“…Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.”
In the name of the creating, redeeming, and sustaining God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen!
Last week, this week, and in the weeks to come we are going to hear stories from the Gospel according to Matthew of Jesus preaching/teaching in the temple. Now the author of Matthew’s gospel doesn’t give us everything Jesus’ says in the temple during the last week of his life. What we get, like today's Gospel passage, are the parables that increasingly increase the displeasure of the scribes, Pharisees, temple leaders, and ultimately the Roman authority as well.
When we hear these stories we need to keep where they are pointed in mind. We need to remember that Jesus’ actions persistently and irrevocably point him toward the cross and our salvation.
Reading these stories and knowing where they are headed, I end up asking a couple of questions: 1) Why Jesus didn’t just back off? There were plenty of evidence that Jesus knew the Hebrew scriptures intimately. He could have chosen to preach on those passages that support the temple and its operation. That would have kept the powers that be at bay, and he could have gone back to gallelie and continued to grow his ministry. So why poke the dragon, if you will? 2) How does salvation work? How does the life, brutal death, and miraculous resurrection of one man 2000 years ago cause our salvation? How does it reconcile us to God?
Oddly enough the answer is the same for both questions: Love. Not only because God loved the world so much God sent Jesus, but Jesus loved us and indeed all so much that Jesus stuck with mission. It was out of love that Jesus shows us the very limits of love. We all limit our love and concern for a host of reasons, but Jesus shows us that limiting our love, especially whom we are willing to love. Jesus in these parables that anger the powers is calling for them to open their eyes to love God has for sinners and saints, the rich and the poor. Calling for them to be less concerned about power and more concerned about love.
Love is also why salvation works. See, Jesus was sent to save humanity, and it is humanity that kills him. Jesus feeds humans, heals sick humans, teaches humans, and it is all humanity that nails him to a tree. Now, I don’t know about y’all, but I can tell you for sure, if y’all nailed me to a tree in the hot desert sun; left me to die; and by some miracle was raised from the dead, forgiveness would not be on my mind. It'd be zombie time and I would be after you. But not Jesus. Nope. He does not seek vengeance nor retaliation. Jesus loves all humanity so much that Jesus was willing to forgive humanity’s rejection. The miracle of the resurrection is not resuscitation rather forgiveness.
My brothers and sisters we are invited into that forgiveness each and every time we gather around that table and receive the feast of our redemption. But, my brothers and sisters, we dare not approach God’s altar for solace alone and not for strength. We dare not come to this holy meal seeking just our own salvation. Rather we must humbly approach God seeking to be caught up in God’s reconciling work. We must come and receive the body of Christ so that we may go and be the body Christ willing to love as Jesus loved.
My brothers and sisters, never forget what Jesus did for us. Never forget how much Jesus loved us, and never ever forget that because there are no limits to what God’s love can do, there are no limits to what our love can do. Amen!