daily biblical sermons


PREACHING AND EVANGELIZING ABOUT THE KINGDOM OF GOD
Fr. Steven Scherrer, MM, ThD
Homily of Friday, 24th Week of the Year, September 22, 2017
1 Timothy 6:2-12, Psalm 48, Luke 8:1-3


"Soon afterward he [Jesus] went on through cities and villages, preaching and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. And the twelve were with him" (Luke 8:1).


Here we see a summary of Jesus' preaching in Galilee. He went through all their cities and villages together with his twelve apostles and some women who had been healed by him of infirmities and evil spirits, and he preached and evangelized about the kingdom of God. In addition to preaching and evangelizing, Jesus also healed people of every disease and cast out evil spirits from demoniacs (Matthew 4:23-24).


When at one point the people wanted to keep Jesus with them, he insisted that he must move on, "‘I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other cities also; for I was sent for this purpose.' And he was preaching in the synagogues of Judea" (Luke 4:43-44). He did this because this was his mission, because he was sent by God to do this: "For I was sent for this purpose" (Luke 4:43).


St. Mark introduces Jesus' public ministry with a summary of this kind: "Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel'" (Mark 1:14-15).


The time is finally fulfilled. The kingdom of God is now at hand. The Messiah has appeared on the earth, and now all are called to genuinely repent of their sins and believe in the good news that Jesus is bringing to them.


But what exactly is this good news? It is the good news that the kingdom of God, this longed-for and long-awaited kingdom has finally come in Jesus himself, the Son of God, the Messiah, the Savior of the world. Jesus was sent by God into the world to save all who will genuinely repent of their sins and believe in him.


This salvation consists in forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life. All who believe in him and remain faithful to him will have eternal life. They will never die, for when they die physically, they will continue to live with him and with God in heaven.


This is because Jesus will give his life as a ransom for many, for all who repent and believe in him, "for the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45).


Jesus only hinted at what the kingdom of God was all about, because the people were not yet able to understand it. Only after his death and Resurrection and the full coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost would it all come together for them and make sense to his disciples just how Jesus would bring us eternal life and peace with God.


After his death and Resurrection, Jesus' disciples would finally understand how Jesus gave his life as a ransom for many. They will connect his death with their many animal sacrifices for the forgiveness of sins, in which a lamb or bull is designated by the sinner as his substitute to die vicariously for his sins. The sinner would put his hand on the animal's head, designating it as his substitute and then kill it before the Lord for his sins, and thus atonement would be made for his sins (Leviticus 4:24-26). The death of the animal atoned for his sins. The animal died for his sins instead of the sinner dying in punishment for them. Jesus disciples would see that Jesus was the fulfillment of these Jewish sin offerings, that he was our substitute who would die for us in punishment for our sins, instead of us dying for them.


After his death and Resurrection, Jesus' disciples would finally understand what John the Baptist meant when he called Jesus "the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29). The disciples then finally understood that in his death on the cross Jesus did what the lamb of sacrifice did in the Jewish sacrifices for sins. He, the Son of God, incarnate as a man, became in his death on the cross the lamb of sacrifice for all human sin, he became "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).


Like a lamb of sacrifice, Jesus died vicariously, which means in our place, instead of us dying in punishment for our sins. So our punishment has been duly and justly suffered for our sins for us by Christ on the cross, and when we put our faith in him, God credits his sacrifice to our account as atoning for our sins by making full reparation for them. So the good news is that if you genuinely repent of your sins and put your faith in Jesus Christ, you will be declared righteous by God, because of the reparation that Christ made for your sins in his death on the cross, where he suffered your punishment for your sins for you.


It is our faith in Christ that connects us as individuals to the saving merits of Christ's death on the cross.


It is Christ's blood, shed vicariously on the cross as our sin offering, our sacrifice for sins, that enables the all-just God to justly forgive our sins and to justly declare us sinners to be righteous. Christ's blood, shed for our sins, makes God's forgiveness and justification of us sinners just because our sins have been justly punished in Christ's flesh on the cross. So through faith we are justified, because of Christ's reparation-making work on the cross.


It is not our works that justify us but only our faith and Christ's work on the cross, as St. Paul never tires of reminding us (Romans 3:20, 28; Galatians 2:16; Ephesians 2:8-9).


Christ's sacrifice propitiates God's wrath against us for our sins (Romans 3:25 NKJV; 1 John: 2-2 NKJV) because it satisfies God's justice that was wounded by our sins. "And He Himself [Jesus Christ] is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world" (1 John 2:2 NKJV).


Thus we who were alienated from God by our sins are now reconciled with him by our faith in Christ, because of his atoning death that made substitutionary satisfaction for us, just as the Jewish sacrifices for sins did. But the Jewish sin offerings were only symbolic and prophetic of what only Christ's sacrifice was capable of actually doing (Hebrews 10:4).


This whole new understanding of Christ's death, after his Resurrection and Pentecost, became the essence of the Christian gospel that the apostles and their successors preach throughout the world.


When they preached this good news, this gospel, they finally understood the meaning of Jesus' words at the Last Supper over the cup of wine: "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26:28). They understood that Christ's blood, shed on the cross, atones for our sins, as a sin offering, by making reparation for them.


They also finally understood what Jesus meant when he said, "The Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45).


Jesus meant that he was a ransom by paying our price for our sins for us to God. Our price was eternal punishment in hell. Christ's death as the Son of God on the cross counted as the equivalent of our eternal punishment for our sins. Since it was paid to God for us on the cross, God acquits us of our sins and declares us righteous, when we put our faith in Christ and genuinely repent of and confess our sins. So we are then set free, "ransomed," as it were, because Christ paid to God our "ransom price," that is, what we owed him, namely the punishment for our sins. Therefore when we put our faith in Christ, we are justified.


This is the gospel that the Church preaches, namely that we are justified by our faith in Christ, because of what he did for us as our sin offering on the cross.


Christ began preaching this gospel in Galilee in a veiled way due to the inability of the people to understand it at the time, before his death and resurrection; but since his death, Resurrection, and Pentecost, this gospel, this good news is now clearly and openly preached by the Church throughout the world to give all people everywhere the opportunity to know what God did for us in Christ and to believe in him for their justification and salvation.


This is God's plan for human salvation, and this is how he wants it carried out. So this is what we do, like Jesus, we preach the gospel to all we can reach.

 

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