Oculi (Lent 3)
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
March 3, 2013
Central Passage
Luke 11:14-26


In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.


Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.

When most people hear Jesus’ words, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it,” they hear Him say that those who keep the Law or some form of the Law are blessed. They hear Him say, “Blessed are those who do the right thing.” After all, we are creatures of the law; always measuring ourselves and others by it. Whether it’s the law of God or simple social laws of behavior and interaction and public decency.

We like the Ten Commandments, even though we have no hope of keeping them. We like them because we can pretend we keep them. We can make it look like we keep them. And if we can pull that off, then others will think us righteous and godly and won’t look too closely at how unrighteous we really are. And when we do sin and others find out, they will judge us more leniently because we generally do the right thing. Moreover, we unashamedly go and on about how we are a sinner and undeserving of God’s love and mercy – something that should deeply shame us – thinking that others will be impressed by our humility and think how godly we truly are! Either way, we will be praised by men, and we will have received our reward in full.

But if that is what Jesus is saying when He says, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and keeps it,” if He is saying, “Blessed are those keep the Law,” then you are not blessed. You have heard His commandments but you have not kept them. Even if you have kept them outwardly, which you have not, you certainly have not kept them inwardly, where it matters. If Jesus means, “Blessed are those who hear the commandments of God and keeps them,” then we are all damned.

To keep the word of God is not to keep the Law. It is not to try and keep some list of rules and regulations by which you live; what you can and cannot do. No one is righteous before God based on our works, no matter how pious and holy we seem to be. That’s why no Christian funeral sermon should talk about the diseased as though they’d earned God’s favor and love because everyone knew them to be such a nice and generous person. Of no man, woman, or child should it be said, “They lived a good life and now God has rewarded them for it.” Be wary of funeral sermons that do little else than talk about the one in the casket and how he or she lived. They are likely praising the merits of men rather than the mercy of God in Christ.

The appeal is that the law is easy to measure and judge and everything is bound by the law. The sun rises and sets by a law. The earth spins and your body grows by laws. We call them laws of nature, but in reality they are laws of God, for He created all things and set all things in order, and He sustains all things. The sun keeps the law of its course, and your body keeps the law of growth and development. And when a body does not keep the laws of growth and development, when a body gets sick and dies, we know something is wrong. The law has not been kept. We look for the law everywhere, especially in matters of godliness. And since we cannot hope to keep the divine Law as it ought to be kept, we make up rules about how much needs to be kept for holiness purposes. So it’s okay for a man and woman to live together before marriage and to enjoy that which belongs only to marriage, as long as they are otherwise a nice couple whose lives benefit us. If they are druggies or social degenerates, then we say aghast, “They’re not even married!” But if they are our children and liked by the community, we turn a blind eye to their sin.

We are fools in our pursuit of goodness based on the Law. Yet we constantly measure ourselves and others against the law of our choosing, thinking that we are good enough.

But to hear and keep the word of God is not to hear and keep the Law. Rather, to hear and keep the word of God is to say, “Amen,” to what God says. Or to say it another way, it is to hear and believe.

God says you are a sinner, unrighteous in all of your ways: you say, “Amen.”

God says that you deserve death and hell: you say, “Amen.”

God says Jesus alone is righteous, keeping the Law perfectly and gaining eternal life by His obedience: you say, “Amen.”

God says that Jesus’ blood atones for your sins and nothing else: you say, “Amen.”

God says Jesus is the way of salvation: you say, “Amen.”

God says you are washed by Jesus’ blood in the holy waters of baptism: you say, “Amen.”

God says that this is His body and blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins: you say, “Amen.”

And when you say, “Amen,” to what God says – even if what He says brings you shame because of your sins – you will find yourself doing the things of God. You will begin to reject the bad and choose the good. You will find yourself rejoicing in the heavenly bath that washes you in Christ. You find yourself glorying in Jesus who is your Lord and your God, rejoicing in the life He lives for you. You find yourself gathering with His Body, the Church, to hear Him and to receive His blessing. You will find yourself eagerly praying to the heavenly Father, asking His blessings on all people. You find yourself eating at the table of the Lord and drinking from the cup of the Lord, glad and happy for the opportunity to be a part of the salvation wrought by Christ.

When you say, “Amen,” to what God says, you find yourself blessed by God as He promises you forgiveness, life, and salvation in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Blessed are you who hear the word of God and keep it.

+ In Nomine Iesu +