A TV Newscast showed a man standing at a busy intersection wearing a large sign that said: “I cheated. This is my punishment.” When interviewed the man said, “I’m wearing the sign as punishment for being unfaithful. I thought she was kidding.” After a pause, he added: “She wasn’t kidding!” Later he said, “In order to make things right, I have to do whatever is necessary.”
“I cheated! This is my punishment!” Wow! This man’s wife was angry… likely for a good reason.
Last week, I showed a youth class, chapter 23 of Matthew where Jesus was angry. Some people always look and act angry so we don’t pay much attention but when a person like Jesus who is known for being loving, calm and compassionate blows his top, you notice. Why was Jesus so angry? Also, why was he so angry at pastors, Sunday school teachers, choir members, Administrative Board chairpersons, deacons, elders and other leaders? Why? Because they too cheated: They were unfaithful to their calling before God. Seven times, Jesus said, “How terrible it will be for you.”
1. Everything is for show.
2. Quick to condemn and slow to praise.
3. We place higher priority on serving ourselves before serving God.
4. Our word is no longer sacred. Even our contracts have escape clauses.
5. Major in the minors and completely miss what is important.
6. Clean on the outside but inside we are filthy.
7. Look good on the outside but inside we are dead. (Parts of Matthew 23)
How did the Pharisees, our religious leaders respond to this tongue-lashing? Jesus was arrested, whipped, beaten and cruelly nailed to a cross. Right answer? Of course not!
So, how should we respond?
Stand on a crowded street with a sign? “I cheated on God! This is my punishment.”
Is that what Jesus wants us to do? No, again!
One email response: “As it was then, it is now. PRIDE! It causes us to do things to make ourselves look good but doesn’t do a thing for those in need.”
Another email: “Jesus did not come to judge but to save. Had the leaders acknowledged their sin they would have been freely forgiven, cleansed and made right with God. Instead, they clung to their own works as if they were righteous and refused to come to Jesus for forgiveness.”
Later, Jesus cries out: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones God’s messengers! How often I have wanted to gather your children together as a hen protects her chicks beneath her wings, but you wouldn’t let me. And now, look, your house is abandoned and desolate. For I tell you this, you will never see me again until you say, ‘Blessings on the one who comes in the name of the LORD!” (Mat. 23:37-39)
• “You kill the prophets.” God looks for courage not excuses. Face wrongdoing! Confess!
• “How I wanted to gather your children.” We deserve God’s wrath. But we receive love and protection. Confession restores God’s love.
• “But you wouldn’t let me.” Unwillingness to confess is worse than the sin itself when you deny God the opportunity to be a loving parent. Refuse to confess and you reject God.
• “Your house is left empty and desolate.” As wrongdoing accumulates, friends disappear, leaving you to face your consequences alone. Rejecting God leads to isolation.
• “Bless the one who comes in the name of the Lord!” Who is in charge of your life? Confession places ultimate authority with God.
Did you catch it? Jesus is showing us how to deal with sin: Face your wrongdoing: Confess. Confession restores God’s love. Refuse to confess and you reject God. Rejecting God leads to isolation. Confession places ultimate authority with God.
Imagine Jesus standing before us with tears in his eyes describing a mother hen shielding her chicks beneath her strong wings. God longs to comfort, protect and restore you, restore me. The alternative is to refuse to confess, reject God’s love offering and face emptiness and isolation.
Rather than face an angry Jesus, we can be restored and renewed when we have the courage to confess and a sincere desire to change. Sure beats the alternative: Standing on a street corner with a sign proclaiming to all: “I cheated on God. This is my punishment.”
This Easter Sunday, join the rest of your fellow sinners in celebration of the One who can restore us. Christ has died. Christ is risen. Christ will come again. Happy Easter.