Do Over a Nut in Your Ear
The sermon title is not typos. It is "Do Over a Nut in Your Ear." I'll explain with a true story: It took Christopher Wren 35 years to complete St. Paul's Cathedral in London. He waited breathlessly for Queen Anne's reaction. After being shown the entire structure she summed up her opinion in 3 words: "'It is awful; it is amusing; it is artificial.'" Wren was very pleased because in 1710 awful' meant 'awe-inspiring;' amusing' meant 'amazing' and artificial' meant 'artistic.' (Illustrations for Biblical Preaching, 403-4)
The nut in our text has to do with the Latin in nuce which literally means "in a nut.' We would say "in a nutshell." In a nutshell our text sums up the Person and Work of Jesus, who He is and what He does. Our text is after His Baptism where the Holy Spirit landed on Him in the form of the Dove; this is after the Father declared Jesus to be His only beloved Son; this is after He was tempted by the Devil in all the ways we are yet didn't sin; after He suffered as if He had given into all of the temptations.
Jesus in nuce sums up what it means that the Father poured out the Holy Spirit on Him with the words, "The Spirit of Jehovah is upon Me to preach the good news of a victory to the poor." He further fleshes this out by applying the Words of the Old Testament to Himself. He was anointed to proclaim release to captives, sight to the blind, to deliver broken men to release, to proclaim the Lord's acceptance. In a nutshell Jesus is all about freedom, but only for those who know poverty, imprisonment, darkness, brokenness, and rejection.
Jesus proclaims today that He is here for a do over.' Origin said in an early 3rd century sermon that we are to see the Savior standing in our assembly just as surely here as He was in the assembly at Nazareth (ACC, III, 81). But don't just see Him; hear Him say. "Today is a do over, on Me!" Jesus explains who this "do over" is for. It's for the prisoner who has long been kept in a dark dungeon; Jesus pictures him being led out into the light of day blinking back the brilliance as darkness fades into light. This is a broken, crushed man, but today he is favored by the Lord.
The question is: is this you? If it ain't you, the "do over" doesn't apply to you. You don't need the riches of Christ if you have your own. You don't need to be led out of prison if you're not in one. You don't need sight if you can see for miles and miles; you don't need release from a brokenness you don't have or acceptance if you're not rejected.
David prays, "Who can discern his errors? Cleanse Thou me from secret faults." What! You've got to be kidding me. The man who committed adultery with the wife of one of his most loyal soldiers; the man who then murdered him to cover it up still speaks of "secret faults," still stays he can't "discern his errors?" I can; you can from miles and miles away, right? But we can't discern our own. And 9 times out of 10 when we think we have discerned our errors, our real sins, what we've found is a speck in our eye while missing the whole 2 by 4.
Not one of us knows the true depths of our sins; not one of us knows all we need to be forgiven of. Only the Law of God can show us this. Only the Law of God preached into our ears can show us that we have absolutely nothing to pay off God's wrath, to buy ourselves out of slavery to sin, death and the devil. Only God's Law can convince us we're in a prison we deserve to be in and have no hope of escape. Only the Law can expose how blind we have been to all things spiritual, all things holy, all things beautiful. Only the Law can show us how many pieces we've been broken into by our sin and sinfulness, and how unacceptable we are to God.
Let me give you some examples. We all think we have something to pay off God, to lessen our guilt just a little. We all think the prison of our sins is one we're voluntary in and can walk out of any time we feel like it. We all think we know beauty, truth, goodness, God when we see them, but without the Spirit of God no one can see the things of God says Paul. There are none so blind as those who think they see. We all see someone else as more broken than we are. We all think that as long as we can accept ourselves God must too.
Not under the Law. Under the Law we're poor sinners; under the Law none is free no not one; none sees, no not one; no one under the Law is anything but Humpty Dumpty who all the kings horses and all the kings men, or all the drugs, drink, thinking, talking, philosophizing can put back together again. But then Jesus shows up promising that in Him are riches, freedom, sight, release from brokenness, and acceptance by God. And it's for everyone; everyone gets a do over today.
How can this be? Because as Paul says, "Though Christ was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich." You are as guilty as Barabbas, but you are set free as he was from his prison and innocent Jesus goes to the cross to die the death of a damned sinner: without mercy, without hope, without company. Jesus was sealed in a cold dark tomb for us men and our salvation. Even though He was guilty of nothing deserving death as even the pagan Pilate said several times, He nevertheless got it and the tomb that goes with it. And though not one of His bones was broken, Jesus was crushed under the full weight of the world's sin, shame, guilt, and pain. The very worst if came when His Father forsook Him on the cross so He could accept you instead.
Here we come to the disconnect. The disconnect I speak of is between the glorious things found in the Person and Work of Jesus on behalf of all sinners and us sinners. Where do those two things meet? In your ears. I know in your ear' is a crude expression, but it's literally, almost, what the text says. Jesus says, "Today this Scripture has forever been fulfilled in the ears of you."
That's what Jesus says. He said it in Nazareth almost 2,000 years ago and He has said it everyday since: "Today has been forever fulfilled these things in your ears." In your ears are riches for the poor sinner, freedom for the imprisoned one, sight for the blind one, release from brokenness, and acceptance for rejection. The Word of God is a Means of Grace. It isn't like the words of men that can express what men want, desire, think, feel, but can't do. The Word of God is living and sharper than any two edge sword. It cuts open; it stitches back up. The Word of God is like the concussion from a big artillery gun. When a howitzer speaks the air reverberates putting things in motion, making things happen.
The Means of Grace all of them but here we're particularly looking at God's Word - are the firm hook to hang your faith. Isaiah describes Christ as being a firm peg driven into a wall. Here and where Christ says Scripture cannot be broken; They Word is truth, etc, He makes His Word a peg as well. The Word incarnated, the Word inscripturated, the Word made visible in Water, Bread, and Wine, and the Word preached in your ears is a firm peg to hang your living and your dying on.
No one will get to heaven and hear God say, "You shouldn't have relied on My Word so much." You are to go out of here with Jesus' Good News that He has won for you victory over the poverty of your sinfulness. You are to walk out of the prison of your guilt and shame based on His Word that says because He went into that prison you can come out. You are to walk out of the darkness of your fears, your worries, your ever present self into the light of God's grace, mercy, and peace. You are to take His Word that you have been released from your brokenness as proof positive that you are totally acceptable to God.
Dr. Luke drives home this peg. When he describes Jesus handling the scroll, the English says Jesus unrolls and rolls it back up. What else are you going to do with a scroll, right? Then why describe it? Luke doesn't use the usual New Testament word for unroll and roll. He uses medical langue for opening a body and bandaging a wound (Medical Language of St. Luke, 106). Unless you're a medical professional, you don't know how hard it is to cut open a human body. You not only have to know what you're doing, you have to be confident in doing it. No one wants a surgeon with shaking hands.
The proclaiming of God's Word does two things. It opens the sinner's body. You've probably watched a medical reality program where they show you actual operations. Amazing all that is in the relatively compact human body. The preaching of the Word of God into our ears opens our bodies and we see what Paul did: "No good things dwells within me." Paul sees what you see which drives out of him the cry: "O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?" Yes, it's like the horror movie where thousands of spiders come spilling out of a body. Who will deliver us from that, indeed!
The Word in our ear that shows us that reality also shows us the reality of our body being bandaged. The word for rolling up is the medical word for bandaging a wound. Jesus doesn't cut you open with the word of the law to make you bleed but so He can heal you with the Gospel word. He bandages you with the promise that He has put away your sins; God's fiery wrath that you fear has been quenched by His innocent life and bloody death. The darkness that you see in you doesn't have to rule or ruin your life. Jesus has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Your brokenness that crushes you has been bandaged by God's Word promising that for Jesus' sake you're free from it and that today is the day to believe He accepts you.
Yes, I'm the nut that gets a do over today in my ear. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Third Sunday after the Epiphany (20160124); Luke 4: 16-21