July 22, 2017
Verse: Matthew 5:17–18
Christ Lutheran Church
July 23, 2017
by: Rev. Dean Kavouras
Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them, but to fill them up. For truly I say to you that until heaven and earth should pass away not the smallest letter, nor the least stroke of a pen of the Law shall pass away, until all things should be accomplished. Matt. 5:17-18
The word Jesus speaks to us today can be understood in two ways.
On the surface his teaching makes a certain amount of religious sense. Jesus shows himself to be the New Moses, only more exacting! What Moses made difficult, Jesus makes impossible.
Moses said, “You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. Jesus says: 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 fires of hell.”
Moses says, ‘You shall not commit adultery.' Jesus says: that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. And so 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.
After these and similar teachings the Lord concludes his no-tolerance policy with a threat: Unless your righteousness exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees you shall in no way enter the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 5:20) And with a command: You must be perfect, therefore, even as your Father in Heaven is perfect. (Matthew 5:48)
Now if we hear today’s gospel in that vein only it will benefit us. It will do us good because the generation that presently inhabits the face of God’s green earth is the most stiff-necked generation ever to breathe its beautiful air.
Even the generation that built the Tower of Babel; even that condemned generation was not as contemptuous of their Creator as we are today! Their plan was to build a Tower so high that they could rise higher than God himself, so that they could control him, and never fear that he might once again destroy the whole world with a flood of Divine Vengeance.
Like that mutinous generation we, too, need to hear God’s threats! We, too, need to know that there are firm distinctions between godly and ungodly behavior, however-much the culture wishes to erase the lines of distinction. We need to know that we are liable to judgment for every infraction of divine law, even the tiniest; and that we will never get out of prison until we have paid the last penny. Yes, we need to hear all of that because it’s the only language that flesh understands.
As you are well aware the public gets its nose out of joint these days, over the way the police talk to criminals, but that is the only language criminals understand. You have to talk that way. You can’t reason with the rapist. You can’t say, “Sir, would you please remove your arm from around the nice lady’s trembling neck, gently place your hunting knife on the ground, and kindly get into the backseat of the police car.”
Likewise Flesh only understands the language of fear! Medicate it if you like, analyze it wish, or put it on a gluten-free diet, but it will not help because the Flesh’s motto is this: “Give me what I want, when I want it, and don’t ever stop.”
There may be a lot of things people can fix, but you can’t fix this one. The only prescription for stopping sinful nature, for stopping its violent assaults against heaven, and deadly aggressions against one another, is the one we hear in today epistle: it must be killed. It must be drowned, and put to death in the deadly water of holy baptism.
Now if this is the only message you hear from today’s Gospel it will benefit you. It will do you some good. It will get a nice, firm grip on your long, soft rabbit ears, and ungraciously rip you up out of the rabbit hole of self-fascination, where you live ever-so-peacefully, and ever-so- happily. And brusque though the Lord’s word may be, once you above ground you will see glorious light. You will see Jesus! And he is the actual subject, and right interpretation of today’s Gospel. To see him is to see everything, and to miss him here is to miss everything.
The “Law and the Prophets” to which the Lord refers is shorthand for Old Testament religion.The religion God established until he should bring his Savior into the world. The Old Testament was the beautifully set table that invited men to come and dine! That tantalized, and promised, the richest fare and finest wine. But Jesus is the fare. His flesh is the Food, and his Blood the drink that “fills to the brim our cup of blessing, and gives us a foretaste of the Feast to come.”
Yes, He is Heaven's Bread baked in the furnace of the cross. God's Lamb slaughtered on the tree, in order to nourish us to life. He is the food, the table, and the one who sets it before you in the presence of your enemies (Psalm 23:5). Men have always fed on him, his Teachings, his Truth and his Love, his Body and his Blood. You are those men! And may God give us this Bread always. (John 6:34)
Yes, when the Lord bowed his head in death the word we hear in today’s gospel was fulfilled.
The Old Covenant was brought to an end, and the New Testament in his blood established. It is for this reason that we read the Ten Commandments with new eyes. The reason that, though the Decalogue forbad graven images, the church ignores that command and freely utilizes statuary, crosses, crucifixes, sculpture, and other such furnishings as aids to liturgize the Most High. For we have the true image of God among us. It is Jesus on the cross. Jesus in the water. Jesus in the word and on the altar; who transfigures us into his own, dazzling image today, as we kneel at the rail. As we situate our whole being, our whole person between the font and the altar, before the cloud of the chancel from whence the Divine Word is spoken. And there have holy communion with our God!
The Old Covenant was fulfilled, and “all things” were “accomplished”. The old creation that was ruined by sin, and that forced us live sub-human lives is now “passed away”; and a New Creation is begun. A New Creation with New Creatures, brought forth from the sea of baptism and formed in the image of the Son. You are those New Creatures.
Yes, all things are fulfilled. The Divine Mission accomplished. And so now let us eat, drink and be merry! Let us live in Christ, like Christ and for Christ. + Amen.