Third Sunday after Pentecost, Proper 7 [a] June 21, 2020
Jeremiah 20:7-13; Romans 6:12-23
Matthew 10:5[a], 21-33
5 These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, …21 “Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23 When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. 24 A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. 26 So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28 And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in Hell. 29 Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in Heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in Heaven.”
In the Name of Jesus.
Jesus tells you who you should fear, and it is pure gift: [Jesus said,] “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in Hell.”
It’s true, usually when we think of fear, we don’t think of gift. Anxiety, sleepless nights, terror, sweaty palms, troubled conscience, distress and nerves—that’s what we think of with fear.
But Jesus tells you who to fear, and it is pure gift: “Fear him who can destroy both soul and body in Hell.”
The only one who can throw you, body and soul, into Hell, it’s Jesus.
No earthly army can throw you into Hell. An army can kill your body, but cannot cast into Hell. No loss of friends, no loss of job, no attack by any other can throw you into Hell. Satan can’t cast you into Hell. He, like you, is a creature, and does not have power over eternal life. Only Jesus can throw you into Hell.
Which means, do not fear the army with weapons, do not fear the attack of enemies, do not fear loss of wealth or income, do not fear any earthly onslaught, do not fear Satan and the demons.
Fear only Jesus.
But when you fear only Jesus, you look at Jesus and you see in his hands the print of the nails, and you know it was for you.
It was for you that his body took the sword’s piercing, the insults and spitting of the soldiers, it was for you that he spilled his blood, even unto death.
Fear only Jesus. And then hear the words Jesus speaks, “Fear not”! The only one you should fear is the one who says to you, Fear not.
Fear not your sin, I have taken it away. Your shame, I have covered you with my own honor. Your anxiety, your sleepless nights, your terror and sweaty palms, your troubled conscience, your distress and nerves—do not fear, I have taken it all upon myself, I have redeemed you, I have cleansed you and made you mine, you have nothing to fear.
It’s a joyful life Jesus gives. A blessed life. A life of hope and grace.
What could make it go wrong? What could rob you of this joy? The way to rob a Christian of joy is to put the Christian under the Law.
The Law is God’s Word showing guilt. God’s Word always accusing the sinner.
The Law is God’s Word echoing in our conscience, his Word from which we want to run, his Word used by the devil to bring our sins up in front of our face and to cause us to tremble.
Do not fear the devil. He cannot throw you into Hell. Fear only Jesus, the one with nail prints in his hand for you, the one saying to you, Fear not.
But if you do want to rob yourself of this joy, it’s easy: Return to the Law; leave behind the Gospel.
Return to the Law, so that you try to deal with your sin by keeping the Law, so that you try to find your honor by making yourself righteous with the Law, so that you try to justify yourself by sorting yourself out with the Law.
Leave the Gospel behind and return to the Law, and then you will know fear—the fear of trying to make yourself holy but being unable, of hearing the demons accuse you and keep you in guilt, of having the Word of Law stinging your conscience, of the anxiety and distress belonging to one who fears everything but Jesus, who alone can cast you into Hell.
Sin has no dominion over you,
since you are not under the law, but under grace.
Sin brings fear and despair. Sin is made manifest as the guilt of our sin is thrown in our face by the Law. The has no dominion over you, says Paul, for you are not under the Law, but under grace.
By the Law you will never deliver yourself from sin or death or fear. You will only drive deeper into it.
What delivers you from sin and death and fear? Jesus. Grace. Sins forgiven. The Word of the cross cleansing your conscience. The Name of Jesus put on you in Baptism. The Body and Blood making you holy. This, Jesus and his gifts, delivers you from fear.
You are not under the Law. You are under grace.
You are not under the accusing word the demons bring to your conscience. You are under the Word of justification, giving you a good conscience at peace with God.
You are not paying the wages of sin, which are death—Jesus paid that wage by the price of his own blood on the cross. You are receiving the free gift of God which is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. [Romans 6:23]
Then what is the Law to you?
It is still the Word of God which we must hear. It is still the accusation which we must hear every day as long as we are still in our life of flesh. It is still the Word of God accusing us so that constantly we are brought to repentance and the old Adam of sin is daily put to death in that repentance.
And it is still the Word by which we know, even while we are yet in sinful flesh, that we should love our neighbor as ourselves, we should obey the government authorities for the good of society and the benefit of our neighbor, and we should know our guilt when we do not do these things of God’s Law.
But the Law is not the Word by which we are righteous. Not the Word which will ever bring life or deliver from fear.
The Gospel, the Word of grace, the Word of sins forgiven and consciences cleansed, you are under that Word.
The Gospel brings no fear, only forgiveness and grace.
The Gospel does not cast into Hell, it brings the gift of life.
You are under the Gospel. It is your life of faith.
It is your life of knowing that Jesus is the only one who can cast into Hell, and he is the one with nail prints in his hands for you.
[Jesus said,] “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in Hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”
In the Name of Jesus.