Audio and Text for Epiphany 3, 2017


God wants you to trust His authority.  God wants to strengthen your faith in His authority especially for vengeance.


17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12)


When we trust an authority to repay the evil that has been done to us, we’re more comfortable commending justice to them.


Justice is simple.  No one had to teach you justice as a child. “If they hit me, I hit them back.  An eye for an eye.”


But if your mom or dad says, “If they hit you, come tell me,” and if you trust them, because they love you and are good, You might find it a little easier to begin commending the case to them. “Fine!  You take care of it!  I’m going to go play lego’s, I guess.”  (“Begin” and “might” are emphasized you still want to hit back.)


If you trust a teacher, because they love you and are good, you as a student have a little easier time commending the bully’s actions to them.  If you trust the police, because they have been good, you as a citizen have a little easier time commending the crime to them.


What happens when you lose trust in authority?  “If they aren’t going to look out for me – if justice isn’t going to happen – if they’re getting off the hook – if good is punished and evil is rewarded – no one’s going to look out for number 1, then number 1 is going to have to look out for himself.”


So, why do we naturally desire vengeance?  When we are gossiped about, why do we want to gossip?  When we are on the receiving end of a selfish action of another, why do we want to act selfish back at them?  Anger for anger – yelling for yelling – critical comment for critical comment – “you’re going to ignore me, well then fine!  I’m going to ignore you!  Take that!”


Among other reasons, (pride, we enjoy hurting others sometimes, we are terrible judges quantifying how much pain someone caused us and how much pain we then should cause them, etc) we want to repay evil for evil we don’t trust God’s authority,


Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” as we should


We repay evil for evil – even to the people we love.  You don’t have to be thinking about enemies with this passage 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all, because evil is done against you by all who have evil in them.


Paul in Romans 7 speaks of the Christian life, For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. He knows our hearts and the hearts of those constantly surrounding us.  In our family, at our work, in our church – we have contrite and cleansed hearts that still have much evil in them constantly interacting with each other.


Instead “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12).


We can only begin to do this by hearing this – God loves you, trust Him.  Trust His authority.


Joseph, Old Testament Joseph, Jacobs son, one of the twelve sons Joseph, did – after being sold as a slave and left for dead, Joseph had a position of authority.  His brothers assumed vengeance would happen.  His brothers judged him so he would judge his brothers harsher.  Instead, 20 As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today (Genesis 50).

Joseph’s statement points out two things.  First, we can allow evil to happen to us, not repaying it, as God says elsewhere


  28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose (Romans 8).  That might mean not just your good, but the good of the one who sinned against you, as well.


Second, Joseph is considering others.  God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. 


We are called only to put up with evil done to us personally, but we called to not put up with evil done to others.  Instead, loving our neighbors as ourselves, stop the evil – gossip, physical or emotional harm.


Your Lord Jesus allowed great evil to be done to Him so that He would stop the eternal punishment that we even deserved.


But he was pierced for our transgressions;
he was crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,
and with his wounds we are healed (Isaiah 53).


Our sins are met with justice, but that justice occurs not upon us – condemned, unworthy of daily bread or health, unworthy of love – but instead met in the body of Jesus who receives God’s justice for our sin.  He kept commending vengeance to the Lord even as He received that vengeance for us.


Lord.  Your will be done.  I commend my spirit to you.  Father, forgive them!


We find in His wounds healing for the guilty conscience we have for the evil we have repaid, healing for our lack of faith to commend all things to Him.


I’ve said all that, so that you can hear the Gospel reading again.

“Lord, my servant is lying paralyzed at home, suffering terribly.” And he said to him, “I will come and heal him.” But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” 10 When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith (Matthew 8).


Jesus met a man with authority and this man believed Jesus had more authority.  He does.  Christ has been placed at the right hand of God, 21 far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come  (Ephesians 1).


In His authoritative seat, present here and now, Christ says come, and you come – to Him you gives you rest.  Christ says, “go,” and you go, in peace, sin forgiven, commending all things to him, opening your first.  Christ says, “Do this…in remembrance of me,” and you receive His body and blood, by His stripes, His authority we are healed.


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