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Concerning a “Virginia Pastor Who Defiantly Held Church Service Dies of New Chinese Coronavirus”

 

via Virginia Pastor Who Defiantly Held Church Service Dies of New Chinese Coronavirus

 

Christians are not immune from the effects of sin, including troubles of this life, both physical and spiritual.

Christians are not immune from sin’s consequence of physical death, either.

This is important to note!

God’s people are defiant of sin’s tyranny and hold—because of Christ—Who Himself died on the cross and “rose again on the third day” (2nd Article of the Apostle’s Creed).

It was St. Paul, inspired of God, who wrote, “Sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Rom. 6:14 NKJ).

A little bit later in the same letter of Paul to the Romans, he writes, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8:1 NKJ).

This reference to Romans 8 in no way disassociates the Christian from the flesh and spirit reality in which he lives. That “according to the flesh” Paul is speaking of doesn’t have to do with the physical body, but of the way of the flesh, that is, with reference to and concerning the desires of the flesh, which are at odds, even at enmity and war, with the way of the spirit, the things of God.

In Galatians, St. Paul writes, for example, “The flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:17-23 NKJ).

St. John the evangelist also writes, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world– the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life– is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 Jn. 2:15-17 NKJ).

All of this is to draw attention to the truth that Christians are simultaneously body and soul.

The physical does not cease being physical because of the spiritual, or vice versa.

This has import concerning not only how Christians live, but also their proclamation.

The Christian Church preaches “Christ crucified” (i.e. 1 Cor. 1:23).

Such a Jesus died bodily, according to His human nature. But this does not at all imply or indicate that the divine nature of our Lord did not at all participate, even as Jesus is both God and man in one person.

What this means regarding the current topic is that, just as preaching “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (i.e. 1 Cor. 2:2) is not to say that only “half” of Jesus died and therefore, insignificant and not worth our attention. So also, when Christians preach of salvation through faith in Christ, overcoming sin and death, this does not at all imply that the effects of sin in the world and crucifying the sinful flesh are somehow now obsolete, as if Christians somehow live only spiritually in the world and not also bodily.

Jesus does say, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For 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?” (Matt. 16:24-26 NKJ).

Said another way, faith in Christ and confidence in the Lord’s salvation does not now mean that we no longer live in the world, suffering due to the consequences of the first sin of Adam and Eve (Genesis 3).

God disciplines His children, whom He loves.

Referencing Proverbs and commenting, Paul writes, ” ‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; For whom the LORD loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives’ (Proverbs 3:11-12). If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it” (Heb. 12:5-11 NKJ).

God forgives the sin of sinners. This is true!

The hope of the resurrection of our bodies is certain, just as Christ is risen from the dead (1 Cor. 15).

Nonetheless, Christians do not deny the truth that we live in the fallen world and are at God’s mercy as we live in it.

Christians do not lay claim to being above death or the effects of say, a virus.

At the same time, however, it is important to clearly state that the Bible clearly teaches that God is above these.

Though we suffer, as God wills, suffering does not indicate that God is less than, or not God, because we suffer.

The article referenced above may be advancing the view that Bishop Glenn was wrong to declare that “God is larger than this dreaded virus,” because if God were larger than the virus, then Bishop Glenn would not have died.

Glenn’s death, even after stating what he did, does not disprove God’s authority over sickness, or death.

What Glenn suffered demonstrates the hold of sin and death upon all people.

“The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

We ourselves are not in authority over it. Only God is.

Yet, God in the flesh, Jesus, having authority over it, submitted Himself to His heavenly Father and Himself died (Phil. 2:5-8).

Three days later, Jesus rose from the dead.

Could Bishop Glenn not have died as a result of the virus, even as he expressed God’s “largeness” over it? Most certainly!

The account of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego may here be directive.

When commanded to bow down to a statue of the king, these three refused.

They were threatened with death.

They replied, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up” (Dan. 3:16-18 NKJ).

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego believed that God could save them.

Such salvation, they also believed, was not up to them.

Additionally, they believed in God regardless of a momentary deliverance in the face of trial.

God was God, independent of the outcome.

Such is what true faith does. It believes according to the Word and promise of God. Either way, whether of temporary deliverance or of suffering in faithfulness to the Lord, God remains God.

Such words may seem to be of fantasy by the world.

What God would not save those who claim to be His and claim Him to be God?

The God of the Bible contrasts with the God of our own making and intellect.

“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. But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God– and righteousness and sanctification and redemption– that, as it is written, ‘He who glories, let him glory in the LORD’ ” (1 Cor. 1:27-31 NKJ).

The God of the Bible reveals that through the death of Christ is eternal life; through trial and tribulation—peace; through sorrow and grief—joy; through lack and emptiness—abundance and fullness, in the Lord Jesus.

Also, through humility and humbleness before the Lord, glory and exaltation.

 

 

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

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

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

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

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

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

We make clear distinction between truth and error.

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

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

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

None other has right to this claim.

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

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

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

He receives all glory, honor, and praise.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The end is not yet.

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

To Noah, God reveals this promise.

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

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

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

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

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

We are at God’s mercy.

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

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

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

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

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

We thus seek to say what is to be said.

We thus seek to do what is to be done.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There is no other way to heaven but through Christ.

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

All roads do not lead to heaven.

All religions and Christian denominations are not the same.

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

Only Christ saves.

There is no other savior.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

His Word is truth, truth that leads to life.

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

Because He does, we do.

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

There is no other.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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“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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“He is not here, for He has risen,” Matthew 28:1-10

 

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Readings: Psalm 16; Acts 10:34–43; Colossians 3:1–4; Matthew 28:1–10

1Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. 2And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. 3His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. 4And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. 5But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. 6He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. 7Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.” 8So they departed quickly from the tomb with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. 9And behold, Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him. 10Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.”

 

In the Name of the risen Lord Jesus. Amen.

Jesus.VictorJesus is risen, as He said.

These words bring joy to the ear this morning and always.

He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

The great joy of those women who heard the words of God’s messenger that morning and did not see our Lord in the tomb is also our own.

By God’s inspired Word, we know that our Redeemer lives.

Christ is victorious over the grave.

He who had authority to lay down His life also had authority to take it up again (John 10: 15, 17, 18).

This Jesus did on the Third day, the very day that He rose bodily from the dead.

We are not here speaking of some spirit who now lives, as if the body of Christ remained in decay.

Christ in His body is living.

“If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up — if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” (1 Corinthians 15:14-17).

Sin is real.

It is doing what God does not command and not doing what He does command.

Death too is real.

It is a real consequence of sin.

Sin brings about physical death, of which all must face, sooner or later.

Sin also brings about eternal death, unless there be salvation from Another who overcomes sin and death.

This is what Christ did by His resurrection.

Jesus’ resurrection testifies to the truth that death is powerless against the Lord Christ.

So too is eternal death powerless against the Lord’s brethren,  who we are, through faith in His blessed Word.

“Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:20-22)

The death of Christ was real.  On the cross Jesus did die.

His resurrection is just as real and true.  This is how you know that Jesus truly keeps His Word.

The Lord’s resurrection also means your resurrection.

Christ being raised from the dead means your rising from the dead, not only from the deadness of your sin to new life now by faith, but also when our Lord returns.

Christ’s resurrection means your resurrection, your resurrection unto life.

Christ says through the Apostle Paul, “The Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord.”  (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17)

In another place, Paul writes, “We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed — in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).

Jesus Himself says, “The hour is coming in which all who are in the graves will hear His voice and come forth — those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation” (John 5:28-29).

Here, our Lord makes distinction.

Scripture teaches that all will rise from the dead, both believers in Christ and nonbelievers.  But only those who have done good, only those who have faith in Christ’s goodness, forsaking their own, only these will be with the Father unto all eternity.

On the other hand, those who have done evil, those who do evil by not taking Christ’s Word and work as their own, these will rise to eternal death.  Having not believed the promises of the Lord while in the world, these will receive the due reward for their unbelief.

Those who do believe the promises of God, though they not see them all fulfilled here and now, these “Will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).

As for Jesus only spiritually rising from the dead and not bodily, which some contend happened, Jesus ate and drank after being raised.

 As it is reported in Luke’s Gospel, “Jesus Himself stood in the midst of them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you.’ But they were terrified and frightened, and supposed they had seen a spirit. And He said to them, ‘Why are you troubled? And why do doubts arise in your hearts? ‘Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have.’ When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His feet. But while they still did not believe for joy, and marveled, He said to them, ‘Have you any food here?’ So they gave Him a piece of a broiled fish and some honeycomb. And He took it and ate in their presence.” (Luke 24:36-43)

A spirit does not eat. A spirit does not drink.

Jesus did these very things, right in front the disciples.

From the virgin birth to Christ’s bodily resurrection, and from the creation of the world to the Lord’s glorious return on judgment day, do not trust what you think, what reason tells you, or what our current scientific establishment tells you to be true.

Trust in the Lord and what He says.

There will you find Jesus living and dying, and rising and ascending, for you.

Here is the difference between judgment and forgiveness, death and life, hell and heaven:

What God declares to be so in His Word is for your salvation.

It is not just for anyone and everyone.

It is for you.

Believing that the Bible is true is a good thing.

Believing that there is a god is good thing.

But ‘a god’ doesn’t save.

Unless the God of Scripture, even Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is your God, all the believing in the world won’t help you.

Christ did die and He did rise from the dead.

But His death and resurrection does not save you unless it is also yours.

By means of His own death, Jesus Christ put your sin to death.

If you wish to carry your own sin and have it your way, Christ’s death and resurrection won’t profit you.

You will bear your own load and come to judgment; the penalty for your sin will be yours and yours alone.

In Christ alone is your sin fully forgiven.

Lay your sins on Him, therefore, and receive His forgiveness.

Believe the heavenly Word of grace, mercy, and peace.  These are yours—in Christ.

The Lord does not lie.

Christ’s resurrection bears witness and sure testimony that He fulfills and will fulfill, and does and will do, all that He says.

Just as Christ had said, He rose from the dead.

Before that Good Friday, Jesus had clearly declared to His disciples, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify. And the third day He will rise again” (Matthew 20:18-19).

 A few other times, too, Jesus spoke of what would soon come to pass.  And it did.

Jesus Christ, alive from the dead forevermore, is your surety and guarantee of what is to come, not only later, but even now, as you hear Christ’s Word preached, eat and drink His body and blood, and receive His blessing.

The joy of Christ’s gifts are yours.

Christ is risen, just as He said.  Your Redeemer lives.  Jesus Christ is risen today.  Alleluia!  Amen.

 

PrayingHands&Cross1Almighty God the Father, through Your only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, You have overcome death and opened the gate of everlasting life to us. Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of our Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by Your life-giving Spirit; 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 Resurrection of our Lord)

 

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

 

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Psalm 22

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

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus endured such hostilities.

He died at the hands of sinful men.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The sinless became the sinner.

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

Willingly the Savior endured the cross, scorning its shame.

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

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

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

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

It makes no difference.

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

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

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

He fulfilled it!

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

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

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

All is done!

It is finished!

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

Jesus is your perfection before God.

Jesus is your righteousness before the Father.

Jesus is your peace before the Just Judge.

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

In Christ Jesus, it is truly finished!

All is accounted for.

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

Christ was there on that cross in death for you.

For your sins He died.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus says the same to you.

Do not weep for Him.

Weep for yourselves and for your own sins.

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

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

He Himself was!

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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“Jesus Institutes the Lord’s Supper,” Matthew 26:17–30

 

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17Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Where will you have us prepare for you to eat the Passover?” 18He said, “Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, ‘The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.’” 19And the disciples did as Jesus had directed them, and they prepared the Passover.

      20When it was evening, he reclined at table with the twelve. 21And as they were eating, he said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22And they were very sorrowful and began to say to him one after another, “Is it I, Lord?” 23He answered, “He who has dipped his hand in the dish with me will betray me. 24The Son of Man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.” 25Judas, who would betray him, answered, “Is it I, Rabbi?” He said to him, “You have said so.”

      26Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said, “Take, eat; this is my body.” 27And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, 28for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. 29I tell you I will not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.”   30And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

last-supper2On the night that Jesus was betrayed into the hands of sinners, He held what is called the ‘Last Supper’ with His disciples.

That ‘Last Supper’ is not at all ‘Last’ for us.

Jesus instituted it for you.

Our Lord says, “As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).

The meal in which we partake of Christ’s very body and blood is a proclamation of “the Lord’s death till He comes” again in His glory.

It is a meal of remembrance, but a meal of remembrance in the way of faith and confidence in the Lord’s Word and work and not merely by way of ‘not forgetting’.

The Lord’s Supper is a meal in which the Lord Himself distributes what only He Himself gives.

Though the eyes see one thing, the ears hear more than the eyes see.

The Lord would have us believe what He says.

This is how one eats and drinks the true body and blood of our Lord worthily, having faith in the very Words that the Lord speaks.

True confidence and lasting peace are found in God’s Word alone, even the Incarnate Word, who says, “Given and shed FOR YOU for the forgiveness of sins.”

In the Lord’s Supper the Lord Jesus gives His very body and His very blood to eat and to drink for the remission of sins.

As Dr. Luther had said before, “That person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words: ‘Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.’ But anyone who does not believe these words or doubts them is unworthy and unprepared, for the words ‘for you’ require all hearts to believe.” (Luther’s Small Catechism, The Sacrament of the Altar, ‘Who, then, receives such Sacrament worthily?’)

We partake of the Lord’s Supper on the basis of God’s Word, having faith in that and not in ourselves.

Faith takes God at His Word, believing His Son, for you, not only in Word, but in bread and wine, in body and blood.

The Lord’s Supper is therefor offered in our churches, offered and not forced.

We cannot coerce anyone to believe.

We do not force anyone to receive the Sacrament of the Altar.

The Lord does not give it in order to burden consciences.  He gives it to comfort and to gladden the heart.  He gives it that you know that you are forgiven and that you have the Lord’s peace.

Jesus says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

Even as the Lord gives rest in His Gospel, so also does the Lord give you rest in the Lord’s Supper, for the Lord’s Supper is Gospel.

In the Lord’s Supper, the Lord gives you this rest for your weary soul.

There, He provides and nourishes you unto eternal life.

There, He strengthens and preserves you to life everlasting.

If you feel or think that you are not worthy to receive the holy things of God, know that true worthiness does not consist in you.

Your sincerity of confession, the sorrow of your heart, or your ‘feeling’ of readiness is not the basis for going to the Lord’s Supper (or for certainty that God hears your prayers, that He cares for you, or that He loves you.

The basis for eating and drinking at the Lord’s Table is not you.

It is the Lord’s Word.

If you wait until you feel worthy to partake of the holy gifts of God, you never will.

Though you know yourself to be unworthy, as you confess yourself to be united with all sinners everywhere since the Fall, this supper is prepared for you, not because of your own righteousness, but because here the Lord gives you forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

“Where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation” (Luther’s Small Catechism, The Sacrament of the Altar, ‘What is the benefit of such eating and drinking?’).

Take Christ’s words as they are.

Many add to them, take away from them, or fully omit them, but this is not the right way.

Christ gave bread and said, “This is My body.”

Christ gave wine and said, “This is My blood.”

Jesus could not be clearer than this, saying what He meant and meaning what He said.

St. Paul says, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” (1 Corinthians 10:16).

Sadly, not all believe with reference to what God says in His Word, here or elsewhere.

Not all believe that drinking from the cup is to partake of Christ’s blood.

Not all believe that eating the bread is to partake of Christ’s body.

Not all believe that fermented wine is to be used.

Some replace the wine with grape juice or some other drink, which is not according to Christ’s institution.

Not only is Christendom not in common union about the elements themselves.

Most within Christendom do not believe that the Lord’s Supper gives what Jesus actually gives, the full forgiveness of sins.

This is a problem!

Because not all who call themselves Christians are united in the faith about what our Lord says, even by His own clear testimony, we regrettably are not able to express true unity them as one before the world, simply for the reason that we are not clearly united as one in confession.

For this reason, our churches and the Christian church throughout her history has practiced ‘closed communion.

This is not the unloving practicing of welcoming all to the table, regardless of creed and confession.

It is the loving practice of clearly proclaiming Christ and Him crucified to a confused world, declaring that Christ and His Word does matter, that Christ’s body and blood, truly and really present with the bread and wine, are given for life and salvation.

This we believe and this we confess.

The Lord offers the Sacrament of the Altar for your salvation.

It is not the bodily eating and drinking that does this, but the words here written, “‘Given and shed for you for the remission of sins’; which words, besides the bodily eating and drinking, are the chief thing in the Sacrament; and he that believes these words has what they say and express, namely, the forgiveness of sins” (Luther’s Small Catechism, The Sacrament of the Altar, ‘How can bodily eating and drinking do such great things?’). Amen.

 

PrayingHands&Cross1O Lord, in this wondrous Sacrament You have left us a remembrance of Your passion. Grant that we may so receive the sacred mystery of Your body and blood that the fruits of Your redemption may continually be manifest in us; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen. (Collect of the Day for Maundy Thursday)

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

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

On this day, the people proclaimed acclamation to God.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

They were right.

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

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

Far from it!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These words, too, are paradoxical.

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus would not have suffered as He had.

Blood would not have been shed.

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

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

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

God does.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

We hear it and we listen to it.

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

To believe God’s Word is not blindness.

God’s Word is not unsure.

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

We don’t follow the Bible this way.

We are not blind to where we’re going.

We know where we’re going.

We know our eternity is with God in heaven.

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

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

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

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

Such a faith rests in Jesus according to His Word.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amid these, there is Christ.

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

Lowly He enters Jerusalem.

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

He does so that you live—eternally. Amen.

 

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

 

For audio, go here.

 

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