Pastor Scott Jonas
Glendale Lutheran Church
Jesus is Greater than the Law
One of the themes in Hebrews is “Confidence.” We are going to explore having “Confidence” this morning. Hebrews 10:19 says, “Therefore, brothers and sisters, since we have confidence to enter the holy Places by the blood of Jesus..let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” Confidence. What is it? Where do we get it? How do we keep it?
As I prepared for this sermon, I did some introspection. I tried to figure out if I am “Confident.” One definition is “a Feeling of self-assurance arising from one’s appreciation of one’s own abilities.” That’s not me, even in the things in which I have some ability. I play tennis but I’ve been 6-0, 6-0d before. I preach but I’ve been taught by master preachers who put my skills to shame. I love movies but there are nerds out there who love movies more than I do. I am not confident in my own abilities when I compare myself to others.
How about you? Are you a confident person? Do you brim with self-assurance? Do you get in any situation and think, “I got this.”? Like the disciple Peter. I dare you to follow Jesus. Peter approaches the rabbi. I dare you to step out of the boat. Confident Peter approaches the water. I dare you to go from house to house sharing your faith. Confident Peter approaches the door and says, “I got this.” Few of us are like Peter. He is a specific type of Personality. Maybe that’s not you. How do we gain the confidence of Hebrews chapter 10?
It’s not by the law. The Law does not give us confidence. By the standards set out in the Bible, you and I are most miserable. If we read the commandments the way Jesus read them then we are in trouble. Last week’s Gospel lesson didn’t sound very Godspely. If your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off? Jesus is not eliminating the law there. He is showing us our lack of confidence before the law.
Hebrews 10 says that we are to draw near or approach God with confidence. So I tried to think of examples of people approaching Jesus. Maybe this will help us understand what kind of confidence we need.
In studying “confidence” in the Bible, here is what I discovered, “Confidence is the sweet spot between Arrogance and hopelessness.” In other words, the path God calls us to has two ditches of folly. On one side we must beware of arrogance. One the other side we have to avoid hopelessness. Let me explain.
First we have the arrogant approachers.
Matthew 15, the Pharisees and the scribes came to Jesus and askes “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders?” Jesus asked them ,”Why the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?”
Matthew 16, the Pharisees and the Sadducees approached Jesus to test him and ask for a sign. Jesus said, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks a sign and left.
Today’s Gospel, Matt 19, the Pharisees approached Jesus to test him asking “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” Jesus rebuked them saying, “Because of your hardness of hearts Moses allowed you to divorce.”
These are examples of arrogance. They approach Jesus in order to tear him down or make him perform. So they get a harsh reply in return. Their hearts are hard. They aren’t open to a miracle. They aren’t trying to grow their faith. They aren’t desperate for help. They are looking for loopholes in the Law. Or they actually are delusional to believe that they are fulfilling the law. The don’t realize that they are talking to the Law’s creator. They exude arrogance. Jesus is greater than the law they are debating.
Even when the Pharisees approached Jesus, it was a good thing. Though their intentions were sinful, the interaction gave Jesus an opportunity to correct them. They came arrogant but some left humbled. Jesus came to lift up the desperate and humble the arrogant.
The worst thing you can do is not approach Jesus at all. If you separate yourself from Jesus and his people then you will lose confidence. You will fall into a hopeless isolation. Jesus doesn’t want that. I don’t wat that. We don’t want that.
But there are plenty of positive examples of people approaching Jesus in the Gospels.
Matt 8, a leper approaches Jesus, kneels and says, “Lord, if you will, make me clean. Jesus stretched out his hand, touched him and said “Be clean and immediately he was cleased.”
A centurion came approached Jesus and said my servant is paralyzed suffering greatly. Jesus said I will come and heal him.
Matt 9, blind men approached Jesus and said nothing. He said “Do you believe that I can do this? They said “Yes, Lord. And he touched their eyes and they opened.
Matt 17, a man approaches Jesus and kneels before him saying, “Lord have mercy on my son, he has seizures and suffers greatly. Jesus said bring the boy to me and he healed him.
Luke 8, Jairus, the ruler of the synagogue, fell at Jesus’ feet and implored him to come to his house. Jesus went and healed his little girl.
Mark 7, a woman came and fell at Jesus’ feet and begged him to cast a demon out of his daughter. Jesus defeated the demon.
These are examples of men and women who approached Jesus and he had compassion on them. Do they sound self-assured? No. They sound desperate. They have exhausted all other remedies. They or a loved one is suffering and they have nowhere else to go. Whatever confidence they have in themselves is long gone. They are drawn to the power and reputation of Jesus. They aren’t arrogant. They don’t pretend that they have all the answers. They don’t try to trick Jesus. They aren’t hopeless. If they were, they would be curled up in a ball somewhere. Instead they are bold enough to act. They find out where Jesus is and they approach him.
This is a very vulnerable act. Imagine approaching a stranger, revealing your greatest pain and begging that person to help you. That might be desperate but it is also bold. That takes guts. It is easier to escape into your own misery. But God made these men and women brave enough to approach Jesus.
Hebrews is trying to tell us that we can approach Jesus just like the unclean woman or the blind man. The Law no longer separates us from the Holy one. We can have zero confidence in ourselves and still kneel before Jesus. We may be poor miserable sinners but we are not hopeless. We may be desperate but we have confidence. The world has no answers. We can be confident not in ourselves but in our savior.
I had a sister in Christ who loved it that we prayed for a miracle for Debbie Toney. This faithful woman applauded boldly approaching Jesus and asking him to defeat Debbie’s cancer. That is the confidence we have in Christ. We can go to God with an outrageous request and know that Jesus loves our boldness.
Sometimes Jesus doesn’t give us what we want. He might not heal Debbie as we ask. But he is a good father who welcomes his children to run up to him, crawl up into his lap and tell him our heart’s desires. If we have confidence in him as our savior. He will not rebuke us. But he will do what is best for us.
Jesus’ death and resurrection establishes a relationship between us and the Father. In that have confidence.