Summary: The church and many Christians in it are weak because of unconfessed, unforgiven sins.
Repent The Kingdom of Heaven is near Advent3 Matthew 3__1-12
Sun, Dec 16, 2007 Third Sunday in Advent
Repent! For the Kingdom of Heaven is near.
In the Gospels there were 3 major sects of Jews described. The scribes and Pharisees are the best known. The Pharisees were in league with the Romans. Their main concern was keeping the occupying Roman forces handy so that the Saduccees would be able to carry out their profitable commerce at the Jerusalem temple without being interrupted by reformers like John the Baptist.
The Pharisees are pictured as religious, righteous people. Many of the m followed Jesus. Why didn’t they accept John’s baptism?
The Baptism of John was a Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People were Baptized, confessing their sins.
Apparently, the Pharisees were unwilling to confess their sins.
We are not told exactly what reasons they gave to excuse their refusal to confess.
Perhaps some of them said, "I don’t have any really big sins to confess. I’m not that bad a person."
The Gospel of John records many confrontations between Jesus and the Pharisees who did not respond to John’s message of repentance. On one occasion, recorded in John 9. The narrative begins with a question from the disciples, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus responded neither, but God’s work will be manifest in him.” Jesus procllaimed that as long as He is in the world, He is the light of the world.” He healed the man, who was questioned by the Pharisees. The Pharisees held an inquisition, calling on the former blind man’s parents to affirm whether he was indeed blind from birth. Having established that was true, then they questioned the man carefully, two times and each time he said, “One thing I know, that though I was blind, now I see.” The Pharisees threw him out, not wanting to hear that God was working through Jesus. Jesus interviewed the man and asked if he believed in the Son of man. The formerly blind man repolied, “I believe.”
Jesus then gave a one sentence sermon:
“For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” The Pharisees heard this and asked, “Are we also blind?” Jesus said, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, “We see” your guilt remains.
Their proud refusal to accept either the warning of John the Baptist, “Repent for the Kingdom is at hand,” and their refusal to accept the clear evidence that God’s Messiah, the saving Christ was in their midst demonstrated willful blindness and their guilt.
If we, as the prayer book says, “cloke our wickedness”, deny or hide our broken relationships, our guilt remains. “However, if, as Scriptures say “We confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
We have heard many say, “I don’t believe any man has power to give forgiveness; only God can forgive sins."
Perhaps a few say, "I already attend worship frequently, so I don’t need confession."
To the Pharisees who refused to repent, John warned, "The axe is laid at the root of the tree." Destruction is coming. Repent. John called them a brood of vipers for their ways were poisonous leading others to destruction.
But whoever repents, Pharisee or other, will receive forgiveness, and not destruction.
And we, who sit here some two thousand years later: What about us?
When in the liturgy we are invited to confess, do we just go through the motions or do we truly and earnestly confess your sins, what do you say?
Perhaps we say, "I don’t have any really big sins to confess." Or maybe the opposite: "My sins are too big to confess."
Perhaps you say, "I don’t believe that this man has power to forgive sins." Well, I don’t wear camel-hair clothing, or eat bugs. But there’s always a way to get offended at a preacher.
Perhaps you say, "I don’t need to confess my sins to a man, because I can get forgiveness directly from God."
Scripture nowhere says that we get forgiveness directly from Him. He promises forgiveness in the Means of Grace, Word and Sacrament. To seek forgiveness where He has not promised it is to reject His promises.
Or perhaps you say, "I already attend worship, so I don’t need forgiveness. I confessed in the general confession in the Service, so I don’t need private confession."
That is an understandable point of view. The problem is, the general confession is not the same as private. It’s different to say, "I’m a sinner," than to say, "These are the specific sins that I’ve actually committed."