Welcome

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!

Disclaimer

Please note that while my intentions are to use good grammar, because of the way in which some of the material presented here is presented (orally) the grammar and syntax might not always be the best English. Also note that good theology is not always presented in the best English so there may be times when the proper grammar rules are purposely broken.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Cleaning Day: Leaven Removed and Washing of Feet - Ash Wednesday - February 26, 2020 - Texts: Ex. 13:3-8; Matt. 26:17-19; John 13:1-11

This evening we begin our trek, once again, to the cross. The cross is the focus and center of our faith and life as Christians. The beginning of the world, the creation of the universe, the fall into sin, the promise to send a Savior all point to the coming of the cross. As Christians, our Church year cycle, the Advent, Christmas and Epiphany season, the Lent and Easter season all look back at the cross. The cross is the focus because all who believe in Jesus Christ, and only those who believe in Jesus Christ, who died on the cross, are saved.
 
This year we will work our way through the celebration of the Passover Seder to help us in focusing our attention on the cross, the reason for the cross, and the fulfillment of the cross. We begin briefly with a reminder of the original Passover. The original Passover took place as the last plague before the children of Israel were driven out of Egypt. The homes of the children of Israel were marked with the blood of the lamb that was killed, sacrificed, so that when the angel of death saw the blood on the door post and lintel it passed over those homes not killing the first born who lived in those homes. Instead, the angel of death killed the first born of those homes not marked. This last plague of Egypt marked the deliverance of the children of Israel from their bondage of slavery to the Egyptians.
 
After the children of Israel were safely out of Egypt, God called them to remember the night of their deliverance. Thus, the celebration of the Passover was instituted as a time to remember. Why is remembering so important? Remembering is so important because we have a tendency to forget. Or at least we have a tendency to forget those good things our Lord does for us and gives to us. We need a constant reminder of our Lord’s gifts, lest we forget and despair.
 
We are still called on, even today, to remember all the good gifts and blessings our Lord gives to us. How do we remember today? We remember today in much the same way as God’s children throughout history remembered, namely through ritual. In our divine service we remember through the ritual of our liturgy. As our liturgy is permeated with the Word of our Lord, so our Lord works through the very means of the Word to give us the gifts He has to give. It is just as important for us to remember today as it was for the children of Israel and for all people throughout time to remember.
 
This evening we remember the first Passover and Lord’s giving of the celebration of that feast and the ritual which accompanied it. We also remember how we are given something new from the Passover as we celebrate the giving of the Passover by Jesus Himself and His giving us a new ritual, even a sacrament which He draws out of this ritual feast. The original Passover celebration began with the removal of Yeast. Yeast was the symbol of sin and the sin had to be removed from the house where the Passover would be celebrated. Jesus sent His disciples ahead in order to get everything ready so He might celebrate the Passover with His disciples. Certainly removing the yeast was one of the things they did in preparation.
 
During the celebration of the Passover with His apostle’s, Jesus, arose, took off His outer garment, wrapped a towel around His waste and began washing the feet of His disciples. When Jesus got to Simon Peter, he refused to allow Jesus to wash his feet, or at least he protested at the gesture. It was only after Jesus assured him of the importance of what He was doing that Peter relented and allowed Jesus to wash his feet. Because he did not completely understand what Jesus was doing, Peter asked that he be completely washed to which Jesus reassured him that only his feet needed washing. With this example, Jesus told His disciples and He tells us that this is the way we are to be toward one another, that is we are to serve one another as a reflection of the love with which He first loves us.
 
Today we might rightly connect this ritual with the sacrament of Holy Baptism. Notice I did not call baptism a ritual, because it is more than simply a ritual, it is a sacred act through which our Lord works to give the gifts He has to give.  Through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism we are washed, our sin is removed, our guilt forgiven. And notice too that this washing does not need to be an emersion, as God does not prescribe the mode of baptism or the amount of water needed. Simply a sprinkling of water with God’s name works mightily in giving the gifts God has to give.
 
We continue our need for and our work in using the ritual of the liturgy in our divine service today. We begin our divine service with an invocation, an invoking or inviting of our God, who is a triune God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to be a part of and to bless our divine service. This invocation serves well to reminder us of our own baptism because at our Baptism our Lord’s Trinitarian name was put upon each one of us with the water.
 
Following our invocation we continue our divine service with confession and absolution. Certainly we know that we daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness and most certainly as we come before our Lord in divine service we will want to begin by cleansing our hearts and mind. This confession and absolution thus, reminds us of sins and even more it reminds us of our forgiveness.
 
The celebration of the Passover reminds us of the importance of ritual even of our liturgy. Because we are sinful human beings, because we are conceived and born in sin, because we are spiritually blind, spiritually dead and enemies of God, because we daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness, we tend to be very forgetful especially when it comes to recognizing and being given the gifts our Lord has to give to us. Thus our constant need is to be reminded of who we are and whose we are, even the fact that we are at the same time sinner/saint.
 
Just as the Passover celebration served as a reminder and as a teaching tool for the children of Israel, so our ritual, our liturgy does the same for us today. Our liturgy teaches us the importance of the means of grace as the means of grace permeates our liturgy. Because we believe the means of grace are so important our whole divine service is filled with them. Even if we do not have an actual baptism we are reminded of our baptism, through the invocation and the benediction. In our divine service we have confession and absolution reminding us of our need to confess our sins and our need to hear our Lord’s most beautiful words of absolution, “Your sins are forgiven.” Through the liturgy of the divine service we speak back to God the very words He has given us to speak as we speak and respond even in the chanting of the liturgy. We hear the importance of God’s Word as it is proclaimed from the pulpit. And we understand the importance of our Lord’s body and blood, given and shed for us for the forgiveness of our sins as we celebrate His Holy Supper. Because these means are important they permeate our divine service. Because they permeate our divine service we understand how important they are.
 
Because God works through means we understand the importance of the means of grace. It is through these means that our Lord gives us the gifts that He has to give. And what are the gifts that are being given? They are the gifts of faith, strengthening of faith, forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. They are the greatest gifts anyone can imagine, because without these gifts we would be lost and condemned persons, we would be without hope, we would be the most to be pitied.
 
So we are taken back to the cross. The cross is where Jesus paid the price for our sins. The cross is where He earned our forgiveness. And then we are directed back to His means of grace, the place where His gifts are given out. As we walk through the Passover this year, may the Lord direct us to remember. And may He bless our remembrance as through His means of grace He gives to us the gifts He has to give. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

It Is Good to Be Here - February 23, 2020 - The Transfiguration of our Lord, Last Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: Matthew 17:1-9

Just eight and a half weeks ago we celebrated the birth of our newborn King, Christ, the Lord. For the last few weeks we have been hearing Jesus, as an adult, preaching to us His Sermon on the Mountain. This week we conclude our Gentile Christmas season, or the season of Epiphany as we call it. This week Tuesday is what is known as Shrove Tuesday or Fat Tuesday and the end of Mardi Gras. Mardi Gras is the celebration of the flesh that takes place prior to our time of personal reflection and penance, what we call the season of Lent, which begins on Wednesday, Ash Wednesday. What I am telling you in human terms is that you have three days left, counting today, to get out all your sinning before we begin the season of Lent and repenting. Well, that is one theory, at least. The other theory is that very much like the swift passing of each day of our life, so are the weeks of the church year, a constant reminder of the shortness of our life here on this earth. Today we celebrate the transfiguration of our Lord, but what is this transfiguration and what are we to do with it?
 
We celebrate the Transfiguration of our Lord as that event which marked Jesus as true God and true man; which marked Jesus as God’s Son who came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets; and which marked Jesus for His journey to Jerusalem and the cross of Calvary.
 
I want to take the time this morning to walk with you through the events of that day of transfiguration, step by step. You might want to have your Bibles open or take out your bulletin and follow along. Our text is Matthew 17:1-9. Our text begins, “after six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves” (v. 1). Jesus had come into the region of Caesarea Philippi and He had been talking to His disciples about who He was and about His mission, to die on the cross. And now, after six days, Jesus took all of His disciples to the mountain, but only the inner circle of His disciples, Peter, James and John, the brother of James, did He take to the top of the mountain. These are the three that we see go with Jesus often times where the other disciples did not go.
 
Our text continues at the top of the mountain, “there he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus” (v. 2-3). Jesus was transfigured, He was changed. And this was not a vision. The word in our text is the word metamorpho, which sounds like a modern term, and really, it means about the same thing today as it did in Jesus’ day. He was morphed, or changed so that He was seen in His heavenly glory. The disciples were getting a glimpse of what Jesus will look like in heaven. His purity and holiness shown through in His face, which “shone like the sun.” His clothes were bleached whiter than any bleach we might know. Again, this was Jesus as He was and will be in His heavenly glory.
 
Also, with Jesus we see Moses, the Law giver, and Elijah, the prophet. These two represent the Law, which Jesus came to fulfill, and the prophets who foretold all the events of Jesus life, death and resurrection. Now they are here, on the mountain, conferring with Jesus, making sure that all the Law and prophecies have been fulfilled, giving Jesus encouragement for the work which was still ahead, namely His suffering, death and resurrection.
 
Our text continues, “Peter said to Jesus, ‘Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah’”(v. 4). You remember Peter, the guy who speaks without thinking, it seems he always had something to say, but here he is speechless. Peter realizes that he is witnessing a great event and he does not want it to end. Personally, I do not believe I would want it to end either and I am sure my words would be just as inadequate as Peter’s in asking for this experience to be able to continue. Interestingly enough, did you notice that Peter knew who Moses and Elijah were without having to ask. Possibly in our glimpse of Jesus in all His glory, we see that there will be perfect knowledge in heaven, no one will have to ask who anyone is because we will all know each other (we won’t need name tags). Peter might not have known what to say, but he knew that he was enjoying this experience and that he did not want it to end. His suggestion is to build three shelters, one for each of these heros of faith, so that this experience might continue on.
 
Unfortunately for Peter, just as he asks, the experience comes to an end. For “while he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!’”(v. 5). A bright cloud covered them and a familiar voice from heaven was heard. The voice of God the Father was speaking familiar words, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!” This happened that we might know for sure that Jesus is who He says He is, the Christ, the Son of God, true God and true man.
 
So, “when the disciples heard this, they fell face-down to the ground, terrified”(v. 6). I do not know about you, but I believe that if I were there, I might have fallen face down a long time before hearing the voice. The disciples fell to the ground in fear and in awe in the presence of perfection. This was indeed an amazing sight and event of which they were witnesses. This was indeed what we would call, “a mountain top experience.”
 
When it was all over we are told, “Jesus came and touched them. ‘Get up,’ he said. ‘Don’t be afraid.’”(v. 7). Jesus comforts, encourages, and reassures the disciples. What a grand experience they have been privileged to witness and of which they have been privileged to be a part. A terrifying, yet awesome event. And now it was over and they were there, still trembling.
 
“When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus instructed them, ‘Don’t tell anyone what you have seen, until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.’”(v. 8-9). What a wonderful, “mountain top,” experience and I am sure they were ready to burst with excitement and ready to tell everyone what they had just seen and heard. Yet, Jesus brings them back to earth and instructs them to tell no one, at least, not until He has been raised from the dead. In the Epistle lesson for today we read Peter’s account of this event as he writes in his letter. He was finally able to tell of what he saw. What a wonderful experience and we have Matthew’s description of this account so that we can be a part of it.
 
But, what does it mean? And what does this mean to us? As we have noted as we were looking at this event, one thing we see, quite clearly, again, is that Jesus shows Himself to be who He says He is, true God and true man, the Savior of the world. This fact is important because Jesus had to be true man in order to give His life for us and He had to be true God in order to die and rise from the dead.
 
Jesus’ transfiguration shows us the greater picture of God Himself. God sent His only Son, full of grace and truth, to come into our world to fulfill the law and the prophets. Certainly, seeing Moses and Elijah with Jesus was a sure sign of the resurrection. These two had been long gone, so to speak. Moses had died before the children of Israel entered the promised land and Elijah was taken to heaven in a whirlwind, but that was many years earlier. Jesus came to fulfill the law and the prophets so that He might give His life as a ransom, to pay the eternal death penalty for each one of us and He did.
 
Jesus came to do for us what we could not do. Perfection is what is demanded of us, yet we are unable to be perfect. Jesus came to live perfectly, for us in our place. And just as He lived perfectly for us in our place, so He also makes His perfection ours. By grace, through faith in Jesus’ death and resurrection, He clothes us with His perfection so that we may come before Him on His eternal throne.
 
Jesus received strengthening through His transfiguration in order to face the trip to the cross. Certainly, Moses and Elijah gave Jesus words of encouragement. And the words of God the Father, spoken through the cloud, His words, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him,” reassured Jesus in His humanness that He was doing the will of the Father in heaven and He was doing it to His glory. And as He received strengthening, so He strengthens, comforts, encourages, and reassures us. He gives us comfort in our time of need, because we know that He has already suffered all things. He gives us encouragement to know that our sins are forgiven because He has given His life, He has paid the price, He has shed His blood as payment for our sins, so we can live guilt free lives. He gives us reassurance to know that our sins are forgiven and we can share that forgiveness and His Gospel message with others.
 
The transfiguration reminds us that Jesus gives us all things. Peter’s words in the Epistle remind us that Jesus did all that He did for us. The events that took place were not random events, but were events that were planned and were for a purpose. The events that took place did so according to God’s divine plan and purpose, they are not stories, they are not human wisdom, they have nothing to do with humanity, except that it was God’s plan to save humanity. In other words, your faith in these events is not what makes them true, nor does your lack of faith make them false. These events happened as God planned them.
 
The term, “mountain top experience” is used by many people in our world to express an experience that was so uplifting that it made a difference in their lives. Unfortunately, if you speak with these same people they will tell you that most mountain top experiences are followed by a dip into the valley, in other words, most emotional highs, mountain top experiences, are so great that when they are over they leave you feeling rather low, because you have to go back to “reality.” Jesus’ mountain top experience with His disciples was certainly the same. Jesus emotional high on the mountain is to be followed by His journey to the cross.
 
Our text for today reminds us once again that not only did Jesus come as one of us, He also experienced all of life the way we do. Jesus came as an example, but more than an example. Jesus also fulfilled the example that He set for us and now He works to help us to follow His example. There is a saying which goes something like this, “Seven days without worship makes one weak (w-e-a-k).” Our greatest need and desire it to make regular and diligent use of God’s means of grace through which He comes to give us all His good gifts and blessings, to forgive us our sins, to strengthen us to help us make it through each day. As we have seen, Jesus has been to the mountain. Jesus, then left the mountain, He also left all the glory that was His as true God. He took on human flesh. He lived as one of us. He suffered and died as one of us. He rose again and He defeated, sin, death and the devil. As we have been to the mountain with Jesus so we descend that mountain and with His help we face the everyday world in which we live, strengthened, encourage, and assured that He is with us every step of the way.  To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Surpassing Righteousness - February 16, 2020 - Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: Matthew 5:21-37

We continue this week, hearing Jesus preach to us as we hear more of the sermon on the mountain. Last week we heard Jesus tell us how we are the salt and the light of the world, that is, how our Christian faith is shown in our thoughts, words and deeds. We also were reminded that all of the Bible is a gift from God, that it is His Word and that it is able to make you wise for salvation (2 Tim. 3:15). This week we want to begin where we ended last week, so we go back and pick up our text at verse twenty from last week. In verse twenty Jesus tells us that our righteousness should surpass that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law. We read, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (v. 20). Last week we came to understand that if we compare our righteousness, or goodness, our good works alone to that of the Pharisees and teachers of the law, that our goodness is nothing. However, we also came to realize that the goodness of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law was merely an outward goodness, a civil righteousness, not a true goodness, not true good works in God’s eyes. Praise the Lord that our goodness, our righteousness, our good works do surpass that of the Pharisees and teacher of the law, not because we are good, but because our goodness is Jesus’ goodness made ours by faith and we know that goodness, that righteousness far surpasses the goodness, that is the righteousness of the Pharisees and teachers of the law.
 
Moving on to our text for today Jesus speaks to us about the fifth, sixth and second commandments. Listen carefully, because Jesus’ point is not so much the commandment as it is in the way we sin against these commandments. And the way we sin against these commandments is not necessarily the way you and I might think. Jesus begins by saying, “you have heard that it was said,” meaning that we have heard from the Pharisees and teachers of the law and implying that their words might not be completely reliable. We read beginning at verse twenty-one, “21You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother  will be liable to judgment; whoever insults  his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell  of fire. 23So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny” (v. 21-26).
 
Now, let us put Jesus’ words into our modern language and I hope this is something that you learned in catechism class. Jesus says, you have heard it said that the fifth commandment refers only to actual killing, or murder but I am here to tell you that the fifth commandment refers not only to actual killing, not only to murder, but also to anger, to name calling, and to angry cursing. In other words, killing and murder is merely the final stage of sin, sin which began in one’s heart. Sin which began with anger, then escalated to name calling, grew more intense with angry cursing, and ended with actual murder. Jesus’ words remind us that all sins, no matter how small we might think they are, are sin. For Jesus, there is no degree of sin. Maybe you have heard it said this way, in God’s eyes, a sin is a sin is a sin.
 
Jesus reminds us that we sin not just in our actions, by what we do or do not do. You might remember that we sin sins of commission, when we do an actual sin and we sin sins of omission when we sin by not doing something we should be doing. Not only do we sin in action but we also sin in our words and in our very thoughts. Sin has its beginning in our heart, in our thoughts, in our mind and soul. Jesus reminds us that all sins, no matter how small we may think they are, all sins are serious offenses in deed, in word or in thought, so much so that it might hamper one’s own worship.
 
With our sins in mind Jesus reminds us with His “therefore,” therefore Jesus says we are to settle our earthly accounts of conflict before attempting to bring an offering to His altar. Yes, you heard Jesus right. If you are about to put your offering in the offering basket and you remember that you have sinned against someone, or that someone has sinned against you and those sins have not been reconciled, do not put your offering in the basket. Here again we are reminded that our giving back to the Lord is a privilege. And Jesus continues by telling us that we are to settle our earthly accounts of conflict lest, ultimately, they are carried over into heaven where we will have to settle them before the eternal judge.
 
Jesus continues with His next, “you have heard,” again implying, by the Pharisees and teachers of the law, beginning in verse twenty-seven. We read, “27You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. 31“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery” (v. 27-32).
 
I am sure that these words of Jesus do not set well in our world of hedonism, our world of “if it feels good, do it,” our world of “We’re living in the twenty-first century.” Jesus tells us that we commit adultery even if a physical act is not performed, because we can commit adultery simply with our eyes. How often does one commit adultery in the course of watching a thirty minute television show? Or a two minute commercial for that matter? But pastor, you say, you do not expect us to give up television. Do not look at me, I am not here to tell you what to give up, I am merely passing on Jesus’ words. Like the fifth commandment, so with the sixth commandment, Jesus reminds us that adultery begins in the heart, mind and soul.
 
The problems of Jesus’ day sound very much like the problems of our own day. In Jesus’ day it was thought that it was okay to simply write a certificate of divorce, even for bad cooking, or bad dressing. What are our reasons for divorce today? Incompatibility, irreconcilable differences, whatever fancy word you want to use to say, “we despise the commitment we made to each other before God.” Jesus says that the only reason, the only reason, for divorce allowed before God is the reason of marital unfaithfulness. I will leave it with that, those are Jesus’ words.
 
Our text has one more “you have heard” beginning at verse thirty-three. We read, “33Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil” (v. 33-37).
 
The problem of Jesus’ day, and of our day, is that people were not keeping their word, were lying and in order to persuade others to believe them they were swearing by anything they could swear by, except God’s name and thought that if they broke their oath that would be okay because they did not swear by God’s name. However, Jesus tells us that we should not break any oath. And especially, He reminds us that we should not swear recklessly. In other words, we should not say something like “I swear to God, stick a needle in my eye,” or “cross my heart and hope to die,” or “to tell the truth,” or, “to be honest with you,” or simply, “I swear,” and the list goes on. Any of these and all of these are not needed. Jesus reminds us that our word is backed up by our actions, let your “yes” be “yes” and your “no” be “no.” Your word is as good as you keep your word, and if you keep your word you do not need to swear to emphasize or suggest that now you will really keep your word. If you keep your word you will be known for keeping your word and your “yes” or “no” is all that will be needed.
 
I guess by now we have all been convicted by the words which Jesus has for us today, which is the point of Jesus’ words of law, to convict us. Jesus words remind us that we daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness, which, again, is the point of the law, to show us our sins and how sinful we truly are. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law tried to narrow the definitions of the commandments in order to convince themselves that they were able to keep them. Thus, if we are able to keep the commandments ourselves, we have no need for God. Jesus broadens the definitions of the commandments showing us how sinful we are so that we clearly see our need for a Savior. Jesus’ Words remind us that we sin by killing in thought and word, hatred and name calling. We daily sin much by our lusting after others. We daily sin much by our swearing by all the earth. We daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness. Fortunately for us, Jesus is also the one who is giving us His Word and His Word includes words of “Your sins are forgiven, go and sin no more.”
 
It is only after we hear the law which shows us how sinful we truly are that the words of the Gospel, “Your sins are forgiven,” can truly be sweet and mean so much to us. It is just as we confessed at the beginning of our service, “8If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. 9If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:8,9).
 
Jesus came into our world to deliver us from sin, death and the power of the devil. He did that, delivered us from sin, death and the power of the devil by sacrificing Himself on the cross for us, in our place. And now He works in us, through His means of grace, the Word and the sacraments, to help us to overcome the temptations of the devil, the world and our own sinful nature. It is Jesus who reminds us that sin begins in the heart, and it is Jesus who works in our hearts to overcome sin and temptation. It is Jesus who reminds us that we are not perfect and as long as we are on this earth we will not be perfect, and it is Jesus who reminds us that He has overcome the world. Each day then, we wake up, we remember our baptism, we remember that we have been washed by Jesus, we have been forgiven. Each day we get a fresh start because all our sins have been paid for and Jesus will help us to go out and sin no more. Strengthened by Jesus’ Word, we go out in faith and confidence and live lives that say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

I Have Come to Fulfill the Law - February 9, 2020 - Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: Matthew 5:13-20

Our text for this morning is a part of Jesus’ sermon on the mountain. Because last week Sunday fell on the Presentation of Jesus and the Purification of Mary, what we did not hear was the readings for the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany which last week’s Gospel lesson was the beginning of Jesus sermon and the “Beatitudes.” So, unfortunately we missed that reading, but this week we continue listening to Jesus’ message to those who gathered around to hear Him speak. This week we get two “snippets” or “sound bites” from His sermon, one talking about salt and light and the other about the fulfillment of the Law.
 
First, Jesus talks about our being the salt of the earth and about our being lights of the world. We begin at verse thirteen, “13You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet. 14You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (v. 13-16). In verse thirteen Jesus says, “You are the salt of the earth.” And He asks the rhetorical question, “But if the salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?” Our first thought might be that if salt loses its saltiness then it becomes tasteless and worthless. However, our second thought might be to come to the conclusion that salt does not lose its taste because the only way for salt to lose its taste is to no longer be salt and that is Jesus’ point. Jesus is talking about the Gospel and the fact that the Gospel does not lose its taste or affect. Jesus is reminding the people and us that the Gospel is God’s indestructible gift to His people in Christ. The only way we would lose our saltiness, the only way we can lose the Gospel, is if we would lose our faith altogether and are no longer Christians.
 
Jesus then moves on to elaborate on this point by comparing our faith to that of a shining light. By our simply wearing the name “Christian,” that is, by others knowing that we are Christians, we bear witness of what it means to be a Christian. We bear witness by our actions, our thoughts and our words of what Jesus means to us. Which means that we either make a good witness or we make a not so good witness. Either way, we do make a witness to others of what it means to us that we belong to Christ. It is a natural thing, just like salt being naturally salty, otherwise it is no salt at all. We as Christians act like Christians, otherwise are we really Christians at all?
 
Finally, Jesus exhorts us to “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” The thing about our good works is that they are good works because they are done to praise our Father in heaven. To use a different analogy, I believe that Jesus is telling us what is a natural cause and effect. It is much like the sun and the moon. The moon has no light of its own, it merely reflects the light of the sun, so when we see moonlight, it is sunlight that we are really seeing. So, if there is no sun shining on the moon, then there is no moonlight. God is like the sun and we are like the moon. We have no love of our own, within ourselves. When God shines His love in our hearts, we reflect that love to others. When we have no love to reflect to others it shows that we have rejected God’s love and have kept God out of our hearts.
 
Which brings us to the second part of this text, the part that reminds us of the importance of God’s Word, its efficacy and its unchangeableness. Picking up at verse seventeen, “17Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (v. 17-19). In verse seventeen we are reminded that we worship an unchanging God. Jesus came to fulfill all the Old Testament, He did not come to change it or to abolish it. Jesus did not come to change or do away with the Ten Commandments, He came to fulfill them. He did not come to change or do away with the tithe, He came to fulfill it. He did not come to change or do away with any part of the Old Testament, rather He came to fulfill the whole Old Testament.
 
Jesus’ words to us this morning remind us that none of Scripture has been changed or abolished. It is still all God’s Word. It is still God’s gift to us. All of scripture is valid for us today. I think we need these words of reminder as we defend our faith against those individuals and denominations who vote on the truth and validity of God’s Word or of certain portions of God’s Word. It is becoming more and more difficult in our so called “tolerant” society to proclaim faith in a God who is intolerant of sin. It just does not make for good publicity. So what happens? People, individuals, and denominations begin to vote out the old, intolerant Word of God and vote in an new, user friendly God. If you do not like the Word of God, change it. Today we want to stay away from talking about the real needs of the people, sin and forgiveness, instead we want talk about their felt needs, how I can keep from feeling guilty about what I have been doing and what I am about to do without having to compromise doing what “comes natural.”
 
Of course, we may ask how can anyone do that, but it is really quite simple, instead of believing that the Bible is the Word of God, we will say that it contains that Word of God. Or we will say that some parts of the Bible are culturally or timely, period-ly, valid. In other words, we place ourselves over the Word of God as the authority and in essence we become our own gods, judging God’s Word and instead of allowing God’s Word to mean what it says, we say it means this or that, in other words, we make ourselves our own little gods determining what is God’s Word and what is not God’s Word. What happens is there are no longer any absolutes and truly, no longer a Word of God.
 
Jesus teaches us that to teach that some of Scripture is not of value is to be called least in the kingdom of heaven. Unfortunately, in our world today such a person who speaks against Scripture might be thought of as being a great thinker or as being innovative, but not so in God’s kingdom. As I read and reread these words of Jesus, I am reminded of the importance of the Word of God. It is the Word of God which is one means that He uses through which He gives us His good gifts and blessings; faith, strengthening of faith, forgiveness of sins, life in this world, eternal life and salvation. It is the Word of God which is His Word, which is an absolute, which is what permeates our time together in Divine Service. I will be the first to admit that my sermon is not the most important part of our divine service. Rather, it is the readings, the liturgy, confession and absolution, being reminded of our baptism, the Lord’s Supper, those parts of our service which are the means of grace are the most important parts of our divine service, because it is through His means of grace, His Word and Sacraments and confession and absolution that God gives us His good gifts and blessings. My sermon is only as effective as the Word which it proclaims.
 
Which brings us to the last verse of our text, the one that reminds us that there are two ways to get to heaven. Verse twenty, “20For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (v. 20). One way to get to heaven is by being perfect, that is by our own good works being perfect, which means that because of the sin that is born in us, we would be doomed from the start if we tried to be saved by our own good works. Which leaves the only other way of salvation which is God’s free grace and favor. The example that Jesus gives is that of the righteousness of the scribes and the Pharisees. Their righteousness was great in that they followed the letter of the law. However, theirs was a civil righteousness, not God’s righteousness. And their righteousness did not save them.
 
If we were to try to be saved by our own righteousness, we would be doomed as they, yet, Jesus reminds us that our righteousness does surpasses theirs, not because we are so good, but because of our faith in Him. By faith in Jesus, faith which He gives to us, God’s righteousness is made our righteousness.
 
Again, God’s righteousness is made ours by faith in Jesus. Thus, it is God’s righteousness that works in us so that we do the good works which He has prepared in advance for us to do (Eph. 2:10). And they are truly good works because they are motivated by Him, done in and through us by Him, and done to His glory. And truly, these are the good works that more often than not we are not aware that we are doing.
 
To sum up this morning, I would simply redirect you to God’s Word. Just as Jesus spoke personally to the people of His day, so He speaks just as personally to you and me today through His Word. With that in mind then we are reminded by Jesus that the Old Testament is needed and is valid today.
 
We are reminded by Jesus that the Bible, all of the Bible is God’s gift to us, is needed by us, and is applicable to us, today, in total. We are reminded by Jesus that His Word and His Sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, as well as confession and absolution, are the means that He uses to give us all His good gifts and blessings, which reminds us of the importance of making regular and diligent use of these means.
 
And we are reminded by Jesus and from God’s Holy Word that His righteousness is made ours by faith, is worked in us so that we are the salt of the world, that our lights do shine before all the world to see, that we do live our lives according to all of God’s Word, because He moves in us to do so.
 
Jesus’ message to us today is a message of a super-natural occurrence. Jesus gives us life at conception. He gives us new life through His Word and Holy Baptism. He gives us strengthening of life and faith through His Word and the Lord’s Supper. He gives us forgiveness of sins and eternal life through confession and absolution. And He gives us the ability and stirs in us to respond to all His good gifts and blessings so that we might live our lives in such a ways that they say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Jesus Is the Christ - February 2, 2020 - The Purification of Mary and the Presentation of Our Lord - Text: Luke 2:22-32 (33-40)

Today is one of those rare occasions in which we get the Purification of Mary and the Presentation of our Lord falling on a Sunday. Today we move back in our readings to forty days after Christmas. Today our Gospel reading is the Gospel reading we normally hear in Series C for the First Sunday after Christmas. So, once again, forty days ago we celebrated the birth of Jesus. Today we fast forward from Christmas to what is called the presentation of Jesus in the temple. Our text begins by telling us, “22And when the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons” (v. 22, 23). The purification rite after the birth of a son required the mother to wait for forty days before going to the temple to offer her sacrifice for purification. The sacrifice was to be a lamb and a pigeon or dove. If the person could not afford this sacrifice, then the sacrifice could be two pigeons or doves. This morning we journey with Mary and Joseph as they present Jesus in the temple, in accordance with the Law, to fulfill the Law.
 
Next, our text introduces us to Simeon. “25Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28he took him up in his arms and blessed God” (v. 25-28a). Simeon, we are told, was a righteous man and he was devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel. In other words, he was waiting to see the one promised from God, the Messiah, the Savior of the world. Luke tells us that it was revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he had seen the “Lord’s Christ,” the Savior. By the way Luke recounts these events we would believe that Simeon is now rather old and is waiting to see the Savior so that he might die in peace. And so, not by any coincidence, but by the action of God moving in Simeon, he went to the temple at the same time that Mary and Joseph came to present the baby Jesus and for Mary to make her sacrifice for purification. Have you ever wondered about what we call coincidences? I believe there is no such thing as a coincidence, instead what we are seeing is God’s, usually, unseen hand acting in our time to make something happen to His glory. Such is the case with the events of our text. Simeon, moved by the Holy Spirit, came into the temple to see the consolation of Israel.
 
As Mary and Joseph enter the temple Simeon is there to receive the child. He takes the child and by inspiration of the Holy Spirit he gives to us the words which we sing in the Nunc Dimmitus, or in English, the Now Dismiss, “29Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30for my eyes have seen your salvation 31that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (v. 29-32). Simeon praises the Lord because He has allowed him to see the Savior of the world. Simeon’s words are words of faith. He is now ready to be dismissed. Literally, He is ready to die and be taken to heaven because he has seen the one who was promised and who has come into the world to save the world. Notice that Simeon’s words are not just focused on God’s chosen people, the children of Israel, but are words which reveal that Jesus came to save all people, Jew and Gentile alike as he says that Jesus is “a light for revelation to the Gentiles and for the glory of your people Israel.” Here we are reminded, once again, that God has always had one covenant with the people of the world, not two covenants. Jesus came to save all people, even and especially us, you and me.
 
Luke continues by telling us that “the child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him” (v. 33). I think that might have been an understatement. Yes, God had revealed to both Mary and Joseph that Jesus was God born in human flesh, but still, for Mary and Joseph, these events would all be quite “marvelous,” unexpected and maybe somewhat dumbfounding.
 
But Simeon does not stop with the Nunc Dimmitus, he continues by speaking to Mary and Joseph. He tells Mary in particular that Jesus is “appointed (or as some translations put it, “destined”) for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce your own soul also),  so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed” (v. 34, 35). Jesus is destined to be the one who will save many people and at the same time, to those who do not believe, He will be their fall, they will be doomed to eternal death, hell in other words. Jesus is a sign. He is the one who came speaking about His Father and His relationship with His Father. Many would not believe that He was God, that He and the Father were one. The hearts of the unbelievers was shown through their speaking out against Him. And this continues to be the way it is in our world today. Many people do not believe in Jesus. Many do not believe He is God in flesh, as He shows and tells us in His Word. Many do not believe and instead are destined to eternal death in hell and this is not God’s fault nor Jesus’ fault as some attempt to blame Him. Those who fall, those who are destined to hell are destined because of their own fault, their own refusal and rejection of Jesus as the Savior.
 
Probably the hardest words that Simeon speaks, however, are the words to Mary that a sword will pierce her own soul too. Mary, who pondered all these things and kept them in her heart is, after all, the mother of this child whose destiny is a cross. She will watch her own child be cursed by others, be hated by others, be deserted by all His friends and be hung on a cross. She will watch her own Son die, for the sins of all people. Certainly a sword of pain will pierce through her own heart.
 
Luke, the faithful Doctor and Historian shows us that Jesus is the Messiah, but if Simeon’s words are not enough “proof” if you will, he also introduces us to Anna, who is also in the temple. Luke says, “36And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem” (v. 36-38). About Anna we are told that she was “very old” and that she was a widow since the time of her husband’s death which occurred after only their seventh anniversary and that now she was eighty-four years old. She now lived her life in the temple. Luke tells us “she did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and praying night and day.” And again, like Simeon, she did not come into the temple at this time by accident or coincidence, but by the leading of the Holy Spirit.
 
Anna came up to Mary and Joseph and said a prayer of thanks to God and spoke about this child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem, that is to all those who were still looking for the coming of the promised Messiah, those who had not given up hope. Like Simeon, her words confirm the fact that Jesus is the one who was sent from God to save, not only the children of Israel, but all people, of all places of all times, you and me included and I would say, especially.
 
Finally, our text tells us of one final fulfillment of Holy Scripture, “39And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him” (v. 39-40). So, Mary and Joseph returned to Nazareth. Notice, Luke writes with a purpose. His purpose is to give proof of Jesus and who He is. He shows us that Jesus came to fulfill the Law and that He fulfilled the Law perfectly. His parents did what was required. Again, we are reminded that the fullness of the Gospel is seen in the fact that what Jesus did He did for us, in our place, everything that we are unable to do. He fulfilled the Law perfectly, for us, in our place, because we cannot. Even more, Jesus came to fulfill the Law perfectly for the whole nation of Israel, again, because they could not, even as God’s chosen people.
 
We are told by Luke that Jesus moved to Nazareth, thus was fulfilled the promise that He would be a Nazarene. And we are told that the child grew and became strong. He was filled with wisdom and the grace of God was upon Him. And as we know, as we have seen, as we continue to rehearse in our history of the life of Jesus, after this event we do not hear of the events of Jesus’ life until we hear the account of Him in the temple at the age of twelve.
 
This morning we have Luke’s accurate account of these events as an assurance of our faith in Jesus. Luke’s words assure us that Jesus is the Messiah. He is the one promised by God. He is the one who fulfilled all the law perfectly, for us, in our place, because we are unable to.
 
Luke’s words assure us that Jesus came to give His life. How comforting to know that we will not be held accountable for our sin and their punishment. The wages of sin is death and Jesus paid that price for us.
 
Luke’s words assure us that we have forgiveness of sins. Because of what Jesus did, because He lived perfectly for us in our place, because He took all our sins upon Himself, because He suffered the eternal punishment of hell for our sins, because He gave His life for ours, because He paid the price for sin, by faith in Him, which He gives to us as well, we have forgiveness, which means that when God looks at us He sees Christ’s perfection.
 
Which means that Luke’s words also assure us that we have life, eternal life. By faith in Jesus, His death has become our death, His life has become our life. By faith in Jesus we have forgiveness of sins and life, life in this world and eternal life in the world to come, heaven. By faith in Jesus, when we pass on from this world, we will be robed with His robes of righteousness as we are gathered together will all the saints in heaven.
 
Have you ever wondered why Simeon’s words of the Nunc Dimmitus are so appropriate after we have dined on the Lord’s body and blood in His Holy Supper? As we sing Simeon’s words we rejoice in the fact that as we have come to the Lord’s table, we have seen the Lord, we have tasted that He is good, He has become a part of us, so that now we too are ready to die. We are ready to enter His heavenly kingdom to live with Him forever. Indeed, what wonderful, fitting words of faith and thanksgiving.
 
This morning we come to worship our Lord. We come to rehearse the events of old. We come to hear the good news of salvation. We come to see, once again, as an assurance of our salvation, that Jesus is the One promised of old. This morning we come to be strengthened in our faith and being strengthened in our faith we are moved to say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, January 26, 2020

“Come, Follow Me,” Jesus Said - January 26, 2020 - Third Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: Matthew 4:12-25

Today we move back into the Gospel of Matthew where we are privileged to have Matthew show us more prophecy fulfilled. Remember, one of Matthew’s goals is to show us that Jesus is the promised Messiah and he does that by his constant reminder that what Jesus is doing is done to fulfill what the prophets have said the Messiah would do. If you were listening close to the readings of the Old Testament lesson and the Gospel lesson you may have noticed that parts of them sounded the same. Both lessons point out that “the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” If we took the time to sit down and think about it, and if we did not know what we were reading, if we did not know when it was written, we might imagine that these words were spoken to us today. How much more pointed can Isaiah’s words be, especially as we live in a world in which our own country is at war against terrorism and we have military troops stationed throughout the world for our protection. Even more, daily we are told of events of robbery, murder, abortion, adultery, fornication, and all other forms of evil which are rampant in our own country and world today. We are living in the land of the shadow of death, physical death and apart from faith in Jesus, eternal death. We would be in despair if it were not for the good news coming from the Gospel words from our text, “on us a light has dawned.” That light that has dawned we know is our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, and with Him we have forgiveness. I said, one of Matthew’s goals is to show that Jesus is the fulfillment of the prophecies of the Old Testament. I believe a second goal and really a goal for us today is that we take Jesus seriously, and yes, all that it means to take Him seriously.
 
As we move into our text for today we begin with Matthew’s persistence of showing us more prophecy being fulfilled. We begin with verse twelve, “12Now when [Jesus] heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. 13And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15‘The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles—16the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned’” (v. 12-16).
 
Matthew begins by explaining Jesus’ move, from Nazareth to Capernaum, by telling us that it happened after John had been put into prison. At this point the ministry of John the Baptist comes to an end and the ministry of Christ Jesus is shifted into high gear. Jesus’ move was because of John’s imprisonment, but it was also a move to make it better for Him to be able to reach more people. Jesus moved to Capernaum because it was on the trade route on the Sea of Galilee, in other words a lot of people from around the world came through this place, thus, this was a prime place for teaching, preaching and healing. This was a prime place for reaching many people with the good news that the Kingdom of Heaven was near.
 
Jesus’ move to Capernaum was not just so that He could reach more people, it was also a move to fulfill today’s Old Testament lesson from Isaiah, “1But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations. 2The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined” (9:1-2)
 
Jesus’ move was a move to call the people out of the darkness of sin, death and the power of the devil. Jesus came to usher in the kingdom of God and so He came as a Light for the kingdom of God. Jesus came to usher in the kingdom of God and to call us out of our darkness of sin, death and the power of the devil.
 
At first we might not think much of this one person, Jesus, as being able to do much, much less than be a light for the world, however, one light can do a lot. If you have ever been in a cave where there is no light and turned out all the lights, it is very dark. Yet, if you light one little match, it lights up a lot. And here we are talking about Jesus, God in flesh, who is able to do more than we might think or imagine. Yet, at this time He is merely working to usher in the kingdom of Heaven.
 
Continuing on in our text, Matthew shifts to the calling of the disciples. Matthew tells us that Jesus called the first four disciples to make them apostles. We pick up reading at verse eighteen, “18While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20Immediately they left their nets and followed him. 21And going on from there he saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets, and he called them. 22Immediately they left the boat and their father and followed him” (v. 18-22).
 
Last week we heard how Andrew had been hanging around Jesus to see if He was the Christ, the Messiah and after doing so he was convinced that Jesus was the Messiah. The first thing Andrew did was to tell his brother Simon Peter that they had found the Messiah. The natural order then is what happens in our text, Jesus comes to call Simon, known as Peter and his brother Andrew to be His very close disciples, and to give them a special call as His apostles. Jesus tells them, “I will make you fishers of men.” These are words to which these two fisherman could readily relate. They knew about catching fish, now Jesus would teach them how to “catch” people for the kingdom of God. And if you are wondering, the difference between a disciple and an apostle is this, anyone who is a believer and follower of Jesus, who is learning from and about Jesus is a disciple. You and I are disciples of Jesus. Yet, Jesus specifically chose and set apart twelve to be apostles, those sent for a specific purpose.
 
Jesus also calls James and John, the sons of Zebedee. These two brothers were business partners in the fishing industry with Peter and Andrew. They, too, knew the fishing business quite well and now Jesus would teach them how to “catch” people for the kingdom of God. Now Jesus would make them His apostles as well.
 
You may have noticed that I skipped verse seventeen earlier because this verse and the last verses of our text give us insight into Jesus’ preaching. Verse seventeen and twenty-three to the end of our text read, “17From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’” (v. 17). “23And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people. 24So his fame spread throughout all Syria, and they brought him all the sick, those afflicted with various diseases and pains, those oppressed by demons, epileptics, and paralytics, and he healed them. 25And great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan” (v. 22-24).
 
Jesus began to preach, “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Jesus’ words were very similar to the words of John the Baptist, who you might recall, also preached, “repent for the Kingdom of heaven is near.” Jesus preached the word of which He was the fulfillment. The kingdom of heaven was near, it was right there being ushered in by Jesus Himself. Jesus preached the word, “repent” which literally  means to change one’s mind. To repent meant for a person to change their mind about sinning, to turn one hundred-eighty degrees in the opposite direction of sinning, to turn from living in the darkness of sin, in the land of the shadow of death and to move to living in the light in the kingdom of heaven.
 
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching, preaching, and healing. He took the good news to the people. He did not wait for them to come looking for Him. Although, as the people began hearing Jesus’ Word, seeing the miracles He performed, being fed by Him, and so on, they began to flock after Him so much that He had little or no time to Himself. And after the Jewish leaders heard Him, they threw Him out of their synagogues so He had to do His preaching, teaching and healing out in the countryside.
 
Interestingly enough, Jesus continued to show Himself to be the Christ, by His teaching, preaching and healing. It is the Gospel writer, John, who persists in showing us that Jesus is the Christ by the signs and miracles He performed. Here Matthew, without using the words, “These things were done to fulfill what was said through the prophet,” shows us that Jesus is the Christ, by His teaching, preaching, and healing.
 
As we move further into the twenty-first century, four weeks already here into 2020, we are reminded by Matthew, that Jesus ushered in the kingdom of God. This means that we are now living in the kingdom of God. Even so, while we are living on this earth we continue to face the temptations of the devil, the world and our own sinful flesh. We continue to face the temptation to be about our business in this world as if this is all we have, forgetting about our life in heaven, literally not taking Jesus seriously.
 
Thus today, Jesus continues to call us to repentance. He calls on us to repent of neglecting His Word and Sacraments, and lest we think that these words do not apply to us who are here today, we need to remember that even at our best we are still not perfect. Jesus calls us to repent of neglecting to help and befriend, to speak well of and stand up for, to put the best construction on everything. He calls us to repent for neglecting to speak out and stand up against the sins of this world. He calls us to repent of being tolerant of sin. He calls us to repent for the many times we have gone along with the thoughts of this world, that I am not my brothers keeper and that what a person does is no one’s business but their own.
 
Jesus calls us to follow Him. He calls us to go against the ways of this world, to follow Him in our thoughts, our words, and our actions. He calls us to believe in Him, to strengthen our faith  in Him through making regular, every day and every Sunday, and diligent use of the means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments. He calls on us to remain faithful to Him, through all of life. And not only does He call on us to follow Him, He moves in us to answer His call.
 
Jesus comes to us in our world today to bring healing. He comes in our world to rescue us from sin, death and the devil. Of course, all this He has already accomplished through His own death on the cross, but He comes to us to make His achievements ours. He comes to make His death our death. He comes to make His resurrection our resurrection. He comes to make His work on the cross our own personal salvation. He comes to give to us personally the gifts that He has to give, the gifts of faith, strengthening of faith, forgiveness, life and salvation.
 
Jesus gives us His gifts through the means of Grace, the Word and the Sacraments. He comes to us through these means, which means that apart from these means there is no being given His gifts. That is why it is so important that we make regular and diligent use of the means of grace, so that we may be given the gifts that Jesus has to give to us.
 
Jesus was born into this world to shine through the darkness of sin, death and the devil, to give us the way to eternal life. By His fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies, He has shown Himself to be who He said He is, and by His teaching, preaching, and healing He comes to us to give us the gifts of life, eternal life and salvation. To Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

See the Lamb - January 19, 2020 - Second Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: John 1:29-42

Last week we were witnesses of Jesus’ Baptism and we were reminded of our own Baptism and the fact that at our Baptism we were claimed, or chosen by God, that He put His name on us, that He gave us forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. This week we shift from Matthew’s Gospel to John’s Gospel where today we are given the gift from the Lord of His Word which reminds us that Jesus is the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” These words bring to mind several images, such as the nice image of a pure white, cute little cuddly lamb, but also the contrasting image of a lamb ready to be sacrificed, ready to have its blood spilled for the forgiveness of sins. John’s words are very specific. He does not say, “Behold the symbol of the Lamb of God.” John says, “Behold the Lamb of God.” And John is specific about His purpose, “to take away the sin of the world.”
 
Our text begins on the next day, that is, the day after the events of the previous verses. We read beginning at verse twenty-nine (v. 29-34), “29The next day [John] saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30This is he of whom I said, “After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.” 31I myself did not know him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.’ 32And John bore witness: ‘I saw the Spirit descend from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. 33I myself did not know him, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” 34And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.’”
 
Let us look at several points that John makes. We have already begun talking about John’s words that tell us that Jesus is the Lamb of God. The people of John’s day understood full well what it meant to be a lamb. They raised lambs in order to use the wool to make clothing. They raised lambs in order to have meat to eat. And they also used them for sacrifices in the temple. The children of Israel understood, and we today understand, that this sacrifice of a lamb was not and did not bring forgiveness. All these Old Testament sacrifices were merely to remind the people and us that the price for our sins, that what our sins cost is death. Blood had to be shed. I suppose that none of us really ever thinks about that fact when we are in the middle of our sinning. I know I do not. Think about it, how often are you in the middle of sinning and you stop and think, “you know, God is watching me and Jesus blood had to be shed because of what I am doing.” We just do not think in those terms. For the children of Israel, there was this ever present reminder, the daily sacrifices in the temple, that the price for sin is death, even eternal death, hell, that blood had to be shed. So, for Jesus, to be the lamb of God meant that Jesus was the lamb that God sent to be sacrificed for the sins of the whole world. As we remember that the price for sin is death, human death for human sin, then we are better able to understand that Jesus had to be truly human. Thus, the difference between all the other lamb sacrifices in the temple and the sacrifice of Jesus, the lamb of God, is that all the other lamb sacrifices were merely images of the ultimate sacrifice of the lamb of God. In other words, all the other sacrificial lambs meant nothing, they merely pointed to the one ultimate sacrifice of Jesus, the only Son of God, the lamb of God.
 
About this lamb of God, John says, “After me comes a man who ranks before me, because he was before me.” John’s words indicate to us that Jesus is true God along with His being true man, and being the lamb of God. Jesus was born on this earth as a true man about six months after John was born on this earth, thus in this way John was before Jesus. At the same time John knew that Jesus was true God, being before John, being at the beginning of time, being at the creation of the world, with the Father and the Holy Spirit.
 
John confesses, “I myself did not know Him, but for this purpose I came baptizing with water, that he might be revealed to Israel.” John’s confession is interesting, especially when we compare it to Peter’s confession. Remember Peter’s confession? When Jesus asked the disciples, “who do you say that I am.” Peter confessed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matt. 16:16). And Jesus said, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven” (Matt. 16:17). Peter’s confession as well as John’s confession were not confessions of flesh and blood, but were revelations of the Holy Spirit.
 
About Jesus, John says, He will baptize with the Holy Spirit. The ultimate baptism of the Holy Spirit we know was on Pentecost. Personally, each one of us, at our own baptism, received the Holy Spirit. John’s words remind us that the work of the Holy Spirit is a work that is a part of the working of the means of Grace, the Word and the Sacraments. Another way of saying that is, that outside the means of Grace, outside the Word, the Bible, and outside the Sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, there is no receiving of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit comes to us by the means that Jesus gives Him, through the means of Grace.
 
Just in case you missed it, in our text, John tells his disciples and us clearly that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is the one who has come to save the world and He will save the world by the sacrifice of His life for us and for our forgiveness.
 
Continuing on in our text we come to the next day, two days after the events of the previous verses. We pick up at verse thirty-five (v. 35-42), “35The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples, 36and he looked at Jesus as he walked by and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’ 37The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, ‘What are you seeking?’ And they said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ 39He said to them, ‘Come and you will see.’ So they came and saw where he was staying, and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40One of the two who heard John speak and followed Jesus was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. 41He first found his own brother Simon and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which means Christ). 42He brought him to Jesus.”
 
John says it again, Jesus is “the Lamb of God.” John came for the very purpose of preparing the way for Jesus. John came to point out the Savior of the world. John came to make sure that the children of Israel did not miss Jesus, which, as we can see, too many did, but he came also so that we did not miss Him. John came to point us to, to show us that Jesus was the Messiah, the Savior of the world, the lamb of God who was sent to be sacrificed for the sins of the whole world, and for our sins, your sins and my sins in particular.
 
Interestingly enough, as John continued to point Jesus out to his disciples, they began to follow Jesus. This is what John desired as he said, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” John knew that he was not born for his own self promotion, rather he came to prepare the way and to point to the Christ, the lamb of God, the Son of God, the Savior of the world. For John, to have his disciples leave to follow Jesus was a mission accomplished.
 
As these two disciples approached Jesus they came with a question, “Where are you staying?” The deeper question or the question behind the question really was, “Who are you?” “Are you the Lamb of God, the Christ, the Messiah, as John has been telling us?” These disciples had been following John, they knew what John had been telling them, but they wanted to know for themselves if this was really true. What better way to find out the answer than by hanging around Him for a while.
 
Jesus response to these two disciples was, “Come and see.” The deeper answer to their question was, “Come and see that I am the Lamb of God.” Jesus came not to promote Himself by His words, but to let His actions, His signs and wonders show Him to be who He was, the Son of God. Jesus knew that if these disciples of John came with Him, spent some time with Him, and saw the things that He did, the signs that He performed, the healing and wonders that He did, they would know that He is the Christ, the Messiah, the promised one of old, just as John had been saying.
 
We are told that one of the disciples was Andrew, but we are not told the name of the other. We know it was the Gospel writer John, because he never mentions his name. After coming and seeing that Jesus is who John the Baptist says He is, Andrew goes to find his brother Peter. Andrew tells him, “we have found the Messiah.”
 
Andrew brings Peter to Jesus. Our text ends at this point, but the story continues. Our story continues on the next day, that next day being today. Today, we continue to sin, and sin boldly. We daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness. Jesus comes to us through the means of grace, the Word and the Sacraments. As we read our Bibles, as we attend divine service and Bible class, as we have family and private devotions, as we confess our sins and hear God’s words of absolution, as we remember our Baptism, as we attend and partake of the Lord’s body and blood in His Holy Supper, the Holy Spirit comes to us through these means to forgive our sins, to strengthen us and to preserve us in our faith.
 
Today Jesus shows Himself as the Lamb of God. As we hear the Word of the Lord read to us, as we read the Word of the Lord for ourselves, we actually see that Jesus is the Lamb of God. We see that as the Lamb of God, He was sacrificed once for all, for our sins. Jesus was crucified on the cross for the sins of the whole world, but more than that, He was crucified for my sins and yours. Blood was shed. Jesus’ blood was shed. Jesus died for each one of us, for you and for me, personally.
 
Today the Holy Spirit works our confession in us. Just as John confessed that Jesus was the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” And just as Peter confessed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (Matt. 16:16). So too, we confess that Jesus is the Lamb of God, the Son of the Living God, the Savior of the world and our own personal Savior. We make this confession, not because we are able to make this confession on our own, but because this has been revealed to us by the Father in heaven. John’s confession, Peter’s confession, and our confession are not confessions of flesh and blood, but are confessions of revelation of the Holy Spirit.
 
Today, just as Andrew responded to the knowledge of Jesus as the Messiah, so we respond as we go out and find our brothers and sisters and tell them the good news, that Jesus is the Christ, the lamb of God, the Son of God, the Savior of the world. And we respond by telling them that Christ has found us.
 
Look, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Listen to Him. To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Jesus, Ordained, Equipped, Ready - January 12, 2020 - The Baptism of Our Lord/The First Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: Matthew 3:13-17

The Word of the Lord that comes to us this morning is the account of Jesus’ baptism. With this baptism account we have a good opportunity to be reminded of our own baptism and to review what we believe, teach and confess about Holy Baptism. Rather than recite the whole catechism on baptism I would like to just hit some of the highlights. If you would like, you may follow along in your hymnal on page 325 or you may simply think these through in your mind as I read them. Again, these are just the highlights! “Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s word. It works forgiveness of sins, rescues from death and the devil, and gives eternal salvation to all who believe this, as the words and promises of God declare. Certainly not just water, but the word of God in and with the water does these things, along with the faith which trusts this word of God in the water. For without God’s word the water is plain water and no Baptism. But with the word of God it is a Baptism, that is, a life-giving water, rich in grace, and a washing of the new birth in the Holy Spirit. It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”
 
Now that we have been reminded of our own baptism, we move on to our text and look at our text by putting it into its proper context. The context of our text for today is that John the Baptist was in the prime of his career baptizing the people with his “baptism for repentance.” Let me say that again because it is important that we remember that John’s baptism was a baptism for repentance. Our text begins with verse thirteen and fourteen, “Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, ‘ need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’” (v. 13-14). Jesus came to John to be baptized by him, not because He had anything to repent, not because of His own sin, but because of our sin, which He took upon Himself.
 
At first, John tried actively to deter Jesus. John’s baptism was a baptism for repentance, thus John admitted to Jesus that he, John, needed to be baptized by Jesus rather than Jesus needing to be baptized by him. John knew that Jesus was without sin. John knew that Jesus needed no baptism for repentance, rather that he needed Jesus’ baptism.
 
However, as our text tells us John gives in and does baptize Jesus as we read in verse fifteen, “But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he consented”  (v. 15). Jesus’ baptism was important, not for Himself, but for us. Also, He wanted John to baptize Him at this time, in order to ordain Him, induct Him, install Him, into His office of the Public Ministry. Up until this time Jesus was not preaching publicly, nor healing nor doing other miracles. It was not until after His baptism that Jesus began His public ministry.
 
Jesus said, “it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Jesus was not baptized for His own sake, for His own sins. He was baptized for us, for our sake, for your sake and for mine. He took all our sins, your sins and my sins, upon Himself and only for that reason did He need this baptism for repentance, for our repentance. And because Jesus was born under the law, it was important that He fulfill all the law. In His active obedience He was baptized to fulfill all righteousness, to fulfill all that the Word of God proclaimed. Thus, John consented and baptized Jesus.
 
After Jesus was baptized, He came out of the water and we read what happened in verses sixteen and seventeen, “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’” (v. 16-17). One of the first things we see from these two verses is the Holy Trinity of our God. Now understand the Bible does not use the word “trinity” to describe God, however, as we see in this section of our text, God does reveal Himself in this way, as a tri-une, three-in-one God, or the word we use to describe Him, the Trinity. Here the Trinity is seen in its three parts, the person of Jesus, God the Son; the dove, God the Holy Spirit; and the voice from heaven, God the Father.
 
The voice of God the Father speaks loud and clear telling all the people present, as well as us, that He was pleased with the work of Jesus. Literally what He says is, “I was well-pleased.” These words go back to the moment when God selected His Son for the work of redeeming the whole world, and when the Son accepted that work. In other words, these words go back to the Garden of Eden when God promised to send a Savior, and Jesus accepted the work of being that Savior, thus we read, “I was well-pleased.” And of course, reading these present words in the past tense reminds us that God does not live in time as we do, rather He transcends time so that He sees the future as the past in the present, which is what we read in our text.
 
You may have noticed that we have come a long way in a little more than two weeks. Two weeks ago we celebrated Jesus’ birth, now we are celebrating His baptism and the beginning of His work, His public ministry. We have quickly moved forward thirty years in Jesus’ life and at this time He is getting ready to die on the cross. Jesus was born for one purpose, and that purpose was to live the perfect life demanded of us and then to give His life for ours, to be our substitute and to pay the price for our sins, death. Jesus’ life purpose is seen in the Father’s words, reminding us that He was well-pleased that the Son had accepted this work of salvation, given to Him back in the Garden of Eden.
 
Jesus came to John to be baptized by him, but let us not misunderstand Jesus’ baptism. We know that John’s baptism was a baptism for repentance, but Jesus was not baptized because He needed to repent for His own sins. We are the ones who are born in sin. We are the ones who daily add to our sin as we daily sin much and are in need of forgiveness. We are the ones who need to repent. Jesus was baptized because He took our sins upon Himself. Jesus was baptized because of our need for Him to be baptized. Jesus was baptized because of our need to be baptized with a baptism of repentance. Jesus was baptized as our substitute.
 
Jesus was baptized as a part of His active obedience, as Matthew tells us, in order “to fulfill all righteousness.” With these words Matthew shows us, not only did Jesus come to fulfill all the Old Testament prophecies, but He also came to fulfill all righteousness. Jesus came in perfect obedience to all the laws of the Word of God. Jesus came to do perfectly what we, you and I, and all people are unable to do. Jesus came to live perfectly and to obey all the laws perfectly.
 
The words of John the Baptist spoken in our text are one’s with which we readily identify. John’s humble words, “I need to be baptized by you,” remind us that these are our words. We are the one’s that need Jesus. We are the one’s that Jesus came to save. It was because of our sin that Jesus had to be born into this world. It was because of our sin that Jesus had to live a perfect life. It was because of our sin that Jesus had to suffer and die on the cross. It was because of our sin and in our place that Jesus came to fulfill all righteousness.
 
This morning as we read, hear and see Jesus’ baptism we are reminded of our own baptism and the wonderful blessings we were given from the Lord. Of course our baptism is different from John’s baptism. When Jesus instituted Holy Baptism, instead of being a baptism for repentance, which is what John’s baptism was, Jesus gives us a sacramental baptism, a baptism through which He works to give to us, faith, forgiveness, life and salvation. Thus, at our baptism the Lord came to us through the means of the Pastor’s hands and mouth, through the water and the Word, to place His name on us. At our baptism the Lord claimed us as His children. At our baptism the Lord came into our hearts and gave us the gift of faith and forgiveness of sins and with the gift of forgiveness He also gave us the gift of everlasting life in heaven. The Baptism that Jesus gives is not something we do, it is what Jesus does. Baptism is a gift which we passively are given to from the Lord.
 
Baptism is God putting His name on us. I like to think about it like this: At Baptism God puts His name on us like our mother put our name on all our stuff before we started school. She put our name on our lunch box, on our books, on our clothes, on everything that was ours so that we would be able to recognize it as ours. In baptism, God puts His name on us, claiming us as His own, and including us in His kingdom. With His name on us, God recognizes us as belonging to Him. There is no question, there is no doubt about it, we belong to Him.
 
The placing of God’s name on something or someone was an important thing in the Old Testament. God placed His name on those things and those people He claimed as His own. To have God’s name placed on us at our baptism is to have our names written in the book of life in heaven. To have God’s name placed on us at our baptism is to be claimed by God as being one of His own.
 
Because baptism is the Lord’s work, it does not matter if we know or understand what is happening at our baptism. How often do we understand what the medicine is doing that we take to help us to get well, or keep us from getting sick? The medicine works whether we understand how it works or not. Likewise with Holy Baptism, and how much more important is our spiritual health than our physical health? Baptism is God’s gift to us. It is His gift of claiming us, putting His name on us, making us His, giving us faith, forgiveness, life and salvation.
 
Matthew reminds us that Jesus is true God and true man. That He is a part of the Trinity, with the Father and the Holy Spirit. That at the proper time He came to John to be baptized by him, in order to complete all righteousness, taking our sins upon Himself, and subjecting Himself in active obedience to what we deserve. He did this because He was pleased to do it and the Father was pleased for Him to do it. He did this because He loves us, because He created us to love us. And we rejoice and say, to God be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

The Wisdom and Favor of God - January 5, 2020 - Second Sunday after Christmas - Text: Luke 2:40-52

Today is the twelfth day of Christmas. Remember, we do not count the twelve days of Christmas counting down to Christmas as many in the marketing world would do. We count the twelve days of Christmas beginning with Christmas day being the first day of Christmas. Since today is the twelfth day of Christmas tomorrow will be the day of Epiphany, which, unfortunately does not get much of a celebration unless it falls on a Sunday. Epiphany you might remember is our celebration of the visit of the Magi or wise men, the first non-jews to visit the baby Jesus and what is considered by many to be the true Gentile Christmas. Also, you may not have noticed, but today is the second Sunday after Christmas. It is not every year that we get a second Sunday after Christmas. It all depends on what day of the week that Christmas occurs and this year is one of those special years. All this really means is that it is only once in a while that we get to hear these readings appointed for this the Second Sunday after Christmas.
 
Our text for this morning has been framed, if you will. The framing of the text begins with verse forty, “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him” (v. 40), and ends with verse fifty-two, “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” (v. 52). Our text begins with Jesus growing and becoming strong, filled with wisdom and the favor of God and the word that is translated as favor is the same word from which we get the word Eucharist. This verse follows the presentation of Jesus in the temple as a baby.
 
Our appointed text then ends with Jesus increasing in wisdom, age and favor with God and man. This increasing in wisdom and favor, and so forth seems to be a bit of a theme for Luke with Jesus at a young age. Perhaps Luke is helping us to see the fact that Jesus is truly God and that Jesus is aware of His own divinity. And both of these verses tie into the Old Testament reading and Solomon’s prayer for understanding. With Jesus we get perfect wisdom, knowledge and understanding.
 
Moving on in our text, we get to the heart of our text, verse forty-one, “41Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the Feast of the Passover. 42And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom. 43And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it, 44but supposing him to be in the group they went a day’s journey, but then they began to search for him among their relatives and acquaintances, 45and when they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem, searching for him. 46After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. 47And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. 48And when his parents saw him, they were astonished. And his mother said to him, ‘Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been searching for you in great distress.’ 49And he said to them, ‘Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?’ 50And they did not understand the saying that he spoke to them. 51And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart” (v.41-51)
 
The first verse of our text moves us along in history twelve years from Jesus as a baby and His presentation in the temple to Jesus at the age of twelve, the age of being a Jewish man. It might be that this was the time for Jesus to be bar mitzvahed, something like our confirmation, declared to be an adult in the temple.
 
The reason for the trip to Jerusalem was that this was an annual trek to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. It was this Feast of the Passover which celebrated the passing over of the angel of death in Egypt and the delivery of the Children of Israel out of their bondage of slavery. I think it is interesting that the first Feast that we are told that Jesus attends is the Passover because this is a foreshadowing of what Jesus will do, take this feast and out of it give us the Lord’s Supper and our deliverance out of our own bondage of slavery to sin.
 
Following the Passover celebration we are told that the group began their trip home. The fact that the family traveled as a group helps us to see the importance of the family group. Also, it was safer to travel as a group and certainly it made the travel easier being able to visit while walking the miles that needed to be walked.
 
After the group had traveled for one day Mary and Joseph discovered that Jesus was not with the group. Here we see a downside to group travel, that if you are not careful you may miss someone. Jesus was twelve years old and so He was old enough to somewhat take care of Himself, yet His parents were concerned and so after they found Him missing they returned to Jerusalem to look for Him. We are told that it took three days to find Him. This three days is perhaps a foreshadowing of the three days in which Jesus would be in the grave before His resurrection.
 
After three days Jesus is found in the temple, not that He was lost. We are told that He was in the temple listening and questioning the teachers. Certainly if nothing else this fact infers His knowledge of His divinity, in other words, Jesus knew He was God and so, as God He is bearing witness to the teachers of a proper understanding of what His word says. I believe it is interesting that it may be these same teachers who will, within eighteen years when Jesus returns as a prophet, have forgotten their conversations with Him.
 
When Mary and Joseph find Jesus He acknowledges that He must be in His Father’s house and be about His Father’s business, certainly not simply inferring, but outright acknowledging His divinity, that God is His true father.
 
When Mary and Joseph find Jesus, they express their concern for Him. Notice Jesus’ response to His parents. His answer is an answer of respect, certainly in keeping with the fourth commandment. Jesus is truly God. Jesus is the sinless Son of God and truly human. Jesus knows the commandments, after all, as God He gave them and so here He shows us a perfect example of how we are to keep the commandments.
 
It was not Jesus who was having trouble, but His parents. He knew who He was, why He was born and what was happening. It was His parents that were having a misunderstanding concerning these events as Luke so well points out (v. 50).
 
Our text says that Jesus left with His parents and was submissive to them. Here again we get a godly example of Christian obedience. Jesus was not inferior in being submissive, nor was He less of a person, rather He understood the importance of the order of creation, the importance of good order in a family and home, and He shows us how that good order works best, and that was by His perfect submission and subordination.
 
And finally our text tells us again about Mary that she treasured up these things. Mary has had an interesting life so far, having had an angel announce to her, her divine conception, having given birth to God in flesh, having had shepherds visit her child, having had Magi from the East, Gentiles visit her child, having had to make a trip to Egypt and back, having had a priest say some interesting things concerning her child, and now this strange encounter in Jerusalem. What else could she do except treasure all these things in her heart?
 
So, what does all this mean? One of the first things I believe we are to take from this text is the fact that Jesus is truly a human being. He grew from being a baby to being twelve years old. He walked everywhere he went. He talked, listening and asking questions. Yes, Jesus was truly human and we know that He had to be human in order to be our substitute. In order for Jesus to trade His life for ours, in order to trade His perfect life for ours, He had to be one of us, a human being.
 
Yet, not only was Jesus truly human, He was also truly divine, He was truly God. We see His divinity and His awareness of His divinity in His being in the temple, in His Father’s house as He described the temple, being about His Father’s business. He see His divinity in His listening to and asking questions of the teachers in the temple. We see His divinity in His perfect obedience to His parents. And we know that Jesus is and had to be truly divine in order to be perfect, again in order to be able to trade His perfect life for our imperfect life.
 
What other conclusion can we get from our text for this morning other than this that Jesus is our Savior. It was because of us and for our sin that Jesus was born. It was because of us and our sin that Jesus was perfect, that He lived a perfect life. Jesus was not perfect simply to be an example for us, please do not misunderstand Jesus’ life. To believe Jesus lived perfectly for us simply as an example misses the mark in many ways and is a confusion of the Gospel. If Jesus was simply an example, that statement implies that we can be perfect like Jesus, which also means that we were not conceived and born in sin, which also implies that our will has not been tainted by sin so that we can choose to be like Jesus. And all that misses the first part of Genesis which reminds us that the sin of Adam and Eve is conceived and born in us so that our will has been tainted by sin so that all we can do, in and of ourselves is refuse and reject Jesus.
 
The fact that Jesus lived perfectly shows the fullness of the Gospel, that is that as God commands that we live perfect as He is perfect and because we cannot live perfect, Jesus was born as a human and lived perfectly for us so that when the time came, He traded His perfection for our imperfection, He took our sins and paid the price for our sins so that He received our judgement, eternal death and hell and we received His reward, eternal life in heaven. And this Jesus accomplished as true God and true man.
 
In our world today we are confronted with something of a dilemma. The world would reject Jesus as He is, truly God and truly man. The world would rather we accept that Jesus is simply one of many ways to some eternal nirvana. The reason for this thinking is because of our sinful nature. If Jesus is who He says He is and as we read our text for this morning the fact that He was aware of who He was, then this understanding would mean that we will be held accountable for our own lives and we will be accountable to God, which means that many souls will be condemned or many people will need to change their lives. Instead, what we see in our world is the accusation that Jesus is a lunatic, why else would He live a perfect life, take our sins and suffer and die for them and then rise from the dead?
 
Let me encourage you this morning. Jesus is who He says He is. Jesus is the Messiah. Jesus is the one and only way to eternal life. As we approach the end times, it may become more and more difficult to be a Christian in this world, but let me assure you, we have Jesus promise that He will be with us and as He has worked out and given to us our salvation, we can know for certain that when our last hour arrives, we will be with Him in paradise. To God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.