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“Fear Not,” Matthew 10:5a, 21-33

 

Audio

 

5These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, . . . 21“Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, 22and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.

cross      24“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.

      26“So have no fear of them, for nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. 27What I tell you in the dark, say in the light, and what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops. 28And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. 29Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. 30But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. 31Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows. 32So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven. (ESV)

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

In Psalm 91, the Psalmist writes,

1 He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say of the LORD, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.” 3 Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence. 4 He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; His truth shall be your shield and buckler. 5 You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day, 6 Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday. 7 A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you. 8 Only with your eyes shall you look, And see the reward of the wicked. 9 Because you have made the LORD, who is my refuge, Even the Most High, your dwelling place, 10 No evil shall befall you, Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling; ” (Ps. 91:1-10 NKJ).

Such confidence radiates from the Psalmist, not because of real or perceived worldly circumstance, but because of God’s promises having taken root—believed—with the result that certainty of God’s promises—His Word—is and exists against the antagonists and enemies of God whose words and deeds cannot undo what God declares, whose words and deeds are not at all above God and His ways, and who do not know the extent of God’s revelation in Christ and cannot therefore account for the things of God.

Such confidence in the Lord proceeding from the lips of the Psalmist are quite a contrast to how things are this side of heaven.

Take for example the last verse from Psalm 91 read, verse 10, where the Psalmist records, “No evil shall befall you, nor shall any plague come near your dwelling.”

Such promises appear null and void with reference to reality.

Abraham, King David, the prophets, the apostles, God’s people of all times and ages have suffered and have struggled with all that is at enmity with God.

What we see today, what Christians worldwide experience, what God’s people encounter—the challenges to the true faith that we ourselves struggle with, lament, and long to end continue to go on and seem to be on the increase.

Calls to repent for sins of those before us; growing unrest and rebelliousness against God and His order; redefining gender; broadening the definition of sex beyond biology and contrary to God’s order of creation to whatever one wants to define it as, according to one’s own self-identification and perception and not according to the truth; calling male female and female male; legitimizing homosexuality and all kinds of sexual deviancies…These are just a few of the struggles we face as God’s people in our increasingly godless society, where not truth and reason guide and rule, but emotion and felt-need reign supreme.

Such things, and the positions promoted by the world, as disturbing and troubling as they are—these are only expressive of the greater contrast between the godless and the godly; between the wicked and the righteous; between the unholy and the holy—that greater distinction between that of unbelief and belief; of the impenitent heart from the repentant one.

The myriad of issues finding greater and more open expression today in the church and in the world have as their solution, not changes in policy, political affiliation, greater rules and regulations, giving into the demands of the masses or bowing down to ideologies.

The only true and lasting solution for these things, that which the world rejects, is something more profound, something only God, not we, can produce—sustain—keep.

That “some-thing” is repentance and faith, repentance unto God—faith in God’s Son, Jesus the Christ—that which is produced by God by means of His Holy Word, effected and continued by God and what He Himself says, apart from any human endeavor.

What God says, this is what God’s people cling to, hope in, adhere to, and live by.

We do so because God so commands, and because God so promises, according to His Word, that forgiveness, life, and salvation are ours through His Son.

The Christian believes this, not because of life’s circumstances or the place(s) we find ourselves in.

Christians believe in God.

Christians believe in God’s grace and forgiveness, His compassion and mercy, indeed, His unconditional love—because of Jesus.

They do not believe in God as dependent on changes in the world, that things will get better, that a greater number than less will convert to His Name.

Christians are realists, realists in the sense that they acknowledge life not to be what we determine it to be, but what God so determines according to His will, whether that will of God be pleasing to us or not.

Christians also acknowledge God’s love in Christ in all of this.

As it was the Father’s will that His Son suffer and die, so it is God’s will that we continually look to Him for refuge and strength, in trying times and always.

The truth that things may not get better in life until the Lord’s return does not at all change what Christians do as God’s people as they live by faith unto Him who is their salvation.

Their call is neither to change people or to be the change in society so that others follow.

Theirs is the call far weightier and far more eternal than the call of the world to make this place better.

The Christian is called to believe and to so live by that faith that no trust, no confidence, no hope be in self or in the world, but in the crucified Christ alone.

The salvation of God is not isolated, nor focused, on cleansing the world of its ills or undoing the evils in the world so that we have a peaceful kind of life.

Such a dream for the utopian society is the hope of some, but it is not the teaching of Christianity.

As Jesus says, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matt. 24:35 NKJ).

God’s aim is not the purging of society’s uncleanness, making more humane laws, creating equality among peoples, or eradicating societal divisions for a worldly kind of peace.

Jesus, of course, did preach peace.

Jesus did preach the true unity of all people—as sinners before God, equal in their individual and collective enmity to Him.

Jesus did not come to establish new laws or to do away with old ones.

Jesus did not come “to destroy the Law or the Prophets…but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17).

By using the term “Law,” Jesus is not speaking about man-made-laws, but that which God revealed in the Old Testament, specifically, His Word given in the first five books of that Testament, known as the Torah or Pentateuch, including the 10 Commandments.

Jesus did not come, nor does He preach, how to live a better life now or how to get through the upheavals of the day, with the result of peace of mind or peace in our day as the world understands peace.

Jesus does not promise the peace that the world seeks to give.

What Jesus does promise is far greater and without comparison.

To His followers, Jesus says, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16:33 NKJ).

Our fears and concerns, our doubts and uncertainties—these give way to Christ and His Word.

Jesus has conquered death by means of His own death.

Jesus has overcome the world.

It’s ruler, Satan, the devil, Jesus has defeated.

To Jesus is the title, “Victor.”

The resurrection of our Lord testifies to this.

Jesus continues to reign on His heavenly throne, the throne of Him Who is also our Father, our true Father, “so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father” (Small Catechism, Introduction to the Lord’s Prayer).

It is true that we do not perceive these truths with our eyes, but by faith in the Word of the Lord given.

Nonetheless, hidden does not mean absent.

Nor does hidden mean non-existent.

Our confidence is the Word!

Our hope is Christ!

Our certainty is in that which God has revealed, that which He makes known.

So, it was for the 12.

So, it is also for us.

The disciples, the 12—these Jesus sent out as apostles, “sent ones.”

To them Jesus spoke the words of today’s Gospel.

Jesus commissioned them to go out.

He sent them to do certain things, to speak certain words, to declare the nearness of God’s kingdom.

Their reception by all, then, as well as today, is not all welcome, but even that of spite, ridicule, persecution, and even death.

The refusal of others to hear and believe, the preponderance to deny the truth, the resulting opposition to the Gospel—these would be reason for many to not do what the Lord gives to be done.

Not all will believe, so why put in all the work?

It seems a waste of time to put in the effort without the return.

Add to that the apparent foolishness of saying and doing what God gives to say and do, with the result of rejection and martyrdom.

Jesus is not painting a pretty picture of what His followers will encounter.

To remember is that the disciples, the apostles, God’s people, are not so because of what may be in this world as a result of believing in God through His Son.

Jesus’ disciples, apostles, God’s people are so because of God and His Word, because of God’s Son and His promise of eternal life, because of God’s grace, forgiveness, and mercy—not because of what they now see and experience in the world, but because of the sure hope in that which they do not now see but have the certainty of because of Christ’s death and resurrection.

What Jesus gives His apostles to do and say, Jesus gave them to do and say.

What Jesus gives His church to do and say is what He gives His church to do and say.

Independent of the consequences, the Word of the Lord stands—because it is the Word of the Lord.

To not do it, to not keep it, to not say it—this is unbelief—not of God.

As the world rejected Christ, so also will that same world reject those who belong to Christ.

“A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master” (Matt. 10:24 NKJ).

As it was for Jesus, so will it be for they who follow Him according to His Word, some more, some less.

The outcome of such following, of such doing and saying as Jesus gives the church to do and say is not ours to determine, manipulate, or control.

As it is Christ’s Word—His Word and not our own—the result also belongs to Him alone.

It has always been the way of the Lord to do what He does apart from the dictates and demands of His creation.

Simply said, “God is God.”

There is only one God.

This means that the consequences of preaching are not our own.

The growth of the church is not our responsibility.

The changed heart of the hearer is not our burden to bear.

What is our burden is to hear and believe what the Lord says to us—that which is according to His Word alone.

Our responsibility, our call, is to continue in the true faith—to trust, not what we see or experience, but the Lord Jesus Christ.

As this has to do with the very nature of faith itself, so also does it have to do with speaking and living.

This is what God’s people do, as God gives them to do.

The hope and confidence of Christ’s Church, the surety of God’s people everywhere, and the motivation to keep going and to press on amid adversity of all kinds, within and without—is not to be found within or dependent on visible outcome or expectation.

The hope and confidence of Christ’s Church, His body, is founded on the promises of God in Christ Jesus, on what He reveals in Jesus the Savior—Jesus our Savior—Jesus your Savior.

Because of Him, you need not fear God’s wrath and against your sin, nor His displeasure of your doubt and uncertainty in His faithful promises.

These are far weightier than the earthly concerns of this life.

But for Jesus, God’s judgement would be upon you for eternity.

Now—in Jesus—you have God’s favor—indeed, His everlasting love.

Jesus says that, “The very hairs of your head are all numbered” (Matt. 10:30 NKJ).

“Do not fear,” Jesus says, “…you are of more value than many sparrows” (Matt. 10:31 NKJ).

It is not by circumstance or feeling that you know of God’s love for you, His kindness toward you, or His mercy to you.

It is in Christ Jesus that you know, are certain, and believe God’s good will toward you.

Such confidence moved the disciples to preach and to write, that you, too, also have such confidence before the world, both in believing and in living.

Such confidence in the Lord Jesus also moves you to confess His Name, sure of His mercies, certain of His promises. Amen.

 

PrayingHands&Cross1O God, because Your abiding presence always goes with us, keep us aware of Your daily mercies that we may live secure and content in Your eternal love; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

 

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“The Holy Trinity,” Matthew 28:16-20

 

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16Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed 5Creedccthem. 17And when they saw him they worshiped him, but some doubted. 18And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20 (ESV)

 

In the Name of The Father, The Son, and The Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Into this Name were you baptized.

Into the Name of the Only true God were you baptized.

Besides this One true God, there is no other.

The true God is One in Three Persons and Three Persons in One God.

God has revealed Himself in this way—Three Persons, yet One God.

What God has made known about Himself through Holy Writ, this we confess, ‘I believe in God the Father Almighty…And in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord…  I believe in the Holy Spirit…’

We confess what is common to all Christians, not only on this day called Trinity Sunday, but every Sunday.

It is common to all because all Christians believe that the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God.

As confessed in the Augsburg Confession,

Our Churches, with common consent, do teach that the decree of the Council of Nicaea concerning the Unity of the Divine Essence and concerning the Three Persons, is true and to be believed without any doubting; that is to say, there is one Divine Essence which is called and which is God: eternal, without body, without parts, of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness, the Maker and Preserver of all things, visible and invisible; and yet there are three Persons, of the same essence and power, who also are coeternal, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And the term “person” they use as the Fathers have used it, to signify, not a part or quality in another, but that which subsists of itself. (AC, Article 1, Of God)

Christians everywhere believe and confess this, with the Apostles’, the Nicene, and the Athanasian Creed, because these expound what Holy Scripture teaches concerning the Godhead.

Believing in Jesus is what saves, this is true, but believing in the Jesus of the Bible means also believing His Word, even where He says, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30), and “Whoever receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me” (Mark 9:37).

The Christ of Scripture cannot be divorced from His Father, by whom He was begotten.

Whoever receives Jesus receives also His Father.

Whoever does not believe in Jesus does not believe in the Father.

“Who is a liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist who denies the Father and the Son. Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father either; he who acknowledges the Son has the Father also” (1 Jn. 2:22-23 NKJ).

“Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son” (2 Jn. 1:9 NKJ).

This was and is the problem of all who speak of a ‘belief’ in God, but who do not acknowledge Jesus as God’s Son.

You cannot have the One apart from also having the other.

All who claim to have the true God, like Jews, Muslims, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and others, they do not have the true God.

They worship a false god, a god of their own making.

They deny the divinity of the Son, thus also the Godhead.

Because they do, their god is false, an idol, not to be feared.

Such words contrast with our world and many in Christendom today who don’t know or don’t really care about the truth because they rather live in their own self-made reality, where they can personally believe what they want, regardless of what the Bible says.

Such is the spirit of our times, as it has always been: to dismiss God’s Word and to follow one’s own ways.

Such a way minimizes the Godhead according to personal opinions.

Such a way sifts through the teaching of the Bible, picking and choosing what is acceptable to the reader and not what is according to what the text actually says.

God speaks differently.

God speaks the truth of man’s waywardness and corrupted hearts and the truth of salvation in Christ.

He Himself reveals what is to be believed and how to live, by faith and not by sight.

In the preaching and in the teaching according to God’s inspired writings, you hear God’s Word to sinners, bringing down because of sin, but lifting up in the light of God’s forgiveness.

The Law of God shows you your sin and how you stand condemned before God because of it.

The Gospel of God shows you your Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord, the very same whom we confess as the Son of the Father, who now sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty since His ascension into heaven.

On account of Christ, you are no longer under God’s wrath and condemnation.

Christ became the sinner for you, “that” you “might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21).

You are not the one who decides what is the right and the true doctrine.

God alone has this prerogative.

You cannot believe whatever you want to believe or follow whomever you want to follow and still rightly consider yourself a Christian.

The tendency to do this is the leaning of all of our natures since the fall in the garden.

Such inclination to go our own way is not of God.

This is one of the crosses we continue to bear as God’s people, even of our own sinfulness, which would lead us away from God’s goodness and grace.

Denying ourselves, we follow Jesus.

God speaks and teaches only the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

This is most certainly not always what we want to hear, but God says what you need to hear, that you might repent and be saved.

Good preaching doesn’t make you feel good about yourself, the sought after ingredient of many-a-hearer.

God says what He says in order that you hear Him, listen to Him, be humbled, and that He lift you up.

The way God leads, the doctrine He gives, the Word He speaks, the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper administered are for nothing less than your salvation.

He gives you these that you believe Christ to be your Savior from sin and death and that you continue in this faith, the Christian faith, faith in the Triune God.

Jesus Christ is both God and man, for you, dying your death, crucifying sin, and giving Life, even His own life, that you live in Him and He in you, now and forevermore.

For this reason, for your salvation, Jesus sent His Spirit on the Day of Pentecost.

Jesus preaches His Word, that you be in the faith of our Lord Jesus and remain in Him to the end.

For your salvation did Christ die and live again.

This is why God the Father sent Him into the world in the first place, that you not perish, but have everlasting life.

God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4).

This is the truth that the world does not see, first, that it needs salvation; second, that God desires this; and third, how God brings about that salvation, not through man’s work, but through His, through Jesus Christ whom He sent.

The world does not acknowledge that it needs salvation or a Savior.

It is not willing to admit how bad things really are.

We are at a crossroads, literally, with only One to help.

This One is revealed only in the Gospel of Christ.

God reveals this Gospel in His book.

Through Christ, your sins are forgiven and you have peace with God.

This is the ‘how’ of God bringing salvation — through Christ: on the tree, in the tomb; rising from the dead; ascending into heaven; sending His Spirit; preaching His Word; baptizing with water in the Name of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; giving body and blood in bread and wine.

Through God’s Christ and by His means, God gives life and salvation.

This life and salvation is God’s desire for all people.

This life and salvation is also the desire of God’s people.

The problem is not that God does not make this or Himself known or that He does not care.

Far from it!

God does care.

God has made Himself known.

God does show forth His mercy to sinful mankind.

Yet, not all believe this.

Not all take God at His Word.

Only those who believe God’s Word will see Christ for who He is: Savior, not Judge; Redeemer, not the one whom we owe; God, apart from whom is no other; the 2nd person of three of the Trinity.

All that we know of God’s salvation in Christ God reveals in Holy Word.

For this purpose was the Bible given, so writes St. John, “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31).

There, in the Holy Scriptures, we see Jesus, living under the law and fulfilling.

There, in the Holy Scriptures, we see Christ, paying the price for our sin with His own death, though He was sinless.

There, in the Holy Scriptures, we see Christ, giving His promise through means of Word and Sacrament, giving life where there was only death; giving health where there was only sickness; giving knowledge where there was only ignorance; giving wisdom where there was only foolishness.

There, in the Bible, Jesus reveals Himself to be God’s Son, one with the Father, and one with the Spirit, the Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son.

Today’s Gospel text from St. Matthew’s points to the Lord’s desire for your salvation, for Jesus Himself says to His disciples before leaving them, “Going (a participle, not an imperative) therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20).

The church is in existence even now to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ, to make disciples, to disciple, by baptizing and teaching.

The Lord Jesus gives His body, the Church, the authority to do so—the authority of God to preach repentance unto sinners, to forgive, to make disciples, to baptize, and to teach.

This is the work of God, the very work that God works through His Church, ushering in new life through His Word, and keeping and sustaining that new life through that same Word.

Where that Word of God is, there God’s Spirit will be, calling by the Gospel, enlightening with His gifts, and sanctifying and keeping in the true faith.

There also will the Triune God be.

Where the Spirit is, there will also be Christ.

Where Christ is, there will also be the Father.

There is no God without the Son.

There is no Spirit apart from the Son.

There is no faith apart from the Spirit.

There is no salvation without faith in the Son.

Where Father, Son, and Spirit are, distinct yet undivided, One God, yet Three Persons, there is salvation, for God the Father Sent His Son to save us from our sins, and the Spirit of truth testifies of the Son (John 15:26).

This we believe, teach, and confess.  Amen.

 

PrayingHands&Cross1Almighty and everlasting God, You have given us grace to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity by the confession of a true faith and to worship the Unity in the power of the Divine Majesty. Keep us steadfast in this faith and defend us from all adversities; for You, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, live and reign, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

 

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“The Work of the Holy Spirit, ” Acts 2:1-21

 

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1When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire Pentecost2house where they were sitting. 3And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.

      5Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. 6And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. 7And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? 8And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? 9Parthians and Medes and Elamites and residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, 10Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya belonging to Cyrene, and visitors from Rome, 11both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians—we hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” 12And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.”

      14But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. 15For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel:

        17‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.

19And I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood, and fire, and vapor of smoke;11 20the sun shall be turned to darkness and the moon to blood, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and magnificent day.  21And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’” (ESV)

 

In the Name of the risen and ascended Lord Jesus. Amen.

On that blessed day of Pentecost, our Lord Christ brought about what He promised to do.

This promise of the Holy Spirit upon His disciples Jesus fulfilled.

As a as a result, the disciples, now apostles, spoke and proclaimed the mighty works of God.

This they would not have done if it wasn’t for the Spirit.

On that day that the Lord first appeared to the disciples after His glorious resurrection, the disciples were behind closed doors “For fear of the Jews” (John 20:19).

The disciples were too afraid to talk to anyone after the Lord’s death about Jesus.  And even after seeing the Lord, “Some doubted” (Matthew 28:17).

Neither did they go and tell the good news of Jesus until the Spirit came upon them, for Jesus had told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem until they had “received power from on high” (Luke 24:49).

So, they waited.

In their waiting, they were joyous.

They worshiped the Lord.

They blessed God.

The praised Christ.

The Lord’s promise of the Helper came to fruition.

His sure Word alone which they had to go on came to be.

It came to be because Jesus is the Lord.

His Word came to pass.

From that time on, from that Day of Pentecost, the apostles went out preaching the Gospel, the Good News of Salvation in Christ.

From timid, fearful, and weak men, they became bold, fearless, and powerful preachers and servants of the Most High God.

This came about not by their own doing, but by means of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus sent, as St. Peter says, “This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh’” (Acts 2:16-17).

Even though the apostles, and later Paul, and now, still, faithful preachers today, appear timid, fearful, and weak in appearance, in their preaching you will find a boldness, a fearlessness, and a power that is not of men, but of God, for they preach not themselves, nor of men, but Christ, Christ who died and rose on the third day.

The world will hear this kind of preaching of Christ as weakness and nonsense.

In truth, the preaching of Christ is salvation, salvation to those who hear and call on His Name, the Name of the Lord, in faith.

“There is salvation in none other”; only in Christ (Acts 4:12).

Him we also preach,

No other content does leads to eternal life.

This is how we are to know whether a preacher is of God or not of God, whether he is faithful or not faithful, and whether you should hear him or not: whether he preaches Christ crucified, the Jesus of the Bible.

If the does not preach Christ, Him you are not to hear, regardless of his popularity or following.

The sheep of our Lord do not follow strangers.

They hear His voice, His voice alone, not another’s.

The preacher who does not preach Christ is not a Christian preacher, but one who deceives, robbing hearers of the Lord’s comforting Gospel, drawing them away from the Lord who purchased them with His own blood (Acts 20:28).

He who preaches Christ, on the other hand, is him you are to hear, not because of the preacher, but because of the Word he preaches.

Where Christ is preached, there the Holy Spirit is doing His work, for the Holy Spirit points to Jesus.

The speaking in tongues on the Day of Pentecost was not for the purpose of drawing attention to the speaking in tongues.

The speaking in tongues by the apostles by means of the Holy Spirit was not to draw attention to the Holy Spirit.

The speaking in other languages, other languages that the hearers could understand, was for the purpose of declaring the wonderful works of God, that those who spoke other languages could hear and believe.

What was before unknown was now heard.

It was heard because the Lord sent the Word to be heard.

That is the Word of Christ, and salvation in His Name.

The content of the apostles’ preaching on that Day of Pentecost was Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 1:23).

The Spirit being poured out on the disciples meant that the message of sins forgiven was then to go out into the world, beginning at Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and into all the world (Acts 1:8).

This is what was done.

This is what is being done.

This is what will be done.

The Holy Spirit continues to do His work of pointing to Christ, creating faith, and sustaining faith, through the Word of our Lord given to preach, proclaim, and make known.

We need not worry that the Lord will bring to Himself all who believe and call on His Name.

Whether that be through us or through others, it is not we who save the world, but Christ, who already has accomplished and completed that we which we are not able.

Making unbelievers into believers is not our job.

Conversion is the work of the Holy Spirit, when and where He pleases.

Our concern is to remain faithful to Christ and to His Word.

It is they who love Christ who will keep His Word.

It is they who love Christ who will confess His Name and what He has done, and what He continues to do today.

Doing these things will keep us busy enough.

These things will also bring trouble and challenge enough.

Many do not want to hear the truth, the truth of God’s Word, the truth of how God works through what is so unspiritual and so ordinary, even God becoming flesh.

Many scoff at Baptism and the Lord’s Supper as God’s means of grace.

Many do not want to hear what is despised of man and utter foolishness to human wisdom.

But here our Lord says through the Apostle Paul, “The foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor. 1:25).

You need not worry that the way God works and the means through which the Holy Spirit brings about faith and keeps in the faith be despised, rejected, and trampled down by others.

Through those very things God will accomplish what He will.

God does work according to His Holy Word, not according to our will or how we think things should be.

God knows those who are His.

He knows them by Name (Isaiah 45:3-4).

He also knows who will be His through the Word preached and proclaimed.

It is the preaching, the proclaiming, the confessing Christ’s Name that Christ’s Church is about doing.

It is through these that the Lord converts and brings about the faith.

This is not our doing.

It is the work of the Holy Spirit.

Whether there be few or many who heed the call to repent of their sin and believe the Gospel, you are given to continually do so, to contend for the faith, to confess Christ, to endure, and to remain in the that which God gives, even in His Word and receiving the blessed body and blood of our Lord.

Through these, God strengthens and preserves you in the one true faith.

God would have you trust Him and entrust yourself to Him who is the Church’s Head.

God knows how to take care of His own body.

God knows how to bring others into His fold.

The Lord gives boldness and direction in the way you should go.

God does not give the Spirit of timidity and fear.

God gives the spirit of power, and love, and of sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7).

Sending His Spirit on that Day of Pentecost, the apostles, receiving power from on High, preached boldly the Name of Christ.

They did not flinch at what might have been.

The did not heed the warnings of the naysayers and those who doubted the Lord’s Word.

They pressed on.

During hardship, they continued.

To threats to keep silent, they spoke more clearly.

“We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).

The strength to press on, to proclaim God’s only Son as only Savior, to stand firm amid opposition, these were not their own.

These things they did because the strength was Another’s.

The words that they spoke, the things they declared, were not of men.

They were of God.

God was their confidence; His Word—their sure hope.

That same Word of the same God is also our own.

The Psalmist writes, that “The help of man is useless” (Psalm 60:11; 128:12).

He also says, “It is better to trust in the LORD Than to put confidence in man” (Psalm 118:8).

Man will fail you.

God will not.

Your confidence is the Lord.

Your confidence is His Word and His promise.

Do not fret and worry, nor be anxious.

Trust in Christ Jesus, your help and your salvation (Psalm 79:9).

In him you have your Savior, in Him and not you or anyone else.

This was the message of the apostles on that Day of Pentecost, that Day where the Lord gave utterance through the mouths of the apostles.

It is still that message which the Lord gives utterance through those who proclaim His Word today: salvation from sin and death, in Christ alone.

The Lord grant the power of the Spirit to ever have Christ’s Name boldly proclaimed, and to give us not only to continue in the faith of our Lord, but to sing His praises always.

Come Holy Ghost, God and Lord.  In Jesus’ Name.  Amen.

 

Praying Hands

O God, on this day You once taught the hearts of Your faithful people by sending them the light of Your Holy Spirit. Grant us in our day by the same Spirit to have a right understanding in all things and evermore to rejoice in His holy consolation; 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 Day of Pentecost)

 

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The Third Article of the Apostles’ Creed

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Christian church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting. Amen.

What does this mean? I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.

 

The Second Petition of the Lord’s Prayer

Thy kingdom come.

What does this mean? The kingdom of God certainly comes by itself without our prayer, but we pray in this petition that it may come to us also.

How does God’s kingdom come? God’s kingdom comes when our heavenly Father gives us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy Word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity.

 

Luther: We desperately need this Pentecost sermon of the Holy Spirit, so that he may give us a courageous heart, so that we, too, may persevere, regardless of who is offended, regardless of how much people may slander us.  And even if cults and sects arise, we will also ignore that.  That’s the kind of courage we need, a courage that remains undisturbed by any of these things and simply continues fearlessly to confess and publicly proclaim Christ, who was so grossly misjudged, condemned, and killed. [Sermons of Martin Luther, The House Postils, Vol 2, p163]

 

“Jesus Prays for Those Given Him,” John 17:1-11

 

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1When Jesus had spoken these words, he lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, 2since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. 3And this is JesusPrayingeternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. 4I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. 5And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.

      6“I have manifested your name to the people whom you gave me out of the world. Yours they were, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. 7Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. 9I am praying for them. I am not praying for the world but for those whom you have given me, for they are yours. 10All mine are yours, and yours are mine, and I am glorified in them. 11And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one. (ESV)

 

In the risen and ascended Lord Christ. Amen.

Between celebrating the Passover with His disciples, washing the disciples’ feet, Jesus’ prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, His betrayal, trial, crucifixion, resurrection and ascension, Jesus prays the words of today’s Gospel text to His Father.

Jesus prays to His father concerning Himself and the Father, and Jesus prays for His disciples.

These two themes of prayer serve as the outline for today’s message.

Jesus prays to His Father concerning Himself and the Father.

The words used by our Lord seem easy enough to understand, on their surface.

It is this way, much of the time, with John’s Gospel.

The English seems easy to grasp.

Theologically, however, the depth is deeper than originally thought.

Glorification of the Son by the Father has to do with the very words and works that the Father gave Jesus to do, the very things that only Jesus Himself alone could do.

Not only in healing the sick, casting out demons, and raising the dead to life did Jesus glorify the Father.

Also, by fulfilling the holy Law, speaking what the Father gave Him to speak, doing what the Heavenly Father gave Him to do.

Condemning sin. Calling out hypocrisy. Saving sinners. Giving eternal life.

In all of these, Jesus glorified the Father.

Also, in His suffering, crucifixion, and death.

Also, in His Resurrection and Ascension.

Jesus revealed Himself as He was—as He is—God’s only-begotten Son, the Messiah promised of Old, the Savior of the world.

Not as “high and mighty” did Jesus obtain the victory over sin and death.

It was through suffering, cross, and death that Jesus won our eternal inheritance.

The “Glory of God” is “to conceal a matter,” writes Solomon in Proverbs (Proverbs 25:2).

And concealed Jesus was, His divinity hidden to all but those who believed; concealed Jesus is, His divinity hidden to all but those who believe—according to His Word.

Then, as now, Jesus’ disciples were challenged to reconcile what they thought they knew to be true according to their fallen nature with what Jesus said.

What Jesus said didn’t, and doesn’t, always make sense.

The things of God are at odds with the things of men.

“’My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,’ says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isa. 55:8-9 NKJ).

The issue here, of course, is not with God.

The issue is with us.

The God who we can know of ourselves and by ourselves, unrevealed by God’s revelation in Jesus Christ is not the true God, but a false God, a false God who does not lead to eternal life, but to eternal death.

This truth, Jesus reveals.

Jesus states clearly, “This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom you You have sent” (John 17:3).

This Jesus, Whom the Father has sent, also has authority over all flesh.

Such authority is not always recognized, even as Jesus submitted Himself under human authority to the cross, but a time will come when all will acknowledge Jesu for Who He is.

Jesus also reveals that that Father-given authority over all flesh is that Jesus give eternal life –eternal life to all whom the Father has given the Son.

Jesus is revealing right here in this prayer that eternal life is not the choice of the sinner.

Eternal life is given by the Father to those whom He, the Father, gives to the Son.

Eternal life is therefore from the Father through the son and not by the work or intention of sinners.

This is quite contrary to what the world and our sinful heart tell us.

As much as choice is attributed to everything, here God says, “No.”

Eternal life is gift. Faith is gift. The Word of God is gift. Jesus is gift.

Out of God’s kindness and mercy, only by these, does life continue.

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).

Out of God’s kindness and mercy, only by these—through the Son—do you or does anyone have eternal life.

In another place, also to the Father does Jesus pray and say, “I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and have revealed them to babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight. All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him” (Matt. 11:25-27 NKJ).

Choice, clearly aside, salvation is of God, not of men.

With men, salvation is impossible.

With God alone is salvation sure (Matthew 19:26).

Jesus, in praying as He had to the Father, also draws clear distinction between Himself and the Father concerning all others—all others that are false Gods—which all overs have who do not know the truth God whom makes Himself know in the Holy Scripture and apart from which no one can know the true God as He reveals Himself.

All religions outside of Christianity teach another god and a way to that god without Christ as sole Savior by means of His death.

The Pope of the Roman Catholic church and others get it wrong and blaspheme God’s Name when and where they validate the prayers of nonChristian religions, even stating that they pray to the true God.

They don’t.

In a recent call of the Pope, urging “people of every religion to fast and pray for an end to the coronavirus pandemic,” He in part said, “We are all united as human beings, as brothers, praying to God, according to our culture, according to our own tradition, according to our beliefs, but brothers and praying to God.”[1]

We may be united as human beings, but beliefs, if not of the God of the Bible, are not at all of the faithful.

All religions outside of Christianity teach a ‘do-it-yourself’ kind of religion, by which, at least partially, if not fully, you contribute to your own well-being before God.

This applies also to the teaching of many within Christendom, indicating that not all within Christianity teach the things of God rightly.

Such teaching of self-contribution before God fits well with our “American-branded” type of religion and others, which focus on self-actualization and self-obtained enlightenment, but such is not at all congruent with the revealed religion of the true God.

The Son does not glorify the Father by you saving yourself.

The Father does not glorify the Son because of what sinners do.

It’s all about Jesus—Jesus for you.

In Him alone is eternal life.

In Jesus alone is the Father glorified.

By Jesus’ Word and work, does the Father glorify the Son.

Nothing else will do.

It is critical and necessary that Jesus be the center, for only He manifests, reveals, the Father’s Name—His goodness—His mercy—His kindness—His salvation—through His Son—for sinners.

No other religion teaches this.

No other God works this way.

Only the true God does—revealing forgiveness, life, and salvation through the death and resurrection of the incarnate Son of God.

The first “theme” of Jesus’ high priestly prayer, as it is sometimes called, concerns that of Jesus and the Father.

The second “theme” of Jesus’ prayer concerns His disciples.

As we had heard before, so also now, note Jesus’ active work and the disciples’ passively receiving what Christ said and did.

Jesus manifested, revealed, the Father’s Name—to those whom the Father had given.

The Father gave them to Jesus.

They didn’t come of themselves.

They know that Jesus is from the Father because Jesus revealed this to them.

“Flesh and blood” had not revealed such godly truths.

Jesus did.

Thus, they knew.

Thus, do we know the Father and the Son, not because we see, but because of Jesus has made Him known.

For the disciples Jesus prays. Later, also for us and all others who believe according to His Word.

Jesus prays that they be kept in the Father’s Name; that they be one.

Jesus prays that they remain in the faith and not depart from the truth.

Jesus prays that they be united in the faith of Him, to the salvation of their souls, the reception of His kingdom—His kingdom that is not theirs by choice and merit, but by His grace and mercy.

For us, too, does Jesus pray.

Through the word of the apostles, the writings of the New Testament, the Lord reveals Jesus to be our Savior from sin and death—the fulfillment of the Old Covenant—the Giver of life eternal.

Jesus prays that you remain in the faith.

He intercedes to the Father for you.

Remaining in His Word, you certainly do; remaining in the faith that is not yours, but the faith given by the Father through the Son. Amen.

 

PrayingHands&Cross1O King of glory, Lord of hosts, uplifted in triumph far above all heavens, leave us not without consolation but send us the Spirit of truth whom You promised from the Father; for You live and reign with Him and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen. (Collect of the Day for The 7th Sunday of Easter)

 

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[1] Courtney Mares (May 14, 2020), “Pope Francis calls people of all religions to pray for end of pandemic.”

https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/pope-francis-calls-people-of-all-religions-to-pray-for-end-of-pandemic-74883

“Christ Ascended on High,” Luke 24:44-53

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44 Then He said to them, “These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me.” 45 And He opened their understanding, that they JesusAscension3might comprehend the Scriptures. 46 Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day, 47 “and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 “And you are witnesses of these things.

49 “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem1 until you are endued with power from on high.”

50 And He led them out as far as Bethany, and He lifted up His hands and blessed them. 51 Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. 52 And they worshiped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, 53 and were continually in the temple praising and blessing God. Amen. (ESV)

In the Name of the ascended Jesus. Amen.

In the second article of the Apostles’ Creed, we individually, yet collectively, confess, “I believe” that Jesus “ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty” (2nd Article, Apostles’ Creed).

Though we don’t see Jesus, we are certain of His presence, even His true presence, because of His promise, because of His Word.

Even as the disciples no longer saw Jesus bodily when, “He was parted from them and carried up into heaven,” so you, like them since then, are bound to His Word and the hearing of it, not to your sight (Acts 1:10).

This is where the Lord directs you: not to the heavens, not to anywhere or everywhere, but to that through which He makes Himself known, His efficacious Word, that same Word which says what it does and does what it says.

By the grace of God, you have come to know that God’s Word and promise do not fail.

By His grace, you have come to know that He is the sure foundation of your hope.

Though you do not see Christ Jesus with your eyes, God gives confidence of His favor and mercy through the preaching of Christ’s Name and the giving of His gifts in Word and Sacraments.

Reason here directs differently.

Reason would say that what you cannot see cannot be, that unless you see it for yourself, it cannot be true.

But where God speaks, such is true because God declares it.

God’s Word is surer than sight.  Jesus is more certain than what you see.

If Jesus had not ascended into heaven, you would not have such faith.

If Jesus had not ascended into heaven, Christ would not have sent the Holy Spirit on that Day of Pentecost.

It is through the Holy Spirit that God gives faith, for it is the Holy Spirit that gives faith through the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached and proclaimed, even as St. Paul says, “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 1:17).

He also says that, “The righteousness of faith speaks in this way, ‘Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’  (that is, to bring Christ down from above) or, ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart’ (that is, the word of faith which we preach)’” (Romans 10:6-8).

It is by the Word of faith preached that you believe and continue to do so, in Him whom you do not see but believe in your hearts according to His Word.

Christ has indeed ascended into heaven.  But He has not left you.

Though you can’t see Him, God gives you His grace and mercy through faith in His Son, according to His Word.

His Word and promise are your sure and certain hope that Christ, sitting at the right hand of God the Father since His ascension into heaven, has not left you or forsaken you.

Because Jesus has ascended, He is with you just where He promises to be, your Savior.

Because Christ has ascended into heaven, you know that as High Priest, “He always lives to make intercession for” you who come to God the Father through Him (Hebrews 7:25).

Christ’s intercessions for you do not go unheard.

The Father certainly hears Him.

Jesus is His Son, with whom He is well pleased (Luke 3:22; Matthew 17:5).

Christ continually pleads your case before the heavenly Father.

Your sins do not inhibit Christ’s petitions on your behalf to the Father.

Your petitions and prayers, therefore, also of the Our Father, the Lord’s Prayer, do not go unheeded, because of Christ.

His Name is hallowed.

His kingdom comes.

His will is done.

He gives you your daily bread.

He forgives your trespasses.

He leads you not into temptation.

He delivers you from evil.

Speaking of the Ascension, St. Paul quotes Psalm 68:18, where the Psalmist says of Christ, “When He ascended on high, He led captivity captive” (Ephesians 4:8).

Sin and death, to which you were bound and imprisoned, are now bound and imprisoned, Christ’s captives.

Jesus truly did conquer death and the grave through His death and resurrection.

In His ascension, Christ is King of kings and Lord of lords.

So does St. Paul speak about, “The exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all” (Eph. 1:19-22).

Christ is king over sin.  He is Lord over death.  He is Lord over all.

Because of Him, sin no longer has dominion over you.

You “are not under the law, but under God’s grace” (Romans 6:14).

Having been baptized with water and the Word, you have been baptized into Christ’s death.

Being baptized into Christ’s death means, “That just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4).

Christ is your King, not sin and not death.  The resurrection of our Lord testifies to this.

Therefore, do you live unto Him who saves and delivers you from the kingdom of death and brings you into His kingdom of life.

Christ’s ascension testifies that sin and death are not Lord and master over Christ.  Rather is Christ Lord and master over sin and death.

Death no longer has the final word.  Jesus does.

When sin and death come knocking on your door and desire you, with complete boldness and confidence you can tell them, ‘Go away.  I am another’s servant and slave.  Christ is mine and I am His.  He is your Lord and master.  You do not rule for eternity.  Christ does.  Though you might rant and rave against me and claim me for your own, Christ has purchased me with His own precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.  I am His.  You can accuse me all that you want.  But Christ’s word stands over yours.  Though I feel you breathing on my neck, still I am Christ’s and He is mine.  I have been baptized. You cannot hurt me, for Christ reigns forever.  He sits at God’s right Hand.  You are subject to Him.  You are under His feet and cannot eternally harm me.  For a time, you might cause trouble, but not for eternity.’

Faith in Christ Jesus has just this kind of confidence.  It rests not on its own strength or merit, but on Christ alone, on Him who died your death, rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God.

In Christ Jesus, you have eternal comfort and everlasting consolation of God’s grace and mercy.

When you fall into sin and temptation, despair not.

Christ is your salvation.

He has led captivity captive.

Jesus has put death to death.  He Himself has bondaged sin.

Though Christ has ascended into heaven, do not gaze to the heavens as the disciples had done until told by the angels that the same One who ascended will so come again in like manner (Acts 1:11).

Do not look for Jesus where He does not promise to be.

Continue to go to where He promises to be, for you.

There, you will find Him.

There will He be.

He is in His Word and Sacrament, there giving life and salvation for all who believe.

Until our Lord returns for all to see, wait upon Him.

Have faith in His promises.

Believe His Word.

Partake of His sacred meal.

Trust all that He says.

Just as He is risen, so will He return His Word is sure.  He is faithful and true.

Sitting at the Right hand of God the Father, the full authority of Jesus will one day be displayed for all to see (Matthew 25:32-33).

Every eye will see Him and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord (Philippians 2:11).

Until that time, you have His Word.

His people have confidence in this, and rejoice in what He now says and promises, and rejoice for what is to come. Amen.

 

PrayingHands&CrossAlmighty God, as Your only-begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, ascended into the heavens, so may we also ascend in heart and mind and continually dwell there with Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen. (Collect of the day for The Ascension of our Lord)

 

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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, 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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“It’s all about Jesus,” Luke 24:13-35

 

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13That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17And he said to them, EmmausRoad“What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. 18Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” 19And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

      28So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. 30When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” 33And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Though the disciples of our Lord had had the Lord’s Word spoken in their ears, even that very Word by which He revealed to them what was to come, that Word of His death, and that Word of His glorious resurrection, His followers didn’t believe.

Time after time Jesus told them of what was to come, but they didn’t understand, they hadn’t believed, what He said.

After the third day, the words of the women declaring to the 11 that Jesus was alive seemed like an idle tale (Luke 24:11).

When the Lord first appeared to the 10 behind closed doors that Easter Sunday night, Thomas was not there.

When they had told him that they had seen Jesus, in unbelief, Thomas declared, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger, into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe” (John 20:25).

It wasn’t until Jesus Himself appeared to Thomas, spoke, and showed Him His hands and His side, that Thomas then believed, confessing, “My Lord and My God!” (John 20:28).

Like Thomas before he saw Jesus and believed, the two men on the road to Emmaus in the Gospel reading also did not believe.

They had heard the reports of others, but they didn’t make the connection between what Jesus had said before and believing that it would be just as Jesus had said.

They hadn’t put two and two together, Who Jesus truly was, that the words of Jesus spoken were as good as done.

Though Jesus truly did die, as He had said, so would He truly rise from the dead on the third day, also just as He had said.

If it was, and is, any other way, then Jesus is not God and you are still in your sins.

But Jesus is God.  He is risen!

His resurrection shows that all that Jesus did and said was true, that you are not your own Savior—Jesus is.

Death is undone.

In Christ, life reigns.

In the post-resurrection accounts, we have examples of those, like Thomas and the two traveling to Emmaus, who did not believe the testimony of others.

Yet, Jesus revealed Himself to them that they not be uncertain, but certain of His resurrection, His triumph over death and the grave, His victory over sin.

The post-resurrection account drawing our attention today offers another example of some whose eyes remained closed to the glorious resurrection until the Lord made Himself known by Word and Sign.

Though Jesus was right before the two, and talking with them, the text says that their eyes were restrained from recognizing who Jesus was, that is, until their eyes were opened when Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them” (Luke 24:30).

Then they recognized the man before them for Who He was.

We might be able to understand why those disciples were down and out concerning the events of the Lord’s suffering and death.

They had hoped that Jesus of Nazareth would be the ONE to redeem Israel.

Reason tells us that the dead remain dead, that the dead do not rise, that death is final.

Reason also tells us that miracles do not happen, that we determine our own destiny, that we are the center of the universe.

God says differently.

God reveals that we are created beings (Genesis 1), created by the Creator who is above us, God who transcends our thoughts and our ways (Isaiah 55:9), yet God who also becomes flesh, taking the form of a servant and coming in the likeness of men, humbling Himself, obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross, not to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many (John 1:14; Philippians 2:7; Matthew 20:28).

The two disciples on the way to Emmaus had heard the news of the women who were at the tomb and came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that He was alive.

But they didn’t believe it.

Even with Jesus before them, they didn’t recognize the risen Lord.

As we go by only what we see or only by what reason tells us, and not by the Word of the Lord, Jesus remains obscured, and His promises remain hidden.

Like Peter who began to sink when He took His eyes off Jesus as he walked on water, so also our attention to Christ becomes distracted when we give attention to that which is not according to the Lord’s Word.

Not everyone has strong faith during great trial and intense tribulation.

Though God’s Word be right in front of us as it is today, it might appear to us to be in the distance and not at all applicable or relevant.

This is not because what God says is ineffective.

Not everyone who hears the Word believes.

Nor is everyone who hears the Word concerned with it.

The dullness of the human heart, our own hearts, is great.

The concerns of our hearts don’t always remain on the Word of our Lord and His Son.

Everything that those two disciples in the Gospel knew to be true to their experience testified against the Lord’s resurrection, everything except the Lord’s Word and work.

The Lord Jesus walks with such as these.

Though the two didn’t recognize Him, Jesus didn’t turn from them in anger or bitterness.

Instead, He walked with them, even asking the reason for their sorrow.

Even though He already knew, He asks for their sake, that He point them to Himself.

“We do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).

“Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 14:16).

The Lord made known to them that Christ’s suffering and death was foretold in the Old Testament and that Christ was indeed the Messiah, the ONE who would redeem Israel.

Indeed, Jesus is the redeemer.

He redeemed us “not with corruptible things, like silver or gold…but with” His “precious blood, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Peter 1:18-19).

All that the Old Testament had prophesied of Jesus was fulfilled in Him – Even His death and resurrection, all according to Scripture.

What the two had not yet understood was that it was through Jesus’ own death that He Himself would put sin to death and usher in new life by means of His resurrection.

Where sin has ceased, so has death.

There, the hope of life remains.

As Jesus spoke concerning Himself, beginning with Moses and the prophets, the hearts of those two burned within them.

Here, Jesus points the right way to interpret the Old Testament and all of Scripture, through Himself.

Earlier, Jesus had declared to the Jews, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39).

Here, Jesus is talking about the Old Testament Scriptures.

In another place, concerning “the Holy Scriptures,” it is written that they “are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).

The reason this is so is because the Old Testament is about Christ, as is the New Testament.

Jesus is the center.

He gives you His Word, that you believe against what you only see, contrary to what your eyes alone tell you, that you take Him at His Word, before and in the present, and into the future.

It is significant that on the road and talking with Jesus, the two disciples hadn’t recognized the risen Lord.

Only as Jesus took bread and blessed it and broke and gave it to them, then their eyes were opened.

We have seen similar words spoken before, as had the disciples.

In the upper room with the Lord’s disciples, on the night when He was betrayed, “Jesus took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it” (Matthew 26:26).

In the feeding of the 5000 (Luke 9:16), then in the feeding of the 4000 (Matthew 15:36), Jesus did the same thing.  He took bread, blessed it, and broke it.

When Jesus did these things before the two, they recognized Jesus for who He was.

It was Jesus, alive from the dead, just as the others had said.

In the breaking of the bread, their eyes were opened.

With them all along was the risen Lord, preaching His Word, giving comfort, testifying to the truth of His salvation.  Then He vanished from their sight.

Right then and there, Jesus left them, not in doubt, but believing.

His Word and the blessed bread were sufficient to bring about the recognition of Christ the Lord, to quicken faith, and to cast away any doubt.

The Lord continues to give you His Word and to bestow upon you His grace, that you believe and remain believing in Him who died and rose again, and that you, with the two on the road to Emmaus, recognize Christ for who He is, your Savior from death and the giver of eternal life, indeed, the Messiah.

By means of His Word, and in the sacred meal, the Lord Jesus strengthens the weak and gladdens the heart.

The Lord continues to make Himself known that you hold fast to him, in life and in death.

In the Lord’s Supper, Christ gives His own body and blood for you to eat and to drink, and there, makes Himself known to you as your Savior and strengthens your faith.

Don’t ignore the Lord’s Word or His promises, nor stay away from them, as growing numbers continue to do.

God calls you not to despair of Him, but to place your confidence in Christ alone.

Cast all your burdens upon Him, for He cares for you (Psalm 55:22).

Wait on Him and believe His Word.

Times of refreshing and joy are sure to come. Amen.

PrayingHands&Cross1O God, through the humiliation of Your Son You raised up the fallen world. Grant to Your faithful 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 of the Day for the 3rd Sunday of Easter)

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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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