Trinity 6 (reworked from 2013)
July 8, 2019 A+D
In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
It is possible to twist the good news of God’s love into something perverse. Anyone who says: “God forgives my sins so my sins don’t matter and I can do what I want” is a blasphemer.
Jesus warns against this in today’s Gospel. He says: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” The Law is not evil, nor is it arbitrary. Its moral code and patterns are good. They embody and express God’s good and gracious will. It was not an accusation when God told Adam not to eat the forbidden fruit in the garden. Nor did it damn him. It was simply good. It instructed Adam. It taught him who God was and who he was. The Law is still good even though our fallen flesh hates and chafes against it. The Law has not been abolished and it cannot be abolished. It has, however, been fulfilled and thus in being fulfilled it instructs the Christian more fully than before.
The Law is fulfilled by Our Lord’s active and passive obedience. His active obedience is that He did not sin. He lived according to the Law of Moses. He did not engage in lustful thoughts or envy or drunkenness. He loved his neighbor as Himself and held nothing back. He was good the way that we are evil. For He was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary without sin and, though He was sorely tempted throughout His earthly life, and had to live among sin with sinners and with the consequences of other people’s sins, He did not sin. He kept the law.
His passive obedience is the mirror image. Even though He was without sin He suffered the full punishment due to sinners. He accepted the punishment meant for others. He fulfilled all of Justice’s demands against us. So He fulfilled the Law by doing everything it said to do and refraining from all that it forbid. He also fulfilled the law by allowing it to do to Him all it should have done to us. In this way, He ended the Law’s accusations against us and won our salvation to give to us as a gift without merit or worthiness in us. God be praised!
But this did not render the accusations and demands of the Law stupid or meaningless. The Law was never arbitrary. Jesus did not jump through hoops for us. He kept the Law. The Law is God’s will for our lives. The active obedience of Jesus Christ was not only substitutionary. It is also an example. Fulfilling the Law shows Christians how to live and how to die. He not only resists temptation in our place and tells us to resist temptation but He also shows us how to resist temptation. He inspires us to fight harder because we love Him as sons love their Father and we want to be like Him. He shows us how to live, what is good, what love looks like.
He didn’t give Himself as an example because He wanted to make you feel guilty. He gave Himself as an example that you might rejoice and grow up in Him. Imagine the little boy who sees his father chopping wood and wants to be like him. Does the boy feel guilty that when he tries he does not do as good of a job as his father? No. He basks in his father’s attention and is eager for the day when he will be like him.
The Law does passes away. It of interest to weak Christians and strong Christians, to theologically immature and to theologically sophisticated. You can’t be a Christian and despise God’s Law. Having been fulfilled and embodied in Jesus Christ, the Law is more eternal, more substantial, than ever. It does not pass away and to love Jesus is to love His Law.
His passive obedience is also in our stead and is an example for us. He shows us how to live by faith, to trust in God’s goodness in the midst of evil, how to make a good confession, even, really, how to be a Christian, because He shows us how to die as He dies for us. He shows us not just how to resist temptation and keep the Law but also how to live in a world that is full of sin and sorrow and injustice. Allowing the Law to do to Him what it should have done to us He makes the Law more real, more solid and lasting than it was before.
When God gave the Law through Moses, it was only an outline of God’s will. Now, in Christ, the innocent Man crucified, the Law has flesh and bones and is everlasting. He is the very opposite of the man of lawlessness. He is the Law in the Flesh, obedient to His Father in perfect joy.
For the sake of those who are in danger of despair, whose sins weigh heavy on them, who are disappointed in the messiness and pain of their lives, caused by their sins and the sins of others, He has offered us a refuge of pardon. He is quick and glad to forgive. He receives and eats with sinners. The Law has been fulfilled in Him for you. Your sins are not too big or too shocking or too old. His grace is for you.
And because of those who are in danger of taking His mercy for granted, for the sake of those who might be deluded by delays and think their sins are insignificant or even honorable, He has made the day of death uncertain. No one knows when his last hour will come. You do not know and you should fear God’s wrath and the possibility that the last day would come in the midst of your sin. You should repent and not become arrogant in hope as though it were a right. Even as we should not give in to despair but should trust in Christ’s fulfillment and promises, so also we should believe that He has not come to abolish the Law.
He said to the woman caught in adultery: “There is no one to accuse you, nor do I condemn you.” She was thereby secure in the past. Her sins were not counted against her. She was not condemned. Neither are you. He loves you. Your past is forgiven. But then He said to her: “Go and sin no more.” His law is not a recommendation or suggestion. Sin not only angers God. It also places the soul in peril. To you He says: “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
The gentle kindness of the Lord is not weakness or uncertainty. Sin is never trivial. Repent. Set your heart and mind once more to be free of sin, to amend your life, to bear fruits of repentance. And rest in the pardon bestowed constantly through the Word of God, prayer, and the Holy Sacraments. The crucified and risen Lord is every bit as serious in His promises and grace as He is in His holy Law.
Again: imagine the boy chopping wood with his father and basking in his father’s attention, who knows that his father loves him. That does not pass away. Your Father loves you.
In Jesus’ Name.