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Good Friday–“Death Up Close” (Isaiah 52:13-53:12)

C-50 Good FridayCrucifixes make us uncomfortable—and well they should. We squirm before them, and it has nothing to do with any anti-Catholic bias. It is simply painful to look upon our Lord suffering so and to know the reason for His suffering. We shudder before it. In the darkness of that Good Friday, the totality of human sin—from the first sin of our first parents to the last sin of the last human being alive—all of it was gathered up, pressed together, and then off-loaded onto this Man. He bore the whole weight of it and owned it as His own. Thus He also bore its penalty—both temporal and eternal death.

Look upon His cross. See His wounds, the nails affixing His hands and feet to the beams. See the blood running down His face from the thorns. Behold the quivering mass of His mutilated back as He is forced to rub it against the tree, pushing up against the nails to take in a breath of air. Look, seek, and realize: this wounded Man, dying in agony, is not suffering for a single wrong that He has done. As we have seen, His whole life was only love. He was the only human being who completely loved the Father with His all and His neighbor as Himself. Yet it is because He is love that He is now upon the tree. Love will not leave the sinner in his sin. Love takes that sin upon Himself. Love is wounded to grant us healing. He is offering atonement for all the wrongs that we have done. Yes, it is hard to look a crucifix in the face, but it is necessary, because it is not Christ who deserves to be nailed to the cross, but instead it should be us.

While we should be the ones nailed to the cross, it is impossible for us to be the one to hang upon it. Because of our sinful nature, our death on the cross would mean nothing, for there is nothing about us that can redeem ourselves from the clutches of death. The only way for our sin to be purged is by the death of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. And so tonight, we deal with death up close and personal. We do not stand beside a casket of a parent or another family member; instead, we stand at the foot of the cross of Jesus Christ, our Savior. We experience the reality of death, His death. We realize that death does indeed come close – to each of us. Death is the enemy. It would be cold and dark and empty, except that Jesus has come close to us and has faced death in our place.

Though Christ has faced death in our place, it does not mean that we are immune to the effects of death. To live in this world means that we must face death. Because of Jesus, the death that we face is merely temporal and not eternal. He has seen fit to lay down His life for us, even though we are born enemies of God, He still goes to the cross on our behalf to shed His blood to make a sacrifice that is pleasing to God, one that will do what no other sacrifice could ever do: make full restitution to God for sins committed and restore creation to its rightful place with God the Father.

The prophet Isaiah painted a poetic picture of what this Friday would be. He described a Savior, a Suffering Savior, who would stand in our place and experience death up close. For us who are part of fallen humanity, death is justice. It is a verdict that fits the crime. We have disobeyed God and deserve death. But now the Suffering Savior comes near. As Isaiah describes it, “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief…. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows…. He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities…. The LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all…. He was cut off out of the land of the living.”

All of this was done for you, with you in mind. Everything that He bore on the cross, He bore it for you. God the Father forsook our Lord so that you would not be forsaken by God. All of your sins, past, present, and future are nailed to the cross of Christ, because He takes them upon Himself.

Our Suffering Savior knows death up close. He felt the bite of death. He winced at the piercing of the nails. He endured the taunting of the crowd and the unjust accusations. He tasted the thirst of death. He didn’t simply view death from a casual distance. He was no simple spectator. He joined Himself to us and absorbed the blows of the hammer that should have been ours. In His death He carried our sorrows. He came to the scene of our guilt. He stretched out His hands to receive our sins. He looked death in the eye. He left nothing undone. He said, “It is finished.” All was completed; the obligation for sin paid. All was accomplished.

On this Good Friday, we stand at the foot of the cross to view a crucified Jesus. We experience death up close, the death of our Suffering Savior. That is why we train ourselves in life to look upon the crucifix, to behold our Savior’s wounds, to hold them close to our heart, counting them as the most precious treasure we have.

Because of Jesus, we can look into the eyes of death and see not a conquering villain, but an enemy that has been conquered. We can see victory in death. We can find hope in sorrow, for we have a Suffering Savior who experienced death up close and personal and overcame it. Our Lord swallowed death. He tasted it for us, and now we follow Him from death to life. Amen.

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2013 in Good Friday, Lent, Sermons

 

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Maundy Thursday–“Best Meal Ever” (Luke 22:7-20)

C-49 Holy Thursday (Lu 22.7-20)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.

What is the best meal that you have ever had? I can think of several meals that were great, but I can’t remember what the best meal I’ve ever had was. What criteria goes into deciding what makes a meal “the best” you’ve ever had? Is it the food, the fellowship, the price? Whatever your best meal might have been, it pales in comparison to the Meal that is offered to you this night.

As we focus on the theme of the Lord’s Supper this evening, the evening begins as does any other meal with Jesus and His disciples. They are enjoying the Passover meal, something that has been done before. The Passover was the significant family meal in the covenant between God and His people. The Israelites were initially slaves in Egypt, living under the harsh treatment of the Pharaoh. Their cries went to the Lord, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who sent Moses to deliver them. Pharaoh refused to let God’s people go free. Pharaoh depended on Egypt’s gods to lead the country. By sending plagues that overpowered Egypt’s so-called gods, the true God convinced Pharaoh to let God’s people go. The final plague brought judgment on Egypt’s god of life, as the almighty God sent the destroying angel throughout the land, killing the firstborn in each home. God directed His people to hold a special meal centered on a lamb, whose blood was smeared on the door frame. When the destroyer saw the blood, he passed over the house. The people were protected by the blood of the lamb as a substitute for their lives. As a result of this catastrophic judgment on Egypt, Pharaoh let God’s people go. The Israelites celebrated the Passover meal thereafter.

In our text Jesus gathers with His disciples in the Upper Room to celebrate the Passover meal. Jesus was ready for His exodus. During the meal, “He took bread, and when He had given thanks, He broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is My body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.’ And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood.’” Matthew adds “for the forgiveness of sins.”

Jesus instituted a new Passover based on His self-sacrifice as the Passover Lamb. He ends the first covenant and establishes the new covenant promised for the new era. Just as the lamb’s blood served as a substitution for the death of the firstborn, so now Jesus’ blood substitutes for our death. We are set free from our bondage to sin, to malice, and to evil through the forgiveness He earned by taking judgment into His own body. Sin “lets us go,” that is, releases its stranglehold on us. We are free. We are rescued from death and given the certain hope of heaven.

What Jesus does tonight is amazing, in and of itself. But we have to remember when our Lord does this: on the night when He was betrayed. One of His very own disciples is going to betray Him and yet He still does this for them. In fact, He does this for the entire Christian Church. He gives to you His body and His blood for the forgiveness of sin. He does this knowing full well that we will betray Him by our thoughts, words, and deeds. He does this knowing full well that we are enemies of God and yet gives Himself to us freely.

In this new Passover meal God forgives and forgets our past, as far as the east is from the west. Your sins are forgiven in this Meal.

Sadly, and to their detriment, many Christians neglect this Meal. But for those hungering and thirsting for righteousness, this is a Meal of great benefit. Those who struggle with the old sinful nature, who need strength to handle broken relationships, and who seek the wisdom to make decisions are united with Christ through this Meal.

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 mouth eats physically for the heart and the heart eats spiritually what the body eats physically, and thus both are saved and satisfied by one and the same food.

This Meal—a life-giving, life-renewing, life-changing Meal—is the best meal we will ever have because we are united with Christ Jesus in this Sacrament. God changes us through the power of the Word, but also in this Meal He gives us His compassion, joy, peace, patience, kindness, moral goodness, sense of responsibility, humility, and self-control—all of which are life-giving, life-renewing, and life-changing.

That is what this Supper is about. It is not some institution that God gives only so that we remember, and it is certainly not an ordinance by which He tests our obedience to Him. It is the Father calling His children to dinner so that they might be fed. It is the Passover fulfilled: it is Christ present with us, leading us through the wilderness and feeding us with the forgiveness that keeps us alive in Him.

Christ, your Passover Lamb, gives you the remission of sins in this Supper, for He is present with you in, with and under bread and wine. Where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation. And so life and salvation are yours: because you are forgiven for all of your sins.

For you tonight, the best meal has been served: a meal that feeds your soul, strengthens your faith, and forgives you all of your sins. The Table has been prepared and our Lord Jesus invites us to be His guests, to give to us the best meal ever. 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 March 29, 2013 in Lent, Maundy Thursday, Sermons

 

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Palm/Passion Sunday–“Passion” (Luke 23:1-56)

C-42 Palm SundayGrace, 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.

In order to get a glimpse of Luke’s account of Jesus’ crucifixion, one only needs to watch “The Passion of the Christ.” While the movie is not fully accurate, it describes the scene that Luke records for us today. The movie focuses more on the beating and torture of Christ, but not why Christ was beaten and tortured. Since death entered the world, it was no longer “good” as God had once declared it. Something had to happen in order for it to become “good” again and that’s where Jesus’ Passion comes into play.

As we have seen throughout this Lenten season, we have a world that is completely infested with sin with no human cure available. The only cure to sin must be a divine cure, and so we have Jesus, who comes as the divine cure to creation’s problem with sin and death.

Days before His crucifixion, the people sat in the temple, listening to the words of Jesus. Perhaps they thought of Him as the Messiah, maybe someone who would set them free from Roman rule. And when asked the question, “Are you the King of the Jews?”, answering anything other than “no” would surely mean death. But death was what was necessary to remove death. It would require death of the innocent to ride death from the guilty, guilty because of a crafty serpent asking if God really meant what He said.

Throughout the beatings and sneering and false statements against Him, Christ was the King. His being king is correct on levels, though they would only have acknowledged one at best. Christ is the King of creation. Everything is under His authority. This fact they would not acknowledge because there was only one king and his name was Caesar. Any king other than Caesar had to be silenced. The rulers of the people, to put down the perversion of Christ and His teaching, saw one mean to do it – death.

To return to Pilate’s question about kingship, Jesus’ answer was simple: “You have said so.” Christ is indeed the King of the Jews. He is the King of the Gentiles. He is the King of the Romans. He is the king of all who believe in Him. He is the King of creation. There was one thing that this King brought that no other king ever could: forgiveness. Paying taxes to Caesar did not bring forgiveness. Roman citizenship did not bring forgiveness. Simply being a Jew did not bring forgiveness. Forgiveness is the gift of God by grace through faith in Christ Jesus.

When the waters of Holy Baptism hit our heads, we were marked as a child of God. Forgiveness comes only through Christ and from no one or nothing else. He plainly says, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Faith in anything other than Christ is futile, for it was His body and blood, pierced and broken on Calvary’s cross that defeated death and nothing else.

Time and time again in their mockery did they tell Christ to save Himself. “He saved others; let him save himself.” “If you are the king of the Jews, save yourself!” All of them are mockeries of Christ and the salvation from death that He brought with Him. Maybe the greatest bit of mockery was the sign above Christ’s head, “This is the King of the Jews.” Not only does this mock Christ, but also the Jewish people as a whole. It says that if you want a king besides Caesar, here He is, a pathetic man dying on a cross. It mocks the divinity of Christ, His triumph over death and the belief of the people worked by the Holy Spirit. What they failed to realize is that Christ needed no saving because it was He that came to do the saving.

One person, a criminal being crucified alongside Jesus, saw Christ for what He was – innocent. His words were plain, but spoke volumes: “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” While he may have been speaking strictly because they were criminals, his words apply to creation as a whole. We were receiving what our deeds deserved: death. Death came with Adam and Eve but with death came the promise of a Savior.

Death was not meant to be in the equation. It was an unknown variable that set creation spinning a way that it was not meant for it to spin. Through Christ, Satan was defeated and death removed, though we still feel the effects of death.

All of creation is guilty and thus unable to do anything about it. Christ, the only innocent, took the guilt upon Himself in order to make creation innocent.

In the last moments of Christ’s life, the world around Him began to change. The Creator, who took on flesh and was born into creation, is at this moment of death, bringing in new and eternal life, a new creation. With the curtain of the temple torn, it symbolized the completion of Christ’s victory over death, therefore allowing Jesus to commit His spirit into the hands of the Father.

The death of Christ marked the end of creation as we know it. Sin and death no longer have dominion over creation. Satan lost the keys to creation which he wrongfully stole from God through sin. No intercessions by the priests were needed because the greatest intercession was made. No more animals needed to be sacrificed because the sacrificial Lamb was offered. When Christ uttered the words, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”, He signified that His work was finished, once and for all. Nothing could undo what had just been done.

Through the life of Christ and His Passion, we have received life – life that came at an expense – the death of Christ. The King of the Jews, who “humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross,” died so that all of creation would be reborn in Him, purged from death and made “good” in the eyes of God. This was the way that creation was meant to be and what took place at our Lord’s Passion was necessary for creation to be restored. Today is not a time to focus on the brutality of Christ’s death or death itself, but to focus on what that death brought about – the dying of death and a restored creation. 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 March 25, 2013 in Lent, Palm Sunday, Sermons

 

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Lent 5–“Rejected Cornerstone” (Luke 20:9-20)

C-39 Lent 5 (LHP) (Lu 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.

Today in our Gospel reading, we find ourselves in the middle of Holy Week in Jerusalem, and the people around Jesus is becoming more and more polarized as Jesus moves forward on His mission to save the world by the cross. There are those who continue to follow Jesus to wherever He would lead while there are those who are searching high and low for any excuse to put Him to death. His enemies are doing what they do best by questioning His authority. Surely there must be something that Jesus will say that will give His enemies the proof they need to put Him to death as a heretic.

The question before Jesus is one that has been asked time and time again: “Tell us by what authority you do these things, or who it is that gave you this authority.” Rather than answer this same old question again and with little time before the cross, Jesus instead tells a parable to illustrate who He is. The answer that He gives is not the one that the people are looking for, for He claims to be the cornerstone of our life and our salvation.

The parable that Jesus tells is not a difficult one to understand if you are the Jewish leadership. It is quite unmistakable who is who in the parable: the owner of the vineyard is our heavenly Father. The vineyard is the people of God and it is the Lord who has planted the vineyard. If God has planted the vineyard, then that means that we are His creation and that we are made for fellowship with God. However, if you are one who is listening to Jesus’ parable and are looking for a way to trap Him in His words, then you will surely miss the point of Jesus’ parable.

As Jesus tells the parable, it is clear that the vineyard owner rented the vineyard out to tenants to run in his absence. You would expect that upon his return, the tenants would hand over the vineyard to the owner. Unfortunately, that is not what Jesus says.

As the man send a servant to get some of the fruit of the vineyard, the tenants beat the servant and he returns empty handed. This occurs a second time and the vineyard owner sees same results. He does it a third time and the results are the same. Surely this is not the results that the land owner had expected. In order to stake his claim, the landowner decides to send his son to the tenants in hopes that the something will change. In the end, the tenants refuse to do what is right and kill the son.

The tenants had entered into a business arrangement with the owner to pay Him a fair share of the profits from the vineyard, but when the servants came to collect on behalf of the owner, the tenants abused them and sent them away empty-handed. They even went so far as to kill the Son of the owner in the hope of stealing His inheritance.

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. 

This parable of Jesus was one of things that had happened and of things yet to come. The people had rejected Him; not only the locals but the Jewish rulers as well. God our heavenly Father has created this vineyard and sends His Son to redeem it, but instead of listening to Him, we put Him to death instead. Not realizing what our Lord was saying, the people exclaim, “Surely not!” and Jesus tells them, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Instead of listening to Jesus, instead of asking for His forgiveness, Luke records that the scribes and the chief priests sought to put Him to death.

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 March 19, 2013 in Lent, Sermons

 

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Lent 4C–“Prodigal” (Luke15:1-3, 11-32)

C-37 Lent 4 (Lu 15.11-32)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.

Children can be such a blessing and they can equally be a curse. They can bring such joy to a parent’s heart and they can also bring such sorrow as well. This has been the case from the beginning of creation. Adam and Eve brought great joy to their Father and then they also brought great sorrow following the fall into sin. Cain and Abel brought joy to Adam and Eve but that joy quickly turned into sorrow following Abel’s murder. The theme continues throughout the Scriptures and that is the basis of Jesus’ parable to the tax collectors, sinners, Pharisees, and scribes.

As Jesus begins the parable, one might imagine that at one time, there was a good relationship between the father and his two sons, or at least we hope. But the younger son has something important to say to his father: “Father, give me the share of property that is coming to me.” Allow me to translate for you what this son said. “I wish you were dead so I can get my death benefits from you.” What a crude and outrageous request that the son makes. Jesus does not give us an idea of how old the father is, but whether he is young or old is irrelevant. The son doesn’t care about his father; he just wants the inheritance. I don’t know about the rest of you but if I were to make that request of my father, I would have been knocked into next week. That is not a request that a child makes of his father and hopes to walk away from it. But instead of knocking the son into next week, the father grants the son’s request and divides his property between the two sons. Shortly after that, the younger son leaves.

This son must be feeling really good about himself. He stood up to his father, told him in no uncertain terms that he wished that he were dead in order to receive his inheritance. The father gives it to him, no questions asked, and now here he is with the world at his fingertips. Everything must be going right for this young man! Everything is going well until the son starts to sow his wild oats. At that moment, he went from having the world in the palm of his hand to eating the slop of pigs.

Have you realized who the young son in the parable is yet? It is a person that you are very familiar with, for the young son is you! You are the one who is greedy, seeking what you can from your Father and squandering it. Our heavenly Father has given to us richly. Martin Luther writes in his explanation to the First Article of the Creed: “He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.” He has created us, He has given to us life, He provides for all of our needs and we cannot keep one simple rule: “And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “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.”” Instead of abiding by the Father’s command, we squandered all that we had in the Garden of Eden and were forever cast out of it.

As we return to the parable, we see the son living in utter poverty, with nothing to eat but the slop he is feeding the pigs. He realizes that he has done wrong by his father and sets out to return home in hopes that his father would make him like one of his hired hands. He says, “I will arise and go to my father, and I will say to him, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you.””

Did you hear what the young son said? What is the basis of the speech he is planning to give to his father? It’s the same thing you said a few moments ago: we are sinners that are in need of forgiveness. This is the son’s confession of sins. He knows that he has sinned. He knows that he has broken the Fourth Commandment. He knows that the only thing for him to do is to go and confess his sins and ask for forgiveness from his father.

Isn’t that what we did at the beginning of the service? Didn’t we acknowledge our sin to our heavenly Father? Didn’t we confess how we have failed to keep His commandments and statutes and instead turn to our sinful ways? There is only one thing for us to do: confess our sins, return to our Father, the fountain and source of all goodness, the one who is able to forgive us for all that we have done wrong, all that we have done contrary to His divine Word. We no longer can live off of the slop of sin, for it is keeping us from our Father in heaven. We return to Him in prayer, asking for our sins to be forgiven because we are indeed sinners in need of salvation.

For the young man, as he is on his journey to his father’s home and is still a great distance out, his father saw him and ran to him. What the father does is out of character in many ways. In those days, a man of his stature would not have run because he was considered an elder, a man of certain esteem. Running in such a way would have been embarrassing. Secondly, why would he run after his son who more or less told him he wanted him dead and embrace him? It doesn’t make sense what the father did. But it does make sense because this was the father’s son. Even after all that the son has done in his wasteful life, at the end of the day, this is his son. He doesn’t chastise him for squandering all that he gave him. He doesn’t give him the “I told you so” speech. No, he gives to him the royal treatment: jewelry, clothing, food and drink, a great party – the works.

For you and I, our heavenly Father does nothing short of that for us. He gives to us the “best robe” as we are robed in Christ’s righteousness. You and I receive from God the gift of His name in our Baptism, marking us as those who have been redeemed by Christ. We are given that sonship that the young son had given up before his journey. We receive the fattened calf that was killed for the party, but we don’t receive it in the form of a calf. We receive it in the form of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. This Lamb of God was slaughtered for us upon Calvary, His blood washing over us to forgive us all of our sins in His sacrifice for us. The words that the father uses in the parable are descriptive of us as well: “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” That’s us. Dead in our trespasses of sin, but made alive in the waters of Baptism. The image of God lost upon us in the Fall, but found and restored again by Christ’s death and resurrection.

Wouldn’t it be nice if that is how the parable ends, how our life ends? Unfortunately, there is more to both stories. In the parable, there is still the older brother, the one who did right by his father all these years, never disobeying, always being the “good son.” He reminds his father of the years of dutiful service he has rendered. But his virtue was not rewarded with even a young goat for celebration. Here Jesus is drawing a portrait of the Pharisees and experts in the law. They were proud of the dutiful way in which they observed all of God’s commands. They felt fully justified in criticizing Jesus for His fellowship with sinners and tax collectors. They were not about to join in joyfully celebrating the repentance of a sinner.

Isn’t that us? Aren’t we always making it all about us and what we’ve done rather than what God has done for us in Christ Jesus? Fortunately for us, it is the Father who has the last word in all of this. He is the one who never turns His back on the children who turn their backs on Him. He is the Father who comes running to us after we have run away from Him. There is always hope for the prodigal son and so there is hope for us as well. 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 March 11, 2013 in Lent, Sermons

 

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Lent 3C–“Repent” (Luke 13:1-9)

C-35 Lent 3 (Lu 13.1-9)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.

Of all of the parables that our Lord spoke, this probably ranks up as probably one of the least favorites. One of Jesus’ big words in our text for today is “repent.” Whether that means “face up to your sins and confess them” or “turn around and reorient your life,” it doesn’t have much of an appeal to us, does it? To make matters worse, there’s the story of a barren fig tree which faces the option of producing fruit or getting chopped down – which again, when applied to us, is less than inviting. So on the surface, at least, it adds up to a rather gloomy word, and it’s nobody’s favorite.

As Luke begins this portion of his letter, there is a group that comes to Jesus and does what they do best: complain. There are those in the crowd that complain to Jesus about some Galileans who were murdered by Pilate, suggesting that they were aware of how God does indeed punish sinners. Jesus proceeds to ask some questions to them that makes them think before they answer, questions that should make us think before we answer.

Jesus asks them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

What a nasty thing our Lord says! He uses that word which should not be spoken: repent. It’s a word that no one wants to hear, especially being spoken to them. Brutal murders, shocking accidents, death in whatever form – all are sermons of God’s Law: the soul that sins will die. Death is one way God calls people to repentance, lest they perish eternally. Some falsely conclude that if nothing really bad happens to them in life, it is a sign that they have been living good lives. Jesus is teaching that not only certain very wicked people need to repent but repentance is necessary for everyone.

What a shocking statement for Jesus to make, that everyone needs to repent or perish. Who does He think He is to make such a bold, sweeping statement like that, the Son of God? Oh wait, that’s exactly who He is. He knows exactly what will happen to the unrepentant sinner and that is why He is here. He comes to urge the people to repent of their sins. He comes as the means of their repentance. He comes as the one who will give His life for the lives of the repentant. He comes and will be our Judge on the last day.

To reinforce His message, he tells a parable of the fig tree. Looking at Jesus’ parable, it’s straight talk. It’s not pleasant. It’s not comforting, and it’s nobody’s favorite. But there it is, straight and to the point. The terms are established by God, not us. Our excusing and rationalizing, our complaining and postponing, our good intentions and sincerity of purpose all evaporate into the air and the voice that speaks inquires about the fruits of our lives.

If you are uncomfortable with that, then that is the way it should be. God is very patient, not willing that any should perish but that all would come to repentance. However, the delay in judgment should not cause people to put off repentance. The time will finally come when the unfruitful tree is cut down. The opportunity for repentance does finally come to an end.

God is patiently calling us to repent. We return to Jesus’ parable about the fig tree. It wouldn’t bear any figs! Year after year it grew, but bore no fruit. The owner wanted to cut it down. But the vinedresser said, “Give me a chance with it. I’ll take care of it, there’s still a chance. If it doesn’t produce fruit for you next year, then cut it down.”

That fig tree is you. There’s so much good fruit that we could be producing, but we aren’t. God isn’t through with us yet. Jesus comes in as our friend, our Savior. He gives His life for us on the cross. He comes to us in His Word. He supplies our needs, comforts our fears, and dries our tears. He washes us clean in Baptism. He feeds us with heavenly food in the Lord’s Supper. He does all this, waiting for us to produce that fruit that He can use.

As patient and long suffering as God is, there is a deadline for our repentance. The writer to the Hebrews says, “It is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment.” The tree in the parable has a year to bear fruit. In a similar way, those who refuse to repent in this life will be removed from the Kingdom of God in the next.

So what shall we do about it? How can we capitalize on the offer God makes? What response can we make? Jesus gives us the answer: repent. We do nothing more and nothing less than that. There’s nothing new to Jesus’ answer; and yet as old and as basic as it is we tend to forget it and act otherwise.

That is the central theme during the season of Lent. We sing just before we hear the Holy Gospel: “Return to the Lord your God, for He is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” That return of which we sing is nothing short of repenting. How are we to repent? Why do we need to repent? Have we really done that bad that we need to repent? If we take stock of ourselves I think we’ll often find that we’ve been careless at some point or other in our lives—that we’ve lived as if God doesn’t matter, or allowed a cynical attitude to develop, or conformed to the mood and mindset of the age in which we live. In short, instead of living our lives according to God’s commandments and His ways, we live our lives in the way which makes us happy, regardless if it’s contrary to the Word of God.

How do we live then? The standard is too high, and we don’t even measure up to the “not good enough” of which Paul and Ezekiel speak of in our other readings for today. But God is on your side and wants you to flourish! The answer is and has always been and will always be Jesus. Jesus goes to the cross in order to buy you back and to restore you to your rightful place as God’s heir. He gives His life in order that your life will not be taken. He dies so that you will never die that final death.

Maybe the word “repent” isn’t so bad of a word at all. Maybe the parable of the barren fig tree isn’t so bad either, for it reminds us that life is to be lived on God’s terms, it also reminds us that life and can be good and full and productive. Once again, Jesus gives to us the words that are most needed – words that remind us what our heavenly Father desires of us and the gift of forgiveness that comes through repentance. 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 March 5, 2013 in Lent, Sermons

 

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Lent 2–“To Jerusalem” (Luke 13:31-35

C-33 Lent 2 (Lu 13.31-35)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.

Things are beginning to heat up for Jesus. Pressure is starting to be applied to Him. Even the Pharisees are coming to warn Jesus about what is going to happen. They tell Him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” This doesn’t sound like the Pharisees that we know. They have tried to pick a fight with Jesus at every opportunity but now, they warn Him, looking out for His interests. These Pharisees sound so helpful, almost even nice. Are they different from the Pharisees who have been opposing Jesus every step of the way? More than likely, they are up to their old tricks, trying to deceive Jesus into abandoning His journey to Jerusalem. If Jesus turns and runs, He’ll surely lose credibility with His following. But perhaps the Pharisees are perceptive: they realize that any man who wants to be a leader of the Jews must establish Himself in Jerusalem. Any ploy that could keep Him away from there would surely foil His plans. These are not Pharisees who have turned over a new leaf; they have already rejected Jesus and His purpose. As far as they are concerned, nothing has changed.

While the Pharisees here are likely not concerned with what will happen to Jesus, very real threats of death do indeed face Jesus in Jerusalem. Opposition to Jesus has been building for a long time. His preaching and teaching has been less than well received by the ruling Jews of the day. He was labeled a heretic because He claimed that He was the Son of God, the promised Messiah. Death was coming quickly for Jesus and instead of turning away from it, Jesus marched headfirst into Jerusalem to face His death.

Just a few weeks ago we heard how at the Mount of Transfiguration Jesus, Moses, and Elijah discussed His impending death. Now, what they had discussed on the mountain seems to be getting closer to reality. For the Pharisees, nothing could be better than this. They know that Jesus is going to be killed, one way or another. The Scribes and Pharisees have been plotting this for quite some time. Jesus knows very well what will happen when He makes it to Jerusalem. There won’t be a parade. There won’t be a warm reception for Him. He knows that when He gets there, He will meet His death. But there will be more than that. He knows that when He enters Jerusalem, you will have life.

Death for Jesus means life for you, the believer. He willingly goes to Jerusalem, to fulfill the Father’s will in order that you would have life. Our Lord’s journey becomes the journey of every Christian, for He leads us from death to life. That is what the scribes and Pharisees did not understand or did not care about. They were more concerned about putting a heretic to death instead of what His death would accomplish. The death of Jesus would restore creation to its rightful place as the beloved of God. Jesus is not afraid to go to Jerusalem, but why would He? He goes because of you, regardless of the rejection that He has faced up until now and the rejection that He will face there.

Thus, as He goes to the cross, no one can keep Him away from Jerusalem-not Herod and all of his soldiers or the Pharisees with all of their plans. This is the Son of God going about His Father’s will, and He will not be diverted from the journey. He is going to Jerusalem. And because He is going to Jerusalem, Herod and the Pharisees will work out the details for His death. If He isn’t going to go away, they will make Him go away.

But bear this in mind: They don’t make Him go away. The Lord is still in charge. He does not die on that cross because of Herod’s strength or the plottings of the Pharisees. Nor is He scourged and crucified because of the power of the Romans. He goes to that cross only because He goes willingly, because this is God’s plan for your salvation. This is the all-powerful Son of God, and He will not be denied your redemption.

This is your comfort and hope: Your Savior is not a weak man who is overpowered by evil men who seek to put Him to death. No matter the hatred of His enemies, He goes to Jerusalem. No matter the plots and plans of man, nothing keeps Him from suffering the full judgment for your sin. Nothing could deter the Son of God from that mission of salvation. No one, not Satan and his seductive attempts to buy Christ from His mission; not even Christ’s own disciples could dissuade Him from going to the cross with the hopes of Him staying with them forever; not even His enemies who threatened Him with suffering and even death; nothing in this world could side-track Him from that for which He came into the world. He came to be a ransom for many. He came to die that we might live. He came as Redeemer and ushered in the full meaning of God’s eternal love.

And so we say again: Jesus goes to the cross and dies only because He wills to. He did it willingly. He submitted to the suffering and the nails and the death because He willed to do so for you, in accordance with the Father’s will.

Fortunately, God loved us even while we hated Him. Jesus is God’s Son sent to rescue us. The events of today’s Gospel happened while Jesus was on His way to complete that rescue. He was taking His farewell tour of Israel before He went to Jerusalem to offer Himself up as a sacrifice for us. That is the reason He said, “It cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.” That is also the reason He had no fear of Herod. He knew that His death would take place in Jerusalem, not in Galilee.

Jesus’ heart for His people will send Him to Jerusalem, for her and for us. Once more, on Palm Sunday, Jesus would come to Jerusalem and be acclaimed by words of praise, but He will still be rejected and crucified. This is precisely why He would come. This had been Jerusalem’s purpose throughout her favored history: this would be where the Son would God would give His life for the Church. Jerusalem will be saved and so will you, as will all those who repent and are gathered into Christ. 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 February 26, 2013 in Lent, Sermons

 

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Lent 1–“Tempted” (Luke 4:1-13)

C-31 Lent 1 (Lu 4.1-11)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.

Temptation is something that has been present in creation since near the beginning of time. Adam and Eve were the first to fall prey to temptation and from then on, it’s been downhill into temptation ever since. The apostle Peter writes, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” He is always ready to pounce and tempt people into all kinds of sin. Fortunately, this ferocious lion has done battle with another lion, the Lion of Judah, and he could not overcome Him. As we see in our Gospel reading for today, at the very beginning of Christ’s ministry, the devil attacked Jesus, but our Lord defeated him by resisting all of his temptations, and He did this in order to save us.

The scene that Luke lays out for us today follows immediately after Christ’s baptism and brings Christ face to face with Satan, the very enemy whom He has come to destroy. As was said, temptation faces everyone, including Jesus Christ. He is no different than any other person throughout history. Everyone faces temptation at some point in their life and it was no different for Jesus. The temptation of Jesus was continuous over the period of forty days, but Luke gives us but three examples of the many ways in which Satan attacked Christ. We have no way of knowing just how Jesus was continually tempted. To tempt merely means to put to the test, here with an evil intent, that is, to cause someone to sin. Satan knew very well that Jesus had come to crush his power and if he could succeed just once in getting Jesus to give into temptation and sin, then he would win the victory. This was no sham or pretend temptation that Jesus faced. According to His human nature, Jesus was tempted in every way, just as we are, yet He remained sinless.

It would have been very easy for Jesus to give into the temptations of Satan, just like it is easy for us to give in to temptations. Jesus trampled the devil’s real temptation with Scripture. Christ, who has taught us to pray, “Lead us not into temptation,” had Himself been led by the Spirit to go where temptation was. He knew its strength and danger. His own temptation, all three of His temptations, stretching over a period of 40 days, were wholly concerned with the choice between right and wrong, between higher and lower means of carrying out the mission on which His heavenly Father had sent Him.

Can we doubt the seriousness of those forty days of decisive conflict? On the outcome hung the whole issue of His mission on earth and every hope of salvation of mankind.

Our Lord was setting out upon the mission of His heavenly Father. His mission was to bring all mankind into the kingdom of God, free from Satan. For that mission, He possessed gifts and powers that were brought to light in fullness at His baptism by John the Baptist when the voice declared from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

The temptations which Jesus faced were great temptations indeed. They were meant for our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to give up His divinity, to renounce who He is and to worship Satan. Christ knew what was at stake: us. We were at stake. Our salvation was at risk. Had Jesus given in, there would be no salvation for us. When God looks at us, He would continue to see our utter filth by sin. That is not what God sees because Christ refused to give in to Satan’s temptations for the sake of the Father’s will: that all men be brought to Him so that we might be saved.

Look beside you in this wilderness. There is Jesus. He too is alone. He too is starving. He too is miserable. He too is also stalked and hunted by Satan seeking whom he may devour. This is Jesus on His way to dying too. Why is Jesus here? He has never sinned. His body is pure and holy, so why is He in this barren place – hungry, tempted, suffering like this? You know the answer, don’t you? It’s because you are here.

Jesus cannot stay in heaven’s peace and glory while you are here suffering. If you lose all things, He loses all things. If you starve and sweat and squirm, He too must starve and sweat and squirm. If you suffer condemnation, He suffers condemnation. If you are to die, He must die too. He loves you too much to leave you here in sin’s desert, this fallen world, all at Satan’s tempting disposal. That is why Jesus faced the temptations that He did. That is why He lays down His life on Calvary’s cross, because you are at stake in everything.

The temptations that Jesus faces are temptations that you and I face daily. In looking at all of these temptations that Jesus faces, they all share one thing in common: the testing of God. All of these temptations go back to the very first temptation: “Did God really say…” The devil bends the power of words to his will. He lies. He even bends Holy Scripture in order to mislead. Today’s Gospel shows the devil lifting the words of Scripture out of context. He blasphemes against the very Word of God and omits a small word here and another small word there until the remaining words conform to his lie. In this way, he hopes to mislead and corrupt.

Fortunately for us, our Lord knows Scripture even better than Satan does. While Satan is a master of twisting the Scriptures, Jesus is the master of fulfilling them. He comes to fulfill all that is written of Him in the Law and the Prophets. He goes toe to toe with Satan and using the Word of God to defeat each and every temptation of Satan.

So often in our own lives are we tested, to put the promise of God to a test to see if it is true or not. Do we put our trust in the things of this world or do we put our trust in the Word of God? Do we go the easy way or do we go the hard way of suffering as God has said? The temptations of our Lord are the temptations of all mankind. The temptations of our Lord are the temptations of His Church. The temptations of our Lord are repeated in the temptations that come to you in your daily vocation.

When we are attacked and accused, we trust in Christ, who saved us by His perfect obedience, suffering, and death. When the devil tempts us to sin, we trust in Christ and His Word of truth. When the Law accuses us of sin, we trust in Christ and His perfect obedience. When death demands our life, we trust in Christ and His innocent suffering and death.

Our Savior knows what it is to be tempted. He willingly faced temptation by our enemy, the prowling lion, and He did it for our salvation. He won the battle, and His victory belongs to all who trust in Him. In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2013 in Lent, Sermons

 

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Good Friday–“Guilty” (John 19:17-30)

B-49 Good Friday (Jn 19.23-37)“Has the jury reached a verdict?”

“We have, your honor. On the charge of impersonating the Son of God, we find the defendant guilty. On the charge of heresy with regard to tearing down the temple and rebuilding it, we find the defendant guilty. On the charge of claiming to be the King of the Jews, we find the defendant guilty.”

“Having reviewed all of the evidence presented, it is the court’s verdict to sentence the defendant to death. Court is dismissed.”

And with that, the mock trial of Jesus is over. The court has spoken and it wasn’t hard to figure out what the verdict was going to be. The Pharisees and Sadducees and the Jewish leadership has been trying to find some way, anyway, to trap Jesus in His words. As far as Pilate was concerned, he could “find no guilt in him.” Jesus was innocent of every trumped-up charge, everything that they had tried to pin on Him. However, the will of the people won out and Jesus was sentenced to death. Pilate again tried to reason with the people but the people spoke out all the more, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” Pilate tried a final time to get the people to repent of their decision to crucify Jesus: “Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.”

Those words, “to be crucified,” must have had a terrible sound even to Pilate. Knowing that you’re sentencing an innocent man to His death must be woefully troubling to the conscience, if Pilate had one. He still must have had at least a semblance of one, for he ordered the inscription placed on the cross, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”

Everything that took place that day, while we acknowledge it as being extremely cruel and unusual punishment, was according to the plan of God. From start to finish, this was the will of God. While God did not desire that His Son die, it was necessary so that you would be forgiven of all your sins.

There is good news for all of us. We are not the ones who are being crucified; though we are the ones who deserve it. Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, has gone before us to Golgotha to accept our punishment. Just as the prophet Isaiah writes, “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.” He took your punishment and He took mine. He did this out of love for you and for me.

So much for Christ being a king. What kind of king would willfully allow himself to be betrayed by his friends and then beaten, scourged and tried, all with no evidence of wrong doing?

Jesus, the King of the Jews, was led to be crucified, for the sins of the people, including Pilate and the two criminals who were hanging on either side. He was dying for the sins of people who had beaten Him, mocked Him, hurled insults at Him, who utterly emasculated Him.

Jesus went to the cross because He loved us. He gave His life as a ransom for many. He gave His body to be whipped, to be spit upon, to be punched, cut with thorns, to be nailed through and crucified, all of it for you and me. We can find rest here in the wounds of Jesus.

His precious blood, which He freely shed in His bitter sufferings and cruel death, is what cleanses us from all our sins. His blood is our help. When we are hurting, we can look to the human body of Jesus, which didn’t make use of its glorious divine power when the mystery of our redemption was being worked out. In the bleeding wounds of Jesus is our only remedy.

Jesus went to the cross for us. St. Paul says, “For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.” We weren’t worthy of Christ’s heroic death for us. He went anyway because He loved us before we were born. It was glory for Him to love us and take our burden upon Himself.

It’s a hard thing to send a son or daughter off to war to fight for a noble cause. One can only imagine what that must be like, not knowing if they will return or not, just holding on to hope and prayer. But imagine the Father, sending his Son, knowing exactly what’s going to happen, and knowing that millions of people will never understand why you did it or know that you did it for them.

Jesus bore the wrath of God against our sins. Simple pain and death was not the essence of what He endured. He bore the wrath of God in His soul, the agonies of Hell. He who is God was forsaken by God on the cross. He became a curse, for He Himself had spoken through the prophet that “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.” We cannot imagine what He endured. And, thanks be to God, we who believe will never know first-hand. He suffered for us and in our place on the cross on Calvary.

And when He had done all that the Scriptures said He would do, and when He had suffered all that was prophesied that the Messiah would suffer, He spoke the most precious word in the history of man, τετέλεσται, which takes three words in English to translate, “It is finished!” It may sound like a word of resignation, of relief, that the suffering was coming to an end. But it had to be more than that. Remember how John had reminded us that this was Jesus’ hour, that Jesus went to the cross voluntarily, that Jesus was there to complete God’s plan of salvation. Jesus was not saying that the wicked plot against him was finished. He was declaring that His task as the one and only Son of the heavenly Father was finished. When He declared, “It is finished,” He declared your sins to be forgiven on account of His blood shed for you. 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 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Maundy Thursday–”Betrayed” (Mark 14:12-26)

B-48 Holy ThursdayGrace, 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 Passover is now upon Jesus and the disciples and the time to celebrate with the Passover meal has now come. For one reason or another, they have not selected a place to celebrate the evening meal. Jesus sends two of the disciples into the city to procure a large room for the thirteen of them.

As they were sitting there eating their meal in remembrance of the Passover, it seemed to be like any other meal. The food they ate was the same food they had eaten before when celebrating the Passover. Jesus and the disciples had eaten numerous meals before and this meal was no different. Suddenly, the mood at the table changes. St. Mark records, And as they were reclining at table and eating, Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me, one who is eating with me.” They began to be sorrowful and to say to him one after another, “Is it I?””

All of a sudden, the atmosphere of the room changed, and it was not for the better. Jesus had dropped a bomb on the laps of the disciples that riveted them to the core: He would be betrayed, but what was worse was that He would be betrayed by one of His own disciples. There could be no more a devastating statement made than that just made by Jesus. It is unfathomable that one of Jesus’ own disciples would betray Him. When Jesus says “betray” here, He doesn’t mean that someone will go against Jesus or wrong Him in a way like we would think. What Jesus means is that one of the disciples will turn Jesus over to be killed, the ultimate act of betrayal that could ever be committed. How is it that one of Jesus’ own disciples could do this? They were the ones who had the most intimate contact with Jesus, being with Him constantly for three years. Now, one of them would betray not only Jesus but also all of the disciples as well, for they were the ones who looked to Jesus to be their Savior.

The traitor was not an attendant, not a servant eavesdropping on the conversation, not one of the larger group who followed Jesus, but one of their own. This was a meal that was meant to call together as one Jews from all over and focus Israel together on what God had done for them, but is now spoiled by the presence of a traitor! Not one who would deny Christ out of weakness. Not one who would be so panicked by the threat of death that he would wriggle free from his clothes and run off naked. But a premeditative traitor. And one whose fate will be so horrible for this betrayal that Christ says it would have been better for this man not to have been born. With those words, Jesus interjected into this joyous celebration a touch of darkness. The band of brothers is not so solid after all.

Following this startling news, something that would think to bring great division among the disciples, Jesus does something that no one expected: “And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.””

A deeper sadness intrudes as Jesus announces His own impending death once more. It seems that His death is coming ever so quickly, that it could happen any time now. Instead of worrying about what will happen to Him, He gives Himself for the disciples and for all people. By what follows during the next few days, it’s clear that the disciples do not pick up on the phrases “of the covenant” or “for many.” The significance of His death, that His blood will be the means by which God and His people will be joined in a new covenant of forgiveness, this they don’t yet understand. That His death will be redemptive, signified by the phrase “for many,” they cannot yet see, for their minds have not yet been opened. All they hear are words that interject a note of death into what was meant to be a celebration of life and thanksgiving to God.

Tonight, as we come together celebrating this meal which Christ feeds us with His very body and blood, know one thing: Jesus is given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. That’s what tonight is all about – Jesus giving Himself for you. Taking the bread and the wine of the Passover, Jesus now instituted the New Testament sacrament of the Lord’s Supper. This wonderful gift of His body and blood was meant not only for the disciples. Note what Jesus says: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.” You and I can be very grateful that our Lord did not restrict the Sacrament to just the disciples. We share one thing in common with the disciples: we are not able to save ourselves. The Sacrament, however, reassures us of this truth: “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.” You and I need that assurance repeatedly until Jesus comes again to take us to the marriage supper of the Lamb. That assurance He brings us through Word and Sacrament. Even as we were born into the kingdom by the rebirth of Baptism, so we are assured of forgiveness and strengthened to live in the kingdom through this Blessed Sacrament of His body and blood.

Also hear Him when He says His broken body and shed blood were for the many. Jesus, our mediator, is present in this meal tonight. The truth is what we sing: “Not all the blood of beasts On Jewish altars slain Could give the guilty conscience peace Or wash away the stain.” But this body and blood can. This body and blood were offered up as payment for sin, as an atoning sacrifice to wash away sin – yours and mine. This body and blood were accepted by the Father as an atoning sacrifice for the many. Jesus taught, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” That includes you and me.

Finally, hear our Lord’s promise that He will drink the fruit of the vine with you in the kingdom of God. In this meal, Christ promises a future for you that extends beyond your boldest hopes. He holds before your eyes the promise of sitting with Him at the banquet table with all the faithful who have been gathered from east and west. He holds before you the riches that He will share with the faithful in eternity. All of this is yours and He bids you to come and receive what He has to offer you: Himself. 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 6, 2012 in Maundy Thursday

 

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