Grace, peace, and mercy to you from God the Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit. Amen.
There was a book that came out a number of years ago title The Face on the Milk Carton. The book is about a 15-year-old girl named Janie Johnson, who finds out she was kidnapped, and her biological parents are somewhere in New Jersey. One day at lunch she grabs her friends milk carton and she sees herself on a milk carton under the heading "Missing Child." This starts the journey to finding out she is not necessarily the person she thought she was her entire life.
Can you imagine the shock? Think of who you are. Now, imagine, just for a moment, how you would feel if somebody came up and gave you definitive proof that you were somebody completely different. The shock to your psyche.
21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 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.
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.
31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.
33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.
And here we thought we were good people. We thought that, “I’m not an axe murder. I love my spouse. I don’t lie. I am a good person.” Not according to Jesus. Not a murderer? Everyone who is angry with his brother will liable to judgment. In other words, if you are angry with your brother you have murdered them in your mind and are therefore guilty of murder. Not an adulterer? Look at somebody with lust, you have committed adultery. Notice that Jesus says, “everyone” again. Single people, you fall under everyone, too. Think divorce is not big deal? You’re wrong. By the way, I do not want to get into those two verses much here. They are perhaps some of the most misunderstood verses in the entire Bible. The discussion over them would take more time than a 15-minute sermon. And, I am afraid if I tried to say more there would be great misunderstanding of what exactly Jesus is meaning. Quickly, however, the parallel is this: divorce was just as rampant in Jesus’ day as it is today. And there was a great debate on how serious it was. Jesus point, divorce is very serious. Finally, I do not lie. Your words matter, they are important. There is no such thing has a harmless lie. To make a promise in front of God or the human authorities He has given us is no trifling matter. Simply let your yes be yes and your no be no. It is the devil himself who wants you to think differently about your words. We are not who we thought we are.
The sobering reality is that we are abject failures. Creatures who love the fleshly things of life. To go around thinking otherwise is to reject the need of a Savior. To say that we are inherently good people that might do a few bad things every now and then is to say that the death of Jesus on the cross was a complete waste of time. It is to deny Genesis 3, that we are sinful to our very core. It is to rebel against God and then call that rebellion good, right, and salutary.
Where, in all this, is there any hope? Where might there be what we could call the gospel? How about the very fact that Christ came at all? God could have left us abandoned to die hopeless deaths. Instead, all the way back in Genesis He promised a savior. He sent His Son to redeem us. To pay for all the things we do so flippantly. He took upon himself our murders, our adulteries, our unfaithfulness’s, our disloyalties. The wages of our sins were paid upon Him. And, His life was given to us.
Last week we reviewed the meaning of baptism. We asked, “what does baptizing with such water indicate?” It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desire, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever. This righteousness of the New Man is not an earned righteousness, but one freely given by the grace of God. It is God’s righteousness. Unearned, but given as a gift through faith.
You are a new creation. The Old Adam and its sinful desires are dead, crucified with Christ. You have been made new. You have been forgiven your trespasses. In a hopeless world, you have been given hope and joy and peace.
So, what does this all mean? How does it apply to my life? First, all those things we took so trivially God takes very seriously. That should change how we take them. It should also dictate how we treat people. Jesus died for them, too. He loves them just as much as He loves us. As far as our neighbor is concerned, Jesus tell us: love your neighbor as yourself. We should teach the world that these things are not frivolous, but have deep meaning. And we do that by modeling Christ in our life and sharing the love of God.
In Christ’s name. Amen.
And now may the peace that surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.