Sunday, March 15, 2009

Jesus Preaches Jesus

Third Sunday in Lent
March 15, 2009
John 2:13-22

Every preacher points away from himself. He points to another. At least, every preacher worth his salt. Those who have taken it upon themselves to exalt themselves decided that importance as a preacher had been eclipsed by their importance as savior, or being divine, or something more important than being a mere preacher. We can readily think of examples of men who have done this. Jim Jones, Joseph Smith, David Koresh, Marshall Applewhite. There have been and will be others.

But there’s only one who preached Himself and was not a false teacher. Jesus is the only one who preaches Himself and we don’t say, Where do you get off proclaiming yourself? Every preacher is called to preach Christ. They simply follow in the footsteps of Jesus Himself. Jesus preaches Jesus. Not in the sense of Frank Sinatra, Jr., who performs his father’s songs in “Sinatra Sings Sinatra.”

Jesus preaches Himself in that it is His message He is proclaiming, and the message is also Himself. Preaching is giving people Jesus. When false prophets proclaim themselves they are giving people themselves as their hope. There’s one problem with this. There’s no hope in a Jim Jones or a David Koresh. There’s no hope in any man except the one Man, Jesus Christ.

We preach, because we have nothing to give but Christ. Jesus had Himself to give. That’s why His preaching wasn’t just preaching sermons like we have. He is the sermon. He is the proclamation. Jesus came out of the womb preaching. His cries and His coos in His mother’s arms weren’t His preaching. His very self, His being in the flesh, was His preaching. Jesus doing everything He did was His sermon.

When He comes into the temple, He comes in preaching. It’s not the sermon you generally expect to hear. Or, in this case, see. He doesn’t speak words; at least, not off the bat. But does He preach. Fastening a whip of cords. Driving people out. Pouring out the money. Overturning tables. That’s a sermon you’re not likely to forget. And even though it was action, with a few words, it was preaching—and preaching Himself, at that. Jesus is the Word. He is the Word made flesh. He is God who dwelt among us. He preaches Himself.

He came in preaching against the people there. The money, the sacrifices—the people were placing those things before God. Do we do the same thing? We need money or the church doors will close. We serve on our boards or help out around the church and that makes us feel good. It’s not about the money. This church doesn’t run on money, it is built on the foundation of Christ, which will not fail. Christ didn’t save you so you could feel good. You can’t take the Ten Commandments and go down the list, ticking them off: I haven’t taken the life of anyone unjustly, I haven’t had an actual physical affair, I haven’t actually stolen anything. God didn’t give His commandments so we could put check marks by them and feel good about ourselves, but so that we can live in the way He has called us to live. Not to live for ourselves but in joyful service to others.

It’s not about the money or the good things we do to make us feel good. It’s about Him. When He enters the temple, you find out what the temple is all about. It’s about Him. It’s about Christ and Him crucified. That’s why, when Jesus responds to the protests, His preaching is about that very thing that the Gospel is: Jesus’ death and resurrection. There’s no preaching without that. There’s no preaching if it’s not preaching Jesus. Anyone who is preaching anyone or anything else isn’t preaching what they are called to preach.

Because there is no hope in anything or anyone else. There is hope in Christ. That’s why He came. That’s why He had the audacity to point to Himself. You guys think it’s all about you? You think you have your racket going on here and you’re sitting pretty? You are making a mockery of My Father’s House. His House is not about you, it’s about Me. He has sent Me to save you. You’d rather line your pockets. You’d rather be comfortable in your religion than place all your hope in Me. You want to see a sign? It won’t be in material goods. It will be Me being destroyed on a cross and raised to even greater glory.

There’s your sign. There’s your hope. There’s your sermon. It’s the only one there is. If you ever here another kind you’re not listening to a Christian one. You’re listening to a preacher who would rather point you to himself than to Christ.

Jesus preaches Jesus, and so do we. Does it make any sense to preach anything or anyone else? Do we need Jesus less now that He’s no longer walking on the earth? Don’t we need Him the same? Isn’t that why, even as He came in the flesh for thirty years, He comes even now to us in Baptism and His Holy Supper?

Jesus knows exactly how to preach. We often think of Jesus as a great teacher. He was. But He didn’t come to show us how to live. How to be better people. Live more moral lives. He came to preach. Preach Himself. What this means is what Lutherans love to call Law and Gospel.

When Jesus preaches, He preaches the Law. The people had a good thing going for them. Their religion was working well for them. It was a very practical religion. Some were making good money, selling the animals necessary for the sacrifices. On the other hand the ones who bought the animals had the good feeling of knowing they were abiding by God’s religious codes. Everybody was happy because the sermon they were listening to was one that told them to feel good about themselves. That was their hope.

Jesus preaches to this. He attacks it. This is the Law. He doesn’t tell them to shape up. He drives them out. He pours out their self-righteousness. He overturns their lives. He shakes them up so that they can see that they’ve put a whole bunch of stuff in place of Him. He preaches to them. But not what they want to hear—what they need to hear.

If you want to hear a “practical” sermon, one that tells you how to live your life better, you can hear that anywhere. Other religions are based on that and even secular people can give you a lot of good principles for it. But Jesus knows that you’re sinful to your core so you need something from outside of you to live as God wills for you to live. That something is a someone. And that Someone is Jesus Christ. That’s why Jesus preaches Jesus. That’s why He storms into your life and starts breaking things apart, to make way for Himself. He’s who you need. He’s who He delivers to you. He’s who every sermon that is preached needs to be preaching.

This is the Gospel that He preaches. It is the most practical thing we can receive. The forgiveness of our sins. Reconciliation with God. New life with the opportunity to serve Him and others. Your life is a sermon. When you live and talk with others, you are bringing Christ to them. You receive Him and bring Him to others. You’re all different. You have different experiences, different lifestyles, different incomes. You reach people in different ways. But you’re hearing the same proclamation. You’re receiving the same Jesus who comes to you in the proclamation of the Word. The one who came to you in your Baptism. The one who brings you Himself in His Holy Supper.

Jesus preaches Jesus. You have Him now and forever. Amen.


No comments: