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.
Tuesday, December 31, 2019
Our text for this evening is Philip. 2:9-11 (ESV) “9Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” This is our text.
This year our theme for Advent and Christmas has been Christ as God/man, Prophet, Priest and King. This evening I want to pull together all the parts of this theme and summarize what we have been hearing.
Perhaps you have heard the question asked, “What’s in a name?” In our world today, too often there may not be much in a name. I do believe that parents take the time to think about names, especially when it comes to naming their own children. I do not know about you, but there are certain names which, at least in my own mind, bring about certain thoughts, feelings and attitudes. When we were naming our children I do know there were certain names, usually associated with certain people from our past or even present, that we did not want to use for our own children. How many people do you know named Judas or Jezebel? “What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet,” I believe that is how the cliche’ goes.
What’s in a name? One’s name can be descriptive, that is one’s name can describe what one is like as a person. One’s name can be descriptive as in the name of Jesus, as when God says His name will be Immanuel which means “God with us.” Thus, when the prophet said that the one to be born would be named Immanuel, or “God with us,” we know that His name is describing what or who Jesus is. Jesus is God who is dwelling among us human beings here on this earth.
Not only can one’s name be descriptive, but One’s name can also be prescriptive, that is, not only can one’s name describe who he will or will not be, it can also prescribe, that is it can tell what One will do. Of course, the “One” of which we are speaking in particular, here is Jesus. The name “Jesus” means, the Lord saves. Here again, this name is prescriptive in that in the giving of this name it prescribed what Jesus would do, that is that Jesus, true God and true man, would, as He did, save His people.
Thus, even in the giving of the name Jesus we see that this One Person was, is and always will be a special One. Jesus is truly God as we have proven, especially as we proved last week, Tuesday evening, on Christmas Eve. Jesus is true God. He was there at the creation of the world with the Father and the Holy Spirit. He has divine names, divine characteristics, He does divine works and He shows Himself to be truly God.
Jesus is also truly human. Again, last week, last Wednesday on Christmas morning we proved that He was, and is, indeed truly a human man. Jesus shows He is truly human in that He has a human name, He lives according to human characteristics, and He does human works. As we confess in the Apostles’ creed, He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and He was born of the human woman, the virgin Mary. Thus, we rightly recognize, believe, teach and confess that Jesus is a unique individual, One who is truly God and truly human.
Jesus is truly God and truly human and He is prophet, priest and king. Even the Magi, the Wise men from the east recognized Jesus as such. The gifts presented to the baby Jesus, when He was almost two years old, in the house where they were, were gifts of gold, appropriate for a king, incense, appropriate for a priest, and myrrh, an anointing oil, appropriate for a prophet. Jesus is a prophet. He came proclaiming the good news, even foretelling of His death and resurrection. Even today He continues to come proclaiming the good news as His Word is read and heard and as His sacraments are rightly administered and offered.
Jesus is our king. Certainly we know and believe that He is in heaven from where He came and in heaven, as King He is watching over us and ruling over us. Today He rules us, not directly as in a theocracy, but indirectly, especially through the fourth commandment, which is the giving of authority with its bases in the authority of the parents over their children.
Jesus is our priest. Certainly He is our priest in that He passively allowed Himself to be sacrificed, for us, once and for all. As our great High Priest He paid the great price for our sins. As our great High Priest in heaven He is no longer subject to sacrifices, however we do know that as our Priest and intercessor He continues to pray for us before His and our Father in heaven.
What does this mean? Simply stated, this means we can believe, confess and respond and we do believe, confess and respond. We can believe and we do believe that Jesus is true God and true man, that He is our prophet, priest and king. We believe because the Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts. The Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts as well as strengthens and preserves our faith namely, through the means of grace, the Word, that is the Bible, as we read and hear it, and through the Sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper as well as through confession and absolution. Through these means the Holy Spirit gives, strengthens and keeps us in faith. Apart from these means and apart from the Holy Spirit is no faith.
We can and we do confess that Jesus is true God and true man, that He is prophet, priest and king. We confess this because the Holy Spirit works in us to confess. Again, in and of ourselves we can make no confession. “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him.” It is the Holy Spirit who calls us to faith through the means of grace, as well as who enlightens or works to strengthen us in our faith through these same means of grace. Apart from these means and apart from the Holy Spirit there is no strengthening of faith.
We can and we do respond to all that our Lord does for us and gives to us, not because we are able to respond in and of ourselves, not in order to pay our Lord back for services rendered, not in order to earn any of the necessities of life as well as the wants of life for which He has so graciously poured out on us. We respond because the Holy Spirit works in us to respond. Here again, through the means of grace the Holy Spirit works in us to do the good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do.
Paul’s words to the Christians at Philippi remind us of the importance, not only of faith, but in the object of faith and the correct object of faith. In other words, not only does it matter that we believe, but it also matters in whom we believe and that we are correct in knowing who it is in whom we believe. In other words, faith in a tree is not saving faith. Faith in a Jesus who is less than truly God and/or less than truly man is not saving faith either. Notice again Paul’s words, “9Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philip. 2:9-11). Notice, in the end, when Jesus comes to judge the world, every knee, not just some, not just those who now believe, but every knee, believer and unbeliever alike will bow the knee and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Unfortunately, as we learn in John’s revelation, those who had not believed while on this earth will then attempt to turn and blame Jesus for their own unbelief. And, again, unfortunately, it will then be too late for their eternal fate will have already been secured.
Thanks be to God that He has given us faith; that He has given us Himself as the object of our faith; that He strengthens and keeps us in faith. Thanks be to God that Jesus is truly God and truly man; that He is prophet priest and king; that He has done everything for us that needs to be done and gives everything to us, even when we have a tendency, because of our sinful human nature, to refuse and reject all that He has to give. Thanks be to God that He continues to pour out His blessings upon us. As we conclude this year we conclude being reminded of all He has done and for which we give thanks and we pray and look forward to the coming year and the many, many, many good gifts and blessings with which He will bestow on us. To Him be the glory. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Sunday, December 29, 2019
You may have noticed back at the beginning of December we moved back to Series A of our three year Lectionary readings. With our return to series A, for the most part I will be using the Gospel readings for our texts. In Series A of our Lectionary readings, our Gospel lessons will come mostly from the Gospel of Matthew. As we hear these Gospel lessons from Matthew, listen carefully, because quite often you will hear Matthew say something like this, “these things happened to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet.” Matthew is quite intent on helping us to see that Jesus is the one about whom the prophets were speaking. Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament. Jesus is the Messiah, the Savior of the world.
In our text for today Matthew tells us the history of what happened after Jesus’ birth and how these events were not random, coincidental, just having happened events, rather they were events which showed the hand of God continuing to move in human history. Matthew tells us of the trip to Egypt picking up at verse thirteen, “13Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ 14And he rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt 15and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son’” (v. 13-15).
Matthew tells us that after the wise men came to visit, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream. And just an aside here, as you have heard me say many times, always go back and see what Scripture actually says concerning the events of which we speak. Going back to verse eleven, the wise men brought gifts to Jesus when He was between one and two years of age and living in a house. He was not in the manger nor in a stable by the time the wise men came. Also, as this is the Lord speaking to Joseph a second time in a dream, here we need to be reminded that this is not God’s usual way of dealing with us. God does not usually come to us in visions or in dreams. God’s usual way of dealing with us, of coming to us, His usual way of speaking to us is through means, namely through the means of Grace, the Word and the Sacraments. That does not mean that God cannot use His unusual means, because He does as we see here, but not too often.
One observation from this text, did you notice that the Child is mentioned first. Matthew mentions Him first because His well-being was of utmost importance. The salvation of the world was dependent on this Child, for He is to be the Savior of the world. And all of Holy Scripture is center on this Child.
God sends the Child, His mother, Mary, and His father Joseph to Egypt. Interestingly enough, Egypt is not a foreign place. There were other Jews living in Egypt. The Jews had a history with Egypt. Jesus going to and coming out of Egypt is what we call an antitype. It is an antitype of another event, that other event being the children of Israel and their bondage in Egypt. In other words, as the Lord once saved the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, so He now saves the world as He calls His Son out of Egypt to save the world from their bondage of slavery to sin.
Our text continues with the terrifying account of Herod’s envy and jealousy and why all Jerusalem was upset when they heard about the birth of a king. Picking up at verse sixteen, “16Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, became furious, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men. 17Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: 18‘A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be comforted, because they are no more’” (v. 16-18).
The reason Jesus was born, God in flesh, is vividly seen in the sinful actions of murder by King Herod. Because of the sin of Adam and Eve, the earth is cursed and sin continues and this is the very reason for Jesus’ birth. And yet, we continue to see the hand of God as He cares for His Son and protects Him and His family.
Matthew recalls God’s hand in these events as he relates the account of the return trip out of Egypt to Nazareth. We read picking up at verse nineteen, “19But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20saying, ‘Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.’ 21And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled: ‘He shall be called a Nazarene’” (v. 19-23).
Matthew tells us that Herod had died and the angel of the Lord appears again to Joseph in a dream. Again, this is not God’s usual way of coming to us, but God uses the ways that He knows are best for us. This is now the third time God has spoken to Joseph in a dream.
The angel comes and first instructs Joseph to go back to the land of Israel. The angel does not tell Joseph specifically where to go, just to go back to Israel. Joseph obeys and takes his family back.
Unfortunately, when Joseph reached the land of Israel he heard “that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod,” and so he was afraid for his Child’s life. The Lord sent the angel to Joseph again, telling him to go to Galilee.
Joseph went to Galilee, and Matthew tells us, “so was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: ‘He will be called a Nazarene.’” Interestingly enough, this saying, this prophecy is not a written prophecy, at least not one that has been found, rather it was a spoken prophecy. Look it up, you will not find it written in the Bible, because it was one of the unwritten, spoken prophecies.
As we read Matthew’s Gospel, especially as we read how he shows us that God’s prophecies are being fulfilled, we see God’s hand working in the lives of His people. We also see how God’s hand is working in our lives, because we too are God’s people.
Matthew reminds us that God worked in human history to save the world. God intervened in human history. Of course we have the advantage of being able to look back and see how these prophecies have already been fulfilled. We also have the advantage of looking back over a lot of human history and seeing how God’s hand has been working in our human history many times. Why do you suppose America was discovered right before the Reformation? Could it be that God knew that His people would need some place to go to avoid persecution? Why do you suppose persecution came to Jerusalem following Jesus’ ascension? Could it be that was the only way He could get the people and the good news of salvation out of Jerusalem and to the rest of the world? If you look close enough at the events of history you may come to notice God’s hand working quite often in human events.
As we continue with our reading in the Gospel of Matthew we will see how Jesus is the fulfillment of all the prophecies of the Old Testament. We will see that Jesus is the promised Messiah. We will see and come to believe without a doubt that Jesus is who He says He is.
As we come to see that Jesus is the fulfillment of all these Old Testament prophecies we will be strengthened in our faith in Jesus as our Savior. As we see how God worked through other events in human history to care for His people, we will also come to see that God still works through events in our own lives and see how He cares for us and protects us.
Being strengthened in our faith in Jesus as our Savior; being strengthened in the ability to see God’s hand working in human history, we can also see that God is still working in our lives to guide and direct us even today.
As God works in our lives, coming to us through His Word and His Sacraments, we are strengthened in our faith. At times God also allows for us to experience certain trials, trials and struggles that are meant to strengthen us in our faith. When trials come we can either blame God, and fall away from Him, or cling to Him as the source of all comfort and hope, knowing that He alone can bring us help, comfort and strengthening.
If we blame Him and fall away from Him we become bitter. Of course, many people will not say that they blame God, but they will do so in their hearts. Maybe you know someone who blames God for all that has happened in their lives and can see how it has made them bitter.
On the other hand, if we recognize that God is testing us we may be drawn closer to Him. Please understand, it is okay to question, to ask, “Why God?” It is okay to struggle. It is okay to get angry, but in our angry we are not to sin. It is okay to say, “Why are you letting this happen to me, God.” Because in a way with those words we are praising Him. Think about it, when we say, “Why are You doing this to me?” We are acknowledging that God is the one who is in control. No, God is not necessarily making bad things happen to us, that is not His nature. He does however allow for us to experience trials in order to test our faith, in order to strengthen us, in order to draw us closer to Himself. And with the testing He has promised to give us the strength that we need to bear up.
God uses many and various ways to accomplish His purposes for us in our lives. We can either receive these from the Lord, or turn against Him in anger. Look at the example that we have in our Gospel lesson for today, the example of Mary and Joseph and the trials that they faced being the parents of the Savior of the world. Look at Mary. Ultimately she had to face the death of her Son on the cross.
God is a God of love. Remember, He created us to love us. His usual way of dealing with us is the Gospel and the means of grace. It is not God’s usual way of working with us by making bad things happen to us, because God would not want any of these things to happen to us. God is a God of love and only has the best in mind for us. Bad things happen to us because we live in a world of sin. When bad things happen, it is better and more accurate to say that God makes good things come out of the bad things that happen to us as we live in this sin filled world. Wednesday we begin a new calendar year. Many people like to make resolutions to do things differently, or to be better in the coming year, to start over in a way. Praise the Lord that each and every day we can start over, because everyday we are reminded of our baptism and the forgiveness we have so that every day we can begin again, and with the Lord’s help, live our lives to His glory. God grant it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Wednesday, December 25, 2019
Christ as Man - Christmas Day - December 25, 2019 - Text: Luther's Small Catechism Question #120 & #122
This year our theme for Advent and Christmas has been Christ as God/man, Prophet, Priest and King. Last night we proved, if you will, that Jesus was and is truly God as He had to be in order to be perfect and holy in order to do for us what we are unable, in and of our selves, to do, which is live according to God’s demand, that is live perfect lives. This morning we will look at Jesus as true man and why He had to be truly human. In order to help us with this theme we go, again, to our catechism and under the question, “How do you know that Jesus Christ is also true man?” and, “Why was it necessary for our Savior to be true man?” In answer to the first question, “How do you know that Jesus Christ is also true man?” we are told that we know Jesus is true man, “Because the Scriptures A. clearly call Him man; 1 Tim. 2:5; B. say that He has a human body and soul; Luke 24:39; Matt. 26:38; C. speak of His human, but sinless, feelings and actions. Matt. 4:2; John 11:35; John 19:28; Heb. 4:14-16; Bible narratives: Jesus suffered and died (Matthew 26-27). Jesus slept (Mark 4:38). Jesus was born (Luke 2).” In answer to the second questions, “Why was it necessary for our Savior to be true man?” we are told that, “Christ had to be true man in order to A. act in our place under the Law and fulfill it for us (active obedience); Gal. 4:4-5; Rom. 5:19; B. be able to suffer and die for our guilt because we failed to keep the Law (passive obedience). Col. 1:22; Heb. 2:14.”
We know that Jesus is truly human because He possesses human names. Certainly His name is a human name as He is called “Jesus.” Paul, writing young pastor Timothy speaks of Jesus as, the man, Jesus Christ, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5). Jesus refers to Himself as the son of man, “But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home” (Matt. 9:6). And as we pointed out last night, this same passage shows Jesus is truly God as well in that He performed the miraculous sign of healing the paralytic, which only God can do.
Not only does Jesus possesses human names, He also possesses human characteristics. We are told by the Gospel writer Matthew that Jesus was hungry, “And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry” (Matt. 4:2). We are told by the Gospel writer John that Jesus exhibited the human emotion of sadness when he says that Jesus cried (in the shortest verse in the Bible), “Jesus wept” (John 11:35). And John also tells us of Jesus being thirsty, “After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), ‘I thirst’”(John 19:28).
Above all this we know that Jesus was conceived in a human woman and born of a human woman, the virgin Mary. Thus, He shows Himself to be truly human. While on this earth and before His resurrection and appearing in His glorious body, Jesus was subject to all the laws of nature with which all human beings are subject. Gravity held Him to the earth. He was not able to go through walls or doors unless the door was open. He could only be at one place, in the body, at a time. And as we said last evening about His limiting the use of His divinity, so He limited His use to the point of subjecting His humanity to its earthly parameters. And please notice that we say that He limited Himself. Certainly, as God, as we said He was last night, He could have done anything He wanted, but for our sake and because He came to save us, He did limit Himself according to His human nature, subjecting Himself to all that we as humans are subject.
We spoke last evening of the fact that Jesus was true God and the fact that He had to be true God so that He could be born perfect. This morning we see that Jesus is truly human and He had to be a man in order to be our substitute. As you have undoubtedly heard many times we cannot compare unlike things, like apples and oranges, but we must compare like things, oranges to oranges and apples to apples, this reminds us that in order to be a substitute, we must substitute like things, a human life for a human life.
There is the story of the two friends who met each other at the courthouse. Each had received a speeding ticket and each had gone to take care of their ticket. The judge declared both persons guilty and charged them each with a $50 fine. The first friend looked in his wallet and found he had no money with which to pay his fine. The second friend looked in his wallet and he had $50 to pay his find, yet, he offered to pay the other friend’s fine. The judge said he could not pay the other fine, because he himself owed his own fine. The story continues with a third friend arriving on the scene. This friend did not have a ticket and owed no fine for himself. He looked in his wallet and he had $50 which he offered to his friend. The judge said he could pay for his fine because he himself did not owe a fine. We, each one of us, you and I, owe. We owe because of our sin. We owe the price of our very lives. Remember, the price for sin is death, eternal death and hell and eventual physical death. In order for our sins to be paid, someone had to pay for us and that someone had to be someone like us except without His own debt. Jesus came as that someone. Jesus came, not simply to pay the debt, but also to act for us in our place under the Law and fulfill the law, that is to completely fulfill all the law for us. We call this His active obedience. Jesus actively did everything we are supposed to do and He did it perfectly. Jesus obeyed all the commandments, perfectly, never sinning in thought, word or deed, never sinning sins of commission, doing anything that is prohibited by the commandments and never sinning sins of omission, not failing to do anything required by the commandments. This is what we mean when we speak of the fullness of the Gospel, that is that not only did Jesus die for us, but that Jesus lived for us. We are to obey the commandments and we cannot so Jesus obeyed them for us, in our place. We are to be perfect, right, and holy and we cannot so Jesus is perfect, right and holy for us, in our place.
And, of course, because we are unable to pay our debt, Jesus also came to suffer and die for our sins and our guilt, because we have failed to keep the Law. This is called His passive obedience. Jesus passively allowed Himself to be taken to the cross and crucified for us, in our place. He could have resisted. He could have simply presented Himself as holy and perfect and gone to heaven, but He did not. Instead, He passively, without any fight or struggle, without any attempt to save Himself, allowed Himself to be mocked, beaten, stricken, smitten and afflicted. He allowed Himself to be crucified for us, in our place.
What does this mean? This means we can celebrate. We can celebrate because what God promised He has brought to fruition. God promised to mend the broken relationship between Himself and His creatures, His creation, us and He has fulfilled that promise. God promised to send a Savior and Jesus is the fulfillment of that promise. God promised that He would take care of our sins and He has fulfilled that promise.
Jesus is truly God meaning that He was conceived and born without sin, perfect, and holy. And Jesus never sinned. Even as a man Jesus never sinned. It is important that Jesus never sinned, because only a sinless person could be a substitute for sinful people, only a sinless person could be our substitute.
And Jesus is truly human. Jesus had to be human in order to trade His life, in order to substitute Himself, for us. This is what redemption is all about, the fact that He traded His life, He took our place, not only in life, but also in death.
Jesus is our substitute and we are His substitute. By grace, through faith in Jesus, when God looks at us He sees us as perfect and holy, because He sees us as Jesus. When Jesus was on the cross, God saw Him as us, completely sinful and that is why He was punished, for our sins (God forsook Him on the cross).
This morning we celebrate “mission accomplished.” We celebrate that Jesus is our prophet, priest and king. We celebrate that He is truly God and truly human. We celebrate that Jesus continues to be our prophet as He continues to proclaim His message of salvation, giving, strengthening and keeping us in faith through His means of grace (the Word and Sacraments). We celebrate that Jesus continues to be our priest as He offers His body and blood for us to eat and drink in His Holy Supper and He is at the right hand of the Father where He is interceding for us. We celebrate that Jesus continues to be our King, watching over and ruling over us and on the last day He will be our Judge and King forever in heaven. We celebrate that Jesus continues to be both human and divine, and that He is now using His divine powers to their fullest so that He is indeed everywhere present and He is with us always, even until the end of the ages. Thanks be to God for His great and wonderful gifts. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Tuesday, December 24, 2019
This year our theme for Advent and Christmas has been Christ as God/man, Prophet, Priest and King. Over the past three Wednesday evenings we have talked about Jesus as Prophet, Priest and King. This evening we will look at Jesus as true God. In order to help us with this theme we go back to our catechism and under the question, “How do you know that Jesus Christ is true God?” (Question number 119) we have the answer, “Because the Scriptures clearly call Him God, teaching the following: A. Jesus has divine names. John 20:28; Rom. 9:5; 1 John 5:20; Note: These names are not mere honorary titles but tell exactly who Jesus is, and they can be true only of God. B. Jesus possesses divine attributes (qualities or characteristics). He is 1. eternal (without beginning and without end); John 1:1-2; 2. unchangeable; Heb. 13:8; 3. almighty (omnipotent); Matt. 28:18; 4. all-knowing (omniscient); John 21:17; 5. present everywhere (omnipresent). Matt. 28:20; Bible narratives: Miraculous catch of fish (Luke 5:4-6; John 21:6). Jesus knows the name and character of Nathanael (John 1:48). Jesus and the woman at Jacob’s well (John 4:17-18). Note: See also Matt. 21:1-7; 26:20-25; Luke 18:31-33; 22:8-13. C. Jesus does divine works (which only God can do). 1. He forgives. Matt. 9:6; 2. He created. John 1:3; 3. He will judge. John 5:27; He preserves. Heb. 1:3; Bible narratives: At the wedding feast in Cana, Jesus revealed His glory by turning water into wine (John 2:1-11). He rebuked the storm (Luke 8:22-25). He healed the paralytic (Matt. 9:1-8). He called Lazarus back to life (John 11:38-44). He rose from the dead (Matt. 28:6-7). D. Jesus receives divine honor and glory. John 5:22-23; Heb. 1:6; Note: See Phil. 2:10; Rev. 5:12-13.”
So, let us break down what we have just heard. We know that Jesus is truly God because He has divine names, that is Godly names. When Thomas saw Jesus alive after His death and resurrection according to John, “Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” (John 20:28). Even the apostle Paul declares, “To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen” (Romans 9:5 (ESV)). Now, these are just a couple passages, I will not read but a couple for each instance. For more passages I will refer you to your own catechism and Bible.
Not only does Jesus have divine names, He also possesses divine qualities. Just as God is eternal, so Jesus is eternal. Again, the Gospel writer John declares, “1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was in the beginning with God” (John 1:1-2). Just as God is unchangeable, so Jesus is unchangeable. The writer to the Hebrews says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8).
Not only does Jesus have divine names and possesses divine qualities, He also does divine works, in other words, He does miracles. The Pharisees believed that only God could forgive sins and so when Jesus declared that someone was forgiven they believed He was blaspheming. The Pharisees also believed only God could do miracles, so to prove He was God and could forgive sins, Jesus also did miracles. Remember the healing the paralytic? Jesus first forgave the man his sins, to which the Pharisees were upset believing that Jesus was blaspheming. Jesus addressed the Pharisees and said, “‘But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—he then said to the paralytic—‘Rise, pick up your bed and go home’” (Matt. 9:6). So, according to the logic of the Pharisees, only God could forgive sins and only God could perform miracles, Jesus then performed a miracle to prove He was God and to prove the man’s sins were forgiven. And of course, instead of being convinced, all the Pharisees could think about was that if Jesus kept doing these things then more people would believe in Him and they would lose their positions of power, not that Jesus proved He was the Savior.
The Gospel writer John reminds us that Jesus is God and that He was at the creation of the world. He says, “All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). A little later he tells us that Jesus will judge as God, “And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man” (John 5:27). As God, not only was Jesus there at creation, not only will He be there at the end, on Judgement day, He is also with us each and every day taking care of us. The writer of the Hebrews tells us, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:3).
And finally, not only does Jesus have divine names and possesses divine qualities, not only does He do divine works, in other words, He does miracles, but Jesus also, as God, receives divine honor and glory. Again, the Gospel writer John says, “22The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him” (John 5:22-23). And the writer to the Hebrews tells us, “And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship Him’” (Heb. 1:6).
What does all this mean? This means that we can be certain that Jesus is who the Word of God says He is, that is He is truly God. Jesus shows Himself time and again to be God. And, although He is God, He did not always nor fully use His divine powers. Jesus did not raise everyone from the dead while He was here on this earth. Jesus did not heal everyone while He was here on this earth. He did not cast out every demon, nor did He feed the whole world. He did use His divine abilities to some degree. He did heal some, as only God can heal. He did raise some from the dead, as only God can do. He did cast our some demons, as only God can do. He even showed His power over all creation, over the storm and the sea, as He calmed the stormy sea. Time and again Jesus showed Himself to be God. He did this through the signs, wonders and miracles He performed.
And why is it important that Jesus is God? Jesus had to be God in order to be perfect. Because we human beings are sinners, because we are conceived and born in sin, we pass that sin on from one generation to the next generation. Because we are infected with this thing we call original sin, there is no way for any one human being to be born without sin. And unless one is without sin, then he cannot pay for another’s sin since he owes for his own sin. And really, we cannot even pay for our own sins because the price is too high, namely, eternal death, hell. And so, Jesus had to be without sin and to be without sin He had to be conceived by God and that He was. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, as we confess in the Apostles’ Creed.
This evening we confess with the Word of God, the Bible, that Jesus is truly God and that He had to be truly God. Tomorrow morning we will confess that Jesus is truly human and that He had to be truly human.
This evening as we gather to celebrate the birth of the Messiah, the Savior of the world we also celebrate that Jesus is truly divine and we bear witness of His divinity. During the season of Advent we heard the histories of the angels getting everything ready first, announcing to Zechariah that his wife Elizabeth would give birth to the forerunner of the Messiah. Next, we heard the announcement of the angel to the young virgin, Mary, that she had been chosen by God to be the mother of God Himself. Then, we heard the angel tell Joseph that it was okay to take Mary as his wife because what was conceived in her was from the Holy Spirit. And now, this evening we bear witness as we hear the angels announce to the shepherds that the Savior of the world has been born in Bethlehem. And we hear the angel chorus, “Glory to God in the highest and peace to His people on earth.” Christ the Savior is born. Yes, now we do begin our Christmas celebration and we celebrate, not just tonight, not just tomorrow, but we celebrate for twelve days!
We celebrate that God has remembered His promises. He has remembered His people. He has taken care of all that needs to be taken care of, our sins and our forgiveness. Yes, this evening we begin our Christmas celebration and as we celebrate we continue to look to the cross. As it was ever before Jesus while He was here on this earth, so it is ever before us as an accomplished action, for us, for our forgiveness, to bring us back into a right relationship with our Lord who does all and gives all. To Him be the glory. For Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Sunday, December 22, 2019
This morning we have lighted the fourth and final Advent candle, the Angels candle reminding us of the angels who announced the good news to the shepherds that in Bethlehem God fulfilled His promise that Jesus the Savior was born. We are only one candle and three days away from celebrating Christ-mas, two days away from celebrating Christmas Eve, and the birth of our Savior, Christ the Lord. The past two weeks we have been looking at the life of John the Baptist, the forerunner, the way preparer for Jesus and His earthly ministry of ushering in the Kingdom of heaven. This week we shift gears and move back to the time of just before Jesus physical, earthly birth. Our text for this morning comes right after the genealogy of Jesus which traces Jesus roots back through Joseph all the way to Jesus being the ancestor of Abraham, thus pointing out that this is the Child of promise, the one originally promised by God in the Garden of Eden and the one about whom the prophets continually spoke throughout history. This morning, however, we will focus not so much on Joseph, or Mary, but on God and His hand and plan in all these events that took place.
With that said, our history account does begin with Mary and the events of the life of an unwed mother. Mary was a young teenager, probably between the ages of thirteen and sixteen. Although she was betrothed, which meant that she was legally married, she was not yet married and had not yet consummated the marriage and yet, now she was found to be pregnant. Matthew says, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit” (v. 18). Of course, when we read that she was “found” to be pregnant we might snicker a smug snicker, because we know that people do not just “find” themselves pregnant. But, with Mary, that was the case. She was “found” to be pregnant, because what was conceived in her was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit.
We know that Mary was, what we would today call, a religious person or today we might say that she was a Christian. She believed in God. She believed God’s promise to send a Savior. She was faithful in her worship and Bible class attendance, listening to Holy Scripture, and in prayers. But remember, these were not things she did in order to justify herself, or to attempt to make herself righteous in God’s sight. These were things she did out of love and as a response for God’s great love for her. She was chosen by God, but she was not chosen to be the mother of God because of any merit or worthiness on her part, only because God, in His grace, chose her.
Mary was a mature young woman who was willing to submit to the will of God. Whether or not she understood all the ramifications, the public discrimination and the like, of her submitting to the will of God we do not know, all we know is that she put her trust in God to be a part of His plan and purposes. And she trusted that God would work out all things in her life for the best.
Our account continues with Joseph. Joseph is the adoptive father of God. Joseph was a young man, probably in his middle to late twenties, trying to do the right thing. About Joseph Matthew says, “And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit’” (v. 19-20). Notice that Joseph considered all these things. Joseph was not the type of person to make a quick, rash decision, but instead, he thought about the situation with Mary. He knew what could be the possible ramifications of exposing Mary to be pregnant, namely, she could be stoned to death. He thought about the public disgrace that she would suffer and he thought about how he cared for and loved her, so he had in mind to divorce her quietly and not make a big deal of the whole situation.
We are told that Joseph was also a religious person. Today we might say that he too, along with Mary, was a Christian. He had faith in God. He believed God’s promise to send a Savior. He was looking for this Savior as well. What he did not know, until this time, was that he would be a part of the life of the Savior.
Joseph was a man wanting to do the will of God. When the angel appeared to him he listened to the angel. He understood what the angel was telling him. He probably did not understand what would be the result of his obedience to God’s will, but because of his faith he was willing to take the risk and do what God wanted done.
We have talked about Mary, we have talked about Joseph, but did you notice in all these events the hand of God. Let us go back to the real beginning of our account. And I do mean the real beginning. In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. He created all the living creatures and He crowned His creation with His creation of the mankind, the man Adam and the woman, Eve. He put them in a beautiful garden which He had prepared especially for them. They were to care for the garden and in order to give them a way to acknowledge and respond to God for all His good gifts and blessings, the Lord gave them the ability to give Him their obedience, that is, to obey Him by doing what He asked. And what God asked was that they not eat from the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Of course, most of us know the history. They did eat of the fruit of “the tree of knowledge of good and evil” and with that sin of disobedience, sin entered the world and with sin, punishment also entered and in particular, the punishment of death, even eternal death of hell and the earth was cursed. Immediately, and I do mean immediately, after Adam and Eve sinned, God stepped in. It was God who came to rescue Adam and Eve. He first made His promise to Adam and Eve in the Garden that He would send a Savior for their forgiveness and for the forgiveness of all humanity, of all people of all nations, of all places of all times. This promise was made before there was a Jew or Gentile, when there was just people, Adam and Eve. As history progressed, following the events of the flood and the tower of Babel, the Lord continued to remember and reiterate this promise to send a Savior for all people. Throughout Scripture, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and so on down the line, God reiterated His promise, at times narrowing the line of fulfillment of the promise. Even through the time of Mary and Joseph, at which time He began fulfilling those promises.
God’s hand is seen as He now comes to intervene in human history and at just the right time. Matthew quotes from our Old Testament reading for this morning reminding us of God’s promise and His fulfillment, “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel’ (which means, God with us)” (v. 22-23). God is the one in charge. God is the prime mover. The Holy Spirit is the one who worked the miracle of Mary’s pregnancy. The baby to be born is true God, conceived by the Holy Spirit, and true man, born of the human mother, the virgin Mary. And the baby that was born was born for a reason and that reason was to live a perfect life for us in our place, fulfilling God’s demand of perfection and then to take our sins upon Himself and to die, to pay the price for our sins, your sins and mine. This event is God intervening in human history and time, in order to bring forgiveness of sins, life, eternal life and salvation.
God is the one who is directing these events which are taking place. At just the right time, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, born to give His life for ours. God sent His angel to bring the message of the birth of John the Baptist, the way preparer for the Messiah, to Zechariah and Elizabeth. God sent His angel to bring the message of the birth of His only Son to Mary. God is the one who sent His angel, and I might add again, at just the right time, to Joseph in a dream in order to still his doubts concerning Mary, his betrothed. God is the one who we know and believe that with Him, all things are possible.
And now we read the history and how these events were played out. Mary was pregnant. She was a young, unwed mother, whose unplanned pregnancy could have meant death by stoning. She was betrothed, more than engaged, legally married to Joseph, and what would he think of his bride to be when He found out she was pregnant and it was not his child. Mary had complete trust in God and His good will and pleasure. She had complete trust in His unseen hand in all these events which were about to take place.
Joseph was a righteous man. He wanted to do what was right. He carefully contemplated and considered all his options, as he saw them, until he was visited by an angel. The angel announced to him what was really happening, God’s unseen hand in these events which were about to take place. Joseph also had complete trust in God and His good will and pleasure and was obedient to that will.
Joseph did what was right as he was directed by God. Matthew tells us, “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus” (v. 24-25). Joseph did not question anything that the angel had told him. He took Mary home as his wife. He had no union with her until she gave birth to a son. And he adopted her son as his own and this was done through his giving Him the name Emmanuel, which means “God with us.” Jesus, the name by which he is called, means “God saves.” Thus we have in this name the understanding that our God is with us who has come to save us. Christ the Lord is born.
Have you ever wondered why certain things happen in your life, or why they happen at a certain time? You are experiencing the same thoughts that Mary and Joseph were experiencing I am sure. Sometimes we can see God’s hand in the events of our lives, or at least we think we can, but most of the time, however, it is usually not until the events are long past that we can really see and understand what was God’s good and perfect will. For your own comfort and strengthening I would remind you, as we have seen God work through the lives of Mary and Joseph and many others throughout Holy Scripture, we know that God works when and where He pleases, always at just the right time, according to what He knows is best for us, according to His good and gracious and perfect will. As we continue preparing ourselves to celebrate Jesus’ first coming at His birth in Bethlehem, I pray we are reminded by God’s Word and God Himself through His Word, of His love for us in working out these events for our salvation. And to that we say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Wednesday, December 18, 2019
This year our theme for Advent is Christ as God/man, Prophet, Priest and King. This week we will look at Jesus as our Priest. In order to help us with this theme we go back, again, to our catechism and under the question, “For what threefold office was Christ anointed?” we have the answer, “Christ was anointed to be our Prophet, Priest, and King.” This evening we want to look in particular at the second response, that of Christ as our Priest and again the catechism tells us, “As Priest, Christ: 1. fulfilled the Law perfectly in our stead (active obedience); Gal. 4:4-5; 2. sacrificed Himself for our sins (passive obedience); 1 Cor. 15:3; Heb. 7:26-27; 1 John 2:2; 3. still pleads for us with His heavenly Father (intercession). 1 John 2:1.”
Again, as we were reminded last week, the promise to send a Savior, a Messiah was made back in the Garden of Eden. Immediately after Adam and Eve fell into sin, God stepped in and promised to take care of the broken relationship between He and His creatures. God promised to send a Savior who would also be a priest. King David wrote in one of his Psalms, “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, ‘You are a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek’” (Ps. 110:4). Without getting into the question of who was Melchizadek (which would be a sermon or a lecture or a Bible Study by itself) let us just say that this priest appears to be a priest of the Most High God. At any rate, Jesus is promised to be a priest forever after this priestly order.
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews tells us, concerning Jesus, “26For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. 27He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself” (Heb. 7:26-27). Here we are reminded especially of the duties of a priest which were to intercede for the people, that is to pray to God for them and in their stead, as well as to offer sacrifices for the people. And, as we will hear in a moment, this is exactly what Jesus did and continues to do for us today.
This prophecy finds its fulfillment in Jesus in the fact that while He was on this earth Jesus offered prayers for the people. Many times and in many places Jesus is seen in prayer. He is seen in prayer by Himself. He is seen in prayer as the people hear Him praying out loud. He is seen encouraging His own disciples to pray.
Yet, the greatest offering and fulfillment of this prophecy is that Jesus is our High Priest who offers Himself as the sacrifice, once for all for our sins. In Old Testament times, the family would bring a sheep for the sacrifice. The sheep that was brought was to be a sheep without spot or blemish, as perfect a sheep as the family could bring. The priest would slaughter, kill the sheep. He would keep a portion for himself and would offer the rest on the fire as a sacrifice. He would literally bar-be-que the sheep. Then the family would sit down and eat the sacrifice, the bar-be-que, thus participating in the sacrifice. Jesus came, not to offer some other sheep, but to offer Himself as a sacrifice. Because of our sin and because of the cost, the price for our sin, which was set in the Garden of Eden as death, physical, human death, Jesus came into this world. Again, the price for sin was set in the Garden of Eden. The price for sin was and is, death, physical death, blood had to be shed and apart from Jesus and faith in Jesus the price of sin would be eternal death, which is hell. Because we cannot pay that price for our sin, Jesus came to pay that price for us. Also, because we cannot live as we ought to live, perfectly, Jesus came to live for us as well. Remember, God’s demand always has been that we live perfect lives. Because we cannot be perfect, because we are conceived and born in sin, someone had to be perfect for us. Jesus did everything that we are to do, perfectly, for us in our place. Jesus perfectly obeyed all the commandments and perfectly fulfilled all the promises and prophecies concerning the Savior. This is referred to as His active obedience. He actively obeyed all God’s laws and prophecies. Then, He took all our sins upon Himself and offered Himself on the cross as a sacrifice, once and for all, for our sins. This offering of Himself as a sacrifice, allowing Himself to be crucified is referred to as His passive obedience, that is He passively allowed Himself to be crucified on the cross for us, because of His great love for us.
Notice here that Jesus had to be truly God in order to be born in perfection and in order to live a perfect life for us in our place. Jesus also had to be truly human in order to be able to substitute His life for ours. The demand of God for perfection and the penalty of death required the death of the person, the human who would die. The offer of the spotless sheep ultimately pointed to the one perfect sheep, the human sheep of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Even today Jesus continues to be our Savior/Priest and not in the sense that He allows Himself to be re-sacrificed, as some would have you believe, every time the Lord’s Supper is offered, because as He tells us, His sacrifice on the cross was once and for all. Today, Jesus continues to offer forgiveness of sins through His Word. The Bible is God’s Word and it does what it says. When we read God’s Word or hear His Word, it does what it say. When God’s Word says we are given faith, then we can be sure that we are given faith. When God’s Word says we have forgiveness, then we can be sure that is exactly what we have forgiveness of sins.
Jesus also offers forgiveness through Confession and Absolution. When we come to confess our sins, not that we are sorry that we got caught, but that we are sorry that we have sinned, then when we hear those most beautiful words, the most beautiful words in the world, “Your sins are forgiven,” then we know that is exactly what we have, forgiveness of sins. Those are indeed the most beautiful words in the world because we know that with forgiveness is also life, life in this world and even better, eternal life in heaven, and salvation.
Jesus offers forgiveness through the Lord’s Supper. Remember in the Old Testament, the family would eat of the sacrifice, thus participating in the sacrifice. Today, when we come to the Lord’s Table to partake of the Lord’s Supper, we are partaking of Christ’s body and blood, sacrificed once and for all, not re-sacrificed, for us so that we participate in His sacrifice. That is what it means when we hear Jesus say, “Do this in remembrance of me,” that is that we do this, we are given the gifts He has to give through His Holy Supper as we participate in His Holy Supper, eating and drinking His true body and blood, in, with and under the bread and wine. Thus, our participation is such that His life becomes our life, His death becomes our death and His resurrection becomes our resurrection.
Jesus offers forgiveness through the remembering of our Baptism. As we remember our Baptism we are reminded that we are God’s children and that we have forgiveness. And yet, not only does our Lord give us forgiveness through all these means, He also strengthens and keeps us in faith through these very means as well, reminding us of the importance of making regular and diligent use of these means.
It is God who does it all, works it all out, makes the promises, fulfills the promises, gives His life, gives us faith, forgiveness, strengthening of faith and eternal life. It is God who gives and we who are given too. And thus, we know we are getting it right and we are being given the gifts when God is doing the doing and we are being done to.
What does this mean? First, God the Father promised it. He promised to send a Savior. And we know that whatever God promises, He brings to completion.
Second, Jesus fulfills it. Jesus is one with the Father and so He fulfills the promises He makes that is He came not only to live for us, to do all that things we are supposed to do but are unable to do, but also to pay the price for our sins, to suffer the eternal death penalty of hell for us in our place.
And third, the Holy Spirit gives us faith in Him. The work of the Holy Spirit is to motivate us, to stir in us and to work in and through us to live lives of faith, doing the good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do. And they are good works because they are done to His glory.
Thus we see, Jesus is our Messiah and our priest, not only as He came during His life, but also as He continues to come to us and for us today. To Him be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Sunday, December 15, 2019
Today is the third Sunday in Advent. We have lighted the third candle on the Advent Wreath, the shepherds candle. We are not yet ready for our Christmas celebration, that will come. Today we continue to get ourselves ready. Last week we heard about John the Baptist, the one who came to prepare the way for Jesus’ earthly ministry. This morning we get a look at a day in the life of John the Baptist, and unfortunately, it is a look at one of his last days, when he was in prison, before his execution.
Our text begins with John sending his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (v.3). As we hear John’s question for the first time we might think that this is a question of doubt. His words sound similar to too many Christians as they lay on their deathbed and have some uncertainty and doubt in their minds. Perhaps you have heard someone say something like, “I hope I go to heaven.” Well, let me assure you, by faith in Jesus Christ, we have the hope, that is the Christian hope, which is a certainty, of eternal life in heaven. Our hope is not a hope of uncertainty, but a hope of the assurance of heaven. Yes, ‘these things, God’s Word, was written so that we might know for certain that we have eternal life.’ Getting back to John, John has been in prison for a while, his life might be coming to an end, certainly he has a lot of time to think and all that thinking may have brought some doubt. Or maybe not.
It is more likely that John is merely voicing a question that has been prompted by his disciples and their lack of faith and understanding. John’s disciples have been with him for some time. They have been listening to him and following him, they have heard and seen him pointing to Jesus, and now he is in prison. And this person that John has been pointing to, Jesus, where is He? What is He doing to help John? Why is he not starting an uprising and breaking John out of prison? Certainly there were suspicious thoughts about Jesus. Certainly John’s disciples did not completely understand why Jesus was getting all the attention and John was in prison. They were like everyone else, even Jesus’ own disciples, not understanding what it meant that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior of the world, not that He was a social-political savior, but a spiritual Savior. Yet, John understood that his role was simply to point to Christ. As John said, “I must decrease and He must increase.”
John’s question, and I would say, his question on behalf of his disciples, is a question of faith. John’s disciples probably wanted to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, but they needed some help, they needed some “proof,” they needed a sign. They are no different than we are in our world today. How often it is that we would like God just to give us a sign, just to show us something to help us in our unbelief. The fact is that He does daily show Himself to us and we just miss it. John is simply voicing for his disciples their question and giving them the opportunity to go and get an answer. Notice John’s evangelism technique? It is very much like Philip’s technique. Remember when Philip told Nathaniel, “we have found the Christ.” Nathaniel was very skeptical and asked, “can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Philip said, “Come and see!” Likewise, here John is encouraging his disciples, “Go and see.” As we share our faith with others through our lives, through our vocations, as well as through our words, sometimes we need to simply say, “Come and see.” Come to meet the Lord where He comes to meet you, in His Word and in divine service.
Our text does not give us the complete exchange of words of John’s disciples to Jesus, simply their question concerning whether or not Jesus is the “one who is to come,” but we do have Jesus’ answer. Jesus’ answer is, “Go and tell John what you hear and see” (v. 4). First, Jesus tells them to listen. Listen to the words of good news that He speaks to the people. Likewise today, we are to listen to the words of good news that Jesus speaks to us, because Jesus does continue to speak to us today. How does Jesus’ speak to us today, through His Word, namely through the Bible. As we read the Bible, Jesus speaks to us. As we hear the Word of God proclaimed, Jesus speaks to us.
The second thing Jesus says is “see.” In other words, look at the signs and wonders, the miracles that He is performing. In his Gospel, John makes a lot of these signs and wonders. These signs and wonders, these miracles are “proof” (if you will) that Jesus is true God. Who else can do miracles except God? And Jesus is doing miracles, therefore He most certainly must be God.
Notice that Jesus does not try to argue these disciples of John into believing. He does not try to convince them through great words of debate. He simply asks them to look at the evidence and interpret that evidence according to Holy Scripture, which bears witness of the answers for which they are looking. Here we get a second lesson in witnessing and evangelism. We witness best when we witness by not saying a lot, by not arguing, by not being confrontational, but by living our faith and by pointing to Christ and being ready to give an answer, a defense of our faith. We witness best when we let our lives, our words and actions point to our faith in Christ.
After John’s disciples leave, Jesus speaks a word concerning John. He says, “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?” (v. 7b). In other words He is saying that John was not swayed by public opinion. Certainly he was not swayed by the opinions of the Scribes and Pharisees. John did not necessarily preach what the people wanted to hear. He did not preach to the felt needs of the people. He preached to them what they needed to hear. He preached words of Law, that they are sinners who need to repent, and he preached words of Gospel, for the forgiveness of sins.
Jesus continued by saying, “What then did you go out to see? A man dressed in soft clothing? Behold, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses” (v. 8). In other words, John could not be bought. He was not living off the monies of the rich in order to preach good words about them, like many of the Scribes and Pharisees. His words were not swayed to favor anyone for any reason. John spoke the truth, sometimes in love.
And Jesus tells why as He says, “What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written: ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before you’” (v. 9-10). John was not swayed by the opinions of others, he could not be bought, because he was a prophet of God. He was sent by God to proclaim the message God gave Him, repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins and so he could not proclaim anything else.
Finally, as we alluded to last week, Jesus explains that He is the Messiah and He is ushering in the end times, He is fulfilling Holy Scripture as He explains that John is the forerunner of the Messiah and that He has come in the spirit and power of Elijah for those who can believe, Jesus words, “For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come” (v. 13b-14). You might remember that every year at the Passover celebration, at one point during the Seder, the door is opened and it is hoped that Elijah will come in to usher in the coming of the Messiah. Many Jews today still carry on this ritual, but Jesus says that John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah, thus ushering in the end times and the time of the Messiah.
John was the way preparer for Jesus. He was a great prophet, but unfortunately, for his own sake, he was not a witness of Jesus’ death and resurrection. John did so much to prepare for Jesus earthly ministry and His ushering in the kingdom of heaven, yet, he did not get to see it happen. In that sense, John was lower than the least in the kingdom.
John is a wonderful example to us and he is a good way preparer for us as we get ready, not only for our Christmas celebration, but as we get ready for Jesus’ second coming. John’s words remind us to “Hear and see” if Jesus is who He says He is, to “Hear and see” all that Jesus has done, to see if His signs, wonders, and miracles do not show Him to be the Christ, the Messiah. John reminds us of the need to listen and look as Jesus comes to us in His Word and sacraments. Then we are strengthened and encouraged to go and bear witness of Jesus through our lives, our vocations, our words and our actions.
We are great in the kingdom of heaven because we have seen Christ. Through the Word of God we have seen Jesus, born and placed in a lowly manger in Bethlehem, fulfilling God’s promise to send a Savior. We have seen Jesus live perfectly for us in our place because we cannot live perfectly. Remember, the fullness of the Gospel is the fact that Jesus lived perfectly as our substitute, doing for us what we cannot do for ourselves, be perfect. Then Jesus took all our sins upon Himself and suffered and paid the price for our sins on the cross and He died for us, in our place. We have seen Jesus die the eternal death penalty for us, in our place. And we have seen Jesus risen from the dead. We have been eyewitness of these things through God’s Word. And we are to be eyewitness of these things to others so that they too may come to know Jesus and everlasting life.
Have you ever had doubts about your faith? You are not alone. That little bit of doubt is good if it moves you to question and to look for the answer to your question and especially to look into God’s Word for the answer to your questions. When you are in doubt it is important that you go “to see and hear” in God’s Word, the answers to your questions. John sent his disciples to Jesus to still their doubts. As we said earlier, Philip brought Nathaniel to Jesus to still his doubts. This morning I encourage you in the same way by telling you the same thing. If you have doubts, come and see and hear. Open your Bible, come to divine service and Bible class, remember your baptism, partake of the Lord’s body and blood in His Holy Supper. These are the means, the ways the Lord has given to come to us to give to us, to strengthen us and to keep us in faith. These are the ways the Lord has of stilling our doubts.
As we continue to get ready for our Christmas celebration, I would continue to urge you, not to jump the gun, so to speak, but to wait with your Christmas celebration until Christmas Eve. Remember, the twelve days of Christmas do not end on Christmas morning, but begin with Christmas. Now is the time to get ready, to make use of the means of grace, to prepare for your Christmas celebration and as we have been saying the past two weeks, now is also the time to continue to get yourself ready for Christ’ second coming when He will take us from this earth to be with Himself in heaven for eternity. And to that we say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Wednesday, December 11, 2019
This year our theme for Advent is Christ as God/man, Prophet, Priest and King. This week we will look at Jesus as our King. In order to help us with this theme we go to our catechism and under the question, “For what threefold office was Christ anointed?” we have the answer, “Christ was anointed to be our Prophet, Priest, and King.” This evening we want to look in particular at the third response, that of Christ as our King and again the catechism tells us, “As King, Christ; 1. rules with His almighty power over all creation (the kingdom of power-all creatures); Matt. 28:18; 2. governs and protects especially His church (the kingdom of grace-the church on earth); John 18:36-37; 3. finally leads His church to glory in heaven (the kingdom of glory-the church in heaven). 2 Tim. 4:18.”
As we were reminded last week, the promise to send a Savior, a Messiah was made back in the Garden of Eden. Immediately after Adam and Eve fell into sin, God stepped in and promised to take care of the broken relationship between Himself and His creatures. God promised to send a Savior who would also be a King. The prophet Micah tells us, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days” (Micah 5:2). The Messiah would be of the human line of David. Bethlehem was David’s hometown and Jesus would be born not only from the line of David, but also in his hometown. David was also the second king of Israel meaning that Jesus would be born of his descent putting Him in line for earthly kingship certainly, but more importantly, also putting Him in line for heavenly Kingship, which is really what this prophecy is about.
So, not only would Jesus be human, born of the earthly descent of David, born of a human woman, Mary, He would also be divine, being conceived by the Holy Spirit. He would be the one whose “origin is from of old, from ancient days,” in other words, He would be from eternity with no beginning and no ending, thus, He would be of the heavenly line of His divinity.
And of course, this promise was fulfilled. The genealogy of Jesus traces His life back to David, even to Adam and Eve and to God. The genealogies given in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, trace Jesus’ ancestry to David and to God respectively. Thus, again, we see Jesus as being truly human with an earthly ancestry traced back to King David, giving Him royal blood and even back to Adam and Eve and we see that He is truly divine, that is He is truly God tracing His ancestry back to being the Son of God.
Jesus’ kingship was revealed and confirmed by the recognition of the people especially at His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. When Jesus came riding into Jerusalem on what we now call Palm Sunday, the crowds gathered making a path with their coats and palm branches as they sang, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” (Luke 19:38). Certainly we see that they recognized Jesus’ Kingship.
Jesus also acknowledged His own Kingship before Pilate. When He was on trial before Pilate and Pilate questioned Jesus about what he had heard concerning His Kingship we are told, 36Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world— to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice” (John 18:36-37). Certainly Jesus knew He was a King, but He also knew that He did not come to this earth to declare such Kingship nor to rule on earth, but that His Kingdom was and is in heaven for eternity.
Even today Jesus kingship continues as He rules in the Kingdom of Power over all creation. Although He does not rule us directly, as in a theocracy, like He ruled the children of Israel after sending judges and kings, today Jesus rules on earth indirectly. He rules through various authorities. He rules through parents and guardians, through teachers and pastors, through law enforcement officials as well as through governments. The Fourth Commandment certainly is the basis of all authority for in the giving of parents, all authority flows from this parental authority. Jesus rules us indirectly, giving us government in order to keep the peace so that we might have order in our land and He does this because He still cares for us.
Jesus rules in heaven, the Kingdom of Glory, where He is watching over us. He knows all that is going on here on earth and for us Christians, for those who believe in Him and look to Him He works all these things out for the best for us and for His glory. He sends His angels to guard and protect us. He knows we live in a sin filled world and He works to bring out the best for us in any and all situations and struggles in life.
Jesus rules in heaven where He is also interceding for us. He is praying for us because He knows our needs better than we know our needs and He provides for all our needs according to what He knows is best for us according to His good and gracious will. As we recognize that Jesus is in heaven interceding for us we also recognize that Jesus rules over His Church, the Kingdom of Grace. Indeed, His desire is, as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer, the greatest prayer He has given us, “Thy Kingdom come,” we are praying for God’s Church on earth. We are praying that those in the church might be strengthened in their faith and that His Church might be extended into all the world through the sharing of His Word.
That Jesus now rules in heaven does not negate the fact that He gave up and set aside His kingship, His glory and humbled Himself in order to take on human flesh and blood in order to be our substitute and to give His life for ours on the cross. When we speak of Christ’s states of humiliation we do understand that it was humbling and humiliating to give up the glory that was His in heaven as He was ruling as King in heaven, but to give that up in order to take on human flesh and blood. While on earth, then, Jesus did not always nor fully express His kingship, that is He did not always nor fully use His divine powers, rather He actively set His kingship aside in order to save us. As we prepare ourselves for our celebration of Christ’s birth, God in human flesh, we understand that His humiliation began with His conception and His birth, not that being a human was humiliating, but that giving up the glory that was His in heaven is what was humiliating. We also understand, as difficult as it may be, that we continue to see the cross in our Christmas celebration. The reason Jesus was born, the reason the baby was born, was to die.
What does this mean? First, God the Father promised it. And we know that whatever God promises, He brings to completion. God promised He would send a Savior who would be from the earthly, human line of king David, so He would be of kingly descent. He also promised the Savior would be from of old from ancient days and certainly Jesus is from of old, being God Himself, taking on human flesh and blood.
Second, Jesus fulfills it. Jesus is one with the Father and so He fulfills the promises He makes that is He came not only to live for us, to do all that things we are supposed to do but are unable to do, but also to pay the price for our sins, to suffer the eternal death penalty of hell for us in our place. Jesus came to die.
And third, the Holy Spirit gives us faith in Him. The work of the Holy Spirit is to motivate us, to stir in us and to work in and through us to live lives of faith, doing the good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do. And they are good works because they are done to His glory.
Thus we see, Jesus is our Messiah and our King, not only as He came during His life, but also as He continues to come to us and for us today. To Him be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Sunday, December 8, 2019
This morning we continue with our preparation for the “advent” or coming of our King, Christ the Lord and our celebration of His birth on Christmas morning. This morning all three of our readings continue to hold a double emphasis, one of preparation for Jesus’ first coming, as we see John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus’ earthly ministry, and one of preparation for Jesus’ second coming at the last day.
Our text for this morning is the Gospel lesson and the account of John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus and His earthly ministry. Matthew does not say it specifically here, but elsewhere in his Gospel as well as in the Gospel’s of Mark and Luke we are reminded that John the Baptist came in the spirit and power of Elijah (Matt. 17:9-13; Mark 9:9-13; Luke 1:17). John came to prepare the way for the Savior of the world. He came as “a voice of one calling in the desert, ‘prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’”
John’s message was not necessarily a politically correct message. He did not tell the people what they wanted to hear, what their itching ears wanted to hear. John was not swayed by public opinion and he did not preach about the felt needs of the people. As a matter of fact, John would not be considered one of your church growth practitioners of his day or even of our day today. Yet, the crowds gathered around him day in and day out to hear the message that he proclaimed. What John preached first and foremost was the real need for repentance and forgiveness. John preached a message of urgency, for the kingdom of heaven is near, after all, Jesus was there, right there in the flesh, ready to begin His own earthly ministry and to give His life for all.
John preached the need for baptism. John’s own baptism was merely a baptism with water. It was an outward sign and washing. He baptizes and he points to the baptism that Jesus would give and institute which would be a greater baptism, a baptism of the Holy Spirit and fire. The baptism which Jesus institutes is a spiritual baptism, one which comes from outside oneself and works to give faith to the one baptized. The baptism which Jesus gives is one which gives and creates faith, one which strengthens and sustains faith.
John preached a warning against work righteousness. He reminded the people that they were not saved according to who they were, from what family they came, or what they have done. John is not telling the people what they want to hear, what good Christians they can be, or how they can be the people God wants them to be, rather he is telling them what sinners they are and how sinful they are. As he speaks to the Pharisees and Sadducees he points out that they are mislead in believing that they have a birthright of salvation and he preached against their mistaken belief that they were saved by their good works which really were not good works at all because they were not in keeping with the will and Word of God.
John preached a warning against unbelief. Remember, the Pharisees and the Sadducees did have faith, but it was faith in the wrong thing or the wrong object. John’s warning is that the object of faith is important. John’s warning is quite appropriate even for us today, because the object of faith does matter. It matters just as much in what or in whom we believe as it does in the fact that we do have faith.
All of John’s preaching pointed to the Christ, the Messiah, the Savior to come. John was the way preparer for Christ. He was not to be the focus of attention, rather he was the one pointing to the one who was to be the focus of attention, Christ, God in human flesh who came to live perfectly, to fulfill all God’s laws, commands, and promises perfectly, to take our sins upon Himself and to give His life for ours on the cross. And that is what John did, pointing to Jesus and decreasing his role.
This morning we gather and we focus on this lesson from Matthew. We focus on the similarities between the people of John’s day and the people of today. And we focus on the similarities between John’s message and the messages we need to hear today.
Today, God comes to us through the means of grace, His Word and Sacraments. He comes to us as we read His Word, as we remember our Baptism, as we confess our sins and hear His word of absolution and as we partake of His body and blood in His holy meal. The Holy Spirit works through these very means to give us faith, to strengthen our faith and to keep us in faith until Christ comes again.
Today, God’s means of grace remind us of our need for forgiveness. God’s Word contains both words of Law and Gospel. We are reminded that we daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness. One quick review of the Ten Commandments reminds us that we have sinned both in the things which we do against God’s Word and in those things which we do not do in helping and being of service to others. We must hear the fact of our sinfulness otherwise we would not know that we need a Savior and if we did not know we need a Savior, we would not turn to Jesus as our Savior.
Today, God’s means of grace reminds us of our need for baptism. We are reminded that baptism is God’s way of coming to us to give us faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. Holy Baptism is the means through which God’s name and water are put on us, marking us and making us one of His own children. Baptism is not our doing, but God’s doing. Just as we did not choose to be born, neither do we choose Jesus nor choose our baptism. It is God who chooses us. It is God who calls us to and gives us faith, forgiveness and life.
Today, God’s means of grace warns us against work righteousness. We are not saved because we are members of a certain family or of a certain church or denomination. We are not saved by the good things we do, as if we could do enough good things to make up for the sins which we commit. We are not saved because we can be the people God’s wants us to be, as a matter of fact, we cannot be the people God wants us to be because we are conceived and born in sin and every inclination of our will is evil all the time.
Today, God’s means of grace warns us against unbelief. As we said earlier, the object of faith is important. It does not matter how sincere our faith is if our faith is in anyone or anything else other than our Creator. My sincere faith in a rock will not save me, rather it will most certainly bring me condemnation. There is only one way to heaven and we are reminded that Jesus says He is “the way, the truth and the life.” Here again, as we have said before, this exclusive claim, that there is one and only one way to heaven, is why we Christians are so hated by the rest of the world, because we believe what God tells us that He is the only way to eternal life in heaven.
And today, God’s means of grace points to the Christ to come. You may have noticed that we do not hear a lot about the Holy Spirit because His job is not to point to Himself but to Christ, and to point to Christ on the cross, that He gave His life that we might have life. I am not here to talk to you about myself and my life, I am here to point to Christ, yes, Christ on the cross and the fact that He gave His life for yours and mine. As we each live our lives as followers of Christ, we are not to point to our own lives, but we are to live our lives in such a way that they point to Christ. I will never forget what the dean of students said my first year in college. He said, “I do not want others to look at me and say, ‘what a great guy he is,’ but ‘what a great God he has.’” So is my hope.
Again, this morning we ask the question, are you ready? Are you ready for Christ’s second coming? If He came today, are you sure that you are ready? If you were to die and go to Him, are you sure you are ready? Are you in the Word, seeking forgiveness, and making use of the sacraments? These are the means that God has given to us to get us ready to meet Him.
Are you ready? Is your faith focused on Christ and His good gifts and blessings? Does the way you live reflect that your priorities are being about the business of the Lord or being about the business of this world? Again, as I said last week, does the way you respond to the Lord with your time, talents and treasure reflect that your life is centered around the Lord and your relationship with Him, or does it reflect that your life is centered around this world, making a name for yourself in this world or amassing a fortune or small fortune to pass on in this world?
As I alluded to a moment ago, if Christ returned tonight would you be ready? I am not sure if there are any more Joe’s Crab Shack restaurants still open and I am not advertizing for them, but I do remember the sign they had on their wall, it read “Free Crabs Tomorrow.” So, if you come back tomorrow, do you really think you will get some free crabs? How many of us live our lives with the thought that Jesus will not return until tomorrow and thus we live our life for today. Will we not be surprised if Jesus were to come back today instead of tomorrow. Certainly then we should live our lives as if Christ would return today and be ready.
Now is the time to be ready. God has fulfilled His first promise, He sent Jesus, true God, born as a true man, who lived perfectly, died perfectly and rose so that we might have forgiveness and life. Before His ascension, Christ promised that He would return. He will fulfill this promise as He fulfilled His first promise. Now is the time to be ready. Now is the day which might be the day of His return. Thanks be to God that He gets us ready, that He strengthens us and keeps us ready. Because by His grace, through faith in Jesus, which He gives to us, we know that we are ready. Thanks be to God for faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. And thanks be to God for stirring in us a response of faith so that we might say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Wednesday, December 4, 2019
This year our theme for Advent is Christ as God/man, Prophet, Priest and King. This week we will look at Jesus as our Prophet, next week Jesus as our King, the following week Jesus as our Priest. For Christmas Eve we will take up the them of Christ as God and then finally on Christmas morning we will talk about Jesus as man. In order to help us with this theme we go to our catechism and under the question, “For what threefold office was Christ anointed?” we have the answer, “Christ was anointed to be our Prophet, Priest, and King.” This evening we want to look in particular at the first response, that of Christ as our Prophet and again the catechism tells us, “A. As Prophet, Christ: 1. preached personally during His life on earth, validating His word with miracles, especially His own resurrection; Deut. 18:15; Matt. 17:5; Mark 1:38; John 1:17-18; John 6:68; 2. through the preached Gospel today still proclaims Himself to be the Son of God and Redeemer of the world. Mark 16:15; Luke 10:16; 2 Cor. 5:20.”
The promise of a Messiah was first given in Genesis. Let me set the stage. In the beginning God created all things, out of nothing. Then, on the sixth day, after creating all the animals God set out to create the crown of His creation, human beings. Human beings were created different from the rest of all creation in that man was formed out of the dust of the ground and then God breathed into him the breath of life and man became a living being, with a body and a soul. Soon afterward God created the woman from the rib of the man in order to be a helper suitable for him. And up until this time everything was good and even very good, meaning everything was perfect. Again, please notice that after God had completed all His creation everything was good and even very good, again meaning everything was perfect. When we move from God’s hand of creation, from God running the verbs, as we say, to the account of the humans doing the doing, then we move to the fall into sin and the ruin of creation. However, even though God’s creatures, humanity, brought sin, death and destruction into the world, God continued to show His love, care and concern. Immediately after man fell into sin, God intervened and promised to take care of what man broke, to send a Savior, a Messiah. We read this promise in Gen. 3:15, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
Later God reiterated His promise and expanded it when Moses announced to the people, “15The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen—16just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ 17And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. 18I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him’” (Deut. 18:15-19). God would send a Savior who would also be a prophet.
Although God waited some 4500 years from the time He first made His promise to fulfill His promise, yet He did fulfill His promise. In Bethlehem of Judea God fulfilled His promise. To a young woman, a virgin and to her betrothed husband, God sent His Son to be born. This Child was like all other children in that He was truly a human child, but He was different in that He was also the Son of God, that is He is truly God as well.
Up until He was about thirty years old and began His earthly ministry, we hear only about Jesus’ birth and about His trip to Jerusalem and to the temple at the age of 12.
After reaching the age of thirty Jesus began His public ministry. It was in what was perceived to be His hometown of Nazareth that we hear of Him as not only the Messiah, but also as a prophet. As Luke tells us, “16And [Jesus] came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up. And as was his custom, he went to the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and he stood up to read. 17And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, 18“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” 20And he rolled up the scroll and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21And he began to say to them, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22And all spoke well of him and marveled at the gracious words that were coming from his mouth. And they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” 23And he said to them, “Doubtless you will quote to me this proverb, ‘Physician, heal yourself.’ What we have heard you did at Capernaum, do here in your hometown as well.” 24And he said, “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown. 25But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, in the land of Sidon, to a woman who was a widow. 27And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff. 30But passing through their midst, he went away” (Luke 4:16-30). Of course, a prophet is not simply one who foretells of future events. A prophet is also one who proclaims the Word of God.
And finally, at about the age of thirty-three, after three short years of work, in Jerusalem Jesus does what He came to earth to do. There, just outside the city gates, Jesus is nailed to a cross in order to die and in so dying He paid the price for all sins of all people of all places of all times, including your sins and mine, once and for all.
Today Jesus continues to be our Savior and Prophet, yet He no longer comes to us immediately, rather, today He comes to us through means, mediately, through the read Word, in other words, as the Word of God is read to us every Sunday morning, and Wednesday evenings, Jesus speaks to us through this Word, as He speaks to us individually as we read His Word.
Jesus is our Savior and Prophet as He comes to us through His Word, that is as He comes to us through the preached Word. Here we understand that a Pastor cannot improve on the Word of God, and so his proclamation of the Word of God is the Word of God only and in so far as what He proclaims is the Word of God. Which reminds us as Pastors to preach the Word and then to sit down and be quiet.
Jesus is our Savior and Prophet as He comes to us through Holy Baptism. Through water and the Word of God, namely His name, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, Jesus comes into our hearts, gives us faith, gives us forgiveness, writes our names in the book of Life, and gives us eternal life.
Jesus is our Savior and Prophet as He comes to us through the Lord’s Supper. Through bread and wine and the Word of God, Jesus comes to us to give Himself for us to eat and drink. Very much like the Old Testament sacrifice, as the spotless lamb was present to be slaughtered, burnt on the altar and then eaten by the family, so Jesus presented Himself as our spotless lamb who went to the cross to be crucified and now comes to us as we eat His body and drink His blood through this most Holy Meal of the Lord’s Supper. And through this meal as through all His means of grace, our Lord gives to us faith, strengthening of faith, forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.
Jesus is our Savior and Prophet as He comes to us through confession and absolution. As we confess our sins and hear those most beautiful, most precious words, “I forgive you all your sins,” then we know we have just what those words say we have, forgiveness of sins and with forgiveness comes life and salvation.
What does this mean? First, God the Father promised it. And we know that whatever God promises, He brings to completion.
Second, Jesus fulfills it. Jesus is one with the Father and so He fulfills the promises He makes that is He came not only to live for us, to do all that things we are supposed to do but are unable to do, but also to pay the price for our sins, to suffer the eternal death penalty of hell for us in our place.
And third, the Holy Spirit gives us faith in Him. The work of the Holy Spirit is to motivate us, to stir in us and to work in and through us to live lives of faith, doing the good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do. And they are good works because they are done to His glory.
Thus we see, Jesus is our Messiah and our prophet, not only as He came during His life, but also as He continues to come to us and for us today. To Him be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.