Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!


Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Guards (their false story) - Easter Morning - April 24, 2011 - Matthew 28:11-15

He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! And so we greet each other on this wonderful Easter Morning, celebrating the fact that we worship, not a dead person nor a dead God as do all the other religions of the world, but we worship a living God. This year as we have been following through the Lenten season, getting ready for Good Friday and this morning, we have been following through some of the Facts about Lent and Easter. This morning we will conclude our facts about Easter by looking at the Guards from the tomb; at their being startled by Jesus’ resurrection and the stories, the false stories that they told to cover their own skin, so to speak and we will debunk their stories so we can know the truth of the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Several theories persist even today concerning what the Bible tells us as fact, Jesus’ resurrection. This morning we will look at six such theories and immediately debunk them. These theories are presented in detail in Paul Maier’s book, In the Fullness of Time, which I referred to during Advent this past year. The main theory, from the Bible itself is that the body of Jesus was stolen. We might call this the “Stolen Body” theory. You might recall that after the resurrection the frightened guards ran to the chief priests and elders and announced to them the resurrection of Jesus to which they responded, not hallelujah, but tell everyone the body was stolen and we will cover for you.

The problem with the “Stolen Body” theory is that Jesus’ disciples did not have any overpowering motivation to steal the body, especially as we saw that they had all run away frightened at His arrest and really, were no where to be seen at His crucifixion. And besides the tomb was secure with guards. And there is the problem of timing, when would they have been able to pull off a stealing of the body.

Another theory is the “Wrong Tomb” theory. This theory suggests that the guards had the wrong tomb and so when the tomb was found empty it really never had a body anyway.

The holes in the “Wrong Tomb” theory include the fact that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary directly observed the burial so when they came to the tomb, which was empty, it was not the wrong tomb, rather it was the tomb in which Jesus’ body had been laid and now was empty because He rose.

The next theory is the “Lettuce” theory. “The “lettuce,” or “salad,” theory introduces a note of humor and nothing more. The “Lettuce” theory suggests that the gardener did it. Yet, “for the versatile gardener (who evidently transplanted bodies as well as lettuce) would have had some answering to do to the owner of the sepulcher, to say nothing of having been prevented by the guards in the first place.”

Some people espouse the “Swoon” theory. The “Swoon” theory suggests that Jesus was not really dead, but having taken some drug His body was simply in a low metabolism sleeping mode. The “Swoon” theory, though very inventive, ignores the evidence. Remember, Jesus had been beaten so that He was bleeding, to death. Jesus had been nailed to the cross so that suffocation took its toll, killing Him. His rib cage was pierced by the sword of the soldier at the cross and out came blood and water, the sign of a broken heart.

The “Psychological” or “Hallucination” theory suggests that none of the disciples, nor anyone else, truly saw Jesus, rather they were hallucinating, they were in a psychological stupper so that they only thought they saw Him. Or they had taken some herb to put them in a trance so they believed they saw Jesus alive. This theory falls short of the fact that the disciples were hardly a hallucinogenic group, and it would have had to be a group hallucination.

Finally, for our purposes this morning, there is the “Twin Brother” theory. This theory suggests that Jesus had a twin brother who suffered and died on the cross so that when Jesus later appeared, it was not the brother who was killed, but Himself. Now, certainly if Mary had given birth to twins and not to one son, this would have been reported. Also, why would a twin brother give his life and finally, what about the scars that Jesus presented?

All of these are interesting theories, but all can be explained and dismissed fairly easily. Truly, there is only one true and reasonable, as well as only one logical and factual explanation which of course is what we are celebrating today and what we celebrate every year, and truly what we celebrate each and every Sunday, Jesus’ bodily resurrection.

What does this mean for us today? I thought it would be good to look at some of these theories, because actually some of these theories continue to persist even today. Why do these theories continue to persist even to today? For the simple fact that they attempt to bypass accountability to God. Much like the theory and religion of Darwinism or Evolution was proposed so that life can be explained apart from God, so that humanity is not responsible to nor accountable to a god, so these theories persist so that we do not have to be held accountable before God, which we know will happen, whether we believe it or not.

As for these theories, we may rest assured today that just as these theories were proven false then, they continue to be false today. There has been no new evidence to prove any of these theories. As a matter of fact, when looking into the field of archeology, rather than ever disproving what God has told us in His Word, archeology time and again reaffirms and supports what God tells us in His Word. Time and again we are confirmed and reaffirmed in our commitment to believe the Word of God just as He has given it to us and just as He has spoken to us so we can believe the words for what they mean.

Thus, the evidence is certain and is interpreted rightly when it is interpreted according to Scripture. Remember, the mind and thoughts of humanity, even the will of man, has been tainted by sin. Ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, we as fallen humans living in a fallen world attempt to explain the world from a fallen worldview and so we often get it wrong. Instead, we have God’s Word which is faithful and true and through which God tells us what happened and also, imparts faith in our hearts to believe all that happened according to what He tells us in His Holy Word.

Therefore, we can always count on and believe God’s Word and His interpretation of the evidence. As we read in our text for this morning, God does not hide in the imagination of the hearts of men. God tells us in His Word the plan and plot of those who would seek to destroy His Church. God tells us the plot so that when we hear it we can know it for what it is a plot, a plan, a lie to lure others away. And yet, we know that we can believe the truth of Jesus’ resurrection.

This morning, then, we rejoice in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus for us. We rejoice again as we are reminded that it was because of us, because of you and me, because of our sins, along with that sin born in us, that sin of Adam and Eve that God had to promise to send a Savior. It was because of our sins and the sins of all people, of all places, of all times that Jesus came to live perfectly, according to God’s command to us, to be perfect. It was because of God’s great love for us that He created us and recreated us through the waters of Holy Baptism, in order to love us. It was and is because of God’s great love for us that Jesus took our sins upon Himself and suffered and died to pay the price for our sins. It was because of love that Jesus died and yet, as we celebrate this morning and every Sunday morning, Jesus did not stay dead, but He rose from the dead, victorious over sin, death, and the power of the devil.

No more needs to be done. Jesus has accomplished our eternal salvation. We do not have to do anything, as if God needs or requires anything from us. The chief doctrine which sets us Christians apart and truly which sets us Lutherans apart from all other denominations is this teaching of justification, that is that we are justified, we are made right and just in God’s eyes, by His grace, through faith in Him, faith given through the means of grace so that rather than believe we have to do something to justify ourselves or to give back to God, instead we simply are moved, again by God as the prime mover to be given to, to be given faith, to be given forgiveness, to be robed with His robes of righteousness and to be given to to respond that is to live lives of faith, to live as priests in the priesthood of all believers, to live lives as living sacrifice to the Lord. And as we live in such a way, being justified by God and being moved to live as His people, so our lives do say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. He is risen! He is risen, indeed, Hallelujah! Amen.

The (Empty) Tomb - Easter Sunrise - April 24, 2011 - Text: John 20:1-18

He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Paul tells us, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). Those are pretty tough words. If Christ had not been raised from the dead, then we would have no reason to be a Christian. If Christ had not risen from the dead, we would still be sinners and eternally lost. If Christ had not risen from the dead, then why would we be here this morning? The heart of our Christian faith is this matter of Jesus’ resurrection. Did Jesus rise from the dead? How do we know? This morning we want to take the time to look at the evidence, to look at the claims and counter claims, the other explanations of the evidence so that we can know for sure, that we can have the confidence and security that in fact, Jesus did rise from the dead and as He rose from the dead, by His grace, through faith in Him, faith He has given to us, we know that we too will rise again to eternal life in heaven.

So, let us look at the evidence. As we look at the evidence for Jesus resurrection we want to make sure that we understand that evidence does not speak. If you have been in our Adult Bible Class on Sunday mornings, especially as we have looked at a lot of evidence for creation, over evolution, you might remember that we talked about this very issue, that evidence does not speak. Evidence does not speak, but it must be interpreted and it is interpreted according to one’s presupposition or world view. In other words, we interpret what we see either from the starting point that there is no God or as Christians, we believe the Bible’s interpretation is the best and truest and so we look at all the evidence beginning with God.

The main evidence we want to look at this morning is the evidence of an empty tomb. Dr. Paul Maier in his book, In the Fullness of Time, states, “. . . an empty tomb does not prove a resurrection, although a resurrection would require an empty tomb. Its occupancy, indeed, would effectively disprove it.” So, we have the evidence of an empty tomb and this evidence cannot and is not denied by anyone. It is the explanation of this evidence that we will want to examine. How can there be an empty tomb?

There are basically two explanations concerning the evidence of an empty tomb. The first explanation is the Jewish claim which is that the body was stolen. Matthew details this explanation when the guards admitted that the tomb was empty and this explanation is still propagated even today. So, one explanation of the empty tomb is that the body was stolen. This claim cannot be substantiated, however as we look at the evidence and as we seek to explain the evidence what cannot be overlooked is that this explanation is still a claim of a body not in the tomb.

According to Roman law, grave violations were strictly prohibited with strict penalties. If someone did steal the body of Jesus, there would be a hefty price to pay. Thus, if the body were stolen, there would most certainly be a search party, questions would be asked, and an explanation would have been forthcoming. Yet, as we look at the evidence we see that no one was accused or convicted of the crime of robbing the grave, thus this negates the explanation that the body was stolen.

The best explanation of the evidence is what happened in and around Jerusalem over the next seven weeks or forty days, that are the best proof of the resurrection. It was reported over and over by many and various people that Jesus was seen to be alive. It was reported by Jesus’ own disciples, to Peter, to James, to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, to the disciples without Thomas and to the disciples with Thomas, by various women, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of Jesus, Salome, and so forth, and even by over 500 witnesses mentioned by Paul in first Corinthians. All these witnesses saw Jesus alive. Even Thomas placed his fingers in Jesus’ hands and side. They watched as Jesus ate.

Yet, there is more evidence that Jesus rose. The Christian movement is probably the greatest evidence of Jesus’ resurrection. What was formerly important, one’s Jewish roots, became unimportant as the fulfillment of the work of the Messiah was complete and fulfilled. For those of Jesus’ own people, for those whose birth connected them to the covenant of the line of the fulfillment of the Messiah, for the believing Jews their birth heritage was no longer important instead what was important was to be known as a Christians. And thus, contrary to what secular history might tell you, this was not the birth of the Christian religion, but rather the birth of Judaism. The Christian religion goes back to the Garden of Eden and God’s promise to send a Messiah, a Savior. Jesus’ birth as the Messiah, as the Savior, was the fulfillment of the promise in Eden and so those who refused and rejected Jesus truly began their own religion, Judaism.

What does this mean? Today we celebrate an empty tomb. We celebrate the best explanation for the empty tomb is that Jesus rose from the dead. We celebrate the witnesses who saw Jesus alive. We celebrate the disciples who bore witness, even to death of the resurrection of Jesus. We celebrate the change in the world, especially in the church, that is that because of the fulfillment of the promise of a Savior given in the Garden of Eden, was fulfilled, one’s physical line of descent was no longer important, as Jesus Himself said, God can raise children of Abraham from stones. We are indeed God’s children, children of Abraham, children of the promise, not by birth, but by God’s grace, through faith, given to us.

Because of Jesus’ resurrection, because we know that we have forgiveness of sins, of all our sins, so then we confess our sins. We are bold to confess that we are conceived and born in sin, that every inclination of our heart is evil all the time, that we sin in thought, word and deed, that we sin sins of omission, not doing what we should be doing and sins of commission, doing what we should not be doing. We confess our sins because we know that our sins have been forgiven and to fail to confess is to refuse the forgiveness that Jesus earned for us. Actually, this is what separates us Lutherans from so many other denominations, our understanding of justification, sanctification and true Christian spirituality as it is called today. We are not spiritual because we have to do something for God. We are not made right before God because of what we do or do not do. Rather, we are spiritual, we are justified because of what God has done, does and continues to do for us and in us. Thus, we rejoice that we live lives as sinner/saints, sinful yet forgiven.

And so we rejoice in Jesus’ life, for us. The fullness of the Gospel is that Jesus lived for us. Remember God’s command is that we are perfect as He is perfect. Because we cannot be perfect, Jesus came to live in perfection for us, and He did. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, so He was conceived in perfection and He lived perfectly, obeying all God’s Laws; ceremonial, moral and civil. He fulfilled all God’s promises perfectly.

After living perfectly, Jesus took our sins upon Himself, our sins and the sins of all people, of all places, of all times. Thus, we mourn Jesus taking our sins and suffering. We mourn that Jesus had to suffer the eternal spiritual death penalty, hell, for us, in our place.

And we mourn Jesus’ death. Death was never and still is not a part of God’s plan. Death is a result of sin. Because we are conceived and born in sin, because we actually sin ourselves, the result is that dying we will die. Yet, Jesus died for us. He paid the eternal punishment so that although we may suffer the temporal consequences of our sins, we may die a physical death, we will never have to die an eternal spiritual death.

Then, we rejoice in His great love and substitution for us. We rejoice that God created us to love us. We rejoice that He does love us and that He has shown His love for us in this, no greater love can someone have than they would lay down their life for another, and that is what Jesus did for us. And He continues to love us and show His love for us in His constant forgiving us for our sin.

This morning and most greatly, then, we rejoice in His resurrection. Again, as Paul says, if He had not risen our faith would be in vain and we would, of all people, be most pitied. But, as we look at the evidence, as we explain the evidence, especially, as we start with God’s explanation of the evidence in His own Word, we know that His Word is faithful and true in all aspects and so we know that Jesus has risen from the dead, and that He lives and reigns to all eternity.

Finally, we rejoice in and await fulfillment to return to take us to be with Himself, either at His return or our going to Him and we have confidence in our eternal salvation. Our lives on this earth are short and often difficult, yet we know that even at a hundred years, our life on this earth is nothing. We understand, then, the importance of maintaining our faith, of looking forward to and being ready for our passing on from this world or our Lord’s return, knowing neither the day nor the hour.

What a great God we have. What a God of love we have. What a gift giving God we have. How can we not rejoice and celebrate. He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Amen.

Readings for Holy Week - Easter Sunday

What was Jesus doing on Easter Sunday?
The earthquake: Matthew 28:2-4
The coming of the women to the tomb to anoint the body: Matthew 28:1-7; Mark 16:1-5; Luke 24:1-2; John 20:1
Mary finds the tomb empty: John 20:2
Mary Magdalene tells Peter: Mark 16:10; John 20:2
Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene: Mark 16:9; John 20:11-17; 1 Cor. 15:4
Jesus appears to the other women: Matthew 28:8-10; Ps. 16:10
The report of the guards: Matthew 28:11-15
His appearance to Peter: Luke 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:5
His appearance to the disciples at Emmaus: Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-35
His appearance to the disciples, Thomas absent: Luke 24:36-48; John 20:19-25; 1 Cor. 15:5

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Three (How we count the three days in the tomb) - Good Friday - April 22, 2011 - Text: Matthew 27:57-66

If Jesus died on Friday and was buried on Friday afternoon and then rose early Sunday morning, that would amount to only about 48 hours. If this is true that Jesus was buried for only 48 hours, how can we say He rose on the third day? And why would this even be important? First, the only reason this is important is because the Bible tells us that He rose on the third day and thus, this rising on the third day is important because God’s Word is true and faithful and we can believe it. My contention will remain that if we have a problem in understanding the Bible and what God says it is not because God has said something wrong, but that we have misunderstood and so we need to go back and listen and read again until we get it right, because God already has it right.

After Jesus hung on the cross from morning until about three in the afternoon, after He died, and because the next day was the Sabbath day and the day of rest, Jesus’ body was taken down from the cross. Matthew tells us that when it was evening, in other words, after the afternoon and before sundown which would be the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea came and asked for the body of Jesus. So, keep in mind, this is still Friday, because at sundown it would be Saturday and the day of rest.

Matthew also tells us specifically that Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there. They were watching as Jesus died. They continued watching as His body was taken down from the cross. They were watching as His body was laid in the unused tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.

Matthew continues by reminding us that the next day, the day after the day of preparation, meaning this was the Sabbath, or the day of rest which at this time was celebrated on Saturday, the last day of the week in commemoration of God resting after His six days of creation. On Saturday, early in the morning the Pharisees came and asked for a guard to be posted at the tomb. They explained that Jesus had prophesied that He would rise again and they were concerned that His disciples might steal His body and say He rose from the dead. They wanted to make sure that the tomb was secure, at least for the three days in which Jesus said He would rise. Again, the counting of the days is such that the day ended and began at sunset, so that the sunset of Friday was the beginning of Saturday. Thus, Jesus died on Friday and was buried on Friday, probably between three when He died and four, but before sunset. And its was early in the morning that the Pharisees came before Pontius Pilate and asked for a guard. They did this early on Saturday morning.

It is interesting that when they asked Pilate for a guard, Pilate’s response was “you have a guard.” Perhaps this statement is an indication that it was temple guards, not a squad of Roman guards that were assigned to and guarded the tomb. This explanation makes sense because if it were a squad of Roman guards they would be executed if the body were stolen, since that was the law that the punishment that was meant for the one being guarded would be inflicted on those guarding them, but we are told later that the Chief Priests and Teachers of the Law said they would cover for the guards.

Continuing to count days, Jesus was placed in the grave on Friday. He was in the grave all day on Saturday which we count as day two. Saturday came to an end at sunset. At sunset on Saturday, the Sabbath day, it was no longer Saturday, but was now Sunday morning, and the first day of the week.

Therefore on the third day since Jesus was placed in the tomb, on Sunday morning, in fulfillment of the promise of God and according to Jesus’ own words, on the third day, Jesus rose from the dead. Matthew describes the scene as likened to an earthquake. He says that an angel rolled the stone away and his appearance was as white as snow.

Matthew further describes the scene saying that the guards ran at the resurrection. The guards were frightened at the sight and so run to save themselves. A little later we are told that when the guards told the chief priests what had happened they were told to say that the body had been stolen and that they would take care of the rest. Again, I believe this gives us an indication that these were temple guards, not Roman soldiers.

So, what does this mean? Sometimes, along with listening to what is said, we must listen to what is not said as well. As we follow along in Matthew’s Gospel as well as in all four Gospels, we know that we can trust that the prophesies concerning the Messiah, the Savior of the world, the prophesies concerning Jesus were true and they were fulfilled, completely, all of them, in Jesus.

We can trust that Jesus was in the tomb for three days as we counted the days, Friday, Saturday and finally rising on Sunday and Jesus showing Himself to be alive. Especially as we heard the testimony of those who believed the resurrection, that they indeed saw Jesus alive, but we can also believe in those who deny the resurrection, those that say He did not rise, because, even though they do not believe He rose and even thought they do not admit to seeing Him alive, they do admit that the tomb was empty, as they would tell the story that the body was stolen, or missing, as in what we would believe, and the only reason it was empty was because He rose.

Thus, we know that God’s Word is trustworthy and true. We know that Jesus is trustworthy and true and we know that, just as He said, we can believe that He indeed rose from the dead, for us.

Good Friday is indeed a good Friday. Certainly we do not celebrate Jesus’ suffering nor His death. Rather, we lament our part in these events. We lament our sins and we repent of our sins. What we celebrate is God’s love for us. What we celebrate is God’s keeping His promise to us and to all people, of all places, of all times. We celebrate that Jesus paid the price for our sins, in full so that no other sacrifice, no other offering needs to be made. We do not need to make any form of satisfaction for our sins since they have all been paid for and forgiven. Today is Good Friday. Tomorrow we wait and prepare ourselves, because on Sunday we once again, celebrate Jesus’ resurrection and the fact that we worship a living God. To Him be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Readings for Holy Week - Good Friday

What was Jesus doing on Friday of Holy Week?
Jesus before the high priest: Matthew 26:57; Mark 14:53; Luke 22:54; John 18:13-14
Peter’s denial of Jesus: Matthew 26:58, 69-75; Mark 14:54, 66-72; Luke 22:54-62; John 18:15-18, 25-27
Jesus before the Sanhedrin: Matthew 26:59-68; Mark 14:55-65; Luke 22:66-71; John 18:19-24
Jesus before Pilate: Matthew 27:1-2, 11-34; Mark 15:1-5; Luke 23:1-5; 18:28-38
Jesus before Herod: Luke 23:6-12
Pilate’ attempt to release Jesus: Matthew 27:15-26; Mark 15:6-15; Luke 23:13-24; John 18:39-40
The appeal of Pilate’ wife: Matthew 27:19
Pilate washes His hands: Matthew 27:24
Pilate approves the death sentence: Matthew 27:36-30; Mark 15:15; Luke 23:24; John 19:1-16
Jesus mocked: Matthew 27:30; Mark 15:16-20; John 19:1-3
Suicide of Judas: Matthew 27:3-10; Acts 1:18-19
Jesus led away to be crucified: Matthew 27:31-33; Mark 15:20-22; Luke 23:26; John 19:16-17
Weeping of the women: Luke 23:27-31
Jesus is offered wine: Matthew 27:34; Mark 15:23
The Crucifixion: Matthew 27:35-38; Mark 15:25-28; Luke 23:33-38; John 19:18-24
Casting lots for his clothes: John 19:23-24
The Jews mock him: Matthew 27:39-43; Mark 15:29-32; Luke 23:35
The dying thief’ confession: Luke 23:39-43
Jesus commends his mother to John: John 19:25-27
Darkness comes, Jesus dies: Matthew 27:45-50; Mark 15:33-37; Luke 23:44-46; John 19:28-30; 1 Cor. 15:3; Ps. 22:1
The veil of the temple is torn in two, and graves opened: Matthew 27:51-53; Mark 15:38; Luke 23:45
The centurion’ confession: Matthew 27:54; Mark 15:39; Luke 23:47
The descent from the cross: Matthew 27:57-58; Mark 15:42-45; Luke 23:50-53; John 19:31-38
The burial: Matthew 27:59-61; Mark 15:46-47; Luke 23:53; John 19:39-42; 1 Cor. 15:4
The watch at the tomb: Matthew 27:62-66

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Seder - Maundy Thursday - April 21, 2011 - Text: Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-25

This evening, on the anniversary of the Lord giving us His Holy Supper, I pray that we may see anew, Jesus giving us the Lord’s Supper connected to and surpassing the passing over of the angel of eternal spiritual death, flowing out of the celebration of the passing over of the angel of death in Egypt. This connection and completion of the celebration of the passing over of the angel of death and the given if the Lord’s Supper reminds us that, by faith in Jesus, we are children of Abraham, children of the covenant given in Eden, God’s holy nation.

First, looking back at the Passover. Every year, as a memorial, as a reminder, the children of Israel were instructed to celebrate the Passover. The Passover celebration was a commemoration of the Passing over of the Angel of death at the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. The Lord, Yahweh, knows our limited capacity as human beings. He knows the children of Israel, His chosen nation, at least the nation He chose through which He would send the Savior and thus bless all nations. He knows their forgetfulness and so He instructs that this celebration should be carried out every year.

Because the children of Israel had been delivered from Egypt, and because there was no longer any need to rush the celebration, unlike the night in which they were delivered and they ate standing and rushing to get out of Egypt, now the celebration was slowed and the meaning of the events was emphasized. First, the house was cleansed. All yeast, which Jesus often used to described sin and how, as yeast permeates and affects the whole loaf, sin has a way of permeating and affecting our whole life and so the house was cleansed of all yeast.

Days before the Passover a lamb is chosen. The lamb had to be a healthy, wound free lamb, one without blemish. The lamb was the animal for sacrifice. The sacrifice of the lamb reminded the people that the price for sin had to be paid and the price was blood, death. Thus, the lamb had to be spotless to be a substitute. This lamb was a reminder of the lamb that was slaughtered and the blood painted on the doorposts, vertical and the lintel, horizontal, thus in essence making the sign of the cross on the house to protect those inside, to mark the house so the angel of death would “pass-over.” However, we know that none of the sacrifices throughout the whole Old Testament actually paid any price for sin they simply pointed to the one ultimate sacrifice of Jesus. And as Jesus described Himself as the Lamb of God, so all the lambs of the Old Testament pointed to Jesus.

Finally, after all the preparations were complete, the meal was served. The family gathered and ate the bread, the bitter herbs, and the lamb. There was significance in all the parts of the meal.

Fast forward to Jesus and His celebration of the Passover Seder with His disciples. At one point in the meal, Jesus took off His outer robe, wrapped a towel around His waste and began washing the disciples feet. He did this to show the disciples how they were to live and treat each other.

Later in the meal, Jesus announces His betrayal. Although Judas knew he was the one of whom Jesus was speaking, he asked Jesus, as did the others, if He was speaking about him, to which Jesus answered and gave him the bread in a jester of love and friendship. Interestingly enough, Jesus did love and chose Judas as His disciple. Jesus jester of handing the bread was a jester of love. Yet, later on in the evening, Judas “friendly” kiss was a kiss of betrayal, not love.

At one point in the meal, at the point of the sharing of the middle Matzah, Jesus re-instituted the Passover meal and gave us a new meal, a complete meal, a Holy Sacred Meal. Perhaps you might remember that before the meal one piece of Matzah, the middle piece of the three placed in the matzah bag, the middle piece was broken and half was hidden. Certainly we understand that this piece was Jesus who was broken, crucified, buried and raised from the dead. Jesus took the Matzah, the middle bread, gave a blessing, broke it and gave it new to His disciples telling them He was giving them His very own body to eat. Jesus did not say that what He was giving them symbolized, nor turned into the body of Christ, but it was His body. The bread is His body.

Then Jesus took the third cup of wine, the cup of redemption, blessed it and gave it to them anew telling His disciples that He was giving them His Holy Blood to drink. Jesus did not say that what He was giving them symbolized, nor turned into the blood of Christ, but it was His blood. The third cup of wine is His blood. The rest of the Passover Seder was completed with the singing of a hymn and then the group went out to the Mount of Olives, to the Garden of Gethsemane for prayer.

This evening we want to take a closer look at what Jesus has given His disciples and us, what does this mean? According to the ceremonial law, the sacrificial system, a lamb was brought by the family for sacrifice. The family would lay their sins on the lamb, which was an unblemished, spotless lamb. The priest would sacrifice the lamb, keep part for himself and burn or rather barbequed the rest of the lamb.

After the lamb was done, the family ate the sacrifice, very much like they did when the angel of death passed over in Egypt. They participated in the sacrifice as it became a part of them, literally, through their eating of the lamb. In Egypt the blood was painted on the door post and lintel, in Israel it was sprinkled on the altar.

Jesus, true God, was born as a true man, perfect and holy. He lived perfectly for us, in our place, fulfilling all God’s laws and commandments perfectly, even fulfilling all God’s promises and prophecies concerning the Messiah, perfectly. After living in perfection, Jesus took all our sins and all the sins of all people, of all places, of all times, upon Himself. He who knew no sin, became sin for us, and then He offered Himself as the sacrifice. He was crucified. He shed His blood.

Today, just as the children of Israel participated in the sacrifice of the lamb which pointed to the once for all sacrifice of the Savior, Jesus, just as they ate the lamb, so too, today, Jesus invites us to come and eat and drink Himself. When we come to the Lord’s Supper, we come to eat and drink Jesus, and so we come to remember which means to actually participate in His sacrifice, in His life, suffering, death and resurrection so that His life, His suffering, His death and His resurrection are ours.

So, just as the angel death passed over the children of Israel and did not kill the first born of Israel, so the angel of eternal spiritual death, Satan himself, passes over us today. Death and the grave have no power over us. We need not fear death because Jesus has defeated sin, death and the devil and His defeat is ours.

When we fail to understand, to see the Lord’s Supper for what it truly is, for what the Lord accomplished and is giving to us through His Holy Meal, our eating His body and drinking His blood we miss all the good gifts and blessings He gives and we risk bringing God’s judgement on ourselves, as Paul warns. So, we see the importance of knowing what we are doing at the Lord’s Supper so that we are given the good gifts and blessings our Lord has to give. And as He blesses us with His good gifts and blessings, then we know and we have the certainty that our sins are forgiven and that we have the gift of eternal life with Him in heaven. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Readings for Holy Week - Thursday

What was Jesus doing on Thursday of Holy Week?
The preparation for the Passover: Matthew 26:17-19; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-13
The Passover meal: Matthew 26:20; Mark 14:17-18; Luke 22:14-18
Strife among the disciples: Luke 22:24-30
Washing the disciples feet: John 13:1-17
The traitor designated: Matthew 26:21-25; Mark 14:18-21; Luke 22:21-23; John 13:21-30
The Lord’s Supper: Matthew 26:26-29; Mark 14:22:25; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-25
Jesus’ parting words: Mrk 14:1-31
Parable of the true vine: John 15:1-11
The promise of the Holy Spirit: John 16:7-15
The intercessory prayer: John 17:1-26
The agony in the garden: Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46; John 18:1
The betrayal: Matthew 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-52; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:3-13
The healing of Malchus’s ear: Luke 22:50-51

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Readings for Holy Week - Chart

If you would like a copy of the chart for the readings for Holy Week, I can send you a "pdf" file of the chart, just send me an e-mail or message to let me know.

Readings for Holy Week - Wednesday

What was Jesus doing on Wednesday of Holy Week?
Day of Silence

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Readings for Holy Week - Tuesday

What was Jesus doing on Tuesday of Holy Week?
His authority questioned: Matthew 21:23-27; Mark 11:27-33; Luke 20:1-8
Parable of the two sons: Matthew 21:28-32
Parable of the wicked tenants: Matthew 21:33-41; Mark 12:1-9; Luke 20:9-16
Parable of the king’s son: Matthew 22:1-14
The question of the tax money: Matthew 22:15-22; Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26
The Sadducees’ question: Matthew 22:23-33; Mark 12:18-27; Luke 20:27-40
The great commandment: Matthew 22:34-40; Mark 12:28-34
Jesus’ question: Matthew 22:41-46; Mark 12:35-37; Luke 20:41-44
Woes pronounced against the Pharisees: Matthew 23; Mark 12:38-40; Luke 20:45-47
The widow’s offering: Mark 12:41-44; Luke 21:1-4
The visit of the Greeks: John 12:20-36
Discourse on unbelief: John 12:37-50
Prophecies of coming tragedies: Matthew 24:1-14; Mark 13:1-13; Luke 21:5-19
Discourse on signs and coming events: Matthew 24:14-42; Mark 13:14-37; Luke 21:20-36
Parable of the ten virgins: Matthew 25:1-13
Parable of the ten talents: Matthew 25:14-30
Discourse on the Judgement Day: Matthew 25:31-46
The plot of the Jews and Judas: Matthew 26:1-5, 14-16; Mark 14:1-2, 10-11; Luke 22:1-6

Monday, April 18, 2011

Readings for Holy Week - Monday

What was Jesus doing on Monday of Holy Week?
Cursing the fig tree: Matthew 21:18-20; Mark 11:12-14, 20, 21
Cleansing the temple: Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46
Healing in the temple: Matthew 21:14

Sunday, April 17, 2011

He Saved Others, but He Could Not Save Himself - April 17, 2011 - Palm Sunday - Text: Matthew 27:11-54

Today is Palm Sunday, the day we are reminded of Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem, on the back of a donkey, as people waved Palm branches and carpeted the road with their coats and with the palm branches. Unfortunately, our Bible Reading series has changed the readings from the Palm Sunday reading to a Passion story reading, that is a reading of the suffering and dying of Jesus, so that next week we can hear the Easter texts of His resurrection. I would suppose this change has come about because we live in a world which no longer takes Jesus’ suffering and death seriously. Too many people no longer see the need to be in divine service on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday to hear the passion story, the accounts of the suffering of Jesus and without the suffering and death of Jesus, how could we celebrate His resurrection on Easter Sunday. So, our readings are now readings of Jesus passion on the Sunday prior to Easter Sunday.

I want to begin by talking about our text. The story, so far has been that Jesus did ride triumphant into Jerusalem as the crowds cheered Him on. He celebrated the Passover with His disciples in the upper room, that was Maundy Thursday. After the Passover He went out with His disciples to the Mount of Olives to pray. When He was done praying, Judas brought a gang of thugs, that is the synagogue soldiers to arrest Jesus. He was up all night being interrogated. He was interrogated all morning on Friday. He was beaten, whipped, mocked, spat upon, and so forth. Finally, here it was, Friday afternoon, He was nailed to the cross, yet the mocking did not cease but continued.

While Jesus hung on the cross, the Pharisees continued to mock Him and said, “Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!” These words reveal the visions that were in the eyes of the Pharisees, how they saw things, which was quite differently from the way God saw things. The Pharisees’ vision of the Messiah was that he would be an earthly king. To be an earthly king he must, no doubt, be strong and able to overcome all things. If Jesus would come down from the cross, then certainly His claims to be the Messiah might have some foundation and validity, at least as far as the Pharisees were concerned. Jesus must prove that He is the Messiah. He must prove it by passing the tests which the Pharisees have for Him. Obviously, the Pharisees have been missing the proofs all along. The Gospel writer John continually pointed out through the signs and wonders, the miracles, that Jesus performed as proof that He was the Messiah. For the Pharisees, these signs and wonders, these miracles, were only hassles as they tried to find some way to disprove or to cover up Jesus’ true identity.

The Pharisees’ vision of the Son of God was that he would be one of them. Certainly the Pharisees were among the most holy of the people, at least in their own eyes, so if God was going to send His Son He would send Him among the Pharisees. And this Son of God, this Savior would be on the side of the Pharisees. He would come and set them up as the leaders and rulers in the land, because that was their position already. Notice that theirs was a vision of grandeur which included power, greed and authority.

The Pharisees’ vision of the cross was that it was not the place for a king. As a matter of fact, anyone who would subject themselves to death on the cross shows that they are the exact opposite of what a Pharisee would see as a king. The cross was the sign of sin and a king would not be associated with sin. The sign of the cross was a sign of weakness and a king could not and would not be weak. The cross was a sign of the worst form of death, used only on those who, obviously, deserve the worst and cruelest form of punishment. A king would never be subject to such a death.

We can at least say that the Pharisees were right in some of their thinking. They were right in the fact that the cross was a punishment for the worst form of sin. What they missed was that they, and here we include ourselves, are the sinners for whom the cross was meant. It is our sins which have earned for us the eternal spiritual death penalty. It is our sins which truly deserve to be punished on the cross. Thankfully, with God’s help, we are able to recognize our sins and what our sins deserve, so that we are able to repent, that is, to put them on Jesus, who took our sins on Himself in order to pay the price for us, in our place. We are glad Jesus did not come down from the cross, but stayed and paid the price of our sins for us.

Getting back to the Pharisees, about Jesus, as He suffered on the cross, they went on to say, “He saved others, but He can’t save Himself!” The Pharisees did admit this one thing, maybe because there was no way to deny it. They admitted that Jesus saved others. Of course, they were not thinking in terms of eternal salvation, but in terms of healing, raising from the dead, casting out demons and the like.

What the Pharisees failed to realize is that Jesus could have saved Himself. He could have come down from the cross. He could have called down legions of angels to destroy His enemies. He could have, He could have, He could have. Jesus is true God, He could have done anything He wanted to do. And He did do what He wanted to do, and what He came to do, He stayed on the cross and gave His life on the cross for our sins, so that we might be given forgiveness, and with forgiveness, life and salvation.

Jesus could have saved Himself, but in so doing He would not have saved others, He would not have saved us. The Pharisees had it backwards. They said they would believe Jesus was the Savior if He would save Himself. If Jesus saved Himself, He would not be the Savior, at least, not our Savior. Jesus was our Savior because He did not save Himself, but because He gave Himself up for us on the cross.

As I read this text for today a couple of questions came to mind. Where were the disciples? and where are we? Did you notice the absence of the disciples from our text. Their absence is quite a statement of their lack of faith, their lack of loyalty, their fear for their own lives and so on. They were no where to be found (except for John). I think their absence reflects on us when we are in the position of giving witness to the faith that is in our hearts. Do we give a good witness of faith, or do we give a witness of no faith. When we have the opportunity to give a good witness, do we distance ourselves from our Savior by our actions as well as our words.

When Jesus suffered on the cross, He suffered alone. His disciples left Him. He gave His mother to John. Even God the Father forsook Him as we hear Him cry, “My God, My God, why do You forsake me?” Not a pretty sight and one which we have a hard time talking about ourselves.

So, where are we when it comes time to show our faith? Do we let our faith shine or do we run and hide like the disciples? This is an important question because this is what our Christian life is all about, being priests and living our lives as living sacrifices, always being ready to give an answer for the hope that we have in Jesus as our Savior.

Many congregations carry on the tradition of Palm Sunday being confirmation Sunday, and that is our tradition here as St. Matthew. Unfortunately, this year we do not have any confirmands. With that said, I believe it is still appropriate that we take the time to review exactly what it was that we promised at our own confirmation. Do you remember what you promised at your confirmation? If you would like, refer to page 272 in the Lutheran Service Book, the questions are printed there, and while these questions are not exactly the same questions that are in The Lutheran Hymnal Agenda, which was used for the confirmation of some of you, they are very close. I will not rehearse these questions this morning, however, I will summarize what we all confessed and to what we all committed ourselves. We all confessed our faith in God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit; in our belief that the Bible is God’s Word, not merely contains the Word of God; that we believe the Small Catechism is not a replacement of the Bible, but is a true explanation of that Bible; that we promised with our life, to be faithful in our divine service and Bible Class attendance, in our Bible reading, in our partaking of the Lord’s Supper, in our remembering our Baptism; and that we would suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it, meaning that we will remain a member of the Lutheran Church, Missouri Synod, even if it meant we would die, rather than join any other church denomination. These were not questions that were asked for the fun of it. We were not asked to make a frivolous oath to do these things. We were asked to think about the promise, the oath, the vow that we would take and then to take that vow seriously. You may not realize it, but every time you come to the Lord’s Supper you reiterate your confession of faith in all the doctrines of the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod and re reaffirm you confirmation vow. God has made promises to us and He has not gone back on His promises.

You may remember that we answered several questions, “by the grace of God.” We cannot keep our promises, even the ones we make to God, by ourselves, in that way we are a lot like Jesus’ disciples at His crucifixion, absent. For this reason we do not depend on ourselves and that is why we make our vow, our promise by the grace of God. God is helping, God is being gracious, unfortunately we can resist God’s help and His grace. But God is persistent. He comes to us every time we read His Word, He brings us back here every week, to be reminded of His forgiveness. Confirmation is a beginning, not an end, not a graduation. It is the beginning of our taking responsibility for our own faith life.

We can either absent ourselves from the things of God, from church and Bible class, or we can take part in the things of God. Either way, absenting ourselves or taking part in and being given the things of God will show, more than what our words say, what our confirmation and the vows we made really mean to us. But please remember, as we made our vows, we made them with the help of God and by the grace of God. God is with us, until we tell Him we need Him no longer, which I pray we never do.

Today, we are reminded once again, as we are every Sunday, that Jesus came to save us. He saved us because He did not save Himself, because He did not come down from the cross. He saved us because of His great love for us. He saved us by giving up the glory of heaven that was His, by taking on human flesh and blood, and by giving His life to be crucified, suffering the worst of deaths, death on the cross. He has made His vow to be with us, to protect us, to strengthen and keep us in our faith, and finally to bring us to His home in heaven. And we praise His name because we know that He will keep His promises to us, for Jesus sake. To Him be the glory. Amen.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Skull (on the cross) - Lent Mid-week 6 - April 13, 2011 - Text: Matthew 27:32-44; Mark 15:21-32; Luke 23:26-43; John 19:17-27

Jesus is God. He was in heaven enjoying all the glory that was His as God. He gave up that glory, truly humbling Himself, in order to take on human flesh and blood, so that He might fulfill His promise in the Garden of Eden. In birth, in ministry, in life, the short life He lived on this earth, the cross was always before Him. If anyone truly knows what it means to have death ever before them, it is Jesus, because that was the very reason He was born, to live and ultimately to die, for us, for you and for me.

The place for capital punishment and in this instance for crucifixion was outside the city gate at the place of the skull called Golgotha. The convicted actually began their punishment by being sentenced to carry the 30 - 40 pound cross beam while being paraded through town so that everyone could see what would happen if they broke the law and committed the same crime as the one on display. I suggest, and I believe most anthropologist and archeologist would agree, that the person only carried the cross beam of wood. The main pole of the cross was probably anchored in the ground, solid rock ground so that it was not removed. Because of the rock and the difficulty of digging in the rock, the main beam was probably permanent and the cross beam is what was carried, and then after the convicted was attached, it was raised into place and secured.

In the case of crucifixion, not everyone who was crucified was nailed to the cross, some were simply affixed with rope. But in the case of Jesus, He was nailed to the cross. As for the nails, more than likely and x-rays of crucifixion victims have shown the nails penetrated through the two bones in the arm. The nails were through these bones because the bones and the skin in the hand would not have held the weight of the one being crucified. If the nails were in the hands, the weight of the person would pull down so that they would fall off the cross. Also, the nails were driven through the heel of the foot. This nailing through the heel was done in order to inflict as much pain as possible and to make it difficult for the victim to put pressure on his feet which was a part of the dying process.

As for the dying process, the convicted died of suffocation. The way we breath is that we breath out. We do not necessarily breath in, because, actually scientifically speaking, because of air pressure, the pressure of the air outside our bodies forces air into our lungs. We do use our diaphragm to exhale, to breath out, to push out the used air. And then the pressure forces air back into our lungs. The problem on the cross is that all the weight of the victim pulls down on their lower abdomen so that it is difficult to breath out, to exhale. And with the nails through the heels, it is painful to do so. Thus, over time, the person tires and is unable to exhale meaning he is unable to get fresh air and literally suffocates, slowly.

The convicted is subjected to suffering great physical pain. In the case of Jesus, He had already been beaten, mocked, whipped almost to the point of death, spit upon, had to carry His own cross of thirty to forty pounds through the winding streets of town, He had been nailed, hand and feet and now slowly suffocated. Indeed, Jesus suffered great physical pain.

More important to us, however, than the physical pain Jesus suffered was the fact that He suffered the eternal spiritual death which should have been ours to suffer. Eternal spiritual death is hell, total absence of God and His love. Certainly Jesus’ words from the cross enlighten us in His spiritual suffering. We have listed in the Gospel that Jesus spoke at least seven times. One of the times Jesus spoke He said, “My God, My God why have You forsaken me?” Jesus’ own disciples had abandoned Him. His friends were no where to be found. Earlier Jesus had given His disciple John to care for His mother, Mary. Now He is rejected by His own Father, thus He is left, alone, without mother or Father or friend, to suffer. And what is it that Jesus suffers? He suffers the punishment for the verdict handed down in the Garden of Eden, death, eternal spiritual death, hell in other words.

After suffering physical torment; after suffering eternal spiritual torment, again Jesus spoke from the cross, “It is finished.” The heart and the theology of the words Jesus spoke have eternal implications. He said, “It is finished.” The meaning of those words is that the debt, the cost, the price for sin, for all sin, for the sins of all people, of all places, of all times, has been paid. Jesus’ suffering was enough, was complete, and was eternal.

Finally, having restored our relationship and His own relationship with His Father, Jesus spoke, “Father into Your hands I commit my spirit.” Jesus was restored and brought back into a right relationship with God. What man broke in the Garden of Eden, what man could not restore, Jesus restored.

What does this mean? Jesus is truly God and yet, because of His love for us, because of His promise in the Garden, because He created us to love us, He gave up the glory that was His and took on human flesh and blood. What the whole nation of Israel, His covenant people, could not do, what we and all humanity cannot do, He did. He lived perfectly and He lived for us, in our place as our substitute. After living in perfection and after fulfilling all God’s promises and prophecies concerning the Messiah, He then took our sins upon Himself.

Jesus suffered. He suffered physical pain. He suffered mocking, torture, beating. He suffered as we sing, He was “stricken, smitten and afflicted.” Truly His suffering was beyond what we might ever think or imagine. He suffered for us, for each one of us, for you and for me.

Not only did Jesus suffer physically, more importantly and even most importantly, He suffered spiritually. He suffered the pangs of hell for us in our place. He suffered the eternal spiritual death penalty for us, in our place.

Certainly, Jesus died the most cruel of deaths, yet He did it willingly, He did it with us in mind. Yes, when Jesus was living He had you in mind. When Jesus was suffering, He had you in mind. When Jesus died He had you in mind. And when Jesus rose, He had you in mind.

Jesus did what He did because of and for us. He created us to love us and He lived, suffered and died because He loves us. He did what He did so that we might have forgiveness of sins. He did what He did in order to bring us back into a right relationship with Himself and His Father, who are one.

The good news, the greatest news is that Jesus did not stay dead, but rose. Death and the grave had and have no power over Him. He rose victorious. And we rejoice in His resurrection, because if He had not risen from the dead, then our faith would be in vain and as Paul says, we would be most to be pitied. But, Jesus did rise and because He rose we know that by faith in Him we too will rise again.

We, you and I, are different and we are hated by the rest of the world, by those who are followers of other religions, cults and sects. We are hated because we worship a God who is alive, a God who defeated death, a God who gives us the exclusive claim that it is by His grace, through faith in Him alone, who has given us such faith, and who has secured our salvation, that we alone are saved. Our God does it all and gives it all to us and He rejoices when one sinner repents and is given faith. And we rejoice in our own salvation and say, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People? - April 10, 2011 - Fifth Sunday in Lent - Text: John 11:1-45 (46-53)

As we meander, or wander through the season of Lent, making our way to Good Friday, I am reminded of some of the older television shows which often ended with the words, “to be continued.” Last week our Gospel reading was the story of Jesus healing the man born blind and the attempt by the Pharisees to discredit Jesus. Last week we also considered the question which is the title of our sermon for today, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” and you might remember, I said we would most certainly talk about this questions again. This week, we turn to another episode of, the Life and Times of Jesus.

Our story opens with a scene at the house of Mary and Martha, two sisters that Jesus loved dearly. As our scene opens we immediately have a flashback (actually, it is a flash forward), showing us that this Mary is the same Mary who anointed Jesus’ feet with perfume and wiped them with her hair to, as Jesus says, get His body ready for burial. But now, as this scene opens, their brother and good friend of Jesus, Lazarus is sick. We see him lying on the bed. His pulse is erratic. His blood pressure is down. He is having a hard time breathing. The doctors have done all they could do. They have called in the family and now they are waiting. In faith, Mary and Martha send for Jesus. They know He has power to heal and they pray that He comes in time.

We shift scenes to where Jesus is. We watch as a messenger arrives with the message from Mary and Martha to tell Jesus that Lazarus is sick and about to die and that He needs to hurry if He wants to see him alive. Jesus speaks and what He says, His comment, takes us to a flashback scene to last week when He made a similar comment. You might recall, that when Jesus was asked about the cause of the blind man’s blindness He said that it was “so the work of God might be seen.” Now, back at our present scene, we hear Jesus say, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it” (v. 4). And then, to our surprise, He went on about His business. A message has just been delivered to Jesus that Lazarus was sick and about to die and what does He do, He stays where He is for two more days. Finally, after two days, Jesus gets His disciples ready and they head to Judea. Tensions mount as the disciple remind Him that there is a threat to His life in Judea, but Jesus assures them it will work out for the best. Then He tells them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep; but I am going there to wake him up” (v. 11). Once again, we flash back to the death of Lazarus, as we see him lying on his bed. He stops breathing. The doctor checks him and declares him dead. Then we see him pull the sheet over his head and go out to call the undertaker to get the body ready for burial. As we come back to the present scene we can see that the disciples have misunderstood what Jesus was saying and they suggest that Lazarus will wake up. Then Jesus tells them plainly and bluntly, “Lazarus is dead, and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe” (v. 14).

Before we switch scenes, we hear Thomas, the disciple we love to beat up on once a year after Easter for doubting, show his true faith. He was ready to go with Jesus anywhere, even to die with Him, as we hear him say, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” (v. 16). Perhaps we have been wrong and too hard on Thomas all these years? But that is for a different sermon.

We switch scenes back to the village. The tension mounts as we approach the village and as we see Mary and Martha grieving over the death of their brother, whom they know Jesus could have saved. The point is reiterated that Jesus stayed too long, if Jesus had been there He could have saved Lazarus. So now, we are told that Lazarus had been dead for four days. The questions we might ask is why is it so important that we know that Lazarus has been dead for four days? What difference does it make how long he has been dead? Is not dead, dead? The Concordia Self-Study Bible explains, “many Jews believed that the soul remained near the body for three days after death in the hope of returning to it. If this idea was in the minds of these people, they obviously thought all hope was gone—Lazarus was irrevocably dead.” And the Lutheran Study Bible adds, “John’s point is that only a genuine miracle could account for the raising of Lazarus.” And now, back to the present scene. We see Martha being told that Jesus has arrived and she rushes out to meet Him. At this point we have some words foreshadowing what is to come. Jesus tells Martha that Lazarus will “rise again.” Martha is thinking in terms of heaven and certainly she believes in the resurrection to eternal life in heaven, but Jesus is speaking in terms of now. We are drawn in closer and we hear Jesus tell Martha, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die” (v. 25).

The scene immediately shifts as we watch Martha go and tell her sister Mary that Jesus has arrived. We shift back and watch as Jesus moves closer to the place where Lazarus body was laid. We shift back and watch Mary rush out to see Jesus. Tensions mount again as Mary politely scolds Jesus, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died” (v. 32). Jesus consoles her as they walk to the grave. In a moment of deep humility and sadness we watch as Jesus too begins to cry for Lazarus His friend. Here we see, God in flesh, Jesus the human, grieving for His friend Lazarus.

Tensions again mount as we hear Jesus speak and ask that the stone to the grave be removed. Certainly the people did not hear Him correctly. Certainly Jesus knows that Lazarus is dead, it has been four days after all. And certainly Jesus knows that by now the odor would be too much. Has this man who has healed others gone mad? Is He out of His mind in torment and grief over Lazarus death? Does He know what He is saying? Yes, Jesus knows what He is saying. He reminds them, “Did I not tell you that if you believed, you would see the glory of God?” So, they took the stone and moved it. And we hear Jesus pray, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.” Then he called out, “Lazarus, come out!” The moment of truth had arrived. And almost immediately, Lazarus came forth from the grave. He was wrapped in grave cloth and looked like a mummy.

Last week we asked the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” and we realized that is not the right question to ask. We came to understand that we are not good people. As a matter of fact, we are sinful people, we are evil people, we are people who constantly do everything we can to sabotage Jesus and His work of saving others. We are sinners. We are conceived and born in sin and we daily sin much, adding to our sin. What each one of us is deserving of is death, even eternal spiritual death.

The question we ask is not, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” but, “Why do good things happen to sinful people.” And the answer is in our text, “It is for God’s glory.” We have a God who loves us so much and who has only in mind the best for us. Certainly we will suffer trials and tribulations in this world, but these things are not from God, but are a result of sin, that is, because we live in a world of sin and a world cursed because of sin. God loves us and He works to bring the best out for us in any given situation. Someone once described life like looking at a piece of cross stitching. When you look at the back of a piece which has been cross stitched, what you see are the knots and a lot of thread dangling. Knots in cross stitching are inevitable. However, when you turn the cross stitched piece over, what you see is a beautiful picture. Life is very similar, what we see is the bottom. We see the knots. We see the mess. We experience the pains of life. What God sees is the top. He is looking down from top down. And what He sees is the beautiful person He is making us to be. What He sees is the beautiful life He is weaving for us.

Yes, “bad” things happen in our lives. We can blame others. We can blame the pastor. We can blame our parents. We can blame our government. We can even blame God. There may even be a time when we might, perhaps, blame ourselves. The fact of the matter is that in our own lives, God is constantly working out the best for us in any given situation.

But, our story has not been completed. There is more. In the closing scene we see the enemies of Jesus gathering around plotting. They do not like what Jesus is doing. They do not like that many people are beginning to believe in Jesus. And so they are plotting. Their interest is not in helping anyone except themselves and in keeping their positions of power and authority. They are all evil and you can almost see the evil they exude. They plot and plan and their plan is one of the most evil you will know. Their goal now is to do away with Jesus. They plan to kill Him.

But, in this plan of evil, we continue to see God working. From verse fifty of our text we are told that Caiaphas gives us the greatest example of good, our good, coming from evil. Caiaphas tells those planning and plotting, “You know nothing at all! You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish” (v. 50). Jesus is that one man who died, who gave His life so that we might not die, that is, so that we might not suffer eternal spiritual death, but so that we might have life, eternal life. So, we see, out of this most cruel and torturing death, out of this crucifixion, out of this taking the life of the Son of God, yes, God in flesh, out of this evil and bad, God brings the best, forgiveness for our sins and eternal life for us. Yes, we may suffer for a little while. We may suffer some of the consequences of our actions, but, by God’s grace, through faith in Jesus Christ, who suffered the eternal spiritual death penalty for us, in our place, we will never have to suffer any eternal consequences for our sins. We will never see death, eternal spiritual death. Instead, we have life, eternal life.

So, our story comes full circle. Our tensions are resolved, only to bring another tension, as we work our way closer and closer to the earthly demise of Jesus. As we look at scenes from next week’s story we see the crowd gather as Jesus rides triumphant into Jerusalem. We see the crowds gather and cheer Him on. And we see Him on the way to the cross. For us, for now, we are resolved and reminded in our own lives that we do live in a world of sin. We are sinners living in this world of sin. Sin happens. Yet, we have a God who loves us so much that He sent His one and only Son to live for us, give His life as a ransom for us, to pay the price for our sins. We have a Savior who traded our sins for His robes of righteousness. And we have a God who is so constantly looking out for us that He is with us always, each and every second of the day always looking to bring good out of evil. What a great God we have. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Crowd (at the Trial) - Lent Mid-week 5 - April 6, 2011 - Text: Matthew 27:15-23

Last week we began talking about the trials of Jesus. This week we move to look at those who had gathered at the trial, at least those who had gathered at the public viewing of the trials that were seen in public. Remember, many of the trials were held at night, which was against the Jewish law, and they were held in private, which was also against the law. All of this trying Jesus in private and at night was done so as not to draw attention to Jesus’ supporters and in order to facilitate the outcome of a guilty verdict with the sentence of death, which was the predetermined outcome of those trying Jesus. But what about those people who had gathered? Tonight we want to look at the crowd that called for Jesus’ death.

In thinking about the crowds that had gathered to see Jesus, we might want to first go back a few days to Palm Sunday. On Palm Sunday, a few days earlier, the crowd was heralding Jesus as the “son of David.” They were casting down their robes and palm branches welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem. They were singing “Hosanna.” So, were these people that had gathered to welcome Jesus into Jerusalem the same people who are now at the trial? Were these the same people who had gone out of the city during the last three years to hear Jesus preach and teach in the neighboring synagogues and by the sea shore?

Jesus came into town on Sunday and during the week, on Monday and Tuesday the people came and listened to Him preach. Are these the same people who quietly listened to Jesus preach and we might infer from their listening, accepted and believed what He was preaching? Is this a crowd of rock solid believers or a crowd that is swayed by every wind of counsel and doctrine?

Perhaps it was the same group of people all along or perhaps it was another crowd, a different group of people. Were these people at the trial, the ones asking that Jesus be crucified, the same people from earlier or were these people “plants” of the Sanhedrin? Where they there perhaps bribed by the Sanhedrin to be against Jesus? Could this be similar to what happens today when politicians bus in activists to protest? Perhaps these people had no idea why they were there, maybe they were paid to come in or perhaps they were simply so simple minded that they followed along with crowd. How often do we see this “herd” instinct today and see people worked up into a riotous frenzy by those who know how to “work” a crowd. Unfortunately, because we are conceived and born in sin, because every inclination of our heart is evil all the time, there are people in our world who can easily be worked up and fail to think about what or why they are protesting.

Jesus had been on trial before Annas, Caiaphas, Pilate, Herod and now this is the second appearing of Jesus before Pilate. Certainly the members of the Sanhedrin had plenty of opportunity to gather a crowd of a group of willing participants who could be swayed to do their bidding.

How would the Sanhedrin go about “leading” this crowd? Perhaps the warm up for this riotous bunch might be to start asking the people some simple questions, questions which struck at their own egos. Maybe they began whispering, “Who is this man and who does He think He is?” Remember, they do not have to speak words of truth. They do not have to tell the whole truth. Their goal is simply to cast aversions on Jesus and His character.

Also, remember the accusation against Jesus, at least the civil accusation was treason and that He claims to be a king. What affect does presenting Jesus with a crown of thorns have on this crowd? Is this mocking jester enough to spark their jealousy and anger, after all, in their minds He is no better than they are.

Thus, the goal of a riotous frenzy is accomplished by the stirring up and goading by the chief priests and the elders. They know Pilate’s weakness. They know that Pilate does not need a riot. Thus, a good offensive strategy is to work the people up so that the only way out is to give them what they want, blood, Jesus’ blood.

What does this mean? So, back to the question of who are these people that make up this crowd? They could very well be the same crowd that was there on Palm Sunday. And for that matter, let me remind you as we said a few weeks ago, we are the crowd on Palm Sunday. We welcome Jesus into our hearts and lives. We welcome Jesus into our churches and homes. We love Jesus and we sing His praises.

This group of people, this crowd could also be the same crowd that was there on Palm Sunday, the only difference being that they have been swayed by the chief priests and elders. They are a fickle bunch. And so we might be reminded that, yes, even though we may deny it, we are the crowd at the trial as well. How fickle we are as Christians. We try to keep the Ten Commandments and some days we are good at it, and other days, my how we look like we are more friends of the devil than of Jesus. Indeed, we daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness. We are at the same time sinner and saint.

We fail to realize that in our sin, we are crying out down through time, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him.” Yes, on any given Sunday morning and at any divine service we join those who joyously and in praise and adoration welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem, but every time we sin, we are also the ones standing in judgement yelling, “Crucify Him, Crucify Him.”

Thanks be to God that it was for this very reason, our sinfulness, our fickleness, our crying out against Jesus that He came for us. He came for us because we cannot save ourselves. Left to ourselves we would be eternally lost and condemned. Left to ourselves we would be lost and helpless. We are conceived and born in sin, so we can never meet God’s command and demand for perfection.

Jesus came for us. He came to live for us. All that the whole nation of Israel could not do, live according to God’s laws perfectly and all that we cannot do, live according to God’s Word perfectly, Jesus came to do. He came to live perfectly for us in our place. The whole of the Gospel is that Jesus came to live for us, thus He could be our substitute, giving His life for us.

Jesus came in perfect active obedience. That means that He came and actively took our sins upon Himself. He who knew no sin became sin for us. He who was without sin, who was perfect and holy, who had lived a perfect and holy life, obeying all God’s commands perfectly, fulfilling all of God’s promises perfectly. He took our sins and all the sins of all the people who ever lived, who were alive and who ever will live, of all places, on Himself. He suffered, not only the consequences of our sins, but more importantly, the eternal punishment, eternal spiritual death, hell, for us in our place.

Jesus actively obeyed God and took our sins upon Himself and He passively allowed Himself to be crucified, for us, this obedience is what we call passive obedience. He did not fight against those who crucified Him, but allowed Himself to be mocked, tortured, nailed to the cross and killed.

Yet, in Jesus passive and active obedience, Jesus did not lose, but through His death, Jesus defeated sin, death and the devil. Death and the grave had no power over Him, but as we celebrate each year at Easter, He rose victorious over sin, death and the devil.

Yes, we lament the fact that it was because of ours sins that Jesus had to die. We who are at the same time sinner and saint, while we are in this world, we will continue to praise Him and seek His crucifixion, but the greatest joy is knowing that because of His great love for us, He willing gave His all so that we might have His reward, that is, as forgiven sinners, we are robed with His robes of righteousness. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

God's Omnisience and Omnipotence

The following was posted on a young man's Facebook page in answer to the question concerning God's omniscience and omnipotence.

I do not know what happened to my first answer, but here is my attempt to rewrite it. I will post this on my blog at: http://www.rabswritings.blogspot.com/. I have other articles, last Sunday’s sermon and this next Sunday’s sermon which address this issue as well. I pray this helps.

In the beginning God created everything perfect, including angels. One angel in particular, Lucifer (Satan), rebelled against God, thinking himself equal with God. God cast him out of heaven and actually, hell was originally created for Satan. Because of his hatred toward God, Satan tempted Eve and Adam to disobey God. Their disobedience was the first sin which resulted in punishment, their punishment and a curse on the whole of God’s creation. Until this time Adam and Eve only knew good, which I believe is why they fell for Satan’s lies, because they did not know what a lie was, but after eating the fruit of the “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil,” (not an apple tree), now they knew evil as well as good. Sin also brought the tainting of human will so that now our will, tainted by sin, is only to evil all the time (Gen. 6:5). God stepped in immediately and promised to take care of the curse and punishment inflicted on Adam and Eve, that is the eternal, spiritual punishment of hell. Jesus was born, truly God, which He had to be to be born in perfection, and truly human, born of the human woman, Mary, which He had to be to be our substitute. Jesus traded His perfect life for ours. Remember, perfection is what God demands (Matt. 5:48). Jesus lived in perfection for us, trading our sins for His imperfection. Jesus paid the price for our sin, and gave us His righteousness. Interestingly enough, even though God knew what was going to happen, that humanity would sin, that He would have to suffer and die, because of His great love for us, He created us anyway, to love us. So, as Jesus sort of explains in His parable of the Weeds (Matt. 13:24-30) we will live in a non-perfect world until He returns. The question is often asked, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” I believe the question is backwards and should read, “Why do good things happen to sinful people?” And the reason is because God loves us so much that He works best out for us in any given situation.

The New Pharisees

In His sermon on the Mountain Jesus continually exposed the Pharisees and their thinking that they could save themselves through there obedience to the Law. The Pharisees truly believed they could be the people God wanted them to be, even the Champions God wanted them to be. The reason they believed that they could be good people is because they confused and commingled Law and Gospel and because they failed to understand the purpose of the Ten Commandments. The Pharisees attempted to narrow the definition of the commandments so they thought they would be able to keep them. An example is in their thinking that just because they never actually murdered anyone, they believed they had kept the Fifth Commandment (You shall not murder). Jesus instructs them in the sermon on the Mountain that rather than narrow the definition of the commandments, He has broadened the definition. So, Jesus looks at the commandment forbidding murder and says that we may break this commandment by hurting and harming someone, by speaking hateful and hurtful words, and even by simply hating them in our hearts. Today we would say this reminds us that not only do we sin in what we do, what we call sins of commission (committing sin), but we can sin sins of omission (omitting to do something), and we can sin in word as well as in our very thoughts.

The reason Jesus broadens the definition of the commandments is to show us how sinful we truly are. It is only as we see our need for a Savior that we will repent and turn to Him. Jesus does not broaden His definition so that we simply have to work harder to justify ourselves; that is not the point. The commandments were not written so that we might justify ourselves, but again, so that we might see our sin, how great is our sin, and our need for a Savior.

In our world today we see the new Pharisee especially in the person of Tim LaHaye whose new church doctrine teaches that as one grows in their Christian faith they become more and more like God and even become mentors for others to help them become more like God. And we see the new Pharisee in persons like Joel Osteen who teach that we can be the people God wants us to be. How are either of these ideas any different from what the Pharisees of Jesus’ day were teaching and espousing? There are many in our world today who would suggest that one does not sin in one’s thoughts, but if that is so, then what does Jesus mean when He says if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out (Matt. 5:29). How can an eye sin except that it is connected to the brain which thinks lustful thoughts. If we can be the people God wants us to be, if we can be like God, then why would we need a Savior?

John helps us get it right. “8If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us” (1 John 1:8-10). Jesus helps us get it right. If we want to get to heaven by ourselves, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). That is why He gives us the commandments, so we can see and confess our sins. Remember, as Jesus told the Simon the Pharisee concerning the sinful woman, “Therefore I tell you, her sins, which are many, are forgiven—for she loved much. But he who is forgiven little, loves little” (Luke 7:47 ).

So, what will happen when someone who thinks they are good and can be the people God wants them to be hears the word of the Lord that s/he is a sinner and needs forgiveness. Unfortunately, they will not want to hear such words and will refuse and reject the gifts God has to give, forgiveness, faith and life.

Thanks be to God for Jesus, for His broadening the definition of breaking the commandments for removing from us any justification for ourselves, and most importantly for His forgiveness. As Lutheran Christians, we understand that as we grow in our faith we come to understand more and more just how sinful we truly are, how and what great sinners we are so that we know our need to cling only to Jesus and His work, His life, death and resurrection for us in our place because of His great love for us. And we are given exactly what His Word tells us we are given, forgiveness, faith, life and salvation.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Eyes That See - April 3, 2011 - Fourth Sunday in Lent - Text: John 9:1-41

How good are your eyes? If you are like me, they are not so good, so you go to an eye doctor and get fitted for glasses or for contact lenses. And as you get older, your eyes still change and you need to constantly get your eyes checked and your prescription changed. Sight is an important sense and one that, if we lost, we would greatly miss. But, how is your spiritual sight? As you come to hear God’s Word proclaimed, as you read your Bible, as you talk to others about God, do you understand what you are hearing, reading, or saying? In our text for today Jesus will lead us to have eyes that see. Jesus will lead us to have eyes that see what it is we need most, to see our sin, so that we repent and are given His forgiveness.

Although the text on our bulletin insert is short, the complete text for this Sunday is a lengthy text, but one that we can easily get a handle on if we break it down into several questions and answers. The first question is the question of sin and Jesus’ work. Jesus and His disciples were going along when they met “a man blind from birth.” The disciples questioned Jesus, asking, “who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (v. 2). The assumption of the disciples was that it was sin that caused this man to be born blind, but they were not sure who’s sin. Jesus answers the question of sin and this man’s blindness by explaining that the man was born blind, not because of anyone’s sin in particular, but so that God may be glorified. Interesting, Jesus says that the man was born blind so that God may be glorified. We will get back to that later.

Jesus goes on to explain that His work is to be the light of the world. Jesus is the light of the world in that He shines in the darkness of sin, revealing and exposing people’s sin, so that they might repent and be given forgiveness, before it is too late, before they are condemned to hell. Notice that Jesus is the Light of the world and as the Light of the world, Jesus has come so that people might see.

Jesus has come in order to help people to see that He is the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior of the world. To do that, Jesus performed many signs, wonders and miracles. These signs, wonders, and miracles were what showed Him to be God, the Messiah, and they were done to give glory to God. The whole while Jesus was on this earth, He did not seek His own glory, rather He came seeking to give glory to God. Jesus did not say, look at the signs, wonders and miracles that I am doing, the signs, wonders and miracles that I am performing and praise Me. No, Jesus did signs, wonders and miracles, and pointed to the Father in heaven and said, give glory to the Father.

Jesus healed the man born blind. In this particular instance, He did it by applying mud to his eyes and telling him to go wash. Certainly, Jesus could have simply said for his eyes to be opened, or He could have put His hands on his eyes to perform the miracle, but not this time, this time He put mud on his eyes and told him to go wash. After this miracle, almost immediately there is a second question, a question from the neighbors of the man. Their question was, “is this really the man that was born blind, or is this someone that just looks like him” (v. 8,9). They had doubts about this man’s identity, and they argued about it. The man born blind insisted that he is the man and he also testifies that it was Jesus who healed him. Unfortunately the man was not quite sure who this Jesus was, because he had not seen him, he was merely healed by Him. Jesus had put mud on his eyes and told him to go and wash, so he had not seen Jesus. Finally the people decided to take the case to the “authorities” to the Pharisees and let them decide.

Now we have the questioning of the Pharisees. The first problem the Pharisees confront is the problem that the healing was done on the Sabbath day, thus they were sure that the man who healed this blind man must be a sinner and not from God. If this man was from God, according to their understanding of who god was, certainly he would not break the Sabbath day law, that is, He would not break the way they had made the Sabbath day law.

First, they questioned the blind man, himself. As they questioned this blind man, they were not looking for a confession of faith in Jesus. They were looking for him to say that either he was not healed by Jesus, or that he was not born blind, or that it was someone besides Jesus that healed him, or anything except the truth about Jesus healing him on the Sabbath day. They were not interested in the truth, that did not fit their agenda. They are like many people in our world today who are not interested in the truth of the Bible, rather they are only looking for their own brand of truth and as I always say, “if you do not like what the Bible says, change it.” Which is what the Pharisees were doing.

Because they could not get the answer they wanted from the man, they moved to question his parents. “Is this really your son and was he really born blind?” Talk about putting his parents on the spot, because hanging over their heads, if they did not answer the question the way the Pharisees wanted, was the threat that they would be thrown out of the temple, and, according to the Pharisees, they would never be able to be sure of their salvation. It is no wonder the parents plead the fifth amendment, as we would say today. They avoided the questions, referring the Pharisees to their son who was of the age of accountability and could answer for himself.

And so the questioning continued. The Pharisees asked the blind man a second time, but this time the question was not whether or not Jesus healed him, rather the question was whether or not Jesus was a sinner? Now we get to the heart of the Pharisees agenda, not whether or not Jesus healed the man, not whether or not this man really was healed, but how to discredit Jesus.

To this question the man gives a bold testimony of faith about Jesus. This man does not touch the question about Jesus sinfulness, rather he tells how he was blind and now he sees and it was Jesus who gave him his sight. The man is very logical in his approach and, I believe perhaps rather sarcastically, he was suggesting that the Pharisees should be able to logically figure out the truth.

Of course this does not suit the Pharisees and so they ask him again. And we have a few snide and sarcastic remarks pass back and forth. “Do you want to become his disciple too?” “You are this fellow’s disciple, we are disciples of Moses!” Finally the man hits at the heart of the matter, “the man answered, ‘Now that is remarkable! You don’t know where he comes from, yet he opened my eyes. We know that God does not listen to sinners. He listens to the godly man who does his will. Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing’” (v. 30-32). Again, notice the logic in this man’s answer, but of course, the Pharisees do what they do best in these no win situations, they throw the man out.

Jesus meets the man again. This time Jesus comes to confirm the man’s faith. Jesus shows him who He is and that He is the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior of the world and that the man was right in his profession of faith. Jesus further goes on to explain that He came for judgement. Jesus came to judge those who do not believe and to give life to those who do believe. Jesus came to give sight to the blind and to blind the sighted. In other words, those who think they cannot see, because of their sins, those who confess their sins and seek forgiveness, Jesus opens their eyes to see that they are forgiven, but those who think they can see, who cannot see their own sins and thus think they have no sin, He comes to blind, that is to give them their own way which is the way of judgement and hell.

Now let us take Jesus’ message and put it into our own words, in other words, what does this text mean for us today? First, God brings good out of a sin filled world. Today we ask the question, “why do bad things happen to good people,” with the assumption that we are good people. We even think that the bad things that happen are God’s judgement on sinners. Some would suggest that the certain weather events, such as floods, hurricanes, tornados, etc, are God’s judgement against certain people where these events happen. If that were the case, then God would not be a very good aim, because a lot of innocent people are affected by the various weather events. Some would suggest that AIDS is a direct result of homosexuality and promiscuity. Again, if that were the case then God would not be a very good aim, because a lot of innocent people have been affected by the AIDS virus. So, why do these bad things happen and why do bad things happen to good people. We have talked about this before and we will no doubt talk about it again. The assumption is incorrect. The assumption is that we are good people, when the fact is we are sinful people. We are born in sin and we daily sin much and often times we suffer for the sins of others. The consequences of sexual promiscuity might be AIDS. And still, a small child, receiving a needed blood transfusion might contact AIDS, meaning that he is suffering for the sins of others. The question we should ask is, “why do good things happen to sinful people,” and the answer is in our text, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (v. 3). Our God is a God of love who gives use good things. He always has the best in mind for us. Rather than say that God allows bad things to happen, because evil is not a part of God, I like to say that bad happens because we live in a sinful and cursed world, and although bad happens, God works the best through those bad things.

A second point of our text is that Jesus is who He says He is, the Savior of the world. Jesus continually demonstrated that He is the Messiah, that He is true God along with being true man, by His signs, wonders, and miracles. The miracles Jesus performed show Him to be truly God, because only God can do miracles. Jesus forgave sins, something that Pharisees said that only God could do. Jesus forgave sins and to show that the sins were forgiven He would also heal, again, always showing the Pharisees to be wrong.

A third point of our text is that Jesus comes to us to open our eyes to see our sin so we repent and are given His forgiveness. Sin is a blinding thing. As we wallow in our sin we do not see our sin, nor do we see the need for a Savior. In reality, we are blinded by our own sin, from seeing our own sin. We are a lot like the Pharisees, we do not see our sin, we do not want our sin pointed out to us, we get upset when our sin is pointed out to us, and we do not want to believe the truth. Fortunately for us, Jesus comes, as the Light of the world, to open our eyes, so that we see our sin, so that we confess our sin, and so that we are given forgiveness from our sin.

Today we come to thank the Lord for His gift of sight, especially for His gift of spiritual sight. We thank the Lord that He gives us His Word which shows us our sin, so that we confess and are given forgiveness. We thank the Lord that He sent Jesus to trade His life for ours, to die on the cross for our forgiveness and to give us His righteousness. We thank the Lord that He is a God who loves us so much that He works through the sin and evil in our world to work His good works in us, to the praise and glory of His Holy Name. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.