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Christ’s Perfection Is Your Perfection!

February 20, 2017


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Epiphany 6                                            Trinity Lutheran Church

19 February 2017                                  Sheboygan, WI


+ Jesu Juva +

Matthew 5:38-48


Well. Well. Well. If you think you’re a Picture Perfect or an At Least I Try Harder 0r I Do My Best — and can use the law in some way, shape or form to get God in a salvational headlock or a full nelson, you’d better hang on to your hats! Buckle your seat belts. Hold on tight. Today, Jesus is coming after you. He’s going to put all you supposed Picture Perfects to death with these words: “You will be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.”


You will be “perfect.” That’s perfect in the way your heavenly Father is perfect. Can you meet such expectations? Can you live up to such a standard? Let’s see. If you believe you can, if you believe that you can use the law as an utensil for salvation, I give you fair warning that the Lord’s “but I say to you” remarks from His Sermon on the Mount will put such thinking to bed once and for all.
And Jesus is so foxy in how He does this to you. Listen carefully. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for eye and a tooth for a tooth.’” Lex talionis! Law of retaliation. However, it was NOT an open ended lex talionis. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth put a boundary on the retaliation. You were forbidden from taking a leg, an arm or a life for an eye or a tooth. It was an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. That’s the limit. The maximum. It was retaliation NOT unending and unbridled Mafioso revenge! Retaliation, not endless war. Got it? Good.


Well, Jesus takes the lex talionis and goes in a completely different direction. Some would say a whacko jacko track. In a way you nor anyone else never expected. Leave it to Jesus to say something like the following. He does it like this. “Even if it’s warranted, don’t take it. Even if the social justice warriors demand that you’re entitled, don’t demand it. Even if you face the one who is evil, don’t fight back. Even if you’re cuffed – smacked up side the head, (which was an incredible insult in Jesus’ day), present the other side of your face too. Even if somebody libelously litigates the very shirt off your back, offer him your coat too. Even if a person compels you to hike it a mile, offer to go another mile. And while you’re at it: if there’s a vagabond, vagrant beggar or borrower, pony up a donation.”

How’s the perfection meter going? Where are you on the perfection scale?  The excellence grid? I’ll bet it similar to way you all shoot free throws! 3 of 10. Maybe 5 of 10. Some of you even 8 of 10. Right?

Let’s be honest. Someone belittles you and you just let it slide right off your back and you bless him.   Right? The last time you were slapped in the face, you just took it quite passively and then said: “Thank you sir! May I have another … on this other cheek?” Right? The last time you were taken to court, you offered to settle for double what they asked for. Right? You’re always willing to go out of your way for someone. Right? And every beggar and borrower that you meet on the street you’re always donating to. Right? Well, no!

“You will be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.” I told you that you had better buckle up.

Oh, but Jesus isn’t done preaching. There’s a little more. Another: “you’ve heard that it was said” sermon. Off He goes. “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’” Yep. That’s precisely how it works. Reasonable. Rational. You’re pretty darn good at that. Doable. You pretty much love your family, your community members, and the members of this congregation. You really do not like – in fact you hate those that hate you. Your enemy. Anyone that would do you or your family harm. Given the opportunity you would delight to do bodily harm to your enemy. Maybe even kill him. He’s the enemy after all. He deserves a big time hit or hurt. You always delightfully demonize your enemy when you’re at war. You give your enemy demonic names. Makes him less than human. That way you can justify harming, maiming or even killing him.

Well, Jesus ratchets it up! Raises the bar! Listen: “But I say to you. Love your enemies. Pray for those that persecute you.” In other words, do not be like the world that loves the friend and hates the enemy. Be like your Father in heaven who causes the sun to rise on good and evil, on His friends and His foes, who sends rain on the just and the unjust. On saint and sinner alike. Even more than that, who sent His Son to take away the sin of the world, to redeem and justify the world in His own death, who came to save sinners and to die for the ungodly.

Love the haters. Pray for your persecutors. Live outside the box. Hang around not only those that like you, praise you and affirm you but also the ones that despise you, slap you in the face, and steal from you. When you go that extra mile with your enemy, you are venturing into Jesus-territory. You’re entering the wilderness where love is for the loveless. Mercy for the merciless. Redemption for the unredeemable. Salvation for the unsalvageable. Here brothers and sisters you find just how deep the corruption of sin goes and just how high the demands of the law are. Step by step, law by law, iota by dot, Jesus has raised the bar of the law to insurmountable heights. From murder and divorce and adultery of the heart to love for the enemy and a second cheek to one who would smack you in the face.

“You will be perfect, as your Father in heaven is perfect.”

Do you see what Jesus is teaching you today? It’s really important. Salvationally significant. Nobody, including and especially you, is a PICTURE PERFECT! You’re a sinner! In addition, the law can’t save you! Seriously! It is not the instrument of salvation! Oh, the law can hold out the standard but it can’t help you meet it. It can raise the bar, but it can’t lift you over. It can hold out the hope of life with God, but it can only deliver you dead as a doornail at His doorstep. Now, if you were you a sinless saint, you could do the law automatically. You would do it without thought or struggle. You would do it as naturally as breathing. You would automatically turn the other cheek, walk the extra mile, give to beggar and borrower, love your enemy, pray for your persecutor. You would be Adam before he became a sinner. You would be the image of God who made you. You would be holy as the Lord your God is holy. You would be perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect.

But you’re not! That’s the point. That’s what Jesus has been driving home relentlessly. So, brace yourself for even more. I have good news FOR YOU. It’s what the Lord sent me to preach to you. Are you ready? Good! Jesus is the One who is holy as the Lord our God. He is the One who is perfect as His Father in heaven is perfect. In His body He embodies all men. He does the law perfectly down to the least little iota and the smallest dot of a detail. Jesus loves His enemies.

I’m here to tell you that FOR YOU and in your place Jesus offered His holy and perfect cheeks to the haters.  FOR YOU and in your place HE presented His back to the flogging whip. FOR YOU He carried His cross down the lonely road of sorrows. He walked the extra mile with His enemies. He gave His coat to those who gambled for it. He took no revenge on those who falsely accused him, spit in His face and bludgeoned His face beyond recognition with the staff. Incredibly and salvifically He prays: “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they’re doing.” He gave to those who begged of Him. He still does. He is holy as the Lord is holy. He is perfect as His Father in heaven is perfect. This is what He does TO SAVE YOU – unholy and imperfect sinners.

Jesus came to do the law FOR YOU in order to redeem you. He left His Father’s glory; He emptied Himself of all the perks and privileges of being the eternal Son of God. He took up your humanity, your flesh and blood. He humbled Himself and became obedient to His own law. He did it perfectly and it accused Him and killed Him. The law always accuses and kills. It is never neutral.

It killed Jesus as He carried all your sin in His body on the cross. I know we can talk about the agents and instruments of His death, the Sanhedrin and Pontus Pilate and the others who conspired against Him. But underneath it all is the law that always accuses, always demands and always kills. Sin’s paycheck is death. The power of sin to kill is the Law. So, Jesus became sin FOR YOU so that the law would kill Him. Sin was put to death in His flesh in your place.

Well, I better start wrapping this up. I’ve been preaching too long. So here goes. Just a few quick parting shots.

The law still kills and it kills you – your old Adamic sinful flesh. There’s only one thing that can be done with the old Adam and it’s sin. It has to be put to death: DROWNED DAILY!

However, the law doesn’t get the last word. Jesus does! The law brings you to Christ. Not as a living saint, but as a dead sinner. The law deposits you graveyard dead at the nail-scarred feet of Jesus. That’s exactly where you need to be. Where every sinner needs to be. Dead at the feet of Jesus! “You were dead in your trespasses and sin, but God made you alive in Christ Jesus.” “He became Sin for us who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.”

The law drops you stone cold dead at the feet of Jesus, so that Jesus raises you from the dead. In raising you Jesus does two things FOR YOU.

First, He forgives. I’m here to tell you that He has taken all your sin from you and placed it as far from you as the east is from the west. In the black hole of His tomb, He has buried every violation of the law, all your murders, adulteries, divorces, anger, resentment, bitterness, failure to love the enemy and give to the beggar. Listen to me. You are forgiven in Jesus. He has washed and cleansed you in His blood, buried you in His death. You are baptized. You are a new creation in Christ.

Second, Jesus gives you something you DO NOT have: His holiness, His righteousness, His perfection under the law. It’s all yours in Him. In Him, you are holy. In Him, you are righteous. In Him you are innocent, blameless, perfect. Not in yourself. In Christ you are these things. He takes the law into his own hands and gives it to you as a fulfilled gift. He is your holiness, your righteousness, your innocence and perfection under the law so that when the devil, the world, or your conscience accuse you with the law and say, “Look at you! How can you call yourself a child of God?” you hide behind Jesus in your baptism and say with the Large Catechism, “Nevertheless, I am baptized! And if I am baptized, I have the promise that I shall be saved and have eternal life, both in soul and body.”

Jesus who knew no sin was made to be sin so that in Him you might become the righteousness of God. In Jesus, and that’s the kicker – in Jesus you are holy as the Lord your God is holy. In Jesus, you are perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect. Picture Perfects you are in Jesus!

In the Name of Jesus.


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