David, Bathsheba, and Jesus: Who Was the Greatest Sinner?
He had it all, and then some. Power, fame, riches, talent, and even God’s stamp of approval. This man even had a harem teeming with beautiful women, all at his beck and call. Why, if he’d wanted more, the Lord would have gladly handed that over, too. King David, he had it all; here was a man living the dream.
The thing about dreams, though, is that they constantly totter on the verge of nightmares. For a person is never more at risk of rebellion against God than when he is up to his neck in divine treasures. A strange, cancerous, thought can begin to fester within him: he starts to view every divine gift as a personal accomplishment. And his faithful gratitude is suffocated by unfaithful pride. And pride—pride in himself, pride in his supposed accomplishments—that pride goeth before a fall. One minute such a man stands atop the mountain, gazing arrogantly at the vast realm of his success, and the next he trips and plummets headlong into a life of regret and devastation.
O David, you are the man! Your eyes, which should look out upon the soldiers under your command, capitulate to lust, as you ogle the bathing body of Bathsheba. Your mouth, which should be issuing orders to your military, order messengers to bring one of your own soldier’s wives into your home. Your hands, which should grasp a sword on the battlefield to conquer the foe, clutch at the woman in your bedroom in a battle of sexual conquest. Your ears, which should be attuned to the word of your Lord, hear only the purring of pleasure as you allure, adulterate, and impregnate the wife of Uriah, your faithful servant. O David, yes, you are the man!
What kind of fool does what David did? What kind of fool ignores the riches spilling out of his pockets to steal the only penny a poor man has? What kind of fool thinks that since he’s God’s chosen servant, he’s above the law and can do whatsoever he wants? What kind of fool turns a blind eye to consequences that come on the heels of adultery and murder, tries in vain to cover up his tracks, and ends up squandering the gifts of God that once were his to enjoy?
What kind of fool does that? Well, you do. You are the man! You are the woman! For though your life is packed with the gifts of God, you’re always hankering for that “something else” that you “just can’t live without.” The Lord has given you a spouse, but your eyes undress another woman as you daydream of an adulterous hook-up. If tomorrow you woke up and were left with only that for which you had thanked God today, what would you have left? For the treasures we enjoy we treat as entitlements—I’m entitled to a spacious home, a lucrative career, exemplary health, secure retirement. These are all divine gifts, undeserved, unearned, graciously bestowed by a God who loves you. Yet, like David, you are the man who views divine gifts as personal accomplishments. There is only one difference between David and most of us: he got caught, and suffered the consequences—for the rest of his life.
When our Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, said, ”Repent”, he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance (Luther). That’s what he wants from David, and from us: a life in which we rein in our envy, lament our lust, and live in the love of Jesus. He who rejoices to lavish gift after gift upon you, rejoices with his angels when you repent. For that means you’re coming home to him, and wiping away the dust of despair and death that cling to your wandering feet. He is there to welcome you, anytime and every time, with arms scarred by nails of compassion.
I tell you a mystery: there is a man who was a much greater sinner than David, a much greater sinner than those human monsters whose names live in infamy, a greater sinner even than you. This man became the worst adulterer, the worst murderer, the worst liar and cheat and gossip and thief who’s ever lived. O Jesus, you are the man! You are the man who, though without sin of your own, became sin for us, that in you we might become God’s righteous children. You redeemed us from the curse of God’s law by becoming a curse for us. Upon the cross hung the chief of sinners, indeed all sinners compressed into one sinner, all humanity inside the skin of the one man. Jesus became sin itself, the curse itself, the one and only object of divine wrath. Heaven emptied itself of righteous wrath the day he died. Hell’s hottest flames were extinguished with his holy blood. When the sinless Son of God became The Sinner, The Accursed One, a global proclamation was issued by the Father, declaring the rest of humanity Not Guilty. For no debt of yours remained unpaid. No sin of yours remained unpunished. Jesus became all the bad you are, that you might become all the good he is. When he said, It is finished, something new began: a new you. For if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation, the old things have passed away, and new things have come.
You are the man! you are the woman! you are the one to whom God says, “I love you!” And in those three words the Triune God declares but one thing: nothing matters more to him than you.