A Rebel Without Rebellion
3/3/04Times New RomanArial
Tonight we look at the greatest of the last 7 commandments. That's what we say in our Large Catechism. The 4th is the first and greatest of the remaining Commandments. It doesn't seem that way. The 5th and certainly the 6th seem more serious than the 4th. Not to our Large Catechism. It spends 10 pages on the 4th Commandment, but only 3 each on the 5th and 6th. In fact, we say in the Large Catechism that "the world is now so full of unfaithfulness, shame, misery, and murder...because all want to be their own lords, to be free from all authority." The desperate straights of our world today is not because there's a breakdown of the 5th or 6th commandments but because there's a breakdown of the 4th.
But it doesn't seem like that big of deal to us. We Americans in general have a low view of authority. It's a heavy, oppressive thing to us. "Nobody tells me what to do," I've heard so many people, mostly men," proudly say. We think nothing of disobeying or just plain ignoring someone whom the Lord has placed over us.
Look in the Passion reading. Jesus tells them, "This very night you will all fall away on account of me." Peter says, "No you're wrong. I won't." Jesus, whom Peter confessed to be His Lord and God, replies, "Not only will you fall away from me, but you will disown me 3 times." Proud, rebellious Peter, says, "I'll never do that." Peter wasn't honoring, serving, or obeying authority, was he? Later in Gethsemane Jesus orders them, "Stay here and keep watch with Me." Jesus isn't asking but commanding. But the disciples blow Jesus' words off not just once but several times and snooze away.
Peter and the other disciples have no regard for the authority of Jesus. They rebel against Jesus'authority, and why? What cause do they have for rebellion? Had Jesus used His authority to hurt them? Had He gave them cruel commands? Had He humiliated them? No, and is it any different with you? Aren't you too a rebel without a cause for rebellion? We act like God has given us parents and other authorities to hurt us. Standing under authority - obeying our parents, respecting governing officials - is slavery to us. When a teenager rebels against our authority, we instantly see how foolish they're being - acting like we were put on this earth just to make them miserable. But when we view those in authority over us the same way, we're being independent, self-reliant, asserting ourselves.
What should happen when kids rebel against parents? Every good parent knows there must, I mean MUST be consequences. A parent can turn a blind eye to failures in responsibility. So what if he forgot to take out the trash; okay, so she forgot to vacuum. But a parent can never turn a blind eye to a breach of authority. As Luther traced the breakdown of society to a failure to recognize authority, so every parent knows his or her home cannot stand where parental authority is not respected. Therefore, good parents discipline every breach in authority. Yet, parents, even good parents don't think God does the same thing.
In our sinfulness, we're no more than teenagers. We believe we're only under authority to those we think we should be insofar as we agree with them. Pick up a Small Catechism; look at the Table of Duties. There you'll find it otherwise than you think. God has placed wives under husbands, and husbands under Christ, and wives and husbands under government and Church giving in Scripture definite duties and responsibilities to all. Yet, we just don't care. Wives submit to husbands as long as they feel like it; husbands submit to Christ when they agree with Him, and both pick and choose which things of Church and State they feel like submitting to. And just as a teen doesn't think it's any big deal when he says, "No," to mom or dad, so wives, husbands, citizens and Church members don't think it's any big deal to say, "No," to those the Lord has placed over them.
We don't think God can or will do anything about it, do we? That sassy teen will be grounded, can be slapped, will be shown what it means to rebel against God-given authority, but we don't think God can or will do anything to us. We're wrong. God can not pass by a breach in His authority anymore than a good parent can. God will hold each of you accountable for every time in your life that you rebelled against legitimate authority.
Don't you people read your Bibles? What happened to the sons of Korah when they rebelled against Moses? What happened when Adam listened to Eve instead of God? What happened to Absalom for rebelling against his king and father? Samuel, on the other hand, was rewarded for honoring Eli even though Eli was a wicked high priest. David was rewarded for honoring King Saul even though the man repeatedly tried to kill him. But you think you're going to be rewarded for being independent and go unpunished for rebelling against authority. You think it's a real strength of yours that you don't let anyone tell you what to do. Well, if that's true, rest assured you will go to hell. More than that, don't expect anything to go well for you in this life. Look for disease, poverty, judgment in this life if you don't recognize the authority the Lord has placed you under.
If you're proud, cocky, self-assured over against God-given authority, then look to be humbled, broken, and demeaned by God - that is if God is going to save you. That's right. For God to save us, He must break us. He must break us of thinking it's okay to be rebels without a cause for rebellion, so He might lead us to embrace Jesus who was a rebel without rebellion.
Contrary to popular opinion, Jesus wasn't a rebel against authority. The view that Jesus was some sort of revolutionary is just not Biblical. Eighteen years of Jesus' life, from ages 12-30 are hidden under the words, "Jesus went down unto Nazareth and was subject to His parents." In our text Jesus clearly denies being any sort of rebel: "Am I leading a rebellion that you have come out with swords and clubs to capture Me?" No, Jesus didn't lead a rebellion, but He was punished, tortured, and put to death as a rebel not only against men but against God.
In our text, we see what rebellion really costs, but we find Jesus not us paying for it. What overwhelms Jesus' soul to the point of death is the punishment due my rebelling even though I regard it as petty. Think how much it would take to overwhelm the perfect Man who was also God. Jesus doesn't stride into Gethsemane and say, "I'll be praying over here." No, the wrath of God over my disobeying of my parents; my breaking of the law; my failure to listen to God-given authority overwhelms Jesus and He collapses. The Book of Hebrews says Jesus was loudly groaning and crying that the cup of judgement I deserve to drink might pass by His lips, but it didn't.
How much agony, how much wrath, how much judgment, would it take to press blood through the pours of the God-Man? What a horrible weight Jesus must have been bearing if an angel from heaven had to be sent to strengthen Him? Doesn't this unnerve you? It should. I remember in Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training our company commandeer was a Green Beret Vietnam veteran. When the "enemy" interrogators broke him, and he stood before us with tears running down his face, we all trembled. If they could do that to him, what could they do to us?
Friend, you can't bear the just judgment that your rebelling without cause is due. You won't say, "My soul is overwhelmed to the point of death," you'll drop dead. You won't collapse to the ground under the weight of God's just judgment, you'll be pile-driven all the way into hell. Blood won't be pressed from your pours; your head will implode. Not even 10,000 angels could give you enough strength to bear God's judgement for your rebelling without a cause. No, only Jesus can bear the punishment you deserve and so save you from it.
In His wounds, in His suffering find forgiveness for your sins against the 4th Commandment. Find relief from feeling that your sins will cause you sickness, cancer, heart disease and death in the fact that Jesus' soul was overwhelmed to the point of death. Find relief from the punishment you deserve for turning your nose up at God-given authority in Jesus saying "Thy will be done" and drinking the cup of wrath He neither wanted to nor deserved to. Find relief from the fear that you have hell to pay for your rebelling against authority in the fact that Jesus surrendered Himself to your punishment when He allowed them to arrest Him for crimes He didn't do.
Do you see all that Jesus has endured for you? He suffered as a rebel against God and man though He never rebelled against either. Now, do you think One who willingly suffered so gruesomely in your place, could ever, I mean ever, have it in for you? If someone had risked their life to save you, would you ever expect bad things from them? How much more Someone who gave His blood, His sweat, His tears, His life to save you!
Therefore, the authority the Lord has placed me under whether in home, Church, or State can only serve my eternal good. It can't be that the Jesus who endured so much punishment in my place at the hands of authority could place me under authority to harm me. I must need the family I have, the Church I have, the State I have. I obviously couldn't have saved myself. Jesus had to come and save me. So if I receive salvation from His hands, why not receive authority from His hands as well. If I can with joy say, "Amen," to Jesus giving me His Body, His Blood, His suffering, His Dying, I can say "Amen," to whatever He sends me in the way of authority. Well, what if authority should harm me? The One who answered for my sins will surely make any authority that should harm me answer as well. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Midweek II (3-3-04); 4th Commandment