Jesus' Biggest Miracle
You have to be careful with the phrase "Jesus' biggest miracle." But in terms of my day to day life; in terms of some of my more difficult struggles, Jesus works His biggest miracle in this text.
It starts out with the familiar words, "No one can serve two masters." In other words a slave can only serve in one house at a time. These words are probably more lost to us than we imagine. Slavery has been abolished in our country for almost 150 years. None of us have even seen a master-slave relationship. The first Christians not only saw them, many of them lived them. They knew that no slave really could serve two masters no more than a person can live in two different houses at one and the same time.
Because the first hearers of Jesus understood what it meant to be a slave, they didn't make the mistake we do. They didn't turn Jesus' words into a command. "Thou shalt not serve two masters." When we hear it this way, we think that serving God and money, God and possessions, God and things is a sin we have to repent have, a habit we have to break, a wrong way we live that must change. But Jesus doesn't say, "Do not serve two masters." He says, "You cannot serve two masters."
"Don't fool yourself," says Jesus. "You're not able to serve two masters." You can only serve one at a time. You either serve God or Money as our insert translates. The Greek word mamona can mean money, but it has a broader meaning of treasures, riches, wealth, or possessions. And just because you give a percentage of your income to God even a big percentage doesn't mean you're exempt from this principle. All of us are serving either in the House of God or the House of Mammon.
The good news is that God has brought you into His House. God the Son brought His kingdom to you in His Person. Way back in Advent what was Jesus preaching? "The kingdom of heaven has arrived." God had promised David that He would build him a House that would last forever. Jesus was that House.
Of course, only perfect people, only holy people, only people with not only clean shoes but totally clean bodies can enter God's House. Jesus brought not only God's House to us but the cleanliness, the holiness, the righteousness necessary to get in. Having a Body in all ways like ours except without sin, Jesus lived a life of perfection. He didn't fear, love, or trust anything more than God the Father. He didn't worry incessantly like we do. The fires of lust and greed didn't burn within Him. He gladly heard, learned, and studied God's Word. He only served in God's House.
In order to get into God's House, you not only need the holiness that comes from keeping God's laws; you also need all your sins paid for. Jesus did this too. He was pitched out of the house by His own Father. In Lent we'll hear the Son plead with His Father for another way to get us into the House, but there was none. On the cross, the Father will turn His back on His only beloved Son refusing Him the protection, the love, the provisions of His house. And Sin, Death, and the Devil will give Jesus everything we have earned.
And that's good news for us. Jesus didn't need to keep the law or pay for sins in order to get into God's House. He was in already. He did those two things in order to bring us in. Look around you. This is your House now. Tell me in what other house have you ever been where slaves like you and I have angels for ministering servants? Tell me in what other house does Water well up constantly to wash away your sins? Tell me in what other house have you ever served where God speaks to you? Tell me in what other house have you ever been where you not only are invited to the Master's Table but He's the main dish?
But I've run too far ahead. Let me go back. In God's house, you're at least as valuable to the Owner as His pets, aren't you? How concerned are you with your pets? Do you feed them regularly? Do you care for them when they're sick? Do you sometimes get them a blanket when it's cold? God takes that good care of the birds of His House, and you're worth much more to Him than a bird. He didn't send His Son into the world as a bird to rescue birds but as a Man to rescue mankind.
And how do you keep your lawn? Do you mow it, water it, keep bugs out of it? Surely you plant some sort of flowers somewhere, don't you? God takes that good care of His lawn. You can't live in Texas and not be amazed at how God decorates His lawn with wildflowers every year. You're of much more concern to God than His lawn. One day God will not just throw the grass of the field into the fire but the whole field, farm, city, nation, and world. We are of so much value to God that He sent His one and only Son into the world to redeem us from this conflagration, to bring us into His House which the flames can't touch.
In the House that His Son shed blood, sweat, and tears to get us into, slavery is not the depletion of drudgery but the joy of reception. God declares in Psalm 81 that He is the God who brought us out of the house of slavery, and now He wants us to open wide our mouths so He can fill them with good things. Jesus declares in Matthew 20 that He came not to be served but to serve by giving His life as a ransom. So when Jesus says in our text that we are to seek first the Father's kingdom and His righteousness, He is not telling us they are hard to find. What you want to give someone, you don't make hard to find. No, He is telling us to go where these things are. They aren't in your possessions, health, job, or home; they are here in the House that Jesus built and brought you into.
Think through the Gospels. When does anyone feed Jesus, provide for Jesus, or give to Jesus? I know Luke 8 says that women travelled with Jesus and His disciples and they supported them. And at Epiphany the wise men brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh. I'm not saying that no one at anytime gave Jesus food or drink or clothes. What I am saying is that the Gospel's don't focus on that. Jesus feeds the 4 and 5 thousand. When the disciples come back from getting food in John 4 Jesus says He has food that they know nothing about. At the last Supper He gives the His Body for Bread and His Blood for Wine. At the cross, He is stripped of clothes to pay for our being clothed. He goes thirsty that we might be given drink.
Being a slave in God's House means receiving with open mouths all that Jesus has bought and paid for. This includes food, drink, house, home, land, animals, and all that I have. It includes body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members. It includes being guarded and protected from all evil by the service of angels. And all of these gifts are given to us without any merit or worthiness in us because of God's Fatherly divine goodness and mercy. In this House, unlike the orphanage of Oliver Twist, "More please," are sacred, blessed, words of thanks and faith.
We're almost to Jesus' biggest miracle. We're in the House He brought to us in His Person and brought us into by His work of redemption. And in this House miracles happen everyday. Think of Hogwarts School where the house is alive with all sorts of wonders. I already told you about the Water that flows here to wash away sins constantly, but I didn't tell you that this Water becomes clothes. The Father clothes the grass of the field with beautiful flowers, but He clothes the occupants of this House with Jesus' blood and righteousness by means of the Waters of Baptism.
When we find that we have strayed from this House to slave away in another house where we nearly worry ourselves to death over money issues, health issues, world issues, our Baptism remains pure and holy, a garment that cannot be ripped or torn. Confessing our sin of serving another master, we put back on our Baptism and Jesus' blood and righteousness covers us and we're back in His House.
When the Church was in the wilderness wandering for 40 years, God fed them with bread from heaven, gave them water from rocks, and made it so their clothes did not wear out. How much more does the Father do for those whom His Son has brought into the Promised Land of His House? He does miracles. Water becomes clothing and the Body and Blood of Jesus become our Food and Drink. Nothing at all we could sow would grow the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. There is no seed that yields His Body and Blood. These have to be given to us. They are given in this House, and they are given to sinners to eat, drink, and live forever.
Now Baptism and Communion are mighty miracles; I don't think you can say there are bigger ones then these. But there is yet one more miracle that Jesus does in this House that makes a big splash in my day to day life. In this House the miracle happens that the possessions that would master me, enslave me, and worry me, are no longer anything but my daily bread which Jesus tells me to ask the Father for and guarantees He gives. "You must serve me," thunders mammon, and in this House I can answer back, "No, I don't. In fact I'm going to eat you." The miracle is that in Jesus' House I can say that, and a bigger miracle still is that I do. Amen.
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
The Eighth Sunday after Epiphany (20110227); Matthew 6: 24-34