All of the Truth

Sermon for Cantate based on John 16:5-15

Dear possession of God: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Jesus told His apostles that it is to their advantage that He goes away because He would send them the Holy Spirit who would guide them in all the truth. This explains to us how the timid and fearful men who fled at the arrest of Jesus were later preaching publicly, even amidst opposition and threats, that He is risen from the dead. It explains to us how these men who struggled to understand much of what Jesus taught them while He was with them were able, by the inspiration of the promised Holy Spirit, to write the inerrant words of holy Scripture. The Holy Spirit guided them in all truth. They did not write man’s word, but God’s Word as directed by Him.

It is worth pointing out also that Jesus did not say that the Holy Spirit would guide them in some of the truth, but that the Holy Spirit would guide them in all of the truth. Everything we have in the Bible is the truth. Not just a version of the truth, as if there are other versions of the truth, but the Bible is all of the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

The Bible is thus reliable for us as we learn the truth. All our doctrine therefore must be from the Bible since that is how the Holy Spirit now guides us in all the truth.

Jesus said that when the Holy Spirit comes, He will convict the world of sin and righteousness and judgment.

What is sin? The world says sin is being judgmental, intolerant, or unaccepting. The world accepts and praises every depravity and perversion, and thinks Christians sin if we stand up for the truth of God’s Word or say that their depravities and perversions are sin. The world will accept every idea, lifestyle, and religion, so long as it is not from the Bible, the only source of truth.

The world also has its own ideas about righteousness and judgment. They justify their every selfish behaviour as if they are righteous. They don’t believe judgment in hell exists. Everyone just goes to heaven. Except maybe people like Hitler, but certainly, they do not believe hell is something the average person needs to worry about, even though Jesus says, “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” (Matt. 7:13-14)

Those who find the gate to eternal life are few because people prefer to follow the world’s definitions of sin, righteousness, and judgment, not God’s definitions as He gives us in His Word.

God defines sin as that which breaks His holy commands. God’s Law does not tolerate sin, but judges sin. God’s Law commands you to love Him with all your heart, soul, and mind, and your neighbour as yourself. Because you are sinful, it is not possible for you to fulfil these commands. You do not live for God because you want to live for yourself. You do not live for your neighbour because you want to live for yourself. God’s Law condemns the entire human race. We are all guilty of sin, which means we are sinful not righteous.

Yet, we must understand that even though our unrighteousness is found in our failure to love God and our neighbour, our righteousness is not to be found in fulfilling the command to love God and our neighbour. Our righteousness is not to be found in doing good works. Our righteousness is not to be found in giving generously to charities or helping your neighbour. Our righteousness is found only in Christ. He is our righteousness. His blood covers our sins. We must be covered by Christ’s righteousness if we are to appear righteous before the judgment seat of God.

Note carefully who Jesus says is judged. He says that when the Helper comes, He will convict the world concerning judgment “because the ruler of this world is judged.” The ruler of this world is Satan, and he has been judged guilty and condemned of being a liar and perverter of the truth. Those who follow his lies are thus condemned along with him, that is why Jesus says that the world is convicted of sin because the ruler of this world is judged. They are convicted because they reject the truth of God’s Word and follow their own hearts, which are of one mind with the devil.

Those who follow the truth of God’s Word, even though we are convicted by the Law as sinful, are convicted that we are not righteous, and are convicted that we deserve judgment, nevertheless do not despair because we trust in Christ. Christ has taken our sin. He is our righteousness. He was judged in our place.

Thus, we do not seek righteousness in what we do. We do not think that we are right in God’s eyes because we help our neighbour, give offerings at church, or visit the sick. We are right in God’s eyes because Jesus’ righteousness covers us. Because Jesus’ righteousness covers us and we were purchased by His blood, we belong to Him. It is not some kind of part-time ownership or timeshare. First Corinthians says, “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price.” (6:19)

You belong to God. All of you – your heart, mind, body, and soul; your time, your money, your possessions. So, when you consider how you should use any given hour of the day, remember that the hour belongs to God. When you consider how you should use any given dollar, remember that the dollar belongs to God. When you consider how you should use any possession, remember that the possession belongs to God.

Also remember that your use of God’s time, money, or possessions will not give you any merit or worthiness in His sight. The only merit and worthiness you have is Christ’s. Everything that you think, say, and do is covered by Christ’s righteousness and thus forgiven. Yes, I dare say that even if you squander all of God’s time, all of God’s money, and all of God’s possessions that He has entrusted to you, for the sake of Christ, God will not condemn you.

That is the freedom of the Gospel. The free forgiveness of sins frees you from doing what you are commanded to do. You are then free to use God’s time, money, and possessions in a God-pleasing way – not because you must in order to be saved, but because you want to. You have been freed from the slavery of sin and from the condemnation of the Law, and have been promised eternal life in the new heavens and the new earth.

Eternal life is, in the end, all that matters. Time, money, and possessions will all be burned and they have no future. You have been freed from the slavery to these elementary principles and have been granted freedom in Christ who gave His life for you on the cross to pay the price of your sins and rose from the dead to secure your resurrection to life everlasting.

Cling therefore to the eternal truth of the Word of God. Cling to God’s definition of sin, righteousness, and judgment, because your sin is forgiven, you are declared righteous on account of Christ, and the ruler of this world has been judged and cast out, and you have the promise of eternal life. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

 

Death Defeated!

Sermon for the Resurrection of Our Lord based on Mark 16:1-8

Dear people who will rise from the dead: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

We know death. We see signs of it in every illness, every injury, even in every paper cut. We’ve seen it drawing nearer and nearer in hospitals and nursing homes. We’ve seen it come surprisingly and unexpectedly. We’ve seen it take the young and the old, the healthy and the sick. Death is all around us.

Death seems so permanent to us. Year after year, more bodies are buried in cemeteries and the number of tombstones only increases. We don’t see people come out of graves, they go into them and that’s the last we have seen of them.

This is exactly what the women going to the tomb on Easter morning knew. They knew death. They had seen the mean, bloody, gruesome, torturous death of Jesus at the hands of a wicked, cruel mob. They had followed and witnessed Joseph lay Jesus’ breathless, lifeless corpse in the tomb.

The women made their way to the tomb early in the morning in order to put spices and ointments on the dead body to prepare it for permanent burial. Their hearts were filled with love for Jesus who had done nothing but good to them and for them and everyone else. They could not forget Him now that He was dead. Their biggest concern was how to move the large stone away from the entrance of the tomb so that they could gain access to Jesus’ body. They were completely unprepared for what they found once they arrived at the tomb.

The great stone had been rolled away and Jesus’ body was not there. John records that Mary was weeping at the tomb, and the angels asked her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” Mary responded with saying, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid Him.” In other words, she said, “What are these wicked men trying to do? Why do they afflict and torment us poor, miserable people? Haven’t they done enough to poor Christ our dear Master and Lord? They’ve put Him to a cruel death and now will not even allow His body a resting place in the earth now that He is dead!” (adapted from Spangenberg)

An angel said to the women, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples and Peter that He is going before you to Galilee. There you will see Him just as He told you.”

Just as He told you. This wasn’t something new that the women were hearing. Jesus had been telling His disciples many times that He would suffer and die in fulfilment of Scripture and that He would rise from the dead on the third day. It was necessary that He die to save us from our sin. It was necessary that He pay the price of our sins so that we do not have to pay the price. It was necessary that He rise from the dead, defeating death.

It was too much for the women to handle. Mark writes, “And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.”

They were in shock. They trembled. They were afraid. Their world had been turned upside down by Jesus’ death. Now it just seemed to be spinning and they were trying to come to grips with what they had been told by the angel.

When the women calmed down enough to talk, they went and told the apostles what the angel had told them and what they had witnessed. Luke says that the apostles did not believe the women and their words seemed like an idle tale. Then Jesus appeared to the apostles when Thomas was not with them, and Thomas would not believe that Jesus was alive even though all the apostles told him that they had seen Him.

This is how wrapped up we are in death, that is is difficult for us to understand life. Jesus’ resurrection from the dead burst the bars of death for us. Death was defeated.

When Christ returns, every single grave will give up its dead. Those who died rejecting Christ will be raised and sent to eternal punishment in hell, and those who died with faith in Christ will be raised to eternal life in heaven. The grave will keep no one.

The good news for us is that getting into heaven is not about what we have to do or not do. You don’t go to heaven because you’ve done more good than bad in your life. You don’t go to heaven because you lived a life of virtue and avoided scandal. You don’t go to heaven because you’ve been to church on more Sundays than you’ve missed. You go to heaven because Christ Jesus died on the cross for your sins and has earned you eternal life. You go to heaven because Jesus paid the price of your sins and suffered hell for you so that you do not have to suffer in hell. You go to heaven because Christ Jesus gives you forgiveness through the waters of holy Baptism, through the word of Absolution, and in His body and blood, given and shed for you.

We are surrounded by death, and we see death all around us. But Christ has defeated death, and death is now our door to Paradise. Our graves are beds in which our bodies rest even as our souls go to be with Jesus until He returns and raises our bodies as He is raised.

Because of Jesus’ resurrection, death has lost its sting. Jesus lives and we will live with Him. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Good Friday

Sermon for Good Friday based on John 18 & 19

Dear guilty ones who are set free: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Good Friday is about God’s wrath, whether you like it or not. Perhaps that is why people skip the Good Friday service but come to church on Easter. Good Friday is too dark, too bloody, too gruesome. But on Good Friday we hear in detail how God poured out His wrath onto His Son, Jesus, instead of us.

The scourging Jesus received was supposed to be for us. It is we who should have been mocked and insulted, spit upon, beaten, and whipped. All our sins should have been dragged up in front of the whole world and we should have been accused of every single wrongdoing and fault of ours, every secret sin and misdeed. We should have then been punished eternally in the fires of hell.

In Jesus’ suffering and death, God the Father poured out His anger over our sin. Jesus was scourged unjustly so that we would not receive the scourging we deserve and have merited. Jesus suffered unjustly, so that we will not suffer justly in hell.

Here we see God’s love for us. He watches us day and night as we make bad decision after bad decision. He sees the unnecessary sadness and pain we inflict on ourselves and those around us. He sees our rebellious hearts that have desires that are opposed to His good and gracious will.

Yet, instead of pouring out His wrath and anger on us as we justly deserve, He poured it out on Jesus who never thought, said, or did anything that was opposed to His Father’s will.

The Master dies instead of the servant. The creditor dies for the debtor. The Physician dies for the good of the patient. The Shepherd dies for His sheep. The King dies for the sins of His subjects; the Peacemaker for quarrelsome rebels. The Creator dies for His creation. In this we see God’s love for us.

God’s love for us doesn’t fill Him with happy thoughts or make Him glad to see us. His love for us does not make Him happy. His love for us hurts Him. His love towards us does not serve itself, but us, His beloved. His love serves us to the point of death on a cross. God’s love hurts Him, causes His heart to break, and water and blood to pour out. God loves the world so that He gave His only Son into death for rebels who hated Him and killed Him and who chose Satan and Barabbas over Him.

This is true love. God has compassion on us in our sin to the point of suffering and death.

No one had compassion on Jesus when He suffered and died. Pilate tried to get the crowds to have compassion on Jesus by scourging Him unjustly and allowing the crowd of soldiers to insult Him, put a crown of thorns on His head, put a purple robe on Him, beat Him with their hands, and dishonour Him. Pilate allowed all this even while he kept saying that Jesus is innocent and has done nothing wrong. He tried to shame the Jews into having compassion on an innocent man who was free from guilt and was suffering without cause and unjustly.

The crowds would not have compassion on Jesus, but demanded His crucifixion. Pilate offered to release Him, but they instead wanted Barabbas to be released, a man imprisoned for insurrection and murder. The release of Barabbas highlights the injustice of Good Friday: the guilty goes free while the innocent is crucified.

You are the guilty, and you have been set free. You are free from the accusations of the Law. You are free from punishment and the wrath of God.

God has given Himself over to death in order to give us Himself, His crucified and risen body and blood in Holy Communion. If He had not died, there could be no testament. If His blood had not poured forth, it could not fill our chalice. Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins, the book of Hebrews tells us (9:22).

When the Old Testament faithful went to the tabernacle or Temple, they went there for the sacrificial blood, that their sins might be forgiven. So we also come to church. We come for blood so that our sins might be forgiven. Jesus gives us His life-giving blood into our mouths, so that we might offer sacrifices not of blood, for that is offered to us, but that we might offer sacrifices of thanksgiving and praise.

Indeed, how can we not? How can we servants, debtors, patients, sheep, subjects, rebels, and creatures not thank and praise our Master, creditor, Physician, Shepherd, King, Peacemaker, and Creator for dying for our sins, for freeing us from eternal damnation, for giving us eternal life?

How can we not renounce every sin that would vex or grieve the Holy Spirit, and quench with holy thoughts and prayers all fires unholy? How can we not turn away from earth’s vain joys to do God’s holy will?

In these endeavours, we will still find that our strength will not suffice to crucify desires that still entice us. We need the Holy Spirit to strengthen us to do God’s will, and we continually need forgiveness of sins when we fail. We continually need the blood of Jesus to cover our sin.

God will never withhold forgiveness from a penitent sinner. His wrath is not for you. His wrath was poured out on Jesus on Good Friday and He gives His never ending forgiveness from the font, through Absolution, and from the altar. God loves you. He died for you and now lives and reigns for you, and will return and take you to Himself, so that where He is, you may be also.

Good Friday is about God’s wrath – how God poured out His burning anger onto Jesus the innocent one, so that we, the guilty ones, walk away free. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

(Portions of this sermon were adapted from writings by Cyril of Alexandria, J. Heermann, J. Gerhard, and D. Petersen).

 

The New Passover

Sermon for Maundy Thursday based on Exodus 12:1-14

Dear people of the new covenant: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

The first time we hear about eating in the Bible, we hear about man’s fall into sin. God had given man everything that he needed for his body and life, and he could choose to eat of all the trees throughout the Garden of Eden, except one. He had only one command – not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam chose to eat of that one tree which was forbidden him, and sin and death entered the world, man became separated from God, and the world was cursed.

How fitting then, that God gives forgiveness, life, and salvation through eating and drinking. Our eating and drinking of the body and blood of Christ undoes the effects of Adam’s eating.

Adam’s eating brought curse; our eating brings blessing. Adam’s eating brought sin into the world; our eating grants us forgiveness. Adam’s eating brought forth death; our eating gives us life.

The most important eating in which God’s people in the Old Testament partook was the Passover meal. The Passover was a prophecy of the Lord’s Supper, pointing forward to that which was yet to come. It was a defining meal for the people of Israel in terms of who they were as a people. It celebrated God’s deliverance of the people of Israel out of slavery in Egypt.

God instructed each household to sacrifice a lamb without blemish and put the blood of the lamb on the doorposts and lintel of the houses where they would eat the Passover Lamb. The angel of death would go throughout Egypt and kill every first born son from Pharaoh to slave, both man and beast. The only thing that would turn the angel of death away from a house was the blood of the Passover lamb around the door. The blood of the lamb would cause the angel of death to pass over the house, thus the name for the feast, “Passover.”

Inside the houses with blood on their doorposts and lintels, God’s people would eat the roasted lamb and receive God’s gift of salvation according to His promise. The lamb was sacrificed, and the people would eat the lamb. The blood of the lamb saved them from death, and from slavery in Egypt.

Every year after the first Passover, the people of Israel would hold another celebration of the Passover. These celebrations included a retelling of the events of the first Passover so that future generations would continually hear about the great salvation God worked for His people. The eating of the lamb was accompanied by bitter herbs and unleavened bread. Sometime after their arrival in the Promised Land, wine was added to be part of the Passover celebrations.

Moses calls the Passover celebration a statute forever. Some Christians are confused by this and think that we should still be celebrating the Passover. There are issues with this.

FIrst of all, we do not know what the liturgical rites of the Passover meal were. We don’t know what they were in Old Testament times, and we don’t know what they were when Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples. All we have are some writings from well after the destruction of the Temple, from Jews in the Middle Ages.

Second, considering Jesus’ own warnings about the traditions and practices of the Pharisees and rabbis, whatever writings were passed down and still exist have no value to reconstruct such a Passover meal.

Besides, have you ever heard of a church that even attempts to eat the Passover meal with what we do know from the Bible? Does every family buy a lamb and feed it and take care of it until the night they all kill them together and butcher them? No, they pick and choose what they want to have a meal of novelty, mixing the Jewish and Christian religions.

Moses said that the Passover celebration is a statute forever, because it finds its fulfilment in Christ for all eternity. Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples on Maundy Thursday not to end the Passover, but to fulfil it.

Jesus took likely the third cup of wine, one of the four cups of wine which was drunk as part of the Passover meal (that is, if in fact at that time they had four cups of wine in their liturgy, we don’t know) and told them to drink His blood of the new covenant, which is shed for the forgiveness of sins. Thus, the old covenant or testament is fulfilled as the new covenant has come and taken its place.

There is no more sacrifice of lambs as Jesus sacrificed Himself as the ultimate sacrifice for sin. The sacrifice of lambs for Passover pointed forward to the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross for the forgiveness of all our sins. Thus Saint Paul writes, “Christ, our Passover Lamb has been sacrificed.” (I Cor. 5:7) Why would you go back to the old testament sacrifice of a lambs when you have the new testament sacrifice of Jesus? The old testament sacrifices were a shadow of what was to come (Col. 2:17). Why leave what is fulfilled and realized in Christ and go back to the shadows that pointed to Him?

The event of the Passover itself also pointed forward to Jesus. As God freed His people from bondage in Egypt and brought them safely to the Promised Land, so Jesus’ death for us has saved us from bondage to sin and will bring us safely to our promised eternal home in heaven. Passing through the waters of the Red Sea are called a baptism into Moses, which pointed forward to our Baptism into Christ, in which we receive the salvation which He won for us upon the cross.

There is no more eating of bitter herbs, unleavened bread, lamb, or drinking of wine to celebrate the Passover of the old covenant, but rather we have the unleavened bread and wine of the Lord’s Supper, the blood of the new covenant, which is the fulfilment of the Passover meal. We eat the body and drink the blood of Jesus as the Passover Lamb who takes our sins away. The unblemished Passover Lamb has been sacrificed, and we eat the Lamb and are saved from sin, death, and the devil. His blood causes the wrath of God to pass over. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Palm Sunday

Sermon for Palm Sunday based on Matthew 21:1-9

Dear crowd singing hosanna: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

The kingdom of God does not come with violence. Jesus does not force anything on anyone. As powerful as He is, He does not come with His legions of angels to force you to believe, force you to behave, or force you in any way.

He comes in humility, so the prideful laugh at Him. He comes in service, so the arrogant mock Him. He comes in weakness to suffer and die, so the strong deride Him.

God’s children, however, receive Him who comes humbly. They sing, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” We sing this as He humbly comes to us in His body and blood, just as those children of God sang it when He came humbly, riding into Jerusalem on a donkey.

Christ comes to His own, and they receive Him. They are His Church, and He gathers them to Himself. The Church is not a group of spiritual people who decide to get together and do religious things. The Church is God’s chosen people of all times and places whom God Himself gathers through the forgiveness of sins to be the body of Christ. To us Christ comes with salvation, which is why we sing “hosanna,” which means “save us.”

Christ came for the very purpose of saving us. He has saved us from sin, death, and the devil. He has saved us from the punishment that we deserve for our sins. He has saved us from eternal death in hell, which is the just reward for our many sins. He saved us from the Evil One who seeks day and night to devour us.

He saved us by His bitter grief and woe, His suffering and agony, His death and resurrection. He saved us not just by His suffering and death, but also by His life and resurrection. During His life, He fulfilled the Law of God which we have broken. In His resurrection, He burst the bars of death for us and all believers.

He comes to us humbly and in weakness to save us. This is a stumbling block for the prideful and arrogant. Earthly kingdoms come with violence and strife. They spread by means of killing others and taking from them. They grow with political manipulation, betrayals, and lies. Those in power get richer and richer by taxing the people into poverty, oppressing them, and by stealing from the public coffers. Bribes are paid and critics are silenced. This is how earthly kingdoms work. They grow and get stronger until the next earthly kingdom rises up and destroys them.

The kingdom of God does not come to earth with violence. The kingdom of God came through the violence done to Jesus. Now it spreads through the forgiveness of sins freely given. It grows through the Word preached to listening ears. It grows through the waters of Holy Baptism and is nourished through the food of the Holy Supper.

The kingdom of God comes so humbly, it can be rejected. You don’t have to fight it if you don’t want to be part of it, you can simply walk away. You can simply cease to care. You can grow cold. You can grow indifferent. You can simply stop listening to the Word and stop being nourished by Jesus’ body and blood and have nothing to do with the kingdom of God.

Because Christ comes in weakness and humility, do not make the mistake of believing Him to be weak or powerless. Quite on the contrary, He is God in the flesh with all the power and authority of God. He has all authority in heaven and on earth. It is for your sake that He comes humbly.

Our Epistle lesson tells us, “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

He was in the form of God because He is God. He is of one substance with the Father. Yet He humbled Himself to serve us, and that is the mind we should have among ourselves.

To be Christlike means to serve your neighbour. The strong help the weak. The rich help the poor. Those who have a voice speak for those who do not.

To be Christlike also means to suffer unjustly, which is nearly impossible for us to do without grumbling and complaining. Even when we suffer justly we cannot but complain about our suffering.

If our pride is attacked, we get angry. We want to defend ourselves. We struggle in any way to be like Christ, the Lamb who was led to slaughter without complaint. We cannot bear to hear unkind things said about us. We cannot bear to have our reputations tarnished. We need to repent and follow the example of Christ. We need to turn from our sin and trust in Jesus for forgiveness.

Peter writes, “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. 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. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.” (I Peter 2:21-24)

Jesus was continually slandered. He is still today spoken against and much evil is said of Him every day. He endures this evil because He desires that everyone would turn from their evil and be saved. He does not return evil with evil, but He grants forgiveness.

The day of His return will be a stark contrast to His first coming. He will not come humbly as a baby. He will not ride into Jerusalem humbly on a donkey. He will not suffer and die. When He returns, Christ Jesus will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. Then every knee will bow to Him, even those who spoke evil of Him. Every tongue will confess that He is Lord, but Christ will divide those who confessed it before His return from those who confess it only on Judgment Day.

Christ will put those who did not confess Him as Lord when He came humbly on His left side and give them the due reward for their wickedness. They will be punished eternally for their sins. That will be justice. They will pay for every sin.

He puts those who confessed Him as Lord when He came humbly on His right side and will give them the kingdom prepared for them from before the foundation of the world. They are not judged for their sins. Their sins are covered by His own blood. They will not be punished for their sins. They are forgiven. To top it off, they are credited for all the good that the Holy Spirit worked through them throughout their lives.

Jesus came humbly on Palm Sunday and He comes humbly today to do everything for you so that you will be on His right side on Judgment Day. He suffered everything for you, so that you do not have to suffer eternally. He has washed you with water and the Word and nourishes you with His own body and blood. He gave His life for you, the sinless dying for the sinful.

What punishment so strange is suffered yonder!

The Shepherd dies for sheep that love to wander;

The Master pays the debt His servants owe Him,

Who would not know Him.

 

The sinless Son of God must die in sadness;

The sinful child of man may live in gladness;

Man forfeited his life and is acquitted;

God is committed.

 

And when, dear Lord, before Thy throne in heaven

To me the crown of joy at last is given,

Where sweetest hymns Thy saints forever raise Thee,

I, too, shall praise Thee. (LSB 439 st. 4,5,15) Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

The Word of God

Sermon for Judica based on John 8:46-59

Dear hearers of the Word of God: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Speaking to the Jews, Jesus addressed Himself with the divine name, “I AM.” This is the name God revealed to Moses in the burning bush. Moses asked God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM who I AM.” And He said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Ex. 3:13-14) Jesus said to the Jews, “Before Abraham came to be or was born, I AM.”

There never was a time that God the Son did not exist. He never came into being. He is eternal. Before Abraham was born, He is. He always has been. He always is. He always will be. He is the eternal God worthy to be held in reverence by all people everywhere.

Instead of bowing down to worship Him, the Jews picked up stones to kill Him. The hostility of the Jews toward Jesus increased until it culminated in His crucifixion on Good Friday.

We see that it is nothing new to claim to be a believer, but to actually be a child of the devil. These Jews claimed to be God’s people, children of Abraham, disciples of Moses, and children of the kingdom of heaven. But here Christ says that they are ungodly people, rebellious children, disobedient disciples, and children of damnation, for they followed neither Abraham nor Moses, but their father the devil (Spangenberg).

Children of God hear God’s Word, receive it with a believing heart, and conform their lives to it. Children of the devil cannot hear God’s Word. They reject it with a hard heart and do not conform their lives to it. They may appear godly and holy before men, but they are bound for the depths of hell. They may be nice and friendly and cheerful, but when they hear the Word of God which convicts them of sin, instead of repenting, they get angry and hostile to God’s Word and to the messenger speaking it.

Such hostile people, filled with hatred and spite, wrath and fury oppose Jesus’ Word. It only makes sense that such stony and stubborn hearts would pick up stones to kill Jesus and crucify Him not much later.

It is a very common thing to claim to love God and yet oppose His Word. They essentially say: “I love God but I don’t like what He says about this or that topic. I am a Christian, but I reject what God has revealed about Himself in His Word. I believe in God, but not what the Bible says about sin.” This is nothing other than creating a god in your own image and rejected the true God. It is creating an idol, a cult, a false religion.

Jesus says to them concerning God the Father, “You say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known Him. I know Him. If I were to say that I do not know Him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know Him and I keep His Word.”

You cannot know God apart from His Word. God does not speak to you apart from His Word. Faith does not exist apart from the Word of God. God’s Word is the difference between truth and lies, between faith and unbelief, between life and death.

Thus Jesus says, “If anyone keeps my Word, he will never see death.” This means that those who claim to love Jesus but reject His Word will see eternal death. Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’.” (Matt. 7:21-23)

Cling to the Word of God and you will never see death. Hear God’s Word, receive it with a believing heart, and conform your life to it.

This does not mean that we will not die from this life. We will die from this life, but it will be a slumber and a departure in peace from which Christ will awaken us to live forever. Clinging to the Word of God means that we will not die eternally, but will live forever in the joys of Paradise.

How can words have such power? How is the Bible so powerful? It is because it is God’s Word. The same Word with which He created the heavens and the earth. The same Word which commands the wind and the waves, and life and death. The same Word which became flesh and dwelt among us.

Only in the Bible do we learn of the peace God’s Son won for us by His suffering and death. This is the Gospel that has the power of God to save (Rom. 1:16). It saves us because it tells us that we are not left by God in our sin. We are not left on our own to face the accusations of our conscience, of the Law, and of the devil. Christ Jesus has taken all those accusations and died for them.

Jesus asked the Jews, “Which one of you convicts me of sin?” He asked this to show that they had no accusations against Him. They could not convict Him of sin. He lived a perfect life of obedience to the Law of God. Yet, on the cross, He was found guilty of our offences. Our lust, our greed, our laziness, our indifference was charged to Jesus. He who never sinned was charged with all our sins and all the sins of the whole world.

This is the power of the Gospel. It lifts you up from despair. You need not fear punishment for your sins. You need not fear Judgment Day. You need not fear hell. Christ our Lord has conquered sin, death, and the grave. He had barred the gates of hell for all those who cling to His Word.

The eternal Son of God has sent His eternal Gospel into all the world so that everyone who believes in Him will be saved. He is the great I AM who has always been opposed by the world and who has always been loved by His children who hear His Word and keep it.

Cling to the Word of God and you will never see death. Hear God’s Word, receive it with a believing heart, and conform your life to it. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

It is a Sign

Sermon for Laetare based on John 6:1-15

Dear people fed by Jesus: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

John does not use the word “miracle” to describe Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand. In fact, John doesn’t ever use the word “miracle” to describe Jesus’ many acts of healing, casting out demons, or even raising the dead. He uses the word “sign.” To be sure, Jesus feeding the five thousand was a miracle, but John is pointing us to the fact that it is more than a miracle. Jesus’ feeding of the five thousand is a sign.

“Sign” is a word of revelation, as these events and miracles make known the presence of God. So, as the Israelites grumbled against God for bringing them out of Egypt to die in the wilderness, God gives them a sign. He miraculously gives them quail and manna. He gives them a sign that He is with them. He will feed them. He did not bring them out of slavery in Egypt to kill them of starvation in the desert.

The problem was the people of Israel didn’t trust God. They didn’t believe that God would continue to provide for them even though He promised them He would.

Even when God had given them the sign that He had promised – He sent them quail and manna – still they did not believe. God had told them to gather manna only for the day and not to leave it over until the morning. But they did not listen. They left some until the morning because they did not trust God to keep His word. They did not trust that God would give them manna again the next day. Their day-old manna bred worms and stank. God was teaching them through this miraculous sign to trust Him and His Word; that He was with them, that He would provide for them, and that He keeps His Word.

Jesus feeding the five thousand was also a sign of God’s presence. As Jesus provided bread for the Israelites to eat in the wilderness through Moses, so Jesus provided bread in the wilderness through this miraculous sign.

The word “sign” is also used of those events and miracles that fulfill Old Testament prophecy. Jesus’ miraculous provision of bread in the wilderness did make the people say, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!” They concluded rightly that this is the Prophet foretold by Moses, but they did not understand exactly what this meant.

They therefore wanted to make Jesus an earthly king by force. Why? Because they realized that this sign meant that He is God and that He is with them? No. It was because they wanted more free food. They wanted more handouts. Here, they thought, was a politician who doesn’t just promise free stuff, but actually gives it out. Jesus would have none of that and withdrew again to the mountain by Himself.

Jesus is God, therefore He is the one who provides us our daily bread. We don’t pray that God would give us this day our daily bread to remind Him of our need. He knows our need, and He gives it to us even without our prayer. He gave bread even to the grumbling unbelievers who whined to Moses and He gave it to the those who followed Him merely for free food. We pray for our daily bread so that God would lead us to realize that He is the One who provides it to us, and so that we would receive it with thanksgiving.

God will answer our petition. God will not leave us in hunger or thirst. As David writes, “I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for food.” (Ps. 37:25) And as Jesus says, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33)

Sometimes it is difficult for us to remember this and to believe it. Mark records that the disciples came up to Jesus and said, “This is a desolate place, and the hour is now late. Send them away to go into the surrounding countryside and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” (Mark 6:35-36) There were five thousand men plus women and children. They were far from any food. Perhaps the disciples even considered the character of the people and how many times they came near to stoning Moses when they had nothing to eat or drink. They thought it best to have Jesus send the people away to find food for themselves, as if Jesus cares about their spiritual nourishment but not their physical nourishment; as if Jesus is an inconsiderate man who has no regard for the poor or hungry.

Before Jesus responded, He already knew what He was going to do. But He nevertheless asked Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” Sometimes we need a little testing and a little hunger to be reminded that God knows already what He is going to do and how He is going to take care of us. Our response might be like Philip’s, “We don’t have enough money to do that!” But God provides.

This miraculous feeding was not just a sign to demonstrate His power or to elicit awe and wonder. It was both a sign of God’s presence and an event that fulfilled Old Testament prophecy. On top of it all, God also provided through this sign. He gave the people real food. He fed the hungry and filled them with good things.

Jesus still feeds His people. He gives us food and drink, and all we need to support this body and life. But He gives us even more. He gives us Himself, the bread of life. Eating the bread of life not only supports this body and life, but it brings us to eternal life. He satisfies all our needs and the deepest longings of our hearts. He is the source of our life because He is the source of forgiveness. He is the source of forgiveness because He is the one who died on the cross for us, earning us forgiveness by paying the price of our sins for us.

And Jesus gives us His body and blood to eat and drink. This also is not just a sign. It is a sign of God’s presence with us and it is a fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy, but it is not only a sign. It is real food. He gives us His true body and blood to eat and drink for the forgiveness of sin. He provides us what we need. He strengthens and nourishes our faith. He feeds the hungry and fills us with good things.

It is a miracle. It is a sign. It is eternal life. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.