The Heavenly Father’s Will Is Revealed in Jesus
Eighth Sunday after Trinity
August 6, 2017
There are twenty-eight chapters in the Gospel according to Matthew. At every turn Matthew reveals who Jesus is, that He is God and man, that He is Lord and Savior. From the beginning the evangelist Matthew shows us that this baby born of the Virgin Mary is true God and the only Savior from sin. Part of how he shows this is from the words of Jesus Himself. In the first seven chapters we don’t see explicit words from Him of Himself being God and Savior.
But toward the end of chapter 7 and right before the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus is explicit. These are His words as we have them today in our Gospel reading:
Not many who say to Me, “Lord, Lord,” will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. Many will say to Me in that Day, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and cast out demons in Your name, and do many powerful works in Your name?” Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you. Depart from Me you workers of lawlessness!”
You and I believe Jesus is who He says He is. You and I hold to the Scriptures in their declaration that He is true God and true man, the only Lord and the only Savior. But imagine being there as Jesus spoke these words of the Sermon on the Mount. When He finished the people marveled because He taught as one who had authority and not as their scribes. You see, the scribes had a lot of wisdom, but it was their business to pass on what had already been spoken. Jesus was coming in here and teaching with authority. He was declaring, even, that He was true God!
Soon after the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel account, already in the seventh chapter, Jesus is looking ahead to the end. The Last Day. Judgment Day. He says that many will call Him Lord. They have deceived themselves. Jesus says they will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven. It’s sobering to think that many pastors in the Christian Church who call on the name of the Lord will not be with Him forever in heaven. Jesus says the reason, those who enter heaven are those who do the will of His Father who is in heaven.
But, but, Lord, they’ll insist, didn’t we prophesy in Your name? Didn’t we cast out demons in Your name? Didn’t we do powerful works in Your name? Don’t all those good things count for something? The hard truth is, they count for nothing. Doing the will of the Heavenly Father counts for everything. He casts them out. His judgment is stunning: I never knew you.
They were what Jesus calls false prophets. He warns us of them. They are not those who are outside the Christian Church but inside. They are not those who sit in the pews every Sunday but who preach from the pulpit. They appear as sheep but inside are ravenous wolves. They seek to kill not to protect.
So Jesus sounds the warning. Beware of them. They will appear good, godly, Christian pastors. But they are false prophets and will destroy your soul. Since you can’t know what is inside them, how will you know the faithful pastors from the false ones? Jesus says you will know them by their fruit. A good tree does not produce bad fruit and a bad tree does not produce good fruit. You don’t get grapes from thorns or figs from thistles. So you will know the unfaithful pastors by their fruit.
A prophet proclaims. Prophets preach the Word of God. This is the fruit they produce. The New Testament sounds an abundance of warnings of false teaching and preaching. There is a dizzying array of ways pastors proclaim false doctrine. It’s hard to know if what is being taught is true or false. It’s especially hard if what is being taught sounds right, has the right words, has the use of a lot of Bible passages. And if the pastor is loving, kind, energetic, has charisma, it’s really hard to determine if he is false prophet.
So what do we do? First and foremost, we need to be here. Week in and week out. We need to be here in the house of God where the Word of God is proclaimed in its truth and purity and the Sacraments are delivered to us according to Christ’s institution. We need to be fed by God Himself and this is the primary way He feeds us, in His Gospel and His Sacraments. The liturgy is not simply an order for a worship service, the liturgy takes the Word of God and brings us through the rhythm of God speaking to us and we hearing, we responding in thanks and praise and He giving more and more grace and forgiveness to us. We need to be here.
Being here in the Lord’s house is once a week, so the next thing we need is to continue to be in the Word of God. One can simply start at the beginning and keep reading through to the end, taking a chapter, or two, or more each day. Or one can use the Prince of Peace in Prayer sheet that has readings assigned to each day. Whatever seems to work for you, the important thing is that it is what you need. How can you discern true proclamation of the Word of God from false proclamation if you’re not even in the Word yourself?
Being in the Word in this way is either on your own or with your family or both. So the next thing we need is to continue even more to be in the Word of God, and that is why we have set time each week for Bible Study. Digging into the Word of God in this way opens up insight that you might not get only in personal reading and studying of the Word of God. It also provides an arena in which we can deal with specific things that are hard to discern when we’re just on our own. Along with studying the Bible with one another is being in conversation with one another about the Word of God. This builds us up.
These are things we need. On the other side is what we don’t need and what damages us. Don’t fill yourself up with teaching that is contrary to the Word of God. There are many books in Christian bookstores that have a lot of great sounding stuff about God’s Word but actually go against God’s Word. There are many televangelists who are great speakers and say a lot of good stuff but who do not finally and ultimately preach salvation in Christ alone. This is hard for each one of us because we all have family and friends who belong to other churches and some of those churches teach doctrine that is contrary to the Word of God.
This doesn’t mean that our family and friends are not Christians. Far from it. But we would do well to heed Jesus’ warning against false prophets and gently guide our family and friends to examine the teachings of their pastors against the Bible. One on one conversations with our family members and friends can be a great opportunity to dig into the Scriptures together to discern if what is being taught by a pastor is faithful to the Scriptures or not.
The warning Jesus gives to each of us is hard to hear. But the doctor who fails to warn their patient of impending disaster is a doctor who not only is not doing their job but also not acting in love. Jesus loves us. That’s why He warns us. And the warning to pastors? Pastors ought to take seriously that it is the will of the Heavenly Father alone that they ought to be doing. Not what he thinks people ought to hear or what they want to hear. The pastor will be judged by Jesus Christ Himself on the Last Day. This serves as an extra exhortation to us, as is brought out elsewhere in the New Testament, that we ought to pray for our pastors to be faithful the Word of God, not anything or anyone else.
When it comes down to it, each day you live you are a heartbeat away from your death. You do not know when you your life will end. On the Last Day you will stand before Jesus. He presents Himself in today’s Gospel reading as the Lord, God and man, Lord and Savior. As God, He is the Judge. He has revealed to us already, before we die, the will of our Father in Heaven. It is that Jesus Himself would come here where we are as God in the flesh. As He proclaimed, and as many faithful prophets and pastors have proclaimed, He is and always will be Christ Crucified. This is the will of His Father in heaven, that Jesus suffered on the cross for the sin of the world and salvation is in Him alone.
Jesus suffered a humiliating death on the cross, not a very popular message, and therefore not one often proclaimed. But it is the true proclamation of those our Lord has called to the ministry. It is the one we are by God’s grace given to hear and in which we know that there is forgiveness of sins. Amen.
Rev. Paul L. Willweber
Lutheran Service Book Lectionary: One-Year, Gospel
Prince of Peace Lutheran Church, San Diego, California