INI + AMEN.
((5. Sin separates you from God and each other.))
Your sin separates you from your heavenly Father. The sins (big ones, little ones) you do daily and much cut you off from Him. This wasn’t His plan for you. He meant for it to be like it was in Eden. No separation. No isolation. Just perfect communion between Him and mankind.. But Adam sinned, and we’ve sinned too. This sin makes you an isolated item—an island unto yourself.
Sin doesn’t just separate you from your heavenly Father, now, does it? No, sin separates us from each other too. We know it’s true. We know what we’ve done. How our temper got the better of us, how we said things we shouldn’t. We know what they’ve done. It brought separation between you and them. In the most connected society in history we become the most disconnected and isolated. This wasn’t your heavenly Father’s design either! It wasn’t good for man to be alone! He created Eve. He blessed Adam and Eve that they would “be fruitful and multiply.” From the very beginning we aren’t meant to be isolated items out on our own. God designed us to be in community with each other.
((4. Ugh!: Our “good works” separate us even more!))
Now, what makes this separation worse is that our own “good works” tend to separate us even more. They certainly separate us from God! Our Old Adam will lead us down the sinful path, separate us from our heavenly Father and each other, but then he’ll quickly become self-righteous Old Adam, trying to make up for his failures. He doesn’t just separate you from your heavenly Father, but he separates you from Jesus too!
Look at the pharisee from our Gospel: “I thank You, God, that I’m not just like other men (thieves, unrighteous, adulterers, or even like this tax collector). I fast twice a week; I tithe everything that I own.” In one breath he shows his true isolation. He truly is standing “by himself.” He may think he’s close to God, but He couldn’t be any farther away than he is. He also shows how he’s separated himself from his neighbor too. He does all of it on the basis of his works.
We do too! We parade our “good works” before God, as if they’re something to boast about! Jesus doesn’t need your good works. He saved you without them! When you had nothing to show for yourself, He died for you, but we still bring our good works out. We tend to think we can make up for our sins, that if we do enough good things, we can make up for all the bad things, all the regrets, all the guilt, and we can then get back into the Lord’s good graces. Or maybe you think you’re not all that bad. Well, in either case, when you think in these way, you show how off “by yourself” you really are. Jesus isn’t anywhere close.
So also our neighbor! We compare ourselves to them, don’t we? Oh, we’d probably say that we’re sinners, but we so quickly and easily think: “But at least I don’t do that!” That already drives a wedge between us and those around us, but even when we’re already isolated from someone (because of what we did, they did—doesn’t matter!), we so easily say, “But they did that to me!” “Yes, I did this, but they did that!”
Then the wedge turns into a gulf, and we’re then in our own personal cold war. Isolated. Separated. Islands unto ourselves—with our guilt and shame, or our own pride and self-righteousness keeping us disconnected from each other.
((3. Aha!: Jesus makes us righteous.))
Contrary to the Father’s design, contrary to Jesus’ will for us, we remain isolated from our Savior and God, and, in so doing, we’re cut off from those around us—sometimes those closest to us! Our hope isn’t in what we can do in the situation. There’s no bringing-together in our own works. That just divides even more—try as we might, though! Who will deliver us from this body of death? Who will deliver us from ourselves? Who will rescue us from our isolation? Jesus will. In fact, Jesus already has!
Jesus made atonement for us. He is the atonement, the mercy of God! His blood shed, His body given on Calvary pleads and intercedes for us. Jesus’ death breaks down the “dividing wall of separation” that stood between you and the Father. This is what brings you back to the Father. Not only that, but He justifies you, that is, He makes you righteous. That’s what “justify” means. If you’re righteous, justified, then you’re saved. Jesus made you righteous with His death and resurrection, and He delivers His righteousness, His justification to you. Washed clean in Baptism. Absolved of your sins.
((2. Whee!: THE LOWLIEST ARE THOSE CLOSEST TO JESUS BECAUSE HE JUSTIFIES THEM.))
All this blessing, benefit, righteousness, justification, Jesus’ own death and resurrection, isn’t for those who attempt to bring themselves back in through their own works—no matter how small. Well, it is for them, but they reject it. The true joy of our text is that
THE LOWLIEST ARE THOSE CLOSEST TO JESUS BECAUSE HE JUSTIFIES THEM.
That’s right: THE LOWLIEST. Sinners. Big sinners! Those whose sins separate them from their Father and one another. Deplorable sinners are those closest to Jesus. The tax collector was! But not just adult sinners—even infants! Infants are closest to Jesus because they are His through Holy Baptism.
((1. Yeah!: Now we’re in the Kingdom not separate))
Now we’re in the Kingdom. You’re in the Kingdom not separate. That’s what it means being close to Jesus. You’re in His Kingdom through your trust in Him. That mean’s God’s with you and you with Him. It’s why His prophetic name is “Immanuel,” “God with us.” You’re not isolated from Jesus. Here’s the proof! You can’t be isolated from Him when He’s giving you His body and blood. You don’t deserve it. Nothing you do makes you worthy for it. His Word and promise are trustworthy. So we trust His Word, receive what He gives: His body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins. You’re of the same flesh and blood as Jesus—no separation there!
But it’s not just with Jesus or the Father. You’re in the Kingdom, and that means you’re not isolated, alone. In this Kingdom we’re united with “angels and archangels” but not just them— “all the company of heaven,” that is, those who have died and are now with the Lord Jesus. They join us and we them as we celebrate the Supper of the Lamb. But we are not alone just because we have one another but because our bond together is peace—the forgiveness of sins. Jesus’ forgiveness unites us. Jesus’ forgiveness that we share with others breaks down separation. Only Jesus’ forgiveness can mend the broken relationships you experience. Because of that forgiveness, here we are, together, not islands, but a kingdom full of others. From infants to the elderly—here we are for each other: forgiving one another, loving one another.
It’s all Jesus’ love and forgiveness. Given to you, and so you give it others. His forgiveness removes separation—certainly with your heavenly Father, but also with those around you. You’re not alone: Jesus and the Father have you, and we have each other. And this Kingdom, Jesus’ kingdom of love and forgiveness, lasts now and forever.
INI + AMEN.