Over the years I have written several "book" or "booklets" and many, many, many newsletter and bulletin articles. Because the book market seeks writings to meet specific needs at specific times, my material has never been accepted. I have a tendency to write what is on my mind and so I am left with self publishing. So, with the encouragement from my wife and others, I am beginning this blog in order to put my "ramblings" "out there"! I hope you enjoy!


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

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Amazing - January 31, 2021 - Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: Mark 1:21-28

There once was a dare devil tightrope walker who went to Niagra Falls to demonstrate his skills. He had a cable stretched across the falls and announced the day of his demonstration. After a large crowd had gathered he asked the crowd, “How many of you believe I can walk across this cable without falling.” The crowd went wild with cheers of faith. And so the dare devil tightrope walker walked across and back again to the cheers of the anxious crowd. Now, the show was not over yet, but I want to leave you at this point for a moment.

This morning the Gospel writer Mark brings us to Capernaum and he brings us there on a Sabbath day. You might remember that the Sabbath day was the seventh day of the week, the day in which the Lord rested from all His work of creation and the day which He gave as a day of rest, which is what Sabbath means, rest, not Saturday. If you have been following along each Sunday, our reading for today follows “immediately” after our reading from last Sunday. You may also notice that Mark likes to use the word, “immediately.” This morning we continue to follow along in Mark’s account as he tells us about another day in the life of Jesus. He tells us that Jesus was going about His everyday life, doing the things that He usually did. In other words, Jesus was in the usual “habit” of attending worship. It was the Sabbath day and Jesus went into the synagogue to worship.

It was the custom, in those days, to allow visiting pastors (rabbis as they are called) to participate in the worship service by invitation of the synagogue leaders and so they asked and Jesus takes advantage of being asked to preach. So, at the Sabbath morning worship service Jesus gets up to read from the Old Testament scroll and then He sat down to proclaim the Word to the people. Mark tells us that the people were “astonished at His teaching.” They were astonished because He simply proclaimed the truth to them. This should not surprise us, after all, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life.” Jesus does not teach as the other teachers of the law. Their usual way of teaching, that is, the way the other teachers taught was to quote other experts and the traditions of the elders. In other words, the authority of the other teachers was the authority of other experts and the traditions of the elders. When Jesus spoke, He did not quote anyone as “proof” of what He was saying, He simply proclaimed to them the Word of God, which is the truth. We might also be reminded that Jesus did not have to quote anyone because He was simply speaking His Word, the Word He gave His prophets and Scripture writers to write.

“And immediately,” our text says, as He is in the middle of His “sermon,” Jesus is confronted by a man who is possessed by an evil spirit. The evil spirit recognizes and acknowledges Jesus as God, however, this is not faith, that is true saving faith. This is simply an acknowledgment of a fact. In His Epistle, James puts it this way, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (James 2:19). There is a difference between acknowledging a fact and having faith in someone or something. The evil spirit does not have faith in Jesus, he simply acknowledges the truth that He is God. The evil spirit proclaims the truth about who Jesus is. He says, “I know who you are—the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebukes the devil, sternly and He casts him out of the man. As an aside, I think it is interesting that the evil spirits know who Jesus is, yet the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law will not acknowledge who He is.

Mark then tells us, “[The people] were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, ‘What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him’” (Mark 1:27). The lay people did not have any difficulty in recognizing Jesus’ and that His teaching is with authority. They understood the signs and wonders they were seeing. They understood and acknowledged who Jesus is. And as a result, the people spread out everywhere to share this good news with others.

Getting back to our dare devil tightrope walker. After walking across the cable and back he again addresses the crowd. This time he puts a wheelbarrow on the cable and he asks the crowd, “Do you believe I can walk across this cable and back pushing this wheelbarrow?” And the crowd goes wild with cheers of faith. So, again, the dare devil tightrope walker walks across the cable and back, this time pushing the wheelbarrow, and the anxious crowd cheers. But again, I want to leave you at this point for a moment.

Mark shares with us one day in the life of Jesus. How does that compare to one day in our life? I would pray that our usual “habit” is to attend divine service and by “usual habit” I do mean every Sunday. I do understand that in our world today we have to define such things as “regular divine service” attendance. For some that means twice a year (usually Christmas and Easter, but that is regular in a sort of way). For some, “regular attendance at divine service” means once a month or twice a month. However, I believe that the Third Commandment defines “regular divine service” attendance to mean every opportunity we have. I believe this also means taking personal responsibility and not having to have others remind or cajole us to be in attendance. And of course, I understand that we no longer attend divine service on the seventh day of the week, but in participation of Jesus resurrection we now attend divine service on the first day of the week, on Sunday. Each Sunday is, for us Christians, our Sabbath, our day of rest and a mini Easter celebration.

The reason we come to divine service, and notice I call it divine service and not worship, because to call it worship implies that we are there to do something for God because He needs something from us. No, we come to divine service because of our need so the reason we come to divine service is first and foremost to be given the good gifts and blessing which our Lord has ready to give to us. At divine service we are reminded of our Baptism through the invocation, and through the Benediction; we confess our sins and hear God’s Word of absolution, “Your sins are forgiven.” At divine service we hear the Word of God through which we are given His good gifts and blessings. We are given the opportunity to respond to all that He has done with our prayers, our hymns of praise, our first fruits, our tithes and our offerings. Through the Word of God and His Sacraments we are given the most important thing we need, forgiveness of sin. Through the Word of God and His Sacraments we are strengthened in our faith and we are kept in faith until Christ comes again. When we absent ourselves from these means of grace, that is gift refusal, just like the illustration with the crayons a few weeks ago. When we absent ourselves from these means, we take ourselves away from the means of grace so that we are unable to be given all God’s good gifts and blessings. Which eventually could lead to a loss of faith, even a loss of eternal life.

Not just on Sundays, but every day we are confronted with sin and temptation. Not necessarily are we confronted with someone who is demon possessed, but we are confronted with the temptations of the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh. Daily we are tempted to deny Christ. Daily we are tempted to shun God’s good gifts and blessings.

In one sense we might be thankful that we are tempted by the devil. That shows that we do not yet belong to him. You see, the devil recognizes that we belong to Christ and that is why He tempts us as he does. If you are not suffering from temptation, then I would encourage you to be wary, because the devil might already have you.

We must also confess that sometimes we do fall for the lies of the devil and we do sin. Sometimes we may even waiver and have doubts about our faith. We may even question our faith. Is our faith saving faith, or is our faith like the faith of the devil? Do we simply acknowledge Jesus, or do we actually believe in Jesus? Do we put our complete trust in Jesus for our forgiveness and salvation?

Someone shared this nice illustration with me: Imagine calling a plumber to repair a leak. The plumber arrives. You describe the problem. He explains what needs to be done and that his rate is $80 an hour. “Fine, go ahead and repair the leak,” you say. To your shock, the plumber says, “I don’t actually do the repair work. I simply tell how it can be done. I’m a believer in the pure science of plumbing, not in its practical application. That will be $80.” Ridiculous you think? How much more tragic it is to claim to be a Christian who knows about Jesus, but does not believe in His sacrifice of His life on the cross for us. How tragic to claim to know Jesus and yet to not believe in His giving His life for ours.

Which brings us back to our dare devil tightrope walker. A third time he addresses the crowd. This time he asks the crowd, “How many of you believe that I can walk across this cable and back while pushing someone in this wheelbarrow?” Again, the crowd goes wild with faith and anticipation that the man can do it. But this time, after quieting the crowd the man asks the question, “Who will ride in the wheelbarrow?” The silence is deafening as no one volunteers, because no one has that amount of faith. You see, saving faith is God’s gift to us of putting us into Jesus’ wheelbarrow. It is complete trust in Him and His work for us on the cross, alone.

Very much like the Capernaums, we are amazed as we recognize the authority of Jesus and very much like the Capernaums, that is why we cling to Him. We show our faith in this, that we do live lives of faith, we do live as priests in the priesthood of all believers, we do live as Christians in our vocations so that others see our faith and give glory to God. We show our faith in our desire and in our attendance as often as offered in divine service and Bible class, in our having personal and family devotions, in our being where the gifts of God are distributed and in our being given the gifts God has to give. We show our faith in our doing the good works which God has prepared in advance for us to do, with His motivation and help, of course, and especially as we share this good news with others. We share the good news as we invite others to “come and see” our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ and to “come follow Him.”

It is rather amazing that in our world, so many people acknowledge the fact that there is a god. Some even acknowledge that there was a person, Jesus. But even more amazing is the fact that too many people fail to believe, that is they fail to put their complete trust in Jesus, alone, for their salvation, instead, opting to put their trust in the god or gods they have created, thinking all gods to be the same and putting their trust in their own good works. My prayer for each one of you is that the Holy Spirit will continue to work through His Word to strengthen and keep you in faith in Jesus alone for your salvation. My prayer for each one of you is that the Holy Spirit would then continue to stir in you a desire to have the usual habit of divine service attendance until Christ comes again. And when Christ comes again my prayer is that He will gather you and me with all the saints so that together we might stand before the Lord and say, to Him be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

God’s Time, Man’s Time

Many people have asked the question, “What happens when a person dies?” “What happens to their soul?” “To their body?” What does it mean that the body goes into the ground and where does the soul go?” “What does it mean that they fall asleep and await the resurrection?” In order to answer that question we do well to seek an answer from God and His Word. However, as we read God’s Word and what He says about death and dying and about the end times, sometimes it does not make sense to us and we get even more confused and ask more questions. The problem is not with God and His Word, as usual. The problem is with us, with the language of translation, with our understanding or misunderstanding.

So, in order to better understand what God says concerning death, dying and the end times we would do well to make sure we understand the context of what God is saying each time He is speaking about death and dying. At times God is speaking from His own point of view, and at other times He is speaking from our earthly, human point of view. Thus, when and if we attempt to put the statements from these two points of view together, we get confused and lost which brings more questions. It is only when we see these two perspectives and hear His Word from each perspective that we then get a better understanding of what He is saying.

God is I AM. I am is the present. God is not “I was” nor “I will be,” but I AM. Thus, God is the eternal present. For God there is no time, thus He is eternal without beginning and without end. God created time for us human beings. You may remember that it was not until the fourth day of creation that God created the Sun, Moon, Stars, Planets, the Solar System and the Galaxies. On the first day of creation God created the light and the dark, and He called the light “day” and the dark “night,” and He put the light and the dark into a 24-hour period of transition, evening and morning. When He created the Sun, He put it in the correct proximity with the earth which He rotated in order to give humanity a 24-hour day, a seven-day week, a twelve-month year.

From God’s perspective (point of view) when Jesus is on the cross speaking to the thief who defended Him and professed his faith in Jesus, we hear this exchange: “42And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ 43And he said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise’” (Luke 23:42-43). God does not live in time as we live in time. God is the eternal I AM, the eternal present. For God there is not yesterday, no tomorrow, only the eternal now, which helps us to understand how He can be all knowing with all foreknowledge, and yet not predestining, that is not predetermining what will happen even though He already knows what will happen. Thus, from God’s perspective He can say to the thief on the cross, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

As we said, God created time for humans. We live in time one second, one minute, one hour, one day, one week, one month, one year at a time. We do not move back and forth through time. We cannot go back and recover lost time nor can we go forward and see what is in the future. We are simply moving through time in a linear fashion from one moment to the next. While God is outside of time and those who have passed on from this world are outside of our time, we live in time. This understanding of time means that when someone passes away, we continue to live in this world and in the time frame set for us, living from one moment until the next. So from our point of view the body remains in the ground, and the soul is taken to heaven.

From man’s perspective (point of view) when the Apostle Paul writes to the Thessalonians he is writing from the human point of view. He says, “13But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. 14For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep. 15For this we declare to you by a word from the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16For the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. 17Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. 18Therefore encourage one another with these words” (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). Thus, from man’s perspective we will remain in this world on this earth until either we pass on or the Lord returns. At our passing on, we move from earthly time, fixed time, to the eternal presence of God’s time, or when the Lord returns we move into the eternal presence of God’s time. At that time for those living in this world, they will once again see their loved ones who have passed on after what may have been days, weeks or years here on earth, but for those who have already passed on it will be simply a twinkling of the eye since they have been in the eternal presence with their loved ones.

Because of this time perspective difference and because heaven is a place of complete joy and perfection, please know that those in heaven do not see or hear, what is happening to their loved ones on earth. If they did, then heaven would not be a place of complete joy and perfection, and besides, as was just stated, from the time they enter into heaven until they are joined by their loved ones, it is just a twinkling of the eye anyway. Also, for those who remain in this world, the closest we can get to our loved ones who are in heaven is at the Lord’s Table. It is at the Lord’s Supper wherein we gather with all the saints as God promises. No, we do not see them and they do not see us, but we know they are there because Christ is there as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and they are there with Him in His heavenly kingdom. We are there with all the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven lauding and magnifying His glorious name ever more praising Him and saying, “Hosanna!”

“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18). Paul’s words of encouragement might remind us of our words in the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy kingdom come,” wherein we pray that God’s Kingdom on earth might be extended through the sharing of the Gospel and that God would indeed return to gather us and all the saints and take us to be with Himself in heaven for eternity, which is a far better thing than the sufferings of this present time. And as John says at the end of his Revelation, “Come Lord Jesus, come quickly.”

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Come, Follow me - January 24, 2021 - Third Sunday after the Epiphany/Life Sunday - Text: Mark 1:14-20

When you were a little child and you were given your first big present for Christmas, you did not keep it a big secret, did you? You did not hide it or pretend you did not get anything. No, you could hardly wait to tell everyone what present you had been given. You could not wait for someone to ask or you would ask them to ask you what you got. When you were a little older, say confirmation age, you did not keep it to yourself what you were given as gifts for confirmation (well, unless everyone else got something bigger or better, perhaps). No, you could not wait to “brag” to all the other confirmands of the wonderful gifts you had been given for confirmation. As you got even older, when you got your first new car, or at least your first “new to you” car, you did not park it in your garage so that no one would see it. No, you could not wait to drive it around so that everyone would see it and see you in it. It is just that way with things in life. Things that are big and important to us we just cannot help ourselves, we just cannot wait to share them with others.

This morning we pick up in the continuing Gospel reading of Mark. Our text begins with Mark bringing us to Jesus and showing us that Jesus’ message is a lot like the message of John the Baptists. John came proclaiming that the time had come, that the Kingdom of God was near, that it was time to repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins. Mark tells us that John was arrested and now it is Jesus’ turn. Jesus comes proclaiming. He also says that the time has come. All the events of human history are at the specific place that they needed to be. The time has come for the fulfillment of the law and the promises of the Old Testament. It is time to repent and believe in the Gospel.

Jesus says that the Kingdom of God is near, which might be an understatement. The Kingdom of God is right there in the person of Jesus Christ Himself. He is ushering it in. Jesus is true God in human flesh. He is heaven come down to earth. He is the beginning of the end.

And, again, much like John’s message, Jesus also says to repent and believe the good news. We have talked about that word, repent before. To repent means to turn one hundred and eighty degrees. To turn away from going in the direction of sin and unbelief and instead, go in the direction away from sin and into the direction of believing. We are to believe, that is we are to have faith in the one who has come into the world to give His life. Our faith is not to be a blind faith. To make sure our faith is not a blind faith, not only did Jesus say to believe, He continually showed the people through the signs and wonders, the miracles, He performed, that He was the Messiah. Jesus gives us a reason to believe.

Moving on in our text, this morning Mark brings us to the call of the first four disciples. Notice right off that it is not an elaborate call. Jesus does not ask them to have an “inner burning.” He does not ask them to “feel” anything, to have an emotional experience. He does not work them into a frenzy. He does not ask them to raise their hands. He simply comes and says, “Come, follow me.” “Come, follow me,” simple enough. We are told by the Gospel writer John that Andrew and one of the other disciples, probably John, were at first disciples of John the Baptist. Remember, John the Baptist continually said that Jesus must increase and he must decrease. John the Baptist came only to get the world ready for Jesus and thus came only to point to Christ. And he did such a wonderful job that two of his own disciples left to be called by and to follow Jesus.

Jesus call was simple, “Come, follow me.” But His call did not come without a promise. The promise that Jesus gave was that, “I will make you fishers of men.” Jesus called the disciples for a purpose, to do the work that He had for them to do. Jesus did not just call and leave them alone. He called them to be His disciples, to be trained by Him, to be given all the gifts that they needed to do the work that He would be giving them to do. And the disciples response was that “at once they left their nets” and “without delay they left their father.” There was no hesitation. There was no question. There was no burning desire or great and grand feeling either, there was simply the calling and the following.

That is the Gospel lesson, but the Gospel lesson does not end there, for you see, not only did Jesus call His first disciples, He also calls each one of us to be His disciples. He calls us to faith and He calls us to be set apart to do the good works which He would have us to do. Yes, we are to do good works, not in order to earn salvation, but as a response of salvation.

Jesus’ call to us is that now is the time. We are living in the Kingdom of God. At our conception He called us to life. At our Baptism He called us to faith. Through His Word He continues to call us to be strengthened in our faith. Through confession and absolution He calls us to be given forgiveness of sins. Through His Holy Supper He continues to give us His good gifts and blessings.

Unfortunately, too often we tend to be like Jonah in our Old Testament reading. God called Jonah and his response was to run away. Interestingly enough, if you follow through the book of Jonah, one thing you will notice is that everything was going downhill until Jonah repented and agreed to obey God. Jonah went down to Joppa. He got down in the boat. He even went down into the bottom of the boat. He was thrown down into the sea and was swallowed down in the belly of the whale. It was while he was in the belly of the whale that he repented and things began to improve.

In our Epistle reading Paul urges us to take seriously our part in being members of the priesthood of all believers. We are to realize that the time of this world is short. Paul actually believed that Jesus was going to return during his lifetime, and he lived that way. Would that we would all believe that Jesus will return during our own life and live that way. The fact is, our own time on this earth is short, especially when compared to eternity. Thus, we are to live life in such a way that our whole lives show forth the faith that is in our hearts. We are to be ready, at all times, to give an answer for the hope that is in us. We are, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to do the work which God has for us to do.

Just as Jesus called His disciples, so He calls us. As we just said, through His Word and through the waters of Holy Baptism He calls us to faith. Yet, not only has He called us, He has also already redeemed us. He is the one who gave His life for ours. He is the one who lived for us in our place. I once read an illustration that made this point pretty well. It said that one Sunday a visitor came to church and when he drove into a certain parking spot he was told, “you are in my place.” When he went in to the church and went to sit down for worship he was told by someone else, “you are in my place.” When he went to Bible class, again he went to sit down and he was told, “you are in my place.” Finally, when Bible class was over someone looked at him and when they did they noticed that he was rather scared, that he had scars on his hands and feet (he was wearing sandals) and when they asked him who he was he answered, “I am the one who took your place.” The reference being to the cross. The Gospel is that Jesus took our place in all aspects of our life.

And so, Jesus comes calling us. He comes calling us to repent and believe. He calls us to make a one hundred and eighty degree turn in our lives. He calls us to turn away from sin to not sinning. And yet, He does not call without promising that He will help us to turn.

He comes to call us to “come and follow Him.” Jesus’ invitation is simple. His invitation is to us and is a wonderful example for us. When we are faced with the question of how are we to tell others about Jesus, we can follow His example. We can call others to “come.” We can call others to “come and follow Him.” Remember last weeks Gospel lesson. Last week we saw Philip using Jesus example in his witnessing to others. Last week, after Philip was called to discipleship by Jesus, he went out and called Nathanael and to Nathanael’s question of Jesus Messiahship, Philip simply says, “come and see.”

Jesus’ call is to us and His call is through the means of grace, the Word and the Sacrament. He comes to us through these means to give us faith, to give us forgiveness, to strengthen us in faith and to keep us in faith until He comes again.

Jesus call is to us and like His call to His first disciples, His call comes with a promise. He calls us and promises us that He will make us fishers of people. He will give us the training we need. He will give us all the gifts that we will need to do the work that He gives us to do. His promise is that He will be with us, even to the ends of the earth. Yes, His call is complete.

Today is Life Sunday, the Sunday we set aside especially to remind ourselves of and to lament the legalization of abortion and of all the innocent children who have been legally murdered since its passage. The Greek dualist philosophy taught that it is what is inside that affects the soul not what the body does, so, logically,  self-indulgence is okay, because it does not affect the soul. We can easily compare this to today’s “if it feels good do it,” society. But it does not stop there. Since abortion has been legalized and to some extent accepted as being okay, does that mean it is okay? Do we realize that there are young adults today who have never known anything except that abortion was legal? Because we have become complacent about abortion, in a sense even we Christians have accepted it or are at least seen as having accepted it as okay. That is what our apathy toward this issue is, a low level of acceptance. Now we see our society moving to the next step, euthanasia, that is killing those society deems not fit to live, those with handicaps, those with mental disorders and the like. And let us not forget the right to die cases of people who want their doctor to help them to die. The next step in this parade will be to kill old people, especially those in a nursing home, and the mentally and even emotionally disturbed people. If we remain apathetic, where will this lead? Our response on this Life Sunday is to know that God gives life, all life, and life is precious to Him. He tells us that before we were in the womb He has known us. Each of us at conception receives a soul from God and from that time on are indeed precious in His sight.

Our response is to boldly profess to others how precious life is to God. We are precious to Jesus as He is the one who comes and finds us and calls us to faith. As we have seen and heard in our Gospel reading for this morning, we have been called to faith by Jesus, through the Gospel, through the sacraments, and through others sharing the Gospel with us, so we are to go out and find others, especially those who do not know Jesus, others who are suffering and in need, others who are pregnant and for whatever reason are struggling with that pregnancy, and share with them the invitation to come and follow Jesus and to help them in whatever way we can. For some of us our help may be simply to refer them to a Christian counselor. For some we may offer assistance to drive them to the hospital. For some our assistance may be just to offer a listening ear. But whatever our part may be we do issue to them Philip’s invitation to come and see Jesus and Jesus’ invitation to follow Him. And lest we forget, there may be those among us, or someone you know who has had an abortion, we must acknowledge that this too is a forgivable sin. We are not judgmental, and we do not forget that there is forgiveness for those who have had abortions and have repented. 

Jesus has given us life. He has given us life at conception. He has given us faith, forgiveness of sins, life and salvation, even eternal life. He calls us through His Gospel. He enlightens us with His gifts of Holy Baptism, confession and absolution, and His Holy Supper. He sanctifies us which means that He continually works in us to make us holy. He keeps us in the one true faith. He does all this, not because we are deserving, but because of His great love for us. And because of this great and grand thing, because this is such a big deal in our lives, we can hardly keep it to ourselves. We do not hide our faith and show it only in church on Sunday. No, we just cannot wait to go out and tell others how they too need to have a share in our Savior, that is how we follow Him without delay. And we rejoice and say, to Him be the glory for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Come and See - January 17, 2021 - Second Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: John 1:43-51

Less than one month ago we celebrated Jesus’ birth. Last Sunday we were brought to some thirty years later as we celebrated Jesus’ baptism by John in the Jordan River. We also witnessed the fact that our God has revealed Himself to us as a God who is one God yet three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This week we see Jesus as He begins His earthly ministry by choosing His disciples. As we look at our text for this morning, hearing both Jesus’ invitation and Philip’s invitation, we need to keep in mind that Jesus’ invitation is still extended to us today, and that Philip’s invitation is an excellent example of how we are to do evangelism even today that is by inviting others to Christ and the Church.

Our text begins, “The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, ‘Follow me’” (v. 43). Unfortunately our English does not do justice to the Greek. In our text, Jesus’ imperative to “Follow me” was meant as a kindly expression of continuous course of action, in other words, Jesus’ imperative to Philip was to “Keep following me.” Philip’s immediate response to Jesus’ call was to follow Him. A part of that following Jesus was that Philip went to find Nathanael. Picking up in our text, “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph’” (v. 45). Notice how important the word “find” is in this text. Jesus found Philip. This suggests that He went out of His way to look for him and to find him. We might be reminded of the parables of the lost sheep and the lost coin, and that Jesus our good shepherd always goes out of His way to find us. This, in turn, serves to remind us that it is God who takes the initiative in finding and calling us. He finds us, calling us through the Gospel even today. We do not find Him, and actually, because of our sinful nature, and contrary to what some people will tell you about those who are “seekers” or who are “seeking for Jesus,” we do not go looking for Him, we do not seek Jesus, we do not chose Him, but it is Jesus who comes looking for us, He finds us, He chooses us, He calls us to follow Him and His call to us is meant as an expression of continuous action as well, that is that we continue to follow Him.

Jesus’ words to Philip are an imperative, not a harsh imperative, but a kind imperative. But Jesus’ words are not just an imperative issued to Philip, they are an imperative issued to us today. Jesus seeks, finds and calls us to faith through the means of His Holy Word as well as through the means of the sacraments, that is Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Through these means, the Word and the Sacraments we are called by Jesus to “follow Him” that is to “keep following Him.” Philip’s going out, then, exemplifies the way we are to keep following Jesus, that is the way we are to go out and find others who do not know Jesus and call them to follow and to keep following Jesus as well.

Philip’s message to Nathanael was a simple message, he says, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Philip’s message is clear. He believes he has found the unmistakable fulfillment of the prophecies of the Christ pictured in the Old Testament in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. We know that without Jesus, the Old Testament books, the writings of Moses and the prophets would be nothing, but here is Jesus, the fulfiller of these prophecies. He is the One promised, having come in the flesh.

Nathanael’s response was, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Surely Nathanael knew the prophecies that the Savior would be born in Bethlehem and he probably figured that since Jesus was known as coming from Nazareth, that would leave Him out as being a candidate for Messiahship. Philip’s answer to Nathanael is a true witness, even a true evangelistic example to us today. We know that no one can be argued into religion, let alone faith, and Philip knows it too. So, he makes no attempt to argue him into belief, but simply offers the invitation, again as an imperative, to “Come and see.” What a powerful evangelist Philip is. What a powerful witness he makes with just three little words. Certainly we are aware of the fact that we cannot argue, convince, or talk anyone into believing in Jesus. Most of us probably feel like we are not evangelists and that we cannot share our faith with others. But we can follow Philip’s witnessing technique. We can offer the invitation, by a kind imperative, to “Come and see,” as Philip did. What a powerful evangelist we are and what a powerful witness we make when we simply offer the invitation to come and see Jesus. Come and see Jesus in divine service with us. Come and see Jesus  in His Word, the Bible, knowing that the Holy Spirit works through that Word to bring them to faith and trusting that He will do so.

Nathanael takes Philip up on his invitation and comes to meet Jesus. Our text continues, “Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him and said of him, ‘Behold, an Israelite indeed, in whom there is no deceit!’” (v. 47). My first question and probably yours is “What is a true Israelite in whom there is no deceit?” Nathanael was a part of the remnant of the children of Israel who were not looking for an earthly savior and king, but were looking for a heavenly king. The promise to send a Savior, a Messiah that was given way back in the Garden of Eden, which was reiterated to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, and so on down through history had by this time come to be just a “promise,” an unfulfilled promise, to a lot of Israelites. For some, like the scribes and Pharisees, the promise had been twisted and made a forgery. It had been made to be a promise for earthly salvation from their oppressors, namely the Romans at this time. There was, however, a remnant that clung to the promises of a spiritual, or heavenly Savior and Messiah and Nathanael was a part of this remnant. This is a true Israelite in whom there is no deceit.

Our text continues, “48Nathanael said to him, ‘How do you know me?’ Jesus answered him, ‘Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.’ 49Nathanael answered him, ‘Rabbi, you are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!’” (v. 48-49). Nathanael, whose name means “given by God,” is convinced of Jesus identity simply (I say simply) by Jesus word that He had seen him before he was approached by Philip. This is one of the signs and wonders Jesus used to show that He was the Messiah. Nathanael then makes a confession that he believes that Jesus is the Son of God, that Jesus truly is the Lord Himself. He also confesses that he believes that Jesus is the King of Israel, not as an earthly king, but as a heavenly king, in other words, the Messiah, the Savior of the world.

Jesus response: “50Jesus answered him, ‘Because I said to you, “I saw you under the fig tree,” do you believe? You will see greater things than these.’ 51And he said to him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see heaven opened, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man’” (v. 50-51). Nathanael seems easily convinced. Would that all people would be so easily convinced. Jesus here calls Himself the Son of man. In so doing He identifies Himself as one of us, that is He is a true human being. When He came down to earth, He humbled Himself giving up all the glory that was His as true God in heaven, being born of a woman, and became a man so that He could offer Himself as a sacrifice for us on the cross. The picture He paints here might remind us of the angels descending and ascending on the ladder in Jacob’s dream. We remember that Jacob named the place “Bethel,” meaning “the house of the God.” Jesus is God here on earth, therefore wherever Jesus went, there was the house of God.

Our text for this morning is a wonderful reminder of what you have been hearing from me over the past number of years, especially concerning God’s call to faith and our response of faith. Contrary to what some preachers preach suggesting that we need to find God, John tells us that it is God who finds us. It is God who is the prime mover. It is God who initiates. It is God who calls us to life at conception. It is God who calls us to faith through Holy Baptism as well as through His Holy Word. It is God who calls, gathers and enlightens us and the whole Christian Church on earth. It is God who gives faith, forgiveness and life.

It is also God who calls us to our vocations. It is through our vocations that we respond to the faith our Lord has given to us by serving Him through our service to others. In other words, it is through our vocations such as that of mother or father, brother or sister, aunt or uncle, teacher or learner, employer or employee; our vocations such as salesman or engineer, baker or doctor, nurse or lawyer, laborer or plumber, electrician or carpenter, farmer or architect, truck driver or fisherman, beautician or waiter, whatever our vocation, as we are serving others we are serving the Lord. God calls us to be priest in the priesthood of all believers. Remember, the role of the priest is to offer sacrifices. Our pastor does not offer sacrifices. As priest we do offer sacrifices, that is we offer our lives as living sacrifices to the Lord. The way we live our lives shows forth the faith that is in our hearts. As others see our lives as living sacrifices, then we are to be always ready to give an answer for the hope that we have in the Lord. Of course we are ready as the Holy Spirit gets us ready through our regular and diligent use of the means of grace, being in divine service and Bible class as well as reading our Bible on our own and having personal and family devotions. Thus, to follow Phillip’s example in our text, as the Lord has found us and made us His through the waters of Holy Baptism, so we are moved to live lives of faith so that when we are asked concerning our faith our response might well be, “Come and see.” Come and see Jesus in divine service with me. Come and see Jesus in Bible Class with me. Come and see Jesus in His Word with me. It is not we who are giving faith or calling to faith, rather it is God who initiates. It is God who calls and His call is through His Word, either spoken by us, read by our friend or spoken by our pastor in divine service and Bible Class. We are merely the conduit through which God works through His means of grace.

It is God’s will that all people come to faith and are saved. Jesus invites us through His word with the kind imperative to follow Him and to keep on following Him. Through the Holy Spirit working in our hearts we do come to faith and we do follow Him. By the power of the Holy Spirit working through the means of grace we respond to His great love for us by following Philip’s example of inviting others with the imperative to “come and see” our Savior, also in His Word. We do not convince, argue, or talk anyone into faith, but simply invite them to come and see and let the Holy Spirit do the rest. May the Holy Spirit work through your daily devotions, Bible reading, Divine Service, and Bible class attendance to continue to pour out on you His good gifts and blessings, forgiveness of sins, faith, strengthening of faith thus making you always ready to be able to give an answer for the hope that you have in Jesus, and move you to say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Baptized for Forgiveness - January 10, 2021 - The Baptism of Our Lord/First Sunday after the Epiphany - Text: Mark 1:4-11

Four days ago we celebrated Epiphany and the end of our Christmas season (remember, Advent ends on Christmas Day and the twelve days of Christmas begins with Christmas and lasts until Epiphany). So, what is epiphany? Epiphany is the celebration of the coming of the Wise men or Magi or the Kings from the east to see the Baby Jesus who is in a house where they were staying. Epiphany is the revealing of the Savior of the world to the non-Jews, the Gentiles which is why it is often referred to as the Gentile Christmas. Unfortunately, this day is rarely celebrated because it seldom falls on a Sunday, because it is always on January 6. Actually, I would rather crassly say that it is not celebrated because it is not as saleable of a celebration as Christmas and Easter (what would you sell to celebrate Epiphany?). And so, this year, like many other years, we skip our Epiphany celebration and go straight to our celebration of the Baptism of Our Lord, which brings us to our text for today.

We, you and I, are or have been brought into the Holy Christian Church with these words, “I baptize you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” With these words we become members of the Holy Christian Church, the communion of Saints. We are given faith, forgiveness of sins, abundant life in this world, life in the world to come, eternal life, salvation. God’s name is put on us. He claims us as His own, we are His. My question to you is, how often do you take the time to remember your baptism? What a wonderful gift we have in our baptism as well as in remembering our baptism. Every morning we can wake up and remember, “I have been baptized. I am forgiven. I can start over.” And after a few hours, by about nine or ten in the morning, after we have been frustrated from driving to work, being yelled at by our parents, our spouse, our boss, and so forth, and after cursing them in our own minds, we can again remember, “Oh, yeah, I have been baptized. I am forgiven. I can start over.” What a great thing we Christians have in our baptism. This morning we are reminded of our own baptism as we come to bear witness of Jesus’ baptism by John in the Jordan River.

You might notice, right off, that John’s Baptism is different from our Holy Baptism today. Not a lot different, but some different. John’s Baptism was a “Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” John’s baptism was a baptism of repentance. Repentance is somewhat like our New Year’s Resolutions, it is the attempt to “turn over a new leaf.” Notice I said an “attempt.” It is an attempt, because by ourselves we are not able to do the good that we want to do (as Paul reminds us in his letter - the good that I would do I do not do, the evil I do not want to do is what I do). Repentance, however, goes beyond a resolution. Repentance means first to acknowledge and confess our sins, the wrong and bad things we do, or the good things we have failed to do, but it goes on to mean that we attempt to not sin again. Let me say that again, it means that we attempt, with God’s help, to not sin again. To repent means to turn 180 degrees, from sinning, from going in the direction of sinning, to not sinning, to turn away and go in the other direction away from sinning. And again, this is not something we are able to do by ourselves. This is something we can do, only with the help of the Lord.

John’s Baptism is a Baptism of repentance for a purpose, “for the forgiveness of sins.” Just about every Sunday morning we confess, “if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us, but if we confess our sins, God, who is faithful and just, will forgives us all our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” God is faithful. We see His faithfulness standing before John ready to be Baptized. God is faithful, He sent His one and only Son, Jesus to pay the penalty for our sins, to give His life, to suffer the eternal death penalty of hell for us, in our place. If we do not confess our sins, if we do not acknowledge that we have sins that need to be confessed, then we are refusing forgiveness. It is only as we confess our sins (and this we do because of our own need to confess) that forgiveness, won for us by Jesus on the cross, becomes ours.

Repentance can be seen in this illustration which I have used before, there was a teacher who passed out new crayons to the entire class. She told all her students to be careful and not break them. One child pushed a little too hard and broke one of his crayons. The teacher then asked for the children to put any broken crayons on the top of their desk. In order to “stay out of trouble,” the one child hid the broken crayon in the box, putting the bottom part in the box and the broken off top part on top. The teacher then went around the room and instead of “yelling” at the students, she exchanged new crayons for broken ones. Unfortunately, the child with the hidden crayon did not receive a new crayon. In much the same way, our sins that are unconfessed, although the price has been paid for those sins, to us they are not forgiven. We have refused that forgiveness. And our sins that are confessed are forgiven, not because of our confession, but because Jesus paid for them.

John came Baptizing and proclaiming. His proclamation was that the One coming after me is more powerful than I am, so much so that I am unworthy even to untie His shoes. John knew his place. He knew his role. He was content with being the Lord’s servant and so he proclaimed boldly concerning Jesus, who He is and what He will do.

John proclaimed that he baptized with water, but Jesus will baptize with the Holy Spirit. On Pentecost we see this Baptism by the Holy Spirit. When each one of us was Baptized, we were Baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We were Baptized in the name of the Holy Spirit. We are filled with the Holy Spirit, each one of us, and I might add, whether we act like it or not. I do not mean that we are each filled with the Holy Spirit so that we jump up and down, whoop and holler or anything like that, but I do mean that we act like we are filled with the Holy Spirit by boldly living our lives in such a way that we do stand out in a crowd, that others do see us as being different, acting like we are a members of the body of Christ.

What is there to life except to live life “on the edge” as the saying goes? And as a Christian I would suggest that living life on the edge is living life with a complete awareness of what life is all about. Life is about being on this earth for a very short period of time. Life is about acknowledging that each day is a gift from God and that each day might actually be our last day on this earth. Life is about living each day to its fullest and I do not mean that in any decadent way, I mean that in a way which says, I am a Christian and I believe in a God who is so great that you ought to believe in Him too and that is living life on the edge, because in our world and in our society, to live life in such a way will surely bring criticism from others.

Getting back to our text, by God’s grace, through Mark’s Gospel we are privileged to witness Jesus’ baptism by John. As we witness Jesus’ Baptism we are allowed to witness what we call the trinity of our God. First, we witness God the Son in the person of Jesus Himself. God the Son is true God, conceived by the Holy Spirit, as we confess and as Matthew, Luke and John also tell us in their Gospels, and He is true man, born of the Virgin Mary, again, as we confess and as Matthew, Luke and John also tell us in their Gospels.

Second, we witness God the Father in the voice from heaven. God the Father speaks and says, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” God the Father attests to the fact that Jesus is true God, the Son of the Father. He also attests to the fact of Jesus’ sinless nature, being truly God and being pleasing to the Father.

And third, we witness God the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. Thus, we are privileged to witness our God as a triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This morning we are privileged to be witnesses of Jesus’  Baptism. And as we witness Jesus’ Baptism I pray that we are each reminded of our own Baptism. Our witness of Jesus’ Baptism is important because through this account we are convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt of who Jesus is and what is His mission. John attests that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of the Living God. God the Father attests that Jesus is the Messiah as we hear His words from heaven. Jesus attests to Himself that He is the Messiah as He is there present fulfilling all the Law and the prophets completely, even subjecting Himself to be Baptized by John in the Jordan.

As we venture through the Gospels this year we will see Jesus time and again doing signs and wonders which will attest that He is the Messiah. You will notice that the Gospel writers write in order to assure us that Jesus is the Messiah. The Holy Spirit works through these words of the Bible in order to bring us to faith, strengthen us in faith and to keep us in faith until Christ comes again.

Thus, we believe that Jesus is the Messiah and through His means of grace; confession and absolution; the Word, the Bible; and the Sacraments, Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, we are given His gifts; faith, forgiveness, life and salvation, which is why divine service is so important. Sure, we can stay at home and read our Bibles, but here in divine service is the time to come to the Lord’s Spiritual grocery store to be given His good gifts and blessings. Each of us must eat in order to survive. If we do not go to the grocery store to buy food, then we do not have any food to prepare and no food to eat which would mean that eventually we would starve. Likewise, each of us must have spiritual food in order to survive. When we do not come to the Lord’s house for divine service, to be given His spiritual gifts, we can eventually starve spiritually, that, too, is gift refusal.

This morning we rejoice to be given God’s good gifts and blessings. We rejoice in the forgiveness of sins, earned for us by Jesus on the cross. We rejoice at being able to witness Jesus’ baptism and His acceptance by God the Father. We rejoice in the reminder that through our Baptism we too have a part in God’s Kingdom. We rejoice in our opportunity to be in divine service where we are reminded of our Baptism through the invocation and benediction, we are given forgiveness through confession and absolution, as well as through the Word and the Lord’s Supper, we are strengthened in our faith through the proclamation of the Word of God, and we are encouraged in our vocations as Christians, to live our lives as living sacrifices to the Lord always being ready to give an answer for the hope that we have in our faith in Jesus. And finally, we are moved by the power of the Holy Spirit to rejoice and say, to God be the glory, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

The Wisdom and Favor of God - January 3, 2021 - Second Sunday after Christmas - Text: Luke 2:40-52

Today is the tenth 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 tenth day of Christmas Wednesday 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, our Gospel reading from last Sunday, 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.