Mar17

They're All Against Me

Categories // Sermons

2nd Sunday in Lent

They're All Against Me

         Grace Mercy and Peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.” [Luke 13:31]

         Paranoia and conspiracy seem to go together. Many whom are paranoid imagine behind the scenes machinations of a person or persons conspiring against them. Now one may be paranoid without any real conspiracy against them and, conversely, a person can have others conspiring against them without being aware and thus suspicious of those who plot their demise.

         With Jesus, we see a different picture. Herod and others were conspiring against Jesus in order to put him to death. Yet Jesus was not fearful or suspicious of the plot; he knew full well what was going on. In fact, when told by the Pharisees that his life was in danger, Jesus remarked about Herod, Oh that guy? Yeah, I know about him and his scheme. “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course…’” [Luke 13:32]

         Now we have all heard the saying, ‘Crazy like a Fox’ but with Herod, he was just crazy. This was Herod Archelaus, son of Herod I, also known as Herod the Great. Herod the Great was in power when Jesus was born and had ordered the slaughter of all male children under the age of two years old. With the death of Herod the first, his son Archelaus now ruled. The son now wished to complete what the father had tried to do over 30 years earlier.

         Why were Herod and the Pharisees so eager to rid themselves of this lone Jew? Because they were paranoid of this man raising up the people against the ruling class of the country. They even called him a rebel and no friend of Caesar. [John 19:12] This man, Jesus, was speaking of a new religion, a new faith and a new path to the Kingdom of God. This man Jesus was telling of a new ruler of heaven and earth.

         Thank the Lord that many of us never have had our lives threatened by death. Thank God in heaven that we live in a country where the preservation of life is held by a majority of people as the desire and goal.

         As a nation, in our Declaration of Independence, we declared our life as God given. As a people, through revolt, we fought to overthrow a government who suppressed these beliefs. At the end of the Revolutionary War, we formed a republic where all people were considered equal in rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

         In our Bill of Rights the First Amendment states that, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech…” We the people have enjoyed such freedoms for hundreds of years.

         One would be safe to say that no citizen of these United States, unless the object of criminal activity or military combat, has ever been hunted as prey to be killed. We have been born in a time and nation where emperors, kings or evil despots do not zealously murder those who oppose their rule.

         This is not to say that murder, oppression and censure does not happen. Nor would it be factual to say that our nation is God-fearing and perfect in its equality to humankind. No, we are not perfect and some might even question if we are civilized, yet by the grace of God, we are not imprisoned, tortured or executed for speaking the Gospel of our Lord.

         Our human history is filled people being attacked, imprisoned and killed for speaking their faith in the one true God. The prophet Jeremiah brought the word of God to the king of Judah, a king named Jehoiakim. Jeremiah was instructed by God to speak to all the cities of Judah with exact words. God said,

If you will not listen to Me, to walk in My law which I have set before you… then I will make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all the nations of the earth.” [Jeremiah 26:4,6]

Shiloh being once a great city, which held the house of God, is where thousands of people were killed and the city razed to the ground by the Philistines.

         The people of Judah, hearing the words of God seized Jeremiah and were to kill him. To the honor of God, Jeremiah did not suddenly change his message. He did not shirk his duty or deny our Creator to save himself. Instead, he repeated God’s word to the rulers of the cities.

         Thankfully, for Jeremiah, God’s words did not return to him empty. They came to the realization that killing the messenger would not change the message or the will of the sender of that message. The people came to their senses. In the next verse it is written:

So the princes and all the people said to the priests and the prophets, “This man does not deserve to die. For he has spoken to us in the name of the Lord our God.” [Jeremiah 26:16]

Jeremiah lived and continued to speak the word of God as he was commanded.

         I don’t know for certain, but I don’t know of anyone in this house of God today who has been hounded or persecuted unto bodily harm for the confession of their faith in Jesus Christ, let alone anyone who has been killed for proclaiming Christ as Lord.

         In this generation, however, one does not offend by religious beliefs alone. As in the time of Jeremiah, the time of Jesus and in our time, to threaten and/or work towards the overthrow of a ruling power would mean death.

         In 2018 a group called Open Doors, a group that monitors the persecution of Christians around the world, reported that 3,066 Christians were killed; 1,252 were abducted; 1,020 were raped or sexually harassed; and 793 churches were attacked. They also report that every month, 255 Christians are killed. That is 1 in every twelve Christians worldwide. [1]           To be sure, most of these murders and attacks are done in Muslim populated countries in Asia and Africa, but we know that Christian persecution in any form can be found anywhere.  

         As Christians, we believe our life is the very breath of God given to us as a gift so that we would live our lives to the glory of He who created us. We believe our existence is not perpetuated by our will but by God’s alone.

         We know we do not rule on this earth with complete autonomy. We know this through the scriptures, the Word of Our Father in heaven. In the Word He spoke through the prophets and through the Living Word of His Son, Jesus Christ, we stand not as kings, but as servants.

         The Law of God still exists. It was not destroyed by the Son of God but fulfilled. Just as Shiloh and the cities of Judah, our kingdoms here on earth may be destroyed for our disobedience and transgression of the Law of God.

         However, our God is a God of life and not of death. He does not wish to see us killed for our rebellion or our resistance to His rule. To win back His children from the enemy of sin, death and the devil, God sent His only Son, Jesus Christ into the front lines of the battle for life over death.

         Just as God sent Jeremiah to carry His words of life to His people, God sent Jesus Christ to carry the sins of His people to the cross. He sent His only Son into the domain of the enemy to proclaim the word of God.

         Jesus did this knowing that he would be tortured for speaking against evil. He knew he would be put to death at the hands of our greatest enemy for preaching freedom from sin through the sanctification of baptism in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.

         His mission was a suicide mission, but not like those who kill themselves for the destruction of life. His death was different from all other deaths because he died without sin and being truly righteous, fulfilled the Law of our Father in heaven.

         Christ’s sacrifice in the battle of sin was different because his death was not the end of life but the completion of salvation for all. The resurrection of Jesus Christ from the grave did not destroy life by the hundreds, but redeemed life by the billions.

         All this was done for us out of purely divine goodness and mercy without any merit of our own. We have been saved from the destruction of sin and the finality of death. It is the will of our Lord, Jesus Christ to carry his life-saving words to all people.

         St. Paul tells us we are to be imitators of Christ. We are to walk in his truth and in his light. Do not fear those who would kill you. They do exist and I do not wish to lead you into false understanding, yet, as the Apostle Paul said, there are many who walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. [Philippians 3:18]

         They are the true terrorists of our generation. They conspire to attack when we least expect with no regard for life. But our citizenship is in heaven. By the power of our Lord, Jesus Christ, in our death, we will be transformed from this lowly body into a glorious body like his. [Philippians 3:20, 21]

         In Christ we no longer fear those who can destroy the body but not the soul. With our salvation by the victor over eternal death, we now enjoy the promise of eternal life. We now live a life with our Lord, in purity and joy, where no man or evil power can destroy.

         Since the beginning of creation, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have worked a plan against the evil foe. Through the power of God the conqueror of death is the same Jesus Christ Herod and the Pharisees wished to kill.

         Jesus Christ has longed to gather his children together. On that last day, we will all be gathered into his kingdom. Our house will no longer be desolate and we will all rejoice in the name of Our Lord.

Amen

 


[1] https://www.opendoorsusa.org/christian-persecution/ Downloaded 16MARFEB19

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