Today’s collect revealed a great truth about our God: He shows His power, not by destroying, not by being filled with rage—no matter how righteous it may be—but He shows His almighty power by showing mercy and pity. Today’s Gospel is a prime example of this. What is recorded for us reveals Jesus’ mind at the outset of Holy Week. Today’s Gospel is what Jesus said and thought as He rode into Jerusalem on the first Palm Sunday. He wasn’t concerned about Himself. He didn’t lament what that week held. He lamented that the people of Jerusalem didn’t want what was about to happen. They not just rejected but vehemently opposed the one thing that would give them peace. Not the temporary peace of those days of David so long ago, but the true peace, the peace of sin forgiven and eternity with God.
There are two things we have to get right in our own minds before today’s Gospel makes sense. First, we have to understand why Jesus commends the dishonest manager. He does not commend him for his dishonesty. The manager is stealing from the master. He is not obeying the Seventh Commandment by helping him to improve and protect his possessions and income. However, Jesus commends the manager for his shrewdness. What does it mean to be “shrewd?” As the dictionary defines it, to be shrewd is to have an insightful awareness and a realistic discernment. In other words, the manager knew himself well, he knew how desperate the situation was, and he knew how he could take a bad situation and make it work out for himself. He knew how all the moving parts had to come together for the best outcome.
What does it mean to discriminate? We all know the negative meaning—to treat someone differently, not because of merit, but because of some trait like skin color, gender, age, or the like. And we know that kind of discrimination is wrong. But there is good discrimination. The real meaning of discrimination is to distinguish the differences between two things. A chef has a discriminating palate, distinguishing between high quality and cheap ingredients. A musician has a discriminating ear, distinguishing between well-practiced performances and someone who hasn’t put in the effort. Today Jesus tells us to be discriminating hearers of the Word because not everyone who preaches or teaches speaks the truth.
As we consider Our Lord’s miracles, we often divert our attention away from the miracle itself and towards eternity. Especially when we look at the healing miracles, we’re quick to say that it reminds us of the perfection we will enjoy in heaven when we receive our bodies back perfected. It’s our way of telling ourselves not to look for or expect a miracle like Jesus performed during His earthly ministry. While that’s understandable, maybe it’s not the best thing to do. God has not sent His Son to die merely for our future spiritual good. He has sent Him to redeem us, to make us His children now. He who was crucified and is risen from the dead has done that in order to be with us, to keep on feeding us. And He is concerned with all of us, our bodies and souls, our spiritual lives and our family lives, our churches and our cities, and everything else. Still today, He has compassion on us and He acts on it, He delivers that compassion to us in real time in Word and Sacrament.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.