3rd Sunday in Lent
March 19, 2017
Grace, mercy, and peace be and abide with you all in the name of our living Savior Jesus. The basis for the sermon today is our First Lesson from Exodus 17.
My dear friends,
Confession time! I am a HUGE Steve Martin fan. LOVE Steve Martin. I’ve listened to his albums, seen his movies, read his books. The man is a comedic legend. One of my favorite Steve Martin films is “The Man with Two Brains.” Hilarious! Steve Martin’s character, world-renowned brain surgeon Dr. Michael Hfuhruhurr (spelled like it sounds), goes to Vienna for his research. After shocking his fellow surgeons, the doctors in the lecture hall all start to murmur to each other. Dr. Hfuhruhurr asks his host, “what are they saying? Dr. Conrad responds by saying, “they are just saying ‘murmur, murmur, murmur.’ “You mean it’s just sort of a general murmur?” “Yeah. Murmur.” Dr. Hfuhruhurr addresses the crowd “you may murmur all you like” and so they do…extra-loud… “murmur murmur murmur.” Too funny.
Murmur. The definition of the word “murmur” is “a half-suppressed or muttered complaint; see also ‘grumbling.’” Kind of a big word in today’s lesson, right? Today’s lesson from Exodus 17 is another crisis for the Israelites while in the desert. In Exodus 15 they reached Marah, but the water was too bitter to drink so they grumbled (15:22-25). Then, in Exodus 16, they complained because there was no food (16:2). Here in chapter 17, again there is no water to drink in Rephidim and…guess what? The people murmured and grumbled (17:3).
The people of God quarreled with Moses and grumbled against Moses. In effect, they were quarreling with and grumbling against God. In fact, we find out in the text that their misery was so great they wanted to stone Moses! (v. 4). These are the exact same people who saw God’s great provision for them against the hard-heart of pharaoh, but they still doubted God’s provision in their lives.
God reacted to their grumbling by graciously delivering His people. He gave them water to drink at Marah (Ex. 15:25). He gave them manna and quail in the wilderness of Sin. And now, here at Rephidim, God once again provides despite the murmuring and grumbling. God commands Moses to strike a rock and water will come out for the people to drink…and that is exactly what happened.
Now, sitting in a nice cool, cozy church pew we’re tempted to think, “those dumb Israelites. What was their problem anyway? Why didn’t they trust in God to provide?” Consider for a moment…would you have fared any better in the same
desert? Would you have grumbled against Moses or against God when things got tough? I know we would because we already do; we complain twice as much over issues half as bad.
We, God’s people today, are sinfully stricken in this life and we hunger and thirst literally but also for deliverance (v 7). Like the wandering Israelites of old, we are stricken by afflictions we did not bring upon ourselves: threats from really severe weather, uncertainties and trouble at work or at home, sicknesses, and suffering with loved ones stricken with illness, addictions, difficulties in your relationships. To make matters worse, all around us is the ever-present temptation to doubt God’s provision. We see, on TV in particular, our perceived “needs” – whether it be toothpaste, a car, a faster cell phone, cheaper insurance rates, deodorant, nice clothes, or whatever – those needs are to be met as quickly as possible. And when our felt needs are not met within 15 minutes or less, we murmur, we grumble, we complain. We also doubt God’s provision.
The Word of God comes to us today to remind us that even in 21st century America the way of the cross is different. As the people of God we are being trained in righteousness to be able to rid our minds of those perceived needs and their immediate gratification and to turn our eyes toward the God who is determined to get us where we need to be. Christians cannot forget – in
fact, this must be the center of our self-understanding – that Christ and Christ alone is our only true need.
God loves and thereby God gives his only Son, Jesus Christ, who is stricken for you to be that need; to bring your deliverance. The testing that comes from God is for our benefit, not His. Exodus 20:20 reminds us that “God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” Yet we know that we do sin, and we sin daily. And for that reason the Son of God was stricken to bring forgiveness and salvation and life.
Jesus Christ was stricken before and during His crucifixion, but He was so for you and for your benefit. The passage from Exodus 17 highlights the relationship between water and life; in fact, we heard that as well from today’s Gospel lesson from John 4. Also in John’s Gospel we find out that at the cross “one of the soldiers pierced (Jesus’) side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” Coincidence? I don’t think so! That life-giving water and that life-sustaining blood which were given in death at the cross are still given today to us to give and sustain LIFE!
The water flows forth in Holy Baptism to bring us to faith and forgive our sins. The blood flows forth in the Lord’s Supper for the continued forgiveness of our sins. Without His blood, without His water, we would die and we would die eternally. But that is not the case. The blood and water from the side of the stricken Christ quench your thirst amid life’s chaos, satisfies your soul, and gives you hope.
Though you are stricken by sin and sufferings in this life, when Christ was stricken, it was for you and for your deliverance. Our lives, and certainly not Jesus’ passion are as funny as a Steve Martin movie. And just as the Lord delivered his people from their afflictions in the wilderness, so also does he deliver you from your afflictions.
Are you doubting God’s provision in your life today? Are you murmuring that God may not provide for you in some area in your life? Are you grumbling about the things you don’t have and neglecting the things you do? God does not leave you stricken. He deals with you out of love and grace and mercy, not anger and negligence. From his stricken side flow the blood and water that quenches your thirst for deliverance in this life in preparation for the life of the world to come.