Matthew 16:5f-Sermon for Sunday With No Place to Preach-Grace for the Mafioso

When the disciples arrived on the other side of the lake, they had forgotten to bring bread. Jesus said to them, “Watch out and be on your guard for the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”

The disciples of Jesus forget food a lot. We have to wonder how they could get miles out in the country-side, tired, mildly dehydrated, and suddenly wake up to the fact they have absolutely nothing to eat.

Jesus, who understands physical hunger from His sojourn in the Wilderness where He goes without food for  a sufficient period of time (40 days and nights), uses the absent minded, empty bellied disciples incidental discomfort as an object lesson. Jesus knows the disciples assume he will do something about food for them, since that is the duty of the Discipler in their tradition and because they have seen the food miracles more than once.

Jesus is not just then,  cf. Matthew 16:5, ready to feed their bellies. He wants His guys to focus with Him on the Powers-That-Seem-To-Be. He thinks it is good for them to be hungry, so He can tell them just how empty the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees will leave them. He gives His not so merry men a general warning to begin and elsewhere moves to specifics.

Preacher, Church Leader, if you want to know how to interact with the Elite of the Church who want to run things without making a real contribution and, simultaneously interact with those who might yet be the Church (within and without), look at the words of Jesus ala the Pharisees and Sadducees. He has some information for you.

 

I.

Jesus says, “Be alert. This attack on the Kingdom of God comes from those close within the fold.” In Palestine in those days, if you want to deal in the Jewish religion, you deal with the Pharisees or the Sadducees or both, as they interact with each other and with the general population. You could be just a country rabbi up from the Galilee, attracting large crowds of the common population, the am-ha-aretz. Fine and good but you would still have to answer to the out of touch entrenched powers.

Jesus warns His guys, who are of the uneducated, working class. In fact, their spiritual wisdom will so outshine their education that masses of listeners will talk as much about their naturally acquired erudition as much as their message at first.

Jesus alerts His disciples to take care when surrounded by the Be At Ease Among Your Own Party. By the time Jesus appears in history the Pharisees and Sadducees are so entrenched they have no doubt about their standing; they have the power and woe to the Messiah who gets in their way!

Jesus alerts His guys, “Watch out for the Inner Elites. They will not give up power on earth. They will hurt you if they need to hurt you to keep their place.”

The Inner Circle Elites have their pool parties, their lunches, their secret meetings. They exercise powers they usurp to perform illegal acts. In the end, the whole Mock trial of Jesus will take place at night, when it cannot, and end in an execution, which it must not. The Pharisees and Sadducees will follow the murder of Jesus, the Christ, with an orchestrated cover-up to justify their actions. Their deeds will end in disaster for Jerusalem: the final destruction of their people as a people in that place. Soon they will be scattered to the four winds. Their children will be slaughtered before them. No heritage for the Elites will survive. Two thousand years will pass before the Jews rule in Jerusalem again. When they do, no one will bring up the Pharisees or the Sadducees.

Simply put, the worst thing that can happen for the Religious Elite Who Want Their Own Way Always is to get their way. Destruction follows. Jesus tells His disciples to be aware of what is coming and avoid its affects in their own lives.

 

II.

Jesus goes on ministering to the Elitists. In fact, the most famous verse in Scripture is apparently first heard by a Pharisee named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews, who comes to Jesus one night as soon as he gets off from work. Jesus tells Nicodemus, a Pharisee, “You must be born again.”

Now, it may not seem grace-filled or gracious to tell a guy who hurries to see you just after his day-shift at the Jerusalem Quick-E Mart Store, “You have to start over. You have to get something you do not have and cannot get from anyone but me. You have to be born again, of water and the Spirit.”

How in the Name of Jesus Christ could you tell a good guy like Nico he has to begin again?

Well, it is in the name of Jesus Christ we must tell People Who Appear Good to get over themselves and start again. What looks good to people ends up in destruction. In fact religious goodness, once misplaced,  is like the filthiest rag imaginable. Scripture does not spend a lot of time with Moral Evil as Sin. In fact, the Biblical view of Evil is mostly the things that people do in the guise of religion. God sees through the human elitism we call religion.

So, do not do these things:

  • Do not argue for your own simplicity to attack the depth of religious overseers. You will find yourself in the contradiction that lying brings. On the one hand you will have to say the teacher is too deep for you. On the other hand you will have to say the teacher does not feed you. With both hands, then, you will be saying you are too lazy and spoiled to go with Jesus.
  • Do not forbid children the presence of the God-appointed leader/teacher. Are you called to ministry over and above the God-annointed One? The story  of Jesus is filled with people who think they know God better than Jesus. Things do not end up well for them. Frequently, the error filled persons work out their errors around children. When some tell Jesus they must remove little ones to their own Kiddy Church, Jesus grabs one of the children, says, “This is the Kingdom.” He hold the child in the crook of His arm and will not let them go.
  • Do not spend all your time working on your appearance. The Pharisees dressed just this way, the Sadducees just that way. The idea was to say  to the world, “See how hot I am.” In our day, the P’s and S’s would be the people who appear on the cover of the Narcissist Press magazines, the ones you see at the check out stand at the end of a bewildering walk through Shopping World.  The persons who take up with such silliness may be so silly they just cannot think deeply enough to see the results of their actions.
  • Do not get to the Crucifixion, spread your arms innocently and ask, “What else could we do?”  You just killed the Lamb of God. There are a thousand or so options, each of which end up better for you than what is coming.
  • Don’t be the one who holds out for awhile and then gives in at lunch one day. Nicodemus tries to defend Jesus for a time. He has to admit Jesus has no flaws he can see, has been good for families and is a pretty good guy. He can ask for the Body later, we hear, but he still has a hand in the murder. He is no less guilty just because he holds out for a time.
  • Do not judge Jesus guilty because He has not done what you are not doing. The P’s and S’s want Jesus to throw off the Romans but all their rationale for what they do to Jesus is to get the Romans off their own backsides. This is the lowest depth of hypocrisy, to say, “We don’t save anyone,” and then have to admit, “Well, I don’t tell anybody because I don’t get out much.”
  • Do not tell the crowd you have the perfect illustration of why the annointed one should be set aside. Your story may be outstanding to your eyes and acceptable to the ears of others but your rationale begins in sin and cannot go over to anything good.

In the end the P’s and S’s want to be appreciated by the Romans, accepted by the people and affirmed by their victim. They buy a little time for themselves but bring destruction on Jerusalem within a generation. This will not work.

Please understand, all the things I itemize  above are actions actually actuated by the P’s and S’s. If we chronically repeat these behaviors we are of the P’s and S’s, not of Jesus, the Christ. Anyone call stumble. Repeated falling means there is something wrong with our balance. We need to get some help before we hurt ourselves and others by our repeated falling. Those who repeat evil behaviors do so out of a heart of evil. Such a person is as lost as the “lostest Pharisee.”

 

III.

Jesus repeatedly argues for Christian grace. Christian grace bubbles up from the blood of Jesus and then washes over all of them; the Have-Nots, the Haves, the Helpless, the Hopeless, et alia. The only ones who miss out seem to be remnant of the Religious Elite. Those folks scatter in all directions, blood flows (finally their own) and Jerusalem falls. The near sighted, slow thinking Elitists insist to their end that they have information others do not possess about the Second Coming of the Christ, all the while ignoring the Christ who stands before them.

In Matthew 16: 712, the hapless disciples keep repeating, “We forgot the bread.”

Jesus has some things to say about their faith, their memory and their eyesight. They finally get it, to their everlasting salvation but the fact they miss His words so deliberately is almost laughable.

Yet, how in this world or the next can anyone look at those poor fellows with anything other than sympathy and eventual admiration? They falter, they are frail, they foul up more often than not, but, finally, they get it mostly right.

Granted, God has to save out a super-educated, well-connected, obsessive-compulsive to help them. A guy named Saul has to enter the fray because the others seem to have authority and authenticity issues after Jesus leaves. Still, these are they guys who make it work overall and they make it work because they have the grace.

How do you get grace? Well, grace, by definition, is a gift of God, not of mere works, so we can’t get too puffed about it all. You get grace from God, assimilate it in your own heart through rigorous efforts and so have it lap over your container to fill the lives of others.

You get grace from the blood. Little wonder the fellows worry over blood, sweat and tears. They don’t get the matter of blood, perfect blood, just yet.

In WWII, the most elaborate preparations center around the Invasion of Fortress Europa, the Overlord invasions of 6 June, 1994. More than a thousand British bombers dropped 1144 bombs on one beach alone. After them came every American bomber that would fly, more than 1,350 B-17s and B-24s. Eight hundred Allied naval guns roared along a fifty mile front from Channel to beach.  Six thousand parachutists from the 101st Airborne Division alone jumped on D-Day. There were millions of warriors, thousands of tanks, trucks and mobile guns involved. All of it had to be shipped, stockpiled, guarded and protected before it could be thrown at the Wehrmacht in France.

If you had been an Axis spy, though, one item could have alerted you to the certainty of soon coming invasion. A precious, life giving commodity, one that would not keep for long, had to be shipped in within two weeks of the invasion. The Armies could not go forward without it, it was hard to get and, as noted, it just would not keep for long if stored.

Blood. Blood had to be sent in last. The Armies had learned whole blood, used with plasma, revived severely wounded soldiers. They decided to bring in three thousand pints of whole blood; 2.2 pints for every predicted casualty (w0unded). Three thousand pints was four times what the Armies stocked in Italy. They had learned how much they needed blood (Rick Atkinson, The Guns at Last Light, p. 25).

So, do you know how much you need blood? Do you know how much blood you need? If you think ten thousand humans might suffer severe blood loss in one day, or part of one day, do you know how to provide for them?

Blood.  You cannot just bring water or bread, or wipe the sweat from their collective brow, all the while they die. You have to have blood. You need it. Blood brings grace, revives grace, is grace. Grace without blood is just talk. The P’s and S’s just talk. They get around the pool and talk. They take powers they should not have at all. In the end, because they are bloodless, they perish and their movement with them.

Blood. Jesus’ blood brings grace. It is the last thing God brings to the invasion but bring it God does. God brings enough whole blood, good blood, perfect blood, for every wounded human. He has enough for the P’s and the S’s.

Amazing Blood, how sweet the transfusion, that saves a wretch like me!

 

 

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