Home > Epiphany > I live by faith in the Son of God. Epiphany 1 Sermon 2013.

I live by faith in the Son of God. Epiphany 1 Sermon 2013.

christus unter schriftgelehrten mainz museumJesu Juva

1st Sunday after Epiphany

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Luke 2:41-52 (Romans 12:1-5)

January 13, 2013

“I live by faith in the Son of God”


In the Name of Jesus.

“I implore you, therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice—holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service.  Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. ”  Romans 12:1-2


Sacrifice.  We hear the word and it evokes the  sweat and tears of football practice or training for some other sport.  Or giving up something you love up for someone you love.  The word loses its force this way.


For St. Paul and those in the first century who read this letter sacrifice meant something more; death, killing.  A sacrifice is slain.  An animal is killed, its blood is drained out.  It is carved up into pieces and some (or all of it) is burned up on the altar.


Paul pleads with the Romans to offer their bodies to God as sacrifices.  Not that they should kill themselves.  But they—and we—should be just like a lamb burning on the altar.  It was dead to its own will.  It would never have willingly lain down on the fire. But it was dead, so it had no choice. 


So Paul urges Christians to offer their own bodies to God as a sacrifice each day.  Our bodies still look alive.  But Paul tells us that we are to offer our bodies up the way lambs would be presented before the altar of the temple.  We are to regard our bodies as dead and offered to God. 


When an animal was presented to God as a sacrifice, it was now holy.  It couldn’t be used for anything common anymore.  It was burnt as a whole burnt offering to God, or eaten by the priests or the holy people.


Present your bodies as a living sacrifice to God.  Holy.  Wholly belonging to Him.  Acceptable and pleasing to Him.  Like a slain lamb which has had its life drained away and now is completely s*ubmissive.  The difference is that the lamb will be burnt up, but our bodies will go on living.  But Paul describes the Christian life like this: It is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me (Galatians 2:20). 


But there is a difficulty here, isn’t there?  Your body does not want to be a sacrifice.  If you tried to put a lamb on the altar without first killing it, it would immediately get up and run.  You’d have to hold it down, and that would be impossible—you’d be burned.  That’s exactly what being a Christian feels like, doesn’t it?  You’re trying to present your body as a sacrifice—to do what pleases God.  But your sinful flesh is trying to get off the altar the whole time.


You may even want to be spiritual, moral, or Christian.  You may not be tempted by common vices.  You may want to do things that are in themselves good.  You just don’t want to do God’s will, and only God’s will.


Honoring your father and mother is a good thing, commanded by God.  But it is sinful when you put love and honor of your parents or family above the love and honor of God.  Often this is where the devil catches us.  He tells us we are good because we are constantly involved in doing things that are good.  He doesn’t let us see that when we spend our lives doing good deeds but doing the ones that we want to do when we want to do them, that is wickedness.  Holy, acceptable sacrifices are slain and laid on God’s altar, completely dedicated to Him.  Otherwise they are not holy to the Lord. 


If the Israelites made up their own way of serving the Lord and offered their sacrifices in His name at a different temple that they built where they wanted to, their sacrifices were not acceptable.  It was not worship and service to the Lord.  That’s how it is when we live good lives or even religious lives but our bodies are not presented to God like slain lambs which no longer will anything, but are wholly the Lord’s.


But how on earth can we present ourselves to God this way?  We want to be in control.  We want to sin.  And even if you manage to restrain your desire to do your own will for one moment, it is a battle you inevitably lose.


The good news in this struggle is that


It is God’s will for you to dwell in His house as His son.

  1. 1.        He does not make His house a place of sin to accommodate us.
  2. 2.       But He sends His only Son to put to death our sinful nature in His flesh.



When Jesus was 12 years old and His parents found Him in the temple discussing God’s Word with the great teachers, they did not react to Him like we might if our kids disappeared for three days and had us worrying about Him.  That’s because although Jesus was truly Mary’s Son they also had been told that He was the Son of God.


What Jesus says to His mother shows us something about the will of human beings, even believing Christians, like Mary.  Her thought was that after observing Passover, they would go home and to life in Nazareth. At the very least you might expect that keeping the 4th commandment would at least require Jesus to let His mother and stepfather know that He was staying at the temple a little longer.


But Jesus says, “Didn’t you know I had to be in the things of my Father?”  The translation we heard today says, “Didn’t you know that I had to be in my Father’s house?”  Others say, “Didn’t you know I had to be about my Father’s business?”  It seems to me that either one will work; Jesus says, “You shouldn’t be surprised about where to find me.  I will always be found doing the things my Father does and in His presence.” 


It’s as Jesus would say later on in His life: Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing.  For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.  For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing.  St. John 5:19


But what Jesus does conflicts with what human beings think should be done—even godly human beings like Mary.  In her opinion Jesus shouldn’t have been in the temple, but coming home with them.  I understand where Mary is coming from.  Why did Jesus have to stay in the temple on this visit?  Why couldn’t He at least tell them He was staying? 


But that’s the thing.  Even Christians do not naturally will what God wills or think the thoughts of God.  What human beings call good (unless they are speaking and thinking according to the Holy Spirit) is evil in God’s sight.  If Jesus had done what seemed right to human beings, he would not have stayed in the temple.  But then He would not have been doing God’s will.


It is God’s will for us to say with Jesus, “Didn’t you know that I had to be in my Father’s house” or “in my Father’s things.”  That is the Christian hope, too.  Surely goodness and mercy will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.  Psalm 23:6 


That’s what we hope for.  But to dwell in the Father’s house forever means also to do the Father’s will, not what seems good to the world, to our society or peers, to our flesh. 


What seems good to the world is not to teach your children the Christian faith, or to teach them to have a little religion—enough to help them have a happy life, not be too judgmental, and learn right from wrong.  That seems good to many church members also.


But God’s will is different.  He wants us in His house always, to dwell in His presence always, to walk in His ways always, to be entirely His own always, forever.


To accomplish His will, God does not change Himself.  He does not lower His standards or tolerate sin or tolerate something less than fear, love, and trust in Him above everything else.  When we teach our children or other people’s children in the church by our examples that Christ and His Word are fine in moderation, that they are “part of a balanced breakfast” but not the whole thing, we are teaching idolatry. 


Eternal life is to die to our own will and live for nothing but God’s will.



And this is enough to lead an honest person to despair.  When I give up one form of rebellion against God, I find another. 


It’s utterly impossible that I will be found in God’s house, among His works and His gifts, much less call Him Father.  We turn away from His works and His gifts; we choose earthly things before His Word.  We choose constantly in little ways to put our needs before the needs of those the Lord would send us to serve.


That is why Jesus seemingly disobeyed His earthly parents in today’s Gospel.


He had come to earth and become a man, even though He was the only begotten of the Father from eternity—He did this because it was the Father’s will and He always wills what the Father wills. 


And the will of the Father is to have us in His house forever.  But we cannot come in because we are rebels who cannot stop refusing to offer our wills, bodies, and minds to God.  Paul wrote about this elsewhere in Romans: For the mind of the flesh is hostile to God.  It does not submit to the law of God, nor is it able to.  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  (Romans 8)


So God the Son came in the flesh.  He received His flesh from Mary, but He did not receive sin.  Jesus is always found in the Father’s house, doing the things His Father does, among the gifts of His Father.  Moment by moment His will is the same as the Father’s will. 


To our flesh that sounds like hell, but it is actually eternal life.


The Father’s will was for Him to stay in Jerusalem and three days later for His mother to find Him.  It was the feast of the Passover.  It was the Father’s will at 12 years old not only to have Jesus hear more of the Word of God in the temple.  It was the Father’s will to show in Jesus’ youth a picture of His adulthood.


Then He would go to Jerusalem at the Passover also, when the lambs were slain in remembrance of the Lord’s rescue of Israel from Egypt, the way that the angel of death killed the firstborn sons of the Egyptians but passed over the houses of the Israelites when the angel saw the blood of the lamb on the door.


Jesus would go to Jerusalem at Passover twenty years after this story to do the will of the Father.  And the Father’s will was not what men thought it should be.  It got Him in trouble with men.  Even His friends didn’t understand and rebuked Him.  The Father’s will was that the obedient Son should be slain and become a whole burnt offering, pleasing to God.


And so Jesus went silently to slaughter.  He presented His body willingly.  He was slain and did not jump off the cross, away from the heat of the sacrificial fire, the way a lamb would.


He did this, and when He did it He presented us also to His Father in heaven, holy and acceptable to God. 


And then just as Mary and Joseph were full of anguish, not finding Jesus, so were His disciples.  When they saw Him three days later, He rebuked them and said, “O foolish and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Didn’t the Christ have to suffer and rise from the dead?”


We are not able to put our flesh to death, offer it up, renew our minds, be transfigured into Christ’s image. 


We offer up our bodies through faith in Him—that His offering put our flesh to death in His flesh. 


We should do God’s will each moment of each day, but we don’t.  Daily we seek to throw off every work of the old nature.


But we find salvation in Jesus alone who always did the Father’s will. 


He is the one who offers a perfect sacrifice to the Father.  And when He did it He also offered a perfect sacrifice for you.


There He put our flesh to death in His flesh. 


There He raised us with Him.  To renew your mind is to look to Him alone.  Your mind is renewed by His Word and Sacrament that give you Him who always did His Father’s will and was always found near the Father.


Now He is always found in His Father’s gifts, the Word and Sacrament, giving life to us who are dead.




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







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