INI + AMEN.
What makes God good with you? Is He happy with you? If you were going to die, and you needed to “get right with the Lord,” what would that mean? Are you right with God? Is He pleased with you? Does He like your choices, what you’ve done with your life, what you think, say, or do? What if He’s not? Then what? How do you fix that problem? How do I get back into His good graces? How do I get cred with Him then? How do I make Him happy with me again?
((2. Our own blood, sweat, and tears don’t do it.))
Blood, sweat, and tears. Burning the midnight oil. Burn the candle at both ends. Work yourself to the bone. That’s how you get ahead in the world. You do good. You keep getting better. You do better than those around you. The boss notices. You get the raise. You get the promotion. You can’t dilly-dally when it’s planting time. You don’t hesitate at harvest time. That’s just how it goes. Time is money, and money makes the world go round.
Maybe you give back “from all that you have.” Your time. Your money. Food. Clothing. You help out. The widow. The orphan. The homeless. You give. To the charity, to your neighbor, to the church. A tithe? 10%? Maybe more! Straight off the top, too—before taxes!
So what if you come up a little short. Blood, sweat, and tears. That’s how you “get right with the Lord,” after all. So, you’re here, right? Unlike some people. You volunteer. Unlike them. You hold office, again. It doesn’t matter that you’re not quite perfect in coming to church, in your giving, in your actually loving people around you. It’s not like you’re as bad as someone else.
“Thank God, I’m not like other men.” “I don’t cheat on my spouse. My TV shows, movies, or browsing history, isn’t that bad. I don’t take people’s stuff, just mold a personal expense into a business one from time to time.”
Blood, sweat, and tears. If that works here in the world, it’ll work with God, too. “At least I vote the correct way. I don’t do this or support that. I’m not all judgy like other people. I know my faults. I’m chief of sinners, after all. I’m better at knowing my sins than that person.”
Repent. “Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled.” Humbled forever with tears, “for in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
((1. God’s blood, sweat, and tears do it.))
We all need to be redeemed from our king of the mountain sort of thinking. We need to be turned away from looking at others and their sins. We need to be repented of our looking at our sins and faults and the bargains, promises, and good works that we think make up for them, or that our faults aren’t so bad as someone else’s.
Blood, sweat, and tears. Not yours. Not even your being sorry. But His blood, bloody sweat, tears, death! His FOR YOU. Jesus is the mercy of God. He’s the redemption of God. He’s the atonement of God. The stand in. The Sinner. The one who takes our sin, in our place. If He doesn’t take your sins, then you still have them, and He doesn’t leave you holding the bag.
That’s the sort of “mercy” the tax collector’s talking about. There’s no other mercy than blood mercy. Shed mercy. Burnt offering mercy. Death mercy. Sacrifice for sins mercy.
It’s the only good work that counts. God’s mercy. Jesus’ mercy. Mount calvary mercy. Empty tomb mercy.
God’s mercy isn’t just some feeling God has for you. It’s a real action in history. God’s mercy is that He comes for you, to you. We were “far off.” Not only should we not “lift our eyes to heaven,” but left to ourselves and our own devices we’d not even come close. But God’s mercy is that He acts. He saves. He mercies. He’s sacrificed.
That’s the Gospel! Paul’s Gospel: “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.” That’s Jesus’ Gospel, too. His Gospel FOR YOU. He makes atonement. He has mercy. And you go on your way “justified,” right with God. He’s good with you because He died for you, rose for you. That’s the only way. He’s the only Way.
ONLY GOD’S OWN BLOOD AND DEATH MAKE YOU RIGHT WITH HIM.
We come up short. No blood, sweat, or tears on our part fixes the problem. But God’s blood, God’s sweat, God’s tears, well, now you’ve got something. That’s the mercy for sinners. That’s the mercy for Pharisees, too. Pharisees who measure themselves and others.
God doesn’t leave you holding the bag. Not now. Not ever. Not in His temple. Not when you go home. Not when you stand before His judgment throne. The only thing He leaves you with is His righteousness and forgiveness, given in your baptism, His forgiveness, delivered in the absolution, His “body and blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”
No questions. No ifs, ands, or buts allowed. You’re right with God. He’s made sure of that. ONLY GOD’S OWN BLOOD AND DEATH MAKE YOU RIGHT WITH HIM. That’s the sort of mercy He does, the sort mercy He gives. Blood, sweat, and tears. Not yours. His. His FOR YOU.
INI + AMEN.