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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.

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.