Salvation for Dummies
There are a series of books "for Dummies": Computers for Dummies, Carpentry for Dummies, Cooking for Dummies. If someone gives you one, you're usually not insulted. I was given Windows 95 for Dummies. Our text could be entitled Salvation for Dummies because Jesus speaks about salvation in plain language.
The first thing He says is that it's the heavenly Father's good pleasure to hide salvation. Just take that much because this simple truth ought to astound you. What happened to "This little gospel light of mineHide it under a bushel? No!" The Father does indeed hide His Gospel light says Jesus from the wise and learned.
This too should startle you. Whom do we think salvation is hidden from? The wicked, the sinful, the evil. We think the Gospel light is hidden from motorcycle gangs, drug dealers, sexual sinners, but whom does Jesus say it is the Father's good pleasure to hide it from? The educated or more accurately those who think they're educated.
I'm sure you know people like this. They're too smart for salvation. They're no dummies. They know all religions claim to be the truth; all religions have their holy books; all religions claim salvation is found in them. So they're smart enough to keep their options open. They speak wisely and learnedly about all religions. From such wise and learned people salvation is hidden. You know it; I know it, and Jesus knows it, but Jesus doesn't do what we do. He doesn't wring His hands over it. He doesn't fret about it. He doesn't think of new ways to reach the wise and learned. Nope, Jesus praises God because He has hidden these things from them.
Doesn't that blow you away? Only a dummy would praise God for hiding salvation from anyone? Well Jesus does. He praises God the Father not only because it is His good pleasure to hide salvation from the wise and learned but because it's also His good pleasure to "reveal it to babes."
I really need this book Salvation for Dummies because this makes no sense. Everyone, at least in America, knows about Christmas, Good Friday, Easter. In these salvation is revealed to everyone not just babes. On Christmas God the Son takes on flesh in the Virgin's womb. God the Son is put under the laws men are suppose to keep, to follow, to do, but break, stray from, and fail at. He, however, keeps, follows, and does them all perfectly. He never sins not in action, not in words, not even in thoughts.
Then comes Good Friday; then comes the world-wide release of Mel Gibson's The Passion. It was rated R, so not many babes saw that, but the rest of the world could've. There the payment for our salvation was displayed at least in its physical, outward sense. God the Son was beaten whipped, tortured to death, crushed. The perfect Man was treated as a damned, forsaken sinner should be. The perfect Man was treated as all you imperfect men, women and children deserve to be.
That much was shown in the movie. What was not shown but what is revealed from every truly Christian pulpit in the world was that this perfect Man who is God in flesh and blood was bruised to pay for the sins of the world, was crushed to heal all the broken people of the world. Moreover, and this blows a dummy like me away, Isaiah 53:10 says it was His Father's good pleasure to bruise and crush Him!
Good Friday, however, didn't end the story. Easter came, and it was revealed everywhere that Christians celebrate Jesus rising from the dead. On Easter every Christian pulpit in the world proclaimed that since Jesus dying on Good Friday meant the payment of all sins, His resurrection by God the Father on Easter meant the Father had accepted that payment. God the Father now regarded the accounts of all sinners as paid in full. Every sinner in the whole world could look at his or her debt of sin and go line by line down it reading: paid in full, paid in full, paid in full.
So, I'm saying, "How can Jesus say it was His Father's good pleasure to reveal salvation to babes when I know as St. Paul himself says, "These things were not done in a corner?" Because only babes can see it. Notice while the insert translated "little children," I keep translating "babes." This Greek word neapiois refers to children too small to speak. Children so small that they can only receive. The Latin infanis, our infant, translates this.
It is the Father's good pleasure to reveal His salvation His Son to babes: that is to people who are guilty and know it but don't speak up to defend their sins or excuse them. He reveals His salvation to those who not only don't but can't offer Him anything. They're infants. If they're going to be moved anywhere, say from hell to heaven, they must be carried. If they are going to eat, say the Body and Blood of Jesus, it must be given to them. If they are going to be washed, say in the life-giving water of Baptism, Jesus must bathe them.
Babes get it. When Jesus enters Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, His enemies are upset because the children were calling for Him to save them. They tell Jesus to shut them up. Jesus responds telling them God has ordained praise for Himself out of the mouths of neapiois! Neapiois praise Jesus for salvation just as Jesus praises the Father for revealing salvation to them.
Do you remember when you were young and someone called you a baby? At a certain age, say between 8 and 12, there is nothing worse a child can be called. The most insulting thing you can say to them is, "You're a baby." "Stop being a baby." That's just as insulting as an adult being called a dummy, isn't it? "You must be a dummy;" "Even a dummy knows that." But salvation is for babies; Salvation for Dummies isn't just an actual title of a book. It's a truth. God's salvation is for dummies.
But I don't think I'm dumb enough. If I stub my brain on the fact that it's God's good pleasure to hide salvation from the wise and learned and to reveal it to babes, then I'll trip for sure when Jesus tells me it's also the Father's good pleasure that "no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him." This boils down to Jesus saying He chooses whom to save. That simple enough for you? It is for me, but it scares me.
If all Scripture is written to bring us hope and comfort as Paul says in Romans 15, then this dummy can't be understating it rightly if it scares him. Let's break it down. First we remember that twice Scripture elsewhere tells us that Jesus is the Father's good pleasure. At His Baptism the Father boomed from heaven, "This is My beloved Son in whom I have good pleasure." At His Transfiguration the Father again boomed into the night, "This is My Beloved Son in whom I have good pleasure." In our text and in these two places the same Greek word is used.
The Father's good pleasure is His Son so He has committed all things to Him. Jesus holds life, death, heaven, hell, judgment, forgiveness, the past, the future all in His hands. Whether you will die at 30, 60, 90 or live till Jesus returns, is in His hands. Whom you will marry, when you will marry, if you will marry: it's all there in Jesus' hands. Your sins of yesterdays that haunt you in the night; your sins of today that you can't believe you did; your sins of tomorrow that you don't even know you will do are all in the hands of Jesus. And those hands have holes in them.
Jesus says the only ones who can know the Father are those to whom the Son chooses to reveal Him. That means if you don't know Jesus' Father, you can't be saved. The only true God is the Father of Jesus. The only saving God is the Father of Jesus, so if Jesus the Son doesn't reveal Him to you, you can't be saved. Go back to His hands. For whose sins were the hands of Jesus pierced? To pay for whose sins did Jesus' hands bleed? For you dummy. For you. The Son chooses whom to save, and the Son chooses you.
That's not my opinion; that's the Word of the Lord. Jesus says, "Come to Me, ALL of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest." Are you wearied by your sins and sinfulness? Are they constantly before you? Are you stuck in and with them? The more you struggle with your sin and sinfulness the deeper do you sink in them? If this is you, then the Son has chosen you and is calling you. Are you burdened by worries, cares, anxieties? Are you burdened by questions of what God is doing and why? Is the weight of you trying to explain the whys and wherefores of God too much for you to bear? If this is you, then know for certain that the Son has chosen you and is calling you.
And for what has the Son chosen you and to where does He call you? To rest through learning. No other teacher in the world has ever associated learning with resting. Think about it. The more first year medical students learn about disease the more restless they are because they think they have them. Did you find much rest in what you learned in philosophy class? I didn't. In fact, even learning practical things doesn't lead to rest. Learn plumbing; do plumbing; learn cooking; cook; learn gardening and you garden. Jesus says, "Learn from Me and you rest."
Learn from Jesus that there is no rest from your sins, death, or the Devil by your efforts, your doing your best, your trying your hardest. Learn from Jesus that He bore your sins; died your death; and defeated your Devil to give you rest. Learn that He gives you Baptismal water not so you might do laps in it but to rest in it safe from death and the Devil. Learn that He gives you Absolution so that you might rest in the fact that it really sends your sins away from you right then and there. Learn that He gives you His Body and Blood in Communion so that even when your body and blood are restless you can rest in His.
You know that ad campaign: "You can Learn a Lot from a Dummy?" Well, dummies having been saved can learn a lot from their Savior rest. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
7th Sunday after Pentecost (20080629); Matthew 11: 25-30