Reflections: The Sixth Sunday of Epiphany

Today’s Reading: Matt. 5:21-37

Daily Lectionary: Job 8:1-22, John 4:27-45


And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. (Matthew 5:30)

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen. This is the Gospel of the Lord? Praise to you, O Christ! Today’s Gospel gets us coming and going. If we came to church thinking we had it together, these words of our Lord are set to humble us deeply. Anger, lust, divorce, and taking the Lord’s Name in vain. It’s a good thing we have a week to recover before we hear him talk about retaliation, loving our enemies, and being perfect even as our Father in heaven is!

But there’s a reason Jesus pulls out the hammer of the Law. Each section begins, “You have heard that it was said to those of old…” What had been taught among His audience was that being faithful to God was just a matter of following the rules. The stricter the better. The more self-denial you can muster, the more righteous you are. This is what the Old Adam thinks the Law and the Prophets teach. And this is what the people were hearing from the Pharisees. It’s what people still hear from the Mennonites, the Wesleyans, and other holiness groups.

Yet, these words are on the lips of Christ, and that is the difference between being damned eternally and being saved by the forgiveness of our sins. Do you remember the three uses of the Law? This is the second use of the Law big time: the mirror that shows us how we have sinned against God. It leaves no stone unturned. Our hatred toward others means we deserve to be hated by God. Our lusts that look for pleasure with someone not our spouse have us dangling over the hell of fire. Our lips are quick to aggrandize our cause and drag God into it, but this has the hiss of the Evil One.

For every one of these, your sins, Christ has been sacrificed. His blood has answered the righteous wrath of God. He was forsaken, cut off, and conquered the Tempter—all for you. This is what makes you a Christian—not that you’ve kept God’s standard of perfection, but that Christ has kept it in your place so that He could give you peace with God and eternal life. And only that can bring us to the third use of the Law: the guide which steers us away from sin and toward living as God’s true children. In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

 O Lord, graciously hear the prayers of Your people that we who justly suffer the consequence of our sin may be mercifully delivered by Your goodness to the glory of Your name; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

-Pastor Michael A. Miller is Pastor at Bethlehem Lutheran Church, Lebanon, OR.,

Audio Reflections Speaker: Patrick Sturdivant, Development and Marketing Executive at Higher Things.

Study Christ’s words on the cross to see how you can show more Christlike grace in your life. Perfect for group or individual study, each chapter has a Q&A at the end, and the back of the book includes a leader guide. Available now from Concordia Publishing House.