3rd Midweek Advent
Come, O Come, Emmanuel and ransom us, the captive Israel! Amen. In the name of Jesus, dear friends in Christ,
Keys are an important part of our every day lives. We need keys. We have keys for our cars, for our homes, for our safes, for our offices, for our work places, for our lockers. Keys are really important, but perhaps we don’t think about them much until they’re missing. I don’t know how much time I’ve spent over the years searching for where I put a certain key. Keys are important- they give us access to things. If we don’t have the key, we don’t have access. So what’s the key to life? What is it that gives you access to the “good” life? Or the “successful” life? Or a “happy life”? What’s the key? How do you get access to that? There are all kinds of things to which people might point- having a successful career, having a good family life, having great health or a lot of wealth, what’s the key to life? While those things might be nice, none of those things are the key, because none of those things truly satisfy.
The Pharisees and experts in the law thought they had “the key” to life, but didn’t. The Pharisees and the experts in the law were very religious people. They claimed to strictly adhere to all of God’s laws and even added extra ones of their own. They were very highly respected by most people because they were so zealous for God’s laws. They were also the ones who taught God’s laws to the people. Well one of the Pharisees had invited Jesus over for dinner. Sounds innocent enough, but if you know anything about the Pharisees, you know what kind of terms they were on with Jesus. Did this Pharisee invite Jesus over to try to find some fault with Jesus? Perhaps- at least at the end of the account we’re told they were trying to find some fault with Jesus. And sure enough, a Pharisee is surprised that Jesus didn’t do the ceremonial washing- that was one of the laws the religious leaders had come up with.
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. “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.” You see, they totally abused God’s law. They had turned God’s law into a means by which they thought they could earn God’s love, earn eternal life. Instead of opening up the way to life, they were shutting it and hindering others from entering.
What about you? What if you or I had been sitting at that table with Jesus, what might he have said to you or me? You see, there’s a hypocritical Pharisee that resides in each one of our hearts. Deep down each one of us has this idea that if I’m just a good little boy or a good little girl God will have to love me. There’s a part of us that wants to treat God like Santa Claus – if I just stay off his naughty list and being a good boy or girl, God won’t have an option but to make things work out in my life. I deserve it. I’ve earned it.
But the door to real life, to eternal life is like a massive door with hundreds of deadbolts on it. And on each of these deadbolts are things like “Always generous, never greedy, always having proper priorities, never being hypocritical, always humble, total purity, always compassionate, always just, always kind, never selfish.” Do you have the key to unlock even ONE of those deadbolts? You see, there isn’t one sliver of your life or my life that isn’t totally corrupted by sinful motives, sinful attitudes, and imperfection.
But what did Jesus do? Sometimes love has to be tough. People often get the wrong idea that the opposite of love is anger. But that’s not true. If you really love someone, you’re going to get angry, you’re going to get angry about anything that threatens your loved one or your relationship to your loved one. The opposite of love is hate and the worst kind of hate is apathy, indifference. Jesus loves the Pharisees and the law experts enough to confront them with the truth of their sin. Jesus loves you like he loves the Pharisees. He comes with His law to shatter anything that threatens our eternal life, to demolish anything we might try to use to prop ourselves up with or make us think we’ve earned or deserved anything from God.
He shatters our pride with the law so we’ll appreciate the key of the gospel. The key of the gospel is the key of life, a meaningful life, a purposeful life, a good life. In fact, if you have this key- you have a blessed life whether or not your rich or poor, healthy or sick, popular or unpopular, have a lot of friends or have few friends. This key makes all the difference.
So what IS that key of knowledge? What is the key to a good life? What is the key to a successful, meaningful, purposeful life? What is the key to having peace with God?
It’s knowing that Jesus has accomplished our salvation 100% Himself. It’s knowing that Jesus has accomplished what you and I could not do. It’s knowing that God was willing to come to this earth in order to save us, and that He did it, He accomplished our salvation 100%. In other words, the key to having peace with God is … to wait in stillness for the Lord, as our hymn put it. To be still, and know that God is God, and that He loves us.
And Christmas says that to you. Christmas says to you, “Spiritually you’re a helpless, hopeless human being, if left on your own. But God hasn’t left you on your own. Instead, He’s come to save you. He’s come to rescue you. For look, there in the manger is your God.”
And there’s the key! And that key isn’t just for a meaningful life here; that key opens the door to eternal life! And that key … is YOURS! So wait for Jesus is sureness. Knowing that Jesus 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 sureness for Jesus, the one and only Key. Amen.