The Word is Life

Sermon for Christmas Day based on John 1:1-14

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

Our Gospel lesson for Christmas Day is the most important of the Christmas accounts for knowing who Jesus is. It most clearly teaches that Jesus is not just man, but that He is divine; that He is God.

First, we see this because He is the Word. John points us back to the beginning as recorded by Moses in Genesis, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” John writes, “In the beginning was the Word.”

For each day of creation, God created with His Word. The first day, God said, “Let there be light” and there was light. This John corroborates by writing, “All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.”

If everything that was created by God was created through Christ, who is the Word, then that means that Christ is not created. Christ must precede everything that was created. Christ therefore is eternal without beginning.

Nothing exists apart from God and what God has created. If Christ is not created, He is therefore God.

Then John tells us, “And the Word was with God.” This was in the beginning, before creation. There was nothing outside of God, so of course the Word was with God. Again, this is the same that Moses writes. When he writes, “God said, ‘Let there be light’” it shows that whenever God speaks, the Word must be with Him. The Word was with God, a separate person, but also God. Therefore John continues, in order to be as explicit and clear as possible, “And the Word was God.” There is no doubt therefore that Jesus is very God of very God as we confess in the Nicene Creed.

Second, our Christmas Gospel tells us concerning the Word, “In Him was life.” Of course, you cannot create life unless you are the source of life. Apart from the Word, nothing is alive. All things that are alive are alive through the Word.

This is also true of eternal life. Jesus says, “I am the resurrection and the life.” (John 11:25) There is no resurrection without the Word. There is no eternal life without the Word. Only the Word made flesh can give eternal life because only He died to earn you eternal life, and only He conquered death by rising from the dead Himself. Only the Word made flesh can give eternal life because He is the source, the cause, the fountain of life.

Next, our Christmas Gospel tells us concerning the Word, “The life was the light of men.” If the Word is the light of men, without Him, we are in darkness. This is why the prophet Isaiah writes concerning the birth of Christ, “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined.” (Is. 9:2)

Without Christ, man is in complete spiritual darkness. He may imagine that he is pleasing God in his life. He may think that his ways are right. He may think that he clings to what is life, but because he is in darkness, he really clings to death.

All who trust in Christ for salvation, however, are in the light and have life. Even though our body will die, our soul will live forever and never die. This is what Jesus promises when He says, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” (John 11:25-26) “Though he die, yet shall he live” sounds like a contradiction if you don’t know what He means. It is no contradiction. Whoever believes in Christ has eternal life even when his body dies. The body is buried and awaits the day of resurrection, but the soul returns to its maker in Paradise, and is alive.

Christ died as a man and His body was buried. Yet His spirit lived on because He is Life. Life could not and cannot die. Consequently, death was overcome and was swallowed up by life, so much so that His body soon again became alive.

This same Life is the light of men. He who recognizes and believes in such a life in Christ, indeed passes through death, yet never dies. Christ, who is our Life protects him, so that death cannot harm him. Although the body must die and decay, the soul will not feel this death because believers are in the light of Christ, who is Life. On the day of resurrection his body will be raised imperishable and reunited with the soul.

He who does not believe this, remains in darkness and death. Such a soul will taste and feel death, and will die eternally. On the day of resurrection, his body will be raised from the grave and both body and soul will suffer eternally for rejecting Christ who is the Life.

Christ is your life. The soul of all who believe will never taste death because Jesus tasted death for you. The eternal Word who created you, came to earth to save you. God became man to deliver man. He is your light. He is your life.

The darkness of this world cannot overcome the light of Christ. Death cannot overcome Christ, who is the Life. The Word who created you will protect your soul from death and raise your body on the Last Day. He is God, so you know that He keeps His promises and can do what He says He will do. He is eternal, and in Him, you too will live forever.

May these blessed and comforting words of the Gospel strengthen you at this Christmas time. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in Him, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Him shall never die. Amen.

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

Fed by Jesus

Sermon for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost based on Mark 6:30-44

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

God gave manna to the children of Israel as they wandered through the wilderness for forty years to physically nourish and strengthen them. Just as God’s people were set free from slavery through the waters of the Red Sea, so we are set free from the slavery of sin through the waters of Holy Baptism. Just as God fed those whom He freed from slavery with manna from heaven, so we are fed by the bread of life, who is Jesus Christ himself. Just as the children of Israel couldn’t “stock up” on manna for another day but needed to gather it every day as their daily food, so we need Jesus every single day. We need his precious Gospel. We need the words of life He alone can give. We need to take His flesh and blood into us by faith, as well as by eating and drinking the sacramental bread and wine, which are, as Jesus plainly teaches, His real body and blood.

We see in His miraculous feeding of the five thousand that Jesus is the Creator. He worked a miracle that only the Creator could do. He created. Where there had been only five loaves and two fish, He created enough food to feed five thousand men, not counting women and children, and with twelve baskets of food left over. Consider who this man really is. He is God. He is the Creator of the universe. He is the one who sustains all things by His mighty power. He is the one who made us in His image, male and female. He is the one who rained manna from heaven, and now has come down from heaven to be with us, never to leave us.

Jesus is our Creator. We tend to think of God the Father as our Creator. This is of course true, but God is not divided. Saint John writes in the beginning of his gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.” (Jn 1:1-3) God the Son was also creating, as was the Spirit of God who Genesis tells us was in the beginning hovering over the face of the waters (Gen. 1:2). God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit work together, one God.

Jesus created us, and He still sustains us. He gives us what we need for this body and life. Even more, He gives us eternal life. He has joined us in our own flesh and blood, that He might bring us back to Him as pure, holy, and perfect saints. He came to do what we could not do. He came to restore God’s lost and fallen creatures. He came to redeem us body and soul. See Him do what only the Creator can do. It is our Creator who has joined us in our human flesh and blood by becoming a human being while remaining the Creator God. Jesus is true man. He is a man in every single respect. He is like we are in all things except that He never sinned because He could not sin since He is eternally pure and holy.

Jesus provides us with what we need for this body and life, but the time will come when this earthly life will end. We will all die. This is for what Jesus prepares us most of all. He prepares us for death, because He has died the death we deserve. The eternal death we deserve for our sins was swallowed up by Jesus’ death. We have eternal life waiting for us as our promised inheritance because we are baptized into Christ. We have eternal life waiting for us because Jesus Himself forgives sin in Absolution.

And Jesus gives us His true body and blood to spiritually feed us. There are two kinds of eating and drinking that take place in the Lord’s Supper: physical and spiritual. The physical eating and drinking is done bodily with the mouth. The spiritual eating and drinking is through faith. Just as the mouth receives the body and blood of Jesus – because that’s what the sacramental bread and wine are – faith receives the benefits of Christ’s body and blood: forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

Our Creator God who has taken on our flesh gives us His body and blood to recreate us through the forgiveness of sins. He feeds us hungry souls who are burdened by sin. He nourishes us and strengthens us by forgiving our sins, and He thus nourishes us and strengthens us to eternal life.

Jesus provided physical food to the five thousand, but it wasn’t really about the bread and the fish. Jesus’ miracle showed that He is God; that He loves those whom He has created; that He is the provider of everything they need. He wanted the people to realize that He is their Creator, and they should go to Him for everything they need.

Jesus provides physical food for our bodies, but He also wants us to realize that He is God; that He loves us; that He provides everything we need, and so we should pray to Him for our every need.

Our greatest need is the forgiveness of sins. With our sins forgiven, there is nothing to keep us from eternal life. With our sins forgiven, we will inherit Paradise.

Jesus gives us the forgiveness of sins in Baptism, as He did to little Roslyn this morning. Baptism is not just some empty tradition. It has God’s command and His promise.

Jesus gives us the forgiveness of sins in Absolution, as He did to you this morning. Absolution is not the pastor’s forgiveness, but God’s. It has God’s command and His promise.

Jesus gives us the forgiveness of sins in the Lord’s Supper, as He will give to you this morning. The Lord’s Supper is not just some superstitious gimmick. It has God’s command and His promise.

The reason you know that Jesus gives you forgiveness of sins in these ways is because He is the one who created you. He can and does give you everything you need. He died on the cross to pay for your sins and take your punishment in your place. He gives you the benefits of His death in Baptism, Absolution, and the Lord’s Supper.

The God who created you will also raise you from the dead. It is His promise to you, because you are baptized into Christ and strengthened and nourished by His Word and Sacrament. As surely as Jesus rose from the dead, so you too will rise, and our loving Saviour will give eternal life to you and to everyone who trusts in Him. Amen

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

(This sermon borrows much from two of Rev. Rolf Preus’s sermons on John 6.)

Jesus: Crazy, Possessed, or God?

Sermon for the Third Sunday after Pentecost based on Mark 3:20-35

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

Jesus is out of His mind, claimed His family. He is possessed by Satan, said the scribes. Whoever does not do the will of God comes to the same conclusions.

You either take what Jesus said and taught, believe it, and do the will of God, or you reject what Jesus said and taught, do not believe, and do not do the will of God. It’s not a game of picking and choosing. You don’t pick and choose what you like out of what Jesus’ said and taught. It’s all or nothing. You must conclude either that He is God and speaks the truth, or He was insane and a lunatic. Everything He said and did He said and did as God, or He said and did for Satan. There is no middle ground.

There was no denying that Jesus had been casting out demons. Satan’s unclean spirits fell down before Jesus, and He showed His power and authority over them by casting them out. Jesus has power and authority demons. He was casting them out either by the power of God, or the power of the devil, the prince of demons.

The scribes argued that Jesus did it with the power of the devil. They said, “He is possessed by Beelzebul,” and “by the prince of demons he casts out demons.” They rejected what Jesus said and taught, so that was the only conclusion to which they could arrive.

His family wasn’t much better. They said that He’s lost His mind. He’s off His rocker. He’s gone crazy. His family went out to seize Him; to grab Him by force and take Him away from the crowds because they were saying, “He is out of His mind.”

The followers of Christ should expect no different treatment from those who do not do the will of God, whether they are our family or not. Where we cling to what Jesus said and taught, they will think that we are out of our minds.

Jesus said things with which our rational minds have problems. The man Jesus says that He is the Son of God the Father, making Himself equal with God (Jn 5:17-18). He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (Jn 3:5). He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.” (Jn 6:53)

You must either believe what Jesus says or conclude that He is out of His mind. If you do believe Jesus’ words, then the world will conclude that you are out of your mind, just as they have concluded that Jesus is out of His mind.

To conclude that Jesus is out of His mind is much the same as concluding that Jesus is in league with Satan. Since the work of the Holy Spirit is calling sinners to believe in who Jesus is and trust His work of salvation, those who reject the Holy Spirit’s call to faith and say that Jesus is crazy or demon-possessed are in danger of committing blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. Jesus says that whoever blasphemes the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin.

The calling of the Holy Spirit may take place over a significant period of time, but there comes a time when faith either takes root or is rejected. Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is refusing to believe, denying the Gospel, rejecting who Jesus is and what He has done. This is why the sin against the Holy Spirit is mortal and unforgiveable. It is a rejection of forgiveness.

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is to reject His call to repentance. It is not about any particular sin, but it is refusing to turn away from any sin and receive forgiveness. Every other sin can be forgiven. No other sin is an eternal sin. We are all sinful and commit sin every day. Some Christians even fall into great shame and vice in their weakness. But these sins are not the same as blaspheming the Holy Spirit. Blaspheming the Holy Spirit is refusing to turn away from sin when you are called to repentance and faith through God’s Word. Blaspheming the Holy Spirit is not any act of sin, however heinous, but a state or habit of sin which someone wilfully choses and in which he persists in opposition to the Holy Spirit.

It is important to note that Jesus did not say that the scribes or His family had already committed the unforgiveable sin. He warned them of the danger of committing it. We know certainly that Jesus’ brothers James and Jude later believed (cf. I Cor. 9:5), and especially James became an important figure in the early church. We know that Jesus’ mother Mary believed and is found at the foot of the cross (Jn 19:26-27).

The warning is that if someone hardens his heart when the Holy Spirit is calling him to faith, he is in a very dangerous place where the Holy Spirit may eventually stop calling him. Death may come. Christ may return. This then is final impenitence and unbelief – the unforgivable sin which is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.

However, the Holy Spirit has revealed to us that Jesus is God and He is not out of His mind. We cannot always understand His mind. His thoughts not our thoughts, neither are His ways our ways. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God’s ways higher than our ways and His thoughts higher than our thoughts (Is. 55:8-9).

God does things that don’t make sense to us. He allows things to happen in the world and in our lives that we cannot see as being good.

Yet we trust in Jesus. We trust that He loves us and does everything only for our eternal good. Surely He only wants what is good for us since He has plundered us from the devil.

Satan did not defeat himself. Satan did not cast out Satan. Jesus bound Him and then plundered his house. Jesus rendered Satan powerless and then saved the captured prey from his house.

In our sins, we were hopeless to save ourselves and escape from Satan. Because of our sins we deserve to spend eternity with Satan in hell. But Jesus would not have it so. Jesus is the stronger one (cf. Mark 1:7) who bound Satan. Jesus “took captivity captive” (Eph. 4:8) and plundered Satan’s house, saving us from under his power. Our sin which held us captive under Satan has been forgiven. We have been released from the Law which would accuse us (Rom. 7:6).

Satan’s reign over us has been destroyed by Jesus’ death and resurrection. Our sins do not keep us captive to Satan. Jesus bound Satan and he is thus powerless to hold us captive. And since Jesus took captivity captive, captivity itself is captured. There is no longer any captivity to threaten God’s people. Christ has conquered sin, death, and the devil and He has made us free. There is no threat of hell for us.

All true believers come to the same conclusion. We take what Jesus said and taught, believe it, and do the will of God. We believe and follow Jesus’ Word even when we cannot completely understand it. We believe and follow Jesus’ Word even when the world rails against us for being crazy. We believe and follow Jesus’ Word, because His Word is eternal life. His Word has given us faith in His death for us, so that we know that we have been plundered from the devil and are safe in His Church where He forgives our sins and brings us to eternal life. Amen.

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

The Word Became Flesh

Sermon for the Nativity of our Lord based on John 1:1-14

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

The Word became flesh. God became man. The eternal Son of God who made all things and without whom was not anything made that was made, joined creation by taking on human flesh, and He dwelt with us.

God the Son did not have to become man. He did not have to leave the joys of heaven and attach Himself to mankind by becoming one of us. He could have instead destroyed sinful mankind who had rebelled against Him. He could have thrown all of creation into hell after the fall into sin.

Yet, out of love for His fallen creation, He did not want to see His creation eternally punished. He became man for us, out of love for us. He loved His fallen creation so much that He was willing to become one of us. He became one of us to take on our sin.

God the Son shares in our human state. God has forever elevated what it means to be human by becoming one of us. By becoming one of us, He affirmed the goodness of creation, even if it is now marred by sin.

Christ came to take back what He had lost. Man was lost to God because of sin, but Jesus came to win us back to God. The Son of God came to pay the price of our sins, thus freeing us from the bondage of sin.

God the Son took on our flesh in order to suffer and die for us. Even now, after the resurrection, He remains man. That’s why He can give us His body and blood to eat and drink.

If God is Spirit alone, He does not have a body or blood. But God the Son became and is still man, glorified and resurrected. He gives us His glorified and resurrected body to eat and drink so that we can be partakers of His flesh.

The Word became flesh to take on our sin, and now He gives us His flesh and we take on His holiness. His body and blood take away our sin because it was by means of His body and blood that He paid the price of our sins. Jesus gives us forgiveness and eternal life through His body and blood and we are united with Him. We have been adopted as children of God through our Baptism into Christ.

We have the right to become children of God. Not because we were born of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but because we were born again by the will of God through water and the Spirit. By believing in His name, that is by faith, we are the children of God.

Jesus becoming man bridged the gap between God and man. We are no longer separated from God by our sinfulness since Jesus has fulfilled the Law for us and paid the debt of our sins.

As God, the Son of God does not need to keep the Law. Whatever He does is just and good and right. Whatever God thinks, says, or does is lawful. In order for Him to fulfil the Law in our place, He had to become one of us.

Scripture tells us, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the Law, to redeem those who were under the Law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Gal. 4:4-5) Born as a man, Jesus put Himself under the Law and fulfilled the Law’s requirements. Jesus became one of us to do what we cannot do.

The Son of God also became man so that He could die. God has no beginning or end. Without taking on human flesh, God the Son could not die. So, He took on our flesh and blood, and gave up His life to save us and give us eternal life.

God the Son took on our flesh, so He also experienced what it means to be man. He was tempted. He suffered hunger and thirst. He became tired and slept. He cried when a dear friend died. He was sorrowful unto death.

Christ knows what we go through. He is able to sympathize with our weaknesses, as He has been tempted as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15). Thus, we can confidently draw near to His throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:16).

Christ, who is God and man, has ascended to the right hand of the Majesty on high, and He intercedes for us. There is a man sitting on the throne of heaven pleading for us, because He knows our weaknesses. He knows our weaknesses, so He has done everything to save us, leaving nothing to us.

From start to finish, it is all about love. God was willing to do this all for us out of love for us, His fallen creation. God became man to save man. We are saved and have been adopted as children of God, so we receive the inheritance of the children of God – eternal life. The eternal Son of God became man to give us eternal life. That is the Christmas story. Amen.

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