Hear and Live

Sermon for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost based on Mark 6:1-13 (Ezek. 2:1-5, 2 Cor. 12:1-10)

Dear hearers of God’s Word: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

God sent Ezekiel to speak His Word to the people of Israel. For the most part, they did not listen. Ezekiel was not sent to speak his own words, but the very Word of God. But most of the people did not listen.

Was there a problem with Ezekiel? Maybe he wasn’t winsome enough. Maybe he wasn’t friendly enough. Maybe he wasn’t lenient enough. But no, the problem was not with Ezekiel. God Himself says the problem was the people of Israel. God calls them “nations of rebels” who had rebelled not against Ezekiel, but against Him (Ezek. 2:3). God calls them impudent and stubborn (Ezek. 2:4). These people hardened their hearts to God’s Word because they didn’t want to hear God’s Word. They didn’t want to turn from their sins. They loved their sins rather than loving God. Of course they’re going to find God’s messenger not to be winsome, friendly, or lenient.

Maybe if Ezekiel would have been more like Saint Paul he would have had more success. Saint Paul says he became a servant of all that he might win more of them (I Cor. 9:19). He says he became all things to all people, so that by all means he might save some (I Cor. 9:22). That sounds winsome. That sounds friendly. That sounds lenient.

But Paul faced imprisonment, beatings, riots… insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities (2 Cor. 6:4-5, 12:10). Being all things to all people did not mean that everyone listened to the Word of God that Paul preached. Even to the church in Corinth, Paul had to defend himself from so called “super-apostles” who came to lead the congregations away from pure doctrine (cf. esp. 2 Cor. 11:5). And for those who refused to repent, Paul judged them according to God’s Word and told the congregations to deliver such people over to Satan by putting them out of the church (I Cor. 5:5). That does not sound winsome, friendly, or lenient.

Maybe if Paul had been more like Jesus, he would have had more success. But Jesus Himself faced rejection, even by the people of His own hometown and His own relatives. They took offense at him (v. 3). They did not believe in Him (v. 6). In the end they whipped Him, beat Him, scoffed at Him, spit in His face, crowned Him with thorns, and crucified Him.

This all points to what Jesus says to those He sends to preach His Word, “The one who hears you hears me, and the one who rejects you rejects me, and the one who rejects me rejects him who sent me.” (Luke 10:16)

God’s Word will be rejected by the world. It will be rejected by the nations of rebels who have rebelled against God. It will be rejected by the impudent and stubborn. It may even be rejected by those of our hometowns and our own relatives.

We have witnessed the rejection of God’s Word again recently with the Supreme Court in the United States legalizing the sin of homosexual “marriage”. America joins us here in Canada who legalized such sin about a decade ago. Scripture is so clear on homosexuality that it is easy for us to be up in arms over such abomination, impurity, and dishonourable passions (cf. Rom. 1:24-27). It is easy for us to point the finger even at the other so-called “churches” who embrace such debauchery and depravity. But this is not the first time nor is it the only way marriage has come under attack. This is where we have to take blame for our own despising of marriage.

Concerning marriage, Jesus says, “What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate.” (Matt. 19:6) We have to examine our own hearts. Where have we hardened our hearts against our spouses, refused to forgive, and divorce them? Where have we encouraged the divorce of others through what we have said, what we have done, what we have gossiped?

God’s Word says, “You shall not commit adultery” (Ex. 20:14), and “Let marriage be held in honour among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled, for God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” (Heb. 13:4) Here also we have to examine our own hearts. Where among us has the marriage bed been defiled? Couples live together outside of the life-long union of marriage instituted by God. Adultery, fornication, and pornography are the norm of society and we are only too ready to embrace them. Should we expect a winsome, friendly, and lenient message from God?

God’s Word says marriage is for the procreation of children as God mandated by saying, “Be fruitful and multiply” (Gen. 1:28). There are many reasons for the decline of the church, but one of the biggest reasons is most certainly the unwillingness of Christian couples to have children. And when we do have children, how faithfully do we teach them what God’s Word says about how they should live sexually pure and decent lives?

So before we get too upset with the homosexual agenda and how it has taken over the airwaves, newspapers, and all media, we need to examine our own sins against marriage and repent of them. We need to repent of our own sins, including our own reluctance to show love to our friends and families by warning them of the dangers of their sin. God will not forgive sins which we refuse to turn away from. God will not forgive those who reject His Word and impudently and stubbornly remain in their sins.

Yes, this message of repentance will be rejected by the world. When Jesus sent the Twelve to preach repentance in our Gospel reading, He anticipated that there would be places where they would not be received; that there would be places that God’s Word would be rejected; that there would be people who will not listen. Jesus says, “When you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.” (Mk. 6:11) Jesus tells them to move on from such impudent and stubborn rebels. They will receive in themselves the due penalty for their error (Rom. 1:27).

Not everyone will listen to God’s Word. In fact, most people will not. But we must ensure that we do. We must listen to God’s Word and repent. “I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord God; so turn, and live.” (Ezek. 18:32) Repent.

To repent means to be sorry for our sins and to believe that they are forgiven by Jesus’ death for us. God’s Law is not winsome, friendly, or tolerant. God’s Law shows us our sin so that we would be sorrowful over it. God’s Law condemns us in our sin so that we will see and recognize our need for a Saviour.

And then God’s sweet Gospel tells us that Jesus took all of our sins on Himself and died for them on the cross. Jesus’ suffering and death show exactly how winsome, friendly, and tolerant God is of sin. It required the horrific suffering and death of God’s own dear Son to pay for our sins. But Jesus’ death in your place means that you are forgiven. It means that however you have sinned against marriage, you are forgiven.

Jesus said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Mark 2:17) Jesus came for us sinners who suffer the sickness of sin that has permeated our very existence. Jesus came to forgive us for the ways we have trampled on His institution of marriage. Jesus came to give us new life, even amidst this world that rejects Him and His Word. Even those sins which still gnaw at our conscience; those sins whose consequences we still suffer from; those sins we still struggle with; all these sins were put on Jesus. He is not shocked by our sins. He didn’t come to earth expecting to find pretty good people who just needed a little bit of help. Jesus saw our death and came to give us life. Jesus came to give life to heterosexual sinners and homosexual sinners.

We’ve been washed clean by the waters of Holy Baptism. Jesus comes to us in His true body and blood once again to give His forgiveness to us; to strengthen us in our struggle with sin; and to give us eternal life. Yes, in His body and blood Jesus gives you eternal life, because where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.

Don’t look for a winsome, friendly, lenient Word of God. Hear God’s Word which condemns your sin and tells you that Jesus took your sin on Himself. Hear God’s Word which gives you the forgiveness of sins. Hear God’s Word which gives you eternal life. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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