Epiphany 6 St. Matthew 5:21-37
The office supply store Staples has a series of commercials, in which someone is in need of some supplies, and instead of going through other supply stores and the hassle they present, all they have to do is press this red button, and their need is immediately met by Staples. Whatever the office supply item they need is, as soon as they push the button, there it is: hence the button is called The Easy Button.
And that is how we would like all things in life to be: at the press of an up or down button, the TV channel is changed; at the click of a button marked ‘send’ a message is instantly sent around the world; at the click of a link, you are instantly taken to a site that gives you all the information you could ever want.
And so it is only natural to look at the Ten Commandments and determine that they are the Easy Button to God. Just by keeping these 10 ever so simple rules, you can earn God’s unlimited grace and favor.
And looking at the Ten Commandments, you can honestly say that you have never murdered anyone. No matter how angry you got, you never shot someone; never pushed someone off of a cliff; never took a club and beat someone to death; never had an abortion; never did anything that would be considered murder.
Likewise, you can also say that you have never committed adultery. No unfaithfulness in your life; you and your spouse have always loved, honored, served and obeyed one another. And for those of us who are not married, there is a steadfast vow that sex is reserved strictly for marriage.
And you can say that you have always kept your word. Contracts signed are contracts honored; and more often than not, you bemoan the need for lawyers and piles of papers all requiring your signature as a sign that you will keep your word to do what you have said you would do.
You look at the Ten Commandments, and you declare that they are easy enough to keep, and you wonder why others find them so complicated?
But in our Gospel text, Jesus calls us to reexamine in depth our keeping of the Ten Commandments.
Have you murdered?
No; you have not pulled the trigger on a gun and shot another human being. You have not gone to one of the abortion mills and ended the life of an unborn child.
But you have gotten angry; you have said unkind things about your brothers and sisters in Christ. You have at the very least wished that misfortune might come upon someone with whom you disagree. It may have been a family member; it may have been a neighbor; it may even have been someone that you never even knew the name of. But you have murdered them in your words and in your thoughts.
And for that, Jesus declares that you are liable to the punishment of hell.
Have you ever committed adultery?
No; you have not been unfaithful; not to your spouse and not to your promise to reserve sex for marriage.
But you have looked at a member of the opposite sex, and thought impure thoughts. You have allowed your eyes to linger at a magazine with a provocative cover. You have perhaps even clicked on computer links that took you places that did not encourage faithfulness and purity in your thoughts and actions.
And for that, Jesus declares that you are to suffer the consequences of the eternal fires of hell.
Have you ever sworn falsely?
No; you can testify that every contract that bears your signature has been fulfilled to the letter; and that you and your lawyers and the judge and jury, can all testify to that.
But those are not the only promises you have made, they are only the promises that you have had to keep. More often than not, a promise has been made in word, that has never had a corresponding action. A promise made with no legal obligation is a promise that you deem to be optional as to whether or not it is kept.
And for that, Jesus declares that you are to pay for those broken promises with your very life.
One might be tempted to look at the words of Jesus in this text, and the way these actions are viewed in society, and determine that it is no big deal. No one is in prison awaiting the death penalty for getting mad at their neighbor. The world is hardly concerned about whether or not you are lusting after another, and in many ways the world encourages it. And many would say that if you did not get it in writing, then it never happened to begin with.
And yet for our Lord, these are no minor sins. To murder in thought is no better than to murder with a weapon; to lust in thought is only a few short steps away from bringing those thoughts to reality; to break one’s word in a verbal form is perhaps far worse than to break that promise in contractual form.
To have an easy button to make all of these transgressions, both major and minor, go away would be ideal; but alas there is no such thing as an easy button when it comes to sin, and now because of that sin, you are cast far away from God’s presence.
However, to look at your sins of thought, word and deed is to only see half of the picture. Our text today tells a story of the far reaches of sin, but it is part of a Gospel that tells a fuller story of life and salvation.
A Gospel that tells us that while there is no easy button for our sins, there is something much better: a cross.
For the same Jesus who sits on the mount and delivers these words of Law to all who hear also delivers a word of Good News; a word of life; a word of salvation.
To the one who murders, whether in cold blood or in harsh words and thoughts; there is one who was murdered upon a cross so that your sins might be taken away.
To the one who lusts, whether in the bedroom or in line at the store; there is one whose eyes have desired you since the day that you were baptized in His name and called to be His own; whose eyes never lost focus of the path that lay before Him that led to Calvary.
To the one whose word is not reliable; there is one whose promise that was first made in the Garden of Eden, and was repeated throughout the prophets, was ultimately fulfilled when He appeared in the garden having risen from the grave.
There may not be an easy button to relieve you of the sins that you commit each and every day; but there is a cross upon which your Savior hung, and there is a tomb from which He rose to life again.
And because of the suffering that He endured on the cross, you who were cast far away from God’s presence, are now welcomed with open arms into His kingdom.
The Law that Jesus expounds on today is not to be forgotten; we are called to live lives that are holy and righteous, even perfect in our Savior’s eyes; but when that Law is broken, whether in the most obvious way or in lesser ways, words of repentance and forgiveness are spoken.
That is the believer’s easy button: that no matter how great or how small a sin may be, it is one for which Christ died for so that you might be redeemed.