Home > Trinity 6-15 > God justifies bloodstained hands. Trinity 11 2013

God justifies bloodstained hands. Trinity 11 2013


Woman reaching to garment 1140-165Trinity 11

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Luke 18:9-14

August 11, 2013

“God justifies bloodstained hands.”

Jesus

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

 

Jesus uses a word in this parable that needs to be explained over and over again until we can all define it in our sleep.  Then it needs to be explained some more, because our salvation depends on the meaning of this word.

The word is “justify”: “I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other.”  To justify is to declare someone innocent, right, or righteous when they are on trial.  Justification happens on a daily basis.  We justify ourselves or other people.  “Why are you watching TV when you said you would get the oil changed?”  “I already got the oil changed.”  That’s justifying.

God also justifies.  He declares people right or righteous.  The question is how.  What makes a person right in God’s eyes?

The Pharisee in Jesus’ parable has lived an extraordinarily good life.  Jesus isn’t criticizing him for giving 10 percent of his wealth to God and for fasting twice a week.  When Jesus criticized the Pharisees or condemned them it wasn’t because their zeal for God was bad. The Pharisees were the most devout people in Israel; generally they were the people who studied the Scripture seriously and strove to live according to God’s commands.  Jesus doesn’t say that it’s bad to read the Bible and strive to follow it, and He also doesn’t say it’s a good thing to live an obviously sinful life.

It’s easy for us to misunderstand Jesus’ parable because in our time we call evil people good, and because we think the first three commandments have nothing to do with being a good person.  If you believe in the true God instead of false gods, nobody will say you’re a good person because of that.  If you speak the truth about God and pray and give thanks to His name—the 2nd commandment—instead of saying, “Whatever you believe about God is fine, nobody in our society will think that makes you a good person.  If you despise God’s word and don’t gladly hear it –the third commandment—nobody will think you’re a bad person.  President Obama is a professed Christian but apparently hardly ever goes to church.  Nobody thinks he’s a bad person because of that.  It wasn’t always that way in this country.  If you lived in Massachusetts in the 1600s and you never went to church, you were most certainly not going to be considered a “good person.”  But our society’s way of thinking about this is also the way most people in the church think about it.  Blowing off church—not keeping the Sabbath holy—has nothing to do with being a good person.  If you go to church once a week and the pastor suggests that you should love God’s Word and take every opportunity to hear and learn it—read it, learn the catechism, go to bible class when it’s available, maybe even gather to hear God’s Word during the week when time permits—then people don’t say, “I’m a bad person because it irritates me to hear this.”  They say, “The pastor’s a bad person because he’s putting a burden on us.”

Thus it’s easy for us to not quite get Jesus’ parable.  The Pharisee is not a bad person for tithing and fasting and reading the bible and striving to live a holy life.  He’s a good person.  He should be praised for tithing and fasting.

Being a “good person” in today’s society means—above everything else—that you don’t say that someone else is a bad person  Now, you should show love and compassion even for those whose lives are bad, and you should desire to see them saved.  But that’s different from telling people who are doing bad things that it’s not a big deal.  There’s more to being a good person than being likeable, although being kind and generous is also part of being a good person.

Trying to live a good life and be a good person is not a bad thing.  It’s a highly necessary thing.  It’s even better when a person succeeds in being a good person before human beings.  But we have to be careful that we don’t think of being a good person according to the morals of our society.  If we do that we will end up saying that being kind and generous is the only thing that matters. Being “a good person” should mean living according to the ten commandments.  We can’t do them perfectly, it’s true.  But it matters on earth whether or not we strive to do them or say “Whatever.”

Tithing—giving 10 percent of your income to the church, like the Jews did—will not justify you before God.  But if everyone says, “Well, then, I’ll just give whatever loose change I have to the Church,” the church will not be able to support the preachers necessary to minister.  It will not have anything to give to the truly needy poor.  It will have nothing to contribute to the preaching of the Gospel in places where the Gospel has never been heard, or seldom been heard.

Honoring your father and mother and honoring marriage according to the 6th commandment will not justify you before God.  But when father and mother and other authorities are dishonored and treated with contempt, and when we allow it to happen without punishing it, there will be chaos and disorder in the home, in the nation, in schools, in church.  When fathers and mothers and pastors and congregations do not teach the word of God and discipline those who publicly despise it, family members and church members depart from God because they do not know Him or fear Him.  When marriage is not held in honor and when children are not regarded as a reward from God, as the Scripture says in Psalm 127, then you don’t have children in the church.  When it becomes normal to fornicate—that is, to have sex outside marriage—and it becomes normal to divorce, and these things are not rebuked and treated as bad things—very bad things—then marriage is despised and homes that struggle to take care of their own children become the rule rather than the exception.

So the Pharisee was not a bad person because he was religious and tried to live a godly life.  He was a good person for that.  And he was exceptionally good because he not only tried but succeeded in the eyes of men.  May God give us many more people who are just like the Pharisee in this respect.

On the other hand you have the tax collector.  Jesus is not saying the tax collector is a good person.  Tax collectors were outcasts because they swindled and robbed people.  A lot of times we notice that drunkards and sexually immoral people and people who make money in shady ways are good people in other respects.  They can be kind, or loyal, or responsible, or fun to be around.  For the most part that passes for being a good person today, just as long as you don’t pass judgment or think you’re better than other people.  But that wouldn’t necessarily have passed for being a good person in other centuries.

When a person lives openly in sin but is otherwise a nice guy, that doesn’t make him good.  The tax collector lived an evil life, make no mistake about it.  People were right to censure him for being a swindler.  People who live immoral lives—who are gossips, or greedy, or violent, lazy, thieves, vindictive, sexually impure, bitter, despisers of God’s word, gluttons, drunkards, liars—they may pass for being “good people” in our time.  But we should not think that as long as you have one virtue that makes up for lacking others.  Don’t think that Jesus is okay with the fact that you waste money and are lazy because you are generous and compassionate in other respects.  Nor think that you are a good person because you work hard and don’t waste money when you find pleasure in condemning other people’s faults and harbor bitterness in your heart.

Neither one is pleasing to Jesus.  Nevertheless, we know no one is perfect.  And so it is right to make a distinction on earth between those who strive to obey God’s commandments and those who live a clearly godless life.  We’re all sinners, it’s true.  But some sinners go to church, donate their time, keep their household together, give to charity.  Other sinners commit murder, adultery, stir up fights, destroy the reputations of others.  A man who spends his life teaching God’s word and giving his wealth so that others can hear it should have those good deeds commended by other people, and a man who spends his life despising the word of the Lord and cheating others deserves to have people regard him as a sinner.

This being true, it seems quite obvious which one of the men in Jesus’ parable would go home justified by God—declared righteous and worthy of eternal life by God.  A man who spends his whole life acting as if there is no God and injuring the people around him—can he repay a lifetime of evil by being sorry and condemning himself?  Surely not.  No doubt the tax collector is really sorry and not faking it, but even real sorrow won’t get back the house that was foreclosed on because he cheated someone out of the money that would have paid the mortgage.  Real sorrow doesn’t pay off the debt the tax collector owes God—all the years he should have glorified God but instead defied God to His face.

Real sorrow won’t give back your neighbor his reputation once you went around and told people his sins, when love should have moved you to cover his faults and not make them known.  Real sorrow won’t take away the injury you inflicted on your spouse when you gave yourself to be one flesh with someone else, whether that was before your marriage or after.

Yet Jesus says it was not the Pharisee who went home justified.  No doubt he never swindled his neighbor like the tax collector.  He says that he did not commit adultery.  He was not unjust, showing leniency with his friends when they did evil but being harsh with people he didn’t like.  All of that was good.  Yet the Pharisee went home “not justified.”  God did not declare him righteous.  That means He went home declared “unrighteous.”  Not worthy of eternal life, not good in God’s sight, but under God’s anger and wrath, headed for eternal damnation.

Why was this?  Because he exalted himself.  He thought that the evil he had refrained from made him righteous in God’s sight.  He thought he could rely on the good he had done and enter into God’s presence with it.

He did not realize that his righteousness—which is the best that human beings are capable of naturally, to strive to obey God’s commands—could not stand in God’s sight.  This very trust his own righteousness was breaking the first commandment—“You shall have no other gods.” What does this mean, asks the catechism?  We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.  The Pharisee trusted his own works more than God.  He comes into God’s presence to pray.  He knows he has sinned, because who in this world will say that they have never done anything wrong?  But he figures that his hard work to do God’s will is enough even though he has not fulfilled God’s law.  And that means he doesn’t fear God above all things.  If you had a strict boss on earth who said, “Take out the trash and vacuum the carpet,” but you only took  out the trash, would he be pleased with you because you did one of his commandments and only ignored one?  Would you come and talk to him like you had nothing to worry about and everything was in order in your relationship?  You wouldn’t, because your boss would be angry at you for despising his command even though you did one part of what he said.  Even if you didn’t hear the second part, your boss would be right that you didn’t honor him enough to listen carefully to what he said.  My dad used to always say, “Do what your mother and I tell you to do the first time we say it.”  He was not being a tyrant, because someone you honor you listen carefully to what they say and do everything in your power to carry it out the way they say so that you please them instead of irritating them.

With all his outward goodness the Pharisee dishonored God.  He did not carry out God’s commands without fail, yet he comes before God thanking him for how good he is.

So he couldn’t have spoken rightly about God or prayed rightly, because he acted as if God were pleased with trying hard and being better than other people appear to be.  In other words he really didn’t know God at all, which means he could not have gladly heard and learned God’s word—the third commandment.

He also broke the other commandments, because commandments 4-10 are all summed up in this sentence, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  If he had loved his neighbor, he would not have been praying about how great it was that he was better than the tax collector.  If he had loved his neighbor he would have prayed for him and asked God to make him able to help the tax collector by setting a good example, by admonishing him about his sin, and by proclaiming the forgiveness of sins.  Instead, he takes pleasure in the tax collector’s sin.  Because the tax collector is so much worse, it makes him look and feel that much better before God.

That is the way human nature is apart from the Holy Spirit—your nature and mine.  Our attempts to be good and godly should not be abandoned.  Our neighbors need our good deeds.  But when we come into God’s presence we should forget all about our works and consider them all bad, because in God’s sight they are, if He is not merciful with us. We cannot stand on our good works or on anything in us before God.  Even if you have the Holy Spirit and begin to do those things that are pleasing to God, your works are not complete in the sight of your God.  If he judged you by the law even with the Holy Spirit, you would be found not to have kept it and would be condemned.

No.  It was the tax collector who went home justified.  How did that happen, that God declared him righteous before him, pleasing in His sight, worthy of eternal life?

He did not come to God presenting himself or his works as though they were pleasing to God.  He came confessing that he had nothing to offer or bring to God that would turn away God’s anger from him.

He came asking God for mercy.

There are different words for “mercy” in Greek.  One word means “help” or “have pity.”  That’s the word that was used in the prayer at the beginning of the service, the Kyrie Eleison.  It means “Lord” (kyrios) have mercy (eleison).  That refers to showing mercy by helping someone in physical need.  Blind people shouted it out to Jesus when they wanted to be healed.  Beggars would say it when they wanted someone to put some spare change in their hat.

The other word means “be propitiated.”  Propitiation means “to turn away wrath.”  That’s the word the tax collector uses.  “Lord, be merciful to me.  Let your wrath be turned away from me.  Be reconciled to me, a sinner.”

It is really a strange prayer.  If there’s nothing in you but that which displeases God, how can He not punish you?  And that’s how it is with the tax collector.  He is sorry, but even though his sorrow is real, even it is not good if God were to judge it according to the law.  We are not terrified and sorrowful over our sins because we love God above all things and our neighbors as ourselves.  We become terrified over our sins because when we recognize them for what we are we realize that everything in us is displeasing to God and there is nothing we can do to turn away His anger.  We become terrified because we are convinced that hell awaits us and there is nothing we can do to change it.

That is the way it is for the tax collector and for everyone who has sin.  “As for you, you were dead in your trespasses and sins…” says the Epistle, “following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience” (that means Satan) “among whom we all once lived…and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”  (Ephesians 2: 1-3).

If that is what you are, what can you say to God?  Nothing.  God has to punish someone like that, someone like you.  Otherwise He would be unrighteous.

But the tax collector prays to God to be propitiated, to let His anger be turned away.  Now that can only happen if there could be something that would take away His anger besides punishing the one who committed sin.

And there is.

The thing that takes away God’s anger is not man’s effort to obey God, though that effort is necessary for other reasons.  Our effort can never take away sins and God’s wrath against them.

Yet the tax collector’s prayer is not a shot in the dark.  Taking a shot in the dark is not prayer.  It’s tempting God.  True prayer is confident that God hears.  If this tax collector had his prayer answered and God was merciful and counted him righteous and eternal life, that means the tax collector prayed with faith that God would give what he asked.

There is a propitiation for sins, for the worst of sinners and for the best of sinners.  It is not our works.  It is not our faith either.

The propitiation for all sins is not shown in this parable of Jesus, but it is hidden there.  Because in the temple where the Pharisee and the tax collector prayed was the Most Holy Place, the place of God’s presence; and behind the curtain in the Most Holy Place was a box plated with gold.  And on top of the box there were two images of angels with their wings spread out.  They stood on either end of the cover and their wings met in the middle, forming a kind of tent or canopy over the box and its cover.

That box was the ark of the covenant.  Inside, among other things, were the two stone tablets on which the ten commandments were written.  And the covering of the ark was called “The Mercy Seat.”  The mercy seat was the place where once a year God would receive the blood of an animal in atonement for the sins of all the people.  The high priest, and he only, would enter the most holy place, and only once a year, on Yom Kippur, the day of atonement.

God commanded this to Moses in Leviticus 16: The Lord spoke to Moses after the death of the two sons of Aaron, when they drew near before the Lord and died, 2 and the Lord said to Moses, “Tell Aaron your brother not to come at any time into the Holy Place inside the veil, before the mercy seat that is on the ark, so that he may not die. For I will appear in the cloud over the mercy seat. 3 But in this way Aaron shall come into the Holy Place: with a bull from the herd for a sin offering and a ram for a burnt offering.

 

11 “Aaron shall present the bull as a sin offering for himself, and shall make atonement for himself and for his house. He shall kill the bull as a sin offering for himself. 12 And he shall take a censer full of coals of fire from the altar before the Lord, and two handfuls of sweet incense beaten small, and he shall bring it inside the veil 13 and put the incense on the fire before the Lord, that the cloud of the incense may cover the mercy seat that is over the testimony, so that he does not die. 14 And he shall take some of the blood of the bull and sprinkle it with his finger on the front of the mercy seat on the east side, and in front of the mercy seat he shall sprinkle some of the blood with his finger seven times.

 

15 “Then he shall kill the goat of the sin offering that is for the people and bring its blood inside the veil and do with its blood as he did with the blood of the bull, sprinkling it over the mercy seat and in front of the mercy seat. 16 Thus he shall make atonement for the Holy Place, because of the uncleannesses of the people of Israel and because of their transgressions, all their sins. And so he shall do for the tent of meeting, which dwells with them in the midst of their uncleannesses.

 

First the high priest killed a bull to atone for the sins of himself and his family.  Then he went into the Most Holy Place, and the Lord, who appeared in a cloud above the angels of the mercy seat, was covered up by the smoke of incense, so that the priest would not die.  He would sprinkle the blood on the mercy seat in the front and the back.  This was to turn away God’s wrath from the priest and his house, because the sins that were committed in his household were on him, because he was responsible for his house.

Then the priest would return and sprinkle the blood of the goat on the mercy seat to atone for the sin and uncleanness of the people of Israel.

This yearly sacrifice of atonement was a propitiation—a sacrifice to turn away God’s wrath and bring His favor to the people. But really it was impossible that the blood of a bull and a goat would be enough to take away guilt and God’s wrath.  They were merely pictures that showed the people of Israel what God had promised to do back in the garden of Eden.

He told them that the devil’s head would be crushed by the offspring of the woman—the Messiah, the Christ.  The Messiah would make a sacrifice that would atone for human beings’ sins forever.  He wouldn’t have to do it over and over—just once, and God’s wrath would be turned away forever.  Sin would be blotted out by this propitiation.

The tax collector goes home justified by God because he offers before God this sacrifice of atonement, this propitiation promised by God.

He does not see the propitiation.  He does not hear God say in response to his prayer, “Yes, I am reconciled to you; blood has been sprinkled in my presence that takes away your sins.”  He can’t hold this offering in his hands.

But he lifts up his empty hands in prayer—hands that are stained by sin.  You remember a couple of months ago a terrorist killed a British soldier on the street with knives?  The image of this man is burned into my brain.  His hands were red, soaked in the blood of the man he killed.  That’s really the way our hands are before God.  The sins which our hands have done (and which our hearts have thought and the sin which stained our conception and birth) are like the red blood of a man just killed.

In order for God to be reconciled with us, He had to provide a sacrifice—a man in whom all the sins of the world could be punished so that we would not perish in them.

That man who would be punished is the one telling the parable.  He is also the one preaching today.  Not that I am Jesus, but that when His word is proclaimed, Jesus Himself is the one preaching.

Jesus is our mercy seat and the atoning sacrifice for our sins.  God the Father sends home justified those who lift up empty hands, hands stained with His Son’s blood.  That was the tax collector’s prayer.  He could only lift up to God sin and guilt; but He prayed for God’s mercy, which means that He believed God’s promise that He would send an offering that would cancel sin forever.  He lifted up hands and heart on the basis of this offering, sprinkled with the blood of this sacrifice.  And He went home justified.  And so God justifies those who likewise have nothing to bring to God to turn away a guilty verdict, who believe nevertheless that God willingly gave His Son to fulfill the law’s requirements.  The law requires God’s wrath on sinners, so Jesus became sin for us, so that all who believe in Him would be declared free from sin.  Jesus sends you home justified; He plunges you who have no refuge from the wrath of God into His blood which poured out in full and reconciled the Father, propitiated the Father.

God declares sinners just and right even though there is nothing good about them.  He does not justify sinners because of their works, but by faith only—by believing His promise that Jesus’ blood was shed for them and that it washes out their sins.

Most people hear this and pass on with a yawn to things that seem more important, like growing in holiness, or making the church grow, or fixing the country or the world.

They hear the prayer of the tax collector and ignore it.  Of course God will be merciful to me, a sinner.

Those who live as open sinners—who despise God’s word and preaching, never go to church, live in hatred or immorality or laziness or gossip and slander, think nothing of this prayer because they really don’t think God cares much about sin.  They don’t believe that God needs to be merciful, or propitiated, because if He exists He never gets that angry about sin in the first place.

On the other hand you have people like the Pharisee, except they have learned to talk like the tax collector.  You can hardly go to St. Peter or any other Lutheran church that cares at all about teaching what our confessions say we believe, without learning to say, “I am a sinner,” or “we are all sinners.”  That’s part of being a good Christian, just like fasting twice a week was part of being a good Pharisee.

However, let such a person get offended and have to put up with sinners who are at all burdensome, and you find that they very quickly act like they really aren’t sinners.  Let them be confronted with their sins and watch them become furious.  Why?

Because they say they are poor miserable sinners.  But they really don’t think they are.  They think they are imperfect, but that’s different from being a sinner who displeases God, being a sinner who actually will end up in hell for eternity.  If the thought ever occurs to such a person it is quickly suppressed and they find someone else they are better than and can condemn.

But a person who knows himself to be naked before God’s wrath with no place to hide can’t so easily get angry at other sinners or get angry when shown his sin.  He doesn’t say quite as easily, “Thank you, Lord, that I am not like other men.”  Christians shouldn’t be able to say this because they know that they are like other men.  “We were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind,” (Eph. 2) as St. Paul writes.  The only one who was not, like the rest of humanity, by nature an object of wrath was Jesus, but thanks be to God, He did not say, “I am not like the rest of mankind.”  Instead He loved the rest of mankind, even when they hated Him.  He made the rest of mankind’s wickedness His wickedness and paid for it with His suffering and death on the cross that we might not be condemned.

True Christians find it a struggle to pray the tax collector’s prayer with confident faith.

On the one hand we too have the old Pharisee in us.  We want to stand in our own righteousness before God.  We don’t want to trust a righteousness we can’t see and be confident that God puts away our sins because of it, because of the propitiatory sacrifice Jesus made for us on the cross.

We want to stand before God because our emotions and hearts tell us that we’re saved.  We want to stand before God absolutely confident, not because He speaks His Word of forgiveness to us, but because we feel it and see so obviously God’s work in us.

But our flesh’s attempts to rest on our transformation, our experience of faith, our works, our religious emotions—these are not the solid rock on which faith is built.  The solid rock that cannot be moved is Jesus’ word, His promises which come to us in the Scriptures and preaching, in the water of Baptism and the sacrament of His body and blood, His word of Absolution.

As the great hymn sang today—a hymn so comforting and able to establish our souls that we should all learn it by heart that we can die with it on our lips—

Lord, your mercy will not leave me; Ever will your truth abide.  Then in You I will confide.  Since Your Word cannot deceive me, my salvation is to me, safe and sure eternally.

 

Our salvation is safe and sure because Jesus tells us that His suffering has removed all sin.  There are no more offerings necessary and none will be accepted.

He promises in His Sacraments that His one sacrifice still applies to us.

Those who do not believe that they stand before God like the tax collector with nothing of their own to turn away God’s wrath have no idea why we keep assuring people of forgiveness of sins so much.  Jesus does it because He knows that there is nothing in us that is good and faith has to believe that that which Jesus did will save  us, even though we can’t see it (and at times the feeling that it is ours does not come, or does not make us feel better in our trials.)  So He comes and strengthens us.  That’s why He sends pastors to us; He knows all too well how quickly the Pharisee in us takes over.

He also knows that when our inner Pharisee is knocked down how easily we despair.  “God justifies me, calls me a saint, promises me the joy of everlasting life?  Tells me I am free and holy in His sight now?  What kind of pride is it for me to believe this?  Surely no saint has ever been as corrupt as me—as loveless toward God and other people, as weak.  Surely real Christians do not still struggle with sins like I do.”

When our self-righteousness breaks on God’s law, then we begin to think that we are presumptuous to think that we can believe that we are saved.  But

God the Father justifies those with empty hands, with bloody hands.  It is to us who see nothing but damnation hanging over our heads—who recognize that we sinned against God and rejected Him—to us He gives the promise of justification.  The unbearable weight of sin was born by my Son.  I credited your sins to Him, and I credit His righteousness to you.  And to strengthen our consciences He speaks the word in our ears.  He speaks it in our ears in response to the very sins that trouble us and cause us to think that we cannot be saved.  He does that in the Gospel and He does it individually in private absolution.  That is why this precious gift of grace was not thrown out by Martin Luther, but he devoted a section to it in the catechism.  It was so that, unlike the tax collector, we not only pray and ask God to justify us, to be propitiated toward us.  But when we go and name the sins that deserve His wrath He speaks the truth that the world does not know in our ears: “I forgive you all your sins.”  That too I have taken away, Jesus says through the pastor.

Satan numbs us.  He makes us not feel sin.  He convinces us that we must run away from the knowledge of it.  He allows people to say, “I, a poor miserable sinner” as long as they mean, “I’m no worse than anybody else.”

Then, later on, when you begin to hear the word more frequently and bring forth fruit, and especially when you are dying, Satan unveils sins that we had forgotten about.  “You think you will be forgiven for this now?  Oh sure, now is a convenient time to try to escape your just reward.”

But Jesus?  He exposes sin now in this life.  And the exposure is frightening and painful.  But He does it in order that sin may be drowned forever and our consciences may have peace.  Jesus does not tell you your sins in order to leave you in them, and He does not forgive you so He can hold it over your head and control you later.

He promises us that our sins are not merely forgiven but destroyed.  All who are in Christ, all who are baptized into Him, are not merely forgiven.  They are new.

I went and told the guy who is my pastor, who I confess my sins to, a bunch of sins that I’ve struggled with all my life, it seems.  I said, “I’m kidding myself.  I feel like I’m kidding myself.  There’s what we wish God would do with us, and then there’s the reality of who we are.  And I never get any better at this.”  He said, “In yourself, no.  But in Christ you are not that anymore.”

He is right.  All my sins and all yours have been inscribed on Jesus and laid into the tomb.  You died and your life was hidden with Christ, you have been raised up with Him; your life is with Him in heaven.

That is what He did when you were baptized—He buried the old you and raised up the new you which is in Him.

In absolution He plunges you back in the baptismal water.

In the Sacrament of the Altar, He has His last will and testament read to you again.  “Take, eat, this is my body, which is given for you.  This do in remembrance of Me.  Take, drink, this cup is the New Testament in my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.  This do as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.”

Jesus’ body and blood which ended the wrath of God and destroyed our sins, crushing the serpent’s head, is for you as much as it was when He instituted the testament.  When you eat and drink it, you participate in the benefits of His suffering, as long as you eat and drink and keep His Word—“this is my body for you.”  Amen Lord, despite my weak faith.  I share in all that is yours as You have shared all that is mine.

God justifies those with empty and bloody hands.  So great is His compassion.  He has had mercy on you.  He has made propitiation for you and is favorable to you even though your hands are empty and you have nothing to bring except for your participation in the great guilt that all men have in common—of rebellion against God.  Whether you have tried to live well, like the Pharisees, or have up until now robbed God and your neighbor, God declares you free from sin because of the self-offering of the Son of God.  He invites the most guilty to believe that He would give this for them, that He has given it for them.  He invites all the sick, whose Pharisee makes their hearts hard and whom the devil hounds to eat and drink of His testament which promises the forgiveness of sins.

God justifies not those who have some good, but those who have none and who yet dare to believe that God is truthful when He says that our sins are not counted to us.  The blood of Jesus which covers you does not speak against you, says the Father, but for you.

The peace of God…

SDG

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Categories: Trinity 6-15
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