Sunday, September 06, 2009
Sermon - Pentecost 14 - Mark 7:37
Sermon – Pentecost 14
September 6th, 2009
Today we see crowds of people becoming more and more impressed with Jesus. His travels in the northern region of the holy land, and the healings and miracles done there attract and amaze many people. They earn him praise and glory. “He has done all things well” they say. Let's use that phrase as our focus today.
Ask my wife about my home improvement and repair skills, and she will tell you what kind of job I do. “Good enough” is good enough for me, but usually not to her standards. It's not perfect, but hey I'm a pastor not a carpenter. I can't do all things well.
And lots of things in life are like that. We do something in life, whether it's a job or a project, or whether it's living up to a moral standard or law. We think we do a pretty good job. I don't gossip too much. I'm not THAT materialistic. I don't lose control of my temper very often. I'm pretty good. I'm certainly better than that guy over there. We may not do all things well, but we do most pretty well, don't we?
When God looks at me he probably sees I'm a little rough around the edges, but let's face it, I should get pretty good marks. After all, I come to church and give my offering. I go to work and pay my taxes. I take care of my family. What more can God want from me?
The conversations we have in our heads are really amazing. The things we tell ourselves, even when we know better. Even when Scripture clearly teaches otherwise. James knocks down our delusions of grandeur today, “whoever breaks even one law is guilty of breaking it all”. There is no “pretty good” when it comes to righteousness. God does not grade on a sliding scale. It's pass or fail, and if you sin, you fail. Even if we think we're “good enough”, it's a lie – a wicked, evil lie that leads us to a false sense of security.
Pretty good is not good enough for God. His standard is always perfection, and the only one every to meet it was Jesus. The people were right when they said, “he has done all things well”. More right than they knew. They likely meant to compliment him for his wonders and signs. And surely he deserves our praise for all that too. But he has done ALL things well.
God would agree. He said so much about his own Son at Jesus' baptism. “This is my son, with whom I am well pleased”. Jesus was baptized to fulfill all righteousness – not because he needed it himself. He already was righteous. He was fulfilling it for us. He was beginning his public work of doing all things well, for you and me.
And his healings and miracles, astounding as they were, served as signs. They fulfilled the prophecies. Amazing how Jesus took great care to cross every t and dot every i from the prophets – even to the words he spoke on the cross. He did all things well.
Then the cross. What looked to many like a failure. What Peter and the disciples tried to talk him out of – what ancient Jews considered a cursed way to die – the shame, the humility, the agony, the defeat of Calvary. He did it all well. He did not lash out in anger, but called for his tormentors' forgiveness. He did not answer the mocking and jeering, he did not come down from the cross as he surely could. He didn't deaden the pain appointed for himself by drinking the anesthetic they offered. He didn't think of himself, but of his mother and his friend and the thief beside him. He did the cross well. And there he even suffered the wrath of God – he was forsaken by his Father – the ultimate anguish of the soul – he endured it in our place.
Jesus doing all this, and doing it well is not simply as an example for us to follow. As we've already seen, we aren't so good at following. But his work IS work done for us – perfect righteousness that makes us righteous, and a perfect death which pays the price of our ransom. Even his resurrection is not for his own sake, but for ours – to show us God's approval of his sacrifice, to promise us a resurrection like his own, and the prove his words and vindicate his actions as THE messiah for all people of all time.
Jesus has done all things well. His good work fixes our bad work. His good work purifies our tainted work. His good work wins us the blessings of salvation, and the power of his Spirit moves us to – good works!
Yes, the Christian does good works. We don't do them to earn our salvation. We do them because we're already saved. We don't do good works to merit blessings, we do them because we've been blessed. And even though our good works are never good enough on our own, Christ's forgiveness makes them complete and perfect and righteous. After all, they're not really our good works, but his. Works that he has prepared beforehand for us to do.
Works that we may not even know we do! “When did we feed you, clothe you, Lord. When did we visit you in prison?” The sheep don't know what good we do, because our focus is not on ourselves. We look to Christ, the one who has done all things well for us and our salvation. Our hand is always on the plow, but our eye is on the horizon – and the fulfillment of his promises to us.
We sinners don't really do anything all that well. But Jesus has done all things well, and he has done them for us. In the strength and faith that he gives, we strive to do our best in service to others and to his glory. Empowered by His Spirit, emboldened by our faith, and always focused on Him. In his holy name, amen.