Beloved, the Lord Jesus has spoken through the Apostle John, “He that hates his brother is a murderer and a murderer has no place in the kingdom of God.” And truly Jesus has said to you with His own lips, “Unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”
The Law always accuses. It kills, crushes, condemns. It knocks you down flat. You eat dust and ashes. You feel the rot of your own dying flesh. You look up to heaven in fear. God is holy. You're not. You can only expect wrath from Him.
That's the Law. You speak the very word with fear, with trembling. Your instinct is to deny it. You don't want to admit it could be true. If it is, then there's blood on your hands. If the one who hates his brother is a murderer, none of you are going to get off.
And it is true. Literally true. God means what He says. You have literally hated your brother, and you are literally a murderer. Your Brother has died by your own hand, and you didn't even think twice.
Jesus says, “Whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.” What cause, beloved, did Jesus give you to be angry with Him? He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.
And it is not only Jesus, beloved, that you hated. Not only Him you have shown anger without a cause. Whatever you have done to least of these His brothers, you have done it to Him.
The neighbor who comes to you in need is the one Christ has given you to serve. The one who's lips tremble with hunger who asks for a morsel. Yes, that same one you move to the other side of the sidewalk to avoid. The disgust that wells up in your heart like vomitous bile... it is Jesus against whom it is is directed. How dare He inconvenience you with an opportunity to serve.
Whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. “Buzz off,” you say to the beggar on the sidewalk, but Jesus heard it as “Crucify Him!” Your conscience says, “But what wrong has He done.” But you ignore the word your conscience speaks. Your reply comes with vigor. “His blood be upon us and on our children.” And it is. You can't wash it off. It stains your fingernails black. It tints your pale hands red. It drips from them onto your baby's head. The forensics team isn't going to have any trouble finding out who killed Jesus. All they have to do is look up from your blood soaked clothes at the Roman hammer in your one hand, and the bloody nails in the other.
The blood of Jesus cries out from the ground and testifies against you who have said “Raca!” to the eternal Son of God.
Whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire. Yeah, you know better than they do. If they'd keep their mouth shut everybody'd be better off. Don't they know that the more they say the more stupid they sound? You have no love for your neighbor. You're just angry that they're putting you out. Jesus is telling of His love for you, but you've got lots of things you'd rather be doing. He speaks words of life, but you walk past, wagging your head. You say, “He saved others, but He cannot save himself. If He is the King of Israel, let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe.”
But you won't believe. He could come down from the cross, call down a hundred legions of angels, and bring great plagues upon you, but your heart is what it is. It is the heart of a murderer from beginning to end. The hate you have shown to friend, neighbor, and stranger defines who you are.
Yes. Hatred is ugly. Yes. Anger can be rotten to the core. And yes, we've all felt it. We've all wanted to act on it. Some of us maybe have. And when the Law comes like this, not even the scribes and the Pharisees can endure. Their piety cannot stand in the face of Jesus. It melts before Him. Their deeds have evaporated. Their holy living is a vanity, a chasing after the wind. There's only one thing left for them and only one thing left for you. Hide... Hide at the foot of the cross.
Ecce homo, dear Christian. Behold the Man. Behold the One who has drank the cup prepared for you. Behold the One who has suffered all that Satan, the world, and your sinful flesh wanted to hurl at you.
He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed.
The Law is not the end. And it is not the evil thing we fear it is. No... the Law is Christ's servant to bring you to Him. There is no murder so great that Christ cannot forgive it with the very smallest drop of His love. Consider this. You have murdered God and you are forgiven even that.
To the one who does not work but trusts Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness. Christ has served the one you rejected. He has fed the one you left hungry. He has rejoiced in the one you heaped with scorn. And He doesn't stop there.
His blood is on you and your children. And this is a glorious thing! A happy thing! There is no fear in it. There is no pain it it. There is only life: His life given to you. By the waters of baptism He has cleansed you in the blood He shed. At this altar He weekly feeds you with His body and His blood.
Your hands are clean. His blood is not “for you there,” and so He has given it into your mouth. In His blood is His life, and risen from the dead, Jesus lives and reigns to all eternity. And so He gives and gives. You drink life, and you will live forever.
He receives hatred and gives love. He receives scorn and gives praise. He receives death and gives life. That is the sort of Savior you have and the Law has no hold on the One who fulfilled it for you.
To you who trust Him, your righteousness does exceed that of the scribes and the Pharisees. You are perfectly holy. Christ has sprinkled many nations and to those who are stained with His blood there is forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. The righteousness of Christ is yours. This is something that the scribes and the Pharisees could never earn by their works and it is something that has overcome even our murderous ways.
Mercy, people loved by God, overcomes judgment. The Lord has taken away your sin. You will not die. He is relentless, dear Christian. He is the Lord your God who has brought you out of Egypt out of the land of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Him. He is your Savior, after all.
He is the one who has bought you not with gold or silver but with His holy and precious blood and His innocent sufferings and death so that you may be His own and live with Him in His kingdom in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.
This is most certainly true and it is most certainly yours in the One who loved you all the way to the cross.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.