The Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity: Guiltless!

Hymns: 794, 694, 536, 895
Readings: Deuteronomy 10:12-21, 1 Corinthians 1:1-9, Matthew 22:34-46

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen

A lawyer asked Jesus a simple question. “Which commandment is the greatest commandment?” Jesus gave a simple response. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matt. 22:36-40).

Just love God and just love your neighbor. That doesn’t seem too hard. We love God, don’t we? We also love our neighbor, don’t we?

If you love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, you will always want to listen to Him. You will not place other things before God. You will not give a higher priority to mammon, or anything else over God. You will not create for yourself idols. You will not rely on your possessions. You will not look back if you are forced to give up everything you have in order to keep your faith. You will not take security in a nest egg, your possessions, or modern conveniences. You will not build up for yourselves worldly treasures. You will not worry. You will always desire to dwell in the house of the Lord. You will never want to hide from God. You will never want to let time go by without hearing His Word. You will never want to miss church. You will never tolerate teachings that contradict God’s teachings. You will never trust in your own works. You will always cling to Him. You will thank Him continually for all good things. You will never use His name in sinful ways. You will only speak good of God. You will only speak good of true churches, where the Word is proclaimed in its truth and purity. You will only speak good of true ministers whom God sends. You will recognize that all good things come from God. God’s praise will continually be on your lips. You will always rejoice in the Lord, even when tragedy strikes. You will never blame God for evil things that may happen to you. All this, perfectly, if you love God.

If you love your neighbor as yourself, you will share with your neighbor all the good things God has blessed you with. You will use your possessions not for yourself, but for the good of your neighbor. You will obey your parents and other authorities. You will follow the model in Ephesian 5 in which you husbands love your wives as Christ gave His life up for His bride the Church and you wives will, in return, submit to your husbands and respect them. You will not engage in any form of sexual immorality whatsoever and you will shun the immorality found so prevalent in media. You will work tirelessly to stop abortion and euthanasia. You will not even vote for candidates who support such murderous acts. You will never take advantage of others; you will not seek excessive interest rates. You will not overcharge people. You will work endlessly so that everyone around you has adequate food, shelter, and clothing. You will not speak evil words about anyone to anybody. In fact, you will speak well of others. You won’t gossip. You won’t scheme to get another’s person’s possessions. For this is loving your neighbor as yourself.

Love God. Love your neighbor. What seems simple is actually impossible. We have failed on every account. For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 6:23). And not only that, but Genesis 6:5 says, “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” There is not one who does good (Rom. 3:10-12). All our righteous acts are like filthy rags (Isaiah 64:6).

And yet we’re always trying to justify ourselves. We like to look at ourselves and say, “Well I’m a generally good person. I don’t commit any of the big sins.” But what about the millions of little sins that you commit? What about all the sins of omission? Do you think God will look at you and say, “Well, you have generally been a good person; I guess you’re acceptable to heaven?” No, that’s now how God works.

 We’re trying to see how close we can dance with sin without sinning, learning the borderline between right and wrong. So, we ask, “Is this is a sin or that a sin?” Teens ask how far they can go without violating the 6th commandment. Adults wonder how much they can say (gossip) about others—be it good or bad—without violating the 8th commandment. We question how much the perfect dollar amount is to give to God through offerings. If you want to know how much of this you can do without breaking the Law, the answer is: You can’t. You will always transgress the Law. Always. You cannot do things perfectly. Our flesh is corrupt. Luther said that faith does not say this is a sin or is that a sin. Instead faith says, “I am a sinner.” Repent.

For your sin needs to be killed. God cannot allow any sins to stand. Thus, He must put all your sins to death.

And you cannot be separated from your sin. Thus, you ought to be killed for our your sin. In fact, you ought to suffer eternal death.

So, if we deserve death, if we are all sinners, how, then, can we be guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, as St. Paul writes in our Epistle (1 Cor. 1:8)? On our own, we are the furthest from being without guilt. How, then, can we be guiltless?

Think about that day of our Lord Jesus Christ. When He returns at the sound of a trumpet, at the twinkling of an eye, all people who have ever lived will be raised from the dead. Jesus declares in John 5:28-29, “An hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.”

No one has done the good Jesus describes. How, then, will He line anyone one up on His right side and take them to be with Him forever? Who will be saved in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ? Who can be found guiltless? No one is blameless, on account of their own deeds.

There was One, however, who was truly without sin and guilt. That is Jesus Christ, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He is true God, the Son of God, begotten of His Father from eternity. He lived His life perfectly. With all the sin all around Him, He managed to never sin. Even when Satan tempted Him in the wilderness after He had fasted for 40 days and nights, He never gave in to the Devil’s lies. Jesus perfectly fulfilled His Father’s will.

His Father’s will was to send Jesus to the cross, who would destroy the kingdom of Satan and put all enemies under His footstool. There is only one way for sins to be atoned, for satisfaction to be made for sin. And that one way is death, the shedding of innocent (guiltless) blood. Jesus shed His blood on the cross. He died there, a sinner’s death. Your sins had to be killed, put to death. Your sins were placed upon Jesus, where He was killed. Thus your sins were put to death on Good Friday.

Jesus was truly guiltless, yet He was held guilty for your sin. He was blamed for your sin. Your sin was placed upon Christ. So Christ had to suffer the penalty for your sin. He had to die. And in His death, God’s wrath is appeased, and you are redeemed from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil. Christ earned your salvation by perfectly keeping the Father’s demands. Christ fulfilled the Law on your behalf.

Christ Jesus then promised that the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, would come who would guide you into all truth. The Spirit guided men of old to write the saving deeds of Jesus Christ. The Spirit guides men today to proclaim that saving Word of God. The Spirit has brought you here to listen to the Word of God. The Spirit works faith in you through the Word and Sacrament. And the faith worked by the Spirit in you receives the forgiveness of sins that Christ earned for you on the cross.

When you have the forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ Jesus, you are truly guiltless before God the Father. How can you be seen in any other way when you are forgiven? If Christ has forgiven you, taking your sins away, will you not be truly without guilt before God? After all, the works of God are perfect. Christ’s perfect sacrifice on the cross is perfectly acceptable to our perfect God. When Jesus credits you the forgiveness of sin by faith, you are perfectly acceptable before God, perfectly guiltless, perfectly innocent.

Even though we Christians are held guiltless before God, we will still die a temporal death. From the moment we are born, death is at work in us. But Christ has defeated the sting of death. For the Christian, to die is gain. For our flesh wars against the soul. Our body of death needs to be done away with. And your body of death is done away with when you die. You are separated from your sinful flesh. You are cut free from sin in death.

On the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (that is, on Judgement Day), God will raise up all the dead. He will not give you back your body of death with all its sinful desires. Instead, He will give you your own body back—one that will be perfectly pure and holy—totally guiltless.

On Judgement Day, He will see all who did not believe, all who rejected Him, and all who place other gods in front of Him, and He will send them to everlasting fire in hell. He will say to them, “Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.”

But for you, O Christian, He will give you an immortal and incorruptible body. You will be with the Lord forever. He will credit you with having perfectly fulfilled the Law. He will say that all Christians have done good and will grant them eternal life. Christ, our Savior, will deem you guiltless and will grant you salvation. In Christ, God will declare you to have loved Him and your neighbor. And at the Resurrection, you will gladly and easily keep the perfect Law. Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus to life everlasting. Amen