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Ash Wednesday (no audio)

March 6, 2019 Speaker: Murray Keith Series: Lent

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†††In the Name of Jesus†††

Pastor Murray Keith

Text: Joel 2:12–19; 2 Corinthians 5:20b–6:10; Matthew 6:1–6, 16–21

Date: March 6th, 2019; Ash Wednesday 

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

  • We have begun the holy season of Lent.
  • During these forty days of Lent, traditionally God’s people have practiced the disciplines of prayer and fasting and almsgiving.
  • Jesus talked about these disciplines in our Gospel reading for this evening.
  • “When you fast,” Jesus says, “do not be like the hypocrites.” 
  • Note that Jesus says “when” - not “if”, you fast…..
  • Our Gospel reading is from the Sermon on the Mount, which is a very popular portion of Holy Scripture. 
  • But it’s a part of the Bible that can make us uncomfortable when we dig a bit deeper into it.
  • Because once you consider the Sermon on the Mount in more depth - you realize that Jesus isn’t just a good teacher - he’s an unyielding taskmaster. 
  • Sure, the Beatitudes are nice, but then Jesus starts talking about the Law.  
  • He warns his disciples not to relax the Law by even one tiny dot. 
  • So, to avoid relaxing the Law, Jesus launches into a six-fold intensification of the Law—“You have heard that it was said . . . but I say to you”.
  • With these words Jesus comes across as such a legalist, such a hard-nosed dictator with the Commandments. 
  • And that culminates in this standard of just how well you need to obey the Commandments: “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48). 
  • That’s what precedes Jesus teaching that we heard tonight: “when you give to the needy . . . when you pray . . . when you fast” - do not be like the hypocrites.
  • The giving to the needy and prayer part of this list we are comfortable with.  But most of us are less so with the fasting part.  
  • Fasting is not something that we are accustomed to in our circles. And yet, “when you fast,” Jesus said.  Not if.
  • Fasting involves hunger. 
  • Fasting means abstaining, not just from diet sodas or chocolate bars for forty days, but from food. 
  • Properly done, fasting leaves your belly aching. 
  • What does a rumbling belly have to do with our piety, with our Christian devotion?
  • This leads to our theme for our midweek Lenten services this year.
  • “Behold the man!”; Jesus, the God-man. 
  • As Pontius Pilate trotted out before the jeering crowds a freshly flogged Jesus wearing a crown designed to inflict suffering and a faux-royal robe intended to invite ridicule, he preached an unintentional, yet profound, sermon: “Behold the man!” (John 19:5). 
  • Taking his advice, that is what we will do throughout this season of Lent that commences tonight. “Behold the man!”
  • In Jesus, God is man. The Word has become flesh. Like you. God is your Brother.
  • The One begotten of the Father from all eternity is now the One born of the Virgin Mary. He is your Lord. 
  • Behold the man! 
  • Just like you, He has skin and bones, blood vessels and lymph nodes, teeth and hair, heart and lungs, blood and saliva, hands, feet, eyes, lips, tongue, stomach, spleen, and epiglottis. 
  • Behold the man! 
  • He eats. He breathes. He walks. He sleeps. He prays. He weeps. He laughs. He bleeds. He dies. He rises. He ascends. He sits. And he will come. 
  • He is completely human and completely divine, two perfect natures in one indivisible person. He has fingerprints and DNA. Behold the man, Jesus, your Brother.
  • Unlike you, though, He has no sin. His human nature is perfect, unspoiled by Adam’s rebellion. 
  • He was tempted in every way, just as you are - yet he is without sin. 
  • His desires were never distorted into lust, greed, coveting, or idolatry. 
  • Behold the man! 
  • So why fasting?
  • Jesus fasted. 
  • The Gospel for this coming Sunday places Jesus in the wilderness, following his Baptism, fasting for forty days, being tempted by the devil.
  • That shouldn’t be noteworthy to say that God hasn’t eaten for forty days. 
  • Eating is not something natural to God. But, behold the man! 
  • Behold the God who took human flesh in the virgin womb of a Jewish girl. 
  • Behold the unborn baby, being nourished for nine months in his temporary, earthly throne room.
  • Behold the crying infant, wanting to fill his newborn stomach. 
  • Behold the toddler to whom his parents introduced new foods - all of which he created.
  • Behold the boy, eating the Passover lamb with his extended family. 
  • Behold the man, God in human flesh, who needs to eat in order to live. 
  • And now, behold the man, who has not eaten for 40 days.
  • Behold the man, the incarnate God, the man who fasts for you. 
  • The First Adam sinned by eating. The Second Adam fasted before enduring an onslaught of temptation, withstanding every one. 
  • Jesus fasted for you. 
  • Jesus endured temptation and never sinned so that he could be the man to redeem the world, the Creator who would ransom his creatures, God who could give his life for sinners, for you.
  • So fast freely.  Fast to discipline and chasten your flesh. 
  • Fast so that, as you learn to control your belly, it will give you discipline to control the other parts of your flesh as well. 
  • Fast and let the rumbling of hunger teach you that your belly is not your God. 
  • Pray until you realize that your schedule is not your God, your time is not your own, and your daily bread does not come from the work of your own hands. 
  • Give alms, tithe, give offerings, and give money until you know down in your gut that money is not the source of your security or happiness…. 
  • Behold the man who fasted, prayed, and gave alms perfectly for you. 
  • His rumbling stomach, His hunger pangs, are your comfort in temptation. 
  • His flesh is your hope. He succeeded where you have failed. 
  • Behold the man!…
  • And then break the fast. Eat. Drink. 
  • At his altar, veiled in bread and wine for his disciples to eat and drink for the forgiveness of their sins, with his flesh as true food and his blood as true drink -  behold the man! 
  • Let the growling of your belly in Lent - and anytime - lead you here, to the place where the Lord bids you to fast and hunger no more. 
  • Here is food that endures to eternal life, drink that quenches your deepest thirst. 
  • Here at his altar is the man who gives himself to you to eat and to drink for the forgiveness of your sins, for the strengthening of your faith, for the enabling of your fervent love for one another, for the salvation of your flesh. 
  • In bread, in wine - behold the man!  Amen.

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The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

More in Lent

April 19, 2019

Good Friday

April 18, 2019

Maundy Thursday

April 7, 2019

The Fifth Sunday in Lent