We Don't Like Jesus, Part 5 - Sin

Isaiah 6; Luke 22:31-34; Matthew 18:22

Rev. Christopher Harbin

29 November 2015

For part five of this series, we turn to how Jesus dealt with sin. It did not go according to most of our traditions surrounding sin. Jesus seems to have had a rather different take that what most often figures in our church traditions. That is not to say that Jesus ignored sin, but neither did he give it the position of prominence we so often grant it. If we make sin a big issue, we generally assume that Jesus did, as well. If we assume that sin is no issue at all, we picture Jesus as saying the same. Neither position is very helpful in pinpointing how Jesus approached sin. When we take a close look, we might find that Jesus' positions do not sit very well with us. After all, we too often have created Jesus in our own image, rather than taking the time to discern who he really was and what he really taught.

To begin our discussion, I find it helpful to turn to Isaiah chapter six. Here we find Isaiah taken into heaven in a vision or trance. As Isaiah is ushered into God's presence in the holiest of holies, he perceives himself as completely unworthy. He is afraid for his life, for his tradition has told him that one must be pure to enter into God's presence. We find that message in various Psalms. We find it in the Torah and in several of the prophetic books, as well. Following the same tradition, Isaiah speaks of his insecurity, knowing that his sinfulness makes him both unfit for God's presence and means his immediate death.

What happens next is surprising on various levels. First of all, an angel flies to him to cleanse him of his sin with a burning coal from the altar. Secondly, no sacrifice is made. Thirdly, a declaration is made by the same angel that Isaiah's sin has been cleansed.

There is nothing in the Hebrew Scriptures to give any validity to this scenario of forgiveness. We are well accustomed to hearing the passages proclaiming that forgiveness requires the shedding of blood. We are also aware that the Jews in Jesus day declared that only God can forgive sins. Here in Isaiah six, however, it is an angel that conveys pardon. It is a burning coal. There is no sacrifice and no shedding of blood. Furthermore, the issue of sin is not raised by God, it is raised by Isaiah alone. Apparently, the only reason the angel flew to Isaiah with the burning coal and message of forgiveness was that Isaiah felt unworthy and too unclean to be in God's presence.

The issue of sin began with Isaiah. God was not the one to raise the issue. In point of fact, God had been the one to bring Isaiah before the heavenly throne in the vision or trance in the first place. Sin was not a problem from God's perspective. It had no power over God. It did not and could not keep God from relating to Isaiah. Instead, it was Isaiah who could not come into God's presence because he felt unworthy because of his sin....

...for the full text of this sermon, see We Don't Like Jesus, Part 5 - Sin, at SermonSearch.com

—©2015 Chri­stopher B. Harbin

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