3rd Sunday in Lent March 7, 2021
748, 775, 779, 800 (Worship Supplement 2000)
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
+ In the Name of Jesus Christ. Amen. +
For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (NIV)
Lying flat on your back, you stare up at the ceiling, praying the Lord will get you through this. The nurse checks your vital signs for what it seems like the tenth time in the last hour. In a few moments, you’ll be “put under” and the surgery will begin. The surgeon doesn’t know the full extent of your problem, but he’ll find out soon enough when he cuts you open.
Going under the knife for surgery is not a pleasant proposition. Yet sometimes being cut open is necessary. It’s the first painful step to being healed.
This is also true when it comes to spiritual healing. You and I need to be cut open, spiritually speaking, so that the Physician of souls, Jesus Christ, can heal us deep down where we need it. And don’t begin to think it’s just other people who need spiritual surgery. You and I have plenty of tumors festering away in our souls. The cancer needs to be removed so that our hearts and souls can be repaired and made well.
Just like a heart or brain surgeon has his or her specialized tools for cutting and healing, so does God. God’s surgical instrument is His Word. So are you ready to be operated on? It’s a scary thing, but it’s also a necessary and good thing. Join me as we consider: THE SURGICAL POWER OF GOD’S WORD 1. It’s Cutting Power (VV. 12—13) and 2. It’s Healing Power (VV. 14—16)
God’s Word, we are told, is sharper than any double-edged sword. The Romans invented the two-edged sword, and some historians claim it was equivalent at that time to the invention of the atomic bomb. It gave the Roman legions a huge advantage over their enemies. The thing that made the two-edged sword such a powerful weapon, of course, was its ability to cut in any direction.
But God’s Word has greater cutting power. It’s sharper than any two-edged sword. The Word cuts deep, penetrating to the very depths of our souls. It gets beneath the surface of our lives in order to discover the source of our spiritual diseases. It’s so sharp that it can divide soul and spirit, joints and marrow. Its cutting precision is so fine that absolutely nothing inside can be kept hidden. It has the ability to judge the very thoughts and intentions of our hearts.
I know the comparison is a bit different, but it reminds me of the first time I ever saw an image from an ultra sound. When Gloria was pregnant with our first born, the technician pointed to the screen, and said, “This is the head, here’s the feet, and over here is the heart.” I wondered how in the world she was able to see all that. To me it looked like black and white TV with extremely bad reception. The picture was all fuzzy and grainy. But, of course, we proudly took our picture home of little unborn Luke, put it on the refrigerator, and lovingly looked at it every morning as we ate our Cheerios. That was thirty years ago when the technology wasn’t like today. Modern ultra sound equipment shows very clear images in 3-D. Not long ago, I saw an ultrasound image that was so detailed that you could even see the peach fuzz on the baby’s cheek.
There’s nothing fuzzy or grainy or unclear about what the Word of God reveals. God sees what’s inside of us in 3-D. “Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.”
No one pulls the wool over God’s eyes. His Word exposes all the sham and pretense we come up with. It forces us to face up to who we really are and stop pretending.
His Word can expose faith that is starting to decay. It can see if the cancer of worldliness is starting to grow inside of us. It reveals our selfish, me-centered motives for the things we do. It sees past the excuses and shows the real reason why we don’t go to church as often as we used to, or spend as much time reading the Word. It exposes our self-righteousness and our unforgiving spirit. It shows just how much we love and trust money, and why we are sometimes perhaps slow to give generous offerings for the Lord’s work. It exposes Christian convictions and values that are starting to deteriorate. Do we still, for example, believe that living together before marriage, divorce for any reason, taking the Lord’s name in vain, are all sins in God’s eyes? Or does the Word reveal that we’ve become accepting and tolerant of these and other societal evils? The Word of God also reveals things about ourselves of which we are not even consciously aware of, blind spots that God and others see, but to which we are often clueless.
The surgical power of God’s Word is a cutting power, and sometimes the incisions it makes and what it reveals are very painful. My friends, when you really listen carefully to God’s Word and study it regularly and truly seek to apply it personally, you’re leaving yourself wide open. You’re going to be shown things about yourself that you really aren’t going to like. So we might seek to avoid the surgery. Hey, if you don’t go to church, don’t read your Bible, or don’t really listen when you hear the Word, your life, in a certain sense, may be much easier and much more comfortable. If you have a serious health problem that requires surgery, you don’t have to have the surgery. You can avoid the pain and trauma and do nothing. Of course, eventually the disease will overwhelm you, and you will die.
When the Great Physician Jesus cuts us open with the scalpel of His Word, know that He does it because He loves us and wants to heal us. Imagine, again, lying on a table in the hospital right before an operation. The surgeon approaches you, looks you in the eye and then removes his mask. (Of course, you’re not supposed to do that nowadays, but let’s say he does.) Instantly, you recognize his smiling face. The doctor is one of your dearest friends; and, not only your friend, he’s the very best surgeon in his field. What a comfort that would be.
The one operating on you, dear Christian, is your very Best Friend. He’s also the best in His field, namely that of healing and saving sinners. In fact, there is no one else that can cure a person ravaged by the disease of sin. Jesus Christ is the only One.
And you see, He cuts us so that He may heal us. The second half of our text reveals the healing power of God’s Word. “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.”
Jesus is our High Priest. In Old Testament times the High Priest made the great blood sacrifice on the yearly Day of Atonement. Jesus made the greatest sacrifice when He offered up Himself and shed His blood on Calvary’s cross once and for all people. He was bruised, pierced, and forsaken by His Father in order to heal us of all spiritual disease. Isaiah says, “By His wounds we are healed!” (Isaiah 53:5)
Did you know that here in America a heart transplant costs on average 1.7 million dollars? How much did it cost to save your soul? The price to save us from dying on the spiritual operating table was more than we can ever begin to fathom. It cost the life of God’s Son, which is the same as the life of God Himself. For Jesus is God. The cost was paid in full, and didn’t cost you a thing. The result is that we now have eternal life in Heaven waiting for us. Just as we can’t measure the cost, nor can we measure the love behind that sacrifice.
Today, God’s Word invites us to come to the Great Physician of Souls for the healing we continue to need due to the fact that we are still sinners, living in a sinful world. We have eternal life right now, full and free, through faith in Jesus. But as your caring Doctor, Jesus wants to keep you in good spiritual health. So our texts says, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”
As weak and sinful people living in an evil world full of temptations and uncertainties, we need to make regular appointments with Doctor Jesus. Every day we need the medicine that assures us that our sins are forgiven—medicine that only He can give. We find that peace-giving medicine in His Word. Doctor Jesus also gives us that gift in the Lord’s Supper.
Every day, in this world of death, when our souls feel beaten and bruised, we need our hopes revived for the glorious and never ending future that awaits us in heaven. We need the confidence that the good Doctor of souls is only a prayer away. We can go to the Living Word of our Living Savior with absolute confidence that we will find the mercy and grace we sinners desperately need. We will never be turned away. We will be healed.
But, dear friends, be careful where you turn and look for healing. The world, including many of your friends, will give you all kinds of advice on how to deal with the emotional hurt and inner pain of life. There are unlimited numbers of books and websites out there, some of them even disguised as Christian, all of them claiming to offer you a cure for what ails you. But the world simply can’t see and doesn’t want to see that the real problem is the sin that lies deep within us. The world’s advice for healing is like using a Band-Aid when what we really need is open heart surgery, the kind that only God can perform. Don’t buy into what the world is trying to sell you. It’s junk medicine. Rather, hold firmly to the faith we profess.
Yes, God’s Word exposes the bad and the ugly. It cuts. It hurts. But it also heals and forgives. The Word renews and restores. It strengthens and empowers us to serve God and neighbor for all our days to life everlasting. AMEN!
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Unless otherwise noted, Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved.