3rd Wednesday of Advent
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all, dear friends in Christ, we use them all the time and perhaps don’t often think about how important they really are. We have them for our cars, our homes, our sheds, our safes, our gun cabinets, our office, our work place, we have keys all around us, don’t we? Keys are very important for our everyday lives, yet often we take them for granted until they’re missing, right? If you lose the key to your safe where all your important stuff is you can spend hours turning your house upside down trying to find it. If you lock your key in your car you can spend all kinds of trouble hiring a locksmith to get your car door open. Keys are very important in our lives, aren’t they? They’re important to give us access to things. And if we don’t have the key, then we don’t have access.
In our lesson for this evening Jesus talks about a key. Perhaps a little background on the two groups of people our text talks about. First the Pharisees. They were one of the religious parties during Jesus’ day and held some important and influential positions in both the Jewish society and religious life (which were much closer back then). They claimed strict obedience to all of God’s law and we’re held in respect by most people because of their zealous devotion to God’s law. The experts in the law were the scribes or teachers of the law. So again they were religious officials. Many of them also belonged to the Pharisees. Unfortunately these religious officials had done something horrid. They had taken God’s laws, all of the laws of the OT, which God had originally set up for several reasons, to keep the nation of Israel separate and distinct from every other godless nation around them and to show the impossibility of someone being perfect before God in order to lead someone to recognize their need for a Savior. But these religious officials turned God’s law into a system of how to earn God’s favor. They claimed to keep it all! In fact, they even set up hundreds of additional laws on top of the OT laws. Laws like how many steps someone is allowed to take on a Sabbath or a 14 step process in order to be ceremonially clean, etc. (Read Text)
Wow! Laying it on kind of thick, Jesus, right? Jesus aren’t you being kind of harsh? What’s going on here?
After all, didn’t a Pharisee just invite Jesus over for dinner? Now, we aren’t told but it’s possible that Jesus had been invited to this Pharisee’s home in order for them to find some fault against Jesus to accuse Him. Well, it didn’t take long and one was surprised that Jesus hadn’t done the ceremonial washing before he ate. Ceremonial washing was one of those extra laws that the Pharisees had come up with to show how they were extra pious. Jesus purposely did not indulge them with obeying their customs. Then reading their hearts Jesus issued them some stern warnings: you seem clean on the outside but are full of greed and wickedness on the inside, you religiously follow the tithe but neglect justice and the love of God, you love the most important and prestigious seats, you look innocent enough but inside you’re like dead and decaying bones! When Jesus spoke these words an expert in the law felt insulted. Jesus then addresses these experts in the law: you come up with these hundreds of laws that are impossible to follow and you don’t even keep them yourselves! You claim to be pious by building these nice tombs for the prophets but that doesn’t make up for the fact that you don’t listen to what they say or to whom they point!
The final “woe” that Jesus addresses them is the most serious. The one key to the door of life, eternal life, is Jesus. But these Pharisees and experts in the law both rejected that key and stood outside of God’s kingdom. It’s like they approached the massive gate to God’s kingdom and thought they could unlock it with a crumb, their own crumb. But that’s not it, they also did all they could to hide the Key, to hinder others from entering God’s kingdom through that Key of knowledge, that Key of David, Jesus.
Hypocrisy is having the pretense of having a desirable or publicly approved attitude, of being virtuous or having high moral or religious standards or principles, but in reality does not. For the Pharisees and experts in the law, it sure looked like they were the pious, religious, moral people, they felt that they were the ones who were to be looked up to, the religious ideal and religious elite. Yet they were like white-washed walls, inside their hearts couldn’t be further from the truth. Not only did they reject Christ, but they hated Him. They shut their hearts to the Light of the world and thus were filled with black darkness.
God’s demands are so much more than being religious or interested in Jesus. The Pharisees seemed to be both, right? They seemed to be religious and seemed to be interested in Jesus enough to invite Him over for dinner. Imagine a massive door with many deadbolts on it. On each deadbolt there are things like: “Always generous, never greedy, always having proper priorities, never being hypocritical, always humble, total purity, always compassionate, always kind, never selfish, etc.” On our own, does anyone of us have any of those keys to unlock just one of those deadbolts?
God’s concerns are much more than how we look on the outside. He looks right to our hearts and examines thoughts, motives, attitudes, and desires. Are we guilty of “playing the part” at times? Perhaps there have been times when we’ve seemed interested and kind to someone, but as soon as they leave, “Oh, I can’t believe he said that! What a ____! Did you see what she was wearing?” If we had been eating dinner with Jesus what might he have said to us? When it comes to sin we are corrupted through and through, we’re no better than the next person. God says, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” That applies to us as well. God says that even our righteous acts, the good things we do, are like filthy rags- they too are corrupted with sin- sinful motives, attitudes, imperfection.
But did you notice what Jesus did? Sometimes love has to be tough. Jesus loves us like He loved the Pharisees and law-experts of his day, so He told them the truth. He tells them and us the truth about our sins, instead of just abandoning us to our sins or washing His hands of us. Sin separates us from God and sin left unchecked will drive us away from God and lead us to death, eternal death. So the very fact that Jesus confronts us with our sins is actually a display of His mercy! God comes to us with His law for a purpose: to keep us from that which might endanger our eternal salvation and to cut down anything on our own that we might try to prop ourselves up with, any good thing that we think we’ve done that we’ve earned or deserved God’s love on our own.
Why? So that God’s love and grace may stand out ever more clearly. You see, Jesus had no hypocrisy. He never once claimed to be someone or something which He was not. He always spoke truthfully, honestly, and helpfully. He always had pure motives, everything He ever did, He did so to help other people- from healing the sick to rebuking sin to coming to this earth to live perfectly for sinful humans. Jesus came and stepped into your shoes. For every time that you or I have been hypocritical, Jesus was not. For every time that you or I have harbored sinful attitudes, greed, jealousy, anger, bitterness, etc, Jesus did not. Jesus lived perfectly in every way for you, in your place! HE is the key to every one of those deadbolts on that massive door.
Jesus is the key. Every lock or deadbolt on the massive door to heaven falls under 2 categories: Either locks of perfection or locks of payment for sin. Both of those locks need to be opened. The only one who has that key and is that key is the one who says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, no one comes to the Father, except through me.”
The key is that salvation comes only through Jesus, not pharisaical pride, not hypocritical piety, not godliness on our part, not even by the good things we do. We all stand before God the same: worthy of nothing but death, punishment, and hell. But what amazing grace of God that he sent his Son into this world not so he could open the door of heaven for Himself but to open the door of heaven for you! That’s the reason why Jesus came to this earth, was born as a baby in Bethlehem, in order to open heaven’s door for you!
So wait in stillness for the key of David, Jesus, the Savior. He came the first time on that first Christmas so that with His perfect life and innocent payment for sins He could unlock the door of heaven for you! And one day Jesus will come back with the sole purpose of coming to carry you through that door into life forever in heaven! Indeed, wait in stillness for Jesus, the one and only Key. Amen.