October 30, 2011
TEXT: Matthew 11:12-19
THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN SUFFERS VIOLENCE
Vicar Alex Post

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
These are dark times for the Christian Church, there is no denying. The Church has perhaps faced no greater threat than it does today. Jesus Christ said: “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.” The Church is under attack on all sides. There is violence from outside and violence from within.

The violence comes in many forms. The devil, the world, and our own sinful natures are working against us, trying to turn us against God and His grace and His forgiveness. They use whatever means they can to make us weary, to forget God, or to reject Him altogether. There has been violence by violent men against the holy ones in the Kingdom of Heaven since the beginning of the world. Cain murdered Abel while they were out in the field (Gen. 4:8) because Abel offered his offering with faith in the one true God (Heb. 11:4). Moses “was mistreated with the people of God [rather than enjoying] the fleeting pleasures of sin.” (Heb. 11:25) Daniel was thrown into a den of ravenous lions rather than forsaking prayer and worship of God (Dan. 6) Stephen was stoned after he testified concerning salvation through Jesus Christ (Acts 7). Polycarp was burned at the stake and stabbed for preaching the Gospel. 

October 30, 2011
TEXT: Matthew 11:12-19
THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN SUFFERS VIOLENCE
Vicar Alex Post

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
These are dark times for the Christian Church, there is no denying. The Church has perhaps faced no greater threat than it does today. Jesus Christ said: “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.” The Church is under attack on all sides. There is violence from outside and violence from within.

The violence comes in many forms. The devil, the world, and our own sinful natures are working against us, trying to turn us against God and His grace and His forgiveness. They use whatever means they can to make us weary, to forget God, or to reject Him altogether. There has been violence by violent men against the holy ones in the Kingdom of Heaven since the beginning of the world. Cain murdered Abel while they were out in the field (Gen. 4:8) because Abel offered his offering with faith in the one true God (Heb. 11:4). Moses “was mistreated with the people of God [rather than enjoying] the fleeting pleasures of sin.” (Heb. 11:25) Daniel was thrown into a den of ravenous lions rather than forsaking prayer and worship of God (Dan. 6) Stephen was stoned after he testified concerning salvation through Jesus Christ (Acts 7). Polycarp was burned at the stake and stabbed for preaching the Gospel.

Martin Luther was excommunicated by the Pope, banned by the emperor, and could have been murdered at any time. God was using Luther, the young monk, to return the Christian Church to its foundation – the teaching of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone! Whether Luther was translating the Holy Scriptures into the language that Germans could understand, or the princes were following their consciences and refusing to practice a faith foreign to God’s Word – everywhere the Kingdom of Heaven advances – the forces of evil attack.

The Kingdom of heaven still suffers violence. It is estimated that 2/3 of Christian martyrdom has occurred during the most recent century. Coptic Christians are being murdered in Egypt. We could go on with so many examples of imprisonment, torture, hatred, ridicule, and other persecution of those who confess Christ. In our country, our youth are dragged away by those who teach secular humanism, metaphysical naturalism, and a random origin of the universe, while scientists who are Christian are expelled and blacklisted for teaching the incredible and intentional design in nature and in our bodies.

Jesus warned His disciples that they would be delivered over to courts and flogged in the synagogues. (Mt. 10:17) This shows that persecution comes from inside the Church as well as outside. Even family members would turn against each other on account of the Gospel.

But there is a much worse form of violence against the Church of Jesus Christ – one that is insidious, hidden, much more dangerous, harder to recognize, and easier to fall victim to. The greatest violence against the Church, in all times and places, is the perversion of the true teaching and ministry of Jesus Christ. Jesus told His disciples: “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Mt. 10:28) If Satan, our Old Adam inside us, and the evil forces of the world can just get us to forsake the Gospel of salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone, they will have won the victory and taken the Kingdom of Heaven by force.

This word, “take it by force,” can also mean “take away,” “carry off,” or “attack.” It is the same word that Jesus uses to describe the violence of the wolf (Jn. 10:12), who attacks the sheep
in the pen of the Good Shepherd and carries them off to devour them. Dear friends, we are oppressed on every side. The wolves are trying to snatch us away from the worship of Jesus Christ.  They are trying to stop us from receiving forgiveness of sins that Jesus freely gives.

The enemy from outside the Church is dangerous, deadly, and evil. But the enemy inside is more dangerous, more deadly, and more evil. The enemy within the Church has many names in the Holy Scriptures – the little horn who makes war on the saints (Dn. 7:8, 11, 20-27), the Desolator (Dn. 9), the evil king (Dn. 11), the man of lawlessness (2 Thess. 2), the Antichrist (1 Jn. 2:18, 4:1-3), the 2nd Beast, the one from the land (Rev. 13:11), and the false prophet (Rev. 16:13, 19:20, 20:10). Utilizing every means that exist, the Beast from outside and the Beast from inside the Church conspire with Satan to destroy the central teaching of the Christian Church.

The central teaching of the Holy Scriptures – the Gospel, which means Good News, about salvation – is summarized in this one sentence: “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.” (Rm. 3:23-24) This is the eternal Gospel (Rev. 14:6)! This eternal Gospel is for now, it was for God’s Old Testament people, it’s for the future, all the way until Christ comes again – it’s for every person in every time and place! This Gospel was proclaimed to Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:15), to Abraham and all his descendants, to Jacob and Isaac and David and to all who believed in the promises of God (Gal. 3:5-6)!

The enemies of the Christian Church, from without and from within, along with Satan, want to force you into false belief – that you can somehow participate in your own justification. This is the main error of every wayward religion and every confused denomination, within Christianity and without – many think that the funeral dirge of God’s holy Law will raise people from the death of sin. Even in our Lutheran church, the greatest violence to souls and bodies comes when our members forsake the Divine Service, where you receive Christ’s gifts each week. (Heb. 10:25) You cannot stand before God based on your own righteousness! There is no way to escape judgment except to rest on the promises of God, receiving the gifts of His salvation in His Word and in the Lord’s Supper. 

 Only the sweet, beautiful flute music of the saving Gospel of Jesus Christ can create faith and cause former slaves to dance! The Gospel sets you free! We have the pure Gospel – the same Gospel that was promised to everyone in the Old Testament, the same Gospel that is now being preached “to those who dwell on earth, to every nation and tribe and language and people.” (Rev. 14:6)

This Gospel, this Good News, is the center of your life and your spiritual food for each day. You can’t live without it! The Gospel soothes and comforts us throughout our lives in this valley of tears and sorrow and sickness and pain. The Gospel tells us, most importantly, that the Kingdom of Heaven suffered the greatest violence when Jesus Christ was mocked and flogged and nailed to a cross to suffer the punishment for our sins. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus!” (Rm. 8:1) “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven!” (Lk. 10:20)

As for the violent men who attack the Church, the devil and his two beasts who poison the true food and drink of God’s Holy Word and Sacraments from outside and from inside, this Gospel means judgment and doom for them. The “angel flying directly overhead…said with a loud voice: “Fear God and give him glory, because the hour of his judgment has come, and worship him who made heaven and earth, the sea and the springs of water.” (Rev. 14:6-7) The salvation of all mankind that Jesus made on the cross also means that Satan and his allies will surely be cast into the eternal lake of fire and sulfur (Rev. 20:10). So fear not! God is on your side. The devil, the world, and your sinful nature can hurt and tempt and nag and attack all they want. They cannot prevail against the only true God, and He will defend you against their violence.

We have been talking about the violence suffered by the Church, which includes all of God’s holy people, called “saints.” So how do we know what the Church is, and where to find it? Jesus Christ compared His Law and Gospel preaching and that of John the Baptist to children sitting in the marketplaces. They called to their playmates: “We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.” (Mt. 11:17) The preaching of God’s Law should always lead us first to mourn over our sins, and then the Gospel will cause us to dance because Jesus Christ has saved us apart from our own works.

We find in the Augsburg Confession that the Church is “the assembly of all believers among whom the gospel is purely preached and the holy sacraments are administered according to the Gospel.” (VII, 1) And Martin Luther wrote this wonderful description of the Christian Church in the Smalcald Articles: ‘God be praised, a seven-year-old child knows what the church is: holy believers and “the little sheep who hear the voice of their shepherd.’” (III, 12:2) The holiness of the Church exists in the Word of God and in receiving His gifts in true faith.

Jesus Christ will always be where He has promised: wherever two or three are gathered in His name (Mt. 18:20), He will bless and strengthen them with His Word and Baptism and Communion and Absolution. These are offered here, freely, for you, because of Jesus’ promise. Thanks and praise be to God for His salvation and for the eternal Gospel! For by His violent death on the cross, He has ransomed people for God (Rev. 5:9), and by His wounds, we are healed (Is. 53:5). Jesus is risen from the grave, and He who caused the Reformation of the Church is present now to give you His healing gifts.

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


Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
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