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, April 5, 2017
Jesus - April 5, 2017 - Sixth Mid-Week of Lent - Text: (various verses from the Gospels)
We begin this week as we have begun every week with the reminder that we call the Word of God the “Good News” and rightly so, for it is the good news of salvation for all who believe. This year during the season of Lent through Easter Sunday we have been hearing of the events surrounding the suffering and death of Jesus through the different characters of those involved in the events. Prayerfully we are getting a better understanding of the personalities and thus the reasons for the specific actions of the characters through actual Biblical statements and “quotes” of each person.
Last week we got to know the person who sentenced Jesus to death, Pontius Pilate. We listened to the court transcripts as it were; we listened as Pilate attempted to set Jesus free; we listened to Pilate ultimately decide his own fate by giving in to the demands of the Jewish leaders and having Jesus sentenced to crucifixion; all the while reminding ourselves that it was not Pilate who brought these events about but it was we and our sins who brought this judgement on Jesus.
This evening we will look at the main character of the Passion history, Jesus Himself. Now, before you think we are jumping the gun, so to speak and as it were, because we are not yet ready to go to the Upper Room, go to Gethsemane, go to Golgatha, or get to the resurrection, let me say that it is important that we look at Jesus’ own part in His Passion account. This evening we are looking at what we might call the highlights of the teachings of Jesus, those teachings that are at the heart of the Passion, those teaching which were so misunderstood by so many, and those teachings which brought about our salvation. From early on Jesus spoke quite clearly of the reason for His life and how He came to earth to fulfill all of Holy Scripture. “Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel’”(Mark 1:14-15). Jesus preached a message much like that of His predecessor, John the Baptist, that is, “repent for the kingdom of God is at hand.” And if you listen carefully to Jesus teachings you know He came to usher in the kingdom of God. He came into this world to usher in the last days, indeed we are now and have been living in the last days since Jesus birth.
One of Jesus’ most memorable sermons was the one in His own home town. It happened this way, it was the Sabbath day, that is the day of worship. The synagogue was crowded. The people of the town, his own relatives, or seeming relatives, had come to hear Jesus preach. When Jesus stood up, “the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: ‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, and he began by saying to them, ‘Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’” (Luke 4:17-20). Here we see quite clearly that Jesus was the one promised by God. He was the one who was born to save the people from their sins. He was the one who came to heal, cast out demons, and to preach and teach the good news of salvation. As the account goes, however, there were those who refused to believe and who were intent on stoning Him.
Jesus did a lot of teaching and preaching. He also did many miracles. Please notice, Jesus did not do miracles the way too many of the purported miracle healers of today do their healing. Very often today you will hear the healers say something along the lines that if you are not healed by them (which most of them will not admit) it is because you did not believe or have enough faith. Listen to what Jesus says in comparison; “when Jesus came down from the mountain, great crowds followed him; and behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, ‘Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.’ And he stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I will; be clean.’ And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. And Jesus said to him, ‘See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded, for a proof to the people’” (Matthew 8:1-4). Did you notice that the healing of this man was not based on his faith, but on Jesus’ Word and also that Jesus healing was to be confirmed by the doctors of the day, who were the priest.
The main theme in Jesus’ teaching, preaching and life was His offering the gift of forgiveness of sins. Because it was believed that only God could forgive sins and to claim to be God was blasphemous, for Jesus to offer forgiveness was seen as blaspheme. So, what does Jesus do? He uses His healing to authenticate His forgiveness and the fact that He is God, according to the logic of the Pharisees. In other words, He is using the logic of His enemies against them. “Getting into a boat [Jesus] crossed over and came to his own city. And behold, they brought to him a paralytic, lying on his bed; and when Jesus saw their faith he said to the paralytic, ‘Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.’ And behold, some of the scribes said to themselves, ‘This man is blaspheming.’ But Jesus, knowing their thoughts, said, ‘Why do you think evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Rise and walk”? But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he then said to the paralytic—‘Rise, take up your bed and go home.’ And he rose and went home. When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men” (Matthew 9:1-8).
Jesus came to bring life, eternal life. We are told that “at daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them. But he said, ‘I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to the other towns also, because that is why I was sent.’ And he kept on preaching in the synagogues of Judea” (Luke 4:42-44). Indeed, Jesus came to forgive sins and to preach the good news of the kingdom of God.
“What is this good news Jesus came to proclaim?” We call it the Gospel in a nutshell. Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Jesus’ message of good news is that we worship a God who loves us and loves us so much so that He gave His one and only Son to come to earth in order to live for us, that is in order to be perfect, as God demands, for us in our place because we cannot. He came to take our sins and to suffer and die to pay the price for our sins, so that we will not perish and here we mean suffer everlasting death, but that we might have eternal, everlasting life in heaven.
Unfortunately, just as quickly as Jesus came to fame so to speak, just as quickly as He became popular with the people in a couple short years, so just as easily He came to opposition. His presence drew respect and at times awe from those around Him. His words of preaching and teaching were unlike others within the organized temple in that when He spoke, He spoke with authority. He spoke, but He also demonstrated what He spoke. He lived by His own Word. He cared for others. He came not to be served but to serve. And He showed this very often to those closest to Him. During His last Passover with His disciples Jesus “got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him” (John 13:4-5). When He was done Jesus told His disciples, “‘You call me “Teacher” and “Lord,” and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them’” (John 13:13-17).
In the end, when it came to His trails, the verdict and His execution, Jesus freely, or we might better say, passively allowed Himself to be arrested, mocked, beaten, smitten, stricken and afflicted. He allowed for Himself to be put to death because that was the reason for His coming to earth. As the writer of the Gospel of John says of the sayings of Jesus “Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 21:25). Jesus was not simply an example to us, as some would have you to believe for to be simply and example would only lead us to despair because we cannot be like Him. We was an example but even more, He fulfilled the very example He set. He was the One who came to live for us. We cannot fulfill God’s demand to “be perfect.” Jesus was perfect. He lived a perfect life. He fulfilled all Holy Scripture perfectly and then freely He took our sins, suffered and paid the price for our sins, and died for us. Yet, we know the rest of the story, He did not stay dead but rose victorious over sin, death and the devil and now He sends the Holy Spirit to give, strengthen and keep us in faith through the very means He has given to us, His Word and Sacraments. Thus our desire is to be where His gifts are given out and to rejoice in response with thanks and praise. To Him be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.