Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!
Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.
Sunday, April 28, 2019
Christian Obedience, Who Is Running the Verbs? - April 28, 2019 - Second Sunday of Easter - Text: Acts 5:12-20 (21-32)
He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! This morning we continue to revel in the joy of the resurrection. Remember, one of the reasons we worship on Sunday is because, for us Christians, each and every Sunday is a mini Easter celebration. We celebrate that we worship a living God, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Our text for this morning brings us to events that followed Jesus’ resurrection and ascension.
Our text speaks of the signs and wonders accomplished by the Apostles. We begin reading at verse twelve, “12Now many signs and wonders were regularly done among the people by the hands of the apostles. And they were all together in Solomon’s Portico. 13None of the rest dared join them, but the people held them in high esteem. 14And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women, 15so that they even carried out the sick into the streets and laid them on cots and mats, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them. 16The people also gathered from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits, and they were all healed” (v. 12-16).
You might remember that Jesus did signs and wonders. The gospel writer John speaks of the signs and wonders Jesus performed as proof of His divinity, that is that He is truly God. Since we know that the apostles are not God or gods, what purpose did it serve for them to have the power, or better said, the authority to perform the signs and wonders they did? The purpose of the signs and wonders of the early Apostles, that is that God had given them the authority to do these signs and wonders, was that these signs and wonders bore witness of the authenticity of what they were preaching. In other words, the signs and wonders they performed gave evidence, proof, if you will, that what they were preaching was faithful and true to what God had given them to preach.
So, why do we not see such signs and wonders in our world today? First we know that as the Apostles died out, so did this ability to perform signs and wonders. What we often see today, especially on television, that is touted as a miracle, is either a “slight” of hand, a trick, simply a show or con, a work of Satan himself, or in very rare and I mean very rare instances, truly a miracle. Personally, when it comes to believing in miracles, I give more credence to what I would call the quiet, unassuming miracles, those miracles which give glory to God and to God alone and are not accredited to any human person.
We would do well to remember that today God’s usual way of working with us, of coming to us, of giving to us, is not directly, what we would call immediately, but rather indirectly or mediately, through a medium, a mediator of sorts, through a means. In other words, today God’s usual way of bringing healing is through the means of doctors and medicine. As for our spiritual well-being today, in our day, God’s usual way of giving to us and working in and through us is through the means of His Word and Sacraments. God comes to us to give to us the good gifts and blessings He has to give through His Word, the Bible, as well as through the sacrament of Holy Baptism, through confession and absolution, and through the sacrament of His Holy Supper.
The second issue of our text I want to address this morning is the issue of obedience and the direction of proper obedience. We pick up at verse twenty-seven, “ 27And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28saying, ‘We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.’ 29But Peter and the apostles answered, ‘We must obey God rather than men. 30The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him’” (v. 27-32).
As the apostles lived out their vocations, that is as they lived lives of faith, bearing witness of their faith through their lives, through their thoughts, words and actions, they were arrested and often times imprisoned. Their example of how they dealt with the governing authorities is one we would do well to heed today. As Christians, as citizens of this nation we understand that we are to be subject to our government, with one exception, and that exception is when our government goes against God and His Word. When our government goes against God and His word then we know that it is better to obey God than man.
When we obey God rather than man, when we are civilly disobedient, we are to be ready to accept and suffer the consequences. In other words, if the government should tell us that it is illegal to worship the Lord, then we would most certainly disobey and be in worship. And if we are caught, then we should be ready to accept the consequence, including being imprisoned or whatever else, whatever punishment might ensue.
At this time in our country I do believe we are still a few years away from the probability of such circumstances, but understand that it could happen. And know this, that if we should be imprisoned for our civil disobedience, God will give us the courage, boldness, and strength we need in any and all circumstances.
Our text speaks of the issue of obedience, yet, there are those who taut obedience to God as a means of salvation, but what does that mean? When we hear someone suggest that the only way to be saved is by being obedient to God, or when we hear someone say something like, “A person gets baptized to show their obedience to God,” then we need to ask ourselves, “What does this person really mean?” You know the questions I always tell you to ask. Who is running the show when obedience to God is stated as necessary for salvation? Can we actually be obedient to God? Remember, we are conceived and born in sin, and this fact means all people. Every inclination of our heart is evil all the time, and God gives no age restriction on either of these issues, in other words, as far as God is concerned, all people are conceived and born in sin and all people are accountable to God for their own sin, even an unborn child, everyone from the moment of conception. Thus, from conception we are spiritually blind, spiritually dead and enemies of God. From conception we are accountable to God for our sins. And from conception all we can do, in and of ourselves apart from God and His help, is refuse and reject the good gifts and blessings our Lord offers to us.
The problem with the idea of attempting to be obedient to God is that this idea brings a confusion of who is doing what and how God works. Another problem with this idea is a confusion of understanding sacraments, rites or ceremonies. When we fail to acknowledge what God tells us in His word, that we are sinful from conception, then we have this false hope in an untainted free will. The problem with failing to recognize the difference between sacraments and rites and ceremonies leads to a rejection of the gifts God gives through these means of grace and instead a false dependency and hope on one’s own doings. In other words, we move from depending on God for our salvation given through the external means of grace, to depending on ourselves, our doing or acting for our salvation. And quite frankly, we are not too dependable.
What can we do? Without God we can do no good thing. Without God all we can do, because our will has been tainted by sin, is to refuse and reject the good gifts and blessings the Lord has to give. But with God, by the power of the Holy Spirit working in us, especially through the means the Lord has given to come to us to give us the good gifts and blessings He has to give, with the Lord, we can do and we do great things.
So, what is true Christian obedience? First and foremost, true Christian obedience is to recognize who is doing what? Who is running the show? Who is running the verbs? True Christian obedience is to recognize that God does and we are done to, God gives and we are given to. It is not something we are doing for God, but what God is doing for us. Let me say that again in case we missed it. True Christian obedience is what God is doing for us.
Second, true Christian obedience is to recognize our inabilities, in and of ourselves. In others words, true Christian obedience is to recognize that we cannot be the people God commands and demands us to be. God’s demand, God’s command is that we are prefect. Because we are conceived and born in sin, because every inclination of our heart is evil all the time, because in and of ourselves all we can do is reject and refuse the good gifts and blessings God has to give to us, and because we are conceived and born spiritually blind, spiritually dead, and enemies of God, we understand that we cannot be obedient to God. Thus, more important than our obedience is God’s obedience. The fullness of the Gospel is the fact that Jesus came to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. Jesus came to live in perfect obedience for us in order to fulfill God’s command in our place. More important than our obedience, which we cannot do, is God, in Jesus’ obedience for us, in our place.
Third, true Christian obedience is to rejoice in the gifts God gives and the means through which He gives them, His means of grace. In other words, true Christian obedience is to recognize that God works through means, to rejoice in His working through means and to not refuse and reject the good gifts and blessings He so lovingly lavishes and pours out on us through His means of grace.
Thus, fourth, true Christian obedience is to make regular and diligent use of the means of grace so that God can have His way with us and do for us and give to us and stir in us a response of faith, being obedient unto death and being given a crown of life. The only obedience we can offer is to remain faithful until death. And we can only do that, remain faithful until death, with the Lord’s help. Thus, our obedience is a response of faith, striving to live lives of faith, striving to live as priests in the priesthood of all believers, doing so imperfectly, yet doing so to the glory of the Lord.
This morning, as we continue to revel in the joy of the resurrection of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, we rejoice in our Lord and His great love for us. We rejoice in the fact that God loves us so much that He sent Jesus to live for us, to be obedient for us, to fulfill all God’s laws and commands for us. We rejoice that Jesus was obedient to death even death on the cross for us in our place. And we rejoice even more in the fact that God has given us the authority and His promise to be with us always even to the end of the world so that as we live lives of faith and as He gives us the opportunity, we too, with His help and power are able to be obedient to death. And He stirs in us to rejoice and give thanks and say to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Sunday, April 21, 2019
He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia!
Our text for this morning is Psalm sixteen verse ten: “10For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.” This is our text.
As you have heard me say time and again, we get it right when we point to Jesus. Over the past weeks, during our Lenten season we have been looking at the prophesies of the Old Testament that pointed to Jesus. We have heard only some of the prophecies of the Old Testament, but there are many more all of which point to Jesus, the coming Savior, Messiah and Christ. Last Friday we witnessed Jesus’ trial. Today we celebrate His resurrection.
This morning, this Easter Sunday morning we once again celebrate that we have seen the prophecies of old fulfilled in Jesus especially concerning His resurrection as King David himself, speaking as God spoke through him announce Jesus’ resurrection as he says, “10For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption” (Psalm 16:10).
As we have been reminded time and again and as we have seen history all of history, what we call B.C. or before Christ and as the attempt has been made to remove Christ from history today we have the designation as B.C.E. meaning before the common era, which simply fails to define the common era, but since the numbers have not changed we know that the common era has to do with the birth of Jesus, thus we see how history points to Jesus.
We also see how history with the designation A.D. “anno domini,” translated meaning in the year our Lord or, again as the attempt to remove Jesus from history, today we have the designation C.E. or common era and again we understand that the common era is one which points to Jesus. Our calendar simply will not let us forget that Jesus is the center, the main point, the person around whom all of history points. As I suggested in the early sunrise service the word history might be two words, His story and in particular, and how fitting as we are reminded that all history points to Jesus all history is His story.
Moving on into the New Testament, the New Testament begins with the four Gospels which give us a more detailed history of Jesus, who is a true historical person. The Christian faith is not simply one of the religions of the world, rather it is the religion. All other religions, cults and sects are based on tales, myths, lore, fables and the like. The Christian Church is grounded in the facts of human history, Jesus’ story.
We rejoice in the fact that God gives us four witnesses of Jesus’ life. The four Gospels speak the truth of Jesus’ life, suffering, death and resurrection. Jewish law, and perhaps, although I am not an expert, I would suggest that most legal systems throughout the world, in order to be fair would rule that a person cannot be convicted simply by the word of one witness. Thus, God gives us four witnesses, four gospel accounts of Jesus’ history.
However, unlike any ordinary history book, the four Gospels of God’s Word are filled with power, the power to give the gifts God has to give. Thus we understand that God’s Word is what we call a means of grace. The Word of God is one of the ways, one of the means that He has of coming to us to give to us the gifts and blessings He has to give. Of course we understand that the other means of grace, the other ways and means through which God gives us the gifts and blessings He has to give are the simple ordinary earthly means of water, bread and wine.
Thus, we might well proclaim with all confidence that the four Gospels prove Jesus is the Savior. Although it has been suggested that one cannot prove the words of the Bible, we are told in Acts that Paul proved that Jesus was the Christ. I would submit the fact that nothing in history or archeology has ever disproved the Bible.
Today we come and we celebrate. We celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. We celebrate that the resurrection gives us of proof of God’s Love for us. As Jesus reminds us, no greater love can anyone have than this that one will lay down their life for another and that is exactly what Jesus did, He gave His life, His perfect life for us, taking our sins upon Himself in order to pay the price for our sins.
Jesus; resurrection is proof of Jesus substitutionary role in our forgiveness and salvation. The price for sin was set in the Garden of Eden and the price was death to the one who sinned. In other words, human death for human sin was the price that was set. The ceremonial laws of the sacrificial system did nothing to gain or earn or pay for that eternal forgiveness, rather they were a reminder of the price for sin, death, the shedding of blood, human blood and pointed to the one ultimate sacrifice of a human, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, Jesus Himself.
The resurrection is proof of God’s acceptance of Jesus’ life for ours. When God looks at Jesus He sees our sins and Jesus’ death for our sin. When God looks at us, by faith in Jesus He sees us as perfect and holy and He is satisfied.
The resurrection is proof that we worship a living God who gives us life. Indeed, as we celebrate today and every Sunday, death and the grave had no power over Jesus. He rose from the dead victorious over sin, death and the devil. We worship a living God.
And so we do celebrate. We celebrate that God has and had chosen us even before creation. As an omniscient, all knowing God, He knew what was going to happen even before it happened and yet He created this world and us anyway, because of His great love for us. God chose us from before He began creation. He chose us to create us and to redeem us.
We celebrate God’s gift to us. We celebrate His gift of life at conception. At conception we are created by God, given a body and a soul and we are truly living human beings. All life begins at conception. Yet, as we are reminded by David, we are conceived and born in sin, thus we are conceived and born spiritually dead, spiritually blind and enemies of God. Yes, as we have been reminded through the Lenten Season, it was not the Jewish nation, not the Jewish ruling council, not the Romans, but it was us and our sins for which Jesus was punished, suffered and died.
And yet, we celebrate God’s gift of new life through Holy Baptism. At our baptism, as God promised, and remember it is His Word which gives the power to the plain water which is poured over us. At our Baptism, God, using the hands of the pastor and the voice of the pastor puts water on us and speaks His name on us. It is at our baptism that God puts faith in our hearts, forgives our sins, writes our names in the book of life and makes us His own.
We celebrate God’s gift of Himself in His Word and Holy Supper. As we hear God’s Word read and proclaimed we know that His Word does what it says and gives the gifts of which it speaks, faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. We know that in His Holy Supper it is the Word which gives power to the simply ordinary means of bread and wine. As God speaks His Word in our ear and as we eat the bread and His body and drink the wine and His blood so they are His body and blood given and shed for us for the forgiveness of sins. His body and blood become a real part of us so that His perfect life, suffering, death and resurrection become ours.
We celebrate God’s good gifts and blessings through His Word and sacraments including confession and absolution. As we begin our Divine Services entering into God’s presence in our sin and so confessing those sins so that we might enter worthily, we hear God speak, again, through the mouth of His called servant, the pastor and telling us that our sins are forgiven.
We celebrate God’s gifts through Jesus. Again, we get it wrong when we point to ourselves. There is nothing we can do to gain, earn or pay for our sins. We can never be obedient enough, good enough, do enough good deeds, or work hard enough. There is nothing we can add to what Jesus has done. Indeed, to point to ourselves would be to reject what Jesus gives and would be to suggest that what Jesus did was not enough. We get it right when we point to Jesus, just Jesus and only Jesus. Jesus does it all and gives it all to us. Jesus was conceived and born for us. Jesus lived perfectly for our in our place. Jesus took our sins and suffered and died paying the price for our sins. Jesus rose victorious over sin, death and the devil. Jesus gives us faith through the waters of Holy Baptism. Jesus gives us forgiveness of sins through Holy Absolution. Jesus gives, strengthens and keeps us in faith through His Holy Word and through His Holy Supper. Jesus does and gives and we are done to and given to and we rejoice and give Him thanks and praise.
Today we celebrate what a great, loving, living, gift giving God we have. We point to Jesus as the author and perfecter of our faith. We have our surest confidence knowing that our forgiveness and salvation come from outside of us, from the One to which all of Holy Scripture and all of history points, Jesus, just Jesus. We rejoice and say, to God be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen. He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! Amen.
He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Allelulia!
Our text for this morning is Psalm sixteen verse ten: “10For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption.” This is our text.
Just a reminder as we get started that this year during the Lenten Season and through to this service, our Easter Sunrise service and later at our Easter morning service we have been looking at some of the prophecies of the Old Testament which have their fulfillment in the New Testament in the person and work of Jesus. Last Friday we witnessed Jesus’ trial, condemnation, crucifixion, suffering and death. Today we celebrate His resurrection.
I find it interesting that the word history might be said to be two words, His and story, speaking of His Story or Jesus story. Remember as I constantly tell you, we get it right when we point to Jesus. Just as the Old and New Testaments point to Jesus and just as all of human history points to Jesus, Jesus being the crux, the middle of all history. So, let us review a little of His Story during this past week, what we call Holy Week. On Thursday we watched as Jesus celebrated the Passover with His Apostles for the last time and from that celebration gave us His Holy Supper wherein we eat His body and drink His blood so that He becomes a part of us.
Following their celebration of the Passover meal they sang a psalm and then Jesus went out with His apostles to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. We watched as He encouraged His Apostles to watch and pray and how He went a bit further away from them and prayed and we were told that He prayed in agony even sweating drops of blood, and asking for there to be another way to bring salvation rather than through His having to suffer and die. Yes, we saw the human nature of Jesus in the fact that as a human He was not looking forward to the cup of suffering that lay before Him.
We watched as Judas brought a gang of thugs, temple guards to arrest Jesus. We were reminded that Judas intentions were more than likely from a misunderstanding of Jesus as savior, that is that Judas believed Jesus to be a social/political savor who would start a revolt and over throw the Roman government. And so we saw Jesus passively allow Himself to be arrested and put on trial.
We watched as Jesus was abandoned by His earthly friends. No one stayed to defend Jesus. No one was there to bear witness or give testimony at His trial. Instead we later find His friends being locked in a room for fear of the Jews.
On Friday, Good Friday it is called today, we watched as Jesus was beaten, mocked, spit upon, stricken and afflicted and so forth. We watched the illegal nightly trials. We watched as a parade of witnesses could not agree on a crime of which to accuse Jesus. We watched as a convoluted accusation of a misconstrual of what Jesus said was used to gain the death penalty. We watched as a crowd was incited to ask for Jesus to be crucified.
We followed as Jesus was moved from being on trial by the church leaders, to being on trial by the civil court of Pontius Pilate and even questioned by Herod himself. We watched as Pilate tried his best to have Jesus released, but to no avail, but rather that the Jewish leaders were inciting a riot. So we watched as Pilate declared Jesus to be condemned to die, washing his hands of the whole situation.
We watched as Jesus suffered physical death, being whipped, beaten, mocked, and spat upon. We watched as nails were driven in His hands and feet. We watched as He hung on the cross suffocating to death. We watched as He suffered physically and as He suffered the eternal spiritual death penalty of hell on the cross.
We heard Jesus as He was abandoned by God the Father as we heard Him speak, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” and we watched as He breathed His last and subjected Himself to His Father and died.
On Saturday, yesterday, we waited. We watched as Jesus observed that Sabbath day of rest. Indeed, as God had given this seventh day of the week as a day of rest, so Jesus’ body lay resting in the tomb to await His resurrection on Sunday, the first day of the week.
As for the followers of Jesus, as His body rested in the tomb they waited with eager expectation in order to attend to His body, anointing it and better preparing it for a proper burial. Since it was late on Friday and since the Sabbath was about to begin they were only able to do so much and so Saturday was a day of waiting for them as well.
Today we come along to the tomb with Mary and those who would come to complete the task begun on Friday, the task of lovingly preparing His body. We come along early in the morning in order to grieve and pay our last respects. And yet, as we come to the tomb we find that the tomb is empty. We find that Jesus is not in the tomb. We find that He has risen from the dead.
Jesus was conceived, born, lived, suffered, died and rose to fulfill all of Holy Scripture which points to Him. David points to this moment in his psalm, out text, “10For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption” (Psalm 16:10) . Jesus’ body may have been placed in the tomb on Friday, but it did not remain as His body did not see corruption. His body was not subjected to being worm fodder as our bodies are today. Instead, just as God planned and promised, so Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus bodily rose from the dead, defeating sin, death and the devil.
Today we come early to the tomb and finding an empty tomb we know that Jesus is not dead, but that He is alive. We do not worship a dead God, but we worship a living God. Unlike the false gods of other religions, gods and idols based on fantasy, mythology and otherwise gods and idols outside of human history, we worship a God who entered into our human history. We worship a God who was and is a part of our human lives. Archeology and history only support His story, that Jesus was a human living being who lived and was crucified. The bodies of other religious leaders can be found here and elsewhere on earth. The body of Jesus cannot be found except that Jesus continues to live as God in flesh in heaven, where He is watching over us, ruling over us and interceding for us. Not only is Jesus bodily in heaven, but as true God, He is also bodily everywhere present. Just as Jesus appeared bodily to His disciples on the first Easter evening, even though the doors to the room were locked, so to He is with us bodily in the bread and wine at His Holy Supper.
All history is all of His story. All history points to Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Jesus, the Creator, Redeemer and Sanctifier. Jesus the one who came to live perfectly for us in our place. Jesus the one who took all our sins and the sins of all people, of all places, of all times and suffered and paid the price for all sins. Jesus is the one who gives us life, forgiveness, eternal life.
Today we come and we rejoice and are given to. Forgiveness is not something we get for ourselves. It is not something we can earn nor deserve. Forgiveness was earned and paid for by Jesus giving His life for ours, paying the price for sin, human death. Jesus freely gives us the forgiveness He earned because of His great love for us. With forgiveness we know that we have life and salvation and so we rejoice.
Today our celebration begins and continues. We celebrate God’s great love for us. We celebrate Jesus’ life for us. We celebrate Jesus’ victory over sin, death and the devil. We celebrate that all history points to Jesus and His story. We celebrate that He gives us faith, forgiveness and life.
Indeed, as Paul so well reminds us, if Jesus had not risen from the dead our faith would be in vain and we of all people would be most pitied. But Jesus has risen from the dead. His resurrection was promised. He spoke of His resurrection. Many people bore witness of His resurrection. His word and all history, the Old Testament, the New Testament, the years before Christ, the years before the common era, the years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, the years of the common era all point to this moment in time, Jesus’ resurrection and defeat of death, His defeat of sin, death and the devil. So, we revel in the resurrection. We rejoice in forgiveness of sins. We desire to give thanks and praise to Jesus and to continually be given the gifts and blessings He has to give through His means of grace. We rejoice as we greet each other even continually, He is risen! He is risen, indeed! Alleluia! To God be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Friday, April 19, 2019
We have three texts for today. Our first text is Psalm twenty-seven verse twelve, “Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence” (Psalm 27:12). Our second text is Isaiah fifty-three verse seven, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). And our third text is Isaiah fifty verse six, “I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting” (Isaiah 50:6). These are our texts.
Just a reminder as we get started that this year during the Lenten Season and through to Easter Sunrise and Easter morning we are looking at some of the prophecies of the Old Testament which have their fulfillment in the New Testament in the person and work of Jesus. Yesterday we witnessed Jesus’ betrayal by one of His chosen twelve. Today we witness Jesus’ trial.
Back in the Psalms it was prophesied that Jesus would have false witnesses testify against Him, “Give me not up to the will of my adversaries; for false witnesses have risen against me, and they breathe out violence” (Psalm 27:12). Because no true nor credible witnesses could be found to testify against Jesus false witness were brought to Jesus’ trail. The law stated that a person could not be convicted on the testimony of one witness and so many witnesses were brought forward. Many people had heard Jesus preach and teach and so they brought many charges and yet they could not find two that agreed.
The closest two witness came to agreeing was concerning Jesus speaking about His own death and resurrection. The charge against Jesus was the He said He could destroy the physical temple and rebuild it in three days. Of course we know and understand that Jesus was speaking about His physical body being destroyed, being crucified and killed and then rising three days later.
The prophet Isaiah prophesies about the Savior, “ He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth” (Isaiah 53:7). Jesus came to earth, true God, born in human flesh. Jesus actively obeyed all of God’s laws perfectly, never sinning even once. Jesus came actively obeying and fulfilling all the prophesies of the Old Testament, perfectly, never missing even one. And then Jesus passively allowed Himself to be persecuted. He allowed Himself to be arrested, tried, and prosecuted. He allowed Himself to be beaten, stricken, smitten and afflicted.
So, as Jesus was put on trial He did not answer His accusers. He remained silent, not defending Himself. He remained silent, not calling down throngs of angels to deliver Him.
Isaiah also prophesied, ““I gave my back to those who strike, and my cheeks to those who pull out the beard; I hid not my face from disgrace and spitting” (Isaiah 50:6). The guards mocked Jesus. They hit him. They spat on Him. They put a crown of thorns on Him. They mockingly put a purple robe on Him.
Indeed, He was mocked and beaten. He was beaten thirty-nine times with leather straps laced with bone fragments that ripped the hide off His back. He was slapped across the face. His trials were illegal trials held at night.
As you have heard me say many times, we get it right when we point to Jesus. We get it wrong when we point to ourselves. We know we get it right when we point to Jesus because all of history points to Jesus. All of history points to the events that are unfolding in our texts, all the events that unfolded during this week we commemorate as Holy Week. At Christmas we celebrated Jesus’ birth and we were reminded that the reason Jesus was born was to die.
Jesus was true God, born in human flesh. He had to be truly God in order to be conceived and born in perfection. He had to be truly human in order to be our substitute. Jesus was conceived and born in perfection and He was perfect in all things, for us, in our place as our substitute. God’s demand from the beginning was perfection. Adam and Eve messed that up with disobedience, with their eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and so the world has been tainted and cursed ever since. Yet, God did not remove His demand for perfection, instead He offered a plan and a solution, to be perfect for us.
Jesus was born and lived in perfection. He never sinned, even once. He perfectly obeyed all God’s commands and laws and perfectly fulfilled all His prophesies. Then He took our sins upon Himself, traded His perfection for our imperfection. The price, the cost, the penalty for imperfection, for sin was and is death, human death, physical and eternal spiritual death. Jesus took our sins and paid the price, suffering eternal spiritual death and physical death for us in our place. And giving us His perfection. By faith in Jesus, faith that He gives to us His perfection becomes our perfection.
Jesus paid the complete price for our sins as well as for the sins of all people, of all places, of all times. All sin has been paid for by Jesus. Nothing more needs to be done to pay for sin. By faith in Jesus, again faith that He gives to us, we are given His glorious just reward of eternal life in heaven and He takes our just eternal spiritual death condemnation.
As we have been reviewing over the past few weeks, as we have seen the prophesies and their fulfillment, all that happened to Jesus happened according to God’s good and gracious will and according to His plan put into place even before He began creating the world. Remember, God is omniscient, that is He is all knowing. We also know that God lives in the eternal present, He is I AM. God is not I was, nor I will be, but I AM. To live in the eternal present means that for God there is no past nor future only the eternal now. The time we live in has been created by God for us. Because He lives in the eternal present He knows all things even before they happen. Thus we see God’s great love for us in that even before He began creating the world, even before we sinned, He knew that man would sin, that He would have to suffer and die and yet, He created anyway. God’s great love is seen in Jesus. Remember, we get it right when we point to Jesus.
Jesus is the Savior, the one to whom all history points. He is the One who perfectly accomplished all that God had given Him to do. And He freely gave His life because of His great love for us.
Greater love can no one have than this that they would lay down their life for another. God loves us so much that He gives His Son to give His life for us so that we have forgiveness, life and salvation. Today is Good Friday. For Jesus Good Friday means suffering and dying, which does not sound so good. For us Good Friday means God loves us.
As we once again bear witness to Jesus trials, suffering, death and resurrection we are again reminded that it was not just Adam and Eve that put Jesus on the cross, but it was us, you and me. It was for our sin, sins of thought, word and deed, sins of omission and commission. We put Jesus on the cross and he went to the cross because of His great love for us. The answer is Jesus. Jesus loves me this I know for the Bible tells me so. Jesus loves me this I know because He lived for me, in my place, because He took my sin and my place, because He suffered, died and rose for me. Jesus loves me this I know because He continues to pour out on me His good gifts blessings as He puts His name on us in Holy Baptism, as He forgives us through Holy Absolution, as He gives us Himself to us through His Holy Word and as He feeds us His body and blood in His Holy Meal, making Himself a part of us. Yes, we come to this Good Friday with heavy hearts. We are sad because it was because of us that Jesus suffered and died. Yet, we come in joy knowing the rest of the story. We come in joy knowing God’s great love for us in giving Jesus for us. And we come in joy knowing that Jesus did not stay dead, but rose from the dead defeating sin, death and the devil and making that defeat ours. So we rejoice and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Thursday, April 18, 2019
We have two texts for today. Our first text is Psalm forty-one verse nine: “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9). Our second text is Zechariah eleven verse twelve: “Then I said to them, ‘If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.’ And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver” (Zechariah 11:12). These are our texts.
Just a reminder as we get started that this year during the Lenten Season and through to Easter Sunrise and Easter morning we are looking at some of the prophecies of the Old Testament which have their fulfillment in the New Testament in the person and work of Jesus. Last week Wednesday and Sunday as we celebrated Palm Sunday we witnessed Jesus ride triumphantly into Jerusalem for the last time as by the end of the week He is captured, put on trial, judged, condemned and crucified. This evening we bear witness of Jesus’ betrayal by one of His chosen twelve.
Today we will focus on the Apostle Judas. Now I am not here to make excuses for him, but to understand how he fit into the events of today. And let me remind you, Judas was called by Jesus and set apart as the other eleven to be an apostle.
Judas was one of the chosen twelve. When Jesus began His public ministry, as you might remember, He went out and called the twelve apostles, those He set a part to be with Him, to listen to Him, to watch Him, and to learn from Him. Judas was one of these men who was chosen by Jesus and who was with Jesus. Certainly he watched the signs, wonders and miracles Jesus performed. Certainly he heard Jesus teach and preach to the crowds. Certainly he was one of the children of Israel who was looking for a Savior.
The problem is that Judas misunderstood Jesus and what it meant that Jesus was the Savior. Perhaps Judas had in mind the prophecies of the Old Testament and compared them to Jesus’ life, work and actions. Perhaps he was convinced that Jesus was the one promised of old. And yet, just as many in Israel, who knew the history of their people and how many times they were disciplined by God and sent into exile or overthrown, and God would send an earthly social/political savior, so perhaps Judas was convinced that Jesus was there to overthrow the Romans.
Because Jesus was not acting according to Judas’ plan we might rationalize that his plan was to betray Jesus, to get Him arrested in order to call His hand so to speak, that is to get Him to begin a revolution, a revolt against the Romans. And so, we know the history that Judas did betray Jesus as it was prophesied.
The events of history are laid out for us. Judas met with the Sanhedrin to plan the betrayal. These events were prophesied, were spoken of in our text from Zechariah, “Then I said to them, “If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.” And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver” (Zechariah 11:12). Judas agreed to hand Jesus over to the Sanhedrin for thirty pieces of silver.
After setting his plan into motion Judas went to celebrate the Passover with Jesus and the other Apostles. Judas celebrated most of the Passover with Jesus, because at one point Judas leaves. Again, as we know the events of the evening, at one point in the evening Jesus reveals the plot against Him as we heard prophesied in the Psalm, “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me” (Psalm 41:9).
After being exposed as the traitor, and yet without the other Apostles actually understanding what happened Judas went out to do his deed. Again, we might remember that Judas was the treasurer of the group and so some thought he left to give something to the poor, or to attend to some other deed that needed to be done.
As we gather here on this Maundy Thursday focusing on Judas, we must not forget that as Jesus was celebrating His last earthly Passover with His Apostles, that from this celebration He gives us what we celebrate today, the Sacrament of His Holy Supper. From this Passover and eating of the lamb Jesus gives us His body, the body of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world and He gives us His blood shed for us for the forgiveness of sins, to eat and drink for our own forgiveness of sins. After Jesus finished the Passover meal with His Apostles, they sang a song and then went out to the Garden of Gethsemane. There they were met by Judas and a band of thugs he brought to the Garden.
Jesus went to the Garden to pray. Three times, you may remember, He asked that the cup of suffering may be removed and then was resolved to go to the cross. When Judas arrived they came to Jesus and Jesus asked, “Whom do you seek?”. Their answer was they were after Jesus of Nazareth. When Jesus responded, “I AM” they all fall down. Jesus’ answer that He is I AM goes back to God telling Moses to tell the people “I AM” has sent me. Jesus is the great I AM, Yahweh, God the Lord. Jesus is I AM, God in the eternal present. No wonder they all fell to the ground.
Judas approaches Jesus and gives the signal, a kiss. With the greeting of friends, with the kiss of peace Judas signals the one they are to arrest. The scene is quite chaotic. The Apostles are in a stir, the band of thugs is antsy and yet, Jesus is calm in the midst of what is happening. Jesus is calm as He has already been to His Father in prayer and is assured of the events that are about to take place.
And so Jesus is arrested. Or, better said, Jesus allows Himself to be arrested. Remember, Jesus is God. He could at any time call down angels to defeat all His enemies, but that was not the reason He came to earth and so He passively allows Himself to be arrested.
At this moment we have His desertion by the rest of the Apostles. If you remember, Jesus took them to the Garden and told them to pray as well, and yet we are told they fell asleep. Perhaps if they had stayed awake and prayed they may not have been as afraid and may have been calm like Jesus, but that was not the case.
But things did not work out according to Judas’ plan. Remember, his plan was to call Jesus hand, or at least what he thought Jesus was here to do, to start a revolt, an uprising, a deliverance from the Romans. Instead what Judas saw was that Jesus allowed Himself to be arrested. He allowed Himself to be put on trial. It was almost as if Jesus was not going to defend Himself and save Israel. As Judas realized that his plan was failing and that instead of Jesus bringing social/political change He was going to be convicted and crucified because of Judas. So, he confessed and gave the money back. He thought this might get Jesus His freedom, but it did not work.
The money that was paid to Judas was deemed blood money and so was not allowed to be put into the temple treasury, instead it was used to purchase a field for burial for those who had no place to be buried. An interesting way for the Sanhedrin to soothe their own consciences.
Judas went out. He had confessed, at least to the Sanhedrin that he believed he had betrayed an innocent man, but they had no care or concern for his problems. Judas believed he had committed such a grievous sin that he could not be forgiven so in despair he hanged himself.
We sin. You and I sin. We daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness. We sin in thought, word and deed. We sin sins of omission, failing to do what we should do and sins of commission, doing what we should not be doing. We sin, we betray Jesus and perhaps there are times that we are in despair. But thanks be to God that we know that the very reason Jesus came to earth, the reason He actively obeyed all God’s commands and fulfilled all God’s prophecies, the reason He passively allowed Himself to be crucified was for us, because of His great love for us so that we might have forgiveness of all our sins and so we rejoice.
On this Maundy Thursday we know that we are sinners like Judas, but we rejoice in our knowledge that no matter how sinful we may be Jesus loves us, paid the price for our sins, and pours out His forgiveness on us. And we rejoice that as Jesus celebrated the Passover with His Apostles so He gives us His Holy Supper. In His Holy Supper we eat His body, the body of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And we drink His blood, shed for us for the forgiveness of our sins. As we eat His body and drink His blood He becomes a real part of us so that His perfect life, suffering, death and resurrection become our perfect life, suffering, death and resurrection. As we continue in this Holy Week, we continue to keep in prayer as Jesus encouraged His Apostles. We pray least we are lead into temptation. And we give thanks because the Lord is God and His mercy does endure forever. And we say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Sunday, April 14, 2019
Today is Palm Sunday. Today is the day we remember and celebrate Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. In years past, the text and the emphasis for this Sunday were centered around Jesus’ last entry into Jerusalem where He came to die. But, because our culture and even our Christian culture has so deteriorated so that too many people no longer see the importance of being in divine service on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, and hearing the passion of Christ and looking forward to our Easter celebration, let alone years ago when Christians celebrated an Easter Eve Vigil, today our church body has moved to using Palm Sunday as the Sunday of Passion in preparation for our Easter celebration next Sunday, after all, how can you celebrate Jesus’ resurrection unless you remember His suffering and death, His passion. Oh yes, and today is the day we are celebrating the rite of confirmation for one of our young adults.
In our Epistle Lesson for this morning, which is considered to be a part of an early Christian creed, we confess Jesus, true God, taking on human flesh, humbling Himself to the point of death, even death on a cross for our forgiveness. And our text from Deuteronomy reminds us of how our Lord deals with His creatures.
Our text begins with reminding us how the Lord deals with His own people. We begin at verse thirty-five, “35Vengeance is mine, and recompense, for the time when their foot shall slip; for the day of their calamity is at hand, and their doom comes swiftly” (v. 35). We would do well to remember that it was the Lord who chose the children of Israel to be His people. The Lord chose Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and so on and promised that the Savior of the world would be born through their family line. God’s promise was that if they would be and would remain to be His people, He would be their God.
The problem is that the children of Israel strayed. They did not live as God would have them to live. They did not obey the laws and commands the Lord had given them, laws and command that were given for their own good, to protect them and to keep them as His people.
Because of their sin, the Lord allowed for the children of Israel to be exiled. The Lord used other nations to discipline His chosen nation. The Lord allowed for the children of Israel to be punished so that they might see their sin and their need for a Savior so that He might bring them back into a right relationship with Himself. And this is how the Lord deals with His own people.
Our text continues by reminding us how the Lord deals with unbelievers. Picking up at verse thirty-six, “36For the Lord will vindicate his people and have compassion on his servants, when he sees that their power is gone and there is none remaining, bond or free. 37Then he will say, ‘Where are their gods, the rock in which they took refuge, 38who ate the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their drink offering? Let them rise up and help you; let them be your protection!” (v. 36-38).
Those nations used by the Lord to discipline His own people were heathen nations who were godless and idolaters. The Lord does not desire punishment for punishment sake, but for the purpose of discipline and growth in faith. Thus, when the discipline has had its effect, when the children of Israel repent, the Lord acts quickly to restore them to His grace and favor.
And then the Lord will deal with the unbelievers. The Lord mocks the false gods and idols of the heathen nations, because truly they are not gods at all, only idols.
Our text concludes reminding us how the Lord rescues His own people. We pick up at verse thirty-nine, “39See now that I, even I, am he, and there is no god beside me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of my hand” (v. 39). Ultimately, the heathen cannot stand before the Lord. As we celebrate Palm Sunday we may see some foreshadowing of the events of this week, Holy Week, as Jesus came to give His life, to defeat sin, death and the power of the devil.
God will deal justly with the heathen. The price for sin is death, physical death and apart from Jesus and faith in Jesus, eternal spiritual death. The reason Christians are so hated by the world is because of this exclusive claim of the Gospel, that is that there is one way and only one way to eternal life in heaven and that way is through Jesus Christ alone. Which means that for the heathen there is truly no hope.
Yet for God’s people, He will deliver His people from the heathen. He will deliver His people from sin, death and the power of the devil. He will deliver His people to eternal life.
What does this mean? As we were reminded last week, the Old Testament points to Jesus, the New Testament points to Jesus. Jesus is the center of the Word of God. As we read through the Old Testament, especially as we read the history of the Children of Israel we notice that although these people had been chosen and called by God to be His people, they were sinners. Time and again they rebelled against God, disobeyed Him and went chasing after other gods and idols. Thus, time and again we see how the Lord disciplined His people, allowing for them to be punished through other nations even heathen nations, even allowing them to be carried into exile. The point of such punishment was in order to help them to see their sin so that they might repent and be brought back into a right relationship with the Lord. And this happened time and again through their history.
As we look at their history, and if we are honest with ourselves, we see that their history mirrors our own history. God has called us to faith. His usual way of calling us to faith is through His Word and through the waters of Holy Baptism. Unfortunately, simply to be called to and given faith does not make one perfect. We live in a world of believers and unbelievers and we are tempted by the luring of the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh. We are tempted to disobey God, to rebel against Him and to follow after other gods and idols which are not God. And because of His great love for us, the Lord disciplines us as well. Now, He may not send us into exile into other lands as He did His chosen nation, Israel, but He does allow us to suffer some of the consequences of our actions. The point of such temporal punishment is to help us to see our sin so that we might repent and be brought back into a right relationship with the Lord. And just as the Lord used unbelievers in Old Testament days, so the Lord may use unbelievers even today in order to chasten those whom He loves, us, His children, believers in Jesus.
Today we celebrate Palm Sunday. We celebrate Jesus’ triumphant entry into Jerusalem. This is Jesus’ last entry into Jerusalem because this is the beginning of the end, this is the beginning of the week that we call Holy Week. The high points of this week are the giving of the Lord’s Supper out of the Passover meal which the Lord will celebrate with His disciples on Thursday, Maundy Thursday. And the low point for Jesus will be His suffering, His being beaten, tortured, stricken, smitten and afflicted from Thursday evening until His death on the cross on Friday afternoon. Yet, this low point for Jesus is a high point for us, because it is through His death that He defeats death.
Completing the thoughts of Deuteronomy, which points to this ultimate killing and making alive, because of Jesus’ perfect life, perfect obedience, perfect fulfillment of all God’s laws and promises, God will judge. God will judge the unbelievers to eternal spiritual death. In other words, God will kill with an unquenchable fire, thus, although the unbeliever may wish he or she were dead because of the torment of the fires of hell, they will live and suffer that torment forever.
And God will judge the believer. He will judge us. Those who have been given faith, those who have not refused and rejected the good gifts and blessings the Lord has to give, they will be delivered, by God, through Jesus, to eternal life in heaven. They will be made alive, truly alive.
We might, in somewhat of a simplistic way, say that all of the Bible, all of God’s Word, all of the world, all of history boils down to the events and the outcome of the events of this week and the last days of this week. In the Garden of Eden, immediately after Adam and Eve sinned God promised to send a Savior. This promise pointed forward to the events of this week. In the New Testament, the Gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and St. John write of the events to this week. They give evidence, proof if you will, that Jesus is God in flesh the one promised by God to be the Savior of the world. The epistles, the letters written after Jesus death and resurrection all point back to this point in time. And even today as we look at history, we look back and we see Jesus is the center of history. We see Jesus is the One, the only One who can bring us from death, eternal spiritual death, to life, eternal spiritual life with Himself in heaven.
Now, a few words for our confirmand and a few words of reminder for all who have been confirmed. First, confirmation is not graduation. One never truly graduates from being a disciple, a learner of Jesus. I have been at this learning game for many, many years, and I have discovered that the more I learn the more I see that there is so much more to learn. Second, as you profess the faith that God put in your heart at your baptism please understand that the devil does not like you and your profession of faith and now more than ever he may try to tempt you and lure you away from the very thing you profess, that is his nature after all. So, when the devil comes a tempting, remember that Jesus is always there to help you as He has already defeated the devil. Third, now that you are professing the faith given to you, I would encourage you to begin taking the initiative in your faith life. What I mean is that you take it upon yourself to get up and get ready and desire to be given the gifts of God through Bible Study, Sunday School and Divine Service. Do not depend so much on mom or dad to motivate you because one day will come and no one will get you up and tell you to get ready, but you will have to do it yourself. This morning we rejoice with you and pray God’s blessings on you.
Finally, I want to point out that included in your bulletin is an insert listing each day of this week, Holy Week and what was happening in Jesus’ life, the Bible verses that tell us what was happening. I urge you to use this as a guide to help you as you follow Jesus to the cross this week so that when next Sunday arrives you will be even better prepared to celebrate what our Lord has done for us because of His great love for us. God loves you so much and He had you in mind as He walked each step to the cross, as He suffered and died on the cross and as He rose and came into His kingdom. And His promise is and continues to be, as He gives you faith, so when He returns or when your last hour on this earth arrives, He will take you to be with Himself in heaven for eternity. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Wednesday, April 10, 2019
Our text for today is Zechariah chapter nine verse nine: “9Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9). This is our text.
Just a reminder as we get started that this year during the Lenten Season and through to Easter Sunrise and Easter morning we are looking at some of the prophecies of the Old Testament which have their fulfillment in the New Testament in the person and work of Jesus. Last week we looked at Jesus’ vicarious atonement for us. Today we move ahead to witness Jesus ride triumphantly into Jerusalem for the last time as by the end of the week He is captured, put on trial, judged, condemned and crucified.
Zechariah tells us, “9Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9). Zechariah tells us that King Jesus is riding into town. Jesus is indeed King. Certainly we recognize Him as our eternal heavenly King, but even more as we have been reviewing His history and life, He was born of the line of Judah, of the line of King David. Not only is Jesus our heavenly King, but He could have claimed His rightful place as earthly King as well, except that is not the reason He came to earth.
As a man, Jesus entered Jerusalem as a humble king, yet not claiming any kind of earthly kingship. Jesus had been preaching and teaching for about three years. Many people heard Him preach and teach. Many people believed He was a prophet. Many people believed that He was the Savior, although for some it was a social/political savior, but others our spiritual Savior.
So, on what we now call Palm Sunday, as Jesus entered into Jerusalem for what would be His final entrance, the crowds welcomed Him. The crowds welcomed Him and praised Him as if He were a king riding triumphantly into town. Those that had coats threw them on the road and others spread palm branches much like our world today when the red carpet is rolled out for a distinguished dignitary.
Again, this was the last time Jesus would enter Jerusalem, as this time He entered in order to go to the cross. Palm Sunday is the beginning of what we call Holy Week. Palm Sunday was the last cheer of support for the man Jesus, as later in the week we will hear the crowd, and probably many from this same crowd, shout to have Jesus crucified.
Jesus is King, yet Zechariah reminds us that He is the One having salvation, thus Jesus is also Savior Jesus. At the time of Jesus, because of the signs, wonders, and miracles He performed and because of His preaching and teaching, many were confused as to what type of Savior was Jesus. Many that gathered on Palm Sunday were looking for an earthly, social/political Savior and thus they missed the spiritual Savior Jesus. This missing of the spiritual Savior Jesus may be what lead to the Friday disowning of Him.
Although many missed the spiritual Savior Jesus some continued seeking the Savior from sin, the Spiritual Savior. Certainly among the crowd were those who saw Jesus for His true self, one to come and save them from their sins. These are the ones that probably were not there on Friday calling for His crucifixion.
But again, many in the crowd that welcomed Jesus were in the crowd on Friday to disown Him, for the reason that He was not the Savior, nor type of Savior for which they were looking. Many wanted to have the Roman rule thrown off so they might be their own people, governing themselves. They could not see their own sin and need for a spiritual Savior.
Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem His last earthly entry into Jerusalem as His purpose at this time was to go to the cross. The very reason Jesus was born was for this purpose, to live for us, to take our sins upon Himself, to suffer and die, paying the price for our sins and to rise again. It was in Jerusalem, the city that stoned and killed the prophets that Jesus came into town.
Isaiah rightly describes Jesus as the suffering servant. Jesus’ life was one of service, He came not to be served but to serve. He came performing signs, wonders and miracles. He came healing the sick, raising the dead, feeding the thousands. He came changing water into wine. He came making the lame to walk, the blind to see and the deaf to hear.
Jesus’ life was one of suffering. He began His ministry by being tempted by the devil in the wilderness, yet never succumbing to His temptations. He was often ridiculed, mocking, and spoken evil against. He was called names, accused of blasphemy, even called the devil.
Most importantly Jesus lived His life as our substitute. Because we are conceived and born in sin, because we cannot be the people God demands us to be, because we cannot be obedient, Jesus came to be perfect and to be obedient for us, in our place. Yes, Jesus did obey all God’s Laws and commands perfectly.
Thus, Jesus’ life was one of fulfillment, fulfilling all God’s Prophecies concerning the Savior. As we have said several times, the odds of one person fulfilling two or three of the prophecies of the Old Testament would be great indeed, the odds of one person fulfilling them all would be even greater. As Jesus is the One person who fulfilled all the prophecies of the Old Testament we know He is the Savior promised of old.
Who is Jesus? He is our prophet, priest and king. He is true God in human flesh. Jesus came to fulfill all righteousness, to do for us what we could not do, live perfectly. God’s demand is perfection, we are to be holy as our Father in heaven is holy. We cannot be holy. We are conceived and born in sin so that every inclination, every intention of our heart is evil all the time. We are born spiritually blind, spiritually dead and enemies of God. Our desire is not to do what God would have us to do but to do just the opposite. We live in unrighteousness and Jesus comes in righteousness, for us.
Jesus came to fulfill all righteousness, to do for us what we could not do, keep all God’s commands perfectly, never sinning. Jesus was tempted by the devil and never gave in, unlike our sinful nature that continually fails giving in to temptation and sinning. Jesus obeyed all the commandments of God, unlike our continual, daily breaking the commandments in thought, word and deed. And Jesus did not live in righteous perfection as an example so that we might do the same. No, He lived in righteous perfection because we cannot. He did it for us in our place. Yes, He does help us in our times of need, because without His help we would fail miserably all the time. But with His help we do succeed, sometimes.
Jesus came to fulfill all righteousness, to do for us what we could not do, pay the price for our sins. The price for sin is death, physical death, and apart from faith in Jesus it would be eternal spiritual death. Because we cannot give our lives and still live, Jesus came to give His life, once for all, for us on the cross, paying the price for our sins. Jesus death paid the physical death penalty price and His suffering hell paid the eternal spiritual death penalty for us as well.
Jesus triumphant entry into Jerusalem began His trek to the cross paying the price for our sins so that we might have forgiveness, life and salvation. Our greatest need is forgiveness of sins. Without forgiveness we would remain in sin and we would be eternally condemned. But with forgiveness, as we know, is life and salvation. Jesus lived for us, took our sins, suffered and died paying the price for our sins, so that we might have forgiveness of sins. Yet, we know the rest of the history, death and the grave had no power over Him as He rose victorious over sin, death and the devil.
As we conclude the Wednesday mid-week services and move on to our Sunday celebration of this triumphant entry, Palm Sunday, we continue to prepare ourselves. Sunday begins Holy Week, the last week of Jesus’ earthly life. Thursday we will bear witness of Jesus celebrating His last Passover meal with His Apostles, eating the sacrificial lamb and then giving us a new meal of celebration and gift giving, that is giving us His Holy Supper wherein He is the meal, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, so that in our eating and drinking He becomes a part of us. Friday we will bear witness of His suffering and physical death on the cross and then we will wait through Saturday as we will look forward to once again celebrating His defeat for us of sin, death and the devil. And we will rejoice and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
Sunday, April 7, 2019
Although most cliche’s are based on some truth, they get old quickly. You know how it is, we often tire quickly of such cliche’s as “There is nothing new under the sun,” or “Unless we know our history we are doomed to repeat it.” It is unfortunate that we tire so easily and so quickly, especially of these two cliche’s, because they are so true and even today they are so appropriate. We live in a world where we can easily see that there is nothing new under the sun, just turn on the television, or go to see a movie. How often it is that what we watch is simply a remake, a rerun, a reworking of something that has already been done? And as for our history, it seems, to me, that we are not teaching history as well as we have in the past, because it seems to me that what is happening in our world today is a repeat of what has happened in the past and since we do not know our history, we are simply repeating the mistakes that were made once before.
In our text for this morning we have a prime example of the truth of these two cliche’s. When it comes to the history of the children of Israel, we can see that their history consisted of a constant making of the same mistakes, a constant sinning of the same sins, and a constant suffering of the same consequences, but let us get to our text.
Our text begins with the Lord asking the children of Israel to remember, verse sixteen, “16Thus says the Lord, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, 17who brings forth chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick: 18“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old ” (v. 16-18). Interestingly enough, as the Lord reminds the children of Israel of former things His asks them to not remember them, nor to consider them. Perhaps this is God’s way of expressing the cliche’, “You have to leave your past behind you.” Actually, what God is saying, to Israel, through the prophet Isaiah, is that although Israel had a sorted past, that past was forgiven and God has better things in store. So, although they were not to dwell on their past, certainly God would have them remember their past lest they may be doomed to repeat it. So, the Lord reminds them of their past, their former sins, and their enslavement in Egypt.
God reminds them of their enslavement in Egypt so that He might also remind them of His deliverance of them from their bondage of slavery in Egypt. It was the Lord who made a path through the sea, through the mighty waters so that they might escape from Pharaoh and his army.
Yet, not only did God rescue and deliver Israel through the Red Sea, He also allowed for Pharaoh and his army to follow and then He destroyed them, He extinguished and quenched them like a wick. Although the children of Israel constantly tried the Lord, He constantly and consistently took care of them.
After a bit of a history lesson, next, the Lord asks the children of Israel to look forward, picking up at verse nineteen, “19Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. 20The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, 21the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise” (v. 19-21). Just as God, in the past has taken care of and delivered the children of Israel, so he will deliver them from their present enslavement to sin.
God’s promise is that He will make their way straight through the difficulties of life. This world and the struggles of this world are often compared to traveling through a wilderness with danger all around. God’s promise is that while the children of Israel travel through the wilderness of this world and this life, He will be with them to protect them and to take care of their needs.
Finally, God’s promise is that in the end, He will give them a heavenly home. God chose Israel. God promised Israel that the Savior of the world would be born through their seed. God promised that if they remained faithful, to death, they would receive a crown of life, eternal life in heaven, where they would declare His praise.
So, what does this mean? Sunday after Sunday we gather as God’s people in this place and Sunday after Sunday we hear pretty much the same thing. And, unfortunately, very often we hear people express their dismay in this fact as we hear people say, “Why would I go to church or why do I need to go to church, because I always hear the same thing?” Well, we are very much like the children of Israel, we too have a great tendency to commit the same sins over and over again, so we need to hear the same message over and over again.
There is a story about a congregation who installed a new pastor. The first Sunday he preached a wonderful sermon, as a matter of fact, several people told him how wonderful his sermon was. The next Sunday, he preached the same sermon and although the people were a bit surprised, they still thought it was a good sermon and told the pastor so. The third Sunday, he preached the same sermon again. This time, several members got together and asked the pastor about this preaching the same sermon over and over again. To which the pastor replied, “I know you heard the sermon and liked the sermon, but I will keep preaching it until you live the sermon.” We need to hear the fact that we are conceived and born in sin. If we did not know we were sinners, then we would not think we would need a Savior and if we did not think we needed a Savior, then we would not cling to Jesus as our Savior.
Likewise, we need to be reminded that every inclination of our heart is evil all the time. Well, maybe we do not need to be reminded, certainly our lives and our actions show that this is true, yet, we need to be reminded that God knows how we act and as well He even knows what we are thinking.
We need to be reminded that we sin and that we sin sins of omission and commission. My contention is, that as Christians, although we pretty much know what we are not supposed to do, we do it anyway, but even more, I believe our biggest struggle is that we sin sins of omission. We fail to do what we are supposed to do. We fail to fear, love and trust in God above all things. We fail to call upon God’s name in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks. We fail to hold God’s Word sacred and gladly hear and learn it. We fail to honor, serve and obey, love and cherish our parents and those in authority over us. We fail to help and support our neighbor in every physical need. We fail to lead sexually pure and decent lives, loving and honoring our spouses. We fail to help our neighbor improve and protect his property and business. We fail to defend our neighbor, speak well of him and explain everything in the kindest way. We fail to help and be of service to our neighbor and urge their workers to stay and do their duty. We fail to live as priests in the priesthood of all believers always being ready to give an answer for the hope that we have in our Savior Jesus. We fail to live God’s love, speak of Jesus’ love to others and invite others to come and see Jesus.
And we sin in thought, word and deed. Sin does not start with an act. Sin begins in one’s heart. What else do you think Jesus means when He says, “If your eye causes you to sin, tear it out . . . ” (Mt. 5:29, 18:9; Mk. 9:47)? How else can an eye cause you to sin except that it begins in the mind and heart. Yes, we sin. We sin in our thoughts, in our words and in our acts. And we need to be reminded of our sins so that we can see our need for a Savior, lest we think we do not need a Savior and lest we think we can save ourselves by our actions, by our being good enough or by earning enough good to cover our sins and the cost of our sins.
Thanks be to God that Jesus came to deliver us from bondage and slavery to sin. Jesus did not come for Himself. Jesus did not come to be served. Jesus did not come to be an earthly king, nor to set up an earthy kingdom. Jesus came to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
The fullness of the Gospel is seen in the fact that Jesus lived for us. Jesus gave up all the glory that was His in heaven, and as God certainly He was enjoying all the glory that was His, yet for our sakes and because of His great love for us, He gave up the glory that was His in order to be born as one of us, a human being. Jesus was born perfect and He never sinned. He lived as the demands of the law demand us to live, perfect and holy.
Because Jesus was perfect and holy, He was able to take our sins upon Himself. And He did and He suffered and died, paying the price of sin for us. Remember, the price for sin was set in Eden, the price for sin was death, physical death, but even more, apart from Jesus and faith in Jesus, eternal spiritual death. Yes, Jesus died, our God, in Jesus died.
But, as we know the whole story, death and the grave had no power over Him, because on the third day, Jesus rose from the dead. He showed Himself to be alive for forty days, and then, He ascended to the place from which He descended, back into heaven. From heaven He is watching over us, ruling over us and interceding for us.
Before He ascended, Jesus promised that He would return. To this point He has waited some two thousand years. Does that mean He will wait another two thousand years? Not necessarily. He may wait another thousand years, maybe not. He may return tomorrow. We do not know the day nor the hour, which means that we need to be always ready. We do know that as He kept His first promise to come to redeem us, so He will keep this second promise. We do know that He will come again to deliver us from this vale of tears to be with Himself in heaven.
I hope and pray that what we are seeing and what we are hearing time and time again is that it all points to Jesus. The Old Testament pointed to Jesus. The New Testament points to Jesus. The center of the Word of God is Jesus. It is all about Jesus, just Jesus. Jesus is the one who with the Father and the Spirit created all things out of nothing. Jesus is God in flesh who came to redeem us. And Jesus is the One who sent the Holy Spirit to work in and through us to be the people He would have us to be and even when we fail, we are reminded that He continually gives us the forgiveness He earned for us on the cross.
There is a cliche which says, “Seven days without God’s Word makes one weak” and the word is W - E - A - K. How true it is and how important it is that we do not refuse and reject the gifts God has to give by absenting ourselves from the very place He gives the gifts He has to give, His divine service on Sunday mornings. Thanks be to God that He has seen to it that He has given us a place to gather, a pastor to preach, and His Word and Sacraments through which He gives us, lavishes us with and pours out on us all the good gifts and blessings He has to give. We do need a Savior and we do need to be reminded of our need for a Savior. And Jesus is that Savior. What is it all about? Jesus, just Jesus. To Him be the glory, for His name sake. Amen.
Wednesday, April 3, 2019
Our text for today is from Isaiah chapter 53; “4Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5). This is our text.
Just a reminder as we get started that this year during the Lenten Season and through to Easter Sunrise and Easter morning we are looking at some of the prophecies of the Old Testament which have their fulfillment in the New Testament in the person and work of Jesus. Last week we looked at the where, when, who and what of Jesus ministry. Today we look at Jesus’ vicarious atonement for us. So, we begin by defining vicarious atonement. Vicarious means in the place of and atonement means to cover and in particular in this case to cover the cost. Jesus’ vicarious atonement means that He covered the cost of our sins for us. In order for Jesus to be our vicarious atonement He had to be truly human and truly God, and He was.
Jesus was and is truly God. As we confess in our creeds, Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit thus He was truly God. As true God He was prefect and holy. If Jesus had been conceived as a mere human then He would be like us, conceived and born in sin. But because He was conceived by the Holy Spirit He was not conceived in sin, but in holy perfection.
Because Jesus was conceived and born in perfection He could and He did perfectly obey all God’s Laws. As you may recall, God’s command to and demand of Adam and Eve was to not eat from the fruit of the tree in the middle of the Garden. God’s command to and demand to all people is to be perfect as He is perfect. Since we are conceived and born in sin we cannot be perfect. Thus, Jesus was conceived and born in perfection so that He might be perfect. So that He might perfectly obey all God’s laws and commands for us in our place.
Not only did Jesus live perfectly for us, in our place, as our substitute, He also fulfilled all the prophecies concerning the coming Savior. As we have said before, the odds for one person to fulfill two or more of the prophecies concerning the Savior would be great, so the odds of one person fulfilling all the prophecies would be even greater. Thus, as Jesus did fulfill all the prophecies concerning the Savior this complete fulfillment shows Him to truly be the Savior.
Jesus was true God and He had to be true God, yet He was and is also truly human. Again, as we confess in the creeds, Jesus was born of a woman, the virgin Mary, making Him truly a human man. Jesus was conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary, by the power of the Holy Spirit. After the usual nine months of gestation Jesus was born in the way in which we are all born.
Just as Jesus had to be truly God in order to be born in perfection so He had to be truly human in order to be our substitute. The price for sin set in the Garden of Eden was death, human death. Human death for human sin. The animal sacrifices of the Old Testament were a reminder that the price for sin was death, that blood had to be shed. The problem with all the Old Testament sacrifices is that they were animal sacrifices, not human sacrifices so those sacrifice did nothing to pay the ultimate price for human sin. Jesus was the Lamb of God who came to take away the sins of the world, even and especially our sins. Jesus was truly human and offered Himself for us. He came to live, suffer, die, rise and trade His life for ours.
Jesus fulfilled all righteousness for us. Adam and Eve could not do what God commanded. The whole nation of Israel could not do what God commanded. We cannot live as God commands. Jesus came to do for Adam and Eve, all Israel and us what we cannot do. Jesus came to fulfill all righteousness, to live perfectly and to sacrifice Himself, giving His life for us.
Isaiah describes Jesus’ work as he writes, “4Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. 5But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5). Jesus bore our griefs and sorrows, He lived in the sin filled world of grief and sorrow and yet, while He lived in this world He showed Himself to be truly God by healing and raising from the dead, by the signs, wonders and miracles He performed.
As opposition grew against Jesus, especially by those who were seeking not a spiritual sin forgiving Savior, but a social/political savior, those who sought earthly power began to oppose Him and seek ways to be rid of Him. As the opportunity arose Jesus was arrested, He was put on trial, stricken, smitten, beat, spat upon. Even though He was truly God and could have defeated those earthly enemies He passively allowed Himself to be punished for us, as our substitute, in our stead.
After He died on the cross and before His body was taken down, to make sure that He was dead the soldier pierced His side with his sword and out came blood and water, a sign that He had died. As we know the history, because He was already dead, none of His bone were broken as were the bones of the other two prisoners who may not have yet been dead.
Going back to the first promise in Genesis, His heel was crush, that is He suffered physical death, yet at the crushing of His heel so He crushed Satan’s head, that is in the process of His dying He complete destroyed Satan and his power.
It was His punishment that brought us peace. Indeed, when we think about peace very often we think of some bit of calm and serenity in this world. Yet, that bit of calm and serenity in this world very often evaporates as life goes on. The peace, the true peace about which Isaiah is speaking is the peace of having our sins forgiven. Indeed, the greatest peace we have is knowing that our sins are forgiven because with forgiveness is life and salvation, indeed, eternal life in heaven. Thus, the greatest words we hear every Sunday morning are the words that follow our confession, the words of absolution, your sins are forgiven.
The price for sin is death, physical death. Apart from faith in Jesus the price for sin would also be eternal spiritual death. Thus, by His wounds we are healed. Jesus’ death brings us healing, spiritual, forgiveness healing. When He took our punishment He gave us His reward.
What does this mean? This means that I am continually reminded that I cannot do it. I cannot be the person God wants me to be. I cannot be the champion God wants me to be. I cannot be obedient as God wants me to be. I cannot choose to do the right things and resist doing the wrong things. I am conceived and born in sin so that my very beginning is that I am a sinner and an enemy of God. Every inclination of my being is to do evil. As Paul so eloquently states the good that I desire to do I do not do, but the evil that I do not want to do that is what I do, wretched man that I am, help me Lord. When we look inside ourselves all we see is a sinful human being fighting against God.
Thus, we look outside ourselves. We look to Jesus who did everything for us. As you hear me say continually, we get it right when we point to Jesus. Jesus was born in perfection. Jesus lived perfectly for us. Jesus was perfectly obedient for us. Jesus chose to do what was good and right. Jesus rejected doing anything bad and wrong. Jesus obeyed all God’s laws and commands perfectly. Jesus took our sins and suffered and paid the price for our sins. Jesus died for us. Yet, we know the history, death and the grave had no power over Him as He rose victorious over sin, death and the devil. Thanks be to God.
And Jesus gives it to us. As Dr. Luther said, we are beggars it is true. And yet we truly do not need to beg as Jesus willingly and lovingly desires to pour out on us all His good gifts and blessings. Forgiveness has been won and paid for, all we can do us to refuse and reject forgiveness which we do when we deny our sin and when we fail to confess. Jesus loves us so much that He continually offers to pour out on us blessing upon blessing. He offers opportunity after opportunity to pour out on us blessings upon blessings. Each and every Sunday as well as Wednesday during mid-week services we have opportunities to come and be given the gifts God has to give. Jesus’ desire is for us to be given His gifts.
As we continue in this Lenten Season we rejoice in the gifts and blessings Jesus has to give. We rejoice in Jesus’ nature as God and man, that He was conceived and born in perfection and that He was active in His obedience to all God’s commands for us, in our place. And we rejoice in His passive obedience of allowing Himself to bear our griefs, carry our sorrows, be stricken, smitten and afflicted, to be crushed and take our chastisement upon Himself. We rejoice that the forgiveness He won, earned and paid for brings us peace as it is freely offered to us through His means of grace. And we rejoice and say, to Him be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.