Sixth Sunday after Pentecost

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“Where You Look”

Matthew 10:5a, 21-33

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

It all depends on where you look. Turn your gaze inward for a moment. Look at yourself; examine your life. How it look? Better: how does it look from God’s perspective? Because if God has numbered every hair on your head, then He certainly takes account of your life and actions, every one of them. Now you may find that hard to believe. You may say to yourself, “God doesn’t care what I am doing every minute of every day.” You might even think that He is not able to keep track of every person’s actions. But if you think so, you have to reckon with Jesus’ words, the words of the Man who is God Himself, and He says this: “Two sparrows are sold for an assarion, aren’t they? And one of them does not fall to the earth apart from your Father” (Matthew 10:29). An assarion was one-sixteenth of a day’s wages; so if the work day is eight hours, then an assarion is the pay for half an hour. “Two for a penny” is not quite right; it might be more accurate to say that one sparrow is worth fifteen minutes of work. Still not very much. But here’s the point: if God’s eye is on every single sparrow, and if you are worth more than many sparrows, then His eye is certainly on you. You could pretend that God does not see what you do when you are alone, but you would be deceiving yourself. You may leave this building and not give another thought to God until next week, but the Mind of God never forgets you. Say it to yourself: “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know He watches me.”

Is such a thought comforting to you? Does it relieve you to know that God is with you at every moment and that He knows every thought you think and that you cannot escape God’s all-seeing eye? Looking at yourself, thinking about yourself, is Psalm 139 good news to you? “O [Yahweh], you have searched me and known me! You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down and are acquainted with all my ways. Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O [Yahweh], you know it altogether. You hem me in, behind and before, and lay your hand upon me…Where shall I go from your Spirit? Or where shall I flee from your presence? If I ascend to heaven, you are there! If I make my bed in Sheol, you are there! If I take the wings of the morning and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me, and your right hand shall hold me. If I say, ‘Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light about me be night,’ even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light with you” (Psalm 139:1-5, 7-12, ESV). Our favorite sins belong to the night. We think darkness will prevent them from being known. But Jesus says that “nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known” (Matthew 10:26, ESV). No, your sins are not hidden. No, the darkness is not dark to God. You cannot hide from the God who is everywhere. You cannot hide from the God who has put a number to the hairs on your head and who watches you more closely than the birds, which do not fly against my window and fall to the ground without God knowing it. If you think you can conceal your thoughts, words, and deeds from the God who made you, you are only fooling yourself. It is a fearful thing to pray, as the psalmist does, “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!” (Psalm 139:23, ESV). Have you looked into your own heart? Have you laid your thoughts out on the table and examined them? Or would the light be too bright? Have you seen what darkness lies in your heart and mind? Does it make you blush? Do you shudder at the thought of everything being revealed in the light of the living God? I do. Introspection is dangerous business.

Everything depends on where you look. You know where looking at yourself gets you. But what about looking somewhere else? Turn your gaze toward the Man upon the cross. There, beloved, is where you must take refuge. If you seek God anywhere else, you will find the God who drives you further and further into yourself, seeking, searching, illuminating dark corners and revealing everything you have labored so hard to conceal. There is no hope for you with such a God. If you seek God outside the Man on the cross, you will find God, but it will be the God who knows you unavoidably inside and out, and from whom you cannot escape, even in death. There are only two ways to know God, and everyone will know Him in one of these two ways: either in His absolute and relentless holiness, which kills sinners; or in Jesus Christ. And if you will not have God in Jesus and confess Jesus as Lord, you will have God in the other way, which is a denial of Jesus. “So everyone who confesses me in the presence of men,” Jesus says, “I also will confess him in the presence of my Father who is in the heavens; but whoever denies me in the presence of men, I also will deny him in the presence of my Father who is in the heavens” (Matthew 10:32-33).

It all depends on where you look. That little word “confess” means to “say the same.” To confess Jesus is to confess Him over and against yourself, to confess Him in your place; which is to say the same as what Jesus says to you: “I stand in your place before the Father. I know the darkness in your heart and in your mind, because I have carried it to the cross. I have nailed your sin to My cross, killed it in My death, and I have risen from the dead. I have put you into My death and My resurrection by baptism. Do not be afraid; at your baptism I confessed you as righteous before the Father. I gave you My Name and I put you right with My Father. Now He is no longer your enemy, but your dear Father, who has numbered your very hairs. You are of more value than the sparrows, every one of which is known to Him. Fear not, therefore. There is nowhere you can go that is outside of His merciful care.” Confess this Jesus! In the face of the darkness of your own heart, say who Jesus is in your place. Yes, God’s eye is ever on you, but He sees you clothed with His crucified and risen Son. There is nothing and no one to fear on this earth. Not the unbeliever who will deny your confession. Not the one who can hurt your body, but cannot hurt your soul. Not the one who will treat you as Jesus was treated. Jesus has tied you eternally to Himself, and you have spoken His Name against your own sinful self. And if you do not need to fear Jesus speaking against you, you certainly do not need to fear anyone else speaking against you when you confess what Jesus says about them. Have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. You have already been exposed before God; but, because you stand confessed by Jesus, He has declared you holy and blameless in His sight. This is what you have heard Jesus tell you in the dark; go and say it in the light. You have heard whispered in a still, small voice that there is nothing against those who are in Christ. Proclaim it on the housetops, into the ears of anyone who will listen. Tell them that there is no need to fear the darkness in their own lives. It has already been exposed to the wrath of God in the Man Jesus, and He has declared it dead and gone and buried.

Most people will not accept your confession, but that is no concern of yours. They crucified your Teacher and Lord for it-and no disciple is above his Teacher nor is a slave above his Lord. The word of Yahweh will be for you a reproach and a derision all day long, just as it was for Jeremiah. For those who wish to hold on to their sin, for those who pretend their thoughts and actions are hidden from the God who knows everything, for those who keep looking inward, your Gospel will be the stench of death in their nostrils-and they will hate you for it. But for those whose gaze is turned to the Man on the cross by the Holy Spirit, it will be the cool scent of life. “[T]hanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance of death to death, to the other a fragrance of life to life” (2 Corinthians 2:14-16a, ESV). It all depends on where they look. Fear not, therefore; you confess by your mouth that Jesus is Lord and you believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead. For with the heart you believe unto justification and by your mouth you confess unto salvation (Romans 10:9-10). Whatever happens to your confession in this world, you have the sure and certain hope that your Lord Jesus stands before His God and your God, His Father and your Father; because He spoke your name on the cross and in the water, He will confess your name before the Father on the last day as well.

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus,” (Philippians 4:7, ESV).

— Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 6/18/08

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