God’s Punishment is Patient

Sermon for the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost based on Luke 9:51-62

Dear forgiven sinners: Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Jesus sent apostles ahead of Him to a village of the Samaritans, but the village wanted to have nothing to do with Jesus. The village would not receive Jesus. By rejecting Jesus’ messengers, the village rejected Jesus. After all, Jesus says concerning His messengers, “The one who rejects you, rejects me.” (Luke 10:16)

James and John don’t think this is right, and it’s not. It is not right that these people rejected Jesus, so James and John asked Jesus if they should tell fire to come down from heaven and consume the inhabitants of the village that would not receive Him.

Maybe James and John were thinking about how Elijah had called fire down from heaven to consume soldiers sent by a godless king to arrest him (II Kings 1:10-12). Maybe they were just contemplating the fact that the earth is stored up for fire and that the ungodly will be destroyed along with the earth (II Peter 3:7). Is that not a just punishment? Those who reject Jesus certainly deserve to have fire come down from heaven and consume them and they deserve to suffer in the fires of hell eternally. Those who harden their hearts and will not receive Jesus certainly deserve to receive such punishment.

We can relate to James and John. We see how evil the world is around us, and we wonder why God has not cast fire down from heaven to consume the wicked. We hear of calamity befalling sinners like the massacre that took place in Orlando, and perhaps sinfully are pleased in what we see as God punishing sin. We might think that it would be a good thing if God struck down sinners the world over and made this a better place to live.

Jesus, however, rebuked James and John. Jesus rebuked His disciples’ sinful anger and their desire that sinners be punished. Jesus rebuked their impatience with God’s justice.

God’s justice will come in His good time. He will overthrow the wicked. Those who reject Jesus and want nothing to do with Him will be cast into hell. Those who say that they follow Jesus but live impenitently in the works of the flesh, including the examples from our Epistle lesson, will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:19-21). On Judgment Day, God will cast down fire to consume this world along with the ungodly.

God has told us that He will do this, but as Saint Peter writes “The Lord is not slow to fulfil his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.” (II Peter 3:9) God is not slow in carrying out justice; He is patient. He patiently and generously gives time so that His Word will work in the hearts of sinners so that sinners would turn from their sins and receive forgiveness. God doesn’t want anyone to receive punishment for their sins. God doesn’t want anyone to go to hell. That’s why Jesus hasn’t returned yet. God is still giving sinners time to repent. That’s why Jesus didn’t want James and John to call down fire from heaven and consume the village in Samaria. He was giving them time to repent.

God is giving time right now for the world to repent. Every calamity we hear about is another reminder of the final judgment of God. But the call to repentance isn’t just for the world outside the church. The call to repentance is also for the church. The call to repentance is for you.

The life of a Christian is a life of daily repentance – daily turning away from sins and evil desires; daily asking for forgiveness; daily contrition and sorrow over sin and yet at the same time faith that sin is forgiven and grace is obtained through Christ daily.

God will not deny you forgiveness because you have again fallen into sin. He will not say that you sinned one time too many to be forgiven. He doesn’t count how many times He forgives you. Every time He forgives you is the first time He forgives you because when you are forgiven, He removes your sin from you as far as the east is from the west (Ps. 103:12). He treads your iniquities underfoot and casts your sins into the depths of the sea (Micah 7:19). He has promised to remember your sins no more (Jer. 31:34; Heb. 8:12).

Luke records that in the time of Saint Paul, sinners in Samaria did repent. Luke writes that the church in Samaria was being built up and multiplying (Acts 9:31). The patience of God resulted in people turning from their sins and receiving forgiveness. God continued to send messengers with the word of repentance and the Good News of the forgiveness of sins in Jesus, and the Word of God accomplished what the disciples had given up on happening – God’s Word turned sinners away from their sins toward Jesus and His love and mercy.

God is patient and merciful. He continues to send His Word which shows us our sin so that we would see our need for a Saviour. God continues to send us His Word which tells us of our Saviour who did come and take the punishment of our sins on Himself. Jesus has taken our punishment, so no punishment remains for us who are baptized into His name. The fire and wrath from heaven consumed our sins when Jesus died for us on the cross and now we have the promise of eternal life.

Jesus took the punishment that our sins deserve, so now we get forgiveness of sins which we do not deserve. Jesus continues to absolve us of our sin. Jesus continues to give us His true body to eat and His true blood to drink so that we know that His forgiveness is for us. We know for certain that we receive forgiveness in His holy body and blood because He has promised it to us.

He is ever patient with us, ever feeding us with His Word and with His body and blood, so that we will be with Him in the home He is preparing for us in the new heavens and the new earth. He will come again to judge the living and the dead, and to take us to be with Him at the time that He knows best.

Until Jesus returns, let us pray that those outside the church would be brought to repentance along with us. Let us pray that God would continue to be patient with sinners and continue to call them to repentance. Let us take no joy in seeing the destruction of sinners, just as God has no joy in punishing sinners.

And let us heed the call to repentance. Let us turn from our sins and trust that sin is forgiven and grace is obtained through Christ. 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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