A King Who Executes Justice. Devotion on John 19:17-24

March 31, 2021

John 19:17-24

A King Who Executes Justice

So they took Jesus, 17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. 18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek. 21 So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”  23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic. But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom, 24 so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says, “They divided my garments among them,    and for my clothing they cast lots.” So the soldiers did these things…

Pilate wanted everyone in Jerusalem to know why Jesus was being crucified: Romans, Jews, Greeks, and everybody else.  So he posted an inscription on the cross written in the languages of them all: Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.

Some five hundred years before this, the prophet Jeremiah wrote:

“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’  (Jer. 23:5-6)

The Hebrew word netzer means “shoot, sprout” or “branch.”  “Jesus the Nazarene” sounds something like “Jesus the Branch.”  He, the One hanging on the Roman cross, is the branch God raised up out of the root of David.

Pilate’s sign announces that Jesus is the King prophesied by Jeremiah.  But that makes no sense to us.   Jesus does not appear to be “reigning as King, dealing wisely, executing justice and righteousness in the land.”  How can He be ruling and reigning when He is nailed through His hands and His feet, hanging on a tree?

He is executing, or accomplishing, righteousness and justice in just that way, by being crucified.  By being executed on the cross He executes righteousness and justice.  He accomplishes justice and righteousness passively, by suffering.  He reigns by suffering.  His reign is to accomplish righteousness for sinners by dying on the cross. 

We are unjust, unrighteous, leaving the commandments of God unfulfilled.  That is the very definition of unrighteousness—to fail to keep God’s righteous law.  But He, the righteous One, my Servant, makes many to be accounted righteous, and … bear[s] their iniquities.”  (Is. 53:11)  When He, the Righteous One, the Lord, fulfills the Law, it is sufficient that all men are counted as having accomplished the Law.  When He, the Lord, is crucified, sheds His blood, and drinks the cup of God’s wrath against sin, it satisfies the demands of God’s justice against all men.  His suffering is enough that all men are counted as having paid the penalty for our sins.  Jesus is executing justice and righteousness in the land when He is crucified, accomplishing righteousness and justice on behalf of the ungodly, so that Israel may be saved and Judah may dwell securely.

Israel and Judah are not the people who have Jewish or Israelite DNA.  They are those whose “circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not the letter” (Rom. 2:29).  The Jews and Israelites who are saved by Jesus are those who, by the Holy Spirit, believe that Jesus is our King.

They—we—see the man nailed to the cross reigning wisely, accomplishing righteousness and justice for us.  We see Him not merely as a man, but the Lord who, in His death on the cross, is Himself our righteousness.

Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness

My beauty are, my glorious dress;

Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,

With joy shall I lift up my head.  Amen.  (LSB 563 st. 1)

Devotion: John 19:1-16 “Behold Your King”

March 30, 2021

John 19:1-16

Behold Your King

Despite our theology, we understand why the priests of the Jews thought their King should look different than Jesus.  The Lord appeared to Moses in unquenchable fire.  He got glory over Pharaoh (Ex. 14:17), drowning him and all his hosts in the Red Sea, after doing wonder after wonder in their land.

But Jesus allows the Gentile soldiers to take away what earthly glory He had.  They beat Him and mock Him with the crown of thorns and lead Him, bruised and bloody, before the mob that wants His death.  He had no glory that human beings would recognize to begin with.  And what dignity and beauty He had He allowed to be taken from Him.

Jesus does not look like what we expect the God of Israel to look like.  And yet, after He has had Jesus beaten and mocked, when Pilate hears that Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, he is afraid.  Pilate seems to know what, as a Gentile, he should not be able to know—that the man standing bleeding and humiliated in his headquarters is truly the King of the Jews and the Son  of God.  

But despite the voice of his conscience, Pilate condemns the Lord.  The Jews remind him of Caesar, Pilate’s king.  A man who claims to be a king opposes Caesar, and we intend to let Caesar know that you let this man oppose him and escape with his life, they say.

So Pilate sits down in the judgment seat and brings Jesus out.  “Behold, your King!” he says, as if to say, “Yes, Caesar is my king, the king of the Romans.  Here is your King, the King of the Jews.  You know it and I know it.  What shall I do with your King?”

“Away with Him, away with Him, crucify Him!”  “We have no King but Caesar,” say the priests.

Have we also put aside our King, tried to shout down the voice of our conscience when it called us to confess our King, scorning the shame?  Have we fought against our King when He called us to repentance?  Have we wished for another because He did not come with earthly splendor and glory, nor promise it to us?

Have we denied that He is our King?

He is our King even though we have rejected Him and resisted Him.  He remains our King.  Behold the man!  He became our King while we were still His enemies.  He wants to be found in mockery and shame, in sin and pain.  He takes on blows, stripes, a crown of thorns, a crowd calling for His crucifixion, so that we will be His own and live under Him in His Kingdom.  He is not ashamed of our lowliness, our weakness, or even our rebellion against Him.  He has taken all that belongs to us—the mockery, the crown woven from the curse, the stripes—so that He may give us all that is His—righteousness, eternal life.  He is not ashamed of us, even though we have been ashamed of Him.  As the collect for Good Friday puts it:

“Almighty God, graciously behold this Your family for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed and delivered into the hands of sinful men to suffer death upon the cross; through the same Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.”

What fading flow’rs His road adorn;

The palms, how soon laid down!

No bloom or leaf but only thorn

The King of Glory’s crown.

The soldiers mock, the rabble cries,

The streets with tumult ring,

As Pilate to the mob replies,

“Behold, behold your King!”  Amen.  (LSB 444 st. 3)

When Jesus Does Not Save. Palm Sunday 2021

Palm Sunday

Emmaus Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 21:1-9, 27:37-54

March 28, 2021

When Jesus Does Not Save

Jesu juva!

In the Name of Jesus.

And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!  Hosanna in the highest!”  Matthew 21: 9

Hosanna means “Save us now!”  The crowds going ahead of Jesus to Jerusalem and following behind Him, as He rides a donkey on a dirt road covered with cloaks, through a forest of tree branches, are shouting, “Save us, Son of David!”  Save us, anointed King!  Save us, long awaited Savior!  Save us in the highest!

They expect Jesus not only to save them on earth but also in the highest, before God.

Hosanna comes from a Hebrew or Aramaic word.  The normal word for “save” in the New Testament is Greek, and it has multiple senses.  It can mean to save someone from sickness, therefore to heal them.  It can also mean to rescue someone from death and destruction.  Finally, it can mean to save a person everlastingly, from eternal damnation and judgment.

Jesus had saved many people in the first two senses of the word.  Many people had seen it.  Everyone recognized it—the crowds who are asking Him to save, and also the chief priests, scribes, and elders, who are looking for a way to kill Him.  This is why the crowds expect that Jesus is coming to Jerusalem to accomplish the great salvation as the Son of David, a salvation in the highest place.  This is why they are full of joy, praising their Savior, processing with branches, laying down their clothes on the road—just as long before, His ancestor King David stripped down to a linen ephod and danced for joy before the Lord as the ark of the covenant was brought to Jerusalem.

How could Jesus fail?

When the disciples’ boat was being swamped by waves on the Sea of Galilee, they woke Him and said, “Save us, Lord!  We are perishing.”  Then Jesus got up and rebuked the wind and the waves, and they were still.

When the woman who had suffered from a flow of blood for twelve years, rendering her constantly unclean, saw Jesus, she said, “If I just touch the hem of His garment, I will be saved.”  So she did, and Jesus told her, “Your faith has made you whole”—your faith has saved you.  But it was Jesus who had saved her—her faith only received His salvation and healing.

After Jesus fed the five thousand, He sent the disciples back across the Sea of Galilee while He prayed.  But in the middle of the night they saw Him walking on the sea.  Peter said, “If it is really you, tell me to come to you on the water.”  Jesus told him to come, and Peter walked out to Him.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and began to sink.  You can imagine what that would be like, to feel yourself going under the water, flailing around.  Peter cried out, “Lord, save me!”  And Jesus walked over on the sea, put out His hand, and pulled Peter out, then walked with him on the sea back to the boat. 

You can see that when Jesus saved so many, everyone would expect a great salvation to be accomplished when He came to Jerusalem.


But instead, Jesus does not save.  He does not save Himself.

Even His enemies seem to be surprised.

This is what we would tell people, isn’t it?  If you want to save the country, if you want to save the church, you need to save yourself first.  You need to get your own life in order first.  But Jesus does not save Himself, and His enemies throw it in His face.

He prays in the Garden of Gethsemane that He might be saved from the suffering He is about to undergo.  But His Father does not grant His request.  Judas comes with armed men, and they take Jesus away bound.

Pilate tries to save Jesus by having Him released instead of Barabbas.  But the chief priests and elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas.  So Jesus is not saved from this unjust murder.  The crowds shout for Jesus to be crucified.  Pilate gives in.  Jesus is flogged and mocked by the soldiers.

At any point the people are watching for Jesus to do some miracle, or the Father to do a sign from heaven that will set Jesus free.  But nothing comes.  Streaming blood, unable to carry His cross, He goes to Golgotha.  Then they hammer in the nails and raise Him up with the sign above His head: This is Jesus, the King of the Jews.  The one the crowds were shouting “Hosanna, Save us” to—the Son of David—is now crucified. 

He is not saving Himself.  The passersby shout at Him: You who were going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself!   You are going to tear down God’s dwelling place among us and build a better one.  How can you do that if you can’t even save yourself from your enemies?

The chief priests, scribes, and elders mock Him as they look on Him in agony, covered in blood, gasping for breath, cursed, humiliated.  He saved others, He cannot save Himself.  They know very well how many sick people Jesus healed.  How many paralytics, deaf people, blind, fevered people He made well.  How many demon possessed people He delivered.  But now it is inexplicable.  After doing all that, He appears to be unable to help Himself.

And they say, He trusts in God; let God deliver Him now, if He desires Him.  For He said, “I am the Son of God.”  But God does not appear to want Jesus.  In the next two verses darkness comes over the whole land, and Jesus cries out, My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?  And some people who don’t understand the language think that Elijah the prophet is going to come down from heaven to save Jesus, but he never comes either.

Jesus does not save Himself.  The crowds shouted “Hosanna, Save Us, Son of David!”  But what was the answer?  Jesus was crucified with a sign above His head proclaiming Him the King of the Jews.  And He drank sour wine from a sponge and gave up His spirit with a loud cry.  He did not appear to answer their prayer.


But behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.  The earth shook.  The rocks were split.  The tombs were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised.

And the centurion and those who were with Him saw the earthquake and what took place, and they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”

He did not save Himself, but now the way into the most holy place, the highest place, the presence of God, is open.

Now the earth is shaken; the whole world and its order is shaken.

The tombs have opened, the saints have come forth, because Jesus was not saved.  Death is broken open.

Now the hardened unbelievers come to confess the faith, that God has become man, and died for our salvation.

The crowds went before and behind Jesus with joy, crying, “Save us in the highest!”  They believed Jesus was about to accomplish His great salvation as Messiah, and they were right.  We sing this song with them every week as we come to Jesus’ supper.  We join in their song, but also the song of the angels Isaiah heard singing around the throne of God—Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God of Sabaoth!

We sing those songs together because Jesus has made them one.  His believers on earth are now also the holy ones who join with the angels in heaven in praise before the throne of His Father.  We are saved in the highest, before the throne of God. 

He did not save Himself because the holy temple of His body had to be torn down in order that it might be raised again, and all who believe in Him with Him.  When He was torn down in death, our sins were torn down and buried with Him, and we were raised up with Him to a new life.

The Father turned His face from His Son, rejected Him.  He was not saved by the Father from this because Jesus was answering the crowds’ prayers, and our prayers.  He was doing what the angel said He would do when He was conceived in the womb: You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins (Matt. 1:21).

He saves us by not saving.  He saves us by not saving Himself.  He comes to us with the fruit of His not saving Himself—His body which was crucified and His blood that was poured out.  These gifts that come from Him not saving Himself save us to the uttermost.  He gives us all of Himself today to save us.  And we enter with Him into this Holy Week, going with Him to the cross and the tomb and arising to a new life.

The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria

The Guilt Offering. Wednesday of Judica, 2021

Wednesday of Judica

Emmaus Lutheran Church

Passion History V: Calvary (Is. 53:10)

March 24, 2021

The Guilt Offering

Jesu juva!

In the Name of Jesus.

Praise the Father, who from heaven

To His own this food has given,

Who, to mend what we have done,

Gave into death His only Son.  (LSB 627 st. 4)

In Leviticus God commanded several different kinds of sacrifices.  The burnt offering was offered every morning and evening.  Peace offerings were voluntary sacrifices, and the people were allowed to eat the meat of those sacrifices.  Sin offerings were made for unintentional sins—this was the sacrifice from which blood was brought in to sprinkle on the ark of the covenant every year on the day of atonement.  But there was another offering called “the guilt offering” or the “reparation offering.”  The Israelites were required to bring this offering when they sinned in the holy things of the Lord (Leviticus 5:15).  Whenever an Israelite committed an act of desecration or sacrilege, whether by unintentionally handling something holy, reserved for the priests, or by misusing God’s holy Name in an oath, or things like this, he was required to offer a guilt offering.  When an Israelite desecrated something holy, he was in debt to God.  He had misused something that belonged to God, and it was necessary for a payment to be made.  It was not the same as a sin offering, which cleansed or covered defilement.  It was more like a debt that had to be repaid for stealing something or misusing something that belonged to God.

The prophet Isaiah foretold that the Messiah would make a guilt offering that was different than the one required in Leviticus.  Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush Him; He has put Him to grief; when His soul makes an offering for guilt, He shall see His offspring, He shall prolong His days.  (Is. 53:10)  The Messiah would not offer a ram for a guilt offering.  His soul or His life would be the guilt offering, the reparation for desecration of God’s holy things.

In His death, our Lord Jesus Christ, Jesus the Messiah, was crucified between two thieves.  These were two men who were paying with their lives for taking what belonged to others.  But one of them realized that Jesus was paying with His life or soul despite not having taken anything.  He had not taken anything that belonged to other people, nor had Jesus taken what belongs to God.  He was making His life a guilt offering so that He might see His offspring—the repentant thief and others like him—in Paradise for endless days.

Tonight I preach to you

1.  The guilt offering of our Lord’s life


2.  What it gains for those who are guilty and in debt to God.


We heard, as we have many times before, how our Lord Jesus went to the Place of Skull carrying His own cross.  But then they gave it to Simon of Cyrene to carry behind Jesus.  The cross on which Jesus hung would have been seven to nine feet tall, probably.  If He had had to carry the whole thing—the crossbar and its crosspiece—they say it would have weighed three hundred pounds.  But they think the crossbar was more like 75 to 100 pounds and five to six feet long. 

Now a bar like that would be heavy, but a normal man could carry it himself.  But Jesus could not carry it the whole way.  That is because He had been flogged by the Roman soldiers.  There is a story that the man who played Jesus in Mel Gibson’s movie The Passion of the Christ was accidentally hit once with a whip during the filming of Jesus’ flagellation and that he immediately passed out.  I recently was watching a television series about the settling of Australia and in it a woman was flogged with 25 lashes just with a leather whip.  The wounds on her back, according to the show, did not heal for weeks.  Gibson’s movie was criticized for being unnecessarily gory, but since we live in a time where whipping and flogging and other forms of corporal punishment and torture are unknown, we probably needed to see it.  Jesus could not carry His cross because He had already suffered so much physically before He was given the cross.  Pilate was trying to save him from the cross, but his ploy did not work.  Jesus’ back was an open wound covered with his own clothes.

When they arrived at Skull Hill, there they crucified Him.  Although Jesus’ physical suffering was the least of His suffering, it is true, His physical suffering was not small.  Can you imagine someone you love having spikes driven through their hands and feet and being raised up to hang from them? The cries they would make?  The blood gushing? Can you imagine that happening and they had done nothing wrong, they were tortured in this way and they had been falsely accused?

Jesus was accused of blasphemy—of defiling God’s name by claiming to be the Son of God.  He was accused of rebellion against God’s earthly authority, Caesar. 

As they drove the nails into His flesh, into the wood, Jesus did not curse them, cry out for vengeance.  He prayed for them.  Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.

Maybe this is part of what made one of the two thieves between whom Jesus was crucified realize “this man has done nothing wrong.”  Who could believe that a man who prayed for those who are torturing and killing Him—praying for their forgiveness—is really a blasphemer?  Who but God could do this?

The repentant thief realized that Jesus was paying for something that He did not do.  He was making His life a guilt offering.  His body was being offered up to flogging, then to crucifixion.  And His soul was bearing something worse.  His soul was forsaken by God.

The repentant thief realized that he deserved to be crucified and put to death.  We might think that is a harsh penalty for stealing.  But the civil authority has the power of the sword to punish evildoers as he thinks best.  He has that authority from God. 

The repentant thief realized that when he and the other thief were crucified, they were receiving punishment from God through the governor, and that they were getting what they deserve. 

And in the same way, death and eternal death are what we deserve.  You and I may not be thieves in that we have stolen with our hands.  But we are debtors before God.  His name has been placed on us in Holy Baptism, but we have misused it and dragged His name through the filth of our sins.  We have an eternal reparation to make before God.

But Jesus, the thief realized, has done nothing wrong.  He has not misused God’s name.  He has not stolen from God, nor has He tried to rob Caesar of his honor and obedience.  Yet He is paying for it as though He had, with physical suffering, with blood, with the life of His body.

And also with the life of His soul.  When Jesus cries out that He is forsaken by God, this is far more gruesome and terrible than the cat-o’-nine tails tearing open His flesh.  Far more terrible than the nails piercing Him, the agony in His lungs, the terrible thirst He experienced.  Jesus’ soul was experiencing the agony of God’s face being turned against Him.  He was experiencing God’s curse.  He was paying the penalty for desecrating God’s holiness in both soul and body.  He was making His life and His soul a guilt offering.

This is what the thief on the cross realized.  He has done nothing wrong.  We are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but not He. 


And that leads to his realization.  Dying on the cross as a thief is the last place you would expect to find spiritual insight, or salvation.  Here is a man dying in the worst shame and guilt possible on earth.

Yet it is as though the thief has found a treasure hidden in a field or a pearl of great price.  He turns to Jesus and says, Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.

The priests, the soldiers, the people, the other thief are all mocking Jesus.  What kind of kingdom can Jesus have when He is hanging on a cross, when He is pierced and naked, helpless as the soldiers take His clothes?  He saved others, he healed others, but now He can’t save Himself.

Yet this thief looks at Jesus nailed to a cross and sees an innocent man and a kingdom.  He looks at Jesus and sees a king who can save Him.

And you know what Jesus says to him.

It is not tomorrow, not a hundred years from now that he will enter Jesus’ kingdom, but today.  As though the man had not stolen, not been tried and condemned to die, not been nailed to a cross.  As though the man had not lived the kind of life for years and years that leads one to the death penalty.  That doesn’t happen overnight, usually.  It usually takes years and years of breaking the law, of immoral living, of disobedience to God, before one ends up in jail or on death row.  Just as the bonds of your sins didn’t develop overnight.  We were born in them, but we forged our besetting sins through years of compromises and self-indulgence.

But instantaneously, as soon as he asks, Jesus gives him entrance into Paradise.  And not only will this thief enter paradise, where Adam and Eve couldn’t enter.  He will enter with Jesus.  With the innocent one.

How can a whole life of sin be done away with in a moment?

Because Jesus has made His soul a guilt offering.  Isaiah prophesied: When his soul makes an offering for guilt, He will see His offspring.  This man does nothing to pay back his own debt.  How could he repay God from the cross where he is dying?  Dying is what he has earned.  What would he give God if he could come down from the cross?

But Jesus makes an offering for guilt.  A full and complete offering that will never be repeated.  He repays our desecration of God’s holy things once and completely.  He repays it in the suffering of His body and the agony of His soul, as He was forsaken by God.  This man has done nothing wrong, but He is making reparation for what we have done wrong.

And the thief, seeing this, believing this, and doing nothing, is given paradise that same day.  To the man who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, his faith is credited as righteousness, says St. Paul (Rom. 4).  The Lord Jesus who is making His soul a guilt offering, will see His offspring in paradise that same day.  This thief on the cross is His offspring because he does nothing except receive the guilt offering Jesus made for Him.

We thieves who have racked up a debt we cannot repay God are also Jesus’ offspring.  His soul made an offering for your guilt.  The agony of His body, the torment of His soul leaves nothing of your guilt left to repay.

The Father presents Him before our eyes as His gift.  Do not push Jesus away and go on trying to deal with your guilt yourself—thereby adding to it. 

Come with Joseph of Arimathea, the cowardly one, and take courage from Jesus’ death for you.  Paradise is His free gift.  He has made His soul a guilt offering, and mended what you have done wrong. 

Praise the Father, who from heaven

To His own this food has given,

Who, to mend what we have done,

Gave into death His only Son.  (LSB 627 st. 4)

The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Soli Deo Gloria

“The Whole World Has Gone After Him.” Devotion: John 12:12-26

March 23, 2021

John 12:12-26

The Whole World Has Gone After Him

You see that you are gaining nothing.  Look, the world has gone after him (John 12:19). 

The Pharisees don’t know how right they are.  Not only the large crowd that has come for the Passover runs after Jesus, shouting praise, waving palms, calling Jesus the King of Israel.  Right after the Pharisees say this, Greeks—Gentile pagans—ask to see Jesus. 

The whole world is going after Jesus—Jew and Gentile.  Nothing can stop the coming of His Kingdom.

But wait.  Jesus is going to Jerusalem to die.  The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified (v. 23).  But the word “glorified” is being used in a strange way by Jesus.  Jesus is going to be glorified means: Jesus is going to die.  The whole world is going after Him because He is about to die.  Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone, but if it dies it bears much fruit (v. 24).

How strange that Jesus being glorified means the same thing as: “Jesus is going to die”!  But when He dies, He no longer remains alone.  He falls into the earth and dies, and like a grain of wheat, when He rises again, He bears much fruit.  He brings many more with Him out of the grave, many more in His image.

The whole world is going after Jesus because He is glorified.  The world is being pulled by Jesus through death into life.

If anyone serves Me, he must follow Me; and where I am, there will My servant be also.  If anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him (v. 26).

What a terrible saying this would be if Jesus meant that we needed to come up with the strength and will to go with Him to His death!  We know too keenly that we don’t have the strength.  Peter couldn’t walk with Jesus on the sea; then He couldn’t walk with Jesus to Calvary.  We have heard the cock crow too.

But Jesus is not saying you have to come up with the will and strength to follow Him to the cross. 

He is saying that you are His servant because He is glorified.  He has fallen into the earth and died and has brought forth much fruit.  You are that fruit.

Where He is, so are you.  You have been crucified and buried with Him in Baptism, and you have been raised with Him in newness of life.

Where He is in the Divine Service, proclaiming His resurrection, so are you, clinging to His promise that you are justified and raised with Him.

You are where He is because you eat His body and drink His blood; He lives in you and you in Him.

You are His servant, not by your own will and strength, but because He has been glorified.  He has fallen into the earth with your sins and brought you forth with Him. 

Be Thou my consolation,

My shield, when I must die;

Remind me of Thy passion

When my last hour draws nigh.

Mine eyes shall then behold Thee,

Upon Thy cross shall dwell,

My heart by faith enfold Thee.

Who dieth thus dies well.  Amen.  (LSB 450 st. 7)

An Eternal Redemption. Judica, the Fifth Sunday in Lent, 2021. Hebrews 9:11-15

Judica, the Fifth Sunday in Lent

Emmaus Lutheran Church

Hebrews 9:11-15

March 21, 2021

An Eternal Redemption

Jesu juva!

In the Name of Jesus.

In the Gospel reading today our Lord Jesus narrowly escaped death by stoning at the hands of the Jews.  But you can see that He is not afraid.  He begins by boldly saying to them: Which of you convicts me of sin?  (John 8:46).  He ends by fearlessly saying, Before Abraham was born, I AM!  (John 8:58)  Jesus has no fear of this crowd even though He knows they are angry with Him and want Him dead.  More than that, He has a bold conscience before God.  He states fearlessly that He has no sin and that He is equal to the Father.

He has the same boldness that the psalm appointed for today puts in our mouths: Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people…Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling.  “Vindicate me” could also be “judge me.”  The psalmist, David, is sure that when God judges him he will declare him righteous and bring him into His presence. 

Strangely, the crowd that argues with Jesus seems to have great boldness too.  They are willing to debate with Jesus and to condemn Him to die as a blasphemer.  That is what they are doing when they pick up stones to stone Him. 

Where do they get their boldness?  It is a house of cards.  It is the boldness sinners often have because their consciences are asleep, or dead.  They are not aware of the seriousness of their sins and how they offend God.  Jesus begins to arouse their consciences because He tells them they are slaves of sin, even though they are descendants of Abraham (John 8:34-36).  Instead of confessing that they are sinners, they begin to argue with Jesus and try to find fault with Him.  That is the way the sinful flesh tries to get away from the knowledge of sin and God’s punishment of sinners—it makes excuses, and it tries to attack the person who brings the knowledge of sin. 

But this kind of boldness will not stand in the judgment.  We might be bold and justify ourselves now.  We might try to excuse ourselves by pointing out other peoples’ sins.  But when we are dying and when we stand before the judgment seat of God, this false boldness will evaporate.  It will be shaken.  When we are dying, all our attempts to stand on our own righteousness will fall away beneath our feet like a house built on shifting sand.  When we stand before the judgment seat, the voice of God will thunder and shake every work of man.

What will enable us to go forward and meet the judgment with eagerness and boldness?  We pray, “Thy Kingdom come,” and when we do we are praying that God would judge the living and the dead—and us, and cast out of His Kingdom everything that causes sin, every cause of offense.

We sang “Vindicate me,” “Judge me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly people?”  What can make us so bold as to tell God He should judge us and declare us righteous, take up our cause against the ungodly? 

Our Lord Jesus could pray this on the basis of His own righteousness.  But we can only pray it when our own righteousness is shaken and we place our hope solely in Christ’s priesthood and His offering on our behalf.

Let us consider the Epistle then that proclaims to us

1.  How Christ performs His priesthood,

2.  And its results for us.


The Jews that stood in the temple arguing with Jesus did not imagine that they could stand before God without their sins being atoned for.  They understood that God had instituted Aaron’s priesthood and the sacrifices at the tabernacle in order to cover their sins.

But they did not understand that the priesthood and sacrifices of the Old Testament were not enough to give them a clean conscience before God.  They didn’t understand that a greater sacrifice was necessary to remove their sins, and a greater priesthood was necessary than the one carried out by men in a splendid robe, anointed with the holy oil prescribed by the Law.

Jesus did not carry out His priesthood in the temple on earth, the one that impressed people because it was adorned with noble stones and offerings (Luke 21:5).  But Jesus said not one of the temple’s noble stones would remain on top of another.  He didn’t carry out His priesthood there, nor did He carry out His priesthood in the glorious and beautiful robes of the priesthood of Aaron.  He entered once and for all into the holy places in heaven, in God’s presence.  He went through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation.)  Jesus carried out His priesthood before the presence of the Father.

And when He entered the Father’s presence, He didn’t go in the way Aaron and his successors in office did.  They entered behind the veil into the Holy of Holies, where God was dwelling in darkness, with coals from the altar in the censer.  When they went in, they threw two handfuls of incense on the coals, so that a great cloud of smoke would envelop the ark of the covenant, where the Lord was dwelling.  Then they would come back in and sprinkle the blood of a bull on the ark to make atonement for their own sins.  And then they would come a third time with the blood of a goat and sprinkle it before the Lord to make atonement for the sins of the people.

But this atonement made by Aaron was always temporary.  It had to be repeated yearly, because the blood of a bull or of a goat was not able to actually take away sins.  God accepted it for their outward cleansing, but it could not take away their sins once and for all.

Jesus did not go into the most holy place in the temple.  He went into God’s dwelling place in heaven.  And He did not enter with the blood of a bull or a goat.  He entered with His own blood.  He brought before the Father the blood of God made man, the life of God in the flesh.  His blood, His life, in exchange for ours. 

Now the priests were only allowed to offer to God animals that were perfect, that were without blemish.  Animals that were lame or blind were not acceptable as sacrifices.  But this perfection God required of the animals was only a bodily perfection.  The animals were supposed to be whole.

But Christ through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without blemish to God on our behalf.  Jesus wasn’t merely whole and healthy outwardly.  He was also clean and un-diseased within.  In Him there was no spot of the infection of sin.  In Him was moral purity and perfect holiness.  And not only was there perfect innocence in Jesus as man, but in His body also was all the fullness of God (Colossians 2).  So this man who offered Himself was not only an unblemished human, but the eternal Son of the Father.

He offered Himself to God not with the outward vesture of a priest, on an altar made of stone; not going through the beautiful stones and gold of the earthly temple.  He offered Himself in the Spirit to the Father, bringing His life as an offering to God on our behalf.  With the eye no one saw Jesus entering into the holy places.  No one saw Jesus making a sacrifice at an altar.  They only saw Jesus dying as a criminal away from the holy city on the cross.  But actually Jesus was presenting His life as God and man to the Father in the Holy Spirit, bringing His blood before the Father as an offering.

So the place where Jesus carried out His priesthood was superior, because it was before the unveiled presence of God.  The offering of Jesus was superior, because it was not merely an unblemished animal but the unblemished and holy body and soul of the God-man.


And what is the result of Jesus’ priesthood and offering?  And now does it make us bold to say, “Judge me, O God, and plead my cause?”

These four verses from Hebrews name four or five results of Jesus’ priesthood for us, but I will limit myself to three this morning.

The first: 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. (Heb. 9:12).

Redemption refers to release from captivity or slavery, that is bought at a price. 

The atoning blood brought by the high priest into the Holy of Holies once a year was a redemption, or a ransom.  By it their sins were covered and paid for.  They went free from the penalty of their sins.  But it was only a temporary redemption.  The next year the high priest would have to go once again behind the veil to make atonement for himself and the people.

But when our Lord Jesus went before His Father with His own blood, He secured an eternal redemption.  There will never be another drop of blood to pay for our sins.  He will never go before His Father again with another sacrifice, nor will God ever accept any other payment.  He has paid a ransom that sets all people free from their sins forever and allows us to stand before God’s presence without fear for eternity.  Through Jesus’ priesthood, and through the offering of Himself, we are free from sin forever. 

Those who believe this are able to pray the second petition of the Lord’s prayer: Thy Kingdom Come.  They are able to sing today’s introit: Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people… forth your light and your truth….Let them bring me to Your holy hill and to your dwelling.  They are able to die with confidence that they will enter heaven.  Because Jesus, entering into God’s presence on our behalf with His blood, has secured an eternal redemption.  There is not now, nor will there ever be another price to pay to release you from your sins.  All has been paid by your great high priest, who cried out, after He drank the sour wine: It is finished.

The second result of Jesus’ priesthood and His offering: If the blood of goats and bulls…sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ…purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. 

We receive a purified conscience.  Aaron’s sacrifices were not able to give people a clean conscience because they were not enough to remove sin forever.

But Jesus’ blood makes your conscience clean because it removes sin from God’s sight.  Whatever your sins are, the blood of Jesus, the Son of God, is greater.  His blood cries more loudly for you than your worst sins could ever cry against you.  His blood gives you a clean conscience because it is sufficient to blot out your sins from God’s sight.

Our continual struggle as Christians is to keep a good conscience.  We falter and sin much every day.  In addition, our conscience often becomes disturbed and uncertain about whether we have done the right thing.  And if we rely on ourselves and our efforts to live faithfully we quickly get a defiled conscience. 

But Jesus has entered with His blood into the presence of the Father once for all and secured an eternal redemption.  And if the blood of a bull or a goat was able to make the Jews enter the courts of the temple for another year, how much more does the blood of Jesus give us a clean conscience, so that we can approach God the Father joyfully and fearlessly! 

And this is the reason why we come to church and confess our sins and receive absolution—it is to apply the blood of Jesus to our conscience.  This is why you come listen to preaching. 

This is why we come and eat His body and drink His blood.  To receive a clean conscience through His blood that He brought before the Father for our redemption.

The third and final result of Jesus’ priesthood and offering: How much more will the blood of Christ…purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

The word for “serve” is not the same word as we use for what a servant or a slave does.  It is the word for the kind of service a priest does. 

Jesus purifies our conscience from dead works.  We no longer try to vindicate ourselves by our works.  We receive a clean conscience from His blood.  And this is our priestly robe by which we enter with Jesus into the Father’s presence and serve Him as holy priests.

Like Aaron and the Old Testament high priests, however, we do this in the darkness.  When they entered the holy of holies, there was no natural light by which to see.  We can’t see that we are in the Father’s presence.  Our service is in the Holy Spirit, by faith in Jesus.

Yet though we can’t see, we really come before the Father by faith in Jesus, and serve Him acceptably.  We offer Him sacrifices that He accepts.

Like Jesus we offer our lives to the Father.  And this sacrifice goes up before Him as a sweet aroma.

When Jesus offered Himself for our sins, it didn’t appear to the eye to be a sacrifice.  It appeared to be a merely shameful death on the cross.  Yet His priestly service on the altar of the cross secured an eternal redemption.

When we serve God as priests, it also doesn’t look like it.  Our place of service is in our homes, at our jobs, in this place.  But when you do it with a clean conscience, cleansed in Jesus’ blood, it is acceptable service to God.

The eternal redemption Jesus accomplished for us is an unshakeable refuge.  It will hold fast through death and when everything else on which we rely is shaken.  It gives us a clean conscience and enables us to cry out joyfully in suffering and death: Vindicate me, O God.  Send forth your light and truth… let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling.


The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria

A Secret And Hidden Wisdom of God. Wednesday of Laetare, 2021

Wednesday of Laetare

Emmaus Lutheran Church

Passion History IV: The Praetorium

March 17, 2021

A Secret and Hidden Wisdom of God

Jesu juva!

In the Name of Jesus.

Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away.  But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.  None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.  1 Cor. 2:6-8

None of the rulers of this age understood God’s wisdom, or they would not have had the crowds shouting, “Crucify, crucify Him!” 

But this is a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.  Long before He spoke the world into existence, long before He made man from the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, God had decreed this wisdom.

That the eternal Son would become man.

That He would be taken into the Praetorium, and the whole band of soldiers would be gathered about Him.  And they would flog Him.  Then strip of His clothes, and put the robe of a rich man or an emperor on Him.  Then braid a crown of thorns and push it down onto His head, and put a reed in His right hand, like a scepter.  Then kneel down to Him.  Then spit in His face.

And Pontius Pilate, hoping somehow to get Jesus off his hands, would bring Him out in front of the crowd of His own people, saying, “I am bringing Him out to you so that you may know that I find him not guilty.”  What a strange way to show a man not guilty—to beat him and mock him.

Then he brings Jesus out and says, “Look at the man!”  And Jesus comes out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe.  Abused, humiliated, in pain, bleeding.

This is the secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory.  Because when Jesus is led out in such a fashion, the crowd is not satisfied, as Pilate had hoped.  When the chief priests and officers saw him, they cried, “Crucify him!  Crucify him!” 

You heard what lengths Pilate has gone to get himself free of Jesus.  He sent Jesus to Herod.  He tried to get Jesus released, but they chose Barabbas instead.  He had Jesus flogged as it looked increasingly like he was backed into a corner.  His wife sent him a message saying, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man.”

Nothing is working.  None of Pilate’s machinations, which have probably worked in the past, are working today. 

Why is it not enough that Jesus is mocked and spit on and beaten?  Because He made Himself the Son of God, they say.  Nothing less than death will do, nothing less than death on a cross, the death of a person cursed by God.

And see how when Pilate hears that he becomes even more afraid.  He is afraid the way that the Jews are afraid.  He is afraid because he does not think Jesus is just a crazy man.  He has a nagging suspicion that Jesus is more than just a crazy man or a false prophet standing in the governor’s palace, silent.  The Jews are afraid too, just like Judas was afraid.  “Make sure you tie him up securely,” Judas told the guards, because he knew there was power in Jesus.  The priests are not screaming for Jesus to be crucified like confident people.

This is the secret and hidden wisdom of God.  Pilate cannot get Jesus off his hands with a beating or with a prisoner exchange.  He is backed into a corner until he condemns Jesus to death.

This is the secret and hidden wisdom of God.  None of the rulers of this age understood it, but God decreed it before the ages for our glory.  This is the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made known to His saints (Col. 1:26).

The mystery is that the Lord of glory, the world’s creator, the exact representation of the Father, the exact imprint of His being, is put to shame and put to death for sinners.

Behold the man, says Pilate.  As though perhaps to say, “Look, he is just a man, and now he has been thoroughly chastened.  What are you afraid of?” 

I am the man, the prophet Jeremiah wrote centuries before, who has seen affliction under the rod of his wrath; he has driven me and brought me into darkness without any light; surely against me He turns His hand again and again the whole day long.  (Lamentations 3:1-3)  He was speaking about Jesus, the man who not only bore the whips and rods and mockery of the soldiers but the rod of God’s anger. 

You are the man, the prophet Nathan said to King David (2 Samuel 12:7) after David had condemned a man in a story the prophet told him. 

Jesus is the man who has become guilty of our crimes against God.  He is the man who comes under the rod of God’s wrath and is beaten.  And now He is the man who comes under the curse of God that belongs to everyone who does not walk in His Law, to do it.  Because it is written Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree (Gal. 3:13).   “And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, 23 (Q)his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for (R)a hanged man is cursed by God, it is written in Deuteronomy (Deut 21:22-23). 

This is the secret and hidden wisdom of God which He ordained before the ages for our glory.  By becoming the man who sees the rod of God’s wrath, by becoming the man who is cursed by God for us, God’s wisdom has decreed how we may be counted righteous and participate in His glory.  It is a mystery that has been hidden since the foundation of the world.  And while you may have been introduced to this mystery when you were very young, and while you may have heard it proclaimed to you throughout your life, the glory of this mystery has not yet been exhausted.

Because you continue to need this wisdom of God.  You and I are like Pilate as much as we are like Peter.  Peter denied Jesus to save his flesh and would have perished had Jesus not come to rescue His lost sheep.

But like Pilate you and I have often tried to compromise with the world.  Our conscience demanded of us that we not do what the world was demanding of us.  Especially when we have been in positions of authority and been pressured to do what we knew was contrary to God’s will.  Our conscience demanded that we not put Jesus to death, yet we tried various ways to pass the responsibility to someone else rather than stand with Jesus.  We did not speak in His name and bear witness to the truth.  We did not defend our neighbor when someone was speaking ill of him.  We did not go along with those who wanted to do evil, but we did not firmly resist them either.  We did not boldly confess Christ.

And we continue to be tempted this way.

This is why we continue to need the glory of this mystery, that Christ was put to shame, that He bore stripes and mockery, and that He was condemned to die as a man cursed by God.  By this mystery, by this wisdom, God has declared us to be righteous, so that we stand before Him in the glorious righteousness and innocence of our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now made known to His saints.  To them God chose to make known how great among the gentiles are the riches of the glory of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory ( Col. 1:26-27).

This mystery of Jesus’ humiliation, His flogging, His condemnation is rich in grace and wisdom.  From it we daily draw the forgiveness of sins and God’s grace and favor.  Come and draw from the well of Jesus’ wounds and humiliation all you need of God’s forgiveness, mercy, and grace for all your sins.

But come also draw from it glory and hope.  Because Christ our Lord, the creator of the world, was put to shame for your sins, you also have an unlimited well of hope and glory to draw from.  He is present in our midst proclaiming His humiliation and condemnation to us so that we may take from Him certain hope not only of the forgiveness of our sins, but that we will see the glory of God.  As surely as He was whipped, mocked, and spit on, and bore the shame and condemnation of your sins, so surely does He hold out the hope of seeing the glory of God.  St. Paul says the mystery that has been hidden for ages is “Christ in you, the hope of glory.” 

We do not see Jesus who was brought out before the crowd in our midst.  But in the Word He reveals His presence to us.  As surely as He was led out in Jerusalem bearing our shame, so surely is He in our midst now to bring us before His Father with His righteousness as our crown and His scarlet blood our royal robe.  And He brings us to before His Father as He gives us His body to eat and His blood to drink and presents us before Him in His perfect righteousness. 

The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. 

Soli Deo Gloria

That You May Nurse and Be Satisfied. Laetare, the Fourth Sunday in Lent, 2021.

Laetare, the Fourth Sunday in Lent

Emmaus Lutheran Church

St. John 6:1-15

March 14, 2021

That You May Nurse and Be Satisfied

Jesu juva!

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad for her,

All you who love her;

That you may nurse and be satisfied

From her consoling breast (Is. 66:10-11).

So we sang.  Jerusalem that is above is our mother, St. Paul told us in the epistle.  We Christians are not born just in the ordinary way, of flesh and blood.  We are born from above, born of God’s promise and His Spirit.  We believe that we are sons of God for Jesus’ sake.  And our mother who is above, who is coming down from heaven to earth in the end, nurses us with her consoling breast, because we are babies who need to be comforted.  We need to nurse until we are satisfied.

Babies cry and they don’t even know what they are crying about.  They have needs that they do not even know how to express, so they cry.  And their mother has pity on them because she is their mother.  That is what we are like.

The Gospel reading pictures this.  On the one hand you see the needy crowds that follow Jesus out into the desert looking for healing and for food.  But you can see that they really don’t know what they need.

Then on the other hand you see Jesus’ disciples.  And they, like us, don’t really know what they need either.  You would think they would know better after becoming Jesus’ disciples, but they don’t.  It almost seems as though the disciples are frustrated with Jesus.  Phillip says, “Jesus, two hundred days’ wages wouldn’t be enough to give each member of this crowd a little bit to eat!”  We are hungry and tired and don’t even know how to handle our own problems, he seems to be saying, and you’re asking us to feed this crowd of five thousand people.

And when you listened to the Gospel, you could probably tell from the way that St. John told it that the crowds weren’t coming to Jesus for the right reasons.  They came because they saw miraculous healings.  Then they wanted to come make Jesus king by force when they saw how he multiplied the loaves and fish. 

But even though the crowds did not understand what Jesus wanted to teach them, don’t you sympathize a little?  If my wife or my son were paralyzed or had a fever and I thought they might die, I would chase Jesus over land and sea too. 

And did you notice that when Jesus multiplied the barley loaves and the fish, how much everyone ate?  Jesus gave them as much as they wanted, and they ate their fill (6:11-12).  Because there were plenty of nights when those men sat down to dinner with their families and did not eat “as much as they wanted.”  They ate enough to keep them alive, but they went to bed hungry.  This is so far from our comprehension that we miss many things in the Bible.  Throughout the history of the world it has not been normal for everyone to always have as much as they wanted to eat, like it is for us now.  No, people—even children—often went to bed hungry. 

We don’t have this problem, but even when the stomach’s hunger is satisfied, a thousand others rise in its place, for things we can’t even name.

So you can understand a little better why this crowd wants to make Jesus king.  Here is a king who can give us as much as we want to eat, whenever we want!  He can satisfy our hunger.

Yet, if Jesus had done what the crowds wanted, and what we in our flesh want—if He had satisfied our desire for a miracle—it would have scratched our itch only for a little while.  If He cures our diseases, He will have to cure them again, because death is at work in us.  If He not only feeds our bodies, but also satisfies our cravings for entertainment, for praise, for pleasure, He will still not satisfy us.  Because our hunger and longing is deeper seated than we know.  We are hungry because of original sin.  We are never satisfied because having bitten into the fruit that was supposed to make us like God, we can never be satisfied.  We want to be God, to be self-sufficient, to have life in ourselves, but we cannot be.  So we are never satisfied.

St. Paul was telling the truth when he wrote: But godliness with contentment is great gain (1 Tim. 6:6).  Most people are not content and can’t be satisfied, because they are trying to be self-sufficient.  They are trying to be God.

But Jesus has come to fill us, to satisfy us.  First He tests us.  Then He fills us.


When the Lord led the people of Israel out of Egypt, He led them out with troughs of unleavened bread that they made in haste.  But soon enough, after they crossed the Red Sea, that unleavened bread ran out.  Then the people began to grumble against God, as you heard.

Then the Lord told Moses, Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them whether they will walk in my law or not (Ex. 16:4).

Why did the Lord need to test the people of Israel?  Didn’t He already know what was in their hearts?  He did.  When the Lord tests us, it is to reveal what is in our hearts.

John tells us that Jesus already knew what He would do when He saw this great crowd of five thousand coming.  But He asked His disciple Phillip, “Where will we buy bread for all these people to eat?”  He was testing Phillip.  By now Phillip should have known that Jesus was able to provide bread for the crowd.  In John’s Gospel He had already turned water into wine.  He had healed lepers, cast out demons, raised the dead.  Phillip should have known that Jesus was the Son of God, God in the flesh.  But He did not fully grasp it.  If he did, it didn’t yet occur to him that when Jesus asked where they would get bread for this crowd, he should say, “Lord, you know.”

In fact, Phillip still hadn’t grasped it fully on the night Jesus was betrayed.  After Jesus had washed the disciples’ feet, after He had given them the bread and wine of His Supper, He told them, I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through Me.  If you had known Me, you would have known my Father also.  From now on you do know Him and have seen Him (John 14:6-7). 

But Phillip said, Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.  (John 14:8) In other words, “Lord, show us the Father, and it will satisfy us.”  And Phillip was right!  If we see God we truly will be satisfied.  King David wrote: As for me, I will behold Your face in righteousness; when I awake, I shall be satisfied with Your likeness (Psalm 17:15). 

Phillip was so close, yet so far.  Jesus told him,  “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? (Q)Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that (R)I am in the Father and the Father is in me?

When the crowd approached, Jesus tested Phillip so that he would learn that Jesus is able to satisfy the hunger of our bodies even out in the desert.  He had done it for the Israelites in the wilderness.  But even more He wanted to teach Phillip that He is the Lord who satisfies and consoles us with His living Word.

When we are hungry, when we are getting old, when sickness comes, and when our souls are dissatisfied and we can’t even say what ails us, Jesus is testing us to show us whether we have learned to trust Him, to look to Him to satisfy us.

What do we find?  We find that we don’t.  We look to food, drink, pleasure, comfort, and still other things.  We are often just like the disciples who, in spite of themselves, were looking for Jesus to be the sort of King this crowd was trying to make Him.  A king who would serve their flesh in its efforts to be self-sufficient. 

We still have an idolatrous flesh that seeks its highest good in things other than the true God.  The true God wants to be our God and give us every good thing.  He wants us to cling to Him for everything we need.  But we look for God apart from Jesus.


And that is why we are not satisfied.  We are crying out like babies to be satisfied but do not even know what we are hungry for and what we need.  But Jesus knows.

He knows that we need to eat.  He is human.  He was hungry after fasting for forty days and nights at the beginning of His ministry.  And on the cross, at the end, He cried out, I thirst.  Jesus understands hunger and thirst.

But He also knows, better than we do, that food and drink and clothing are not all that we need. 

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  (Matt. 6:25)

Food is necessary to life, and it is a gift of God.  That’s why Jesus took the loaves and the fish and gave thanks to God for them before He distributed them. 

We have our lives in this world from God as a gift.  He gave us our lives through our parents.  And He sustains our lives in the body as day by day He provides us the food on our tables.  We didn’t give ourselves our lives, did we?  They are God’s gifts.    So Jesus gave thanks for the bread and fish by which God sustains the body. 

But food is not enough.  Good health is not enough.  Wine is not enough.  Husband, wife, child are not enough.  God gives us these gifts, but life is more than food, drink, health, work, family, and all these good gifts of God.  Our hearts can’t live from them.

What we need is God.  He alone is able to satisfy us. 

But God is given to us only in one way.  He is given to us in the bread which comes down from heaven which a man may eat and not die.

That bread, Jesus says, is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world (John 6:51). 

People feel their own restlessness, hunger, and lack of satisfaction—with their work, their marriages, their lives.  But we don’t realize that our real problem is that God is not satisfied with us.  We have fallen short of His purpose for us.  Instead of receiving His gifts and giving Him thanks, our lives have been out of tune, discordant.  We have violated His will from our birth and provoked His anger.  After listing a catalog of our sins in Romans chapter 3, St. Paul writes: In their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known (Rom. 3:16-17).  It’s not just that we are unsatisfied, but that we have not satisfied God, and as a result we were under His anger and wrath.

But now God is satisfied with us.  The evil of our self-seeking has been atoned for; Jesus has made satisfaction for our sins by His obedient life and His innocent death on our behalf.  Now God is satisfied with you, even well-pleased with you who believe in Jesus.  That is what it means to be born of the Spirit, born of a promise.  If you were born in the natural way, you would be trying to find your own way into the presence of God.  But now God has given you the promise that solely for the sake of His Son He is satisfied with you.  And believing this, you have been given new birth as God’s son and heir.

And it is with this Word that God satisfies us through the comforting breast of Jerusalem, that is, through the body of our mother, the Church.  In the Gospel He satisfies us with the forgiveness of our sins.  That’s what we are doing here every week.  We are receiving the pure spiritual milk (1 Peter 2:2) of the Gospel.  We are babies being comforted at their mother’s breast.  We cry out with hunger that we don’t know how to express.  God consoles us with the milk of our mother, the milk of the Word proclaiming to us the righteousness of Jesus and the satisfaction of our Father in heaven with us.

If this were easy to believe, we would not need to have it preached to us so often.  We would not need to be absolved every week.  But it is a daily struggle for us to keep a strong, bold, joyful conscience that says, “God is well-pleased with me even though I continue to be gripped by evil desires, even though I sin much in thought, word, and deed.”  But as you receive the pure spiritual milk of the Gospel of Christ, God strengthens you so that you grow stronger and stronger in faith, so that you hold more and more firmly to Jesus’ righteousness as your own.

In Psalm 90, Moses the law giver cries out, Satisfy us in the morning with your steadfast love, that we may rejoice and be glad all our days (Ps. 90:14).  The whole Psalm is about the experience of sinners living in a world of death, experiencing their sin and God’s wrath.  At the end Moses the lawgiver cries out that God would satisfy us with His steadfast love.  That is what God is doing with us as He proclaims Jesus as the bread of life, the one who satisfies God’s wrath and fulfills God’s Law in our place.  He is satisfying us with His steadfast love that covers our sins.

In the Sermon on the Mount, our Lord preached, Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied (Matthew 5:16).  As Jesus’ life and death in your place is proclaimed, God satisfies your hunger for righteousness, because He gives you Christ’s righteousness, and with it, eternal life.

He doesn’t satisfy our sinful nature’s longing to be strengthened in its quest to be God.  Instead He satisfies us with righteousness and life. 

You may have many desires that are not satisfied this morning.  Jesus says, “Don’t you know me, even after I have been among you such a long time?  Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.”  He has satisfied the Father with you.  He is satisfied out of the anguish of His soul when He sees you believe that your sins are forgiven.  He satisfies you now with the forgiveness of your sins and brings into the Father’s courts.  But soon He will satisfy you with the likeness of God, and you will see Him face to face.  That is His pledge now in this bread.

The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria

Because Jesus is the Christ. Wednesday of Oculi, 2021.

Wednesday of Oculi

Emmaus Lutheran Church

Passion History III: The Palace of the High Priest

March 10, 2021

Because Jesus Is the Christ

Jesu juva!

In the Name of Jesus.

St. Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5: For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. (2 Cor. 5:1)  He is saying, “If our earthly body is destroyed, if we get old and weak and finally die and turn back to dust, or even if we are put to death for Jesus’ sake, we have another body that will be given to us.  We will be raised up in a body like Jesus’ glorious body, and that body will never get old or sick, but will share in the glory of God.”

St. Paul’s words sounds like the false testimony that was brought against Jesus.  They claimed that Jesus said He would destroy the temple that was made with hands and build another three days later, that was not made with hands.  St. John tells us in His Gospel that what Jesus actually said was, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.  But He was speaking about the temple of His body (John 2:20-21). 

But it is bold for St. Paul to say that we know if the tabernacle of our lowly bodies are torn down, we have an eternal house from God, a glorious body that will never die.  Is it so easy?  St. Paul says in the same chapter: For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.  Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others.  (2 Cor. 5:10-11)  And in the second to last chapter of the Bible, the Lord Himself says: The one who conquers will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son. But as for the cowardly, the faithless, the detestable, as for murderers, the sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars, their portion will be in the lake that burns with fire and sulfur, which is the second death.” (Revelation 21: 7-8)  And look how even Peter became cowardly when it was time to confess Christ!  So how can we have the confidence St. Paul expresses, that even if our bodies are destroyed, we will be raised in a body like Christ’s?  That confidence is the same confidence Jesus expressed about Himself.  Do we dare speak this way?

The apostle speaks this way. We know, he says.  He doesn’t just mean those who are apostles like him, who are great in faith and have done many good works like him.  He means every Christian, the small to the great.  We all know that we have a house eternal in the heavens.  This confidence is for every Christian.

Where does it come from, and why is it so certain?  It comes from Jesus’ confession before Caiaphas the High Priest.  We are certain that we will be raised in a body like unto His glorious body because Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Blessed. 


At first glance the Lord’s confession does not appear comforting.  Then the high priest stood up, moved to the center, and put this question to Jesus, “Do you have no answer?  What is this evidence they have given against you?”  But He was silent and gave no answer.  Again the high priest put a question to him and said, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”  Jesus said, “I am.  You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of God’s power and coming with the clouds of heaven.”

When Caiaphas sees Jesus seated at the right hand of God’s power and coming with the clouds of heaven, that will not be a comforting sight for him.  Will it?  Then Caiaphas will realize that the man he handed over to the Gentiles to be beaten, mocked, and nailed to the cross was the King of Israel, that He was the Lord God of Israel.  Can you imagine seeing Jesus coming with the clouds when you were the one who handed Him over to die?  Charles Wesley’s hymn that we sing during Advent expresses it hauntingly:

Ev’ry eye shall now behold Him

Robed in glorious majesty;

Those who set at naught and sold Him,

Pierced and nailed Him to the tree,

Deeply wailing, deeply wailing, deeply wailing,

Shall their true Messiah see.  (LSB 336 st. 2)

When Judas came back to the chief priests and elders and threw the thirty pieces of silver at their feet, he said, “I have sinned.  I have betrayed innocent blood.”  What did he mean?  If Jesus was blaspheming when He said He was the Christ and the Son of God, Judas would not have sinned.  He would have been doing the right thing.  When he told them Jesus was innocent, Judas was saying Jesus truly was the Christ.  That Jesus truly would return in the clouds to judge the living and the dead.  Yet this did not comfort Judas.  He realized he had handed over the Son of God to death and was so overwhelmed with despair that he hung himself.

And Peter denied three times that He knew Jesus or had anything to do with Him.  Imagine doing this.  Perhaps it isn’t as awful as betraying the incarnate God for money.  Perhaps it isn’t as wicked as condemning Him to die as a lying blasphemer, or spitting in His face, or slapping Him. 

Yet it is wicked enough to merit eternal damnation.  The Lord excludes cowards from the New Jerusalem.

When Peter finishes denying the Lord for the third time he looks up and sees Jesus gazing upon him, and breaks down in bitter weeping.  He has not betrayed innocent blood, but He has denied the Son of God.

How often you and I have denied Jesus.  We refused to hear Him when His Word called us to suffer with Him.  We participated in allowing His Word to be falsified in the Church because we were afraid of what would happen if we stood in the truth.  We did not acknowledge Him before men because we were afraid we would offend people.

How can we be so bold as St. Paul, so bold as Job, that we say, “Even if my skin is destroyed, yet in my flesh I shall see God?”

How does Jesus’ confession give us that boldness?  Doesn’t Jesus’ confession simply make us realize that he is our judge?


Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?  Jesus said, I am.  You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of God’s power and coming with the clouds of heaven.  The high priest tore his garments and said, “Do we still need any witnesses?  You have heard this blasphemy.  What is your opinion?”  They all agreed that he was deserving of death.  Then some of them began to spit on him; they blindfolded him, struck him, and said to him, “Prophesy to us, O Christ, who is it that struck you?”  The guards beat Him as they took him away.

When Jesus confesses that He is God’s Son, the anointed One, that He will come in glory and power to judge the earth, they condemn Him to die for blasphemy.  They immediately begin to spit on Him, mock Him, and abuse Him.

Jesus’ confession that He is the Christ and the Son of God, and that He will come to judge the world, immediately leads to His condemnation and soon after, to His death.

He is the Christ not only when He comes in glory to judge mankind.  He is the Christ before that, when He purchases mankind to be His own.  He is the Son of the Blessed God who becomes the Son of Adam.  And He buys us out of damnation and death into righteousness and life.  He purchases us so that we might all become sons of God.

The price Judas received for Jesus was thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave.  But the price for us who are slaves of death and sin and the devil to live before God is the body and blood, the innocent blood of God’s only begotten Son.

When Jesus says that He is the Christ, the Son of God, He is confessing that He is the ransom God is paying to release us from eternal death.  He is saying that He is King over mankind because He pays for us all, pays God back in full for us.  He pays for Adam’s sin.  He pays for our denials of God’s Son.  He pays for Judas’ betrayal and Caiaphas’ murder and blasphemy.

And when He comes in the clouds of heaven, at the right hand of God’s power, He will come to give eternal life to as many as received Him.  When He judges Peter, He will not condemn him to hell for denying Him.  He will declare Peter righteous on account of His own confession before Caiaphas and His own death on Peter’s behalf.  And He will raise Peter up in a body like His own, a body that shares in the eternal glory and life of God.

This is why St. Paul says, “we know that if our earthly tent is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.”  “We” means, not just apostles like Paul, people with “St.” before their name.  It means we who in great weakness believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God, who therefore gave Himself on our behalf.  We have a certain hope too, that He will give us a body like His own.  When Jesus confessed that He is the Christ, He was confessing that He was redeeming us from all our denials and cowardices with His own suffering and His blood.

When your heart accuses you because you have denied Jesus, remember that He is the Christ, the one anointed to be Your King by paying for you with His blood.  Claim your Baptism, where you entered His Kingdom, where you were crucified with Him, buried, and raised again.  Come to His table and eat and drink the ransom of His body and blood which He gave to be Your King, and by which, when He comes in the clouds of heaven, He will judge you righteous by the authority of His God and Father.


The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Soli Deo Gloria

The Kingdom of God Has Come Upon You. Oculi, the Third Sunday in Lent, 2021.

Oculi—The Third Sunday in Lent

Emmaus Lutheran Church

St. Luke 11:14-28

March 7, 2021

The Kingdom of God Has Come Upon You

Jesu juva!

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

When our Lord threw out the demon from the man in the Gospel reading, the demon that had made him mute, no one in the crowd around Jesus smiled condescendingly that anyone could still believe in such things as unclean spirits.  No one thought the devil was a figment of an earlier, more superstitious time.  They, like most people throughout history, in most cultures of the world, took the reality of evil spirits for granted.

Things are different for us.  In 2021, people are far more open to the reality of the supernatural than they once were.  But even so, we tend to be skeptical about the devil’s active involvement in our lives.   Nobody has ever seen a person bodily possessed by a demon.  Even in the Christian Church, where we believe that the devil is a real being who deceived the first man and woman so that they fell into sin, we tend not to acknowledge his regular presence and work in our lives, our family’s life, or the church’s life.  It seems superstitious or even Pentecostal to talk too much about the devil.

Yet the Scriptures warn us: Be sober-minded.  Be watchful.  Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8).  Too often we let our minds be guided by what seems reasonable and what we can perceive with our five senses instead of what God reveals to us in His Word.

In the Gospel reading, Jesus exorcised a man who was possessed by a demon who made him unable to speak.  His body was controlled by the evil spirit.  Probably none of us have seen this type of demonic oppression.

But if we have eyes to see, we can look around in America in 2021 and see oppression and bondage all around us. 

The most obvious example is addiction.  Everyone knows someone who has suffered from drug and alcohol addiction; most of us know a story of someone who went to treatment center after treatment center and couldn’t stay sober.  And the main form of treatment for addiction in America is by its own description “spiritual” in nature.  Rightly so, because while addiction certainly has a bodily component, it is also spiritual in nature.  When we are not able to control our desires and passions, it is a spiritual disorder.  And so this widespread disease of addiction is an indication of spiritual bondage in our country.

Another example of spiritual oppression is the destruction of the lives of infants in our country.  This has been going on at the rate of about a million per year since the early seventies.  Yet often we look at this as simply a moral problem or a political problem.

Tied to this is the destruction of the family, the order God created to bring life into the world and sustain it.  When I was a kid, divorce was becoming normal.  When I was a teenager and in my twenties, it became normal and acceptable for people to move in together and even perhaps have children apart from marriage.  Then when I came out of seminary there was the push for homosexual marriage.  Now the leaders in our culture are insisting on the normalization of transgenderism.  We, again, look at these as political problems and moral problems.  We fail to see that it is a form of spiritual slavery. 

And of course, these are not just problems “out there”, away from us in the Church.  We see the bondage of the evil one overtake our loved ones.  Some of them fall prey to addiction.  Others have fallen prey to his attacks on sexuality.

But today we heard Jesus proclaim good news to those who were skeptical about where He got His power to cast out the unclean spirits.  The Kingdom of God has come upon you, He said.  And that is what He proclaims to us today, who are surrounded by the might and oppression of the devil. 

The Kingdom of God comes in Christ’s Word and gives you freedom!

And there are three parts to this teaching in the Gospel today:

1.  First, we hear about the unity of Satan’s Kingdom.

2.  Second, by what power Jesus overcomes Satan’s kingdom and how He divides up Satan’s possessions.

3.  Third, that those are blessed who go on hearing and keeping the Word of God.


Beelzebul means “Lord of the Flies.”  You know where you find flies—wherever there is something dead or putrid or unclean.  The Jews used this name for Satan.  They were saying he is the lord of uncleanness, impurity, and filth.  They were right about that.  But here they are saying that Jesus is casting out demons by the power of the lord of uncleanness and impurity.

But that can’t happen, Jesus says.  No kingdom or household divided against itself can long endure.  President Lincoln borrowed these words of Jesus in the Gettysburg Address.  A state that is always at war with itself eventually is going to fall apart.  If people see that the government can’t keep order, eventually no one will obey it, and it will fall apart.  That’s true in the spiritual realm too. 

Satan’s kingdom is united, absolutely united.  Not because all the lesser demons love Satan, and not because all the people under Satan’s power love Satan.  Satan’s kingdom is united by his power.  Nobody who is under Satan’s power gets out from under it unless someone stronger that Satan makes him let go.  When a strong man, fully armed, guards his palace, his goods are safe (11:21). 

That’s why Satan doesn’t drive out demons.  They obey him.  They never go somewhere he doesn’t want them to go.  Satan is like a general who has conquered a city in the old days.  What did Genghis Khan or even Julius Caesar tell their armies to do after they had conquered a city that had resisted them?  Unless they had a reason to spare the city and restrain their troops, they let their soldiers burn the city, loot all its possessions, and kill or enslave its inhabitants.  That is what Satan’s minions, the evil spirits, are like.  They enslave and bodily possess and torture some. 

Others they enslave spiritually.  That is what they do to all human beings, actually, unless a greater power intervenes.  And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— (Eph. 2:1-2).  That is what St. Paul tells us.  The prince of demons, the Lord of the flies, is at work in the sons of disobedience.  He holds sway spiritually over the whole world, over all people, keeping them dead in their sins. 


So when they blaspheme Jesus and say He is casting out demons in the power of the prince of demons, Jesus says that is nonsense.  But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.  (11:20)

Jesus is using a phrase from the Old Testament reading, Exodus 8.  When God began to send plagues on Israel so that Pharaoh would release the Israelites, He first turned the water of the Nile to blood.  Then He made frogs fill the land so that they even came up into the houses of the Egyptians.  But the Scripture tells us that Pharaoh’s sorcerers were able to do the same thing by their dark arts.  By calling upon demons they also were able to make water turn to blood and make frogs come up on the land.  But at the third plague that we heard about today, where by the Word of God the dust turned into gnats that came upon man and beast (Ex. 8:18), the magicians were not able to do the same thing.  The power they received from the demons came to an end, and they told Pharaoh, This is the finger of God (Ex. 8:19).  They were looking at incomprehensible power coming from Moses and Aaron, because it was not from human wisdom and science, nor was it from the power of fallen angels.  It was the omnipotent power of God.

And Jesus is using this phrase to draw a conclusion that His critics don’t want to draw.  Since Satan doesn’t drive out Satan, by whose power am I doing it?  The answer is—Jesus is doing it by the power of God.  The finger of God stretches out through Jesus and sends the demons shrieking away.  Just as God’s power was present with Moses and Aaron to set the people of Israel free from Pharaoh, now God’s might is present in Jesus to set us free from the devil.

More than just God’s power being present in Jesus, when Jesus comes, the Kingdom of God is advancing upon the kingdom of the devil and throwing him out.  The Kingdom of God comes and releases those who are captive, who are dead in their sins, in whom the devil works.  If the devil has set his soldiers loose upon the human race and rounded us up as captives and has taken us as his slaves, when the Kingdom of God comes, the slaves are released.

Jesus puts it another way.  He says that when a strong man who is armed is guarding his palace or his castle, all his goods are safe.  But when one stronger than he defeats him, he ties up the strong man, takes away his armor, and divides up his goods.

Jesus is that stronger man.  That is what He is doing in the Gospel reading.  He is already overcoming Satan and binding him when he throws the demons out of people that they have oppressed.  But He is going to bring this work to its conclusion in His suffering and death on the cross.  There He will fully and completely vanquish Satan and bind him up.  He will do that by taking away our sins.  Where sins are removed, Satan’s power is gone, because if our sins are removed, God comes to dwell with us.  He becomes our refuge and fortress, our shield and weapon.  His angels guard us in all our ways.

When Jesus has taken away our sins, He also strips off the armor which Satan used to defend himself from attacks.  Satan entrenches himself with lies and with blackmail.  He pretends to be the lord and the judge.  But when Jesus has taken away our sins by His death and risen from the dead, He shows that He is the Lord of human beings.  We belong to Jesus, not to Satan. 

And when Jesus conquers Satan, he also divides up Satan’s goods.  He takes back the people who belonged to Satan.  He takes away the keys to death and hell and He shares those with those who are in His kingdom, so that we also have the power to give life and freedom to our brothers in flesh and blood by declaring how Jesus has taken away our sins.  And giving us the forgiveness of sins and the Kingdom of God, He gives us the whole earth as well.  We will inherit it, as sons of God.


The Kingdom of God has come to you and made you free.  In Baptism, the finger of God stretched out and drove Satan out of you.  You were given the gift of faith in Jesus.  You became free from the devil’s power.  You were delivered from condemnation and given a share in Christ’s Kingdom.

But as our Lord told us, the unclean spirit, when he goes out of a person, passes through waterless places seeking rest and does not find any.  Evil spirits and the devil only find rest when they are tormenting and sucking life out God’s creation, and especially human beings, who were created in God’s image.

So the devil will certainly not let you just leave his kingdom.  He always wants back in.

That’s why Jesus says, Blessed are those who go on hearing the Word of God and keeping it!  As you go on hearing God’s Word preached, listening to it read, reading it yourself, you are not simply receiving more information about God.  God’s Spirit enters you and dwells in you through His Word, assuring you of the forgiveness of your sins, giving you release and deliverance from the devil’s power, enabling you to speak Christ’s Word of victory over the devil to others.

It’s also the reason why Jesus teaches us to pray “Thy Kingdom Come.”  We learn in the catechism that that means: We pray in this petition that our Father in heaven would give us His Holy Spirit, so that by His grace we believe His holy word and lead godly lives here in time and there in eternity. On our own power we cannot hear and believe God’s Word to begin with, nor continue to believe it.  So we pray that He would give us His Kingdom, that He would continue giving us His Word and giving us the gift of faith.

By the finger of God Jesus has loosed you from the bondage of the devil.  He will go on making you free until, like Him, you have finally conquered death and the devil once and for all, when your Baptism is complete and you have died and been raised again.  To bring this about He brings you to this table and proclaims this Word: This is my body, which is given for you.  This is my blood, which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.  And so that which looks only to us like bread and wine is the very body and blood of the Lord, the ransom by which we have been bought out of Satan’s power into the freedom of the Kingdom of God.  Come and receive the Lord’s gifts that give you freedom and life.

The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria

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