Epiphany 3-2023

Epiphany 3-2023

Matthew 8:113 (EHV)
8 When Jesus came down from the mountain, large crowds followed him. 2Just
then, a leper came to him and bowed down to him, saying, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”
3Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean.” Immediately he was healed of his leprosy. 4Jesus said to him, “See that you tell no one. Instead, go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift that Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.”
5When he entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him and pleaded with him,
6Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed and suffering terribly.”
7Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” 8The centurion answered, “Lord, I am not worthy for you to come under my roof. But only say the word, and my servant will be healed. 9For I am also a man under authority, with soldiers under me. I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10When Jesus heard this, he marveled. He said to those who were following him, “Amen I tell you: I have not found such great faith in anyone in Israel. 11I tell you that many will come from the east and the west and will recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. 12But the children of the kingdom will be thrown out into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” 13Jesus said to the centurion, “Go. Let it be done for you as you have believed.” And his servant was healed at that very hour. Dear fellow redeemed: There are two aspects to this text which reflect the Epiphany theme, that Christ is manifest as Lord and Savior to the world. The first is in the miracles themselves. Here in these miracles you see the power of God focused graciously on people in their time of need. But the second is for us even more gracious if that can be possible, for it tells not
only of the power of God but the mercy of God toward the undeserving.
You see, …
I. Faith Opens the Door for Anyone

II. Nothing Else Does

III. Our Message Is the Message of Faith

I. Faith Opens the Door for Anyone

How would you describe a person that God would want in heaven? We SAY he wants everyone. But how about the guy sleeping under a plastic bag? How about the Islamist terrorists?

Even if we admit in theory that God wants them, how do they become fit for heaven? Our natural tendency is to say they must “turn over a new leaf,” and become “better people. It is natural to think that that salvation is reserved for the RIGHT PEOPLE. People like us. The truth is, if we have lived as Christians for a long time, we may have gotten used to being forgiven and so with think it is for Christians like us.

But look at this centurion. It’s hard to imagine how many Jewish sensibilities he offended. He was a heathen, according to the Jewish way of looking at things. He wouldn’t have been circumcised, would have eaten pork, would have been cleanshaven, and dressed in the Roman way, rather than the Jewish way.

But fact that he appeared as a heathen to some didn’t mean that he was one. In his heart was a joyful and fervent faith in Jesus, and Jesus, who knows the heart, proclaimed it for everyone to hear.

And he did show REAL fruits of faith: See the concern for the life of his servant. See the humility with which he approaches Jesus: I am not worthy for you to come under my roof.And Lukes account tells us that he supported his local synagogue, so perhaps he was a faithful hearer of the word.

But what do we think a righteous person looks like? Some might think of us as unapproved of God if we don’t have testimonials about our conversion, or of how God has answered our prayers. Some may think of us as less than deserving if we don’t read the Bible as much as they do or show as much “spirituality” or “fervent faith” as they expect us to. Our salvation may be suspect if we don’t join church boards or committees.
We call that “pietism,” the idea that there are good, better, and best Christians, some more and some less approved of God. But there is a key distinction. If Gods word is part of your life, He will build you up in your faith, the faith by which you receive the righteousness Christ gives. But it isnt your doing of being in church or reading the Bible that makes you righteous.
As Paul says, But, whatever things were a profit for me, these things I have come to consider a loss because of Christ. But even more than that, I consider everything to be a loss because of what is worth far more: knowing Christ Jesus, my Lord. For his sake, I have lost all things and consider them rubbish, so that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, which comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness that comes from God by faith.” (Philippians 3:79, EHV)

This was Jesus point when summarizing several prophecies at once, he said, “Amen I tell you: I have not found such great faith in anyone in Israel. 11I tell you that many will come from the east and the west and will recline at the table with Abraham, Isaac, and  Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.

Saving faith, the faith of anybody, receives such righteousness as will put them at same table as the Patriarchs.

II. Nothing Else Does

Nothing else does. The righteousness that is from God and is by faith is the righteousness that we need. Christs righteousness. That faith shows in our lives, but the outward show isnt where our righteousness comes from. It comes from Christ. Examine yourselves to see if you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not know this about yourselves: that Jesus Christ is in youunless perhaps you fail the test?” (2 Corinthians 13:5, EHV)
Jesus audience included those who thought their righteousness came from their religious practices. Today the children of the kingdom, the people who think they automatically have a place in heaven might be those who count on being good Lutherans, or filled with the Spirit,or pillars of the community, or on the right side of the social wars. 12But the children of the kingdom will be thrown out into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Because they count on themselves instead of trusting in the righteousness of Christ given to us.
But besides examining ourselves, so that we don’t look for hope in our own righteousnesswe also need to be sure we aren’t complacent about others. Unlike Jesus, we cannot see into the heart to see who believes and who doesn’t. So, on the one hand, we shouldn’t think that anyone, even if they are strange to us, is beyond the reach of Christ, or that they are someone Christ doesn’t want. Nor should we think that the person who confesses Christ, but whose Christian life doesn’t measure up to ours is less acceptable to Him. After all by faith he has the only righteousness that counts Christ’s. (I hate to break it to you, but if the person had your righteousness that wouldn’t be good enough.)
What should concern us is an indifference to Christ and His righteousness, an “I’m good enough” spirit, whether found within the church or out. Remember, as Jesus says, The one who is from God listens to God’s words. This is why you don’t listen, because you are not from God.” (John 8:47, CSB)

If we have friends or relatives who are not regularly in a Christian church, so that they can hear the saving gospel, we have reason for concern. No matter if they, like the “subjects of the kingdom” have the trappings of a Christian culture. The question is whether they have a Christian faith

III. Our Message Is the Message of Faith

So our message is the message of faith. Not “do this for Christ,” but “See what Christ did for you.” Not “You need to show God you love Him by being in church,” but “You need to be in church so you can hear of God’s love for you.”

The centurion did not gain Jesus praise by what he did for Jesus, but by listening to His promises. He showed his faith, not firstly by his love for Christ, but by his confession that Jesus loves him and all people including his servant.

So, let all those around you hear of the love of Christ for us. Our message isn’t just the message of the law, it is the message of the Gospel, the message of faith.

Remember, some who aren’t in a church, or who are in a church where the gospel is obscured, are HUNGRY for it.
Tell them what you believe that you, a poor rotten filthy sinner have found peace for your soul. That you, who have suffered as we all have, nevertheless have confidence in the love of God for you.
INVITE them to hear the Word. Let them know that here at Faith/Our Savior, and wherever the Gospel is preached in its purity, there is a hospital for sick souls, binding up those who grieve over sins. Not so much a place for them to serve God, but where He serves us with His gifts.
For Christ came to seek and save the lost all of them. He came for your son, daughter, husband, wife, mother, father, and sure enough, YOU! AMEN.