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, March 31, 2013
The Savior for All Nations Easter Sunrise - March 31, 2013 - Text: Matthew 3:1-12 (esp. v. 9) and Romans 9:30-33
He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
We have two texts for this morning, Matthew 3:1-12: “1In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’” 4Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. 5Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, 6and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. 7But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? 8Bear fruit in keeping with repentance. 9And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. 10Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11“I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” and Romans 9:30-33: “30What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousness did not succeed in reaching that law. 32Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, 33as it is written, “Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.” These are our texts.
This year during the season of Lent and Easter we have been following the thread of God’s promise to send a Savior for all people (one covenant, not two). We began in the Garden of Eden when God first made His promise to send a Savior to Adam and Eve, before there was a Jew or Gentile. We continued with the reiteration of the covenant and the announcement of its fulfillment being narrowed, that is that the Savior of all nations would be born through the line of Abram whose name was later changed to Abraham. We followed as the covenant was reiterated and continued through the line of Abraham’s son, Isaac, and through Isaac’s son, Jacob and even through Israel’s greatest king, King David. Last week we moved into the New Testament and heard the announcement of the beginning of the fulfillment of the covenant through Zechariah’s son, John. Maundy Thursday we continued in the New Testament with the announcement to Mary that she will be the mother of the Messiah. On Good Friday we moved to hear the announcement from the priest Simeon who was serving in the temple, the news and prophecy of the events which we remember on Good Friday.
A quick review of the history of Christianity begins in the Garden of Eden. After God created a perfect world and placed the perfect man and the perfect woman He had created into the perfect Garden He had created for them, and as soon as He moved to let them live their lives, they just as immediately fell into sin, disobeying God and eating of the fruit of the tree in the middle of the Garden, the tree of knowledge of good and evil. With that sin, death entered the world and God cursed the world, but because of His great love for His creation, He immediately stepped in and promised to send a Christ, which is the Greek word for the Hebrew word, a Messiah. Thus, Christianity was born, in the Garden of Eden with the promise of a Christ, so that all who believed in the coming Christ would be saved.
As time went on God reiterated and repeated His promise of a Christ, by telling Abraham that the promised Messiah would be born through his family line. He reiterated this promise to Abraham’s son Isaac and to his son Jacob. He reiterated this promise to Judah, and later to Moses and on throughout the Old Testament.
As we move into the New Testament, the last word of prophecy, the last word from the Lord had been given over 500 years earlier and then God called Zachariah to announce the coming fulfillment of all those promises. He also spoke to Mary and Joseph as well as they would be the parents of the Messiah, the Christ, Jesus Himself.
As to the announcement to Zachariah, God told him that he and his barren wife, Elizabeth would have a son and they were to name him John. This John who would be John the Baptist would be the one who would prepare the Children of Israel for the birth of the Messiah. John’s announcement was that the end was here, that Jesus was ushering in the end times.
John prepared the people for Jesus’ birth. Jesus’ birth was the beginning of the fulfillment of all the promises made in the Old Testament, beginning in the Garden of Eden when God first promised to send a Christ for all people. Remember, when God first made His promise to send a Christ to Adam and Eve that event happened before there was a Jew and a Gentile. Jesus’ birth reminds us that Abraham’s children were not children of DNA, but children of faith. In other words, what made a person a child of the covenant was not his or her physical line of descent, but their faith in the Messiah, their faith in the Christ alone, thus showing us that even in the Old Testament only Christians were saved.
As Jesus lived a perfect life for us, as He taught and proclaimed the Word of God, He reminded those who thought they were children of Abraham by DNA, that they were not children of Abraham if they did not have faith in the Messiah. Thus, those who did not and who do not believe in Jesus as the Messiah have been removed from the family tree and this removal is the beginning of modern Judaism.
Paul clarifies this important fact in Romans where he reminds us that those who attempt to be saved by the Law, the Pharisees and teachers of the law and those who attempt to be saved by their own character and good works will not succeed. Grace, which cost zero for us, plus anything always equals the anything so it is no longer grace.
On the other hand, salvation, true salvation is based on faith not works of the law. True salvation is the fact that Jesus lived the perfect life for us, as demanded by God, because we cannot. Jesus fulfilled all the Old Testament promises and prophecies, even all the law; civil, moral and ceremonial, perfectly for us, because we cannot. Jesus then took all our sins upon Himself and suffered and died paying the price for our sins. And He did this as our substitute, trading His perfect life, His suffering and death for us.
And so, Jesus continues, even today to be a stumbling stone to those who do not believe, to those who would add anything to grace. Jesus continues to be a stumbling stone to those who would rather have their own way, do their own thing, believe their own version of truth which is a lie. Jesus is a stumbling stone for all those who deny that He is the Messiah, the Christ promised in Eden, the Christ promised to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and so on through history.
It is Jesus alone who has purchased salvation with His life, suffering, death and resurrection. It is Jesus alone who gives salvation to all those who do believe. Faith in anyone or anything other than faith in Jesus Christ alone does not save. There is only one name under heaven given among men whereby we are saved and that name alone is Jesus Christ.
What does this mean? Contrary to what has been taught and believed by some in our world today, actually a rather new theology which is little over a hundred years old, God did not made two covenants, one with the Jews and a second with the Gentiles. God only made one covenant and that covenant was first made in the Garden of Eden when there was only Adam and Eve, two people, no Jew or Gentile. So, there always was only one covenant.
The one covenant was and is a covenant of grace, through faith, given through means. The covenant is not base on one’s birth or family tree. The covenant is not based on DNA. The covenant is not a covenant of rights, rules and regulations, not a covenant in which anything is earned nor deserved. It was God who initiated and made the covenant and we, humanity to whom the covenant has been given. It is God who makes us a part of the covenant by His grace and He does this, makes us a part of His covenant by giving us faith, and He gives us faith through the very means He has given to give us faith, namely the means of grace; Holy Baptism and His Word. And even more He strengthens and keeps us in faith through the means of grace as well; again, Holy Baptism and His Word, but also confession and absolution and the Lord’s Supper.
The very reason Christians are hated by the rest of the world, by all those who are not Christians is because of this exclusive claim that there is one and only one way to eternal life and that way is the Jesus and faith in Jesus alone. There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we will be saved. One is saved by faith in Jesus alone.
Which means that we are the new Israel. Those born of Jewish DNA who refuse and reject Jesus have rejected and given up His covenant. And even those who are not born of Jewish DNA, and yet believe in Jesus, are a part of the covenant. We are saved, by grace, through faith, given to us through means.
And so, especially this morning we rejoice in our salvation as we celebrate that Jesus lived for us, suffered and died for us and now rose for us. We celebrate that when we pass on from this world and enter into our eternal home in heaven He will robe us with His perfect robes of righteousness. And our response is to go out and share this good news with others so they too might be a part of His family and kingdom.
It is meet, right and salutary that we should gather this day, this Easter morning and even every Sunday morning to celebrate in divine service and be reminded of what our Great God has done, does and will do for us. It is right that we should gather to be given the gifts He has to give so that we might be filled to overflowing and overflow on to others to the praise and glory of His Holy name.
He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!