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“Jesus is the Resurrection and the Life,” John 11:1-53

 

For an audio podcast, go here.

 

The Reading…

1Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. 3So the sisters sent to him, saying, “Lord, he whom you love is ill.” 4But when Jesus heard it he said, “This illness does not lead to death. It is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.”

      5Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. 7Then after this he said to the disciples, “Let us go to Judea again.” 8The disciples said to him, “Rabbi, the Jews were just now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?” 9Jesus answered, “Are there not twelve hours in the day? If anyone walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10But if anyone walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him.” 11After saying these things, he said to them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him.” 12The disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover.” 13Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14Then Jesus told them plainly, “Lazarus has died, 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.” 16So Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, “Let us also go, that we may die with him.”

      17Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20So when Martha Jesus.EmptyTombheard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, but Mary remained seated in the house. 21Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” 23Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” 24Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” 25Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?” 27She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

      28When she had said this, she went and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” 29And when she heard it, she rose quickly and went to him. 30Now Jesus had not yet come into the village, but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31When the Jews who were with her in the house, consoling her, saw Mary rise quickly and go out, they followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to weep there. 32Now when Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet, saying to him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” 33When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled. 34And he said, “Where have you laid him?” They said to him, “Lord, come and see.” 35Jesus wept. 36So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man also have kept this man from dying?”

      38Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone lay against it. 39Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” Martha, the sister of the dead man, said to him, “Lord, by this time there will be an odor, for he has been dead four days.” 40Jesus said to her, “Did I not tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?” 41So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42I knew that you always hear me, but I said this on account of the people standing around, that they may believe that you sent me.” 43When he had said these things, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out.” 44The man who had died came out, his hands and feet bound with linen strips, and his face wrapped with a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unbind him, and let him go.”

      45Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The words of Caiaphas the high priest to the chief priests and the Pharisees, recorded towards the end of today’s Gospel reading, were prophetic.

Concerning Jesus, Caiaphas had said, “It is better…that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish” (John 11:50).

Caiaphas spoke the truth.

It is better that one man die for all than for all to die.

It is better that Jesus suffer in the stead of the sinner than that all sinners perish.

“If by the one man’s offense death reigned through the one, much more those who receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:17 NKJ).

“The death that He died, He died to sin once for all” (Rom. 6:10 NKJ).

The context in which Caiaphas prophesied such a prophecy concerning Christ Jesus was none other than what we heard in the Gospel account of St. John, following the miraculous raising of Lazarus from the dead.

Jesus Raising LazarusThe man Lazarus had been dead for four days—four days—when the Lord cried out with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come forth” (John 11:43).

Lazarus was a man who had no breath and no life, but Jesus, by His Word alone, raised him who was dead.

Jesus has authority over death.

Earlier in John’s Gospel, Jesus had said, “Truly, truly I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live” (John 5:25).

With Lazarus, so with you.

St. Paul writes, “You He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others. But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)” (Eph. 2:1-5 NKJ)

Christ speaks to you the very Words of life.  He raises you up from the deadness of your sins to new life in Him by His Words of absolution.

Jesus’ Words are spirit and they are life (John 6:63).

They give what Jesus says and Jesus says what they give.

Jesus speaks forgiveness.  You are forgiven.

Jesus speaks life.  You live.

Because of Christ, physical death, the last trial of life, does not defeat.

When the Lord returns in glory, you shall meet Him as He is in resurrected bodies.

The grave will not retain its hold.

You belong to Christ.

“You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold…but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pet. 1:18-19 NKJ).

Jesus had said to Martha, the sister of Lazarus, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (John 11:25-26).

Of Himself Jesus speaks.

Right in front of her was THE resurrection and THE life.

Though He Himself would die, even as Caiaphas had said, so He would also rise again on the third day.

So He did.

It is this way for all who live and believe in Jesus.

Such is the promise of the Lord, He “shall never die.”

One who lives and believes in the Lord will not die eternally.

Death has its day, but that day will not last for they who are in the Lord.

God grants everlasting blessedness and joy to they who trust in the Lord’s salvation, won by Christ, who died for the people that the whole nation, the whole world, would not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

The once dead Lazarus was raised from the dead was a work of God that none could deny.

Even the Pharisees, upon hearing the news, could not denounce the testimony of so many witnesses.

Because they did not believe, they could not but act against the truth that they saw with their own eyes.

In their deliberations to put Jesus to death, their disdain for the truth, for Christ Himself, and the love that they had for themselves clearly showed itself.

The council of the Pharisees and the chief priests agreed to bring about the death of the Christ.

Their thoughts and their motives were turned inward on their own well-being rather than on that of their neighbors.

What a distinction we see between the motives of the self-righteous chief priests and Pharisees to protect their own selfish interests at the expense of another and the motives of the Other on whom the council would dish out their death wish.

The council was completely self-centered.

Christ Jesus was completely other-centered.  They meant to only benefit themselves, whom they considered deserving.

Jesus meant only for the good of others, those who the world considers undeserving.

Jesus had authority to lay down His life down that He take it again (John 10:17).

Jesus Himself said, “No one takes it (my life) from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it again. This command I have received from My Father” (John 10:18).

No action could be taken against our Lord except it be permitted to do so.

Here foreshadow the words of the dialogue between Pontius Pilate and Jesus, where Pilate asks Jesus,

“‘Where are You from?’ But Jesus gave him no answer. Then Pilate said to Him, ‘Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?’ Jesus answered, ‘You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin’” (John 19:9-11).

Pilate had been given authority from above to carry out the death of Jesus.  So had the council been permitted to arrest Jesus in the garden by the hand of Judas Iscariot.

Though the wicked have their way (for a time), God even works through what we cannot comprehend.

Through the death of Jesus, God gathers “into one the children of God who are scattered abroad” (John 11:52).

Through that which was done to Jesus, even His death on the cross, Jesus saved the world and draws all men to Himself.

Through Christ’s death, “God reconciled Himself to the world” (2 Corinthians 5:18).

No longer are the children of God scattered abroad.

They come together in Christ.

He is your Head.

Christ and His truth truly unite.

The reason all are not one in this unity is because all do not accept the truth.

But it is the Lord Jesus alone Who saves.

Though you don’t always see or understand how things, circumstances, afflictions, trials, sufferings, or even death can be for good or that “all things work together for good to those who love God” (Romans 8:18), you don’t need to.

It’s in what God has done in Christ Jesus and by what He has spoken, by what He speaks in His Holy Word, that you are sure that they do.  Amen.

 

PrayingHands&Cross1Almighty God, by Your great goodness mercifully look upon Your people that we may be governed and preserved evermore in body and soul; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen. (Collect for the Fifth Sunday in Lent)

 

For an audio podcast, go here.

 

 

“Eyes Opened,” John 9:1-41

 

John 9:1-41

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Jesus-healing manIn today’s text from the ninth chapter of St. John’s Gospel, there was a man born blind to whom our Lord Jesus gave sight.

There was a common belief, then, as now, that if one was born blind, lame, deaf, mute, with a birth defect, or had another noticeable mark, there was a reason for it.

That reason was either that one or both of parents had sinned, or that somehow the child born with the condition had done something to deserve such a condition.

When the disciples of our Lord asked Jesus who had sinned, the blind man or his parents, that he was born blind, they assumed that the blindness was some kind of punishment.

It is true in general that we receive the consequences for the sin of Adam and Eve in the garden and for our own sin, including sickness, pandemics, and death.

Also, for the things that we do or don’t do in caring for the bod, there can be consequences.

But to say that a sin committed by the parents or a sin committed by the son resulted in the punishment of blindness is something that we cannot say.

To the disciples who had asked the question, Jesus said, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him” (John 9:3).

Jesus didn’t mean by this that neither the man who was born blind nor his parents were sinless.

What Jesus meant was that the blindness was not a punishment for a specific sin, the very thing that the disciples were thinking.

The man’s blindness, Jesus says, was not because he or his parents committed anything to bring it about, but that the works of God should be revealed in him.

And revealed in him they indeed were.

Jesus healed the man of His blindness.

But even more than that, the Lord Jesus opened the man’s eyes to see Him for who He really was, the Son of Man, God’s Son and Savior of the world.

First, Jesus worked the work of God in giving the blind man the ability to physically see, then He worked the work of God in giving the blind man the “eyes” of faith to believe in Jesus.

Jesus had done, and does similarly, for you.

The works of God are revealed today in you.

You still bear the effects and consequences of sin in your bodies and in the world.

This we can see clearly today, also as we see the spread of that for which we have little control.

It is only by God’s abounding grace that the Lord continues to provide for all our bodily needs, even through medical advances, doctors, nurses, hospitals, medications, treatments, and vaccines, as He wills.

Of greater value than these things, your Lord gives you the gift of sight that you see His promises.

Our Lord, by means of His Word, works the miracle of faith in your hearts by which He gives you faith to believe Jesus to be your Savior, your Savior from that same sin which brings forth physical, spiritual, and eternal death, your Savior from that same sin which Adam and Eve brought into the world.

Because Jesus died on the cross and was raised on the third day, you have no need to fear physical death.

You have no need to fear physical death because you know, on account of Christ’s resurrection, that you too will not remain in the grave.

Jesus Himself said, “I am the Resurrection and the Life.”

He also said, “He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live” (John 11:25).

Because it is Jesus who said these words, you have no reason to doubt them.

You have no reason to doubt them because Jesus is who He claimed to be.

Jesus is He through whom you have the precious forgiveness of sins; He through whom you have no need to fear eternal death.

The things of this life are only temporary.  And though they certainly are real, they will not last.  Nor do they define who you are as baptized children of God.  God does.

By His Word, our Lord gives you faith to continue believing what He says to be so, that you not think of yourselves higher than you ought to think, but that you humbly look to Him for help and hope (Romans 12:3).

In Him is where you find such things, for such is His promise, now, and when He returns.

All that you rightfully deserved because of your sin Christ Jesus suffered and bore on the cross.

St. Paul says it this way, that “by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners” (Romans 5:19). There too does he also say that “Through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation” (Romans 5:18).

As that man born blind from birth could not bring about his own sight, so you too are helpless in your own condition to get yourselves out of it.

The Bible says that “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

By nature, our fallen condition, we don’t believe in the Lord Jesus because we are spiritually dead.

Unless God breathes into us the breath of life, His Spirit, in our sin we will remain.

Natural man can give himself life as much as a baby in or outside of the womb can give itself life.

The baby doesn’t give itself life.  Its mother does.

Natural man doesn’t give himself life.  God does.

So also, with the new birth of water and word in Holy Baptism.

One doesn’t choose or decide to be born again.  It is a gift of God.

Because of this new life given to us, we desire this new life to also be given to others.

We thus desire to speak the truth in love and pray our Lord to give boldness that we not compromise our witness by what we say or don’t say or do or don’t do.

We pray that we not be ashamed of our Lord, even as that man born blind in our text who was given to see did not back down when questioned about how he came to see.

He stood his ground and gave testimony to what had happened to him and how Jesus had healed him.

How much greater it is that Jesus brought that same man to faith!

Not only did Jesus give him the sight to see worldly things.  Jesus gave Him eternal life, and the faith to believe it.

So, to you, too, does our Lord reveal your salvation.

On you, God shows mercy.

“Through one man’s offense judgment came to all men, resulting in condemnation, through one Man’s righteous act the free gift came to all men, resulting in justification of life” (Romans 5:18).

 “At one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8).

Through the preaching of this Good News, God gives faith.

God gives faith to take hold of what God has done for you, that you know and believe that what Jesus has done He has done for you.

God gives faith that you know and believe that what Jesus still does He does for you.

God gives faith that you continue to have life in His Name, that you see His goodness to you, and rejoice, give thanks, and follow Him, praising is Name.

God gives faith that your eyes be opened to His mercy and His grace, given and declared to you in Jesus, now and always.  Amen.

Praying-Hands-Stretched-CanvasHeavenly Father, give me eyes to believe Your Son, always, and to confess Him alone to be my Savior. Amen.

 

 

“God So Loved the World,” John 3:1-17

1There was a man of the Pharisees named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews. 2This man came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” 3Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, JesusOnCrossOverWorldunless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

      9Nicodemus said to him, “How can these things be?” 10Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony. 12If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

      16“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (ESV)

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Perhaps the most “well-known” words of today’s Gospel reading are those of v16, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

Rightly so.

But such words, as truly expressive as they are of God’s love in Christ, can be easily misunderstood and misapplied, as if to suggest that man has to do something to keep from perishing, to suggest that man has to believe, and that such believing is within his own power to do so, or else he does not have eternal life.

Other errors applied to this text, though apart from the words of the text, include the idea that believing is only the beginning part or that faith in Christ alone is insufficient for salvation.  Something else is still needed other than simple faith. Something remains dependent upon us—what we do, how we live, for eternal life to be and remain ours.

As an example of this are the words of this “testimony” found in a Thrivent magazine article, without qualification and without correction:

“Even though I had been a Christian for many years, it was on a mission trip…that a friend reminded me that if I was a believer but didn’t include ‘service’ in that belief system, I wasn’t really living the way God wanted me to!…I know that simply believing in God isn’t enough.  We must be His servants…” (Thrivent, March 2017, p3).

Within Christianity, these and similar words are accepted as true, the idea that “believing” is not enough.

But “enough” for what?

That service to others is necessary, we wholeheartedly agree, as does Holy Scripture.

“Love your neighbor as yourself,” Jesus says (Matthew 19:19||Leviticus 19:18).

St. Paul the apostle writes, “Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law.  For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘You shall not covet,’ and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’  Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom. 13:8-10, NKJ).

Service to neighbor, however, is not the main thing of the Christian faith and life, though it is not excluded from the life of the Christian.

Our Lord directs our attention to His Word, in which He says, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17, NKJ).

If you want to do what God says, hear and believe Word.

But if such belief is in a god, generically, and not in God’s Son, Jesus, who died on the cross, that faith is not at all sufficient, because such a faith is a false faith and not at all that which saves.

If belief in God is such a faith that looks to something other than God’s mercy in Christ alone for help and salvation, even to one’s own service as completing faith, then, again, that faith is not godly faith through which is eternal life.

The faith that saves is that faith which does not at all believe in self or any other, but rests all hope in Jesus alone for forgiveness and only upon God’s mercy.

It is not our service to others that completes faith by which we are then saved, nor is it our love that makes faith sufficient for salvation.

It is God’s love in Christ alone by which you have your sins forgiven, God’s mercy, and heaven itself as your promised inheritance.

Only in God sending His Son and the Son being sent and lifted on the tree of death in crucifixion is your salvation.

God did, and does, so love the world.

God’s love is unconditional.

God’s love is not conditioned by the response to that love with which God so loves the world.

God’s love is not only for the believer and those who will believe.

For the worst of sinners and for the ungodly did God send His Son into the world.

“When we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly” (Rom. 5:6 NKJ).

“To him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness” (Rom. 4:5 NKJ).

God’s love extends to all people, none excluded.

Such words, however, don’t make sense to sinful reason. They seem utter nonsense.

Who would give something for nothing in return?

Who would freely give a gift to someone only to have it rejected?

God’s kind of love for us sinners cannot be understood by sinful man.

“O love, how deep, how broad, how high, Beyond all thought and fantasy,

 That God, the Son of God, should take – Our mortal form for mortals’ sake.”

“For us by wickedness betrayed, For us, in crown of thorns arrayed,

He bore the shameful cross and death; For us He gave His dying breath.”

(LSB 544 “O Love, How Deep,” v1)

What is sin before God is not only that which others can see.

Sin before God includes also what others cannot see.

Sin before God includes not only the “big” sins, as we define them, but the “little” sins, too, those sins which perhaps we have little concern about, yet are still condemned by God, regardless of how we think of them.

Sin includes not only that which is known, but also that which remains hidden, even to ourselves.

Sin is not only an action.  It is a condition, which all people since the Fall have inherited.

God shows no partiality (i.e. Acts 10:34).

Before God, one sinner is just as guilty as the next.

The sin might look bigger when compared to another.

But before God, sin is sin. Even eating a forbidden fruit brings about eternal death, not because of the size of the violation (as we see it), but because of who the violation is against.

Adam and Eve were not cast out of Paradise for simply eating fruit.

They were cast out of Paradise for eating fruit that God had forbidden them to eat.

It was not the fruit that got them into trouble.

It was their disobedience God, their disbelief in His Word.

In addition to their being cast out, their disobedience, their unbelief, brought death and destruction into the world.

The consequences of their sin we, too, receive.

“Through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned” (Rom. 5:12 NKJ).

“All mankind fell in Adam’s fall; One common sin infects us all.

From one to all the curse descends, And over all God’s wrath impends.

(LSB 562 “All Mankind Fell in Adam’s Fall, v1)

Because of the sin of Adam and Eve, and because of our own sin, we are all lumped together before God as sinners.

Some sins might be more obvious than others; other sins are more concealed and hidden (1 Timothy 5:24).

But for this world full of open and secret sinners, God sent His Son, because He so loved the world.

Because He so loved you!

What encouraging words these are!

You are in the world.

Therefore, has God sent His Son for you.

Because of Jesus, you know that the God who made heaven and earth loves you with an enduring love, an unconditional love, an everlasting love.

God’s love is yours, for Christ was lifted in death.

Your belief or unbelief cannot and does not change what Jesus has already done.

Christ already died and lives forevermore.

Lest there be those who hear this as license to sin, St. Paul writes, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?”  “Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it?” (Romans 6:1-2, NKJ)

Rather, it means all the more that you try to resist temptation, are earnest in prayer, and seek all the more to do what pleases the Lord.

For absolute confidence of God’s love, however, look only to Christ, who says, “Whoever believes—Whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

It is not in or by your progress, or lack thereof, that is either your encouragement or reason to despair.

Only see Christ, for in Him is your true and only hope and certainty before God.

There are many who say that God is a “God of love,” for so He is (1 John 4:8, 16).

But many of these do not believe in Jesus Christ.

They believe God to be a god who allows everything and anything, a god who is open to all kinds of different lifestyles, a god who allows all kinds of sins to continue, a god who is  tolerant of the worst kinds of sins, a god who does not condemn sin, a god who simply looks the other way, a god who pats on the back and says, “keep trying” and “just do your best, for that is all that I expect” (as you determine what that “best” is and what that “trying” means).

Such a god is a god of one’s own making and not the God of the Bible.

The God of the Bible says “no” to sin and condemns it.

The God of the Bible does not tolerate godlessness.

Rather does He promise sure punishment upon all who do not turn from their sinful ways and seek mercy, the mercy that is found only in the One whom the Father sent.

God gives you to believe His Son, His Son who gave Himself freely in sacrifice for the debt of your sin, the punishment for which you are not able to pay but by eternal death.

Jesus has truly paid that debt, by means of His death on the cross.

“As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (John 3:14-15).

Such is God’s love.

It is not by what you do or how good you are that have the certainty of God’s love for you in Christ.

True joy and peace does not come from you or from what you do, but from God, from God in and through Jesus Christ.

This Good News is not made known by the work of man.

It is not gotten to by man’s reason.

It is not rational according to human logic.

It is not deserved or merited.

The Good News of sins forgiven in Christ is the gift of God, revealed by Him through His Son.

By nature, we do not know this Good News of Jesus Christ.

We were born of the flesh, and being born of the flesh, we could not know, for “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Cor. 2:14, NKJ).

But thanks be to God! “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6).

In the waters of Holy Baptism, God birthed you anew in the spirit.  Now, you are born from above, born-again, “not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (Jn. 1:13, NKJ).

“When the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life” (Tit. 3:4-7, NKJ).

You are heirs of the kingdom—through faith in God’s Son.

You believe this, not because of you or because of your own choice, decision, or work, but because such faith is from the very God who gives it.

“Flesh and blood” neither reveal the wonderful works of God, nor the Savior (Matthew 16:17; 1 Corinthians 15:50).

It is the Giver, the “Father…who is in heaven,” that does (Matthew 16:17). Amen.

Praying-Hands-Stretched-CanvasHeavenly Father, because You so loved the world, because You so loved me, You sent Your 0nly-Begotten Son to die my death and to be my Savior. Give me faith to believe, for I am not able to believe without You creating the faith within me and sustaining that faith so given that I remain Yours. Amen.

 

 

“Temptation,” Matthew 4:1-11

1Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.  2And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. 3And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.”  JesusTempted74But he answered, “It is written, “‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”

5Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple 6and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”  7Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”

8Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.  9And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.”  10Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan!  For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’”  11Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to him.  (Matthew 4:1-11, ESV)

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

St. James, in his epistle, writes, “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12)

The life of the Christian is a life lived under the cross, under the cross in faith to Christ, under the cross bearing what we are given to bear as Christians, as God’s people who are baptized into God’s Holy Name, as God’s people who look to Christ’s Second Coming and our eternal home.

While here on earth, we are on a pilgrimage, our final resting place being that of heaven, the place which awaits all who endure to the end in the true faith of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The faith of which we speak is not a blind faith or a faith which simply says that things will get better.

The Christian faith is not faith which looks for peace on earth or hopes to change the world.

Neither is the Christian faith a faith which seeks to escape all kinds of sufferings in the world.

The Christian faith is that faith which places trust in the Lord Jesus alone for help and salvation.

God does not promise that the world will get better.

Nor does He promise that the struggles and the challenges we face as Christians will lessen or lighten.

In truth, as the day of our Lord’s return draws closer, our Lord says, “In latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1).

Again, He says, “Know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:1-5)

In certainty does our Lord Jesus say to his disciples, “In the world you will have tribulation.” But He also continues, “But be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Like unto His disciples, the Lord draws attention, not to ourselves or to our own strengths, but to Him, to Him who has overcome the world, to Him who has overcome death by His death and who by that same death destroyed Him who had the power of death, that is, the devil (Hebrews 2:14).

True faith looks to Christ for help and aid.

In the Jesus who overcame the world, so you also overcome the world, as St. John writes in his first epistle, “Whatever is born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith” (1 John 5:4).

Through the waters of Holy Baptism, you were born of God, even as John writes in his Gospel concerning Jesus Christ, “As many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God” (John 1:12-13).

As children of the Almighty God, baptized into Christ, you have His promise of faithfulness.

Living by faith in Christ Jesus, you know and believe that where there is sin, there is also forgiveness.

Where there is struggle, there is also God’s Word and promise.

Where there is temptation, there is also the Lord providing help.

We pray to our heavenly Father in the 6th Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Lead us not into temptation,” and in the 7th, “But deliver us from evil.”

Help our Lord does indeed provide.

But our Lord does not always take the temptation away.

Instead, He draws you to Himself, that you call upon Him in prayer and trust in His Word.

God’s grace is sufficient for you that you endure that which is called temptation.

By temptation is meant that which would lead to sin, that which would lead away from God and His Word, that which would lead to forsake Christ.

Temptations to sin abounds, as you yourselves know from experience.

Not a day goes by that you don’t encounter the temptation to break the Commandments of God, to doubt the Lord’s faithfulness to His Word, to place confidence in self and not in Christ.

So easily we get distracted from the One thing needful—Christ!

Jesus Himself says, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).

Temptations often come when and where we least expect them and even where we might think that we are the strongest.

And even should God seem far away or doesn’t seem to be paying attention, God’s Word still stands—His Word that He does not deny, retract, or forget.

He says, “Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; Therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you” (Jeremiah 31:4).

He says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Again, He says, “‘For a mere moment I have forsaken you, But with great mercies I will gather you. With a little wrath I hid My face from you for a moment; But with everlasting kindness I will have mercy on you,’ Says the LORD, your Redeemer” (Isaiah 54:7-8).

The Psalmist says, “His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).

By yourself, enduring temptation and lasting at all to the end would certainly be impossible.

But you are not alone.

Given in Hebrews chapter 2 are these words:

“Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted” (Heb. 2:14-18 NKJ).

And in chapter 4:

“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:14-15 NKJ).

Christ has indeed overcome death, the grave, and Satan and His wiles, even by His own death.

Also, Christ Jesus has indeed endured temptation—for you.

Three times, Saints Mathew and Luke tell us, Jesus was tempted by the devil, immediately after His baptism.

With every temptation, Jesus wielded the sword of the Spirit.

Through the Word of the living God, through His Word, He remained steadfast, faithful, and true.

When tempted to turn stone into bread, quoting from the Old Testament book of Deuteronomy, Jesus said, “It is written, Man shall not live be bread alone” (Matthew 4:4; Luke 4:4—Deuteronomy 8:3).

When tempted to listen to Satan, who twisted Scripture to make it say what he wanted it to say, Jesus answered, “Again, it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test’” (Matthew 4:7; Luke 4:12—Deuteronomy 6:16).

When tempted to worship the devil, Jesus answered, “It is written, You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve” (Luke 4:8; Matthew 4:10—Deuteronomy 6:13).

Jesus is THE example for overcoming temptation, and for using Scriptural rightly against the attacks of Satan.

But Jesus is more than example.

If Jesus is only an example, He’s still not your Savior.

The Christian faith is not about what Jesus would do.

The Christian faith is not about doing what Jesus did.

The Christian faith is about believing Jesus according to His Word, believing what He has done—for you.

He is your Savior and your Deliverer.

Jesus was tempted in every way as you are, the Bible says, but without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

He overcame temptation, sin, and death, overcoming what you could not, for He is your salvation.

Though it is true that you can’t avoid temptation, temptation doesn’t have the last word.

Our Lord says in 1 Corinthians, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).

Though you do and will face temptations for as long as you live because you bear Christ’s Name as a Christian, this doesn’t mean that something is wrong with you or that you’re somehow not of God, or that you’re a bad Christian.

These struggles mean that you still live in the world and wrestle with your sin, the world, and the devil, just as all of God’s people have and continue to do as they continue to breath on this earth.

Such struggles also may mean that you are more aware of your condition as a sinner and your greater need for God’s help.

Dr. Luther takes note of this in The Large Catechism where he writes:

107 To feel temptation is quite a different thing from consenting and yielding to it. We must all feel it, though not all to the same degree; some have more frequent and severe temptations than others. Youths, for example, are tempted chiefly by the flesh; older people are tempted by the world. Others, who are concerned with spiritual matters (that is, strong Christians) are tempted by the devil. 108 But we cannot be harmed by the mere feeling of temptation as long as it is contrary to our will and we would prefer to be rid of it. If we did not feel it, it could not be called a temptation. But to consent to it is to give it free rein and neither resist it nor pray for help against it. (Luther’s Large Catechism, 6th Petition, Lead us not into temptation)

When temptations do come, and they will, do not think that God has left you.

God is faithful, faithful to His Word, and faithful to help.

Remember Jesus, your Help and Your salvation. So He is. So, He will. Amen.

 

Praying-Hands-Stretched-CanvasHeavenly Father, forgive me  for giving into temptation.  Help me to resist the temptation to sin against you and to disbelieve your Word. Make me confidently yours in Christ Jesus, who was tempted as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15), that I be found in Him alone and so endure what befalls me, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.

 

 

“The Transfiguration of our Lord,” Matthew 17:1-9

1And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James, and John his brother, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became white as light. 3And behold, there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. 4And Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If you wish, I will make three tents here, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 5He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” 6When the disciples heard this, they fell on their faces and were terrified. 7But Jesus came and touched them, saying, “Rise, and have no fear.” 8And when they lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.

      9And as they were coming down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead.”

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

On the mount of transfiguration, to a select three, Jesus manifested Himself in all His glory

Flesh and blood no longer concealed Christ’s divinity, the truth that Jesus is God.  Though Christ’s humanity concealed His divine nature both before and after that mountain top experience until His glorious resurrection, the disciples saw a glimpse of what was under the veil.

To those three, Jesus revealed Himself as the Son of the living God in a real, tangible way.  They saw with their own eyes and heard with their own ears the glory and honor of God the Father and Christ, His beloved Son.

We do too.  God reveals Himself through His Holy Word and through His visible means called Sacraments.  By these do we see the God of heaven and earth working among us, planting and cultivating the seed of faith within our hearts, calling us to believe the Gospel, and strengthening the faith which God Himself has given.

It is as St. Peter says in what is our Epistle reading this day.  He spoke thus about his presence on the mount of transfiguration:

“We did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’ And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain” (2 Peter 1:16-18).

Peter was certainly there on the mount, just as the Scripture says, and just as He recounts in his second letter.  But then He speaks of a greater assurance than His experience on the mountain.

He speaks of the word, the prophetic word, the prophetic word which was confirmed, namely, what God had given—that word which had come to pass.

Of this word, Peter says, “You do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place” (2 Peter 2:19).

The Psalmist speaks a similar note where He writes, “Your Word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105).  So it is.

The Lord’s Word leads the way to go and lightens the path.

This is none other than to Christ, the Word made flesh, who dwelt among us (John 1:14).

Hearing Him is hearing God.

Looking to Him is seeing the glory of God, not condemning us for our sins, but saving us through crucifixion and cross.

In humility, Christ lived; but not in honor before men.

Through His Word and work alone will you see and know Christ for who He really is, not as only man suffering and dying, but as the almighty God, saving and delivering all who trust in Him.

God reveals Himself through the very means that He Himself gives.

It’s not for you to decide when, where, or how God manifests His glory.  This is in His hands.

If it be through a baby being born of a virgin, so be it.

If it be through a man “despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” then it is (Isaiah 53:3).

If it be on a mountain to only three disciples, Christ speaking with Moses and Elijah, Old Testament prophets of the Lord Most High, so it is.

And if it be by means of Word with water, Word with bread and wine, and through Word preached, we recognize these as God’s works and give thanks.

Christ says, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Matthew 12:39-40).

By this reference to Jonah, the Lord shifts our gaze from seeking Him anywhere to where He promises to be—to Christ Himself.

Whether it be to the glory on the mountain or to the humbleness of the plains, Jesus Christ remains and always will be the One to whom you are to look.  He is your only salvation.

Just before the account of the Transfiguration, Jesus asked a question of His disciples.

He said, “Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?” (Matthew 16:13).

“So they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’” (Matthew 16:14-16).

Peter’s answer was right on.

From that time on, the Gospel says, “Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day” (Matthew 16:21).

It is this same Christ who is your Savior.

 Jesus doesn’t save through power and might, but through obedience, suffering, and death.

It was not on the Mount of Transfiguration that Christ took away your sin.  It was on another Mount, Mount Calvary.

There, He crushed the serpent’s head and canceled out your sin, for good.

By His death, there is life.

Peter was right in declaring Jesus to be the Christ, the Son of the Living God (Matthew 16:16).  But the Jesus promised in the Old Testament and fulfiller of the New is He who tasted death for all and slayed sin by shedding His own blood.

It seems too earthy of a thing that God become one of us, not as a figure of Greek mythology, but as it is in truth, God in the flesh, not for Himself, but for us who are by nature dead in our sins.

But this is just the kind of God we have.

The popular spirituality of the day focuses on personal benefit and self-progress, self-desire and gratified fulfillment.

The spirituality of God directs to the Lord Jesus and His Word, recognizes and acknowledges sin and looks to God for mercy in Christ.

True spirituality attends to God’s revelation, to His Holy Word and there, in Christ, finds its dwelling place.

The Christian faith is a “revealed” religion.

It is not made up by man.

It is not a religion of how to get right with God.

It is not a religion that preaches positive thinking, self-help, or self-improvement.

The Christian faith is a religion with Jesus at the center:  Jesus receiving God’s justice and God forgiving the real sins of real sinners.

Here, man does not get right with God; Nor does man get a right relationship with God.

It is God who makes the move, taking from you what is inherently yours and giving you what you don’t deserve.  He takes your sin and death and gives you eternal life.

God reconciled you and the world to Himself through His Son on Calvary’s cross (2 Corinthians 5:19).  It is not you who do for God.  It is God who does for you.  Everything depends on Christ.  Take Him away, and you have nothing.

On the cross, Jesus died for sinners, none excluded.

This was the fulfillment of the words spoken through the Law and the Prophets.

Representative of them were the Moses and Elijah on Transfiguration’s mount.  These were the same saints of the Old Testament: Moses, the one who led the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt (Exodus 13); and Elijah, the one through whom God also spoke, even raising a dead woman’s son (1 Kings 17:17-24) and later taken to heaven in a whirlwind (2 Kings 2:11).

On the mountain called Sinai, God gave Moses the Ten Words (Commandments), that the people of God live according to them.

On another mountain, Mount Carmel, God revealed Himself to be the true God, in contrast to the false prophets of the false god (god with a small ‘g’) Baal, by consuming a sacrifice with fire from heaven.  Thus, seeing this work of God, the people proclaimed, “The Lord, He is God!  The Lord, He is God!” (1 Kings 18:20-40).

On yet another mountain, the mount of transfiguration, Moses and Elijah appeared, talking with Jesus.

In Jesus, the words of Moses and Elijah find fulfillment.

Jesus Christ came, not to destroy the law and the prophets, but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17).

It is right to say that the Bible is all about Christ.

Though the Bible appear to many like just other book, there is Christ, revealing Himself as your Savior; not Christ against you, but Christ for you.

Christ for you in birth, Christ for you in Baptism, Christ for you in transfiguration, Christ for you in suffering and death, Christ for you in Resurrection and Ascension, Christ for you in His Second Coming.

Jesus’ words, “Rise, and have no fear” (Matthew 17:7), He also says now to you.

Though your sins trouble you, and though you are indeed a sinner in thought, word, and deed, those sins no longer condemn you.

 Before God—alone—you have everything to fear.

In Christ, you are not alone.  In Christ, you have nothing to fear.

Even as Jesus worked and spoke humbly in the flesh to His disciples before us, Jesus today still works humbly and lowly, in Word and in Sacrament, His glory hidden, revealed by Word.

The voice from heaven on the Mount, of Jesus, heard by the disciples Peter, James, and John, is also for you to hear.

“This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matthew 17:5). Amen.

 

Praying-Hands-Stretched-CanvasHeavenly Father, give me everlasting peace through Your Son, Jesus Christ. Calm all of my fears before You, for Jesus is my Savior. Give me boldness and sure confidence of Your mercies, always. 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.

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