Sunday, January 22, 2012

Sermon: Epiphany 3 – 2012

22 January 2012 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: Matt 8:1-13 (Rom 1:8-17)

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

When man was first created and placed in the Garden, there were no Jews and Gentiles, no lepers or paralytics. There were no soldiers and no slaves among men. There was, however, life and wholeness and wholesomeness and a perfect union between God’s will and man’s will.

That unity of will was broken when man first said: “Not Thy will, but my will, be done.”

After that, we began to see what our sinful will brought into the once-perfect world. Men were divided by tribal factions and fighting. Diseases brought disfigurement, debilitation, and ultimately, death. Greed led to warfare, and men became slaves to one another. Man’s will and God’s will went in two different directions.

This, dear friends, is the world that our Lord Jesus came into. He came as a Jew to “reap some harvest” among the Jews and to be a blessing to the Gentiles. He came into our fleshly existence of death in order to preserve us unto life. He came as the perfect divine general of all the heavenly hosts, and yet was willing to be crucified by sinful human soldiers under orders to a man who claimed to be a god. And in order to set us free from bondage to sin, He Himself took the form of a slave. And even as a Man who is fully God and as God who is fully a Man, He taught us to pray: “Thy will be done” even as He earnestly prayed that the cup of His suffering might be taken away from Him.

His will is God’s will, and He has come as a Man to restore man’s will back to God’s will.

The Jewish leper understood the will of Jesus when we sought out the One who could heal him, confessing: “Lord, if You will, You can make me clean.” The leper knew his wretched condition. There was no denying it. He could not will himself better. He could not heal himself clean. He knew his hope lay in Jesus, in His power, and in His will: “If you will, you can.”

The Lord Jesus wastes no time. “I will; be clean.” And even as the universe came into existence through this Word of God, this Word Made Flesh pronounces the leper’s flesh to be clean with a mere word – by His very will.

“I will; be clean.”

And the Lord gave Him a divine command: “Go!” It is not a task for him to do in order to earn cleansing. Nor was it a condition lest he forfeit his healing. Rather, the Lord Jesus told him to “Go!” and claim the victory of cleanness over and against the law of Moses that condemned him. Indeed, at the Word of the Word Made Flesh, the priest of Moses was to have no choice by to declare the leper to have been cleansed by Jesus. Indeed, in Christ, the leper can fulfill the law of Moses. And the Lord’s divine “Go!” is a divine gift!

The Gentile centurion also understood the will of Jesus when he sought out the One who could heal his servant, saying: “Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And when the Lord Jesus offers to come, the centurion says something amazing: “I am not worthy… only say the word.” The centurion knows that he is unworthy. And even though he is not the one who is paralyzed, he understands his inferiority before the One whom he addresses as “Lord.”

But He also knows that Jesus need only utter a word, and the Word Made Flesh can, by His will and His command, heal the corrupted flesh of the paralyzed servant. Like the Jewish leper, the Gentile centurion understands that Jesus “can,” He has the power, and he also understands that if it is the Lord’s will, the healing will happen – even as the centurion gives orders and receives orders, and orders are carried out in a chain of command. “For I too am a man under authority,” he says.

The Lord Jesus “marveled” at the centurion’s faith. And the Lord Jesus likewise issues the joyful command “Go!” to the centurion: “Go; let it be done for you as you have believed.” “Go!” and claim the victory of healing. And “the servant was healed at that very moment.”

The centurion’s belief, his faith, was not in himself, his own word, his own authority, his own goodness, or his own might. His faith is in Christ alone, in His word and will alone. The Lord Jesus does not send the centurion to the priests of Moses, but rather sends him as a messenger of Himself, an envoy to deliver the good news of the word and will of the Word Made Flesh.

Dear friends, Jesus comes to us in the same way. He breaks into our Word exercising His divine will that we be restored, healed, and forgiven. Jesus comes to us in order to unite our will to God’s will, to deliver the promise of life and restoration by means of the very faith we have in His Word. The Lord Jesus wills that we be forgiven of our sins, healed of our infirmities, and restored to eternal life. He wills the healing of the cross even as He obeyed His Fathers will in going to the cross and in teaching us to pray to the Father even as He does: “They will be done.”

His will is done, dear brothers and sisters, His will is for us to have salvation and life, and so we do! He also gives us the command to “Go!” – to go out into the world as forgiven sinners, healed of our leprosy and paralysis, raised from death to life, having wills being formed by the Holy Spirit to conform to the will of the Father – all by means of the Word and will of the Son who has come to redeem us.

He bids us to “Go!” and “make disciples” as His envoys according to whatever calling He gives us, living out our vocations as forgiven sinners, witnesses of what His perfect will and powerful Word have done for us, as soldiers under orders to believe and receive His gifts – as well as to share those gifts in whatever way He wills us to do.

Dear brothers and sisters, the days of our broken world are numbered. Our Lord’s will be done! Our Lord’s Word be fulfilled! He has come to break down the barrier between Jew and Gentile, to forever abolish leprosy and paralysis, to forever rid existence of warfare and to liberate every man from every type of slavery. He invites us to “Go!” into life as a healed, forgiven sinner with faith in His Word and in His will, with life and wholeness and wholesomeness and a perfect union between God’s will and man’s will made perfect once more in eternity!

For this gospel is truly “the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes. To the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”

“Go!” dear forgiven sinners, Jews and Gentiles; “Go!” from faith, for faith; “Go!” for “the righteous shall live by faith” in the will and the Word of the Word Made Flesh whose will and Word makes all flesh new. Amen.

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

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