“Who’s like God?” What a question. What a name! That’s what “Michael” means. Michael is archangel, chief angel, boss angel. More power. More strength. Greater position. He’s no run of the mill angel, but even they are considered great. We think they’re great. Greater than us. Don’t we? Who’s better people or angels? Didn’t we just think angels? Not even a little bit?
Angels aren’t dead people. People do not become angels when they die. Angels are servants, our servants. Made by God to serve Him, of course, and He would have them serve us, protect us. But He didn’t become one of them. He didn’t exalt angels to His own throne. That’s what He did for us. He Himself became low—like you and me—for you and me, so that we would be rescued, saved, so that a man would dwell with God, and God with Man—Immanuel, God with us, Jesus.
So it is on St. Michael’s day we’re given to consider who’s great and who’s not, who’s in and who’s cut off. The disciples were always worried about that. Always asking: “Who’s the greatest?” They could all make their claims to greatness: Peter walked on water; Peter, James, and John got to go to all the cool places with Jesus (Jairus’ house, Transfiguration, Garden of Gethsemane); Judas got to manage all the finances! Clearly the greats! Matthew was a tax-collector, Simon a terrorist, Thomas a rejector. Clearly not greats!
But even with all their arguing, they could all agree on something. They were all better than children. But that’s exactly who Jesus brings in, smack-dab into the middle of their argument. Jesus always brings a child in. They’re always hanging around Jesus, it seems. “Become like this one,” Jesus says. “Don’t keep them away from Me.” ”Don’t be slow about bringing them to Me.” “If you do that, you’d make them sin, and hellish things await someone who does that,” He says.
So, we idolize youth and childhood. We all know the mantra, the saying. When it comes to believing in Jesus, you need to have “childlike [FAITH].” Yes, just like the children. And it’s true! Jesus isn’t wrong, but we make them empty words. Bible stories or studying the Bible is for Sunday School. The Catechism is for Confirmation. I’ve outgrown all that, graduated, finished. I know all the right answers! Now I can do it all on my own. I’m greater now than I was then, know more, older, wiser. How quickly being childlike isn’t actually how we live our Christian life.
All that needs to be cut off, that way of thinking, that way of living. Everything that keeps you from Jesus needs to be cut off! Whether it’s small like an eye, or big like a leg. Because let’s be honest, it’s not just stopping with the foot, is it? And would it really stop with just one hand or foot or eye? Whatever it is needs to be cut off, from your heart, your soul, your mind, your strength, your time and energy. If it’s not cut off, well, eternal fire. Maybe a mill stone would be better.
We work so hard to hang on to so many things that separate us from Jesus, and when we lead others into doing the same thing, sin upon sin. It’s all playing with fire—hell fire. It’s not just our sins, or our judging others, either. It’s even looking to your own personal doing of the Bible thing or the Gifts of Jesus thing as compared to others. Whatever we selfishly lay claim to before our Lord, He’ll chop off, because we look to that thing rather than Him. Or is Jesus wrong? Isn’t it better to enter life missing one game, one chore, one time to sleep in rather than winding up in the hell of fire?
So, what’s left then? What’s left if Jesus has His way in Matthew 18? What would be left of you? What would be left of me? Nothing. No hands, no feet, no eyes. No heart either! (The source of sin.) But what does Jesus do with the lame, the crippled, the blind, the dead? Because when you’re crippled, lame, blind, dead, then you are finally only give-able to, just the way Jesus wants you, just the way of a little child. Jesus doesn’t want the great but the give-able to.
When you become nothing, when you have nothing, you have everything. Maybe you think you’ve got nothing going for you, but you have a Jesus who was nothing for you. He was completely cut off for your sake. He was cut off from His Father. “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” Now, you won’t be. For the sins of our hands and feet, His were pierced. For the sins of our heart, His was run through with a spear. Though He didn’t deserve it, though His hands and feet and eyes and heart were always about doing the Lord’s will, he bore all your sins in His own body upon the tree.
Now you’re not a nothing. Now you’re never alone. Not in Jesus. He’s with you. He’s given you the Spirit who would bear His fruit in our lives. Jesus has brought us all together. A crowd of all sorts, today—grownups, children, angels, archangels. In His presence those angels sing, “Holy, Holy, Holy,”—and we do too, because we’re in His presence, too. Are we worthy? No, but we heard the name put on us in Holy Baptism, been absolved. So we are bold to pray, “Father,” and today we join in the Divine Service that is always going on.
The Lord gives all of Himself for you. His body and blood given and shed on Calvary is given us for our forgiveness. That blood is how God is toward us. “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Hosanna in the Highest,” in the Lord’s own presence. There the angels sing, “Glory be to God on high, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” We also join with the angels today, and with the children of Palm Sunday. As Jesus tells us today, “Where the child is, there is the angel.” “Hosanna” welcomes the Lord’s arrival at Jerusalem, at His table. There we join the company here on earth and in the highest. Never alone. Never nothing.
No power games today. No sins. Whatever would keep you back from Jesus and His gifts is cut off. Or He’ll burn it off forever. Jesus nothings you to make you give-able to. Because when you’re nothing, when you have no claims, when you’re actually living like a child, when you’ve got nothing, then you have everything. You are then completely give-able to. Just the way Jesus wants you.
Jesus makes you give-able to, and so you receive His gifts. He raises you up, to join the angels in doing His will. Praising Him, of course, that now, but also serving others throughout the week. He raises us to work that within us. You’re not nothing. You won’t be destroyed. You aren’t ever alone. The Lord has given His angels charge even over you. You have Christ’s body and blood within you. You’re baptized. You’re Forgiven. You’re not just give-able to. You’re being given to.