Lent 5 April 2, 2017


Lenten Contrasts #5: Justice and Mercy

2 Corinthians 5:21

Scripture Readings

Genesis 14:8-20
Ephesians 2:1-10
John 12:27-36


154, 145, 171:1-5, 171:6-9

For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

Prayer for the 5th Sunday in Lent: Almighty God, by Your great goodness mercifully look upon Your people that we may be governed and preserved evermore in body and soul; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.


In Christ Jesus, Dear Fellow Redeemed:

For twenty years, NBC produced a television show called, “Law and Order.” It was your typical court room drama show, seen through the eyes of the police and the district attorney. Sometimes the show ended with the D.A. standing on the steps of the court house talking to reporters. If he got the conviction and the bad guy was on his way to prison, the D.A. might have said, “I feel justice has been served.” He meant that the person he felt committed the crime received his just punishment.

Over the last few weeks, in considering our Lenten Contrasts, we have considered the guilt of mankind. We have heard that All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (Romans 3:23). It does not take a lawyer to tell us what we are charged with, for God’s Word is clear: The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth. (Genesis 8:21); To him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin. (James 4:17); You were dead in your trespasses and sins. (Ephesians 2:1); We have not obeyed the voice of our LORD God, to walk in His laws, which He set before us by His servants and prophets. (Daniel 9:10)

With our guilt clearly laid out in the law of God, it doesn’t take a jury to decide what the verdict should be in order that justice might be served. Again, God’s Word is clear: Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. (Romans 3:19)

Guilty of sin, we deserve God’s anger, as Paul writes, For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who suppress the truth in unrighteousness. (Romans 1:18) The punishment, the result of that wrath, is death, as God said to Adam after the Fall into sin, for dust you are and to dust you shall return. (Genesis 3:19) The Scriptures declare that The soul who sins shall die. (Ezekiel 18:4) To those guilty of sin, eternal death is the final verdict pronounced on the Last Day, when the Righteous Judge will say to sinners, Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels. (Matthew 25:4)

With this verdict and punishment justice is served and the bad guy, the sinner, gets what he deserves.

Recently, a member left one of our congregations. They told the pastor that the one of the reasons they were leaving was because the church talked too much about sin. But to not speak about sin is to ignore Scripture. We are sinners. As we have seen, the Bible talks quite a bit about sin. We speak so much about our sin that we might show God’s mercy, in contrast to what we deserve for sin. For out of God’s:


God demands that justice be served for sin, for, as the psalmist writes, For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness, nor shall evil dwell with You. The boastful shall not stand in Your sight; You hate all workers of iniquity. You shall destroy those who speak falsehood. (Psalm 5:4ff) We have sinned, and someone had to pay for our crimes. And sin WAS paid for. The punishment WAS suffered. We read in our text, For He made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us…

Being holy and sinless, the LORD God demanded perfection of man, as it is written, You shall be holy for I the LORD your God am holy. (Leviticus 19:2) The problem is that we are not perfect, we have not kept God’s law, and thus, we deserve punishment. God does demand punishment for sin, but God also knows man’s limitations. It would take man an eternity of punishment to pay for sin. And so, the merciful God, who is not willing that any should perish, sent us a Savior from sin.

In our place, Jesus Christ actually became sin in God’s eyes, as our text says, He made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us. God placed every single sin ever committed or yet to be committed upon Jesus and then punished Jesus for sin upon the cross, as we read in Isaiah 53:6, The LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. Peter writes that Jesus bore our sins in His own body on the tree. (1Peter 2:24) Paul writes that Christ became a curse for us. (Galatians 3:13) By His suffering and death in our place, suffering that we deserved, Christ Jesus satisfied the demands of God’s justice with respect to the punishment man should have suffered for sin.

As a result, God’s divine justice was served. In Christ’s sacrifice, sin was paid for as though we ourselves had suffered eternal punishment. Christ’s entire life on this earth was lived in our place. Being made under the law, Christ fulfilled the law, satisfying God’s requirement that the law be kept perfectly. This Jesus did for all of us, so that, in God’s eyes, His righteousness is our righteousness. Christ died in our place as well, suffering the punishment of hell, the result being that we are declared “Not guilty” before the Righteous Judge.

Christ Jesus committed no sin, but he was made sin for us, made to be sin in our place, so that we would righteous, perfect, without guilt, in the eyes of the holy LORD.

Do we talk too much about sin? How can we talk too much about it? Talking about sin serves to demonstrate the enormous love God has for mankind. In looking honestly at our sin, we see God’s Justice. We see what we deserved for our sin, namely, eternal punishment in hell. That is contrasted with God’s wonderful mercy, His undeserved love, shown in the fact that He offered up His only Son, Jesus Christ to take away our sins.

In order for our sins to be taken away, it is logical that, in the first place, we are sinners. When we see from the Scriptures what horrible sinners we really are, God’s love means more to us than it ever could if we denied our sin. If we are without sin, who needs a Savior?

But we are sinners. We do need a Savior. God sent that Savior, who lived a perfect life and suffered and died in our place, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

By grace, God sent His Son to pay for the sins of the entire world. By His grace, God works faith in us in our Savior, for Scripture calls faith the gift of God, not of works. (Ephesians 2:9)

May we never stop talking about our sin, for to ignore sin is to deny the truth. And to deny the truth is to deny the mercy of God. Out of His mercy, God has revealed His undeserved love in His holy Gospel. From the Gospel we believe, with complete faith and confidence, that There is therefore, now, no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

Tell me, ye who hear Him groaning, Was there ever grief like His?
Friends through fear His cause disowning, Foes insulting His distress;
Many hands were raised to wound Him, None would interpose to save;
But the deepest stroke that pierced Him Was the stroke that Justice gave.

Here we have a firm foundation; Here the refuge of the lost;
Christ’s the Rock of our salvation, His the name of which we boast.
Lamb of God, for sinners wounded, Sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded Who on Him their hope have built. Amen.

(TLH #153:2 & 4)

—Pastor Joel S. Fleischer

Berea Lutheran Church
Sioux Falls, South Dakota

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