Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sermon -- 2nd Sunday in Lent (February 24, 2013)

LUKE 13:31-35

In the name + of Jesus.

     The Apostle Matthew wrote, Jesus “went throughout all Galilee, teaching…, proclaiming the gospel…, and healing every disease….” (Matthew 4:23)  While this made Jesus very popular among many people, it also made other people view him as a threat.  Jesus had his share of enemies, which is no surprise.  Many live as enemies of the cross, and the whole reason Jesus came was to bear the cross.  But what does come as a surprise is that the religious establishment hated him.  The Pharisees were supposed to be the good guys, and yet their words and actions were filled with venom.
     Therefore, when they came to Jesus in our Gospel, we have good reason to believe that they did not have Jesus’ best interests at heart.  At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” (Luke 13:31)  It was later in Luke’s Gospel that we hear that Herod was eager to see Jesus, but only that he might see a miracle.  When Jesus did not perform for Herod, Herod did not kill him.  He mocked him and berated him, but he did not have him beheaded.
     So why did the Pharisees warn Jesus to flee?  Because they were convinced that Jesus was like any other man.  They assumed he could be manipulated by fear.  They had hoped that, if they scared him enough, Jesus would abandon his teaching, preaching, and healing every disease.  And Herod was a serious enough threat.  He had already beheaded John the Baptist for preaching and teaching.  That should be enough to intimidate Jesus.  They could live with Jesus as long as he would shut up and go away.  Jesus had longed to gather all Israel to himself, but the Pharisees were not willing.  They would not flee to Jesus for refuge.  They wanted him to flee from them.
     Jesus, however, would not be deterred from his faithful service to his Father or from his love to save sinners.  So his reply was not as much to Herod as it was to the Pharisees, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course.  Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’” (Luke 13:32-33)  Jesus longs to be your refuge.  He was committed to enduring anything to do that for you. 
     Fear is a tremendous motivator, but that does not mean it is a good motivator.  Fear may compel you to cross the street more quickly, and that is good.  But fear also prevents you from doing what is right.  Fear keeps you from doing good when doing what is good is hard or inconvenient.  You fear that you will be mocked for being chaste, for upholding God’s design for marriage, and for preserving the marriage bed for marriage.  You fear that your friends will turn on you if you confess the Bible as the only source of undeniable truth and the Christian faith as the only hope for heaven.  You fear that God will not keep his promises to provide for your needs if you make your offerings more generous.  You fear that defending the falsely accused means that you will also be smeared by the false accusations.  You fear that refusing to walk in the counsel of the wicked, to stand in the way of sinners, or to sit in the seat of scoffers means you will walk and stand and sit alone.  You fear the praise and friendship of sinners more than you fear the judgment of God.  Therefore, you find it hard to quit your sin and easy to concede to the world.  Repent.
     St. Paul warns you, “Many…walk as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. (Philippians 3:18-19)  Many take refuge in the cravings of their sinful hearts.  The flesh desires ease, comfort, and satisfaction.  But the flesh is never satisfied.  The cravings do not end.  It is a useless god which gives no lasting comfort or joy.  It is a worthless refuge which gives no peace or security.  Do not fear the enemies of the cross, and do not flee to them for refuge or approval.  Their end is destruction and shame.  If you side with them, yours will be too.  Repent.
     Jesus longs to be your refuge.  He told the Pharisees that he would not be swayed from his goal.  ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course.’” (Luke 13:32)  Jesus continued to preach, teach, and heal every disease, but that was not his goal.  His goal would be achieved in Jerusalem on the third day.  First, he would take up our infirmities and weaknesses.  He would suffer and die for all sin.  It certainly was not the easy thing.  It would have been easier for God if he had done nothing for us.  It is always easier to do nothing.  But our Lord did not choose what was easy.  His goal was not his convenience; it is your salvation.  Therefore, Jesus was committed to doing all that the Father had given him to do.  He did this so that he could be your refuge.  He longs to be your refuge from fear, from shame, and from death.  He spread out his arms to be pierced to the cross to pay for all of your sins.  And now, he spreads his protective arms over you to bless you and to keep you safe.
     On the third day, Jesus reached his goal—the resurrection from the dead.  In doing so, Jesus becomes your eternal refuge and removes all of your fears.  You do not need to fear God’s wrath.  Where sin has been taken away, God has no reason to be angry.  You do not need to fear the grave.  Since death has been overcome, the grave holds no terror.  You do not need to fear the world and its warped attitudes.  The world and its desires are passing away.  You, however, have been delivered from all of its shame and decay.  You do not even need to fear the enemies of the cross.  Though they may marshal all their powers to threaten and scare you or even to harm you, the King of heaven and earth remains your refuge.  He did not forsake you when he carried your sin to the cross and left it dead in the grave.  He will not forsake you who take your refuge in him.
     Jesus longs to be your refuge.  By taking refuge in him, you have nothing to fear.  Granted, taking refuge in Jesus means that you may have to suffer loss.  But even if you lose gifts that God gives you for this world, you have still really lost nothing.  It is all temporary anyway.  Many crave for these things because this is the best they hope to get.  Not so with you.  St. Paul reminds you: Our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself. (Philippians 3:20-21)  
     Jesus met his goal on the third day—the goal of delivering you from death.  Therefore, you have a refuge even in death.  And your refuge is impenetrable and imperishable.  Even if you must give up earthly things, it is the earth that must give you up on the Last Day.  The Lord Jesus Christ will raise you from the grave and will transform your frail body to be a holy, glorious, immortal body.  Then you will have a place in the glories of heaven with blessings beyond value and beyond measure.  And unlike the blessings in this world, the blessings of heaven cannot be lost or taken away.  On the contrary, your Savior will be there.  And he who sits on the throne will shelter [you] with his presence. (Revelation 7:15)  Jesus longs to be your refuge.  It is a worthless refuge which cannot provide peace and security.  Jesus he provides you with peace and security in God’s kingdom forever.  So fear not.  Jesus longs to be your refuge.  His goal is to save you from sin and deliver you from death.  And he has reached his goal.

In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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