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.
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Jesus’ Usual Custom - Ash Wednesday - February 18:2015 - Text: Luke 22:39; John 18:1
Our text for this Ash Wednesday service are: Luke 22:39; “And he came out and went, as was his custom, to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him” and John 18:1; “When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron Valley, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered.” These are our text.
It is often said that Jesus is an example and it is true that Jesus is an example, He is even the greatest example. And while it is said that Jesus is an example it must never be said, nor implied that the statement and fact that He is an example mean that we are to follow His example in order to be saved. If that fact were true, then we would be totally devastated, because we cannot be like Jesus. Jesus is an example, but even more than being just an example. The fullness of the Gospel is that He lived for us in our place. Everything that is demanded of us by God, that we should be holy as He is holy, that we should fully and completely obey all His commands has been accomplished by Jesus for us. Thus we rightly begin with Jesus’ life and His usual custom, that is that what He usually did He did as an example to us but even more, as a fulfillment for us because we fail.
What was Jesus usual custom? What did Jesus usually do? Two important characteristics of Jesus’ life come out quite vividly when one reads through the Gospels. One of the first usual customs we see of Jesus in the Gospels is that we see Jesus in worship. Jesus’ usual custom was that on the day of rest, the Sabbath day, Jesus was in worship. Time and again we read and hear of Jesus being in worship.
A second important characteristic of Jesus’ life that we see vividly in the Gospels, is that throughout the Gospels we see Jesus in prayer. The fact that Jesus, who is true God and true man, is in prayer should give us pause to ponder, as we are simple human beings. Perhaps being in prayer might need to be good part of our life as well.
Jesus is God. If Jesus is God, why would He need worship and prayer? Jesus is God and He is truly human and thus He needed to be in worship and in prayer especially because of the fact that He is human. Although Jesus is at the same time truly human and truly God He bears the same characteristics of both, except that as a human He was without sin. As human man, Jesus had all the needs we have especially the need to be in worship and prayer.
A second reason Jesus needed to be in worship and prayer was so that as a human He might be able to fulfill all righteousness for us in our place as our substitute. Jesus did everything we are supposed to do and He did it perfectly. Where we fail and have failed, He accomplishes perfectly.
So, we might ask, when Jesus is in prayer, is He talking to Himself? After all, we understand that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, undivided. Jesus is true God and as true God He has all knowledge, thus He knows all and even in His humanity He has all knowledge. You might recall that after His resurrection He was no longer bound by time and space even in His humanity, but He was as He is now, always and everywhere present.
Yet, even though Jesus is true God, in His state of humanity, as true man He wills Himself not to know, and that is the best Lutheran explanation and understanding as we have. In other words, Jesus as true God, in His humanity allows Himself to make a disconnect, not for Himself, but for us, in order to help us to see Him in His humanity and as a man to see His need to be in worship and in prayer. Remember, the reason Jesus took on human flesh was for us, in order to fulfill all righteousness for us, in our place.
As an example, Jesus continually demonstrated to His disciples and us, how we are to be, how we are to live and move and have our own being. Thus, Jesus was seen by His disciples in prayer and worship, so that they might know and understand their need to be in prayer and worship. If the Savior of the world, who is truly human and truly God, needs prayer and worship, would we not all even more so need prayer and worship?
But not only was Jesus an example to His disciples as to how to be in worship and prayer, He also taught His disciples how to pray. Remember the Lord’s Prayer as we call it. After watching Jesus in prayer and when His disciples asked Him how to pray, Jesus taught them and gave them the most wonderful prayer of all, His prayer, the Lord’s Prayer. For those who would suggest the only real prayers are those we make up in our hearts, I would refer them to the Lord’s Prayer and ask if they did not learn anything, for indeed the Lord’s Prayer is the greatest prayer. I cannot make up a better prayer than Jesus Himself and I know Jesus’ desire is to hear me say back to Him the very words He has given me to prayer in His prayer.
Indeed, Jesus taught His disciples especially as He modeled for them as an example what they are to do. He regularly went to the Mount of Olives to pray with His disciples. His usual custom was to be in prayer and worship, modeling for us and demonstrating to us our need to have as our usual custom to be in prayer and worship.
Yet, even Jesus disciples were like we human beings. When Jesus left them to be in prayer they fell asleep. Jesus struggled in prayer the night of His betrayal and His disciples slept. How often do we find ourselves in worship or in prayer struggling to keep from falling asleep. It is not that we are tired or bored, but that the devil, the world and our own sinful nature continue to tempt us to refuse and reject the gifts God gives, especially the gift of conversation and the gifts offered in worship.
What does this mean? We are not gods, but humans alone, thus we need worship, that is we need time where the Lord can and does come to us to give us the gifts He has to give through His usual means of giving His gifts, His means of grace. We need times of Bible study, personal and family devotions, reading God’s Word on our own and with others, and especially we need times of worship. Through the very Word of God, the Bible, through our being reminded of and remembering our baptism, through confession and absolution and through the Lord’s Holy Supper our Lord comes to us to give us all the good gifts and blessings He has to give. He loves us first. He gives to us first. He movers in us first.
Again, we are not gods, but humans alone, thus we need prayer, that is we need time to speak to our Lord in prayer. In this way we have a conversation with our Lord. He speaks to us through His Word, we speak to Him in prayer.
As we begin Lent we begin by looking at and to Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. We look to Jesus who gives, strengthens and keeps us in faith. We look to Jesus as our model, our teacher, our example and even more the One who accomplished everything for us in our place because we cannot. As we have been given faith and as our Lord works in and through the very means He has given to give, strengthen and keep us in faith, so our faith is shown in our desire to be where the gifts are given out. Our desire is to be in worship whenever offered so that we might be given the gifts God gives, faith, strengthening of faith, forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. And truly, a lack of the desire is indeed a sign of a lack of or no faith.
Jesus is our example, but even more, He is the One who accomplished all that He demonstrates to us. Jesus’ usual custom was to be where the gifts of God were given out, even as He is the One giving those gifts. Jesus’ habit, what He usually did, was to be in worship and in prayer, not because He needed to, but because of our need, to demonstrate to us our need and fulfill our being given to. And now He stirs in us to rejoice and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.