Trinity 4, 2019

The Epistle – Romans 8:18-23

The Gospel – St. Luke 6:36-42

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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This string of familiar teaching comes to us today from Jesus as part of a longer section found in Luke’s Gospel record.

 

Today’s passage begins at verse 36, but if we back up to verse 20, Jesus is here found giving what are called The Beatitudes.

 

“And [Jesus] lifted up his eyes on his disciples, and said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.’” (ESV)

 

From here Jesus gives the four blessings.

He then pronounces 4 woes as well.

 

“But woe to you who are rich, for you have received your consolation.” (ESV)

 

Then He tells them “But I say to you who hear, love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.” (ESV)

 

He is building up a case for a pattern of imitating Him. He has pronounced blessings on them as His Disciples. He has pronounced woes on those who are not His disciples.

 

He says, “If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them.

[33] And if you do good to those who do good to you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. [34] And if you lend to those from whom you expect to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to get back the same amount. [35] But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.” (ESV)

 

So, there is this standard by which we are to live. There is a standard even by which we are judged. More of this is coming in today’s lesson.

 

Jesus goes on, “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.

 

Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you.

 

So, the first step for Jesus is to set the bar at the highest point. Be merciful to others even as your Father is merciful.

 

Be as God. Do as God. Be righteous as your Father in Heaven is righteous. Why is this? 

 

If God were to set His standards by anything less than Himself, then He would not be acting as God. He would not be acting as the standard of perfection.

 

He of course would not set the standard any lower. He knows each of us. He knows how poorly we each behave and act and live.

 

Nevertheless, He sets the standard at His level for a few reasons. 

 

First, if the standard is set that high, our only reaction is to despair of ourselves….for who can live up to what God requires of us?  No one.

 

But He is not unrighteous or acting inappropriately or unreasonably for setting the standard high.  It is our fault for not attaining it….not His for being who He is.

 

And second, God sets that standard high so that in our despair we have only one solution and that is to throw ourselves on the mercy of God’s grace….bringing the subject of Grace we talked about last Sunday.

 

 

Only when we are driven to despair… and forced by our own admission to have to turn to God…. are we going to be able to move forward and not be paralyzed by our admission of inability.

 

And this is where Jesus Christ, the God man and the substitute comes in.

He is our righteousness.

He is our standard.

He is our substitute.  

 

But in that substitution and standard are still left the commands for the Christian life. Those things that Jesus says God requires of us are still firmly set in place.

 

Jesus hits on one of the most formidable enemies of the Christian walk today. Judgmentalism.

“Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you.”

 

And remember these standards are set at the height of God’s own. He is the perfect forgiver, so we are to be like that.

 

He is the perfect judge in all matters, so we are to be like Him.  

 

So, the teaching for us today starts out with the standard, “Be merciful as your Father is merciful.”

 

Then we move to judging one another. We might say, ‘be merciful when you judge as your Father is merciful when He judges you’.

 

So, Jesus is telling us that God promises to treat us as we treat others.

God is gracious to those who are gracious. He won't judge those who withhold judging. He will not condemn those who withhold condemnation of others.

 

In each of these, there is a demand from God, but the fulfilment of it should come from a heart that knows it has been forgiven.

 

In other words, each of us has been forgiven much. Our sins are many. Our transgressions of God’s laws are innumerable.

 

We offend God in thought, word and deed. We acknowledge our manifold sins and wickedness.

But we have been forgiven.

 

The sins of the past, the present and those we will commit tomorrow have already been forgiven in the Cross of Christ.

 

Yet, we still have this imperative to live in light of that great forgiveness of God toward us.

 

Perhaps it would be prudent at some point for us to spend some time only on our sins and dwell there for a while so we get a good idea of the depth to which we have sunk….and then of course when that depth is recognized we might just appreciate a little bit more… how much God has forgiven us.

 

Not overlooked. Our sins were not just waved off. They were addressed directly. They were laid on Christ and punished in Him.

So, our attempts at being merciful…forgiving, not judging should be in light of the mercy, forgiveness and the removal of condemnation and judgment Christ has secured for us.

 

A commentator on the Gospel of Mark says, “God promises to deal with each person, but the tone of his dealings is influenced by how that person deals with others. The nature of this judgment by God not only involves the ultimate eschatological judgment, but it relates to how he deals with people in life.”[1]

 

When Jesus says judge not, He is not at all doing away with proper governmental judging and punishing crimes committed. The state is Biblically charged with “…creating an environment where its citizens are safe.” [2]

Therefore, judging must take place in order to deem something a crime. “The courts have the right to sentence the guilty. Jesus did not deny the right of Caesar to exist…”[3] and collect taxes and exercise his authority.

 

John the Baptist did not “…deny the roles of the soldier or tax collector.” [4]

 

Luke 3:12-14 - “Tax collectors also came to be baptized and said to him, “Teacher, what shall we do?” 13 

And he said to them, “Collect no more than you are authorized to do.”

 

Soldiers also asked him, “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation and be content with your wages.”

Commentator - What is warned against is “…evaluating others with such a harshness that the result is an unforgiving attitude and an approach that ceases to hold out hope as if someone is beyond God’s reach.”[5]

 

So, our judging others is not an end in-and-of itself. It is toward them being corrected of their offense. And it should be the same toward us as well. Though painful most of the time, we should see correction from others or from God as a good thing…for our good …for our benefit.

 

So, even though our sins are forgiven, we are called to account for our dealings with one another.

 

 

We cannot expect God to just allow us to make judgments on people, condemning them when we have been forgiven of condemnation. We have been pardoned…so we must pass that pardon along.

 

Here is how Jesus describes God’s dealing with us. He gives this interesting example of measuring out grain. Listen to the abundant grace of God given to us when these things are done well.

 

Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

 

This is strange description to hear since most of us have no experience in this area. It is certainly one that a 1st century Jew and Gentile would understand though.

This is how God deals with us.

 

Commentator - “The measuring of the corn is a process which is carried out according to an established pattern. The seller crouches on the ground with the measure between his [knees] legs. First of all, he fills the measure three-quarters full and gives it a good shake with a rotatory motion to make the grains settle down.

 

Then he fills the measure to the top and gives it another shake. Next, he presses the corn together strongly with both hands. Finally, he heaps it into a cone, tapping it carefully to press the grains together; from time to time he bores a hole in the cone and pours a few more grains into it, until there is literally no more room for a single grain.

In this way, the purchaser is guaranteed an absolutely full measure; it cannot hold more.”[6]

 

From this detailed process, we can see how Jesus used this example of how good God is.

 

He sees our charitable dealings with others…even those we have had to make difficult judgements about. And when done rightly, He acts in like manner with us…in fact better.

Hear how Cyril of Alexandria speaks of this unbalanced return. “He has given us full assurance that God, who gives all things abundantly to those who love him, shall reward us with bountiful hand. He said, “Good measure, and pressed down, and running over shall they give into your lap.” He added this too, “For with what measure you give, it shall be measured to you.” There is, however, an apparent incompatibility between the two declarations. If we are to receive good measure, and pressed down, and running over, how shall we be paid back the same measure we give? For this implies an equal reward, and not one of far-surpassing abundance.” Commentary on Luke, Homily 29.[7] 

 

Cyril sees here on the one hand an equal blessing for charity and on the other hand the overflowing and superabundant blessing for charity as a paradox.

 

But the blessing for equal treatment might be better compared as how it plays out man to man…one to another.

 

But the superabundant blessing is the final blessing of the eternal reward for keeping the faith and striving in this life to live as Christ commands.   

 

Bp. J.C. Ryle - “The practice of the high standard of charity Jesus recommends shall bring its own reward.

‘Judge not,’ He says, ‘and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: give, and it shall be given unto you.’

And He concludes with the broad assertion, ‘For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.’ The general meaning of these words appears to be, that no man shall ever be a loser, in the long run, by deeds of self-denying charity, and patient long-suffering love. At times he may seem to get nothing by his conduct.

He may appear to reap nothing but ridicule, contempt, and injury. His kindness may sometimes tempt men to impose on him. His patience and forbearance may be abused.

 

But at the last he will always be found a gainer,—often, very often, a gainer in this life: certainly, most certainly, a gainer in the life to come.

Such is the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ about charity. Few of His sayings are so deeply heart-searching as those we have now been considering. Few passages in the Bible are so truly humbling as these eleven verses.”[8]

 

God evaluates the character of our lives and is pleased with the way in which we conduct ourselves with others when done according to His will.

But the reciprocation on God’s part will always far surpass our paltry efforts and actions of charity toward others.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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[1] Bock, D. L. (1994). Luke: 1:1–9:50 (Vol. 1, p. 606). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

[2] Bock, D. L. (1994). Luke: 1:1–9:50 (Vol. 1, p. 607). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

[3] Bock, D. L. (1994). Luke: 1:1–9:50 (Vol. 1, p. 607). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

[4] Bock, D. L. (1994). Luke: 1:1–9:50 (Vol. 1, p. 607). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

[5] Bock, D. L. (1994). Luke: 1:1–9:50 (Vol. 1, p. 607). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

[6] Bock, D. L. (1994). Luke: 1:1–9:50 (Vol. 1, pp. 607–608). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

[7] Just, A. A. (Ed.). (2005). Luke (p. 111). Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

[8] Ryle, J. C. (1879). Expository Thoughts on Luke (Vol. 1, pp. 185–186). New York: Robert Carter & Brothers.