TEXTS: MATTHEW 11:12-19/ROMANS 3:19-28/ REV. 14:6-7
A GIFT OF DIVINE LOVE –REQUIRING VIOLENCE
NOT A VIOLENT GRAB OF HUMAN LONGING
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


Grace to you and peace from Him who was and who is and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne (that is from the Holy Spirit) and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead (Revelation 1:4-5).  Words from Jesus - “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.”  Words from Jesus as the Holy Spirit spoke through the apostle Paul – “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.”  Dear hearers of the Word made flesh:


If you had been alive when Jesus walked visibly on earth, you would have noticed little difference between the Pharisees and Him.  The Pharisees were Old Testament-quoting teachers who had a following of disciples.  So was Jesus.  The Pharisees were serious and conservative and of good moral values.  So was Jesus.  The Pharisees were concerned with people getting into the kingdom of heaven.  So was Jesus.  Yet, for all their outward similarities, there was a great divide between the Pharisees and Jesus.  The difference centered on how God’s kingdom is received.  The Pharisees taught that it came by sincere, religious effort in keeping God’s Law.  They even built a fence around the law – hundreds of rules - attempting to regulate all of life to God’s glory.  Jesus taught that God’s kingdom came as a gift through His person and work received in faith – faith which is also a gift and not our own doing – (Eph. 2:8-9).  As the Holy Spirit caused St. Paul to write it, we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.    


If you had lived in Wittenberg when Dr. Martin Luther first taught there, you would have noticed little outward difference between him and many other teachers of the church.  Dr. Luther used the Scriptures and was sincerely concerned with his own and others salvation.  Many of the teachers of Rome also used the Scriptures and were also sincerely concerned with salvation for themselves and others  Yet for all the outward similarities a great divide became evident over how God’s kingdom is received. 

TEXTS: MATTHEW 11:12-19/ROMANS 3:19-28/ REV. 14:6-7
A GIFT OF DIVINE LOVE –REQUIRING VIOLENCE
NOT A VIOLENT GRAB OF HUMAN LONGING
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


Grace to you and peace from Him who was and who is and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne (that is from the Holy Spirit) and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead (Revelation 1:4-5).  Words from Jesus - “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.”  Words from Jesus as the Holy Spirit spoke through the apostle Paul – “But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law – the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.”  Dear hearers of the Word made flesh:


If you had been alive when Jesus walked visibly on earth, you would have noticed little difference between the Pharisees and Him.  The Pharisees were Old Testament-quoting teachers who had a following of disciples.  So was Jesus.  The Pharisees were serious and conservative and of good moral values.  So was Jesus.  The Pharisees were concerned with people getting into the kingdom of heaven.  So was Jesus.  Yet, for all their outward similarities, there was a great divide between the Pharisees and Jesus.  The difference centered on how God’s kingdom is received.  The Pharisees taught that it came by sincere, religious effort in keeping God’s Law.  They even built a fence around the law – hundreds of rules - attempting to regulate all of life to God’s glory.  Jesus taught that God’s kingdom came as a gift through His person and work received in faith – faith which is also a gift and not our own doing – (Eph. 2:8-9).  As the Holy Spirit caused St. Paul to write it, we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.    


If you had lived in Wittenberg when Dr. Martin Luther first taught there, you would have noticed little outward difference between him and many other teachers of the church.  Dr. Luther used the Scriptures and was sincerely concerned with his own and others salvation.  Many of the teachers of Rome also used the Scriptures and were also sincerely concerned with salvation for themselves and others  Yet for all the outward similarities a great divide became evident over how God’s kingdom is received.


On October 31, 1517 Martin Luther, nailed 95 theses on the church door for debate.  Luther’s concerns expressed there and in subsequent writings centered on how the kingdom of God is received.  Regarding salvation, Luther said “no” to teachings that God had not revealed in His Word.  Some of those teachings and related practices that had arisen in the middle ages included - paying for indulgences to gain release from “purgatory” – doing acts of penance to make satisfaction for sins – trusting in relics and pilgrimages for saving benefit – and believing that a priest’s indelible character allowed him to re-sacrifice Jesus in an un-bloody manner in the Mass. 


Martin Luther did not want to form a Lutheran Church.  He sincerely believed that church leaders were unaware of some of these pressing issues and their harmful effect on the Gospel.  He had no plans to start a Reformation.  His desire for wider conversation grew from pastoral concern for those He was called to serve with God’s Word and Sacrament in Wittenberg.  The beating heart of Luther’s concern was this – All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus.  Dear Christians – this is the stone of stumbling – this is the truth that distinguishes Christianity from all man-made religion – this is the burning flame of the Holy Spirit’s testimony without which there is no Christian Church.  This is also the bed rock reality that has been the target of violence against the church and within the external church


“From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.”  As John the Baptist proclaimed repentance and forgiveness of sins in Christ, he also spoke clearly against sexual immorality in his day – even in high places.  You know how violently he lost his head.


The violence being suffered today by Christians in other lands – is nothing new.  Some of it is emotional violence – mocking and exclusion.  Some of it is physical violence – imprisonment and destruction of property.  Some of it has brought earthly death to our brothers and sisters in Christ – more in the 20th century than any previous time in New Testament history.  The new CPH resource on church history entitled The Church from Age to Age (p. 904) – notes that current estimates of Christians martyred each year are roughly 150,000 (1000 gatherings like this one each year). Although the number is presently increasing - it is less than half of the Christians known to be martyred each year during the decades of Stalin and his contemporary atheistic powers.  God’s kingdom on earth – the Church fed and forgiven by the crucified and risen Christ – has always and will always continue to suffer violence until Jesus returns on the Last Day.  God help us to be faithful to the baptismal gifts we affirmed on our confirmation day.  We were asked – Do you intend to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?  We answered – “I do, by the grace of God.” 


It is that grace that gave Luther heart and voice to speak and write even when placed under the sentence of death.  It is that full and free grace in Christ that Luther’s generation opposed and that every generation opposes.  Jesus said “To what shall I compare this generation?  It is like children sitting in the market places and calling to their playmates, we played the flute for you and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’  For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon.’  The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him!  A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’  Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.”


John lived an austere life in the wilderness.  He didn’t indulge in feasting or even enjoy a social drink now and then.  His tough, disciplined life-style was all business.  He preached repentance and forgiveness of sins in Christ.  His message was grounded in Scripture and critics were unable to reject His preaching on those grounds.  Therefore another objection became the target – His person!  Any person with his diet - wearing camel’s hair – refusing the world’s goodies and advice – and condemning the King’s immorality to His face – must be a demon-possessed oddball. 


Jesus did not have the stark life that John had.  He ate with all sorts of people – including Pharisees and tax collectors.  He went to weddings.  As His first sign He turned scores of gallons of water into wedding wine.  Yet Jesus was rejected by the same people who rejected John.  Those who said “don’t listen to John because he’s an austere demon-possessed fanatic also said – “don’t listen to Jesus because He’s not austere enough.  He eats with tax collectors and sinners.  He must be a glutton and a drunkard.  Elsewhere they also added that He must have a demon (Matthew 10:25). 


How could they reject both John and Jesus for lifestyles so opposite?  Because both had the same message!  Both proclaimed that man couldn’t save himself by his own works or value or standing.    Both proclaimed that Jesus was the Lamb of God – the immeasurable atoning sacrifice - the propitiation – for the sins of the world.  Both preached repentance and the forgiveness of sins in His name. 


That’s also what Martin Luther preached!  He also was branded a glutton and a drunkard - a wild boar and a servant of Satan.  The powers of his generation wanted Luther dead for declaring that salvation was a free gift for the sake of Jesus received where Jesus promised to bestow it.  Our generation also has little use for the foolishness of Christ crucified and risen - bringing His gifts in humble means He has promised.  “To what shall I compare this generation?  “From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.” 


The sad truth is, we also would like to take the kingdom of heaven by force – the force of family ties – the force of good intentions or sincere feelings – the force of comparative or civil or conditional religion.  When faith in Christ is absent – religion is what happens to human hearts – religion of one idol or another. 


Luther agonized over the righteousness of the Holy Trinity and being in a right relationship with Him.  God’s Word showed him our only refuge is the eternal Gospel.  God then made Luther a messenger (an angel) of the eternal Gospel.  Today – contrary to Luther’s agonizing – few are directed or inclined to worry much about getting right with God – just getting right with ourselves.  Who knows what sin is anymore?  A contemporary form of salvation by works is reducing everything to the level of human judgment.  I’ll affirm you in your choices if you affirm me in mine - OK.  People try to fill up the emptiness of life by chasing themselves and affirming themselves – always under the gun to do more!  More choices - more quality time - more sports – more socializing – more success – more stuff - more security – more chasing happiness.  Values are shifted.  Resolutions are made.  Culture is idolized!  Government is idolized!  Nature is idolized!  Work is idolized!  Self is idolized!  When faith in Christ is absent – religion is what happens to you - with one or many idols on the altar of the human heart. 


In our perspective of course – there is a justifiable reason for what we do and don’t do!  We can always open our mouths to defend what we value most with our time - our thoughts - our treasure – our trust!  But such justifying and excusing and affirming does not stand before God!  “Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.  This accountability is not sprucing ourselves up a bit – being a little nicer to gain the world’s admiration – (you know - God is nice – we should be nice – isn’t that nice).  Fellow redeemed sin always remains sin and God determines what sin is – not human opinion.  All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  All humanity has gone sour – losing God’s holy image - infected now with sin and death.  Only God’s law shows us the depth of our heart’s depravity and the devil behind our sin-sickness unto death.   


BUT NOW!  These two words have been described as the “two biggest little words” in the Bible!”  BUT NOW!  But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law…the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.  God has taken control of our eternal destiny!  He has decided for you in the flesh of Jesus Christ!  He who is the only embodiment of the right relationship to God stepped forward as a propitiation by his blood - fulfilling all sacrifices ever made - to be received by faith.


The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look at him!  A glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!  Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds!  He is not a glutton!  He is not a drunkard!  He is a friend of sinners – like you – like me!  Wisdom is justified by her deeds and God’s wisdom is Christ crucified (1 Corinthians 1:18-31)!  It was a violent deed done to an innocent man covered with our idolizing sin!  Look at him!  See the depth of God’s love for you!  It was a violent deed done to God the Son in human flesh – yet death could not hold Him (Acts 2:24)!  But now - wisdom is justified by her deeds!  He who is our wisdom rose from the house of death!  What a justifying deed!  With new life He comes into this house of worship for you.


You cannot rid yourself of sin!  There is not ethical cure for it!  If you keep the whole law and yet stumble at one point – you are guilty of all of it (James 2:10).  That is how firmly the law shuts our mouths on our own merit or self-justification before God.  BUT NOW!  But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law.  Beloved God shatters all our schemes of goodness!  By the fantastic magnitude of His grace alone – God does business with sinners!  The once-for-all, all-atoning sin offering has been made! 


Now, in baptism God does not just remodel you a little bit!  He puts you to death with Christ and buries you with Christ and raises you to new life with Christ!  This is the big death and the new life that little James Nelson received this morning!  He was reborn to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  So were you!  Because God is faithful – because of His divine imputation to you of Christ’s righteousness you always have a new beginning in faith!  You will love God perfectly only at the end!  But He loves you perfectly right now and all along the way!  That’s why He comes now to feed you – to forgive you – to justify you with His righteousness – as a free gift!  In the Name of Jesus,  AMEN.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a