A Heart Thing”
6th Sunday After Epiphany – Series A
February 13, 2011
United in Christ Lutheran
David E. Daniel
mercy and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus
Valentine’s Day is celebrated tomorrow. My daughters are ready. They
have filled out all of their valentines for their classmates and
valentines are fairly simple and innocuous, as they should be at the
age of someone in grade school. But this year, I did notice
that one of my daughters was careful not to pick certain valentines
for the boys... you know the ones that actual say that you like
them. Rather the message should be one of you “gave this valentine
out of obligation since the whole class is passing them out.” It’s
an “obligation” thing rather than a “heart” thing. Better to play it
safe than deal with any matters of the heart at this tender age...
and Dad is relieved.
and matters of the heart can be complicated things. Our relationship
with God is very much a matter of the heart—not the romantic
valentine heart, but the spiritual heart that makes you His or not
His. In our text today, Jesus is responding to people who felt a
right relationship with God was a matter of etiquette or rules, of
behavior or outward things... obligations. He teaches us instead
that true righteousness is in the heart.
demands that we have pure hearts. There is no weakening of the
Law. We heard this last week as we read more of St. Matthew’s Gospel
account of the Sermon on the Mount where Christ tells us that he
came not abolish the Law but to fulfill it! In the Sermon on the
Mount, Jesus was addressing a culture that based its view of
righteousness on outward actions—much as ours does
Jesus day, the Scribes and Pharisees had expanded the law with many
more rules and regulations. In doing so, they reduced the Law to
simply a list of do’s and don’ts that could be kept. Their thought
was that their keeping of the Law would make them righteous before
God. So the more do’s and don’ts the merrier. But Jesus says,
“unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and
Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”
says instead that the heart is where the Commandments are kept. He
then proceeds to list a few commandments.
Fifth Commandment: “You shall not murder.” The
Pharisees had reduced this commandment to the obvious law they could
keep quite nicely. But Jesus says the heart of the commandment is
what’s in the heart.
“But I say to you that everyone who
is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever
insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says,
‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. So if you are
offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother
has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar
and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer
your gift.” (Matthew 5:22–24).
most of us have never killed somebody, but how perfectly do we love?
Do we become selfishly angry, do we insult, do we hold grudges?
These are just as sinful as something done with a gun or knife. It’s
a matter of the heart.
continues in His sermon with the Sixth Commandment, “You
have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit
adultery.’” (Matthew 5:27).
society in Jesus’ day was very lax on the sanctity of marriage. But
Jesus says the Sixth Commandment is not simply a matter of outward
acts of extramarital sex; it’s a matter of the heart. “But I
say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent
has already committed adultery with her in his heart. “It was also
said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of
divorce.’ But I say to
you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of
sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a
divorced woman commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:28,
Jesus is not just speaking of affairs that can been seen or have
taken place, but affairs of the heart that are sinful—wandering eyes
or divorce just because we’re not getting along. These are just as
sinful as open acts of adultery, because they’re examples of not
loving our spouses from the heart.
next commandment Jesus addresses is the Eighth Commandment,
“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You
shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have
sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by
heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his
footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King.
And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair
white or black. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything
more than this comes from evil.” (Matthew
Pharisees had developed an elaborate code determining that some
oaths you really had to keep, while others you could let slide.
Their purpose was to allow deceit... to leave wiggle room... a
solemn outward appearance while lying in the heart. Any lie is
sinful, whether it’s given the deceit of an oath or not. Taking an
oath can’t make a deceiving heart pure.
must be more righteous than just an outward keeping of the Law. True
righteousness must be in the heart. When the heart is pure, it will
never produce selfish anger, insults, grudges, lust, divorce, lies.
How well have we done with that?
our hearts are not pure!
it doesn’t seem fair! We can keep from killing or having affairs,
but we can’t control all those little sins that pop out of the
heart. The heart always slips—generates selfish thoughts, lets our
tempers snap or words slip out. And, hey, our eyes are
open—temptation just jumps in! Surely we can’t be responsible for
says we are responsible! “If your right eye causes you to
sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose
one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell.
And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it
away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that
your whole body go into hell.”
isn’t saying we should literally blind or maim ourselves. He’s
telling us to stop making excuses! It’s not eyes or hands that make
you sin. It’s the heart that causes sin. To be righteous, the heart
has to be repaired. You know, even the smallest sin proves our
hearts aren’t pure, and Jesus demands a pure
be to God, that He doesn’t leave us there in despair. Through Christ
Jesus, He gives us pure hearts. The blood of Christ purifies every
physical heart is a most valuable organ—providing that there’s blood
in the body to pump. It is the blood of Christ flowing through the
spiritual heart that makes it righteous. That blood was shed on the
cross. It is the blood that was shed for us and It is the same blood
we receive in Holy Communion.
blood... Christ’s blood... gives us righteousness that exceeds that
of the Scribes and Pharisees. By it, all of our sins— the big
outward ones and the small ones in the heart—are completely washed
Jesus Christ went to the cross and suffered our punishment... our
death penalty, His blood paid for every murder and every harsh word,
every affair and divorce and every look that was a little too long,
every perjury, and every promise we broke.
you say, “Okay Pastor, but I still sin. I still have those thoughts.
My heart must still be corrupt.” Well, it is true; we still must
deal with that old sinful-self... that Old Adam. Our hearts are
corrupt, yet even though, our hearts are corrupt, God declares them
righteous. He declares our sins forgiven!
blood gets our hearts pumping again... spiritually. His blood makes
us alive when we were dead. It gives us eternal life.
also doesn’t leave us in that that old corrupt state, He sends the
Holy Spirit to transform our hearts. We sing it every Communion
Sunday, from Psalm 51, “Create in me a clean heart, O God,
and renew a right spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).
the Holy Spirit, King David is the author of this beautiful Psalm.
sDavid knew his sinfulness and the Spirit’s promise to change him.
By his God-given faith, David trusted in that promise that the Lord
would change his heart.
our God-given faith in Christ a radical change occurs in us... the
Holy Spirit creates a new heart, a new spirit in us. That Spirit
which you receive in your Baptism is the one who is continually at
work in you and for you. The new heart really is righteous and pure,
even though it’s living alongside what remains of our old sinful
one. The Holy Spirit also lives in us, so that our hearts are
constantly communing with him.
same Spirit of God enables our hearts to produce pure actions. The
sinful nature continues to sin. But the new God-given heart does
love my neighbor, honors my spouse, and treats others with honesty
and integrity. This righteousness comes from the heart and
everything the new heart produces is from faith in Christ. The Holy
Spirit is the One who makes even our simplest acts more righteous
than all the external righteousness of the
righteousness before God is always a matter of the heart. And by His
blood and His Spirit, Christ has resolved that matter—in our
Jesus Name, Amen