20th Sunday after Pentecost – B (Proper 22) LSB #’s 420, 423, 433
Text – Hebrew 2:9
But we see Him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory & honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.
It’s impossible to know what the American people think. They’re just too many of us to ask. And yet, if you listen to any of the mainstream news outlets there can be no doubt who is the absolutely most hated human being in our nation today. The bitter obsession with Brett Kavanagh has been on full display for a month, as his nomination has to the court has played out.
I realize it’s an extremely divisive issue, but for the sake of this sermon I have no interest whatsoever in choosing sides. I’m not looking for a Spartacus moment, & I’m certainly not campaigning for President in the year 2020. However, as someone called by God to be a servant of His people I simply have to address the hatred & bitterness, along with the obsession of it all.
Brett Kavanagh is a man that well over 300 million of our citizens have NEVER personally met. Yet the vile hatred for him that has played out on television, & in Washington D.C., has a clear & direct word from Jesus that applies to those who are screaming & even calling for death. In the 5th chapter of Matthew Jesus taught:
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor & hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies & pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.” (5:43-45a ESV)
In Ephesians 4, the Word of God gives this guidance: “…do not let the sun go down on your anger, & give no opportunity to the devil.” (4:26-27 ESV) There are many people in our country who are currently giving all kinds of opportunity to the devil. And considering Jesus’ words, “…love your enemies & pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven,” it appears that many people in our country are in grave danger of NOT being sons of our Father who is in heaven. After all, that is Lucifer’s goal, convincing us to disobey, to disavow & to disown our heavenly Father. Finally, in His explanation of the 5th Commandment Jesus stated:
“But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; & whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:22 ESV)
Now, I don’t expect many of the rabid protestors against Justice Kavanagh to be concerned about the Word of God. As long as they are unbelievers it is not our calling to be sitting in judgment upon them. However, I do believe that their actions & attitudes make for a good illustration of the dead end that sin brings in this life.
Many of the people opposed to Justice Kavanagh are filled with hatred & anger. Their sinful nature wants to vent those feelings & it tells them they are perfectly justified in doing so. They are told, by the devil, to hold onto that bitterness & never let it go. Satan wants them to trust in their own righteousness without question.
Do you think Lucifer’s main goal in all this is to destroy Brett Kavanagh? Or, could it be that Satan is trying to destroy the protestors through their very own thoughts, words & deeds? If Kavanagh is guilty of all that they say he is, while he fervently denies it, the devil probably already owns him. And you can bet that Satan wants to destroy the protestors as well.
Lucifer could care less about seeing to it that Brett Kavanagh faces justice. The protestors, however, want nothing less than the destruction of Mr. Kavanagh, & everything he appears to stand for. Since they couldn’t get their way with a reasoned argument, they’ve simply resorted to screaming louder. That is the world’s idea of striving for justice – if you don’t get what you want simply escalate your behavior. He said, she said turns into a screaming match. After that it escalates to not listening to the other side at all, which often morphs into emotional & physical abuse or other violence. The path down the road of ‘you hurt me so I hurt you’ ends up at the Hatfields & the McCoys – a never ending cycle of violence.
That is the way of the world left to us by Adam & Eve – the wages of sin is death. Cain killed Abel as revenge became the rule of the day. Get them before they get you is the #1 guideline. It’s the only answer to sin that sinful creatures are capable of. We cannot destroy death so we destroy each other instead.
This totally typifies the extent to which mankind can deal with sin & death. The policy ushered in by the advent of nuclear weapons is called “Mutually Assured Destruction.” Basically, it states that you better not attack us with nuclear weapons, because, although you can certainly destroy us, you can also be assured that before we die we will destroy you as well.
Rather than simply erasing the existence of God’s fallen creation, He chose to salvage it by working through it. Thus, the Holy Trinity sent the Son to take on the actual physical nature of the creation in order to purify it:
“But we see Him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory & honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.” (Hebrew 2:9 ESV)
The phrase ‘tasting death’ is not one that you & I use in everyday language. Just the sound of it is strange & uncomfortable. If effect, it says Jesus must taste death so that we can taste life. Jesus would bear the brunt of mankind’s solution for sin & die. He would take the place of Abel, & shed His own blood, to break mankind’s cycle of violence.
The basic image held forth by the reading from Hebrews is one of a journey. It is the
ritual transition of Jesus through death to His coronation as God’s Son & His ordination as High Priest. Our Lord leads God’s children on that same journey, if we follow Him. That journey is the process by which they all share in the holiness & glory of Christ. If Justice Kavanagh is a child of God, the ordeal he has just been through is for him a very personal part of that journey.
If you & I are children of God, we too shall endure the accusations, trials & suffering of life in this broken world. Because we too are sinful, much of that suffering is of our own making. It’s not always that the devil is out to get us. Our own hearts are poisoned & corrupted by sin such that death is exhaled with every breath.
Therefore, Psalm 34 calls us to “…taste & see that the Lord is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!” (v. 8 ESV) Psalm 119 responds to God, “How sweet are Your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!” (v. 103 ESV)
Jesus came to break the mankind’s cycle of violence that our sin has brought. In that regard, the author of Hebrews encourages us in this way:
“But you have come to Mount Zion & to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, & to innumerable angels in festal gathering, & to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, & to God, the judge of all, & to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, & to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, & to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.” (Hebrews 12:22-24 ESV)
The Word of man speaks of retribution & punishment for sin. Abel’s blood calls for vengeance. We’ve seen that clearly in the whole episode with Justice Kavanagh. Those who hate him want destruction. Whether he’s guilty or innocent, nowhere in that debate did I hear one word about forgiveness. That’s the thing that bothered me most about the whole ordeal.
The blood of Jesus speaks a better word, because in His Son, God has forgiven my sin & your sin. You & I need that word as much as Judge Kavanagh, & as much as those who hate him & would destroy him. That is why Jesus came to taste death for everyone: “For all have sinned & fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23 ESV) And Jesus tasted death so that Romans 5:8 would be directly applicable to any accusations against us, & to any suffering caused by our sins, “but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (ESV)
Jesus tasted death so that you & I may taste life – eternal life. But He also tasted death that we might become, once again, glorified men & women, our bodies & minds freed from the ravages of sin.
Through His resurrection from the dead Jesus became the 1st human being to realize the glorious destiny that Yahweh had designed for human beings. Today we serve ourselves instinctively & that is made obvious in our thoughts, words & deeds. In heaven we will serve Yahweh as He created us to – in holiness & perfection – & we will love everyone. Amen.
The peace of God that surpasses all human understanding will guard your hearts & your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.
Pastor Dean R. Poellet