Sunday, May 26th, 2024

Fix Your Eyes on Jesus and See Life

Grace, mercy and peace are yours from God our Father, through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. Let us pray. O Lord, send forth your word into our ears that it may bear fruit in our lives, in Jesus’ name, Amen. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. Perhaps you’ve heard that before. Whether you’re rushing to judgment or even if you take every possible precaution, the truth remains that making a decision without all the facts can lead to behavior that is sometimes comical, sometimes tragic. How many movies have you seen where that’s the case? Someone gets himself or herself into an uncomfortable situation by making a decision without having all the facts. Like loading your family into a brand-new station wagon for a cross country vacation, only to find out that Wally World is closed when you get there. For Romeo and Juliet, like many tragedies, the plot turns when the messenger cannot deliver his message in time. If the messenger had been able to inform Romeo of the plan hatched by the Friar and Juliet, their relationship might have ended quite differently. But because Romeo didn’t know all that he might have known, he jumped to the wrong conclusion. He didn’t have all the facts. He didn’t know as much as he thought he knew, and it turns out he was quite wrong. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing. And yet our sinful flesh idolizes knowledge. We worship our own understanding. We, as a species, are convinced there is nothing outside the grasp of human understanding. We believe that even if I don’t personally understand something, surely someone, somewhere does. And even if no one does today, we tend to convince ourselves that on some level, there will be someone in the future, someday, who gets it. Humanity as a whole, loves understanding. We love our knowledge. We convinced ourselves that every mystery can be solved if the right person just has enough time. Oh, fools we mortals be. There are many things that are beyond our understanding, like the doctrine of the Trinity. As we confess to the Athanasian Creed here on Trinity Sunday, majesty coeternal, coequal persons and substances, begotten, and proceeding in all kinds of technical language. How can there be three persons who are one God? Human efforts to understand the Trinity beyond what we’ve been given in Scripture have gotten people in trouble for centuries. Any student of the early church will be confronted with these misunderstandings. Any student of the history of the rest of the church will see how they keep popping up with each new generation. But maybe that’s not you. Maybe you’re not really worried about understanding the Trinity. Maybe you’re content to let it remain a mystery. That doesn’t mean you don’t still fall victim to the temptation to idolize human understanding. One of my favorite insights from Luther is the realization that while Christians may be willing to admit that God is bigger than we are, that he is more powerful than we are, we have a really hard time admitting that he’s wiser. That’s why the Apostle Paul’s words to the Romans are so hard to stomach. “Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable are his ways? For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” Who has known the mind of God? Certainly, we haven’t. Yeah, we like to act as if we have. We’re quick to question God on the basis of our own understanding. To challenge him, to take him to task for the way he is handling something in our lives. We’re quick to accuse God of being foolish, or pigheaded, flat out wrong, assuming that we know better than he does. Why me? is one of our favorite questions. Why me, God? Why did I get cancer? Why did my loved one die? Why did I lose my job? Why was my childhood so hard? Why do I struggle with depression? Why me? We question God, persistently questioning God about the way he’s working in our lives, often accusing him of not knowing what’s best, of not doing what’s best for us. But we haven’t seen the mind of God. We haven’t explored the depths of his wisdom and knowledge. His judgments are unsearchable. His ways mysteriously beyond our comprehension. At least that’s the way Paul puts it. When God himself speaks, he’s a bit more blunt. Just look at the book of Job. Here was a man who had been faithful to God. He had been blessed with much earthly wealth, great comfort, large family. Then God sent Satan to take it all away. Job’s family died, and his fortune dried up, and Job himself was stricken with illness, and his friends tried to figure out what he had done wrong to deserve such punishment from God. Job’s wife told him to just curse God and die already. And when Joel himself finally reached the end of his patience and did question the wisdom of God, here is God’s response: “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you can make it known to me. Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me if you have understanding. Who determined its measurements–surely you know! Or who stretched out the line upon it? On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone?” It continues from there. God puts Job in his place, and by extension, us as well. Who are we to question the Almighty? To think that we might know better than God. That our brains could fathom this world better than the one who created them. Do we understand how the created world works? We may understand that it works, what it does, but that’s such a little knowledge compared to the omniscience of the Almighty. And a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. So rather than leaning on our own abilities to understand God, we are called, instead, to rely on the little knowledge that God has revealed about himself. That’s what Jesus says to Nicodemus. “Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen.” Doctors talk about medicine. Lawyers talk about the law. We speak about what we know, and no one has ascended into heaven to see God except for the one who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. He speaks about what he knows. If you rely on your own understanding, Nicodemus, you will fail. You don’t even fully understand the things of this earth, how the wind works. How could you possibly understand the things of heaven and the ways of God? Now if you want to understand the ways of God, listen to the one he sent. If you want to know God, don’t look at the details of your life, look at his. Look at Jesus. It was Jesus, who was born for you, the sinless Son of God, Jesus, who lived a life of perfection in your place, fulfilling God’s covenant with Moses. It was Jesus who kept the law perfectly for you in thought, word, and deed. It was Jesus, who suffered for the way that our very existence as sinful people violates the holy law of God. It was Jesus who overcame death in the grave for you, who opens for us the way of everlasting life. If you want to understand God, look at the way he acts in Jesus. For this is how God loves the world. This is how God acted out his love for the world, just as Moses lifted up a snake in the wilderness so that Israel would be delivered from snakes, so also God lifted up a dead man on a cross so that you would be delivered from death. Look at Jesus. Jesus is how God loves the world, by giving his only Son over to death, in order that all who looked to him might not perish, but have eternal life. God did not send the Christ into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. And it is saved, and you are saved, and you have eternal life, as Jesus himself says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” That’s you. That’s me. We have passed from death to life, all because of what God Himself has done for us. And there’s joy in this. There’s freedom in this. Rather than getting bogged down and lost and confused in vain attempts to uncover the mysteries of God, we rejoice in what little knowledge we have. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, but in this case it’s dangerous for Satan. So, he’ll stop at nothing to distract us, to pull out every trick in his bag, in an effort to drive us to despair. And make no mistake, every effort to understand God, apart from Jesus, ends in despair. For apart from Jesus, all we have are the things of this world. The things of this world always die, always crumble, always fail. If we rely on the things of this world, rely on our own understanding, we find ourselves confronted with the false God who fails and who crumbles. But that’s not the God you have. That’s not the God who he is. The true God has revealed himself in Jesus, and when we fix our eyes on him, we see life. We see him overcome this world, and we see him promise our deliverance. And so, yes, we still live in the valley of tears. Yes, we are still unclean people who dwell in the midst of an unclean world, people of life, in a dying world, people of hope in a world of despair. And if we’re going to be honest with ourselves, it will likely get worse before it gets better. Sin will increase. Society will continue to get worse. We’ll continue to look to heaven and wonder why God allows these things to happen. Why, God, do you sit back and watching the wickedness continue? Why do you allow tornadoes and earthquakes to take so much life? Why do you allow such wicked people to rise to political power? Why don’t you act when you see the greed and the corruption and the lust and the narcissism of our world? And in our frustration, we can look back to the words of Paul. We have not known the mind of the Lord, and we don’t understand His reasons, for they are His own. Therefore, they are justified, and there’s truth in that. There’s no hope in that. Our hope is found in the words of Jesus, the life of Jesus, the death of Jesus, the resurrection of Jesus. That is the promise of your resurrection. Jesus is the key. Jesus is the answer. Christ crucified to set you free. There are many questions in this world that we may want answered and never get answered. But Jesus says what matters. Don’t understand the Trinity? That’s OK, look to Jesus. Don’t understand the hardships in your life? That’s OK, look to Jesus. Keep your eyes fixed on him, for in him you see God’s love in action. When compared to the omniscience of the Almighty, it may only be a little bit of knowledge, but when it comes to Jesus, a little knowledge is a beautiful thing. In Jesus’ name, Amen.