In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
You must be like God. Forgive the unforgiveable. Be merciful to those who don’t give mercy. Do not condemn people but acquit them of their guilty deeds. Give graciously. Audaciously. Overflowingly. Do it.
But you can’t. You know you can’t. Telling you to do something you can’t do doesn’t make you able to do it, does it? For you have a log in your eye. You can’t see clearly to do the things you should.
You can’t. How can you do surgery on yourself? A log of wood in your eye is not something easily removed. This is an absurd idea Our Lord puts forward. If you actually had a log lodged in your eye-socket it would be killing you. To pull it out would mean instant death. That’s the point.
This is not merely exaggeration because Our Lord has a good sense of humour—which He does. He’s pointing out your problem with humour. But He is serious.
Your sin is deadly. If you leave it there it will kill you. It is impossible to help others remove theirs while yours remains. BUT if you try to remove your own sin it will kill you even faster than if you just leave it. And even when the Lord removes it it will still kill you.
But that’s good. For what you and I kill stays dead. But the Lord is the One who kills and makes alive (Deuteronomy 32:39. Killing the sinner, raising up the man of faith. He does it by lifting your log out of your eye. Nailing Himself to it. Killing Himself with your log. Covering it with His blood. It is no longer yours but His. It is no longer a deadly offense to God but a sign of His grace and mercy. For that log lifted from your eye is now a standard raised high of His holy, precious blood. A sign-post of His fatherly, divine goodness and mercy by which He saves you who are dead, with no merit of worthiness of your own.
He does this that you may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom, serving Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness (2nd Article: Small Catechism). For He Himself who died for your logs, rose for your life (Romans 4:25).
That’s the foundation of being a Christian: He saved you. He continues to save you. Why? So that you may live under Him and serve Him. He did it, not you. He removed your log. You are dead to it. You are alive without it. The you that struggles with that old log, who wants to caress that old log, who takes such comfort from stroking its rough grain, is not you. You are dead to that log. When that old zombie rears its log-eyed head you drown it in the waters of your Baptism. (Baptism—Fourth Question: Small Catechism) Which is to say, repent, admit you are a sinner. Admit that you can’t remove your own logs. You can’t even see that they are there. You don’t even know they are there half the time.
This is the problem with the Law—with every “do this” or “don’t do that” statement in the Bible—it makes a hypocrite of you. For you have a log in your eye. You are a blind man. You can’t see your own sin. It has so corrupted you that you are blind to it. And going around pointing out others sin without realizing your own does great damage to them and you and you’ll both end up in a pit of despair. For you are blind until Jesus gives you sight. Until He helps you see your own condition. But having seen it you repent and cry out, “Help me, Lord. For I am lost. I see my problem. And it’s bad. I can’t remove this log without killing myself.” So He kills you. Daily. And He raises you up in baptismal faith. Daily.
He does it. You don’t. That’s for your comfort and your security. He saves. Not your reason or strength. It depends on Him. Not you.
When you are blind in sin, you don’t realize what a hypocrite you are. How the reason you see their problem is that it’s your problem and you are seeing yourself in them. You hate that about yourself, but your sin has so blinded you to your own state that you hate it in them. And you don’t even realize that you are really hating what is killing you too. How can such a hypocrite ever help anyone?
But when you know the “speck” you see in them is the log killing you, when you know the surgeon who can kill and make alive, who can remove that log, and save a life—day after day, again and again—it changes everything. You see clearly, and can be merciful like your Father is merciful. For you are a sinner saved by Jesus just as they are. That’s clear sight.
I am a sinner. A saved sinner. I am no different than anyone one else. All others are sinners too. Jesus has died for their sins, just as He’s died for yours (1 John 2:2). So that you who can not do what the Law says to do now have a changed heart in faith and have the ability to be like God: forgiving the unforgiveable; being merciful to those who don’t give mercy; not condemning but acquitting people of their guilty deeds; giving graciously, audaciously, overflowingly. For you are not giving of yourself. It’s not you doing it. You are simply giving Christ to people. He is the One who is so gracious. He is one who gets the “speck” out of all of our eyes, killing them and you, and raising them and you to new life.
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON