“Jesus just keeps on forgiving, healing, and loving.” Reminiscere 2024

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25. February 2024
Matthew 15:21-28

In the holy Name of + Jesus. Amen.

Well, well, well. It seems we have yet another case of Jesus being misunderstood. Who would have thought? Certainly not Jacob, who, in today’s reading from Genesis 32, thought Jesus had come to kill him. And certainly not Jesus’ disciples, who were with him day in and day out, and yet somehow still managed to miss the point of the Canaanite woman coming to Jesus for healing. And let’s not forget the religious leaders, who were supposed to be experts in the law and yet couldn’t grasp the simple fact that God’s grace and mercy are freely given to all who ask.

But we shouldn’t be too hard on them. After all, Jesus was a bit of an outlaw himself, wasn’t he? Always hanging out with the wrong crowd, the sinners, tax collectors, and prostitutes. You know, the usual suspects. And what was he doing with them? Healing them. Forgiving them, showing them love and compassion. It’s almost as if he thought they were deserving of dignity and respect instead of being treated as the scum of the earth.

Of course, this didn’t sit well with the religious authorities. They were used to being in charge, to being the gatekeepers of God’s favor. They didn’t want just anyone waltzing in and claiming forgiveness and healing. That was their job, dammit! And so they accused Jesus of blasphemy, of claiming to be God, of breaking the law, of everything under the sun.

But Jesus wasn’t deterred. No, he just kept on forgiving, healing, and loving. And you know what? He was damn good at it. He didn’t need any fancy degrees or titles or positions. He didn’t need to sit on a throne and judge people from on high. He just needed to be himself, the son of God, the embodiment of forgiveness, love, and grace.

And yet, for all his goodness, for all his healing and forgiveness, for all his love and compassion, He was executed. Can you believe it? Executed. For what? For forgiving sinners. For healing the sick. For showing mercy to the outcasts. It’s almost too absurd to be true. But there it is, plain as day. The powers that be couldn’t handle Jesus and his outlaw ways. They couldn’t handle the fact that he was willing to forgive even them, the ones who were supposed to be in charge.

But you know what the really crazy thing is? Even in his death, Jesus was forgiving. Even as he hung on the cross, dying a criminal’s death, he was forgiving those who put him there. He was forgiving the soldiers who drove the nails into his hands and feet. He was forgiving the religious leaders who had him arrested and tried. He was forgiving the disciples who had abandoned him.

And here’s the real kicker: he’s still forgiving us today. Yes, us. You and me and everyone else. Even though we don’t deserve it. Even though we’re still sinners, we’re still messing up, still falling short of the glory of God. Even though we’ve misunderstood him just as much as anyone else.

But you know what? That’s okay. Because Jesus is still here, still forgiving, still healing, still loving. He’s still an outlaw, still breaking down barriers, still tearing down walls. He’s still the embodiment of grace and mercy, still the son of God.

Remember that story of the prodigal son? You know, the one where the younger son takes his inheritance and squanders it on loose living, and then comes crawling back to his father, ready to beg for forgiveness? And what does the father do? He runs to his son, and before he can beg for forgiveness, his father embraces him, and throws a big party in his honor.

Now, if you’re like most people, you probably identify with the younger son. You’ve messed up, you’ve sinned, you’ve strayed from the path. And you’re hoping that God will forgive you and welcome you back with open arms, just like the father in the story.

But here’s the thing: what if you’re not the younger son? What if you’re the older son, the one who stayed home and did everything right, who never rebelled or disobeyed, who always did what he was supposed to do? What then?

Well, I’ll tell you what then. You’re screwed. Because you’ve completely missed the point of the parable. You’re just like the religious leaders who couldn’t stand the fact that Jesus was forgiving sinners. You’re so caught up in your own righteousness, your own sense of superiority, that you can’t see the grace and mercy that’s right in front of you.

And that’s the real danger of misunderstanding Jesus. It’s not just that you miss out on forgiveness and healing and love. It’s that you become blind to it, unable to see it even when it’s staring you in the face. You become like the Pharisees who saw Jesus healing on the Sabbath and couldn’t even recognize it as a miracle. You become like the disciples who were constantly bickering over who was the greatest and couldn’t see that Jesus was right there in front of them, ready to serve and love and sacrifice everything for them.

So don’t be like them. Don’t be so blinded by your own righteousness that you can’t see the grace and mercy of Jesus. Don’t be so caught up in your own sense of superiority that you can’t recognize the love and forgiveness that’s being offered to you and everyone around you.

Instead, be like the prodigal son. Be like the sinners and tax collectors who came to Jesus for healing and forgiveness. Be like the Canaanite mother who came to Jesus begging for her daughter’s life, and instead she was given so much more; healing, forgiveness, mercy, and grace. Be like the thief on the cross who recognized Jesus as the savior even as he was dying.

Have you even noticed that throughout the Gospels, Jesus is constantly healing people on the Sabbath? The religious leaders are always getting bent out of shape about it, but Jesus just keeps on doing it. Why? Because he’s the outlaw God, that’s why. He doesn’t care about your precious Sabbath rules. He cares about the people for whom the Sabbath was made. He cares about healing and restoring and making things right.

But the religious leaders, they couldn’t stand it. They were so obsessed with their rules and regulations that they couldn’t see the grace and mercy that was right in front of them. They were like the older son in the prodigal son parable, resentful and bitter because they thought they deserved more than the sinners and outcasts that Jesus was spending his time with.

And it wasn’t just the religious leaders. Even the disciples, the ones who were closest to Jesus, often didn’t understand what he was doing. They were constantly arguing about who was the greatest, who would sit at Jesus’ right hand, who would have the most power and authority in his kingdom.

And Jesus just kept on forgiving and healing and loving. He was the outlaw God who came to turn everything upside down, to show us a different way of living and loving and being. And we still don’t get it.

We still think that Christianity is about following a set of rules and regulations. We still think that we have to earn God’s love and forgiveness by being good enough. We still think that there are certain people who are outside of God’s grace and who don’t deserve to be forgiven or loved.

But that’s not what Jesus was all about. He didn’t come to make us better rule-followers. He came to make us into new creations, to give us a new heart and a new spirit, to transform us from the inside out. He came to forgive us and heal us and love us, not because we deserve it, but because God is love, and since Jesus is God, forgiveness, love, healing, and love is just who he is.

And yet, we still don’t get it. We still think that we have to earn God’s love and forgiveness. We still think that we have to be good enough to deserve it. And in doing so, we completely miss the point of the gospel.

Because the gospel is not about what we do; it’s about what God does for us in Jesus Christ. It’s about the outlaw God who comes to forgive sinners, heal the sick, and welcome the outcasts. It’s about the grace and mercy and love of a God who is bigger and more generous than we can ever imagine.

The gospel of the outlaw God is a radical message of grace and mercy that challenges our assumptions and expectations at every turn. Even though we constantly misunderstand Jesus and want to behave self-righteously, the gospel assures us that we are still forgiven, healed, and loved by Jesus.

And before you misunderstand this too, and start to wonder where you need to go to God’s grace, mercy, and love, you already have it. You already have his assurance that it is given to you in the sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, where you receive forgiveness, new life, and eternal salvation. In these sacraments, you are reminded of the outlaw God who came to forgive you and heal you and welcome you outcasts into the kingdom of heaven.

The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, guards your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. Amen.

Rev. Christopher R. Gillespie
St. John Ev. Lutheran Church & School – Sherman Center
Random Lake, Wisconsin