Not Preachin’ But Meddlin’

There was once a man who commented to the pastor after the worship service one day, “Pastor, in your sermon today your weren’t preachin’, you were meddlin’!” I think what the man meant was that what the pastor preached about that day got a little too close for comfort for the man. He much preferred it when the pastor just said a bunch of fine sounding words and didn’t get too personal.
Oh how people love it when they hear a sermon and they can think of a whole list of people other than themselves that the sermon applies to. They are not nearly as appreciative when the preacher breaks down the barriers they have set up to hearing the Word of God and really have to take a hard look at their own faults. That, as the man pointed out, is not preachin’, it’s meddlin’.
One of my seminary professors taught me that one of the hardest jobs as a preacher is to break down the walls that people build around themselves so that nothing gets through. He suggested a variety of things we could do in our sermons to get people to let down their guards so that the message truly got through.
And so with these thoughts in mind I offer you a few of my sermons.
Isaiah 43:1 – This verse has it all 

“But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: ‘Fear not, for I have redeemed you: I have called you by name, you are mine.”

This one verse is related to all three articles of the Creed, our creation, our redemption, and our sanctification.

The first part of the verse clearly refers to creation: “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel.” God created us. We did not evolve; we are part of God’s almighty creation.

Then Isaiah adds that we were formed. In Genesis 1 it says that before God began to create things the world was formless and void. The word formed used here is the same word used in Genesis 2 where it says that God formed us out of the dust of the earth and breathed into our nostrils the breath of life. We are created and formed by God.

The Second Article of the Creed has to do with redemption. Isaiah says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you.” God created everything perfectly. Through their sin, Adam and Eve ruined the perfection of God’s creation.

Notice it says, “Fear not, for I have redeemed you.” As soon as Adam and Eve sinned they were afraid. They tried to hide themselves from each other and from God. Fear has been part of our human condition ever since, constantly reminding us of the presence of sin.

But God redeemed us through Jesus, his own dear Son, therefore we do not have to be afraid. Notice it says that I have redeemed you. We cannot redeem ourselves. We were redeemed, Luther says in the Apostles’ Creed section of his Small Catechism, “not with gold or silver but with the holy precious blood of Christ and with his innocent suffering and death.”

Finally, this verse also relates to the Third Article of the Creed which has to do with sanctification. It says, “I have called you by name you are mine.

Again from Luther’s explanation to the Creed in the Small Catechism he says, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason of strength believe in Jesus Christ my Lord or come to him, but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened my with his gifts, sanctified and kept me in the one true faith. In the same way he calls, gathers, enlightens and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one, true faith.”

According to Luke 3:22, when Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River the heavenly Father called him by name: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

When we are baptized God calls us by name. And when he calls us we are his. It follows then that we live sanctified lives. Paul speaks of this in the Romans 6: Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?… We know that our old self was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.” Sanctified by God we are cleansed from the power of sin.

I don’t know of any other verse of the Bible that combines the three articles of the Creed like this. We are created, redeemed and sanctified by God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

GOD IN THE HANDS OF ANGRY SINNERS

Text: Philippians 2:14-15

One of the most well-known preachers in America in the 1700’s was a man by the name of Jonathan Edwards. And Pastor Edwards’ most famous sermon was given the title “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.” In this sermon Edwards described how our sins make God angry and how that places us in a very precarious situation. Because of our sins and God’s wrath over our sins we face eternal damnation. Edwards described the situation in very vivid detail and pictured sinful human beings as dangling at the very edge of hell as if one more little sin would cause God to let go of us and we would fall into the fires of hell.

Edwards initially preached the sermon to his own congregation in June of 1741 but a month later, when he was invited to preach the sermon at a neighboring congregation, the sermon “went viral.” As he preached this sermon, people fainted and cried out in fear.

Our text for today could be described in terms of a slight twist on the title of Jonathan Edwards’ famous sermon. Instead of, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” we could call the text, “God in the Hands of Angry Sinners.” Paul is writing to the Philippians, urging them to “Do all things without grumbling or questioning.”  Why would Paul write this if the Philippians were not having trouble with grumbling and questioning? It was not sinners in the hands of an angry God; it was God in the hands of angry – or at least dissatisfied – sinners.

Often when people are acting sinfully, instead of confessing their sins, they lay the blame on God. This sinful tactic has been around since the first sin. When the Lord confronted Adam about eating the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden, he did not confess, instead he blamed God. He said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”

In the 18th chapter of the Old Testament prophet Ezekiel we have another example of God in the hands of angry sinners. According to verse 25, the people of Israel were saying that the way of the Lord was unjust. They were complaining that God was punishing children for the sins of their fathers and that this was unfair. God responds by saying, “I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, so turn and live.”

Another passage that fits in well with the idea of God in the hands of angry sinners is Psalm 2:1-4

Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain?

2 The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together,

against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,

3 “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.”

4 He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.

When humans, even the kings of the earth, rage and plot against the Lord, he laughs.

Then there is the ultimate case of God in the hands of angry sinners; the suffering, crucifixion and death of Jesus. Jesus is true God and true man so the anger that his enemies directed against him was anger against God.

The enemies of Jesus showed anger at his trial before Caiaphas. They showed anger at his trial before Pontius Pilate, shouting and adamantly demanding that Jesus be crucified. And when they finally got their way they were still angry. They stood at the foot of Jesus’ cross and mocked him saying, “He saved others but he couldn’t save himself.” Not for a moment did they think that God, in an instant, could send their wretched souls to hell.

We are in the Lord’s hands and we are sinners but he is not angry. To say that God is still angry with us would be to deny all that Jesus did for us on the cross. He paid for our sins in full thus completely removing God’s anger against us.

We can’t emphasize this enough. The ironic thing is that in most of his sermons Jonathan Edwards preached very convincingly about the love God has for sinners and his grace and mercy in Christ. But Edwards is remembered for this particular sermon where he preached very vividly about the wrath and judgment of God.

We do need to speak about sin and wickedness and urge people to repent and turn from their sins. But we must above all let them know that God is not angry with them and for Christ’s sake forgives them. The text says we live in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation. Yet as children of God we shine as light in the world. Our light is the light of Christ.

CHRISTMAS IN YOUR HEART

Text: Luke 2:18-19 “And all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.”

The fact that we are told in Scripture that Mary pondering in her heart all the things that took place at Christmas time invites us to think about Christmas in our hearts.

The actual Greek word is “symballo”, which means literally to throw together. It is used in a wide variety of ways. In Luke 14:31 it refers to deciding whether or not to go to war; in Acts 4:15 to confer together; Acts 17:18 to encounter; and in Acts 18:27 to help.

This verse is an indication that Luke, who was not an eyewitness of the events of this first Christmas, probably talked directly to Mary about it. How else would he know her state of mind on that night?

There are many Advent & Christmas hymns in Lutheran Service Book and other hymnals that talk about celebrating Christmas in our hearts.

349 Hark the Glad Sound, v. 1Hark the glad sound, the Savior comes, the Savior promised long; let ev’ry heart prepare a throne and ev’ry voice a song.

387 Joy to the World, v. 1Joy to the world the Lord is come! let earth receive her King; let ev’ry heart prepare him room and heav’n and nature sing…

375 Come, Your Hearts, and Voices Raising v. 1Come, your hearts and voices raising, Christ the Lord with gladness praising; loudly sing his love amazing, worthy folk of Christendom.

From Heaven Above to Earth I Come. v. 13Ah, dearest Jesus, holy Child, prepare a bed, soft undefiled, within my heart that it may be, a quiet chamber kept for thee. (a combination of Lutheran Worship and The Lutheran Hymnal)

Christmas in your heart can very quickly become a syrupy, sentimental thing. There is nothing wrong with feelings and emotions but if that is all there is to Christmas in the heart then there is something missing.

Christmas in your heart can also become a way of saying everyone can believe whatever they want and celebrate whatever they want. No one can tell anyone else how to celebrate Christmas. Looking at the things Mary said and did I don’t think Mary would agree with this approach.

One thing the word “ponder” does imply is that it is something so incredible that it takes a while to sink in. The good news we celebrate tonight is so amazing it is not at all unusual to wonder, to have questions about it.

In the last nine months Mary had lots to think about: It all starts with the visit from the angel Gabriel announcing that she would be the mother of the Lord. Then she went to visit her much older cousin Elizabeth, the mother of John Baptist. Scripture tells us that when Mary greeted Elizabeth the unborn John leapt in the womb of his mother. During her visit to Elizabeth Mary gives us her song, now known to us as the Magnificat.

She stayed with Elizabeth for three months and then returned to her home in Nazareth. She had to deal with the whole question of whether Joseph would divorce her since she was pregnant without his child.

Finally there was the trip to Bethlehem for the required government census and the birth of her firstborn son. The necessity to place her precious newborn in a manger because there was no room for him in the inn must have something to ponder. (And also points to how exhausted she must have been after giving birth.)

Perhaps looking down at Jesus in the manger at first Mary was thinking that he was not the Savior. But then the shepherds arrived and found the child and excitedly told Mary and Joseph what the angels had said about him.

Yes, she had lots to ponder. I would find it hard to believe that along the way she did NOT have questions to ponder.

Mary pondering is not the same as skepticism. That can be a hard distinction to make. Both entail having questions. The difference is attitude. Again, Mary helps us here. When told she would be a mother even though she was a virgin and that this would happen through the power of the Holy Spirit she set aside any skepticism she may have had and simply said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.”

That is the proper attitude of pondering. We all have questions. It’s not wrong to have questions. The difference between holy, God-pleasing pondering and non-holy skepticism is that, in the end, holy pondering sets aside its doubts and questions and submits to God’s Word.

Christmas in the heart involves acknowledging all that God has sent us. God did not just send us his Son, he also sent us the Holy Spirit: When the time had fully come God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive the full rights of Sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who cries out, “Abba Father.” (Galatians 4:4-6)

Mary certainly knew about the working of the Holy Spirit in her life. It was by the power of the Holy Spirit that she conceived Jesus. The angel told her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God.”

So this is the true Christmas in our hearts. God sends his Son to redeem us. Then he sends the Holy Spirit into our hearts to teach us to call God “Abba Father.” The Holy Spirit makes us realize that through Jesus we are redeemed and forgiven and on a most intimate, secure relationship with our heavenly Father.

Scripture teaches that the Holy Spirit comes to us as we hear God’s word and through his sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. It is so very tempting to think that we can somehow find the Holy Spirit by our own efforts and works but why should we? Scripture has already clearly told us how the Spirit comes; through the means of grace, God’s Word and sacraments.

Tonight we rejoice that God sent his Son to be the Savior of the whole world. We also must rejoice that God sent us the Holy Spirit, for it is by the power of the Holy Spirit that this good news enters our hearts and truly brings Christmas to our hearts.

THE FOURTH SUNDAY IN LENT

Texts: Numbers 21:4-9, Ephesians 2:1-10 and John 3:14-21

I selected all three of today’s readings for my texts because they all have something in common, they all talk about raising up someone or something.

In the Numbers 21 reading Moses raises a bronze serpent up on a pole in the middle of the Israelites’ camp so that anyone who had been bitten by a fiery serpent would not die.

The serpents we sent by God because the Israelites grew impatient and dissatisfied and so were complaining. They were complaining against God and against God’s chosen leader, Moses. God heard their complaints, and, as so often happens when we are so wrapped up in our own issues, God made things worse for them; they still had no food, no water and food they didn’t like but now they also had fiery, poisonous snakes.

When they repented and cried to God for help he told Moses to make a snake and raise it up in the middle of the camp so that if anyone was bitten they could look at the bronze serpent and live.

What a very simple problem to a deadly problem. I’m sure there were skeptics at first who said there was no way that just by looking at a snake on a pole you could be healed from a poisonous snake bite. But once they saw it actually happen once or twice I’m sure they became believers. As one person put it, they didn’t really have any choice to deal with the poisonous snakes.

In the Gospel reading Jesus relates the story from Numbers to his own crucifixion: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.”

Notice again it is a very simply solution to a very great problem: whoever believes in Jesus will have eternal life. This whole faith thing is so simple that many people stumble over it and are skeptical.

Perhaps they don’t get it because they don’t realize that they are infected with the deadly poison of sin. As Jesus says in John3:16, God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.

Without Jesus we will perish in our sins. At least 10 times in John’s Gospel John points out that without Jesus we will perish. The people in Numbers 21 had no doubt in their minds that these were poisonous snakes. They saw their fellow Israelites dying from the snake bites. They could do nothing to save themselves. They looked in faith to the bronze serpent and were saved.

Sin, of course, likes to hide and disguise itself. If sin came into our lives like a fiery serpent I think we would do a better job of avoiding it. But it doesn’t. It comes at us in the most unexpected and innocent ways possible so that we don’t even notice it. But it is truly deadly.

The cross of Jesus, which was lifted up from the earth, is what we look to for salvation from sin. As someone has put it, these readings encourage us to see the cross of Jesus as a visible sign of the forgiving love of God. Believing in Jesus is the only way to be saved from sin.

Then in today’s Epistle reading Paul says that God raised us up with Jesus and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Our being raised up is the very opposite of Jesus’ being raised. Jesus started out as a healthy man in the prime of his life. Then when he was crucified and raised up on the cross he died. As Paul says in the Epistle reading we were dead in the trespasses and sins in which we once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air. In other words, we were infected with the poison of sin and on our way to perishing. But then through the power of Christ’s resurrection we are raised to new eternal life.

Now that God raised us up we are to be the visible sign of the forgiving love of God to others. Paul says we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Perhaps even trickier than believing we are saved by faith alone is to believe that our good works are completely God’s working in us. But it is true; any good work that we do is completely God’s work.

Paul says that this is so that we won’t boast. We re not to boast about our salvation: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” Therefore we certainly cannot boast about our good works because they are not our own doing but God’s.

In the Gospel reading for today Jesus points out that whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.”

Jesus was alive and well and then, being raised up on the cross gave his life for our salvation and was raised from the dead three days later. We start out dead in our transgressions and sins and then are raised to life by Christ that we might be the visible sign of God’s forgiving love.

THE FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT

The text for the Fifth Sunday in Lent is March 10:32-45, especially verses 44-45.

I got this story from the enews of our Minnesota South District web site.

Dr. Maxwell Maltz tells of a man who was severely burned attempting to rescue his parents from a fire. He did not succeed and they died. Depressed and disfigured, he went into seclusion refusing to let anyone see him, not even his wife. Desperately looking for help she came to Maltz, a prominent plastic surgeon. Even though he told her he could probably restore her husband’s face, the man stubbornly refused treatment. So when the woman came back to see Maltz he was surprised. But this time her question blew him away. She asked, ‘Can you disfigure my face, so I can be like my husband and share his pain? That way maybe he will let me back into his life again!’ That is how much she loved him!

The thing that makes this story so compelling for me is that the wife was willing to have her face disfigured by the plastic surgeon just so that she could have a chance to be let back into her husband’s life. How many people would do that for their spouse or other loved one?

Most people would just let their spouse continue to wallow in their grief and move on with their lives. Most people would have the attitude, “just get over it.” This woman did not. She just wanted to get back into her husband’s life no matter what it cost her.

I think that the wife in this story would be one of the great ones Jesus is talking about in the text. As Jesus says, in the text those who are greatest in thekingdomofGodare not those who Lord it over others but those who humbly serve others, and not just those who please us, but those who serve all people. This was a lesson that the 12 Apostles clearly had not learned yet.

She would be truly great in thekingdomofGod. She didn’t volunteer to have her face disfigured because then she thought she would become great, she volunteered to have her face disfigured so that she could get back into a relationship with her husband. Her willingness to do this great act of mercy without thinking about how great it would make her is what makes her great.

Having skin that is horrible to look at because it has been burned is bad. But in Jesus’ eyes, selfish desires to be great and lord it over others makes a person uglier than any kind of wound or injury.

Whether we have burned skin or not, we are all burn victims. We have been burned by the selfishness of others. We have been burned by the schemes and temptations of the devil. We have been burned by our own selfish desires and impulses.

Jesus did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. We are the many. He has ransomed us by his death and resurrection, the thing he couldn’t stop talking about with his disciples on their way toJerusalem. He didn’t keep talking about it just because he knew it was going to happen. Jesus kept talking about his death and resurrection because that is how he would save us and many others from our sins.

Water is the most common way to put out fire. Through the waters of Holy Baptism we are connected to Jesus, the one who clears away all our sins.

Not only have we been burned by sin, other people we know have been burned by sin. They too need to know about the Lord who has ransomed them.

The time we have to share this with others is limited. When a fire starts in a house it does not take long to consume the whole house. That is why we are always told not to go in after our belongings or to try to save others. We don’t have a lot of time left to tell others about the Savior.

Getting back to the story, Dr. Maltz was so moved, he prevailed on the woman’s husband to accept his help and thankfully the story has a happy ending.

The First Sunday in Lent, aka Temptation Sunday; Text: Luke 4:1-13

Intro. In two of the three temptations that the devil brought against Jesus he starts with the words, “If you are the Son of God…turn these stones into bread…If you are the Son of God throw yourself off the pinnacle of the temple.” In typical demonic fashion the devil tries to contradict what God says. Jesus had just been baptized and at his baptism the voice of the Father came from heaven and said, “This is my beloved Son.” So that is what the devils tries to contradict. In each case Jesus resists the devil’s temptations and does not fall for his deceit.

Then it says that the devil left him for an opportune time. If we skip ahead to Jesus death on the cross we see when that opportune time was. A blurb from Lutherans for Life points out when that opportune time was: “Defeated in the wilderness, the devil tries again at Golgotha. There also he shouts through his mouth pieces: “If you are the Son of God…”  Jesus did not yield and faithfully carried out His Father’s will.”

The same words Satan uses in Jesus’ temptations in the desert are the words he caused Jesus’ enemies to use to mock him while Jesus hung on the cross. It says in Matthew 27:40 Those who passed by and the chief priests, scribes and elders wagged their heads and said, “If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross.”

Notice that in every case if Jesus would have done what the devil suggested it would have, in a sense, proved that he was the Son of God.

If he would have turned stone into bread it would have proved that he was the Son of God.

If he would have jumped off the pinnacle of the temple and been caught up by angels it would have proved that he was the Son of God. (I picture the angels coming to save Jesus right before he crashes to the ground. It would not be very dramatic if the angels would grab him as soon as he jumps.)

If he would have come down from the cross it would have proved that he was the Son of God.

But if Jesus had given in to the demands of the devil it would have made him a puppet. He would have had to keep doing one thing after another to somehow prove that he was the Son of God. Instead of being who he was, the very Son of God, he would have become subject to the devil’s whims.

In John 10 some people came to Jesus and said, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus responded, “I did tell you but you did not believe.” They wanted to dictate to God.

The devil uses the same tactics on us. He tempts us to desire our own man made proofs that we are the children of God. Through Holy Baptism we have the sure proof that we are the children of God. What the devil does is tempt us to think that is not enough. We need some other, more convincing, devil-designed proof that we are the children of God.

And this temptation is particularly effective when things aren’t going well. “Lord, I’m suffering, could you please give me some more proof that I am still your child?’ That’s the devil talking although the devil wouldn’t say “please”. On the cross the mockers thought that a great proof of Jesus’ divinity would be to avoid suffering by coming down from the cross by his miraculous power. Thanks be to God that Jesus stayed on that cross and gave us the ultimate proof that he is the Son of God by dying and rising again.

Because of the cross we know that there is nothing we can suffer that in any way effects our status as God’s beloved children. In fact, as Luther says, “The suffering of Christians is finer and nobler than the suffering of all other people, for since Christ plunged himself into suffering he thereby blessed [sanctified] the suffering of all his Christians, now, through the sufferings of Christ, the sufferings of all his saints are made into a holy thing, because they are anointed with the sufferings of Christ.” (Luther’s sermon on suffering)

Conclusion. Jesus is the almighty, crucified and risen Son of God. Through Holy Baptism we are brought into God family as his children, no further proof is needed.

SERMONS FOR TEMPTATION SUNDAY, THE FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT

Our text for the first Sunday in Lent is Genesis 22:1-18, the story of how God tested Abraham’s faith by asking him to sacrifice his son, Isaac, to him. The name Abraham means father of many nations. Since it is humanly impossible for one man to be the father of a white person and a black person and a person of Asian descent Abraham must be the father of many nations in another sense.

The Bible makes it clear that his faith is what makes Abraham the father of many nations. It says in Genesis 15 that Abraham believed God’s promises and God credited it to him as righteousness.

Our text for today does not mention Abraham’s faith at all. Rather it is the ultimate example of the testing of one’s faith. Abraham’s test was to see if he loved God more than his only son Isaac.

The word temptation is used two ways in Scripture. I n one sense it refers to how the devil, the world and our sinful nature temp us to sin. The other sense is when God tests our faith to make it stronger. Our text is an example of the second use of the word temp. I like to call the first Sunday in Lent temptation Sunday because every year the readings for this Sunday always have something to say about temptation.

I’m a little fascinated by the things that are not mentioned in the story. What did Abraham tell Sarah? He probably told Sarah the something like what he told the servants when he and Isaac parted from them: “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.”

What did he tell Isaac when it was time to tell him that he was to be the sacrifice?

Abraham kept going towards the sacrifice of his son until, at the last moment, God intervened. Okay, Abraham, the test is over. Now I know that your faith is right where it should be. You love me more than anything, even your own son, Isaac.

And so Abraham, because of his faith, became the father of many nations not in name only but also in fact:

By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you and will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies,  – and then the part that makes Abraham the father of many nations – and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.” (Text, verses 17-18)

And Paul chimes in with these words from Romans 4:

That is why [everything] depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all [Abraham’s] offspring – not only to the adherents of the law (the Jews) but also to those who share the faith of Abraham, he is the father of us all.”

There is another father who is also eternally blessed because he did not withhold his Son; that father is our heavenly Father.

Our heavenly Father did not withhold his Son, Jesus from us. He gave him up for us all. When God intervened to stop Abraham from sacrificing Isaac it says that Abraham looked up and there was a ram caught by its horns in a thicket. Abraham took that ram and sacrificed it instead of his son.

When it came time to sacrifice Jesus, no one interceded and told the crucifiers to stop. There was no substitute that appeared to take Jesus’ place. The nails were driven into the hands and feet of Jesus and he was hung on a cross to die for our sins. And when he was dead, just to make sure he was dead, they thrust a spear into his side.

In this regard we can say that our heavenly Father loved us more than he loved his own Son. He was willing to let Jesus die so that we could be set free from our sins.

And it is through the sacrifice of Jesus, that our heavenly Father becomes the Father of many nations. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:15, Christ died for all people so in Christ our heavenly Father becomes the father of all.

Paul says in Romans 8, that God “did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all.” And Paul continues to point out that because our heavenly Father did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all he will graciously give us all things. He will support us when we are tempted. He will help us fight against the snares of the devil, the world and our sinful nature. He will keep us in the true faith until we die.

As hear about our father Abraham not withholding his son, Isaac, from the Lord and as we hear about our heavenly Father not withholding his Son, Jesus, from us we ask ourselves, “Have we withheld anything from God.” Of course we all have. The verse from 2 Corinthians that I quoted earlier says, He died for all that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who, for theirs sakes, died and was raised.

We are all tempted to live only for ourselves and so we withhold from God the worship we owe him, the thanks and praise we owe him; the honor and glory we owe him as our maker and redeemer. We have withheld from him our time, talents and treasures.

There is no way God needs anything from us so he wants us to express our thanks to him by serving others. But all too often we have withheld things from others that we could have shared.

God withheld nothing from us when he gave us his Son. Through Jesus we are truly able to call God our Father. In response, let us not withhold anything from him.

Text: Genesis 3:1-21 The First Sunday in Lent

Intro. I refer to this text a lot in many of my sermons. This is something I try to avoid since it is never good for a preacher to get too predictable. But as we shall see, it’s just so, just so…tempting to keep referring to this text.

First, it illustrates why every sin, even the smallest sin is very serious. On the surface, all that Adam and Eve did was eat a piece of fruit. But in reality eating this fruit was the greatest sins because it was done in direct rebellion against God. Every single sin is in some way related to the ultimate sin, the sin of rebellion against God.

We can be sure that when the devil temps it is not just to do some little act of disobedience. He temps us to completely rebel against God. That’s what he temped Jesus to do when he tempted him in the wilderness. All three wilderness temptations were really temptations to put himself first and everyone else, including his heavenly Father, second. (Matthew 4:1-11)

Another reason this story is so significant is that it brings us right to the very heart of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, as Paul points out in Romans: “Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.” Romans 5:12 & 19

The church has always seen the first promise of Jesus in verse 15 of the text: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” This verse is clear that just one person, who would be descended from a woman as Jesus was, will bruise the head of the devil.

Then there are the many things that are still around today as a result of this one story.

Clothing – the clothing that Adam and Eve immediately put on because they realize for the first time that they were naked, and then the animal skin clothing that God made for Adam and Eve.

For women, pain in childbearing, just ask any woman who has given birth; and for men cursed ground that brings forth thorns and thistles.

As you can see it is really hard not to talk about this story. Truly by this one act of disobedience the world was plunged into sin. And even more truly, by one man’s act of obedience, Jesus’ death for us on the cross and glorious resurrection from the dead, we are made righteous.  Amen.

GOD FEEDS ELIJAH IN THE WILDERNESS

Text: I Kings 19:1-8

Introduction: It’s hard to read about anyone being frustrated enough to want to die, but it is especially hard to read about a faithful prophet of God like Elijah being so upset that he wants to die. It’s a little confusing too since this text describes the aftermath of one of the most dramatic stories in the OT; Elijah single-handed defeats hundreds of the prophets of Baal.

King Ahab and his wife Jezebel exceeded all the other kings of Israel in worshiping the false god Baal. It says in I Kings 18 that Ahab, “did more to provoke the Lord, the God of Israel, to anger than all the kings of Israel who were before him.” So God sent Elijah to confront them with their wickedness.

First God punished Ahab with three years of drought. This did nothing to change Ahab and Jezebel’s mind about their false gods. Then Elijah challenges the prophets of Baal to a contest. They would each pray to their God and whichever God answered by sending fire from heaven would be the true God.

The prophets of Baal went first. They set up their altar with the wood and the sacrifice and proceeded to pray and pray all day long for Baal to send fire. As the day wore on and still there was no answer from their god they prayed louder and even began to cut themselves supposedly to get their god’s attention but nothing ever happened.

Then it was Elijah’s turn. He set up his altar with the wood and the sacrifice. He even had his assistants pour water on the sacrifice. Then he knelt down and prayed a simple prayer, “O Lord, answer me, that this people may know that you, O Lord, are God.” And just like that God sent down fire from heaven that consumed the wood and the sacrifice and the water.

In response, the people fell on their faces and said, “The Lord, he is God; the Lord, he is God.” But Elijah wasn’t finished yet. He proceeded to kill the false prophets who had been teaching the people to worship Baal.

Apparently King Ahab had witnessed all this but, for whatever reason Queen Jezebel didn’t. When she was told about it, that’s when she made the threat that is in our text: “So may the gods do to me and more also, if I do not make your life as the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.”

Even though Elijah had just shown clearly that her god was a false god and had slaughtered hundreds of Baal’s prophets, Jezebel still swore an oath by that same god that she would kill Elijah within 24 hours. Elijah took her threat seriously and took off. He came to Beersheba where he left his servant and then went a day’s journey into the wilderness. There in the wilderness Elijah asked God to take his life: “It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.”

Elijah uses an interesting choice of words; I am no better than my fathers. Elijah had respect for his fathers. How often do we hear about that today? People actually trying to live up to standards set by the people before them? It used to be an honorable thing. Things we hear being proposed today about marriage and lifestyle choices would make the fathers of faith and of our nation cringe.

God granted Elijah’s request to send down fire from heaven but he did not grant Elijah’s request to die. Only God makes decisions about life and death. Elijah’s request to die is not like suicide. Those who commit suicide want to die but don’t want God to be in control. They take matters into their own hands and take their lives rather than let God decide when they die.

Other lessons we learn from this story: One prophet of God can defeat hundreds of other so-called prophets. How prayer works; If you are praying to a false god it doesn’t matter how loudly you pray or how much you do to get his attention he will not hear you. As Isaiah says, “False gods have ears but they can’t hear.” God wants us to pray with all earnestness and urgency as did the prophets of Baal but the answer to our prayers is always based on his will, not our will, or on what we think we’ve done to deserve the answer we seek.

After letting Elijah rest for a while, God wakes him up, feeds him and sends him out into the wilderness. The angel says, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too much for you.” This would be a good statement to say right before we celebrate the Lord’s Supper.

There are times for all of us, from great prophets like Elijah to the newest of Christians feel like the journey is too much for us. Those are the times that God takes extra care to feed and care for us. He feeds us with the true bread of heaven, Jesus Christ our Lord. In our Gosepl reading for today from the sixth chapter of John Jesus says this bread was given for the life of the world.

We are not told what kind of food the angel gave Elijah. We are just told that it kept him going for forty days and nights. When God gave the people of Israel manna in the wilderness we are not told what kind of food it was. The name manna actually means, what is it? (See Exodus 16).

That is not the case with the bread of life. We know exactly what the bread of life is. The bread of life is Jesus, the one who came down from heaven. It is his true body and blood given and shed for us on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins.

You may think that you can get along in the journey just fine. If that is the case then look at how Paul describes our journey in today’s Epistle readings from Ephesians 4:

Therefore having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another. Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil. Let the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labor, doing honest work with his hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.

Can anyone honestly look at this passage not say, “The journey is too much for me?” Clearly if we are to make it on this journey we need Jesus, the bread of life to sustain and nourish us.

Conclusion: It is hard to read about someone who is ready to give up. The journey is too much for us. But when we rise and eat the bread of life we can survive anything.

Text: Isaiah 42:1-7

The Baptism of our Lord,, the First Sunday After the Epiphany

Intro. One of the appeals of the show Downton Abbey is that it weaves back and forth between the lives of the aristocrat, Lord & Lady Grantham and their family and their servants. As the shows points out, even though the wealthy aristocrats have all had the benefit of the best schools and teachers and upbringing, sometimes the lowly servants show more intelligence and grace than they do.

Whenever the Granthams are welcoming an important visitor they all stand at the front entrance to the palace and wait the person’s arrival. They also line up their servants by the door as part of the welcoming party. The servants are not there so that they can be introduced to the important guest but just to show how many servants they have. They might take a moment to introduce the visitor to the servant who is going to be their valet, their personal attendant but that is all.

Imagine if an important guest did come to Downton Abbey or some other royal palace and instead of introducing the visitor to his family the lord of the manor would take the visitor over to the group of servants and say, “I’ve got this one servant who is really something. I want you to meet him.” That kind of thing that just doesn’t happen. The Granthams are good to their servants but they do insist on the servant keeping in their place.

In our text for today, God says, “Here is my servant whom I uphold.” It’s not, “Here is my son of royal blood.” It’s, “Here is my servant; my chosen one that I delight in is my servant.”

As the text goes on to point out, this servant will really serve. He will bring forth justice to the nations. He will not break a bruised reed. He will not quench a faintly burning wick. He will faithfully bring forth justice. He will not grow faint or be discouraged till he has established justice in the earth.

Let’s talk about justice. The word literally means “the total redemptive order of God’s rule.” As one scholar puts it, “He shall make the right and good and holy will of God everywhere prevail, so that all nations find their sure ground of confidence in him.” (From the Concordia Journal, vol. 39 #4 p. 348)

The world loves to talk about justice. The first thing the world likes to point out that if there is a God he would surely do more to bring about justice in this world. There is just too much that is messed up in the world for people to believe there is a God. If you don’t believe me, ask them. Furthermore, Christians should stop talking so much about God this and God that, and do more to bring about justice in this world. This really does bug them.

Sometimes we feel the same way. Why doesn’t God do more to address the injustices of the world?

The first thing that needs to be pointed out is that we humans would have no sense of right and wrong, no sense of justice unless God had put it in our hearts. Our sense of justice did not come from millions of years of evolution, it came as a gift from God our creator. We all have a sense of right and wrong.

Secondly it needs to be pointed out that God’s justice means that we who are guilty sinners are forgiven for the sake of Christ’s sacrificial death for us on the cross. That’s the heart of God’s justice and everything flows from this good news.

And he wants us to serve. Yes, he wants his baptized children to serve him by working to bring about justice in this world. He does care about justice and loves it when his dear servants work to bring about justice in this cruel world.

When we get to heaven it will be a far greater mansion than anything built here on earth and there will be people waiting for us. Not segregated group of aristocrats and servants; it will all be servants of Jesus there to welcome us to heaven. Amen.

A sermon for the installation of a pastor.

Text: John 20:21-23

Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of anyone, they are forgiven; if you withhold forgiveness from anyone, it is withheld.”

Intro. One of the things your pastor will be called to proclaim from this pulpit is that the one true God is the triune God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one divine essence in three distinct persons. This doctrine of the Trinity is taught throughout the Holy Scriptures, more clearly in some places than others. Here in this great Easter text we see the presence of the Holy Trinity. All three persons of the Trinity are distinctly mentioned.

First there is Jesus, the Son of God, the second person of the Holy Trinity. He is fresh from the grave. Just hours before he had been dead, lying in a borrowed grave. His disciples huddled behind closed doors for fear of the Jews. Then without warning Jesus appears. He is alive, never to die again. Death no longer has dominion over him.

In the fifteenth chapter of his first letter to the Corinthians the Apostle Paul said that he delivered to them as of first importance that Jesus died and rose again:

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures,

It will be the first and most important job for your new Pastor to follow the pattern that Paul and the other apostles established, to preach the death and resurrection of Christ as of first importance. Without the preaching of the resurrection truly our faith is worthless and we are still in our sins.

The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Holy Trinity, is also clearly mentioned in this text. It says that Jesus breathed on his disciples and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.”

Notice that Jesus took time to explain what was happening, that by breathing on them he was giving the Holy Spirit to his disciples. It not that uncommon that when it comes to the Holy Spirit and his presence among us there needs to be a word of explanation.

In the third chapter of John Jesus has a conversation with Nicodemus in which he says, “the wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”

On the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was poured out on the disciples there was great confusion. People were asking, “What does this mean?” Others thought that Jesus disciples had been drinking and had become drunk.

Peter had to get up and explain what was going on; it was the Holy Spirit coming upon the people with great power.

So it will be your pastor’s job to help you understand the coming of the Holy Spirit. This may be his toughest job. He will assure you that in Holy Baptism you have been given the Holy Spirit in full measure. In Ephesians 4 Paul urges the Ephesians not to grieve the Holy Spirit by whom we are sealed for the day of redemption. So your pastor will urge you not to grieve the Holy Spirit.

In I Corinthians 6 Paul points out that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit. So your pastor will remind you that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and should be treated as holy dwelling places of God. There are many today who claim to be spiritual but they’re just not very religious. Your pastor will help you understand what it means to be truly spiritual in the sense of being led by God’s Holy Spirit.

Finally we come the text’s reference to our heavenly Father, the first person of the Holy Trinity. When Jesus breathed on the disciples and gave them the Holy Spirit he said, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Just as surely as the heavenly Father sent Jesus into the world and then Jesus sent his disciples into the world, the heavenly Father has sent this pastor to you.

As Jesus sent out his disciples he gave them the authority to forgive sins: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.” We can’t talk about forgiveness of sins without talking about the heavenly Father.

In the Lord’s Prayer Jesus teaches us to pray, “Our Father who art in heaven…forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.” Then in Matthew 6 where Jesus gives us the Lord’s Prayer he adds the following words, “For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.”

When Jesus was crucified he prayed for those who were crucifying him, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do.

So it will be your pastor’s job to proclaim to you the forgiveness of sins. And this is no ordinary forgiveness, it is the forgiveness won for us by Jesus that is valid and authentic in the sight of our Father in heaven. There is no other way to receive the Father’s forgiveness than through the only-begotten Son, of God, Jesus Christ.

Conclusion. Pastor _____, just as surely as Jesus sent out his disciples, the Lord has sent you to this place to be pastor to these people. He has filled you with his Holy Spirit so that you know the triune God to be the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. He has equipped you with the gifts needed for this important work and has promised that your labor in his kingdom in this place will not be in vain.

EPIPHANY 6 SERMON

The text I used for my sermon on the Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany, Series B, on February 12, 2012 was the appointed Gospel reading, Mark 1:40-45. In this text we continue with the essence of the Epiphany season; God showing his almighty power through the humanity of Christ.

Here a man comes to Jesus with leprosy, a very contagious skin disease. As required by Mosaic law this man had to be kept separate from others to prevent the spread of the disease. If you’ve ever had to be isolated from other people for a length of time due to an illness you know it is not pleasant. Try being isolated from others permanently.

When fighting against a new disease one of the first things scientists try to do is to figure out how the disease is spread. I remember seeing a documentary on malaria. It took scientists a long time to figure out that it was mosquitoes that carried the disease. Mosquitoes had long been suspected but the results were not conclusive. Finally one scientist figured it out. Mosquitoes aren’t able to transmit malaria as soon as they become infected with malaria. The malaria germ needed to grow in the mosquito for a while before it could transmit the disease.

But the leper comes to Jesus, kneels down and asks to be healed. Jesus does not draw back in horror as I’m sure others had done. He does not turn away. Instead he is filled with compassion for the man and reaches out and touches him and cleanses him.

This miracle goes nicely with the Old Testament reading for today where the prophet Elisha heals the same disease of leprosy by having Naaman wash seven times in theJordan River. (2 Kings 5:1-14; This is one of my favorite stories of the Bible. Be sure also to read what happens after the miracle in verses 15-27)

Notice how both stories demonstrate the power of God’s Word. In the story from 2 Kings, even though Elisha gave the instructions for Naaman’s healing, the words came from God. And of course in the text, Jesus, who is true God, spoke the words, “be clean” and the leper was cleansed.

Then Jesus tells the man not to tell anyone about the miracle but to go and offer the appropriate sacrifice for his cleansing as Moses commanded. In the Old Testament the people had to make sacrifices for all kinds of things. When it came to skin diseases people had to show themselves to the priest who would verify that they had been cured and then they had to offer a sacrifice for their cleanness.

Now in the New Testament Jesus has come we no longer need to make those Old Testament sacrifices. We don’t need to make them because Jesus sacrificed himself for us on the cross. And since Jesus is the Son of God, his perfect sacrifice completely cleanses us from all sin.

Our disease is much worse than leprosy. The disease of sin brings condemnation and death of our souls and, worst of all, eternal isolation from our heavenly Father. But Christ’ death changed all that. His death reconciles us with the heavenly Father.

Instead of offering animal sacrifices we do what the leper did. We go out and tell others what Jesus has done for us. Many Christians act like Jesus gave them some kind of order like he gave to the leper; not to tell anyone about him. That is not the case. The order, the command that Jesus gave us, now that he has died and risen from the dead is to do what the leper did, to go out and tell everyone what God has done for us.

We are literally infected, not with a disease, but with the Gospel. We cannot help but spread it with others. As we proclaim the Gospel the same power that was at work in these miracles is at work in those who hear the Word. This is the only way that Christianity spreads; by one person telling another person about the cleansing power of Jesus.

Isaiah 53 for Good Friday

SERMON: JESUS, THE SUFFERING SERVANT OF ISAIAH

Part One: No Beauty – Isaiah 53:1-3

Who has believed what he has heard from us?

And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?

For 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.

He 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.

O Lord, have mercy on us. ALL: Thanks be to God.

 

Reflection

Just in itself, there is no doubt that this passage is describing the suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus. But according to Acts 8 this is the passage of Scripture that the Ethiopian eunuch was reading when Philip met him on the road. The first question the eunuch asked was, “Is the prophet saying this about himself or about someone else.”

Philip started with that question and “told the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35). This chapter led directly to a discussion about the suffering of Jesus. Thus we have another clear indication that Jesus’ passion is the focus of this chapter from Isaiah.

In this first section it points out that Jesus “had no form or majesty that we should look at him and no beauty that we should desire him.”

Does it make any difference what a Savior looks like? Would we love him less if he was ugly? The text says he had no beauty that we should desire him.

The hymn Beautiful Savior describes Jesus as fairer and purer than the meadows and woodlands, he is brighter and purer than sunshine, moonlight, sparkling stars and all the angels in the sky.

What is real beauty? Peter talks about beauty in the third chapter of his first epistle: “Do not let your adorning be external – the braiding of hair, the wearing of god, or the putting on of clothing – but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”

When God sends Samuel to anoint David as the next king ofIsraelhe tells Samuel, “For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

In the Fall narrative back in Genesis 3 it says, “When the woman [Eve] saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her and he ate.”

Despite the clear command from God not to eat of the tree, Adam and Eve ate of it and one of the reasons they ate of it was that it was a delight to the eyes. That’s a lot of the problem with food and overeating – it just looks so good that we can’t resist the temptation to eat and to keep eating.

The sin of Adam and Eve reaches its culmination here tonight in the death of our Beautiful Savior on the cross.

Hymn: “Upon the Cross Extended”                       453, verses 1-2

Part Two: For our iniquities – Isaiah 53:4-6

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;

yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.

But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace,

and with his wounds we are healed.

All 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.

O Lord, have mercy on us. ALL: Thanks be to God.

Reflection

Here is where the true beauty of Christ lies; he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities, upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”

Even if Jesus started out as a handsome man, the wounds that he endured for us – the piercing, crushing, chastising wounds – would have left his body an ugly mess.

The people of the Old Testament had a healthy understand of their sins being atoned for through the sacrifice of animals. Whenever anyone sinned he was to bring an animal to sacrifice for that sin. As the book of Hebrews says, those OT sacrifices happened again and again and those OT sacrifices were made by priests who first had to make sacrifice for their own sins. But Jesus was sacrificed on the cross once for all people; the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. Our sins were laid on Jesus, not on some animal, and he took all our sins not just some of them. This is what makes Jesus more beautiful than anything in the entire universe.

Hymn: “Upon the Cross Extended”             453, verses 3-4

 

Part Three: Silent Sufferer – Isaiah 53:7-9

He 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.

By 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?

And 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.

O Lord, have mercy on us. ALL: Thanks be to God.

Reflection

What’s the first thing we do when we are treated unfairly, when we have been wronged? We cry foul. We demand justice. We speak up. We post something on social media. What did Jesus do when he was treated unfairly? When he was cut off out of the land of the living? He opened not his mouth. He suffered in silence.

Peter makes note of this in the second chapter of his first epistle: “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.”

Peter urges us to do the same: “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.” The example of Jesus teaches us that the first thing we should do when treated unfairly is to entrust ourselves to the one who judges justly.

Even the burial of Jesus is mentioned here: “And 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. Jesus was certainly not rich by worldly standards and yet when it came time for his burial a rich man came forward to take care of the job. Wealthy Joseph of Arimathea was the rich man who provided the grave for Jesus.

Hymn: “Upon the Cross Extended”                       453, verses 5-7

 

Part Four: It was the will of the Lord to crush him – Isaiah 53:10-12

Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief;

when his soul makes an offering for guilt,

he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days;

the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand.

Out 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.

Therefore 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.

O Lord, have mercy on us. ALL: Thanks be to God.

 

Reflection

It was the will of the Lord to crush him. Human reason says that if God crushed Jesus he must hate Jesus and if God hates Jesus, his own Son, he must also hate me.

The theology of the cross says that God does his very best work in us by first crushing us and then raising us up to a new life in Christ. This is what happened with Jesus; it must also happen with us. There is no other way.

Isaiah prophecies, “Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied.” The anguish of Jesus’ soul enabled him to see more clearly. Can we say the same? Do we use our times of anguish to see more clearly God’s will for our lives and be satisfied with God’s will? Hebrews 5 states, “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him.”

After crushing Jesus, God raised him up to become the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him. By crushing us and raising us up in Holy Baptism, God unites us with Jesus, not that we become a source of salvation but that we become useful to God in the kingdom of his Son.

This passage talks about Jesus dividing the spoils with the strong. Through his death and resurrection Jesus has broken the power of Satan. Satan lies defeated at Jesus’ feet. To the victor belong the spoils of war. Jesus is now pillaging Satan’s kingdom and bringing souls that had belonged to Satan into his eternal kingdom. And all that Satan can do is watch helplessly.

Conclusion

It stands to reason that if the crucifixion of Jesus would be the culmination of salvation history, the final overthrow of the power of sin and Satan, that this event would be foretold in the OT. This is certainly the case with Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22. Both speak powerfully of Jesus’ passion long before it happened. This reminds us that God’s Word can be trusted totally in all things. God’s Word can be trusted especially when we go through those times of anguish when we think that God hates us.

Oh, and getting back to the story of Philip and the eunuch from Acts 8. It says that after Philip explained things to the eunuch they came to some water and the two got down from the eunuch’s chariot and Philip baptized the eunuch. Then it says that the eunuch went on his way rejoicing. Imagine that. Studying a passage that so clearly focuses on Jesus’ gory death could bring such joy to someone’s heart. But that is what happened and that is what still happens when we read of our beautiful Savior’s suffering, death and resurrection. It still brings such great joy to our hearts. Amen

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