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“The Father’s Gracious Will,” Matthew 11:25-30

 

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25At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. 27All JesusBlessingthings have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

28Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (ESV)

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

It is not to the wise and understanding in their own eyes, but to the little children, who believe the Son for Who He is – God in the flesh—the Second Person of the Holy Trinity—the Messiah promised of Old – the Savior of the world—to these God reveals Himself, through the Word, making known the works and Person of Jesus.

The wise and understanding in their own eyes close themselves off from God and His revelation of the Son through the Word.

By their own wisdom and understanding—that of Satan, the world, and their sinful flesh—they do not and cannot see the glory of God in Jesus Christ.

On the other hand, the little children, the babes in Christ, believers in the Word of our Lord; these take God at face value according to what He says.

They believe His works, rendering to God the things of God (Matthew 22:21).

This is a most amazing thing: not according to human insight or speculation, not by power or might, not by coercion, but by grace alone—God’s goodness to the undeserving and unmeriting—does God give true and salvific knowledge of Him, insight into His goodwill, kindness to the wayward, eternal life to believe beyond sight, hope beyond what is seen of the temporary to trust in that which is everlasting.

St. Paul describes it his way.

“God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Cor. 1:27-29 NKJ).

That God works this way and reveals Your Savior, not according to the ways of the world and men should not surprise or deter but turn you to His Word all the more.

“God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble” (Jas. 4:6 NKJ).

Jesus says, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Matt. 23:12 NKJ).

All of this is to say that God’s thoughts and ways are different from our thoughts and ways, and our thoughts and ways are different from His.

So, St. Paul in his letter to the Romans writes, “Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! “For who has known the mind of the LORD? Or who has become His counselor” (Rom. 11:33-34 NKJ).

Only according to the Word itself, even the Word incarnate, the Word made flesh, and not the world will you know and believe God according to Who He is—Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifier.

All else teaches what you must do, basing salvation and peace with God on you.

And whether such dependence on you be partial or entire, the result still, in some way, big or small, depends on you.

God, however, reveals in Holy Scripture that if anything depends on you for peace with God, forgiveness of sins, or His favor, it will not only by uncertain and unsure, but sure and certain that you do not have what God desires to give.

“By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9 NKJ).

“To him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness” (Rom. 4:4-5 NKJ).

“To him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David (in the Psalms, Ps 32:1-2) also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered; Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin’” (Rom. 4:4-8 NKJ).

Simply said, if salvation is in any part on you, it is not all on God and therefore, not of God.

In contrast, if salvation is dependent on God alone through Jesus, Who alone reveals the Father’s gracious will, such is certain to be of God.

Such revelation is not from the wise and understanding, but from God alone as made known by Him, now also to us, in Holy Scripture.

Here, we gladly humble ourselves before the Lord, not dictating to God how He is or should be, but rejoice in the working of God—His grace and mercy—according to what He reveals—the very things, the very Word and Work by which God gives certainty of everlasting peace with Him—only through His Son.

Jesus is more than example to follow.

Jesus is more than good teacher imparting knowledge.

Jesus Himself is Truth, the Way, the Life (John 14:6).

Jesus Himself makes known to you the Way to the Father, everlasting life, the truth of God.

Jesus is these.

In going to the cross in your stead, fulfilling God’s Law in place of you, suffering God’s wrath as your substitute for all that you deserved—you have God’s full and entire favor.

Note that these have nothing to do with what you’ve done or not done.

These have everything to do with what Jesus has done and does for you.

Thus, it is the Father’s gracious will, not that God’s revelation of His Son Jesus be to the wise and understanding, not to those who abide by the ways of the world, but to those who, humbling themselves before God, acknowledge themselves as undeserving, and simply believe according to the Word alone.

As God’s people walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7), they go according to what God says and not according to their own hearts.

The inclination to follow after our own thoughts and desires in the direction of what we want, even at times trying to convince ourselves that what we want is what God wants, contrary to God’s Word, this very inclination is what we contend against as God’s people, as expressed by Paul in today’s epistle,

“What I am doing, I do not understand. For what I will to do, that I do not practice; but what I hate, that I do…For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) nothing good dwells; for to will is present with me, but how to perform what is good I do not find. For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice” (Rom. 7:15, 18-19 NKJ).

The answer to such a condition, however, is neither to deny it or to dismiss it, to give in or to give up…

The answer is Christ.

So writes Paul, “O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God– through Jesus Christ our Lord! ” (Rom. 7:24-25 NKJ).

Jesus alone saves.

Jesus alone delivers.

Jesus alone gives the peace passing all human understanding.

Such peace is certain because it is of Him who gives it.

So says our Lord, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28 NKJ).

True rest from battles within and without, the unrest of the day, the struggle and burden of sin, whether of our own or that of others—is the Lord of the Sabbath—the Lord of Rest Himself.

His yoke is easy.

His burden is light.

These are not as we might think.

His yoke, His burden, is gift given, not for the meriting of eternal reward, but that we find rest in Jesus alone—in Jesus Who is our true and everlasting Rest.

Because of Jesus, your sins are forgiven you—all of them.

Jesus shed blood cleanses you from all your sin.

None remain.

In this truth is true freedom, genuine and lasting liberty, which no one can take away, end, or limit.

The love of God in Jesus compels us.

Having God’s forgiveness means that Satan and our own conscience can no longer make due on their accusations, nor can their allegations stand.

“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” (Rom. 8:32-34 NKJ).

Jesus is your certainty, your hope, your peace, your Rest—always!

God having us all things in Him, we then so come, for so does He continue to give—even in Word, water, bread and wine, for the salvation of your souls, rest from your labors before Him, relief from your burdens, confidence of His mercy. Amen.

 

PrayingHands&Cross1Gracious God, our heavenly Father, Your mercy attends us all our days. Be our strength and support amid the wearisome changes of this world, and at life’s end grant us Your promised rest and the full joys of Your salvation; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen. (Collect of the Day, 5th Sunday after Pentecost)

 

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“Loving the Lord Jesus, Keeping His Commandments, and the Spirit,” John 14:15-21

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15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the cropped-bible-cross1.jpgworld cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

18 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.” (ESV)

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Approaching Holy Scripture, we do so in a way that differs from that of others.

We believe the Bible to be God’s Word.

The Bible is God’s Word, not because I make it so, not because I believe it to be so, not because the church says it is so, and certainly not because anyone has determined the Bible to be God’s Word, God’s revelation, on the basis of investigation, explanation, or analysis, thus make the Bible God’s Word based on man’s finding and declaration.

It is the Word of God itself that reveals Holy Scripture to be of God, not the work or idea of man.

It is the Word of God itself that reveals Jesus Christ to be God enfleshed for the salvation of sinners.

We do not make the Bible any truer than it already is because we believe it.

Nor does one make the Bible any less true by not believing it.

Contrary to popular belief, truth is not relative.

Many are learning today that we don’t get want we want the way we want it or when we want it.

We are learning that we are not the one’s who decide how everything is in life.

We are at the mercy of Another.

Because the Bible is God’s Word, it is true, whether believed or not.

We believe the Bible to center on Christ.

As the Bible is God’s Word, it reveals, not what we want it to, but what God wants to make known to us.

Many view the Bible as primarily a book of do’s and don’ts.

Some even refer to the Bible with the acronym B-I-B-L-E, “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.”

That the Scriptures contain do’s and don’ts throughout is readily observable.

The Commandments may immediately come to mind, as given in Exodus chapter 20.

The words of Jesus in Matthew chapters 5-7 also might draw out attention, where Jesus speaks of love to neighbor and enemy alike and how His people are to be towards one another, whether friend or foe.

It is in chapter 7 that our Lord says, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” (Matt. 7:21 NKJ).

The position that the Bible is merely a manual for how to get right with God, “Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth,” a book of do’s and don’ts—such views are not only insufficient, but express the Bible, not as God’s revelation making known Christ as Savior, but as means for the sinner to obtain God’s favor; not as gift, but as compensation.

The Bible would then be like any other text from a nonChristian religion, deceiving people to believe that they can somehow appease God by what they do or don’t do, even if they need a little bit of Jesus to help.

The Bible doesn’t teach this.

The Bible teaches that sinners cannot keep God’s commandments unto eternal life, not because the Law itself is insufficient or lacking, but because we are.

“Whatever the law says,” St. Paul writes, “it says to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God. Therefore by the deeds of the law no flesh will be justified in His sight, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. But now the righteousness of God apart from the law is revealed, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, even the righteousness of God, through faith in Jesus Christ, to all and on all who believe. For there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:19-24 NKJ).

“The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23 NKJ).

“Whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. ” (Jas. 2:10 NKJ).

The list goes on.

The Law cannot save the sinner.

The Law demands.

The Law’s demands what we are not able to do.

Since the Fall, all is not well between us and God.

We cannot make things right.

Only God provides the means of forgiveness and peace: through His Son—through Jesus alone—Who was conceived of the Spirit, born of the Virgin, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, was buried, on the third day rose again, and ascended into heaven.

Jesus did these things and reigns even now, bodily, for you and for your salvation.

Jesus was born, lived, died, rose, ascended, and reigns, not merely as Example, that you follow in His every footstep, but as your Redeemer and Savior.

What you could not do in keeping the Law, Jesus did for you.

The judgment you deserve for your sin against God and against your neighbor Jesus received on your behalf.

All the demands of the Law and all of sin’s judgment were fulfilled and met on Jesus.

This is the Gospel.

Your salvation is won.

It is certain.

It is gift.

This is what the Bible is all about, not about you doing that eternal life and its certainty be yours.

The Bible is about Jesus for you, giving what you don’t deserve, creating that which was not; giving life to that which is dead; giving salvation to those deserving condemnation; forgiving sinners; cleansing the unrighteous; God remaining faithful to His promises, His mercy, His favor, through the very means the Lord Himself provides—not dependent on you—fully resting upon Him.

As God’s people, we believe the Bible to be God’s Word.

As God’s Word—the Bible is true.

We believe Jesus to be the center of all Scripture.

The Bible is about Jesus—God’s salvation—Christ’s redemptive work—God’s promise of a Savior to come and the fulfillment of that promise, recorded in the Gospels of the New Testament, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John; and the continual and ongoing work of Christ in His office of Prophet, Priest, and King, post-Gospels, including today, as testified in the writings of the New Testament and until the Lord’s return in glory.

We also believe, because the Bible is God’s Word and that the Bible is all about Jesus from cover to cover—that the Bible is not about us doing for salvation, us retaining God’s good will by what we do, or us remaining in God’s good graces by how we now live.

This the temptation of the sinner, of Christian and nonChristian alike—to believe that we ourselves can somehow choose to or improve our situation before God, and for the Christian, even after conversion.

We can’t.

Though many in Christendom explicitly or implicitly teach this, that the choice is ours to make concerning our salvation or bettering ourselves before God—and then use the Bible to support this false view—the Bible teaches differently.

“By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:8-10 NKJ).

“Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1 NKJ).

“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” (Rom. 8:31-34 NKJ).

Even today’s Gospel reading from St. John does not at all teach salvation, redemption, or God’s good graces conditioned on man.

Salvation is of Christ, not by your works.

“To him who works, the wages are not counted as grace but as debt. But to him who does not work but believes on Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is accounted for righteousness, just as David also describes the blessedness of the man to whom God imputes righteousness apart from works: Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, And whose sins are covered;  Blessed is the man to whom the LORD shall not impute sin’” (Rom. 4:4-8 NKJ).

Jesus, in today’s text, does clearly speak of keeping His commandments; Later, of keeping His Word.

Jesus does speak of “loving Him.”

If these words be understood apart from the truth the Bible is God’s Word, apart from the truth that Jesus is the center of all of Scripture, apart from the truth that God’s love in Christ is unconditioned by us and solely dependent on God and His Word—His grace and favor won for us by Christ’s life and death and resurrection—then here and in other places of the Bible will be read and understood as conditional upon us and our doing, and not upon God’s enlivening work of the Gospel, even as we confess, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or senses believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to Him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel” (Creed, Article 3).

As “We walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7), so we learn to see that Christ, His Word, and the meanings that He gives to words are their meaning and not what we impose upon the text.

For anyone to truly love the Lord, as the Lord would have Himself be loved, one must first know that He has a gracious God in Christ.

One who doesn’t believe that God is gracious in Jesus Christ will believe that God’s love is conditioned upon them, not unconditionally upon God.

“In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:9-10 NKJ).

To love the Lord, there must first be faith in the heart, gratitude for God’s salvation, surety that God is merciful and kind.

Apart from Christ, without faith, none can rightly love God.

Apart from Christ, all that one does will be for the purpose of earning God’s favor, appeasing His wrath, lessening God’s judgment, not in gladly receiving what God freely gives, which is faith.

Any who think that they can or do love God without loving Christ and His Word only deceive themselves.

“God knows” the “hearts. For what is highly esteemed among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” (Lk. 16:15 NKJ).

“The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men…God has chosen the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and God has chosen the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty; and the base things of the world and the things which are despised God has chosen, and the things which are not, to bring to nothing the things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence” (1 Cor. 1:25, 27-29 NKJ)

God says, “Whatever is not from faith is sin” and that “without faith it is impossible to please Him” (Romans 14:23; Hebrews 11:6).

Jesus Himself says, “Without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).

It is revealed in Scripture that all lack what God demands.

Thus, is Christ necessary.

Without Jesus, sinners remain in their sin.

To truly fear, love, and trust in God above all things is to have Christ as Savior.

Not attributed to me is true fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

Only in Jesus—my Savior—Who is for Me—my Savior.

As the hymn has it, “My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and righteousness; I dare not trust the sweetest frame, but wholly lean on Jesus’ Name” (TLH 370, v1).

With Paul, we also confess with confidence, “God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world” (Gal. 6:14 NKJ).

Christ is our boast before the Father.

Because He is, so do we love Him.

Because we love Him, so is He our boast.

Jesus is our salvation.

God’s people do keep the commandments, the Word of Jesus, for they know, they believe, that Jesus’ Word is life and salvation.

It is not that God’s people recognize themselves of themselves to be good and right before God.

Just the opposite.  They acknowledge that they are indeed deserving of God’s judgment.

They do not do as they ought.  They do not believe as they ought.

God’s people confess that they do not do what God demands; that they do what God forbids; that they are not upright and holy as God would have them be.

They also confess that such sin does not lesson God’s favor, God’s grace in Christ Jesus, His mercy—for God’s mercy, His grace, His favor—these are not at all dependent on the sin of the sinner or upon the sinner, but on Christ alone.

Repenting of their sin, confessing Christ to be their salvation, God’s people seek to live and love God and others, not to earn or merit that which is already gift, but because they have come to know and believe Jesus to be God’s Son, whose Word is Spirit and life, and by that Word—alone—they live—and seek to be according to God’s will. Amen.

Praying HandsO God, the giver of all that is good, by Your holy inspiration grant that we may think those things that are right and by Your merciful guiding accomplish them; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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“Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life,” John 14:1-14

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1[Jesus said:] “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare Jn14,6a place for you? 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4And you know the way to where I am going.” 5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

      8Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

      12“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. (ESV)

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

The Christian faith is one of particularity, distinctiveness, and exclusivity.

We make clear distinction between truth and error.

Only the very Son of God, Jesus the Christ, is the head of His body, the Church (Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 10:12; 1 Peter 3:22).

This is He of whom Scripture says, “We have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight — if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard” (Colossians 1:14-23).

This Jesus Christ, the Church’s Head, is the Only Way to eternal life.

None other has right to this claim.

“There is salvation in none other” confesses Peter,” for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

This has been the proclamation of the Christian Church throughout the ages from the beginning, and it will continue to be so.

The Church’s message is Christ crucified and this is the content of her preaching.

He receives all glory, honor, and praise.

All these go to, and belong to, Him alone.

His is the Name that is “above every name” (Philippians 2:9).

God’s people confess Christ and declare Him as the only Savior from sin, death, and the power of the devil.

In both love toward God and love toward neighbor, the Christian shows forth the unique claim of Christ, that He Is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.

God’s love is not conditional.  It is unconditional.

God’s love in Christ is given to all, and though few believe according to Christ’s Word alone, such does not change God’s love towards the world.

“God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life” (Rom. 5:8-10 NKJ)

“In this is love,” St. John writes, “not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 Jn. 4:10 NKJ).

“God is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:7).

Therefore, God sent Jesus into the world, why God gives His Word, why life is still going on today, even as it is.

The end is not yet.

It is by God’s grace that we and the world yet remain and that the world continues, not because of what people do, not because we can beat anything together, not because scientists are all that, but because of God’s providence and provision.

To Noah, God reveals this promise.

“While the earth remains, Seedtime and harvest, Cold and heat, Winter and summer, And day and night Shall not cease” (Gen. 8:22 NKJ).

Jesus declares that the Father in heaven, “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:45 NKJ).

Such things of life, its necessities, God Himself provides.  He does so through means, means which can be squandered and misused, to be sure, but the world, and sinners, do not have the final word over what is to be, or over what is to come.

When it comes to the holy things of God, when it comes to God’s Word and His teaching, His doctrine, we recognize the simple profound truth that the things of God are His, not ours to do with as we please.

We are on the receiving end of God’s blessings.

We are at God’s mercy.

Regarding God’s Word, we cannot but press on in the truth of our Lord and declare the mercies of God through Jesus Christ.

Such mercies of God through Jesus Christ are our life and salvation.

It is by means of God’s mercy in Christ that sins are forgiven.

It is by means of God’s mercy in Christ that you are heirs of eternal life.

It is by means of God’s mercy in Christ that you are His and no longer your own.

We thus seek to say what is to be said.

We thus seek to do what is to be done.

We abide in Christ’s Word—alone—seeking not to depart from it but to endure in it, with God’s help, even if friend and foe be against us because of it.

God, in the Second commandment says, “You shall not misuse the Name of the Lord your God,”

Negatively, His Name we are not to use wrongly, to defend lie and error, in our words or of Who He is.

Positively, God’s Name we are to use rightly, according to His Word, according to that which He has made known, in support of that which is true; in building up, not tearing down; in edifying unto faith, not causing another stumble; in speaking the truth, not advancing a lie.

We thus discriminate between that which is of God from that which is not—because our Lord does.

More than example, Jesus is our Savior from sin and death.

The Lord desires your salvation, not acceptance by the world.

There is no other way to heaven but through Christ.

Muhammad, Buddha, the Pope, and the virgin Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus, let alone any other, including ourselves, do nothing for anyone in giving true and genuine peace with God.

All roads do not lead to heaven.

All religions and Christian denominations are not the same.

It really does matter what one believes, regardless of how sincere one is, simply because God’s Word does matter!

Only Christ saves.

There is no other savior.

As man, Jesus died the death of sinners, though He Himself “knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Man cannot save Himself from God’s wrath.  Nor can any other than Jesus do anything for you to turn away God’s anger because of your sin.

All religions that teach another way to heaven than through Christ’s suffering, dying, and rising on the third day are false religions.

Some religions do speak about Christ’s work, but then they also add their own works and agenda, not the Lord’s.

These thus cancel Christ’s work of salvation and nullify the true comfort of the Gospel.

There is only one true religion, and it has Christ as beginning, middle, and end—Jesus giving Himself for us, sinners as we are, that we be saved, remain in His Word, and receive the crown of life when we pass from this life to the next (John 8:31-32).

We are insistent on distinguishing between man’s word and God’s Word because the Lord would have us do so, even at the expense of acceptance by the world or the loss of family and friends.

Man’s doctrine and God’s doctrine are the difference between heaven and hell.

Many teachers and preachers bearing the name Christian claim that Christ is their savior, but not all of what they teach is completely in agreement with Scripture.

Whether this refer to church or individual, it is written, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9).

And as said in another place, “Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine.  Continue in them” (1 Timothy 4:16).

It is possible for Christians to be misled and deceived.  Following man’s thoughts and ways concerning Godly things is dangerous business.

It is also dangerous, and quite common, to believe that one is doing right or believing rightly because one feels right about what he is doing or believing, even if no Word of God supports it.

If no Word of God supports what is believed, such belief is not of God.

To Christ hold fast, to Him and to His Word.

His Word is truth, truth that leads to life.

We distinguish our words and our thoughts from God’s Word, because God does.

Because He does, we do.

Christ alone is the Savior, your Savior, the world’s Savior.

There is no other.

Godly faith, in distinction from worldly faith, is not founded on sinking sand or uncertain ground.

Godly faith is founded on the solid ground of His holy Word, “the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone” (Colossians 2:20).

Such foundation is unshakable. It will endure the test of time.

The rain will descend.  The floods will come.  The wind will blow.  But this foundation will remain (Matthew 7:24-26).

The Christian faith is the only true faith because Jesus is its center.

The Christian faith is the only faith founded on God’s Word, revealing Jesus to be God, Who is one with the Father, Savior, Redeemer, Giver of life and all that is good, for Jesus is God.

As you believe God, Jesus says, believe Me. Amen.

PrayingHands&Cross1O God, You make the minds of Your faithful to be of one will. Grant that we may love what You have commanded and desire what You promise, that among the many changes of this world our hearts may be fixed where true joys are found; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen. (Collect of the Day for the 5th Sunday of Easter)

 

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“Jesus, the Good Shepherd,” John 10:1-10

 

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1[Jesus said:] “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out

Word and Sacrament

all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

      7So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Being a Christian is not based on what you do, but on Christ and what He has done for you.

Though you are not holy, Jesus is.

His holiness, His righteousness, His goodness is counted as your own through faith in Him.

Like Abraham whose faith God counted to him as righteousness, as Abraham believed the promise of God when God promised him a son to be born of his own body, though he was old and his wife Sarai was past the age of child bearing, so your faith too is counted as righteousness—as you believe in Christ who died and rose again for our salvation (Genesis 15:1-7).

Jesus did not stay dead in the grave following His crucifixion.

“The third day He rose again according the Scriptures and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father” (Nicene Creed).

To be Christian means to have Christ as your own, to have Christ’s righteousness counted as your own.

Christ’s righteousness counted as your own means that such righteousness has not, nor does not, depend on you.

Such righteousness does not originate from you, is not founded on you, and is not kept by you.

The righteousness of Jesus, reckoned by God as yours through faith in Christ, is therefore certain, true, and sure.

Your identity as the righteous of God is found in Jesus, the One who makes you whole and acceptable to God.

It is what God has done, Jesus’ Word and work, that makes you who you are—a saint; forgiven and not condemned; redeemed and not forsaken; a child of the living God, baptized, cleansed, and holy.

Through faith you take hold of these declarations of God and say “Amen” to what God has said.

God speaks His Word.  He reveals to you your Savior.

 Even “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).

“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), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7).

“In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.  In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:9-10).

This is all good news!

God has not left you in your sin.

He does leave the decision to you.

If He did, you would all be lost.

None who are dead in their sin can make a choice, choose, decide for, or accept Christ, contrary to what well known preachers such as Billy Graham and now his son, Franklin Graham, or any others, fervently preach and who call for nonbelieving hearers to pray a prayer asking Jesus into their heart for salvation.

God is not only willing save sinners.

He does, in Jesus Christ!

It is not the sinner who chooses to believe.

It is God who creates the faith to believe, for “faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:17).

Just as Adam was lifeless apart from the breath of God breathed into Him, so is the sinner lifeless when it comes to the things of God unless God first give that longing for His mercy, forgiveness, and life according to His Word (Genesis 2:7).

It is as St. Paul writes, “The natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them” (1 Corinthians 2:14).

“But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).

God, by means of His grace, reveals His Son, Jesus Christ, not as judge, Law giver, or a new Moses, but as Savior and author of eternal salvation (Hebrews 5:9).

Therefore, do we say that ‘we cannot by our own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ our Lord or come to Him.  But the Holy Spirit has called us by the Gospel, enlightened us with His gifts, and kept us in the true faith.’ (Meaning to the Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed).

Jesus comes to you—in Word, water, and with His very body and blood.

What you receive in Word and Sacrament are the gracious and salvific gifts of a loving God.

This is the blessing of the abundant life promised by the Lord Jesus Christ.

This is why He comes to you, to give you everlasting life.

He comes not to destroy, but to save.

He comes, not to steal, kill, and destroy, but to protect, to make alive, and to preserve for all eternity.

The abundant life Jesus speaks of is more than anything this world could ever offer.

The abundant life Jesus speaks of does not have to do with having abundance of the things of this life.

Jesus Himself said it this way, “What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26).

The answer to both questions is–nothing.

It is of no profit if a man gains the whole world and loses his own soul.

Nothing can man give in exchange for his soul.

One might have everything in this life, yet really have nothing at all.

All the riches of the world amount to nothing compared to eternity.

One might have nothing in this life (by the world’s standards), yet have everything, and all the riches of heaven.

The difference between the two, between the one who has nothing and the one who truly has everything, is not in the quantity of things possessed.

It is a matter of Who has you. It is a matter of Whose you are.

If God has you in Christ and you are His, you have everything, though you don’t now fully see the fullness of all that is yours.

True and lasting treasure is that which God gives unto eternity, where both moth and rust cannot ever destroy (Matthew 6:19-20).

If God doesn’t have you, if Jesus is not your Savior according to His Word, you really have nothing, though you might think that you have everything.

False and counterfeit treasure is that which does not remain.

It is by nature temporary, a façade, only a mirage.

This is the kind of treasure that the world seeks after. It may offer momentary comfort, but such is only pale in comparison to that which of eternal value and gives true peace with God.

God’s Word—not the world’s—does not and will not fail (Joshua 21:45; 23:14).

God’s mercy—not the world’s—endures forever (Psalm 118:1, 2, 3, 4, 29; 136:1-26).

God gives to you His Word that you distinguish between what is true from that which is false; that which is of God from that which is not of God.

So, His people do.

God’s people discern between what is of God and what is not of God—because they are of God.

All who are of God believe Jesus, because Jesus is God.

All who believe Jesus follow Him.

They know Jesus’ voice.

They don’t follow another.  They don’t listen to another’s voice, because another voice they do not know.

Only the voice of Jesus do they recognize.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd.

He leads His sheep, His people, only to the good pasture, the pasture of eternal life.

To all that follow Him and hear His voice, He gives life that has no end.

Such life, here and now, is not trouble-free and without challenge.

Such trouble-free, challenge-free, or prosperous life in the sense of the world’s ideas and dreams is not what the Lord promises.

The Lord promises the life where Christ is, preserving, sustaining, and saving.

True preachers preach Jesus according to what the Bible says.

They preach the preserving, sustaining, forgiving, and saving Christ.

False preachers preach something different.

False preachers very readily make use of the Bible, but they do not use the Bible rightly.

They use the Bible to their own ends, not for the salvation of sinners.

They do not preach Christ aright.

Those who follow Jesus hear, and only want to hear, preachers who preach Jesus rightly.

They don’t listen to strangers. They don’t listen to false teachers.

The sheep of the Good Shepherd therefore care about discerning the difference between what is true from what is false.

They love the Word of the Lord (John 14:23-24).

They believe the words of Jesus.

They distinguish between Law and Gospel.

They abide in what God reveals in His Word and not by novel interpretations.

God’s people concern themselves with the truth and cling to the Word.

They seek to avoid error and false teaching.

They take doctrine seriously, for doctrine, the teaching of God, they have come to know, is life.

Christ’s sheep, therefore, only listen to Christ and His Word.

They love the Lord and His Holy Word.

For preachers faithful in preaching only Christ’s Word, they give thanks, and they avoid preachers who preach something different.

Because they long to hear the Word, because they long to hear of Christ, where Christ is preached, they gather.

Where Christ is given, there they receive.

Where He speaks, where Christ’s voice goes out, there they rejoice, and live, in God’s abundance—in that which He freely gives. Amen.

 

O God, through the humiliation of Your Son You raised up the fallen world. Grant to Your PrayingHands&Cross1faithful people, rescued from the peril of everlasting death, perpetual gladness and eternal joys; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect for the 4th Sunday of Easter)

Blessed Lord, You have caused all Holy Scriptures to be written for our learning. Grant that we may so hear them, read, mark, learn, and take them to heart that, by the patience and comfort of Your holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life; 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 Word)

 

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“Do not be unbelieving but believing,” John 20:19-31

 

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19On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the Jesus-sidedisciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.”

      24Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

      26Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

      30Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Unbelief is an easy thing.  It comes natural to all of us.

Unbelief wants proof, evidence, verifiability.  It wants to see and know for itself with tangible kinds of evidence that can be handled, felt, and experienced. It doesn’t go on what another says.  It goes by what is felt in the heart, seen with the eyes, and/or known according to what appears reasonable.

Such was the case with Thomas.  Unbelief trusts what it knows according to the senses.

Faith in God rests in God and His Word, hoping for what it does not see and resting in Another’s Word and Promise, not its own (Romans 8:24-25).

Thomas was not with the other disciples when the risen Lord Jesus Christ had first appeared to them on that first day of the week called Easter.  The others had told Him the good news that Christ Jesus was risen from the dead, yet he did not believe them.

Thomas, one of the twelve, was a man with a nature like ours, and ours like his.

With hard-headedness and in unbelief Thomas said that he would not believe that the Lord had risen from the dead, unless he would “see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place” his “finger into the mark of the nails, and place” his “hand into his side” (John 20:25); unless he had visible and tangible evidence and not merely the words of others.

This is a sure sign, not of doubt, but of stubborn unbelief, unbelief that denies the word of not only one voice, but several voices testifying to what had indeed been seen.

It is also unbelief in the Lord Himself, who, before He died, said that He would rise on the third day.

So much for the picture of a Holy Saint Thomas!

But what of St. Peter, who dared rebuke the Lord Jesus for speaking the truth of what was to be, that Jesus was to “suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day” (Matthew 16:21)?

What of him who also denied the Lord three times and all who scattered like sheep when their shepherd Jesus was struck and arrested (Matthew 26:31, 56)?

Holy Scripture reveals such testimony of God’s people, and even of His disciples—as sinners—sinners to whom God is gracious and kind, yet sinners who remain sinners, sinners with failings and weaknesses, sinners who doubt and even disbelieve what the Lord God says.

Such examples are given for your comfort and for your help, for you, like the examples of God’s people in both Old and New Testaments, are of the same flesh and blood.

You too do not believe as you ought.

You have been given the witness of Christ risen from the dead, but you still at times fear and sometimes doubt.

You have the testimony of Holy Scripture, yet in its Words you don’t always place your confidence.

You are at times uncertain.

You at times give in to temptation.

Though you have God’s Word placed before you, you are not always full of confidence, with complete trust in God’s Word alone all times and in all places.

But you, like Thomas and others throughout the Bible, are not left without help.  Your Lord is compassionate to the troubled, kind to the meek, gentle to the lowly (Matthew 11:29).

The stubborn He reproves and the exalted He humbles (Mathew 23:12).

Our Lord did not leave Thomas in unbelief.  To Thomas, Jesus had said, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe” (John 20:27).

Note that these were not Jesus’ first words to Thomas and the disciples on that day.

Jesus’ first words were as the week before, but now Thomas also heard for himself and with His own ears that word which first proceeded out of the mouth of the Lord (Deuteronomy 8:3; Matthew 4:4).

That word was the word of peace.

“Peace be with you,” Jesus said, as He stood in their midst, not as one dead, but as one who had died and was now risen from the dead (John 20:26).

With these words, Jesus calmed their fears and put to rest their anxieties.

Also, for Thomas.

Also, for you.

The Resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the dead is no myth or merely a teaching of what some had believed to have happened, with no basis in reality.

Thomas and the other disciples had seen the Lord with their own eyes.

Thus does John write in his first letter,  “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life — the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us — that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:1-3).

The Word of Life Whom John speaks of is none other than Christ, the crucified Christ, the risen from the dead Christ (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17, 20).

Holy Scripture testifies to this Good News of Christ’s resurrection from the dead.

That peace with God you now have through Jesus, that peace which the world cannot give, that which passes all human understanding.

Through God’s Word preached and proclaimed, Christ speaks peace to your heart.

God blesses you with confidence before Him in Jesus Christ.

God gives you His grace and favor.

God replaces your unbelieving hearts with faith in God’s Son for your salvation, by God bringing about that faith in you through His mighty and effective Spirit and life Word (John 6:63).

By means of that Word, God creates faith within your heart that you believe what you have not seen and trust alone in His promise through Jesus Christ our Lord.

God does not leave you on our own.  He does not abandon you to unbelief.  By means of His Holy Word, God reveals to you the truth.

By means of His Holy Word, God reveals Christ for you and not against you, Christ having died your death and Christ in the grave no more.

God reveals to you His Son, that you not remain in doubt, unbelief, or uncertainty, but that you have surety of eternal life in His Name.  Christ comes to you, revealing Himself as your risen Savior.

The Thomas in our text did not believe until the Lord spoke the Word and showed Himself to him.

The Lord was kind and gentle to the troubled Thomas who trusted not in the word of others but only the self-seeking evidence of his own heart.

Jesus spoke and appeared to Thomas, voice, nail prints, spear mark, and all.

Then did Thomas confess with his mouth what certainly was believed in His heart of Jesus, “My Lord and My God!” (John 20:28).

Thomas confessed what was right and true because the Lord revealed to Him what was so.

Thomas denied the testimony, the Lord; he disbelieved; no longer.

That you continue in the confession of Thomas, saying with him, “My Lord and My God” of Jesus Christ, Jesus reveals Himself to you, too.

By means of the Word, God’s Word, the testimony of the Apostles and prophets, God makes known to you that you are sinners for whom Christ died.

By means of the absolution, the authority that Jesus gave to his disciples, to His church, to retain the sins of the impenitent and to forgive the sins of the penitent, God absolves you of your sins before Him.

And so are you absolved of all of them, as you confess them before Him and seek His mercy, for His mercy is yours.

In the bread and the wine, Christ gives His own body and blood, testifying of His mercy to you and forgiving your sins.  Through Water and Word, God calls you His own and sets you apart as His blessed children, to be His own special people

Of His Gospel, St. John writes, “These things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you have life in His Name” (John 20:31).

You stumble and fall, but your Lord who comes to you is gentle and kind.

Jesus speaks to you the word of peace; peace with God, sins forgiven, life everlasting.

Jesus gives you His Word, that you hold to it and believe it, trusting His promises.

Trust nothing else for your peace with God.

Nothing else will give you the peace with God that Jesus gives.

Nothing!

In Jesus, you have the certainty of God’s favor and mercy, even that you, with Thomas, confess of Jesus, as you do, and continue to do, “My Lord and My God,” with one another and with all of Christ’s people, even before the world. Amen.

 

PrayingHands&Cross1Almighty God, grant that we who have celebrated the Lord’s resurrection may by Your grace confess in our life and conversation that Jesus is Lord and God; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen. (Collect of the Day for the Second Sunday of Easter)

 

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“Meditation on Christ’s Passion,” John 18-19

 

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Psalm 22

Readings: Isaiah 52:13—53:12; Hebrews 4:14–16; 5:7–9; John 18:1—19:42

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Cranach-BloodFromJesusSideFrom the cross, just before our Lord died, Jesus declared, “It is finished!”

With these words, Jesus testified to His completed work for your salvation.

It was not on the day of Easter, the day that our Lord resurrected bodily, that sin and death were put to an end.

It was the day He died that Jesus put sin to death.  There, death lost its eternal hold.

The unforgettable words of our Lord, “It is finished!” thus bring true comfort and consolation to hearts troubled by sin and burdened by its effects.

Through His suffering and death, Christ brought about that peace with God that surpasses all human understanding.

Jesus is the “Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29, 36).

The price for that peace, the cost for that sin being taken away, was His blood.

It is as we confess in the Apostles’ Creed: Christ ‘redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, that He purchased and won from sin, death, and the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death’ (Meaning to the 2nd Article of the Apostles’ Creed).

The Jesus of the Bible is not an unbloody Savior, for “without shedding of blood there is no remission” of sins (Heb. 9:22 NKJ).

“He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins” (Col. 1:13-14 NKJ).

The servant of Isaiah chapter 52 & 53 is truly the servant of the Most High God, but also is He the suffering servant, whom we esteem “stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted”.

Instead of the crown of kings, the Christ of God received a crown of thorns.

Instead of the honor due His name, the Son of the Living God was mocked and blasphemed.

Though His Words and works gave witness to His identity, still did they crucify Him.

Jesus endured such hostilities.

He died at the hands of sinful men.

His breath ceased and He “Gave up His Spirit” (John 19:30) just after His last words, those words that still echo in the ears, “It is finished!”

He surrendered Himself unto death, having permitted Himself to be crucified and to die.

Jesus did not say what He said only because His suffering had ended.

Jesus did not do what He did because He was sinful from birth and in need of a savior.

Jesus did not give Himself over to suffer and to die either because He deserved it or to prove Himself to the world.

Jesus said what He said as a clear witness and testimony to all creation that His work of redemption for all people, here and there, near and far, at home and abroad, is now accomplished.

All the work that His Heavenly Father had given Him to do was now done.

There is nothing to add to, and nothing to take away from, what the Lord Christ had completed – for you.

The penalty for your sin and the judgment for your guilt was laid upon Him who knew no sin.

“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us” (2 Cor. 5:21).

The holy One became the unholy.  The righteous One became the unrighteous.

The sinless became the sinner.

The Passover Lamb, Christ Jesus, was slain in your stead and as your substitute.

Willingly the Savior endured the cross, scorning its shame.

He was wounded for your transgressions, bruised for your iniquities, the chastisement of your peace was upon Him, and by His stripes you are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

This despised and rejected Jesus of Nazareth, this One called King of the Jews, who hung on a cross—He is the only hope for our dying world, for sinful people, for Christ’s church.

Whatever you would add to or subtract from His work, His fulfilling the will of His heavenly Father—in life and in death—is all for nothing—except your sure judgment.

The sacrifice of God’s Son alone is sufficient satisfaction and compensation for sin, whether it be the sin of the most pious saint or the sin of the most wretched sinner.

It makes no difference.

All who sorrow over their sin, all who grieve because of their unrighteousness, all who despair of themselves because of what they’ve done and because of what they haven’t done, all are reconciled to the Father through the Son.

Jesus placated God’s wrath by means of humility, suffering, and His own death (John 14:6).

Christ the Messiah came to fulfill all that was spoken of Him, all that was given Him to do.

He fulfilled it!

Jesus is that suffering servant of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 52-53), the One calling out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me?” (Psalm 22), the seed of the woman crushing the serpents head (Genesis).

Jesus came to fulfill all righteousness.  He willingly obeyed His Father in every respect.

Jesus is the Servant of servants, the Slave of slaves, Who frees you and all the world by condemning sin in His flesh by death and doing the work which you could not.   This He has completed.

All is done!

It is finished!

In Christ the crucified, all requirements for your salvation are complete.

Jesus is your perfection before God.

Jesus is your righteousness before the Father.

Jesus is your peace before the Just Judge.

Through His suffering and death, on account of His faithful and perfect obedience to His Father, He fulfilled all the requirements of the Holy Law in your place and died your death, that you would live in Him and with Him for all eternity.

In Christ Jesus, it is truly finished!

All is accounted for.

This is how to see Christ’s death rightly: not to see Him as merely One who died Who should not have; not simply to have pity on Him Who got what He Himself did not deserve; not casting blame only on others, like the Jews, who called for His death, or on the Romans, who put Jesus to death by means of crucifixion.

Christ was there on that cross in death for you.

For your sins He died.

Believing Christ’s death rightly is to believe that Christ died where you were to be, that you deserve all that He suffered, that He took your place, even in death, that you have life, and that you no longer be ruled by sin and its evil desires, that you look to Him for help and salvation.

Having been baptized into the Name of Christ, you have been baptized into Christ’s death (Romans 6).

You are now dead to sin, but alive to God.

“If Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Romans 8:10).

“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Romans 8:1).

On the way to be crucified, some women had cried out after Jesus.  They were weeping in sorrow for what was coming upon Him.  But to them He said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for Me, but weep for yourselves and for your children” (Luke 23:28).

Jesus says the same to you.

Do not weep for Him.

Weep for yourselves and for your own sins.

On the cross you see where you should be, what should come to you.

Only for God’s grace in Christ Jesus are you not.

He Himself was!

St. Peter writes that Christ Jesus, “…suffered for us…,” that He “committed no sin,” that no “deceit” (was) found in His mouth”;  that, “when He was reviled,” He “did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously;”  that He “Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness– by whose stripes you were healed” (1 Pet. 2:19-21).

View the suffering and death of Jesus, God’s Son, as your own.

In this way, you see the Passion of the Lord Christ aright.

Because of Him, eternal death and sin’s judgment are no more your own. Amen.

 

PrayingHands&Cross1Almighty God, graciously behold this Your family for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed and delivered into the hands of sinful men to suffer death upon the cross; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen. (Collect of the Day for Good Friday)

 

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“The Passion of the Lord,” John 12:20-43

 

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20Now among those who went up to worship at the feast were some Greeks. 21So these came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and asked him, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22Philip went and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. 23And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; JesusInSynagogue, copybut if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

      27“Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. 28Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.” 29The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.” 30Jesus answered,  “This voice has come for your sake, not mine. 31Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out. 32And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” 33He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. 34So the crowd answered him, “We have heard from the Law that the Christ remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?” 35So Jesus said to them,  “The light is among you for a little while longer. Walk while you have the light, lest darkness overtake you. The one who walks in the darkness does not know where he is going. 36While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.”

      When Jesus had said these things, he departed and hid himself from them. 37Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, 38so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” 39Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said,  40“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” 41Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him. 42Nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him, but for fear of the Pharisees they did not confess it, so that they would not be put out of the synagogue; 43for they loved the glory that comes from man more than the glory that comes from God.

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Today is the day in the Church year called “Palm Sunday,” that day in which the Lord entered Jerusalem on a donkey, that day in which the people, with palm branches, cried out, “Hosanna!  Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord! The King of Israel!” (John 12:13 || Psalm 118:25, 26).

On this day, the people proclaimed acclamation to God.

Here was Jesus, entering Jerusalem, the people declaring what was right and true.

In less than five days, this same One, so gloriously welcomed by the people as He entered Jerusalem, would undergo trial for crimes that He didn’t commit, suffer shame and contempt for preaching the truth, and be crucified for sins not His own.

On this day called Palm Sunday, Jesus, and we, enter the week of the Church year called “Holy,” where our attention turns to the events suffered by our Lord in this last week prior to His glorious resurrection.

This day is also called “Sunday of the Passion.”  Our attention draws to the last hours of Christ in His State of Humiliation.

Our attention also draws to the reality of our own passion, our own suffering, as followers of Christ, as our Lord Jesus Himself testifies.

In short order, today’s second Gospel reading follows the account of our Lord on Palm Sunday after the people met Him on the road with the shouts and praises and acts of worship.

Shortly thereafter, Greeks asked to see Jesus.  It is at this point that Jesus begins His discourse, words to be taken to heart.  Jesus here speaks about His forthcoming death, what it means, and its purpose.

Connecting the later reading of today’s Gospel with the former reading of John’s Gospel at the beginning of the service, a close connection reveals itself.

The last few words of the Palm Sunday reading earlier this morning were these, spoken by the Pharisees among themselves, “You see that you are accomplishing nothing.  Look, the world has gone after Him!” (John 12:19).

Immediately following these words by the Pharisees, John the evangelist records that certain Greeks then sought Jesus.

Jesus’ word and work were not only for the Jews.

The expectation of the Messiah, the Christ, as recorded in the Old Testament, was not only for the chosen people of national Israel.

Remember Jonah…God sent Him to Nineveh, a Gentile city, to call them to repentance.

It was Isaiah whom God moved to write, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations” (Isaiah 56:7).  These very words Jesus Himself also spoke in the clearing of the temple (as recorded by Mark 11:17).

The “House of prayer for all nations” referred to by Isaiah under inspiration, and then by Jesus, the Word made flesh (John 1:14), was a reference to God’s house where God is worshiped.  All nations include Jews and Gentiles. God’s house is for all people, none excluded.

This is the irony of what those Pharisees had said among themselves about Jesus, that “the world has gone after Him.”

They were right.

This is how it was, and how it was to be, as the Psalmist declares, “Let the peoples praise, You God; Let all the peoples praise you” (Psalm 67:3).

What is ironic here is that the Pharisees despised the very thing that was happening that God had said would happen, and yet they claimed to be teachers of truth.

Far from it!

Those of the truth hear God’s voice (John 18:37).

Greeks, non-Jews were seeking to see and hear Jesus, yet the Pharisees closed their ears to Him.

Salvation is of the Jews (John 4:22), but salvation is for all people, not just for the Jews alone.

But how does such salvation come?  Through what means is salvation won?

This is where the words of our Lord Jesus from today’s second Gospel reading come in.  Jesus’ Word in response to those Greeks who sought Him reveal that by His death, there is life.  This is a great paradox: by means of death is life.

Jesus also stated that “Whoever loves his life loses it.” Both verbs, love and lose, are in the present tense.

Jesus also says, “Whoever hates his life in this world” (present tense) “will keep it” (future tense) for eternal life.

These words, too, are paradoxical.

Life through death—loving life and losing it—hating life and keeping it—these statements seem to be contradictory.

One lives by living, not by dying.  You keep your life by loving it, not by hating it.  You lose your life by hating it, not by loving it…

This is what fallen man considers to be true.  He wants to believe that God works the way that the world works—not according to what God the Creator says, but according to what man the creation says and what it wants to say/mean.

If the world had its way, Jesus would not have entered Jerusalem on a donkey.

Jesus would not have been unjustly accused and then, “crucified, died, and buried.”

Jesus would not have suffered as He had.

Blood would not have been shed.

Sinners would bear their own sin (to each his own) but could make amends for their transgressions and iniquities by simply trying harder and convincing themselves that this is how one gets right with God.

If the world had its way, sinners would only be sinners as they much as they saw themselves as sinners.

The problem is that it’s not us—or the world—who determines right and wrong, good and bad, the truth and the lie.

God does.

When it comes to paradoxes, we don’t determine their veracity.  God does.

Things that don’t make sense to us don’t make them untrue.  What makes something true or not true is not dependent on our understanding of it, our belief in it, or our acceptance of it.

What makes something true or not true is not established by us.

Jesus Christ is the Truth (John 14:6).

What He says is true, whether we believe it or not.

What He declares to be is so, because He said it.

This way of “reasoning” might seem like a blind kind of faith, but a truly blind kind of faith is that kind of “faith” which follows a thing that it cannot see or know.

We follow what we know, not blindly, but with certainty.

Christians don’t follow what they don’t know or that which is uncertain.

We follow and believe God’s Word as its been given.

We hear it and we listen to it.

We read it and we study it.  We believe it.

To believe God’s Word is not blindness.

God’s Word is not unsure.

What is blindly following something, “blind faith,” is following where one cannot see where one is going.

We don’t follow the Bible this way.

We are not blind to where we’re going.

We know where we’re going.

We know our eternity is with God in heaven.

We don’t know everything that will be—Only God does.  But we do know that we are known by Him Who knows everything.

Because God knows us as His people, because God is our Savior from sin, death, and hell, we don’t need to know all that He knows.  He is God.  We are not.

What we do know, according to His Word, this is what we are to believe and that which we do believe.

Following Christ’s Word, God’s Word, is not blind faith.  It is faith founded on the sure foundation, on that Word made flesh, on Him who suffered, was crucified, died, buried, and three days later, rose again from the dead.

Such a faith rests in Jesus according to His Word.

That Word reveals to you that through His death, you have life.  His blood conceals, covers, and cleanses you of your sin before the Father.

Loving your life means not resting in Jesus alone, not entrusting yourself fully into His care and keeping.

Hating your life means recognizing your uncleanliness before Him Who is pure, your unholiness before Him Who is Holy (1 Peter 1:15), your sin before Him Who is sinless; lamenting your unrighteousness before Him Who is Righteous.

Hating your life is acknowledging that you deserve only judgment from the just God and despising your own sinfulness.

Hating your life means also not trusting in yourself for salvation, but resting in Jesus alone, trusting in God’s mercy through His beloved Son, “seeing” that Christ’s death means—is—your life.

The Son of Man, Jesus, is He Who is life, He through whom you have life, He who gives you life.

Along with the paradox of your life through His death is the paradox of Christ’s glorification.

The word glorify can have the meaning of “Bestow glory upon”; “Elevate or idealize”; and “Cause to seem more splendid” (The Sage’s English Dictionary and Thesaurus).

These things we associate with the high and the mighty, the majestic and the glorious, the strong and the proud.

Yet Christ’s glorification, as revealed in today’s second Gospel reading, is not associated with the worldly understanding of that word.  Contrasted to our view of glory, the glory of Christ is in His lowliness, weakness, and humility, even as he hangs on a tree, “having become a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13).

“Though Jesus was in the form of God, (He) did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:6-11).

Palm Sunday is the beginning of Holy Week, the week of our Lord’s Passion, the entrance of our Lord into His suffering and then death.

Like our Lord, as we fix our eyes on what is to come, we also are aware of our own suffering and struggles.

Amid these, there is Christ.

The Lord comes to serve, giving His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:45).

Lowly He enters Jerusalem.

Lowly, and rejected, He journeys to Calvary, to Golgotha, to His death.

He does so that you live—eternally. Amen.

 

PrayingHands&Cross1Almighty and everlasting God, You sent Your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, to take upon Himself our flesh and to suffer death upon the cross. Mercifully grant that we may follow the example of His great humility and patience and be made partakers of His resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen. (Collect of the Day, Passion Sunday)

 

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The Small Catechism, Part VI: The Sacrament of the Altar

 

For audio, see here.

 

First Reading: 1 Corinthians 11:23-26

23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you: that the Lord Jesus on last-supper2the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” (NKJ)

Second Reading: Mark 14:22-25

22 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them and said, “Take, eat; this is My body.” 23 Then He took the cup, and when He had given thanks He gave it to them, and they all drank from it. 24 And He said to them, “This is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many. 25 “Assuredly, I say to you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”” (NKJ)

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

By way of introduction to this final Chief Part of Luther’s Small Catechism, Part VI: The Sacrament of the Altar, we find a similarity to Part IV of the Catechism concerning Holy Baptism.

As with Holy Baptism, as well as with The Sacrament of the Altar, Luther helpfully raises four questions, four questions that get right to the main thing of The Sacrament, its use and benefit.

Summarized, these four questions are as follows:

  1. What is it?
  2. What is its benefit?
  3. How can this do what it does?
  4. Who receives it worthily?

As we have touched on Holy Baptism previously, our focus here will be on The Sacrament of the Altar, also known as The Lord’s Supper and Holy Communion.

These various ways of referencing the Lord’s Meal draw attention to its significance.  They say something about what it is.

The Sacrament of the Altar, in its most verbal sense, indicates that it is a sacred act of God distributed from the Altar.

That word, “Sacrament,” however, carries with it more than the sacredness of the institution.

Accompanied with this “sacred act” is God’s institution, and the purpose and use of it being given, “for the forgiveness of sins.”

No insignificant thing is at all going on in The Sacrament of the Altar, by any means.

Also, with the reference, “The Lord’s Supper.”

As it is the Supper of the Lord, given by Him to do as He will, it is not ours to do with what we please.

I’ve heard some use this phrase in the sense that, “as the Lord’s Supper is the Lord’s, we should not deny any to partake, because it is the Lord’s Supper, not ours.”

The last part is true.  The Lord’s Supper is not ours.

Yet, the same Supper that is not ours, but the Lord’s, is the same Supper that Christ has given to the Church, not to do with as she pleases, but to be responsible with in its distribution as the Lord has so given.

Just as the doctor is given to aid and help, and not to harm and hurt, so also the church.

She is not given to harm or hurt, but to instruct, teach and lead with the very Word of God.

In doing so, the church will say yes to some and no to others, as recognized by their confession.

Do they agree and confess the Word of God here or do they not?

Are they catechized/instructed in the true faith?

Do they give voice with us in unity of that faith, including also of our corrupt sinful human nature, or do they not do so, believing something different, not only concerning the Holy Supper itself, but also of God’s doctrine as revealed in His Word?

These are questions for which the church expects an answer.

The church of God is not a mere assembly of like-minded people.

The church is an assembly of those who confess unity in doctrine according to the Word of God.

Everyone is thus welcome to join in hearing the Word.

But to receive “Holy Communion,” yet another reference to what we’re talking about, is not something that all should do, because it is Holy, of God, and true fellowship with Him.

The unrepentant, the hardened of heart against God and His Word, the unbelieving—these are not to commune because to do so brings judgment.

It is not a question of faith that determines whether the Lord’s Supper is the Body and Blood of Christ.

Just as in Holy Baptism, Holy Communion is what it is because God says it is.

My belief or unbelief doesn’t change the substance of the thing, just as the person or faith of the pastor doesn’t influence what it is or isn’t.

Your confidence here, as with all else having to do with the things of God, is not your faith, but the Word.

That’s it.

Just as Jesus says, so it is.

The Words of Institution clearly express this, where Jesus, giving bread, says, “This is my body,” and giving wine, says, “This is my blood.”

You get the one, you get the other.

Fallen, corrupt reason will deny this and say that it cannot be:

The bread must symbolize or only represent something else. It cannot be the body of Christ.

The wine must symbolize or only represent something else. It cannot be the blood of Christ.

With the Word of God, here and everywhere, the child of God does not go by fallen, corrupt reason.

To do so would be to go against that which is of God—to go by unbelief—to place oneself above God and His Word.

Being of God, we don’t raise ourselves above God and His ways, telling God what He should have meant or giving a meaning to the Word which God has not given.

Instead, being of God, we humble ourselves before Him, acknowledging God to be God, not disbelieving what we don’t understand, but entrusting ourselves to the very Word He has given, where, and only where, genuine confidence and everlasting surety reside.

So,

[Luther’s Small Catechism, VI. The Sacrament of the Altar]

What is the Sacrament of the Altar? It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ under the bread and wine, instituted by Christ Himself for us Christians to eat and to drink. (SC, Question 1)

What is the benefit of this eating and drinking? These words, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins,” shows us that in the Sacrament forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation are given us through these words. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation. (SC, Question 2)

How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things? Certainly not just eating and drinking do these things, but the words   written here: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” These words, along with the bodily eating and drinking, are the main thing in the Sacrament. Whoever believes these words has exactly what they say: “forgiveness of sins.” (SC, Question 3)

Who receives this sacrament worthily? Fasting and bodily preparation are certainly fine outward training. But that person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” But anyone who does not believe these words or doubts them is unworthy and unprepared, for the words “for you” require all hearts to believe. (SC, Question 4)

SC & LC.jpgIn conclusion, we hear from Luther on Christ’s Testament:

20 …Now we come to its (the Sacrament’s) power and benefit, the purpose for which the sacrament was really instituted, for it is most necessary that we know what we should seek and obtain there.

21 This is plainly evident from the words… “This is my body and blood, given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.”

22 In other words, we go to the sacrament because we receive there a great treasure, through and in which we obtain the forgiveness of sins. Why? Because the words are there through which this is imparted! Christ bids me eat and drink in order that the sacrament may be mine and may be a source of blessing to me as a sure pledge and sign—indeed, as the very gift he has provided for me against my sins, death, and all evils.

23 Therefore, it is appropriately called the food of the soul since it nourishes and strengthens the new man. While it is true that through Baptism we are first born anew, our human flesh and blood have not lost their old skin. There are so many hindrances and temptations of the devil and the world that we often grow weary and faint, at times even stumble.

24 The Lord’s Supper is given as a daily food and sustenance so that our faith may refresh and strengthen itself and not weaken in the struggle but grow continually stronger.

25 For the new life should be one that continually develops and progresses.

26 Meanwhile it must suffer much opposition. The devil is a furious enemy; when he sees that we resist him and attack the old man, and when he cannot rout us by force, he sneaks and skulks about everywhere, trying all kinds of tricks, and does not stop until he has finally worn us out so that we either renounce our faith or yield hand and foot and become indifferent or impatient.

27 For such times, when our heart feels too sorely pressed, this comfort of the Lord’s Supper is given to bring us new strength and refreshment.

28 Here again our clever spirits contort themselves with their great learning and wisdom, bellowing and blustering, “How can bread and wine forgive sins or strengthen faith?” Yet they know that we do not claim this of bread and wine—since in itself bread is bread—but of that bread and wine which are Christ’s body and blood and with which the words are coupled. These and no other, we say, are the treasure through which forgiveness is obtained.

29 This treasure is conveyed and communicated to us in no other way than through the words, “given and poured out for you.” Here you have both truths, that it is Christ’s body and blood and that these are yours as your treasure and gift.

30 Christ’s body can never be an unfruitful, vain thing, impotent and useless. Yet, however great the treasure may be in itself, it must be comprehended in the Word and offered to us through the Word, otherwise we could never know of it or seek it.

31 Therefore it is absurd to say that Christ’s body and blood are not given and poured out for us in the Lord’s Supper and hence that we cannot have forgiveness of sins in the sacrament. Although the work was accomplished and forgiveness of sins was acquired on the cross, yet it cannot come to us in any other way than through the Word. (Tappert, LC ¶ 20-31). Amen.

LSB7

“For Your consoling supper, Lord,

Be praised throughout all ages!

Preserve it, for in ev’ry place

The world against it rages.

Grant that this sacrament may be

 A blessed comfort unto me

When living and when dying.”

(Lutheran Service Book 622, “Lord Jesus Christ, You Have Prepared,” v8)

 

For audio, see here.

 

 

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

 

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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.

 

 

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