"I'm not satisfied" the disapproving parent says. "You work is not satisfactory to me," the employer says. "I demand satisfaction," the insulted gentleman says. When we talk or think about satisfaction we are usually focused on us. What if there is something beyond satisfaction? Something better than us being satisfied?
That is attractive, but we're stubbornly focused on our satisfaction. The Devil, the World, and our fallen natures drive us. The Devil spurs us on tempting us like he did Jesus. "Surely you're not satisfied with stones when you can have bread." The world gins up our dissatisfaction. We live in a consumer driven economy which thrives when we are not satisfied with last year's model or style. And regardless of age our flesh is like the toddler when nothing is wrong but everything is because nothing will satisfy us.
This should not surprise us. Perfect Adam and Eve had everything a person could want living in literal paradise. But the Devil was able to make Eve dissatisfied there and Adam sought his satisfaction in Eve so he followed her in rebellion. They traded full, content, satisfied minds, bodies, and souls for empty, endless, aching need.
And you know where that leaves us? With the Rolling Stones singing, "I can't get no satisfaction." But somehow their song makes the dissatisfied state one of proud rebellion rather condemnation. That's not how the Greeks saw lack of satisfaction. Not able to be satisfied was punishment, was torment. Sisyphus endlessly rolling the stone up the hill only to have it roll back down never able to be done, to be satisfied with his task was being punished. Tantalus ever reaching for food and water always just out of reach so he could never get any satisfaction was in torment. The Stones think they have the right and the ability to get satisfaction. The Greeks at least knew that apart from the gods neither was true.
Yes, rather than focus with the Rolling Stones on "I" let's focus with the Greeks, not on gods, but on the one true God who is not satisfied with us as we are. But God doesn't want just law keepers. He doesn't want drones, automatons, robots, or cyborgs. He doesn't want what any communist or totalitarian state can achieve at least for awhile. Didn't you hear the epistle reading last week where Paul wrote of what God wanted for us? He wants for us what no eye has ever seen, no ear has ever heard, what has never entered into the thoughts of a man. God almighty wants for us what is as far above our thoughts and ways as heaven is above earth. God wants sons!
God doesn't want cold lifeless robots programmed always to do the right thing. He wants living breathing sons who love as warmly and completely as He does. He wants sons who are so full of His life that they give as largely and as completely as He gives. The clause "that you may be sons of your Father" is a purpose clause (Gibbs, 305). God's purpose is to have sons not slaves; sons not machines. God doesn't want the cold perfection that a machine could attain; He wants completion not perfection.
The last verse on the insert says, "Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Although all the English translations have "perfect" here, the real meaning of this Greek word is bringing something to its end, its goal, its completion. In nature the Greek word used here describes adults, who, having attained the full limits of stature, strength, and mental power have attained their end, their goal, as distinguished from young men or boys who have not (Trench, Synonyms, 75). Every time God refers to Himself as the Beginning and the End, He uses a form of this word. It would not make sense to translate, "I am the Beginning and the Perfection."
But that's not the biggest surprise in this last verse. The insert makes it sound as if it's a command when it can be heard as a promise. "Therefore you will be complete as your heavenly Father is complete." Now we're on to something. God would not be satisfied with us as cold, keepers of the Law with the perfection of the machine, the perfection of a statue. He wants something bigger and better then a lifeless machine or ivory statute, and this takes us to Pygmalion.
Pygmalion is a Greek myth that has many versions ancient and modern. Pygmalion could find no woman he was satisfied with. He was a skilled sculptor so carved the ideal woman out of ivory. She was so lifelike that all who saw her expected her to move. At a festival of Venus he offered sacrifice and prayed to the goddess to give him for his wife a woman like his ivory stature. He had thought but didn't dare say, "Give me my ivory statue for a wife." But Venus heard his thoughts and answered by making the statue alive giving Pygmalion the only woman that he could really be satisfied with (Bulfinch's, 62-4). The true God is not going to be satisfied with us until He finds in us the living echo of His boundless life, love, and mercy.
When it comes to satisfaction we're stubbornly and sinfully focused on satisfying ourselves. God is not satisfied with us as we are. In Jesus both God and mankind are satisfied. Remember that's how things started out. God was satisfied with His entire creation. He looked at everything He had made and "behold it was very good." But this didn't last for long. Soon the Devil was able to make perfect man dissatisfied with the perfect God in a perfect Paradise. Mankind fell into sin, into an incomplete state. So he wouldn't stretch forth his hand and eat of the Tree of Life growing in the garden and so live forever in that incomplete state, God drove Adam and Eve, and all of us sons and daughters out of Eden.
How to get humanity back in? How to return humanity to the complete, satisfied state God had created them in? It was God who needed to be satisfied, and it was man He needed to be satisfied with. So God did the incredible thing of taking on flesh and blood. Through the womb of the Virgin Mary God was made Man. Both at His Baptism and at the Transfiguration we will celebrate next Sunday the Father boomed from Heaven that He was satisfied with the Man Jesus as His beloved Son.
"That's My Boy!" the Father proudly proclaimed as Jesus went about doing what the Father wanted. He was completely satisfied with everything Jesus did in thought, word, and deed because Jesus was the complete package. He was everything that God created the first Adam to be. He feared, loved, and trusted God above all things. He never misused the name of God but called upon it in trouble, pray, praised and gave thanks. He held God's Word and even preaching as sacred and gladly heard and learned it. He loved His enemies even calling Judas "friend" as He betrayed Him, and calling Peter "clean" just hours before He knew he would deny Him.
"That's my beloved Son in whom I am satisfied," the Father proclaimed from heaven. Jesus satisfied all the qualifications of being a complete human being, but the Law was not yet satisfied. Its punishments and threats were not yet satisfied. Although Jesus had not broken one, we had broken every single one many times over. And since the Law expresses God's holy will, He wasn't satisfied yet either. His broken law left Him wrathful. Think how mad we can get when we are offended by another. Think how much more wrathful we get at the dog, a creature below us, who bites our hand while we're feeding it. God is angrier still at creatures who rebel against Him, the Creator.
You know how a boxer is told by his coach to see the face of the opposing boxer as the person who wronged him so terribly? Well God loaded Jesus down with so many sins that Paul says He was made to be sin. That ugly sin of yours you turn away from, God saw in all it's depravity on Jesus. That old sin of yours that rises like a ghost some nights to haunt your conscience God saw clearly on Jesus. Your sense of sinfulness that comes in sometimes like an ever rising tide and drowns you in despair God had Jesus drink dry.
Every slap of the face, every syllable of ridicule, every drop of spit, every tear drop, every blood speck, every sweat drip paid for sins and when it was all done God was completely satisfied not just with you but with the whole world. And so He sent into the whole world the risen Jesus calling sinners to Himself in Jesus' name. The risen Jesus proves that all sins have been paid for and God's wrath against everyone is satisfied. That ugly, ghostly, flood of sins has been carried away from you, and God's grace, mercy, and peace have been carried to you in the Waters of Baptism, in the Words of Absolution, in Bread that is Jesus' Body and Wine that is Jesus' blood.
By your Baptism God has rebirthed you as a new person created in the image of Jesus: holy, complete, reborn as sons and daughters of God. You're no lifeless ivory statue; you're alive in the constant forgiveness of your sins that pours into your ears through Absolution and pumps through your veins through the Body and Blood of Jesus you eat and drink. You are as complete as your Father in heaven, made so by what His Son did on an earthly cross and gives you on earth by Word and Sacraments.
How great the change! How wonderful the miracle! Hearts of stone beat. Bodies of ivory live and in such strange way. Counting it all joy to suffer! Why that's crazy talk, but that's what both Peter and Paul say. And that's how Jesus describes us come to life statues. Being sons and daughters of the Father we're not satisfied with coldly following private, legal, or political standards when dealing with our enemies. No, as our heavenly Father is merciful to the evil and the good and gives to the just and unjust so do we.
Being brought back into Eden where every want, every need, every hope, every dream is completed, is satisfied we go beyond what any pagan, any atheists, any sinner can do. We boldly go where only one Man has ever gone before. That's how the Father sees things. In Baptism, He no longer sees you but Jesus. In Absolution, He no longer sees your sins but Jesus' holiness. In Communion, He no longer sees your body and blood but Jesus'. So He sees you doing, saying, and thinking what Jesus would, and that completely satisfies the Father, and it can you too. Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Seventh Sunday after Epiphany (20140223); Matthew 5: 38-48