32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.
Polls and surveys are front-page news. People’s opinions about politicians, issues, trends etc. constitute news. The media reports a majority opinion as truth. It is true that a majority answered a pollster’s question in one way, that’s true but it is not necessarily truth. A blatant example: a majority of Germans in the ‘30s thought Nazism was the right way for their nation to follow. It is true they thought that but it was not truth. Or so many people break the 6th commandment, You shall not commit adultery, and that is true, but it is not living truthfully. So many break the 5th commandment, you shall not murder, get angry and hateful, that is true, but such actions do not correspond to the truth. Whole Christian denominations vote on the truth of God’s Word to see if it is applicable in our day and time, e.g. as marriage between man and woman, but you can not vote away God’s truth, His Law, nor His Gospel. Those who know the only vote which counts in all this is the Lord’s, are the loyal opposition. This saying is true:
God’s law is not, “do your best.” God’s law is, “be perfect.”
God’s gospel is not, “be like Jesus.” God’s gospel is, “Jesus is your perfection.”
He who is perfect in power, love and majesty, yet fully man is Whom we confess. If we do not understand God’s Law, we won’t understand Jesus Christ. The Gospel from Matthew 10 is part of Jesus’ missionary sermon to the apostles before He sends them to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. The apostles will not, many times, be well received. German Lutheran Pastor, Hermann Sasse, who lived through the Nazi years and become a seminary prof in Australia and died in 1976, wrote this prophetic statement:
The Lutheran Churches are still sunning themselves in the delusion that they have something to expect from the world other than the dear holy cross, which all those must carry who proclaim God’s Law and the Gospel of Jesus Christ to mankind. But this delusion will soon disappear. Our American brethren in the faith will also learn this through painful experiences.
I think we are beginning to learn that the unvarnished truth of God’s Word of Law and Gospel is not received well in the world which is increasingly against the Lord and His Word, or even amongst our own church bodies as they imbibe the world’s toxins. For instance: The Presbyterian Church in the United States has just sanctioned same-sex marriage. If someone speaks favorably on the marriage of man and woman as marriage, there is hell to pay in the courts of debased culture. Jesus knew of the conflict between the Word and world a long time ago and the Lord still does as He called and sent His apostles. His Word is first against the world, our flesh and the devil as it is then for us and for our salvation. Sin wants to remain hidden under the guise of goodness, like white-washed tombs, filled with death. Or we want to go with the crowd, let alone stand out alone in it, hidden in plain sight. That’s the way we are. Jesus is clear: proclaim and teach the Word on the housetops. What you hear whispered, He taught, proclaim on those housetops for all to hear. People whisper not to be heard, instead, proclaim what a lie is and what the truth is. Three times in the last paragraph of today’s Gospel Jesus says: Fear not. How we need to hear His promise! Yes, the world can kill the body but the powers inimical and contrary to God’s own truth cannot kill our soul. Fear Him who can kill both body and soul in hell, that is, the Lord Himself. Yet, Jesus goes on: this is not your Father in heaven’s will for any of us, or anyone we meet: Are not two sparrows sold for less than a penny, And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30 But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. He will protect you as you confess Him as your Lord to others. Jeremiah sure got tired and worn out knowing God’s Word revealed, being a majority of one, so Jeremiah lamented. They derided Jeremiah. One time they put him in a cistern to die. They mocked him and lied about him and his message. I heard 4 years ago that someone at my previous congregation told others that I said in a conversation with her that I said to the woman that she was a lesbian. Two people, one I heard about and one to me said I was not Lutheran. Yet, for Jeremiah the Lord is with us like “dread warrior”. Yes, many reject the message and the messenger, even kill the messenger: see the prophets, see John the Baptist and of course, Jesus Christ. Mohammed was hailed as hero. Not Christ. He did come to receive accolades but to give us salvation. Mohammed wanted to be lord. He conquered Mecca to have it as his religious capital. Jesus is the Lord. He was rejected by and from Jerusalem, and was conquered outside the holy city upon the Cross and conquered our sin. Jerusalem is not our religious capital. Where Christ is, there are His people, His city. Now many reject the message but others will say, I have sinned, I believe, I need to be made clean. So here’s the clincher: 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. The word “acknowledge” in Greek is also regularly translated as “confess” and in Greek in literally means say the same word. We confess Christ as Savior to others, the same word which we have been taught and by that word the Lord has revealed so great a salvation of the Savior upon the Cross. People are dying to hear.
Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, son of the King, is about a very indecisive person. Hamlet is told by his father’s ghost at the beginning of the play that the King’s brother had him killed so he could marry Hamlet’s mother. Hamlet does not know what to do about all that. In a few soliloquies, we hear Hamlet’s internal struggle, the most famous of which is:
To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Now here’s his question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them?
The Lord teaches return no man evil for evil, turn the other cheek, love your enemies. We are to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. For “fortune”, read, the opposition of the world and the devil. Jesus said: Love your enemies, pray for those who persecute you, as response to lies and mocking. But Jesus also sends out the disciples to take arms against a sea of troubles, armed with God’s Word, the Church militant. Earlier in chapter ten, Jesus teaches the disciples they are to be innocent as doves and as wise as serpents. Proclaim the truth, expose the devil’s lies, for he is the father of lies and murderer. The first response is passive, the second active. Which is it? Obviously both are Biblically true. And both are hard to do, hard to say the message when asked. Why are you Christian? Oh, I was raised Lutheran…comes the embarrassed answer. The answer is clear: Because Jesus died and rose for me. or I am baptized into His death and resurrection. or This is the Lord who loves me as opposed to the gods of this world. Living His life that someone would ask, why are you a Christian. Nothing…in my hand I bring, simply to His Cross I cling. A cartoon shows to guys sitting in prison. The one says to the other: “From now on, maybe we should let somebody else’s conscience be our guide.” Our consciences are as tainted as anything else with Adam’s sin. Our guide is not the conscience, but God’s Word but finally and fully His death and life, as He has led us from “death to life”. His life is ours He is our righteousness. Conscience is not our righteousness, Jesus Christ is. Now Jesus is also clear, but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. When push came to hard shove, in Jerusalem, Peter denied Him three times. In fact the same kind of sentence about Peter is used: Peter will deny Jesus before men. After the denials, Jesus looked upon Peter. It was then Peter broke down and wept. In the Savior was Peter’s forgiveness for his sin. 2 Timothy 11 The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him;12 if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; 13 if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself. Now Peter knew who Jesus was and is: faithful Savior for sinners, for us all and in that love and mercy, confess boldly Jesus Christ to the glory of the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.