TEXT: MATTHEW 5:17-26; ROMANS 6:1-11; EX. 20:1-17
JESUS SPEAKS TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER –
AND TO THE MATTER OF YOUR HEART!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


To all those at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Dear hearers of the Word made flesh – dear Ronan on the day of your confirmation:


On Mount Sinai – the law was given by the Christ – the pre-incarnate Christ. Then, centuries later – in the fullness of time - He who gave the Law to Moses came down in the flesh. In today’s Gospel Jesus the Christ lays bare the meaning of the Fifth Commandment He first gave on the holy mountain!


Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ When Jesus cited Old Testament Scripture He used the phrase “it is written” – not “you have heard that it was said.”  By using this phrase “You have heard that it was said…” Jesus refers to various scribal interpretations of the Torah (oral tradition surrounding the Torah) – not the full meaning of the

SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY – JULY 27, 2014
TEXT: MATTHEW 5:17-26; ROMANS 6:1-11; EX. 20:1-17
JESUS SPEAKS TO THE HEART OF THE MATTER –
AND TO THE MATTER OF YOUR HEART!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


To all those at Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center who are loved by God and called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Dear hearers of the Word made flesh – dear Ronan on the day of your confirmation:


On Mount Sinai – the law was given by the Christ – the pre-incarnate Christ. Then, centuries later – in the fullness of time - He who gave the Law to Moses came down in the flesh. In today’s Gospel Jesus the Christ lays bare the meaning of the Fifth Commandment He first gave on the holy mountain!


Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ When Jesus cited Old Testament Scripture He used the phrase “it is written” – not “you have heard that it was said.”  By using this phrase “You have heard that it was said…” Jesus refers to various scribal interpretations of the Torah (oral tradition surrounding the Torah) – not the full meaning of the Torah itself!


You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder;”…But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. But I say to you…
Jesus here claims total authority to set forth the Holy Ten Commands. Here He takes the muzzle off the Fifth Commandment and lets it loose on them and on us. He does so by taking aim at a deficient understanding of it that His disciples had heard!  In so doing He reveals the enormous power of sin. Jesus reveals the painful truth that you can murder someone in your heart – and with insulting and damning words. What do you think of Jesus’ catechesis?  By linking the sin of anger so closely with the sin of murder perhaps things are out of balance?  Consider the murderous world we live in.


A civilian airliner with hundreds on board is blown from the skies in Ukraine. Week by week suicide bombers slaughter scores in various countries. Each year the lives of hundreds of thousands of living but unborn babies are snuffed out in the womb – some by force - some by choice. In the Near East rockets and terrorist tunnels bring death to citizens in an earthly nation named Israel. The military response brings death to many, many more – both combatants and civilians. In our city alone – over 100 violent murders occurred last year. The year before over 500 homicides occurred in the windy city to the south. One can scarcely contemplate widening those statistics across the cities of our nation and the nations of the world!  Violence – murder – the taking of life all around from the youngest of the unborn to the oldest of the aged!  In the face of bloodshed like this, how can Jesus equate hateful anger and verbal insults with murder?


We must be clear – murder and anger are not identical in terms of the damage they do. God does not give the state the same sword to deal with an angry person that He gives to deal with a murderer. God does not say “whoever is angry” but rather “Whoever sheds the blood of man by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image” (Gen. 9:6).


Also, pastors in their vocation and Christians in their vocations would not deal with a person who committed the sin of anger in exactly the same way as a person who committed the sin of murder. Some sins are more “full grown” in the sense of their ugly and devastating and even deadly effects on fellow human beings (James 1:14-15). Jesus’ teaching here must never be understood as minimizing the horrible sin of physically taking the life of another human being. The only exception God reveals to this command is the power of the sword that He gives to government - public office authority to use force and to take bodily life - (Romans 13:1-7). 


The serious warning of Him who first gave this commandment on Mount Sinai does not minimize murder. It rather shows how fully the holiness of God is at war with all bitterness and all hatred and hurting of others!  The core of the commandment against murder is God’s displeasure with all human contempt for other human beings. Jesus here peels back the layers the sinful human heart places over the enormous power of sin. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. The point of the dotted i’s and crossed t’s of Scripture that Jesus fulfills is your righteousness. “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.


Beloved - what Jesus is after here is your heart!


Whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven. To “relax” here means to lessen the force or downplay the importance of God’s written word. That’s what the scribes and Pharisees were doing. Oh, the Pharisees had invented 613 oral laws to put a hedge around their efforts to keep God’s Law. Some would say that they were too strict. Yet Jesus accused them of not being strict enough in honoring the true Law. He taught that they weren’t strict enough in caring for elderly parents (Mt. 15:19) and in regard to divorce (Mt. 19:3-9) and in regard to tithing with the right heart (Mt. 23:23-24). In regard to the true God-given commandments, Jesus was stricter than the Pharisees! 


Their serious spirituality focused on perceived performance of externals. On that basis they were quite pleased with their posture before God and before men. To be sure – they were generous givers and good neighbors. They correctly believed in the resurrection of the dead and were concerned about eternal matters. They sought to live moral, useful, religious, hard-working lives. But as their name implies they were separatists. As Jesus makes clear here – they were also “relaxers” of Scripture’s true teaching about the darkness of the human heart by nature. That’s why they condemned Jesus for eating with sinners (Mt. 9:10-13) and for acts of mercy on the Sabbath. That’s why they wanted to kill Jesus for healing on the Sabbath (Mt. 12:1-14). They trusted in their own righteousness (Luke 18:9-14). They were confident in their serious efforts to be loyal to their dumbed-down understanding of God’s holy law. Jesus confronted their error head on.


Whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven.  Dear Christian - Jesus would make you a lover of the Bible. “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.   If Scripture does not reach its end with you – it will be the end of you. As Jesus speaks of liability to judgment for sins of anger and insult He states that those so sinning – will be liable to the fire of hell. These words are His who loves you with the fire of intensive, sacrificial love.


To judge yourself rightly in regard to the Fifth Commandment Jesus here teaches you to do so by way of those who irritate you – those you think are dunces – those who show themselves your enemies!  Where is your love for them – in thought – in action – in words about them – in words to them – in prayer for them?  You see the roots of God’s Law run to your heart – demanding the whole of you. Luther said that by this commandment God means your mind, heart, mouth, eyes, hands, feet, money and everything you have – not to snuff out but to sustain life.


But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment…Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. How severely this one unvarnished commandment accuses and condemns us!  Far from being free of fault regarding God’s holy love for our fellow human beings – we stand guilty of the sin of murder!


You see, in every respect the Commandments require total purity of heart and no man or woman can change their heart. You cannot change your heart by yourself!  God’s Law requires of you so much more than you are able to perform. The sin that infects you leaves you weak and self-centered and sometimes thinking that you’re good enough compared with others instead of with God’s holiness. While Scripture states that we cannot discern all our sins (Psalm 19:12) Jesus does not leave us uncertain about this one. In regard to the full meaning of His command not to murder - you are head over heels in debt to God. Such is the weight of what Jesus reveals here! “But I say to you…” that sinful anger and insults and moron-calling leave one liable to eternal punishment. According to Jesus teaching on this commandment I have lived a damnable life!  So have you!  God preserve us from mind games of trying to extenuate our guilt.


What then shall we do?  To you, Lord, I call; my rock, be not deaf to me, lest if you be silent to me, I become like those who go down to the pit. Hear the voice of my pleas for mercy, when I cry to you for help, when I lift up my hands toward your most holy sanctuary.


Jesus is not silent to your pleas for mercy. He who spoke with unbounded authority about the meaning of “You shall not murder,” also speaks with unbounded authority in releasing you from liability to the Law He fulfilled in your stead. With all the authority in heaven and earth the risen Christ commanded baptism. We might paraphrase Him saying on the day of your baptism I say to you – “be baptized…in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” 


As Ronan today will acknowledge the gifts that God gave to him in his Baptism – so you are free to rejoice in those gifts every day!  St. Paul writes of Baptism – Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death. Beloved your Baptism is a direct connection to the center of human history. The wonder of what God gives you in those waters cannot be overstated. You are united with Christ sacramentally – by His authority. The one man of obedience to God gives you Himself – covers you with Himself (Gal. 3:27) in that gift. You are baptized into the sacrifice of the Lamb of God for the sins of the world!  But Christ the second Adam, came To bear our sin and woe and shame, To be our life, our light, our way, Our only hope, our only stay. (LSB #562, St. 4).


All of us who have been baptized in Christ Jesus have been baptized into his death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. With connection to His death comes new life!  This newness of life is not conforming to a new morality – but newness of life that is God’s gift!  By God’s gift of faith, you walk now in the fulfilled law – fulfilled by Christ!  There has been a change of Lordship for you!  You are covered by His exceeding righteousness.


As Jesus here makes clear - you will fail in loving God with your whole heart and your neighbor as yourself. But Jesus does not fail in loving and forgiving you!  That’s the newness of life that comes from being baptized into His death!  As great as is our guilt before God – far greater is His grace lavished upon us in Christ.


The Lord is my strength and my shield; in him my heart trusts and I am helped!  He who was handed over to the judge in your place now comes to you with terms of peace – beautiful terms. But I say to you…If the Son sets you free you will be free indeed (John 8:36). But I say to you…Those who are well have no need of a physician but those who are sick…For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners (Matt. 9:12-13). But I say to you…Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest (Matt. 11:28). But I say to you…take and eat…drink of it all of you…for the forgiveness of sins.


In Him you are set free from sin!  Death no longer has dominion over Him or over you. You are not liable to judgment or the fire of hell because He paid the last penny. He has suffered and finished it all as your substitute – in your place. You are now alive to God in Christ Jesus. We know that Christ being raised from the dead will never die again…So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. In His Name, 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