You shall not murder. What does this mean? We should fear and love God so that we do not hurt or harm our neighbor in his body, but help and support him in every physical need. (Small Catechism: The Fifth Commandment)
In the Name + of Jesus. The Lord didn’t give us the Ten Commandments so we could think we’re better than others. The Fifth Commandment is one of those commandments that our sinful flesh likes to use in that way: “I’ve never murdered anyone. I’ve never stabbed or shot or run someone over with my car. Yep. I’ve kept the Fifth Commandment.”
But the Catechism reminds us what Jesus said about this commandment, too: “If you are angry with your brother,” that’s murder, too (Matthew 5:22). And St. John reminds us that if we don’t love our brother, we don’t love God, either (1 John 4:21). So, there you go. You’re a murderer. You may not have killed someone physically, but you kill with your words and lack of compassion all the time. Fight with your brother or sister? Tell your parents how stupid they are? Tell off that annoying person at school? You’re a murderer. Stare at the Fifth Commandment. Like a mirror it will reflect back at you: murderer!
So, it’s a good thing Jesus is the Savior of murderers. When Jesus went to Calvary, He took a murderer’s place. He was exchanged for Barabbas by the shouts of a crowd that wanted Jesus dead. Murdered. But that’s what Jesus does: He swaps places with murderers like Barabbas and you. To save you. To set you free.
Now, clothed with Christ’s forgiveness in Holy Baptism, you are not a “murderer”, but a “not guilty child of God.” Absolution says that your murders are forgiven and forgotten. Jesus’ Body and Blood says that no murderer lives in you, but the Son of God, who is the Savior.
The Fifth Commandment won’t prove that you’re a good person. Just the opposite: It testifies that you’re a sinner. But the Savior who traded places with a murderer has forgiven you and set you free. In the Name of Jesus. Amen.
They rise and needs will have My dear Lord made away; A murderer they save, The Prince of Life they slay. Yet cheerful He To suff’ring goes That He His foes From thence might free. (My Song Is Love Unknown, LSB 430:5)