O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
You Shall Not Murder
You Shall Not Murder
Based on Genesis 4:1-16
Preached on March 14, 2018
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Anatomy of a murder.
You’re minding your own business and then all of a sudden …
News flash! It’s scrolls along the bottom of the TV screen. Before you can read it the news anchor Mona Cohen interrupts regular programming: “This just in to Paradise Lost Network! We have received disturbing news! It comes from one of the western farm fields. We’re hearing unconfirmed reports that one of Adam’s sons was found dead a short while ago. Let’s go live to our ace on the spot reporter Biff Bernstein. He’s there with the latest. Biff, can you confirm what we’re hearing?”
“Mona, yes the dead body has in fact now been identified by officials as Abel. Mona, this is a grisly scene. I’ve never seen any thing like this! It’s sickening! I can’t believe this has happened! This is no accident! It is criminal! Abel’s head has been crushed in! It is the goriest and most gruesome incident I’ve ever covered… [Biff gags]. As you can tell Mona, I’ve lost it. Who could have done this? Who could have done this Mona? Back to you.”
“Thanks Biff. For those who have just joined us, we have confirmed that Abel, the younger twin brother of Cain, has been found dead from substantial blows to the head. It is a gruesome crime scene. A massive manhunt has now begun for the world’s first ever killer. More breaking news as it happens.”
While you’re still in shock – still in dismay – another breaking news alert from Mona Cohen of Paradise Lost Network! “This just in! More dreadful news! Authorities have confirmed that Abel’s killer has been apprehended! The killer is … are you ready for this ladies and gentlemen? … Abel’s older twin brother Cain!”
Double tragedy! Double punch to the gut! Not just the world’s first murder! Not just a homicide -- BUT FRATRICIDE! Abel, viciously slaughtered by his very own twin brother!
And this is the very brother we all believed to be the ONE! The ONE to bring back the paradise Adam and Eve lost by their rebellion. The ONE to put an end to all the pain and agony that Satan brought into the world by our parents’ sin. Cain! Cain! Cain!
Cain’s no messiah! Far from it! We were all foolishly mistaken on that one! We just all assumed!
Cain had us all fooled. Both boys went to church. Both heard sermon after sermon. Both offered their sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise. All the neighbors said Cain was a quiet boy. A good neighbor. Always on time. Reliable. A hard worker. What went wrong? Why would he do such a heinous deed?
Then another news flash! “Mona Cohen here again with more breaking news. We have been told that Cain was a very angry young man. He had a very, very dark side. Hated his brother Abel! Had something to do with their offerings at church. His intense anger appears to have begun when the LORD favored Abel’s offerings but not Cain’s. Here to give us some perspective on why all this happened is doctor Ruth Bernbaum. Dr. Bernbaum, what triggered all of Cain’s anger and the savage attack of his brother? Why couldn’t Cain master the sin that was crouching at his door?”
“Well, Mona, it could be a number of factors. One, perhaps God likes ranchers more than farmers. Another explanation may be the way Eve potty-trained these boys in combination with Adam’s laissez-faire attitude. That probably didn’t go so well. One more factor could be that Cain skimped with his offerings. Maybe the grain he offered wasn’t the best or possibly he only offered chaff instead of wheat. Or, and this is the most likely explanation, you did this to him! The pressure was too much for him! All the messianic expectations you all put on him led him to this!”
And with that you shut off your TV. You’ve had enough of this rubbish! There’s got to be some other explanation!
Well, there is. I’ll tell you. It’s called sin. Both brothers were sinners. But the difference between the two was spelled:
F-A-I-T-H! Faith. Cain doesn’t believe that he is a sinner. He’s full of himself! First-born and all that! Cain doesn’t fight against his anger and hatred. Cain, therefore, doesn’t believe in God’s promise to send the Savior. Cain refused to believe the sermons that the LORD is gracious and merciful. Cain does not and would not repent! No wonder the LORD DID NOT look with favor on Cain’s offering. No wonder the LORD DID LOOK WITH FAVOR ON ABEL’S! Faith.
If you doubt any of this - Hebrews 11:4 clearly explains the discrepancy between the two brothers. Listen. “By faith Abel offered God a better sacrifice than Cain did. By faith Abel was commended as a righteous man, when God spoke well of his offerings. And by faith he still speaks, even though he is dead.” Again, the difference between the two brothers was FAITH!
Cain’s unbelief, his impenitence, fed his hatred. Hated his brother. Hated God! He did not fear, love, or trust in the LORD. His heart was at odds with the LORD. Therefore, his heart was also at odds with his brother. “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15; Matthew 5:21-22)! So Cain did what was in his heart. He lured Abel into the field with a hypocritical act of brotherly love. When Abel turned his back Cain bashed in the rear of his brother’s head! Calculated, cold-blooded murder!
When Adam sinned the ground was cursed (Genesis 3:17). Now here Cain, for the spilling of Abel’s blood, for just standing there and letting Abel bleed out, is cursed directly! He has desecrated the ground with a murderous blood bath! Cain refused to be his brother’s keeper! So the earth opened up its mouth to receive Abel’s blood from Cain’s hand. Cain can only be a restless wanderer now because the earth will refuse to bear any crops for him! He can till and till and till – plant and plant and plant – BUT THE EARTH WILL GIVE HIM NOTHING! For Abel’s “blood cries out to the LORD from the ground!”
In addition, Cain must live the rest of his life with eyes in the back of his head. He won’t be able to sleep very well at night. After all, everyone is outraged! It is highly probable that someone will try to avenge Abel’s murder! Therefore the LORD puts a mark on Cain to show that he’s off limits to a human executioner – an avenger of blood! (slowly) Off limits. (big pause)
Life in any stage is a gift from the LORD. The LORD wants your neighbor’s life protected. Always! Even if you’re Cain. Thus the Fifth Commandment! The LORD forbids the taking of life in any way. From abortion to euthanasia! From shooting someone in cold blood to slitting someone’s throat or putting poison in their food! The LORD forbids the taking of your own life too. Judas did that, you remember, when he despaired of the LORD’s forgiveness.
You shall not murder! That’s God’s categorical personal address to you! No “ifs,” “ands” or “buts!” Do not hurt or bring harm to your neighbor in any way! Instead help and support him/her in EVERY physical need.
And we have failed! Our tongues are instruments of death! We ruin reputations! We destroy lives with our angry words and hate-filled discrimination.
We also sit quietly and do nothing when our neighbor needs help. We care about ourselves first. Our needs. Our wants. Our desires. Our hopes.
We stand by and do nothing as our neighbor drinks himself to death, starves herself to death, or as over 100,000 unborn innocent lives are cruelly destroyed each year in this country – 31 abortions for every 100 live births. “Am I my brother’s / sister’s keeper?” we ask! With that question we incriminate ourselves just like Cain!
But we all know its deeper and darker than this. Murder comes out of the heart Jesus says. You shall not hurt or harm - not even in your heart – with your bitterness and anger – your turning away from someone – giving only your back – closing yourself off to them – as though they deserve it, they’ve hurt you, they’ve brought it on themselves – you can punish them on the inside - NO – God says – Not at all - your anger is not justified. It is sin – on the level of murder, murder in the heart – leaving someone to bleed out in your own little torture chamber – where you are the torturer, who finally has them chained down and you enjoy inflicting pain on those who have hurt you. You take pleasure in it. Revel in finally having control over them. Right there in the torture chamber of your heart. You have done this, and you are responsible for it.
Repent! It is time to “love one another” and “not be like Cain who belonged to the evil one and murdered his brother,” (1 John 3:11-12) It is time to give up something during this Lent and all of our lives! And what is that? Your sin! Time to confess your sin. Give it away. Heap it all on Jesus, who wants to bear it to the cross. Every sin, whether by heart or by hand – that is against God’s will to protect and preserve life.
Yes, Abel’s murdered blood cried out to the LORD for revenge! But the Blood of Jesus – that’s different! A whole different ball game! His Blood speaks and proclaims just the opposite: FORGIVENESS! For sinners! For you. For me. “Father, forgive them – they don’t know what in the world they’re doing!”
Exactly! We sure didn’t! We falsely believed that we were doing God a favor! That everything would be so much better if we would get rid of Blasphemer Jesus! He can’t be God! We are! Right here in my heart where I’m in control – or out of control. So we too shouted: “Crucify Him! Crucify Him! Be rid of Him! We’re in charge here! His Blood be on us and our children!” We “killed the author of life” (Acts 3:15)!
“Father, forgive them!” Yes, Jesus’ Good Friday, Lamb of God, Mount Calvary Blood for your forgiveness pleads! His sacrificial Blood shed on the cross atones for all your sin! For His life – His divine life is given in, with and under His Blood! Bloodied – sacrificed on the cross Jesus – sprinkles His Blood on you! That Blood speaks a better word than the blood of Abel. “Abel’s blood for vengeance pleaded to the skies, But the blood of Jesus for our pardon cries!” - we will sing in a moment.
So here’s the truth! You, the sinner, are redeemed! You, the sinner, are sanctified! For the Blood of Jesus is on you and your children. In a saving way: FORGIVENESS! You, like the murderer Barabbas are set free! Jesus, the Holy One, willingly gives His life and allows His divine Blood to be shed! Your sin is His! His holiness is yours! The Blood of Jesus purifies you from all sin!
It is His Good Friday Blood that He puts into your mouths in the Sacrament for your cleansing. For your purification! For the forgiveness of all your sin. In the Lord’s Supper the Blood of Jesus speaks! It says: “given and shed FOR YOU! FOR YOU AND FOR YOUR SALVATION!” And your Lord cries for you to have it often. That’s how badly you need it – and how badly He wants you to have it.
Faith trusts this Word from the Good Friday Jesus! Now He has good use for you in this world as His instrument. He now uses your body in this life to help and support your neighbor in his/her body! And that is a fitting offering of thanksgiving and praise in response for all that Jesus’ Blood has given you! In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr