+ In nomine Patris et Filii et Spiritus Sancti + Amen.
Text: Luke 13:10-17
Theme: Hypocrisy and Healing
Dear friends in Christ Jesus,
God gives. We receive. God gives in truth. We receive in faith. God heals. We are restored. God pardons. We are released. The highest way to honour God is to receive what He offers. Faith does not advise God, let alone dictate to Him, but humbly receives what He tenders. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, does not give as a custodian gives. He gives as possessor of the gifts. He does not heal as one borrowing the power of another. He does not pardon as if under another’s authority. Christ embodies the fullness of the Deity and executes the mission of the triune God. He then privileges us to participate in this Life1 and embody it for others.2
What happens when we seek to live this baptismal life in such a way that we seek “tick the God boxes” yet live according to our own aspirations? This is easily done through outward appearances. We then become spiritual legalists of some type wanting God’s approval without trusting God’s promise is the heart of the matter. Whenever the letter of the law prevails over the spirit of the law, the law’s beneficial intention is transgressed. Jesus constantly confronted the over-zealous Pharisees on this matter- usually in relation to the Sabbath. Today’s circumstance is a case-in-point. They were indignant because Jesus did this work of healing on the Sabbath. “There are six days for work, so come and be healed on those days,”3they said.
Here legalism was shining brightly. It was like saying, “The law says do not preach the good news of the gospel today. Today is reserved for strict obedience to God’s commands.” But the one cannot be pitted against the other. Does the ambulance not transcend the normal traffic laws when the circumstances demand it? Are the police not given authority average citizens are not granted? The well-being of the citizens is the chief concern. Was not the Sabbath most clearly upheld by the very act of restoration Jesus rendered! The good Samaritan is Christ’s example par excellence. The priest and Levite followed the ceremonial law to the letter and meanwhile transgressed the intent of the moral law.
Satan lurks behind everything that binds us in sin. If we are uncomfortable about acknowledging a spiritual dimension to things we think should only be explained with the language of medicine, materialism or science we must at least recognize the Scriptures speak in this way. The Scripture describes this woman’s infirmity as a spirit of weakness. Has Christianity lost some of its holism? Do we compartmentalize our “spiritual” lives from our more temporal pursuits? God addresses us holistically; body and soul, spirit, emotion, psyche, and physical aspects.
Sin binds us. Selfishness, greed, addiction, jealously and all similar fruits of sin are all symptoms of captivity. Sickness too is a consequence of the tangled web of sin and evidence of its binding power. Ageing is a universal expression of its power of decay. We should not underestimate the shackling power of sin. Repent of your transgressions, great and small. Repent especially of the thinking that you are immune to sin’s gravitational power. You cannot live without the freeing power of Christ’s forgiveness.
There were once two shopkeepers who were bitter rivals. Their stores were directly across the street from each other, and they would spend each day keeping track of each other's business. If one got a customer, he would smile in triumph at his rival. One night an angel appeared to one of the shopkeepers in a dream and said, "I will give you anything you ask, but whatever you receive, your competitor will receive twice as much. Would you be rich? You can be very rich, but he will be twice as wealthy. Do you wish to live a long and healthy life? You can, but his life will be longer and healthier. What is your desire?" The man frowned, thought for a moment, and then said, "Here is my request: Strike me blind in one eye!"
Jealousy binds us. Sin can consume us. Forgiveness frees us. The woman today was literally ‘released’, set free from her infirmity. Our account tells us that the synagogue ruler was put to shame as the crowds rejoiced. It was sometimes necessary for Jesus to humiliate His opponents. Only in this way could false piety be uprooted. We are transparent before God and this transparency should lead to integrity before our neighbour.
The true desires of the heart cannot run contrary to the work of the Spirit or faith is shown to be a fallacy. The person who doesn’t actually desire to be healed cannot at the same time have faith in Christ’s healing power. Unbelief and the Holy Spirit cannot co-exist in the same human heart. The person who doesn’t actually desire to be forgiven cannot rely on a blanket pardon from the Almighty. Repentance that seeks only to give the appearance of contrition is a mockery. Certainly there will be doubts, temptations and struggles. Your faith will be assaulted by Satan and tested by God Himself. Like the hymn-writer says,
“Just as I am, though tossed about
With many a conflict, many a doubt,
Fightings and fears within, without,
O Lamb of God, I come.”4
None of this negates that fact that both repentance and faith are gifts to begin with. Life must first be given to that which is dead; light must break in on the darkness. Baptism is the power of life and salvation. Only then can the human will engage God’s truth and cooperate with the Holy Spirit. A spiritual corpse cannot act on its own volition in service to God or to others. With the image of God marred unrecognizably through original sin we can only serve ourselves- oblivious to God and others. But Christ is the image of God. And in His people this image has begun to be restored. You are justified, declared righteous- by grace, through faith- and this has immediate and profound implications.
We should consider every healing of every sort a participation in Christ’s restorative power. In Christ you have already been healed even when sicknesses remain. The Bible says, “By His wounds we are healed.”5 The infirmities we are not freed from in this life will be quickly resolved in the next- such is the power of forgiveness and the promise of salvation. Meanwhile, He has given you the medicine of immortality in the Lord’s Supper. Freedom from the law’s condemnation breathes life into the sinner. Christ simultaneously transcended any legalism and fulfilled every law and promise. He said, “Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but fulfill them.”6 St. Paul says, “He forgave our sins, having cancelled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; He took it away, nailing it to the cross.”7 The resurrected and living Lord will not fail to bring to actualization the full consequences of His redeeming work. Amen.
+ In nomine Jesu +
1 See Revelation 1:18
2 See Romans 12:1
3 Luke 13:14
4 LH #335
5 Isaiah 53:5
6 Matthew 5:17
7 Colossians 2:13-15
Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost
25 August 2013
Reverend Darrin L. Kohrt