3rd Sunday after Pentecost – A (Proper 6) LSB #’s 904, 846, 550
Text – Matthew 9:35-36
Jesus went throughout all the cities & villages, teaching in their synagogues & proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom & healing every disease & every affliction. When He saw the crowds, He had compassion for them, because they were harassed & helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.
COUNTERFEIT SOLUTIONS, OR CHRIST?
How’s your project list looking for the summer? Have you started any of them, maybe finished some already? Summer is just around the corner. Another milestone on the calendar is about to pass by. Where has the 1st half of this year gone? Time flies when you’re having fun, so the older we get, we must be having fun all the time.
That sort of dialogue is small talk. We discuss how busy we are in order to start conversations when we aren’t sure what else to say. However, when we know someone well, & see them often, we’re likely to start right out discussing more serious matters.
In past years, I’ve talked with friends who had far more serious problems to deal with than the passing of time. A list could include back injuries, broken bones, car accidents, house fires, deaths in the family, time spent in mental hospitals & suicide.
On the surface people will often say they’re getting along, things are okay. They do the small talk routine because, they’d be embarrassed to discuss their problem, they don’t know how to bring it up, or maybe we seem too busy to be bothered by their struggles.
On the other side, if we are talking to someone whom we know is hurting, we may avoid the issue because we don’t know what to say, or how to say it. On the inside, all of us are confused with & struggling with some issue. We never seem to be satisfied for long & the struggle never seems to go away.
There are many times when we are troubled & feel helpless like sheep without a shepherd. So, we look for solutions. In our culture, advertising bombards us with them. Try the new Ice Beer. The ‘24 model cars have arrived. Art Van has no interest or down payments for 2 years. TV commercials advertise TV shows which naturally will entertain our sense of humor, often with the latest trends in lifestyle. Sure, we would agree that a lot of today’s TV humor is not God pleasing, but it’s funny & we need to laugh.
So, we open our minds to the immorality & pretend that we are too mature to be affected by it. If we are so unaffected, why do we watch? Why do we laugh? Is God laughing along with us? Well maybe God is just an old prude after all! If Ice Beer or TV don’t help, maybe a new kitchen will be the solution to our lack of contentment.
Years ago, I was in the middle of remodeling my house. One night while adding a few teaspoons of chocolate powder to a glass of milk this thought occurred to me. In the poorest countries, they don’t have places to make the powder let alone the container the powder comes in. They certainly don’t remodel their kitchens & don’t necessarily have a house to live in.
Is the answer to our lack of happiness really found in that new car or remodeled kitchen? Just how small & pitiful are we? Can our puny little minds ever hope to find a solution to our struggles? Our consumer society claims to have answers – specialists in this & experts in that. Add memory to your computer. Tap into the Internet. We have how-to books for everything.
As for the Bible, it’s just an old book that uneducated people use; people who aren’t with it; people who don’t have a life. Reading the Bible isn’t as funny or entertaining as watching the Thursday night sitcoms. And, it is so outdated. People don’t think that way anymore. The Bible doesn’t relate to my life, not here in the 2020’s. I have so many other things to get done.
Have you ever thought that way? I, still act that way! It’s part of who we are as sinful beings. In Matthew 9:36, Jesus sees the crowds of people & feels sorry for them because they are troubled & helpless like sheep without a shepherd. That is, without a true shepherd; a shepherd who loves his sheep leads them beside still waters & guides them in the paths of righteousness. It is a false shepherd who consistently leads them anywhere near harm. In Jesus’ day, the people had many false shepherds.
The Pharisees, Scribes & Priests harassed their people with hundreds of manmade rules controlling the smallest details of their lives. They enticed the people with counterfeit solutions to their problems. They put ritual & law in the place of God’s mercy & faith in the Messiah. There are as many counterfeit solutions to our problems & many more salesmen pushing them.
How many of them have we bought into? Every time we follow the guidance of a false shepherd, we are harmed by it & we offend the true God. With all the sin & hatred in our world it should be easy to see where those false shepherds will take us. If you’ve ever doubted that hell is real, look at the evil in our country alone. Many forces in our culture are now celebrating it.
Do you ignore that you are a part of it? I certainly do my best to ignore my role. Sin is the cause of all of our trouble. No matter how hard we try, to be good or successful, no matter how much of our sin we ignore or cover up, inside our conscience knows that our sinful nature is evil & hates God. We know that we are troubled & helpless. Helpless!
Romans 5:6 tells us, “To be sure, at the set time, while we were still helpless, Christ died for the ungodly.” That word ungodly includes us – you & me! Verse 8 continues, “But God shows His love for us by this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Now there is a unique & liberating solution.
Advertisements tell us that we deserve a break, or that we can ‘Just do it.’ Does our corrupt & broken world look like it deserves anything better than hell? Do we really deserve a break? Have our lives matched that of Christ’s? If our society were capable of just doing it, the problems of war, famine & disease would have been conquered by now. After all we did put a man on the moon. It is obvious that we cannot cure sin or the results of it. In that we are helpless. Therefore, while we were helpless, Christ came to earth & He just did it. No waiting until we were good or successful, to love us.
Jesus gave His life for poor wretched sinners & we will hardly consider giving up our rights to do as we please in order to really care for & love the people that we say we love. Would you give the time of day to Vladimir Putin? Christ gave His life by death on the cross for him. That’s how much God loves all of us & it is the supreme act or proof of His love.
None of the false shepherds are offering that solution. All the sin of the whole world has been paid for. That includes our feelings of guilt, worry & lack of trust in the Lord. We have no reason to doubt God’s love, & the sin of even those doubts has also been paid for. The question now is, “Where do we go from here?”
In spite of the fact that all our failures have been paid for & we are made right before God, it is obvious that the world is still a mess. Our lives are still lacking. Verse 35 of the Gospel lesson takes us in the right direction:
“Then Jesus traveled through all the towns & villages teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, & healing every kind of disease & sickness.”
That verse sums up all of Matthew 9. The chapter began with Jesus forgiving the sins of & healing a paralyzed man. After leaving that place Jesus finds Matthew, a tax collector, one of the most despised occupations in all of Israel, & Jesus calls him to be His disciple. From there Jesus heals the bleeding woman while on His way to raise the daughter of Jairus from the dead.
Then, Jesus restores the sight of 2 blind men, & He drives out a demon. The man who was possessed is now able to speak. Verse 33 ends, “And the crowds marveled, saying, ‘Never was anything like this seen in Israel.’” But the Pharisees respond, “[Jesus] casts out demons by the prince of demons.’” (Matthew 9:34b ESV) What a sad & wrong answer! These false shepherds were blind to the miracles, & to the Son of God. You see, our world cannot give us anything but counterfeit solutions because it is blind. It will believe any solution except the one true solution; Jesus Christ & Him crucified.
All these healings, of every kind of disease & sickness, are part of the kingdom of God. The Gospel lesson stated that Jesus was preaching the Good News of the Kingdom. Christ’s miracles are part of that Kingdom & that Kingdom is here now, not only in our future, which we call heaven. This worship service is the presence of that Kingdom.
If it wasn’t for God’s grace, we surely would not be here. In the Lord’s Prayer we ask, “Thy kingdom come.” But in that we are not merely praying for Christ’s 2nd coming – His heavenly kingdom. We are also praying that the Kingdom of God which is already here, His spiritual kingdom, would grow, expand & be strengthened, especially in our own hearts.
This spiritual kingdom exists in all who have faith in Jesus as Lord & Savior. It’s planted in us by the Holy Spirit through the action of God’s Word & through Baptism. God’s rule there is strengthened as we receive the Lord’s Supper. When our heart is faint & weary, we need to receive Holy Communion, for in it, Christ comes to strengthen & renew us.
The spiritual kingdom is where Christ’s love & compassion dwell in us. That love is what makes our lives worth living. That is what makes life bearable & that kingdom is the source of love for our neighbors & even our enemies. This kingdom is a gift of God by His grace & mercy.
It is in this kingdom that suffering produces endurance & endurance produces character & character produces hope. When all human solutions fail, when the leadership of the false shepherds is revealed, this kingdom is where God gives you the strength to go on, to continue even when all seems lost & we are despondent. When we are absolutely helpless, we only need to look at how helpless Christ appeared hanging upon the cross. Yet through His resurrection He was proven triumphant.
Through the faith which God has placed in your heart you are triumphant. The kingdom is here, now – in you & me. Christ’s 2nd coming will reveal that kingdom completely & perfectly. Jesus was no counterfeit solution.
The Apostle John records these words of our Lord & Savior, “My sheep listen to my voice, & I know them, & they follow me, & I give them everlasting life. They will never be lost, & no one will tear them out of my hand. My Father who gave them to me, is greater than all others, & no one can tear them out of my Father’s hand.” (10:27-29 NET)
People who simply believe this are those sheep & God says they will never be lost. And that is not small talk. Amen.
Your hand, O Lord, in days of old was strong to heal & save; it triumphed over ills & death, over darkness & the grave. To You they came, the blind, the mute, the palsied & the lame, the lepers in their misery, the sick with fevered frame. O be our great deliverer still, the Lord of life & death; restore & quicken, soothe & bless, with Your life-giving breath. To hands that word & eyes that see give wisdom’s healing power that whole & sick & weak & strong may praise You evermore. Amen. LSB 846:1, 3.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet