Wednesday after Judica - Matthew 10:32-42 - March 16, 2016

Order of Matins - Pg. 32
Hymn #320 Lord Jesus, Think On Me
Hymn #421 Come, Follow Me, The Savior Spake
Hymn #158 Glory Be To Jesus

1 Corinthians 1:21-31
Matthew 10:32-42

Collect for Judica
We beseech Thee, Almighty God, mercifully to look upon Thy people, that by Thy great goodness they may be governed and preserved evermore in body and soul; through Jesus Christ, Thy Son, our Lord, who livest and reignest with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Sermon on Matthew 10:32-42 

Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1)         On Sunday we heard in the Gospel lesson how the Jews denied Jesus’ divinity and doctrine. They were fueled with a satanic hatred for Jesus. They abandoned all pretense of piety so that “they took up stones to throw at Him” (John 8:59). We have no doubt that these men denied the Lord Jesus. You don’t seek to murder someone you confess. You don’t stamp out the doctrine which you believe to be true. Those Jews fall into the category of “whoever denies Me before men, him I will also deny before My Father who is in heaven.” These men, scribes and Pharisees, who had devoted their lives to the study of Scripture and to personal holiness, will hear the glorified Christ say on the Last Day, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness! (Matthew 7:23). This sort of denial of Christ, the denial of His person and His work, is blunt and obvious when it comes from such stark unbelievers. Their denial of Christ is their public confession. By denying Him so vehemently and violently they say, “He is not the Christ, nor is He the savior from sin and death, nor has He anything to do with me, or I with Him.” This sort of denial is easy to spot, because it often wants to be seen. This sort of denial belongs only to the unbelieving, those who reject God’s will for them, which is repentance and faith in Christ.

2)         On the other side we see that the Christian confesses Christ before men. To confess Christ means to openly and freely confess Christ in His person and work. So the Christian confesses Christ’s person, that He is true God and true man in one indivisible person, that though He is fully man “in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). It also means to confess Christ’s work, which is the redemption of man through His suffering and death on the cross. Christ’s work is to obtain a perfect righteousness for all mankind and atone for the sins of the entire world. Christ continues that work through the Holy Ghost, working through the means of grace, where Christ gives out the benefits of the cross to all who believe the gospel. He applies His atoning death to you, purging you of your sins. He also applies His perfect righteousness to you, so you are clothed in Christ’s righteousness and God credits Christ’s merit to you. To confess Christ is something done publically as well. It is as John the Baptist did when questioned by the Jews sent from Jerusalem. “He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, "I am not the Christ” (John 1:20). John did not hide his identity under a bushel basket, nor did he conceal his proclamation about the coming Christ. He confessed it openly before men. In John’s public confession we see a pattern for how all Christians confess Christ. John simply speaks the words which God had given Him and does so boldly and confidently. To all who confess Christ openly and freely, Christ says, “him I will also confess before My Father who is in heaven,” meaning that Christ will stand before the Father and confess you as belonging to Him by faith.

3)         We know that the Christian’s confession is not always a good confession, and sometimes that confession even falters when it is persecuted. Take the example of Peter in the courtyard of the High Priest’s house on the night in which Jesus was betrayed. Peter follows Christ in the danger, even though He has no command to do so. Bold, bombastic Peter, who had said, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you” (Mark 14:31), is brought low by a servant girl who simply asks if Peter was among Jesus’ disciples, then points out that his Galilean dialect gives him away. Peter, who no one would doubt truly confessed Christ openly and freely in so many places in the gospels, is now reduced to a sniveling, shrunken man ensnared by a peasant girl’s question. He has the opportunity to once again confess Christ before men. He fails because of fear. He does so much more than simply not confessing Christ, though that would have been terrible enough if he had just kept silent or excused himself. He goes on to deny Christ three times. St. Augustine wrote about this: “Peter denied Christ as he denied being His disciple. Thus Christ is denied not only by the person who says that Jesus is not the Christ, but by that person, who, while he is a Christian, denies being one.”[1] Peter’s example serves as a warning to us, lest we walk into willfully into temptation and end up denying Christ.

4)         The Christian is called to do what Peter failed to do. Jesus says in today’s reading, “He who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me” (Matthew 10:38). Peter did not take up his cross and follow Jesus. He wanted to follow Jesus at a safe distance and remain a spectator of Christ’s passion. If Peter had of taken up his cross, that wouldn’t have meant that Peter would have been crucified alongside Jesus. For Peter to have taken up his cross would have meant that he would have confessed Christ in the courtyard of the High Priest just as boldly and confidently as he had at other times during his time with Jesus. Peter wants to avoid suffering at all costs, even the cost of his salvation apparently. This should warn us that if we seek comfort above Christ, we will receive neither. By denying Christ, Peter declares himself unworthy of Christ. How often do you and I do this very thing, pursing our own comfort at the expense of our confession of Christ? How often do we seek to avoid suffering by not speaking His name and His truth in situations when He gives opportunity? Part of taking up our cross and following after Jesus means that we suffer ridicule or the scornful looks of others for our confession of Christ.

5)         However, Peter’s denial also illustrates the gospel in a way which we cannot pass over. Peter, realizing immediately what he had done, leaves that place and weeps bitterly. This is true repentance. Peter sorrows deeply over His sin. He does not make excuses for it and say, “Well it just wasn’t the right time,” or “I didn’t know what to say.” He weeps bitterly because he feels his sin and is acutely aware of it in his heart. This is why Jesus absolves Peter after His resurrection, for the apostle John teaches us that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). St. Paul teaches us the difference between repentance and regret in 2 Corinthians 7:10, “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.” Peter’s grief was a godly one, because it drove Him to repentance over his sin, and faith that Christ was merciful to forgive his sin, even one as public and traitorous as his three denials.

6)         This then of course reminds us of the other disciple that blatantly denied Christ, Judas Iscariot. Judas is the example of all Christians who deny Christ by claiming to be disciples but clinging to willful sin against one’s conscience. Judas’ betrayal of Christ was not a spur of the moment decision. It was long in coming. Judas’ heart had long be ensnared by greed, a vice which He did not seem to fight but rather give in to. In John 12, when the sinful woman anoints Jesus’ feed with an extremely expensive perfume, Judas is shocked at the absolute waste. Astonished, Judas says, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” (John 12:5). Judas overreaches by trying to look more pious than Jesus, who allows the woman to worship Him in such a way. He replies, “Leave her alone, so that she may keep it for the day of my burial. The poor you always have with you, but you do not always have me” (John 12:7-8). In between this exchange St. John writes that Judas said this “not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief, and having charge of the moneybag he used to help himself to what was put into it” (John 12:6). Original sin in Judas manifested itself most intensely as greed. Judas did not fight the lusts of his sinful flesh but gave into them. His lusts eventually led him to ask the High Priest what he would give in exchange for Jesus. For betraying his teacher and friend Judas merited thirty pieces of silver. Upon realizing the severity of his sin, Judas has only regret. Too many willful sins had driven out the Holy Ghost, so that there was chance for repentance and faith to return to Christ and seek mercy in Him. In deep regret and shame, Judas sought redemption at the end of a rope, but found only judgment.

7)         From Judas the Christian sees two things. The first is the absolutely necessity of fighting the sinful flesh’s desires, lusts, and ideas. Peter urges Christians in 1 Peter 2:11, “Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.” The sinful flesh desires to drag you, body and soul, down to hell as it did Judas. Such sinning drives out the Holy Ghost and faith so that like Judas, if we persist willfully in sin and consent to it, at some point we will forfeit our salvation. This is why we must daily drown the Old Adam in us by daily remembering that we are baptized, so that our Old man is to be put away and a new man is to daily arise to live before God in holiness and purity. The second thing we learn is that we do not have a God like Judas assumes he has. Judas, having cast out faith and the Holy Ghost, assume that His sin, even His willful, manifest sin against conscience, is too big, too dirty, too depraved to be forgiven. How often do we imagine the same thing, magnifying our sins and minimizing the willingness of Christ to forgive? This is the final way in which we confess Christ before the world, openly and freely, by seeking the forgiveness of our sins. Peter repented and was restored to new life. Judas regretted and was relocated to hell. Let this be a lesson to us in our sin, that we neither remain in them willfully, nor despise the grace of God. Let us instead confess Christ before men with our mouths, confessing His person and work, with our lives, by patiently enduring the cross laid upon us, and by daily repenting of our sins and believing the gospel that Christ is merciful to even the crassest and crudest of sinners, including me. Amen.

May the peace of God, which passes human understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

[1][1] Augustine, quoted by Johann Gerhard in An Explanation of the History of the Suffering and Death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Translated by Elmer Hohle. Repristination Press: Malone, TX. 1998.

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