Easter 7C

Text: Revelation 22:1-6, 12-20

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

“In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” These are familiar words to us all. At the conclusion of every day, we hear these words: “And God saw that it was good.” Adam and Eve came into the scene and all was good until the serpent came into the picture. Once the interaction between Adam and Eve and the serpent took place, all was no longer good. We jump ahead to the birth of Christ. Christ was born, grew in stature of a man, died, rose again, and ascended into heaven for one reason: because you and I are sinners.

Just a few days ago, we remembered Christ’s ascension into heaven. It is there that He sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From thence he will come to judge the living and the dead. In our text for today, we see what is to come following the resurrection and ascension of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ: the second coming.

In the beginning of our text for today, John sees another depiction of the new heaven and earth, this time reminiscent of the Garden of Eden. We see the river of the water of lifeand the tree of life. “The tree of life” first appeared early on in Genesis. Among the many trees God created, He made in the middle of the Garden of Eden “the tree of life” and “the tree of knowledge of good and evil.” Adam and Eve rejected God’s command not to eat of the tree.  They turned away from His face—the act of disobedience. They feared His presence because they feared His wrath. They were lied to by Satan, and were tricked into thinking that they could be independent of God. They believed they didn’t need Him or His Word. They embraced the lie and the death that came with it. Because Adam and Eve ate of the tree of knowledge in disobedience to God’s command, they were driven from the garden. Because they sinned, we too have sinned. Their sin became our sin. The psalmist David knew of his sinful nature and from where it came from: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”This “tree of life” which John sees standing before him is what would come to save all of mankind: Jesus Christ.

John, while in exile on the island of Patmos, received the revelation from Jesus Christ which said not once, not twice, but three times that “I am coming soon.” We have all seen the first coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. He came to us as a baby, weak and frail. He grew up to be a man with a mission. His mission was not His own, but His Fathers: to save all of mankind from eternal death. Through His coming, death has been defeated, once and for all.  Through His life, death and resurrection, we have received forgiveness of sins, life and salvation.

Here we stand; the Sunday after the Ascension, seven Sundays after Easter. Announcements of triumph have been sounding all over the place. The Gospel’s content has never been clearer than in this text which insists that Jesus is the “Alpha and Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” There it is before you, that powerful message that forms the very spine of life: God in Christ affirming again that He will be our God from the beginning to the end of it all.

From the beginning, He has been our God. He was our God in the Garden of Eden, giving to us all that we needed to survive. He was our God when Adam and Eve were barred from the Garden because of their disobedience. When they were barred, we didn’t see an angry God. On the contrary, we saw a God who gave us the first words of Gospel truth: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” He was our God when He sent His only-begotten Son to live and die for us. He was our God at our baptism, when we were made His children. He will continue to be our God, even to our last days and beyond, when He calls us to our heavenly home. John records for us, “They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads.” We have the promise of God Himself that He will be our God and we will indeed be His people.

Here it was where and when Jesus shed His holy, precious blood, so that men, women, children and infants might “have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Indeed, “blessed are those who wash their robes, that they may have the right to the tree of life and that they may enter the city by the gates.” Christ is the Fruit of the Tree of Life and whoever eats His flesh and drinks His Blood will live forever.

God draws us in the flesh of Jesus Christ through His body and blood. He draws us through His Word, which calls and enlightens us. We are united in the flesh of Christ. We are gathered in one place: in Christ. God sustains us with the one river of the waters of life and the one tree of life.

We are gathered to share in His blessings. We receive the waters from the river: the waters of Holy Baptism.  Jesus Christ has invited us and all sinners to quench our spiritual thirst: “And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price.”

We receive the healing fruit from the tree: the Lord’s Supper, which you will partake of in just a few moments. Here, around His Word and His Sacraments, we are gathered in the true worship of God – “one Lord, one faith, one baptism.”

There it stands at the Bible’s opening verses, the picture of a loving God, tenderly authoring life bringing about man’s genesis; the God who makes covenant promises. In today’s text, the curtain rings down on the Bible’s witness and the message at the end is the same as at the beginning: God announcing that He is with us at the beginning and at the end and with each intervening step!

Jesus gives to us unity in His promises. His Baptism, death, resurrection, and ascension are ours as well. We are baptized into His name. We die in His name, as Christians. We are promised the resurrection on the last day, where we will be raised in all holiness and righteousness, where we will be with God and the Lamb forever. We will see Him face-to-face on the Last Day and in eternal life. We will again possess the image of God, lost when Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden, restored when Christ died for your sins and mine, when He took our place and elevated us to full sonship, made holy by His blood.

While waiting in expectation for the second coming of Christ, we invite, proclaim and pray. We invite others to share in Christ and the waters of life. We proclaim Christ’s Word faithfully. The Lord of life, the root and offspring of Davis says “Come. Come you who are thirsty, accept the water of life, a free gift to all who desire it.” We pray, “Come, Lord Jesus!” And we know, that Christ will indeed come again, to bring us to the new Eden, gathered around the tree of life.In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.


Ascension of Our Lord

Texts: Acts 1:1-11; Luke 24:44-53

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

When we confess, “He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty,” what exactly do we mean? The Ascension of Jesus is just as important as every other act of Jesus: His birth, His life, His death, and His resurrection. Throughout the season of Lent, we focus on the death of Jesus that draws ever closer, culminating in His crucifixion on Good Friday. Three days later, and for the next forty days, it’s all about Jesus risen from the dead, though some of the Gospel accounts are pre-crucifixion accounts. But just as important is the Ascension of Jesus, and for good reason. When Jesus ascends, He takes His rightful place with the Father again. The Ascension of Jesus signals something for us, something that is most important for the life of the Christian – Christ will come again.

Everything up until this point has worked according to God’s divine plan. Despite that, there are still gaps in the thoughts and minds of the apostles. Luke records for us in Acts, “To them he presented himself alive after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” The authors of our Gospels record various post-resurrection appearances to the apostles and their lack of understanding of the big picture that Jesus is trying to paint for them.

The important thing for the apostles to know is that Christ has fulfilled all that was necessary to redeem creation. He had done exactly what He said He was going to do. But even then, the apostles have questions, gaps in their understanding. And so, Christ appeared to them following the resurrection, teaching them and preparing them for the next step: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” The apostles are tasked with proclaiming Jesus to the ends of the earth. But it’s hard to proclaim Jesus when you yourself don’t fully understand everything. That’s why He sends the Holy Spirit to them, to fill in the gaps, to empower and embolden them to proclaim all that they have seen and heard the last three years, to proclaim what that means for the sinner, and for the joy that comes to the repentant.

As Jesus proclaims this to the apostles, He ascends: “And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.” Jesus is gone, truly gone now. It’s just the apostles and their task of proclaiming the Gospel; but they are still gazing upward, looking for Jesus. It takes angels to tell them, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

It’s time for the apostles to snap out of it, to stop looking for Jesus and get on with the task at hand: “that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” It’s time to do their job, to proclaim Jesus to the ends of the earth.

Are we on board with this? Are we ready to take up the mantle of the apostles or would we rather that Jesus could be walked with, talked with, eaten with, instead of preaching the Gospel? Is preaching of repentance and the Gospel enough to save? Is it enough for your loved one, for the world? Is it even the salvation you are looking for? Are you like the apostles, staring up, wishing Jesus would still be here with us or that He would come back, try something else that doesn’t involve as much work?

Have no fear, Christ will come back, of that you can be certain. He has promised as much. But in the meantime, there is much work that needs to be done. The Ascension of Our Lord is not some retreat from but rather, the advance in Christ’s saving work. Our priorities, our doubts, our gaps in knowledge, prove us to be skeptical of Jesus’ plan, like that of the apostles. We’re staring up into heaven, wishing He’d hurry back. Jesus is doing what He needs to be doing right now: sitting at the right hand of God, the Father Almighty. But surely there is more that needs to be done right now.

There is, and Jesus has tasked the apostles to go forth and spread the good news. Throughout the centuries, it trickles down through the ones who are called, to continue to spread the good news, to preach the Gospel. And what is it we do preach? Because Christ has risen from the grave, we know that we too will rise from the grave. But that’s only part of it. Because Christ has ascended unto the Father, so we will ascend as well. We will be with Him in glory. We will enjoy all of the benefits Christ has won for us. We have the forgiveness of our sins granted to us in our Baptism and won by Christ’s death and resurrection. We have life because Christ has laid down His life and taken it up again in order to grant life for all believers.

When Jesus ascended, He didn’t “check out” of this world and left salvation up for grabs. He is ensuring that the Church that lives by His Word and Spirit will endure and prosper until He returns. And Jesus will do just that, return. As we confess in the Creed, “From thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.” Just because Christ has ascended doesn’t mean that His work is done. By His death and resurrection, He promises to us, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” Christ will indeed return and when He does, all will experience that return, either with joy or fear.

We are left much like the apostles were when Christ ascended, eyes raised to heaven, looking for our risen and ascended Lord. Luke ends the Ascension account with these words: “And they worshiped him and returned to Jerusalem with great joy, and were continually in the temple blessing God.” May that ever be the Church – filled with great joy and in the Father’s house, blessing Him for the gift of salvation that comes through Jesus Christ. 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.

Easter 6C

Text: John 16:23-33

C 59 Easter 6
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.

If you heard Jesus’ words from last week’s Gospel reading, then you’re all set for part two of Jesus’ diatribe. If you missed the first part of Jesus’ diatribe or if you’ve forgotten, Jesus is speaking of His impending departure, but before that happens, He needs to share more with them. In His absence, He will send forth the Spirit of truth, the Holy Spirit, “and he will declare to you the things that are to come.” Jesus then goes on to tell the disciples, “A little while, and you will see me no longer; and again a little while, and you will see me.” Following that, there is confusion among the disciples. In the end, there will a time of sorrow but that sorrow will turn into joy. He ends by saying, “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.”

As Jesus continues His conversation with the disciples, He says, “In that day you will ask nothing of me. Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you. Until now you have asked nothing in my name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.” Jesus tells them that they have full access to God through Himself, something that they never enjoyed before. Prior to Jesus, access to the Father was always made through a mediator, through a sacrifice, through some sort of go-between. But with Jesus, that is no longer the case. Jesus is the bridge between God and man. Jesus is the sacrifice that is needed to make full atonement of man’s sin.

Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, promises us that our needs will be met, though it may not be met according to our standards. He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whatever you ask of the Father in my name, he will give it to you.” We learn that, even as the petitions that we pray are made in Jesus’ name, so also the giving of what is asked is done in His name as well; it is made in connection with the revelation of Jesus as this is embraced by faith. That means for us that our prayers are indeed answered, though maybe not the way we would want them to be answered. God hears the prayers of His people and answers them according to His good and gracious will, meaning He will answer them as it benefits us in a God-pleasing way.

While Jesus has spoken much of His ministry in parables and other figures of speech, our Lord speaks plainly regarding the Father: “In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God. I came from the Father and have come into the world, and now I am leaving the world and going to the Father.”

Of all the things Jesus has said, the disciples hear one thing that resonates with them, and it’s not something that they want to hear: Jesus was leaving them. They weren’t quite sure how this would happen, but they knew that He would be leaving them. They could not imagine living in a world without Jesus, yet in a few hours that is just what they will experience. They will watch Jesus’ arrest, trial, crucifixion, and death.

How does this come back to praying and asking in the Father’s name? What is it that the disciples need right now with the pending crucifixion of Jesus? They need understanding, they need clarity. As Jesus speaks, we know what is going to happen. Following the events of Holy Week, following what takes place on Easter Sunday, following the Ascension, Jesus takes His place behind the Father and God the Father deals with us, just as lovingly and just as intimately as Jesus did with His inner circle of disciples. He loves us because of the love of Jesus shown to us.

Christ is our Mediator and Advocate. We confess with John: “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” Our Lord promises, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” At the end of our text for today, Jesus reassures the disciples by telling them, “But
take heart; I have overcome the world.”
This is Christ’s assurance to them and to us all that Christ has indeed won the victory over the world and has won for us everlasting life.

Think of what that means for you, the beloved and redeemed children of God. Because Christ has overcome the world, we can be confident of life in His name: the promise of becoming a child of God, forgiven through His life, death, and resurrection; forgiven by the waters of Holy Baptism; having a faith strengthened and nourished through Christ’s body and blood given to us through His Holy Supper.

Our Lord tells us, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.” This world will indeed pass away and all that is in it. Things will get worse, but we are not left without hope. Because of what Jesus Christ has done for us, “we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Through His life, death, and resurrection, we have received the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. That means when this world seems to be falling apart around us, when things can’t seem to get worse than what they already are but they do, there is hope for us. We as Christians continue to pray. We pray that God’s will be done. We pray for God’s blessings upon us. And we are certain that God will indeed hear our prayers, for He has promised to hear the prayers of His people. But not only does He hear them, He promises to answer them as well. Fortunately for us, God does not answer the way that we would like or the way that we think is best; rather, God answers them in the way the He knows to be best for us, granting to us all that is good. Because of what Jesus has done for us, we have been given direct access to the Father and God does indeed hear the prayers of His people. We know that He will indeed answer the prayers of His people according to His good and gracious will, “For the Father himself love you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.”

God hears your prayers prayed in Jesus’ name. To pray in Jesus’ name is to trust that the prayer will be answered because Christ has died for you. And to pray in Jesus’ name is to trust that His will is best, rather than imposing our own sinful desires on Him. Rejoice, too, in this: after Jesus spoke of prayer in John 16, He then went to the Garden of Gethsemane and prayed for His disciples—and prayed for you. Even now, He prays for you until He comes again. Therefore, rejoice: you can be sure that the Lord hears your prayers for Jesus’ sake because you are forgiven for all of your sins.  In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Easter 7 – “Jesus Prays” (John 17:1-11)

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.

There are many a thing you can buy from your local big box store or online store. Depending on how soon you want it, you can get it with free shipping or pay a little extra and get it the next day. Being a very consumer-driven society, we like to have things in our hands as soon as we want them. You can find just about everything you want online, that is, with one exception – eternal life.

In our Gospel account today, Jesus addressed the Father and made a statement that only He could make: “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all, whom you have given him.” You want eternal life? You’re not going to find it via any physical or online store. To find eternal life, you must be connected to Jesus, for it is Jesus alone who gives eternal life. And the only way to be connected to Jesus isn’t because of you, as hard as that is to admit. Unfortunately, we are told that we get to choose Jesus. We’re asked when we made the decision to accept Jesus into our hearts. However, that is not scriptural. In fact, Jesus tells us, “You did not choose me, but I chose you….”

If you want eternal life, you need to be connected to Jesus. But what exactly does that mean? Is there something you have to do, something you have to believe? As far as something to do, the answer is nothing, for Christ has already done what is necessary to redeem you, a poor, miserable sinner. He has gone from heaven to earth and hell for you. And after His resurrection, after appearing to countless souls in order for them to believe that He is the Christ, the Son of the living God, He ascended back to heaven where He judges the living and the dead. He has done all that you could not do, all that you could never do. He has kept God’s Law perfectly, making full atonement for the sins of the world. The only thing left to do then is to believe, and even that is something you cannot do.

Do not forget Jesus’ words that you did not choose Him, and so writes Luther, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him….” We don’t get to choose Jesus, nor could we. Through the work of the Holy Spirit are we able to believe in Jesus. But what do we believe about Jesus? Do you believe that Jesus is God or do you believe that Jesus is man? Do you believe that Jesus is real or just a figment of the church’s making? What you believe about Jesus is indeed important when it comes to faith, for you can believe in Jesus and believe wrongly.

When it comes to Jesus, one must believe certain things. One must believe that Jesus Christ is both true God and true man. One must believe that Jesus Christ is the sole means of salvation and that only by what He has done do we inherit eternal life. Jesus also tells us, “And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.” There is only a singular God that saves. It is not a god of our choosing. It is not any god that we want. It is the God of creation. It is God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

As for Jesus, it is not the chalk-sized Jesus in your heart. It is not the Jesus that gives you approval of everything you do, regardless of whether or not your actions are sinful. It is the Jesus who laid down His life, only to take it up again on behalf of the Father’s will.

This is the glory of the Son: To serve all, according to His Father’s bidding. His service is not just beginning, and He clearly prays, “I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.” He has lived that life of work – He has fulfilled the prophecies by His teaching, His miracles and wonders. He’s been the righteous servant, upheld by God as He has mercifully exercised justice. He has lived His perfect life for the world, to credit all who believe in Him with His righteousness. Now, the ultimate glory: He is going to die for the world.

Jesus’ glory, then, is to fulfill the work that His Father has given Him. It will not be glorious in the world’s terms. In exchange for beauty, the Lord takes a beating. In exchange for strength, He accepts weakness. Instead of putting His foes in their place, He allows their mockery on the cross. It is not glorious in the world’s eyes, but it is the Father’s will. We behold His glory at the cross, full of grace and truth.

In order for this to all take place, you need an intercessor; you need Christ. It is Christ who always makes appeals for you on high. You can be certain that the heavenly Father hears the intercession of His Son and answers in your favor. The intercession that Jesus prays for is “Holy Father, keep them in your name,” the name of protection against an evil world.

You need the Lord’s intercession, for the world resolves war against you and your unity with Him. You are contending against lethal powers that intend to destroy your unity with the Father and the Son, namely, the devil, the world, and your own sinful flesh, in order to lead you to abandon His name, Word, and work. There is nothing more that the devil wants than for you to doubt, to question God. If you do that, then the devil wins.

Christ our Lord gave to His disciples His Word, but not just to them; He has given that Word to you. There in His Word are the promises that He has made for you. There in His Word is the promise of forgiveness for you. There in His Word is the promise of salvation for you. There in His Word is the promise of everlasting life for you. These are promises that are not made lightly. These are promises that came at great cost, all for you. It cost the Father His own beloved Son. It cost the Son His very life. Given the costs, we would say they were high, maybe even too high. Could we really justify the life of our only-begotten son for someone else? I think we would be hard-pressed to justify that, yet God did not think twice about it. He did not question the price because you are His creation and when He created you in His image, that is how He meant for you to be: holy, perfect, without sin. The only way for creation to be restored is by the death of Christ; but not just by His death but by His resurrection also.

This is why Jesus prays in the text today: That you would thankfully receive His Word and gladly hear and learn it. That you would call upon His Name in time of trouble, pray, praise and give thanks. That you would hear Him and call upon His Name, rejoicing in the forgiveness He has won for you, giving thanks that He has united you with the rest of the Church. Until then, listen to the Lord Jesus pray, for He prays for you and all of creation. Because of Christ and what He has done, for all that He prays, you may be certain you are forgiven for all of your sins. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.