21st Sunday after Pentecost (Proper 24 [b]) October 17, 2021
23Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How difficult it will be for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God!” 24And the disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said to them again, “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! 25 It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?” 27Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.” 28Peter began to say to him, “See, we have left everything and followed you.” 29Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for my sake and for the gospel, 30 who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time, houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. 31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”
In the Name of Jesus.
How do we treat the Word of God?
God the Son is the Word of God. John 1:1:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him.
Then God the Son came into the flesh; Jesus is the Word of God. John 1:14:
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Then the Word of God, Jesus, spoke words to the Apostles. They wrote them down to give the words to the Church. The Church calls these words Holy Scripture. Or, the Bible. The words given by God the Son to the prophets and then to the Apostles, to be written down in Scripture, are to be proclaimed to the people Jesus loves, to be preached to sinners.
So now we have the Bible. We hear it preached. We read it in our families. We study it at home. In this generation of ours, we even scroll through it on our phones.
So how do we treat the Word of God? We study it, we learn it, we underline it, we memorize it. We try to understand enough of it to the extent that we feel we have control of it.
I once knew a little boy who read a book about Komodo Dragons. He could tell you everything about Komodo Dragons. Which islands they lived on in which ocean, how big they would grow, how fast they could run when hunting, and how they could kill you not because they were poisonous, but because their mouths were sceptic, so you end dying from infection. Everything you could want to know about Komodo Dragons—because, he studied the book, he had control of the words about Komodo Dragons.
We’ve all known of that, of a little boy who could tell you everything you want to know about fire-trucks, a young girl who could tell you everything about Nancy Drew, because, they read the books.
Read the book, understand the words, get control of the subject. That’s the way we work, so even the college student reads the assigned Shakespeare to get control of the information before the big final.
So how do we treat the Word of God? Maybe even with a little more care and respect, since it is, after all, not the word about Komodo Dragons or Nancy Drew, but about Holy God.
We might think of the porcelain teacup we keep on the mantle. It’s been passed down from generations. It’s precious. We don’t put it in the dishwasher, we don’t drink coffee out of it—it’s valuable, it’s an heirloom. So we revere it and we protect it.
The Word of God. We treat it not like a Sports Illustrated copy or a daily Cookbook, but we carefully hold it, protect it, and revere it—a precious porcelain teacup, but this is the Word of God.
And we read it, learn it, get control of it, so we know how to use it.
A fragile porcelain teacup to be held respectfully in our hands and inspected with care. An interesting metaphor for the Word of God.
Except, the Word doesn’t speak of itself that way. It is no fragile artifact to keep control of. Scripture, rather than a delicate teacup, uses the imagery of a sword. Swords need no protection—they do the damage. Swords aren’t fragile, they cut and slash and bring havoc. Hebrews 4:12:
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
So maybe we can rethink how it is we think we treat the Word of God.
If we started out thinking it was subject-matter we needed to get control of, like a student getting control of the Algebra before the big test, we now realize we don’t control Scripture, rather it’s a sword cutting into us, to the division of soul and spirit.
If we started out thinking we read the Bible, we now realize that the Bible is reading us.
For, the Bible is not manmade words transferring information from author to reader like a human book, but is the words given by Jesus, the Word made flesh, so that when we encounter these words, the words are actually encountering us. For it is Jesus, through his Word, encountering us, impacting us, piercing us, discerning thoughts and intentions of our hearts.
The sword is two-edged. Scripture, as it encounters us, is two-edged.
The Law, piercing to the division of our soul and spirit, leaving no sin unexposed, putting us to death in contrition and repentance.
Then the Gospel, at our very depth, at the division of soul and spirit, removing the sin, forgiving the guilt, replacing the shame with honor, daily raising to life the New Man of faith.
How hard is the sword-edge of Law? How deep the cut? Mark 10:24:
Jesus said to them … “Children, how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” And they were exceedingly astonished, and said to him, “Then who can be saved?”
That’s a deep cut. The disciples were right to ask, “Who then can be saved?” They rightly heard the Law from Jesus, rightly feeling the sword piercing to the division of soul and spirit, discerning their thoughts and intentions of the heart, leaving no one able to be saved under the Law.
Jesus looked at them and said, “With man it is impossible, but not with God. For all things are possible with God.”
“All things are possible with God”—this is the Gospel. Possible to God is what is impossible to the sinner.
What is impossible to the sinner is for the sinner to save himself, for the sinner to call God into his heart, for the sinner to make a decision for righteousness, for a sinner to be other than sinner.
Impossible to the sinner, but possible to God.
Jesus is the Word of God. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.
The Word dwelt among us and went to the cross.
The Word poured out the blood to atone for our sin.
The Word made flesh, Jesus, spoke the words of the cross to his Apostles, for them to write them down, so that we live from the words of Holy Scripture.
How do we treat the Word of God? No. Rather, how does the Word of God treat us?
It pierces to the quick, to the division of spirit and soul. It discerns our thoughts and intentions. It finds the sin, exposes the guilt, leaves us in shame.
But the Word of God is Jesus. He took those thoughts and intentions of our sinful hearts upon himself, he bore the sin and guilt in his own body, he was covered in our shame.
Then he, the Word made flesh, gave us the words to do what is impossible for us to do. He gave us the words forgiving our sins, taking away our guilt, covering our shame with his honor.
He gave us the words of Holy Scripture. So that in the Church, these words are preached to the people the Lord gathers to his Name. These words are read-out, as an executor reading out a man’s last will and testament, so that at the words of Jesus read out before his people, they are given the wealth he bequeaths to them, his Body and Blood for the forgiveness of their sins.
These words are read in our families at time of Word and Prayer, so that as we are reading the Bible, we find that it is the Bible reading us.
For the Word is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing us to the division of soul and spirit, daily putting us to death in our old man of sin, and daily raising us up to live in our new man, our life of faith.
For the words we read are the words of Jesus. And he is the living and active Word of God.
And with Jesus, what is impossible to us is possible with him. And that is the justification of the sinner.
In the Name of Jesus.