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Prophet vs. People February 21, 2016

Posted by sandhandrews in Sermons.
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Jeremiah 26:8-15

Second Sunday in Lent

February 21, 2016

 

Focus:  God provides grace through His Son.

Function:  That the hearers repent of their sins.

Structure:  Old Testament/New Testament Comparison.

 

Prophet vs. People

 

Our texts for today, our theme for today, is really the ultimate display of the clashing between prophets and people.  And if we want to be even more specific, it’s the clash of God and man.  In this battle, we see the depths of God’s love pitted against the depths of our sin.

As we look at our Old Testament reading we have one of the major prophets, Jeremiah.  If you don’t know much about his background, God called Jeremiah to serve Him when he was only a boy.  And Jeremiah would then spend the rest of his days delivering messages to the nation of Judah, both prior to their defeat and exile, and also during their exile.  That’s why the book of Lamentations that he wrote is filled with, well, lamenting, mourning the loss of a nation.

We see one example of his work in the text today.  At the beginning of chapter 26 God calls to Jeremiah and instructs him to go to the leaders and the people of Judah, bringing a familiar message for a prophet.  You’re stuck in your sins and God is going to judge you.  But if you turn away from your evil, if you repent, He will spare you from destruction.

The response of the religious leaders is arrogant and puffed up with their own pride.  How dare you say God is judging us?  How dare you say we’re doing anything wrong?  How dare you say God will destroy this masterful city and artistic wonder that is our temple.

Those weren’t their exact words.  It was a paraphrase, but maybe their exact words were worse: “You shall die!”  How dare you say that?  Now we’re going to kill you.  Certainly, prideful.

And so they drag Jeremiah off to hold a quick and decisive trial before their officials that they hoped would result in his death.

There’s so many parallels to our New Testament reading, to our Gospel from Luke.  Here we are somewhere in the middle of Christ’s ministry prior to His final trip to Jerusalem.  He’s in the middle of a series of teaching when some Pharisees tell Him to leave because Herod wants Him dead.  It’s hard to know their intent, if these were some faithful men trying to save Him from death, or if they just wanted Him gone for the trouble He was causing them.

Regardless of their intent Jesus’ response is strong and telling.

“Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. 33 Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.”

 

In other words, if even the demons couldn’t stand against Christ, why on earth would He fear Herod?  Jesus’ face is already pointed towards Jerusalem.  He knows the path that is before Him.  He’s been transfigured.  He’s come down from that mountain to go to Jerusalem and to die.  And He knows it.

He knows all about our sins.  Their sins, that is the people of Judah and Jerusalem.  And our sins.  He knows the depths of it all and He knows there’s only one response.  That our sin, the punishment for our guilt must be laid upon His shoulders.

But that doesn’t stop Him from saying what He says next.

34 O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! 35 Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”

 

It is Him who is going to die, and yet He weeps for them.  He mourns for them.  He wishes that they had heeded the words of prophets, indeed even the words He Himself just spoke at the beginning of this same chapter when two separate times Jesus said, “Repent or perish.”  He’s downtrodden that their destruction is upon them.

And not unlike Jeremiah, the time was short before the religious leaders would drag Jesus off for a quick and decisive trial before their officials that they hoped would result in His death.

That’s what this really is.  That we would love our own sins so much that we would even kill the one who speaks of forgiveness.

Jeremiah lived it.  Jesus lived it.  That the very nation that was once faithful to God and the crown of His creation had now abandoned Him and sought to kill any messenger He sent them.

We live it.  How many times have you heard a Christian accused of being judgmental?  How many times have you been accused of hatred?  How many times has Matthew 7 been quoted to you that you should take the log out of your own eye before you take the speck out of theirs?  Their wrong, but that’s another sermon.

That’s what this is.  That we would love our own sins so much that we would even kill the one who speaks of forgiveness.  That our pride would be so powerful that we reject the Word of God spoken to us.  That we reject the idea that we are sinners, that we’re broken and in need of a Savior.

That indeed the master would send messengers to his vineyard, to his workers, and time and again they would beat them.  And ultimately that he would finally send his own son, for they surely won’t harm him.  Hmmm…that’s starting to sound like one of Jesus’ parables.  That no matter how much God works through His prophets and even through His Son, many will love their sin and reject their Savior.  To the point where we would kill Him, by nailing Him to the cross.

It’s the depth of our sin against the depth of God’s love.  That the Judahites could be told that their idol worship was a sin and they would laugh it off.  That the Pharisees could be told their love of themselves, their pride was a sin and they would laugh it off.  That I could tell you that your speeding habit is a sin and you might laugh it off as though it didn’t matter.

And God would still love us so much to offer us grace.  That in the midst of our rejection and pride He would continue to offer a way out, a way to have a relationship with Him, a way to live, through the very body and blood of His own dear precious Son Jesus Christ.  If only we might heed the words of Jeremiah, “Now therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will relent of the disaster that He has pronounced against you.”

This is the part of the conversation I wanted to be sure to have today.  Jesus, multiple times in His ministry, says “Repent or perish.”  The prophets often said it.  But, salvation is not our doing right?  We can’t earn it, we can’t do it?  So why are we being told, do this thing, repent, or you won’t be saved?  It makes repentance sound like a work we do to save ourselves.

But let me give you an illustration.  Let’s imagine that every day for the rest of Lent I am going to break into your home, steal something, and then auction it off on eBay to the highest bidder.  Destruction, theft, false gain, harming my neighbor.  Lots of sin.  I’m sinning against you, I’m damaging our relationship without a doubt.  And for a while, I just don’t care.  And then come Easter, the good news of Christ’s resurrection from the dead stirs me.  He works within me to cause me to realize my sin, that I’ve harmed you.

And that leads me to your doorstep.  But this time, instead of with a lock pick or bat in the cover of darkness, this time, with repentance.  Asking you to forgive me for what I’ve done.

I’ve stopped.  I’ve repented.  I’ve turned away from my sin.  I’ve turned myself in.  But have I earned anything?  Have I gained anything?  Has my apology earned back your trust?  Has my repentance repaid the cost of damages to your home and to our friendship?  Has my ceasing to steal from you restored the possessions lost?  Have I made restitution for the wrong I’ve done?  The answer’s no.  I can’t.  There’s no power in me to fix this.  I can only stop and ask forgiveness, and even that is a gift that God has worked in me.

In that example, you have the power to restore, to choose to trust me again, to waive off claims of vengeance against me, to ignore damages.  Those would be gifts, and only you can give them.  And in the greater picture, taking away our sins from us is a thing of grace.  We can’t earn it.  We don’t even participate.  God does it.  It’s by His grace alone.

Each of our texts had gospel, good news.  Sure, Jeremiah came with the message that they were sinners and they were bringing about their own damnation.  But he also came with the promise of God, the very grace of God, that if they would turn away from their wickedness, God would restore their relationship and remove their sins and destruction.

And even Christ wept for Jerusalem.  And if they had only repented, He would have gathered them as a hen does her chicks.  He longed to call them family.  And in the end, whether they wanted Him to or not, He even paid the price, gave up His own life, that they, that we, might live.

Repentance can’t earn your salvation, but rejecting God’s grace will certainly lead to your own destruction.  And so we are thankful that God gives us the gift of repentance, that we can turn away from our sin.  We are so thankful that He sacrificed His Son to pay for our sins and to restore our relationship with Him.  We are so thankful that He continues to send us His Word, whether it’s in the form of the prophets of old, of pastors and elders, of daily reading the Scriptures, or the accountability we have as brothers and sisters in Christ.  We are so thankful for the grace of God.

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