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Running from the inescapable on the Jericho-Jerusalem Road

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Sermon for the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity
The photograph shows a man bloodied, bruised and nearly dead on the Jericho-Jerusalem Road. The policeman shows it to the suspect in custody. “You did this, didn’t you?”
The suspect realises that he cannot resist any further. “Yes, I beat that man up, stripped him and robbed him.”
In the courtroom, the judge pronounces sentence. “You have been found guilty of grievous bodily harm and robbery. The Law says that you will be taken from this place hence to a place of execution where you will be hanged by the neck until you are dead.”
The convict goes white and loses his composure. Amid the flurry of his tears, he sobs his remorse, his apologies to the victim and declares his repentance.
But the Law is the Law and by that Law, this man must die.
What are you going to do about it?
Our first cry is to change the Law and abolish the Death Penalty. If we don’t like a law then we seek to change it because it might be outdated, or too strict, or doesn’t take circumstances into consideration. But on what basis do we want that Law changed? Based upon our own feelings? If we change a Law to be compassionate, then we might open it up for abuse.
Besides, now that this man has been convicted under this law, a change in the law cannot pardon him.
But what if this man robbed out of desperation? Is this not a reasonable circumstance?
The law says all those who nearly kill someone to rob him shall be hanged. He is convicted of this, and so he shall die.
We could rescue him. But that wouldn’t change anything. He is still guilty of grievous bodily harm and robbery. Our rescue wouldn’t change that, nor would we be acting within the law ourselves because we would be putting ourselves above the law.
There is nothing we can do. 
The Law is a ass.
Except the Law is not a ass. It’s there for a clear purpose. We know that beating someone nearly to death is deeply wrong and to have a law against it with a prescribed punishment will send a clear message to stop people committing this crime. There will always be debates about the Law; there will always be miscarriages of justice; there will always be occasions where we think that the Law has got it wrong; but without it, there would be a complete breakdown of society. We ought to thank God for the Law because it gives us a clear structure to how we can and should live with other human beings.
What the Law cannot do is save someone from their punishment. It’s utterly unable to stop the crime from happening in the first place.
In many ways, our convicted robber is as helpless as the man he beat up on the Jerusalem-Jericho Road. The Police and the Judge pass by on the other side of the road, just as the Priest and Levite do so, unable to help being bound by the Law.
So what can be done?
If the sentence is carried out, then the man dies and the Law can no longer touch hum. All the convict needs to do is to die. So he needs to be saved by someone who has power over life and death. The Law doesn’t, but God does. God can raise the dead! Talk to Jairus’ daughter. Talk to Lazarus. And especially, talk to Our Lord Jesus Christ.
Our robber confesses, repents and reaches out to Our Lord in humility and utter poverty. Yes, he is hanged for that is the Law, and yet Christ raises him, bringing him purified unto the Throne of Grace to dwell with Him in Heaven. Christ does save the robber. Today he is with Christ in Paradise, can we wish him any better?
The wages of sin is death. We cannot escape that. We die because of sin in the world, both our own sins and the sins that affect us indirectly. Yet, at our death, sin cannot touch us if we are raised through the resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We are baptised into Him and so we are baptised into His death and His resurrection from the Dead.
We should not despise the Law. Where it is unjust, we must change it, but we can never escape it. Rather we should seek to see it fulfilled in our lives by clinging to Christ, trusting Him worshipping Him and obeying Him. That is how we can go on the run from the Law and actually escape it!

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