Bethlehem Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
INI + AMEN.
“Unless your righteousness is abundantly more than the scribes and pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Righteousness. Right-ness. Holiness. Purity. There is no other way. That’s the Lord’s way. That’s who He is: holiness, purity, and righteousness. He’s set apart from everything else, different from everyone else.
We’re not that. Not in ourselves. Ours isn’t the set apart way, the holy way, the right way. We’re common. Just like everyone else out there. As a Christian you’re completely holy and righteous in Jesus—only in Jesus—but in yourself, left to yourself, you live just like people who want nothing to do with Jesus.
The Lord’s gracious and merciful. He’s kind. He delivers steadfast love to those who “fear, love, and trust in Him.” His steadfast love is everlasting. As long as Jesus lives, that’s how long steadfast love lasts. Jesus is steadfast love: His death and resurrection for sinners, for those who hate Him. Talk about being merciful, kind, generous, and loving!
Murder—the Lord sets a very low bar for that. We like to live in our own obedience reality. As if you haven’t ended someone’s life so you’re good. Or you don’t “hate” someone, you just really, really don’t like them. You cold-shoulder them. You cut them out of your daily life—people who should be in your daily life. Just listen to Jesus: “everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.”We get angry. We insult—not to their face, though. And “fool” is probably tame compared to what we call people or think about them. And we think that because we’re nice to the people we like, we’re actually good people. It allows us to not be loving, kind, merciful, and generous to the people we don’t really like that much. Even pagans do that.
And punishment? Yeah. There’s punishment. But it’s not that the Lord’s gonna knock your house down for calling someone a moron. He’s not going to cause you to have money problems because of a lack of love, mercy, and forgiveness toward those around you. Nope. He’ll just give you what you want. He will love you so much that He’ll let you have your insults, your hatred and anger, your “well, I don’t hate them just really, really, really not like them.” Your lack of kindness, mercy, forgiveness, and love—that’ll all be yours, just the way you want it all the way to hell. “You won’t get out until you’ve paid every last penny.” So, never! Now, the Lord doing all that is scarier than just knocking your house down!
“Unless your righteousness is abundantly more than the scribes and pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” You need a different sort of righteousness. Not pharisee righteousness. Not you doing more righteousness. Not more obedience. Not even more of your love. You need something else entirely, someone else entirely. You need your human, obedience, fixing it sort of righteousness swapped out for another righteousness. There’s only one Righteousness that’s abundantly more than human righteousness—Jesus. That’s what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1.
Righteousness isn’t a station or like a spot on the olympic podium. Righteousness is Jesus. Jesus who freely forgave those who wronged Him—cross much. He unconditionally loves everyone—taking their anger as His own much. He was merciful and kind—death much. He is your righteousness—empty tomb and eternal life much. Jesus being kind, merciful, generous, forgiving—which is the opposite of murder, anger, hatred, insults—Jesus being Jesus counts for you. So that you can be unshackled and set free to love not just some, or this person rather than that person, or someone you like to make up for someone you don’t like. You’re free from having to do that sort of scribe, Pharisee, and you sort of righteousness. You’re free to love everyone Jesus much.
And you’re in that. That’s Holy Baptism. Jesus’ loving you and those around you cross and death much is made yours at the Holy Font. You are dead to sin. Dead to anger. In Jesus—only in Jesus. You are filled with His love in and through His body and blood that are poured out into you.
Like I said before, you can reject that. Reject your Baptism, the Absolution, Jesus’ body and blood, reject Jesus Himself. You can keep on living like you do, as if Jesus and His Gifts don’t matter. You can keep your anger, resentment, your being condescending. That’ll land you in one place. But why would you do that? “How shall we who died to sin, to anger live any longer in it?”
“Unless your righteousness is abundantly more than the scribes and pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” And your righteousness is abundantly more. JESUS IS YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. Apart from Him there is no righteousness. No right-ness. No holiness. No purity. Just you. But since JESUS IS YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS, that means you are who He is. In Him there is no anger, no murder, but only kindness, mercy, generosity, love, and forgiveness for you and through you. JESUS IS YOUR RIGHTEOUSNESS now and forever in the kingdom of heaven.
INI + AMEN.