O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Jesus, why so serious?
"Jesus, why so serious?"
Based on Mark 9:38-50
Preached on September 30, 2012
Click on the Play button
to listen to the Sermon.
Fellow baptized saints, you do not have a wimp or a weakling for a Savior. Whoever has been making Jesus seem like He never grew out of Sunday School has clearly not read our Gospel reading for today. Whoever thinks church is all light and fluffy, mere gumdrops and lollipops may not be ready for this sermon. In fact, even now, I wonder if I am ready to preach it. For while our Lord has many lofty things to say about heaven, He has some of the most serious sayings to share about the reality we face here on earth. Millstones hung around necks. Hands and feet being cut off. People being thrown into hell where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched. This is Jesus talking. We may have expected something like this from the Old Testament, but from the mouth of our Savior? Jesus, why so serious?
When our text begins, Jesus is reaching the peak of His teachings on faith. He is trying to impress upon His disciples that nothing in all of life is as important as having faith in Him. They'd heard it before. We've heard it before. You could even say we hear it all the time. We almost immediately respond in that cavalier sort of way, Yeah, I get it, faith in Christ is important. But Jesus is saying, No, you don't get it. No matter how important you think it is, it is infinitely more important than that. It is at the peak of His teachings on faith that Jesus teaches us about sin.
Sin. Sin. How serious is sin to Jesus? He says, "Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea." Now in order to understand the magnitude of what Jesus is saying, we need to unpack this a little. First of all, these little ones, or babies, to which Jesus refers, were not the most important people of that day. They were the least significant people. The last consideration. You know, throw the baby out with the bathwater. Not a priority. Secondly, a millstone was what fed your family. It ground up the grain for your daily bread. It was your source of life. Thirdly, the sea was the place the people believed all evil resided. Where all the evil lived. So put this back together again. Jesus is saying that you would rather take your family's source of life, without which they will starve, tie it around your neck and cast yourself into the most feared place where all evil lives, than cause one of those insignificant, little, "last thoughts" to sin. How serious is sin to Jesus? It makes you wonder what would happen if you were to cause them to sin.
What Jesus is trying to teach us is that sin destroys faith. The sins we commit so easily, and treat so lightly, they harm our faith. They pull us away from God. Make us hide from Him. Ignore Him. Or simply stop thinking about Him. Left unchecked, our faith slowly dies. We are no longer alarmed by our sin, and begin to think we have done nothing wrong, that for a whole day, or even a week we have lived a "good life". Eventually we don't trust Christ to save us, we trust that we have been good enough to save ourselves. And though we may not realize it, the kingdom Christ offers is replaced with the unquenchable fire our sins deserve. Sin destroys faith, so Jesus gets graphic to from it.
He says, "If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire. And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life lame, than with two feet to be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched."
Now, I don't know about you, but I don't see a lot of Christians with missing hands, missing feet or missing eyes. Not because we don't sin, but because our Lord is using a figure of speech when He says "cut it off." What He means by this figure of speech is - Take drastic action. End those things in your life that could be harmful to your faith. Whatever it is that keeps you from having time to pray, time to read God's Word each day, time to speak it together with your family, cut it out of your life.
If something prevents you from being here on Sunday morning to hear preaching and receive God's body and blood - cut it off. End it. Remove it from your life. For it is better for you to enter the kingdom of God without a job, or without sports for your kids, or whatever, than with athletic children or a healthy T4 to be thrown into the unquenchable fires of hell. These are not the words of your pastor - these are the words of your Savior who wants you to be saved. (big pause) Would you take a job even if they told you you would lose your right eye? No you would get a different job. Would you put your kids on a sports team knowing they would lose their right hand? No, you would play on a different team. Jesus commands you to make your faith more important than these idols. Everything you do in life should put your faith first. You should always choose what is best for your faith. For, as Jesus says, nothing is more important than faith unto eternal life - not even your hand, your foot or your eye.
Now, Christ could have simply told His disciples what to do without giving them any explanation, but instead He wants them to understand why. He says, "For everyone will be salted with fire." Everyone's faith will be tested. We know that salt preserves, and fire purifies. A salty faith is one that lasts to the end. One that is preserved. A fire-tested faith is one that is pure. One that has endured great heat to burn away the impurities. In other words, God puts us to the test so that our faith may survive, so that it does not become impure and spoil, for without being tested our faith will surely die. Jesus is saying, you are going to be tested. Put your faith first, so it is ready for the test.
When we began meditating on God's Word this morning, we wondered if perhaps Jesus was getting a little too serious. Now we can see that these graphic images and words are really the same thing He has always been preaching. "Repent, and believe the good news." God is calling you to come back to Him, to put your faith first - to put it in His free salvation. And the amazing thing is that this message you are hearing right now is what protects your faith from the slow death of self-righteousness. By His preached Word, He is guarding you against losing your faith. He is causing you to investigate whether or not something is coming between you and your Savior. He is salting you with fire, for everyone will be salted with fire. Even Christ who did nothing wrong.
For there is Christ, the true source of all life who threw Himself from the heights of heaven into the sea of our evil and was made man, but not for the important people, not for the righteous, but for the lowest of all, for us sinners, for those who constantly put others things ahead of Him. And what was hung around His neck, but the source of death for those He loved, even the sin of the whole world? Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! Behold, the one who became sin and was totally cut off from His Father, suffering the fires of hell. Behold, the one who has replaced the undying heat with the cool saving waters of Holy Baptism. He is calling you from the font at which He claimed you. Dive back in. Remember your baptism. I forgive you for all your wandering. I forgive you for everything. You are still my own dear child. Now come forth and arise and walk in newness of life.
Christ has given you baptism that you may live in it. That you may daily return to it in repentance. That it may shape your new existence as a free child of God. It is in the waters of baptism that you drown your sin. It is in the waters of baptism that you escape the heat. It is in the waters of baptism that you are truly safe, because your faith resides in your baptism.
Fellow baptized saints, Christ calls you to put your faith first, to live in your baptism. And He promises that His cool saving waters shield you from the heat of sin, death and hell. It is clear He takes our safety seriously. Dearest Lord, help us to do the same. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Rev. Cameron Schnarr