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Trinity 17 – Luke 14:1-11

by pastorjuhl ~ September 23rd, 2010

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

The devil’s favorite day of the week is any day when preaching and God’s Word is held sacred, gladly heard, and learned. You might say that’s any day that ends in “y”, especially if you read the Bible and pray daily. Satan’s most favorite day is Sunday, because that’s the day the Church catholic deems fit to gather for public preaching of God’s Word and reception of the Lord’s Supper. It used to be that most businesses were closed at least until noon so no one would have an excuse not to miss going to church. Those days are over.

Not only do businesses no longer remain closed on Sunday morning, but also meetings and sporting events are now scheduled on Sunday mornings. Perhaps one excuse might be that it’s the only time when there is not much going on during the week. There’s a reason why not much is going on Sunday morning: that’s the time to go to church.

The Church has gotten wise and started to schedule other times for Divine Service. We offer a Saturday night Service for those who may have activities on Sunday morning. We are free in the Gospel to do so. We are not bound to a strict understanding of the Sabbath, as it was understood by Jews of the Old Testament. Nevertheless it is a given that if you call yourself a Christian, you will want to attend Divine Service every week unless there are extenuating circumstances.

Extenuating circumstances do not include NASCAR, Bears football, “I stayed up too late last night”, “I need at least one day a week to sleep past 7 A.M.”, or “Churches are full of hypocrites. I’ll stay at home and worship God here. At least I know there will be one less hypocrite in church.” If you’re looking for a hypocrite-free church, keep looking. There isn’t one. Even Jesus had to deal with hypocrites who put on a pious face.

The reason the Pharisees watch Jesus closely is because they are hypocrites. They want to catch Him doing something He shouldn’t do in order to get rid of Him. One Sabbath the Pharisees thought they had Jesus trapped in the ultimate Catch-22. Jesus is eating at a friend’s house. Remember, it’s the Sabbath. Suddenly a man appears before Christ who has dropsy. The modern name for dropsy is an edema. It’s an abnormal accumulation of fluid beneath the skin. The trap is set. If Jesus heals the man, He violates the Sabbath by “working”. If Jesus ignores the man, He is a hypocrite. Jesus tells others to love and care for each other, yet He does not care for a man who suffers before His face. No matter what Jesus does, the Pharisees have Him trapped.

The Pharisees don’t care about what Jesus does or says. They want Him to make a mistake so they can yell “Gotcha!” Perhaps you have come to God’s house with the same attitude. Perhaps you have come here in order to catch the pastor as a hypocrite. He says one thing in his sermon, but he does a completely different thing in life. Perhaps you have come to God’s house to look for other hypocrites. “Why is so-and-so here? Doesn’t everyone know that so-and-so isn’t going to listen to the sermon? They drink, swear, steal, and lie during the week only to come here, fold their hands, and look like an angel. You can’t fool me!”

You’ve been fooled. You are the one who is a fool if you think you are the only one who isn’t a hypocrite. The Church Militant is a hypocritical Church. We say and do things that contradict what we believe every day. That’s what sinners do. Sinners want to do better every day, but they will stumble back into their old tricks.

The difference between hypocrites and Christian hypocrites is that Christian hypocrites are recovering hypocrites. The Christian hypocrite hates the fact that they say one thing and do another. If that wasn’t the fact, then why is that person at Divine Service? Why do you, O hypocrite of hypocrites, stand in the place of Almighty God and judge? Repent. Leave judging of hearts to God. You have enough to worry about each day, let alone worrying about who is and is not a hypocrite.

Instead of judging others, judge yourself worthy of eternal death yet rescued from that terrible condition by faith in Jesus Christ, the Savior of hypocrites. Jesus asks the Pharisees, Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath? Jesus knows the answer, but He wants to hear their answer. He receives silence. So Jesus heals the man of dropsy. In the eyes of a Pharisee, Jesus has broken the Sabbath Law and must die. In the eyes of those made righteous in Jesus Christ, Jesus has kept the Sabbath according to the letter of God’s Law.

Jesus says elsewhere the Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. Our heavenly Father knows we need at least one day a week to rest in Christ Jesus. For New Testament Christians, that day is commonly Sunday, the day Christ rose from the dead. This means every Divine Service is a celebration of Christ’s resurrection. Today Jesus raises a man with dropsy from near death to healthy life. He does the same for you today.

The Alleluia verse from Psalm 116 says it best: I love the Lord, because He has heard my voice and my pleas for mercy. The verse says nothing about hearing only those who are not hypocrites. The verse says He hears your voice and your pleas for mercy. One of the first words said in the Divine Service is “Lord, have mercy.” This is a cry of faith. This cry says, “Lord, I know you are the God of mercy. I know that You promise never to turn a deaf ear to me. Do what You promised me. Have mercy on me. Hear my words of joy and thanksgiving and answer them not according to who I am, but according to Who You are.”

The Lord is merciful because He lays down His life for you. He could sit on a throne surrounded by ten thousand times ten thousand angels and archangels. He could be inaccessible except to those Whom He deems to draw near to Him. He could be inaccessible to mere mortals like you and me. This is not Who Jesus is. Jesus becomes like us, except without sin, in order to exalt us to sit with Him in the heavenly mansions forever. Jesus dies as a mocked hypocrite of a Savior, despised by both God and man, in order to buy you back from the devil’s cunning grasp. Humiliation becomes exaltation. Death becomes life. Hopelessness becomes joy.

Jesus Christ has mercy on recovering hypocrites everywhere. He bids us ask him to help us control our tongue in order that it may praise Him rather than curse others. He bids us open our mouths to receive His forgiveness and life in the Lord’s Supper on the same muscle that wants to speak ill of God and our neighbor. Instead of cauterizing the tongue or cutting it off, our Lord sanctifies the tongue through His means of grace to bestow mercy that is stronger than hypocrisy.

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit

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