Sunday, July 22, 2007

There’s Something About Those Marys

Eighth Sunday after Pentecost
Mary Magdalene
Sunday, July 22, 2007
Luke 10:38-42

What is it about those Marys in the Scriptures? They’re always just sitting around, just listening to Jesus. Do they ever do anything? If it weren’t for the other Christians around them would anything have gotten done? Surely Jesus doesn’t want us just sitting around listening to His Word all day, does He? Aren’t we called by Him to serve and obey Him?

Has Martha gotten a bum rap, like Doubting Thomas? After all, Thomas wasn’t the only one who doubted Jesus’ resurrection—they all did. And what about Sarah in the Old Testament reading? We know so well that she scoffed at the prospect of giving birth at her advanced age. But why do we so often forget that Abraham also laughed when he first heard of it? Why is Martha singled out for her desire to be a good hostess to none other than the Son of God? When you invite people into your home there’s a lot of work to do: preparing, cleaning, making things nice, cooking, setting up, making your guest comfortable. Shouldn’t this most have been the case when Jesus—God Himself—was coming into the home of an individual? What kind of servant of Christ would Martha have been if she had just left everything alone and sat on her rump like her sister Mary who was through with getting things ready?

Last week we heard from Jesus: Go and do likewise. Be a neighbor to those in need. Have compassion on those who are in dire straits. Today the one who is praised is the one who is doing nothing. Mary is sitting down on the floor and just soaking in the teaching of Jesus. What about all that needed to be done to be a good host to Jesus? He doesn’t seem to care about that much at all.

But the one who does is the one who is taken aback by Jesus’ response to her. Jesus, I’m doing all the work here, Martha appeals to Him. You can almost see her pleading with Jesus through gritted teeth to tell Mary to help out.

But Jesus never tells Mary not to help. And Jesus doesn’t even tell Martha not to serve so graciously. What He chides Martha for is all the baggage she has brought to her serving. She’s worried. Distracted.

She was glad when Jesus came. She welcomed Him in. But she’s got a lot on her mind. Like all the stuff that needs to get done. Like why her lazy sister isn’t helping out. Like why Jesus doesn’t seem to care one bit about everything she’s doing for Him.

Some aren’t worriers. I envy you. How you go through life without worrying is amazing to me. I’m sure you’re wondering how in the world people go through life worrying. Well, when you worry, it feeds upon itself. You know you shouldn’t worry. You know it doesn’t do any good. That, in fact, it can actually make things worse. But you do it. You hate it. But it grows and grows to where your situation ends up being worse than what it started out to be. Those of us who worry can identify with Martha. How is all the stuff going to get done? Especially with my lazy sister in there leaving it all to me.

How often in my life am I worried and distracted? It’s easy enough to be busy. To do those things we have to do. We gotta get the kids to soccer practice and piano lessons while hoping to have enough time to run some of those errands we haven’t had time to do yet. Keeping the house clean and orderly is enough to keep us busy much of the time. We have appointments and people who ask favors of us. And if we’re going to take seriously Jesus’ call to serve others we don’t have to look far to find people in need of our help.

But are we so worried and distracted in our lives that we really are not serving Jesus after all? Was Martha really serving Jesus, or was she just serving herself? Was she concerned about what Jesus needed or what she herself needed? She was sure Jesus would side with her and tell Mary to get off her duff and help out so that they both could have time to sit and visit. She was not so busy to be distracted by the thought that Mary wasn’t pulling her weight around the house. She was so consumed with what had to be done that she didn’t even see that there is something even more important than the pressing needs of the moment.

Like all of us, she was reluctant to simply sit down and be awash in the eternal Words of Jesus. Who has time to sit down and read the Bible every day? There’s way too much stuff to do. How can I plan to set aside one hour a week for Bible Study when the things I already promised to do are piling up and time marches on whether they get done or not? How can I be expected to focus entirely on the proclaimed Word of God in the sermon when I have so many things to plan for for the rest of the day? And with so much rustling and distractions going on?

We get bored with the same old confession of sins week after week rather than honestly confronting the fact that it is true, we are unworthy of God’s feast of compassion. We sing the hymns but don’t pay attention because we don’t like the tune or it’s too slow and end up missing out on the rich message of God’s love and grace for us.

We’re uncomfortable simply sitting and listening. We’re unwilling to walk into this building and leave everything in our lives at the front door and be awash in God’s light and illumination. To absorb the riches of His grace He gives us in the absolution, in the hearing of His Word, in the hearing of the proclamation of His Word, in the beautiful words of the liturgy, in the body and blood of Christ in His Supper.

God visited Abraham in our Old Testament reading. What do Abraham and Sarah do? They are compelled to serve the three visitors, God in pre-incarnate form. But what does God do? No, Abraham. No, Sarah. You will receive. I will give. I will serve you. I will give you a son. It won’t be through anything you accomplish, though. You scoff at the prospect, but I will bring it about. Because that’s what God does. He serves us.

There’s always good old Peter for an example. Jesus assumes the role of the lowly slave to wash the disciples’ feet. Are you crazy Jesus?, we can hear Peter challenging Him. He was good at that. Distracted often from what Jesus was teaching him; “No I will wash Your feet. There’s no way I’ll let you wash my feet. I need to wash Yours! You’re the Master, I’m the servant.” Nope. Jesus nailed him. “You’ll be doing no serving. If you try it you have no part in Me. You see, I came not to be served but to serve.”

And what about that poor sap we heard about last week: “Jesus, what must I do to inherit eternal life? We really think that we’re not like these people? Then why do we focus so much on what we must do? Why are we so distracted when it comes to worship and the Word of God? Why are we so concerned about worship that’s not meaningful and doesn’t speak to us? Why not just sit and listen and take it all in?

Scripture gives us example after example of the Marthas. When Jesus says, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted about many things”, just insert your own name in there. Well, it’s already taken care of with one of you. J We’re really the Marthas, aren’t we? The Abrahams and Sarahs. The Peters and the religious leaders trying to gain their way to heaven.

There’s something about those Marys. Those Marys that do something that the rest of us don’t. And that’s, well, nothing. That’s realizing that there’s a lot going on. A lot of important stuff. But that there’s one thing needful. One thing that’s more important than all the rest.

Let’s have no illusions that those Marys were somehow holier than the rest. They were indeed sinful like the rest of us. They themselves at times fell into the trap of the Marthas and the rest of us. But why did God the Holy Spirit inspire the Gospel writers to present them the way they are presented? Because they are a picture of the Church. The Church is the Church when it is at rest. When it is sitting at the feet of Jesus. The work of the Church is being in the Word. Listening to the Word. Being filled by the Word. Being equipped by Jesus through His Word to serve Him.

Zechariah, well, let’s just say he didn’t learn much from the child thing of Abraham and Sarah. He scoffed at Gabriel’s message that his elderly wife Elizabeth would have a child. But there was something about Mary. “Let it be to me according to your word,” she said to Gabriel. Did she understand how the Holy Spirit would bring about pregnancy in her without being married? Not a chance. But she didn’t worry about it. She didn’t get distracted from the Word of God to her. She humbly sat at the feet of Jesus and listened to His Word spoken through the angel Gabriel. This is a wonderful picture of the Church accomplishing the highest worship to her Lord that she can: hearing His Word and taking it as that, believing it against all that appears needs to be accomplished.

There was something about that other Mary, too; the one whose day is actually commemorated today—Mary Magdalene. If there ever was a person who was not able to serve Jesus it was her. Hindered by seven demons, Jesus cast them out of her. She was the recipient of a lavish gift. What had consumed her life was now gone. Jesus filled her life up with His rich grace and mercy. When all, including her, gave up hope in the dead Jesus, she was once again blessed by Him. What did she go to His tomb to do? To serve Him one last time. Anoint His body with oil. She, like everyone else, had become distracted from the promises Jesus had made to them. But here Jesus was outside the tomb and coming to her to do what He had come to do for everyone: serve her. What a glorious picture of the Church—being the recipient of the Lord Himself in all His grace and glory, just as He continues to come to us today in His Body that was given on the cross and His blood that was shed on the cross. What else could she now do but rejoice and tell the others!

And there’s something about that Mary we’ve met today. That lazy bum. She doesn’t even bother to welcome Jesus into her home. Not one care about the meal coming out right or the dusting having gotten done. But she’s sure ready to sit down and do nothing! This is really nothing else than a blessed picture of God’s true love: His Holy Church, His Bride. Mary was in the position exactly of Mary the mother of Christ and Mary Magdalene.

That is the position we all really need to be in. Sitting. Doing nothing. Hearing. Absorbing. Taking in. Not worrying. Not succumbing to the distractions. Hanging on every word we hear in worship. Receiving it for what it is: the life-giving nourishment we need to be forgiven and sustained in new life to all eternity. Amen.


Saturday, July 21, 2007


Ezekiel, son of Buzi, was a priest, called by God to be a prophet to the exiles during the Babylonian captivity (Ezekiel 1:3). In 597 B.C. King Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian army brought the king of Judah and thousands of the best citizens of Jerusalem—including Ezekiel—to Babylon (2 Kings 24:8–16). Ezekiel's priestly background profoundly stamped his prophecy, as the holiness of God and the Temple figure prominently in his messages (for example, Ezekiel 9–10 and 40–48). From 593 B.C. to the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 586 B.C., Ezekiel prophesied the inevitability of divine judgment on Jerusalem, on the exiles in Babylon, and on seven nations that surrounded Israel (Ezekiel 1–32). Jerusalem would fall, and the exiles would not quickly return, as a just consequence of their sin. Once word reached Ezekiel that Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed, his message became one of comfort and hope. Through him God promised that his people would experience future restoration, renewal and revival in the coming Messianic kingdom (Ezekiel 33–48). Much of the strange symbolism of Ezekiel's prophecies was later employed in the Revelation to St. John.

[From The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod Commission on Worship]

Friday, July 20, 2007


The prophet Elijah, whose name means, “My God is Yahweh [the Lord],” prophesied in the northern kingdom of Israel, mostly during the reign of Ahab (874–853 B.C.). Ahab, under the influence of his pagan wife Jezebel, had encouraged the worship of Baal throughout his kingdom, even as Jezebel sought to get rid of the worship of Yahweh. Elijah was called by God to denounce this idolatry and to call the people of Israel back to the worship Yahweh as the only true God (as he did in 1 Kings 18:20–40). Elijah was a rugged and imposing figure, living in the wilderness and dressing in a garment of camel's hair and a leather belt (2 Kings 1:8). He was a prophet mighty in word and deed. Many miracles were done through Elijah, including the raising of the dead (1 Kings 17:17–24), and the effecting of a long drought in Israel (1 Kings 17:1). At the end of his ministry, he was taken up into heaven as Elisha, his successor, looked on (2 Kings 2:11). Later on the prophet Malachi proclaimed that Elijah would return before the coming of the Messiah (Malachi 4:5–6), a prophecy that was fulfilled in the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist (Matthew 11:14).

[From The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod Commission on Worship]

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

The Church Remains

“You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about Me.” John 5:39

Seemingly strange words from Jesus. As if He’s saying, What do you think you’re doing, searching the Scriptures as if to find eternal life in them?

But we’ve all heard it before, haven’t we? “That’s your interpretation.” “This is what this passage means to me.” “How can we really know what the right interpretation is?”

Many people search the Scriptures and just as many get all different kinds of things out of it. Search the Scriptures, yes. We should never stop.

But search in them to find Christ. If you’re not finding Jesus in the Scriptures you’re not finding eternal life. If your search of the Scriptures leads you to some conclusion other than salvation in Christ alone then your search is in vain.

They testify of Christ. Jesus Christ is the center of the Scriptures. He is the source of the Scriptures. He is what the Scriptures point to.

Too often we read/study/talk about the Scriptures as if they’re merely the source of eternal life just because they are what they are—the Words of God. But the Word of God—the Scriptures (the Old and New Testaments)—are not just words from God. They are words with specific and clear meaning. The testify of Christ. They are not just the source of eternal life—they are the source of eternal life in and because of Christ.

What does this mean? One of the reasons there are so many church bodies (or you could say divisions) in Christianity is because of thinking such as in the third paragraph above. The Christian Church transcends all these church bodies. The Christian Church has always existed and will always remain. Church bodies come and go.

That doesn’t mean they don’t matter. We need to align ourselves with a church body that faithfully adheres to the Word of God. Jesus said: “Teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:20)

We can’t pick and choose in the Scriptures. Christ has given us His Holy Word for our salvation. He is the Lord of His Holy Church—that’s why it remains. Many things said and taught in Christianity sound good. But are they centered in Christ? Do they point to Him and the salvation He accomplished by His death and resurrection?

The Church has always existed and so have false teachings. We should not stand idly by. We must search the Scriptures. We must boldly and lovingly respond to false teachings with the Word of God. That is what the Church has always done and will continue to do. Always pointing to Christ and the glory that is due Him alone. Anything that detracts from His glory will not endure. His Word will not fade away. Because it is centered in His Word, His Church remains.

Monday, July 16, 2007


Ruth of Moab, the subject of the biblical book that bears her name, is an inspiring example of God's grace. Although she was a Gentile, God made her the great grandmother of King David (Ruth 4:17), and an ancestress of Jesus himself (Matthew 1:5). A famine in Israel led Elimelech and Naomi of Bethlehem to emigrate to the neighboring nation of Moab with their two sons. The sons married Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth, but after about ten years, Elimelech and his sons died (Ruth 1:1–5). Naomi then decided to return to Bethlehem and urged her daughters-in-law to return to their families. Orpah listened to Naomi but Ruth refused, replying with the stirring words: “Where you go I will go, and where you lodge I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God” (Ruth 1:16). After Ruth arrived in Bethlehem, Boaz, a close relative of Elimelech, agreed to be Ruth's “redeemer” (Ruth 3:7–13; 4:9–12). He took her as his wife, and Ruth gave birth to Obed, the grandfather of David (Ruth 4:13–17), thus preserving the Messianic seed. Ruth's kindness and selfless loyalty toward Naomi, and her faith in Naomi's God, have long endeared her to the faithful and redounded to God's praise for his merciful choice of one so unexpected.

[From The Lutheran Church--Missouri Synod Commission on Worship]

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Those Who Do Not Know History…

Congregational Retreat: Pine Summit Bible Camp, Big Bear, California
Seventh Sunday after Pentecost
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Luke 10:25-37

One of my favorite sayings is “those who do not know history are condemned to repeat it”. Some people wonder why we need to know what happened in the past. The reason is that we’ll keep making the same mistakes if we don’t learn from the past.

We must learn from history. Otherwise we’re condemned to repeat it. As we’ve been learning on our retreat, there’s a special history—HIS story, in fact. God has given us the history of salvation in His Word. And if we think it’s bad for those who don’t know history as they are condemned to repeat it, those who don’t know God’s History are condemned, period.

Will we learn from the story of the Good Samaritan? The one guy passed by and was certainly in the wrong for doing so. Another guy passes by. He’s in the wrong also. We should certainly hope to learn from this to not be like those first two guys and instead be like that third guy.

But Jesus was no moralist. He is the author of morality, there’s no question. But He didn’t give us His Holy Word simply for a moral worldview. He didn’t give us the Bible simply so we’ll know how to be good boys and girls. The story He tells of the Good Samaritan is really the story of salvation—His Story coming alive for you and me.

He’s in there in that story. In that story the ones we’d expect to help the man simply think about themselves. It’s the one we’d least expect who is the one who saves the man. That’s what Jesus is doing in this parable—showing us what Salvation History is all about. It’s all about salvation where we’d least expect it. In Christ Himself.

But being that Jesus is God, He can tell a story in a way that might no fit in to our neatly packaged ideas. If He’s the one who helped the man then we must be the man who needed help. But Jesus is also that man. Because He took our place. He was beaten to a pulp. He was left for dead, and in fact was brought to His death.

After Jesus tells His story He says, “Go and do likewise.” Okay, that’s easy enough to say. Even easy enough to do. Be a neighbor to those in need. But remember, Jesus didn’t suffer and die for you just to tell you to do stuff. To be nice. To help people.

He did what He did for you to save you. To give you new life. To make you a new creation. His story has become your story. When you go and do likewise you’re not just being a nice person. A helpful person. You are Jesus to others. You are Him to those who are in need just as He served you in your need.

What you needed was Jesus. You didn’t need someone to be nice to you. You were dead in your sins. You needed a Savior. You needed help that goes beyond being nice. Jesus gave you His all. He gave you Himself. That’s what He does for others, also. One of the ways He does it is through you. There are a lot of people in need out there. They need help. It’s nice to be nice to them. But they don’t need nice. They need help. They need salvation. They need Christ, just as you did.

Go and do likewise. Bring Christ to them. Be Christ to them. Bandage their wounds on the inside. People have an awful lot of hurt out there. Some of it is due to their own mistakes. Some of it is because we live in a fallen in world. Most of it goes back to sin, though. We all sin. Sin infects our lives. People are hurting. They are mired in sin. They need help. Not nice helpful people. Salvation. Forgiveness. Mercy. Compassion. They need to know who the one is who will deliver them from their [[[mire]]]] of sin. They need Christ. Will you give Him to them? Will you be Christ to them? His Story becomes alive for them when you do.

What is Jesus getting at in our theme verse for the retreat? “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about Me.” People get a lot of different ideas from the Bible. You could see the Bible as a handbook for Christian living. And it is that but it’s not only that. What the Bible is is the Word of God which brings to you what you need. Namely, Christ. Eternal life is not found in the Scriptures by learning to be nice to people, by helping them. Eternal life is found in the Scriptures because in them Christ is delivered to you.

In the movie Night at the Museum we suspend our belief because we know we’re watching what Hollywood provides: a fanciful tale that could never happen. But it sure is fun to watch those inanimate figures come alive. And for Ben Stiller, they literally come alive. And history comes alive along with them. Wouldn’t that be a great way to learn history?

Well in Baptism, salvation history comes alive for you. Jesus wants His Story to come alive for you. For His Story to become your story. When you are Baptized His story becomes your story. You are dead, just like those wax figures in the movie. But in Baptism you become alive, just like they did in the movie. This is real. Jesus coming alive in your life. Your spiritually lifeless body of sin coming alive to new life. Life without end. Life that is anointed with the healing waters of Baptism. Life that is sustained by the Food of immortality—the Body and Blood of Christ.

What did Jesus say? “Do this in remembrance of Me.” Those who do not know history are condemned to repeat it. Those who know the history of God’s salvation, that Christ became a man and suffered and died for the sins of the world and rose victoriously from the grave are remembering in the fullest sense of the word. Because their life is now bound up in the life of Christ. His story becomes your story. His righteousness, your righteousness. His life, your eternal life. His home in heaven, your home in heaven. Amen.


Sunday, July 8, 2007

Rejoice Ritely

Sixth Sunday after Pentecost
Sunday, July 8, 2007
Luke 10:1-20

What is your calling? In what do you find meaning for your life? How do you find meaning in your life? Are you called to do what was given to do to those seventy-two in the Gospel reading? Are you to forsake all, go without packing anything, and rely on those you find along the way?

It would be easy for you to dismiss this calling—that’s what Jesus gave them to do, not me. But don’t so readily dismiss it. Jesus is calling you to the same thing He called them to, although the details may be somewhat different.

It’s really actually amazing how they responded to their adventure. They rejoiced. After all the warnings of difficulty Jesus gave them, they came back rejoicing. Why? Because the demons were subject to them. Well, maybe something as spectacular as that would make us forget all the hardships we endured.

The thing we learn from Jesus, though, is that they weren’t rejoicing rightly. They were rejoicing—and that’s good. But for the wrong reason. Jesus kind of put a damper on their excitement—do not rejoice because the demons are subject to you. But He needed to. Because what if they would have ended up thinking it was all about the spectacular victory over the demons? Jesus even agreed with them that this was a pretty amazing thing: “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.”

But there’s something else they should have been rejoicing in. Something even more amazing, in fact. You should be rejoicing, yes, but rejoicing rightly. And that is because your names are written in heaven. This is where we see that what Jesus called the seventy-two to He has called us to as well. That in order to rejoice rightly, as in “correctly”, we must rejoice ritely, r-i-t-e-l-y, as in “rite” or ceremony.

Rejoicing ritely is your calling. This what Jesus has given you to do. To rejoice. It’s according to the rite in which your names were first written in heaven—Baptism. The details of your lives will be different. Each you are called to carry out this calling in different ways, in different places. But wherever you find yourself in life you will be reminded by your Lord to rejoice ritely. To remember that your name is written in heaven.

The way Paul puts it in the epistle is this: “And let us not grow weary of doing good.” Let us rather rejoice in doing good! He goes on to say: “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone.” You don’t need to be a missionary to do this. You don’t need to be given authority to cast out demons in order to rejoice in doing good to others. You simply need to remember that your name is written in heaven. Why would you not want to do good to others?

Paul also, as he does so often, brings us back to what makes our rejoicing possible: the cross of Jesus Christ. He says, “But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” It’s easy to focus on the outward stuff. The seventy-two latched onto that: “We have authority over demons!” We do the same: “I helped out someone in need today!” That makes you feel good. You rejoice in that like the seventy-two did.

But it’s not about that; at least as far as you’re concerned. Just do it. Do those things you know will be helpful to people. Do those things you know will bring them happiness.

Visit someone who’s lonely and listen to them as if what they have to say is the most important thing in the world. Remind them that Jesus loves them so much that He gave Himself for them. Drive someone to the doctor who can’t get there on their own. Take them to the store and help them buy the things they need. Call someone up you haven’t seen in a while to ask how they’re doing. Pray with them or read some Psalms to them.

But don’t rejoice in how good of a job you’re doing. Rejoice in what God has done for you! He’s Baptized you! He’s written your name in heaven. Rejoice in this. It feels good when you help someone. It feels good when you’re given the opportunity to do good to others. Rejoice in that. But remember why you’re doing these things: because Jesus has given you to do them. He always provides for you what you need to serve others.

This is your calling. He’s given it to you in your Baptism. There will be times when you’re not excited about helping others. Rejoice! Your names are written in heaven. Your Lord is always excited about reminding you of what He has done for you, what He has called you to. Rejoicing rightly—rejoicing in what really matters—will remind you of why Jesus has saved you. Rejoicing rightly is rejoicing in your Baptism. Rejoicing according to the rite of Holy Baptism, in which God gave you the very reason to rejoice! Amen.


Friday, July 6, 2007


Isaiah son of Amoz is considered to be the greatest of the writing prophets and is quoted in the New Testament more than any other Old Testament prophet. His name means “Yahweh [the Lord] saves.” Isaiah prophesied to the people of Jerusalem and Judah from about 740 B.C. to 700 B.C. and was a contemporary of the prophets Amos, Hosea, and Micah. Isaiah was a fierce preacher of God's Law, condemning the sin of idolatry. He was also a comforting proclaimer of the Gospel, repeatedly emphasizing God's grace and forgiveness. For this he is sometimes called the “Evangelist of the Old Testament.” No prophet more clearly prophesied about the coming Messiah and his saving kingdom. He foretold the Messiah's miraculous birth (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6), his endless reign (Isaiah 2:1–5; 11:1–16), and his public ministry (Isaiah 61:1–3), but most notably his “Suffering Servant” role and atoning death (Isaiah 52:13—53:12). The apostle John's description of Isaiah, that Isaiah saw Jesus' glory and spoke of him (John 12:41), is an apt summary of Isaiah's prophetic ministry.

Monday, July 2, 2007


"You shall not give any of your children to offer them to Molech, and so profane the name of your God: I am the Lord." Leviticus 18:21

This is a stunning verse. This warning of God is also given in Leviticus 20:2-5; 2 Kings 23:10; and Jeremiah 32:35. Think about what God is saying here to His people. Do not give your children as a sacrifice. Who would do that? It's a horrendous thought, but one which pagan religions practiced.

The movie Apocalypto is gruesome, there's no doubt. Its depiction of human sacrifice is hard to watch. But the reality is that this is an accurate depiction of what religion leads to apart from Christ. Not that people must watch the movie. But it does serve as a reminder that our human race is a sordid one.

All the more remarkable that Christ came to save such humans.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Listening to Jesus

Fifth Sunday after Pentecost
Sunday, July 1, 2007
Luke 9:51-62

The Bible is the best-selling book of all time. It is the most translated book of all time. And one source I found said that it is available in whole or in part to ninety-eight percent of the world’s population in a language in which they are fluent.

It’s out there, there’s no question about it. People are aware of the Bible like no other book. Toward the end of this month the new Harry Potter book will be all the rage. But the Bible has sustained its hold on the publishing world.

But the question is, is anybody listening? People buy the Bible. They have it placed nicely on their book shelf. They might even read it now and then. Some people study it for a living. Some of us come here on Sundays to hear it and even stay afterward to study it. Many of us can even quote some of the passages in it.

But are we listening to it?

This is the perennial problem. We just can’t seem to listen to God’s Word and take it for what it is: His Word. His way. And with the full confidence that His Word and His way is the right, true, and best way. We’re always getting in the way.

You know who was one of the greatest prophets of God? Elijah. He was a powerful preacher. A faithful warrior of God. He stood up before kings and spoke boldly the Word of God. He helped those in need. And he also had trouble listening to God.

Here he was, a stalwart, now in despair. Wanting to give up. Now we’ve all had moments of disillusionment. But look at what He’s doing. He’s saying that God has gotten it wrong. Rather than listening to God he’s telling God the way things should be. Now it’s easy to see this when you’re outside of the situation. But when you’re in it, well, it’s hard to focus on anything else but how you wish God would change things so that you don’t feel so rotten.

But we see an amazing thing in Scripture when you go forward to the time of Jesus and specifically the Mount of Transfiguration where Elijah appears again, this time with Moses. He and Moses are talking with Jesus. But now we know Elijah has been listening to Jesus because he has been in heaven with Him. Whereas before Elijah just wanted to die, now at the Transfiguration of Christ he is talking with Christ about His death.

This is where we see what it’s all about. Christ is being transfigured, showing a magnificent display of glory, and yet what He’s talking about with these two former prophets is His suffering and death. But was anybody listening? Were Peter and James and John listening? Were the other disciples getting it?

Jesus made His way down the mountain after His little talk with Moses and Elijah and Luke tells us that “when the days drew near for Him to be taken up, He set His face to go to Jerusalem.” They all knew where He was going. Jesus alone knew why He was going. Nobody was listening to Him, though. This didn’t prevent Him from setting His eyes on His destination.

James and John were indignant with the Samaritans who rejected Him. They didn’t have a clue as to the rejection Jesus would suffer on the cross, to the extent of being forsaken by His Heavenly Father. All those who desired to follow Jesus just wanted to be along for the ride. They weren’t really listening to Jesus. Lord, I want to follow You, but under these conditions. I want to set the parameters for how I will be Your disciple.

This is Elijah all over again. We hear what God is saying but aren’t really listening to Him.

But this is why God sent Elijah in the first place—to point us to Christ. This is why He sent those bonehead disciples out into the world—to point us to Christ. And this is why He sent His very own Son Himself—to be the way, the truth, and the life. Hear Him. Hear the Way He has for you—it’s the best way; it’s the way of eternal life. It’s the way that goes through Jerusalem, where He suffered on the cross for your sins.

Listen to Him. Hear the truth that He has for you. His Word shines brightly in the dim circumstances of our life. When everything is falling down around us His Word is as a whisper, that He’s still there. That indeed He alone was the only one who was left when He suffered on the cross in our place. That He was rejected by sinners such as you and I are. That He chose not to lay down His head, but went on steadfastly toward His goal, to suffer on the cross.

Hear your Lord, He is the Lord of life. He gives you life even in the midst of this dark world. He sets you free from your sins in the midst of your despair. Jesus put His hand to the plow to bring about the harvest of eternal life. He never looked back. He set His eyes on that cross and came out victorious.

Listen to Him. When He says in His Word that that’s where His focus was, He’s giving us a clear vision for our eyes and hearts. Look to that cross and see your Lord and Savior. Go from here marveling as if you have seen the empty tomb for the first time. There is no greater activity on earth than listening to Jesus. After all, that’s what we’ll be doing with Moses and Elijah and the whole company of heaven for eternity. Amen.