Pentecost 23/11.08.09/Fort Q/Mark 12:38-44
· A pastor is not supposed to get up into the pulpit and go on and on about how he struggled and wrestled with a text the past week
o Because then the sermon is more about him and his struggles and wrestling
§ But you know what? I really struggled and wrestled with this text this past week!
· I have for sometime struggled and wrestled with how to interpret what our Lord says regarding the poor widow at the Temple.
o What I found out this past week is that many pastors were struggling to understand what Jesus was saying when He commented on the poor widow at the Temple.
§ And since I believe a sermon is not a place for a bunch of uncertainties and personal thoughts and opinions – but a place to find the sure Word of God – I am going to avoid the widow at the Temple – and maybe next time the text comes around I will have a more solid understanding
· But I do know what Jesus was telling us in the first part of the Gospel reading this morning
o “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in marketplaces and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honour at feasts, who devour widows’ houses and for a pretence make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”
§ You see, the scribes were the professional scholars of their day, experts in interpreting the Old Testament.
· But technically they had no role to do so – since they were not part of the priestly tribe of Levi
o So in other words they took upon themselves this responsibility of interpreting the Old Testament and teaching the Old Testament when it had not been given them to do
· It had been given to the Levitical priests to teach God’s people His Word
· The Scribes were a “showy” bunch
o They liked to be seen and noticed for their religiosity
§ They liked to be seen as important, as pious
· They liked to be seen as above others
o Self important, self centred, self righteous
§ If there is one thing that really seems to get Jesus “worked up” is self righteous pride
· And in the reading we just had – Jesus levels the Scribes
· “Beware of the scribes” Jesus warned.
o I tell you this morning:
§ Beware of those who think they are holier than others because of the size of the cheque they place in the offering plate
§ Beware of those who think they are holier than others because they go to church every Sunday
§ Beware of those who think they are holier than others because they don’t drink or smoke
§ Beware of those who think they are holier than others because they are Lutherans
§ Beware of others who think they are holier than others because they have not had an abortion
§ Beware of those who think they are holier than others because they are not homosexuals.
· Beware of those who think they are holier than others because of something they do or don’t do.
o “Beware of the scribes” Jesus warned.
· Where do we find the scribes of our day?
o Where do we find such people who think they are holier than others because of what they do or don’t do?
§ In the mirror.
· Look in the mirror and you will find a scribe.
o “Beware of the scribes” our Lord Jesus said.
· What? What do you mean I am a scribe? What do you mean I think I am holier than others?
o This time you have gone too far pastor!
§ Am I not supposed to point out sin and disagree with it?
· Am I not supposed to speak up for the truth?
o What are you saying? Am I just supposed to ignore abortion? Should I just go out be a drunkard? Should I skip church?
§ No, I am not saying that. We must speak up for the truth. We must speak our disapproval of sin. We must seek to live lives according to out Lord’s Word.
· But we must recognize that doing so does not make us holy.
o We must recognize that doing so does not make us better than others.
§ We must recognize that we are damnable sinners like everyone else.
§ We must recognize that we are God’s people not because of what we have done but because of what Jesus has done for us.
§ If we do not see that: then we are scribes.
· We are all scribes at heart.
o It is so easy for us to become a scribe.
§ Because we would much rather see things according to works
· It is so much easier for us to divide the world up into bad people and good people by seeing what they do
o And as long as someone does not do something obviously bad – well, they are a good person
· We look down at others who have committed public and obvious sin
o When a politician is caught in a scandal we look down upon them with scorn and feel rather high and mighty
§ When the mighty fall, deep down we revel in it and enjoy it
· Because it makes us feel better than they
o It’s true isn’t it? You know it is… you don’t like that it is true about you, but it is. It makes you squirm that you know what I say is true. But it is true.
§ You are a scribe. How do I know this? So am I.
· “Beware of the scribes” our Lord Jesus warns.
· Jesus comes to stamp out the pride that dwells in your heart.
o Jesus comes to root out your self righteousness.
§ Jesus comes to put down your holier than thou attitude
· Jesus comes to turn you from your self centeredness
o Jesus comes to kill such thinking that He might make alive.
§ Jesus comes to turn you from relying on yourself to relying on Him
· “Beware the scribes” Jesus says
· You see, once we recognize that we are not better than anyone else
o Once we recognize that we are not holier than others by what we do or don’t do
§ Once we recognize that our holiness comes not from us and what we do but is a gift received by grace through faith in Jesus
· We can stop worrying about who is better than others
o Because we can recognize that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
§ And instead of trying to prove ourselves as better than those around us we can rejoice in the gift of righteousness we have received from Jesus
· Instead of trying to show everyone around us how good we are – we are moved to show everyone around us how good Jesus is!
· Give up your self righteousness
o Give up your self made holiness
§ Beware of such thinking
· Jesus is your righteousness
o Jesus is your holiness
§ The righteousness and holiness He has earned for you by His life, death on the cross, and resurrection
· He gives to you, freely – by grace through faith
o He gives it to you through His Word and Sacraments
§ He comes to you this very morning in His Body and blood in Holy Communion
· While we must not remain silent in the face of sin
o We must approach these things from a position of humility, not superiority
§ Christians have done a poor job of this
· Too often we approach this from the perspective of “Well, I don’t do that bad thing that you do, so I am better than you are, and I am here to tell you how bad you are for doing that!”
o No! We are to approach this as one sinner to another
§ Not necessarily agreeing with what someone has done or not done, but we come not from a position of superiority, but a position of humility, a position of love
· As someone once said – it is like one poor beggar telling another poor beggar where to find bread.
o That is the picture dear friends we ought to have in our minds.
· You are a beggar and by the grace of God He has shown you where to find bread
o The Bread of life – your Lord Jesus Christ
§ In Him you find your holiness and righteousness
· Rejoice in that good news and take comfort in it.
o For the sake of Jesus you are holy and righteous.
§ “Beware of the scribes” indeed
· But rejoice in Jesus and His gift of holiness and righteousness.
o It is yours freely by grace through faith.