Author Archives: Rev. Jared Tucher

About Rev. Jared Tucher

I'm a Lutheran (LCMS) pastor serving in Gillette, WY.

Easter 5C

Text: John 16:12-22

C 58 Easter 5  Jn 13 31 35Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

If there’s one problem the people of Jesus’ day had, it was listening. People had their thoughts and opinions of Jesus and there wasn’t anything that Jesus could do to change that thought or opinion. And so, Jesus says, “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot hear them now.” That seemed to be an ongoing problem with the people. Three times in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says, “He who has ears, let him hear.” Clearly, hearing is a problem.

Though hearing is not one of the people’s strong suits, Jesus has an answer: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” You see, Jesus knows what is to come. He knows that His time on this earth is short-lived and more needs to be taught to His disciples and to the general population.

These are the difficult times of Jesus’ ministry; times where the people seem to be ignorant of Jesus and His work. Being ignorant of Jesus wasn’t entirely the people’s fault. They had been instructed poorly by the religious leaders of the day. The teaching wasn’t focused on Jesus as the Messiah but by keeping the Law, but it wasn’t really God’s Law as much as it was the law of man. Jesus knows that He needs to correct their ignorance, but He knows that He cannot do it by Himself. That’s why He said that the Holy Spirit is coming.

“A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” You get that, don’t you? You understand that, right? The disciples didn’t understand it: “What does he mean by ‘a little while’? We do not know what he is talking about.” That’s right, once again, we see how the disciples are clueless about Jesus and His clear words and how they spark confusion.

We aren’t all that different from the disciples. We’re not ready to listen to the true message of Jesus, though we are quick to fill ourselves with the false message that the world brings. Even in the church, we don’t pay attention to the message of the Holy Spirit. We don’t always give attention to the Word of God read and preached in the Divine Service. We go through the motions of the Divine Service, counting down the minutes until it is over so that we can have our Sunday afternoon all to ourselves. We spend little or no time outside of Sunday morning in God’s Word. The world would tell you that that is perfectly fine, because Jesus isn’t going to save you, you’re going to save you by any number of ways, such as by good works and the like.

The disciples are little prepared for Jesus’ impending crucifixion. And if they aren’t prepared for the crucifixion, they certainly won’t be prepared for His resurrection. Little do they realize, they desperately need Jesus more after His death and resurrection then they need Him in the here and now. Yes, it’s great to have Jesus among them right now, but the Jesus the disciples need, the Jesus that you need, is not the Jesus that walks among the earth. The Jesus that is needed is Jesus the Lamb who was slain upon Calvary’s cross. The Jesus that is needed is the Jesus laid to rest in the tomb. The Jesus that is needed is the Jesus who rose triumphant from the grave. That’s the Jesus that is needed, and that is the Jesus that will come to the disciples “in a little while.”

Jesus sends the Spirit of truth to guide the disciples into all truth. The truth is nothing short of God’s divine plan of salvation that is meant for His creation. The truth is of Jesus Christ, and His salvation of us through His life, death, and resurrection. The work of the Holy Spirit is to create faith in a person. Note that the Spirit does not speak on His own but rather He speaks on behalf of the Father and Jesus and testifies about Jesus. It’s all about Jesus. For the Holy Spirit, it has to be all about Jesus because Jesus is the sole means of salvation.

If there is a single message that we need to hear and take to heart, it is that of Jesus Christ, for that is our sole means of salvation. In this Word, the Holy Spirit introduces us to “the things that are to come.” For the disciples, that would be revealed in the death of Christ, when they would finally understand what Jesus had been preaching and teaching the last three years. Jesus would rise triumphant from the grave and return to the Father, to prepare a heavenly mansion for all those who are in Him.

But even for the disciples, they would face hardships in the days ahead. Tragedy lay ahead for the disciples, great pain and grief at the arrest and execution of Jesus. They would cry and lament while the world would rejoice. The event that would crush their spirits would elate the unbelievers. Even so, their sorrow would not last but be turned to joy.

Here enters the Holy Spirit, to reintroduce us to our Savior, Jesus Christ. In a few hours, Jesus will be arrested, tried, crucified, and will die on a cross. Even as tragic as all that sounds, this will be Jesus’ greatest glory. Jesus Christ is the Word become flesh, the only-begotten Son of the Father, who has come out of love that people might believe and have life. For our joy, we need look no further than the words of Jesus here in our text: “So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you.”

Just as soon as Jesus appears again to the disciples, some 40 days later Jesus is gone again. Jesus would return to His Father in His ascension, and again in a little while, they would see Him no longer. But recall that Jesus had told the disciples that this was for their benefit. It now opens the door for the Holy Spirit to do His work in the new lives of these men. In a little while, the Spirit of truth will take what Jesus received from the Father and declare it to them. In a little while, the Spirit will make clear to the disciples the things that had happened. Not only did Jesus say what He would do, He did what He said.

In a little while, at His ascension and return, Jesus will bring redemption, life, and salvation – and in that little while He’s bringing it to the world by the disciples’ word. This will be Jesus’ greatest glory. Jesus Christ is the Word become flesh, the only-begotten Son of the Father, who has come out of love that people might believe and have life.

We will indeed find joy again, just as the disciples did – in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Our joy comes in the truth that because Christ was raised from the dead, so we too will be raised from the dead. That’s the joy that Jesus’ death and resurrection bring. That’s why believers to this day remain joyful, no matter what else is going on around them, for He who died lives, and because we believe, so we too will live. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

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Posted by on May 20, 2019 in Easter, Sermons


Easter 4C

Text: John 10:22-30

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

On this Fourth Sunday of Easter, we aren’t looking at post-resurrection Jesus accounts, but we see a pre-crucified Jesus account. In fact, this account takes place just a few months before Christ’s death and resurrection. This account centers on the question of who is Jesus, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.”

Stop. Think about what you have just asked Jesus: “If you are the Christ, tell us plainly.” What has Jesus done for three years? How many ways does He have to tell you that He is the Christ, the Son of God? How many ways does He have to tell you that He is creation’s salvation? How many ways does He have to say it before you hear it and believe what He has done?

Now before we go any further, we have to understand what has really taken place. The Jews have surrounded Him, attempting to intimidate Him. Yes, they have seen and heard what Christ has said, but they have challenged Him, they want Him to clearly say that He either is or isn’t the Christ. But understand this, their will is different from that of Jesus. These people have no desire to repent, to accept what Jesus has to offer them. They pretended as if they cared, as if they wanted to know about Jesus, but in the end, they didn’t care.

Even if they didn’t care or really want to know, they were going to find out. You need to be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it. These people got what they wished for, but I wouldn’t say it was what they really wanted.

“Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe.”” Jesus has already given them the answer, time and time again. And each and every time He said who He was, there were those that refused to believe. What more proof do the people need? Haven’t they heard the message which He has preached? Haven’t they seen the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies regarding the coming Savior? Haven’t they seen the miracles which He has performed? Surely someone present had to have eaten some of the fish and bread when Jesus fed the 5000 people. Food kept coming from what seemed like nowhere, and there was no stopping it, not until everyone had eaten their fill. Surely someone here had to have come in contact with Jesus and a miracle He had performed.

The answer which Jesus gave was not the answer they had wanted to hear. What they wanted to hear was a simple “yes” or “no.” They didn’t want any complicated answer. They didn’t want to try to read between what Jesus was saying for an answer. “Are you or aren’t you? Just say “yes” or “no.”

Jesus saw through their words and actions and He understood clearly the intent of their question. He answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe.” Therein lies the tragedy of unbelief. “I told you, and you do not believe.” Jesus had already clearly spoken the good news of God’s grace. From the beginning He had revealed the goodness of the Father. His preaching and His teaching had announced simply but forcibly that the Father loves what He created. In contrast to those who said that one had to do something to win the affection of God, Jesus came proclaiming a message, the Gospel, the Word, that God loves the world in spite of its sin.

The Gospel of Jesus is challenged today, both inside and outside the church, because of wills and wishes different from God’s. These people fit the bill exactly. They didn’t care about what Jesus had to say; if they did, they would already know the answer to their question.

They did not want to believe this message, not because they did not want to be saved.  They did not want to believe it because they thought they had to do something to be saved. Unbelief does not grow out of the unwillingness to be saved. Unbelief is the notion that God is not good, that He will not keep His promise of salvation. Sometimes it is the sinners who do not believe that God can forgive. In this instance, the people who thought they were righteous did not believe that God was so good as to accept them without their merit.

The latter half of His answer was more pointed, so pointed that the Jewish leaders wanted to stone Jesus. “The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not part of my flock.” The Jews show, by not believing in Jesus, by not recognizing who He is in spite of the miracles which show His Father’s authorization of Him, that they do not belong to His flock. When Jesus had spoken to them previously about Himself as the Good Shepherd, they had become very angry.

Just as there were people in the days of Jesus who did not believe, so there are still those today that claim to want to know who Jesus is but ignore who He says He is. Oh yes, there are many who claim to know who Jesus is, but it is a Jesus of their own making, a Jesus that approves of all that they do, whether it is sinful or not. There are those who claim to know Jesus, but this Jesus says that everyone will go to heaven because they’re a good person at heart. However, there is one problem with this Jesus: He doesn’t exist! The real Jesus is the one who tells the people that because of their disbelief, they will not inherit the kingdom of God. The difference between the real Jesus and the made-up Jesus is that the Good Shepherd Calls His sheep by name and keeps them safe in His Father’s hand. That is something that only the Jesus in the Scriptures can do.

Our Lord knows that His sheep will always be under the attack of the world and all that it offers. This world brings so many challenges against the community of Jesus’ disciples. The world is hostile to Jesus, His message and His disciples because they don’t like the message that Jesus brings. Instead of a message that says that only believers will be saved, the world wants a message that says that all people will be saved, regardless if they believe or not. The world wants to hear a message that says it doesn’t matter what you believe because all roads lead to the same god and the same eternal destination. What is tragic in all of this is living in that world without a true shepherd.

Without having a shepherd, the sheep would have no sense of direction. The voice of strangers would lead them astray. Without a shepherd, the sheep would have no safety net. The thief would steal the sheep and the wolf would easily snatch them away. Without a shepherd, the sheep would only wander the way of death. The thief would kill and destroy the sheep.

Jesus is that Good Shepherd, the one who promises to always keep us under His care. Through His Word, the Good Shepherd calls His disciples by name. He knows us, and we know His voice and follow Him. He gently leads and guides us in green pastures, to His blessings of salvation and eternal life. Our Good Shepherd does something that no other shepherd, no thief, no hired hand could ever do: He lays down His life in order to protect us to the utmost extent possible. Our Lord tells the Jews who are gathered there in the portico: “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.”

For you, He goes to the cross of Calvary, with all of your sin and the sin of the world upon His shoulders, willingly, so that you would have eternal life. He goes where only the Good Shepherd will: to death. And He does this with you in mind because you are the reason He goes to the lengths that He does. Everything He does, from birth to death to resurrection is for you, His precious sheep.

As our Good Shepherd, the Son speaks to us the Word, love, and care of His heavenly Father for us and for our salvation. By speaking to us through His Word, the Good Shepherd knows us and we know Him, just as the Father knows Him and He knows the Father. That is because we both share the same name: child of God. While Jesus Christ is the true Son of God, we are made God’s true children by virtue of our Baptism, where we are given His name, making us His beloved sheep. In Christ, we are protected and cared for by our heavenly Father, for we have Jesus, our Good Shepherd. In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

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Posted by on May 14, 2019 in Easter, Sermons


Easter 3C

Text: John 21:1-14

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for our sermon is the Gospel which was read earlier.

Some time has passed since Jesus last appeared to the disciples a week after His resurrection. With Jesus risen again, it would appear that things are going to be okay for the disciples. Jesus had appeared to them, but He is not here now. And what else are the disciples to do except what they know best, fish. Simon, Thomas, Nathanael, the sons of Zebedee and two others go fishing and John records for us, “that night they caught nothing.” That’s not exactly the result you want when you go fishing, especially if that was your primary vocation before becoming a disciple of Jesus. It would appear that the evening’s fishing outing had turned into a bust.

John continues: “Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.” After fishing all night and catching nothing, I suppose it would be time to return to the shore, with your tail between your legs. It would appear that was what they were doing until this unknown man yelled at them, “Children, do you have any fish?” Really! Someone has to pour some salt on the wound of fishing and catching nothing.

Things could be going a lot better for the disciples. They could be with Jesus right now, but they’re not. They could have a boat full of fish, but they don’t. Surely between the seven of them, they could have caught one fish but they didn’t. This unknown man then yells at the boat, “Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.” This sounds vaguely familiar, as if it’s happened before. In fact, this very thing has happened before. In Luke’s account of the calling of the disciples, Jesus is in a boat with several of the soon-to-be disciples and He tells them to go out into the deeper water and cast their nets. After fishing all night and having caught nothing, they listen to Jesus and they caught so many fish, their nets were breaking and they had to call out a second boat to help bring in the catch. And so with today’s account, the lightbulb turns on and John exclaims, “It is the Lord!”

What joy this must have been for these disciples, that they once again had Jesus with them! Jesus had done exactly what He said He would do, and again, He has appeared to the disciples. Jesus would commission them to go and be witnesses – not just of Jesus and His earthly life, but of the resurrection as well. And that same risen Redeemer would reveal Himself to those who believed in Him.

After realizing it was Jesus, Peter left the others behind and made a mad dash to see Jesus. Eventually, after the others brought the boat to shore, they made their way to Peter and Jesus as well. That should be our response – making a rush to our risen Lord. You have already made that rush to Jesus, for you are where He will be found, gathered around His Word that gives eternal life. And in a few moments, you will make your way to where He is in His Supper, feasting on His very body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins, for strengthening your faith, until that day where you will see Jesus face to face with your own risen eyes.

That is my hope and prayer for you, that you too will run to Jesus, proclaiming, “It is the Lord!” That should also be your hope and prayer, because that it what you have said that you will do. Although Confirmation Sunday was last week, it is always good for us to remember what we said all those years ago and the importance of those vows. Do you remember these words: “Do you intend to hear the Word of God and receive the Lord’s Supper faithfully?” You responded, “I do, by the grace of God.” It is indeed good that you pledge to hear the Word of God and receive His supper faithfully, ideally weekly. But the even greater question that was asked of you was this: “Do you intended to continue steadfast in this confession and Church and to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it?” Again, you responded, “I do by the grace of God.”

Christ our Lord has done that for you. He did suffer all, even death, rather than to fall away from the work of salvation for you and for all of creation. Apart from Christ, we are unable to achieve eternal life. There is nothing that we can say or do to earn eternal life. Only when we are in Christ are we able to receive eternal life; not because of what we have done, but because of what Christ has done to us and for us.

Our lives outside of Christ are nothing, for there is no life outside of Christ. One might try to argue that they have a very good life outside of Christ. They may have a nice home, several nice cars, a well-paying job, a wonderful family; in short, the works. And some will say that Jesus didn’t help them get all of this, they did it themselves.

In order to experience success on the water, the disciples had to rely on the Lord instead of relying on themselves. They had to subject their will to the will of the Savior. Instead of being self-directed, they heeded the words of Christ. It was then that Christ resurrected them from their failures.

We too are resurrected from death and into life when we focus not on what it is that we can do for ourselves, but what Christ did for us – became death for us. He became death for us when He came into this world in the form of a baby. He grew up so that He could die for your sins. His death gave to you and to I the keys to heaven in the form of forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.

Where does God give forgiveness? In His means of grace. Wherever His Gospel is preached and His Sacraments administered accordingly, Jesus is there to forgive. The hymn, “Salvation unto Us Has Come” tells us quite a bit in just the first two lines: “Salvation unto us has come by God’s free grace and favor.” It has nothing to do with us. It can’t have anything to do with us. If it had anything to do with us, then it would mean nothing.

In the resurrected Savior’s appearance by the shore, we see Him bringing the resurrection to a broken relationship. The result was reconciliation. Peter had denied Christ.  Yet when Peter heard that it was Christ, without hesitation Peter leaped for the shore, for forgiveness came from Christ.

The resurrected Christ brings about healing to our broken relationship, broken when death entered into creation. Christ’s death purged death from creation and His resurrection bridges the gap between death and the new creation that is in Him.

Through the resurrection, Christ brings new life – new life to Himself, but also new life to those that are in Him. This life is passing away. From it shall come a new heaven and a new earth. We too will pass from a life of sin and death to a life where sin and death have been defeated by Christ’s death and resurrection. All of this is evident by Christ’s resurrection appearances. These resurrection appearances give us the blessed assurance that death is swallowed up by eternal life. If that were not the case, Christ would still be dead, death would have overcome us and we would spend many years lying in a box in the ground.

You see, Christ is risen from the dead. And He who died to restore us to Himself didn’t rise again to abandon us. Despite our sinful reluctance to come into His presence for forgiveness, He still comes anyway. Thus, we give thanks to the Lord for His coming, for His patience, and for His most persistent mercy. And thankful for His persistence, we rejoice to confess our sins and draw near to Him. For here, by His means of grace, the present, risen Lord declares that you are forgiven for all of your sins in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

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Posted by on May 14, 2019 in Easter, Sermons


Easter 2C & Confirmation

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.

“And more than ever believers were added to the Lord, multitudes of both men and women….” It’s amazing what the Holy Spirit can accomplish, isn’t it? In some respects, the Holy Spirit gets the short end of the stick when it comes to the Trinity: God the Father does the creating and God the Son does the work of redemption. The Holy Spirit makes a few prominent appearances, like at the Baptism of Jesus, but otherwise, the Holy Spirit isn’t mentioned a lot, until you get to books like Acts, where the Holy Spirit is seen to be very active.

If you remember from your days in Confirmation, for some it’s more recent than others, you will remember that the work of the Holy Spirit is to create and sustain faith in an individual. We confess with Martin Luther, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” Luther goes on, but suffice to say, the work of the Holy Spirit is important to the life of a Christian, to your life, and to all those who believe.

But the true work of God is not always popular. At the time of Jesus, we see just that with the Pharisees and Sadducees. In fact, we see that today in our reading from Acts – “But the high priest rose up, and all who were him (that is, the party of the Sadducees), and filled with jealousy they arrested the apostles and put them in the public prison.” Preaching the true Gospel clearly did not sit well with the religious leaders of the day because it weakened their powerbase and popularity. Nonetheless, the apostles were not interested in popularity, but rather of Jesus’ command – “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

The teaching that we have is what gives us eternal life. It is that teaching that makes us children of God, called by the Holy Spirit, and it is that teaching that keeps us in the true faith. But just as we hold that faith near and dear to us, there are those outside these doors that could care less for this faith; even worse, they will do all that they can to debunk the Christian faith because in their eyes, it is nothing more than rubbish.

What we must remember, each and every one of us, from the youngest to the oldest, is the power of the Word of God. Simon Peter reminds us, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” The important part of what he says comes at the beginning: “You have the words of eternal life…” You will not find any other words of eternal life aside from what God has authored, from what Jesus has done for us.

So, Sadie, since today is all about you, let’s pick on you for a moment. I’m sure that since you are mere moments away from being confirmed in the faith, that must mean you have all the right answers to all the right questions. We’ve covered the Small Catechism twice now, so I’m sure you have it all memorized, right? Looking around the sanctuary this morning, I see many others who have been in your shoes: they have gone through Confirmation, they have learned the Small Catechism, though I hope it’s not too rusty. They have even been confirmed, just like you will be. But for many sitting in the pews, their Confirmation Day was many years ago, and yet here they still sit. Why is that?

The life of a Christian does not end with Confirmation Sunday. The life of a Christian continues all the days of your life. From the moment that baptismal water hits your head, you belong to God, and you will belong to God everyday of your life, even after your heavenly Father calls you home. All of these people know that, and yet here they sit, week after week, as they should, as you should. They come because this is where God said to come, to the place where He is to be found, to the place where He promises to deliver His gifts.

The apostles, after the resurrection, needed these gifts but were fearful of their lives because of what had happened to Jesus. They knew that the same could very well happen to them, and so they hid and locked themselves in a room that no one could get into – no one that is, except Jesus. Jesus comes and stands beside them, saying “Peace be with you.” Jesus comes to them, to assure them that He has risen from the dead as He said He would and that there should be no need of fear.

It’s a great little exchange between Jesus and the apostles, except for one thing: Thomas isn’t there to hear it. And so, when he is told what had happened, he refused to believe: “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” That’s very much the attitude we can have, but it’s one that we shouldn’t have. You and I have not seen Jesus in the flesh, either before or after His resurrection, but that doesn’t change the fact that Christ has lived, Christ has died, and Christ has risen again.

Martin Luther once wrote that the devil’s greatest and deadliest arrow in his evil quiver is the arrow of doubt, which he fires with deadly sniper precision into the hearts of all believers in Christ. Thomas and the disciples were not immune to this. You and I are not immune to this either. Don’t we doubt that God will do what He says He will? Don’t we doubt the gifts that God gives to us in His Sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper?

You and I do not have the luxury of gazing upon the resurrected Jesus and believing as did Thomas. Instead, we receive the gift of the Holy Spirit which creates faith in us. It’s one thing to see and believe, but a complete other to believe solely based upon faith and without seeing. That’s us. That’s the Church today. Centuries after Christ’s death, people believed and continue to believe today. They did not have Christ to hold their hands as did the disciples, or to show His wounds to strengthen their weak faith as did Thomas. No, they believed based upon the faith that was granted to them by the Holy Spirit. They were able to confess with Thomas, just as we are: “My Lord and my God!” That is why Sadie, today is a special day for you, but it’s not. While today you will be confirmed in the faith granted to you at your Baptism, it’s just another Sunday for the Christian, another day where we are privileged to come and gather around God’s means of grace for us.

We have been given this wonderful gift of faith, the ability to believe what Christ did for us on Calvary’s cross, and now we see that because of that action, we are given life in His name. To those who believe receive redemption, salvation, and eternal life through Jesus Christ. This comes to us in the gift of Baptism, where we have God’s name placed upon us. This comes to us in the gift of the Lord’s Supper, where we feast upon the body and blood of Jesus and receive His forgiveness. It comes to us each time we hear the words of Absolution pronounced over us. It will come to us again when we leave this world and enter into the heavenly mansion prepared for us.

We have received life and received it abundantly. Given to us so that we may live, one life had to be sacrificed, and that life is Jesus Christ. The peace of Christ is with us. It comes to us when we are forgiven. It comes to us as we believe in Christ and all that He has done for us. New life is given to us, a life that is not deserved, but given to us with nothing done on our part. This new life washes over us and we are made clean by the blood of the Lamb, shed for the sins of the many, including you and me. Dear friends in Christ, “Peace be with you.” Amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

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Posted by on April 29, 2019 in Confirmation, Easter, Sermons


Resurrection of Our Lord Festival

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.

Early Easter morning, some women remembered the awful things of Friday—the death of Jesus—and that the usual preparation of a body had not been completed. So their action was to make their way, sadly and somewhat fearfully, to the tomb. They were fully expecting to find a body. They were not expecting a resurrection. Luke says, “And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.” Jesus is gone. The only thing remaining from Friday were the linen cloths that wrapped His dead and lifeless body. And now, that body is gone – missing, stolen, dare I say it, resurrected. Regardless of what happened to Jesus’ body, the women were perplexed. How did the stone get rolled away? Who rolled the stone away? Who would be vile enough to take Jesus’ body from the tomb?

The women failed to understand what has happened. It took two men in dazzling apparel to convey what has taken place: “Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” Behold the man who died and who now lives. Behold, the man, Jesus, God and man, lives. He rises triumphantly from the dead and strolls out of the grave into His creation. Christ is no longer dead and lifeless as we remember Him from Friday. Now, He is risen from the dead, full of life, continuing to be who He has always been – the Lord of life.

As good news as it might be, God’s people forgot that Jesus would rise from the dead. The women forgot. The apostles forgot: “but these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” How unfortunate that they forgot the resurrection! How unfortunate it is that you forget the resurrection. St. Paul tells the Corinthians,“If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” There were those in the Church that forgot the resurrection, that they were solely focused on the Jesus that lived and walked among them. He says prior to our Epistle reading, “And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain…. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” That’s the worst thing right there, to still be in our sins, separated from God, guilty of judgment, with no hope for eternity and little hope for the present.

But St. Paul goes on to talk about the importance of the resurrection for the future, for eternal life: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.” The word firstfruits is very important, for it implies that there will be more to follow. As Christ was raised from the dead, so will those who are united with him by faith.

If you came today looking for the dead, then you’re in the wrong place. If you’re here this morning looking for the living, then you’re right where you need to be. Today we come to celebrate the fact that the greatest promise God ever made has come to fruition. The promise is of a Savior. The promise is of a Savior who was born into this world. The promise is of a Savior who lived in this world. The promise is of a Savior who died for this world. The promise is of a Savior who rose again for the sake of this world, for your sake. What was Jesus’ role? “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”

There is a reason this is necessary. When you and I die, we die eternally. We do not survive death – we are annihilated by it. When we die, we remain dead. That’s the way it is, unless God chooses to do something to dispute the power of death. And He does just that with Christ. He has conquered death. He has destroyed sin and crushed Satan. With His life, death, and resurrection, He has rescued you from the grave. Although your sins should have made you die, and stay dead, yet Christ broke death’s power, so that you will live and rise to eternal life. Christ has been raised in the flesh so that you will be raised.

Christ is risen from the dead. He is risen before His people know it. He is risen before His people believe it. He is risen to give them faith and life; and so He is risen for you. But this you can know for sure – of this you can be certain: Christ has died and Christ is risen from the dead. You haven’t seen Him face to face yet, but He tells you it is so in His Word. Faith comes by hearing, not by seeing.

This is what makes our celebration today so very different from the many other celebrations taking place today. We don’t just gather to joyously commemorate a past victory, as awesome as it was. We don’t gather to commemorate the fact that once upon a time Jesus came and triumphed and then went back home to heaven where He now resides, far removed from us and our everyday lives. No, we gather today to celebrate the living, triumphant present-tense Immanuel King! We gather today to celebrate the marriage feast of the living and triumphant Bridegroom, who laid down His life for us and who today, in a very real and present-tense way, brings His victories over sin, death, and the devil to us to celebrate with us in our midst!

What we celebrate today is your salvation. You have a written guarantee of the resurrection of your body from your grave. You will not simply die and be gone. Some will wish that it were so, for they have forsaken God and rejected His gifts and chosen death and hell, like the leaders of the Jewish Church in the days of the first Easter. But those who believe the Gospel have a resurrection to life and joy and glory, not pain and sorrow and corruption without end. How are you going to respond? What does it mean that you will rise to eternal life? The question is not about defining terms, but how this truth transforms your life. What difference does it make? Does it mean anything to how you face and approach death? It should. It should change your fears to confidence. It should change your sorrows to comfort. He is risen – and we too shall rise. You shall rise again because Jesus has risen.

Do not be afraid, for the joy of Easter Sunday is not just that Jesus died and Jesus rose, but that Jesus died for you and Jesus rose for you. He has borne your sin to the cross, and He has suffered for it there. He has died your death and been laid in the tomb, but now the tomb is empty. So will yours be, for Christ is risen to raise you, too. He declares that He no longer holds your sins against you, because they are gone. He has taken them away in death, and He has not brought them back with His resurrection. So where your sins would confuse you as to God’s attitude toward you, whether or not He loves you, do not be afraid and have no doubt. If God has paid such a price as to sacrifice His own Son to redeem you, He has nothing but grace and mercy, love and life for you now.

St. Peter calls this the living hope that we have obtained through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. As Christ prevailed victoriously, so shall we. As Christ lived, so we live. Because Christ is awakened from the dead and is seated at the right hand of God and intercedes for us, so now nothing can divide us from the love of God: neither death nor life, neither angels nor kingdoms, nor strengths, neither present things nor future things, neither height nor depth, nor any other creature can separate us from the love of God in the crucified and risen Lord.

This is your inheritance, not because of anything you have done. No one is worthy of these awesome, infinite gifts of Christ, for all are sinners, from youngest to oldest. But all is given freely by Christ, the Firstborn from the dead, the Crucified One who lives and can nevermore die. He has given you everything. Christ has risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

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Posted by on April 22, 2019 in Easter, Sermons


Resurrection of Our Lord Sunrise

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our risen Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen.

“Now on the first day of the week Mary Magdalene came to the tomb early, while it was still dark, and saw that the stone had been taken away from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.”” With these simple verses, Easter morning begins. It’s not the start that we would have thought of, not the start that we would prefer. We want to see Jesus, but He is not here. Instead, we have an empty tomb. Do you really want to see Jesus? Of course you don’t! That’s right, you don’t want to see Jesus, at least, not right now. The tomb is empty because Jesus said that it would be empty because after three days time, He would rise from the dead.

Why would we expect to find Jesus in the tomb? Is it because we feel comforted knowing that Christ still lay in the tomb? Is it our unbelief that expects Jesus to be in the tomb? What is that Mary Magdalene expected to find? A stone still lodged in the mouth of the tomb? A dead and hastily wrapped Jesus on the other side of the stone? If that’s what Mary Magdalene is expecting to find, then poor, poor Mary Magdalene. Clearly she didn’t understand. But she wasn’t the only one to not understand. As John continues his account, we hear of Simon Peter and John reaching the tomb. It isn’t until they look into the tomb that they believed; “for as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead.”

What are you expecting to find this morning? A sealed tomb? Jesus lying in peaceful repose on the other side of the stone? For your sake, I hope not. We don’t expect to find Jesus lying in the tomb. We expect, we want, we need to find the tomb burst open and Jesus nowhere to be found, for that is what He spent three years teaching. That’s why Jesus is here – not to die and lie in a tomb for all eternity, but to die and burst forth from the tomb in all splendor and honor and glory, with death trampled underfoot. We want to be able to shout, “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” Death has no victory and the sting of death has been plucked.

But that’s not the realization of all. For some, Jesus is still dead. And why wouldn’t He be dead because He was just a man. And what a sad realization that is because there is no resurrection hope for you; not just in Jesus but for you as well.

The focus for us is the empty tomb, but at the same time, it is not. We gaze upon the empty tomb and we rejoice in the fact that is empty. It means that Christ has done what He said He would do – die and rise again.  He has accomplished for us all that is necessary for our salvation. But just as we acknowledge the empty tomb and give thanks for it, there are those that see the empty tomb and are disappointed. The tomb is empty. Jesus is out of sight, out of mind. The fact that He isn’t there means that the resurrection is a failure.

Jesus is right here, right now. He is present in our lives every day. He is present in the world in which we live in. We know that because as Luther writes regarding the First Article of the Creed, “He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.” We know that He is present in our lives because of today! By His death on Good Friday, by His resurrection from the dead today, we know that He is present in our lives because He died for you and He rose from the dead for you.

Satan had done his worst and his worst was a failure. Jesus isn’t still dead. He is risen as He said He would. Throughout all of this, Satan had worked through the religious leaders, Judas, through the events leading up to the crucifixion; it might have appeared that Satan had won. Jesus died. Satan wins. Or so it would seem. Jesus was doing what God said He would do – crushing the head of the serpent, once and for all.

What we don’t see in our Easter Gospel is an all-important event – Christ’s descent into hell. He goes to hell, not in order to suffer, but to proclaim victory over sin, death, and the devil. He declares that He has won and Satan has lost. Christ has proven that Satan’s hold on creation is temporary. Sin and death are not the final result for God’s creation. Life wins; Jesus wins.

On that first Easter morning, out of a tomb walks one who suffered the deadliest of wounds. With several fatal wounds, Jesus should have stayed dead. No man would be able to endure the scourging that He endured. To add to that the carrying of His cross and finally His crucifixion, not just any man, but every man should have died and stayed dead. But Jesus is not just any man. He is both the Son of God and Son of Man; He is true God and true Man. Because He is the very Son of God, He would not stay dead. He came out of the tomb. He came out of the tomb to be back in the world where we need Him most.

Easter is not just a then-and-there event. Easter is not just an event in history that happened 2000 years ago. Easter is an event in which we celebrate each and every day, because this day marks the day in which you and I received the forgiveness of all of our sins. It is the day in which you and I have been made children of God, once for all. No matter what Satan will do, Jesus Christ has proven to be the Victor. Jesus’ resurrection is here for us now.  We look to Him and remember all the wounds He suffered. They cut into His body with nails and scourges and thorns. He was cut off from His closest friends. He was cut off even from God the Father, who forsook Him on the cross. No matter how bad those wounds were, here Jesus is standing outside the tomb amongst His followers again. He has overcome! He came back into the world to be alive with us here and now. Jesus overcame all His wounds so that He may bring forgiveness and life to each and every one of us.

Because Christ has risen from the dead, we are able to echo the words of Job, “For I know that my Redeemer lives…” The tomb is empty. Jesus is not there. “Thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Christ is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia! Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

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Posted by on April 22, 2019 in Easter, Sermons


Good Friday

Tonight, you’re going to hear something that you don’t want to hear, something that will make you uncomfortable. And if that is what happens, then I have done my due diligence this evening.

When the soldiers arrested Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane, it was all a ruse. He was to stand trial and answer to the crimes of heresy. But this trial was rigged from the very beginning. The verdict was delivered before the trial took place. Jesus was guilty. The trial was just a formality to allow them to execute Jesus.

When you look upon Calvary’s cross, what is you see? You see a man on the cross! You see Jesus. This is His purpose. This is why God is man. This is why the eternal Second Person of the triune God has taken human flesh. This is the reason. Behold the man on the cross, bleeding, gasping, suffering, dying.

Behold His hands, which the night before were washing His disciples’ feet. Now they are pinned with nails to the rough crossbeam of this instrument of torture and execution. Behold the hands that scooped Adam out of the dirt but are now stained with blood and dirt. Behold the fingers with which He touched lepers, stuck into the ears of a deaf man, and picked up bread to declare it to be His body. Now they jerk uncontrollably every time He has to pull Himself up on the nails through His wrists to take a breath.

Behold His feet, nailed to the cross, bearing His weight as He dies. Behold the feet that walked from town to town as He taught His disciples, healed the sick, and preached the good news of man’s release from captivity to sin and death. Behold the feet that Mary anointed with a pound of expensive ointment, washed with her tears, and wiped with her hair. Behold the feet that are now bound in place. Behold the feet that must endure stabbing pain as they push up on the nail pinning them in place. Behold His heel, which in this act of dying is crushing the head of the serpent, destroying the kingdom of Satan, answering for mankind’s sinful rebellion.

It is truly a sight to behold. It’s bloody and gory and downright uncomfortable, and we aren’t even looking at it; we’re just hearing the various accounts of the Evangelists. This was a spectacle to behold, and indeed, that’s what it was. Christ’s hanging upon the cross was the Roman entertainment of the day, and seeing a beaten and bloodied and dying Jesus was exactly what His opponents wanted. And they got exactly what they wanted.

Not only was Christ crucified, but two criminals alongside Him. Luke records for us the railings of one of the criminals: “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” What this criminal could not see, what the Pharisees and others could not see is that that was exactly what Christ was doing – saving them. The only way to save them was for Him to die and He was close to death. It was quickly coming. But with His death came life – life for all who believe in Him.

To get to this point, the point of making full atonement for creation came at great cost. We know the cost of Christ – His life. But it also came at cost to the Father. “And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” God watched as His Son, the Lord of Life, lost His life. He watched as the blood poured out from Him. God watched. He did nothing to intervene. Those that want to say that God is a God of love and it’s not a loving act by letting Christ die, then you don’t understand who God is. God is love so much that He lets Jesus die. God is love so much that He doesn’t do anything except watch because Christ’s death is what redeems creation, it is what redeems you. That is why we sing, “What Thou, my Lord, has suffered/Was all for sinners’ gain….”

It is for your sake, the poor, miserable, wretched sinner that you are, that Christ has died. It is for you that Christ pours out His blood in a lavish washing away of sin. And it’s not just some sins that Jesus forgives. It’s not just the sins of the Jews that Christ forgives. It’s not the sins of the innocent that Christ forgives, for there are none who are innocent of sin. If you think that Good Friday, God’s Friday, isn’t a big deal, then you don’t understand what takes place, who this is for in the first place.

The hymnist right summarizes for us the reality of today’s events: “Ye who think of sin but lightly/Nor suppose the evil great/Here may view its nature rightly,/Here its guilt may estimate./Make the sacrifice appointed,/See who bears the awful load;/’Tis the Word, the Lord’s anointed,/Son of Man and Son of God.” There is no sin that we think of lightly, for even the smallest of sins earns for us death. But for you, for you, God makes the ultimate sacrifice. This sacrifice isn’t a “forgiven until the next sin” sacrifice like all the sacrifices of old were. This sacrifice is that one and done, once for all, never needing to be sacrificed again, perfect Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, sacrifice. He cries out from the cross, “It is finished.” All that is needed to forgive you your sins, past, present, and future, is accomplished for you on the cross.

For you and for the all of creation, the blood of Jesus is poured out. Behold His blood, which pours from His lifeless body, staining the wooden beams of the cross, spilling onto the dirt, reddening the soil, watering His creation. Behold the blood that He first shed when He was an eight-day-old boy. Behold the blood for which the crowd thirsted and ironically asked for exactly what they needed, “His blood be on us and on our children!” Behold the blood that was foreshadowed on every Day of Atonement when the blood of the sacrifice was splattered on the mercy seat, on the altar, and on the people. Behold the blood He gave to His disciples in the cup the night before, telling them its function: shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. Behold the blood that proves that this God was also truly and fully man, a Brother in blood to us sinners. This is the blood by which this eternal High Priest enters once for all into the Most Holy Place, giving sinful men access to a holy God.

Here is your God. Beaten and blooded, hanging lifelessly upon the cross, with His blood washing over you, giving you life. This is why God is man: not to teach you how to be good, not to show you the right way to live, not to set a perfect example, not to impart His wise teaching. God is man so that He can die for men. He has a life so that He can lay it down in exchange for yours. For you, “It is finished.” Amen.

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Posted by on April 19, 2019 in Good Friday, Lent, Sermons


Maundy Thursday

This evening, it’s all about covenants. We hear in our Old Testament reading that the LORD “will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.” That same passage is echoed in our reading from Hebrews. So, since we’re talking about covenants, what exactly is a covenant? The basic dictionary definition of covenant is “an agreement, usually formal, between two or more persons to do or not do something specified.” That definition could most likely work for us, but there is a biblical definition that we will focus on: “the conditional promises made to humanity by God, as revealed in Scripture.” While that definition narrows things down for us, there is one that captures God’s covenant even better: “the agreement between God and the ancient Israelites, in which God promised to protect them if they kept His law and were faithful to Him.”

That’s what we need to focus on – keeping God’s Law. But if you’ve read the Old Testament, you will find in very short order how we cannot keep God’s Law. It all started with a very basic command of God given to Adam and Eve: “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” That sounds pretty basic and self-explanatory: eat from any tree except the one tree that God said not to eat from. Oh, and by the way, if you eat from it, you will die. That should have been all the warning Adam and Eve needed. We don’t need caution tape or signs that say “Don’t Eat!” to know not to eat of it. And yet, with a little gentle persuasion, Adam and Eve did just that, they ate from it and they died.

So there you have it. That bond, that covenant, between creation and God destroyed. So what is God to do? Creation has been kicked out, sin a permanent part of creation from here until eternity. God does what God does best – He enacts a new covenant between God and man: the promise of a Savior. But as time goes by, that Savior is nowhere to be found. God’s people come and go and make an even bigger mess of things and God creates a new covenant with the people. Jeremiah records it for the people, but here is the key to this new covenant: “For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Generations pass and Israel has failed to see the promised Savior. But just because there is no Savior to see doesn’t mean that there is no Savior. All things work according to God’s divine timetable. And so, on a Thursday evening after Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time, gathered around the table for the Passover meal, Jesus creates a new covenant, THE covenant for the apostles and for the Church: “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me…. This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”

This heavenly food that Christ gives is indeed a new covenant. But what does this covenant mean? This harkens back to the covenant spoken of in Jeremiah. Turning to our Epistle reading from Hebrews, we hear these words: “Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin.”

That is what Christ has done for you. Christ has loved you and given Himself for you in His most holy Supper, and so we hear, “Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is through his flesh….” Christ’s body and blood, broken and given, shed and poured out for you for the forgiveness of all of your sins. That is the Lord’s Supper.

For this He was born, and for this He died: to have the body and blood that would be offered on our behalf, to give us that body and that blood as food and drink, sweet and satisfying to sinners desperately in need of forgiving food. On that holy night in which He was betrayed, on the very eve of His crucifixion and sacrifice, while yet in His humility, He gave His body and His blood to us which He would give on the next day for us. For this He was born, and for this He died.

The woman has a Seed. That Seed has grown and is fruit. That fruit restores us to the garden’s fellowship and beyond. It undoes death and removes the curse. Here, in His Holy Supper, the Lord gives Himself to us, to eat and to drink, for the forgiveness of sins. This is what it is to be a Christian, not simply to be spared death but to have fellowship with God and to be sundered forever from the devil.

The fruit of the tree is on the paten and in the chalice. The angel of death passes over. He has no claim upon us. We belong to God. We bear His watery name in our Baptism. We eat at His table. We are His people and more. We are not merely guests, sojourners in His house for but an hour a week, but we are members of the royal family. We are not Gentile dogs hoping for crumbs, worshiping what we do not know. We, by the grace of God, are the Lord’s own beloved and immaculate bride. We belong to God. We are baptized. We eat at His table. We are gathered under the protecting shadow of the cross that draws ever closer.

This new covenant that God grants to us comes at great price – the death of Christ. But you are worthy of such a price, for the alternative is a creation forever separated from God. God does what He needs to do to join He and creation together again. On this night, it is by Christ giving to us His body and blood to eat and drink. This isn’t some symbol or representation of what Christ did 2000 years ago. No, this is His very body and blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This is Christ feeding you with Himself, the greatest food, the most necessary food.

When a person receives the bread and wine in Holy Communion, that person receives Jesus. As He said, “This is My body.” The heart of faith grasps the Word, which puts in the benefit, and then takes out the benefit, namely, all that Christ is according to His Word. The fruits of Jesus’ sacrificial love are in His Holy Supper for you to eat and to drink. Behold the man who gave Himself in the perfect act of love. Behold the man who on the night when He was betrayed, took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to His disciples as His own body. Behold the man who poured His blood into the loveless mouths of His disciples to forgive their sins. Behold the man, veiled in bread and wine, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins, for life and salvation.

This is the Church of the New Testament. This is the Church of a new covenant. Christ Himself is her mediator. Like the Church of the Old Testament, it is a testament, a covenant, of blood. Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed for us. His body and blood have been rent asunder in death and joined again in the resurrection. This covenant has been fulfilled for you, fulfilled in the promise of a Savior, fulfilled in the broken and shed body and blood, fulfilled upon the cross and fulfilled in the resurrection of Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Posted by on April 19, 2019 in Lent, Maundy Thursday, Sermons


Palm Sunday

Text: John 12:12-19

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Palm Sunday Procession, which was read earlier.

The time is ever drawing near. Jesus has made the journey from Bethany to Jerusalem, a roughly 2-mile trek. When Jesus arrives, He doesn’t seek rest or refreshment after the journey. He proceeds to enter Jerusalem with great fanfare from the people. The people, here for the Passover, were likely making their preparations to celebrate the Passover in just a few days. But John sets up a scene for us similar to that of Matthew, Mark, and Luke: “The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem.”

Just who is this “large crowd” that John speaks of? Just verses before, John reveals that there was a large crowd of Jesus who had learned that Jesus was there, and they came, not only because of Jesus, but also because of Lazarus, “whom he had raised from the dead.” This crowd, along with the Passover pilgrims, had heard about Jesus, potentially seen some of His miracles, maybe even been affected by His miracles. They came to see Jesus because they knew that He was different, special. It is echoed by their cries, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”

The people’s cries were not short-lived cries. John’s use of the verb implies that they kept shouting from the entrance of Jerusalem, on into the city, through the streets, and to the Temple. And what they shout is the same thing we shout today: Hosanna! It means “grant salvation” or “save, I pray.” Whether the people knew it or not, whether they believed it or not, that is precisely what Jesus had come to do.

Jesus enters Jerusalem and does exactly what Zechariah had prophesied, words that the people would have recognized:“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humbled and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

Here, standing before the people, is God’s prophecy fully revealed. Those gathered around shouting Hosanna, save us, are likely fellow believers in Christ and what He has taught about Himself the last three years. This was indeed good news for them, for their King, their Messiah, had arrived and they knew it! Or did they?

John throws in a bit of doubt for us, at least as far as the disciples were concerned: “His disciples did not understand these things at first….” Poor misguided and confused disciples! How could you not see what was taking place and know what this meant? Jesus had been teaching them for three years, preparing them for this very week, and when that week of Jesus’ Passion begins, it is lost on the disciples. But just as easily as it is lost on the disciples, it is lost on us as well. What is today all about? What is this week all about? For those within the Christian Church, we know that this is all about God keeping His promise of salvation for His creation; it’s all about the Son of God undoing sinful Adam’s Fall. It’s all about making right what was made wrong by sin.

You and I, we get that. We understand that. We look forward to that. But there are those that see today, this week, next Sunday, as just another day, another week. It means there’s a deadline on getting all the ingredients for the Easter ham or making dinner reservations for next Sunday, as kids go looking for eggs hidden by the Easter Bunny.

Fortunately for us, fortunately for the disciples, we get this, but not from ourselves. We get this by the Holy Spirit. The disciples fully got this, not when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, but after His resurrection. Despite being taught by Jesus for three years, despite being told by Jesus exactly what would happen, they still did not get it until after His death. Fortunately for us, we don’t have to wait until such time but this has been revealed to us through the Holy Spirit.

As the crowd gathered, they continued to bear witness to what they had seen and heard, not just when Jesus rode into to Jerusalem, but about His teachings and miracles, including the raising of Lazarus. This was indeed an important and powerful testimony to Jesus and who He is and what He came to do. But just as important as this event was, it fell on deaf ears with the Pharisees: “So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.””

Here was a turning point for the Pharisees. They saw their power sipping through their fingers. Jesus had been a nuisance for the last three years, but as Jesus begins His Passion, it has become too much. If Jesus didn’t have to become silent before, He did now. But what they failed to realize is that putting Jesus to death, silencing Him so He could not disrupt things for them, this was going to make the biggest noise since creation itself. As we move closer and closer to the cross, the sound of a resounding victory gets ever louder.

It is interesting to note what the Pharisees say to one another.It might have been true at the moment, but would we agree that it is true today? Does the world really go after Jesus or does the world go after something or someone else? Does the world find its salvation in the cross of Christ or is salvation found somewhere else? Maybe a better question to ask is this: do you go after Jesus or do you go after something or someone else? We might find temporary comfort in what this world has to offer, but the comfort that this world gives is fleeting at best. It is here today but gone tomorrow. What Christ has done for you was here yesterday, it is here today, and it will be here tomorrow. The gift of salvation won for you by Jesus Christ on the cross was here yesterday, here today, and will be here tomorrow. We cannot say the same about the false comfort that we receive from the world.

As Jesus rides into Jerusalem, it is with the people on His mind – the sinner, the tax collector, the prostitute and adulterer, the reprobate, the Pharisee, the Jew and Gentile, the unbeliever – each and every person of creation. That is what Jesus is all about. As Jesus enters Jerusalem, it is for you. As He makes His way to the cross, it’s all about you.In service to you, the Savior suffers far more than physical torment and death. He suffers His Father’s judgment for your sins and for the sins of the world. He suffers hell there for you. “Greater love has no man than this, than to lay down His life for His friends,” He once told His disciples, and there is no greater love or service than His cross in your place. Do not miss, by the way, that the Father is serving you at the cross, too: for rather than judge you for your sin, He gives His Son in your place, for you.

Jesus would fulfill every sacrifice that God had demanded. He would live a sinless life as the Lamb without blemish. He would die the death that was meant for us; a death filled with suffering and eternal separation from God. Instead, we reap from His death on the cross. He gives to us His righteousness in exchange for our sins. We continue to sing with the Church, “Hosanna!” in the sure confidence that Christ has indeed come to save us. In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

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Posted by on April 14, 2019 in Lent, Palm Sunday, Sermons


Lent 5C

Text: Luke 20:9-20

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

The time for Jesus’ Passion is quickly approaching, and what better way to prepare for that than to tell parables? That’s what Jesus does here because that’s one of the chief ways of teaching the masses about Himself. But this parable isn’t necessarily a fan-favorite. This parable ends with death, not something that we enjoy hearing, but something that Jesus needed to say, a point He needed to make.

This parable involves a vineyard and a master who charged various tenants to manage it in his absence. One thing we know about the parables of Jesus is that there tends to be a problem or a teaching situation in them, and this one is no different. “When the time came, he sent a servant to the tenants, so that they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard.” At first glance, it seems that this is a stewardship parable, the master seeking to get some of his fruit which has been entrusted to the tenants. But as Jesus tells the parable, the master of the vineyard doesn’t get what is owed him. Sending a servant, he returns beaten and empty-handed. Sending a second servant, he returns beaten, shamefully treated and empty-handed. Sending a third, he returns wounded and cast out of the vineyard.

What is the master to do when his tenants refuse to give him a portion of the fruit due him? The vineyard does not belong to the tenants but rather to the master and they have treated him with great disservice through their actions to his servants who went on his behalf. The only sensible thing for him to do is to send his son: “I will send my beloved son; perhaps they will respect him.”

It seems clear from what the master says that he is not entirely sure the tenants will listen and obey the son, and yet he sends him anyways. It is entirely possible that the tenants will recognize the son and do what is expected of them, but that’s not how Jesus tells the parable: “But when the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.”

Just like that, with no consideration of the master, the tenants become greedy and selfish and devise a plan to get that what they want at the expense of others. It seems as if Jesus might be telling this parable about certain someones, but I wonder who?

Luke tells us who those certain someones are – “The scribes and the chief priests sought to lay hands on him at that very hour, for they perceived that he had told this parable against them, but they feared the people.” Jesus addresses the people but His words are aimed especially at the members of the Sanhedrin, the Scribes and Chief Priests, who hear what He says. Jesus addresses the people but is actually warning them about what their leaders will do. Their system, and it truly had become their system rather than God’s, is going to be destroyed.

The temple will be destroyed. Jerusalem will fall. The way that the Jewish leaders had thought everything would work out would fall apart. What they thought would be a comfortable life with them in charge would eventually come to an end. Their response: “Surely not!” Jesus quotes from Psalm 118: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” He continues: “Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

Jesus deliberately exaggerated the role of the evil tenants in order to show the awful abuses of the religious leaders down through the years. During various times in Israel’s history, they have worshipped false gods – even in the temple area. At times, they even offered human sacrifices. As far as the prophets were concerned, most of them spent the majority of their ministry behind bars and many of them died at the hands of those who should have honored them. Even the last of the great Old Testament prophets, John the Baptist, lost his head to a ruler’s sword.

As unusual as the tenants are, the owner is even more so. His first servant returned with severe injuries and no fruit. What landowner would not immediately form a group to go after them and at the very least put the tenants in prison? Instead, this land owner sends servant after servant. Then, when the servants return beat up and bloody, he sent His son? Yet this owner sent his son knowing that he would most certainly die.

This is such a picture of God the Father. He patiently sent, not just three, but thousands of prophets to His people. He has every right to wipe us out for the sin we have committed, but He is patient with us instead, as the Apostle Peter wrote: “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.”

God the Father has even sent His Son to a violent death like the owner in the parable. God, in His love for us, sent His only begotten Son to die for us in order that we might have a new life. Even as the wicked tenants threw the son outside the vineyard and then killed him so also the corrupt Jewish establishment sent Jesus out of town to die on a cross.

The death of Jesus had to be. His death was the payment for the world’s sin. Sinners treat God terribly with disrespect and irreverence. God gives them daily bread and they fail to be thankful. God gives them things to use in service to their neighbor, and they hoard it for themselves and use it to boast of their accomplishments. God gives them bodies and minds to be used for honorable purposes, and they misuse and pollute them both for temporary pleasure in self-destructive ways. That’s how sinners treat God. But that is not how God treats sinners. He gives us Jesus, for this is how God treats sinners: with patience, mercy and grace. He patiently waits. He continues to send His Word and preachers to proclaim it. He patiently showers you with forgiveness in His Word and Sacraments to keep you in the true faith, even as He patiently gives this dying world more time so that more might hear and be saved.

Jesus, who was the rejected stone, conquered sin, death, and the power of the devil with His holy life, His suffering, His death on a cross, and His resurrection from the dead. He is now the living cornerstone for me, for you and for all who believe. We have a Savior who suffered extreme rejection for us and is now alive. Jesus is the cornerstone that establishes the church forever. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

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Posted by on April 8, 2019 in Lent, Sermons

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