Pastor’s Note: Dr. Albert Mohler produced a special edition of his podcast “The Briefing” http://bit.ly/QZbPUP shortly after the news of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut broke. His thoughts were helpful to me and, I would imagine, many other pastors. The following is the text of my sermon to First Christian Church of Glenwood, Iowa, the Sunday after that Friday’s tragic events.
16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more.”
On Friday morning, a gunman walked into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown Connecticut and murdered 26 people. 6 were educators at the school, 20 were children. 5 year olds. 6 year olds. 7 year olds.
This is a national tragedy.
My goal this morning is not to give you all the answers. Nobody has all the answers but God.
My goal today is to point you to Jesus Christ, and His plan for redeeming our fallen world.
Sometimes as Christians we are frustrated because we either want more answers than what we have in God’s word, or, as is more often the case, we don’t like the answers we have been given.
No doubt many of you have been glued to your television. You have heard many people giving many answers as to why this tragedy happened. The News channels gather up experts who opine on these types of tragedies. I am not here to say they are wrong. I would, however, say that many experts are good at identifying the symptoms but fail to diagnose the source of the problem. I would say that many of these experts do not believe it is right to bring talk of absolute faith and trust in God into the public square. All too often we Christians spend hours and hours listening to experts giving answers that are not looking at the world through Heaven’s eyes.
So it is that we have pundits talking about more or less gun control. We have experts talking about mental health. People are screaming, “there must have been warning signs, somebody should have done something.” Yet we live in a society where we do not lock people up for acting weird. As a society we are trying more and more to be tolerant of people who are dealing with mental health issues. Our society says innocent until proven guilty. We wait until somebody does something horrible, and then we lock him or her up.
What is the alternative in a free society?
Blame is often placed upon poverty. But the gunman grew up with plenty. Society’s answers to the human condition run dry all too quickly.
Still others say ‘what do you expect, when the Bible and Prayer are no longer welcome in public life?
How should the Church of Jesus Christ respond to such senseless tragedy?
“I told you so” is certainly not the answer. There is a time and place for everything. There will come a time to debate policy. There will come a time to point out inconsistencies in people’s selective moral outrages.
This is a time to point people to God the Father, who lost His Child on the Cross so that all could have the opportunity to turn from death to Life in Him, thereby becoming Children of God. The appeal the Christian Church makes to the world is one of broken people to other, fellow broken people, saying, “We are the same, I am no better than you, for I too am broken when left to my own devices, but The Lord Jesus Christ found me and made me whole. He wills to do the same for you.”
2.) The Christian’s ultimate response can be summed up in One Word, “Maranatha”
What does Maranatha mean?
The word comes from Revelation 22:20
20 He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!
Maranatha simply means Come Lord Jesus. Our many words fail. One word suffices. Daily we have Gospel centered opportunities to make the world a better place for the Glory of God, but we do not deceive ourselves into thinking we can rebuild Eden through our sweat and dollars. There are some things only God can fix. And He shall fix them when His Son returns in power. In the meantime, we work and act as though we are living in His Kingdom, until He comes with His Kingdom.
“ We must not deceive ourselves into thinking we can rebuild Eden through our sweat and dollars.“
Our Own “Death Of The Innocents” Proves To Us The Reality of Evil.
Why do these things happen? The immediate answer is “Sin”. We, however, must delve into the question deeper. Why is there sin? How does it affect us? Who is responsible for it?
We know it goes back to the beginning: to the fall of an Angel because of his pride and jealousy to his temptation of Adam and Eve to their disobedience to one son’s murder of another son. On and on it goes: sin begets sin, which begets sin, which has triplets, onward and onward, the sin born into every human heart since Adam rises up to a crescendo until we have the world we live in today.
And it matters not that you are not as bad as the gunman was. We all contribute to this fallen world.
This is called Total Depravity.
It does not mean that we are as bad as we could be every hour of every day, but it does mean that everything we do is tinged by our Fallen nature. Furthermore, it means that to be human means we all have a terrifying capacity for evil.
The Prophet Jeremiah put it like this in Jeremiah 17:9
9 The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?
Indeed, who can understand it?
This is what we’ve all been thinking as we watch the coverage. We just can’t understand how he could have done it!
Do we not do things we cannot understand? Are there not things that hang in the closet of the past that we are not proud of? Are we not all haunted by actions for which we feel profound shame?
The problem is not primarily environment, nor primarily culture nor primarily nurture.
The problem is that we are living in a world that is in rebellion against God because it is populated with people who are in rebellion against God.
Whatever shall we do? The answer that I give you today is the answer we must tenderly give the world: The Cross, The Savior, The Son of God, Christ Crucified for us, Christ Resurrected from the dead, Christ the Victor coming again. His name is Jesus.
When we say these things some will disagree and say this tragedy did not begin in the spiritual realm. They would be wrong. Murder is particularly heinous because all people are made in the image of God. When one image bearer of God snuffs out the life breath of God in another image bearer it is because the murderer hates the original image. Murder is ultimately a failed attempt to kill God. Murder is collateral damage in the war against the Lord of Heaven.
Jesus tells us where Murder comes from in John 8:44
44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
The Apostle John tells us Jesus is the answer in 1 John 3:8
8 Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.
Jesus came to destroy the works of the Devil, and this slaughter of innocents in CT was a work of the enemy. Hurting Children is a dreadful crime against God. In Matthew 18 Jesus tells us unless we become like children we will never enter the Kingdom. He then goes on to warn that whoever causes a Child to stumble would be better off having a millstone tied around his neck as he is drowned in the sea…. Ostensibly The Lord is in effect saying that if you want to hurt children it would be better to be tied to a boulder and thrown into the ocean, rather than…meet Him.
But of course, we all are going to meet him. Our hearts cry out for justice, and this gunman killed himself. He is out of the reach of our human courts. Our hearts cry out for Justice, and we want to know when Satan and his children will be judged. The Lord will judge all. In the End the Devil will first be thrown into a bottomless pit, and later he will be thrown into the lake of fire (Revelation 20:1-3, 20:10). Ultimately The One from whom heaven and earth flees (Rev. 20:11) will judge all those who reject the saving blood God the Son shed for them upon a Roman cross long ago.
We want justice, and more importantly we want God’s holiness to be vindicated. All Christians, all of us, are pardoned death row inmates. As people who have only escaped our own due judgment by the wounds the Savior bore on our behalf we must be careful to not relish the coming judgment of others.
This is why The Lord Jesus tells us to err on the side of compassion toward those who we hate: Matthew 5:44-45
44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.
The Lord is realistic about the world. He does not deny that enemies exist. Surely one who breaks into an elementary school and slaughters 26 people is our enemy. He does not command us to live in a fairyland where we would label such a one “friend”, but He does command the former enemies of God to err on the side of compassion for the current enemies of God.
In the midst of all the darkness we’ve been engulfed in for the last couple of days we yearn for light.
Christ is the Good News we offer those searching and hurting.
Allow me to close by telling you a story about a hopeless man who came to our Lord looking for help.
1 When he came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him. 2 And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 3 And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed
A man comes to The Lord Jesus and says I have a problem I cannot fix, are you willing to fix me? The Lord stretches out His hand, and says, “I will…”
He is still stretching His hand out to you.
He stretches His hand to our whole world.
If our sin scarred Nation would turn to The Lord Jesus Christ and ask for healing, He would say, “I am willing, be clean…”
The Questions surrounding the darkness of Newtown CT are as old as time.
The Solution is older than Time.