12th Sunday after Pentecost – C (Proper 17) LSB #’s 902, 641:1-3, 5, 698
Text – Luke 14:4a
But they remained silent.
In our day, the remote control has a mute button. Sadly, that only works on the television. I think all of us have wished, at one time or another, to have the power Jesus did to silence those who opposed His teaching. I wonder how many of you would use that mute button while I’m preaching? Effectively, some people do by staying home on Sunday morning.
Later in the gospel of Luke, the scribes & chief priests sent spies in order to trap Jesus. They asked Him, “Is it lawful for us to give tribute to Caesar, or not?” (Luke 20:22 ESV) That’s the occasion when Jesus replies, “…render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, & to God the things that are God’s.” (Luke 20:25 ESV) Luke summarizes the incident like this:
“…they were not able in the presence of the people to catch Him in what He said, but marveling at His answer they became silent.” (Luke 20:26 ESV) After they make one more attempt to trap Jesus, & He again confounds them with wisdom, Luke writes: “…they no longer dared to ask Him any question.” (Luke 20:40 ESV)
The Pharisees, the chief priests & the scribes were never able to embarrass Jesus or get the upper hand. He always outwitted them so they resorted to lying about Jesus & then getting Him killed. Conflicts seem to play out in the same way in our world, don’t they? “If you can’t beat them, join them,” is the humorous saying.
The reality is more like, “If you can’t beat them, have them killed.” It’s what Cain did to his brother Abel, & murder has been going on ever since. In the Gospel of Luke, the death of Jesus is still a bit down the road, but in our nation, murder is a daily & a nightly occurrence. Given the limitations you & I suffer with, because of sin, we like to think that if we could just silence our enemies that would be a victory. The Creator of heaven & earth does not look at it that way. We should be grateful for that. At Mark 1:15, we find what Yahweh considers to be a victory: “The time promised by God has come at last!” He announced. “The Kingdom of God is near! Repent of your sins & believe the Good News!” (NLT)
That sermon was given by Jesus immediately after He was baptized. Victory, in His terms, involves not silence, but repentance. At baptism, when I ask, “Do you renounce the devil?” silence is not the preferred reaction. “Yes, I renounce him,” is the response that God’s host of angels long to hear.
In our culture, you may have seen the signs that some protestors carry, “Silence is violence!” God would agree. Problems arise, however, in the human definition of what is evil. In our day, many human beings are calling evil what God defines as good. All sinful beings struggle with doing good & resisting evil, but calling good evil is to refuse repentance.
That’s what had happened to the nation of Israel as a whole, when God warned them through Isaiah, “Woe to those who call evil good & good evil…” (5:20 ESV) In spite of God’s love for them, for many years the people of Israel had been refusing His love. They were refusing to repent; refusing to turn back to the God who created them & gave them life.
Instead, they were choosing death & it truly was killing them. Isaiah was warning them of their coming destruction, yet, God is able to bring true good even out of destruction. He can use the destruction like a refining fire to burn away the false & bring out only what is true. The reading from Proverbs 25 spoke of that:
“Take away the dross from the silver, & the smith has material for a vessel.” (25:4 ESV) Is that painful? Oh yeah, but the pain comes from sin’s corruption of God’s creation. You & I are the source of our pain, not God. All human beings suffer in this life, & we die in this life because we are corrupted by sin. God sent His Son Jesus to rescue sinners from this broken world, but He does not force us to be saved. Sadly, many people make a willful choice not to be rescued. They remain silent when offered the opportunity to confess their sins & be cleansed of them. All of us have that strong desire to do things on our own.
That desire is often what God is removing from us through the fires of refining. That desire to do it my way is the dross that God removes from the silver. Once that desire is removed, then the children of God no longer remain silent, as Psalm 106 makes clear:
“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, from everlasting to everlasting! And let all the people say, ‘Amen!’ Praise the Lord!” (106:48 ESV) Psalm 111 speaks of our praise in church, “Praise the Lord! I will give thanks to the Lord with my whole heart, in the company of the upright, in the congregation.” (111:1 ESV)
In the face of God, rather than remaining silent we confess our sins & shout the glory of the Lord. We do this because He washes away our sins & makes us clean & right & holy in His sight. That’s what today is supposed to be all about, resurrection from the dead.
In the OT that day was the Sabbath. It too was all about life & forgiveness, but the religious leaders in that day had made the Sabbath about anything but mercy. It was all about the letter of the law. So, those leaders set a trap for Jesus, because they felt that He was too easy on people. In their opinion, Jesus was kind to people who were not real children of God.
When Jesus asked them, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” they understood that the correct answer was yes, but to admit that would reveal that the entire “religious” system, in which they had gained power, was a mess. It no longer had anything to do with the heart of God. Thus, the awkward silence. . .
Not only had their plot failed to trap Jesus, they themselves were being revealed as
heartless. They had been trapped by their own trap. And that is what sin so often does to us. At those moments, the Holy Spirit is inviting us to turn away from our foolishness. He’s inviting you & me to turn to God & be delivered from it. Paul describes that when he writes:
“For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind & making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! (Romans 7:22-25a ESV)
Paul was not silent when confronted with his sin. Likewise, we too should use the power the Holy Spirit gives us to repent & give thanks to God that He has enabled us to believe the Good News. All our sins are forgiven, & the resurrection of Jesus, from the dead, proves that there is life after the grave – perfect, beautiful & peaceful life.
Our saintly nature does not want to be silent about that, but our sinful nature does. Who will deliver us from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! Amen.
As when the shepherd calls his sheep, they know & heed his voice; so when You call Your family, Lord, we follow & rejoice. With joyful lips we sing to You our praise & gratitude that You should count us worthy, Lord, to share this heavenly food. The mystery of Your presence, Lord, no mortal tongue can tell: Whom all the world can not contain comes in our hearts to dwell. You give Yourself to us, O Lord; then selfless let us be, to serve each other in Your name in truth & charity. Amen. LSB 641:1-2, 4-5.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet