Wednesday, November 16, 2011

“What Makes You Great?” (Matthew 18:1-4)

S-1269 12SAP/3C 9/04/11 Hymns LSB(O) #578; S#801; (C) #433

Text: Ezekiel 33:7-9; Romans 13:1-10; Matthew 18:1-20

Theme: “What Makes You Great?” (Matthew 18:1-4)

Question: “How do you define greatness?” Armour, SD

Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 12th Sunday after Pentecost is from the Gospel lesson: At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, ‘Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?’ And calling to Him a child, He put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 18:1-4).

Introduction: In Nomine IESU

People of God, chosen, cherished, loved and adored in His sight and mine; the Apostle Paul writes to his spiritual son Timothy saying: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:14-17). And it is indeed true that ALL of Scripture is for our benefit and for our learning.

Today’s text is being taught by the GREATEST Teacher who has ever walked this earth—Jesus of Nazareth. The discussion is brought by the disciples to their Rabi, “Teacher, who is the greatest in the Kingdom of heaven?” And with that question Jesus uses the opportunity to teach His disciples, that greatness is not measured by human standards, but by God’s.

You, I, and the rest of the world consider and define greatness by accomplishments, achievements and accolades. If we don’t achieve or succeed by the world standards we are not worth much. Children are aborted daily, because they are a blob of tissue. Older people are put aside because they are of no use. To be sure, if health care rationing comes into being there will be a mathematical formula to determine whether someone may have a surgery or not - dependent on their age and ability to generate taxes and other revenues. It sounds very crazy but that is what is happening in our world. But do you know what makes you great? Do you know the value that our Triune God places on a soul: behold the wounds of Christ!

We want to be “top dog, King of the hill, the big cheese, and the best in everything.” The disciples ask, “Which one of us is it!?” They want to know who is the greatest. The humble child wins - the one who cannot earn or produce, who merely eats and sleeps and consumes resources and love. God is great and grand. We worry as we age and cannot “do” as we used to. We slow down, mentally and physically. Production is limited, and we think, wrongly, that our value and greatness is diminished. We compare ourselves to the Johnsons’—we want the big house, the big car with GPS and the latest model and style. In short, we think, if we have things we are great. However, if we have a small house, if the windshield is cracked, the door creeks and the muffler is loud, well then… we are not “it.”

With these few words we learn what it is that makes us great in God’s sight. The matter of receiving the Kingdom as a child is the key to greatness. And what makes us great is when we depend totally on God for faith, forgiveness and future. We are reminded of the question of the rich young ruler who asks what must I do to inherit eternal life? (Mark 10:17; Luke 18:18), or the Philippian jailor who asks, what must I do to be saved? (Acts 16:30). The rich young ruler was asked to leave all his “treasures” behind to be owned by The Treasure. As a child—His child simply know that God has you and loves you! The Philippian jailor receives the answer “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved... you and all of your household!” God doesn’t know how to bless a little - He blesses all.

What is it that makes you great? Is it your house, your car, your bank account, your degrees, your achievements, and accolades? NO! None of these matters! This is the measurement of the world—the world looks to you and if you produce and contribute to the economy well…then… you are worth something. What determines the greatness of each is the price paid to own it. God wants you. He wants “all the children of the world!” He has valued us worthy of His Son’s death on the Cross. Any other value is cheap, stupid, wrong, and worst of all... deadly! PAUSE.

Matthew not only tells us how Christ thinks of us, but shows us Christ Jesus goes after the one straying sheep for it is the will of Our Father that none perish (v. 14, cf. John 3:15-16). What an answer to the hideous belief that God created some for salvation and some for damnation! He answers the question of what makes a soul so great and precious in His sight. Then our Savior (don’t you just love that name) goes on to talk about the one who was in the sheep-fold whose sin is standing before him unseen or not responded to.

In this place as we sit at the feet of the Greatest Teacher who ever walked the earth—Jesus of Nazareth, we are given the awesome and great privilege of caring and tending for the soul of your brother (catch that, your brother!) sins against you... go and tell him... alone. Sin is like rust to metal, like mold to wood and cloth - it destroys, slowly, relentlessly, completely. It needs to be removed. A leaking oil pan in a car can be ignored only so long before the engine freezes and the car will go on no longer. Sin is even more dangerous and deadly, for it takes the soul, the soul Jesus calls great and worthy of the Good Shepherd’s full attention. Unchecked sin endangers the soul for all eternity. Confront, in love and with tenderness and gentleness, your brother when he sins (even if the offense is not against you)... and take the counsel of your brother when you sin. What is a soul worth and what is it that makes you great? Not being ignored but truly cherished. Yes, your brother’s soul is worthy of your attention, and then the attention of two or three witnesses, and then the whole church should unrepentance persist. The object is to win back your brother! You know how it feels to be the beloved of God and how it feels when you choose to walk alone.

Want to be great in the kingdom? How about loving as you are first and ever loved! Matthew 18:15-20 has been used as a club to beat up people and to exclude them. This is violence to the Word of God and to our Savior’s very nature. As a child mimics his or her parents, wears mom’s necklaces and rings, or dad’s neck-tie, as the child repeats the wisdom of their parents, the folks are honored because the child is truly blessed. The child has a hedge of protection around them against the wolf, the world, and their own flesh. Want to be great in the kingdom? Be His child. Simply trust as a child that your needs ALL OF THEM are never beyond His care. PAUSE.

Sometimes back I read a quote from a great theologian: “Pray as if everything depends upon God. Work as if everything depends on you.” —Martin Luther. Monk Luther understood this well. The Lord of the universe knows you well and knows of all of your needs. You mustn’t worry - or continue to worry. True greatness is in knowing who you are - His cherished, adored, loved and blood-bought child of the King of kings. My beloved, true greatness is in knowing as a child knows and trusts that He has you in the palm of His hands. True greatness is this: that we would reflect the peace and love and restoration to a brother who is seemingly alone.

Does our God even have the ruling authorities... our today and tomorrow? Yup, you bettcha! Has He given you under-shepherds who must give an account? Yes! As a watchman in your midst I too must teach you right from wrong, I must in gentleness and love warn you, His beloved sheep, of the impending attacks of the wolf. I must give to you the warning of God’s Law so that the sweetness, oh that sweetness of the Gospel may be yours. And the best way I can do that with these texts is to tell you of how He makes you GREAT: You are the beloved Child of God, children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband's will, but born of God. (John 1:13 NIV) Please, beloved, as you face cancer, calamities, and cash trials, family needs and faith crises, know this, YOU ARE GREAT IN HIS SIGHT. He makes you GREAT because He bought you with His blood; He restored YOU by His wounds and Has redeemed YOU by His death and resurrection. Do you know what makes you GREAT? Your Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen!

Now the peace…

Soli Deo Gloria

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