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Jesus Seeks God and You. Wednesday After Invocabit, 2018.

February 21, 2018 Leave a comment

last supper godefroy.PNGVespers—Wednesday after Invocabit

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Passion History—The Last Supper

February 21, 2018

Jesus Seeks God and You

 

Iesu Iuva

 

In the name of Jesus.

 

What then?  Are we Jews any better off?  No, not at all.  For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Gentiles, are under sin, as it is written: None is righteous, no not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God.  Rom. 3:9-11

 

No one seeks after God, says St. Paul.

 

Not even one.

 

The priests are seeking to arrest and kill Jesus in secret.

 

Judas is seeking to betray Him for money.

 

And the disciples are seeking to be the greatest.

 

Who is seeking God?

 

What is Jesus seeking?  “You know that in two days is the Passover, and the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified.” 

 

Only Jesus is seeking God.  Jesus is the only one in this story seeking to do the will of God.  And His Father’s will is that He be nailed to a cross.

 

Lent began as a time for catechumens to prepare to be baptized on Easter.  They would be baptized into Jesus’ death.  So they had Jesus’ passion and His cross before their eyes.  And during Lent we are called to return to our baptism, to the death and life given to us there.  But to return to Baptism and to the Triune God who claimed us in it is to seek out the cross and its death, not metaphorically, but in stark reality.

 

Maybe you don’t like the idea of dying on a cross.  Maybe you would like to believe it’s not true that Christianity is like this.

 

St. Paul, quoting the psalm of David, says, “there is no one who seeks God, not even one.”  We seek the approval of the sinful world.  We seek to satisfy the desires of our flesh, to scratch our itch for praise and respect, pleasure and comfort. But no one can serve two masters.  The master we have by nature, whom we seek to please, is sin.

 

But Jesus our Lord seeks God, and in seeking God He also seeks us.  He knows that on this Passover in Jerusalem He will be the lamb who is sacrificed. But He is not running away.  He goes into Jerusalem, tells His disciples to prepare the feast, and then, in the course of the meal, gives them His body and His blood to eat and to drink.  He desires this.  I have earnestly longed to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.

 

At the Jordan River His cousin John argued with Jesus that Jesus should be baptizing him and not the other way around.  Jesus should not be in the lower position, but the higher.  But John accepted Jesus’ word that it was necessary for Him to accomplish all righteousness.  So John plunged him beneath the water in which thousands upon thousands of people had been plunged before Him, to be forgiven their cursing, unbelief, lying, their innumerable sins against God.  And Jesus went down into the water with them, though He had committed no sin and knew no sin.  He went down into the water in which others left their sins and took them up.  He was numbered with the transgressors.

 

Then heaven opened to Him.  The Holy Spirit came down on Him.  The Father said, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.  How strange that the Father was pleased with His beloved Son when He was made sin for us.  By becoming sin for us, Jesus was seeking God.

 

Seeking God for us who could not seek Him ourselves.  A sinner who tried to come to God while he is still in his sins would only find an angry God, a consuming fire.  He would not only find heaven closed.  He would find utter destruction, eternal pain.  That’s why no one seeks God.  We run instead, like Adam at the sound of God’s footsteps as he and Eve were finishing putting on their fig leaves.

 

Our road back to God is a road Jesus alone can walk.  He must pave this road with His bruises and His blood.  He alone is able to bear the punishment for our sins against God.  He alone is able to endure the stripes justice requires for our refusing to hear Him.  The times we knew what His will was and rejected it.  The sins we committed in carelessness.  The impurity and disobedience that we did not choose but which is born in us.  All these have a price, and Jesus must pay it in agony.  This is why Jesus tells Peter, Where I am going you cannot follow Me now, but you will follow after.

 

Everyone will follow Jesus into death.  That is certain.  But to follow Jesus to death, so that we can say with him, “Now I am glorified, and God is glorified in me”—that is not something we have the power to will.

 

No, He must give us a share in Him. He must serve us.  He must gird Himself like a servant and wash our feet.

 

Just like John the Baptist had done before Him, Peter resisted being served by Jesus.  You can understand why.  How demeaning it seems for Jesus—especially on the night of His death!—to behave like a servant instead of the Lord.  But He has much lowlier service He must do for us.

 

He must be handed over for our sins and rejected.  He must be tried and sentenced for the evil we have done, and give His life to pay for our sins.  He must even give His flesh to be our food and His blood to be our drink.

 

No one seeks after God, Paul said.  He meant no one born with Adam’s fallen flesh.

 

But Jesus, conceived by the Holy Spirit of the virgin, does seek God with His whole heart.  And with His whole, pure heart, He seeks God for you.  And with His whole heart He seeks you for God.

 

Knowing full well all your unfaithfulness, knowing it before it happened, knowing it intimately, better than you do, because He paid for it in stripes, in tears, in agony of soul.  See how He tells His disciples today: You are they who have continued with Me in My trials, and I appoint you a kingdom.  He knows full well they are about to abandon Him in His greatest trial, yet He speaks to them this way!  Because He seeks them, and He carries them and all their unfaithfulness as His own, and pays for it in full.  That is how the disciples are counted faithful.  That is how they came to sit on thrones with Him.

 

If you are to seek God’s glory and share in it, You must be served by this man.  You must have a part in Him, a share in His flesh.  You must be born anew of Him who does seek God, since in the flesh you do not and cannot.

 

And He has given you a share in Him.  He has baptized you with His Baptism.  You were washed with the water into which He plunged, and joined with Him who made full payment for your sins.  You seek God not by the law, but through faith in Jesus, the Son of God, who gave Himself as your servant, to pay for your sins.  And He serves you still.  He gives His very body that endured the cross to you to eat.  He places the cup of His blood of the new testament to your lips, pledging that you inherit the free forgiveness of your sins through His death.

 

You have a share, a part in Him.  You have communion with Him through the Sacrament of His death.  Through your participation in Him you are righteous, and seek God, and find His approval.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen

 

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You Will Trample the Lion and the Dragon. Invocabit 2018.

February 20, 2018 Leave a comment

serpent trampledInvocabit—The First Sunday in Lent

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 4:1-11

February 18, 2018

You Will Trample the Lion and the Dragon

 

Iesu Iuva

 

You really had a lot of nerve. Now you’re surprised that you have enemies who are waiting for you to fall.  You tell yourself that if they just knew how good your intentions are they wouldn’t be angry.  But you forget what you stood up and claimed in front of the altar of God.  Twice, most of you.

 

Do you renounce the devil?  Do you renounce all his works?  Do you renounce all his ways?  Do you believe in the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit?  Do you desire to be baptized?  And the second time they asked, “Do you acknowledge the gifts God gave you in your baptism?”  And you said, “Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes.”

 

You were the one with the nerve to claim to be a son of God.  You were the one who claimed to be free from the devil’s power and no longer destined for the eternal fire prepared for him and all who follow him.

 

So now he tests you, like a thousand degree furnace tests a bar of metal.  And the whole world of people that has given their allegiance to Satan tests you too.  Let’s see if you’re really a son of God, or if you’re really just like us and just putting on airs.

 

“To tempt” in the biblical sense is “to test,” the way you might test a car on empty highway with no police around.  With the pedal to the floor.  To see what it can do, what it can take, how it will hold up under stress.

 

The world tests you because it wants to prove to itself that God’s Word is not true; it wants to prove that it’s not going to be judged.  Your flesh tempts you because it doesn’t want to be affixed to the cross, pinned there, unable to break free, until it suffocates.

 

And the devil tests you.  He never sleeps.  He never stops.  He is a lion hunting gazelles.  When he isn’t pouncing on the unwary, he stalks.  He hides in the grass, motionless, watching.

 

Then, suddenly, he’s with you.  Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, Jesus told Peter on the night of His arrest (Luke 22:31).  Now he has you in his sieve and shakes you to find out if there is any wheat with the chaff, if you are a son of God.

 

And what are the results of this testing, this temptation?  What remains of you after the lion has pounced on you?  Did you, like Samson, tear the lion in pieces (Judges 14) by the power of the Holy Spirit?  Or like the boy David, did you catch him by his beard and strike him and kill him (1 Sam. 17:35)?  Did you overcome the Philistine giant?  Did you show yourself to be a son of the Most High?

 

No.  No you did not.  You were tested in your claim to be a son of God, and you were found wanting.  The rooster crowed.

 

Man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. (Deut. 8:3)  A son of God knows this and is free.  A son of God knows that life is more than food and the body is more than clothing (Matt. 6:25).  He serves God, not earthly possessions.  He trusts in God, not in food, drink, house, clothes, cars, money.

 

But when the devil tested to see whether you would trust God when the cupboard was bare, you bowed down to your stomach.  You acted like a slave, not a king, not a son of God.  You were willing to be unfaithful to the Lord whose name you bear if it seemed like your income was threatened, like a comfortable life would be denied you or your children.

 

And other times, you acted as if you were more spiritual than God.  Your Father called you and appointed you to a place in His kingdom, to serve certain people.  [But when the devil tempted you not to fulfill your calling and use the means He had given you to carry it out, you liked the devil’s way better.  You neglected the Word and the Sacraments and said, God can give Me His Spirit another way.  You said, “God will make His Word bear fruit,” and you neglected to work to spread that Word, to teach it diligently to your children, to do everything in your power to not cause people to stumble over His Word.]

 

And when your Lord told you He must be rejected and killed in Jerusalem, and then rise from the dead, and when He told you that you also would have to be rejected by the world and die, you didn’t listen.  You thought He was being metaphorical.  He is the Son of God, and sons of God don’t get killed by the world.  They conquer the world.

 

So Satan whispered to you every time the world opposed you for Christ’s sake, every time the world opposed another Christian who faithfully confessed Jesus and His Word, he whispered, “The world is not being conquered.  You must be doing it wrong.”  And you listened to Satan.  You wanted to gain the world—for Jesus, of course—so you lived your whole life trying to never offend anyone with Jesus’ Word.  All this I will give you if you will fall down and prostrate yourself before me, said the adversary Satan to Jesus.  But this hasn’t turned out to be true for the Christian Church in our country.  We haven’t gained the whole world. The world just walks all over us.  By agreeing not to offend anyone in Jesus’ name, you have bent the knee to the prince of this world, in the hopes that he would give the world to you.

 

Instead, he only laughs at you.  You have been tested, and you have failed the test.  There are so many circumstances under which you will abandon your God.  But a true son of God, in whom God is well-pleased, trusts God and never departs from Him.  That is why God counts him worthy to be called His Son and to inherit eternal life with Him.

 

The one who conquers the devil and his tests will have this heritage, and I will be his God and he will be my son.  But as for the cowardly, the unbelieving, 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.  (Rev. 21: 7-8)

 

A son of God conquers the devil and does not depart from God.  And the devil’s tests reveal that you are not by nature a son of God.  Your inclination is to depart from God, like Adam your father, like Eve your mother, like the devil himself.

 

When Jesus was led into the desert by the Holy Spirit, he was wet baptism in the Jordan River.  When He was baptized, a voice came from heaven: This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased (Mt. 3:17).  How many of you who are fathers have ever felt that way when you looked at your son?  How many of you children ever felt your father’s approval that way, that your Father was well-pleased with you?

 

But then Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit to be tested by the devil.  At the end of forty days and forty nights of fasting, when Jesus was weak with hunger, the lion pounced on Him.  Just like you are tempted as a baptized Christian.  He tested Jesus to see whether he would still be the Son of God when he was famished and weak, or whether he would break as every human being had in thousands of years.

 

But unlike us, Jesus passed the tests.  Jesus believed the Word that had been spoken about Him from heaven, that He is the well-pleasing, beloved Son of God.  And the devil’s tests only proved Him to be God’s Son.  He did not trade in His inheritance for a few loaves of stones made into bread, but was fed by the words that came from the Lord’s mouth.  Those same words came from His mouth in the time of temptation, and they defended Him.  He did not test God to prove that He was His Son by doing an unnecessary miracle.  He patiently held to God’s Word as His rock while the howling storm of temptation tried to pull Him away.

 

And when the devil showed Him all the kingdoms of the earth and their glory, and promised to give Him the world in an easier way, Jesus despised both the devil and the glory of the world.  A king does not pay homage to His slaves, much less to his enemies.  A Son of God does not fall down and worship the devil.  He trusts in the Lord, God His Father, and seeks the glory of His Kingdom.

 

Jesus did not seek that glory for Himself.  He was seeking it for the people of the kingdoms of the earth, who are held under Satan’s power and deceived by his lies.  Jesus knew that Satan must be overcome if people are to inherit the kingdom of God and be His sons.

 

So that is what He came to do.  When He was baptized with John’s baptism of repentance, Jesus was announcing Himself to be a sinner.  Since Jesus was not a sinner, and since it would be a lie to receive a baptism of repentance if you have no sin, what was Jesus doing?  He was receiving sin, becoming sin, so that He might take it away, pay for the sins of all people, and make them sons of God.

 

When the devil presented him with a different way to reign over the earth, Jesus spoke to the devil like he was a dog or a slave: Get out, Satan.  Our Lord was not afraid of Satan, because Satan, although he is stronger than human beings is nothing compared to God.  And God has now become a human being.

 

Jesus knew what this meant.  It meant warfare with Satan.  It meant a life of suffering.  It meant hatred from the world, and the worst death it could give Him.  It meant enduring God’s condemnation and the suffering we have earned for turning away from God, falling from God.

 

But He despised the devil and embraced the war.  He did it to conquer Satan, to break His back.  At His temptation He proved Himself to be the Son of God.  But He also showed Himself to be our conqueror, our victor.  He was victorious over Satan’s temptations for us.  And when He tasted death and God’s wrath on the cross, He entered into battle with all our falls and sins and destroyed them too.

 

Jesus is our victory over Satan.  None of your falls excludes you from being God’s Son, because the well-beloved Son of God destroyed them on the cross.  Your falls are not your own.  God says they have passed away, departed.  They lie in the grave with Jesus, and you have emerged from the grave with Jesus.  And when sin shows up, and you fail to conquer the devil, you plunge them into Jesus’ wounds, into His grave, into the waters in which you died with Him.  And you come out with Him again, a Son of God and a conqueror.

 

Because Jesus has conquered Satan, here at His temptation and finally at the cross, you will also conquer him.  You will tread on the lion and the cobra.  You will walk on Satan’s back, as he and the world have walked on yours.  You will overcome his temptations through faith in the Son of God.

 

Not that you can do it through hard work and positive thinking.  Not you, but Christ who lives in you will do it, because He already has destroyed the devil’s power.  He has taken away your sin and made it His own.

 

He will stand with you when you are tempted, with great pity.  For we do not have a high priest [ch. 5:2; Isa. 53:3]who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been [See ver. 14 above]tempted as we are, ch. 9:28; 1 Pet. 2:22; 1 John 3:5; [ch. 7:26; John 8:46; 14:30]yet without sin. (Hebrews 2:15).  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Heb. 2:16). 

 

Let us draw near to our Lord’s altar, where He will give us mercy, His body and blood that have removed the record of our falls and have made us sons of God and more than conquerors through Him that loved us.  Let us draw near to Him and remember His bitter suffering and death for our sins at His table.  Then let us go forth as the sons of God we are, ready to fight and conquer the devil, the world, and our flesh.

 

With might of ours can naught be done, Soon were our loss effected…

But for us fights the Valiant One, Whom God Himself elected.

Ask ye, who is this?  Jesus Christ it is,

Of Sabaoth Lord,  And there’s none other God.

He holds the field forever. 

 

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

 

Soli Deo Gloria

 

 

 

 

Death and Life; Hypocrisy and Reality. Ash Wednesday 2018.

February 14, 2018 Leave a comment

nineveh.PNGAsh Wednesday

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 6:16-21

February 14, 2018

Death and Life; Hypocrisy and Reality

 

Iesu Iuva

 

Death has been in front of our eyes in recent weeks, and today we are reminded again with the black ashes on many of our foreheads that we are dust, and to dust we shall return.  Today the black ashes are on our foreheads, tomorrow they will be gone.  But even when they are gone, we will still live in a world in which death’s mark is stamped on every person in it, as though every person we meet had a forehead smeared with black ash.

 

But death does not reign in the Church, over Christians.  Our Savior Jesus Christ…abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the Gospel, the apostle says (2 Tim. 1:10).  And we are His people, baptized into His death so that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.  (Rom. 6)  We have a beautiful picture of this whenever a little child is baptized.  We light a small candle from the paschal candle, the candle lit on Easter, that symbolizes Christ’s resurrection from the dead.  That little burning flame is a picture of the new life that we have received from Christ.

 

The new life that is in us is Christ’s life.  It is more powerful than death.  On Christmas Day we heard the words of St. John’s gospel: In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.  The little baby in the manger, and the little light born in us in Baptism, are stronger than the darkness of death in us because the life of Christ is the life of God.  It is not overcome by the darkness of sin and death in us.  It burns in the midst of the darkness in our flesh and, growing ever stronger, finally burns up the darkness and fills us with the light of life

 

Why is it, then, that the darkness within us seems to blot out the light of Christ’s life?  St. Peter says this in the epistle reading: His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness [1 Peter 1:3].  It is ours, yet we must make every effort, as St. Peter says, to take hold of itAnd when we do not, the flame begins to sputter.  Faith flutters.  The new life grows dim.

 

So during Lent we examine ourselves to see where the darkness remains in us, where death has crept back in.  We meditate on Jesus’ passion to see the reflection of our sin and death.  And to aid our meditation, Christians fast.

 

We are called to do this not just during Lent but always.  We heard St. Paul discuss this a few weeks ago: Every athlete exercises self control in all things.  They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable…[so] I discipline my body and keep it under control (1 Cor. 9:25, 27).  Fasting is self-discipline; it refers specifically to moderation in eating and drinking and to abstaining from food or drink for a period of time.  We do this to keep alert, to keep sharp so that we may devote ourselves to meditation and prayer and to serving our neighbor.  More broadly, fasting includes throwing off every hindrance to rising to new life with Christ, moderating our use of television, internet, phones, or abstaining for a time so that we may give our attention to the one thing needful—Jesus Christ.

 

Jesus expects that his followers will fast.  When you fast,  He says in the Gospel reading.  What does that mean except that Jesus expects that we will fast, that we need to fast?

 

He doesn’t reject all fasting, but false fasting, done to win praise from other people, done so that we may be proud of our own spirituality. When you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others.  Truly I say to you, they have received their reward. 

 

Piercing words from our Lord for those who fast, or do other religious works only to take pride in themselves!  Jesus calls them hypocrites.  They have a reward—in the misplaced admiration of other people, in their own high esteem of themselves.  But they have no reward from God for this.

 

Instead God condemns their fasting, churchgoing, praying as false and empty.  They are only pretending to pray, or go to church, or fast, pretending to love and serve God. In reality, they are loving and serving only themselves.

 

How evil it is to use God’s name to make yourself a name!  Yet isn’t this what most religion boils down to?    Don’t even true Christians do this?  How many times have you acted piously, religiously, when your heart was far from God, not humble, not grieving over your sins, not desiring his grace, full of self-righteousness?  Oh, the bitter ashes we taste when we realize this about ourselves, that so often we ignored Jesus whipped, condemned, and pierced, and sought to glorify ourselves!

 

God relented from destroying Nineveh because they confessed their sins and eagerly sought His grace with fasting and prayer.  Most Lutherans do not fast, so we are not liable to be proud about it.  But in our worship, prayer, and work in the church we frequently forget that like Nineveh God has pronounced our overthrow, together with all who disobey His Law.  Before we realize it, we have forgotten what we are, become confident in our religious works, satisfied with ourselves because we seem to be doing more than others.

 

True Christian fasting is not done in this spirit.  Christian fasting is not done for men, not even for ourselves.  It is done because we desire life from Christ, because we confessing from the heart that we are dust and ashes. It is done because we desire life from Christ; we desire forgiveness, and we desire not to live in sin any longer.  It is done because we want to become like Christ.  A Christian who fasts in the way approved by God forgets about himself and what others think about him because he is looking at Jesus.

 

This kind of fasting has a reward from God.  Jesus says, When you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

 

The reward of the Father is life.  He sees what is in secret.  He sees the broken and contrite heart yearning to be forgiven, to be at peace with God, to become like Christ.  And He rewards such a heart with its desire.  He forgives our sins and makes Christ’s light burn more brightly in us until all darkness in us is burned away.

This new and contrite heart is God’s work, not ours.  He creates it in us through His Law.  And when faith in the good news of Christ enters the contrite heart, life comes in.  When we fast, we train the members of our bodies so that they do not lead us astray with the desires of the flesh and put out the life of Christ in us.  We train our members to seek life in Christ; our ears to hear His Word, our heart and mind to meditate on the Savior that the Word proclaims, our tongue to call upon Him.  And the reward is that this life grows in us.  We grow in virtue, knowledge, self-control, steadfastness, and love; vice, ignorance, self-indulgence, cowardice, and selfishness dies off in us.  And as Peter says, we make our calling and election sure; we grow in the assurance that the life God has planted in us will reach its fulfillment, and the light of Christ’s life will fill our whole bodies with light.

 

That is what we are after during these forty days of Lent.  We are straining ahead to take hold of that for which Christ took hold of us when we were baptized.  We are straining toward the heavenly reward of the Father, when we will be like Him, when we will be completely new, and life will replace death.

 

It seems far away and difficult, and it is.  Between you and that reward stands the cross to which you and I must be nailed and die.

 

But if you desire it, it is not far; you only need to come a few steps to take the body of Christ and to drink the blood which He poured out for the life of the world, for your life.  If what you long for is everlasting life in heaven—come, for everlasting life is here.  Everything is ready.  Come and receive the life of the Son of God.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

Consider Your Place In Life. Reminiscere, the Second Sunday in Lent, 2017. Matthew 15:21-28

canaanite_woman jesusReminiscere, the Second Sunday in Lent

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 15:21-28

March 12, 2017

“Consider Your Place in Life”

 

Iesu Iuva

 

“No one believes how the devil opposes and resists them, and cannot tolerate that anyone should teach or live rightly…It hurts him beyond measure to suffer his lies and abominations to be exposed…and to be driven out of the heart, and to endure such a breach to be made in his kingdom.  Therefore he rants and rages as a fierce enemy with all his power and might, and marshals all his subjects [against Christians]…in addition, [he] enlists the world and our own flesh as his allies…Such is all his will, mind, and thought, for which he strives day and night, and never rests a moment…

 

If we would be Christians, therefore, we must surely expect and reckon upon having the devil with all his angels and the world as our enemies, who will bring every possible misfortune and grief upon us.” Large Catechism, Lord’s Prayer, 3rd Petition, 62-65

 

How did it go this week?

 

How did what go?

 

Your fight with Satan and his allies, your flesh and the world.  Did it go well?

 

Last week’s Gospel told us about the temptation of Jesus.  To save people out of Satan’s Kingdom, Jesus had to be attacked by Satan.  On Wednesday, we heard the beginning of Jesus’ final conflict with the evil one, His Passion.

 

What happened to Jesus also happens to everyone who doesn’t want to remain in Satan’s kingdom.  You have been baptized into Jesus’ death and resurrection.  You have God’s name on your forehead.  As long as you remain in Jesus’ death and resurrection, in His victory over sin, death, and the devil, you also are in a life-or-death conflict with the old evil foe and his allies the world and your flesh.  You could never hope to win this fight.  But Jesus has already won.  Through faith in Jesus you also conquer Satan, even when you’re weak, even when you stumble.  That’s why Satan’s goal is to destroy faith in Christ.

 

So how did the fight go this week?

 

The chances are good that you didn’t think much about the fact that you were in the middle of a battle with Satan and his allies, your flesh and the world.  We get so busy with work, responsibilities, worries, pleasures, that we forget.  If you forget you’re in a war, this week’s battles probably didn’t go very well.

 

Even if you were conscious of the battle you’re in, chances are good that you experienced defeats.  In the prayer guide in the bulletin this week the catechism memory work is about confession.  “Which are these?” it asks—what sins should we know and feel in our hearts and confess in order to receive absolution?  The answer is: Consider your place in life according to the Ten Commandments: Are you a father, mother, son, daughter, husband, wife, or worker?  Have you been disobedient, unfaithful, or lazy?  Have you been hot-tempered, rude, or quarrelsome?  Have you hurt someone by your words or deeds?  Have you stolen, been negligent, wasted anything, or done any harm?  In other words, look at how you carried out the calling God has given you.  The sins the catechism mentions are not what we consider great sins.  They are sins that most of us struggle with every week in one way or another.  Yet to be a Christian is to continue to fight against them, to get up when we fall and try to make progress against them.  For forgiveness and strength in this fight we draw near to God, hear His Word of pardon and absolution, and receive the body and blood of Jesus which cleanses us of all sin.

 

To overcome our sins by faith in Jesus is to fight against the evil one, Satan, and his allies, our flesh and the world.

 

But if you try to do this week in and week out, you find how hard it is.  In fact, you feel overwhelmed.  It is a struggle even to keep your mind on it, isn’t it?  If we don’t want to be overcome by our sins, we need God’s help.  We call out to God to keep us watchful, to give us strength against the devil, to keep us in faith in Christ, to forgive us when we fall.  We pray.  Prayer is our weapon in the war against the devil—not because our prayers are strong, but because the One who has promised to hear and answer our prayers is mighty and victorious.

 

In the Gospel reading we have an example of this in the Canaanite woman.  She cries out to Jesus for help and deliverance in her distress, and she doesn’t quit, because she believes that Jesus is who He says He is—the promised Son of David, come to bring salvation to her and the whole world from the devil’s power.

 

But we don’t need prayer only for ourselves.  God calls you, when you are baptized, to serve Him in specific ways by serving specific people.  He places you in your family and calls you to love and serve your spouse, your children or your parents.  He places you in your congregation and calls you to love and serve your congregation and your pastor.  He places you in your city or country and calls you to love and serve your government and your fellow citizens.  All these things—family, church, state—are God’s institutions.  They are there to bring God’s blessings to people.  When they falter, people suffer.  So they need prayer too.  When the devil makes inroads against someone in your family, against your congregation or synod or your pastor, against your city or country or neighborhood, you aren’t supposed to sit still.  You are supposed to fight the evil one with the weapons God has given you—prayer and the Word of God.

 

The Canaanite woman is dealing with an obvious attack of Satan on one she is called to love and serve—her daughter.  Her daughter, says the Gospel, is “severely possessed by a demon.”  The word literally is “she is demonized.”

 

…[outline]

 

People are naturally “demonized”—under the power of demons.  If the Kingdom of Jesus is going to free them, there will be a fight.

 

If people are going to be saved, there will be a fight.  We need to pray.

 

The problem is sometimes Jesus doesn’t seem to listen to our prayers…doesn’t answer her, says “I was sent only to lost sheep of Israel,” says, when she bows down in front of Him, “It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”

 

She perseveres in faith in Jesus, believing He will help.  She says, “Yes, I am a dog, but dogs get the crumbs.”  Yes, I’m a sinner, yet you will not refuse forgiveness and blessing even to the chief of sinners.  You came to save sinners.

 

Don’t doubt this.  Hold firmly to it.  Though great our sins, yet greater still/ Is God’s abundant favor.  / His hand of mercy never will/ Abandon us nor waver.  / Our shepherd good and true is He/ who will at last His Israel free/ from all their sin and sorrow.

 

When you see the devil attacking in yourself, your home, your church, your city, call on Jesus for help.  This is how His kingdom advances, people are brought to salvation and preserved in it.

 

Amen

 

Soli Deo Gloria

 

The First Battle of Jesus’ Reformation. Invocabit, The First Sunday in Lent, 2017. St. Matthew 4:1-11

 

temptation-of-christInvocabit, the First Sunday in Lent

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 4:1-11

March 5, 2017

“The First Battle of Jesus’ Reformation”

Iesu Iuva

 

You have been hearing this year about the 500th anniversary of the Reformation, how God revealed to the world again the truly good news of Jesus after it had been buried under teachings of men and demons.  Martin Luther was the human instrument through whom God accomplished this.

 

But what happened with Luther was only one act in the play.  Reformation began long before this.  The stage was set for it in eternity.  The drama began when God spoke this threat to the serpent in the garden: I will put [hostility] between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.  (Gen. 3:15)  When Jesus came out of the Jordan River, still wet from being baptized, the table was set, and the drama began.

 

Jesus came into the world to bring about reformation.  He didn’t come to reform a corrupt government, or even to reform a corrupt religious establishment. He came to destroy the root of the world’s corruption—to dethrone the fallen spirit that had set himself up as the world’s god, and to set free the people God made to bear His own image and likeness. Jesus was here to bring about a reformation of the world, make the world into a temple, where people would worship God in every thought, word, and action, with every breath.  This worship of God, this obedience of God, comes through faith in the true God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

 

All the evil we see in the world—cheating and lying, hatred and killing, immorality, dishonoring God—all of it comes from unbelief, non-trust in the true God.

 

So Jesus entered the world, as God had promised long before, to crush the serpent’s head, make people free from his corruption, and bring about reformation.  To bring them to faith in God & release them from worship of Satan, belief in his lies.

 

He was conceived in the womb of Mary through the Holy Spirit, born in the Bethlehem stall.  For the next few decades we hear little about Him, until He appears at the Jordan River to be baptized with the crowds who were confessing their sins that those sins might be washed away.

 

When Jesus was baptized, the heavens were opened, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him in the form of a dove, and the Father’s voice sounded from heaven, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  (Matt. 3:17)  Jesus’ reformation began in earnest.  Jesus had come to the Jordan with no sins to confess.  Nevertheless, He was baptized with the sinners.  The only-begotten Son of God was baptized as a sinner because He had taken the burden of humanity, its sin and its redemption, upon Himself.

 

Then in the Gospel for today, Matthew chapter 4, we hear how the Holy Spirit brought Him to the first battle of His work of reforming the world.  “Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.”  (Matt. 4:1)  Any reformer of any kind has to fight.  If you want to reform a corrupt city government, you will have a fight on your hands from the corrupt politicians who are in power and all the people who benefit from the corruption.  When Luther tried to reform the practice of granting indulgences, he was quickly attacked by the powerful bishops, including the Pope, who profited from the sale of indulgences.

 

Jesus came to reform something much bigger than a city government or even the Church; He came to reform the whole world.  He had to have a confrontation with the ruler of this corrupt world—the devil.

 

But what Jesus experienced as soon as He was baptized happens to everyone who comes after Him.  When you brought your little ones to be baptized into Jesus, you were bringing them to be baptized into His fight with Satan.  As long as you are a Christian and lay claim to the benefits of your baptism, to peace and union with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, to the forgiveness of your sins, you can’t avoid a fight with the devil and all who are his.  You must suffer his attacks, and you must fight. You must be tempted.  When the fight ends, when the temptation ends, so does your salvation.

 

The Holy Spirit leads Jesus into this fight, and to prepare Him for it, He lets Jesus fast for 40 days.  Jesus is weak almost to the point of death when the devil appears to test Him.  And the tests the devil brings are all temptations to presumption, to pride.  “You are God’s Son,” Satan says.  “Since you’re God’s Son, why should you have to starve out here in the desert?  40 days of fasting?  How unreasonable your Father is to make things so hard and painful for you!  You shouldn’t have to deal with the irritations and humiliations that human beings have because of their sin and unfaithfulness to God when you’re righteous!  The angels should carry you around!  Why doesn’t Your Father let you show Your glory so that these people give you the honor that is due you?”

 

Later Jesus would teach His disciples to pray, “Lead us not into temptation.”  The Small Catechism, the handbook of Christian faith and life Luther drew from the Scriptures, explains that part of the Lord’s Prayer in this way, “We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice.  Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we would finally overcome them and win the victory.” 

 

We usually think of temptation as the devil trying to persuade us to commit grave moral lapses.  Of course he does that.  But the heart of all the devil’s temptations has to do with faith.  Despair is when the devil convinces us that we cannot be saved, that we cannot believe that God has forgiven our sins.  The other, “false belief”, refers to presumption, false confidence, where our faith rests not on God’s promise but on ourselves—our past good works, our past experiences of being close to God, our feelings.

 

The devil tries Jesus with presumption and false belief.  “You are God’s Son.  Why should you have to hunger and be meek and suffer?  Shouldn’t your Father honor you and give you glory and rewards instead of this humiliation?”

 

Then he lets loose a barrage of flaming arrows at Jesus in his third temptation, in a desperate attempt to get Jesus to fall, like all other human beings have before.  “I know that you have come to take possession of the world,” Satan says.  “You are the Messiah, the Christ, the anointed king.  The Scriptures say you are going to rule all the nations.  Well, here, have a look at them.  You can take possession of them all, right now.  They’re yours.  I’ll give them up.  Just give me my due.  Fall down and worship me.  No one will ever know.  I won’t make you fast for 40 days or suffer humiliation like your Father is doing to you.  It will be quick and easy.”

 

We have to give the devil his due, the saying goes.  This is an evil world, and things don’t go so smoothly for us when we don’t play by its rules.  Christians often give the devil his due too.  We often believe that there is no other way to survive.  (Examples)

 

But Jesus gives Satan—nothing.  Nothing except God’s Word from the Scriptures, which silences his lies and expose his fraud.  Satan is driven off, beaten.  The first man in history has refused his offers and been faithful to God.

 

Jesus could easily have overwhelmed Satan with His power and glory.  He could have done that without coming to earth.  But that wouldn’t have helped us.  Using His divine, almighty power to destroy Satan would have meant destroying all of Satan’s servants as well.

 

Instead Jesus came to reform the world and crush Satan not with overwhelming power but with faith in God and the obedience that comes from faith.  Jesus trusts His Father and accepts His will, even when that will means being humbled and suffering for our sins.  By this humble faith and trusting obedience to His Father, Jesus bruises Satan in this first battle, and finally bruises his head, crushing it in the dust, when He fulfills His work on the cross.  By His perfect faith and obedience to His Father, Jesus earns God’s favor, His grace, for all of us.  By His righteousness, Jesus earns the forgiveness of our sins before God.  God looks at the human race and sees not our rebellion and falling before Satan, but Jesus resisting and overcoming him.  He sees Jesus in perfect trust and obedience giving His holy life, shedding His innocent blood to atone for all of our transgressions.

 

Jesus’ humble trust in the Father, His rock-like holding to God’s Word despite all temptations, all appearances that seem to contradict it, is the example of how our lives are to be lived.  The love and humility He showed in willingly bearing this suffering in the wilderness, when He by rights did not have to suffer at all, is our example of how much God wills that we give of ourselves for our neighbor’s good.

 

But even more, Jesus’ victory over Satan in this first battle, and His final victory in His death and resurrection is our shield and defense in our battles against Satan.  When we are tempted to despair of God’s mercy, we claim Jesus’ obedience all the way to the cross as our own.  God has promised and pledged that it is ours in our Baptism.  We claim it, invoking the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit placed on us in Baptism.

 

The work of reformation that He began here is also our defense against false belief.  When the devil says, “Avoid suffering.  It doesn’t matter.  No one will know,” we hold to the Scripture and lay hold of Christ, who suffered this temptation and the agony of the cross for us.  We say, “I do not belong to you, but to Him who died and was raised to reform this world and me and make me a new creation, a Son of God.”

 

Or should Satan press me hard, let me then be on my guard.  Saying Christ for me was wounded, that the devil flee confounded.    Amen. SDG

Repentance and Reformation. Ash Wednesday 2017.

Ash Wednesday (7 p.m.)second-world-war-german-g-001

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Joel 2:12-19, 2 Peter 1:2-9, St. Matthew 6:16-21

March 1, 2017

Repentance and Reformation

Iesu Iuva

 

“When our Lord and Master Jesus Christ said, ‘Repent’ (Matt. 4:17), he willed the entire life of believers to be one of repentance.”

 

That is the first of the 95 Theses that sparked the Reformation.  The first word of the Reformation of God’s Church was about repentance.  If your life needs to be reformed, if a family needs to be reformed, if a congregation or the whole Church needs reformation, this is where it begins—with repentance.

 

But a Christian life not only begins with repentance.  The entire life of a Christian is one of repentance—an ongoing, daily “changing of your mind.”    A change in how we think, look at the world, what we love and hold dear, what we believe, with the result that we return to God.

 

This the reason ashes are imposed today.  Ashes are a physical way of saying that our way of thinking and living must change.  Ashes are what remains to people who have been destroyed.

 

Look at pictures of a place that has been through a war, like Germany after World War 2, its cities pulverized to dust, rubble, and ashes by the rain of bombs falling from the sky.  You see people with wide eyes hiding in blackened, charcoal shells of houses, their faces dirty from the ash that is everywhere.  They haven’t just been going through a hard time.  Their country has been laid into the dust and destroyed.  The ashes of what they once had smeared their faces black.

 

Do you recognize that that is how you are?  A shell of what you were created to be, sitting in the ashes of the glory you once had, not knowing when fire will rain down from the sky to consume what is left of your life?

 

In ancient times, in the Bible, when people grieved and mourned, they sat in ashes, they sprinkled ashes on their heads.  They did this to show that they had been destroyed.  Frequently, along with the ashes, they stopped eating food—they fasted.  People do that when they are too full of pain to fill their stomachs; they also do it when war or destruction has so ruined their worlds that there is no food to eat.  When God had punished people in the Bible, or when it seemed like He was about to punish them, they would sit in ashes, they would fast, and they would cry out to God from their destruction: “You have destroyed us; please bring us back to life.”

 

They understood correctly who the God of the Scriptures is.  He is the God who, out of a handful of dust, made man in His image, and breathed in His nostrils the breath of life.  We were created with glory to bear the image of the one God.  But when Adam and Eve rejected the Word of God, they lost their form, just like the palm leaves in the fire.  The image of God was destroyed.  They lived out the remainder of their lives under a curse until their ruined bodies returned to dust.  God gives life.  God also destroys life that turns away from Him.

 

But God is able to bring back the life He destroys.  He is able to gather the ashes of the palm leaves and make them once again the green branches they once were.  He is able to bring back human beings that have been destroyed by sin; to raise to life flesh and bone that have returned to dust, and to restore the lost image of the Creator to human bodies and souls.

 

But when He does that in a person, or a household, or a church, it always begins with repentance, with a change of mind.

 

If a person is a burnt wasteland, a bombed-out ruin, he hasn’t started to come back to life yet until he recognizes he has been destroyed. Until our ruins are rebuilt and no sin remains in us, a Christian cannot be comfortable and satisfied.  Could a person who has lived through a war be comfortable and content while his country is burning, his home is ashes, and he is sleeping on a cot in a refugee shelter?  No!  He will not be content until his home is rebuilt, the fields of his nation are sprouting grain, the roads are paved, there are schools for his children.  So Christians can’t be content while sin remains in them.

 

As we seek to renew our life of repentance this Lent, it is important to remember that repentance has two parts.  The first is contrition, which is heartfelt sorrow and terror over our sins, the recognition of God’s wrath against sin revealed in the Law, together with the desire to be free from sin and its destruction.  Contrition is necessary, but it is not something we can do or make ourselves feel.  It is God’s work within us, and there is only one way that God has promised to work it.  That is through His Word—in particular, through the preaching of His Law.

 

If you listen seriously to the sermons that are preached to you instead of sitting in judgment on them, as so many do; if you allow yourself to be taught God’s Word by the pastor God sent you;  if you faithfully read the Scripture; and if you take up the Small Catechism, learn the ten commandments with their explanations, and look at the way you live in light of them, God will work contrition within you—not because you have done a good work by listening and reading, but because He desires that all be saved and come to repentance.  His Word is the instrument He uses to create repentance within you.

 

He will give you a contrite and broken heart, which is the sacrifice of God, which He does not despise (Ps. 51).  He will not only terrify you with the threat of His wrath, but if you believe in Christ, He will also create in you the sorrow that comes from having offended the God you love.

 

Ashes a biblical symbol of the destruction sin has brought upon us.  But there is another kind of ashes in the Bible—ashes used not to grieve, but to purify.

 

In Numbers 19, God commanded that a red heifer should be sacrificed and burned and its ashes mixed with water.  This water was used to purify those who were made unclean through contact with a dead body.  An animal, completely consumed in the fire, reduced to ashes on God’s altar—those ashes, that residue of a destroyed life, when mixed with water, made a person clean from the impurity that came from contact with death.

 

God has provided another, much greater life to be consumed in the fire of His wrath for your sins—the life of His Son. In Baptism, the ashes of His sacrifice on the cross, the fullness of His death for the sins of the world, are joined to water and poured upon you to cleanse not only your body but your soul from death.  Not only His death under the wrath of God, but His resurrection into life free from the condemnation of the Law.  In Baptism you become a participant in both.  You are joined with Him.  On the cross, the burning wrath of God fell on His soul as He carried your sins as His own.  You also were brought to an end with Jesus.

 

But God is able to raise up again and put back together what He has utterly destroyed in His wrath. And He did.  He raised Jesus from the dead on the third day.  And in raising Jesus, He raised you and all people up, put us all back together again as a new creation, as children of God.  He raised up our ruins, brought our ashes together and re-formed them, remade us in the image of the glory of God, so that we will never taste the second death.

 

This is the second and most important part of repentance—not only sorrow for our sins, but faith that our sins are forgiven for the sake of Jesus.  By faith I mean certain confidence and trust that although we cannot free ourselves from spiritual destruction, God has done so.  He destroyed our sins in the wrath that He poured out on His Son who bore them.  Then He raised up the one who bore our sins, freeing Him from the curse.  Instead of ashes He gave us a beautiful headdress, a crown of victory (Is. 61), like the Old Testament priests who wore a crown that said, “Holy to the Lord.”  This crown is placed on our heads by God, because Jesus, our head, is alive again.  His battle with sin is over and He has emerged in righteousness and victory.  He is our crown of righteousness and sanctification.  He was poured on our heads in Baptism.  By faith we wear His holiness as our crown.

 

“The entire life of a believer should be one of repentance,” Luther wrote in the first word of the reformation.  That means not only a life of sorrow over our sin, but a life of confidence and trust that God has dealt with our sin.  A life in which we daily return to God, not only with sorrow over our destruction, but with firm trust that our destruction has been swallowed up by life.  Then instead of transforming us to ash from outside, God, who is an unquenchable fire of love, transforms us from within into the image of His Son.  He burns away our old self until Christ appears in us.

 

Repentance begins with the recognition of sin and ends with the certain trust that our sins are forgiven—not because we feel that they are, but because the Gospel of God declares them to be.  Where the pure Gospel of God is preached, it will work this change of mind—contrition and faith.  And this repentance—true repentance– always brings reformation with it.  Wherever an individual, family, or congregation is given this change of mind, and clings steadfastly to the promise that their sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake, that individual or family or church will begin to reorder its life according to God’s Word.  It will begin to produce fruit that pleases God.  May God graciously create and strengthen this repentance in us this Lent.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

No Condemnation in Christ Jesus. Wednesday after Oculi, 2016.

christ-before-caiaphas giottoWednesday after Oculi

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Passion History III: Palace of the High Priest

March 2, 2016

“No Condemnation in Christ Jesus”

 

Iesu iuva

 

Jesus is led from the Mount of Olives bound with ropes or chains. The soldiers lead Him back to Jerusalem to stand trial before the high priest and the council of the elders, called the Sanhedrin. We can imagine the kind of abuse He had to endure on that long, torch-lit walk to the city: insults, curses, mockery, punches and kicks.

 

The Law of God commanded that the priests and elders were to decide legal cases in Israel, according to Deut. 17 and 19. And in the Law God gave to Israel, the punishment for false teaching and blasphemy—that is, to curse or misuse the name of God—is death by stoning (Leviticus 24). The chief priests and elders have been plotting Jesus’ death for some time, but they don’t want to just assassinate him in a corner somewhere. They want His death to look like it was done legally, both so that they can satisfy their own conscience that they have not transgressed God’s law, and so that it will look to the public like Jesus was put to death as a false prophet. In that way they intend to snuff out the people’s faith that Jesus is the Christ.

 

So they lead Jesus first to the father-in-law of the high priest, named Annas, for questioning. Then they take Him to the high priest’s palace, where the priests and the council have gathered for Jesus’ trial. First the high priest questions Jesus about His disciples and His teaching. Next they bring forward false witnesses, who accuse Jesus of threatening to destroy the temple, God’s dwelling place. But the testimony of these witnesses is contradictory. As Jesus is slandered and defamed by these false witnesses, Jesus remains silent. He says nothing in His own defense. Finally, the high priest puts Jesus under oath and commands Him in God’s name to answer this question: “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” Jesus replies, “I am. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power of God and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest shouts out that Jesus has just committed blasphemy in the council’s presence; they have heard it from His own lips. He asks for a verdict from the council, and the council unanimously votes that Jesus is worthy of death. Then, because it was late, the council disbanded for the night, in order to reconvene in the morning, when they would send Jesus to the Roman governor and ask him to carry out their sentence of death.

 

While the priests and elders went home and slept, Jesus was kept under guard. His guards spit in His face. They beat Him and mocked Him, putting a blindfold over His head and then slapping Him in the face, saying, “Prophesy, Christ! Who hit you?” That was how Jesus spent the night before His execution.

 

Early the next morning, the priests and council gathered again and asked Jesus once more if He was the Christ. And when Jesus confessed that He was, even though He knew they had no intention of listening to Him or letting Him go, they took His confession as proof of His guilt. And they made plans to hand Him over to Pontius Pilate, so that Pilate would carry out their sentence, not by stoning, as the Law mandated, but by crucifixion, which was the Roman manner of executing non-citizens.

 

Now we must ask ourselves why this happened, that Jesus, who was innocent, was put on trial by the God-appointed religious authorities and condemned to die as one who had cursed God. Jesus really would have been a blasphemer if He had claimed to be God’s Son and was only a man. But Jesus was innocent; He was who He claimed to be. So how could it happen that these men, the leaders of the people of God, who were supposed to be servants of God, could condemn God’s own Son as the worst kind of offender, as one who cursed God? And how could it happen that God would allow His beloved Son to be accused, tried, and condemned, and to be spit on, slapped and put to shame, by wicked hypocrites?

 

It was not just a tragic miscarriage of justice, not just another example of evil men getting the upper hand in the Church and using its authority to persecute the righteous.

 

It happened by the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, as the Apostle Peter later preached after Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 2:23). God used the wicked priests and elders of the Jews to put Jesus on trial and bring His charges against His Son. The priests and council falsely accused and condemned the Lord. But through their trial, which was unjust, God was conducting His own trial of Jesus, which was just. He was trying Jesus as the one who was accused of committing all the sins of the world.

 

Of course Jesus Himself had committed no sin and spoken no blasphemy. “No deceit was found in His mouth (1 Peter 2:22),” nothing untrue ever passed His lips. Yet He stood before God on trial for all the blasphemies and sins ever committed by human beings. And God found Him guilty. Through the mouth of the priests He condemned Jesus to death. God handed Jesus over to be mocked and disgraced, while even Jesus’ own disciple Peter denied ever knowing Him. Jesus was cast away by both God and man as a sinner and was handed over to the civil authority to be put to death for His crime.

 

Does it seem right or just or loving for God to do this? It does not. Why should Jesus be tried and found guilty by God for misusing His name? Jesus never misused God’s name or treated God’s name with disrespect.

 

We are the ones who have done this. We have used God’s name lightly, using it to express boredom, or irritation. We’ve sworn by His name in trivial matters, as though God’s name was not holy and worth more than everything in heaven and earth combined, and as if God didn’t care how His name was used. We’ve used it to curse people and to condemn them to hell. Some of us have even cursed God Himself, whether out loud in words or in the thoughts of our hearts. Some of us have used His name as a joke. We have tolerated, believed, or even spread false teaching in God’s name, acting as if it did not matter if God’s Word was falsified. At many times and in various ways we have denied Christ, like Peter, when we were afraid that we would be hated or laughed at if we acknowledged that we belong to Him. And in addition to the ways we have abused God’s name, we have also neglected to use it rightly. God wants us to call on His name. He wants us to ask Him for what we need, and then to praise and thank Him for His gifts and His help. But we have neglected prayer, as though we didn’t need God’s help and His gifts, and we have neglected to give thanks and praise, as though we had not received everything we have from Him.

 

For this misuse of God’s Name, along with all our other sins, we deserve to be brought to trial and accused. And we often feel ourselves accused.

 

Our consciences accuse us. They remind us of our past and all the ways we have rejected God as our God. They speak to us about the present state of our hearts, reminding us that they are not pure, but instead full of disbelief, pride, vengefulness, lust, covetousness. Our consciences put us on trial and accuse us. They call out our sins and remind us that we do not deserve to be acquitted by God, but deserve His punishment.

 

Sometimes our consciences fail, though. Sometimes they don’t accuse us even though we are guilty. Other times they accuse us of sins when there is no sin. However, there is another voice that accuses us which is never wrong. It is the voice of the Law of God. When the Ten Commandments accuse us of sin, their accusation is true, because those commandments don’t come from the darkened mind or heart of man, but from God. And the Ten Commandments show us to be sinners who have rebelled against God by thought and word and deed.

 

Then we have another accuser who shows us no mercy. This accuser would bring our secret sins not only before our own eyes but also drag them before the throne of God and the company of the holy angels and lay our shame and guilt before their holy eyes, crying out for our damnation. His name is Satan, which means “the Accuser.” He is not willing that your sin should ever be forgotten—not by you, not by God.

 

And yet it is Jesus and not us who stands accused by God for all your sins. And God finds Him guilty and condemns Him. How can God, who is just and righteous, pass this sentence on His Son?

 

Because Jesus willingly offered Himself to bear your sin and its accusation, and indeed the sins of the whole world. Jesus offered Himself to be your mediator, to make the Father pleased with you, a sinner. He offered Himself to stand in your place. The Father isn’t committing an injustice against His Son. The Son willingly offers Himself up, to pour out His blood to save you from being accused, tried, and condemned for your sins. When the Father condemns and punishes His Son for your sins, and then forgives you, God is doing justice. “If we confess our sins,” says the apostle, “God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:9) He isn’t just letting us off the hook and letting our sin go unpunished. But because our sins have already been accused, tried, and condemned in Jesus, God does justly when He forgives us and cleanses us.

 

That is why Jesus is accused, put on trial, and condemned—to spare you from God’s accusation and condemnation. But because Jesus has already been tried for our sins and condemned, God no longer enters into judgment with you. This is what Scripture teaches again and again. There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, Paul says in Romans 8:1. Those who are baptized into Christ are not condemned by God, even though their consciences, the Law, and Satan accuse them. In fact, God does not even accuse or enter into judicial proceedings with those who believe in Christ. Jesus says in John 5, Whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life (5:24).

 

Because Jesus is accused for your sins here, God does not accuse you of them. Because Jesus was condemned for your sins by God, there is no condemnation for you. The accusations levelled against Jesus are your good testimony before God. His condemnation is your acquittal. He is the one who stands before God in your defense if anyone would bring any charges against you: If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. (1 John 2:1-2)

 

That’s why Jesus stands there silent when His accusers rail against Him. He does not want to escape their accusations. He wants to bear them all, along with all their punishment. He wants to let all the charges levelled against Him stick to Him, so that none may stick to you. He lets them slap His face, make fun of Him, spit on Him, so that the shame of our sins will be on Him and not on us.

 

When you are accused and brought to trial by your conscience, when Satan wants to expose all your sins to the eyes of God and call for your condemnation, and when even God seems to have rendered His verdict on you in the Ten Commandments—“He is worthy of death!”—remember Jesus’ trial in Caiaphas’ house. Here God accused Jesus of the sins of the whole world. He tried Him and found Him guilty, who willingly offered Himself to bear your sins. He sentenced Jesus to death. And therefore God does not enter into judgment with you. He does not accuse you or condemn you for the sins that Jesus bore.

 

In the Name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

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