“Tested For Us”

 

Text - MATTHEW 4:1--11

 

GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOUR JESUS THE CHRIST.

There it was -  the serpent or the kind appearing old man - in the Garden of Gethsemane with Jesus ... in the crowd as Jesus moved through the streets of Jerusalem to the cross ... while He was on the cross.   The creature with the face a mingling of evil and false compassion that said "I feel your pain.  I know what you are going through and what lies ahead. I can help if you'll only follow where I lead." Trying to tempt Jesus to stray from His path to the cross and venomously striking at His heel when He would not alter His course.

We've seen this tempter before - slithering into Paradise to tempt our first ancestors.  "What a wonderful and bountiful place God has given you!  You must love it, oh, how you must love it - but I feel there may be a feeling that there could be even more - something you're missing. Has God indeed said, "You shall not eat of every tree of the garden?"  

Eve took the bait from her false friend expressing such concern for her needs.  Eve used God's Own words to defend God, but, as she did, she tried to improve on God's Word.  The tempter nodded at her addition to God's Word - "Eve, if you can improve on God's Word by adding to it, perhaps there are some flaws in what He did say.  Eve, you will not surely die if you eat the forbidden fruit, as God says you will.   In fact, God knows that in the day you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God knowing good and evil.  Come on, you and Adam, take a bite."

We know how the tempter rejoiced when Adam and Eve ate the fruit and brought sin, separation from God, guilt, fatigue, illness, and death into paradise – things from which only God Himself can save us. 

 

 

“Who Is Jesus?”

 

Text – MATTHEW 17:1—9

 

GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOR – JESUS THE CHRIST.

NALC Bishop John Bradosky recently observed “For many, Jesus is one big question mark. … Some in our culture think of Jesus as complex, creative, and wise beyond our capacity to know or follow.  Others see Him as simple and unrefined, having little to do with life today.  Even more believe that everyone is entitled to make up their own mind about who Jesus is, and believe every opinion is just as right and true as any other opinion.” 

The Last Sunday of The Epiphany Season (this season showing and revealing Jesus to the world) takes its name – The Transfiguration of Our Lord – from that series of events which leave no doubt concerning God’s Own answer to the question  “Who Is Jesus?”

    

The first five books of The Holy Bible are collectively known as The Torah – The Law – God’s Covenant Law in which God as the Party of the First Part describes the Relationship which He has created us in His Own Image to have and describes His Own Role in that Relationship – God’s Covenant Law in which God describes what He requires of us as Parties of the Second Part in that relationship.  

Moses is the great representative of God’s Covenant Law and stands at that definitive point of Israel’s history when the people became a nation molded into God’s Relationship through the faith they learned in the wilderness.  Significantly, the last chapter of The Torah – DEUTERONOMY 34 -   chronicles the death of Moses who is recognized as GOD’S COVENANT LAW GIVER.

 

“The True Righteousness”

 

Text – MATTHEW 5:20-37

 

GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR LORD AND SAVIOR – JESUS THE CHRIST.

In that portion of the Sermon on the Mount which provides our text this morning, Jesus talks about true righteousness.

 

In Greek, the word is δικαιοσύνη which means “the state of a person or thing being what God created and defined it to be”.  

When God first created Adam and Eve in God’s Own Image, they were righteous.  They knew God intimately, understood God and His Will for their lives perfectly, and lived as the people God had created and defined them to be – until the temptation and fall.  That changed their lives – and ours – completely.  No longer did they understand God’s Will as clearly as before nor were they any longer able to live their lives as God created human beings to live -  for their knowledge of how God wanted them – and us – to live was clouded by temptations and guilt. They were no longer righteous – no longer what God created and defined them to be.

The entire human race has followed Adam and Eve down that unrighteous path.  As God Himself reminds us in Paul’s EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS (3:22c-23), “There is no difference, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  There is not even one of us who is δικαιοσύνη – righteous - not a one of us who without Divine Intervention is what God created and defines us to be.

                       

                   Γραμματευς                         Φαρισαιος

And Jesus warns us, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and the Pharisees, you certainly will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven.”

 

“Jesus' Radical Love”

 

Text – MATTHEW 5:38—48

 

GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOR JESUS THE CHRIST.

Jesus’ SERMON ON THE MOUNT has been called “THE SHIPWRECK SERMON” because it takes that creedal, ethical, moral ship we ourselves create and choose to sail through our temporal life and wrecks it — wrecks it so that we may board a ship of Jesus’ Own making to continue our journey through this temporal life and on into eternity with Jesus.

 

Jesus says “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’.”   From Shylock in Shakespeare’s “MERCHANT OF VENICE” to contemporary political debates, that Old Testament passage may well be one of Scripture’s most often quoted passages.  Unfortunately, as Jesus points out in His sermon, it is usually misquoted – as in its use pictured here and often attributed to Gandhi.  Even though the passage appears almost verbatim in three different Old Testament books, few people take the time to read the passage in its context.

First we need to be clear that when God said “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe”, God was speaking to the state.   The state, as you know, along with the family and the church, is one of the three institutions God Himself instituted and upon which God bestows definite responsibilities.  The state, particularly today, has been given numerous responsibilities.  God gave it two — the protection of the people and justice for them. The section of God’s Law with the “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth” text addresses both and even addresses justice in the loss of livestock and other personal property.

Second, we need to be clear on the issue God is addressing. The “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth” laws require that the scales of justice are always balanced and that no “extra pound of flesh” is taken.

God denies both to the state and to individuals —anything like vengeance.  “‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.” (ROMANS 12:19c) Vengeance and retribution belong to God and to God alone.  Public safety and justice are the God-given responsibility of the state – responsibility that must be truly balanced in using the gifts God has given the state for maintaining public safety and justice. 

  

“THE SALT, THE LIGHT, THE LAW AND PROPHETS”

 

Text – MATTHEW 5:13-20

 

GRACE BE UNTO YOU AND PEACE FROM GOD THE FATHER AND FROM OUR CRUCIFIED AND RISEN LORD AND SAVIOR – JESUS THE CHRIST.

Last Sunday, as we began a series of sermons that focused upon the greatest sermon ever preached, Jesus began His Sermon on the Mount with THE BE-ATTITUDES in which Jesus sketched the only path to true and lasting blessedness and happiness. This morning, Jesus describes how those lives Jesus has filled with that true and lasting blessedness and happiness are called by Him to impact upon the world – as spiritual salt and light truly faithful to God’s Law and Prophets.  

Jesus said, “You are the salt of the earth ...”

In Biblical times, salt played an even larger role in life than it does today.

We are all familiar with its use as a condiment, of course, and probably equally familiar with its ancient use as a preservative in food.  In fact, it was by necessity the preservative in Biblical times.

A newborn baby was rubbed with salt – medically to cleanse the body and ward off germs – spiritually to ward off demons like the ones Jesus cast out in several of His miracles.

A covenant of salt was a permanent covenant since eating salt with someone signified being forever bound to that person or that commitment.

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