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The Hope and the Comfort of the Resurrection

13 I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. 14 For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. 15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. 16 For 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. 17 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. 18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18)

Dear Family, friends, and loved ones.

The words of the Lord that draw our attention this day are those from 1 Thessalonians chapter 4, read just a few moments ago, where Paul, an apostle of the Lord Jesus, writes of those who have died in the faith of the Lord Jesus Christ, of those who have fallen asleep. Here, he encourages Christians of their hope, even in the midst of sorrow and grief, that they do not sorrow and grieve as others do who have no hope. Christians have such hope on account of Christ’s death and resurrection. Because Jesus rose from the dead, so too do those who sorrow have confidence that the deceased in the Lord will also, with Christ, rise from the dead when Jesus comes again.

I was able to share these encouraging words from Thessalonians with the V. before he went into the hospital. We were talking about All Saints’ Day and how the word “saint” includes believers in Christ who continue to struggle with their sin, as well as those whose race has been won, who now rest from their labors, and enjoy God’s presence apart from sin.

On that day, V. was missing G. greatly. He was grieving her death and longed for her presence.

Even as he grieved, sorrowed, and perhaps felt lonely, it is just in that place that the news of Christ’s resurrection, that death does not have the last word, also for us, takes root and gives comfort. Like rays of light breaking through the darkness, not a “quick fix,” here the moment, gone the next, but a sure Word from the Lord, the resurrection sustains and strengthens. It gives the certainty of God’s favor. Through the good days and the days of trouble, which both come, Jesus is our hope and our peace.

V.’s struggle is now over. No more visits to the doctor. No more disappointments about possible remedies. No more contending with his own sins or the sins of others.

V. is at peace. We can be sure of this, not because of how good V. was in life, but because of the promises of God in Christ, which V. believed.

V. confessed and did not deny what Christians everywhere confess and do not deny, that he was a sinner, a sinner before a just God, a sinner who does not deserve God’s kindness, but rather, his condemnation. V. confessed this, as all Christians will do.

The Bible teaches that we are not as God wants us to be. V. understood this. He also believed that our keeping of the Law doesn’t save. Jesus does, Jesus, and Jesus alone.

There is salvation in no other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, NKJ).

Though we are not perfect and holy, Jesus was. He had not come “To destroy the Law or the Prophets” but “to fulfill” them (Matt. 5:17, NKJ). He did not do these things because He needed to do them for Himself. He fulfilled them for us, as our proxy, our substitute, in order that we not be judged as guilty, but innocent before our Creator.

And this we are, Jesus Christ having died our death on the cross and being raised on the third day.

In addition to confessing Himself to be a sinner, V. confessed Jesus Christ to be His Savior. He heard the words of God’s absolution, God’s forgiveness of his sins, and declared this to be his own by the words, “I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the T life everlasting.”

V. believed these words, confessing them to be so. This is what Christians do. Words have meaning. It is with confidence that the Christian can say and does say, “I am Christ’s and He is mine.” Even in the midst of death, the Christian is sure and certain of the resurrection to come.

Before us is V.’s body in the casket. His death we cannot deny. It is a consequence of the Fall (Genesis 3). Before the first sin, all was good, “very good” and there was no death, only life (Genesis 1:31). Now, there is death.

The troubles that we face in the world, the unrest, the struggles, sicknesses, death—all these are the effects of sin. They show us that the world is not as it’s supposed to be, that something is not right.

As much as we might try to “fix” it or find ways to avoid the inevitable, we will always fall short. Salvation doesn’t rest with us. It comes from God through His Son. Try to go another way and you will only deceive yourself.

The Psalmist says, “What man can live and not see death? Can he deliver his life from the power of the grave?” (Ps. 89:48 NKJ). The answer to the first question is “none,” and “no” to the second.

Today reminds us of our own mortality, a truth that we are not able to escape. You can run, but you can’t hide. We have our limits, and running from the truth is one of them. We can only do so for so long. It will catch up with us.

This is why today is not a “celebration of” V.’s “life.” For V. and his 94 years , we do indeed give thanks. These are blessed gifts of God, not at all to be despised or taken for granted.

Today is, though, the recognition that life in this world has an end. We might not want it to be so, but such is the way that it is.

But as Paul the apostle reminds us, this day is not only one of grief and sorrow. It is also a day of hope and confidence, not in the life that V. had lived, but in the life that Christ Jesus had lived, for V. and for you, and the death that He died, for V. and for you, and the resurrection on the third day, for V. and for you.

We also have confidence and hope this day concerning V.’s body. In time to come, just as God has said, so it will be, “The dead in Christ will rise” (1 Thessalonians 4:17).

Even as the Holy Scriptures reveal that Jesus rose from the dead on day three following His death by crucifixion on Good Friday, so too will those who have died in Christ also rise from the dead, dead no more.

Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die” (Jn. 11:25 NKJ).

The “die” in “never die” that Jesus speaks about is eternal death, hell. Like the resurrection, many deny this teaching, too. Jesus didn’t. He speaks the truth, because He is the Truth, the Truth through whom one comes to the Heavenly Father and lives (John 14:6).

Whoever lives and believes in Me”, Jesus says, will never suffer eternal death. “Though he may” physically “die, he shall live.” These are the very promises of God’s Son, Savior, and these are for you.

V. believed these words, too. He believed that death does not have the last word. Christ has conquered death. Jesus has overcome the grave. The last word is not death and hell, but life and heaven.

In the resurrection, “When this corruptible has put on incorruption, and this mortal has put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written: Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your sting? O Hades, where is your victory? The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 15:54-57 NKJ).

Baptized “in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19), V.’s identity was as a child of God. Feeding on Christ’s body and blood in the Supper of our Lord, V. regularly received the forgiveness of sins. He did not sustain his own life. It was God that did. And now, V. awaits the resurrection of His body, but even “today,” He is with the Lord, “in paradise” (Luke 23:43)

Even as you did so much for V. in caring for him to the end, so the Lord took care of his greatest need—“Peace with God” (Romans 5:1). And this peace, V. had, in Christ.

This peace is also yours, in Christ, resting on and in Him who “was crucified, died, and buried,” who rose from the dead, and who lives and reigns to all eternity. Because of Him, your death, too, will not have the last word. You have no need to fear it, because the death of Jesus means that your sin no longer has the final say.

If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things? Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen…Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? (Romans 8:31-35) And the answer—No one and nothing! (Romans 8:38-39).

Do not grieve as those who have no hope. The hope of the world is fading and will not last. Lasting hope and true comfort that remains is that which God promises through His Son. Amen.

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Christ Your Hope

Jesus.EmptyTomb

 

19 If in this life we only have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men. 20 But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.  21 For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man.

 1 Corinthians 15:19-21

He is Risen.  He is Risen indeed.  Alleluia!

On this joyous occasion, Christ’s church confidently rejoices in the bodily resurrection of Jesus her Lord.   The suffering and death that Christ had endured is now past.  Jesus reigns victoriously over death and the grave.  His three-day tomb remains forever empty.  Jesus is risen, just as He had said.  Sin has lost its power and dominion.

Jesus our Savior died with your sin on the cross Good Friday.  But He who knew no sin, who became sin for us, was the only victor, the only one of the two standing when all was said and done.  Darkness had covered the land with Jesus’ death.  But now, the light of Christ shines brightly, piercing through the darkness of death and rejoicing the heart with resurrected gladness.

News of Christ’s triumph flows as a river throughout the world, giving life to all who drink from it.  This water is the pure water of God’s truth.  This water contains no contaminates, nor is any harmful material to be found in it.  It does not make sick.  It brings to health.  It does not make weak.  It brings strength.  It does not cause complacency.  It moves to faith.  It does not cause despondency.  It moves to confidence.  It does not bring hopelessness.  It raises to blessed assurance, the blessed assurance that Jesus is yours, that He has overcome death and the grave.  Just as He has been resurrected from the dead, so you too are brought to life in Christ Jesus our Lord, raised from the deadness of your sin to the resurrection of eternal life.

This is good news!  Christ has now arisen.  Had Christ, who once was slain, not burst His three-day prison, our faith had been in vain.  The words of Hymn 482 in Lutheran Service Book, appropriately titled, “This Joyful Eastertide,” echo the words of St. Paul where he writes, “And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty” (1 Corinthians 15:14).  With these words, St. Paul the apostle demonstrates the futility and the utter uselessness of faith apart from the bodily resurrection of our Lord.

In the day of this blessed apostle, there were those who claimed that there was no resurrection of the dead (v12).  For some reason, they had lost sight of the truth of Christ’s resurrection.   Having lost sight of that, they could do no other except lose sight of the hope and promise of God.  Though St. Paul proclaimed Christ as having been raised from the dead (v12), this message had lost significance among some in the church of Corinth.  Therefore, these men falsely concluded that there was no resurrection from the dead.  Having no confidence in the Lord’s resurrection, they could do no other except construct a hope of their own making.  In the process, the very hope that St. Paul had preached to them became null and void, not because it wasn’t true, but because there was no trust in what had been rightfully and diligently proclaimed.

Except it be for the witness and testimony of the Holy Scriptures, we too would be in the same boat of doubt and denial when it comes to the resurrection of the dead.   But the Words of God before us today reveal differently.  This day called Easter witnesses and testifies, according to the Bible, that there is a resurrection from the dead and that Christ is alive according to the flesh.

These things cannot be apprehended apart from God’s witness and testimony.  They cannot be understood and held to be true based on our own personal experiences.  Instead, the things of God are not naturally known.  They are revealed through the heavenly Word, not the heavenly word of our own heart or head, but the heavenly Word written and sealed in God’s book, written by the apostles’ and prophets.

If these Word’s of our Lord were not so, there would indeed be no bodily resurrection of Christ.  There would be no ‘rose again from the dead’ or ‘rose again according to the Scriptures’ of the Apostolic and Nicene Creeds.  Christians everywhere would be making false confessions and lying before the world of Him who died and rose again; if indeed Christ had not risen.

If there were no resurrection of the dead, all worship and praise would be empty and worthless.  There would be no need to worship in a Christian congregation, for all ‘roads would certainly lead to heaven.’  There would be no uniqueness to Christianity, for it would turn into a religion of salvation by works, as all the other religions are today.  Believers and nonbelievers alike would all be going to the same place.  It would not really matter what one believed, as long as one was sincere of heart.

If Christ did not rise, then it would truly be as St. Paul says, “If in this life we only have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men” (v19).  If there was no resurrection of the dead, and if Christ had not been raised, then the church’s proclamation of her risen Lord would be for nothing.  Her number one priority would not be preaching the Gospel of forgiveness through Jesus Christ, but preaching man’s works and emphasizing his own endeavors, not in the service of others, but for earning recognition with God.  God’s ministers would be false teachers and false witnesses, because they testify of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up – if in fact the dead do not rise (v14-15).

If Christ had not been raised, faith would be in vain.  Worship would be void and hypocritical.  There would be no reason to come to church, even only a few times a year, because there would be no hope in this hopeless world.  There would be no God but oneself, for who could know God if the Bible was untrue?  There would be no eternal hope for a blessed peace.  All would live as many do now, living for themselves and not for the Lord or for neighbor.  There would be little concern for the future and more for the instant gratification of today.

With no resurrection of the dead, nor resurrection of Christ, what would be the hope of sinful man before the just God?  Could man by His work or ability satisfy the penalty of sin, the debt of iniquity, or the guilt of transgression?  What would be the end of it all?   And what would be the end of the entire world, even of us who confess Christ Jesus to be Lord, except hopelessness, misery, and grief.  Satisfaction and contentment could never be guaranteed and everyone would be in the ‘rat race’ of trying to make peace with God at any expense and by any means.

But thanks be to God!  It is not as they in St. Paul’s day claimed.  Nor is it as many in our day believe, that Jesus is a crutch and that one has the power to altar or change one’s destiny before God.  Christ has indeed risen from the dead!  This means everything to us and to Christ’s church.  Death could not hold Him.  The grave could not bind Him.  The tomb could not contain Him.  Christ was not sealed in by death.  He opened the way to life, the hopeful life, the confident life, the blessed life, and the eternal life.

Christ is your hope this day.  By His death, He died your death.  By His life, you are raised to new life.  No longer does your guilt have the last word.  Consciences are clear and free.  The debt of your iniquity is paid.  The penalty of your sin, forgiven.  In Christ, you have everlasting hope before the just God.  Instead of liable, you are innocent.  Instead of accountable for sin, you are liberated from your sin.  Peace with God is now our state of affairs in the presence of God.  Christ is your peace.  Hopefulness, joy, and delight are now your end.  Instead of meaninglessness, there is meaningfulness in life.

Christ is risen from the dead!  Our faith in the resurrection is not in vain.  He who died lives forevermore.  There is reason for eager anticipation and joyous expectation of what will be.  Our heavenly homecoming is drawing near.  His Means of Grace are effective and powerful.  God’s Word gives what it says.  Even today, His Word works wonders.  Great expectations are the product of the faith founded on the Lord’s promises, not only for the future, but even in the present.

The Church’s proclamation of her risen Lord is not for nothing.  Her Lord is her everything.  Through liturgy and song, the church confesses her Savior.  Through prayer and praise, she confesses her Christ.  The preaching that man’s sins are forgiven in Christ Jesus continues to be the mission of the church.  Man does not earn recognition with God by what He does.  But God, in His mercy, grants His favor to man through His beloved Son.  Through Jesus, God recognizes you as saint, holy, and righteous.  The Lord’s resurrection is true.  God’s Word is not untrue.

Because Christ has risen from the dead, worship of the Triune God is not trivial and without value.  Worship of God in spirit and truth is full of meaning and import.  Because God and His Word are true, heavenly gifts are offered at the baptismal font and at the Lord’s altar.  Our Lord speaks words of life.  Those of His sheepfold listen to His voice and feast at His banqueting table of Word and Sacrament.  Because the Lord is risen from the dead, there is complete uniqueness to the religion called Christianity.  No other religion teaches the salvation of the God who became man, died, and rose again on the third day.   All other religions do lead to the same place, but Christ alone grants eternal life.  All others lead elsewhere.  It really does matter what one believes, regardless of how sincere one is.

The Apostolic and Nicene Creeds of Christendom are true.  They do give an accurate witness to the faith of Christians everywhere, both of Christians today and of Christians before.  Their confessions testify to the world of Christ’s resurrection and of Him who died and rose again.  There is a ‘rose again from the dead’ and a ‘rose again according to the Scriptures’, for Christ has indeed been raised from the dead.  The Scriptures are really true.  The testimonies are correct.  The Word is sure.  The truth is found.

There is much reason to rejoice this day.  The Christ, who had once been slain, has burst His three-day prison.  Death no longer entombs Him.  ‘Christ has triumphed!  He is living!  Alleluia!’  (LSB 465, “Now All the Vault of Heaven Resounds”).  This is a ‘Joyful Eastertide’, for Christ ‘the Crucified has sprung to life’ (LSB 482, “This Joyful Eastertide”).  ‘He lives, yes, He lives, and will nevermore die’ (LSB 480, He‘s Risen, He’s Risen).  Jesus is your Savior, faithful and true.  Because He lives, you too shall live with Him, now and forevermore.  Amen.

Scripture Readings for Good Friday, 2013C

3Crosses

Collect of the Day

Almighty 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.

Old Testament: Isaiah 52:13—53:12

        13Behold, my servant shall act wisely; he shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted.  14As many were astonished at you—his appearance was so marred, beyond human semblance, and his form beyond that of the children of mankind—15so shall he sprinkle many nations; kings shall shut their mouths because of him; for that which has not been told them they see, and that which they have not heard they understand.  1Who has believed what they heard from us?  And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

        2For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.  3He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

        4Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  5But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.  6All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

        7He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.  8By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people?  9And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth.

        10Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.  11Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities.  12Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Epistle: Hebrews 4:14–16; 5:7–9

14Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. . . .

      5:7In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, 10being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.

Gospel: John 18:1—19:42

1When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron Valley, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. 2Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. 3So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. 4Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them,  “Whom do you seek?” 5They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them,  “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6When Jesus said to them,  “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. 7So he asked them again,  “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” 8Jesus answered,  “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” 9This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken:  “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” 10Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) 11So Jesus said to Peter,  “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

      12So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him. 13First they led him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. 14It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people.

      15Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the court of the high priest, 16but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. 17The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” 18Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.

      19The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. 20Jesus answered him,  “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. 21Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.” 22When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” 23Jesus answered him,  “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” 24Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

      25Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” 26One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” 27Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.

      28Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. 29So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” 31Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” 32This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

      33So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34Jesus answered,  “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36Jesus answered,  “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered,  “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

      After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. 39But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” 40They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.

      19:1Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. 2And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. 3They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. 4Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” 5So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” 6When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” 7The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” 8When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. 9He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11Jesus answered him,  “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”

      12From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” 13So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. 14Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” 15They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” 16So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.

      So they took Jesus, 17and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called the place of a skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 19Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. 21So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

      23When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, 24so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,

      “They divided my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.”

So the soldiers did these things, 25but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother,  “Woman, behold, your son!” 27Then he said to the disciple,  “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

      28After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture),  “I thirst.” 29A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said,  “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

      31Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. 32So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. 36For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” 37And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”

      38After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. 39Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. 40So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. 41Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

The Lord Jesus willingly endured the cross–for you!  Through His death, all of your sins are done away with.  Thus can St. Paul say, “If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?  Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect.  It is God who justifies.  Who is he who condemns?  It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (Romans 8:31-34).  In Christ, you’re sins are no more.  Though you still feel them, because of Christ, no longer are they yours.  And because God the Father judged His Son, no longer any judgment do you bear before God.  Thus, are you forgiven, saved, and free, in the Lord Jesus Christ!

The wages of sin is death

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life

in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23

St. Paul, writing by inspiration of the Lord, writes first what sounds to our ears as very harsh.  Just a few chapters before, he wrote that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).  These words exclude no one.  They include everyone, for that word “all” is wholly inclusive.  Sin is described as “lawlessness” (1 John 3:4).  Indeed, it is!  Sin is the breaking of God’s commandments.  It is disobedience to God’s Holy Word.  Here there is no discrimination. Everyone is in the same boat as the other.  “No one is righteous,” acceptable in God’s sight (Psalm 14:1-3;’ 53:1-3; Ecclesiastes 7:20; Romans 3:10).  All are therefore deserving of death, even eternal death, because of all that we think, do, and believe contrary to God’s Word and will.

We would like to think that things are not so bad.  We naturally minimize our sin.  “I didn’t mean to do it.”  “That was not my intention.”  “I was only trying to help.”  “I really didn’t know.”  But by these we only try to cover up what God already knows (Psalm 19:12).  Though we try to convince others and ourselves otherwise, we are not able to convince God.  His Word is too strong.  Before Him, there is no way of weaseling ourselves out of our own sinfulness.  We are stuck in the hole and cannot escape.  We are falling and cannot help ourselves or any other out.  We are trapped.

Like the mouse running through the maze trying to get to the cheese, so human reason seeks the goal of easing the conscience that we feel better about ourselves.  The problem is, there is no end to this maze.  We will only keep running.  And though rest might come for a time, the unrest of a guilty conscience and shamefulness for words and actions still will come.

Sinners cannot save themselves.  They cannot minimize their sin.  Nor can they escape what is according to their sinful human nature.  The only true and lasting salvation must come from outside of the sinner and apart from human reason.  Human reason cannot mitigate God’s decrees, nor can it understand God’s promises.  “The gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.”  Such gift is through faith, not in one’s own works, but in Christ’s works.

Rather than minimize sin, Christians recognize it for what it truly is and what it truly merits, according to God’s Word.  And in doing so, they also recognize the only help that is available for it—Jesus Christ, who through His own death put sin to death and gives forgiveness and  eternal life to all who believe in Him.  Amen.

Luther

“Human reason would like sin to have no greater force and power than it itself dreams of. Although hypocrites, who do not know Christ, may feel sorry for sin, they still suppose that they can get rid of it easily by their works and merits.”  (Luther’s Lectures on Galatians, LW 26, p34).

Prayer: Righteous Judge, forgive me for believing that my sin is not as great as You Yourself reveal to me.  Help me to see my sin rightly, that I believe in Your abundant grace more firmly.  Save me only for Jesus’ sake.  Amen.

Christ’s Passion and Death

  John 18-19

Before breathing His last, Jesus declared, It is finished! It was for no small reason that Jesus spoke thus.  By 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 sin too had died and death had lost its eternal hold.  For this reason, the unforgetful words of our Lord, It is finished! bring 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.  He 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, that 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 was not an unbloody Jesus.  He shed His own blood, not for Himself, but for you.  The servant of Isaiah chapter 52 & 53 is truly the servant of the Most High God, but He is the suffering servant, whom we esteem as 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 true identity, still did they crucify Him.

Though Jesus endured such hostilities, though He died at the hands of sinful men, though His life ended just after His last words that still echo in the ears, It is finished! He surrendered Himself to death and permitted Himself to be crucified.

Jesus did not say what He said because His suffering in this world 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 die to save Himself.

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, was now accomplished.  All the work that His Heavenly Father had given Him to do was now done.  There is nothing more to be done.  There is nothing undone that Jesus hasn’t fulfilled for your salvation.  There is nothing to add to, and nothing to take away from what the Lord Christ had completed in death – for you.

The penalty for your sin and justice for your guilt was laid upon Him who knew no sin.  The holy One became the unholy.  The righteous One became the unrighteous.  The sinless became the sinner.  In your place and as your substitute, the Passover Lamb Christ Jesus was slain.

Willingly our Savior endured the cross, even 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, is the only hope for our dying world, for sinful people, and for Christ’s church.

Whatever you would add or subtract from His work is all for nothing.  The sacrifice of God’s Son is sufficient satisfaction and compensation for all sin, whether it be the sin of the most pious saint or the sin of the most wretched sinner.  It makes no difference, for there is no partiality with God.  He shows no favoritism to anyone.

This is good news for all who sorrow over their sin, grieve because of their unrighteousness, and despair over themselves.   The first-born Son of God reconciled you to His Father.  He who is the way, the truth, and the life placated God’s wrath by means of humility, suffering, and death (John 14:6).

Christ the Messiah came to fulfill all that was spoken of Him.  He was the suffering servant of the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 52-53), the Psalmist calling out, My God, My God, why have you forsaken Me? (Psalm 22), and the seed of the woman crushing the serpents head (Genesis).  He came to fulfill all righteousness and willingly obeyed His Father in every respect.  He was the Servant of servants and the Slave of slaves to free both you and me and all the world by condemning sin with His flesh in death and doing the work which we could not.   This He has completed.  All is done.  It is finished.

In Christ the crucified, all requirements for your salvation are complete.  He is your perfection before God.  He is your righteousness before the Father.  He is your peace before the Just Judge.  Through His suffering and death, by His work of righteousness upon the land, on account of His faithful and perfect obedience to His Father, He fulfilled all the requirements of the 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, and through His death, you now have life.

This is how to see Christ’s death rightly: not that he was merely one who died who should not have, not simply  having pity toward the one who got what He Himself did not deserve, and not casting blame only on others, like the Jews or the Romans.  The Jewish religious leaders certainly called for His death.  The Romans did put Him to death by execution.

Christ was there for you.  For your sins He died.  Seeing Christ’s death rightly is believing that Christ died in your place, that you deserved all that He got, but that He took your place, even in death, so that you have life, and that you no longer be ruled by sin and its evil desires, but look to Him for help and salvation.

Christ’s death means your life, free from sin and death.  By Christ’s death, your sin too is dead.  Having been baptized into the Name of Christ, you have been baptized into Christ’s death (Romans 6).  This means that you are now dead to sin, but alive to God, even as St. Paul writes, 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. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1-2).

Though this night be one of sorrow, sorrow for the death of Christ, more is it to be one of sorrow over your sins for which our Savior died.  On the way to the cross, 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 are you not there, for Christ was.

The little suffering you find in this life is no comparison to Christ’s.  If He suffered so much for us willingly, can you not do the same?  The problem is that you don’t see Christ’s suffering and death rightly.  You believe our own trials and tribulations to be the greater.  If you did see them rightly, you would cling all the more firmly to Christ and see in Him your only help and salvation.

To this end the Lord would preserve you.  He directs you to view the suffering and death of His Son as your own.  In this way, you see rightly what Christ endured, that all is indeed finished.  Your sin is done away with.  It is no more.  In Christ, all is truly finished.  In Christ, your salvation is won.  Amen.

“A Firm Confidence,” 2 Timothy 4:3-8

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you through our Lord Jesus Christ! Amen.

The basis for today’s sermon comes from those few words from St. Paul the Apostle to Timothy, where he writes, 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing (2 Timothy 4:3-8).

With these words, St. Paul writes to Timothy, his spiritual son in the faith (i.e. 1 Timothy 1:2). St. Paul the Apostle knew that his death was approaching. He recognized that his days were numbered (Psalm 90:12). He knew that he could not escape his own death, but with confidence, he wrote to Timothy of what he was sure.

In confidence, he declared, 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

From where had St. Paul the Apostle obtained such confidence? From where had St. Paul, even in the midst of facing his own death, such certainty that he was able to face death head on, positive of the crown of righteousness awaiting him, positive that he had kept the faith, sure that he had finished the race, and in unwavering faith declare, I have fought the good fight?…

11.01.26FuneralSermon.GenevaBennett.pdf

Music & Theology-Jewel’s “Intuition”

Reading the words of a song, even analyzing it for its content, is a good thing to do.  However, it might be a heavy dose of reality, a wake up call of sorts.  Many a popular song has moving melodies, but the words greatly lack genuine substance, let alone the truth, and often contain many a falsehood.

 

Take for example Jewel’s, “Intuition” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rraYK1QgMn0).  I like the melody, though I might here be illiterate when it comes to ‘good’ music in general.  I’m of the populists in this area.

But when it comes to theology, this is a different story.  I admit that I often gloss over the words of the songs that I listen to on the radio.  The music often drowns them out.  But I have to give this kind of practice of ‘not listening’ second thought.  Taking the words of songs for granted and even singing along with them may be more telling than not.

In “Intuition” by Jewel, she sings in part:

“…Follow your heart

Your intuition

It will lead you in the right direction

Let go of your mind

Your intuition is easy to find

Just follow your heart”

Granted, this is a ‘love’ song…but following your heart is a dangerous thing.  In reality, your heart does not “lead you in the right direction.”

Jesus says, for example, “Those things which proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and they defile a man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies. These are the things which defile a man…” (Matthew 15:18-20).

From these words alone, we have reason not to follow our hearts, but the Word of God, and the Word alone.  “The Holy Scriptures…are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

Even when it comes to love, the Word of the Lord is not deficient.  Led by our sinful hearts, we go by what we want in the moment and not by what God says.  It’s not always genuine love that we seek, but gratification.

We are to keep watch over our hearts, that our sinful desires not come to fruition, as St. Paul writes, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God” (1 Thessalonians 4:3-5).

And in another place he says, “Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body. Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:18-20).

Note also these words from St. James, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures” (James 1:13-18).

Rather than “follow your heart,” follow what the Lord says.  Hear the preached Word.  Deny yourself.  And hold fast to Christ.

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