Easter is toward the end of its range this year which means we get a little more of the Sermon on the Mount than usual. Not sure that is such a good thing all the time, or at least it is a good thing for preacher who wants to preach Gospel. The Sermon on the Mount is beloved by many, but I don’t think that the read too far past the beatitudes. The interior of the sermon, which we hear this week, is brutal indeed. Jesus internalizes the Ten Commandments in a which leaves us utterly helpless before our sin.
Normally this is a place that all preachers want their congregants to be before they proclaim the powerful Gospel of God’s love. So what’s the problem? The problem is that the Gospel which is paired with this potent Law doesn’t really show up for another couple of chapters. Matthew is working in large structures here, structures so large that our pericope system does not help us. In fact in this instance, the pericope system positively betrays us. For some reason the Gospel for this section of the Sermon on the Mount (chapter 8 of Matthew) is entirely missing from the readings. It never shows up in any place in the whole pericope system.
I believe this empowers us to pick it up and use it today. The words of Jesus leave the hearer who takes them in and applies them to his/herself feeling utterly crushed. In the words of one of my students from some years ago, it made her feel “icky.” In chapter 8 of Matthew, immediately after the final words of the Sermon, Jesus encounters a leper, perhaps the ickiest person in the world, touches that leper and cleanses him. This is what Jesus does to us. He has in Christmas reached out and touched all of humanity, including us. He knew our sin and corruption, he did not flinch. And just as the leper caught health from Jesus, so we catch righteousness, life, and holiness from Him.
God bless the preacher!