Sunday, March 31, 2013

The Opportunity in Resurrection

The Resurrection of Our Lord
Easter Day
Commemoration of Joseph, Patriarch
March 31, 2013
You have an opportunity today, right now. One hour from now, when you walk out of this building, opportunity is before you. Today, when you go out for a nice Easter lunch, tomorrow when you wake up, you have an opportunity. Each day this opportunity is before you.

You see, the Resurrection has changed everything. There is opportunity in the Resurrection of Christ. Something before you that is beyond your reach if left to your own notions of who God is, and who you are, for that matter.

When resurrection happens, things change. Things go into reverse. Things that promised no opportunity are the things laying and decomposing in their grave. Things that bound you are loosed.

Resurrection gives opportunity. And so, today, you have an opportunity. An opportunity to see things the way God sees them. To see them as they truly are, not through veiled eyes as you normally see them.

You have an opportunity to see Jesus, but not in the way you were looking for Him. Or the way you thought He might appear to you. The way you look for Jesus, you are looking to see a dead Jesus. The way He appears to you is as a living being, just as He said.

You have an opportunity to rest in His words, not in your own notions. An opportunity to not see things in the fear you sometimes experience. In the doubt you at times descend into. In the skepticism you sometimes approach God with.

You have an opportunity. The opportunity before you is the same as the one that was before the women who went to the tomb on the first Easter morning. We are the ones today who know that they were going to the tomb on Easter morning. They didn’t. They should have, but they didn’t.

The angel they met was the one who reminded them of this interesting little tidbit. Things are not as you had expected them to be. They are the way your Lord had told you they would be. The one who died is now alive. The one who was laying here in this tomb is upright and mobile. The one who promised He would conquer the grave has made good on His promise.

All of this was the opportunity that was before these women who were loving and well-meaning, and in their well-intentioned way believed in Jesus. But they went to the tomb on that day expecting to see a dead Jesus.

They were met with opportunity and the sight of the angel startled them. His words telling them that all they thought and expected was wrong and upside-down caused them to wonder what in the world was going on. They were afraid. They realized things were not as they thought they were—as they most assuredly thought they had to be.

They were rather, well, exactly as Jesus had said they would be. That’s a scary thought. Our Old Adam, our sinful nature, our natural born state, it’s going to hold on to what it knows can keep it alive. Clinging to our sinful nature is what we so often do. The problem for us is that it is the death of us.

You have an opportunity to live new life. To break free from your sinful nature. To live in new life that was gained by Jesus dying in your place; by Jesus conquering the grave that would swallow you up forever.

You have an opportunity just as those women had. An opportunity to see things anew. It’s scary. It means you need to put away the old things. The old things of your favorite sins that no one knows about. The doubts about God you continue to hold on to. The neglecting of hearing His Word and prayerfully meditating on His Word.

The laziness of not helping friends in need. The laziness of not sharing the Gospel with friends who desperately need to hear the Gospel. The laziness of reverting to your sinful nature, wanting to continue to see God in a way that fits your choices, and your notions, and your qualifications for how you would like to live.

You have this opportunity. As you are met with it each day, don’t dream that it will be any less scary. Putting to death your sinful nature is a battle that never gets easier, but rather more difficult.

Your living Lord will continue to send His servants, as He did on that first Easter morning. They will continue to draw your attention and your memory back to His words. Back to the work He has done, that He has accomplished, that he has secured for you.

As you are met with this opportunity you will continue to be driven back to your Baptism, where your own resurrection took place. Resurrection is our celebration, like Christmas, that is a joyous celebration. But always remember what resurrection means. It means first that death must occur.

That is why you must daily go back to your Baptism in repentance. In Baptism your sinful nature was drowned, you were united with Christ in those waters of Baptism in His death. Here is where you were first met with your opportunity as those women at the tomb were. You were united with Christ in those Baptismal waters in His resurrection.

The opportunity in resurrection is described by Paul in the Epistle reading: “for Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.” It means you are no longer your own. It means you have new life.

Not new life to continue as you were. New life to live in forgiveness, life, and salvation. New life to rejoice in your Lord who has given His word, who has kept His word, and who delivers to you Himself in His preached Word, His Word that was the active agent in your Baptism, His Word that is the active agent in bringing about His crucified and risen self in His body and blood in this very bread and wine on this altar.

You are presented with an opportunity. And while a scary thought, it doesn’t rest on you and your at-times tendency toward fear and doubt. Perhaps the best way to see how it is your Lord who gives you this opportunity, and is the solid rock upon which you can be certain of it, hear how the effects of His resurrection truly are now for you, and each day of your life, and forever—

Before Christ ever rose from the dead, a man who was suffering and surely was looking for God to remove him from that suffering nevertheless saw beyond that to the Word of God and the God behind that Word, as Job professed:

I know that my Redeemer lives,
and at the last he will stand upon the earth.
And after my skin has been thus destroyed,
yet in my flesh I shall see God,
whom I shall see for myself.


Friday, March 29, 2013

Responding With What Is Most True and Sure

Good Friday
March 29, 2013
From the beginning God has shown us how He works. He speaks. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. At the outset, God has shown us how He wishes to deal with us. He sounds forth His Word.

He has given us the ability to speak. To respond to Him. The problem that has come about is that we have not heard His Word and rested solely in that. We have listened to other words. We have listened to the voice of the world, enticing us and tempting us. We have listened to the devil, opening the door just a little to doubt, to wonder if that Word from God is really all He has said it would be. We have listened to the voice inside of us that tells us that those little sins we commit that no one ever knows about aren’t really all that harmful to our spiritual life.

And so when we speak to God we speak condemnation on ourselves. The Passion of our Lord, as given in the Gospel reading from St. John, gives a lot of quotations. That is, there is a lot of talking going on. By a lot of people. Many people say many things. And they’re all for the interest of getting for themselves what they want to get out of life. There is one who speaks in the Passion account of our Lord, and it is our Lord Himself. He speaks what is most true and sure.

When we respond to God with our own words, our own ideas, our own wants, we speak what is untrue and what is uncertain. We need to hear again the Passion account and listen to what is actually being spoken by each person. We need to hear how each individual, and each group of people, condemned themselves when they opened up their yappers. We need to hear how when our Lord spoke, He spoke what is true and what is certain. And we need to learn that when we speak, when we respond to God, all we simply need to do is repeat what He has said to us. In that way we respond with what is most true and sure.

So hear again how Judas spoke what was untrue about the Lord, in listening to his Lord but using the words of his Lord for his own purposes. To betray his Lord. The Ten Commandments are always before us, always accusing us. Whenever we rationalize our sin away we betray our Lord. We speak to Him what is untrue and therefore uncertain. Jesus always goes back to His own word, which is true and therefore certain.

Hear again how Caiaphas, as the high priest, opened up his own mouth and spoke what would further the purposes of the religious leaders and their power. The people of God must always be on guard, holding their pastors to account. Holding them to the pure Word of God and nothing else. There is what is most true and certain, for there are the words of God.

See how Peter followed his Lord, as his Lord had bid him to do. But when confronted with the truth of his allegiance to Jesus he spoke words of cowardice and against the truth of his Lord. He lied and therefore spoke words of uncertainty. He had promised to lay down his life for his Lord and by God’s grace later came to see the truth and certainty of his Lord’s words: the promise that He would be the one to lay down His life for Peter and for all sinners everywhere. This is what is most true and therefore sure.

See how the religious leaders, the ones charged with the very spiritual care of the people of God spoke not of truth to Pontius Pilate, but of lies to him. Rather than listen to Jesus they sought to put an end to Him. They rested in their own words and therefore they were resting in what was untrue and unsure. Nevertheless, God’s Word wins out, as when they said to Pilate, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death,” our Gospel reading states that “this was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.” The promise of Jesus’ death on the cross is what was fulfilled. This is what is most true and sure.

Note how Pilate sought to get himself out of a political jam rather than fulfilling his calling as a servant of the state. Rather than seeking the truth he sought what was expedient. This is always uncertain. But Jesus showed him the truth. “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” Here we hear the words of our Lord. For this purpose He was sent. To die on the very cross Pilate would sentence Him to. To die for that very man and for every person who listens to voices other than Christ’s. Voices of untruth, of lies, of uncertainty. In the Word of Christ is certainty. He died on the cross to save sinners.

Note how the crowds were as uninterested in the truth as Pilate was. They asked for the release of a criminal so they could see an innocent man punished with the death penalty. Rather than repeating the truth about Christ, they condemned Him and in so doing condemned themselves. Nevertheless, this very act of sending Christ to the cross was what brought about the act in which Jesus would remove condemnation from those people, from Pilate, from the religious leaders, from Peter, from Caiaphas, from Judas, from you and me, and every sinner who has listened to other voices rather than the voice of the Lord in His Word. Jesus, the voice of truth, and therefore certainty, was being condemned to death because of lies, and through the mercy of God, for the forgiveness of those very lies.

Witness the soldiers who swallowed up the lies about this prisoner they were taking to the hill of crucifixion, rather than seeing in Him the only one who was truly innocent. The only one who spoke truly, and therefore with words that were certain. Even as they did this, the Lord carried through in humility, fulfilling the Word of God that told of these things that would happen.

Witness Jesus’ mother Mary and His disciple John as they stood before Him hanging on the cross, and while not having any words of theirs recorded in Scripture, looked upon Jesus, their beloved Son and beloved Master and Lord, as one who was coming to His end. They were hanging on to their misguided beliefs, and therefore were holding on to things that are not sure. Even so, Jesus used these precious people to Him for His good purposes. John took Jesus’ mother into his home from that hour and Mary was taken care of.

You are no better than your fathers in the faith. You have held on to was is untrue and therefore you have believed things that are uncertain. You have not held fast to the words of your Lord. You must hear your Lord and hold fast to His Word. You must take your refuge in the Bible and the Bible alone. You must grasp that in His Word proclaimed there is what is most true and sure. You must see that in your Baptism is where your certainty for salvation is. You must believe that in your Lord’s Holy Supper is where you are receiving what you need because your Lord is bringing about the fulfillment of His word, that as He promised, He gives you His body for you to eat and His blood for you to drink. That even as He promised He would offer His body in sacrifice for you and shed His blood for you, He delivers that very body slain and that very blood shed to you in His Holy Meal.

And so hear now the words of your Lord. You have heard how all who spoke in the Passion of your Lord spoke words that were not repeating what the Lord had given them to speak and therefore they spoke with what was untrue and unsure. Hear how your Lord broke through all of those words with His true and certain word. How He gives you what to say to Him so that you may repeat to Him with what is most true and sure.

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

It is certain. It is true. It is finished. It has been accomplished. Your salvation. Your eternal life. It is most true and sure. And what else could there be for you to say back to Him than this, what is most true and sure? Amen.


Thursday, March 28, 2013

Your Lord Is the One Who Serves

Maundy Thursday
March 28, 2013
Tonight we will meditate on three things our Lord teaches us about the Holy Supper He instituted the night in which He was betrayed. One, that the means by which He serves us are humble means. Two, that when He serves us it is always bound up in His laying down His life for us on the cross. And three, these two are then bound up in the new life we live because of His serving us, in which He forgives us and calls us to serve.

The Gospel reading tells us of the One who serves. The first thing we learn about our Lord is that He is the one who serves. Consider, what the Scriptures tell us of our Lord is that He is going to come. Immediately after Adam and Eve fall into sin there is the promise. The promise of the one who will come. The one who will serve. The one who will forgive sin. This is the first thing we learn about our Lord, He is the One who serves.

We learn also how our Lord serves. It is through means. Now the thing about means is that it is automatically a humbling thing. To use means means that you are not working directly, but rather through something. Through means. Through something other than simply bringing it about. And so we learn about our Lord in His serving us that He serves us by humbling Himself. This is first and foremost in the means of flesh. God became a human being. Our Lord came to serve us by taking on human flesh. This is the means. This is the way our Lord has come and we see that He is the forgiving God and the serving God.

The Old Testament reading shows how God follows this pattern. He institutes the Passover. A lamb is slaughtered. There is forgiveness of sins. He delivers His forgiveness to His people through means. A lamb’s blood is shed, the Israelites’ God is serving them, forgiving them, through these means.

It was at the celebration of the Passover, John tells us in the Gospel reading, that Jesus was observing this meal, as had been commanded by God. The Epistle reading tells us the means our Lord used to do what Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell us Jesus used to institute a new Meal. The means were bread and wine. The means our Lord uses to serve us, to forgive us, are humble means. First taking on flesh, then taking on bread and wine. Bringing the fullness of His divinity into a human body, then bringing that very body and blood into bread and wine. The very nature of serving is humility. And so our Lord uses humble means to bring Himself to us.

The second thing we learn is that His serving us is intricately bound up in His laying down His life for us. It was on the night when He was betrayed that Jesus took bread and that He took the cup. In giving these to His disciples He was giving them His body and His blood. The bread and the wine were the means through which He was giving them the very body and blood that would be offered in sacrifice and shed the next day on Calvary. You can never separate your Lord’s love for you from His suffering and death on the cross. He loves you and serves you and forgives you, and it is in giving you the forgiveness and salvation He secured in His laying down His life that He loves, serves, and forgives you.

When you receive the Lord’s Supper you are receiving the body and blood of Christ. The Lord’s Supper is the very means by which you are forgiven; by which you are strengthened in Christ’s body He offered on the cross and His blood He shed on the cross. You were not present at Calvary. He secured there your salvation. Just as He came in the womb of Mary, He came to Calvary to purchase for you everlasting life.

In the same way He comes to you at this altar. He comes to you in bread and wine. You were not present at Calvary, but Calvary comes to you here. His body was given into death and His blood was poured out there, even as it is now given here in this bread and poured out for you in this cup. Your serving Lord works to forgive you to bring you what He accomplished on the cross.

The third thing we learn is that these two are then bound up in the new life we live because of His serving us, in which He forgives us and calls us to serve. As we consider our Lord and His serving us we are humbled to see that He serves us through humble means. When we see how our Lord serves us we see that it is always connected with His suffering and death. In this way, then, we see what it means that we have new life in Christ. First, that He forgives us and saves us eternally. Second, that He calls us to live this new life in service.

Matthew, Mark, and Luke tell us of the institution of our Lord’s Holy Supper, as well as does Paul in the Epistle reading. In tonight’s Gospel reading John shows us what happened after that. Guess what it is? It is our Lord serving us. That’s what He’s always up to. Always serving, always forgiving us, always giving us new life.

And so He took a towel and He got down on the floor and He washed His disciples’ feet. Note again the means He uses to do this. His own body. His own actions. Water, a towel. Humble means, humble service. Serving and cleansing in anticipation of His laying down His life for them on the next day. They are now clean. He has cleansed them. They have now been the recipients of their Lord serving them. They are now called to serve.

When we receive the Lord’s Supper we receive Christ. When we receive Christ we receive the call to serve. Having been forgiven, we forgive others. Having been the recipients of our Lord serving us, we serve others. Having understood that our Lord has served us in humble means, we go out and serve others with humble means. Our hands to help others in their need. Our mouth to give words of comfort to those hurting and brokenhearted. Our talents, our skills, our time, our treasure, all means we use to help and love and serve and forgive others. We have received Christ in this holy Sacrament, we are now called to be Christ to others. We are now the humble means our Lord uses to serve others.

And when you go from here ready to serve as you have been served, you will quickly realize that it is beyond you to do it the way you ought. You will readily see that more often will you fail to do for others what they need. You will wonder if you have really been cleansed. You will wonder if your Lord calling you to be the humble means used to serve and love others is really the best course of action.

And to this your Lord will call you again, extending again the invitation: Take and eat, this is My body, for you; take and drink, this is My blood, for you, the forgiveness of your sin. He instituted His Holy Supper for you. For your forgiveness. For your strength. For your consolation. For your new life, which is lived out in humble service. But also humble joy in knowing that He continues, always, to love, serve, and forgive you. Amen.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Holy Life, a Holy Week

Palm Sunday
Sunday of the Passion
March 24, 2013
It goes without saying among us that Jesus lived a holy life. And it goes without saying that this week, Holy Week, is unique in the Church Year. Today begins this time in the Church Year which has a different character to it than any other time. Should we, though, not put too much stock into the events of Holy Week? Is it rather better to focus on the more general and all-encompassing fact of the holy life of our Lord?

Consider, Brothers and Sisters in Christ, the holy life of your Lord is concentrated in the holy events of the last week of His life. Think about how God doesn’t just say in His Word that He loves you, but that He tells you very specifically how He loves you. Observe how of all the ways God has revealed Himself to you, it is primarily and most especially in His Son Jesus Christ; and even more than that, in His suffering, His death, and His resurrection. See how it is not simply that your Lord lived a holy life, but that all that He is and all He came to do is concentrated in these events we have come to call Holy Week.

We gather here this week to observe Holy Week. But we don’t do so as by-standers to a parade passing by. We don’t do so out of curiosity that these events are remarkable and it’s good for us to rehearse them once a year. We gather here as the people of God, as ones who have been brought into the holy life of our Lord in Baptism. Observe how with God it’s never simply a general statement of His grace and love, but rather a specific declaration; a specific delivering to you of what Christ accomplished in His holy life and in His very deliberate actions He took in Holy Week.

Holy Week for us isn’t so much a remembrance of something that occurred in the past, and granted, some really important events that occurred in the past. Holy Week for us is much more a proclamation. It is an action that is occurring right now. It is an act of God that He is accomplishing right now. It’s not that we remember what our Lord did in riding into Jerusalem, and that He instituted His Holy Supper on Maundy Thursday, and that He paid for the sins of the world and died in our place on Good Friday, and lay in the tomb on Holy Saturday, and conquered the grave once and for all on Easter Sunday. True, we do remember all of that. But that’s not principally why we’re here. We’re here for proclamation. We’re here to hear the proclamation of these specific events in history. That our Lord lived a holy life is wonderful history, but merely history if you are not personally the recipient of what He accomplished in living a holy life.

We are here to receive the very benefits of our Lord having lived a holy life. That’s why we don’t speak in simply general terms. That’s why when the proclamation is made, it’s never just platitudes and general statements of God’s love for us. It’s always specific. It’s always concentrated in the specific acts of our Lord in Holy Week. In the Church Year this week is actually observed as Holy Week. But every other Sunday of the Church Year must always be delivering that same proclamation: Jesus suffered on the cross for the sin of the world and rose victoriously from the grave for eternal life and salvation.

When we gather here, it’s not just that we’re Christians, and so we go to church. That’s very general. There’s nothing there that’s specific. What happens here is very specific. Words are spoken, and they are Christ’s words. We hear them and they accomplish what they say. You are not simply told of what happened in the past, your Lord is acting right now in the present. You are not simply remembering what He did 2000 years ago, He is accomplishing for you what He brought about 2000 years ago. When the Absolution is pronounced, you are actually forgiven. When the Gospel is proclaimed, you are actually forgiven. When the body and blood of Christ in and with the bread and wine on this altar is given you to eat and drink, you are actually forgiven. It’s not just that Christ lived a holy life, it’s that He also delivers to you the very real and actual effects of that holy life.

It’s not simply that Christ accomplished what we could not in living a holy life. It’s that He stood in our place as a sinner condemned for not living a holy life. Two thousand years ago when He was nailed to the cross, that was God’s action toward the world that is much more specific than any announcement from Him that He loves the world. No, God loved the world in this way, He gave His only Son to die on the cross for the sins of every person, so that whoever believes in Him may not perish but have eternal life. With God it’s always specific. You know exactly where He gives His forgiveness. You know exactly where to go for your certainty that you have salvation.

And so in the Gospel reading John says that the “next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!’” They knew where He was. He was coming into Jerusalem. A holy life was coming to its culmination in this entrance into Jerusalem. Our response to this holy life being found in its concentrated form is, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” Hosanna!, Save us! Blessed is He comes in the name of the Lord! Blessed is He who comes having lived a holy life, a life far out of reach for us, and who even now comes to bring it to fulfillment. Blessed is He who comes to bring to completion that holy life by suffering in the place of we who are sinners and who live very unholy lives. Blessed is He who is the King of Israel, the one who is the fulfillment of all the prophecies of the Scriptures of the Messiah, the one who will come to accomplish salvation.

And God works this way. Not in generalities. Specifically. Locatedly. As the Gospel reading goes on to say, “And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written, ‘Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!’” A holy life that is coming to its culmination in selecting a donkey, and riding in to His death on that donkey. A holy life that is all focused in on these acts of Holy Week, because, as John then says, “just as it is written, ‘Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!’” Just as it is written. These are words of intention; of focusing your attention not on general statements about God and His love and His awesomeness as God. They are words of specificity and intention. Just as it is written. Just as God said it, and is now bringing it about. You see, Jesus lived a holy life, and your attention is drawn to His bringing about your salvation in these events because His holy life is nothing for you without Him bringing it to completion.

Fear not! Your King is coming to you! In Jesus there is no fear. Not because it’s generally and categorically true that with God there is no fear. Apart from Christ, in actuality that’s all there is. Apart from Christ, we stand before the holy God in utter fear as we stand before Him condemned. But Christ has lived the holy life you and I have not. Christ has entered into Jerusalem, and because He has done so there is no fear. There is no fear because the judgment of your condemnation God instead brings upon His Son. It is just as it is written. It is just as He said. It is a holy life that was brought to its head in a holy week.

And wouldn’t you know it, we just don’t get it. We’re too thick in the head. We think there’s got to be something more to it than that. We think that all of the stuff Jesus did is great and all, but we have to be relevant and speak to people where they’re at. For that matter, we need to be spoken to where we’re at. And true enough, the Gospel must be proclaimed in the clear way where the person actually hears the Message as it applies to his or her situation. But this doesn’t mean changing it, or figuring out how to make it relevant. It means being clear that what Jesus accomplished in His living a holy life, in His suffering, dying, and rising, is the thing. It is the only thing that addresses who we are and what we need as we stand before God.

This is why we gather here, because we just don’t get it. We need the Gospel proclaimed to us, we need to receive the body and blood of Christ. We need to continually be forgiven. And so the Gospel reading says, “[Jesus’] disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.” Do you see what has happened? What has happened is that they didn’t get it until they looked at what Jesus actually accomplished in His suffering, His death, and His resurrection. For three years—three years!—they had been witnessing Him living a holy life. Here He now rode into Jerusalem and their thick skulls prevented them from understanding what it was Jesus was doing. He was showing that His holy life is all concentrated in this holy week.

And it’s the same for us. We cannot—cannot!—understand what it is all about unless we are laser-like focused on the cross. The holy life of Christ is never to be denigrated. Everything He did in being conceived, being born, living, proclaiming, teaching, accomplishing miracles, everything He did, He did on our behalf and for our salvation. But we must always remember this holy life is brought to it consummation in His suffering, death, and resurrection. Apart from that, there is nothing. It’s not that all He did doesn’t exist, or that it doesn’t matter. It’s that it doesn’t do you any good apart from Christ, as the apostle Paul says in the Epistle reading: “[Christ, who] humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

The apostle John concludes the event of Palm Sunday in this way: “The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. So the Pharisees said to one another, ‘You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.’” Why did the crowds go out to see Jesus? They heard about something people normally don’t see. They were told that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead—Let’s go see this guy. And the Pharisees? They realized their gig was up. They could do nothing to stop this. See? The whole world had gone after Him.

Now the point for us today is that we know what happened. We know that there in fact was something the Pharisees could do and they did. They got it rigged for Jesus to end up hanging on a cross. And if we simply look back on that event as something to look back on, then we, like the Pharisees, miss the whole point. Christ was the one accomplishing something on that day, riding into Jerusalem in order to humble Himself by being obedient to death, even death on a cross. And Christ is the one who is accomplishing something today! He is delivering to you the very forgiveness He secured in His suffering and death. A holy life all came down to this, a holy week. All His blessings, His glory, His love, His grace, all comes down to delivering to you, in Baptism, in Absolution, in the Lord’s Supper, in the proclamation of the Gospel, the very forgiveness He secured in His holy life and brought to fulfillment in that holy week. The forgiveness, life, and salvation are eternal. Amen.


Sunday, March 17, 2013

Rejoicing to See His Day

Fifth Sunday in Lent
March 17, 2013
Abraham rejoiced to see the day of Christ.

For us, we look back on Jesus, as He lived and breathed and walked the dusty roads of Palestine, we look back some 2000 years ago. What was it like? What did He look like? How did His voice sound? What feelings would you have had when He spoke? When He restored someone’s sight, their hearing, their ability to walk? What would it be like to see His day, to see Him walking and talking among people like you and me?

Some 2000 years before that was another man, Abraham. He rejoiced to see the Day. The Day of Christ. The Day of the Lord, the Savior. The Day of God.

Some 2000 years before Jesus came on the scene, a little boy asked his father, “Father, I see everything for the sacrifice we are about to make, except the main part of the sacrifice. Where is the lamb for the sacrifice, Dad?”

And in response to his son Isaac, Abraham looked up, and looked off in the distance. He saw the altar upon which he would make his sacrifice, and he looked beyond that. He looked and saw something he rejoiced in: the Day of Christ. He rejoiced on that day, though with a heavy heart he carried out a heavy burden. What do you say to your son when he is asking how this sacrifice is to be carried out without the animal that is to be sacrificed? How do you explain to him that God commanded you, that you, son of mine, who was born in miracle of God to your mother who was beyond the ability to become pregnant, that you are the one who is to be sacrificed?

How you answer it is by faith. And so Abraham looked off into the distance and saw what could only be seen by faith. He saw the Day of Christ. He didn’t know who, exactly. He didn’t know how, exactly. He just knew. He knew that the promise given to him that his wife would bear a son, did in fact bear a son. He knew that the God who had promised him that he would be the father of many nations and that the Messiah would come from the very promise brought about in Isaac, would in fact be brought about.

And so God will Himself provide the lamb, my son. That was good enough for Isaac. He walked on with his father to the appointed spot. Either that, or he was thinking, “I wonder if I need to begin looking into a rest home for my dad.” We’re not given to know what Isaac was thinking, only that he obeyed his father and lay still as his dad tied him securely to the altar.

But on that day no dramatic sacrifice would be made. Nothing more than a ram, that had happened to be caught in a thicket. Sure, God brought about that ram getting caught, but what Abraham had seen by faith was not a ram. It was no animal, either. God will provide the Lamb, and so He did. God provided no animal for sacrifice. Nor did he provide Abraham’s immediate offspring, Isaac. But He did provide Abraham’s Son; that is, the Son given in promise. God the Father’s only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ. This is who Abraham rejoiced in, the One whose Day he saw.

In the Gospel reading Jesus asks the Jews which one of them convicts Him of sin. In the Gospel reading they accuse Him of having a demon. In the Gospel reading they are incensed because they believe He blasphemes. In the Old Testament reading if one were to witness the actions of Abraham he or she might conclude that he was demon-possessed. Or not in his right mind. Abraham’s line was, “God told me to sacrifice my son, so I’m just obeying Him.” Today Child-Protective Services would see to it that Abraham never got to be alone with his son again.

You can rest assured that God will no longer call on His people to do such a thing, as the one sacrifice has been made, and it was the one of His very own Son. This was a sacrifice that was made not out of some plan of God that went horribly wrong. It was rather a loving, deliberate act, in which Jesus chose to lay down His life so that we may live. Because God, after all, provided the Lamb; just as Abraham said He would. Just as Abraham rejoiced in; as Jesus said Abraham would, rejoicing to see His Day, the Day of Christ.

Because the Day of Christ is really about the Father. Jesus says in the Gospel reading that He does not seek His own honor but rather to honor His Father. Jesus says, “If anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” We might be sitting here today wondering what it would have been like. What would it have been like to see Jesus in the flesh? It’s hard for us to comprehend, it’s better for us simply to leave it be. The fact is, God was standing before those people. God was in the flesh. Well, that’s a little hard to wrap your mind around. And sadly, those people weren’t having any of it. Jesus, You are a heretic and a blasphemer.

But think about it, what did Abraham believe about Him? Exactly what Jesus said of Himself. Because Abraham saw Him, and believed in Him, by faith. He didn’t see Him, but he believed in Him. So you have people who saw Him, who stood before Him, and rejected Him. And you have a guy who lived 2000 years before Him, but who believed in Him by faith. We stand here 2000 years later and do not see Him. But we believe in Him. We see Him as Abraham did, looking off into the distance across history, believing in Him by faith. And while Abraham rejoiced to see His Day, we look ahead and see that there is something yet to happen that we must take on faith, as well. Jesus will return again in glory. We long for that day, we take that day on faith, we rejoice to see that Day.

Now? Now, we live by faith. Jesus said, “If anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” Now we know we’re going to die. But we will not taste death. You are in Christ. Death for you will be as a sleep. You will fall asleep and be laid to rest in the grave, and then on the Last Day you will wake up and you will rejoice to the see the Day of Christ. You will enjoy the fullness of His glory in heaven. Others may think you’re crazy. Some may just lament that you don’t base your beliefs on reason. But you hold fast to the Word of Christ. You will not taste death.

Now it’s true that it’s hard to fathom this promise of Jesus. When you look at history and you see that generations after generations of people have died, when you see that people you know have died, you see a pattern. So now Jesus says that if you keep His word you will not taste death. These people battling Jesus say, “What about Abraham?” “Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?”

That’s when Jesus said that Abraham rejoiced to see His Day. Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” This is what these people were missing. They were missing the fact that God reveals Himself in His Son, Jesus Christ. Abraham saw that, because the only way you can see it is by faith. The people in front of Jesus saw Him with their eyes, but they shut their ears to Him and therefore did not see Him by faith. Faith comes by hearing, and therefore, they did not have true belief in God.

So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” This is the great mystery of God. He is eternal and yet became flesh. He has always been and yet humbled Himself to be born. He is the creator of life and yet died on the cross. It was at this point, that if those people had their way, it would have been all over. When Jesus said that before Abraham was, I am, “they picked up stones to throw at him.” It’s true that Jesus had become a man, was born in human flesh, in order to die, but not this way.

No, it was in the way that Abraham had spoken of: God Himself will provide the Lamb. A bunch of Jews who were incensed at Him wouldn’t be the cause of His downfall and make a martyr out of Him. No, God himself would provide the Lamb, and Abraham, and all the angels and archangels, and the whole company of heaven would rejoice to see His Day. So on this occasion “Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.” He is God. He is the I AM. He is the Word made flesh. He is the one who gave all glory to His Father by being obedient to death.

The Epistle reading nails it, the sacrifice Abraham saw off in the distance, the sacrifice we see as we look back, God Himself providing the Lamb: “But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.”

The Living God. That is who we serve. We do so because God has provided the Lamb, His Son, Jesus Christ. Abraham rejoiced to see His Day. We rejoice to see His Day. We rejoice that He comes in the flesh still, giving us His Body and Blood in and with the bread and wine of His Supper; given us to eat and drink, so that we may be filled, and strengthened, in order to serve the Living God. Amen.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

Why Does God Give Us Daily Bread?

Fourth Sunday in Lent
March 10, 2013
In the Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer, we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” This petition is nestled in between petitions that go to the heart of God’s grace and mercy for us. That His name is holy, that His Kingdom comes, that His will is done, that He forgives our sins, that He guards us in the time of temptation, and that He delivers us from evil. In this light, the Fourth Petition almost seems out of place. In the midst of these spiritual and eternal blessings He invites us also to pray for such a mundane thing as daily bread, namely, those things in our daily lives that meet our physical and temporal needs. So why does God give us daily bread? Is it simply so that our needs in this life are taken care of? Or is there more to it than just this? Today’s Gospel reading answers this question.

In the Gospel reading John shows us what our Lord giving daily bread is. It is a sign. Now, to be sure, it is most definitely a means by which we are taken care of. In the Old Testament reading the Israelites were taken care of by God with daily bread. Each morning they had their fill of manna and each evening a nice quail dinner. In the Gospel reading Jesus saw the crowds and knew a long day was ahead. They had rushed to follow Him and so forgot to pack sack lunches. No worries, though. The one they were following they were following because, as John says, “they saw the signs that He was doing on the sick.” The one who had performed the signs on the sick would perform a sign for them as well. He would give them regular old bread and some fish to go with it. They would have a nice lunch on their outing.

The thing about signs, though, is that you can see them and totally miss the point. The sign isn’t so much the thing. It’s what the sign is pointing to. The people had seen the signs. They had seen Jesus miraculously healing the sick. They saw the sign He had performed in that desert area. But they misinterpreted the signs. When He fed them, thousands of people, with only a few loaves of bread and a few fish, they realized they had something good in this miracle worker. This was the Prophet who had come into the world. Let’s take Him by force so that He can be our king!

No, sorry. That wasn’t why I fed you. It was a sign, all right. But it was pointing to something you don’t quite understand yet. But you will in time. The thing about His signs in the Gospel According to John is that they were pointing to one ultimate thing He would perform. His death on the cross. That wouldn’t do for a king. The people needed a king who would continue to provide for them in these miraculous ways.

This is where we learn what our Lord is getting at when He teaches us and invites us to pray the Fourth Petition. Our God loves to give us our daily bread. He loves to provide for us, as we see from forty years of that in the wilderness for His people the Israelites. We can see that in all the many blessings He gives us in our daily lives. But think about how He truly provides for us. He gives us these things not only to care for us and our needs, but also as signs. And what do signs do? They point us to things. To something greater. The sign is great and all. But what it points to is greater. What it points to is what we ultimately need.

And so it is with daily bread. With all the things our God blesses us with in this life, we are grateful and see how generous He is in providing for us. But ultimately, He provides for us eternally. Think about parents and their children. It’s obviously a blessing that parents feed their children and provide a warm bed for them and good clothes to wear each day. But these things point to the love the parents have for their children. True love is what the children ultimately need.

Jesus said in Matthew 6: “Seek first the Kingdom of God, and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” He doesn’t warn us not to seek the things we need in this life. Just the opposite. He does; as we pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” But don’t seek these things first. And certainly not only. Seek first the Kingdom of God. And all these other things, the daily bread, the things you need in this life, will be added to you.

The bread and fish Jesus fed the thousands on that day was icing on the cake! It wasn’t the main course, it was an extra helping. It was added on to what our Lord truly had come to bring them. They wanted to make Him their king, He wanted to be their Lord and Savior. The daily bread was added on to His suffering and death for all of their sins.

When we pray the Fourth Petition, we do so having prayed the first three, well, first. We seek first the Kingdom of God, and then we pray for our earthy and daily needs. We seek first blessings we need eternally and spiritually, only then to pray for those things we need temporally and physically.

It was a nice grassy area where those people were on that day. A much nicer setting than the Israelites had found themselves in. The desert, wandering around with no food in sight. And yet, while the people in the Gospel reading had grass, being as they didn’t have the same diet as cows, that wouldn’t have made much of a lunch. They needed food. And so God saw the Israelites in their need. Jesus saw the thousands before Him in their need. God fed the Israelites with manna and quail. Jesus fed the people with bread and fish.

Would the Israelites see this food for what it was, as a sign? Would the people see the bread and fish they had received for the sign it truly was? Both groups were out in desolate places. There was no taco stand to grab a quick bite. They were where they either needed to go back to civilization, or they would end up going hungry. The Israelites grumbled. They blamed God for their being out where there was no food. The people in the Gospel reading were following a guy who could bring about miraculous healing.

The God who fed the Israelites was the God who became flesh. God became a man, and that man was what the manna pointed to, Bread from Heaven. Jesus is the Bread of Life. Did the people who received bread and fish from Jesus see this? No. They saw the sign but missed the point.

Jesus Himself had been in the desert. He Himself had gone hungry, fasting forty days. The first temptation from the devil was food. Satan came to Jesus in His hunger and said, “Dude, You need daily bread. You’ve got the power. Take these stones and turn them into bread. It’s what you want; it’s what Your Father wants for You, to give you daily bread.”

We may miss the signs. But not Jesus. He was hungry, but He saw beyond what His stomach was telling Him. He saw what His Father truly wanted for Him. Without hesitation He retorted to Satan: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” He lived by the Word of God, not merely by food. Even so, guess what happened after Jesus’ fasting for forty days? He ate food. It was never the intent of God the Father to starve His Son to death. But what did Jesus do? He sought first the Kingdom of God, and all these thing were added to Him. He lived by bread, but not by bread alone. He lived, rather, first and foremost by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

So what do we learn from this? We learn why God gives us our daily bread, as we pray in the Lord’s Prayer. What we learn is who our Lord is and what He has come to do. Who is our Lord? Is He our king who will reign over us by performing those miraculous signs we would so love to see Him perform? Is He the kind of God that will give us everything we need in this life so that we are never in want or never in need? You could think of multiple ways right now how that’s not true. You have lots of needs that don’t seem to be taken care of. You pray to your Heavenly Father to help you in those needs. There are some things in your life where it seems as though He’s putting you to the test as He did with Philip in the Gospel reading.

What kind of Lord do we have? We have a Lord who is God. This isn’t a generic observation about Him. He’s God. He brought all things into being. He can do anything. It’s significant, though, to look at just exactly what it is He has done. He became a man. He took on human flesh, as we were created in. He is our King who makes us sons and daughters of the Heavenly Father by the most miraculous sign of all. The reason the cross is the most recognizable symbol of Christianity is because it’s the sign that clearly and simply points to who Jesus is and what He has done. All the other signs point to Jesus as something else than who He is if they don’t point to the cross.

And so the people saw His signs of miraculous healings and they saw in Jesus something other than who He really is and what He ultimately came to do. When we see the daily bread our Lord gives us we give thanks. But there’s so much more! It’s not just that He provides for our needs. It’s that these blessings, food, home, family, and many more, point to our Lord who gave the ultimate gift. He gave Himself on the cross. Daily bread is a sign that ultimately points us to the cross. On the cross the Living Bread from Heaven was given in sacrifice. On the cross our eternal need was met.

God provided food for His people in the wilderness. Jesus provided food for the people who were camped out one afternoon. He provides for you. He feeds you in body and soul. As He gave His body into death on the cross, so He gives to you His body in and with the bread on the altar that is connected with His word. As His blood was shed for forgiveness on the cross, so His blood is given to you to drink in and with the wine on the altar that is connected with His word. He is always giving. And even if you don’t have enough in this life to meet your daily needs, even if you struggle to get by, even if you are in want or need, you are always fed by your Lord in His meal He invites you to.

Why does our Lord give us our daily bread? He loves us. But that’s almost too easy. There’s actually more. He graciously and abundantly provides for our needs of body and soul, thus freeing us up to serve others. When He fed the thousands with the loaves and fishes, He brought much out of little. Everyone had more than enough. Not only that, there was a lot left over! That’s how our Lord gives. He gives in abundance. He gives to you and there’s overflowing blessings. So you are not only blessed, but your neighbor is too. For you love your neighbor. You serve your neighbor. You care for your neighbor in His need. You help him in his needs of body and soul, helping him in his physical needs and caring for him in his spiritual needs by showing him who Christ really is and how Christ gives to him in abundance by giving of Himself.

So that Fourth Petition doesn’t seem so out of place after all. Far from being merely a petition for physical and temporal gifts in a prayer awash in spiritual and eternal gifts, we see that our prayer for daily bread goes beyond simply what we need in this life and points us also and ultimately to what our Lord has given in abundance: forgiveness, life, and salvation. Amen.


Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Finger of God

Third Sunday in Lent
March 3, 2013
In today’s Gospel reading Jesus casts out a demon. The man was mute, unable to speak. It goes to the core of who we are as human beings that we communicate. For most of us, this of course happens with talking. Those who are unable to speak find other ways to communicate. Without being able to talk, you lose something of who you are as a human being. Right before Luke tells us of this man in whom Jesus casts out the demon, Luke tells us of Jesus giving the Lord’s Prayer and His teaching on prayer. He concludes with these words: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
There are two spirits. There is the Holy Spirit and there is the evil spirit. Satan is the power behind all evil spirits and demons. Without the Holy Spirit we are bound by Satan. This is helpful for us to understand because most of us in our country don’t quite know what to do with demon possession. The closest some of us might expereince it is in seeing Hollywood’s take on it in a movie.

What we learn from the account of the man in our Gospel reading who was demon-possessed and from Jesus’ teaching that follows is that what that man experienced is exactly what we experience today. The form it takes may be different, but it’s no less Satan at work. Immediately after Jesus taught that our Heavenly Father desires nothing more than to give us the Holy Spirit when we ask Him, we are told of a man who could not speak and who was deprived of the Holy Spirit. He was under the power of an evil spirit.

Jesus has come to bring what the Heavenly Father desires to give. So Jesus casts out the demon from this man and he is able to speak. Jesus gave this man the Holy Spirit, replacing the evil spirit. Understandably, the reaction by the people was that they marveled.

But after spending any amount of time studying the four Gospel accounts we know well that there’s always more than just people being amazed. There’s always those others, aren’t there? Those who look at the dark side. Yes, what Jesus has done is spectacular, no doubt. We don’t deny it, but how is it that He has cast out this demon? Could it be that He has done so by the prince of demons? Could it be that Jesus is a wolf in sheep’s clothing?

There were those religious leaders, ever present. Always warning the crowds against Jesus. People, do not be swayed by Him. He’s a miracle-worker, but one whose power comes from the evil one himself. Any man who claims to be God is in fact the opposite. And so the religious leaders warned the people. Never mind that what had just happened to that man was a good thing! Never mind that they had just witnessed something that up to that point for that man couldn’t be done! If the hymn says, “I was blind, but now I see,” this man was now saying, “I was mute, but now I can speak!, I was possessed by an evil spirit, but now I have been given the Holy Spirit!”

The religious leaders were under that same power the man had been under. The man was now freed from it, the religious leaders refused to believe that they needed to be freed from the sway the devil had over them. And so they did what any person who is wrong would do and who is staunch in their position, they accused the other person of exactly what they were guilty of. They, as Jesus said on another occasion, were offspring of Satan, and so they logically concluded that Jesus was the one who was under the power of Satan and operated by the power of Satan.

Some of them took a slightly different approach. It’s an irony of life that some very serious things end up coming across as humorous, such as those who, in order “to test him,” as Luke tells us, “kept seeking from him a sign from heaven.” So, what exactly was it they were hoping to see from Him? It’s almost laughable that upon Jesus miraculously healing a man of his demon-possession and being mute, that these people are seeking a sign. Prove to us that You are who You say You are, Jesus. Well, He had just done that, hadn’t He? Yes, He had, but these people weren’t really seeking that at all. They, as Luke says of them, were testing Him. They were actually trying to prove the whole thing about Jesus doing what He was doing by the power of the devil.

Jesus knew their thoughts. He knew what was deep in their hearts. He knew that they were digging in and holding to their own righteousness and raging against the freedom, the righteousness, the true peace that Christ had come to bring. If Jesus could do that—cast out a demon—to that guy, what does that mean for me? It means I have to be beholden to Jesus. It means I no longer call the shots. It means He does. And the religious leaders weren’t going to have any of that.

Sadly, it’s how we think of Jesus today. If He gets rid of what’s ailing me, I’m beholden to Him. He calls the shots. It’s no longer my way. This is true, in its way. But the thing we don’t understand is that this is a good thing. We don’t see that, because like that man who was demon-possessed, an evil power holds sway over us. You may not be demon-possessed, but you don’t need to be. Satan has you right where he wants you. He is perfectly happy to hang out in the background and let the world and your sinful nature do all the work. He works in concert with them. He doesn’t mind at all if you don’t think twice about him. It is his design to bring you down, and however he does that, he’s fine with that. If it’s your sinful nature ignoring the very real effects of your sin, he’s done his work.

Satan is evil incarnate, but he is smart. Jesus says as much, as He shows the religious leaders the illogic of their charge against Him that He casts out demons by Satan himself: “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out?” Satan is devious in that, he’s not concerned about how you’re brought down, so long as you are. He will not work against himself. That’s why you always need to be aware that it’s the devil, and also the world, and also your sinful nature that are constantly attacking you.

It’s striking the power Jesus ascribes to those who do not believe in Him. There are those who don’t believe in Him who are indeed capable of miraculous acts. In the Old Testament reading Pharaoh’s magicians were operating head to head with the plagues Moses and Aaron brought about by the command of God. That is, up to a point. Pharaoh had been becoming more and more smug as each plague came about and his magicians matched them. Why should I believe in your God, Moses and Aaron, when my magicians can do the same things by my gods? But there came a point where their ability to bring about the miraculous, which was done by the power of Satan, came to an abrupt halt. No longer able to match what Moses and Aaron accomplished, the magicians spoke in awe to Pharaoh, “This is the finger of God.”

How like the people in the Gospel reading were to Pharoah. Met with the power of God in the face of the power of Satan, and their hearts were hardened. They dug in all the more, holding on to that power they received directly from Satan. Jesus said to them, “But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.” The Kingdom of God was coming in the midst of Pharaoh through Moses and Aaron, but Pharaoh rebelled all the more against the Triune God. The Kingdom of God was coming upon those people in the Gospel reading in the person of Jesus, but they dug in their heels. They would have no part of Jesus.

The overwhelming power belongs to God. The overwhelming grace of God is poured out in Jesus. Satan knows this and so entices people with anything that will take their sights off of Christ and onto anything other than Him. Satan knows he’s powerful. As Jesus says of him, he is a strong man and guards what is his. But Satan knows who is more powerful. And so, as Jesus says of Himself, “when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil.” Satan puts up a fight, as we see from those who dig in their heels, who continue to reject Jesus as Lord and Savior, but Satan cannot win.

Satan cannot overcome the power God brings about in His Son. Satan, the evil spirit, cannot overpower the Holy Spirit. Satan was unable to prevent Jesus from casting out demons. He was unable to stop Jesus from taking on Himself the sin of the world. Satan will try to plague you with thoughts of guilt, that your sin is too great for God to forgive you, but Satan cannot undo what has been done. Your guilt has been removed. Your sin has been atoned for. The finger of God was on display when all was dark and seemed hopeless, as Christ hanged on that tree, weak and seemingly helpless. Satan appeared the strong man, the conqueror who vanquished his enemy the Triune God. How great a victory Satan thought it when the plan of God was in sending His only-begotten Son into the world, and He died. He died! Could things have turned out any better for Satan?

Forsaken of God, left to die on the cross, Jesus was alone. There was no power here on display. No casting out of demons. No raining lightning bolts down from the cross on his evil captors. Just a weak man, nailed to a cross, and going to His death. This is the ultimate problem with Satan, and with us. We think that the best way, the most powerful way, the way we want, is the way that corresponds to our sinful nature, and the way the world operates, which is in power, and finally, the way of Satan, which is the way of the self, the way of making yourself out as god rather than submitting wholly to the one true God. God shows, on the other hand, that His ultimate power isn’t to be found in proving that He’s got power by casting out demons and giving voice to those who can’t speak.

He shows His power in His Son. He comes, and the Kingdom of God comes with Him. When He does things, the finger of God is at work. Even when it’s suffering for the sin of the world. When it is Him at His weakest, Him in His apparent downfall. It is at the cross that God shows you who He really is and what kind of power you need. You need forgiveness. You need the Holy Spirit. You need salvation. You need Baptism, in which you receive the Holy Spirit and are brought into new life. You need the Kingdom of God to come among you in your Lord coming to you in His body and blood.

This is what you need. This is what you get. It is what He gives. To you. Now and forever. Amen.