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“True Righteousness,” Matthew 5:21-37

21[Jesus said:] “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

      27“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

      31“It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

      33“Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil.

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

In Gospel reading, continuing from Matthew 5 and Jesus’ teaching on the Mount, Jesus reveals that the commandments of God are not at all kept by the simple outward doing of them.

Keeping the commandments in the way of “righteousness” that “exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees” (Matthew 5:20) is first a matter of the heart and doing rightly before God, the just judge.

The three particular commandments that Jesus addresses in today’s reading are these: “You shall not murder,” the 5th Commandment (Exodus 20:13; Deuteronomy 5:17 ); “You shall not commit adultery,” the 6th Commandment (Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:18); and “You shall not misuse the Name of the Lord your God,” the 2nd Commandment (Exodus 20:7; Deuteronomy 5:11).

Jesus reveals these commandments in such a way that no one is excusable before Him.

The One who is truly righteous is only He who originally is, Jesus Himself.  Salvation must come from outside of us, and it is found in Christ alone.

Only after being blessed of God through His Son do we begin to rightly exhibit that righteousness which is Christ’s, thus being salt of the earth and light of the world (Matthew 5:13, 14).

Concerning the 5th Commandment, “You shall not murder,” Jesus connects anger and insult.  Here, we could certainly add hate, too, for St. John writes in his first epistle, “He who does not love his brother abides in death.  Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.  By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us.  And we also ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:14-16).

Instead of hate, insult, and anger, God would have us love, build up, speak kindly, and sacrifice ourselves for others.

Jesus condemns the physical act of murder, including euthanasia, abortion, and even neglect, but He also condemns hatred, bitterness, holding grudges, and harboring resentment.

 “Out of the heart,” Jesus says, “proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies.  These are the things which defile a man, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile a man” (Matthew 15:19-20).

What we need is a Savior.

In Jesus, you have yours.

Those things of not murdering, not hating, not insulting others, and not harboring bitterness, Jesus has thus fulfilled.

Such is the love Jesus has for sinners like us that He turned the other cheek (Matthew 5:39), suffered the reproach and mockery of men, as well as suffered even death at the hands of sinners-for the sake of sinners (Matthew 20:19; 26:45).

On the cross, Jesus cried out, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do” (Luke 23:34).

In doing so, Jesus demonstrated, not hate, but the love of God by which He reconciled you to God, saved you from sin and death, and through whom you have a new heart and a new mind, that you not put yourself first but others, and seek peace.

Christ forgives you. You you also forgive others.

In today’s text, Jesus cuts through the falsehood of only outwardly doing the law before others.  He speaks of the heart before God and our actions before others, not only regarding the Fifth Commandment, “Do not murder,” but also with regard to the Sixth Commandment, “Do not commit adultery.”

“He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit with Him. Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:17-20 NKJ).

Only where God has first cleansed the heart and forgiven sins does one then begin to rightly do what God commands.

Of himself and apart from Christ, all that the sinner does before God is just show, even if it be great in the eyes of the world.  But before God is what eternally matters!

Once again, Jesus penetrates through the hypocrisy of those in Jesus’ day and our own.

Not just committing the act of adultery is sin, but even looking or lusting after another is sin, too.

Here especially, our society and culture don’t at all help the Christian remain Christian.  In our schools, on TV and in movies, on billboards and posters, and not least of all, on the internet, one cannot escape the amount of skin shown and the type of clothing worn, or not worn, and the lack of modesty, in order to attract and allure, to tempt and to evoke.

Sex sells, they say.

Even Christians, whether younger or older, male or female, are not immune to such enticements.

Also, the number of couples living together before marriage, according to one statistic, is 66% (Aug 2019, https://www.thespruce.com/cohabitation-facts-and-statistics-2302236).

Even within the church, what is considered sin before God is considered less so today, especially by those who wish, and do, advocate and legitimatize same-sex attractions, let alone perversions of many kinds, contrary to God’s creative order and will.

Christians, those who seek to abide by God’s Word and will, seek to avoid temptations, of all kinds.

We cannot, however, avoid our sinful hearts. This is a cross that the godly continue to bear.

Thus, do we pray, “Lead us not into temptation” and “Deliver us from the evil one” (6th & 7th Petitions of the Lord’s Prayer).

These two petitions, respectively, have these explanations (The Lutheran Confessions):

“God indeed tempts no one. But we pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us, so that the devil, the world, and our flesh may not deceive us nor seduce us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Though we are attacked by these things, we pray that still we may finally overcome them and gain the victory.” (Meaning to 6th Petition)

“We pray in this petition, as in a summary, that our Father in heaven would deliver us from all kinds of evil, of body and soul, property and honor. And finally, when our last hour shall come, we pray that He would grant us a blessed end and graciously take us from this vale of tears to Himself into heaven.” (Meaning to 7th Petition)

“‘God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.  Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:6-8, NKJ).

Seek the Lord and His help.  Look to His Word.  Remember your Baptism, daily, and boldly say, “I am a child of God.  I am not my own.  I was bought at a price.  Thus, will I “Glorify God in” my “body and in” my “spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:20), God helping me.

Continue the struggle and look to Christ alone for your help and stay!

“If our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence toward God” (1 Jn. 3:20-21 NKJ).

“Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves him who is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome. For whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world– our faith. Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 Jn. 5:1-5 NKJ).

Common in Jesus’ day, and in ours, was the notion that murder only meant physically taking someone’s life, and that someone committed adultery only when the physical act was committed.

Jesus dispels such limitations.

Both issues stem from the heart, and given in to, make themselves known in word and deed.

Committing sin inwardly, though not committing the sin outwardly, Jesus points out, is still sin before God.

It is the sin being born of the heart that leads to the actual doing of it, if not held in check.

With reference to divorce and the corresponding to the 6th Commandment, Jesus had said, “What God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:6).

These words had, and have, to a large degree, fallen by the wayside in many minds today, almost as if they don’t exist, as if God had not done the joining.

Having forsaken the will of God for the will of man, many reasons were, and are, given for justification to divorce one’s spouse.

Because of the hardness of hearts, Moses had permitted the certificate of divorce to be granted, but, as Jesus says, “From the beginning this was not so” (Matthew 19:8).

The prophet Malachi declares, “The LORD God of Israel says That He hates divorce” (Malachi 2:16).

Divorce is not according to God’s will.

Yet, note the exception that our Lord here gives, that of the sexual immorality of the other.

As Christians, we want to recognize the boundaries that God gives to protect marriage between man and woman, as that’s the only kind of marriage instituted and acceptable to God, and so also to His people.

We also want to distinguish between what is pleasing to God from what is not.

Bearing with one another, forgiving one another, and even suffering another’s faults is according to God’s will. This includes, especially, within that union of two people bound to one another through the sacred institution of holy matrimony.

Faithfulness to one’s spouse, love, sacrifice, and forgiveness are according to God’s will should one be married.

In the book of Proverbs, it is written, “Hatred stirs up strife, But love covers all sins” (Proverbs 10:12).

Love does cover all sins.  A husband’s love for his wife.  A wife’s love for her husband.

Not least of all, God’s love in Christ for the sinner, for you.  He does not and will not divorce you.

Rather does He speak kindly to your hearts and give that which alone truly comforts and gives true contentment – even life and salvation.

The love of God in Jesus Christ covers all your sins.

His blood cleanses you, and your conscience, from all unrighteousness, guilt, and shame.

As for the last part of today’s Gospel, concerning oaths, Jesus says, “Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’”  The people of Jesus’ day had a way of casually and carelessly making oaths.  They swore here and there without a second thought.  They misused God’s Name and used it in vain to their own ends.  They believed it to be ok to defend themselves with God’s honor for even insignificant things.

One’s word should cast no doubt as to it being true, without the need for further embellishments.  Rather than trying to reinforce our words with oaths and vows, we are to simply say, “Yes” or “No.”

We are to use the Name of the Lord rightly and in a way that pleases, not ourselves, but Him who calls us, as Luther addresses in the Small Catechism, the 1st Petition of the Lord’s Prayer: “God’s name is kept holy when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we, as the children of God, also lead holy lives according to it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But anyone who teaches or lives contrary to God’s Word profanes the name of God among us. Protect us from this, heavenly Father!”

So did Jesus speak all that the Father gave Him to speak.

His Word is Spirit and it is life (John 6:63).

So does Jesus speak rightly and truly in all that He says and makes known.

His yes was yes.  His no, no. All that He said He would do He did.

“Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and…He was buried, and…rose again the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3-4 NKJ)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus dispels the myth that the keeping of God’s law only has to do with making a good show before the world and doing right on the outside alone, or assuming justification before God because of what we believe to be right, contrary to His Holy Word.

Keeping the commandments means that one’s “righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees” (Matthew 5:20).

This means not first doing rightly according to the Law, but first believing rightly according to God’s revelation in Christ, having faith in God’s Son for the forgiveness of sins, and resting on Christ alone, and not at all on what you do at all for salvation or for anything else.

This truth extols Jesus Christ as the keeper and the doer of the commandments, the One Who had come, not to abolish, but to fulfill the Law and the Prophets, in their entirety (Matthew 5:17).

Jesus held no bitterness or hatred toward anyone, only true, agape (sacrificial) love, even toward those who crucified Him on the cross, even towards you, that you have life.  Jesus had and has a pure heart, desiring only your good.

He is faithful—always—to His Word and promise.  This He demonstrated, not with extra oaths and meaningless vows, but with the shedding of His blood on the cross, even that which is poured out, for you, for the forgiveness of sins.

Jesus alone is pure in heart.  As His Father is, so is He.

As His people, so do we seek to be, and so we seek to follow.

As children of God in Christ, so we believe – so we do. Amen.

 

Praying-Hands-Stretched-CanvasHeavenly Father, forgive me my sins.  I have sinned against You and ask for Your undeserved mercy in Christ Jesus. Help me to live according to Your Word and will. Amen.

 

 

Commemoration of Silas, fellow worker of St. Peter and St. Paul

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Feb 10 is a day commemorating Silas, Fellow Worker of St. Peter and St. Paul. Of this saint of God, the Commission on Worship on the LCMS website comments,

“Silas, a leader in the church at Jerusalem, was chosen by Paul (Acts 15:40) to accompany him on his second missionary journey from Antioch to Asia Minor and Macedonia. Silas, also known as Silvanus, was imprisoned with Paul in Philippi and experienced the riots in Thessalonica and Berea. After rejoining Paul in Corinth, he apparently remained there for an extended time. Beyond that there is little further mention of Silas and his association with Paul.” (Commemorations, Biography)

Another description, from Treasury of Daily Prayer, offers these additional words,

“Sometime later he (Silas) apparently joined the apostle Peter, likely serving as Peter’s secretary (1 Peter 5:12). Tradition says that Silas was the first bishop at Corinth.”

These words of comment leave us little to go on with reference to Silas.  It is a given that Paul and Peter both knew him, and that he served the Lord with them according to his calling.

We don’t know about his background like we do with Paul, formerly named Saul.

We don’t know his father or mother, his home country, or his occupation, if he had one prior to his conversion or after.

Little is given about this commemorated man of God.

Curiosity here, though, does not lead the faithful to speculations, lofty or not.  What we can know with certainty of any name referenced in the Bible is that which God reveals in that Word.  This alone is the “rule and norm,” our litmus by which all be tested.

Even here, however, we are left with limited knowledge of the man called Silas.

But to end speculation and wandering curiosity, we are simply left to ask, “What does God say?”—and then—“what does this mean?”—a good Lutheran question, to be sure, but qualified with an “according to the Word alone.”

Too often, the meaning of a thing is not left “as-is,” having confidence alone placed on the bare Word of God as given.

Rather, personal assumptions and sinfully contrived notions and “interpretations” are purported to reveal the true meaning, if not definitively, at least partially, “to me.”

Ego-centeredness and self-interest aside, we can only speak with certainty of Silas as given by Holy Scripture, and as mentioned earlier, there is little to go on, or so it would seem.

The name Silas occurs a total of 13 times, and only in the New Testament book of Acts.

That’s it!

Nowhere else does the name Silas occur.

Additionally, however, commentators connect the name Silvanus to Silas, which adds four more hits to the one today commemorated, once in 2 Corinthians, once in each of the two letters of Paul to the Thessalonians, and once in Peter’s first epistle.

This makes for a total of 17 instances where the name Silas, and Silvanus, appear in the New Testament writings.

In the latter four non-Acts occurrences of the name Silvanus, no lengthy narrative accompanies the name.

In Acts, the findings are quite distinct.

Without laboring you with more numbers, references to the man Silas in Acts connect readily to specific narratives and joined with the apostle Paul.

The first reference to Silas in the book of Acts is in relation to the Jerusalem synod of Chapter 15.

This is where “certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved’” (Acts 15:1 NKJ).

And also, where, “Some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, ‘It is necessary to circumcise (the converted Gentiles), and to command them to keep the law of Moses’” (Acts 15:5 NKJ).

The church came together and definitively said, “No… we believe and confess that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved in the same manner as they” (Acts 15:11).

In other words, not by being circumcised according to the Law of Moses is eternal life, but through faith in the Christ Jesus preached from Holy Scripture, whom Peter and Paul preached.

Silas doesn’t appear a main speaker of the meeting proper, like Peter had.  In fact, Silas doesn’t appear to speak at all there.

Yet, the apostles and elders, with the whole church (Acts 15:12), did send Silas, along with Paul, Barnabas, Judas, and Barsabas to Antioch with the letter, crafted to “Not trouble those form the Gentiles who are turning to God” (Acts 15:19).

Silas was known among them, among the “men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 15:26).

Also, he with Judas were considered by Luke to be “leading men among the brethren” (Acts 15:22 NKJ).

With Judas, Silas was to “Report the same things” of the letter “By word of mouth” (Acts 15:27).

This Silas did.

Judas and Silas “Exhorted the brethren” in Antioch, “With many words and strengthened them,” records Luke, relaying also that both were “leaders” and “themselves prophets” (Acts 15:32).

This meant that Silas spoke. Prophets speak.

Words not spoken by Silas at the Jerusalem synod were spoken elsewhere.

So, God gives His servants to speak as He will, where He will, with the Words to proclaim.

In the same chapter of Acts 15, Silas is the one who Paul chooses over Barnabas, to accompany him in visiting the brethren where they had “preached the word” (Acts 15:36).

This was where Paul and Barnabas contended about John Mark going with them, though he “had not gone with them to the work” (Acts 15:38).

Paul and Barnabas parted ways, the latter taking John Mark to Cyprus, the former taking Silas, “Being commended by the brethren to the grace of God” (Acts 15:40).

Next, we hear of Paul and Silas imprisoned, for the simple reason that Paul exorcised a demon from a girl, and her masters could no longer profit from her fortune-telling (Acts 16:19).

Of Paul and Silas, their accusers stated, “These men, being Jews, exceedingly trouble our city; “and they teach customs which are not lawful for us, being Romans, to receive or observe” (Acts 16:20-21 NKJ).

The preaching of Jesus is not politically correct.  Nor is the true doctrine accepted by all, neither is godly work recognized as such by the world.

The devil fights against Christ and seeks to silence and suppress the truth however he might.

Yet, Paul and Silas, in prison, prayed and sang “hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them” (Acts 16:25).

In the midst of their ordeal, they blessed God.

And in the midst of their ordeal, a jailer heard, asking, “What must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30).

The answer, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31).

The jailer and his household were baptized.  They believed God.

In two successive chapters, chapters 17 & 18, we find the remaining places where Silas is named in the book of Acts.

In chapter 17, Paul and Silas, still together in accompaniment, traveled to Berea, where the Jews “were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:10-11).

And, “Many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men” (Acts 17:12).

In chapter 18, when Paul was in Corinth, it was after “Silas and Timothy had come from Macedonia” that Paul “was constrained by the Spirit, and testified to the Jews that Jesus is the Christ” (Acts 18:5).

What the Lord reveals of Silas in these passages is not at all insignificant.  The Lord had Silas right where He wanted him to be.

Silas was God’s servant, a member of the household of God.

It was not Silas who was running the show or plotting out how he would serve.  It was God directing, God leading, God moving, God giving.

In such giving, moving, leading, and directing, so God’s servant served.

Though it is true that we know little of Silas’ background, life, personality, etc., we know what God makes known.  And what God reveals of Silas manifests, not Silas, but God and His work, God’s salvation and redemption.

By God’s grace and work, the Lord grant you the same. Amen.

 

Collect of the Day

Almighty and everlasting God, Your servant Silas preached the Gospel alongside the apostles Peter and Paul to the peoples of Asia Minor, Greece, and Macedonia.  We give you thanks for raising up in this and every land evangelists and heralds of Your kingdom, that the Church may continue to proclaim the unsearchable riches of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

“The Purification of Mary and the Presentation of our Lord,” Luke 2:22-40

Simeon&Jesus22When the time came for their purification according to the Law of Moses, [Mary and Joseph] brought [Jesus] up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23(as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every male who first opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”) 24and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the Law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.” 25Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said, 29“Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30for my eyes have seen your salvation  31that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel.”

      33And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35(and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.”

      36And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was advanced in years, having lived with her husband seven years from when she was a virgin, 37and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38And coming up at that very hour she began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem.

      39And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth. 40And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Of the accounts of our Lord Jesus, probably the most recognized are that of His birth, and that of His death and resurrection.  The birth of Jesus means God coming in the flesh, for you and for me, to save us from our sins, even as the writer to the Hebrews writes, “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same” (Hebrews 2:14).

The death of Jesus by crucifixion on Good Friday means that your sin has been dealt with in a real way and that it can no longer condemn you, as St. Paul writes, “In Him,” in Jesus, “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7).

The resurrection of our Lord Jesus from the dead means that you are no longer in your sins.

It means that your faith in the resurrected Christ is not futile (1 Corinthians 15:17).

It means that Jesus “has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.  For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.  But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Corinthians 15:21-23).

St. Peter also writes, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5).

Though the more familiar accounts of our Lord Jesus Christ might be that of His birth, death, and resurrection, not to mention the numerous works of God that He did before His death, like raising the dead, healing the sick, and casting out demons, and the wonderful Words which He spoke, less familiar might be the accounts of His early childhood, specifically, those early days of His life—those days shortly after His birth.

Of these days, St. Luke writes about in today’s Gospel.  Simply said, they are the accounts of 1Jesus’s presentation in the temple, 2the words of Simeon and his song which we call the Nunc Dimittis, and 3the account of Anna, who gave thanks to the Lord, having seen Jesus.

These three accounts serve as the outline for today’s message.

According to the Law of Moses, a woman who had given birth to a male child was considered unclean for a period of 40 days.  It was at this time that Mary and Joseph brought the child to the temple and gave their offering.  At this time, the first-born son was presented to the Lord.

As the first-born males of Egypt had died in the last plague before Pharaoh freed the children of Israel from their bondage in the Old Testament, so would the first-born males be redeemed by the sacrifice of an animal.

Now—the Sacrifice, He who would redeem—buy back—deliver, not only Israel, but Gentiles, all people—you—was being presented to the Lord, even according to the Law.

Being presented to the Lord in obedience to the Law, Jesus was The One who would redeem—buy back—deliver—you by His sacrifice, that you be acceptable to God.

In Jesus, you are acceptable to God, for He his The Sacrifice for your sins.

Through His blood, God cleanses you of all your sin once and for all (Hebrews 7:27; 9:12; 10:10).

Where sin is cleansed, “There is no longer an offering for sin” (Hebrews 10:18).

Jesus, coming into His temple—even as a baby just over a month old—is not without significance.

It is Jesus that we are talking about here(!), not a child conceived of man, but conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin.  Yet a baby Jesus at the time, none-the-less.

According to the eye, who would know Jesus to be the Savior of the World?

Who would know Jesus to be THE ONE through whom sin is forgiven?

Who would know that through Jesus, through that baby, there is peace with God?

Simeon was such a man, such a man who recognized Jesus for who He was.

He didn’t know this truth by sight.

He didn’t know that Jesus was THE ONE because of how Jesus looked, or because there was some sort of aura about Him.

Jesus appeared as any other baby boy that had been brought to the temple.

So how did Simeon know what He did about Jesus?

Was it through the local or the national news channel?

Was it through an emotionally, charismatically charged, excited televangelist?

Was it through e-mail or social media?

None of these, of course, revealed to single Simeon that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah come into the world.

It was by God’s Spirit alone that Simeon knew the identity of the child Jesus brought into the temple.

No other way would he have known.

No other way do you know the truth of Jesus’ identity except by God’s Spirit—God’s Spirit working through the Word of God—God’s Spirit working faith in your hearts that you believe in Jesus according to that Word.

It is through God’s Word that God makes known to you His will, that you forsake your will and tendencies and instead, to follow Him—to trust in Him alone and not in the things of this world, as tempting as they might be.

According to the Word of God, we know that Jesus is the Consolation, not only of Israel, but of all people, Jew and Gentile alike.

In Him, and in Him alone, is their rest on every side (Matthew 11:28-30).

In Him, and in Him alone, do you have peace within, even if everything else does not appear so.

Even as few believe the Words of our Lord, we pray that God give strength that we remain firm to the end.

We pray that the Lord work faith in the hearts of those who disbelieve, that they too know of God’s grace in Christ.

We pray that they too see Christ, that they not go according to what they see, what think they know, or according to disbelief, but take hold of the bare Scriptures and have them as they are, that they too see the salvation of God, even as we do, and even as Simeon did.

By God’s grace, Simeon received the promise of God and was ready to “depart,” even to die, “in peace”.

The Lord’s salvation in Christ gives such readiness.

We don’t know how old Simeon really was, but seeing the Lord’s Christ, the promise of God having been fulfilled, it doesn’t matter.  According to the Lord’s Word, any who are in Christ, regardless of age, are ready to “depart in peace”, for Christ is their peace.

Having heard the Lord’s Word, His promise of salvation fulfilled in Christ, the expected ONE having come, we too are ready.  You need nothing else—nothing else but Christ, and Him God has sent, Him God has given.

In our liturgies, we boldly confess having this Christ, even as Simeon had.

Note the location of Simeon’s song, also called the Nunc Dimittis, in today’s Divine Service, not yet sung.

The words in part read,

“Lord now You let Your servant go in peace; Your word has been fulfilled. My own eyes have seen the salvation which You have prepared in the sight of every people.”

Such blessed words, parallel with those of Simeon who beheld Jesus and held him in his arms, are also those blessed words of those who behold the Christ in body and blood and bread and wine of the Sacrament of the Altar.

No mere ordinance keeping memorial meal at all here.

Jesus, giving His very body and blood for your salvation, the forgiveness of your sins.

We sing the song of Simeon, the Nunc Dimittis, because just as Simeon, so also do we see the Lord’s Christ in Holy Communion, according to the Lord’s Word.

His Word means something.

He says what He means and means what He says.

Only those of Christ and having faith in Christ, look to Christ for freedom from sin, death, and hell.  There is no other to turn to.  There is no other lasting comfort.  He alone is sufficient.  And for this ONE, Anna gave thanks to the Lord and spoke “of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem”.

The one who hears such words and believes, who has seen the Lord’s Christ and so confesses Him to be the Lord, can’t help but give thanks, as the Psalmist says,

“Oh, give thanks to the LORD! Call upon His name; Make known His deeds among the peoples! Sing to Him, sing psalms to Him; Talk of all His wondrous works! Glory in His holy name; Let the hearts of those rejoice who seek the LORD!” (Psalm 105:1-3).

The Lord Christ was brought into the temple according to the Lord’s will at that time by his parents, as recorded in St. Luke’s Gospel.

Anna, by God’s grace, was also given to see the child, as Simeon had.

With a thankful heart she spoke of Jesus—with a thankful heart because of the Lord’s kindness to her in making Himself known.

It is like this with you, too.

In Jesus, God makes known to you your salvation.

He makes known to you your peace with God.

This is all His doing.

Readily does our Lord do this—by means of His Word.

By means of His Word, you, like Anna and like Simeon, are given the very gifts God gives you—Jesus, Jesus—your hope—and Jesus—your Savior and salvation.

We close with words from Luther: “Whosoever has this Savior, the Savior of God, may have a peaceful, quiet heart.  For though death be as terrible, the sin as mighty, the devil as evil and poisonous as he ever will, yet we have the Savior of God, that is, an almighty, eternal Savior; He is strong enough to move us out of death into life, out of sin into righteousness.” Amen.

 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, by means of Your Word alone, give me faith to believe Your Son to be my Savior and so rejoice in Him all my days. Amen.

 

“Jesus, the Great Light,” Matthew 4:12-25

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.”

17From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

      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.

      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.

jesus-with-word-and-sacramentIn the Name of Jesus. Amen.

 “Jesus Christ is the Light of the World.”  “The Light no darkness can overcome” (Evening Prayer, Lutheran Service Book, p243, based on John 8:12; 1:5)

These words which begin the liturgy for Evening Prayer apply here and now just as much as the words from St. Matthew’s Gospel now apply.  Isaiah the prophet, writing hundreds of years earlier by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, prophesied of the Light which was to come (Isaiah 9:1-2).  That Light was Christ.  That Light is Christ.

Jesus had left Nazareth to live in the city of Capernaum, which just touched the Sea of Galilee on the Northwest side.  And there, “the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadows of death, on them a light has dawned”.

There, in Capernaum, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, Jesus preached and taught and healed.

There, where Jesus did these things, where Jesus does these things, the Light does shine, for Christ is the Light, the true Light, “The true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world,” and “The light that no darkness can overcome” (John 1:9).

Where Christ is, there are His gracious gifts of live and salvation given—in Word, and water, and bread and wine.  There you can be sure that the Light is brightly shining, casting away sorrow and despair and instead, giving hope and courage.

Even should that Light appear dim, or hidden, it still shines.  This we know on account of God’s Holy Word.  His Word is true.  God is faithful to His promises.

Though your eyes not see, God works in real time through Jesus Christ, who has literally stepped into our world, taken all despondency, all worries, all despair, and all death, with Him to the cross.

Though when Jesus was on the cross there was darkness, that darkness did not remain.  There was that Easter morn, when Christ rose victoriously from the grave.

The light of Christ’s resurrection continues to shine forth.  It still shines brightly.

No darkness can overcome Christ, who Himself says, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12).  There might be some who try, but even behind the clouds, the sun still shines, and shines ever the more brightly.

Even if there be rain or snow, even if the day be foggy and dreary, behind all that is the sun.

So also, in your days of dreariness or rain or snow, the S-O-N is still present.  He is still there keeping His Word, sustaining, preserving, and keeping a people for Himself through His Means of Grace, and giving confidence and joy in the blessed life and hope which is yours on account of His piercing through the darkness of your sin and overcoming it.

Your life now has meaning.  No more same old same old day in day out mediocre meaningless life, but the life of anticipation, joy, and rejoicing.

The Light of Christ still shines, and shines upon you.  “This is the day the Lord has made”, the Psalmist says, “We will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24).

St. Paul writes, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!” (Philippians 4:4).

And our Lord Jesus Himself says, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Because Jesus has indeed overcome the world, done away with all that separates you from God, you have every reason not to fear God’s judgment and wrath.

If you have no reason to fear God’s judgment and wrath, you have no reason to fear what comes your way in the world, even suffering or death.

“Set your mind on things above,” St. Paul says, “not on things on the earth. For you died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is our life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:2-4).

“If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (Romans 8:31-34).

The joy which you have in Christ no one can take away.  You have God’s promise of life and salvation through His Son.

God demonstrated His love for you and to you in Jesus, His only begotten Son, who poured out His blood for the forgiveness of all your sins.

These things must be so, for God has declared them.

Even if few believe that Christ died on the cross to save them from their sins or that only in Jesus does one have peace with God, unbelief doesn’t change the fact that Jesus has come.  (See Small Catechism, Lord’s Prayer: 1st – 4th Petitions and meanings; Creed: Explanation to 3rd Article).

So also, even if few believe that the light of Christ still shines today where His Word is preached rightly and in truth and where His Sacraments are given according to their institution, unbelief doesn’t change the fact that Jesus does come where He promises to be.

Unbelief does not change what is true.

The truth that Jesus fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy when He came to dwell in Capernaum, in a real place and in real time in history, does not change if one disbelieves it.

We don’t add to, nor do we take away from, what is right and true.  We either believe it or we do not.

In like manner, we do not allow or permit God to do anything, as if we had the final word.  He does not walk with us or help us because we permit Him to.  He is God—the Creator.  We are human—His creation.  He is the One who acts.  We are only the recipients of what He deems to give.

As we take God at His Word, we receive His good pleasure.  Such is faith.  It does not say to God, “Here’s how it is or here’s how it will be,” but rather, “Your will be done.”

All who would have things in and by their own hands and fight against God’s Word and will certainly do not have God’s good pleasure—only His wrath and judgment, for this is to reject God’s grace and favor.

But to be done to by God, according to His Word, in the light of Christ—and only in the light of Christ—means nothing but blessing and good (i.e. Psalm 32:1-2; Romans 4:7-8).

The Gospel text before us demonstrates this.

The people who sat in darkness and those who sat in the region and shadow of death did not suddenly decide to turn the light switch on and have Christ come to them.  They were done to. They saw a great light because that light came from outside of them, not from within them to do anything.  On them the Light had dawned.

In the same way, Christ comes to you, not because you ask Him too, but because of who He is, because He is the compassionate Son of God who seeks to save sinners, who seeks to save you.

 It is not the world who first loved God.  It is God who first loved the world (1 John 4:19).

The world still does not love God—nor His Son.  The world speaks against Him, denies Him, and persecutes His dear children.  The world refuses to hear the truth but will hear everything else.

Yet, God still loves the world (John 3:16), not because of what the world does, but because of who He is, because God is the God of love, the God of love (1 John 4:7, 10) who does not turn a blind eye to sin or look the other way, but the God who sends His only Son to give Himself in sacrifice to save those who cannot save themselves.

It is not you who first loved God.  It is He who first loved you (1 John 4:19).

It is not you who first chose Him.  He, rather, first chose you.

By nature, we do not and cannot fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

Because of our sinful condition, we, of ourselves, cannot please God.

But the Good News is this, that God’s Son is the One who pleases His Father in everything.  And because Jesus is pleasing to the Father, through Him, you are pleasing to the Father.

Jesus is the One who disperses your darkness.  No more is the fear of eternal death over your heads.  No more do you need to fear the darkness of death nor the shadows of your sin.  Christ, your Light, is come.  Christ, your Light, does come.  He comes feeding you with His Holy Word.

“Man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew/Luke 4:4).

Jesus Christ is that bread, the true bread from heaven.

Jesus is the Word, the Word made flesh who was with God in the beginning and who is Himself God (John 1:1ff).

You need not fear God because of your sin, your guilt, or your shame. All these were put on Christ. They no more can harm you.  They cannot change how God is toward you, your dear heavenly Father, because through Jesus, God declares you holy and without sin.  The Father now accepts you—because of Christ.

As Christ is the Light of the world, and the Light no darkness can overcome, as Christ is your Light, so it is by His Light that you walk.

The Word of the Lord, says the Psalmist, “Is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).

Again, the Psalmist says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom shall I fear.  The Lord is the strength of my life, of whom shall I be afraid?” (Psalm 27:1).

With the Psalmist, so also do we too declare these things to be so.

By God’s Word you do know the way.  By His Word and His Word alone you seek to walk, not in darkness, but in the light, even the Light of Christ.

All Scripture testifies and bears witness to Jesus your Savior.

As you are His, so do you seek to do.

You confess the Lord Jesus to be Savior, your Savior.  You speak and hallow His Name. You speak the truth.  And you are not ashamed.  Amen.

Praying-Hands-Stretched-CanvasPrayer: Lord Jesus, be the light of my life.  Give me faith to believe Your Promises each and every moment of each and every day, that I be sure of Your faithfulness according to Your Holy Word. Amen.

God is the God of the Living, Luke 20:27-40

27 Then some of the Sadducees, who deny that there is a resurrection, came to Him and asked Him, 28 saying: “Teacher, Moses wrote to us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife, and he dies without children, his brother should take his wife and raise up offspring for his brother. 29 “Now there were seven brothers. And the first took a wife, and died without children. 30 “And the second took her as wife, and he died childless. 31 “Then the third took her, and in like manner the seven also; and they left no children, and died. 32 “Last of all the woman died also. 33 “Therefore, in the resurrection, whose wife does she become? For all seven had her as wife.” 34 And Jesus answered and said to them, “The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage. 35 “But those who are counted worthy to attain that age, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; 36 “nor can they die anymore, for they are equal to the angels and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection. 37 “But even Moses showed in the burning bush passage that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord `the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ 38 “For He is not the God of the dead but of the living, for all live to Him.” 39 Then some of the scribes answered and said, “Teacher, You have spoken well.” 40 But after that they dared not question Him anymore.”

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

In St. Paul’s second epistle to the Thessalonians, today’s Epistle, we hear the emphasis of what was to be in time to come.

“Now…concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together to Him, we ask you, not to be soon shaken in mind or troubled, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as if from us, as though the day of Christ had come” (2 Thess. 2:1-2).

In today’s Gospel, we hear reference to Exodus chapter three, what is now.

“Even Moses showed in the burning bush passage that the dead are raised, when he called the Lord ‘the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’” (v37).

The context is this-In today’s Gospel, the Sadducees, a group of religious leaders in the Jewish community of Jesus’ day, tried to trick him.

The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, nor angels or spirit (Acts 23:8).

They assumed that Jesus would have no plausible defense to give.

They were wrong!

More than simply disproving them, Jesus reveals their false teaching and their unbelief in a doctrine which is found throughout Scripture.

Of this teaching, Jesus testifies, using text with which they were familiar.  This doctrine of which we speak is the doctrine of the resurrection, the very doctrine that the Sadducees disbelieved and the very doctrine which today still has opposition.

Usually when we think of the doctrine of the resurrection, we rightly consider the resurrection of our Lord Jesus from the dead on the third day.

Of this resurrection, Jesus Himself testified to before He died, and proved His Words to be true in rising from the dead, showing His hands and His side to His disciples, eating food in their midst, and ascending into heaven.

Of this resurrection of our Lord, Peter and John, and the other disciples, now apostles, and later Paul himself bore witness of, so that even the rulers of the people, “When they saw the boldness of Peter and John,” for example, “and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marveled. And they realized that they had been with Jesus” (Acts 4:13).

The message of the early church immediately following the ascension of Christ into heaven was His resurrection from the dead.

St. Paul writes, “If there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen.   And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.   Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up — if in fact the dead do not rise. 16 For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen.   And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!   Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.   If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.   But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.   For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead.   For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.   But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming” (1 Corinthians 15:13-23).

This same message that death did not hold Christ is also your own, for by it do you have the hope of eternal life.

Sin was put to death on Christ’s cross.

There, on that cross, Jesus said, “It is finished.”

He completed all the work that was needing to be done for your salvation (John 19:30).

There, on that cross, Jesus paid the debt of your sin in full.

To demonstrate that death has no more dominion over Him, or over you, Jesus rose from the dead on the third day.

Through His death and resurrection, God gives you certainty of sins forgiven, the certainty that just as Christ rose from the dead, so shall you.

When we think of resurrection in the New Testament, we most certainly consider Christ’s resurrection, from whose resurrection we have the confidence of our own resurrection on the Last day.

Other resurrections, too, we find in the New Testament, which all point to Him who has power over death and the grave and through whom we too have the victory, through faith (1 John 5:4).

We might think of Jairus’ daughter, whom Jesus spoke to and said, “‘Little girl, arise.’   Then her spirit returned, and she arose immediately. And He commanded that she be given something to eat” (Luke 8:54-55).

We might think of the account where Jesus “Went into a city called Nain; and many of His disciples went with Him, and a large crowd.   And when He came near the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother; and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the city was with her.   When the Lord saw her, He had compassion on her and said to her, ‘Do not weep.’   Then He came and touched the open coffin, and those who carried him stood still. And He said, ‘Young man, I say to you, arise.’  So he who was dead sat up and began to speak. And He presented him to his mother.   Then fear came upon all, and they glorified God” (Luke 7:11-16).

We also might think of the account of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, even after Lazarus had been in the tomb for four days, where “Jesus lifted up His eyes and said, ‘Father, I thank You that You have heard Me.   And I know that You always hear Me, but because of the people who are standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.’”  The text goes on and says, “Now when He had said these things, He cried with a loud voice, ‘Lazarus, come forth!’   And he who had died came out bound hand and foot with graveclothes, and his face was wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, ‘Loose him, and let him go.’” (John 11:41-44).

St. Matthew also records the account of dead saints being raised from the dead following the death of Christ on the cross and appearing to many (Matthew 27:52-53).

Indeed, we rightly look to the New Testament to find the doctrine of the resurrection, the bodies of the deceased rising from the dead.

Also do we find this truth revealed in the Old Testament, too, for the God of the New Testament is the same as the God of the Old Testament.

The prophets Elijah and then Elisha both were used of God as instruments through whom God resurrected the dead.

Through Elijah, God returned life to a widow’s son who had died, of whom Elijah gave to his mother and said, “See, your son lives.  Then the woman said to Elijah, ‘Now by this I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth’” (1 Kings 17:23-24).

Elisha also was used of God to raise a dead boy again to life again (2 Kings 4:87-37, Son of a Shunammite woman).

There is also the account of the prophet Ezekiel’s vision of the valley of dry bones, where Ezekiel writes, “The hand of the LORD came upon me and brought me out in the Spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones.   Then He caused me to pass by them all around, and behold, there were very many in the open valley; and indeed they were very dry.   And He said to me, ‘Son of man, can these bones live?’ So I answered, ‘O Lord GOD, You know.’   Again He said to me, ‘Prophesy to these bones, and say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!’   ‘Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones: Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live.   I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the LORD.’” (Ezekiel 37:1-6).  What the Lord had told Ezekiel to do, He did, and because there is power in the Word of God, those very things came to pass.

These accounts in the Old Testament testify to the resurrection in the Old Testament.

But there’s more.

The Sadducees in today’s Gospel reading challenged Jesus using what Moses had written in the book of Deuteronomy about a brother marrying his brother’s widow should his brother die.

Hear the account as recorded in Deuteronomy 25, “If brothers dwell together, and one of them dies and has no son, the widow of the dead man shall not be married to a stranger outside the family; her husband’s brother shall go in to her, take her as his wife, and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her.   And it shall be that the firstborn son which she bears will succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel” (Deuteronomy 25:5-6).

The Sadducees attempted to give a hypothetical situation of seven brothers having had the same wife, based on these words of Moses, to discredit Jesus.

They didn’t believe in the resurrection of the dead and they thought that they had Him.

They didn’t.

The Sadducees, by saying what they said, only demonstrated their ignorance of “the Scriptures” and “the power of God” (Matthew 22:29 || Mark 12:24).

God had instituted the estate of marriage between man and woman after creating Adam and Eve, for He says, “A man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

In the resurrection, Jesus says, there will not be marriage nor will there be any given in marriage.

Those who attain to the resurrection of the just are like the angels.

Note, however, that Jesus does not say that they become angels, as is falsely believed today.

We don’t become angels when we die.  We don’t get wings either.

Rather will we have bodies untainted by sin, without the aches and pains of aging, and glorified bodies with no pre-existent conditions with which to be concerned.

Also, to note concerning Jesus’ answer to the deluded Sadducees is the clear reference He makes to Moses and the burning bush.

Even in the second book of the Old Testament, the book of Exodus, there is reference to the resurrection, as we heard in today’s Old Testament reading, where it is written that “Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’ “ God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations” (Exodus 3:13-15).

God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.  This must mean that, though Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are no more living in flesh and blood on this earth, still are they living, for God is their God.

This is what it means when we speak of the saints who are now with the Lord.

They are living, for God is the God of the living, not of the dead.

In Christ, we await the blessed consummation of the ages, when we in the flesh will join the deceased at the joyous feast of the Lord in all eternity.

When we speak of saints who are now with the Lord, we do not mean all people who have died, for the Holy Scriptures are very clear in making distinctions between believers and unbelievers, and those who have the sure hope of everlasting life from those who do not.

Saints are they who died in the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The difference between them and us is this: their struggle with sin and death are over; ours still goes on.

They stand in the Lord’s presence face to face; we, not yet.

We yet undergo trial and affliction in this life.  They do not, but are completely at rest and at peace, awaiting the resurrection of their bodies from the grave.

The saints above and we saints below join together as the community of God’s Holy people in praise and glory to God most High.

God is the God of the saints above, and the God of us who are yet here in the flesh.

Their present joy is your future hope.

Heaven is your true home, not a house built by human hand, but the glorious abode prepared for those who trust in Jesus, who is “The resurrection and the life” (John 11:25).

The words of Job which are the basis of that tried and tested hymn of the Christian faith concerning the resurrection are also your own, “I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God, Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another” (Job 19:25-27).

We confess these words with Job and we know them to be true because of He who died on Calvary and was raised on the third day.

You know that in Him, God forgives your sins and that you no longer are under God’s judgment, but rather do you have His grace and mercy, through Christ Jesus our Lord.

You have no need to fear God’s wrath, that wrath being taken away in Jesus.

In Jesus, you know that God is the God of the living, the living One, and your God, who keeps His Word and fulfills His promises.

The God of the living will keep you and sustain you a people unto Himself.

He will not leave you nor forsake you (Hebrews 13:5).

He will not leave you as orphans (John 14:18).

To Him you live, for He gives you life, that you remain in Him.

His Word is effective; His love-abundant; His mercy, abounding; His mercy, given, in His Son; Yours. Amen.

 

Prayer: Your Holy Word, O Lord, is effective and true. Give me faith to believe this of all Holy Scripture, that I believe Jesus to be the Christ and have the certainty of the resurrection unto eternal life. Amen.

 

 

“Jesus, the Lamb of God,” John 1:29-42

 

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.”

      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.  

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Jesus-Abraham1 The first and chief article is this, that Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, “was put to death for our trespasses and raised again for our justification” (Rom. 4:25). 2 He alone is “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). “God has laid upon him the iniquities of us all” (Isa. 53:6). 3 Moreover, “all have sinned,” and “they are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus, by his blood” (Rom. 3:23-25).

4 Inasmuch as this must be believed and cannot be obtained or apprehended by any work, law, or merit, it is clear and certain that such faith alone justifies us, as St. Paul says in Romans 3, “For we hold that a man is justified by faith apart from works of law” (Rom. 3:28), and again, “that he [God] himself is righteous and that he justifies him who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26).

5 Nothing in this article can be given up or compromised,6 even if heaven and earth and things temporal should be destroyed. For as St. Peter says, “There is no (tr-463) other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). “And with his stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:5). (Smalcald Articles, Part II,  Article I. Christ and Faith)

About 70 hymns in our hymnal use the word “Lamb” in one or more verses, and more often than not, lamb refers, not to a child of God, but to Jesus.

Take for instance the hymn entitled, “The Lamb,” often sung during the season of Lent (and in the section entitled, “Redeemer,” LSB 547).  The first verse alone is pregnant with meaning, and quite related to today’s Gospel:

            The Lamb, the Lamb, O Father, where’s the sacrifice?

            Faith sees, believes God will provide the Lamb of price!

In the book of Genesis, Moses records the account of Abraham, whom God commanded to sacrifice his son, his only son, Isaac.  Abraham, in obedience to the Lord’s Word, sets out to do just this.  But just as Abraham is about to sacrifice his only son, whom he loves, the Lord stops him, and provides a substitute sacrifice, and Abraham called the name of the place, “The Lord will provide” (Genesis 22).  “God will provide the Lamb of price!”

The hymn, “The Lamb” is just one example of many where the word lamb refers to none other than Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Do a search in the hymnal on the phrase, “Lamb of God,” and you find about 25 times that this phrase is used.

Significantly, all of the references to “Lamb of God” in these hymns are of Christ.

The hymn, “When All the World Was Cursed,” an Advent hymn, is such a hymn (LSB 346).  The third verse of this meaningful hymn reads:

            Behold the Lamb of God That bears the world’s transgression,

            Whose sacrifice removes The devil’s dread oppression.

            Behold the Lamb of God, Who takes away our sin,

            Who for our peace and joy Will full atonement win.

In a number of our hymns, we confess Christ as the Lamb of God.  Of this we need not be ashamed or hesitant, for Christ, by means of His death, has indeed done so.

There is another place in the hymnal that we confess and sing praise to the Lamb.  That place is the liturgy, even in today’s, where we sing the “Agnus Dei,” Latin for “Lamb of God.”

Based on John 1:29, St. John’s words about Jesus in today’s text, the Agnus Dei which we sing in our communion liturgies is of Christ, “that takest away the sin of the world—have mercy upon us” (LSB DS III, 198).  Here we also pray for the peace of Christ, that which we are not able to live without.

With this song of praise and acclamation of Christ and what He has truly done, we also note the location of such words in our liturgies.  We do not sing the Agnus Dei when Holy Communion is not offered.  But when it is, we certainly do.  The Agnus Dei is sung just after the Words of Institution and the Pax Domini, the Peace, and before the Distribution of Christ’s very body and blood (i.e. see LSB DS III, 197-199).

This is meant to say something.  By it, like John the Baptist, we declare the truth that Christ is truly and really present among us, and for us, in the Sacrament, according to His Word, according to His promise, “This is My Body…This is My Blood…Given for you for the forgiveness of your sins.”

Christ really and truly is present for you, forgiving you your sins and having mercy on you, even granting you peace.

And how do you know this?  Not at all because you see it, feel it, or sense it—but because of the Word of God which makes it known.

This Word is your certainty, and your reason for believing, for it is not the word of man, but the very Word of God.

Sight fades.  Feelings come and go.  Senses mislead.  But not our Lord!  Not His Word.

The words of our Lord are your confidence and foundation, your stand against all the naysayers and disbelievers.  Here, too, you are to know that not man’s word, but God’s Word, is and remains.

It is the Word of the Lord that John the Baptist proclaimed when he said of Jesus, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”  God had made it clear to John that this Jesus was the Son of God (John 1:34)—in the flesh—the Messiah to come—the Lamb of God.

Of This Servant of the Lord, Isaiah the prophet writes,

“Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted.  But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.  He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth.  He was taken from prison and from judgment, And who will declare His generation?  For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken” (Isaiah 53:4-8).

The Lord’s Servant of whom Isaiah speaks is Jesus the Christ, the Messiah, the Lamb of God.  The prophet writes of Him.  John declared Him.  This is He whom we sing and confess to be our Savior and the Savior of the world.

This Jesus, God’s Servant, is the Lamb of God who bears all your guilt, all your sin, and all your iniquity.  This Jesus is your Savior.  He is your Savior because by His sacrifice on the cross, the Lord has provided your peace with God.  In Jesus IS your peace with God.

Being in the world, Christ also died for you, for you are in the world.  None are excluded from His glorious and salvific work.  Your sin is not too great nor your works too evil, for Christ died for all.  Nor are your sins little before the just judge.  They merit your eternal death.  But this is just what makes Jesus’ work so kind and giving.  He dies that you might live.  He becomes the sinner that you might be the saint.  He becomes unclean that you might be nothing but clean and holy.

There is one Savior, and one Savior only.  It is He who redeemed you, not “with corruptible things, like silver or gold…but with His precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot,” as St. Peter writes, and as we confess in the 2nd Article of the Apostles’ Creed.

This Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, has taken away all your sin.  This means that your sin is no longer yours.  Believe Him to be your Savior and so He is, for so He says.  Look for another to save you and your sin will remain on you.

If you bear your own sin, you will die in it.  But if Christ bears your sin, you will live.

Jesus came in order that you live, therefore, in Him, you do.

Therefore, writes Luther, “May you ever cherish and treasure this thought. Christ is made a servant of sin, yea, a bearer of sin, and the lowliest and most despised person. He destroys all sin by Himself and says: “I came not to be served but to serve” (Matt. 20:28). There is no greater bondage than that of sin; and there is no greater service than that displayed by the Son of God, who becomes the servant of all, no matter how poor, wretched, or despised they may be, and bears their sins.[1]

Thus do we gladly, and joyfully, as John did, look to Christ, and find Jesus alone to be our Lord and Savior, encouraging one another in this truth—in Word, in Hymn, in Liturgy, and in Life. Amen.

 

[1]Martin Luther, vol. 22, Luther’s Works, Vol. 22 : Sermons on the Gospel of St. John: Chapters 1-4, ed. Jaroslav Jan Pelikan, Hilton C. Oswald and Helmut T. Lehmann, Luther’s Works (Saint Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1999, c1957), 22:166.

 

Prayer: Dear Jesus, give me faith to believe that you take away all my sins, according to Your Holy Word. Amen.

 

 

 

 

The Baptism of our Lord, Matthew 3:13-17

13Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16And 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; 17and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The text before us is a text is a most amazing text. Jesus, “the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made,” this same Jesus came to John the Baptist for the purpose of being baptized by him in the Jordan river (Nicene Creed).

This is a most strange, yet wonderful, doing of our Lord.

It is most strange because John’s baptism was a “baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4; Luke 3:3).

John the Baptist preached the message, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near” (Matthew 3:1).

Those who came to John to be baptized by him were repentant, that is, they were sorry for their sins.

They came confessing their sins, for they were sinners.

John’s preaching of repentance was a call to turn from unbelief to belief in the Lord and His word and promises.

This is what is strange about Jesus coming to John the Baptist to be baptized by him—Jesus had nothing to repent of.

Jesus was without sin (Hebrews 4:15).  He had no need for forgiveness, for remission of sins, or for pardon.  Jesus had no sins to confess that were His own.  He was complete, whole, and without blemish.

It was not Jesus who needed forgiveness.  It was John himself and all who came to him who needed redemption, everyone else but Jesus.

For this reason, we might be able to understand John’s hesitation to baptize Jesus and why he said what he did when he said to Jesus, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?”

John knew and understood that Jesus was upright.  He recognized that Jesus was mightier, the greater, the Righteous (Matthew 3:11; John 3:30).

John understood that his baptizing was a baptism of repentance, a baptism for sinners.  Jesus was not a sinner.

Jesus needed no baptism.

This was the dilemma for John.

Jesus coming to him to be baptized by him did not make sense.

This is that strange thing concerning the text—Jesus, a non-sinner, comes to John to be baptized by him who baptizes sinners.

Fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness

As strange and incredible as Jesus coming to John to be baptized by him is, his coming to John to be baptized by him is also the wonderful doing of our Lord.

Jesus came to John to be baptized by him, not because He, that is, Jesus, had any sin of His person or because of anything that He had done wrong, did do wrong, or would do wrong.

 Jesus remained as sinless before His baptism as after His baptism.

Rather, Jesus came to John to be baptized by him because by doing so, He identified Himself with sinners and as a sinner, really, not only as “a” sinner, but “the” sinner.

By undergoing a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, Jesus identified Himself as THE ONE on whom all sin would rest—THE ONE on whom God’s judgment would rest—THE ONE who would stand in the place of a sinful people and be THE substitute for sinners, both in suffering their judgment for their sin and for fulfilling all righteousness by keeping God’s Law.

Jesus would be the one, who with John, would fulfill all righteousness: John, by baptizing Jesus; and Jesus, by being baptized by John as a sinner, though He knew no sin, even as St. Paul testifies, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

On the cross of Calvary, Jesus paid for your sins and mine.

By His being baptized, Jesus identified Himself as your substitute, even your righteousness, before God.

Jesus did not need to be baptized for Himself.

He had no sin for which to give answer.

However, for you was He baptized, that you not rest on your own doings for salvation, but on Him—and on Him alone—that you rest your hope and confidence in Christ and none other.

God the Father also testifies to this, for the voice from heaven declared, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

If Jesus’ baptism had not pleased the Father, the Father would not have said what He had said.

Nor would the Spirit have descended and rested upon Jesus.

The events of that day give evidence to God’s approval of His Son, and the approval of His work—a sin bearer and Savior for all of mankind.

John permitted Jesus to be baptized by him

John humbly consented to baptizing Jesus.

He did not refuse Jesus his request.

John did not resist Jesus’ Word because he didn’t understand it.

He simply let the Word of the Lord take the lead.

He permitted to be what the Lord had spoken.

Even though John was less than Jesus and Jesus the greater, John abided by the Word of the Lord, and, filling his office, he did according to the Word that the Lord gave Him to do.

This is no small thing.

It is the work of God that the sinner give in to God’s Word, believe it, and do it.

This is not the work of sinful man, but the grace of God to believe, even should one not know the reason for doing so—except that God say it.

Initially, John tried to prevent Jesus from being baptized.  But at the Lord’s Word, he let it be.

This is what the Lord’s disciples do.

They let God’s Word be as it is—God’s Word—without equivocation, without misrepresentation, without falsification, and without reinterpretation.

They permit God’s Word to speak as it is, and on that alone do they rest their case, believe, and do.

The heaven’s opened—Jesus, the Spirit (as a dove), the Father (voice)—The Holy Trinity—The words of the Father–This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased

And then what do we see?

John permits Jesus to be baptized.

Jesus, so humbly, is baptized by the baptizer.  And the heavens are opened.  The Holy Spirit descends as a dove and rests upon Jesus.  There is a voice from the opened heaven.  And the voice of the Heavenly Father says, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”

What else can this mean but that Jesus is the one with whom the Father is well pleased?

What else can this mean but that Jesus, the one who “numbered” Himself “with the transgressors and…bore the sin of many,” who later “poured out His soul unto death, even the death of the cross” (Isaiah 53:12; Philippians 2:8) is your Savior, Redeemer, and deliverer from sin, death, and hell?

What else can these words of the Father about His Son mean than that in Jesus, you too, are well pleasing to the Father?

Christ, serving as your substitute, as the sinner of all sinners, means that all your sin is off you and on Him.

If your sin be on Him, your sin is not on you.

Therefore, that sin, your sin, is no more your judgement, for in Christ, that judgment is no more.

“He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many” (Hebrews 9:26-28), even your sins.

“He redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13).

All this means that the Father’s words about His Son now also apply to you—because of Jesus.

Because the Father is pleased with His beloved Son, and that Son fulfilled all righteousness and put to death your sins on the cross that they be no more, the Father is now pleased with you on account of Jesus.

No more trying to impress God or earn His favor!

Only believe Jesus, your Advocate (1 John 2:1) and Mediator (1 Timothy 2:4), and you have a gracious God.

Like John, permit this to be so.

Suffer the words of Jesus and the words of the Father.

Remember your Baptism, for as Paul says, “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:3-4, epistle).

Since both Jesus and the Father looked highly upon the baptism of Jesus, so also are you to look upon Christ’s baptism for you, and even your own baptism, for you were baptized in the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

God’s Name is no Name to minimize—it is the only Name to regard as High and mighty.

That Name is on you through water and Word.

Should you ever wonder God’s disposition towards you, should you ever doubt God’s favor upon you, should you ever be uncertain that your sins are forgiven, or should you ever find yourself questioning whether your sin is too great for God to forgive, look to Christ.

Hold fast to Christ’s Word, “You are forgiven.”

Be bold to say, “God’s own child I gladly say it, I am baptized into Christ,” for so you are.

Through Baptism, God calls you His own.  You are His.

Also be bold to say, “Christ was baptized for me,” for so He was.

This is just the kind of Savior that you have in Jesus, One who truly saves, in whom you can say with certainty, “I am His, and He is mine.”  Amen.

 

Prayer: Heavenly Father, in Holy Baptism, You made me Your own through water and Word.  Help me not to despise this, Your work, claiming it as my own, but to believe in your grace and favor to me through Your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen.

 

 

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