The Eighth Sunday After Trinity August 10, 2003
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
15, 45, 448, 783
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us. For the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself also will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God. For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now. Not only that, but we also who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body. For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.
In Christ Jesus, the Savior who promises us glory after groaning—dear fellow redeemed:
I will trade you my rubber spider, my favorite marble, and my Roy Smalley baseball card for your Kirby Puckett card. Fair trade? How about if I throw in my Swiss Army knife that only has two tools broken? Fair trade?
I’ll trade you my tuna sandwich and the Twinkie in my lunch box for your peanut butter and jelly sandwich and your banana. Fair trade?
Undoubtedly, throughout our lives many of us have had the opportunity to trade all sorts of things. Some of the trades were probably rather trivial, such as one lunch for another; but some are quite significant. In any trade, one has to balance “what I’m losing” with “what I’m gaining” and evaluate the trade.
We trade all the time. We make decisions by putting them in the balance and evaluating them. Of all the trades ever made, the 2nd BIGGEST and #1 WORST trade ever made is that which Adam and Eve made in the Garden of Eden. They had a perfect knowledge of God. They had perfection in their bodies and in all the earth, but they traded it for what Eve had been deceived into believing would be a benefit, namely, knowing good and evil. After their sin, Adam and Eve did know evil which they had not previously known, but it was not good. It had been a foolish and disobedient trade.
Adam and Eve’s trade is only the 2nd biggest trade, though it is the worst. The #1 BIGGEST trade is also the #1 BEST trade and that is the “Great Exchange.” Jesus traded His holiness and righteousness to take upon Himself our sinfulness. He took that sinfulness to the cross, died for it there, and gives us His righteousness. “He who was rich for your sakes became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich!” (2 Corinthians 8:9)
The result of the “worst trade ever” together with the “best trade ever” leaves us where we are right now: GROANING FOR NOW in this life, but looking forward to GLORY FOREVER. With the Spirit’s guidance we will see that I. We and all creation groan under sin but II. We and all creation wait in hope.
Paul writes, “the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it in hope…For we know that the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.” [vv. 20a, 22]
The earth has been groaning in birth pangs and misery ever since the entrance of sin into the world. To better understand this groaning of creation itself, we need to go back further to the creation of the world. “God said, ‘Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit…and it was so…God said, ‘Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens…God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. And God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth…’ God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.” (Genesis 1:11ff)
God created the earth to abound, the plants to thrive and fill the earth bearing fruit, the waters of the earth to teem with the life God placed in them, and the animals to fill the earth. All of this was good. It was perfect.
When sin came into the world, God announced a curse upon the earth. We note that God did not directly curse Adam and Eve. He did not curse mankind because He was planning salvation for them. However, because of the sin which Adam and Eve had committed, the earth would be cursed for their sake. To Adam [God] said, “Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, ‘You shall not eat of it’: Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life. Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field. In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:17-19).
As amazing as things are in the earth right now, as abundant as so many things are, it is nothing compared to what used to be! The earth no longer bears the fruit that it was designed to bear. It now has weeds and thorns competing with the profitable plants. All of creation is subjected to futility. Everything on the earth now dies. Animals die, plants die, people die —everything on the earth dies. Everything goes through its life cycle and is done…gone. This is the earth groaning in the futility to which it was subjected, though not willingly. The creation of God had nothing to do with the sin. The sin lies fully on Adam and Eve, but as a result of that sin the earth groans under sin’s weight.
The droughts in parts of our country and throughout the world cause the ground to crack from dryness and crops to fail. It is the earth groaning under sin. Fires which devour acre upon acre of forest land, homes, and in some cases take lives are the earth groaning in its futility. The floods that destroy are the earth groaning. Earthquakes, volcanoes, tornadoes, hail—every natural disaster that destroys part of earth is part of creation groaning under this weight and burden of sin.
God would not have had to put this curse upon the earth. He could have left the earth perfect, but then we’d have no realization of the severity of sin. We would have no reminder of what sin really is. When we see all these examples of destruction, when we see the earth not bringing forth its full abundance, and hear the earth groaning under sin then we are reminded of just how serious sin is. We are reminded that since Adam and Eve fell we are all under the curse of sin living in a sinful world. The groaning earth is a lasting and vivid reminder of the weight of sin.
We also groan under that weight of sin. We become sick. We have trials. We cry. We bleed. And one day we will also die. We may have years upon years of failing health and misery. We may have sorrow of every kind. We may hesitate to even wake up in the morning out of apprehension of what the day might bring, and at the same time hesitate going to bed at night, knowing we probably won’t sleep. We continue to see the misery of sin and face its effects: the broken homes, the lost children, the family members with whom we’ve lost touch and with whom we no longer speak. Whatever it is that causes part of your life to be ripped by the seams from your heart, whatever it is that brings tears or pain to your body or soul, it is all part of groaning under the effect of sin.
We groan now in this sin tainted life, but there is glory awaiting us in heaven forever. Paul writes, “We also who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, eagerly waiting for the adoption, the redemption of our body.” [v.23] We, too groan, even as children of God, but we have the Holy Spirit as a guarantee as we await the redemption of our body and glorification in heaven.
In 2 Corinthians Paul writes, “He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who also has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. Who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory” (2 Corinthians 5:5). To the Ephesians he wrote, “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption” (Ephesians 4:30).
The Holy Spirit has come into your hearts with the Gospel and has worked in your hearts the faith to believe that Jesus died for your sin. Jesus has taken away the sin that has brought all this misery and burden to the earth. The Holy Spirit creates a deepening faith and seals you for salvation. He holds and preserves you in faith so that you have the confidence that “Yes, I’m groaning now, but there is glory forever!”
The Holy Spirit gives you confidence in the truth which Paul also expressed to the Corinthians: “For in this we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed with our habitation which is from heaven…For we who are in this tent groan, being burdened, not because we want to be unclothed, but further clothed, that mortality may be swallowed up by life” (2 Corinthians 5:2-4).
Paul describes our earthly bodies as a tent. Those of you have been camping know that a tent can blow away, even the best of tents can leak, and some day it has to be replaced. Our bodies, likewise, are temporary but we yearn to be clothed with a greater glory. When this earthly tent folds up and dies, that’s OK, because we have life with Jesus. “I am the resurrection and life. He who believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).
Paul describes a change that will take place on Judgment Day: “…in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye…the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed, and this mortal must put on immortality. So w For this corruptible must put on incorruption…” (1 Corinthians 15:52-53).
All of the weaknesses of this earthly tent and all of the miseries of this life under which we groan will, in a moment in the twinkling of an eye, be gone. At the resurrection of the dead, God will give us glorified bodies. Every part of sin’s burden in our bodies and lives will be gone for we will be perfected. We will be forever with our Lord seeing Him face to face (cf: 1 Thessalonians 4:17; 1 Corinthians 13:12). This is the glory that awaits us. This is the glory for which we hope, for which we yearn—longing to be clothed in immortality with death and misery and sin swallowed up by life.
In our text, Paul writes, “For we were saved in this hope, but hope that is seen is not hope; for why does one still hope for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance.” [vv.24-25]
We’re groaning now, but we wait in hope. It is a certain hope. We may grow weary in waiting, but as Paul says, we are saved in this hope—the confidence that Jesus did die for our sins. The confidence that Jesus now lives and we too will live with Him forever.
Hope that is seen is not hope. If the glory of heaven is our hope, then it stands to reason that in this life we aren’t going to have that glory. If the joy and pain-free life with Christ in heaven is our hope, that is not going to be the reality while we’re living in this sinful earth. No matter what the groaning may involve here, the HOPE stands SURE and is STRONG.
Putting our confidence in God’s promise of glory will not lead to shame or disappointment (cf. Romans 5:1-15). It leads to eternal glory with Him in heaven. Do we see it now? No, but such is the nature of hope. Such is the nature of faith (cf. Hebrews 11:1).
Paul began by saying, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” [v. 18] In earthly trades, one party may scoff at the proposal of a trade because the imbalance is so great. Such is the thought that Paul conveys. When we are in the misery, when we are groaning in this life, it is BIG. It is SORROWFUL. It is REAL. But no matter how deep that suffering might be, it cannot even be compared to the glory that awaits us. What confidence, what joy this gives you for your life. Yes, this world may be miserable. There may be times when you are groaning inwardly and outwardly and don’t know where to turn or what to do, and you wonder “God, how long will you let this continue!?!” How long He will allow your groaning to continue, we do not know. How long your glory will continue, we do know, for God promises we shall be with Him forever! (cf: 1 Thessalonians 4:17). Amen.
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