Sunday, June 18, 2023

You Are Loved By God (Your Neighbor Is Too)

[Below, you'll find live stream video of today's worship services with the people and friends of Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio. You'll also find the prepared text of the message shared during both services. Have a blessed week!]

Matthew 9:35-10:8

Dear friends, this morning Jesus Christ, God the Son, wants you to know that you are deeply loved by God.

You are the apple of God’s eye.

It’s your sin Christ bore on the cross to set you free from condemnation and death.

It’s for you that He died.

It’s for you that He rose from the dead.

The God we meet in Jesus isn’t One Who turns up His nose at our sinful, selfish natures or our sinful, selfish thoughts, actions, or lives.

He doesn’t turn away.

He doesn’t abandon you.

Instead, God the Son wears human flesh with sinless perfection.

And He does this not to taunt you for your imperfections nor to damn you for being His betrayers.

Or for worshiping at the altars of false gods like our egos.

Or for hearing His Word with contempt or indifference.

Or for murdering others with our words, committing adultery with our minds, or stealing from others in our fantasies.

Instead, Jesus comes into our world to save us.

He sets us free from the condemnation of God’s Law that none of us measures up to.

He gives us life with God that never ends.

He comes to us to make us righteous–innocent, justified, fit to live in God’s presence for all eternity.

That’s why the apostle Paul writes: “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes.” (Romans 10:4, English Standard Version]

And, “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans 10:9, NIV)

Paul isn’t saying that if you’re a Christian, you have a free pass to sin unrepentantly. He is saying that when you daily take refuge in Christ, trusting Him to justify you by grace through faith in Him, sinner though you are and sinner though you will be until Jesus calls you from the grave, God’s Law will not condemn you and you will be saved for life with God for eternity.

In today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus is going around the villages and towns of Galilee, loving people in three ways. These are three ways He is loving you this morning too.

First, He teaches in their synagogues. As Jesus worships God the Father with His fellow Jews, He teaches them. Jesus doesn’t teach them the Law. They already know the moral law of God that is written on every human being’s heart. It’s likely rather that Jesus teaches them, as He did the people at His home synagogue in Nazareth, what God had revealed about a Savior Who would be the Messiah or the Christ, God’s Anointed King: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” [Luke 4:18-19]

Next, Matthew tells us this morning, Jesus proclaims the good news–the gospel–of the Messiah’s coming, of Jesus’ coming, by saying, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” (Luke 4:21) Jesus is the Gospel. Jesus is our good news. He is the promised King Who makes all who, by the power of the Holy Spirit working in His Word, believe in Him, part of His everlasting Kingdom.

Third, Jesus heals every disease and sickness, or more literally every illness and weakness. This doesn’t mean that those to whom Jesus restores health and strength will live forever in their sins in this sinful world. Poor old Lazarus, who Jesus raised from the dead, tells us that. Ever after he’d died and been brought back to life, he had to go life in this sinful world and death all over again. What Jesus healing every illness and weakness does mean is that He gives to those who believe in Him the power to live through the challenges and even horrors and death of this world to live with Him in an eternity with God where there will be no more mourning or pain and every tear will be wiped from our eyes. (Revelation 21:4)

This is the Gospel of love Jesus gives to you this morning.

But Jesus’ love isn’t just for you and me.

It’s for everyone.

For family members who have hurt you.

For people in the other political party who drive you to distraction.

For those who lead unrepentantly sinful lives.

Jesus loves them and everyone else as much He loves you. He wants them with Him forever no less than He wants you with Him forever. 

We know this today when we hear what Matthew tells us: “When [Jesus] saw the crowds, he had compassion [The word here is ἐσπλαγχνίσθη, more literally meaning Jesus’ gut was stirred to pity] on them, because they were harassed and helpless [literally, flayed and cast off], like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)

All around Him, Jesus sees people in distress, wandering far from God.

Some are flayed, vexed, gutted, by the horrors of a world in which nobody has taught them about God’s love for them and so, view life as a succession of meaningless events interspersed with occasional thrills and laughs, leading only to death.

Jesus also sees other people who are helpless. Their only “knowledge” of God is the Law of Moses, the law of right and wrong and because, even though they they may have spent their whole lives in churches, have never encountered the Jesus Who embraces sinners, are lost to God. This is the Jesus Who wants to tell them: “Everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise them up at the last day.” (John 6:40)

Jesus wants all people, starting with the descendants of Abraham, to be set free by this good news.

So, Jesus tells His first disciples and you and me, “The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 10:37-38)

According to Jesus, all the vexed, gutted people and all those people convinced that God will never have anything to do with them–all the cynics, atheists, and Christian legalists, all the narcissists and hedonists, all the hopeless who think they aren’t and can’t be loved by God and all the spiritually indifferent–are harvest.

All people are ripe for hearing, receiving, and believing in the gospel.

Ripe for being told God loves them.

Ripe to hear what Peter told the Pentecost crowd: “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved…” (Acts 2:21)

Dear friends in Christ, God loves you with a passion, depth, and commitment you and I could never have imagined, but which we can see in the crucified and risen Jesus. Jesus has already done everything needed to save you now and forever for eternal life with God!

Jesus loves your neighbor too. You, who have been saved by grace through faith in Jesus, are called to pray that God the Holy Spirit will send Christian disciples–believers in Jesus–into the world to share our good news so that God can create saving faith in the ripe harvest of people out beyond the walls of our church buildings.

And if what Jesus does in today’s Gospel lesson when He calls twelve of the disciples to be His apostles is any indication, He may even call you to share His Gospel with others.

If so, may you be so moved by gratitude for God’s grace and by compassion for your Christ-less neighbor that you tell God, as the Old Testament prophet told Him long ago, “Here am I, [Lord]. Send me!” Send me! (Isaiah 6:8) Amen

[Graphic from Sola Publishing, used by permission through their SOWER subscription service.]

Law and Gospel, June 18, 2023