The Harding Thing

sermon on the mount

Friday, February 10, 2016

Matthew 5:21-37

Put yourself in the place of the disciples for a moment.

Imagine being called out of your day job and immediately swept up into the whirlwind of following Jesus--of travel and teaching and healing and casting out demons. Imagine the spreading fame and the adoring crowds that grow by the hour, by the minute. Imagine the pride of being able to say, “I am with him.”

Now imagine taking a break to sit down and catch your breath –and hearing this:

You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, ‘You fool,’ you will be liable to the hell of fire.

Imagine that moment of confusion, all of you shifting uncomfortably, looking around at the others as if to ask, “is he talking to us?”

Imagine that sinking feeling, “Is he talking to me?”

Go ahead—put yourself in the place of the disciples for a moment, because this is the word Jesus is speaking to his followers today. Yes, this is the word he is speaking to you. This word is for all of us.

Before going any further, Jesus wants to make it clear that this calling, this ministry is to be an exercise in facing the hard things. Jesus will lead his followers repeatedly into encounter with the hardest things out there in the world—sickness, poverty, oppression, loss, fear, death. But this ministry will also bring the followers face to face with the hardest thing of all—themselves.

In order to follow Jesus, disciples have to face the worst that is within. And Jesus makes it clear, there is ugliness in each and every one of us. Those very sins we might excuse and explain away, those are the sins Jesus places an even heavier emphasis upon. Jesus upends the scale. He scatters the rankings we’ve devised. No one is blameless. According to these standards, everyone is liable to the hell of fire.

Put yourself in the place in the disciples and try to suppress that resistance you are feeling. Just like them, try to tamp down all the arguments you want to shout out in your defense. Hold on to find out what is coming next. There is good news to be found in the hardest things. Even in this. Especially in this.

And here it is: Jesus’ forgiveness is for those who need it.

And who better to share this good news with the world,
than those who have received it?

And who better to share God’s grace with others,
than those who know they are in no position to judge?

For you. For me. For us. For them. That sounds like really good news

Pastor Sarah