S-1273 15SAP/3C 9/18/11 Hymns (O) #5; S#261; L.S. #388; # 398; #314; (C) # 36
Text: Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32; Philippians 2:1-4, 14-18; Matthew 21:23-27
Theme: “Jesus at His Best!” (Matthew 21:24-25)
Question: “Have you always been at your best?” Armour, SD
Faithful followers of the Savior, Christ is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia! The text for the 15th Sunday after Pentecost is the Gospel lesson: “Jesus answered them, ‘I also will ask you one question, and if you tell Me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?’” (Matthew 21:24-25).
Introduction: In Nomine IESU
You who are the most beloved of the Lord, it is one question, but oh what a question. A question that gets at the heart, engages you with intense and profound thoughts and causes you to dig deeper into Scripture. With this question, we see Jesus at His best. He doesn’t permit anyone to distract Him from His mission to save the world. He doesn’t allow anything to dissuade Him from completing the task the heavenly Father sent Him to do. And He doesn’t consent to anyone to run the show.
Jesus is always at His best but we see it here more clearly with this question that He proposes to the Jewish leaders. What is the question that Jesus asked these learned men who wanted to trap Him? The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?’” They thought to themselves how can they answer the question of this unimportant Rabbi from Nazareth?
Notice what they do and how they respond. They discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet. So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.”
These learned men refused to give an answer. Their answer was all for show and not for learning. They wanted to please themselves and man instead of God. If they wanted to know the truth, they would have given an answer. But they chose to be blind and refuse to know the truth about the Rabbi from Nazareth. They refused this golden opportunity to be taught that this Rabbi is the God-Man who was sent from heaven.
Thus Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things”. Jesus doesn’t respond to their inquiry. He leaves them hanging and wondering by what authority He does what He does. PAUSE.
Today, as the Holy Spirit brought us here to be taught again and again the truth about our Savior, we see who He is, and what He does. We see Him teaching us that He is the Only Savior from sin and hell. We grasp with our hearts and ears, the truth that He came to seek and save the lost. And we seize the blessed hope we have because Jesus, the humble Rabbi doesn’t play games with our souls, but teaches us nothing but the pure truth that leads to eternal life with Him.
This is Jesus at His best. He wills that all men be saved and come to the knowledge of their Redeemer - that is, the truth (1Timothy 2:4). He doesn’t want to trap them (Temple leaders) to destroy them but to free them from their blindness and stubbornness, to redeem, yes, to restore them. This is the heart of our Savior God, our Redeemer who will lift up the humble and cast the proud to the ground (see our Introit and the Magnificat in Luke 1:46-55). But to lift up the lowly and cause those of high degree to come down means that the Savior wants to lift these high and haughty ones as well. Like a Master Builder, He cannot and will not build on a faulty foundation. He must destroy their haughtiness and build on His foundation - the Rock, which is the confession that He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, yes, to be built on the Apostles and Prophets, and of course, the chief cornerstone - Jesus! (Ephesians 2:20) What a Redeemer. That is why His Holy Spirit instructs the church through the pen of Paul that prayers should be offered up for all in authority - for He wills all men to be saved. That is the context of 1Timothy 2:4! That is also the context for this confrontation between Jesus and the rulers of the Temple.
To those who heed His Words, follow His teaching and observe them, they are at their best too. History testifies and bears witness of the love of Christ in the burning hearts of men and women who followed Him all the way to their death.
On the night of July 18, 64 AD, the monster madman Nero burned the city of Rome. The fire raged for six days and seven nights. When the fire ran its course, it left seventy percent of the city in smoldering ruins.
Not wanting to be blamed for the fiery disaster, Nero looked for a scapegoat. He found it in the Christians, who were living in the city. To appease the masses, Nero literally had his victims fed to the lions during giant spectacles held in the city’s remaining amphitheater.
What is interesting to note about these Christians who were brutally devoured by the lions was this: As they were led to the amphitheater to meet their impending death, they lifted up their voices and sang the song of salvation to the God of all Grace. Even Peter, who for a few moments left the city but returned back according to tradition stated, “To die like my Lord Jesus died is more than I deserve.”
As you and I look at these folks we say: It is beyond human understanding how they faced death without fear, but with great joy. These people are at their best.
Yet, can this be said of us? Have we always been at our best? Have we always humbled ourselves and given the glory to God. Have we tried to be stubborn and refuse to heed and hear the Word of God? If our confession of sin is honest and sincere we have to admit that we haven’t always honored Christ. We have not always done our best. We have not always cared for the needs of others more than our needs. PAUSE.
Faithfull followers of the Savior, Jesus has always been at His best. But we behold Him most at His best when He humbled Himself and took upon Him the form of a servant. Even though He was God, He didn’t consider it equality to be God. Yet He chose to permit others to beat Him, drag Him and force Him to carry His cross without once opening His mouth. He allowed people to spit upon Him, smite Him and scream at Him all kinds of mockery statements. He granted the soldiers to take one hand and drive a huge spike through it and nail it to the big beam. He allowed another soldier to do the same to the other side and still anther to drive spike through His feet and hang on a tree for six full hours. And then gave up His Spirit for YOU. This is Jesus at His best! Doing what He does best: loving you and me to the point of death!
But even Jesus’ best gets better! We see it too, in the wee hours of the first Easter morning as He defied gravity, grave and the power of death and came forth to life again. And because He lives, we, too, shall be at our best in Him. Here He is at His best for us! And that best keeps on. We know that He will come again to take us to be with Him where we too will experience the best of the best for now and forever! Amen.
Now the peace of God…
SOLIE DEO GLORIA