broader question of ourselves.  When are we like the disciples here?  When do we read or hear a Word from the Lord and it runs counter to what we’ve always known and so we dismiss it?  I think this happen to us all more than we want to admit.  We’re quick to explain away Jesus’ commands like “turn the other cheek” and “sell your possessions and give everything to poor.”  We don’t see anyone doing it and if we do, then they’re the odd one out, the anomaly, the outlier, the freak.  “Jesus wouldn’t want me to be a doormat,” we say.  Except that way of reading Scripture infects our way of hearing other passages as well.  Perhaps even this passage.  If Jesus is the Son of God, why did He have to suffer so?  “It’s tantamount to divine child abuse.  God must be a wicked Father to use His Son like this,” they say, and dream up other meanings of why Jesus went to the cross.  Maybe He didn’t really know what was going to happen they speculate ignoring how this destroys not only the divinity of Christ but the foreknowledge of Son of God to participate in the plan of God’s rescue of the world.  And so now it’s important to ask ourselves the narrower question, “When are we like the disciples and understand nothing of what it means that Jesus willingly went to His death for us, for our sins?”  When do we not understand that Sunday, in fact every day, is about the new life we have in Christ on account of His death in our place?  The Wednesday night Bible class in studying 1 Corinthians where Paul makes it clear that he preached nothing but the word of the cross to them.  He preached nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  If the word of the cross is so clearly Paul’s sole mission, if preaching the word of the cross is so clearly what defines apostolic preaching, if Jesus’ cross, death and resurrection are so clearly the most important thing in the church, why do we pass over them, look past them, expect something better and more practical and quite frankly, a little less gloomy?  It’s because we’re forgetful, ungrateful sinners focused more on what we think we need than what we truly need.  And here’s the link to the next bit of the reading today.

“If we are thinking that by following Jesus we will enhance our own prestige, our sense of self-worth… or even our bank balance, then we’re very unlikely to be able to hear what God is actually saying.” (Wright, 123-24).  Think about how many times you’ve heard about getting to church and getting your life straightened out, as if church was merely a support group.  Think about the times you’ve thought about how your faith made you feel stronger and it’s a good thing you have a strong sense of belief, as if the Gospel was given just so that you could feel good about yourself.  Think about how many times you’ve heard that giving was a way to secure more blessings from God, as if the Gospel was given to give you access to great material wealth.  No.  Yes, Jesus is king, but the disciples are not his courtiers waiting to inherit their great earthly estates.  Jesus becomes king by being betrayed, and brutally killed and then, and only after then, will He will rise again.  Jesus is going to spend the next few chapters trying to show them they’re wrong.  He starts by picking out a toddler from the crowd and saying, “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me.”  Jesus is not being cute.  Throughout the ancient world, children were not thought highly of; they held no special prestige, nobody thought them innocent.  Jesus point was that the disciples won’t gain any political standing or social status by being His followers.  Too many times, Christians believe that being close to Jesus, even working full time for Him, made them somehow more special, when in fact, the greatest among them is the anomaly, the outlier, the one who doesn’t fit in.

Jesus walks to the cross of His death clearly and resolutely.  He is not taken by surprise when the temple guards come to arrest Him.  He goes out to meet them.  He willingly submits the strong arm of the Lord to be bound by the hands of those who have no power over God.  He submits to the judgment of those over whom He is supreme judge.  He hands over the authority to take His life from Him to those with no true authority.  He created even the hands that grasped the hammer and forged the nails that were drive through His hands.  As He breathes His last, His final Word is “It is finished.” For Him, death was not a consequence, but rather He chose it.  In His death, He chooses us so that we might not be given over to the death that is our just consequence.[2]

Are you certain that you understand this?  These are the Lord’s words, not mine.  They are light and life for all who believe.  Amen.

Let us pray.  “Lord, forgive us for our [struggles] for greatness. Remind us that You alone are great, for You have served the least among us. Amen.”[3]

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus.  Amen.


[1] Tom Wright, Mark for Everyone (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 2004), 122.

[2] Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, 13.6, as reprinted in A Year with the Church Fathers, 90.

[3] Edward A. Engelbrecht, The Lutheran Study Bible (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2009), 1677.

Sermon for Pentecost 16

September 20, 2012 Leave a comment

A sermon on James 3:1-12

Augustana, 2012

Note: I am indebted to Concordia Pulpit Resources for the outline and tone of this sermon. 

Click here for mp3 audio 50 Sermon for Pent 16.mp3

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The text for the sermon this morning is the Epistle reading for today from James.

There once was a man who, while listening to a sermon in church, was convicted of his sin, and he set out to do better.  “I have sinned against [God] in thought, word, and deed,” he’d said week after week, but this day he especially sensed it was true.  He reasoned his evil thoughts often caught him off guard and might be difficult to change.  His evil actions, he decided were often a product of his thoughts and words, his evil heart.  So in his effort to change, he would first focus on his words, his words were something he could change.  He thought, if he could catch himself before he said something he’d regret, he would also have more control over the things he did, and possibly in time, begin to control the things he thought and change his heart.

For a while, the man was very successful.  He always took his time when speaking.  He didn’t speak without considering what he would say.  He wasn’t always perfect, but then who is?  As time went on, though, he found himself lapsing back into his old habits.  He hurt people with what he said.  He created problems for himself with what he said.  I’ll try even harder, he thought, and he committed himself to being even more diligent.  But the harder he tried, the more he failed, or so it seemed.  Finally, one day, he gave up.

This story, really, is the same for every one of us.  The only question then is this:  What do we mean when we “give up”?  Are we admitting defeat?  Or is there a “giving up” that’s really moving forward?

Again this morning, James confronts us with the inconsistencies between faith and actions.  The warning we hear this morning is very clear, and what’s also clear is that no one is immune to the disease of sin.  “How great a forest is set ablaze by such a small fire!  And the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness.  The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell” (vv. 5b-6).  In the previous chapter, James addressed the issue of favoritism, but many of us might dismiss ourselves from these charges.  “Not me!  I would never show favoritism in church of all places.”  But this week, James’ charge should cut deeply into the heart of everyone who hears.  Your tongue is an agent of harm.  It is on fire with the fire of hell.  “For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue.” (vv. 7-8a)

No human. Not one, is innocent—not you, not me, no one.  And to drive the point home James reminds us of what we are all too capable of doing : we can sit here in the Divine Service, praising our God, and then leave here cursing His most precious creatures, other people.  We praise God one moment, and then the next the very same tongue, the one in our mouths, can utter such filth about other and even to others.  “Look at what he’s doing.  What a hideous man he is.  Look at her.  I can’t believe she wore that.  Imagine what God must think about him.  O God, I thank you that I am not like these people!”

St. Paul wrote: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).  James would agree wholeheartedly.  His proof is the tongue.  His proof is your tongue.  Our tongues cannot be tamed.  Sure, we try.  We try and try and try.  Just like the man I was just talking about, we put our mind to fixing our problem.  After all, we’re children of God; such a fiery tongue is not befitting of us.  Wouldn’t God want us to tame it so that it speaks only words that glorify Him?  Sure He would.  He does.  But the harder we try the worse it goes for us.  “If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body” (v2).  But I am not a perfect man.  Neither my tongue nor my body is bridled.  “Wretched man that I am, who will save me from this body of death?” (Rom 7:24).

So, is there nothing we can do?  Are we just doomed to live this life in a never-ending battle against a tongue that would just as soon destroy us as it would honor the God of our salvation?  Well, in a way, yes, and in another way, no.  The battle will go on for each of us.  But the very same words of the Epistle point us toward the victory that is ours in the battle.  The battle rages on, but the war is already over.  Listen again: “If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body”.  And here is the good news of God’s grace toward imperfect men and women like you and me.

For he grew up before him like a young plant,

     and like a root out of dry ground;

he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,

     and no beauty that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by men;

     a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief;

and as one from whom men hide their faces

     he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

Surely he has borne our griefs

     and carried our sorrows;

yet we esteemed him stricken,

     smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions;

     he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

     and with his wounds we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;

     we have turned—every one—to his own way;

and the Lord has laid on him

     the iniquity of us all.

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,

     yet he opened not his mouth;

like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,

     and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,

     so he opened not his mouth.

“And like a sheep that before its shearers is silent.”   All is not lost, and our tongues, though they rage with the fire of hell, will not condemn us.  “If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle his whole body.”  There is no man who is perfect, then, except one.  There is one who is a perfect man.  There is one who bridled his tongue and bridled his whole body.  There is one who lived the perfect life you and I cannot live.  There is one who deserved none of what He received at the hands those who hung Hi on the cross, but suffered every moment as he bore the burden of our sinful tongues.

That perfect one is Jesus Christ.  He lived and died exactly because our tongues are “a fire, a world of unrighteousness” (v 6).  He bridled his tongue even in the face of death so that we might receive His righteousness as He now lives in us.  So we need not “give up”, not in the sense of living in the despair of guilt.  Instead, we live as children of our heavenly Father.  We live as those given the inheritance of the only-begotten Son of God, who was silent on our behalf.  We live by giving in.

In the waters of Holy Baptism, that fire that burns from your tongues was extinguished.  The Word of God that you hear fills your mind and your heart with the pure truth from God.  That Word of God replaces all of the “other words” and gives your tongue something righteous to speak.  As you receive the body and blood of Christ, the wounds inflicted on you by the things you say are healed.  God’s grace is a saving flood that ne even the fires of hell can stand against.  And what you are helpless against on your own, you conquer in Christ Jesus.

There is no one perfect except Jesus.  You will try to bridle your tongue and your body and your mind and heart, but they will fail you.  And through we will never stop trying, our trying must now be in Christ—giving up on ourselves and giving in to Him.  In Him we receive the forgiveness of sins that goes way beyond giving up.  For “all things are possible for one who believes” (Mk 9:23b).  The Perfection that is impossible for us, Christ Himself has given to us.  In the forgiveness of all our sins, God makes us perfect—and thus renews us, strengthens us, and guides us according to His will.  Perfection comes only through the one perfect man, Jesus Christ.  But that perfect does come to us!  In Christ, the story does not end for that man we heard about at the beginning of the sermon, nor does it end for us, in despair and uncertainty.  In Christ, it ends in victory.  “Wretched man that I am!  Who will save me from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Rom 7:24-25a)  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Sermon for Pentecost 15

September 10, 2012 Leave a comment

Mark 7:31-37

Augustana, 2012

Note: This sermon kind of grew in the pulpit so there’s a significant difference between the manuscript and what was preached.  And one clarification, one parishioner stopped me after the service to remind me that the Mars lander Viking was also nuclear powered.

Click here for mp3 audio 49 Sermon for Pent 15.mp3

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

We live in amazing times.  When I was a kid, if someone had a phone in his car, it meant he was very rich and very important.  Now I bet most every one of you has a phone in your pocket or purse.  When I was a kid, computers took up whole rooms in buildings.  Now we can carry them around in our shirt pockets.  When I was in elementary school, I remember the first exploration mission to Mars, Viking.  Now we’re sending car-sized, nuclear-powered rovers to Mars.  I remember the first time I used my computer to visit an art museum in Paris.  Now I get hundreds of pictures from the public domain sources to sort through for the bulletin covers.  I could go on and on listing all the amazing things that are happening in our world today.  It’s truly an amazing time.

Yet what amazes me most is that none of this seems to amaze us anymore.  We’ve become so accustomed to new discoveries that they no long surprise us.  No one paid any attention to the space shuttle launches or landings unless something catastrophic happened.  Very few knew we landed a new rover on Mars.  We’re only amazed by our desktop computers when they don’t work or we can’t connect to the Internet.  The science fiction movies are so real we’re not surprised when science fiction becomes reality.  It begs the question, “Does anything amaze you anymore?”

But this sense carries over into other areas of our life too, especially when it comes to the amazing works of God.  What do you think, have we lost our sense of amazement when it comes to the powerful activities of our God?  The Gospel reading today recounts a powerful story of a deaf and mute man brought by His friends to see Jesus.  With a word of command, Jesus opens the ears of the deaf man and loosens his tongue.  Perhaps we need to consider something like this happening today.  Even if by cochlear implant, scientists and doctors could open the ears of a deaf person today but it still might take months of speech therapy for him to speak plainly.  When Jesus healed this man, He did it with a word, “Ephaphtha!”  And the man could hear and speak plainly.  The crowds who watched this happened they knew the man.  They are so amazed by what happened they can’t stop talking about what Jesus has just done.

In sharp contrast, we often find it very easy to keep our mouths shut about what God has done.  Are we no longer amazed by Him and what He does?  We seem to find it far easier to talk about the Panthers or the race than about anything God has done for us.  I was at the physical therapist Friday and they were all talking about Honey Boo Boo.  Just think of the opportunities we miss to talk about what Jesus has done.

We often read the Scriptures by seeing ourselves as one of the characters.  Today I’d like you to consider for a moment that you are the deaf man.  Often the word translated as “deaf” here can also be translated as “dull” or “blunt.”  Has your ability to hear the Word of God become blunted and dulled?  Does your conscience no longer bother you when you sin?  Have you fallen for the oldest trick in the book, “Did God really say that?”  Of which the newest iteration is, “But God wouldn’t want be to be unhappy.”  Really?  Have you read this book at all?  Has coming to church or attending Bible class, or even reading the Bible become not just a chore but more like an optional activity, something to do when you have a little extra time?  When our hearts are deaf to the calling and actions of our Amazing God, then it is no wonder that our witness is so muted as well!

When that happens, there is only one place to go.  This deaf man’s friends brought him to Jesus.  They pleaded with Jesus that He might lay his hands on him.  Through the word of authority Jesus opens the man’s ears and loosens his tongue.  Jesus works in the lives of people through His Word!  He does not blow in on the wind.  That’s why we are encouraged to come to the place where God’s Word is read and preached.  That’s why we are encouraged to read God’s Word in daily devotional reading.  That’s I encourage you to come to Bible class, to delve all the more deeply into the Word.  Through the Word Jesus speaks with His authoritative Word to change your life, to open your ears.  With the Law Jesus speaks to expose our spiritual bluntedness, our spiritual dullness, our deafness to even His Word.  But with the Word of His Good News, Jesus speaks the amazing story of His love and compassion and intimacy for us in manger, cross, and empty tomb.  That is the message that opens your dulled ears and blunted heart.  He makes your sin-dulled ears to hear clearly again the Good News of His love and forgiveness.

Through His Word, our Lord amazes us when no one and nothing else can.  Hearing what God has done in the Scripture opens our eyes and ears to the amazing things Jesus did in His death and resurrection and is even now doing for us.  Jesus has physically healed many of you, if not through the power of His Word alone, then through the hands of physicians and nurses and the Word of God.  Jesus has comforted many of you in your mourning and grief through the kindness of friends and the love of family and the sure certainly of the resurrection of the dead of which His resurrection is the proof.  In this building and in the Sunday school classrooms your ears have been opened on many occasions to hear Jesus’ great love for you.  Most amazing of all remains the future glory that we cannot yet see but can only hear about: the eternal beauty and joy and delight not just of heaven but the new heaven and the new hearth and the coming of the New Jerusalem for us and all who believe.  Oh, that will be amazing—and in ways that can’t now can’t even be put into words.  In the Gospel reading this morning the people were so amazed that like the dead man, their tongues were loosed and they couldn’t stop talking about what they had seen Jesus do.  Even still today God can amaze us, so that we can’t stop talking about what Jesus has done.

God is doing amazing things in your lives.  He says, “Ephaphtha!” to you. He has opened your eyes and amazed you.  He will unloose your tongue to tell the world what He has done for you and for all people.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Categories: Uncategorized

Sermon for Pentecost 14

September 5, 2012 Leave a comment

Mark 7:14-23

Augustana, 2012

Click here for mp3 audio 48 Sermon for Pent 14.mp3

 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The text for the sermon this morning is from the Gospel for today.  The Gospel reading today follows immediately from what we heard last week.  In fact this week, Jesus is responding to the Pharisees’ and scribes’ question about eating with unclean hands in v. 5 from last week.  “And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?”  It seems to reason in their minds that if one eats with unclean hands, the think one touches to put in one’s mouth is unclean and makes the whole person unclean.  If we are in any doubt, Mark makes sure we know Jesus is talking about eating clean foods in v. 19b.  Today we are dealing with similar theme to last week.  How does one regenerated by the Gospel follow God’s Law and in this case, what’s in God’s Law and what no longer counts?

Jesus is about to change forever how we are supposed to think about purity.  He is no longer just talking to the scribes and Pharisees, He calls the whole crowd in closer and announces like a prophet: “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”  Jesus takes the Pharisees conception of purity and turns it upside down.  It is hard for us to comprehend the difference of the change Jesus is advocating here.  The Pharisees no doubt reveled in the stories of the Jewish martyrs who had been executed for refusing to eat unclean foods, especially pork.  One of those stories was recorded in Fourth Maccabees.  “The tyrant Antiochus, sitting in state with his counselors on a certain high place, and with his armed soldiers standing about him, 2 ordered the guards to seize each and every Hebrew and to compel them to eat pork and food sacrificed to idols. 3 If any were not willing to eat defiling food, they were to be broken on the wheel and killed.” (4Mac.5:1-3)  What is a more modern equivalent to the kind of change in thinking Jesus is demanding?  I’m not sure.  Maybe walking into a white country church in the 1930s and telling them all races are equal in the sight of God?  Jesus is changing everything really.

He says that it’s not what goes into a person that makes him unclean, it’s what comes out of his heart.  Keep in mind the dietary laws called for a forced external purity but in reality pointed to the need for a purity of intention and purpose.  Those who get stuck on the external of the law never get to the heart of the matter, quite literally, which is the call of repentance.  The scandal of John the Baptist was not that he was in the wilderness preaching repentance and baptizing.  His scandal was that he was calling Jews to repentance.  Jesus continues in the same vein preaching an identical message of repentance to the House of Israel.  “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”

We must be careful of Jesus’ heart language and not get sidetracked.  This is precisely the kind of thing we expect to hear from Jesus but it can too easily fall on ears that are used to hearing that it’s what in the heart that counts but Jesus is not saying this.

Jesus is specifically not saying that physical things are irrelevant and spiritual things, hear things are good.  He is not saying that that the true path to perfect happiness if we get in touch with our deepest feelings or listen to what our heart is truly telling us.  He is saying something quite the contrary.  Jesus is saying, in fact he is insisting that external and physical actions come from internal and spiritual springs that are polluted at the source.  Jesus is saying that the poisoned wells of human motivation are the real problem which the food purity laws only could only point to.  I’m reminded by a quip from a friend who used to respond to the question, “Have you invited Jesus into your heart?” with, “Oh my dear Lord, why would he ever want to go in there!”  He used to respond to the question, “Have you given Jesus your heart?” “Eew, why would Jesus want that?”  Jesus says that it’s what comes out of a person’s heart that is defiling because it’s from the heart that come all evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.  Why would Jesus want your heart?

This is where the reading stops but we who know the rest of the story konw that the whole reason Jesus came was to bring a cure for the sin-poisoned heart of every person.  Jesus brings the balm to Gilead “to heal the sin-sick soul.”  And He brings this balm by getting rid of the old purity regulations that merely showed the need for purity.

I mentioned that this news changed everything.  Just how much so is very hard, I think, for us to comprehend.  The Jews had been surrounded for centuries by pagans.  The Pharisees were well aware that Israel was divided and then destroyed because of the failure to hear and heed the Law of God.  With the Roman occupation what could be more natural for the religious folks to enforce all the more vigorously the dietary laws, not just a powerful cultural symbol but an act of obedience to God.  In so doing they hoped to be the forerunners of new godly kingdom.  And then there comes on the wind a rumor from up north in Galilee.  There is a rabbi there who reportedly makes the lame whole; He even heals the blind and casts out demons.  They wonder, “Could he be the long awaited one?  Could God finally see their purity and bestow His Messiah on them?” And they head up to Galilee to see for themselves.  But no, this so-called rabbi cannot be the long-awaited one.  He eats with unwashed hands and even condones the practice.

But Jesus is saying to these guys and to us that we can get the kingdom of God all wrong if we think it’s about us keeping our hearts pure by following the rules.  Jesus came bringing with Him the restoration of the active dominion of God in our world the kind of which the miracles of Jesus were just a taste.  And Jesus came bringing the kingdom of God to everyone.  In God’s restored dominion, He is welcoming anyone and everyone who will repent and believe in the One whom He sent.  Even slacker Jews, even Gentiles, even Canaanite women, even Roman soldiers, if they repent and believe, are part of the kingdom of God.  Clearly this is Mark’s plan in telling the story because the next account is one of those Canaanite women believing in Jesus.  She’s included in the kingdom of God.  And that’s how you’re included in the kingdom of God.  Because God is welcoming you like He did all the others.  It’s not because you follow the Law of God as best you can.  It’s because Jesus gives you a new heart, the heart of God, a heart filled with His grace that purifies your wretched miserable, blackened, sin-stained excuse of a heart and makes it place where the Holy Spirit would actually dwell.  But again, this happens not because you fulfilled the Law but because Jesus did.

Jesus was not just setting the old Law aside.  Jesus’ point was that the food laws, as well as the rest of the purity laws didn’t actually solve the issue of the human problem.  This is what his perfect life under the Law and his death for sin addresses.  In Jesus, the promise made by the Lord through Jeremiah the prophet has come to pass.

 

In chapter 24, “I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart. (v. 7)

 And in chapter 31, 31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jer 31:31-33)

And in chapter 32, Behold, I will gather them from all the countries to which I drove them in my anger and my wrath and in great indignation. I will bring them back to this place, and I will make them dwell in safety. 38 And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. 39 I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. 40 I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. 41 I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul. (Jer 32:37-41)

 

Jesus came to give you a new heart.  The Law had spoken about purity and set the regulation as signposts to it; Jesus came to give actual purity.  Jesus gives you a new heart.  In Jesus every aspect of old Law is brought to completion, to fulfillment.  When you arrive at your destination you don’t need the signposts anymore, not because they were worthless but precisely because they were correct.

Our fathers in the early church taught that the Scriptures weren’t to be seen as a timeless code of behavior but as the story that always pointed to Jesus Christ like thousands of pictures that all captured the glory of the Coming One.  If we set aside the purity laws now, it’s not because they’re irrelevant but rather because we already have the purity to which they pointed on account of Jesus.  Who would rather look at a picture of his beloved when he or she was present in the flesh?  This is Jesus your perfection and pure righteousness.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

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