Sunday, June 21, 2020

Proper 8 - Series A

Proper 8
(28 June 2020)  
Series A 

Jeremiah 28:5–9
Romans 7:1–13
Matthew 10:34–42

The Lord Jesus Brings Division on Earth for the Sake of Peace with God in Heaven

False prophets preach what their hearers want to hear, promising peace even when the Lord has spoken “war, famine, and pestilence” (Jer. 28:8). But if “the Lord has truly sent the prophet,” he speaks what the Lord has spoken, and “the word of that prophet comes to pass” (Jer. 28:9). The preaching of God’s Law is hard, because it confronts sin, brings it to light and makes it worse, “sinful beyond measure,” thereby “producing death” in the sinner (Rom. 7:13). But through our Baptism into Christ, “we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive” (Rom. 7:6). Now we belong “to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God” (Rom. 7:4). Belonging to Him puts us at odds with the world and divides us from all earthly ties, not only from our human family, but each person from his own life. For Christ does not come “to bring peace, but a sword” (Matt. 10:34). Yet, whoever takes up his cross to follow Christ, and “loses his life” for Christ’s sake, finds new life in Him (Matt. 10:38–39).

Taking Up the Cross
Rev. Dr. Daniel J Brege

And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:38)

When Jesus says that we must take up our cross and follow him, he is for the first time identifying how he will die. He here predicts He must be crucified, for as was often the way of the Romans He must bear His own instrument of torture to the place of crucifixion.  If we must follow Him bearing our cross, to follow Him means He will have done it first—carrying His cross to be crucified.

For many years I thought the cross was the instrument of death exclusive to Jesus and to those crucified on either side of Him.  It was for me uniquely the symbol of our salvation. Though it is no less such a symbol of our salvation, I later came to realize that the Romans had employed this means of capital punishment tens of thousands of times before Jesus, and they reserved crucifixion for their most hated enemies and for lowlife criminals.  Thus when Jesus speaks of following Him to crucifixion, He conveys something both familiar and repulsive in the minds of His hearers.

After His crucifixion His followers came to understand the appropriateness of this repulsive death.  Jesus would be marked for torturous death because the god of this world schemes murder and lies among all, and now gleefully he can perpetrate such against God, for God had become flesh.  Thus God-hating mankind, the offspring of Satan, says of the One by whom all things were made, “Let’s make Him squirm even as He makes us squirm under the condemnation of His holy law!”  Considering His human nature mankind also gladly wants this sinless man to squirm because His perfect godliness exposes their ungodliness.  But additionally God Himself would make Jesus squirm like worm on a hook, for this man had become sin, and on that tree He carried the curse which God had justly decreed for all humanity.  And then as we see and experience some of the ghastly pains, tortures, and horrific miseries of this fallen world, we realize that to walk beside those in such misery, Jesus had to undergo a most dreadful death. The more one realizes the hideousness of mankind’s fallen condition, the more one realizes the appropriateness of Jesus’ death on the hideous Roman instrument of torture.

How eerily cross-related is Isaiah’s profound prophecy of the Savior’s death!  In his 53rd chapter Isaiah describes this suffering servant as the one despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (v. 3).  It seems strangely fitting that this prediction of mankind’s rejection of the Christ would find its climax at the place of the torturous Roman cross.  The prophet also sees that God makes this man suffer, for Isaiah predicts:  Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted (v. 4).  Indeed believers esteem Jesus to have been stricken, smitten and afflicted by God, and when God thus strikes it must be a hellish event, and so again we recognize the appropriateness of the Roman cross.  Not only is crucifixion appropriate for Christ’s absorption of the curse of sin and death, but the very next line of Isaiah’s prophecy apparently predicts this very method of torture:  But he was pierced for our transgressions.  And he was literally pierced—hands, feet and side—in this vicarious, squirming death.

Now the cross of Jesus, transcending its reputation as the repugnant place of Roman torture, has become the Christian’s boast: But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world (Gal 6:10).  At Christ’s cross full redemption, atonement, salvation and victory are won for the world.  In our baptism we are then perfectly united with Christ in His death (Ro 6:3).  But now we are called upon to take up our cross; not to earn our salvation, for that is complete in every way.  Rather we take up our cross and bear similar miseries and rejection experienced by the Christ, only now our crosses are sanctified by His cross.

Not Peace, but a Sword

Matthew 10.34 
Μὴ νομίσητε ὅτι ἦλθον βαλεῖν εἰρήνην ἐπὶ τὴν γῆν• οὐκ ἦλθον βαλεῖν εἰρήνην ἀλλὰ μάχαιραν
Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. 

Matthew 10.35 
ἦλθον γὰρ διχάσαι ἄνθρωπον κατὰ τοῦ πατρὸς αὐτοῦ καὶ θυγατέρα κατὰ τῆς μητρὸς αὐτῆς καὶ νύμφην κατὰ τῆς πενθερᾶς αὐτῆς
For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. 

Matthew 10.36 
καὶ ἐχθροὶ τοῦ ἀνθρώπου οἱ οἰκιακοὶ αὐτοῦ
And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. 

Matthew 10.37 
ὁ φιλῶν πατέρα ἢ μητέρα ὑπὲρ ἐμὲ οὐκ ἔστιν μου ἄξιος• καὶ ὁ φιλῶν υἱὸν ἢ θυγατέρα ὑπὲρ ἐμὲ οὐκ ἔστιν μου ἄξιος• 
Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

Matthew 10.38 
καὶ ὃς οὐ λαμβάνει τὸν σταυρὸν αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀκολουθεῖ ὀπίσω μου, οὐκ ἔστιν μου ἄξιος
And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 

Matthew 10.39 
ὁ εὑρὼν τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἀπολέσει αὐτήν, καὶ ὁ ἀπολέσας τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἕνεκεν ἐμοῦ εὑρήσει αὐτήν.
Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.


Matthew 10.40
 Ὁ δεχόμενος ὑμᾶς ἐμὲ δέχεται, καὶ ὁ ἐμὲ δεχόμενος δέχεται τὸν ἀποστείλαντά με
Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me.

Matthew 10.41 
ὁ δεχόμενος προφήτην εἰς ὄνομα προφήτου μισθὸν προφήτου λήμψεται, καὶ ὁ δεχόμενος δίκαιον εἰς ὄνομα δικαίου μισθὸν δικαίου λήμψεται
 The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward, and the one who receives a righteous person because he is a righteous person will receive a righteous person's reward.

Matthew 10.42 
καὶ ὃς ἂν ποτίσῃ ἕνα τῶν μικρῶν τούτων ποτήριον ψυχροῦ μόνον εἰς ὄνομα μαθητοῦ, ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν, οὐ μὴ ἀπολέσῃ τὸν μισθὸν αὐτοῦ.
And whoever gives one of these little ones even a cup of cold water because he is a disciple, truly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”

The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition. Copyright © 2010 by Society of Biblical Literature and Logos Bible Software
ESV® Text Edition: 2016. Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

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