Biblical Text: Matt 2:13-23
Full Sermon Draft
Reading the Gospel of Matthew, especially these early infancy chapters, is a small study in how to read scripture. Matthew’s story and his argument is scriptural. It is also historical based in the life of Israel, but more scriptural because the true meaning of Israel’s history is captured in scripture. The purpose of Matthew’s gospel is to reveal Jesus as the fulfillment of history. And to ponder the strangeness of this revelation that He will be called a Nazarene.
So the opening here is slightly more didactic or teaching in purpose than normal. I think the text invites that, and the context of modern America with all kinds of “Bad Scripture Reading” being paraded as wisdom also calls for it. I hope that the teaching bit helps with the proclamation of the fulfillment passages. My prayer is that being willing to take scripture on its own terms, will open up the grace of God in the midst of horror. And how The Nazarene helps us to receive it.
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For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, that he might be Lord both of the dead and of the living. (Rom 14:7-9 ESV)
Almighty God and gracious Father. Your ways are beyond our understanding. In your hidden wisdom hopes can be turned from joy to grief. In your mercy, revealed to us in you son Jesus, lead us to pray your will be done. And find comfort in your deliverance from the evil one who afflicts us even in our very members. In Christ, the Lord of the living and the dead, we await the final revelation at the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Text: Matt 11:2-15
We are scandalized by the patchy nature of the Kingdom of Heaven. It appears capricious. It appears unfair. Even the Baptist asked – “are you the one?” But isn’t the the real test of faith? When you trust in the goodness of God even when events look contrary? “Blessed is the one who is not scandalized by me” is what Jesus sent back to John in that prison hole. The restoration has started, but its not complete. The Kingdom comes where and when it wills. But the blessing of the Kingdom affix to the lowest – the good news is received by the poor. The one who is not scandalized is blessed.
To me, this gets at the core of modern problems. We are scandalized by a God who retains sovereignty. Even the authority to do nothing. We do not accept ourselves as poor. We can’t answer with Peter – “where do we go?” We have trouble seeing with Paul’s eyes – “If Christ is not raised, we are to be pitied.” We think we have better options.
Our time and culture is one of the customized material goods and a generalized God. What I mean by that is we can have our burger our way and get 300 formulas of shampoo, but there are no limits or descriptions that apply universally for God. The culture believes God is love and that is all. Any attempt to say something even as minimal as God is love in Jesus Christ is too restricting for many today. It limits there “searching” ability. It smack of being religious, but not spiritual.
The problem with this is the revelation of God – and the only way we know anything about God is through revelation – the revelation is specific. It is specifically Jesus Christ. When we go spiritually searching we are throwing ourselves against the hidden God. That hidden God promises and delivers nothing. So we often fill it out, customize, that hidden God to our hearts content. When a church points at the very specific Jesus Christ on the cross, the revealed God, it blows away all those false hidden gods of our own making. Which is why the culture only permits a general God – don’t limit my ability to project onto my own hidden god, to search for my god.
But God has revealed himself and everything that is necessary for peace. The revealed God may be humble and gory and slightly embarrassing, but He came to us, and He comes with a purpose and a promise – to reconcile sinners. Jesus, the revealed God on the cross, is the same revealed God who stopped the coronation to weep over Jerusalem. A Jerusalem that preferred its hidden gods to the very God before there eyes.