In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
It is lawful heal on the Sabbath. The Pharisees know it but they won’t admit it. They must surely know that the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath. But pride runs deep. They desire the high opinions of men. Their fallen hearts wish it to be illegal. For if it was then they would be better than Him and they would not be the most pitiful of men. They know it isn’t illegal. So they say nothing. Cowards! Despite their knowledge they remain in their sin. They are too proud to repent. They will not admit they are wrong. They are stupidly, embarrassingly, shamefully stubborn. They will go to Hell rather than be humbled.
It is completely unnecessary and unreasonable. But it is no strange thing to us. We have watched ourselves destroy the best things in life, throw away friendships, alienate family – all because of some ill-conceived and damned sense of honor. It is just a lie but we carry on anyway. We want to be cowboys, self-sufficient, strong, and brave, heroes of our fantasies – but that is not the way our friends see us. They see our vanity, our posturing, our hiding, and politicking. If they were not forgiving, forbearing, patient, and kind we’d have no friends at all, let alone spouses, children, and employers. We think we are lions, but we are toothless poodles howling at the moon, while the wolf laughs in the shadows and waits for his hour.
We have been as silent as the Pharisees when it suited us. Sis has brought home her live-in boyfriend for Christmas and we all played along. We all suspect he’ll be gone by Valentine’s day but we act like he is her husband. Mom was sure to treat him just like she treats the in-laws. We give him gifts and hang a stocking precisely because he is violating our sister! We are sure that he will break her heart and run away and we’ll be glad when he does. But for the time being we don’t want a scene. Anything but a scene. Anything but the Truth. Numb, drugged, afraid – we enable and engage in the worst sins of men. Silent when the truth needs to be spoken, more concerned with the moment than with the future, more worried about publicity than the fate of our souls, more desirous of esteem and popularity with men than the love of God.
He laid in the grave silent for thirty-nine hours. His rest spanned three days but included every second of the Sabbath. While He was there there were no defenders, no confessors, no apostles, to tell the Truth. All the world was silent. Those would be apostles hid in fear. It seemed as though the Pharisees had won. They had shut God up and His Bride as well. They thought, “Now, no one will dare to heal, no one will dare to speak against our lies again.” They thought they had won. We have sometimes acted like they did. But they did not. The Law is now full.
A strange thing happened with the rising of the sun eight days after the Hosannas and the “Blessed is He that cometh in the Name of the Lord.” The sun’s rays came over the horizon and woke the Son of God. The seal cannot hold Him. The stone would praise Him not keep Him dead. He gave the tomb back to Joseph. The guards were speechless. Their mockery and their blasphemy no longer has a voice. They are dead. He is alive. They are humbled. He is exalted. He has won. Soon every tongue will say it: Jesus is Lord!
This is the great Truth: Jesus died and rose again to reconcile sinners through the Spirit to His Father. There is no other truth, no other doctrine. It all springs from this. That is why we cannot be silent. It is too important, too urgent. We must warn those still caught in the web of death, enslaved to lust and greed and violence.
The world wants to know why we have to keep preaching against their pet sins. They are not for murder and thievery, at least not the overt kind. They do not mind us being against that. But they like their supposedly victimless crimes. What does it matter what two consenting adults do? Why can’t we just shut up and let them have their fun. Well it is wrong. It hurts. It is dangerous. It destroys faith. It separates men from God. It mocks His death. It subverts His order and His promises. It is a lie. And it kills. Sin is never victimless. Consider the sin of prostitution. Victimless? No! They are both victims, she worse than he, but he as well, both trapped, both sick, both afraid, both living precariously, in guilt and shame. Should we be silent? Should we be afraid of what they think and look the other way? Is it unlawful to heal on the Sabbath? No! There is a better way – a way of healing and grace, a way of forgiveness and acceptance, a way of truth and of dying to live.
Be humbled in the cross of Jesus Christ. Let the world scoff at you all it wants but do not let the dropsy of sin go unanswered. Do not be intimidated by those lying Pharisees. They did not win. Speak the Truth. It will drive back the night and some will believe and thank you for it. God has loved men in His Son. Proclaim the Truth. Let them know that they can come home. He is not mad. He loves them.
This is true also for you. Hypocrisy and cowardice, the pet sins of God’s children, notwithstanding. He forgives and forgets even those. He comes to exalt you, to heal you, and let you go. He invites you to a banquet of grace. There on your knees He lifts you up to the highest place on earth -the place where God dwells in Flesh hidden in bread and is joined to His people. He places Himself inside you. This Sacrament, this Holy Supper, is a Holy Communion, a foretaste of the Feast to come. You are reconciled to the Father. His Kingdom is put into your mouth. You are the temple of the Most High. You are righteous.
Weakest, blindest, cowardly stupid and silent, still you are His beloved in His only-Begotten. He is well pleased with you. He has invited, welcomed, and honored you. You were not worthy. You cannot repay Him. You have no right to be here. But it is not a mistake. He bids you to come and be His honored guest. Though you are not worthy, He is worthy. He is worthy to invite. He knows what He is doing. He did not die in vain. The invitation is valid. It makes you who were unworthy, worthy. Ask not, “Why me?” The answer is not in you. That question was designed by the devil. It is Christ’s invitation – that is what matters. His death and resurrection are enough. They are worthy. You are His. In Him you are worthy. He says, “Friend, go up higher.” Soon – you will go all the way. His mercy endures forever.
In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Rev’d David H. Petersen
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Fort Wayne, Indiana