Law or Prophets; I did not come to destroy [their] works but to totally complete [them].
18 For truly I say to you, until whenever the heaven and the earth should pass away, one dot
or one serif should by no means pass away from the Law, till whenever everything should
come into being.
19 Therefore whoever should take away one of the least of these commandments and should
teach men in this way, he will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever should
do and should teach [them], this one will be called greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
20 For I say to you that if your righteousness is not excessively more than that of the Scribes
and Pharisees, by no means should you enter the kingdom of heaven.
21 You have heard it was said to those of old, You will not murder and whoever should murder he
will be guilty and deserving of punishment.
22 And I say to you that anyone getting enraged with his brother will be guilty and deserving of
punishment; and whoever should say, “You empty-headed fool”, he will be guilty and
deserving judgement from the Sanhedrin; and whoever should say, “Moron/fool!” he will be
guilty and deserving of the hell of fire.
23 Therefore if you should bring your gift to the altar and there should remember that your
brother holds something against you,
24 leave your gift in place there before the altar and go first make peace with your brother, and
then go offer your gift.
25 Be coming to terms quickly with your accuser, while you are with him in the road, lest your
accuser should hand you over to a judge and the judge to the servant and He will throw you
26 Truly I say to you, by no means should you come out from there, until you have paid back the
In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Anger belongs to God. We get angry at injustice, especially when it is done to us or those we love. But lets face it, anger is not ours. Vengeance is mine saith the Lord. Though our consciences feel injustice in the world, though they are sensitive to it, we rarely have the right to do anything about it. For anger belongs to God. God gives the right to wield sword of justice to governments. This is why there are peace officers, armies, law codes, and law courts. But this is also why the statues often seen in court houses of lady justice with her scales are blindfolded. She is not to judge with her eyes, with her heart, with her biases of anger or love. She simply weighs the facts in the scales of justice. And she dispassionately metes out what is right according to the Law. For true anger against sin, which results in damnation, belongs to the Lord.
For the Son of God did not come to lighten your load by lessening the Law, by knocking a few hundred commands off the top. He came to complete the Law by living it to the full, every jot, every tittle, every dot and iota, every stroke of the pen. He utterly fulfilled, both the letter of Law and the spirit of Law. The Old Testament is so completely completed that a New Testament needed to replace it. A Testament built on Christ’s innocent suffering and death for all humanity.
So anger is God’s. It is not ours. It has been utterly poured out against God’s Son, bringing the Law with its penalties to an end. Now when we feel angry it should prompt us to pray. Pray for justice to be done. Pray for the poor and helpless to be saved and protected. Pray for healing for both those hurt by sin and those whose sin is destroying others. And having prayed, if it is in our power we should act to protect the innocent and the helpless, to stop those whose sin destroys others. But don’t act in anger, act in love for your neighbour and for what is good and right. For anger is not ours. It belongs to God for He alone is the judge.
This is why the Lord equates the action of murder with the action of uttering abusive, angry words. For to call someone a fool in the Bible is to call them an unbeliever. It is to say they are apart from salvation. For the fool says in his heart, “There is no God.” And since Jesus’ payment to the Father for sin sin is not what sends someone to hell. Unbelief in what the Triune God has done to reconcile you to Himself sends someone to hell. To call someone a fool in Bible times meant you were wishing them outside of salvation. You were wishing upon them eternal death.
Don’t we do that? Isn’t it a temptation to say that certain sins are too great to be forgiven? For instance Hitler, sexual predators, murders of children. We really don’t want them in heaven do we? Their sin is great to be sure. But is yours so much less? You have put yourself in the place of God. You have kicked God off His throne. You have wished people damned whom Christ our Lord shed His blood to save. Repent. They have destroyed the body. You would destroy their souls. Repent.
For your sin can not be reformed or rehabilitated. It can not be lessened by taking laws away. Every single moral law will remain until the end of time. All will be judged by the Father. Your sin is great. It lives in you and can only be dealt with by killing it.
This is what Our Lord did on the cross. The innocent One took all mankind’s sin on Himself at His baptism. He carried it to the cross and died for it. He put it to death by suffering the Father’s wrath against it. Justice has been satisfied within the Triune God Himself. Sin has been punished and dealt with. Now the Holy Spirit is sent to give Christ’s righteousness to you in Holy Baptism where you are put to death and raised to life a new man. A sinless man. A new Adam, a new Eve. Free from sin. Free from its claim over you. Free from the demands of the Law. For in Baptism you have a righteousness that surpasses that of every good man who has ever lived. You have Christ, the Son of God’s righteousness.
He is the Man who was killed by wicked men, by you and me, because He died to do away with our sin. We are guilty of that. We are guilty of His love for us. So now when the accuser, Satan, comes along tormenting you about some sin you have done, do not deny it. Admit it. For you are admitting that you believe Christ loves you, that Jesus Christ has done away with all sin. Your sin. Admit it so that you are not turned over to God the righteous judge. For though His Son has died for you if you stubbornly cling to your own goodness Christ’s righteousness won’t do you any good. And despite what Christ has done you will be sent to the eternal jail to pay off the debt your sins owe.
So simply admit—repent—that you are a sinner. For in doing so Christ is for you. His righteousness is yours. His death and resurrection are yours. Peace with God is yours. We need not hang onto anger. Instead we can reconcile with those who have sinned against us because Christ has paid your debt and that of all others. You can be gracious and forgiving. Not because justice gets done, not because what others have done to you didn’t hurt, but because in Christ all is made right. In Christ all evil doers are reconciled to the Father. In Christ you are reconciled to the Father.
Christ is the judge—not you—of whether someone has believed on Him or not. So do not wish damnation on others. Leave that to God. For He works justice by paying sin’s price in Himself. And He is good by not giving you what your sins deserve and in grace giving you what you don’t deserve.
In Jesus’ name, Amen.
—Pastor David Haberstock
Epiphany Lutheran Church
Thunder Bay, ON