Good Shepherd Ev. Lutheran, Sioux Falls, SD
Pentecost 3—June 21/22, 2020
Dr. Jesus has the ultimate cure
- How do you define the good life, the meaning of life?
- What is the problem?
- Christ is the cure
For this sermon, we need to be familiar with the term “worldview.” Each person has a worldview. A worldview is your set of assumptions about how life works. These assumptions are tucked so tightly into the back of our head, we don’t think of it as our view of the world; we think of it as fact. So much so that any worldview that disagrees with ours seems odd, like, how can people think that way? What’s more, much of your behavior, as well as your happiness, or unhappiness, is due to whatever your worldview is. Worldview, then, is a rather important thing. So, how does a person figure out what your worldview is?
- How do you define the good life / the meaningful life?
Ask yourself two questions. The first question is: how do you define what the good life is, what the meaning of life is? For example, if you are an environmentalist, you might say the good life is one where nature is honored and chemicals are not. If you are a Muslim, you might say the good life is one where you have honor and everyone submits to Allah. If you are Matthew, in our text, you might say, “The good life is a life that has plenty of money.” Which, come to think of it, makes Matthew sound kinda like an American, doesn’t it. “The good life is a life that has plenty of money.”
Plenty of money, that was a common reason why some people made tax-collecting their career choice, a choice that killed their social life, killed their religious life, but made them lots of money. Here’s how it worked. Rome would auction off a certain region for tax collection. Usually several people would join together to form a kind of stock company, according to a study book I read, and bid for a region. They in turn would divvy up the region and let tax commissioners bid on them. (Btw, Zacchaeus (you remember that wee little man, a wee little man was he) apparently was the tax commissioner for the entire city of Jericho.) The tax commissioner would then get men to be the actual tax collectors, or “publicans” as they sometimes were called. Matthew was one of these. Now, you perhaps noticed that this right to collect taxes passed through a number of hands. And each set of hands expected a certain amount of money from those taxes. But, and here’s where it gets lucrative, the actual amount of taxes any one person had to pay was never set. The tax collector got to set that amount. Which meant that the tax collector, who had the Roman army to back him up if necessary, could demand any amount of taxes from you. And whatever was over-and-above what you were supposed to pay in to your tax commissioner was yours to keep, tax free. Being a tax collector was very lucrative.
Worldview. Matthew’s likely was, “The good life is a life that has plenty of money.” What is it for you? A life that has plenty of family and friends? A life that has plenty of good times, good books, and a good amount of PTO? How do you define the good life, the meaning of life? Once you figure that out, then you can repent. For our self-chosen worldview is a form of idolatry. And idolatry is a sin that God can’t stand; he will bring you down, you and your idolatrous worldview.
Because Jesus has his own definition of the good life, the meaning of life. Do you know what it is? He defines it this way, “Blessed (the good life) are they who hear the word of God and keep it.” Here, in our hearts…and with our hands. (Luke 11:28) “Blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it.” That’s how Jesus defines the good life. But who believes that, really? The good life involves going to church, having daily devotions, and trying your best to live by the 10 Commandments, even when it’s really hard and requires self-control? Really? That’s the good life? Who believes that?
- What is the problem?
I had said that if you want to figure out what your worldview is, you need to ask yourself two questions. The first one, as we have seen is, how do you define the good life, the meaning of life? The second question is, what’s the problem? Because everyone recognizes that the good life is not exactly what we are living. So, the second question you have to answer is, what’s the problem?
If you are an environmentalist, you might say, “The problem is pollution.” If you are a Muslim, you might say, “The problem is infidels who do not submit to Allah.” If you were Matthew in our text, you might say, “The problem is people. People are so greedy they that they give me grief about paying their taxes. The problem is people!” What’s the problem as far as you see it? What gets in the way of your living the good life, living a meaningful life?
Jesus has his own answer to this question of what’s the problem. And I imagine that when Jesus said to Matthew, “Follow me”, one of the first lessons that Jesus had with Matthew likely was to teach him what the actual problem is. Because it’s not people. Nor infidels. Nor pollution.
Jesus said that the problem is a certain kind of sickness. A kind of sickness that infects you at your conception, that you carry in your body your whole life, and is the ultimate reason that one day you will die. But this sickness doesn’t stop killing you when you die. No, it pushes you into a place of such darkness and such loneliness and such blistering pain that it is called hell. That’s the problem, according to Jesus. This terrible sickness that has infected us. A sickness that also goes by the name of sin.
There was no cure for sin until the great Physician, Dr. Jesus, the God-man, came into our world. He made this observation, “The healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do.” And that’s why he came, to heal the sick. Some he healed physically. But all he healed spiritually.
And this is where the story has a terribly wonderful twist. In the medical field, doctors and medical people do a noble thing—they take the risk of drawing close to the sick, the infected, the diseased, in order to help them. Of course, they take precautions, wear masks and gloves, so that they do not catch the diseases they are treating. But still, they are taking a risk in order to help others. That is a noble thing to do.
That’s what Jesus does for us…except he doesn’t wear a mask or gloves. He does not avoid our disease at all. He plunged in and took our disease into his own body. He took every last bit of infection and pus and gangrenousness and deadly toxicity of our sin into his own body. And then he let his sin-disease-filled body be nailed to a cross, be abandoned by God, be made to suffer the blistering heat of hell itself, to kill the disease. What doctor or nurse would do that, if it were possible, take the patient’s deadly disease out of the patient’s body and put it into their own body? Would you do that? Maybe, if it were possible, you would do it for your child or your best friend. But would you do it for a child abuser, a violent rapist, that cruel kid in 8th grade that made your entire year miserable? But Jesus did. For them, and for you, and for me. He took the disease of sin that was killing us and put it into his own body and paid for it all on the cross. If what doctors and medical people do is noble, what word could you possibly come up with for what Jesus has done for us?
And his cure lasts forever. For while our bodies still must stop working one day, Jesus has promised that he will raise the body of every single believer, just like he was raised from the dead; and he will give every single believer a glorified body that feels awesome, just as his body was glorified; and he will have every believer live forever with him in place so wonderful, it is like taking the best time you have ever had and multiplying by a gazillion. This is the cure he gave you today, once again, in the Absolution, and in his Supper, and in fact it was the cure he gave you already at your baptism.
This is the Jesus who calls on us to repent of our idolatrous worldviews and instead embrace his. Because #1, the good life, the meaningful life, is this: “Blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it.”…here, in our hearts, and then with our hands. And if you believe that, thank the Holy Spirit; for believing this requires a miracle, one that only the Holy Spirit can do. And #2, the problem that gets in the good life, the meaningful life, is sin, our own sin. Which is why we need to keep hearing his Word, receiving the Lord’s Supper, remembering our baptism, daily. And don’t forget, we’re not the only ones who need this, either. Because, as Dr. Jesus said, “The healthy do not need a physician, but the sick do. Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’] In fact, I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” And aren’t you glad he did. Amen