The Third Sunday of Easter

 

April 10, 2016

Rev. Andre Frandle; Pastor

John 21:15-19: FOLLOW ME

So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep. Verily, verily, I say unto thee, When thou wast young, thou girdedst thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest: but when thou shalt be old, thou shalt stretch forth thy hands, and another shall gird thee, and carry thee whither thou wouldest not. This spake he, signifying by what death he should glorify God. And when he had spoken this, he saith unto him, Follow me.

 

  1. How many times can you make a mistake before someone loses patience with you? In your house, with your spouse, with your child, with your parent, how many mistakes can they make before you lose your patience with them?  When is enough, enough?  When is the line crossed?  What do you find has to happen for you to finally shout, get out of my sight?  Jesus had what could have been described as an intimate group of disciples, they were affectionately referred to as the 12.  Within this group sprung a faithful inner circle.  These three men shared experiences with Jesus the others would only hear about, like raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead and the transfiguration.  One of them was described as a rock, another a son of thunder, and the last the disciple whom Jesus loved. Jesus’ disciples, even the inner circle, all abandoned Him.  They didn’t do a thing to try to help him escape his trial and murder.  Peter even damned himself to hell instead of acknowledging that he even knew Jesus to a young servant.  Despite having seen Jesus after his resurrection twice, the disciples were not running around telling people that Jesus had risen from the dead and spreading that Good News.  No, instead, they were hiding for fear of the Jews and being tempted to go back to their previous vocations. Despite all that had just happened, the weakness, betrayals, denials, Jesus comes to every sinner, especially the repentant Peters, and calls them to FOLLOW ME.  The LORD knows everything about us.  The LORD calls us to feed His sheep.

I.

  1. Christ calls sinners to Follow Me. We all know people who are just so sweet and naïve that they could be pushed under a bus and apologize for getting in the way of the tires. There are some that are so blessedly blind to the way of the world that they are honestly ignorant of what is happening around them.  There are still others that are so obstinately stiff necked to anything other than what they want to see, they will not acknowledge the truth if it slapped them in the face. The truth of the matter is that Jesus was a dead man.  People saw it happen.  All the disciples knew where Jesus was lying dead and buried.  They all knew it was just a matter of time before the chief priests and Sanhedrin would finish what they started in ridding Jerusalem of this pesky group of people. We remember they said as much when they plotted to murder both Jesus and Mary and Martha’s brother, Lazarus, whom Jesus had raised from the dead just before his passion. They all knew this.  They were all afraid of what they knew.  That’s why they have been hiding and trying to quietly go back to what they had done before and not call too much attention to themselves. We are being assaulted with questions about what we know today as well. What do we know about the candidates that are running for office?  What do we know about the water we are drinking?  Do we know what lives really matter?  Do we know what this world does to hateful, judgmental Christians?  Haven’t we seen what family and friends say when we start talking about this Jesus and quoting His Bible?

 

  1. I mean, really, we have had our Easter woo-hoo, let’s just get back to the day to day, shall we. Like the disciples in our text, we hide in our homes for fear of letting our lights so shine before men. Like the disciples in our text, we hide behind our various vocations because we fail to hear the call of the Savior to follow Him because we know He knows. We are humiliated by our accuser who throws our sins of thought, word and deed into our faces every day!  What we know about Peter, well, he tried!  He was one of the pioneers of the modern saying, “go big or go home”.  Peter did!  He confessed that Jesus was the Christ, he walked on water, he helped to feed the 5000, he ran to the tomb and was the first of the disciples to enter it.  He was the leader.  Yeah, he made some mistakes too, like rebuking Jesus for going to Jerusalem to die, denying Jesus three times.  At the end of the day, at least we can see that he tried!  How many of us can say that? That is the question I am asking.  How many of us can say that we have failed boldly trying to proclaim Christ?  When, as men, we try to reclaim the headship that Scripture has given since Eden, only to find ourselves ruling over our wives instead of serving them with the confidence of Christ? When, as women, we rationalize and justify despising our role as helpmeet suitable and keeper at home because we are tempted to feel that I am valued by the one because I earn a paycheck, the other, well, what value do I have to him?

 

  1. As parents, when we fail to see what precious little time we have with our children, or think that being a parent is forcing compliance from the little darlings, or buying the lie that we cannot bring up our children in the training and instruction of the LORD so we have to abdicate their instruction to “professionals” who get paid whether my child progresses or not and whether they turn into descent human beings or not. Even as children, when we know that we are disrespecting our parents by talking back or not doing what we are told. What is worse, these are only the tip of the iceberg. God knows everything. He knows that every thought that we have had had been evil since childhood. God knows that good that we would we don’t, the evil we keep on doing, whether we want to or not, what does it matter in the light of the Law? The wages of sin is death, whether it was on accident or on purpose.  We are even rightly condemned for secret sins and for not doing what we should be doing, like fearlessly proclaiming the resurrected Christ to a hell bound family member, friend, co-worker, neighbor, fellow sinner.  God knows all this about us, like He knew about Peter, and what He does doesn’t make sense…or does it.

II.

  1. Christ calls us to feed His sheep: What does it mean to follow Christ? Love the LORD with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself.  We know we have not done this. We know God knows this too.  That is what hurt Peter, and what grieves us every day.  What comfort could we possibly have then? It isn’t because God rewards us if we try hard enough.  It’s because of His call to sinners.  Follow me.  As repentant sinners we understand this as Peter did when He was commanded to “feed my sheep” Sheep, like men, are stupid.  Stupid for different reasons, but both take their lives into their own hands despite the fact that there is a ravenous wolf waiting to destroy them.  Both despise the safety of the fold to pursue the desires of their stomachs no matter the cost, irrelevant of whether others may follow.  A shepherd is a necessary protector and provider; a leader.  Jesus bids to follow where there is no want, to lie down in green pastures, to drink in still waters, to be restored in our souls. How does He do this?  Well, His peace isn’t the way the world gives peace.  His Word penetrates the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  The peace of Christ transcends all understanding to guard the heart and mind. He knows what we need before we ask. He knows that anything less than the unconditional Gospel would fail to feed. What does a baby need?  His mother’s milk.

 

  1. What feeds God’s lambs? As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby: If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious. (1 Peter 2) .How do the little ones grow from lambs to sheep? Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts.  For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: (Is 28:9-10).  We don’t raise lambs, we raise sheep.  We don’t raise children, we raise the next generation of mature Christians. When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.  For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. (1 Cor 13:11-12).  God has called us out of our spiritual death, blindness, enmity by the power of His Gospel. The Law will keep us humble and hungry.  The Gospel is the only thing that will feed the ravenous hunger for the love from God, status as His child, assurance of eternal life, power to live. He called us by His Word or our Baptismal regeneration. He created life and fed that life through our parents or others who were fed by the Gospel to share and keep sharing the Word of God with you and I.

 

  1. It’s easy to feel that we don’t ever want or need to eat again after pushing away from a feast. It’s stupid.  Of course we will need to eat again, the same day even.  Like stupid sheep, we think that since we have feasted on the Word and Sacrament at church on Sunday, we won’t need to eat again until next week. Only too often and too late do we realize we do not have the spiritual strength to run away, and like Samson, we are alone in our pride. Feed my sheep.  As with the spiritual nutritious value of pure spiritual milk, the faith and soul of a repentant sinner is kept strong and healthy if it keeps feeding on the green pastures of the Gospel.  Like parents who only feed their children McDonalds and Twinkies, we can justify that we are feeding the little beasts.  We must not assume that just because someone slaps the label of biblical on something, that it will automatically be spiritually healthy. Christ doesn’t cut corners on our spiritual health and well-being as He feeds us His body and blood, as He washes and purifies us from all our sins, as He feeds us with the sufficiency of the inspired and inerrant Word that thoroughly equips us for every good work. Why would we try to feed other lambs and sheep with anything less or anything else. If our little ones are crabby, do we automatically think that they are ungrateful little heathens that must be destroyed?  No, we will ask ourselves what do they need – are they tired, are they hungry, do they need to be held?

 

  1. Yet, somehow, when those same little ones get bigger, or full grown adults who are spiritual infants, they act out, sin, do whatever, we are not so compelled to think that we should show them love to get them through their difficulty but the back hand of the Law to keep showing them how much they put us out. After all, they are older, they should know better. Oh, you mean like you and me on a given day!  Feeding Christ’s sheep isn’t starving them with the Law!  Feeding Christ’s lambs isn’t starving them with our testimony of self-righteousness!  They need the one thing needful – God forbid anyone withhold it.  Feeding Christ’s sheep isn’t poisoning them with the confusion of Law and Gospel so that they are left like sheep without a shepherd. Even after Peter denied Jesus three times, Jesus called him to Follow Me. I don’t know if we have ever been on that side of a do or die confession like Peter was and it may come with the constant assault of the infidel Muslim, but Satan’s subtle denials are often just as effective for us to damn ourselves rather than follow our Savior.  God knows everything we have ever thought, said or done. Yet, Jesus calls, Follow Me. He makes us hungry through the Law so that as repentant sinners we would follow Jesus to where He feeds us with His life giving and sustaining Gospel in Word and Sacrament. In His call to follow, he commands to feed His sheep.  Like a father, mother or grandmother who made or makes that perfect comfort food that keeps us coming back to the table, Jesus invites us to serve the simplicity of Gospel succulence as the Psalmist says: O taste and see that the Lord is good: blessed is the man that trusteth in him.  O fear the Lord, ye his saints: for there is no want to them that fear him. 

Vespers Prayer Service: April 6, 2016

 

April 6, 2016

Rev. Ross Mahan; Pastor

Genesis 1:1-5; 26-31

Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Savior

 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters. And God said, Let there be light: and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good: and God divided the light from the darkness. And God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. And the evening and the morning were the first day. And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them. And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moveth upon the earth. And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to everything that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb for meat: and it was so. And God saw everything that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.

 

  1. The Lutheran Church is both Confessional and Credal. A Creed is derived from the Latin: Credo, I believe, and is a confession of what we believe in our hearts and teach in our churches. A Creed is not equal with the Bible or an addition to it, but a brief summary of what we believe on the basis of Scripture. Tonight we will begin with the First Article of the Creed: I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. Our faith must be based upon the written Word of God for where there is no Word and Promise of God there can be no faith, only superstition and imagination. The Christian has an obligation to make sure every doctrine he believes agrees with the Bible and to refuse to believe anything that cannot be proved from God’s clear Word. In Genesis chapters 1 and 2 we have the only clear reliable record of the creation of the world. God had to reveal the doctrine of Creation to us because no man was present at the time to report such a great event. The Bible ascribes the work of Creation to all three Persons of the Trinity, Father Son and Holy Spirit. Most everyone in the Western Nations believed in Creation until 1859 when Charles Darwin published his book entitled: The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of the Favored Races in the Struggle of Life. The Theory of Evolution is the very opposite of what the Bible teaches and raises the question, why has this theory become so popular in the 20th century?

 

  1. Why is Evolution being taught in our public schools and even in some liberal churches? Why were so many people in this nation willing to exchange the truth of God for a lie and worship and serve created things rather than the Creator (Rom. 1:25)? Evolution is part of the ongoing attack by the devil against Christ and the Christian Church. A key factor in the Creation / Evolution debate is that a majority of scientists who believe in Evolution are also Atheists or Agnostics. Some hold to Theistic Evolution the idea that God used Evolution in the formation of the world. Others hold a Deistic view of God (that He exists but is not involved in the world). But Evolution has become the alternate explanation to the Biblical doctrine of Creation on how the universe and life came into existence. It is also the cornerstone of Secular Humanism, the idea that man is the end of all things. Humanism teaches people are basically good and that all human problems can be solved by using reason instead of religion. Humanism is the deification of man and the fulfillment of the words of Satan to Eve: Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil. Humanism teaches that the reason for man’s existence is man’s happiness and it denies any power or moral value superior to man. So when you ask the question: Who makes the rules, man or God? Who defines reality, right and wrong, truth and error, good and evil? The Secular Humanist would say that man himself determines right and wrong for himself.

 

  1. In the first article of the Humanist Manifesto we read: Humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created. In Humanism, all human restraint is out the window and do as you please is the guiding principle. Secular Humanism was the principle behind Homosexual Marriage which is really the criminalization of Christianity and a direct assault upon God and His Word. In our public schools Humanistic Evolution is being taught to our children. It should not be surprising when we tell our children they came from animals that they begin to act like it. At Columbine High School in 1999, when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot and killed 13 people and injured 24 others, Eric was wearing a T-Shirt with the words Natural Selection printed on it. These two young men were simply carrying out the true implications of Evolution, which denies the Law of God and leads to death. If we are not created in God’s image then why not kill the weaker ones among us if we choose. Joseph Stalin was a staunch Evolutionist. At one time he was a seminary student but turned his back on God and embraced Karl Marx which finally resulted in the deaths of 20-30 million Russians. Evolution is the foundation for Communism and Nazism. The Bible says: The fool has said in his heart there is no God. (Ps. 14:1). God has clearly revealed Himself to man in Creation and He says anyone who denies the existence of the Creator is a fool for he refuses to recognize the reality that is right in front of his face every day.

 

  1. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse (Rom. 1:20). Foolishness does not imply a lack of intelligence. Most Evolutionary Scientists are brilliant intellectually, but they lack the Wisdom that only comes from the fear of God through the New Birth. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction (Prov. 1:7). Modern Evolutionary Scientists mock Creation or Intelligent Design as unworthy of scientific examination. Creation is by definition supernatural. God and the supernatural cannot be observed or tested but neither can Evolution. It is also a system of faith. Everything the Evolutionist sees is filtered through his preconceived, presupposed religious faith, the theory of Evolution and he refuses to consider any other alternate explanation. Evolution is against good common sense and reason. Something as complex as nature does not come about by chance. A design implies a designer. If Creation is true then there is a Creator to whom we are accountable and this is the reason Evolution is an enabler of atheism. It provides the atheist a basis for explaining the origins of life through a process of failed death by which better lives would be produced. Evolution is the theory of creation for the religion of Secular Humanism and atheism. Why do we believe the account of Creation as taught in the Bible?

I.

  1. Jesus believed in Genesis. If you ask a Christian why he believes the Bible he will likely tell you it is because the Bible is the Word of God, which it is. The Bible claims to be the authoritative, inerrant, inspired Word of God. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, (II Tim. 3:16). Holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (II Pet. 1:20-21). For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe (I Thess 2:13). Christ Jesus is God’s revelation to man about Himself, about sin, and salvation and we find Jesus in the written Word of God. But aside from the Bible’s own testimony concerning itself, the church believes the Scriptures are the Word of God because Jesus believed them. Jesus believed that Adam and Eve were real people and He held a literal view of Genesis. He believed Moses and called the Old Testament the Scriptures which cannot be broken. When the religious leaders asked Him about divorce He answered and said unto them, Have ye not read, that he which made them at the beginning made them male and female, And said, For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, (two) but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder (Mt. 19:4-6).

 

  1. One of the problems Christians have who deny Genesis and embrace Evolution is that Adam is in the genealogy of Jesus. Our Lord was a descendant of Adam. If you assume that Adam was not a real person, created by God in the beginning as the Bible says, how can you believe Jesus was who the Bible said He was? The Creation account in Genesis is the foundation for the entire Bible, do away with it and you lose the Gospel and the entire Word of God. Either we believe that both Adam and Jesus are real people or we must believe that neither of them were real people. Another problem is when we deny Genesis we are calling Jesus a liar. Jesus Himself said that God created them (Adam and Eve) male and female in the beginning not over millions of years. How could a man who lied about this be the Son of God? The sacrifice of Christ for our sins only makes sense in light of the doctrine of Creation. Even atheists know this. In 1978 an atheist named Richard Bozarth wrote: Christianity has fought, still fights, and will fight science to the desperate end over evolution, because evolution destroys utterly and finally the very reason Jesus’ earthly life was supposedly made necessary. Destroy Adam and Eve and the original sin, and in the rubble you will find the sorry remains of the Son of god. If you take away the meaning of his death if Jesus was not the redeemer who died for our sins, and this is what evolution means, then Christianity is nothing. (From the Meaning of Evolution, American Atheist..

 

  1. Jesus spoke with the authority of God Himself and we confess with Thomas when he said to Jesus: My Lord and my God. The entire Bible bears witness to the divinity of Christ. He was God manifest in the flesh, He was Emmanuel, God with us as Isaiah wrote: His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, the everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Is. 9:6). For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col.2:9). Jesus is the brightness of his (God’s) glory, and the express image of his person (Heb. 1:1-3). In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made (Jn. 1:1-3). Jesus was the divine Savior and Son of God who came from heaven to redeem the world from sin. Only a Savior who was both God and man could atone for our sins and reconcile us to the Father. Jesus was more than just a great moral teacher more than an example of how to live. For a mere man to say the things Jesus said would not make him a great moral teacher; he would either be a lunatic or the devil himself. As you read of Christ in the Bible you can Him a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon or you can fall at His feet and call Him your Lord and God (CS Lewis; Mere Christianity). There is no other choice. Jesus believed in the Creation account revealed in Genesis and all who follow Him will do the same.

II.

  1. Jesus speaks through His written Word. Christ speaks with love and authority today through His Word. The Christian bows his heart and life before Jesus Christ because of the new birth of Holy Baptism. The Holy Spirit subdues our hearts and by His power we begin to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ. No one has to force the child of God to obey the word of Christ. He gladly obeys His Lord and Savior because the Holy Spirit fills his heart with love for Christ. Jesus described His sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand (Jn. 10:27-28). The child of God knows that God has created him, Christ has redeemed him, and the Holy Spirit continues to sanctify and care for him. David wrote: Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name (Ps. 100:3-4). The Lord grants us saving faith, the rock solid assurance that God’s Word is absolutely true for He cannot lie. The One who created the world continues to rule over it by His Divine Providence for the sake of His children. No man saw God create heaven and earth yet we believe it because He Himself tells us so in the Bible. Only a fool could say the world came into being by chance.

 

  1. As Jesus said to Thomas: Because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed (Jn. 20:29). God expects us to be people of faith and to believe His Word just as Jesus did. He prayed in the upper room: Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth (Jn. 17:17). Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear (Heb. 11:3). The Almighty God by the power of His creative Word called into existence the basic material of which all things consist, by the power of His Word He formed this mass, making the various kinds and species of creatures (Koehler). Evolutionary periods were not necessary for God to create the world nor can they be scientifically proven. And if we do not believe the words of Moses Jesus said we would not believe Him. Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words? (Jn. 5:45-47). The words of Moses are the foundation for the Gospel. Reject Genesis and you will end up rejecting Christ and the Gospel. As the doctrine of evolution continues to be taught in our schools, the media, and books and as modern churches fail to teach the book of Genesis, more and more people are ignorant of the truth.

 

  1. We are no longer living in a Christian nation. It may have been Christian at one time, but not anymore. Therefore we cannot assume people know what the Bible reveals about Creation, God, or salvation. When we speak to people about Christ we must do what the Apostle Paul did when he spoke to the pagan Greeks on Mars Hill. He began by preaching about Creation. Then Paul stood in the midst of Mars’ hill, and said, Ye men of Athens, I perceive that in all things ye are too superstitious. For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, To The Unknown God. Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you. God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands (Acts 17:22-24). When we begin to understand God’s power and authority in Creation we understand His ability to save and preserve us in the true faith. God is our Creator and He alone has the right to make the rules, He alone has the authority to tell us how we can be saved, how we are to live, what we are to believe, and how to are to define our lives in this world. Our faith in the God revealed in Genesis lays the foundation for our faith in Jesus Christ and His redemption for our sins. Faith comes by hearing the Word of God Therefore let us ask God to give us faith in His Word and strength to stand for the truth in the face of unbelief, compromise, and pagan darkness. Amen.

 

The Fourth Sunday in Lent

 

March 6, 2016

Rev. Ross Mahan; Pastor

Luke 15:11-32

And he said, A certain man had two sons: And the younger of them said to his father, Father, give me the portion of goods that falleth to me. And he divided unto them his living. And not many days after the younger son gathered all together, and took his journey into a far country, and there wasted his substance with riotous living. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. And he went and joined himself to a citizen of that country; and he sent him into his fields to feed swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the husks that the swine did eat: and no man gave unto him. And when he came to himself, he said, How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose, and came to his father. But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. Now his elder son was in the field: and as he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard music and dancing. And he called one of the servants, and asked what these things meant. And he said unto him, Thy brother is come; and thy father hath killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry, and would not go in: therefore came his father out, and entreated him. And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.

 

  1. Did you ever lose something valuable? In the three parables recorded in Luke 15 Jesus described three different people searching for something valuable they had lost; a lost sheep, a lost coin, and a lost son. The Bible describes man as lost. He has wandered away from God and cannot find his way back. Man is also rebellious and hates God’s authority. Left to himself, man would continue wandering away from God until he died in his sins. Sin has blinded man to his true condition. Christ came into the world to seek and to save that which is lost, He came into the world to redeem and reconcile mankind back to God. God loves sinners and is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (II Pet. 3:9). Jesus the Good Shepherd continues searching for the lost sheep who have wandered away from Him. He searches for them through the preaching of His Word of God in the Churches and through individual Christians as they confess their faith in the world. As God’s people proclaim the Word of God to family and friends, the Holy Spirit uses the Word to convince men and women of their need of Christ and grants them repentance and faith in Christ. The story of the Prodigal Son is a picture of man’s rebellion to God. It is also an illustration of the power of God’s love and grace to restore a sinner unto Himself through repentance and faith.

I.

  1. The Prodigal Son rebels against His Father. Jesus tells the story about a man who had two sons. The younger son didn’t want to wait for his inheritance but wanted the money now. He wanted to be on his own, so he asked his father for his portion of the inheritance and the father agreed. He released his son without a fight or even a lecture. After receiving his father’s money the young man travelled to a distant country where he wasted it on riotous living, drinking and wild women. I’ve often wondered why this young man wanted to leave home so badly. Think of what he left, a family that loved him very much, a secure future as the son of a wealthy landowner along with his brother, regular meals, and a comfortable home life complete with servants to do all the hard work. This parable reminds us that sin will blind a man’s heart. Sin makes a person spiritually insane. Listen to Paul’s description of the unbelieving sinner. That ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart (Eph. 4:17-18). No doubt like many young people he thought Dad was too strict, too old fashioned and he was tired of being told what to do, or perhaps he simply wanted an exciting carefree life without any obligations. With the money his Dad gave him he could see the world and live a life of pleasure and ease.

 

  1. He learned the hard way that a life of sin is not freedom at all, but the worst kind of slavery. Life without God, His Law and the forgiveness of sins leads to a life of spiritual bondage. Jesus said: Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin. If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed (Jn. 8:34, 36). Sin leads to death. Sin causes a man to destroy his own life and his eternal soul. You will never truly understand human behavior until you consider the power of sin in the heart of a person. Sin brings guilt, fear, and death. But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death (Ja. 1:14-15). Sin has the power to cause a man to risk everything to fulfill its lusts, risk his family, his health, his vocation, his reputation, his future, and even his eternal soul. That is the power of sin. Sin is an addiction only Christ can break. I had a pastor friend who helped us start a Baptist church in the Adrian area 30 years ago. He was the pastor of a large congregation on the west side of the state. But while he was on a mission trip in Brazil a few years later, he met a young woman and ended up leaving his wife and family for her. He lost everything, his ministry, reputation, marriage, and family, for what? For a mistress in Brazil. What makes a man that reckless? Sin has the power to deceive and make a man stupid.

 

  1. I’ve often wondered why this father gave money to a son when he knew what he was going to do with it. God is different than an earthly father. He will not force you to believe on Him. He won’t bribe you to be His child or coerce you to obey His Word. He gently and lovingly invites us to come to Christ and be saved. The Christian faith is not like Islam. The Muslim religion teaches its followers to kill anyone that leaves the Islamic faith. Throughout history Islam has forced entire nations to convert to Islam or face death. If you want to leave the Christian faith, if you don’t want to come to church, if you don’t care about your soul or the Word of God, and if you don’t want a relationship with God you can walk away. God will not force you to love and serve Him. The true Child of God serves God out of love for Christ. If you want to waste your inheritance, throw away your gifts, talents, and money, if wish to serve the flesh, the world, and the devil you are free to do so. But the Word of God warns you where such a life will lead. The Lord will chasten His children for their disobedience, but you are free to walk down that path if you wish. But if you do realize that actions have consequences, sometimes for eternity. Millions of people in this country have walked away from God; they have departed from His Word and from the Church. They are wasting the inheritance God gave them and sadly our nation and much of the modern church are doing the same.

II.

  1. The prodigal son returns to His Father. We follow this young man into his new life as he journeys into far country to live in a fool’s paradise where he found lots of drinking buddies and loose women to help him spend his Dad’s money. But after his money was gone, hard times hit. And when he had spent all, there arose a mighty famine in that land; and he began to be in want. His sense of freedom quickly became panic. He was in a distant country without money a job or anyone who could help him. He was getting hungry and destitute. He finally sank so low he took a job feeding pigs for a local farmer, the worst job imaginable for a Jewish boy. He was so hungry he was tempted to eat some of the pig’s food. Solomon wrote: The way of the transgressor is hard (Prov. 13:15). Sometimes the Lord will let a person hit rock bottom to wake him up. He often chastens people by allowing them to experience the consequences of their decisions. When this young man was at the lowest point in his life he began to wake up. Jesus described what happened to him with the words: He came to himself. In other words, he woke up to the stupidity of his situation. He was pathetic and had been acting like a total idiot. The Lord leads you to repentance by shining the Light of His Word into your heart and circumstances to show you your true condition. As this young man contemplated his circumstances he began to reflect on His Father’s kindness and love.

 

  1. How many hired servants of my father’s have bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger! The Light of the Law convicted him about how shamefully he had acted toward his father. Paul writes: By the Law is the knowledge of sin (Rom. 3:20). He had sinned against God and against his father but now he was faced with a decision. What would he do? Would he stay in the pig pen and continue his rebellion or would he go home and seek reconciliation with his father? The Prodigal Son is a picture of repentance. True repentance is a change of mind and a change of direction. For this young man to repent his next step required action. True repentance says I’m sorry for my sin, sorry enough to stop sinning. And I will prove how sorry I am by beginning to obey God’s Word and amending my sinful life. Repentance for this young man included not just being sorry or feeling regret, he had to get up, leave the pig pen, go home and be reconciled to his father. So he started the long journey home. It was a long walk, but he kept going and as he walked he rehearsed in his mind what he was going to say to his father. I will arise and go to my father, and will say unto him, Father, I have sinned against heaven, and before thee, And am no more worthy to be called thy son: make me as one of thy hired servants. This young man is now humble. He is no longer the proud, rebellious man that had demanded his inheritance and left home.

 

  1. He was coming home with the attitude of a servant because he knew it was more than he deserved. But as he approached home his father saw him coming a long way off and ran to meet him. His Dad fell on his son’s neck and kissed him. The young man gave him the speech he had prepared but his Dad wasn’t listening. Instead he said to one of the servants: Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. There was no discussion about him becoming a slave. There was nothing he could do to earn his father’s love. He didn’t need to try. The son had put his father out of his mind for a long time but his father had never forgotten him. He had never stopped looking for his son to return home just as God always longs for the sinner to return to His love and grace. The father graciously forgave his son and restored him once again, not as a servant but as a son. The father gave his son the very best robe to put on, a picture of the robe of Christ’s righteousness that covers all our sins, the spotless garment that is ours in Holy Baptism when we are clothed with Christ (Gal. 3:27). He gave him a ring which displayed his status as a son and shoes to wear. Slaves and servants in that day were forbidden to wear shoes and went barefoot. This was truly a day of celebration.

 

  1. Jesus said: I say unto you, that likewise there is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance. While the party was getting started the older brother was out in the field but when he came near the house and heard music and dancing a servant told him they were celebrating because his younger brother had returned. He was angry and refused to join the party. His Father came out to talk to him. And he answering said to his father, Lo, these many years do I serve thee, neither transgressed I at any time thy commandment: and yet thou never gavest me a kid, that I might make merry with my friends: But as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy living with harlots, thou hast killed for him the fatted calf. And he said unto him, Son, thou art ever with me, and all that I have is thine. The older brother saw his relationship to his father in terms of service rather than love. He could have had anything he wanted from his father not because he had served for so many years but because he was a son. If you are a child of God He loves you with an everlasting love. Christ redeemed you from all sin and when you wander away he searches for you, calling you by name and finding you, restores your relationship to Him again. How did the Father deal with the older brother? He showed the same gentle kindness he had shown to his younger brother. Our sins are forgiven through Christ alone. Only Jesus gives us peace with a Holy God.

 

  1. By Christ alone we are admitted into God’s presence without fear. In Christ alone God can be just and still justify the ungodly. Both the prodigal son and the older brother were lost before God, both must repent and return. The older brother was lost in self-righteousness. He had fallen into an even deeper pit of sin. Can we say that we have served God properly? Have we done our duty to our neighbor? Is there anyone who would like to bring forward his prayers, his service, his morality, his faithfulness, his church going and ask to be accepted by God for any of them? Which of these things will stand before God’s perfect holiness? Which of them can justify us? None. If we take any of the Ten Commandments and examine ourselves by it we will discover that we have broken God’s law repeatedly. Before God’s Law there is one verdict, we are guilty and deserve hell. How can we come before God? We come in the name of Jesus with no other plea than this: Christ died on the cross for the ungodly and I trust in Him. Christ died for me and I believe on Him. The robe of Christ’s righteousness is the only garment that can cover our sins, the name of Jesus is the only name by which we will gain entrance into eternal glory. The mark of the blood of Christ is the only mark that can save us from destruction. The older brother had stayed home within his father’s house, but in reality he was living in a distant country as much as his younger brother had been. God’s grace reaches out to both of them and to us. Amen.

Lenten Vespers: 2-17-2016

 

February 17, 2016

Rev. Ross Mahan; Pastor

John 11:45-53

Grace, mercy, and peace be unto you from God our Father and Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord.

Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done. Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.

 

  1. Our theme for Lenten Vespers this year is the Ironies of the Passion. An irony is when the intended meaning of our words is different than the actual meaning of the words. An example of irony is when someone responds to a ridiculous suggestion by saying: That’s a great idea. A situational irony is laughing because someone slips and falls on the ice and you end up falling too. A verbal irony would a 350 pound man with the nickname of Tiny. During the Civil War the Southern Confederates considered Abraham Lincoln the biggest liar to ever occupy the Oval Office so they nicknamed him Honest Abe. We see irony in Caiaphas the High Priest who unintentionally revealed what God had in mind though he intended something totally different. God used Caiaphas, an unbeliever, to proclaim the Gospel without him ever realizing it. Caiaphas was a schemer, a political operative and an insider firmly entrenched in political and religious power. He was the ruler of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish Council, who along with the Roman government, controlled the Jewish nation with an iron fist. He was a power player who ruled the religious and political system like the Mafia. If you got in their way Caiaphas, Herod, or Pontius Pilate would make sure you disappeared. Caiaphas had a Jesus problem. Our Lord was causing them big trouble. So they called the Sanhedrin together to discuss it. What was their problem with Jesus? Was He hurting people? Was He threatening anyone?

I.

  1. The problem of Jesus: The immediate problem was Jesus had just raised a man named Lazarus from the dead. Our Lord had performed many other miracles in the past that were ignored by the religious leaders, but raising someone from the dead who had been in the tomb four days in front of dozens of witnesses could not be overlooked. And because of this miracle many of the Jews were beginning to believe on Jesus. Some who saw the miracle ran to tell the Pharisees what He had done and this prompted the emergency meeting. As the meeting began the religious leaders poured out their anxiety about Jesus. What were they going to do? He was becoming a serious threat to them. The conversation was going in every direction, but there was one theme, if they didn’t do something about Jesus, the Jewish people would believe on Him and when that happened the Romans would come and take away their place and their nation. They would lose their position, power, and wealth. They had to do something to safeguard the nation, their wealth and power. The religious leaders were panicking and Caiaphas saw an opportunity to secure his authority. He saw the bigger picture, an ability that had kept him in office for thirty years. After listening to the other members of the council he finally took charge: Ye know nothing at all. You don’t realize that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not.

 

  1. Caiaphas framed his argument on what was good for the nation. He was cool and calculating. The answer was to commit murder. It was the only honorable thing to do. They had to kill Jesus for the good of the nation. It was better for one man to die to save the nation of Israel, better to sacrifice one man than for the nation to perish at the hands of the Romans. Caiaphas was like the Godfather arranging a murder for hire. This was the sorry state of Judaism in those days. The true religion of Abraham, had all but disappeared. From the beginning of Christ’s ministry Jesus had been a threat to the Scribes and Pharisees. Like the Pope of Rome they had claimed the right to interpret Scriptures but Jesus had the temerity to tell them they were wrong and that their hearts were not right with God and their religion of works righteousness was false. These men knew if they lost control of the Jewish people the Roman government would replace or kill them. Caiaphas won the day. He got what he wanted. He settled the question and from that day forward they plotted to kill Jesus. This was the level of their hatred for Jesus, a hatred that extended to Lazarus too, for in the next chapter they were plotting to kill him along with Jesus because he was causing so many people to believe on Jesus. That’s how much they hated Jesus that was the depth of their unbelief. They were going to kill Jesus and if necessary kill Lazarus too because he was living proof that a miracle had taken place.

 

  1. Caiaphas didn’t realize he was more right than he imagined. When he said it was best that one man die for the people he unwittingly spoke the Gospel. He was right, the whole nation shouldn’t be destroyed; just one man should die; one man should die for sinners, the just for the unjust. The Lamb of God should be sacrificed in the place of guilty sinners. One man should take the punishment of the nation. Better that one would die than they should all die. God in His sovereignty overruled what Caiaphas intended and he spoke the truth in spite of himself. And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation. And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. The man who spoke words of hatred and murder unintentionally spoke the life giving words of the Gospel. In spite of himself the High Priest spoke God’s saving word. Jesus would die in place of the nation. Caiaphas was plotting death but God had planned life. Caiaphas was selfishly seeking political gain but God was going to bring spiritual gain to the world. He planned to commit the worst evil upon Jesus but God brought the greatest good from it. They were hoping to spare one nation, Israel, but God sent Jesus to the cross to die for the scattered children of God in every nation and language, and to bring them together and make them one.

 

  1. God was fulfilling His words to Abraham that through His Seed, Christ all the nations of the earth would be blessed. Jesus would be a light for the Gentiles to bring salvation to the ends of the earth. The hatred of the Jewish leaders reflected their unbelief. The carnal mind of man is the enemy of God and this is the condition of all unbelievers. Jesus said the world will hate us just as it hated Him and the Sanhedrin illustrates the level of that hatred. Apart from the grace of God we would all hate Christ just as these men did. Everything we have in the way of faith and understanding is the gift of God. It does not come from us. God deserves all the glory for our salvation. We all have the same seeds of unbelief and pride that filled the hearts of the Scribes and Pharisees. Even good church going people are not immune from pride. The Pharisees were the good church going people of that day. They studied their Bibles, memorized God’s Word, taught in the synagogues, and prayed every day yet behind the appearance of faith and grace were hearts that were cold and dead. Sinful human pride kills saving faith. Pride has often been described as the mother of all sins. It was the sin of pride that caused Satan to be cast out of heaven and it was pride that caused Adam and Eve to fall into sin. It is pride that separates the Christian from His Savior. Faith looks to God for everything we need in this life but pride trusts in me and my own works.

II.

  1. The power of God. Only God could accomplish the plan of salvation, only He can apply the Gospel to our hearts. We must never imagine that pride and sin cannot enter our hearts. This is why we must continue repenting and confessing our sins asking God to preserve us in the true faith. The Spirit of God wages war against the pride of our hearts each day. The Word reminds us that pride goes before a fall, and God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble (Prov. 16:18; James 4:6). But to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word (Is. 66:2b). Caiaphas proclaimed the Gospel that day though he had intended words of hatred and murder. Caiaphas was not in control, God was. He was not aware of what the Holy Spirit was doing. As High Priest He was pointing to Jesus. It was the High Priest that had the duty of bringing the blood of the sacrifice to God in the Temple. He would continue offering the blood of atonement until God Himself would come and sacrifice Himself for our sins.

But one last time at the close of the Old Covenant, God spoke through the High Priest. From that point on Jesus would fulfill all the symbols and sacrifices and the Old Testament priesthood would come to an end. There would be no more need for sacrifices. All the types and symbols were passing away. Caiaphas revealed why Jesus had to die. It was better in God’s sight that one man die to preserve the nation from death.

 

  1. Not only did the Lord speak the Gospel through Caiaphas He also used him to arrange the details of His death. As High Priest Caiaphas made sure Jesus was put on trial, appeared before Pilate, and was condemned to die on the cross. He reminds us that sin is the universal condition of all men. Sin condemns us to die and go to hell. But God did not want that to happen so He sent His Son to die and to pay for our pride and sin. Jesus was the Messiah that Israel had been waiting for; His was the only blood that could pay for our sins, the only sacrifice that could turn God’s anger away from us, the only atonement that could ever make us friends with God again. Only the blood of the sinless Son of God could save us. The blood of Jesus is worth more than the whole universe. It not only paid for the sins of the nation of Israel but for the sins of the whole world.  John wrote: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world (I Jn. 2:2). God had always planned to save the Gentiles. Caiaphas prophesied that Jesus would die for every man, woman, and child who would ever live. If God had the power to put the Gospel into the mouth of a man who hated Him He is able to make the Light of the Gospel shine in the darkness of this world, able to save to the uttermost all who come to God through Christ. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation to everyone that believes, both Jew and Gentile.

 

  1. Our Gospel reading also reminds us that miracles alone do not have the power to convert anyone to Christ. Many of the Jews had witnessed the miracle of Lazarus, a man dead four days, being raised to life. The miracle was unmistakable and undeniable yet the Chief priests and Pharisees would not believe on Christ and ended up committing even worse sins. This is the power of unbelief. Only the Holy Spirit through Word of God can save sinners and bring them to faith. Miracles alone cannot do this. When the Rich Man in hell begged Abraham to send Lazarus the beggar back to his brothers on earth to warn them about hell he argued: But if one went unto them from the dead, they will repent. But Abraham replied: If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead (Lu. 16:30-31). Here is the proof of Abraham’s words. Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha had been raised from the dead and yet the religious leaders would not believe. And soon Jesus would rise again from the dead and they would still refuse to believe. The fact that you believe on Christ is the Spirit’s work in your life. You have found peace with God and God has forgiven all your sins and granted you eternal life, a new birth, and has declared you His people. Through faith in Christ we who are removed thousands of miles and 20 centuries away from Jerusalem and Caiaphas are now children of God, bought and paid for by the death of Christ.

 

  1. God has made us all one in Christ. The way God looks at it, there is only one Christian Church. We don’t see it that way. We see Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists and Catholics. We see division and discord. We see people who don’t seem very serious about their Christian faith. We can’t see into a person’s heart, only God knows the heart but whenever God sees faith in Jesus Christ He sees a member of His One True Church. In heaven we will all be one. Nothing that separates us now will divide us. We will all enjoy God’s love together forever. All of this will be ours because one man died for the people. God loved His only begotten Son but willingly sacrificed Him on the cross to bring us to heaven. All those who trust in what Christ has done for them will love God and each other forever. We are not told what happened to Caiaphas. As far as we know he never understood who Jesus was or even what he had said that day. God always accomplishes His salvation and guides everything that touches our lives. He causes all things to work together for our good. If Caiaphas did not repent and believe on Jesus as His Savior he died and went to hell. In one last bit of irony, the man through whom God had spoken, the one who held a place of honor and responsibility in the Jewish Church, will hear Jesus say to him on the last day: I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity (Mt 7:23). One of the great ironies of the Passion is God’s love for us spoken through the mouth of an unbeliever; Amen.

 

 

The Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

 

January 31, 2016

Rev. Ross Mahan; Pastor

Luke 4:31-44

Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, meet with us this day according to your promise

And they were astonished at his doctrine: for his word was with power. And in the synagogue there was a man, which had a spirit of an unclean devil, and cried out with a loud voice, Saying, Let us alone; what have we to do with thee, thou Jesus of Nazareth? art thou come to destroy us? I know thee who thou art; the Holy One of God. And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him. And when the devil had thrown him in the midst, he came out of him, and hurt him not.  And they were all amazed, and spake among themselves, saying, What a word is this! for with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out.  And the fame of him went out into every place of the country round about. And he arose out of the synagogue, and entered into Simon’s house. And Simon’s wife’s mother was taken with a great fever; and they besought him for her. And he stood over her, and rebuked the fever; and it left her: and immediately she arose and ministered unto them. Now when the sun was setting, all they that had any sick with divers diseases brought them unto him; and he laid his hands on every one of them, and healed them. And devils also came out of many, crying out, and saying, Thou art Christ the Son of God. And he rebuking them suffered them not to speak: for they knew that he was Christ. And when it was day, he departed and went into a desert place: and the people sought him, and came unto him, and stayed him, that he should not depart from them. And he said unto them, I must preach the kingdom of God to other cities also: for therefore am I sent. And he preached in the synagogues of Galilee.

 

  1. In our text Luke introduces us to some of the people Jesus came to save, the poor, the brokenhearted, the captives, the blind, and the bruised as Jesus described them (Vs. 18). We walk with our Lord on a typical day in His ministry as He is teaching, casting out demons, and healing the sick. The people were amazed at His authority over sickness and the devil. Who were these people? They are people enslaved by the power of sin and Satan. Christ was born to take away sins and destroy the works of the devil (I Jn. 3:5, 8). He is the healer of every evil that sin and the devil have brought into the world; He is the remedy for all the mischief which Satan has brought upon mankind. The devil is very real. He is our adversary, like a roaring lion walking about seeking whom He may devour (I Pet.5:8), and like a thief who comes to steal, kill, and destroy, (Jn. 10:10) and a liar, murderer and deceiver that only Christ can overcome (Jn. 8:44; II Cor. 11:13-14). Man is born a slave to sin and Satan’s Kingdom. Sin entered into the world, and death by sin (Rom. 5:12). Sin is the ultimate cause of all sickness, disease, pain and suffering in the world. Sickness, disease, and suffering are part of the curse which came upon the world when Adam and Eve sinned. If our first parents had not disobeyed God and eaten of the forbidden fruit there would have been no sickness or death. When Adam sinned all of humanity and even Creation itself was condemned to suffer the consequences of curse.

 

  1. This week I was reading about the life of William Cowper. He was born in England in 1731 and suffered chronic depression his entire life often on the brink of insanity. Four times he and had to go stay at an insane asylum until he regained his right mind. He often found relief by reading and writing poetry. Cowper was a recluse who spent his entire life in the English countryside and it was while he was the asylum at St. Albans that he found a Bible on a bench in the garden and began reading it. As he read, he began to feel a ray of hope and then he came across the words of St. Paul in Romans: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God (Rom. 3:25). It was that verse that brought Cowper to faith in Christ but he still struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts. Later Cowper’s family moved to the town of Olney where John Newton, the former slave ship captain was pastor and they became close friends. Hoping to lift his spirits, Rev. Newton suggested they write a book of hymns together. He had already written Amazing Grace, one of 280 hymns in the Olney Hymn book and Cowper ended up writing 68 of them. It is often difficult for us to come to terms with Christians who struggle with chronic sickness and depression, yet many believers struggle with these things. It was during Cowper’s worst bouts of melancholy and despair that he wrote some his most memorable hymns.

 

Ye fearful saints fresh courage take

The clouds ye so much dread

Are big with mercy and shall break

With blessings on your head

 

Blind unbelief is sure to err

And scan His work in vain;

God is His own interpreter,

And He shall make it plain.

TLH P. 514

William Cowper

 

I.

  1. Jesus came to save and comfort those suffering the results of sin. The redemption of Christ liberates man from the guilt and power of sin and one day creation itself will be set free from the bondage of sin, corruption, and death. Our Gospel lesson raises a question: Why do some people get sick and suffer while others do not? Many skeptics in the past have accused God of being unjust: How can God be loving when He allows pain? How can He be a God of mercy when He permits disease and suffering? These are questions no one can answer completely except to say that: God is too wise to be wrong; too kind to be cruel. In our Gospel we see Jesus going everywhere healing every kind of disease, even raising Lazarus from the dead who had died from sickness. Peter said at the home of Cornelius: God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him (Acts 10:39). Christ has the power to heal any disease and provide any thing we need or want in this life. He has complete authority over the devil, sin, and sickness. When Christ speaks, things happen, the fever departs, the demon leaves, and the sick are healed. By healing the sick and casting out demons, Jesus was revealing what He had come to do for the world. All the people Jesus healed during His ministry later died, yet by healing them, Jesus showed us that sickness and death are not the end.

 

  1. What Christ would accomplish on the cross would one day bring ultimate and final healing for our souls and mortal bodies. For our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself (Phil. 3:20-21). Physical sickness reminds us of the reality of death. If people were healthy until the day they died most would not be ready to meet the Lord. They would be like the rich fool in our Lord’s parable who said to himself: Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided? So is he that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God (Lu. 12:19-21). Sickness often forces us to consider the things of God and the needs of our soul. Man’s heart by nature is hard as a rock. What can awaken him to his need for Christ? A long illness often draws us to God for it humbles us, and reminds us of the brevity of life as James wrote: For what is your life? It is even a vapor, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away (Ja. 4:14). Sickness will reveal the quality of our faith. True religion is good and beneficial not only while we are healthy and sailing on smooth waters, but also during times of sickness when we are in the midst of a storm.

 

  1. Are we building our lives on the rock of God’s Word or on the sand of human thinking and experience? The true foundation of our faith and life will be revealed when the storms come. Every life will have storms at some point. Sickness and suffering show us our need of grace and help draw us back to Christ and the means of grace. If this happens, than sickness was a mercy from God. When Paul was suffering his Thorn in the Flesh, which most say was some kind of physical problem, he prayed three times for God to remove it. But the Lord said no. Then He revealed why He allowed him to suffer. He was preserving Paul from soul damning pride. God said to him: My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake: for when I am weak, then am I strong (II Cor. 12:9-10). O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! (Rom.11:33). Now we know in part, but a day is coming when we will know exactly what God was doing and what was the purpose for our suffering. Sickness reminds us to prepare to meet God and to walk with Him each day in true repentance and faith.
  2. Jesus invites us to pray and ask the Father for everything we need and want in this life. I would not leave this subject this morning without pointing you to Jesus the Great Physician. He has the power to heal any disease, to answer any petition, to calm any storm, and to provide any need you may have. He is our Great High Priest, our Mediator with the Father, our Intercessor whose perfect blood and righteousness have opened the way to God’s presence. Jesus our High Priest knows our every need and His ear is always open to our cry. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 4:15-16). Jesus invites us to pray, He commands us to pray, and He promises to answer every proper prayer in His own way and time. And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If ye shall ask any thing in my name, I will do it (Jn. 14:13-14). And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint (Lu. 18:1). If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him? (Mt. 7:11). He is the Sovereign God, able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we or think (Eph. 3:20).

 

  1. Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you (Mt. 7:7). Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you (Jn. 15:16). Do you realize that in the New Testament Jesus never refused to heal anyone who asked Him? He was always ready to hear and answer the prayers of all who came to Him. Do you also realize that He has not changed? Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8). And do you know that history is filled with examples of how God has answered prayer in the past. He has healed millions of people just like you and if so, then why not you? He is no respecter of persons and He has promised to listen and answer when we call. We come to God in prayer with the attitude of our Lord: Not my will but Thine be done ready to accept whatever God chooses to give us. But let us not be afraid to pray boldly for miracles, and to plead with God for all that we need, as the angel said to Mary: For with God nothing shall be impossible (Lu. 1:37). Let us follow the example of Elijah an ordinary man like us who prayed that it would not rain for three and a half years and God answered his prayer. Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. (Ja. 5:16-18).

 

Thou art coming to a King

Large petitions with thee bring;

For His grace and power are such

None can ever ask too much

TLH P. 459

John Newton

 

  1. Jesus came to preach the Gospel, to call people to faith in the promise that their sins are forgiven in Him. He speaks with authority and calls you back to the God who knows all your sins yet still forgives and accepts you for the sake of His Son. Christ is still preaching that same message in the church today through His called ministers. He invites you to come to Him for rest. His Word is alive, powerful, and filled with divine authority. His Word is able to grant faith, healing, and new life to all who hear it. Are you bothered by your sins? Does the devil accuse you? Is your heart filled with doubts and fears? Realize that the devil has no power over you. Death has been defeated. One day our bodies that suffer pain and weakness are going to be healed and restored to perfect health at the last day. Christ spoke His Word over you at your baptism through His called minister when the Triune God joined you to Himself, just as He speaks the word of forgiveness in the Absolution, and in Holy Communion: This is My body, this is My blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. After years of doubts and fears about his salvation William Cowper finally understood the reality of Christ’s full atonement for sins. He is an example of Christ’s power to save and preserve His sheep through they are weak and sick and often filled with despair, and depression. He carries His lambs to Heaven to be with Him. William Cowper sat down one day and wrote a hymn about of his new found confidence in Christ.

 

There is a fountain filled with blood

Drawn from Immanuel’s veins

And sinners plunged beneath that flood

Lose all their guilty stains.

 

The dying thief rejoiced to see

That fountain in his day;

And there have I, as vile as he

Washed all my sins away.

 

When this poor lisping, stammering tongue

Lies silent in the grave,

Then in a nobler sweeter song

I’ll sing Thy power to save

TLH P. 157

William Cowper

 

 

 

The Second Sunday after Epiphany

 

January 17, 2016

Rev. Ross Mahan; Pastor

John 2:1-11

Lord God Heavenly Father meet with us this day by Your Word through Christ our Savior.

And the third day there was a marriage in Cana of Galilee; and the mother of Jesus was there: And both Jesus was called, and his disciples, to the marriage. And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.

 

  1. In our Gospel reading Jesus was attending a wedding in Cana along with Mary His mother and the disciples. His presence at this wedding reminds us that God created marriage. He created it before the fall, at a time when Adam and Eve loved God and one another perfectly; marriage is God’s gift to mankind, one man and one woman joined together for life, till death do us part. After Adam was created the Lord knew he was in need of something. And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet (suitable) for him (Gen. 2:18). God created the family, the place where children would be born, nurtured, and prepared to take their place in the world. Nothing can take the place of a biological father and mother in the life of a child. This is why man has no right to redefine marriage to suit his own selfish desires. The Bible condemns homosexual Marriage. It is wrong, destructive, and destined to fail. The true Church must remain faithful to the Bible’s definition of marriage, family, and life in this world lest we fall under His judgment. Marriage is not a sacrament but a gift from God given for our benefit. Christ has promised to dwell with His people until the end of time The Wedding of Cana is a reminder that Jesus is with us at every stage of our lives, present in all of our joys and celebrations and present in all of our disappointments and grief. What is the meaning of Christ’s presence with us in our lives?

I.

  1. Jesus is with us in every circumstance. He is the silent witness to all the events of our life. He was a guest at your wedding. The Lord hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, she is thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant (Mal. 2:14). God heard the vows you made on your wedding day and though many have forgotten the covenant they made that day He still remembers. God keeps His covenant with us and He expects us to keep the covenant we made with our spouse. Every young girl dreams of her wedding day when she will dazzle all the wedding guests with her radiant beauty, but a wedding back in Jesus’ day was quite different. In Western weddings the bride is the one celebrated. When she walks down the aisle the whole congregation stands, the organ plays and every eye is on her. But in Eastern weddings the groom was the focus, the bride merely showed up for the ceremony. In those days the man paid for the whole wedding which could last for two or three days, sometimes as long as a week. All of the relatives from both sides of the family would come together for eating and drinking. There are times to rejoice and celebrate with feasting and wine. No one can say the Bible forbids all wine drinking. The wine served at a Jewish wedding was intoxicating, the idea that Jesus made high grade grape juice at Cana is ridiculous. Jesus was able to enjoy food and wine at a wedding without sin, and He desires us to do the same.

 

  1. One of the purposes for marriage is bringing children into the world and into the Kingdom of God through Holy Baptism. The Lord is with us when our children are born. When my first daughter was born, the hospitals had just started letting fathers into the delivery room rather than stay out in the waiting area. I personally preferred the old system, just call me when it’s over, but there I was with Carla watching her give birth to my daughter Kara. For some reason we assumed we were having a boy and had not even picked out a girl’s name, that’s how certain we were, but the Lord surprised us. I’ll never forget leaving the hospital that day to take a walk and try to clear my head and to think about a name and though I don’t place much confidence on feelings, I’ll never forget how much I felt God’s presence at that moment. It was overwhelming. I knew He was with me. The Lord blessed us with three more children and I got a boy the next time. The children God gives us are born in sin so parents have the privilege of bringing their children to the waters of Baptism to wash away their sins. And as they grow up in the home they are to teach them the Word of God and the Catechism from their earliest years, teaching them that they are children of God by faith through their baptism into Christ. The Sacrament of Baptism cleanses the child from sin but the Lord tells us to train our children in His Word and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:3).

 

  1. The Lord is with us as our children grow up and even though we are sinful, weak and in need of mercy, the Lord sanctifies our marriage and blesses our homes with His presence. This is why we keep coming back to church each week to hear again the reality of our sins, our need of Christ and the promises of the Gospel. In the Divine Service the Lord meets with parents and children through His Word and Sacrament and the fellowship of His people. The Lord was there when your children graduated from high school and that day when your daughter called home to tell you she had met a boy and wanted to know if she could bring him home to meet her parents. Fathers should not necessarily pick husbands for their daughters, but they should definitely maintain veto power. Only a father knows what it feels like to stand in the back of the church his daughter holding his arm about to walk down the aisle together at her wedding and the thoughts that race through your head. It seemed like just yesterday she was running around the yard but now she had grown up, getting married and beginning a new home. And you realize once again the reality of God’s promise:  Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee (Deut. 31:6). The Lord is with you every step of the way, in every celebration, at every milestone, and even in times of affliction and trial He walks with us each day.

 

  1. And He promises to be with us on our deathbed and all the way to glory. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me (Ps. 23:4). O Jacob, and he that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee (Is. 43:1-2). Jesus is with us when things go wrong like they did that day at the wedding. Mary came to Jesus with bad news: They have no wine. This was a social disaster; the absolute worst thing that could have happened to this young couple. Jesus had not performed any miracles up until this time but it is clear Mary expected Her Son to do something about it. When Jesus replied: Woman, what have I to do with thee? Mine hour is not yet come, He was saying: You don’t understand, if I perform a miracle it does not signal the hour of my glory (a reference to His death on the cross). Mary is satisfied with His answer and tells the servants: Do whatever He tells you to do. What happened next is one of the most glorious miracles recorded in the Bible. Jesus told the servants to fill six large stone jars with water, draw some out and take it to the man in charge of the feast. Without a prayer, a word of command, or even touching the water it was turned into wine.

II.

  1. Jesus is Lord over every circumstance. Jesus isn’t just a passive bystander observing the events of our lives; He is the sovereign God of the universe who has all power in heaven and on earth and is intimately involved in every detail of our life. He is with us when we fall into sin and are in need of His mercy as He continually calls us back to His grace and favor. He knows how often we sin against our spouse, the times we are selfish and unkind, when we lose our temper and His Spirit convicts us, gently leading us to repentance and confession of our sins in order to receive forgiveness. Christ is the sovereign Lord of Creation, the author and finisher of our faith and the true Church is the bride of Christ. If you are one of His sheep who hear His voice and follow Him He has promised that you will never perish, and no one will pluck you from His hand. When the lion came and took a lamb out of David’s flock, David arose and delivered the lamb out of his mouth and Christ will do the same. Not a single sick lamb in Christ’s flock shall ever perish. He will say to His Father on the last day, Of them which Thou gavest Me I have lost none (Jn. 18:9). Fear not! The gates of Hell will never prevail against your soul for greater is He that is in you than he that is in the world. Do not be anxious about the future. Christ is with you. He will never leave you nor forsake you. The Good Shepherd will continue to guide you, to feed you, and to provide your every need.

 

  1. Do not worry about corrupt politicians or the wolves in sheep’s clothing, Christ will provide for His Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Christ is the sovereign Lord of the world though our eyes cannot see it. We walk by faith not by sight. The same Lord who had the power to turn water into wine when the waves were breaking into the ship where He was and the terrified disciples woke Him up crying for help, He arose and rebuked the wind and said unto the sea: Peace be still and the wind ceased and there was a great calm. He is the merciful Savior to whom the sinner is urged to flee and is invited to trust. He is the Almighty God who has power to give eternal life to all who believe. When your heart is tossed to and fro like the stormy sea, when you can find no rest, I urge you to look to the One who alone can give you rest. Jesus has the power to say to your heart, whatever its condition, Peace be still. And when your conscience is torn as you remember your sins, and you are attacked by countless temptations, and when your heart seems full of evil and sin tries to convince you that you are a slave, there is One who can give you pardon and peace. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ can rebuke the devil’s raging sea and calm your soul’s misery with the words: Peace be still. He can scatter the clouds of guilt that weigh you down and drive away fear. He can remove the spirit of bondage and fill you with a Spirit of adoption.

 

  1. Satan may hold you captive like a strong man armed, but Jesus is stronger than the devil and when He commands, the prisoner must go free. Go to Jesus, cry unto Him, and He will forgive, strengthen, and refresh you. Jesus will manifest Himself to you as clearly as He did to His disciples at the wedding that day. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him. God has revealed Himself to man in the person of His Son whom He sent into the world to save us from our sins. He gives us understanding of His Word. We are not left to our own ideas about God for He comes to us in the Word of the Gospel, the Waters of Baptism, and in Bread and Wine of Holy Communion, a better wine than He created for the guests at Cana, for in His Holy Supper He offers and seals to you His Body and Blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. The disciples were beginning to realize that Jesus was the God-Man who had power over all creation, the ruler over the natural world, and He could handle anything that happened in their life. If He had the power to take ordinary water and make wine, He could provide everything they needed for this life and the next. The presence of Christ sanctifies everything that happens in your life. The presence of Christ with us each day is the secret to true courage before men. We have no reason to be ashamed of Christ for He was not ashamed of us on the cross.

 

  1. Keep your lives free from covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me (Heb. 13:5-6). Our Savior is with us in every circumstance, every event, every milestone of our life, rejoicing with us in times of joy and comforting us in our sorrows and disappointments. Here is the secret to true Christian contentment and joy. Christ the Savior and Creator of the world is with us. He is our helper, we need not fear what man can do to us. He gives us courage to walk with Him in the Church and in the world, He gives us the courage to be faithful to the covenant we made with our spouse so many years ago, and the courage to trust Him to provide everything we need in our family, our church and our nation. God created marriage, Christ redeemed it, and the Holy Spirit sanctifies and strengthens it. The sovereign Lord Jesus Christ will preserve His true church on the earth in spite of false prophets and violent religions. He is able to renew His church on earth and restore His Word to His people just as He does here each week. Let us pray to the Lord of the Harvest to send a true Reformation to the churches. The Lord will protect our nation and provide for us not because we deserve it, but because of His great mercy toward His people. He alone is able to answer our deepest needs in an instant just as He turned ordinary water into the wine by His grace and power. May the Lord give us this assurance for Christ’s sake; Amen.

 

The Second Sunday after Christmas

 

January 3, 2016

Rev. Ross Mahan; Pastor

Lu. 2:40-52

God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ be among us this day by your Spirit and Word.

And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him. Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up to Jerusalem after the custom of the feast. And when they had fulfilled the days, as they returned, the child Jesus tarried behind in Jerusalem; and Joseph and his mother knew not of it. But they, supposing him to have been in the company, went a day’s journey; and they sought him among their kinsfolk and acquaintance. And when they found him not, they turned back again to Jerusalem, seeking him. And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers. And when they saw him, they were amazed: and his mother said unto him, Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? Behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them, How is it that ye sought me? Know ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? And they understood not the saying which he spake unto them. And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

 

  1. When Jesus was twelve years old He gave his Mom quite a scare. The Holy family had traveled to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover as they did every year, and when the feast ended Mary and Joseph joined the family caravan for the return home to Nazareth, but the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not realize what He had done and supposing He was somewhere in the group hanging out with His cousins and friends they gave no thought to it. But at the end of the day they began to search for Him and when they couldn’t find Him among their family and neighbors they returned to Jerusalem to look for Him. It took a few days but they finally found Him in the Temple, sitting among the religious teachers and theologians listening and asking questions and all who heard Him were amazed at His understanding and the answers He gave to them. When His parent’s saw Him they were amazed and said to Him: Son, why hast thou thus dealt with us? Behold, thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing. And he said unto them: How is it that ye sought me? Know ye not that I must be about my Father’s business? (Lit: the things of my Father). For any other twelve year old to have said this to his parents would have been disrespectful but Jesus was not an ordinary twelve year old boy. He was God incarnate, a young man filled with divine wisdom and a divine mission to complete in the world, something He understood at age twelve.

I.

  1. Jesus came to accomplish His Father’s will. Jesus is true God and true man in one person; Son of God and Son of Mary, fully divine and fully human. He is the only begotten Son of God sent from heaven, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary for us men and for our salvation. Jesus came into the world for a specific reason. Our text points to this purpose when we realize where Jesus was when He spoke these words. He was in the Temple, the place of God’s special presence; the dwelling place of God on earth. In the Old Covenant, believers came to the Temple to meet with God and so it was the most appropriate place for Jesus to be. When the Temple of Solomon was being dedicated we read that the Lord appeared to Solomon by night, and said unto him, I have heard thy prayer, and have chosen this place to myself for a house of sacrifice. If I shut up heaven that there be no rain, or if I command the locusts to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among my people; If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land. Now mine eyes shall be open, and mine ears attend unto the prayer that is made in this place. For now have I chosen and sanctified this house that my name may be there forever: and mine eyes and mine heart shall be there perpetually (II Chron. 7:12-16).

 

  1. Sacrifices for sins were offered at the Temple, and it was here that God promised to meet with His people, forgive their sins and hear their prayers. When Jesus cleansed the Temple just before His crucifixion, He said to the merchants: It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves (Lu. 19:46). Jesus told a parable about a Publican who came to the Temple to find forgiveness and mercy from God. And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner. I tell you, this man went down to his house justified. (Lu. 18:13-14). The Temple was the outward symbol of God’s covenant with His people and the center of Jewish worship, where the priesthood interceded for the people, and the place where God’s Law and Promises were proclaimed. What was Jesus doing at the Temple that day? He was explaining and unfolding God’s Word to the leaders of the Jewish Church. Jesus came into the world to make God known to man. The entire Old Testament points to Jesus. He is the sum and substance of the entire Scriptures; the Word of God incarnate, the wisdom and power of God. The Lord has chosen to reveal Himself to man in His written Word and so God sent Jesus into the world to explain His Word to man. The knowledge of God is more than mere knowledge, it is divine wisdom that knows what to do with His knowledge.

 

  1. If you want to be wise, if you want the wisdom of God then seek the Lord Jesus Christ in His Word and He will give you understanding. You can find Jesus right here in the Temple, the true Church is God’s Temple where He has promised to be present in the preaching of His Word and the Holy Sacrament. This is the Father’s business Jesus was engaged in. For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. Jesus saith unto them, My food is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.(Jn. 6:38; 4:34). I lay down my life, that I might take it again. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father (Jn. 10:17-18). It was necessary for Jesus to be in His Father’s House that day for He had come to do the will of His Father, to rescue and redeem mankind from the guilt of sin and death. Jesus respectfully reminded Mary and Joseph of something they should have already known. At the time of His conception the angel Gabriel said to Mary: He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: (Lu. 1:32). The words of Simeon to Mary and Joseph at the Temple foreshadowed His work in the world. Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) (Lu. 2:34-35).

II.

  1. Jesus accomplished everything His Father sent Him to do. How would Jesus accomplish His Father’s saving purpose? Twenty years later He would return to Jerusalem once again at the Passover to fulfill the Old Testament sacrifices and what the Passover Lamb signified. By His sacrifice on the cross, death would pass over us and we would be set free from sin, death, and hell. John the Baptist said of Jesus: Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world (Jn. 1:29). The death of Christ did not just make salvation possible. On the cross, Jesus purchased us with His own blood (Acts 20:28). He accomplished redemption. Our debt is paid in full. In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace (Eph. 1:7). Jesus satisfied God’s Holy Law on behalf of sinners by His perfect life and paid the ultimate penalty of the Law by suffering the death that we deserved. He was the propitiation (the appeasement) for our sins and the sins of the whole world (I Jn. 2:2). His perfect life and death delivered us from divine wrath. Christ appeased the wrath of God that was against us once and for all. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (I Jn. 4:10). Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him (Rom. 5:9). When Christ said on the cross: It is finished! These were not words of weakness or resignation, but words of triumph.

 

  1. The Greek word for it is finished, is the word tetelestai: It is accomplished. Ancient business documents from the Greek and Roman world of that time have been found, invoices and receipts for various things, and they are marked with this word: tetelestai, paid in full. The death of Christ objectively justified the entire world and pronounced God’s verdict of not guilty upon the world for the sake of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Subjective justification means that the benefits of God’s verdict of not guilty, become yours by faith. Christ has redeemed the entire world. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time (I Tim. 2:5-6). Jesus tasted death for every man (Heb. 2:9). The doctrine of the objective justification is clearly revealed in Scripture. God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation (II Cor. 5:19). For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Rom 3:23-24). Here we see that all have sinned and that all those sinners are now justified. Therefore as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life (Rom. 5:19). Objective Justification is the basis for Subjective Justification.

 

  1. If God had not justified the world through His Son and if this justification was not offered to men through the preaching of the Gospel, there could be no justification by faith. Only those who believe the promise of the Gospel are justified, but faith must have an object to which it clings, and that object is the Lord Jesus Christ and the objective justification He accomplished. When you hear the Gospel, how do you know the promise is for you? How do you know God is willing to forgive your sins? You can be sure your sins are forgiven and God has accepted you as His child because Christ has already reconciled the world, atoned for the sins of mankind and justified all men. In other words, salvation is a done deal, the payment for the sins of the world has been made, and all the sinner must do is accept this fact by faith. When he does, all the blessings Christ earned for him on the cross are given personally to him. Therefore the message of the Church to the world is not that God has done His part in saving you and now you must do your part, you must make a decision, pray a prayer, or invite Jesus into your heart. The message we proclaim is the word of reconciliation! God has already reconciled the world unto Himself and now offers this finished work to all men. Faith is not a work that we achieve, but the gift of God, given through the Word of the Gospel, that enables the sinner to reach out and receive for himself what God is offering him.

 

  1. Another question that arises concerning a person’s salvation is, how do I know whether or not I have actually received the forgiveness God has promised me? If I am trusting in my prayers, decisions, and good intentions that is a mighty shaky stick to lean on. Christ earned the treasures of the Gospel on the cross; by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place having obtained eternal redemption for us (Heb. 9:12). So how does the Lord channel the benefits of His death and resurrection to us here today? A proper understanding of Objective Justification will help us understand the power of the Gospel and the Sacraments. Christ continues to come to His people through His objective Word and Sacraments to offer, seal, and apply the forgiveness of sins to our hearts and lives. The means of grace are objective, which means, they actually contain, offer and give to the believing sinner what they proclaim and promise. They are more than mere symbols of grace. It is Christ’s objective justification of the world that makes the word of the Gospel, Holy Baptism, and the Sacrament of the Altar effective. So we can say with Paul: For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God (I Cor. 1:18). And we can say with the Apostle Peter: Baptism doth also now save us (not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God,) by the resurrection of Jesus Christ (I Pet. 1:21).

 

  1. We confess with Jesus when He took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins (Mt. 26:26-28). All the treasures of the Gospel that Christ earned for the world on the cross are offered to all men in the simple preaching of the Gospel, in the waters of Baptism. And the believer receives the promise of forgiveness in the body and blood of Christ received under the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper. Christ came into the world to deal with sin once and for all on the cross. And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin (I Jn. 3:5). Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many (Mt. 20:28). His death redeemed and reconciled the world to God and now He continues to call sinners to repentance and to invite us to come to Him for rest. I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly Jn. 10:10b). Christ has promised to receive all who come to Him by faith. All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out (Jn. 6:37). All of the promises of the Gospel are made certain for Christ has already accomplished our salvation. May God grant us faith to receive His promise of forgiveness for Christ’s sake; Amen.