Jesus Builds on His Resurrection Victory

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Jesus Builds on His Resurrection Victory

John 16:5–15 (CSB)

But now I am going away to him who sent me, and not one of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Yet, because I have spoken these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. Nevertheless, I am telling you the truth. It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment: About sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me; 11 and about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.

12 “I still have many things to tell you, but you can’t bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. For he will not speak on his own, but he will speak whatever he hears. He will also declare to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you. 15 Everything the Father has is mine. This is why I told you that he takes from what is mine and will declare it to you.

Dear fellow redeemed:  If you were in the hospital facing the certainty of your death, what kinds of plans would you be making for your activities in the coming months and years? Probably none. If anything, you would be expressing your funeral preferences and telling your family where to find the life insurance and the will.

So what’s with Jesus? He’s on his way to Gethsemane and Calvary and death, but He’s explaining part of His plan for changing the world. That is why this text is an AFTER-Easter text; it means something because Jesus has in fact risen from the dead. Much that Jesus said during His ministry only makes sense in view of the resurrection. What’s more, His teaching makes the connection between the glorious truth of the resurrection, and our daily lives as we live them.

In these words, He tells how he will remove the spiritual blindness from the world and create faith in Him as the risen Savior. He speaks these words of our text to His disciples even before His arrest, so that they will eventually understand that even now, …

JESUS BUILDS ON HIS RESURRECTION VICTORY

  1. The Holy Spirit Builds through the Word
  2. The World’s Attitudes are Condemned and Corrected
  3. The Spirit Gives Truth and Salvation

In writing on this text, Luther commented, “This is a good text, but it takes good students.”  This is one of the parts of Scripture that reminds us that God’s word is very deep.  It’s not unclear, but it requires that we be careful, and thorough, and willing to do our homework if we are to be benefited by this Word of God.

The first thing that Jesus is telling His Disciples is that His work of redemption is nearing completion, and that since He will soon have redeemed the world, the Holy Spirit will come to build on that, as part of the establishment of a REAL KINGDOM.

Just as the Romans capitalized upon so many battles won to build an empire, so the Holy Spirit capitalizes on the resurrection victory of Christ to build God’s kingdom on earth.

  1. The Holy Spirit Builds through the Word

Jesus says, But now I am going away to him who sent me.” In retrospect, we can see that He is referring to His ascension and exaltation.  No longer would Jesus be reduced to a humble earthly life; soon He would be ruling heaven and earth as the God-Man, Jesus Christ.

It would at first seem to be a tragedy, as He says, Yet, because I have spoken these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. As I have said many times, what the disciples saw with their human eyes was not the only thing happening.  They saw Jesus capture, arrest, death, and burial, but what was really happening was the redemption of the world and the destruction of death itself.

This is why I say that this text draws the connection between the Easter Victory and you and me today. By working faith in our hearts, the Holy Spirit shows us the victory over sin and death, so that we can truly share in the joy of the resurrection. And his coming ascension was so that instead of teaching those within earshot of His voice, He would teach in every time and every place through the Word of the Spirit, as He tells His disciples, I am telling you the truth. It is for your benefit that I go away, because if I don’t go away the Counselor will not come to you. If I go, I will send him to you.

2. The World’s Attitudes are Condemned and Corrected

It is highly unlikely that either you or I can really fathom the importance of those words. Jesus has redeemed the world, and He proceeds to rule it as the one who has taken possession of it.

Let’s make that more personal.  Jesus died for you.  When you were born, you didn’t know it, much less believe it.  But by His word and power He has directed the affairs of the world, he has directed Christian people, so that His saving word and sacrament would come to you, and work faith in your heart.

You and I aren’t Christians just because we were born to Christian parents.  We were born to Christian parents, so that we might be brought to faith as Christians.

We aren’t Christians because we happened to live in a predominately Christian country, God has raised up predominately Christian countries so that the inhabitants of the world might be brought to faith as Christians.  This is the work of the Holy Spirit, as Jesus puts it, When he comes, he will convict the world about sin, righteousness, and judgment: About sin, because they do not believe in me; 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me; 11 and about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.

What do these three statements mean?

First:  He will convict the world about sin, because they do not believe in me.  In simple words, the Holy Spirit uses God’s law to touch the hearts of unbelievers with terror over their sins.  Without repentance and faith in the saving work of Christ, the world is lost and condemned, as Jesus said already: “Therefore I told you that you will die in your sins. For if you do not believe that I am he, you will die in your sins.”” (John 8:24, CSB)

Second:  He will convict the world 10 about righteousness, because I am going to the Father and you will no longer see me. In simple words, this means that through His word, the Holy Spirit will strip away any righteousness by which mankind of itself hopes to gain God’s favor. Only the righteousness which Christ proclaims for us before God’s throne will avail.  That is the righteousness to which the Holy Spirit points in His Word, as He did through Peter “Therefore let all the house of Israel know with certainty that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” (Acts 2:36, CSB)

Third:  He will convict the world about judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged. In simple words, this means that as God has rendered judgment upon the Devil already, and certified it by the resurrection of Christ, so He has passed judgment upon all the world that is with the devil and at odds with Christ.  The Holy Spirit teaches us that there IS no question of the absolute judgment of God.  All who oppose God have already brought judgment upon themselves, and only God’s time of Grace has stayed His hand.

Put another way, the world will know what judgment took place on Calvary – there YOU, sinner, were judged and condemned in the person of Christ.  But that judgment will fall on the devil and all who do not believe in Christ.

So in these ways, the world’s unbelief, and false righteousness, and arrogant persistence in the ways of the prince of this world are condemned and corrected.  That is part of His plan to rescue you.

3. The Spirit Gives Truth and Salvation

Jesus promised His disciples that they would have access to absolute truth so that they could share this truth with the world. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth. For he will not speak on his own, but he will speak whatever he hears. He will also declare to you what is to come. 14 He will glorify me, because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.

It is that absolute truth that I have quoted so many times already this morning.  It is the absolute truth that you learn when you study and confess the doctrine of the church. It is the absolute truth that you share with others when you speak the fact that we are all condemned under sin but delivered by the sacrifice of Christ.  It is to impart this truth, and to prepare our children to speak it and defend it that we support Christian education, from Sunday school to Christian schools to colleges. It is because they teach this truth that we are so grateful for Christian moms. In this way they give not only physical life but spiritual life.

Because the Holy Spirit reveals the truth, you benefit personally from the saving work of Christ. You are made part of the kingdom of God on earth.  We are made part of God’s church, in which there is the assurance of forgiveness and eternal life.  What Christ has earned becomes yours, as He says,  15 Everything the Father has is mine. This is why I told you that he takes from what is mine and will declare it to you.

While the unbelief of the world damns and destroys, God’s gift of faith to you comforts you with the certainty of deliverance from all the woe of sin.

While the righteousness of the world cannot bring even social order, the righteousness of Christ has brought an end to condemnation for you.

While the world falls under the judgment of God, you stand in the victory of Christ, by faith in Him.

So then, may each of us rejoice in the victory of the resurrection, and cast off the unbelief, false righteousness, and doom of this world.  May we hunger and thirst for what the comforter brings – forgiveness, life, and salvation in word and sacrament.  And so may Christ’s church, Christ’s kingdom on earth and in heaven, be our safe refuge, and our passage into life.

AMEN.

By |2020-05-09T16:36:22-07:00May 9th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Passing Sadness but Abiding Joy

Passing Sadness but Abiding Joy

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John 16:16–23 (CSB)

16 “A little while and you will no longer see me; again a little while and you will see me.”
       17 Then some of his disciples said to one another, “What is this he’s telling us: ‘A little while and you will not see me; again a little while and you will see me,’ and, ‘Because I am going to the Father’?” 18 They said, “What is this he is saying, ‘A little while’? We don’t know what he’s talking about.”
       19 Jesus knew they wanted to ask him, and so he said to them, “Are you asking one another about what I said, ‘A little while and you will not see me; again a little while and you will see me’? 20 Truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice. You will become sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy. 21 When a woman is in labor, she has pain because her time has come. But when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the suffering because of the joy that a person has been born into the world. 22 So you also have sorrow now. But I will see you again. Your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy from you.
       23 “In that day you will not ask me anything.

Dear fellow redeemed: We are going to go back to a moment of impending doom. Jesus was with His disciples in the upper room on the night in which He was betrayed. Jesus said that something was coming that would be at once terrible and wonderful. Like a woman giving birth, in pain; but it would also be like a woman giving birth – great joy.

It would come in just a little while. This coin with two sides, this moment of both sorrow and joy would come in just a little while. But there would also be a before and after, and therefore …

PASSING SORROW BUT ABIDING JOY

  1. We Share in the Sadness
  2. We Share in the Gladness

1  We Share in the Sadness

It is easy to share in the disciples’ confusion, because just a little while before he had talked about going away to the Father. There He was talking about His ascension and about giving the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Comforter. But in this circumstance He is talking about Christ’s passion, a horror that would come upon them in a little while, but which would in a little while be resolved in the resurrection.

Now, we need to understand that this was one occasion only. Jesus talks to His disciples and not to us specifically. There is no little while in which we are without Christ and then a while when He is with us. He isn’t talking about the trials of life until the second coming here. Instead, on this Jubilate Sunday, the Sunday of Rejoicing out of suffering, we remember the sadness of the crucifixion, but live in the gladness of the resurrection.

One other thing about this event that was so sad and ended up being so wonderful – it made sense. The disciples couldn’t figure it out beforehand, but afterwards, Jesus said, 23 “In that day you will not ask me anything. If they had possessed the understanding of faith, they would have looked at the cross, and seen there the Lamb of God taking away the world’s sin.

It is something like the symbol of the crucifix: There we see the judgment of God upon the sinfulness of man, but there we also see the Love of God, Who gave up His only-begotten Son.

While this text talks only about the revelation through which the disciples would go, there is still an application for us. What happened there on Calvary and gave the disciples such sorrow was Jesus dying OUR death, and what happened at the open tomb that gave the disciples such joy was Jesus’ preparing OUR resurrection. We share in that by virtue of our baptism. “Or are you unaware that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we were buried with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too may walk in newness of life. For if we have been united with him in the likeness of his death, we will certainly also be in the likeness of his resurrection.” (Romans 6:3–5, CSB)

We share in the sadness, acknowledging that Christ suffered the rejection that we sinners deserve. We also share in the sadness because we know that as Jesus shared in the suffering of sinners, we share in His. Paul embraces this in Philippians 3, “My goal is to know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death,” (Philippians 3:10, CSB)

The world around us has hope only in this world and only for a short time, and an unreasonable expectation that all should be good. But as the world despairs we know that the sorrow is passing, but the joy abides forever.

As Christians, we know the way of the world and have an expectation also of suffering, as Jesus said,  “You are blessed when they insult you and persecute you and falsely say every kind of evil against you because of me. Be glad and rejoice, because your reward is great in heaven. For that is how they persecuted the prophets who were before you.(Matthew 5:11–12, CSB)

2.   We Share in the Gladness

In terms of shear emotion, we believers would never share in the sadness of the disciples, or the despair, but we do share in their gladness, in the hope that was theirs in seeing the risen Christ. As with them, we have passing sorrow but abiding joy.

Because Jesus took our sins the cross, and there paid the full price of them, He was accepted into heaven when He died. “He was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” (Romans 4:25, CSB)

Because He went to the Father in victory over our sin, His disciples would see Him again, for He had succeeded in accomplishing the justification of the world.

20 Truly I tell you, you will weep and mourn, but the world will rejoice. You will become sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn to joy. 21 When a woman is in labor, she has pain because her time has come. But when she has given birth to a child, she no longer remembers the suffering because of the joy that a person has been born into the world. 22 So you also have sorrow now. But I will see you again. Your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy from you.

For them it was just a very little while, parts of three days.  For us it may be a little while longer, but finally there is for all of us the joy of the resurrection.

We live in that joy even now, even in the midst of adversity, as Peter put it, Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Because of his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you. You are being guarded by God’s power through faith for a salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. You rejoice in this, even though now for a short time, if necessary, you suffer grief in various trials so that the proven character of your faith—more valuable than gold which, though perishable, is refined by fire—may result in praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him; though not seeing him now, you believe in him, and you rejoice with inexpressible and glorious joy, because you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:3–9, CSB)

Everything changed that day when Jesus rose. One had borne the sins of the world, and atoned for them, so that we were acquitted, declared innocent. Now we have something to say to our accusing consciences: “Forgiveness is ours.” Now we have something to say to the threat of death: “We shall live, even though we die.” We have something to say to the voices of regret: “Our sins will be forgotten.”

We live today in a world, a nation, a society gripped by fear: Will we get sick and die? Will we lose our job, our savings, our wealth, our freedom? Will we die alone?

There may be some fleeting sorrow, but we do not despair, because for us there is abiding joy. Not because OF us, but because of Christ, and offered to all. But because we live in faith, the joy we live in now will bear fruit in the life that is to come, the great celebration that is heaven: In Jesus’ words, I tell you that many will come from east and west to share the banquet with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 8:11, CSB) Picture an eternal fellowship and joyful feast. Or, as the Psalmist says, “You reveal the path of life to me; in your presence is abundant joy; at your right hand are eternal pleasures. (Psalm 16:11, CSB) Joy upon joy! And exaltation too< as Daniel says, Those who have insight will shine like the bright expanse of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever. (Daniel 12:3, CSB)

We say, “O Lord, there is trouble and sorrow in my life, but with David we continue, “Yet I am always with you; you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me up in glory. Who do I have in heaven but you? And I desire nothing on earth but you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart, my portion forever. (Psalm 73:23–26, CSB)

Let us then rejoice with the disciples in the wake of the resurrection, for there is PASSING SORROW BUT ABIDING JOY.

AMEN.

By |2020-05-02T14:48:23-07:00May 2nd, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

You Have a Truly Good Shepherd

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Your Good Shepherd Nurtures You

John 10:11–16 (CSB)

11 “I AM the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 The hired hand, since he is not the shepherd and doesn’t own the sheep, leaves them and runs away when he sees a wolf coming. The wolf then snatches and scatters them. 13 This happens because he is a hired hand and doesn’t care about the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me, and I know the Father. I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 But I have other sheep that are not from this sheep pen; I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. Then there will be one flock, one shepherd.

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus, beloved of our Good Shepherd:  This third Sunday of Easter is traditionally Good Shepherd Sunday. The title “Misericordias Domini” means “The Goodness of the Lord,” and tells us something about our Good Shepherd.

The image of “shepherd” is of the defender of the sheep as wolves scatter and snatch them. The Shepherd stands between the wolves and the sheep. He gathers the sheep together again, and all at the risk of death.

But having died for His sheep, Jesus has rescued them!  How right we are to call Him our Good Shepherd! But there are other shepherds too, who are not Good Shepherds, and also there are wolves, who are forever the enemies of this Christ.  The important thing about the Good Shepherd is that at whatever cost …

YOUR GOOD SHEPHERD NURTURES YOU

  1. With His Words of Truth
  2. With True Comfort, Joy, and Peace
  1. With His Words of Truth

It’s hard to pick a word to say what our Good Shepherd does for us. He doesn’t abandon us to the wolf. He doesn’t let us scatter this way and that. He does care about us. He does gather us together in safety. He not only seeks us, but the many souls who are lost and wandering.

The wolf, that is to say, the Devil, uses events like these last few weeks to scatter people and separate them from our Good Shepherd. Others have been scattered through the various voices seeking our attention.

Now understand what “scattered” means, it means separated from the safety of the flock and of the Good Shepherd, easily separated and snatched. It means set up to be killed spiritually. You’ve probably seen it on TV, where the wolves or coyotes or hyenas or lions or whatever, cut an animal off from the heard, run it down and kill it. The same happens when people are separated from the word of Christ, which creates and nourishes our spiritual life.

For Christ’s words and no others really reveal a salvation that can bring comfort to the likes of you and me – to sinners.

As Peter preached in his second sermon in Acts, there is only one Savior:  “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to people by which we must be saved.”” (Acts 4:12, CSB)

People are consumed by the dangers of this virus, who caused it, who can make us safe, and how we can avoid dying. It goes beyond mere prudence; it becomes an expectation of eternal life. Maybe I’m the one who has to tell you: most people my age won’t make it 20 years. In the last two years I have had plenty of funerals. There will be more, virus or no virus.

“Gather ‘round,” Jesus says, “and listen to me.” I have killed death. I have brought eternal life back to humanity. I have healed the wounds of alienation, resentment, blame, guilt, condemnation, and disapproval among people and with God.

This is the voice of the Good Shepherd. He knows us. He knows your troubles, sorrows, and grief. He knows your sins and shortcomings, your guilt, and your struggles with your weaknesses. He wipes your slate clean and fills it instead with His righteousness.

Against this are the wolves, who murder with their lies. Do you suppose Eve thought the devil was helpful? No doubt, for starters. How often do I have to  warn people that the unchristian teachers – Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Muslims, Materialists, Humanists, etc. are not just people of another opinion, but wolves dressed like sheep.

The Mormons and Muslims deny the true Triune God. The Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the deity of Christ, the materialists and humanists believe that matter and energy is all there is, and deny any true love, true good, or even the human soul.

If you believe them, then you cannot believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and Savior of the world, and are lost to Him.

But Christ nurtures and blesses you with His words of truth. Truly you are a sinner, no excuses, but truly are you forgiven for the sake of Christ, not with excuses but with Jesus’ true satisfaction of the righteousness of God.

But not only are there wolves, there are also hired hands, those who will not stand with Christ, but will compromise and make allowances, so that the faithful are without true shepherds. Many preach the doctrine of toleration and universalism, rather than the Christian gospel, even though they are found within the church. If you go to many such churches, you will never hear about hell. It will seem as though nobody is ever damned. They will bury the most blatant unbeliever “in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection from the dead.”  Any vague religiosity is considered to be the same as saving faith. Christ’s life, death, and resurrection as atonement for our sins aren’t even proclaimed.

Sometimes these are called liberals or moderates or modernists – whatever is socially acceptable this season.

While such teachers may call themselves Christians, they are just as damned as the people they mislead. For they effectively deny Christ as the one and only Savior. Jesus warned against them when he also said,  ““Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.” (Matthew 7:21, CSB)

Often while they may take the name “Christian” and “shepherd,” in fact, they hound people with the law, and so seek to make them good and either eligible for heaven or citizens of a brave new world.

And how prone we are to catch hold of this message!  For we easily think that if we can just “Be Good” and make others “be good’ that we and they can be sure of heaven. After all, we think, do “bad people” go to heaven?

Luther says, “They who are not good shepherds, however expect to make people good by hatefully scolding and driving them, whereas they are thereby only making matters worse.  For when we are exhorted to goodness we so quickly rebel, or despair of being the kind of person we should be.”

And the deceitfulness of this message is all the greater because it resembles the truth in so many ways.  There is no question that we MUST speak out on the moral issues of our day.

           2. With True Comfort, Joy, and Peace

But the Good Shepherd did not, does not, suppose that He can lead us poor sheep to save ourselves. The Good shepherd did the only thing that could save us. He laid down His life for the sheep. It is HE who has reconciled us to Himself.  He laid down His life in a perfect life on our behalf. He laid down His life to pay the price of our iniquities. 11 “I AM the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
14 “I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me, and I know the Father. I lay down my life for the sheep. He calls us to our salvation with His own voice.

And with this salvation comes true comfort, joy, and peace. With a good shepherd, sheep are safe, healthy, well-fed, well-watered, clean, and together. This is a metaphor. The comfort, joy, and peace we enjoy is not green grass and good water. It is to be healthy in our bodies, young and vigorous. It is to be loved, and to love. It is to see and hear the beautiful. It is to live without fear, without death, to be close to loved ones, and in harmony with them. It is to live without reproach from God or from anyone else, to be liked and appreciated even by the Holy God: That is to be at peace.

And it is to have a future.

One of our good Lutheran writers wrote recently about the horizon of hope[1]. If we were cursed with the religion of this world, we would be truly cursed, for I am past the horizon of being young or vigorous, or of being with my parents. For them any good must come soon or be lost forever.

But as children of the King of Kings, our horizon of hope is eternal. It is beyond old age, beyond death, beyond the grave, and it is for certain, for the Lord is risen! He is risen indeed! Alleluia.

And because He is risen, He says in all truth, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28–30, CSB)

AMEN.

[1] https://wolfmueller.co/the-horizon-of-hope/

By |2020-04-26T09:56:15-07:00April 24th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Unbelief Succumbs to the Truth

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Unbelief Succumbs to the Truth

John 20:19–31 (CSB)

19 When it was evening of that first day of the week, the disciples were gathered together with the doors locked because they feared the Jews. Jesus came, stood among them, and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
20 Having said this, he showed them his hands and his side. So the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” 22 After saying this, he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”
 
24 But Thomas (called “Twin”), one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples were telling him, “We’ve seen the Lord!”
But he said to them, “If I don’t see the mark of the nails in his hands, put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were indoors again, and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”
27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and look at my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Don’t be faithless, but believe.”
28 Thomas responded to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.”
 
30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. 31 But these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God,, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

The Lord is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Dear fellow redeemed: I am focusing today on the portion of our Gospel lesson that includes the apostle Thomas. Matthew, Mark, and Luke report that He was an apostle and present at Christ’s ascension and awaiting the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. The Christians in India have a fairly rich folklore about his work as an apostle there, and faithful Indian Christians have for all these years called themselves the church “Mar Thoma,” The church of St. Thomas.

John is the only inspired source with information about Thomas, and he first gives us a hint of his personality in chapter eleven. Jesus had twice evaded stoning in Judea, and had left the region to avoid arrest; His time had not yet come. But now he announces that he will go back to Judea. Then after that, he said to the disciples, “Let’s go to Judea again.” “Rabbi,” the disciples told him, “just now the Jews tried to stone you, and you’re going there again?” (John 11:7–8, CSB) Jesus reiterated that it was his intent to go to Lazarus, in Bethany, just two miles from Jerusalem. To this, “Then Thomas (called “Twin”) said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go too so that we may die with him.” (John 11:16, CSB) To me, that seems like a sarcastic remark.

Of course the words for which Thomas is most famous are found in our text, 25 So the other disciples were telling him, “We’ve seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “If I don’t see the mark of the nails in his hands, put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

Thomas wasn’t the only one to forget Christ’s promise and disbelieve the witnesses. On Easter Sunday, Cleopas and one of the other disciples told Jesus on the way to Emmaus, “Moreover, some women from our group astounded us. They arrived early at the tomb, and when they didn’t find his body, they came and reported that they had seen a vision of angels who said he was alive.” (Luke 24:22–23, CSB) While they were telling the disciples all about it was when the whole group had the encounter with Jesus that Thomas missed out on. So, Thomas was not alone in his skepticism.

But he did persist for a week. It must have been a little lonely, clinging stubbornly to his insistence that he had to see physical proof, not testimony. But as a result, we get to see one of the great occasions where

UNBELIEF SUCCUMBS TO THE TRUTH

  1. Unbelief – Spiritual Death
  2. Faith – Spiritual Life
  1. Unbelief – Spiritual Death

The meaning of this text is clear. Thomas, barring physical evidence, would not accept the testimony of the other disciples, but when confronted by the Christ, even before he “put my finger into the mark of the nails, and put my hand into his side,” confessed, “My Lord and my God!”

Let’s apply this to our circumstances:

Unbelief is not just a different opinion, you know. That has always been part of Satan’s lies. “God said … but, you know, it’s just His opinion; go ahead and eat the fruit.” So many act today as though it is up to God to meet our personal standards of truth.

The materialists say that if God cannot show up as matter and/or energy, they will not believe.

The rationalists say that if God does not appeal to their finite reason, they will not believe.

The emotionalists say that if they cannot feel God move them, then they will not believe.

The narcissists say that if they cannot experience God, then they will not believe.

This is just a way of slicing and dicing unbelief, just different ways of looking at the fact that we are born spiritually dead. Now the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set of the Spirit is life and peace. The mind-set of the flesh is hostile to God because it does not submit to God’s law. Indeed, it is unable to do so. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. (Romans 8:6–8, CSB)

Anybody who says that they will not believe in the risen Christ condemns herself / himself. Anyone who believes in him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the one and only Son of God. (John 3:18, CSB)

It starts with simple morality. By any standard, I am a sinner. Anybody must say the same. It is better to be disabused of any pretense at holiness now, before standing before the Righteous Judge who will take no self-justifying nonsense from anyone.

Our conscience holds us responsible to a universal standard of right and wrong. As fashionable as it is today to be downright perverse, such perversion cannot bear the weight of reality. Throughout history, societies that have abandoned the sanctity of life, of family, of marriage, of the promise given, of property, of the honor of God have been brought low.

We have no excuse if we do not face the problem of sin, and death, and an accounting for sin hereafter, which is written on our soul. And if we seek we will find, for God has so ordered the world: From one man he has made every nationality to live over the whole earth and has determined their appointed times and the boundaries of where they live. He did this so that they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find him, though he is not far from each one of us. (Acts 17:26–27, CSB)

To put this in current terms, do you think that anybody in our country – or practically the world – shut up with social media this Easter could not have heard of the resurrection of Christ – our Savior, had they the slightest curiosity?

              2. Faith – Spiritual Life

But if spiritual death is the default, how can we find life? How can the dead make themselves alive, or the mindset of the flesh change to that of the spirit? We have the promise, Now if Christ is in you, the body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, then he who raised Christ from the dead will also bring your mortal bodies to life through his Spirit who lives in you. (Romans 8:10–11, CSB)

Put another way, how can we have the blessing that Jesus speaks of when He says, “Don’t be faithless, but believe.”
28 Thomas responded to him, “My Lord and my God!”
29 Jesus said, “Because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.””

We who have not seen, believe because of the life-giving power of God through His word. At the end of the Gospel lesson, John says, 31 But these [things, signs] are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God,, and that by believing you may have life in his name. What he has written is that word of God called the gospel, the good news. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith, just as it is written: The righteous will live by faith. (Romans 1:16–17, CSB)

To those who acknowledge their sin, despair of their own goodness, and desire a hope that is not found in the idols of this world, this comes as good news: Christ is your righteousness. He has reconciled you to God. He gives you forgiveness, life, and salvation. He who is risen promises you a true resurrection. Awaken, faith! For Christ the Lord is risen! He is Risen indeed! Alleluia!  AMEN

By |2020-04-18T12:00:04-07:00April 17th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

We Confess: Christ Jesus Is Risen from the Dead

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We Confess: Christ Is Risen from the Dead

The Lord is Risen!

HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!

Our text for today is written in 1 Corinthians 15. It was written some 20 years or so after the resurrection, but in it Paul passes on a creed or confession of faith that was even earlier. The format is obviously not Paul’s way of writing, but rather a repetition of a form adopted by the very eyewitnesses of Christ’s resurrection.

1 Corinthians 15:1–8 (CSB)

15 Now I want to make clear for you, brothers and sisters, the gospel I preached to you, which you received, on which you have taken your stand and by which you are being saved, if you hold to the message I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I passed on to you as most important what I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers and sisters at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born at the wrong time, he also appeared to me.

Dear fellow redeemed: Very early after the resurrection, within just a few years and before the gospels were written down, there came into being this creed or declaration of faith. It is pure gospel. It is the good news of what God did to save you.

In these days of uncertainly as to what will come, it is the ultimate certainty of what has come to pass, according to the Scriptures. The gospel is not just a religious idea, you know, it is fact. Meaningful above all other knowledge, but a meaningful reality. Here is what happened, what was confessed by the eyewitnesses, what has been passed down to us, and the means by which God the Holy Spirit Himself works spiritual life and faith:

First, Christ died.  Not every death is news.  It makes the obituaries, it’s important to the family and friends, but it doesn’t make the front page.

Christ died, and it IS important.  He died for our sins; He died according to the Scriptures, in just the way the Old Testament Scriptures said He would.

He was lifted up, crucified, as David prophesied in Psalm 22.  It’s all there about the mocking, the nails in the hands and feet, the dehydration, the nakedness and the division of the closes.

Psalm 22:6–18 (CSB)
But I am a worm and not a man,
scorned by mankind and despised by people.
Everyone who sees me mocks me;
they sneer and shake their heads:
“He relies on the Lord;
let him save him;
let the Lord rescue him,
since he takes pleasure in him.”
It was you who brought me out of the womb,
making me secure at my mother’s breast.
10 I was given over to you at birth;
you have been my God from my mother’s womb.
11 Don’t be far from me, because distress is near
and there’s no one to help.
12 Many bulls surround me;
strong ones of Bashan encircle me.
13 They open their mouths against me—
lions, mauling and roaring.
14 I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are disjointed;
my heart is like wax,
melting within me.
15 My strength is dried up like baked clay;
my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
You put me into the dust of death.
16 For dogs have surrounded me;
a gang of evildoers has closed in on me;
they pierced my hands and my feet.
17 I can count all my bones;
people look and stare at me.
>18 They divided my garments among themselves,
and they cast lots for my clothing.

He died for our sins, as pictured by the Passover Lamb, and the scapegoat, and the lamb that replaced Isaac on the altar, and as explicitly described by Isaiah:

Isaiah 53:4–6 (CSB)
Yet he himself bore our sicknesses,
and he carried our pains;
but we in turn regarded him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was pierced because of our rebellion,
crushed because of our iniquities;
punishment for our peace was on him,
and we are healed by his wounds.
We all went astray like sheep;
we all have turned to our own way;
and the Lord has punished him
for the iniquity of us all.
Next, Christ was buried.  The death of Jesus was affirmed by His final gasp, by John who gave sworn testimony, by the centurion who reported to Pilate, by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus who wrapped him tightly in strips of cloth, by the women who saw Him buried, and by the Roman soldiers who sealed the tomb.  Oh, and let’s not forget, by the spear and by the blood and water.  The spear went up into His side, pierced his chest, and confirmed His death in blood and water.  Jesus died and was buried in the rich man’s tomb, all, again, according to the Scriptures:

Isaiah 53:8–9 (CSB)
He was taken away because of oppression and judgment;
and who considered his fate?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
he was struck because of my people’s rebellion.
He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
but he was with a rich man at his death,
because he had done no violence
and had not spoken deceitfully.
Next, He rose again the third day. –  And once again, yes, according to the Scriptures.  Jesus Himself had pointed to the sign by which the truth of His teaching would be known:  Matthew 12:40 (CSB) 40 For as Jonah was in the belly of the huge fish, three days and three nights, so the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth three days and three nights.

He had been completely clear, as the angels reminded the first witnesses to the empty tomb,  Luke 24:7 (CSB) saying, ‘It is necessary that the Son of Man be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise on the third day’”

The resurrection was sung about by David: Psalm 16:10 (CSB)
10 For you will not abandon me to Sheol;
you will not allow your faithful one to see decay.

It was trusted in by Job:  Job 19:25 (NKJV) 25    For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth;

Next, good news, He showed Himself to the disciples, to those who would know who He is, whose lives were completely transformed, and who would die gruesome deaths themselves rather than deny it:  that he appeared to Cephas, then to the Twelve. Then he appeared to over five hundred brothers and sisters at one time; most of them are still alive, but some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one born at the wrong time, he also appeared to me.

These are the certainties, observed by eyewitnesses.  They are important, formulated into declarations of faith.  They are important because over thousands of years they had been prophesied in Scripture.  They are important because this good news gives forgiveness and creates faith:  15 Now I declare to you, brothers and sisters, the gospel I preached to you, which you received, on which you have taken your stand and by which you are being saved, if you hold to the message I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.

These are certainties.

According to the Lord’s providence, this Easter is celebrated in an atmosphere of uncertainty and the fear of death. Whatever the numbers may actually say, people see death as near at hand, and can imagine themselves taking that last, labored breath.

But when our time comes, we will do so in the certainty of the hope given by the Christ who is our righteousness. He bore the punishment for your sins, into death, and destroyed death by His resurrection, the first to rise, as, yes, you too wil rise to immortality.

So I declare to you the gospel which I have received, which is your declaration of faith, and by which you are being saved:

THE LORD IS RISEN!

HE IS RISEN INDEED! ALLELUIA!

By |2020-04-11T17:55:40-07:00April 11th, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

The Cleansing Power of the Blood of Christ

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The Cleansing Power of the Blood of Christ

1 John 1:5–10 (CSB)

This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light, and there is absolutely no darkness in him. If we say, “We have fellowship with him,” and yet we walk in darkness, we are lying and are not practicing the truth. If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say, “We have not sinned,” we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

Dear fellow redeemed: In our age that is big on feelings, moods, and thoughts in general, we aren’t so good at being specific. On Thanksgiving we are supposed to list what we are thankful for, but unless we include to Whom we are thankful, we just have a list of things we like. We carelessly say things like, “My thoughts and prayers go out to our heroic healthcare workers,” but, really, we don’t pray to them. Our prayers go to our true Lord, who can watch over them – and us.

Likewise, on Good Friday we can cavalierly say that we know that Christ died for our sins, but who really wants to get specific? In our general confession of sins, we say, “I confess unto You all my sins and iniquities, with which I have ever offended You and justly deserved Your punishment in both time and in eternity.” That’s general enough, except now we are facing a social, economic, and medical calamity, and it is because of my sin, and because of your sin. In the face of the very worst of these calamities, Jesus says, “No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all perish as well. (Luke 13:5, CSB)

To repent means to turn around, to turn away from our sins. It means more than just saying “I’m sorry.” Once again it makes a difference to be precise. It means I confess of my particular sins. It means I confess to God, whom I have truly offended. You too.

What difference does it make to say, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin, if I don’t stop to consider MY sin?

It is comfortable to think of other people’s sins. I’m good at admitting those. You too. Surely this nation, this whole world deserves judgment for the millions of lives snuffed out in infancy. Only one elective procedure is permitted in Oregon – the killing of children. Our society deserves judgment as the natural expression of love between a man and a woman is bent and twisted by pornography. So many bend their minds through intoxication – whether drugs or alcohol. People swear in God’s name to be true for life, and they aren’t. People swear to the living God to raise their children in the Christian faith, and then they don’t.

Gossip and lies are the currency online, destroying reputations and alienating people from one another. Love grows cold. Covetousness burns in people’s hearts as they envy and resent what others possess. Those who seek power stoke the fires of envy incessantly.

And people repent, not to the true and living God, but they set up idols of nature or government to whom they look for rescue. Prayers are offered up to imaginary “gods” like Allah and the Mormon gods, and whatever god inhabits the common imagination.

People grow careless of the name of Christ, and preach (or believe) falsehoods taught as Christian truth. So many are indifferent toward the word of Christ that they don’t for 15 minutes miss gathering together around word and sacrament to receive the gifts of God.

But by now we recognize those “sins of other people” are our own sins. I am selfish. You have misused God’s name. I have not loved Him above all things. You have not been faithful to his word. You have been hurtful to people He loves, negligent of pastors and others whom He has called to lead you. I have been unfaithful, stingy, and covetous.

And if you don’t think so, then you convict yourself of self-righteousness and the cloud of disapproval you cast over others brands you as a hypocrite. John anticipates our denials, If we say, “We have no sin,” we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

The more we understand the depths of our sinfulness, the more we grasp the immensity of the gospel promise, the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

To walk in the light is to live in faith, to live in the knowledge of God’s perfect holiness, and to acknowledge that we are not holy, but deserve to be cast of by God. To live in the light is to live in faith, in the knowledge that Jesus, the Messiah, lived out that righteousness having washed our sin off of us and onto Himself, He has atoned for our sins and so now declares you innocent.

The shedding of the blood of God’s son, His rejection under God’s wrath, was a terrible price to pay, but it was the price of our sin, so that … If we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.

“Come, let us settle this,” says the Lord. “Though your sins are scarlet, they will be as white as snow; though they are crimson red, they will be like wool. (Isaiah 1:18, CSB)

AMEN.

By |2020-04-10T15:41:13-07:00April 10th, 2020|Good News, Sermons|0 Comments

Like Lazarus

LIKE LAZARUS

RESCUED IN TIME AND IN ETERNITY

John 11:1-57

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Hello viewers, this is Pastor Bryant from Our Savior Lutheran Church in Grants Pass, Oregon and Faith Lutheran Church in Medford. This is our Midweek Lenten Devotion.

You know, it’s interesting; even without much communication, still several people have remarked to me what a coincidence it is that the most severe week of this pandemic should come when the Christian church celebrates Holy Week. And in fact, there is an intersection between today’s reading and our situation here in the midst of this Pandemic.

For our midweek devotion today, I have chosen a fairly lengthy reading – Chapter 11 of the Gospel of John.

11 Now a man was sick, Lazarus from Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. Mary was the one who anointed the Lord with perfume and wiped his feet with her hair, and it was her brother Lazarus who was sick. So the sisters sent a message to him: “Lord, the one you love is sick.”
When Jesus heard it, he said, “This sickness will not end in death but is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified through it.” Now Jesus loved Martha, her sister, and Lazarus. So when he heard that he was sick, he stayed two more days in the place where he was. Then after that, he said to the disciples, “Let’s go to Judea again.”
“Rabbi,” the disciples told him, “just now the Jews tried to stone you, and you’re going there again?”
“Aren’t there twelve hours in a day?” Jesus answered. “If anyone walks during the day, he doesn’t stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if anyone walks during the night, he does stumble, because the light is not in him.”
11 He said this, and then he told them, “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I’m on my way to wake him up.”
12 Then the disciples said to him, “Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will get well.”
13 Jesus, however, was speaking about his death, but they thought he was speaking about natural sleep. 14 So Jesus then told them plainly, “Lazarus has died. 15 I’m glad for you that I wasn’t there so that you may believe. But let’s go to him.”
16 Then Thomas (called “Twin”) said to his fellow disciples, “Let’s go too so that we may die with him.”
17 When Jesus arrived, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem (less than two miles away). 19 Many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them about their brother. 20 As soon as Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him, but Mary remained seated in the house.
21 Then Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother wouldn’t have died. 22 Yet even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”
23 “Your brother will rise again,” Jesus told her.
24 Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.”
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me, even if he dies, will live. 26 Everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?”
27 “Yes, Lord,” she told him, “I believe you are the Messiah, the Son of God, who comes into the world.”
28 Having said this, she went back and called her sister Mary, saying in private, “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”
29 As soon as Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Jesus had not yet come into the village but was still in the place where Martha had met him. 31 The Jews who were with her in the house consoling her saw that Mary got up quickly and went out. They followed her, supposing that she was going to the tomb to cry there.

32 As soon as Mary came to where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and told him, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died!”

33 When Jesus saw her crying, and the Jews who had come with her crying, he was deeply moved in his spirit and troubled. 34 “Where have you put him?” he asked.
“Lord,” they told him, “come and see.”
35 Jesus wept.
36 So the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” 37 But some of them said, “Couldn’t he who opened the blind man’s eyes also have kept this man from dying?”
38 Then Jesus, deeply moved again, came to the tomb. It was a cave, and a stone was lying against it. 39 “Remove the stone,” Jesus said.
Martha, the dead man’s sister, told him, “Lord, there is already a stench because he has been dead four days.”
40 Jesus said to her, “Didn’t I tell you that if you believed you would see the glory of God?”
41 So they removed the stone. Then Jesus raised his eyes and said, “Father, I thank you that you heard me. 42 I know that you always hear me, but because of the crowd standing here I said this, so that they may believe you sent me.” 43 After he said this, he shouted with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” 44 The dead man came out bound hand and foot with linen strips and with his face wrapped in a cloth. Jesus said to them, “Unwrap him and let him go.”
45 Therefore, many of the Jews who came to Mary and saw what he did believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done.
47 So the chief priests and the Pharisees convened the Sanhedrin and were saying, “What are we going to do since this man is doing many signs? 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation.”
49 One of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, “You know nothing at all! 50 You’re not considering that it is to your advantage that one man should die for the people rather than the whole nation perish.” 51 He did not say this on his own, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus was going to die for the nation, 52 and not for the nation only, but also to unite the scattered children of God. 53 So from that day on they plotted to kill him. 54 Jesus therefore no longer walked openly among the Jews but departed from there to the countryside near the wilderness, to a town called Ephraim, and he stayed there with the disciples.
55 Now the Jewish Passover was near, and many went up to Jerusalem from the country to purify themselves before the Passover. 56 They were looking for Jesus and asking one another as they stood in the temple: “What do you think? He won’t come to the festival, will he?” 57 The chief priests and the Pharisees had given orders that if anyone knew where he was, he should report it so that they could arrest him. (John 11:1-57 CSB)

Let me remind you of the dynamics, of what was going on here. Many who had been following Jesus had left them because He didn’t say what they wanted to hear, nor be the earthly king they wanted Him to be. Others, especially those who had followed John the Baptist and his preaching of repentance and faith remained faithful. Also added were those who had come to repentance and faith and believed the signs of Jesus’ divinity.

At the same time the Jewish leaders’ determination to kill Jesus had hardened; and raising Lazarus from the dead was the last straw. People streamed out of Jerusalem to Bethany to see Jesus and to see Lazarus. The Jewish leaders were plotting to kill Lazarus too, in order to blunt the impact of what Jesus had done. On the first day of the next week, these people who had come out to see Jesus and Lazarus followed Jesus to Bethphage, where Jesus mounted the donkey. They were met by crowds out of Jerusalem who had anticipated His arrival.

Hosanna! Lord Save. Hosanna to the Son of David. Hosanna in the Highest! Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord! Jesus entered Jerusalem as the heir of David, the One bearing treasures of the Lord in heaven, the one who brings the light of the gospel, and- undeniably in the face of Lazarus’ resurrection -the true Lord of life.

How He was to defeat death, atone for sin, and rescue the world was soon to be accomplished and revealed.

So, you see, in one way of looking at this, everything was crashing: Jesus had come to Jerusalem where His enemies had power. They were more than every determined to kill Him. Lazarus was in danger. His own disciple, Judas, was going to give away His secret location. He had been identified as the enemy of the whole nation by the High Priest himself. An arrest order had gone out to the general public. Jesus was doomed. Mary had even anointed Him for burial.

But through the eyes of faith and the light of Scripture, we see a different picture altogether. Lazarus’ death was the occasion to  reveal Christ as the Lord of life, the “Seventh Sign” of John’s argument for Jesus as the Divine Messiah. He was heralded as such by the whole nation on Palm Sunday, and on the day commemorating the spilling of the blood of the lambs so that the Lord would pass over Israel, the blood of the Lamb of God would shield humanity from the wrath of God.

Christ, the LORD, was in charge of it all. And because of that, I can assure you of an everlasting hope. “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7, CSB) Forgiveness, life, and salvation are yours.

This is important for you every day of your life, of course, but it is especially important at this time in our lives. I don’t know your state of mind right now, upbeat or depressed, fearful or confident, frustrated or eager, in good health or feverish and ill. But whatever it is, consider Lazarus as the image of God’s watchful care for you. Look through the eyes of faith as God’s makes sense of this affliction and gives us the reason for hope.

Over all, the comfort of Psalm 23 applies. It applied in Lazarus’ life and it applies in ours: “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

To begin with, we don’t deserve it. We deserve what is happening to this world. In Luke 13 Jesus tells me that when I look at such trouble in the world, I am to repent. You are too. “God have mercy on me, a sinner.” But God is gracious. He is gracious to all. “For he causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:45, CSB)

But to those who believe in Him, He invites us to come to him in prayer, “Whatever you ask in my name, I will do it so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” (John 14:13–14, CSB) And hasn’t he taught us to pray, in the face of problems like this pandemic, “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”?

And hasn’t he delivered us in the past? Paul points to God’s past mercies as reason to hope for the future. “Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. We have also obtained access through him by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. And not only that, but we also rejoice in our afflictions, because we know that affliction produces endurance, endurance produces proven character [experience], and proven character [experience] produces hope. This hope will not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:1–5, CSB)

So, if you are afraid of getting ill, or getting worse, or having an economic calamity, or losing someone you love, (a half hour listening to the news will give you no end of calamity to worry about) then see how Jesus answers Martha’s prayer. He even went so far as to raise Lazarus from the dead to restore Him to Martha and Mary, to the glory of God. Surely, goodness and mercy followed Lazarus and his sisters.

But notice this also. Lazarus would eventually die again. So, as Christians we have every expectation of the Lord working His gracious will during this time, and He will most certainly hear our prayers. But beyond and behind all that is greater mercy. For while He will bestow goodness and mercy upon you all the days of your life, the pinnacle of salvation is that He has destroyed death, so that you will “dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

AMEN.

Let us pray:

Lord Jesus Christ, our comfort in life and in death, strengthen our faith through your Holy Word, and especially as we see how you moved all things, even the machinations of your enemies, to accomplish our redemption. As you have lived a perfect life for us, and atoned for the sins of the world, so give us your righteousness, reconcile us perfectly to you, as indeed you have promised and fulfilled your promises.

Hear our prayers this day for our loved ones and for your believers throughout the world. We acknowledge our sin before you and deserved your wrath in time and in eternity, but now, for your mercy’s sake hear our prayer for ourselves and our loved ones. Deliver us from all evil. But also turn the hearts of the unbelieving to You. To that end, help us to speak of our perfect hope as we have opportunity.

In the name of Jesus.  AMEN

Join us again on Good Friday for the Service of the Holy Cross.

By |2020-04-08T15:01:00-07:00April 8th, 2020|Good News, Sermons|0 Comments

Zion Welcomed the World’s Savior

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Zion Welcomed the World’s Savior

Matthew 21:1–9 (CSB)

21 When they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage at the Mount of Olives, Jesus then sent two disciples, telling them, “Go into the village ahead of you. At once you will find a donkey tied there with her colt. Untie them and bring them to me. If anyone says anything to you, say that the Lord needs them, and he will send them at once.”
This took place so that what was spoken through the prophet might be fulfilled:

Tell Daughter Zion,
“See, your King is coming to you,
gentle, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt,
the foal of a donkey.”,

The disciples went and did just as Jesus directed them. They brought the donkey and its colt; then they laid their clothes on them, and he sat on them. A very large crowd spread their clothes on the road; others were cutting branches from the trees and spreading them on the road. Then the crowds who went ahead of him and those who followed shouted:

Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is he who comes in the name
of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest heaven!

Dear fellow Redeemed: What’s important? What is important to you? What is important to you today as opposed to a month ago? A guy named Maslow conceived of the “hierarchy of needs,” which is a fancy way of saying that if you are starving, you won’t be much interested in what movie is opening next week or what celebrity was arrested recently.

Jesus was about 2000 years ahead of Maslow when he talked about the “worries, riches, and pleasures of life” that would crowd out God’s word, and so crowd out true and saving faith in the One who is our true hope and salvation.

But the fact is that whether in sorrow or joy, pleasure or pain, confidence or fear, the gospel message, the  essence of Gods relationship with you, remains of paramount importance.

So, whatever you are going through today, protective isolation, a day of many blessings – or even if you were sick and dying, this gospel is important:

JERUSALEM WELCOMED THE WORLD’S SAVIOR

  1. The Daughter Zion
  2. The Savior King
  3. Bringing Heaven’s Treasures
  1. The Daughter Zion

Let me tell you why.

Jesus’ disciples went to Judea expected that He would be killed. They thought in terms of a victim of the Jews’ envy and hatred. They figured Jesus would be found out, thrown into prison and, perhaps like John the Baptist, kept until the crowds quieted down and then killed. But Jesus talked about it differently, “saying, “It is necessary that the Son of Man suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day.” (Luke 9:22, CSB)

They thought of Jesus as victim. Not so! Jesus was the one giving himself over to the cross. He was in charge. Jesus faced the of the Jews’ murderous intent having just raised the dead, after all. Now, in what world is King and Lord of Life unimportant?

Jesus had just raised Lazarus from the dead. John tells us that crowds had gone to Bethany to see Lazarus, and they were now the ones who “followed after” Jesus into Jerusalem. Then there were those who “went ahead” of him, ”the large crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, they took palm branches and went out to meet him. They kept shouting: “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord—the King of Israel!” (John 12:12–13, CSB)

Jesus was no victim to be caught, imprisoned, and secretly executed. He is the One Zion looked for, so now … Tell Daughter Zion,
“See, your King is coming to you,
gentle, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt,
the foal of a donkey.”,

“Zion” is a figure of speech, meaning the church, believers.[1] You are the daughter of Zion. You are one who lives in hope. Whether you enjoy all the delights of life, and know they are just a shadow of the true joys and delights of heaven and the resurrection, or you live in fear, and sorrow, and misery and look forward to the deliverance of the Lord, you are Zion, and your King is coming to you, and now has come, to save you.

We see both His divine and his human natures paired here. In his humanity, He walks down from Bethphage, across the Kidron valley and rides a donkey into the city. In His divine omniscience and omnipotence creates the circumstances to fulfil the prophecy of Zechariah.

     2. The Savior King

This business of finding the donkey and the willing owner was “providential” as we say; it was part of the Lord’s management of life. Even as a true man, He is our king, and The Father … “He exercised this power in Christ by raising him from the dead and seating him at his right hand in the heavens—far above every ruler and authority, power and dominion, and every title given, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he subjected everything under his feet and appointed him as head over everything for the church,” (Ephesians 1:20–22, CSB) So now, instead of providing beasts of burden for His triumphant entry into Jerusalem, He, in His providence, provides for the church. So as you face the troubles of life, “We know that all things work together for the good of those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28, CSB)

He exercised His divinity in humility, and even now it is indirectly through His providence, His watchful care, and His loving power. Do not think, when you are safe and healthy, that it is just luck, or when you are sick, that it was bad luck, for even in our troubles our Lord works good.

He came into this world as he came into Jerusalem. He comes in humility and not in judgment. Many is the time that we have talked about this. For the Lord to appear unhidden, in divine power is to be the end of all things and the judgment of all souls. But this is put off for a while (How long? O Lord come quickly!) in favor of His coming in humility so that He may be our Savior.

As Lord of life, He came into this world that He may die and defeat death. He entered into Jerusalem to be captured by the Jews, turned over to the Romans, and crucified. Thereby on the tree of the cross he overcame the Devil who overcame our first parents by the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.

               3. Bringing Heaven’s Treasures

Because it was the daughter of Zion, the church that greeted Him as the King coming to her. And because He was here showing Himself as the Savior King, many spoke the truth about Christ. Hosanna, they cried. “Lord Save Us.” Oh, that people in our age of the world would learn that word, “Hosanna.” It is a cry of repentance, a cry of needing help that only the Divine Savior King can give.

But in our day, there is precious little repentance, and precious little acknowledgment of the Lord. Still people worship their false gods. Government, for one. We hear “If we had just been in power!” What then, eternal health and prosperity? When has humanity ever succeeded in that? Or the god of the world itself, offended by our misdeeds, as one former world leader said (paraphrasing) “this is what comes of not recognizing our role in changing the world’s climate. Repent!” Not to the Living God, but to His creature.

Hosanna, indeed, as God’s subjects and as His creatures we should cry every day. Lord Save! For we have sinned!  Have mercy!

And not just “Hosanna,” but “Hosanna to the Son of David,” the true Savior King who is the unique descendent of David, and who will ascend the throne of David in Heaven, Who will judge and save, give life and damnation, take to Himself and cast off forever.

And not just “Hosanna,” but “Hosanna in the Highest Heaven.” For we join with the angels of heaven and all the saints, those who have died in faith. We join in their eternal song now, and in the eternal joys of the resurrection hereafter.

But perhaps, for us, the sweetest phrase for us to sing is this: “Blessed is He Who comes in the Name of the Lord!” By “blessed” is meant that He is the one blessed (chosen, anointed) by God, not just to receive, but blessed to be the One coming to this world to pour out the treasures of heaven: Mercy, forgiveness, grace, life, salvation, the resurrection unto eternal life.

The greatest treasure, the Son of the Father, was given as a blessing to this world to redeem us from our sins. He lived the life that won God’s own approval, “In Him I am well pleased.” And having lived the righteousness that He gives to us by faith, He poured out His life and blood to atone for our sins, so that you are given the innocence of Christ Himself.

And the treasures continue to pour out through Him today. Light to see and know the truth. Grace, the unmerited love of God. Forgiveness, so that we are reconciled to God. Life, life like the Risen One himself, body and soul.

In His providence, through this pandemic God has put the world on notice of our mortality. As fragile as is our prosperity, our health, even our life, our Savior King is shown to be our hope in life and in death. I assure you, He hears our prayers with mercy.

It is my prayer that you are warm, safe, comfortable, healthy, and prosperous. I pray that you will remain so, despite the storm of fear that surrounds us. But whatever your situation I can point you to our true Hope, our Savior king. He has come in the name of the Lord, Yahweh, Creator and Preserver of all. He has poured out heaven’s treasures to you – forgiveness of sins, life and salvation. Be at peace, in Him is the Hope of the world.

AMEN. This is most certainly true.

[1] Jesus fulfilled the prophet’s words so conspicuously that all physically present on that occasion and all of us present in spirit now might recognize and acknowledge him as the kind of Messiah or Christ he wants to be for all men, one who matches Zechariah’s prophetic picture. “Say to the daughter of Zion.” If we go back to Zechariah 9:9, we find a double summons there: “Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, daughter of Jerusalem!” One term explains the other. Zion is the same as Jerusalem. Originally, Zion was the name of the site on which Jerusalem was built. Then it was narrowed down to designate the highest point of the city. The reader should note, however, that this was not where the temple was built. It was erected on a lower hill, called Mount Moriah, which we recognize as the eminence on which Abraham had been fully prepared to sacrifice Isaac. (Genesis 22:2) Finally, Zion or Mount Zion came to be used for the whole city of Jerusalem.

In New Testament times the name Zion, or Mount Zion, was employed for the new people of God or the new Israel, in other words, the Christian church. (See Hebrews 12:22, 23; 1 Peter 2:6.) In Revelation 14:1 Mount Zion is the place where the Lamb (Christ) is surrounded by all the saints in glory.

Franzmann, W. H. (1998). Bible history commentary: New Testament (electronic ed., pp. 601–603). Milwaukee, WI: WELS Board for Parish Education.

By |2020-04-04T17:41:25-07:00April 3rd, 2020|Sermons|0 Comments

Midweek Update 4/2/20

Midweek Update 3/2/20

Here is your (probably regular) midweek update.

Let me point out that in these uncertain times we find our refuge, not in up-beat emojis, not in positive thoughts, not in wishful thinking, and not even in the expert information from the CDC. They may all be useful in some way, but true certainty comes from God’s word. Good theology, that is, a good understanding of God’s clear word and promises is of utmost importance because it is rooted in the absolute truth of the word of God.

Whatever happens in terms of health or the economy, forgiveness, life, and salvation are yours, through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.
We may not be able to get together to hear the word and receive the sacrament, but our assurance lies not in our devotion, but in the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.

To stand firm in God’s word and promises, cultivate a good devotional life. Here are some suggestions. Don’t let the devil accuse you for not doing everything here, rather find what works for you to receive God’s comfort regularly.

  • Read from the Bible. Start with the Gospels and read a chapter or more at a time. I find it very helpful to read a whole book at a sitting. They aren’t really that long, and it gives me a good perspective.
  • Read your Meditations that we hand out at church.
  • Read Good News for You, a devotion book from the ELS in .pdf format.
  • Subscribe to an email or video devotion here. It will be sent to you daily.: ELS Devotions Sign-up
  • Keep up on the devotions and sermons I put out for you. Because there are so many good devotions available, I am not trying to get a devotion out every day, but I plan to have a Wednesday evening devotion and a Sunday morning service and sermon. The devotion and sermon will apply more to us than the more general devotions can.

PRAY!
We all know that we face the troubles of this life because we are sinners, and that we will one day leave this veil of tears for eternal life and the resurrection, but Jesus Himself teaches us to pray, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” And Paul reminds us that even when we are suffering tribulation His mercies in the past give us hope for deliverance from our present troubles. In your prayers…
– Acknowledge your sins and unworthiness
– Praise God for His mercy
– Because He is merciful, boldly ask Him…
– Ask that our nation be led to repentance.
– Ask that the dire predictions of death and morbidity will not come to pass.
– Ask that you will be given life, health, and strength, and be spared severe illness.
– Ask that your loved ones and fellow church members will be spares.
– Ask that your pastor will be given the right words to comfort people.
Here is the closing part of the prayer that I happen to use, “Lord, help me to see Your Fatherly hand, even in my troubles, so that I may bear my cross in cheerful submission to your holy will, sins You alone know best.”

So commit your future to Him and trust that by His mercy “goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life, and you will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23)

HERE ARE THE LATEST PLANS:

  1. We will not have services at church until further notice.
  2. We will not offer individual communion during Holy Week as we had hoped.
  3. Some of you have called me for counsel.  Keep it up. I am happy to meet with you by phone for counsel, comfort, confession & absolution, etc.
  4. If you want to meet with me in person, call me and I will set it up.
  5. I am generally reserving my in-person contact for those in the hospital, who are very sick or dying, or who are otherwise in distress, but if you are in that situation I assure you I will be there.
  6. Here is how I will keep in touch:
  • Midweek update (like this one) –sent out in email –posted on the web site, www.osflc.org, –posted on the Our Savior Facebook page, –posted on the Faith Facebook page, –Printed and mailed out with the Sunday sermon in time for Saturday.
  • Midweek Devotion midweek (usually Wednesdays) Recorded on YouTube. Links will be distributed in these ways: –sent out in email –posted on the web site, www.osflc.org, –posted on the Our Savior Facebook page, –posted on the Faith Facebook page.
  • Sunday Sermon Recorded on YouTube Saturday Night. Links will be distributed in these ways: –sent out in email –posted on the web site, www.osflc.org, –posted on the Our Savior Facebook page, –posted on the Faith Facebook page. I will also print it out and mail it out in time to arrive by Saturday.

Cordial Regards, in Christ

Pastor Bryant

By |2020-04-02T12:07:51-07:00April 2nd, 2020|Good News|0 Comments