You don’t have to answer, but I wonder if any of you groaned a bit during the Gospel. We heard everyone’s favorite two-word Bible verse. Not, “Jesus wept,” but “Judge not.” That has to be the most hackneyed phrase from all of Holy Scripture. Especially if we as Christians have attempted to discuss anything in the public sphere over the last few years, all we have heard shouted back at us are the twin phrases of “tolerance” and “judge not.” To the world, those two things go hand-in-hand. To them, it’s their trump card—“You can’t say a thing about what I’m doing because your own Bible says ‘Judge not!’ Jesus tells you that you must tolerate whatever I’m doing!” The sad thing is that this common understanding of Jesus’ own Words are so far off the mark of what He meant. As we unpack what Jesus really said, we will see that today’s Gospel is instruction in Christian living as the Body of Christ.
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.