I Will Not Leave You As Orphans – A Sermon on John 14.15-21

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The year was 203 AD. The Roman Empire was still strong, but in that time the economy was beginning to flounder. And the great economic indicator of the day was how well the temples to the gods were doing. Each of those temples represented part of the civic life of every Roman citizen. And if the temples weren’t doing well, then nobody was doing well.

Ordinarily, the Romans didn’t care what the Christians believed. As long as they did what they did in their own homes, and it didn’t threaten the Empire, they were completely free to worship any way they wished. But in order to bolster the economy, the Romans passed laws requiring everyone in the empire to make sacrifices at the temples. Hardly anybody believed in the Roman gods. But everyone went anyways, for the good of the nation. But what truly flabbergasted the Romans was that the Christians refused to participate. Because nobody was asking them to change their beliefs, only to take part in the community, just like everyone else. Eventually came the arrests and the trials. And these bizarre Christians were more than happy to confess their guilt. And even more than happy to be executed over this.

One day, the Romans found a group in what we might call today a new member’s class. They were a group of all ages, learning about the faith. They were being instructed in order to eventually receive Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. And while gathered together, they were arrested. In the group was a young woman, who had just given birth a few months ago, named Perpetua. And there was another young woman who was pregnant, named Felicitas.

Perpetua came from a wealthy household. But the arrest was an embarrassment to her husband, who refused to have anything to do with her anymore. However, her father came by every day, pleading with her to make the sacrifices. From his perspective, nobody was asking her to give up her faith. Just go through the motions,. Save your life. Don’t leave your child an orphan. Don’t break your father’s heart. Perpetua asked her father to raise her child. He refused, hoping that her motherly love would kick in, and she would give up this silly religion. She did not.

Felicitas, in contrast, was poor. She didn’t have any family come to see her at all. So Felicitas gave birth while in prison, with only her fellow prisoners to care for her. The guards taunted her birth pains, telling her that it would hurt even more when the lions tore her to pieces. And all she had to do was make a sacrifice to the Roman gods, whether she meant it or not. And then she would be free. Her child would not be an orphan. She could live an ordinary life. She did not.

Why? Because they took seriously Jesus’ words from today’s Gospel lesson.“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Perpetua and Felicitas believed Jesus’ Word. Even if they didn’t know that much of it just yet. They knew that Jesus was the only God. They knew that they were not supposed to bow down to any other god. And they knew that Jesus loved them. Died for them. Rose for them. They knew that Jesus overcame death for their sakes. And that was enough. That is faith. For even the simplest faith, faith the size of a mustard seed, was enough to confidently stare death in the eye, and be confident that no matter what it did, Christ had already won.

The world does not understand. The world cannot receive this kind of faith. The world hears Jesus’ words, “I will not leave you as orphans,” and points to the children of Perpetua and Felicitas, who were adopted by the members of their church. And even our old sinful flesh, still inside of us, wonders if Jesus really means what He says. Because the world really hasn’t changed all that much out there since 203 AD. The world still cannot understand why you will not bow down at their meaningless idols. Our families don’t always understand why we don’t just go along to get along. Even those closest to us might see our faith as either stupidity or insanity. Because even though history doesn’t always repeat itself, it does always rhyme.

Jesus says in our Gospel lesson today, I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. Of course the Romans wouldn’t understand why Christians would need to make a stand for Christ. And we should not be surprised either when the world cannot understand when we make a stand for Christ as well. Because we can see in the account of Perpetua and Felicitas, that Christ did not leave them as orphans in their need. Nor did He leave His disciples as orphans in our text. Nor does He leave us as orphans today.

The whole adult instruction class continued, even from prison. Perpetua and Felicitas were baptized behind bars. And the night before they were to enter the colosseum, they received the body and blood of Christ. Jesus was there with them, in the flesh. And in what should have been their darkest hour, they were honored to bear His Name. This is what Jesus with us looks like. This is how that day was written down: “The day of their victory dawned, and they marched from the prison to the amphitheater joyfully, as though they were going to heaven, with calm faces, trembling, if at all, with joy rather than with fear.

Likewise, the disciples themselves, after Jesus ascended into heaven, and the Holy Spirit came to them. They were not afraid of death. Or of dying. Or of anything else that the world could do. Because Christ did not leave them as orphans either. He was with them as they stood before sanhedrins and councils, before kings and governors, before even their executioners. Jesus gave them faith in something real. Jesus was by their side. What could anyone do to them that Jesus had not already overcome?

Because they killed Jesus too. We in our sin, killed Jesus too. We put Him on that cross. We drove the nails into His hands and feet. We betrayed Him. We gloated over Him. And Jesus in fact died. But on the third day, He rose from the dead. And instead of coming to us and claiming a vengeance that would have rightfully been His, Jesus proclaimed to us that our every sin has been forgiven. That His death paid for them all. Jesus overcame every sin in the world. Jesus overcame the death of everyone and everything. Jesus overcame it all. And He did it for the disciples. He did it for Perpetua and Felicitas. And He did it for you. And if He has already done that? What can possibly be done to us to take that away? After all, Jesus doesn’t ask us to go through anything that He Himself hasn’t been through already. There is nothing new the world can do. And Jesus Christ is with you today.

When Jesus said, “I will not leave you as orphans,” He also said, “I will come to you.” But it’s even better than our English translation puts it. I will come to you is future tense, meaning that it hasn’t happened yet. But the original isn’t in future tense. It’s in present tense. It’s not, I will come to you sometime. But rather, I come to you now. And that’s exactly what Jesus does. And that’s exactly what happened for the disciples the night Jesus spoke those words. Because it was the same night when He was betrayed. When He took bread, broke it and said to His disciples, “Take and eat, this is my body, given for you.” When He took the cup, gave thanks and gave it to them saying, “Take and drink, this is my blood, shed for your forgiveness.”

Jesus likewise was with Perpetua and Felictas. Not in the future tense, but the present tense. He was with them through His Word proclaimed. He was with them in their baptism. He was with them in His body and blood. And that hasn’t changed for you and me either. Jesus is here with us right now in the exact same way. Giving us the exact same faith. Refusing to leave us as orphans in this world filled with death. But being with us every step of the way. Adopting us as children of God. Making us heirs of His kingdom. Giving us life forever.

So does that mean the disciples didn’t have to suffer anything? Does that mean that Perpetua and Felicitas were let out of prison? Does that mean that we’re free from all the things in this world that could ever hurt us? Not at all. The disciples died for their faith. Perpetua and Felicitas died in the colosseum. We too will face the wrath of the world. But we do not face it alone. Jesus Christ does not leave us as orphans. He is here right now with us in the midst of it all. Jesus is here, forgiving our sins, bearing our pain, and raising us from the dead. That’s what Jesus does. That’s what Jesus gives. Thanks be to God.

Categories: Sermon

Anything in My Name, A Mother’s Prayer – (Sermon on John 14:1-14)

May 12, 2017 Comments off

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. For being Mother’s Day, Jesus sure talks about the Father a lot in our Gospel lesson, doesn’t He? There is so much to unpack in today’s text, that there’s no way we can get to it all. We have Jesus telling us that He is indeed God. We have Jesus telling us that there is a place that He prepares for us. We have Jesus as the only path to salvation. We have Jesus as the way, the truth and the life. And we have the promise, “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

As important as all of these are, I think the most pressing one for most of us today is this last one. Not because we’re going out and asking for things like a million dollars, or some other selfish desire. We know that asking in Jesus’ name is to ask what Jesus would ask for. We already know that our Lord will not give us temporary things that are detrimental to our faith. But that’s not our prayer. This Mother’s Day we pray for something infinitely more important. And it’s the prayer of both mothers and fathers. It’s the prayer of sisters and brothers. It’s the prayer of children, godparents, aunts and uncles. It’s the prayer of friends and family. “Lord, please. Please bring this child back to your Church.”

If there’s anything worth praying about, it’s this. If there’s anything we want to ask in Jesus’ name, it’s this. If we were to only ever get one thing for all the Mother’s days, or any day for that matter, we hope it would be this. And every day that Christ Jesus delays in answering this prayer with a yes is another day that our hearts are troubled. Because the most frightening things we can imagine is them falling away from the faith. And every day they’re not here receiving Christ’s gifts, is a one day closer to that being a reality.

But in our text today, Jesus says, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” Easy for Him to say. Yet we must remember the context in which Jesus says these words. John chapter fourteen doesn’t start with Jesus in some random town, teaching His disciples just like any other time. No, this is right after chapter thirteen. Jesus in the upper room with His disciples, right before he goes to the cross. And the last verse of that chapter is Jesus telling those disciples that they are all going to fall away from the faith that night. Even Peter, who boldly proclaims that he would happily die with Jesus, is told that he will himself deny Jesus three times. The very thing we fear most for our loved ones.

And yet Jesus’ very next words to them all are, “Let not your hearts be troubled.” Despite knowing that they will for a time not believe, Jesus commands them that very night, “Believe in God; believe also in me.” Why? Because Jesus is going to the Father in order to prepare a place for the disciples. A place for you. A place for them. And for some reason, we assume that this place must be heaven. And therefore Jesus going to His Father happens after the resurrection, when He ascends into heaven.

But perhaps we should instead remember that Jesus is going to His Father that very morning. The place that Jesus readies is right here. For Jesus meets His Father at the cross. And He meets Him while carrying our every sin. There, the Father pours out His entire wrath over that sin. And that includes all the times when the disciples turn away. That includes all the times we turn away. And that includes all the times when our loved ones turn away. Jesus carries every single one to His cross in order to forgive us of our every sin.

In that death and resurrection, Jesus shows us what being the way, the truth, and the life means. Thomas asked, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” As if Jesus were at the end of the path, just waiting for us and our loved ones to walk down and finally reach Him. But Jesus corrects Thomas. “I am the way.” Jesus is the road. Jesus is the path. It’s not that we finally decide to get up, and eventually make our way to Him. Instead, Jesus comes to us. Jesus comes to our loved ones. And Jesus does not let any of us go so easily. No matter how loudly any of us protest about it.

Jesus is even going to be with those we love who we want to come to His Church by coming through you. Yes, we remember to pray. But Christ does also speak through you. Though remember, faith, trust, and belief don’t come by the Law. They don’t come by demands and threats. Faith comes through the Gospel. Faith comes through the death and resurrection of Jesus proclaimed. And you don’t need to know any more than you already know to do that. When they’re scared, remind them that Christ faced those fears at His cross on their behalf. When they’re hurting, remind them that Jesus died for that. When they’re wondering how to make it through this life, remind them that our Lord is by their side even now. And to remind them where Jesus does this the most clearly: In His Church, where He has promised to be for you. You know, the very same things Jesus tells us in His Word, when those things overwhelm us.

So, okay, when are we going to get that answer of yes from Him? Because we want what we want, and we want it now. And that’s the part that’s hard. Our Lord never does things on our timeline. He is far more patient than we are. After all, he gave the kingdom of Judah 150 years of time to turn back to Him before the Exile. And when they didn’t come back, He used the Exile itself to bring them back to Him.

Jesus has that same patience with our children, and those we love. Jesus has that same patience with us as well. He knows when the right time is. And until then, we must rely on His promises. That a bruised reed he will not break, nor a smoldering wick will He put out. That there’s a reason why Jesus tells us to not let our hearts be troubled. Because Jesus does keep His promises. Every last one of them. In His time, and in His way. Not ours.

But we also know the way in which Jesus will bring them back. And we confess that way in the explanation of the Third Article. “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. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth.” This is what Jesus goes to the Father to do. This is why Jesus goes to His cross. The death and resurrection of Jesus is the very Gospel by which we are all saved. The very good news that forgives our every sin. The Word that creates faith in us all.

And so, it is right to say that the only thing we have to hold onto is the promises of Christ. But of all the things in this world to hold on to, these promises, anchored in Good Friday and Easter Sunday are the only things that last forever. And these are the promises that hold onto to the disciples. These are the promises that hold onto you. And these are the promises that hold on to your children, and the ones you love. We are all in His hands. And there is no better place to possibly be. Thanks be to God.

Categories: Sermon

Jesus Is the Door – A Sermon on John 10:1-10

May 6, 2017 Comments off

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Fourth Sunday of Easter is historically remembered as Good Shepherd Sunday. Because it’s on this Sunday that we read John, chapter 10, where Jesus talks about shepherd’s, sheep, and who He is. However, since going to the three year series a few decades back, we have broken up John chapter 10 into three sections. And this year our section doesn’t actually include the part where Jesus says, “I am the Good Shepherd.” But rather the part where Jesus says, “I am the door.

Jesus also spends all of today’s text warning us to beware of false teachers. Beware of those who climb in the sheepfold without using the gate, who is Christ. There is only one reason that they’re there. And that is to steal away your faith. But how seriously do we actually take Jesus’ warning? Do we know what a false teacher sounds like? Can we spot a wolf in shepherd’s clothing?

I dare say, and perhaps I’m wrong, that we already know how to keep a look out for those in wolves’ clothing. They’re the ones who are obviously enemies of God. The ones who hate everything about Jesus. The ones who take every opportunity to revile His name. We do a really good job of staying away from those people. Which is a shame, because those aren’t the ones that Jesus tells us to flee. Those are the ones Jesus tells us to go to. To minister to. To give the glass of cold water to. Because those are the ones who are hurting, and need Christ the most. Those are sheep trapped inside of wolves’ clothing, and they need the death and resurrection of Jesus to set them free.

But I also dare say that we are actually nearly ignorant of wolves in sheep’s clothing. We can spot a few here and there when they’re particularly wolf-like. We know a few false teachers by name, and I’ll bet that you can even name a couple of them yourself. But why are they false teachers? Why are they wolves in sheep’s clothing? Do we know? Well, that’s what today’s gospel lesson deals with. “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. But he who enters by the door is a shepherd of the sheep.” And we know that Jesus is that door.

If someone comes to you claiming the name of Christian, and yet does not speak of Christ, they have not entered the sheepfold by the Door. If instead of hearing what Jesus has done for you, you hear what they did for Jesus, they have not entered the sheepfold by the Door. If instead of hearing that in His great love, Jesus suffered and died for your sake, you hear how much they love Jesus, they have not entered the sheepfold by the door. If I as your pastor do not proclaim the death and resurrection of Jesus to you each and every time I step into this pulpit, then I have not entered the sheepfold by the Door, and you need to let me know that.

You see, to enter the sheepfold as a thief and a robber is not necessarily something that happens on purpose. Many wolves in sheep’s clothing have the very best of intentions. And yet, in the hope of reaching more people. In the attempt to make the message relatable. In listening to our own preferences and to the desires of our own hearts, we forget to use the door. We forget to preach the Word of Christ. Or use only enough Word out of context to say what we want to say, rather than what Christ would have us say. And we forget that the sheep will not listen to any other voice.

Here’s a Law moment. Whose voice do you listen to? That question makes me uncomfortable. Because too often I’ve listened to those voices that didn’t belong to Christ. Too often I have followed where they have led. Too often I have failed to flee like Christ says His sheep will. And it makes me wonder, just how much have the thieves and robbers taken away? Am I actually a member of Christ’s fold? Or have I been fooling myself all this time?

And that’s where we absolutely must cling to the promise that Jesus Himself gives to us in today’s text. “I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved.” You have already entered the sheepfold by means of Christ. You are baptized. You have come inside His Church through the door that is Jesus. When the water and the Word sealed you on the day of your baptism, Jesus joined you to His cross, His death. And that includes all the times where we have listened to the wrong word, followed the wrong way, and failed to flee when we were supposed to. Every time we have sinned, in fact every sin has died with Christ.

But “if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.” “If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Have we strayed? Without a doubt. And yet our Shepherd continually brings us back in. As St. Peter says in our Epistle lesson, “By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now been returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

You see, we know Jesus’ voice. Because His voice is there in every Word in Scripture. And every Word is there to give us the comfort of Jesus’ cross and grave, His death and resurrection. So that no matter what happens, no matter how far we stray, no matter how badly we have sinned, Jesus bears it all. Even when we stumble into death itself, that isn’t too far for Christ to reach us. Even there, He’s right by our side.

So yes, we do still need to be aware of thieves, robbers and enemies of the Gospel. We need to know that any word that claims to be Christian, and leaves out Christ is given only to steal us away, empty our cup, destroy our faith. And yet with great confidence, Jesus promises to you that they will not succeed. For Yahweh is my shepherd, I will not lack anything. In pastures of green He causes me to lie down, over waters of rest He leads me. My soul He restores. He leads me in the righteous course for the sake of His name. Also as I walk in the valley of death’s shadow, I do not fear evil, because you stand with me. Your rod and your staff, these comfort me. You set in order before me a table conspicuous to my adversaries. You make my head fat in oil, my cup is saturated. Surely good and lovingkindness will pursue me all the days of my life and I will rest in the house of Yahweh for long days.

Christ Jesus is both our Shepherd and our Door. He is the one who closes out the thieves, robbers and wolves. He is the one who closes our sin behind Him in His grave. And He is the one who opens eternal life to us through His resurrection from the dead. This is His promise. And He sealed that promise through water and His Word in your baptism. So this promise is sure. This promise is real. This promise is yours. Thanks be to God.

Categories: Sermon

Suddenly Walking in Sorrow – A Sermon on Luke 24:13-35

April 28, 2017 1 comment

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. What was it like for those two disciples on the road to Emmaus? One week earlier, they had just seen Jesus ride into Jerusalem. The palm branches of victory were waving. People were lining the road with their cloaks. They were shouting Hosanna for Him. Even as late as Thursday, things looked to be going great. In fact, they couldn’t be better. This is what they always wanted.

And, suddenly, in one evening, Jesus was taken away from them. They woke up Friday morning to find that Jesus had already been tried and convicted. And was now in front of Pilate in order to be executed. And before they knew it, it was all over. The palm branches had dried out. The cloaks had been picked up. The hosannas now only a memory. And the only thing that was left was shock and grief. How were they supposed to know that it was the last time they were going to see Jesus? They hadn’t even gotten to say goodbye. When death comes suddenly, we’re left with an emptiness that never feels like it can ever be recovered.

Last week, a friend of mine lost his wife just as suddenly. I remember what it felt like to find out about my own children during miscarriages. Some of you know this kind of loss up close and personal. And you’re never prepared. There’s never a good time for it to happen. Things can never be the way they used to be ever again. And it feels so very lonely. Death doesn’t always warn us when it’s coming. And perhaps that’s the most frightening thing about it all. You never know. But the one question that inevitably comes up in the midst of all this is, “Where is God?” Because isn’t He supposed to be here for times like this?

On the road to Emmaus, I imagine Cleopas and the other disciple had been asking that same question since Friday. Where is God when we need Him most? Can’t He see that Jesus’ life was in danger? Couldn’t He have done something, so that Jesus would live? Why now? Why did it have to happen like this? Isn’t He supposed to be here for times like this? …But what was there now left to do? Death changed everything. And the only place left to go was home. Can’t begin the journey on the Sabbath, so first thing Sunday morning, we’ll just get everything around for our trip, and go. We should make Emmaus by sundown.

Who are you who walk in sorrow – Down Emmaus’ barren road. Hearts distraught and hope defeated – Bent beneath grief’s crushing load. Nameless mourners, we will join you – We who also mourn our dead. We have stood by graves unyielding – Eaten death’s bare, bitter bread.” [Lutheran Service Book 476 v.1]

“What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?” And they stood still, looking sad. Then… Cleopas answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” And he said to them, “What things?” And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened.”

In the middle of our grief, we have a tough time seeing Jesus too. Even though there’s no one we would like to see more. We want Him to show us something, anything, to reassure us that He’s there. Even when He’s right there at our side the whole time. That’s just how lonely death makes us feel.

But Jesus doesn’t wave His arms up and down, and say, “Hey guys, it’s me. Can’t you see me?” He doesn’t say, “Death’s not really that big of deal, get over it already.” Jesus instead opens up the Scriptures, and shows them that all of it points forward to the death and resurrection of the Christ. Because it was more important for them to see what Jesus did at the cross on their behalf than it was to see Jesus in person. And it’s actually more important for us as well.

But that’s not how it feels. Not to us when we’re going through all of this. The Scripture part seems like it’s not what should matter at all. We’d love at least to get a glimpse of Jesus to tide us over until that last day. But even more, we would give everything, do anything, in order to see those we lost just one more time.

But it’s the Word of God that tells us that we don’t have to do anything at all in order to see them again. It’s what Christ Jesus did on the cross that gives us not just one more time, but resurrection from the dead with them forever. Which is far better than even what we wish for with all our hearts. That Word of God sustained the two on their journey all the way to Emmaus. And that same Word of God sustains us in our grief, and in our loss.

“Who is this who joins our journey – Walking with us side by side? Unknown Stranger can you fathom – Depths of grief for one who died? Then the wonder when we told You – How our dreams to dust have turned. Then You opened wide the Scriptures – Till our hearts within us burned.” [Lutheran Service Book 476 v.2]

So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.” So he went in to stay with them. When he was at table with them, he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them.

Is there even any question at all what this is? You want to see Jesus. You want to know that He is here with you. They recognized Jesus in the breaking of the bread. They recognized Jesus at the Lord’s Supper, where Jesus gives us His body, and His blood. At the supper, the veil of death is finally pulled back. The mask is broken. Death’s hold is shattered. And there is Jesus for you, and with you.

You want to see your loved one who died in the faith again? Come to the Lord’s Supper. There’s a reason that ancient communion rails were make in a half circle. There’s a reason ours curves around. Because this is the place where heaven and earth meet. There is only one altar, and Jesus presides at it. And around on the other side kneels the entire church of God, waiting for the day of resurrection to come. It’s in the supper that we are all together again. Receiving the death and resurrection of Christ. Receiving the forgiveness of sins. Receiving life everlasting. Receiving the promise of the last day, the promise of a new heavens, the promise of a new earth.

The suddenness of death takes away a lot of things. It takes away the people we hold dear. It takes away those we love. And that hurts beyond belief. But death cannot take them away forever. Nor even for very long at all. Because death cannot take away being a member of the body of Christ. And therefore, death cannot truly take them away from us. Just as death could never truly take away Christ Jesus. Being around this altar is our comfort. Being around this altar is our hope. Being around this altar is where we see Jesus. And He’s here for you.

Who are You? Our hearts are opened – In the breaking of the bread Christ the victim, Christ the victor – Living, risen from the dead! Great Companion on our journey – Still surprise us with Your grace! Make each day a new Emmaus – On our hearts Your Image trace.” [Lutheran Service Book 476 v.3]

Thanks be to God.

Categories: Sermon

He Is Not Here, He Is Risen – A Sermon on Matthew 28:1-10

April 15, 2017 Comments off

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. You seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here. The body of Jesus is not in the tomb where he was laid when He died. That is a fact that all people agree upon. Even the enemies of Jesus. The question is, what does this mean?

One might argue that the Pharisees were right. Jesus’ fishermen disciples overpowered the trained and battle-hardened Roman soldiers, and stole away the body. And then were willing to be tortured and put to death in the most painful ways imaginable in order to perpetuate a lie that a man rose from the dead. Or maybe Jesus didn’t actually die when they took him down from the cross. Maybe the Romans who know what death looks like better than even we do today, missed the fact that He was still breathing. Maybe Jesus survived the scourging, the nails, the asphyxiation, the spear in the side, the cold stone slab, and the complete lack of food, water and medical attention, and somehow got better. You might believe that the words “He is not here,” don’t really mean anything at all.

Or maybe Jesus really did rise from the dead. But that still doesn’t really mean a whole lot for us today. We don’t mind giving Jesus a big thumbs up for his absolutely unheard of accomplishment. But we’re going to go back to our lives, and live them as if what Jesus did has nothing to do with us. And what He said means even less. We’ve got ourselves to look out for, after all. We need to make sure we have everything we need. A good job. Kids in sports on Sundays. A 60-inch flat screen to watch football on. My day to day entertainment is far more important than someone who claimed to be God, rising from the dead about 2,000 years ago, and teaching me what life is all about.  The words, He is not here, may mean that Jesus isn’t looking, so I can do what I want.

Or maybe Jesus really did rise from the dead, and I do like to pay attention to some of what He said. But I really only want to listen to Him on my terms. I’ll find Him in the places that appeal to me. I’ll worship Him in the way I feel like. I’ll make time for Him when I want. And if Jesus really wants to save me, then He’ll accommodate me. As if my heart was a true and righteous judge of things, rather than the source of all the evil that comes out of me, like Jesus says. I’ll only listen to the places where Jesus says something I like. And I can just ignore all the rest. That makes me feel good. I can be happy. I can see God in all the coincidences in life. I can be a spiritual person. And I can believe that this is what Jesus wants from me, because it’s exactly the same as what I want for me. The words, He is not here, mean that Jesus is anywhere I want Him to be.

Or maybe the words mean, He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. Jesus said He would be crucified. Jesus said He would die. Jesus said that He would rise on the third day. He’s not here, so what Jesus said matters. All of it. You know what else Jesus said? Jesus said, “I am God.” Jesus said, “Every Word in Scripture is about Me. They’re My words, whether you like them or not.” And there is lot not to like.

Because Jesus has something to say about our desires. Jesus has something to say about how we speak about others. Jesus has something to say about what belongs to us and what doesn’t. Jesus has something to say about marriage, children, divorce, and homosexuality. Jesus has something to say about abortion, and assisted suicide, and merciful deaths. Jesus has something to say about anger and hatred. Jesus has something to say about authority, and the respect it is to be given. Jesus has something to say about how we treat His Word, how we use His name, and what our priorities are. And the world hates everything that Jesus has to say about all those things.

And so do we. Part of us hates those words. Because in those words, you and I are condemned. You and I are shown to be sinners of the greatest magnitude. You and I have failed to do what Jesus says. Because we hate the words of the man who claimed to be God, then didn’t stay dead. And you know what we’ve earned because we treat His Word that way? That cross right there. The cross up there is only there for one thing. Execution. You and I are not good people. Our hearts prove it. And nobody else is good either. No matter how much we wish we were. No, we have earned eternal death by our own sin.

And so the last thing anyone wants to see is the cross. Why do you think ISIS in the middle east wants every cross taken down? And kills Christians, even on Palm Sunday to make it happen? Why do you think the culture of the West wants every cross removed from the public eye? And takes Christians to court to get their way? Why do you think even Christians ourselves want to take the crosses in our own sanctuaries down? We don’t want to be shown something so gruesome. Therefore many new churches designed to appeal to the masses don’t have a single cross to be found. There is nothing more offensive than the cross. Because it is a reminder about the truth of who I am. What I deserve.

But it’s not me on that cross. It’s not me enduring this execution method. It should be. But it’s not. Instead, it’s Jesus. You see, Jesus didn’t just go to that cross in order to show off who He is. Jesus brought something with Him. Jesus brought your humanity. Jesus brought your guilt. Jesus brought your each and every sin to that cross. And those things all died there with Him. They were buried with Him. And when we look in the tomb, any tomb, there they all are. Here lies fallen humanity. Here lies the guilty. Here lies each and every sin.

But when we come to the tomb of Jesus, there are the angel’s words. He is not here, for He has risen, just as He said. And just as Jesus didn’t go to the cross just to show off who He is, Jesus didn’t rise from the dead just to show off who He is either. Just as Jesus took you to His cross, so also He gives you His resurrection from the dead. The very same body you have right now. The same body that is currently infected with your sin. The same body which will one day die. Jesus is going to raise that body from the dead on the last day. And He’s going to raise it without sin. Without death. Because those sins that stayed in Jesus’ tomb are no longer yours. You are forgiven. You are saved. You are alive in Christ. In the flesh. This is what Jesus has said about you! There is no better news that you could ever receive than this!

He is not here, the angel says when we look in the tomb. But Jesus is here, in His Word. Just as He said. Jesus is here, in baptism. Where you are both buried and raised with Christ. Just as He said. Jesus is here, in His Supper. This is My body. This is My blood. Just as He said. Jesus is here, in His Church. Serving you Himself. Forgiving your sins. Giving you the words of eternal life. Just as He said.

If Jesus stayed dead, then there is nothing in here worth keeping. If Jesus did not stay dead, then everything in here is critical. There is no in between. The words, He is not here, must mean something. And they do. They mean that Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Categories: Sermon

A Very Good Friday – A Sermon on John 18:1-19:42

April 13, 2017 Comments off

Part 1: John 18:1-11 (ESV)

When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

It has been asked where in Scripture Jesus ever makes the claim to be God. It is clearly here. Though, for some reason, we try to hide it in the English. Jesus said to them, “I am.” And at His speaking of the divine name, they all drew back and fell to to the ground. For either Jesus has spoken the greatest of blasphemies, or He has spoken the truth. And either way, fear is a very appropriate response.

However, Jesus is not here to show His own glory. Jesus is here to give His life as a sacrifice on your behalf, to pay for your sin, your shame, your guilt. So Jesus does not chase them away. Jesus does not show them who is boss. Jesus goes with them, as they lead Him to His death. Because the work Jesus does is to die.

But Peter still doesn’t quite get it. And perhaps we might applaud Peter’s bravery and dedication in his decision to defend Jesus with his life. Except Peter doesn’t swing his sword at the soldiers. He doesn’t challenge the officers. He doesn’t charge into those with lanterns and torches and weapons. He instead takes a swing at a servant. An unarmed, defenseless servant. There to watch and report back to the High Priest.

We too want to help Jesus. We too want to be of service to Him. Defend His honor. Stand up for Him when the time is right. All in hopes of Jesus turning to us and saying, “Wow, look how well you did! I’m really proud of you.” But all our efforts to please our Lord by our own works look exactly like Peter’s. But it’s not our job to beat the enemies of Jesus. Put your sword away. Because the work Jesus does is to die.

Part 2: John 18:12-27 (ESV)

So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him. First they led him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people.

Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.

The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.” When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.

Jesus was betrayed in many ways this night. Judas had betrayed him for money. Peter betrayed Him by lies, thinking it was better to stay alive than become dead. And Jesu was betrayed by the people He had chosen through Abraham. And they betrayed Him in order to justify themselves. This trial was simply an exercise in making the Chief Priests and Pharisees feel right about their every action.

Jesus was to be given a trial by law. But the Law didn’t specifically mention that it had to be public. According to the Law, Jesus needed to be proven guilty, either by His own words, or the testimony of two witnesses. But the Law never said specifically whether those witnesses had to be telling the truth to carry out the sentence. Neither did the Law say specifically that the one on trial had to be respected. But Jesus willingly endured it. Because the work Jesus does is to die.

The sentence had been decided before the night had even started. It was not safe to be recognized as a disciple of Jesus. Peter was bold, sort of, when he though Jesus would fight by His side. But to fight alone? It was better to lie, and live to fight another day. It is not safe for us today as well. And we are not as bold as we claim. We too fear to fight alone, or to fight at all. Because there is too much to lose.

Three times Peter lied. Three times Peter betrayed Jesus. All for Jesus’ own good. Because Peter wasn’t any good to Jesus dead. Or so he thought at that moment. Likewise we too will lie. We too deny Jesus. Thinking that we’re preserving something important. But we’re not. Now, Peter was also pretty sure Jesus wasn’t going to be any good to him if Jesus died either. And that’s where Peter was wrong. Because the work Jesus does is to die.

Part 3: John 18:28-40 (ESV)

Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them, “I find no guilt in him. But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.

How ironic, that we can plan the death of an innocent man, and yet we refuse to enter the pagan building in order to keep ourselves holy before God. How ironic that we prefer the sins of Barabbas to the One who takes away our sins away. How ironic that we are a people who insist on truth when it’s to our advantage, and say, “What is truth,” when it’s not. How ironic that we call ourselves good people. Call those who we like good people, when every single one of us does exactly this every day. How ironic it is that we who die aspire most of all to live. And that the One who lives forever aspires to die on our behalf. Because the work Jesus does is to die.

But the kingdom of Christ is not of this world. Our victory or defeat here is not the same as victory or defeat there. A new heavens and a new earth is coming. And the old one will die. Yet Jesus doesn’t not avoid that death. Nor the death that will be inflicted upon Him. He does not circle around it. Instead He takes the path straight through. The wages of sin is death. That is the truth. But there is another truth that goes with it. Jesus does not let you go through alone. He is with you every step of the way. Even when both feet are in the grave. Because the work Jesus does is to die.

Part 4: John 19:1-16a (ESV)

Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”

From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” 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.

He had everything a king could need. The royal robes of brilliant purple around Him. The kingly scepter in His hands. A crown adorning His head. Subjects hailing Him as their monarch. Only the robe was a mockery. The scepter was a reed that they beat Him with. The crown was made of thorns. And His subjects were taunting Him. Behold, behold, your king. This is exactly how Jesus comes to us today. Not as a king that we would kneel down to. But as One who is weak. As One who is in pain. As One who suffers, dies, and is defeated. He is a king without glory. Or rather, His glory is what we call shame. Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him. If He is our choice, then give us no king but Caesar. The work we want, no the work we demand from this Jesus is that He die.

Or perhaps we should wash our hands of Jesus altogether. As if we had no part in sending Him to His death. We may say that it is better for one man to die for the people. We may say that it is better that the innocent man die, than the many suffer. But really, the one man must die, because we’re afraid we’ll lose everything we’ve gained for ourselves if He doesn’t. Even though the authority has been given to you from above. Even though our Lord expects you to proclaim His name to the world. To the people He has put in your lives. We are still afraid. Afraid to lose. It may be the work of Jesus to die. But why must it be ours as well?

And yet, Jesus endures this all on your behalf. Despite your failures to live up to the name He placed on you in your baptism. Despite your mistakes that cost others so much. Despite the times you can’t get out of your head when you try to sleep at night. Despite your sin, Jesus stays. Because the work Jesus does is to die. And He dies with you.

Part 5: John 19:16b-30 (ESV) 

So they took Jesus, and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,

“They divided my garments among them,

and for my clothing they cast lots.”

So the soldiers did these things, but standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

The Place of a Skull wasn’t just any place to the Jews. In their oral tradition, they believed that Noah had interred the body of Adam himself on the Ark before the floods came. And that Adam’s final resting place ended up being right outside Jerusalem. It wasn’t just the place of anybody’s headbones, it was the place of Adam’s. The early church continued the tradition, even if we’re not sure today whether or not it’s true. Which is why in the ancient pictures of Jesus’ crucifixion, at the foot of the cross, you will find a lone skull. Adam’s skull. So the place where Jesus does His work, the place where Jesus dies is also the place where all humanity dies. The place where we die too.

But before Jesus dies, He says the greatest word that we could ever hear. Τετέλεσται. It is finished. And Jesus isn’t just talking about His life. Nor His ordeal on the cross. No. The wrath of God over our rebellion, it is finished. The Law, and all it’s demands which we cannot ever do on our own, it is finished. The sin of Adam, and all who follow after him, it is finished. The death of Adam, and all his descendants, it is finished. The curse that has affected all of creation, it is finished. Jesus’ work finished it all. For the work Jesus does is to die for you.

Part 6: John 19:31-42 (ESV) 

Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”

After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds in weight. So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

We come back to Adam once more. The Lord put Adam to sleep once, and took, we translate rib, but literally, it was from the side, in order to create a bride for Adam. It was one of only two times that life was ever born from a man. The other is in our text today. For when Jesus fell asleep, when Jesus died, from His side came blood and water. From His side, the Church was born. From His side we are baptized. From His side we are told to take and drink, this is my blood, shed for your forgiveness. To this fact, John the apostle takes three oaths. So that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

We deserved none of it. We are responsible for our own sin. Our own treatment of Christ. And yet, Jesus has done His work. He has died on your behalf. Taking your responsibility and making it His.

Today is Good Friday. Maybe looking at Jesus’ passion, and suffering and death may cause us to ask why such a day as today is good. But the death of Jesus isn’t the defeat of Jesus. It is His victory. Not that Jesus wins despite death. But rather Jesus has won you back by His death. Let the rest of the world hide their eyes. Look and see. We don’t skip by the cross and run only towards Easter morning. This part matters. Because here, the work of Jesus is complete. He has died. God has died. And He died for your sake.

Categories: Sermon

My Blood of the Covenant/Testament – A Sermon on Matthew 26:17-30

April 13, 2017 Comments off

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. What do you know about covenants? And before you answer, we might want to define our terms. Twenty years ago, if you talked about covenant theology, you were probably talking about the Calvinist notion. That the Old Testament was a covenant of works, and the New Testament was a covenant of grace. And your salvation depended on the action of which covenant you were under. Now we have some pretty big problems with that, but that generally isn’t what most American churches today mean when they talk about covenants.

Today’s meaning stemmed from trying to find a better kind of promise. Twenty years ago, programs about promises were the big fad. Promise to do this. Promise to do that. And because you’re a good Christian, you’ll keep your promises, and do good. Maybe some of you even took part in programs like that. And I’ve got nothing against anyone working their hardest to do good. Nor using a program to try and accomplish that. Doing good is what every Christian should always strive for.

However, what happens when you fail? And we’re all sinners, so it isn’t an if, but a when. Some of these programs tied your ability to keep your promise directly to your faith. And if you failed, then it was actually your faith that failed. That’s not so good. However, that’s not necessarily the same problem that other churches diagnosed. Instead, it was thought that promises weren’t serious enough. That people didn’t have enough consequences when their promises were broken. And if they just upped the ante, people would take their responsibility more seriously.

And covenants did exactly that. Covenants were the kinds of promises made in the bible, after all. Jacob has a covenant with Laban. David has a covenant with Jonathan. Jesus has a covenant with His disciples. It’s like a promise, except the stakes are a lot higher. You can’t back out of them so easily. And so any commitment now was so serious, that it became a covenant. You have marriage covenants, purity covenants, stewardship covenants. Hey if you can promise it, it can be a covenant.

And did that help us keep our promises any better? Nope. All it did was take the word “covenant” and make it mean a lot less than it ever used to. So now we hear Moses sprinkle the people with the blood of the covenant in our Old Testament Lesson. We hear that God has made an even better covenant with us in tour Epistle lesson. We hear Jesus give us His own blood as a covenant, and it means nothing to us today. A covenant is just another promise, and promises are made to be broken.

However, just because we have ruined a word today, doesn’t mean that it never meant anything to begin with. In the Old Testament, a covenant is far more than a promise. Far more than even a contract. A covenant could only be made by making a sacrifice. No one ever made a covenant. That’s the wrong verb. You always cut a covenant. Because the animal sacrificed would be cut in half, and the two parties would walk through together. The implication being that if anyone who walked through broke this covenant, what happened to the animal would also happen to them. However, when God made a covenant with His people, He never let the people walk through with Him. The Lord always went through alone. So that if anyone ever broke the covenant, what happened to the animal would also happen to the Lord Himself, and Him alone.

Now, when we come to the New Testament, the Greeks didn’t have a word for covenant the way the Hebrews did. They had to choose a word that meant something close. But the range of it’s meaning did not line up as well as one would have hoped. Because the Greek word we translate in Matthew’s account of the Lord’s Supper as “covenant” actually means the equivalent of our English word “testament.” As in His last will and testament. It too is a legal promise, just like a covenant. However, the other party only gets something when the one who created the promise dies. And that’s a pretty major difference.

So a covenant is a death sentence when it is broken, and a testament is a promise fulfilled upon someone’s death. So, Jesus, which one of these words do you mean when You say, “This is my blood of the covenant, [or testament,] poured out for the many for the forgiveness of sins”? Both. We have broken the covenant, and Christ dies. And yet, by His death, we are given everything that belongs to Christ. So whether we use the word covenant or the word testament, it doesn’t matter. Because in Christ, they are one and the same.

The old covenant and the new covenant are the same. The Old Testament and the New Testament is the same. What makes it new, is the body and blood of Christ. Which is what everyone who goes to the altar to eat and drink receives. You receive Jesus here tonight. Which is why repentance has always been a part of our preparation to receive our God giving Himself to us. And why it is a loving thing to ask those who are not repentant to refrain from coming up. Because telling you that you’ll be okay when stand before God while insisting on holding onto your sin is not something we wish on our worst enemies.

But our Lord does give repentance. Our Lord does give us mercy. Our Lord does give us Jesus. And when we hold onto Jesus alone, instead of our sin, then standing before God is the very best place we could ever be. Because He has paid the price for our breaking the covenant. He has named us inheritors on His last will and testament. He has given His own body to blood to us as a promise. He has gone to the cross and done it all for us. He has forgiven our every sin. It is finished.

So every promise that we’ve ever broken. Every covenant that we’ve failed to live up to. Every law that we’ve ever transgressed. Every sin we’ve ever committed. The blood of Christ covers them all. And tonight of all nights, we remember where Jesus goes. We remember what Jesus did. And Jesus brings that cross to us in the words, “Take, eat, this is My body. Take drink this is My blood.” The covenant is cut. Jesus bleeds. Our Lord dies. And He does it all for you. Thanks be to God.

Categories: Sermon