Wednesday, March 05, 2008

"The Justice of God" + sermon for Midweek 4

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

Beloved in Christ –

There are hard words to hear in life. When you found out your first girlfriend has grown tired of your company. Learning that you will lose a job or a beloved member of the family to sickness; these are hard words to hear. As a child coming to understand that you must move from the only place you had ever known. As a child of God hearing that judgment begins with the household of God.

Yes, there is a Word of God that speaks in no uncertain terms about what the consequence of sin is to be – it is judgment. And there is no place less desirable than to be a sinful person judged before the perfect throne of our Holy God. Those are hard words to hear.

Saint Paul writes about this wrath that comes against all sinners. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men…”
And lest we somehow become comfortable in our position before the throne of God's glory – Paul continues in chapter 2, “Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you judge yourself.” In fine Lutheran fashion we ask, “What does this mean?” It means that we all stand before God and before man as being guilty of some sin or another. And if we have not sinned in deed, we have sinned in our very being. We are all sinful human beings. We are all corrupted creation – not by God’s design but by our fall to temptation. We are in need of a new judgment that acquits the guilty of our guilt.

Can God acquit the guilty and yet be holy? He can and He does; for there is one who suffers the punishment of God against our sin. It is Jesus Christ. The punishment of God comes upon Him – His own Son through the means established by God.

Pontius Pilate was a man considered for his brutality. He accomplished what he did with a hard hand and an expedient eye. Pilate was no saintly person by any standards. He did what he did and was who he was – no equivocation; no excuse. The Father of all Lights used a dark man to accomplish His will for a fallen race.

The Lord often used those men and nations to accomplish His bidding. The Egyptians held in bondage the sons of God – that God might reveal His glory in choosing and delivering them to the Promised Land. Once in the Promised Land – it seems that these delivered children forgot the promise of freeing forgiveness in their God and so it was the Babylonians sent to do the alien work of God and captive they became. Even now the ruler of the people of God is one placed by the occupying empire of Rome.

The punishment of God in and through the work and warfare of opposing nations seems unsavory at best and unfair. Yet, consider what God says about such punishment. He considers the punishment rendered as chastisement to teach and uphold. Yes, you are considered to be children of God to be taught and corrected. You receive such punishment for sin that you might be delivered from greater sin and an eternal judgment against your soul.

Our Father may use what we see as wrongheaded means to teach – but it is for the will of our God to decide. Consider Christ. It is ultimately NOT Pilate who judges Jesus. For all his posturing and politicizing the procurator could not find a way out of this religious malady and so he symbolically washed his hands of the whole ordeal.

It was Almighty God who through Pilate judged the Lord Jesus Christ. For God judged Him as guilty bearing all sin. It is by the teaching of the Holy Bible we know and so believe that Jesus Christ was and ever shall be without sin of His own for which He must account. The sin that lays heavy on Jesus is your sin and mine. It is the sin of the entire world. In His baptism in the Jordan River Christ Jesus took upon Himself to be united with the fallen creation. He who knew NO sin became sin for us. And so through Pilate God judged His Son – the One we confess as Lord and Savior. Thereby sin was judged in the human body of Jesus Christ. His suffering and death on the cross is the due for sin – this one death paved the way for many to be made alive.

This Jesus is so named as Savior because even as God judged through the means of misled religious leaders and ruthless Roman prelates - so God judged you in Christ.

This is the good news that accompanies this terrible judgment scene. It is the truth that because Jesus was without sin – the grave did not – the grave could not hold Him. As God judged Jesus – so God has judged the entire world – in Jesus. The gift of forgiveness and so the gift of and everlasting life in heaven is simply given by God. This gift is received by faith – faith that hopes and holds on to all that our Lord offers and gives. Faith that seeks to grow in its relationship with Christ. Faith that sees the will of God and desires so to do. Faith that clings to Jesus Christ – trusting that as God has judged sin in Jesus and that our Lord has overcome such sin and death – we are free from these bonds as well.

Consider now the word judgment. While God does judge sin – and at times even chastises us whom He loves – the judgment that condemns has already been spoken against Jesus alone. His judgment has become your judgment. And Jesus was judged to be – righteous and holy and so you who are in Christ are as such -- you the guilty, for the sake of Christ Jesus, are acquitted of your guilt.

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