18th Sunday after Pentecost – C (Proper 20) LSB #526
Text – 1 Timothy 2:5
For there is one God, & there is one mediator between God & men, the man Christ Jesus.
ONE GOD, ONE MEDIATOR
When I was young, one of the things our family liked to do over the winter months was put together picture puzzles. We had maybe six different ones & each winter season we’d put those same puzzles together. For our family it was a relaxing way of spending time together. My sisters might recall it differently but it seems like we didn’t fight as much doing puzzles.
As we heard in last Sunday’s sermon, puzzles can be used to illustrate important things about the decisions we make. We learned that living our lives is sort of like putting together a puzzle without the picture of what it will look like when it’s done. The good news though, is that our heavenly Creator has the picture & ultimately He is the one putting our lives together.
Today, we’re asking the question, “How many different ways are there to correctly put together a puzzle?” You heard the answer in the children’s message. Try as we might, there’s only one way to do it & it is the creator of the puzzle who decides which way is correct. A picture is cut into different pieces & it can only go back together in the way it was cut.
During the process of assembling it, there’re always different opinions about which piece goes where, but when finished all those questions are laid to rest. If you can’t accept that, you’ll never do well at putting together puzzles. Some people have a problem with the fact that in spiritual matters also there is only one mediator, only one path, only one way, to heaven.
When dealing with tough questions about all the different religions, the meaning of life, its joys & its sufferings, it’s become popular for people to find comfort in saying this, “We’re all going to the same place, we’re just taking different roads to get there.” For now, that answer has the ability to relieve the tension. It helps people to put off the struggle, but if that answer is wrong, it only delays the struggle by piling all of it up for eternity, in a place where the struggle will never, ever come to an end. In His Word, God has named that place for us & its name is hell. If that word & concept causes you stress, I urge you not to put off the struggle of confronting it, because Jesus Himself taught us that hell is real:
“The Son of Man will send His angels, & they will gather out of His kingdom all causes of sin & all law-breakers, & throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping & gnashing of teeth. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out & separate the evil from the righteous & throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping & gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 13:41-42, 49-50 ESV)
What good would heaven be if sin & its causes were not removed from us? What would be the point of living fully with God if evil still existed in such a place? The opposite side of that coin then, is that hell will be a place where God is not. For all who want to follow a path other than that which their Creator designed the absence of love lies at the end of that road.
God is love. Where God is not, there is no love. Evil & love are mutually exclusive. Yet, they are the two realities around which everything revolves. So it is true, there is more than one road, however, they do not all lead to the same place. In essence, there are only two types of road; one leads to eternal life, the other type to eternal death.
In a serious matter, such as where we spend forever, it is heartless to lie to someone about the path to heaven, even if they find that lie to be comforting. If you have cancer, but the doctor lies to you, so you don’t feel bad, you’d switch doctors once you found out. Even if we don’t understand it at the moment, only “…the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32 ESV)
St. Paul wrote to Timothy “[God] desires all people to be saved & to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (2:4 ESV) Just as there’s only one true way to assemble a puzzle, there is only one true way to have life. Any other path leads to death, so in that sense it is true, there are many roads that people travel. Sadly, all but one of them lead to death – forever. Jesus Christ “…is the Way, & the Truth & the Life. No one can come to the Father except through [Him].” (John 14:6 ESV) The sermon text is making the same case, “For there is one God, & there is one mediator between God & men, the man Christ Jesus.” Over & over, the Bible consistently holds up the same truth, there’s only one road to heaven & God Himself designed it.
One thing you quickly learn in doing puzzles is that each piece has only one place where it fits. Try as you might, no matter how much the colors or lines seem to match somewhere else, that piece will never fit anywhere other than where it belongs. By design, the creator of the puzzle determines where that piece will go, & how the puzzle will look once it’s complete.
To fight that defeats the whole purpose of assembling a puzzle. To fight God, the Designer & Creator of every living thing, defeats the whole purpose of being alive. Each one of us, with all the unique twists & turns of our personality, has a definite design & purpose for every moment & every day of our being.
There are thousands of pieces to the puzzle of each of our lives, & we are interconnected to the puzzle of other people’s lives. All of us together make up another picture puzzle called St. Matthew Lutheran Church, & Holt Lutheran Schools, & Sonshine Early Childhood Center. The complexity of all that design is far beyond even our imagination, let alone our ability.
Most of the time, that overall design isn’t easy to see. Sometimes it is impossible. In last week’s sermon we considered some reasons for that. We don’t know what the complete picture of our life is supposed to look like. Sometimes we don’t take all the pieces out of the box. Lastly, there are pieces of everyone’s puzzle that contain clouds & thick darkness.
So we find comfort in knowing that our heavenly Father is the One who’s actually constructing the puzzle. We take consolation in knowing that God is love & He works all the puzzle pieces together for the good of those who love Him. We know this because God did not withhold His own Son from us. He sent Jesus to pay the price for our sins. Yahweh sent His only-begotten Son to be a piece in your puzzle, to take on human flesh so He could be your mediator, your go-between, the God-Man through Whom you have complete access to the Designer & Creator of your life.
Jesus bridges the gulf between a holy God & a sinful, wretched mankind. On the cross Jesus did what only God can do – offer a sinless life of perfection. He also did what only man could do – bleed, suffer & die. Thus it is to Jesus Whom we pray. It is through Jesus Whom we pray, & St. Paul teaches us to pray for everyone.
As a basic result of the Good News, the Church prays for all people because Jesus died for all people. In 1 Thessalonians Paul wrote that we should pray without ceasing. Life is better for us, our puzzle is more like the picture God sees, if we’re talking with our Lord all day long; not just in thanks, not simply for help in times of trouble.
We need not shy away from prayer because we’re ashamed of our lives. Yahweh hears our prayers not because we deserve to be heard. God hears our prayer because of the holy life that Jesus lived for us. In hell, their prayers will not be heard, because Jesus will not be mediator for those who rejected His mediation.
It’s not like they rejected a mean & hate filled teaching. What better news could a broken people, living in a broken world hear than this: “[God] desires all people to be saved & to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, & there is one mediator between God & men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all…” (1 Timothy 2:4-6 ESV)
The problem is not that there is only one Mediator, or only one Way to eternal life. The problem is that some people reject the Designer’s solution. Jesus is the mediator who connects us, once again, daily even, to our Creator. The Fall into sin had separated us. As we thought about it last week, it’s impossible to independently put the puzzle of our lives together with a good result. We need Jesus to guide & direct us through His Spirit. There is only one revealed God, only One deity who placed Himself into the human puzzle. Therefore there’s only one gracious will that all people would be saved.
Jesus has restored the relationship that was meant to exist between God & mankind. The One who became Man hears your prayers with the ears of One who has lived in this troubled world & suffered the death that comes to a man of peace in a world of war. No matter what others might tell you, there is only one God, one true Mediator between Holiness & us.
Because of our sinful nature, a huge struggle within takes place while we come to grips with that. Today, St. Paul is urging you not to put off that struggle until eternity. Pray to Jesus for help in the struggle. Pray for strength. Pray for healing & pray for the government of our land, because our earthly wellbeing is bound up with those governing our nation. Amen.
You are the way; through You alone can we the Father find; in You, O Christ, has God revealed His heart & will & mind. You are the truth; Your Word alone true wisdom can impart; You only can inform the mind & purify the heart. You are the way, the truth, the life; grant us that way to know, that truth to keep, that life to win whose joys eternal flow. Amen. LSB 526:1, 2, 4.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet