If you look at the use of the word indignation' it is a steady decline from 1800 to 2000 but from 2000-2008 there's a doubling of usage. Remember those times? People were indignant about everything. Democrats were indignant about the 2000 election. Gays were indignant about not being able to marry. And it goes on today. Recently women who have had an abortion are indignant that they can't be proud of that. Being indignant is no guarantee of being right, and that's a cautionary tale for us.
There's much for the Christian today to be indignant over, but it doesn't start where you think. It doesn't start with gay marriage but heterosexual divorce and not today but with our text. Jesus says, "What God has joined together, let man not separate." And then in more detail when the disciples are hoping for some sort of escape clause Jesus says, "Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery." I'm indignant because our society takes a driver's license more seriously than a marriage license. I'm indignant that you need more of a reason for getting rid of a pet than you do a spouse. I'm indignant that Christians won't see the connection between easy divorce, living together, and gay marriage.
On the basis of this text, I can be indignant about gay marriage. Jesus exposes it here as a lie against the truth, the order of creation, and life as we know it. He says the reason that men and women are attracted to each other is that from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. For this reason, a man leaves his father and his mother to be united with his wife. The two becoming one flesh by God's power and promise produce life. Gay marriage can't join what God has not, and it can't produce life but only death by disease maybe, by divine judgment surely.
I have a right to be indignant about gay marriage and the religion of evolution that caused it. That's right; if Gn. 1-2 didn't happen marriage is just a human custom, a societal invention, but here Jesus, God the Son, your Savior, says Genesis 1 & 2 happened at the very beginning of creation. He says that "at the beginning of creation God made them male and female." That makes Adam and Eve the first people. "In the beginning" when God made the heavens and the earth, at that same beginning, He made Adam and Eve. I'm indignant that humanity has accepted the following insanities of evolution: that non-living things gave birth to living things, that through billions of years and chance changes animals got ever more sophisticated, and that one day an animal without a soul gave birth to human with a soul.
Christians have a right to be indignant about all of these perversions of God's revealed Word, of God's creation, of His gift of marriage, but what in our text has Jesus indignant? And you can be sure that when the Righteous One is indignant it is righteous indignation. The Greek word for indignation is a compound word made from "much" and "to grieve." Primarily it meant to feel a violent irritation physically. It was used of the fermenting of wine (Vine, 323). We would say a person boiled over, blew his top, lost his cool. It's used 7 times in the New Testament, and only once of Jesus.
So what has Jesus indignant? Easy divorce? Gay marriage? Evolution? Nope. Hindering little ones from coming to Him, and note it's the church, the disciples, who are doing that and it's against them that Jesus is indignant. Jesus is indignant against all Christians who prevent their infants from coming to Him by teaching that they can't be baptized. Dr. Luke's account uses the word for a nursing baby. But Jesus is also indignant against those hindering the spiritually immature from coming to Him. The little Greek word translated "such as these" tells us this. It means the kingdom of heaven belongs to those of the same kind or sort as children are (Yilvisaker, 448).
So Jesus is indignant about, blows His top over, loses His cool concerning, the spiritually immature being led away from Christ by churches embracing easy divorce, living together, and gay marriage. Jesus is indignant over babes in things spiritual having God put farther away from them by the religion of evolution. Jesus is fried, hopping mad, filled with indignation at the church that prevents spiritual little ones from coming to Him by teaching them that it is bigoted, hateful, and unfair not to let two people who love each other marry regardless of what gender they are.
Be clear. This is important. I'm not saying that Jesus accepts any sexual sins, any science false so-called, or any perversions of His order of creation. I am saying that Jesus is indignant not at the spiritually immature who are being told that divorce doesn't matter, gays can marry, and men descended from animals. No, the millstones await the necks of those causing these little ones to sin. That's the pastor marrying the gays; that's the teacher proclaiming evolution has proved there is no God. That's the Sunday School teacher teaching it is racism to be opposed to gay marriage.
We don't have to tread lightly here but we must tread carefully. We are being cast by liberal churches, civil rights groups, and our own government in the role of the KKK after slavery was abolished. We are being cast by the intellectuals, liberal churches, and atheists as flat earther's even after the first man orbited earth. Our hope is to focus not on our indignation, but to focus on Christ and an indignation that is righteousness.
Psalm 7 says that God is angry with the wicked every day. Yet we read in Romans 3:25 that in His forbearance God passed over the sins previously committed. So when Sodom is destroyed by hellfire and brimstone, you are not seeing God's anger satisfied against sodomy. When Greece falls to Rome and Rome falls to the barbarians, you aren't seeing God's wrath against the wisdom of the Greeks dressed up as science or against the easy divorce of Rome. No, God was passing over their sins; God was forbearing, bearing with their sins, in accordance with the eleven hundred year old Collect we prayed today. He was making known His almighty power "chiefly in showing mercy and pity."
So if God's stack didn't blow when Sodom and Gomorrah were wiped off the map and it didn't blow when Greece and Rome fell, when did it? Romans 3:25 tells the complete story. "Because in His forbearance God had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished, God presented Jesus as a sacrifice of atonement. He did this to demonstrate His justice." God set forth His indignation against the sins of Sodom and the sin of sodomy, against the sins of Greece and the sin of scientism that denies the true God, against the sins of Rome and the sin of easy divorce, on the cross.
To the cross is where to go if you want to see what a wrathful God looks like. There's where to go to see what judgment against sins looks like. There's where to go to see the sins of the divorced, the gay married, and the God-denying evolutionist paid for. There's where to go to see your own sins paid for. To the cross is where to go to see not only your sins paid for but the sins of the whole world, none excepted, none left off, none dropped off, none missed.
Go to the cross if you want to see where God at last blows His top, and see several things. There is wrath without mercy; there is judgment without pity. And see that none of the wrath, none of the indignation, none of the judgment fell upon the Romans who nailed Jesus to the cross, none fell upon the church leaders mocking Jesus as He died, none fell on John who had deserted Jesus the night before; none fell on the women who believed Jesus was dying never to rise again. And a stray lightening bolt didn't strike the sexual sinner in Jerusalem. Neither did the horrifying pain of hell smite the God-denying intellectual in Rome.
Judgment fell only one place; indignation unfettered was only evident one place: on the cross. And God was satisfied; His indignation spent; His wrath appeased. The translation of Romans 3:25 I used called Christ's death a "sacrifice of atonement." It's really the word "propitiation." It means a wrath removing, wrath satisfying, wrath appeasing sacrifice. There, on the cross, God's wrath was removed, appeased, finished. Because God's wrath was satisfied is why Jesus could when it was finished commend His soul to His Father in heaven and the Father received Him there. That's why 3 days later the Father would raise the Son from the dead.
Romans 3:25 says God demonstrated His righteousness on the cross. There all sins that had to be paid for from the beginning of the world to the end of the world were paid for. God demonstrated that He was righteous in that He didn't let one single sin go unpunished, not even that one that haunts you. And God demonstrated that this righteousness was for all sinners everywhere because Jesus died for all and in Him all the dead were raised. This is why Jesus is fried, is indignant when His own disciples prevent the little ones from coming to Him. God's indignation against all sins and sinners on the cross produced a righteousness, a holiness, for all, and so the only time Jesus is said to be indignant is when little ones are kept from coming to it.
There is certainly much for the Christian to be indignant about in our day. God's Word is ignored, made fun of, set aside as irrelevant and inaccurate. The acceptance of sins against nature itself is promoted as if it is as noble as freeing slaves and passing the civil rights amendment. But Jesus is specifically said to be indignant not when His Laws are flaunted but when His Gospel is hindered. And that's not so strange. Jesus didn't sweat blood, suffer the agonies of hell, and die 1,000 trillion deaths to give mankind the Law but the Gospel.
Be clear what I'm not saying. I am not saying we aren't to confess the truth that easy divorce, gay marriage, and evolution are sins, are wrong, and will lead to judgment. I am saying that our indignation should burn against what Jesus' does. Against any hindering of little ones getting to Him. When this is the focus of your indignation, you won't feel so besieged in this fallen world. You'll see that far more than you need them to leave you alone; they need you to not leave them alone. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Twentieth Sunday after Pentecost (20151011); Mark 10: 2-16