Who goes home justified?

by The Rev. George Borghardt III

In the name of Jesus. Amen. Two men in the temple. The first with tons of religion. The other with nothing but sins. Who goes home justified?

Imagine the first. He is basically good – in fact before every bad thing he could come up with was a “am not.” “I'm not swindler. I'm not unjust. I've never committed adultery.”

I'm an upstanding member of my church. I give my ten percent – off the gross. Other people only give a tithe from the take home. But, I give ten percent of everything.

I am a good man or a good woman. I have sins, but unlike some people, I'm working through them. Thank God, I'm not like... that guy.

Now, imagine>that guy. Sitting next to you in church. I mean – a filthy rotten sinner. Maybe they are simply different than you - in the way they dress, or they not from your culture, or maybe they are a different color than you.

Perhaps she's a woman who is pregnant and shouldn't be or a man who has a history... and not a good one. >They've made mistakes, they've not lived as they should. They wronged me, they messed up, they just don't carry their weight in this church. Why are they even here? We all know what they did. They just don't fit in. They just aren't right.

They do>that for a living. It's unbecoming. It's disgusting or kinda sleezy or whatever we just don't think someone should be doing.

Like in the ancient world – you don't get much worse than a tax collector. They were extortioners and thieves. They would over charge taxes and keep the extra bit. No one likes that guy.

It's true even today – who wants an IRS agent around?

All of this is missing Christ. Not one mention of Him from the Pharisee – just us us us. Me, me, me. Me against you. You against me. People who think they haven't sinned vs. people who know they have.

Christ died for both the pharisees and the tax collector. In doing so, He reconciles all of us with the Father not by us making ourselves something else, but by His death for us.

Jesus died for all – for you, for me. Not just for the good people here, but for the bad people. He died for the bad people who despise the good people. He died for the good people who despise the bad.

In fact – his horrific bloody death shows that good and bad are all sinners in need of saving. No one is good, not even one. The wrath of Almighty God doesn't hit you, but hits Him. But it's so great, so mighty against your sin, that it kills Him. Kills God Himself.

We are so twisted, so out of wack, so messed up, we turn this parable into a chance to look down on people. What do I mean? Try this...

You're here and other people judge you. They wreck and squish your joy with their funny looks. They complain, cause drama, moan and groan. They are the problem in our church – with all the nasty looks they give you. They are grumpy. They don't know what it's like to sin. They just popped out holy, it seems. Thank God for this text, finally Pastor is preaching against them.

How many people will leave church this week through out our church body thanking God that they aren't Pharisees?

Yet, by our despising of the people around us, we have become just that...

Repent. Both Pharisee and Publican. Repent. Stop despising one another and justifying yourself before Almighty God. Stop justifying yourself before God as if you aren't evil.

All about you is exalting you. All about me exalts me. We will be humbled. We will be laid low. How on earth will God not simply demolish us?

Oh God be merciful to me, a sinner.” Beat your breast. You have no hope inside yourself. Nothing within you can save you.

At that point, when you realize the wretchedness that is you. Then whether we are in church or alone in your room, you are on your knees will beat your breast and plead for mercy.

The one who exalts himself is humbled. The one who humbled Himself is exalted. Christ. He is the one who truly humbled Himself. Nothing He did was for Himself.

That counts for you. That counts for me. His humility. His saving. His life. His death. He is your Justification. Freely given – paid by His death. Freely received, that's faith.

God is merciful. He won't treat you as you merit. He sets your sins aside, sets them on Christ. Christ keep the Law in your place, humbled Himself before God for you, suffers the punishment due you for all your exalting yourself before Him.

St. Paul says it today:   Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, He was buried, and He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures.

Christ is crucified. The just for the unjust. He is the one who justifies you – who declares you righteous.

Christ is crucified and was buried. We are crucified with Him in baptism. We were buried with Him. Our sins remain in the tomb. The pharisee who despises those around him dies at the font. Dies as little baby Mariah died today.

Christ rose from the dead. The One who humbled Himself has been exalted above all things – to the very right hand of the Father.

Christ rose from the dead. Little Mariah rose too. You rose too. He is exalted, you too. Right hand of God. All because of Christ.

You have risen. You need not to despise others or justify yourself any longer. His death saves you. His resurrection is your justification.

So, how can someone like you be saved? Christ died for me. Christ rose and I rose with Him.

Are you are a pharisee or the sinner? Both. I behave like the pharisee all the time. Christ died for even me and I rose with Him. The only hope I have is in Him alone.

What's the final Word on your life? Christ died. Christ rose. Not me, not what's up with you. Instead, Christ died and Christ rose for me.

Then, instead of looking down on others, you can serve them. You can put them first – the tax collector, the sinner, that guy, the person with>that job, the person you don't like, the one who sinned against you, the one who hurt you at church. Them before you, as Christ put you before Himself.

Christ, not you. Always Him. He reconciles. He makes one. He does that today at His Supper. He puts His body into you, you, you, and me. Into each of us He puts His Body and Blood and so bodies and bloods us together at His Sacrament. There the many are made one with the one bread.

His forgiveness. His life. His salvation. His reconciliation. His justification. His resurrection. Yours too in Him.

Two men in the temple. The first with tons of religion. The other with nothing but sins. Who goes home justified?

You do. I do too. Christ died for us. Christ rose for us. In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Created: August 21st, 2007