You are murderers. The Law of God says so. The Lord drops the Law upon us like tablets of stone and it is a crushing load that leaves no wiggle room. Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of God. No murderers in God’s kingdom. And that’s you. Because your righteousness does not exceed the scribes and Pharisees. You, like them, think you are not a murderer because you haven’t killed anyone. You’ve never taken a life so you can’t be a murderer. So Jesus will now school you all the way with the Law. Murder isn’t just killing. It’s hatred. It’s bearing ill will toward someone. It’s keeping a grudge. It’s being angry with someone. And every one of you has someone you don’t want to forgive, that you’re at odds with, that you need to be reconciled to. And because of that, because you are angry at them, because you won’t forgive them, because you would hurt them if you got the chance or at least you THINK about hurting them and how you would—because of all that, you are a murderer. And in God’s way of doing things, murderers get the death penalty. Don’t try to wiggle out of it. No excuses. The Law is clear. You are not perfect. You are a cold-blooded killer and deserve hell. That’s what the Law has to say to you. That’s what all the commandments but in particular today the Fifth Commandment says. Murderer. You’re done.
So…want some Good News? Want THE Good News? It won’t come from the Law. The Law says do this and live or else don’t do it and die. Here’s the Good News: the Son of God came to trade places with murderers. If you’re a murderer like the Commandment says, guess what? Jesus will trade with you. That’s what happened, of course. Remember Pontius Pilate? “Do you want the murderer or the King of the Jews?” And they picked the murderer. The guilty guy goes free. The innocent Jesus gets the scourge and the cross. But it’s not just Barabbas who goes free. You go free. Jesus isn’t just taking his place, He’s taking your place too. That’s right. You’re the murderer who goes free because Jesus takes the fall for you. Takes the hit for you. Gets your sentence, takes your punishment, does your time, dies your death. And you? Your fate? Not guilty. Set free. Forgiven. Debt paid. Reconciled to God. Can you be sure about that? As sure as the water and Word put on you at the font. As sure as your called and ordained pastor absolving you. As sure as the body and blood of Jesus are given and shed for you to eat and drink for the forgiveness of sins. As sure as you are baptized into Christ, His death is yours, says, St. Paul, and because He rose, you have been raised at the font to new life.
And what does new life look like? It’s about not calling in debts that come due. It’s about forgiving them. It’s about looking at the hatred and anger you have at another person and forgiving them and being reconciled. It’s saying, “The Lord has traded places with me and taken my death. He’s forgiven me. So I forgive you. And I ask you to forgive me.” Jesus doesn’t tell us to be reconciled to our brother because that’s how we somehow “activate” God’s forgiveness. He tells us that because, unlike the Pharisees and the scribes, knowing the Lord’s mercy means knowing what He has forgiven in you and that you cannot possibly hold what someone else has done against them. You see, in the kingdom of God, Jesus is all about taking the place of murderers and forgiving the hearts like ours that don’t want to forgive, and teaching us to forgive one another and be reconciled to one another. That is a blessed gift the Law cannot provide. It can only say do or die. But Jesus takes your place and puts everything right, just how it should be in a kingdom that is all about forgiveness and debts paid in full. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
Sermon Topics: Matthew