Fulfilled in Christ

April 12, 2018 Leave a comment

A Sermon on Luke 24:36-49 for the Third Sunday of Easter, series B

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. What is the difference between these two sentences? “Everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” And, “Everything written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled around me.” In the first sentence, the amount of Scripture that needs fulfilled is only as big as the parts that speak about Jesus, whatever amount that is. In the second sentence, all of Scripture is fulfilled, because it’s all about Jesus. The first sentence is how our translation this morning reads. and you can indeed translate the Greek that way. But you can also translate it as the second sentence does, and I think that it better tells us just how big what Jesus did is. 

Jesus continues, Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. If only the parts about Jesus are to be fulfilled, then we can certainly find the place in the Old Testament that clearly spells this out. Isaiah 53, the Suffering Servant. “we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.” “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities.” 

But what specific Old Testament text tells us to expect the resurrection of the Christ, particularly on the third day? If Jesus came to fulfill parts, where is this part? Granted, Job is the one who said, “I know that my Redeemer lives.” So if the Christ dies, then a resurrection makes sense. But why the third day? If Jesus is only a part of what the Old Testament has to say, then this a huge omission, because Jesus says it’s there. And there is no one single chapter and verse that we can point to at all.

But if all of Scripture is about Jesus, we no longer have a problem. Because every generation, every event, every word, is ultimately fulfilled in Jesus. When Abraham had to sacrifice his son Isaac, Isaac’s reprieve came on the third day. And that was about Jesus. When Joseph was in prison, he told Pharaoh’s cup bearer that his reprieve was coming on the third day. And that was about Jesus. When God had Moses plague Egypt with darkness that covered the whole land, the darkness was lifted on the third day. And that was about Jesus. On the third day, when David fled without food from King Saul, the high priest fed him and his men with the holy bread of presence from the tabernacle. And that was about Jesus. 

The Prophet Isaiah told King Hezekiah that his illness would be healed when he visited the temple on the third day, and when he arrived, it was. And that was about Jesus. Jonah emerged from the belly of the fish, where he was buried under the water of the ocean because of his sin on the third day. And that was about Jesus. And so many others, all over in the Old Testament. The third day is when life, healing, and restoration happens. And that was about Jesus. Shouldn’t it then make sense that the resurrection of the Christ be on the third day? The third day of creation is where the trees bore fruit. And it was on the third day that the fruit of the tree of the cross was fully ripened in the resurrection of Christ Jesus our Lord. 

But what else is written? What does Jesus say? Repentance will be preached in His name. Now there’s the subject we don’t like to hear about. At least, I don’t like to hear about it, so I just assume no one else does either. Because to have repentance preached to us means that we did something wrong. I don’t like to think I ever did anything wrong. And if accused, I will justify myself. I’ve got practice. I’m good at it.

Therefore, I don’t want to hear about repentance. The old, sinful Adam in me turns it off. Let the God of the Old Testament talk about repentance, I’ll stick to Jesus. But do we think that just because Jesus has come, we suddenly stopped doing the very things that made His death necessary to begin with? That we have no need to repent like the people of old? Or that Jesus Himself didn’t just spend his entire ministry telling everyone to repent? Or that today’s Gospel lesson doesn’t contain repentance preached to us in particular? 

In our Thursday morning Bible Study, we’re going chapter by chapter through the book of Isaiah. And the Lord has mountains to say about our need to repent. Not just in Isaiah, but all over the Old Testament. And what was said all those years ago is still true today. You and I both need to repent of our sins. We need to turn from them. Acknowledge that we are in fact wrong. And place our hope in the mercy of God rather than our own goodness, which doesn’t exist. I have sinned. I have loved myself rather than God. I have hurt my neighbor. And I have tried to make the argument that it’s totally okay that I did. Jesus tells you and I both, “Repent.” We must betray that old Adam inside us that thinks itself to be god. And turn instead to the One who actually is God. 

But repentance isn’t preached alone. There is one more thing that is written. One more thing about Jesus that He has done to fulfill the Scriptures. And that is the forgiveness of sins. That’s why Jesus died and rose. That’s why Jesus shows them His hands and feet. Why Jesus shows that He’s not a spirit, but flesh and bone. Because there is no greater gift in all creation than the forgiveness of sins. It’s better than the lame being able to walk. Better than sick being made well. It’s better than the dead being raised. Because those things only happen because of Christ’s forgiveness won.

Sins forgiven by the blood of Jesus is the Law of Moses, the Word of the prophets, and the Psalms and writings of all Scripture completely fulfilled. Everything else good that we receive flows from that point. Family, country, vocation, health, life, all of these are ours because Jesus died on the cross to forgive our sin. Without forgiveness, there isn’t even existence. With forgiveness, we have everything. 

That’s why that forgiveness needs proclaimed. This news is too good to not be shared. When Jesus says, “Peace to you,” it’s the peace of the Lord. The guy that we went to war with, because we wanted to be god in His place. The guy we did wrong to, and called it right. The guy we betrayed and left for dead. The guy we killed to take His inheritance. He is the one who now says to you: peace. 

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God, and so we are,” writes John in our Epistle today. That’s how thoroughly our sin has been forgiven. That’s the size of the Lord’s love for us. That’s what Jesus did. And in doing it, He has fulfilled all Scripture. Every word. Christ has given us the repentance to overturn the old, sinful self. And He has given us the forgiveness from which every other good gift is given. Thanks be to God.

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Categories: Sermon

Again and Again

April 7, 2018 Comments off

An Easter season Sermon on John 20:19-31

Grace, mercy and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The story of doubting Thomas? Again? Didn’t we just do this one last year? We may be on a three year cycle of readings. But every year, on the Sunday after Easter, we get to hear about Thomas again. And it can feel like it’s again and again and again. Is there really anything new to say about Thomas that we haven’t heard before? But for old times sake, let’s hear the story once again.

Thomas was there. There that night when Jesus said, “this is My body, this is My blood.” There that night when Judas led the soldiers into Gethsemane. There when Jesus was taken into custody. And he was lucky to have escaped with his life. He knew Jesus had been crucified. He knew they had struck his dead body with the spear. He knew that a guard had been placed around the tomb. Thomas knew that he too was a wanted man, because he was a disciple of Jesus. If he weren’t careful, there would be no peaceful end for him.

Now imagine this scenario. The others had gathered, But Thomas thought it was too dangerous. The others wanted to remember Jesus, but the risk was too high. Thomas stayed away. Blended in with the crowds. Tried to avoid drawing attention to himself. And in doing so, he heard rumors. Rumors that Jesus had risen, just as He had promised. But before his excitement got too high he heard the soldiers say that the body had been stolen as they slept. Thomas didn’t know that they had been paid to say that. But the two stories together made sense to him. It sounds like something Peter would have come up with. Peter wasn’t big into doing things peacefully. Thomas remembered Malchus’ ear. And Thomas just wanted to be left in peace.

However, Thomas wasn’t surprised when the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” Sure they had. He believed they had rigged the whole resurrection, just as the guards had said. When they tried to persuade him further, Thomas would have none of it. Is that exactly how it happened? Maybe not. But if I were Thomas, I could see things going that way, to be sure. But we do know that he said to them,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.

We have heard it said that all you have to do is believe. We talk about belief as if it were an easy thing to do. As if belief was just an action we can take. As if all we needed to to was try harder, and belief would come. As if it were as simple as deciding which color of socks to put on in the morning. Thomas shows us that belief, that faith, is not as easy as that. Because Thomas was there. He was there when Jesus turned the water into wine. He was there when Jesus fed the five thousand. He was there when Jesus healed the blind man. He was there when Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead. He was there when Jesus did his signs again and again and again. And yet Thomas did not believe.

Thomas had the best possible circumstances under which to believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. And He did not. What makes you think it’s any easier for anyone else. Circumstances have never been that favorable, before or since. And it’s not just that Thomas was more stubborn than any of the others. Not one of the disciples believed. Not one of them were there at the tomb on the third day, waiting for Jesus to fulfill His promise. If it were up to us to believe, there would have never been a Church. Never been a ministry. Never been believers.

It’s a good thing that it’s not up to us. Jesus creates faith. The same way He created everything else. Through His Word. A Word Jesus speaks again and again and again. On day one of the week, Jesus came and stood among those ten disciples and said, “Peace be with you.” And then Jesus said it again. “Peace be with you.” It’s only by the disciples giving Thomas Jesus’ words that Thomas even shows up the next week. Because in those words are the promise of peace. Those words overcame the disbelief. Those words overcame the fear. Those words overcame Thomas and brought him to that room that night. And once again, Jesus says the same thing. “Peace be to you.” And that night, Thomas believed.

Yet, those words weren’t just for Thomas. Belief is created by the Word. And Jesus continually is creating that belief. Creating in the disciples. Creating in you. For these things are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.  What is written? The Bible has a lot of words in there. But they all point to Jesus. Jesus not only lived, but He lived for you. Jesus not only died, He died for you. Jesus not only rose, He rose for you. And that makes all the difference. Jesus doesn’t preach generic peace, but peace be with you, in the forgiveness of sin. And that peace is yours through His life, death and resurrection.

And that’s why it needed to be written. By writing down the Word of God, that belief, that faith is created every time that Word is revealed. Each time you come to church to hear, the Word creates faith. Each time you come to Bible study, the Word creates faith. Each time you read for your devotions, the Word creates faith. Each time you teach the Word to your children, the Word creates faith. Again and again and again.

We don’t need our text this morning to teach us something new. We need to be taught the same thing, the same basic concept again and again and again. That Jesus lived, died and rose again for you in order to bring you His peace. And Jesus creates faith in us through that.

Those old pastors who may have made you memorize a lot of Bible verses? They did so so that faith would always be created in you. Those old pastors who may have repeated themselves in their sermons? They did so that your faith was sure. For even Jesus preached the same thing again and again and again. Just like He does today. “Peace be with you, peace be with you, peace be with you.”

Sure it’s nice to hear something new each week. And it is absolutely true that there is enough in the Bible to bring something new each time you read it. But it’s not the new parts that are as important. For it’s the same old story that saves. It’s the same old Jesus that gives faith. It’s the same old writings again and again and again. Written so that you would believe. Written so that they would always be said again to you. Written so that Jesus would continually create faith in you, just like He did with His disciples. Create a clean heart in you, just as he did with Thomas. Create His resurrection in you, just as Christ is risen. And He is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia.

Categories: Sermon

In Memoriam – Darrell Shoemaker

April 6, 2018 Comments off

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have fallen asleep.

The question of what happens to you when you die is asked so many times by Christians, that it has become cliché. It has gotten to the point that most people roll their eyes when they hear it, and continue on with something else. The question never is even considered. To be fair, life is busy. There just isn’t time with work and play, entertainment and responsibilities to sit down and think about it. Besides, most people just think of what they wish would happen, and imagine that’s what’s happens when you die. No critical thinking. No evidence. Just happy thoughts, and people are content with that.

Darrell wasn’t content to leave things that way. He wanted to think them through, best he could. But, like all of us, didn’t always have the chance, because there was always something else to do. His life before cancer was full. But cancer slowly took those things he could do away. And it brought the age old question to mind. When I first met Darrell, he was already fighting cancer. The things that he loved to do were already getting more difficult. He had more time than ability at that point. And in that time, he had thought of a number of questions. He definitely wasn’t afraid to ask them. Some of them were easy to answer. Some weren’t. But it’s when you’re facing death yourself that you finally get around to trying to answer the question of what happens when you die.

Nearly everyone answers that question with ‘depends, am I a good person?’ What do we expect to happen if we’re good?If I am, then good things happen, if not, bad things happen. It’s an intuitive answer. It’s what most people think. However, as long as we’re up and around, as long as we’re actively working, we almost always judge ourselves as good, no matter who we are. I’m good, because my intentions were good. I’m good, because I’m better than that guy. I’m good, because I did so much out there.

But let me let you in on a little secret. It’s one I’ve learned as a pastor visiting people who are near death. The assurance we have in ourselves when things are going well doesn’t hold up when things go south. the assurance that I am a good person is slowly lost as death approaches. It becomes I like to think I was a good person. Then, I hope I was a good person. Then, I’m worried that I wasn’t a good enough person. I should have done better. I have so many things I wish I could go back and make right. Are you sure God will have me? It gets worse and worse.

This too is intuitive. When things are going well, it must be because I’m so good. When things are going badly, it must be because I’m not. And there’s nothing that goes worse for us than the process of dying. Darrell, when I would visit, would lie there and sometimes say, “I sure hope I did okay.” Everyone says that. And it was at that moment that he needed to hear the most counter-intuitive message the world has ever heard. The most comforting message that the world has ever heard. Even though you didn’t do as well as you ought, Jesus already did it for you.

You see, all of us have what is called sin. That time we did something wrong. When we hurt someone instead of helping them. When we looked out for only ourselves, and left our fellow human beings to fend for themselves. We can shrug all that off for a while. But when we’re left with them, it really starts sinking in just what we have done. Nobody else did those things. I did. And that wasn’t okay. A price needs to paid to make it right. And I can’t pay that price. It’s then that all the self-justifying in the world doesn’t matter. And the beauty of the good news that Jesus has taken all your sin away shines brightest.

Because that’s what Jesus did. God, the creator of the whole universe, became a human being. Born of a virgin named Mary about two thousand years ago in the heart of the Middle-East. God became flesh in real history, and was given the name Jesus. He lived the same life that you, I, and everyone do. But being God, He lived without sin. He did that, so that He could stand in as our substitute. Jesus paid the price for the sin of the whole world when He was crucified under Roman Governor Pontius Pilate. God died for each and every one of us. God died for Darrell. God died for me. God died for you. And by His death, He has forgiven every sin. They’re all paid for. So that you no longer have to wonder if you’re good enough when death comes. Because even when you’re not, Jesus has already made you right by His blood.

That Jesus had already forgiven Darrell was the greatest comfort Darrell had ever heard. And he held that promise close to his heart through the whole thing. At first, he didn’t want a service held for him after he died. He didn’t think it was worth going through all of what he called ‘falderal.’ But this comfort, this was the comfort Darrell wanted to share with all his family and friends. That He wanted to share with you. The good news that Jesus has already died for you. Your sins have all been forgiven. And there is no need to wonder any more. And Darrell wanted you all to hear that.

But why should you believe it? Isn’t that just what we wish would happen? Is that why we imagine that’s what’s happens when we die? Is there any critical thinking? Any evidence? Or is it all just happy thoughts, that people are content with? Do you honestly think Darrell would have held so tightly to Jesus in his last days if it were merely that? No, the evidence is in the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The eye witnesses gave their story. Hostile witnesses backed it up. Every piece of credible evidence points to the tomb of Jesus being empty. And fishermen, fishermen willingly underwent the most painful tortures ever devised rather than deny their story. Not for money, or for power, but because they believed it actually happened. Jesus rose from the dead, and that changes everything. Darrell believes because it didn’t make any sense to him not to.

That resurrection of Jesus is what we celebrated here just this last Sunday. That resurrection is in each of the passages we just read. Jesus’ disciple Peter confessing the resurrection to the same people who would arrest him, torture him, and want him dead. Jesus Himself telling Mary, Lazarus’ sister that He is the resurrection and the life. And Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians. That passage there was the last one I got to share with Darrell. That Jesus’ resurrection would not be Jesus’ alone. But it will be coming for all. Darrell will live again. Body and soul reunited. Put back together again. Never to die again.

That is why we do not grieve as those who have no hope. Make no mistake, we still grieve. We still shed our tears. But because of Jesus’ resurrection, death is not goodbye forever. It is instead a ‘see you soon.’ We know what the end of Darrell’s story is. It is him alive with Christ. And alive with all those who trust in Christ too. And Darrell said he wants to see all of you there. That’s why in the end, he wanted a service today.

Darrell is with Jesus, not because Darrell did it all right. Or because he was good enough. Darrell is there because Jesus paid his way completely, apart from anything Darrell did or didn’t do. Darrell is forgiven. And you are too. The blood of Jesus has washed away every sin. And the creator of the whole universe willingly endured even death all for you. Thanks be to God.

Categories: Sermon

The Death of Jesus for You

March 30, 2018 Comments off

A Good Friday Sermon on John 18:1-19:42 in six parts

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?”

The disciples all knew something was up that evening. Peter even packed his sword, ready to die for Jesus that night. And when the band of soldiers arrived, Peter saw his chance to help. After Jesus talked with the armed mob, and when they approached to arrest Him, Peter leaped into action. However, Peter didn’t aim for the strongest of the soldiers. Nor the front of the line. Nor the ones actually arresting Jesus. Peter attacked the servant of the high priest. The easiest target. The unarmed one who was to report back what the soldiers had done.

All Peter wanted to do was help. Help keep Jesus safe. Help make sure the real Messiah would be able to do His job. And if he could do his part, that was enough. But he couldn’t even do that. Peter’s bravery only went so far. Besides, what he thought he could do for Jesus actually stood in the way of Jesus and hurt his neighbor. Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?” Because Peter didn’t need to save Jesus. Peter was the one who needed saved. And that’s exactly why Jesus was here this very night.

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.

It is more expedient that one man die for the people than for the whole nation to perish. That was the plan. Jesus letting the people believe He was the Messiah was putting everyone in danger. Messiahs had come and gone. But each time they did, more Jews were dead at the hands of Romans soldiers. Yes, everyone wanted the Romans gone. But failed attempts were only going to make things worse, not better. However, this Messiah was innocent. Not even the false witnesses could agree enough to convict Jesus of anything. But it’s easy to convince one’s self that the ends justify the means.

All the High Priest wanted to do was help. Help keep Judah safe. Help make sure there was a country left for the real messiah to be able to do His job. And if he could do his part, that was enough. But he couldn’t even do that. Judah might not fall today, but it’s end was coming soon. And all the planning in the world wasn’t going to stop it. Besides, what the High Priest thought he could do for Jesus actually stood in the way of Jesus and hurt his neighbor. Jesus said to him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” The High Priest didn’t need to save Judah. He was the one who needed saved. And that’s exactly why Jesus was here this very night.

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.

That morning, Pilate awoke to find the Jewish leaders outside waiting for him. They had in their custody a criminal. Or so they said. They wanted Him dead. But years of harsh discipline from Roman governors had trained them to get permission first. Pilate was willing to do his duty to His country, and heard the case against Jesus. But what he heard didn’t make sense. He called Jesus in and talked privately. This man had strange ideas about truth, and might have been a little crazy, but He was no threat. Jesus hadn’t broken any laws, and so Pilate thought he’d just let Him go.

All Pilate wanted to do was help. Help keep the peace safe. Help make sure that he would be able to do His job. And if he could do his part, that was enough. But he couldn’t even do that. Pilate’s bravery only went so far. The crowds starting a riot would mean the end of Jerusalem. The end of His governorship. Besides, what he thought he could do for peace actually the greatest injustice known to man, the death of an innocent man. Jesus said to Pilate, “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.” The truth is that Pilate didn’t need to save the peace. Pilate was the one who needed Christ’s peace. And that’s exactly why Jesus was here this very morning.

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.

Is this the same crowd that shouted, “Hosanna,” just a few days ago? We don’t know. But a crowd doesn’t necessarily make rational choices. The news going out was that Jesus was a blasphemer of the Lord. That He had been convicted and sentenced to death by the Sanhedrin. And now the crowd was needed the help put enough pressure on Pilate to make it happen. Because it’s very hard for anyone to go against an angry mob.

All that the individuals in the crowd wanted to do was to be faithful. Help keep their families safe. Help make sure the real Messiah would be able to do His job. And if they could do their part, that was enough. But they couldn’t even do that. The crowd cried out “Crucify Him,” of the one true God. What they thought they could do for their Lord actually denied Him completely. Pilate said to the crowds of Jesus, “Behold, your King!” And they wanted Him to die. And yet, that is exactly what Jesus needed to do to save them all. The crowds were the ones who needed saved. And that’s exactly why Jesus was here this very day.

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 worst thing a parent can see is the death of their own child. At that moment, Mary’s worst fears were realized. Seeing Jesus up there was the moment her heart was pierced, just as Gabriel had told her over thirty years ago. All that ridicule, all that suffering, all that work, what was it for? How was Jesus supposed to be the Messiah up there on the cross? How was He supposed to be the Savior of His people, when His own people killed Him out of jealousy?

All Mary wanted to do was help. Help keep Jesus safe. Help make sure that Jesus would be able to do His job. And if she could just do her part, that would be enough. But she couldn’t even do that. Everything Mary had to give only went so far. Besides, there was nothing left that she could do at all. She would give anything to take His place. But all she could do was watch. Jesus said to Mary, “Woman, behold, your son!” And gave His disciple John to take care of her for the rest of her days. Because Mary didn’t need to save Jesus. Mary was the one who needed saved. And that’s exactly why Jesus was here this very day.

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.

All we want to do was help. Help Jesus. Help make sure the real Messiah can do His job. And if we could do our part, that would be enough. But when we look at today. When we look at Jesus on His cross, what can we do? Jesus made sure that there wasn’t anything we could add to His death and resurrection. And what we think we could do for Jesus actually stands in His way and hurts our neighbor. Jesus speaks to us through His apostle John, backed by three oaths. “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.”

And those the oaths are given to give credence to these words, “One of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water.” This is my blood, shed for your forgiveness. Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven. Word, Baptism, Supper, Forgiveness. It’s all here at the cross. And it is finished. No more work needs be done for our salvation, nor for the salvation of the world. Jesus has done it all without our help. Because we’re the ones who needed saved. And that’s exactly why Jesus was here this very night.

There is nothing as powerful in all creation as the death of God. He died for Peter. He died for the high priest. He died for Pilate. He died for the crowds. He died for Mary. He died for the world. And Jesus died for you. This is the price that He willingly paid in order to redeem you from your sin. Because He loves you. The resurrection is coming Sunday morning. But we’re not there yet. Tonight, we keep watch. Even as the stone is rolled into the entrance and the tomb is sealed, we keep watch. Waiting for His day of triumph to come. But the glory, the glory has been won tonight. Here is our salvation. Here is Jesus for you. Thanks be to God.

Categories: Sermon

Discerning the Body of Christ

March 29, 2018 Comments off

A Maundy Thursday Sermon on 1 Corinthians 10 and 11.

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Scripture often has us hold up two truths at the same time. We must not elevate one over the other. We must hold both of them up, even if they don’t sound like they should go together at all.

There are two truths about the Lord’s Supper. But they sound like they contradict one another. The first truth is from our Epistle lesson tonight. Paul in 1 Corinthians reminds us that, “Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread.” The second truth is found just one chapter later in 1 Corinthians. “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

The dilemma comes when we say that there is one Church. One body of believers. Whether they’re Lutheran, or Baptist, or Roman Catholic. What makes us part of the body of Christ is the death and resurrection of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins. However, we do not take communion together. And without a doubt, this is a tragedy. But how do we then hold up both things as true? Because it is true that we are one Church. But it is also true that we do not confess the same thing. How, then, do we make sense of the two truths? To have closed communion is to give people from other confessions the impression that we don’t think they’re part of the Church. But to have open communion is to expose those same people to guilt and judgment before God.

The easiest answer, of course, is to choose one of those truths and discard the other. Let everyone come up, and pretend God won’t judge, despite promising that He will. Or let no one come up unless they show they’re worthy, and make the Lord’s Supper all about fulfilling the Law. Both those answers fall far short.

Another easy answer is to say that one of those things is worse than the other. On the one hand, people survive hurt feelings all the time. Nobody survives the wrath of God. Therefore we emphasize wrath over unity. On the other hand, there is forgiveness found in the sacrament, therefore the wrath of God isn’t something we should worry about, and unity is best. In both of those cases, we’re not throwing either side away. But we are lifting one side up over the other. Letting one truth be more important than the other. And that’s not right either.

So what does it mean to examine one’s self, and what does it mean to discern the body? Because we have heard tonight Jesus’ own words. The words He gave to His disciples a little over an hour before He knew that He would be arrested, and tried, and beaten, and crucified, and killed. The last, and most important words Jesus had to say. And with them He said, “Take, this is my body. This is my blood.

Yet many denominations confess openly that they don’t think that Jesus meant what He said. They assert that Jesus actually meant that this was not His body, and not His blood. That the Lord’s Supper is only a symbol to be reenacted in order to have happy thoughts about Jesus. Others have insisted that “This is My body” means that we have to raise ourselves all the way up to heaven in order to have any part of the physicality of Jesus. Because Jesus’ body is stuck in heaven, and not even He can make it appear anywhere else. In other words, in their discernment, they do not see the body of Christ in the bread and the wine. They will not believe Jesus’ words. Nor do they believe the Scripture which says, “anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.”

Would the loving thing to do be to knowingly inflict guilt and judgment on them, just because they do not realize it? Just because we don’t want to be embarrassed, or cause a scene, or have them misunderstand? Who, then, would have the greater guilt? Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea. The Lord’s Supper isn’t to be taken lightly. Because Jesus is given there. To repentant and unrepentant alike. Maybe such a warning causes us to worry. If the Lord’s Supper can be to my judgment, should I be receiving it myself? After all, when I examine my my, I see that I too am a sinner.

Perhaps an analogy would help. A chef’s knife can be a very dangerous tool if handled improperly. But without it, a kitchen does not function. The analogy breaks down, to be sure. But even though the improper use of the Lord’s Supper can do a great deal of harm, the Church would not be the Church without it. Because Jesus died for sinners. Jesus died for you and me. Jesus died for the World. The body of Christ, dying on the cross is the same body of Christ we receive tonight in His Supper. And He gave it for you. Being sinful is not what makes one unworthy to eat and drink. Only the denial of being sinful. Only the denial of Jesus’ Word. And we pray that where we are wrong, the Lord would open our eyes to see, so that we may repent.

The mortal body Jesus took on in order to die on the cross is the same body we eat here tonight. And the body we eat here is the same body we are made into as the Church. The body of Christ is the body of Christ is the body of Christ. Here is the fruit of the cross. Here is the forgiveness that Jesus promises. Here is Jesus, in the flesh, for you. Jesus’ last will and testament. Jesus’ covenant promise that He has indeed paid for all your sins. And to such a gift we come with repentance, and thanksgiving, and humility. Because in the examination of ourselves, the death and resurrection of Jesus is the only answer to our sin.

That’s why we teach our children before we bring them to the Lord’s Table. That’s why we examine what they believe and confess. It is a confirmation that they know who they receive and why. When we say no, we say no out of love. And in the hopes of sitting down and talking. Sharing our confession of faith, in the hopes that it will become their confession of faith as well. Because we think we’ve got the right one. If we don’t, we would hope that other Christians would be as loving to us. To show us our errors from Scripture if there’s a place where we don’t believe what Jesus says.

But we do try to hold up two truths. Both of which are God’s Word on this subject. Now, academics could probably bore you for hours with all kinds of information. But I think it’s as simple as this. It is true, the Church is bigger than us. And Christ delivers His forgiveness in many ways, including His Word, and His baptism. Yet it is also true that the Supper comes with both warning and promise. And that warning should be heeded. Therefore we handle Christ’s body and blood with respect. We come to His table with examination and discernment. And we ask others to do likewise. All because we love them. Thanks be to God.

Categories: Sermon

Memorial, Memory, Remember

March 24, 2018 Comments off

A Palm Sunday/Passion Sunday Sermon on John 12:12-19 and Mark 14:1-15:47, especially Mark 14:1-9.

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Holy week is the biggest week of the Church year. It’s so important that we spend every other Sunday remembering what happened between this Sunday and the next. It’s so important, that we have Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. We have Jesus giving the His body and His blood for His disciples to eat and to drink in His Supper. And we have Jesus’ passion, trial, suffering, crucifixion, and death. All preparing us for next Sunday’s joyous resurrection from the dead. We are brought low today, just as Jesus was. All so that in His lifting up, we to will rejoice.

There is one little detail in the readings that we’re given today, that we will in all likelihood forget about. Because it’s not the most important part of today. Not even close. It’s not bigger than the palms. It’s certainly not bigger than the Supper. It’s no where near Jesus’ great sacrifice for all humanity. But it got Jesus’ attention. Because He said of the woman who did this thing, “Truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.” And here we are, at the heart of the Gospel, right at Jesus’ cross, and here she is.

We find out from John’s Gospel that the woman who anointed Jesus’ feet was Mary, Lazarus’ sister. And this event is recorded in all four Gospels. She prepared Jesus’ body for burial while Jesus was still alive. She believed Jesus’ words when He told them again and again that He was going to be killed and on the third day, be raised. Not even His disciples believed Jesus when He said that. But she did. That kind of faith is not her own, but is a gift from God. And so she did the only thing she could for Him. Even when that meant being scolded by everyone else for daring to even think such a thing. Jesus alone praises her. And promises that she will be remembered.

It’s pretty cool to be remembered wherever the Gospel is proclaimed. But who is it that remembers? Usually, it’s not us. We happened to today, only because I needed to preach about something this morning. But more often than not, year after year passes, and we usually remember this event as the trigger that sends Judas Iscariot off to betray Jesus, rather than Mary anointing Jesus. Yet the account is read anyways. Who is it that remembers? It’s Jesus who remembers her. And He remembers her for the faith she was given.

There’s something fascinating that is found in our Triumphal entry reading. And it too is mentioned in passing. It isn’t even the point of the sentence. But “The crowd that had been with [Jesus] when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness.” Lazarus, of course, came out of the tomb. But the Greek word for tomb, comes from the word to remember. It actually happens in English too. ‘Memory’ and ‘Memorial’ come from the same root as ‘Remember.’ The grave is the memory place. The place where we remember. Where we are remembered. Where Jesus remembers.

Today is Jesus’ journey to His grave, His tomb, His memory place. And on His way, He remembers Mary, who has faith. He remembers you, who have faith as well. He remembers us all at His Supper. He remembers us all at the garden of Gethsemane. He remembers us at Judas’ betrayal and His arrest. He remembers us at His trial before the Sanhedrin. He remembers us at Peter’s denial. He remembers us when He stood before Pilate. He remembers us when Barabbas was released. He remembers us when the crowds shout crucify. He remembers us when the Roman soldiers mocked Him, and beat Him, and scourged Him.

Jesus remembers us when He was led to Golgotha. Jesus remembers us when the nails were put into His hands and His feet. Jesus remembers us when He was lifted up, high above on His cross. Jesus remembers us when all the people mocked Him. Jesus remembers us when He endured the entire wrath of God for our sake. Jesus remembers us when He willingly paid for our every sin. Jesus remembers us when He cried out with a great voice, and the temple curtain was torn in two. Jesus remembers us when He dies. And Jesus remembers us when He went to the memory place, the memorial, the tomb.

And when Jesus stands at your grave, He remembers you. But here’s the thing. There has not been nor will be any grave that Jesus hasn’t stood beside that He has not raised the one lying there dead. To be remembered by Jesus isn’t just to have Jesus think happy thoughts about you. To be remembered by Jesus is to have His resurrection delivered to you.

Do not forget Jesus’ words today from His Supper. Do this in remembrance of Me. Jesus doesn’t say that so that we’ll have fond thought of Him. Or so that we put to mind the things that He’s done.  Those things aren’t bad, but they’re not the same as His promise. Because the remembrance is done by Him. Jesus is actually here in His supper for you. Here with His forgiveness. Here with His resurrection.

Truly, I say to you, wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her. And wherever the Gospel is proclaimed, Jesus has in fact remembered Mary, the sister of Lazarus. He has remembered the faith given to her, by which she believed. And wherever that Gospel is proclaimed, Jesus remembers you as well. Remembers the faith delivered to you. Delivered in the forgiveness of sins. In the Word proclaimed. In the His baptism that has washed you. In His own body and blood that feeds your faith. You will never be forgotten by God. Only your sin has been forgotten. And it is buried forever. And you will be raised to life forever. Because Jesus remembers you. Thanks be to God.

Categories: Sermon

Don’t Keep Watching the Darkness

March 21, 2018 Comments off

A Midweek Lenten Sermon on 1 Thessalonians 5

Grace, mercy, and peace be to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Last week, we saw that the Thessalonians were worried, because they knew Jesus was coming back soon, but some of them had already died. They were afraid that they somehow missed the return of Jesus. And this was their punishment. Paul answered them by pointing forward to the resurrection on the last day. Reminding them that no one is going to miss the day Jesus returns. Because that day will come very loudly.

The secret won’t be that Jesus has returned. The part we don’t know is the day or the hour. We also don’t know the week, or the month, or the year, or the decade, or the century, or even the millennium. Soon is in regards to eternity, not to our ideas. That’s what Paul reminds the Thessalonians in chapter five. Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.

Jesus Himself describes His return with the same words. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. The question is, of course, how does one stay awake? How does one be ready for the last day? Is it by watching for signs? By watching newspapers and figuring out codes in today’s events? Keeping an eye out for signals that tell you that Jesus is close? Is being in on God’s big secret how you make yourself ready?

Not at all. Looking for the signal that will tell you the day or the hour when Jesus will come back is about as effective as keeping watch in utter darkness. How are you supposed to see anything without light shining on it? And if the Son of God Himself doesn’t know the day or the hour, what makes us think that we’re special enough to be told?

Keeping watch isn’t about trying to find that one sign that we’re told will not be there. Keeping watch is rather about keeping our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith. Because Jesus is the light of the world. Jesus is the one who carries us out of the darkness. Jesus is the one who gives us sight to see. As Paul says, we are not of of the night or the darkness, so why we would we keep our watch there?

For some reason, wars, and civil unrest, and the world seeming to go to hell in a hand basket seem to point to things coming to an end. Jesus says, when you see these things, know that the end is not yet. But when things are going well, when times are peaceful, the economy is good, and we live comfortably, it’s then where we are warned. While people are saying peace and security, then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. Now that doesn’t mean that we have any idea when Jesus is returning. But it does mean that we do not panic when things are bad, nor forget about Jesus when times are good. To be awake, to watch, is always to watch what Jesus does. To keep our eyes on His cross, as He delivers His death and resurrection to us even today.

Jesus is our defense. He has marked you upon your head and upon your heart in your baptism. Jesus washing you is your breastplate armor. Jesus cleansing you from sin is your helmet. Because in that water, combined with His Word is faith, and love, and  hope. Because Christ has baptized us into His death and resurrection, there is nothing the world can do to us that Jesus hasn’t already answered. Rejoice always, because Christ is risen for you. Pray without ceasing, because you are a child of God, and able to ask your Father anything. Give thanks in all circumstances, because the Holy Spirit is continually working to deliver Jesus to you, and to the world.

Sometimes, when we hurt, when we face the death of those we love, we have the same questions the Thessalonians did. Did we miss what Jesus was going to do? Should we have been looking elsewhere? Where is Jesus already? Because we’re ready for Him to return soon. And we mean our definition of soon, not His. And so we too need that reminder. We too need to know that when everything seems falling apart, it doesn’t mean that Jesus has left us. He’s still in the exact same place He has always been for us. In His Word. In His baptism. In His supper. Bringing His cross to us again and again. Delivering His resurrection over and over. Reminding us not to look out to the darkness and hope to find Him. Because He is the light.

Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole Spirit, and soul, and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful. He will surely do it. Amen.

Categories: Sermon