Sermon – Epiphany 6 – February 24, 2019
Luke 6:27-38 ‘Presumptuous Gall’
CT: There is nothing presumptuous about God’s judgement against us, yet of all the outrageous gall, He let His Son be judged in our place and forgives us.
Intro: I’m sure most of us have run into someone who has said or done something that takes an inordinate amount of nerve. Perhaps you’ve seen those doorbell videos of a person walking up to a front step and just helping themselves to the parcel that was just delivered: “Of all the gall!” There are those people who have an outrageous, presumptuous, overestimation of self. And there is nothing more ridiculous than a man walking around with a log sticking out of his eye telling someone else about the speck in their eye. Just the idea of it brings a smile to our faces. Who would do something like that? “Not me,” we’d say! But as Jesus continued to talk to the people on a level place, He exposed our selfish motives and challenges the way we treat other people in light of what He is more than willing to do for us.
Hard Words: Jesus’ words catch us off guard. “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, turn the other cheek to those who strike you, let them strip you naked, and give freely demanding nothing in return.” Jesus has a lot of gall to say that. If someone hits me, I’m only too ready to deliver a knuckle sandwich in return. And I won’t stand by and let someone rob me of my possessions; I want justice!
In last week’s Gospel lesson Jesus had already warned of the fleeting nature of worldly wealth, positions, and the pursuit of happiness, but reassured those who are completely dependent on God that they will be eternally blessed. But the believing, baptized follower of Jesus cannot expect to be treated any better than He was. On the night in which Jesus was betrayed He told His disciples, “A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:20) Jesus’ words are self-descriptive. He is the one who loved His enemies. “God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) He healed the high priest’s servant’s ear that Peter cut off. He prayed for those who nailed Him to the cross, “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). He was stripped naked and His only belongings, His clothes, were taken from Him; and He did not demand them back.
Jesus’ words are not about being a doormat for the wicked of the world, or of letting anyone or anybody rob you blind. Jesus’ words speak of our surrender to those who hate us for Jesus’ name. If they wish to take everything from you, even your life for Jesus’ sake, don’t be surprised. Jesus is not asking anything of you that He has not already done. But remember, they can’t take your faith away nor the promise of life Jesus has given you.
Beyond the Golden Rule: And then Jesus applied the ‘golden rule’ to such harsh situations, but is not content to leave it there. If Jesus had gall with the first part, now He went over the top! It’s not just a matter of repaying a favour for a favour (quid pro quo). What kind of grace, or love, or gift is that? It’s easy to love those who love you, and to give to those who are generous with you; that’s just doing and giving what you expect in return. You don’t need to know God or have a relationship with Him to do that. That’s just taking care of you. Christ in His mercy loved and gave to you and I with no strings attached; no guarantee of a response, not even a hint that we might even take notice of Him, and yet He gave His life for you. You can be merciful because your Father in heaven has been merciful to you. God is kind to the ungrateful and evil and we need that assurance, because even as Christians, the old sinner remains in us. But He has given you the gift of faith to believe in His Son; He has forgiven all your sins, and called you through Baptism to be His own. In imitating Christ, your reward is great, and you are children of the Most High.
Good Measure: And finally, remember how God has measured you. It is so easy to be judgmental and legalistic with a log in our eye. It takes a lot of gall for a pot to call the kettle black. Instead, look first into the mirror of the Law to see what’s in your own eye. Only those who have known the pain of a log removed from their own eye can help another with the speck lodged in theirs. Only the forgiven who know their real standing before God as the forgiven in Christ can bear the healing power of the Gospel into this fevered world that is paralyzing itself with accusations and counter accusations.
To be judgmental and legalistic is to defile God’s good character. Jesus did not come into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. (John 3:18) While it is true that God will judge all people, He reveals Himself throughout Scripture, and especially through Jesus, that He is a God who delights in showing mercy, not condemnation. “‘I have no pleasure in the death of anyone,’ declares the Lord God, ‘so turn and live.’” (Ezekiel 18:32) We don’t go to a brother or sister in Christ who are caught up in a sin with gall, but with humility, for we too are sinners forgiven for Jesus’ sake. As Christ is part of us, we are to be characterized by mercy and forgiveness and thus portray the truth of God’s character to the world. Heaven knows God gets a bad enough rap without us!
What kind of presumptuous gall is it that God would adopt as a standard to judge us, the standard we use with each other? But stop and think about who forgives first: God or you? Now that takes gall; the gall of our God who loves you; who provided for your salvation 2,000 years ago through His Son on a cross. Ultimately there is a direct correspondence between God’s forgiveness and generosity and the way you and I forgive and give to others. We love because God first loved us, and we forgive because He has so richly forgiven us, and we give because He has already given all for us. The forgiveness and generosity of God comes to you who bear Christ within you by faith and Baptism. God responds favourably toward you because your actions are of Christ; the qualities Jesus possessed in His suffering, dying, and rising are the qualities Jesus has given you.