One Makes Parents 'gods'
Courthouses still recognize the validity of the 4th Commandment whether or not they display them. If your minor child has to appear, you're required to be there too. It takes a court order to ignore the 4th Commandment. You can't just decide not to be the parent of a minor child. The courthouse still takes the 4th Commandment seriously, do you? There is no age limit you know. The 4th Commandment applies even when children are no longer minors. The 4th Commandment is serious to Jesus. He used it to convict the rich young man and to denounce the Pharisees.
The 4th Commandment is serious because it makes parents gods," so watch out kids. That's right; you disobey your parents, you disobey God almighty. That's what the order of the Commandments teaches us. The first 3 are about are relationship to God. The 1st commands us to have God in our heart, soul, and mind. The 2nd to have God on our lips. The 3rd to have God in our ears. The Commandments speak about God, God, God, and then parents. Our Large Catechism says this, "In this way God separates and distinguishes father and mother from all other persons upon the earth and places them by His side" (I, 105).
The truth is that the general disobedience and disregard kids show toward their parents in back talking, ignoring, or disrespecting indicates a falling away from God not a lack of love for mom and dad. Kids don't, as the explanation begins, fear and love God, and so, they think little of despising and angering parents and other authorities. Kids don't see God almighty in their parents and other authorities, so it's no big deal not to honor, serve, or obey them. The divine, the eternal, the other world just isn't a part of their world of instant communication and gratification, so they think it no big deal not to love and cherish God's representatives in their world.
Well kids cover your eyes and get set for an earthly death. Cover you eyes because Proverbs 30:17 promises, "The eye that mocks a father, that scorns obedience to a mother, will be pecked out by the ravens of the valley, and will be eaten by the vultures." That was in the 1943 Catechism; the 1991 left it out. I guess they thought it too gruesome for kids raised with slasher movies and graphic video games. But it should give kids pause: if mocking, scorning eyes get that treatment what about back-talking mouths and disobedient hands?
Guard not just your eyes but get ready to die early you disobedient kids. This commandment says, Honor your father and you mother that it may be well with you and you live long on the land." The Large Catechism says, "Whoever is disobedient shall perish sooner and never enjoy life" (I, 134). You know why? Because in disobeying parents you're not just disobeying men but God. And while you may be able to hide your mocking, scornful eyes from mom and dad, you can no more hide your sins from God then Judas could. Although no one else knew what Judas was up to the God-Man Jesus did. See how Jesus tries to bring Judas back from the edge of hell? He doesn't want him to take that one step too far away. And so Jesus wants to call you back from your sins against the 4th Commandment.
The 4th Commandment is serious because it makes parents gods," so watch out kids and watch out parents! Don't sacrifice your children to idols. What? I do no such thing; I'd never do such a thing. O yes you do says Luther. "What else is it but to sacrifice one's own child to an idol and burn it when parents train their children more in the love of the world than in the love of God" (LW,44, 83). That's what you're doing when you train your child to break the 3rd Commandment by coming to church when you feel like it; when you train them to brush their teeth each night but not pray; when you make sure they know their address and phone number but not a word of the Catechism or Bible.
What you are doing unfaithful parent is purchasing hell for yourself. This is what we confess to believe in the Large Catechism, "Consider now what deadly harm you are doing if you are negligent and fail on your part to bring up your children to usefulness and piety. Consider how you bring upon yourself all sin and wrath, earning hell by your own children, even though you are otherwise pious and holy" (I, 176). Luther says elsewhere that parents who will not bring up children in the faith are like fire that will not burn and water that is not wet. They aren't doing the one thing God put them on earth to do (LW, 44 12-13).
But we parents no more think we are capable of earning hell by our parenting then the disciples thought they could betray Jesus. You know from what is coming that everyone of them will betray Jesus, yet when He warns them of it they all say "one after the other, Surely not I, Lord.'" Every one of us has earned hell by the way we've raised our children. When we see that the things of God aren't first place in their lives it's because they weren't first and maybe not even in our lives.
There's no help, no hope for us under this Commandment in our parenting or in our honoring our father and mother. There is only judgment, an early death, and an eternal hell. Our salvation is not in the fact that the 4th Commandment makes parents gods,' but in the fact that the true God is both a perfect Parent and a perfect Child.
You know those touching movie scenes where the father can't hug his imprisoned son either because the son is behind bars, glass, or the police won't allow touching. It's heart wrenching. The father still loves the son even though the son has seriously sinned against him. This was us over against the true God. Our sinful parenting or disobedience as kids left us imprisoned by the Law. Yet God so loved the world that He wanted to hug us, embrace us, but Johnny Law wouldn't let Him. The Law convicts us of our sins and sinfulness, and the Holy God cannot even touch sin or sinfulness.
Our text is the official record of the Perfect Son taking the last steps of full obedience. The Passover meal was a big celebration. It was like a holiday meal of yours. It was a time of family, happiness, food, and drink. Ever had one of those meals before a loved on or yourself had to have a serious operation? How about before he went to the gas chamber? Jesus says that's what is going on. "I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer." Having been the perfect person, parent, child, breaking no law that could imprison him, fully being able to be hugged by the Father, Jesus takes upon Himself the suffering we deserve for the way we raised our kids and disobeyed our parents.
Let me try to convey what's going on by means of the delope. Delope is a French word and it means "throwing away." In dueling, after the command that meant "fire" was given, one of the parties could throw away his shot by firing into the air, ground, or way wide. He could only do this, according to most traditions, after he gave his opponent a chance to first fire at him.
Here's the scene. You are face to face with God the Father. The command to fire is given and you raise your pistol, aim at God center mass, and gladly pull the trigger. You miss. It's the Father's turn. He brings His pistol up on you: to shoot you with pain in time and everlasting pain in eternity; to hit you with judgment, death, and hell. But what's this? The Father turns the pistol away from you, but instead of firing into the ground, air, or wide of the mark, He shoots His only beloved Son dead.
A look of why? How could you? spreads across the Son's face as He slumps to the ground. And rather than rushing over to His perfect Son, the Father rushes over to hug you. All the laws that prevented God from hugging you have been kept. The prison bars have melted and the glass shattered by the blood of Jesus. What 4th or any other Commandment? The Father can now embrace you as He has wanted to from eternity.
Are you ready to the turn the corner now? Ready to see how the grace and forgiveness of the Gospel puts a different look on this Law? Ready to stop being accused by the 4th Commandment and to start using it? Ready to sing with Rita Coolidge, "Your love has lifted me higher than I have ever been lifted before?" Rather than seeing authority as weighing you down see it like helium balloons. Parents, teachers, bosses, government are given by God's love not to oppress you but to lift you higher and higher. If they should oppress you, God Himself makes them answer for it.
Learn from your parenthood the depths of God's love for you. It was only when I became a father that I had the sense of what parental love meant. I would do anything, sacrifice everything, suffer all things to provide and protect my children. If I a sinful, fallen, weak, mortal could do that what must God the Father feel towards me. If the sins of my kids couldn't move me to cast them off, how could my sins move the heavenly Father to do that, especially since He gave up His only beloved Son to pay for my sins?
What about kids? Where is the Gospel power in the 4th Commandment for them? Jesus can only be the wrath removing sacrifice for our sins against the 4th Commandment because He was the perfect kid. 18 long years of Jesus' life are under this one sentence in Luke 2. "Jesus went down unto Nazareth and was subject to His parents." Jesus knows what it's like to live under the authority of sinful, fallen parents. He knows they can be unfair, unwise, and yes, even unloving. He bids you follow His steps and promises grace and every blessing in them. It's probably true that your parents don't really remember what it means to be a kid, but Jesus has never forgotten.
The rift, the distance, the gap between fathers and sons, mothers and daughters is the subject of Old Testament truth, Greek legends, and modern movies and songs. But the 4th Commandment doesn't focus on the gap but the gift of parenthood and childhood. Yes there is godlike responsibility in the relationship between these, but focus on the fact that whether you are parent or child is first of all a gift of God. If we sinners don't give gifts to someone to burden or annoy them, you can be sure God doesn't either. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Ash Wednesday (20120222); Fourth Commandment