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Already Clean…

“You are already clean because of the word

which I have spoken to you.”

John 15:3

“For above all one must take care that the heart is good, pure, and holy, as Ps. 51:10 states: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” It is as if he were saying that cleanness of the works of the body is nothing unless there first is cleanness of the heart. But this uncleanness of the heart is so deep that no human being is sufficiently aware of it, much less can purge it away by his own strength, as Jer. 17:9–10 says: “The heart of man is deceitful and inscrutable. Who will search it out? I the Lord search out the heart and the reins.” Therefore the heart becomes pure and good only through faith in Christ, as we read in Acts 15:9: “He made no distinction between us and them, but purified their hearts by faith.” For faith in the Word purifies, because just as the Word of God is completely pure and good, so it makes him who adheres to it pure and good like itself. Whatever it has and is able to do it shares with him who adheres to it and believes it. Ps. 19:7 says: “The Law of the Lord is unstained, changing the souls.” And Christ says in John 15:3: “You are clean because of the Word which I have spoken to you.” Thus also Ps. 51:4, in the Hebrew: “Against Thee alone have I sinned … so that Thou art justified in Thy sentence and blameless in Thy judgment.” He who believes in the Word of God is righteous, wise, true, good, etc. Thus, on the contrary, he who is separated from the Word of God or departs from it will necessarily remain in wickedness, in uncleanness, and in everything that is opposed to the Word of God. “He who trusts in his own mind is a fool” (Prov. 28:26), which is a statement against his own confidence. Therefore the apostle says in Titus 1:15: “To the impure nothing is pure, but their minds and consciences are corrupted.” This is what the apostle means here when he speaks of “falling away from the living God.” For one falls away from the living God when one falls away from His Word, which is alive and gives life to all things, yes, is God Himself. Therefore they die. He who does not believe is dead. But falling away comes about through unbelief. And thus it is clear what an “evil heart” of unbelief is. It is a heart in which nothing is good, but everything is evil, because it departs from everything that is good.” (LW 29: Lectures on Titus, Philemon, and Hebrews)

Campus Ministry — A Blessing Indeed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Place of Campus Ministry, p1

The Importance of Campus Ministry at Secular Colleges and Universities, p1-2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whoever Loves Jesus Keeps His Word

15[Jesus said:] “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17even the Spirit of truth, whom the world 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. 19Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21Whoever 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.”

22Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, “Lord, how is it that you will     manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?”  23Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.   24Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father’s who sent me. John 14:15-24

 

 

Novelty in the Christian faith is something to be wary of.  The Christian faith is historic.  Christians have gone before us and Christians will come after us.  The one common thread is the faith of our Lord Christ, in Him who is the same yesterday, today, forever (Hebrews 13:8).

The objective Christian faith is this way.  It does not change as the seasons.  It does not change with the times.  It stays the same and does not because its Author stays the same and never changes.  This is great comfort!  God the Lord does not change His love and mercy towards you.  Independent of the sin and regardless of the trespass, God the Father, through His Son, gives you His entire and complete forgiveness.  It doesn’t matter how big of sinner you are.  Nor does it matter what you’ve done.  God’s grace is sufficient to cover all of your sin, whether large or small.

This is so because of Christ.  Jesus kept all the commandments of the Father ‘to the T’, perfectly obeying them, lacking nothing.  But Jesus had no need of making amends for any of His own sin.  He had none.  The Scripture says that Jesus knew no sin (1 Corinthians 5:21).  The Bible says that, In all points He was tempted as we are, yet He was without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

Jesus did not keep the commandments for Himself.  He was already completely righteous, without sin, and entirely perfect.  But when the fullness of the time had come, God’s Son was born of a woman, and born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law (Galatians 4:4-5).

God sent His Son, not for Himself, but for you.  Christ died on the cross, not for His own sinlessness, but to clear you of your sinfulness.  This is the good news of God’s changelessness.  Christ already died on the cross, never to die again.  He already conquered death and the grave.  Because Christ has done these things, sin and death are no longer your lot.  God’s grace and His mercy are.

These do not benefit you if you refuse these gifts of our Lord.  God and His Christ do nothing with partiality.  He either forgives all your sin or none of your sin.  Your works do not add anything to what God has already done.  His forgiveness is all according to His grace, as it is written, 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 (Romans 4:5-6).

Because of Christ—this is why you are forgiven.  The promises of God are yours, for Christ’s sake.  Though you change, being confident the one moment and doubting the next, God does not.  He loves you with an everlasting love (Jeremiah 31:3).  His Word is true; His grace, sufficient (John 3:33 ; 2 Corinthians 12:9).

Through ordinary bread and wine, though these are all your eyes see, Jesus is really and truly present, for you, not because you do see, but because He declares it to be so.  For this reason, God’s Word is our confidence in faith and life.  Your understanding of it is not.

The Christian faith finds itself, not in novelty, but in faithfulness; steadfastness to Him who paid the price for our redemption with His own suffering and death. We were bought at a price, therefore, we are to honor and glorify God with our body, even with our heart, mind, and mouth (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23).

We were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. (1 Peter 1:18-21)

Christ is the means for understanding today’s text from St. John, the 14th chapter.  All that has been said was said for your benefit.  In order for anyone to love the Lord, he must first know that He has a gracious God, in Christ.  It is God who first loved us.  In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4:9-10)

To love the Lord, there must first be faith in the heart.  It is the bitter truth that apart from Christ, without faith, no one can rightly love God.  Any who think they can or are only deceive themselves, for 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).  Also, Jesus Himself says, Without Me you can do nothing (John 15:5).

It is revealed in Scripture that you lack what God demands.  This is why Christ is necessary.  Without Him, you are still in your sins.  Only in Christ does God count you righteous, perfect, and holy, not because you originally possess these qualities (of yourselves you don’t), but because what is Christ’s is counted as your own, for Christ has taken what is rightly yours—your sin, your death, and your hell.  One truly fears, loves, and trusts in God above all things only in Christ.  Because Christ was perfectly obedient to the Father, through faith, Christ’s obedience is considered as yours.

A Christian does not boast in his own work.  But he does boast in Christ’s work, acknowledging the truth that apart from Christ, he bears no goodness of his own before God, 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)..  Like Paul, the Christian too learns to say, 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 (Galatians 6:14).

Having said this, that Christ is your boast, He your Salvation, your Hope, and your life, the words of Christ from St. John’s Gospel are all the more relevant, for in Him do they find their proper place.  The Lord’s commandments you don’t fail to keep, because everything of Christ’s is already yours.  Just the opposite takes place.  Because in Christ everything of His has become yours, you can’t help but keep what the Lord says, both with regard to the true doctrine, for there is Christ, and with regard to life, loving neighbor.

This is so because Christ has redeemed you from the curse of the law (Galatians 3:13).  No longer are you under this curse.  You already have God’s favor, through faith in God’s Son.  Therefore, because of Christ, you freely keep and do what God says, cheerfully from the heart, according to the new man within you.  You still contend and struggle with your sinful nature, and your flesh is still weak, but the spirit is indeed willing (Matthew 26:41).

Therefore does Jesus speak of having and keeping His commandments.  To say that you have them, but not to keep them is nothing but hypocrisy.  I’m here speaking of God’s commandments, not man’s.  Man and the world invent their own works to please God.  But these only anger Him, for they do not have His approval, for they neither come from faith or belong to His Word.

Here is where we must be careful.  Our Lord clearly says, The one having my commandments and keeping them, it is he who loves me.  By commandments, He means HIS Word. Just a little later, He says, If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him. “He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father’s who sent Me (John 14:23-24).

This is how you love God, by believing the Word which He has given and remaining in it.  All who do not do this, following the dictates of their own heart and not what the written Word says, show who they truly love and who they truly don’t.  Not keeping God’s Word is sin.  This is why we take issue with wrong uses of Scripture and declare the truth of God and not the thoughts of men.

This is what Christ is talking about with regard to loving Him and keeping His Word. This is what makes it so necessary not just to believe anything that is said everywhere and anywhere, whether verbally or in print, whether in Christian bookstores or on Christian TV, or anywhere else, but to discern whether it is of God or of man.  Loving Christ means no less than paying close attention to preaching and teaching, distinguishing between what is true and right from what is false and wrong, only according to the Word, for not everything that sounds Christian is Christian.

This is how we love Christ, by keeping His Word.  This means, believing it, trusting in Christ for mercy, and not doubting His work, but placing full confidence in Him who loves us so.  Believing it, we will also live accordingly.  Though we be weak in the flesh, Christ remains our life and our peace with God.  Therefore will we ever be vigilant in good works that are according to God’s commands and doing in faith, even pointing out truth from error and suffering for it on account of Christ.  We won’t have the love of the world for doing this, but we will indeed have the love of the Father, the love of Christ, and Jesus making Himself known to us.  Amen.

Jesus Alone Gives Life

1[Jesus said:] “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

7So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. John 10:1-10 (ESV)

Jesus here makes a distinction. It is a distinction worth noting. It is a distinction worth paying attention to. It’s not for little reason that Jesus says of Himself that He came that they have life and have it abundantly, and that the thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.

In context, Jesus is talking about sheep, sheepfolds, doors, and doorkeepers. He here illustrates for us the difference between true preachers and false preachers, and the center of all true preaching, Christ. Jesus and Jesus alone gives life, and abundant life at that. He is the door through whom heaven is opened (John 14:6). It is through Christ, without your works, that you stand righteous before the living God. Though works are indeed necessary, though not for your salvation, your works don’t make you a Christian.

Here is a truth that stands quite forsaken today, but a truth that is true just the same. No one is a Christian because of what he does. You are not a Christian because of what you do. You are a Christian because of what another has done. You are not a Christian because you do this or that, or because you don’t do this or that. You are a Christian because Christ has cleansed you from your sin, because God has made you a Christian through the waters of Holy Baptism. You are holy child of the living God because Christ shed His blood for you. It is God that pronounces you righteous through His beloved Son. You therefore do the right thing because you are a Christian.

But you are not a Christian because you do the right thing. This would make you a Christian based on what you do, not on Him who shows mercy and bestows grace. If it were true that you were Christians because of what you do, you would have to say that if you did good, then you must be a Christian. If you did bad, then you must not be a Christian.

Here, the confidence is placed on you and what you do, not on God and what He done. The truth is, all of you, myself included, have to say that we have not done good enough and that even the ‘good things’ we have done are tainted with wrong motives, improper attitudes, and selfish reasons. We are not t perfect as God demands.

God says, “Be holy, for I am holy” (1 Peter 1:16; Leviticus 11:44, 45; 20:7). And we are not. If you were to base Christianity on you, you could not be certain of being in God’s favor. In fact, you would be nothing but uncertain of being in God’s favor.

Doubt is not of faith. Nor is it of God. Surety and confidence before God does not rest on you, but on Christ. And on Him, it is nothing but certain.

Therefore, does St. Paul write, “Having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1), a peace, by the way, which no one can take away from you.

Being a Christian is not based on what you do, but on Christ and what He has done for you. Though you are not holy, Jesus is. His holiness, His righteousness, His goodness is counted as yours through faith in Him. Like Abraham whose faith God counted to him as righteousness as Abraham believed the promise of God when God promised him a son to be born of his own body, though he was old and his wife Sarai was past the age of child bearing, so our faith too is counted as righteousness, as we believe in Christ who died and rose again for our salvation (Genesis 15:1-7).

You cannot escape the truth of your sinfulness. But God has taken care of our sin with His Son’s death on the cross. And Jesus did not stay dead! “The third day He rose again according the Scriptures and ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of the Father” (Nicene Creed).

To be Christian means to have Christ as your own, and to have Christ’s righteousness counted as your own. This doesn’t mean that you now don’t have to do the things that you should, or that you can now neglect the needs of your neighbor. God’s grace and mercy toward you doesn’t mean that now there’s nothing for you to do. With regard to your salvation, yes, this is true. Jesus Christ died your death. And as Paul rightly says, “You are complete in Him” (Colossians 2:10). Thus, having Christ, you have everything.

And as He has everything and gives to you, so you, having everything, give to others. God doesn’t need your help. Nor does He need your good works. But your neighbor does. As Christ came, “not to be served, but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many,” so you too are not here to be served, but to serve, to serve others in their need and to help as you are able with the gifts that God has given us (Matthew 20:28).

It is not the things that you do or don’t do that make you a Christian, but God who makes you a Christian. Though it is right to say that a Christian lives this way or that way, it is not right to say that those things make one a Christian. They don’t. Your works, as good as they might be, do not make you who you are. It is Christ that sanctifies and cleanses your works that they be pleasing to our heavenly Father, and this through faith.

Your true identity is in Christ, the One who makes you whole and acceptable to God. It is what God has done, what He pronounces, that makes you who you are—a saint; forgiven and not condemned; redeemed and not forsaken; a child of the living God, baptized, cleansed, and holy.

Through faith you take hold of these declarations of God and say Amen to what God has said. Though you know yourselves to be prideful, selfish, and corrupt according to the flesh, God speaks His Word. He reveals to you your Savior. He calls you to believe what He says.

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

In another place, it is written, “God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:4-7).

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

This is all good news. God has not left you in your sin. Nor does He leave the decision to you. If He did, you would all be lost. None who are dead in their sins can rightly choose Christ. Just as Adam was lifeless apart from the breath of God breathed into Him, so are you lifeless when it comes to the things of God unless God first give you life (Genesis 2:7).

It is as St. Paul writes, “the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them” (1 Corinthians 2:14). “But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16). God, in His grace, has revealed His Son, Jesus Christ, to you, not as judge and lawgiver, but as Savior and author of eternal salvation (Hebrews 5:9).

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

Jesus comes to you in Word and in His very body and blood. What you receive here are the gracious gifts of a loving God. This is the blessing of the abundant life promised by the Lord Jesus Christ. This is why He comes, to give you everlasting life. He comes not to destroy, but to save a people for Himself. He comes, not to steal, kill, and destroy, but to protect, to make alive, and to preserve for all eternity.

The abundant life Jesus speaks of is more than anything this world could ever offer. He Himself said it this way, “What profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” (Matthew 16:26). The answer to both questions is ‘nothing’.

On the one hand, a man might have everything in this life, yet really have nothing at all. All the riches of the world amount to nothing in eternity.

On the other hand, a man might have nothing in this life, yet in reality, have everything, and all the riches of heaven. The difference is not in the quantity of things that you posses. It is a matter of who has you.

If God has you in Christ and you are His, you have everything, though you don’t see the fullness of all that is yours. Your true treasure is in heaven, where both moth and rust cannot ever destroy. If God doesn’t have you, if you don’t believe in Christ according to His Word, you really have nothing, though you might think that you have everything.

Because God gives us His Word, gives us His Son, there is nothing for you to be in doubt about. Through the waters of Holy Baptism, God worked faith within our hearts and continues to grow that faith through His Word preached and the Holy Supper received. Because He is doing the doing, there can be no doubt that God effects what He will for your good and keeps you in the true faith according to and through His Holy Word. As the Psalmist says, “God is my helper. I will trust in Him and not be afraid.” (Psalm 54:4; 56:11; Isaiah 12:2)

But if doubts ever should arise, know that these do not come from God. Though uncertainty raise its head, don’t listen to it. Don’t entertain such thoughts. Fight against them. Turn away from them, and hold tight to God’s sure Word in Christ. You’re not alone. And when you become tired and weary in your struggle, remember that words of Jesus where He says, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).

God would have you trust in Him. He would have you deny yourself, and cling alone to Him in hope. His Word does not and will not fail (Joshua 21:45; 23:14). His mercy endures forever (Psalm 118:1, 2, 3, 4, 29; 136:1-26). This is so because God has revealed it by means of His One and only Son. God gives you His Word, that you hang on to Jesus as for dear life and listen to none other, that you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing, we have life in His Name (John 20:31).

Only Christ gives you abundant life. There is none other that does. Only Christ gives you a conscience free from blame. Go anywhere else and you won’t have a clear conscience. Only Christ gives you the sure confidence of God’s mercy, and the promise of eternity with Him. Trust in something else, and God’s promise to you is not sure.

God gives to you His Word that you distinguish between what is true from that which is not. Only Jesus leads to life and the green pastures of heaven. All others lead to barren land and eternal death. All who are of Jesus’ flock follow Jesus, for they know His voice. Those who are not of Christ’s sheepfold follow another, and not Christ.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd. To all that follow Him and hear His voice, He gives life that has no end, not a life that is trouble-free and without challenge, but one where Christ is, preserving, sustaining, and saving, now and forevermore.

True preachers preach Jesus according to what the Bible says. All others preach something different. And those who follow Christ as His beloved sheep hear only those who preach Him aright. They won’t listen to strangers, that is, false teachers, for they don’t know his voice. They will only listen to Christ and to His Word, for they love the Lord. And because they do, they seek to be faithful to Him who gives it.   Amen.

The Authority of Jesus’ Word, even over death

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

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

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

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

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

45Many of the Jews therefore, who had come with Mary and had seen what he did, believed in him, 46but some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47So the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered the Council and said, “What are we to do? For this man performs many signs. 48If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.” 49But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all. 50Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.” 51He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, 52and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad. 53So from that day on they made plans to put him to death. (John 11:1-53)

The words of Caiaphas, who was high priest at the time he said them, were prophetic.  When He said to the others, It is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish, he was speaking the truth, even the truth of our salvation, though he knew it not.  Caiaphas was saying these words to the Sanhedrin in order to direct them on how to save themselves from the Romans coming in taking their place and their nation.  What He didn’t realize, though, was that he was also speaking of God’s love, not only for the Jews, but for all people, that Jesus die for the sins of all, though He Himself had none.

The background for all of this discussion of the Sanhedrin, the council, the chief priests and the Pharisees, concerning Christ Jesus was none other than what we heard in the Gospel account of St. John, even the raising of Lazarus from the dead.

The man Lazarus had been dead for four days, four days, when the Lord cried out with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth (John 11:43).  Here was a man who had no breath and no life, but Jesus raised him who was dead from the grave.  Here, Jesus demonstrates His authority over death.  He shows His power over the tomb.  The stone did not prevent Lazarus from coming out and neither would death itself keep him from approaching at the Lord’s call.

The Lord’s call to Lazarus did not go unheeded.  Nor does the Lord’s call today go unheeded.

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

Christ speaks to you the very Words of life.  He raises you up from the deadness of our sins to new life in Him.  Because His Words are spirit and are life, they give what they say and say what they give (John 6:63).  He speaks forgiveness.  You are forgiven.  He speaks life.  You live.

The power of God’s Word does this.  Jesus Christ is that Word incarnate, through whom life, even eternal life, is given.  In the deadness of your sins, there is nothing awaiting you but death, even eternal death, but because of Christ, eternal death is no more a threat.  Even temporary death, the last trial of life, does not defeat.  When the Lord returns in glory, you shall meet as He is in our resurrected bodies.

As Jesus had said to Martha, the sister of Lazarus, I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and believes in Me shall never die (John 11:25-26).  Of Himself Jesus speaks.  Right in front of her was THE resurrection and THE life.  Though He Himself would die, even as Caiaphas had said, It is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish, so He would also rise again on the third day.  Death would not hold Him.  The grave would not keep Him.

And so it is for all who live and believe in Him.  Such is the promise of the Lord, He shall never die.  What is meant here is not the physical death of the body, where the heart stops beating and the lungs cease.  What is meant here is that one who lives and believes in the Lord will not die eternally.  God grants everlasting blessedness and joy to they who trust in the Lord’s salvation, even Christ Jesus, who died for the people that the whole nation, the whole world, would not perish but have everlasting life.

The fact that the dead man Lazarus was raised from the dead was a work of God that none could deny.  Even the Pharisees, upon hearing the news, could not denounce the testimony of so many witnesses.  They were not able to refute the evidence that Lazarus, the one who was dead, was now alive.  And they say as such when they said, This man Jesus does many signs; signs, by the way, which they themselves were not capable of doing, and signs, too, which they could not disprove nor speak against.

In speaking as they did, and as unbelieving as they were, the true colors of the Pharisees and chief priests showed through. Because they did not believe, they could not but act against the truth that they saw with their own eyes.  Their hearts were hardened and something was to be done.  Where hearts are hardened, the truth of God will not only not be accepted, but fought against.  This we see here.

In their deliberations, meetings, and planning, their disdain for the truth, Christ Himself, and the love that they had for themselves appeared through the words of Caiaphas, words that they all agreed upon.  Jesus must die.  It would be better Him, the scapegoat, than us and our positions of honor and our nation.

The council of the Pharisees and the chief priests agreed to bring about the death of another in order to protect themselves.  They were not concerned about the people nor about peace.  They were concerned about what would come of them.  Their thoughts and motives were turned inward on their own well-being rather than on that of their neighbors.

What a distinction we see between the motives of the self-righteous Sanhedrin to protect their own selfish interests at the expense of another and the motives of the other on whom the Sanhedrin would dish out their death wish.  The Sanhedrin were completely self-centered.  Christ Jesus was completely other centered.  They meant it for their own good, without the thought of any others.  Jesus meant only for the good of all people and not for Himself.

Though the wicked do not believe, and though the wicked act completely for themselves, even if giving the impression of doing things for others, as the Pharisees and chief priests in our text, God works selflessly for the good of others.  This we see going on in Christ.

Jesus had authority to lay down His life down that He take it again (John 10:17).  Jesus Himself says, No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it again. This command I have received from My Father (John 10:18).

The Sanhedrin could take no action against our Lord except it be permitted them to do so.  Here foreshadow the words of the dialogue between Pontius Pilate and Jesus, where Pilate asks Jesus, ‘Where are You from?’ But Jesus gave him no answer. Then Pilate said to Him, ‘Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?’ Jesus answered, ‘You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above. Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin’ (John 19:9-11).

Pilate had been given authority from above to carry out the death of Jesus.  So had the Sanhedrin been permitted to arrest Jesus in the garden by the hand of Judas Iscariot.  But the truth remains that they did not have the last word.  Though the wicked have their way, God even works through what we cannot comprehend.  He saves through the death of Jesus that the whole nation and world not perish and to gather into one the children of God who are scattered abroad.

This is what Jesus did and does.  The Sanhedrin meant to do Jesus harm.  And they did.  But through that harm that they did to Jesus, even pushing for His death on the cross, Jesus would save the world and draw all men to Himself.

Through Christ’s death, God reconciled Himself to the world (2 Corinthians 5:18).  No longer are you at odds with God and He with you.  Your sin is no longer charged against you.  No longer are the children of God scattered abroad.  They come together in Christ.  He is your Head.  Christ and His truth truly unite.  The reason all are not united is because all do not accept the truth.  This is why there are so many denominations today.  But the Lord alone saves.  All people will not perish.  Christ our Savior has come.

Jesus has taken the full brunt of God’s wrath upon Himself, that wrath that you rightfully deserve because of your selfishness and your self-interests above the interests of others.  What Caiaphas the high priest said was true, more true than He ever knew.  Christ’s death was not only for them, sinners as they were, but for all sinners; and through Him forgiveness, life, and salvation is reality, reality for all who take a hold of His work and Word by faith, not doubting, but believing it as He says, and taking it as He gives.

All who believe in this Christ, this Jesus who died for all people, none excluded, who gave His life a ransom for all, that none perish but have everlasting life, these have the promises of God as their very own (1 Timothy 2:6; John 3:16).  Though some meant Christ’s death for His harm, God meant it for our good.

This is the truth that surpasses understanding.  Even through what isn’t right and what shouldn’t be, God works out the good pleasure of His will.  This in no way excuses what isn’t right or what shouldn’t be.  God’s good pleasure can and does work through these, but this doesn’t mean the stamp of approval is ever on what is not right.  God’s Word stands against wickedness and evil.  But even through these, God brings about good for His beloved, even us.

Though we don’t always see how these things are so, we don’t need to.  It’s not our concern.  What is our concern is what God has done and what He gives for our salvation.  By means of His Word, and Holy Baptism, and the Sacrament of the Altar, He assures you and gives you His grace and favor.  These are sufficient to give you that peace which the world cannot give, but only that which Christ can and does.  Amen.

The peace that passes all human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

What Luther Says (Plass)

Resurrection

In his interpretation of 1 Cor. 15:2 Luther points out that here especially one should not consult reason and the senses.

3875 An Article of Faith in the Word, p1215

If you want to judge according to what you see and feel and, when the Word of God is set before you, want to pit your feeling against it and say: You tell me much; but my heart speaks a different language, and if you felt what I feel, you, too, would speak differently – then you do not have the Word of God in the heart but have quenched and extinguished it by your own thoughts, reason, and brooding.  In short, if you will not let the Word mean more to you than all your feeling, eyes, senses, and heart, you must be lost, and there is no further help for you.  For we are concerned with an article of faith, not an article of your reason or wisdom or human power and ability.

Therefore you must judge solely according to the Word in this matter, irrespective of what you feel and see.  I, too, feel my sin and the Law and the devil on my neck.  I feel that I lie under these as under a heavy burden.  But what should I do?  Should I argue according to such feeling and my own ability?  In that case I and all men would have to despair and perish.  If, however, I want to be helped, I must assuredly turn about, look to the Word, and say: I do indeed feel God’s wrath, the devil, death, and hell; but the Word speaks differently to me.  It tells me that I have a gracious God through Christ, who is my Lord over the devil and all creatures.  If feel and see plainly enough that I and all men must sink into the grave and there decay.  But the Word speaks differently to me.  It tells me that I shall rise in great glory and live forever. (W 36, 494f – E 51, 89f – SL 8, 1103)

“The Transfiguration Of Our Lord”

On the mount of transfiguration, to a select three, Jesus manifested Himself in all His glory. Before their eyes, Peter, James, and John, the brother of James, saw Jesus for who He really was. Flesh and blood no longer concealed Christ’s divinity, the truth that Jesus was not only man, but also God. Though Christ’s humanity concealed His divine nature both before and after that mountain top experience until His glorious resurrection, the disciples saw a glimpse of what was under the veil.

To those three, Jesus revealed Himself as the Son of the living God in a real, tangible way. There was no escaping this truth. They saw with their eyes and heard with their own ears the glory and honor of God and Christ.

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

Mt17.1-9, Transfiguration of our Lord, 2.pdf

“Where is the Lord to be Found?”

Looking for Jesus. That’s what the parents of Jesus were doing. They together, with Jesus, relatives, and acquaintances, had gone up to the city of Jerusalem for the Feast of Passover. Passover was one of the three major feasts that God had commanded His people to keep. It was a memorial feast for the time that God had delivered His people Israel from slavery in Egypt. There, God sent His angel to destroy all the first-born males of the Egyptians. This was the last plague of ten, and afterwards, stubborn Pharaoh of Egypt finally let God’s people go. With a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, God saved His people, even through the death of the first-born. With a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm God saves us, even through the death of His First-Born, Jesus the Christ.

It was the Passover feast that Jesus and His family had gone up to Jerusalem for. And afterwards, on their way back, Mary and Joseph thought that Jesus, there son of twelve, was with others in their group. But He wasn’t. Of all places, He was in the temple, listening to the teachers, asking questions, and giving answers…

Lk02.40-52, Christmas 2, 2011A.pdf

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