When I am Lifted Up, I Will Draw All Men to Myself. Good Friday, Chief Service, 2018. John 18:31-32

jesus crucifixion de ribera.PNGGood Friday—Chief Service (1 PM)

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. John 18-19 (18:31-32, 19:33-37)

March 30, 2018

“When I Am Lifted Up, I Will Draw All Men To Myself”

 

Iesu Iuva

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

Pilate said to them, “Take Him yourselves and judge Him according to your own law.”  The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.”  This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death He was going to die.  John 18:31-32

 

By what kind of death He was going to die.

 

St. John draws our attention to the kind of death Jesus was going to die.

 

He was going to die by the form of execution the Roman world considered the worst—crucifixion.

 

And John draws our attention also to the fact that Jesus had said beforehand that He would die this kind of death.  That God had planned it out beforehand.

 

In chapter 12, the Gospel for Monday of Holy Week, Jesus said, Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.  And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself.  He said this to show by what kind of death He was going to die.  John 12:31-33

 

Jesus was going to be lifted up.  Not fly away into heaven, away from all the pain and ugliness down here, but be nailed to a tree and lifted up as the very image of all the evil of this world.

 

Our natural response to John’s words about the kind of death Jesus was going to die is to say, “So what?”  We’ve all known since Sunday School that Jesus died on the cross.  Why draw attention to it?

 

The Holy Spirit is impressing on us the offense of the message about Jesus, the craziness of the Gospel.

 

For John’s hearers and readers in the first century of our Lord, and for centuries after, the message of the Gospel was madness.  For Romans and Greeks who believed in the old gods it was insane that Christians preached that the Son of the One True God was crucified.  For the fundamental characteristic of pagan gods was that they were immortal and could not die.  And for the philosophers who believed in one God the message of the cross was crazy because reason told them that the Creator, being eternal and omnipotent, could not suffer.

 

For the Jews, it was unthinkable that God would be crucified, because the Scripture says that people who are hanged on a tree are cursed by God.  And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God.  Deut. 21:22-23

 

And if we lived then and saw the horrible suffering and shame of people who were crucified, it would not take much faith to believe that they were cursed by God.  They were usually pierced through their hands and feet after being flogged and made to carry the beam of their cross to the place of execution.  When they were lifted up, they died slowly, often taking several days to finally die from suffocation.  They were usually crucified in public places, where their last agonies could be watched.  When they died, they typically were left on the crosses to rot and be eaten by vultures and crows.

 

People did not sympathize with those who were crucified.  Many were glad for the peace and order the Roman rule provided, and they supported the Romans making examples out of those who threatened that order.  Crucified people were considered bad people who deserved their death, people whom God had cursed.

 

So when the apostles went out and preached that a manual laborer from out of the way Galilee, who was crucified was the Son of God and the world’s Redeemer, it was mostly received as insane folly.  When Paul wrote in first Corinthians the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, he was speaking from years of experience as a missionary, where his message encountered rejection upon rejection.

 

Today, the word of the Cross is not as strange to us or the people we live among.  It has been preached and pictured in Europe and America’s literature, art, music for more than a thousand years.  It is not strange, but it is still crazy to us when you scratch the surface.  People do not react to it because for the most part they do not take it seriously.  It’s just religious talk, even to many people who go to church.

 

But you see in the popular preachers of today that the message of the cross is still considered ineffective.  And when a church wants to, like Paul, know nothing..but Jesus Christ and Him crucified, the feeling that this is craziness begins to rear its head.  At the grave of my half-brother’s mother, one of the pall bearers talking to me about his church told me, “What is killing churches like yours is a lack of marketing.”  This is a common idea.

 

But it does not appear to be Jesus’ idea.  Now is the judgment of this world.  Now will the ruler of this world be cast out.  And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.

 

By this craziness of God being lifted up to die, accursed, on a tree, Jesus says that He will cast out the devil, judge the world, and draw all men to Himself.

 

According to our wisdom, that is simply insane.

 

And yet, Jesus lifted up to hang from the tree, that message brought down the worship of the old gods in Rome.  Then in northern Europe, Russia.  Then in America.  It is doing the same now in Africa and in Asia.

 

And even if few seem to be listening to this word of the cross today, let us hear it and take it to heart.

 

John also makes a point of drawing attention to the reality of Jesus’ death, how he witnessed Jesus’ side pierced with a spear and the outflow of water and blood from His heart.

 

He is drawing our attention to the fact that Jesus really and truly died; He was not simply passed out from shock or something like that.  He was dead.  As really as our loved ones are dead when we go up and stare into their faces at their wake.

 

God was dead, just as God was cursed and put to shame, just as God was condemned.  And Jesus had said before that this would happen, because it had been God’s plan before the foundation of the world.

 

It was God’s plan for you, who face condemnation and judgment and shame for your sins before the court of God.  And for you whose loved ones die, and who are facing death.

 

God had planned long ago that His Son would be put to shame and cursed and would suffer so that you would be released from the curse you were under and the shame that belongs to you.

 

God planned that His eternal, undying Son would be lifted up and die for you.

 

And in doing so He would bring you to Himself and back to God, without curse, without shame, free from eternal death.

 

The spear that pierced His heart let loose the sign that you are free and that the ruler of this world no longer has any power over you.  Water.  Blood.

 

These streams that flowed out as proof of Jesus death flow to you as God’s pledges that you live.

 

The water flows from Jesus’ death over you in Baptism and cleanses you from sin.  It flows over you and begins your new life.

 

The blood flows from Jesus’ body into the cup that you drink, where Jesus seals to you with His own blood that the folly of the death of God, this unspeakable kind of death on the cross, has given you life.

 

And for all who receive these pledges in faith, now is the judgment of this world, and they are judged righteous, acquitted.  Now the prince of this world is cast out from them, and the prince of heaven reigns in their hearts.

 

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

 

SDG

 

 

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Christ the Glory and Power of God. Wednesday after Laetare 2018

jesus ecce homo domenico feti.PNGWednesday after Laetare: Matins/Vespers

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Passion History: Pilate

March 14, 2018

Christ the Glory and Power of God

 

Iesu Iuva

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

“We have a law, and according to that law He ought to die, because He made Himself the Son of God.”

 

When the chief priests say this, Pilate becomes afraid of Jesus for the first time.  Before that he sees nothing in Jesus worthy of his fear.  Neither does Herod.  Jesus is not worthy of death.  He’s not dangerous enough.  He doesn’t have an army.  He doesn’t do a miracle to hurt his enemies or even to win Herod over to his cause.  He doesn’t even try to answer the charges against Him.  Herod and his men laugh at Jesus and at the chief priests who think Jesus is worth their time.  And Pontius Pilate, governor of Judea, answerable to Tiberius Caesar, or at least to his prefects, has more important things to worry about than the Jews’ latest power struggles.

 

But when the priests say this—“This Jesus claims to be the Son of God”—Pilate becomes afraid.  Pilate seems to wonder whether he is dealing with a god walking the earth incognito.  Greek and Roman gods were said to do this by their poets.

 

But what Pilate suspected we know to be true, truer than he knew.  Jesus stands there not lifting up His hand or His voice, but in Him is all power and authority, because He is the only true God dwelling among us in human flesh.

 

 

 

 

Can you wrap your head around the idea that someone with that kind of power would not use it to defend Himself from mockery and abuse?  And death?  Who among us, if we had the power, wouldn’t have more money, better clothes, a nicer house?  Who among us, if we had the power, wouldn’t make it so that we, the people we love, the institutions we love, are strong instead of weak, prosperous instead of poor and struggling?  Yet Jesus has the power to have whatever He wants, to do whatever He wants.  And there He is, being falsely accused and saying nothing.  Being beaten and not defending Himself.  Having crowds call for Him to be crucified and saying and doing nothing.  Can you wrap your head around that?

 

We can’t.  Our church has lost the favor of the crowds, and we are in great fear that we are dying.  Any one of us if we had Jesus’ power would not allow this to stand.

 

And the reason for this is that we have the same way of thinking as Pilate and Herod.  We understand power the way they do, because, though we have the mind of Christ, we do not put on that mind very well or for very long.

 

It is faith that makes us able to see power and glory in Jesus when He is abandoned, mocked, condemned.  It’s not faith to believe in Jesus’ power and glory when He is on the mountain of transfiguration or when you see Him risen from the dead.  It’s faith when you see life in Jesus’ death, glory in His humiliation, power when He is mocked and flogged.

 

It’s faith when you believe that God embraces you when you are abandoned, that God is glorifying you when you are humiliated.

 

Do you know why Jesus our Lord doesn’t use His power to impress Herod or hurt His enemies, or to get a real purple robe and a real golden crown?  Why He didn’t become an emperor with His own soldiers?

 

It’s because our Lord despises what passes for power and glory in this world.  Not that He hates it, but that He thinks little of it.  Fine silk, gold, diamonds, cadillacs, and all that passes for glory and wealth in this world are garbage compared with the glory of God.  Paul understood this and said in Philippians 3: Indeed, I count everything as loss compared to the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish in order that I may gain Christ (Phil. 3:8).  But really the word is not “rubbish” but dung, something detestable.  Money, fame, power, honor, and all the things this world offers is dung in comparison to what God gives us in Christ—His glory, His power, Himself.

 

Roman legions, Navy Seals, hypersonic missiles—they are feeble compared to the glory of God.

 

For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to the Jews and foolishness to the Gentiles.  But to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the wisdom of God and the power of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.  1 Cor. 1:22-25

 

When Jesus is silent before those who lie about Him, when He doesn’t break the ropes binding His wrists, but lets them hold Him like Samson with his shaved head—when Jesus allows the Roman soldiers to lay the whips to His back and tear it open—He is displaying God’s power.

 

Those bloody stripes befitting a criminal, the laughter of the soldiers and Herod in His face, the crowd screaming for an evil man to be released and for Him to be crucified, the long spines pressed down as a mock crown into His head—with this humiliation Jesus is displaying the glory of God.

 

Because the mockery of the sinful world is to be preferred to its praise, since the world is hostile to God.  And it is a bad trade to exchange God’s almighty power for the feeble power of this world.

 

Yet when you and I receive a little of the humiliation and weakness that reveal God’s power and His glory in us, our faith falters.  As though Jesus stopped being God when they mocked Him and bound Him.  As though we stop having God dwell in us when popularity departs from us.

 

Repent, you of little faith!

 

When we are humbled and weak, we should not try to escape.  We are either getting what our sins deserve, like the penitent thief realized on the cross during his last hours.

 

Or we are being made partakers of Jesus’ power and glory.  We are being treated as sons of God.

 

Either way God means us well.

 

If we are chastened for our sins, it comes from the hand of our Father in heaven, not our judge, sentencing us as criminals.  That cannot happen to you unless you have no Jesus, unless there is no Jesus who suffered for the sins of the world.

 

But there is.  The one with all power has just been portrayed before our eyes, how He made Himself weak enough to be bound, beaten and mocked.  He was doing what our flesh was powerless to perform with His mighty power.  He was fulfilling in His flesh the Law of God with its demands.  It not only demands obedience, but punishment for those who break it.  And Jesus was fulfilling its requirements, as the forty lashes minus one fell on His skin.  With His divine power He was fulfilling what the Law demanded of every person in the world.

 

His weakness is your strength.  Through Jesus’ weakness, you have fulfilled the Law’s requirements.  Through His weakness, we who are by nature prisoners of sin gain the power to will to do what pleases God.

 

His humiliation is your honor, your golden crown, your royal robe, your fame.  Because you are the one God’s Son so loved.  And for you He allowed Himself to be humbled, so that your humiliation would be His.

 

Because of this love of your Lord, God the Father gives Himself to you.  All His power and glory are yours.  They are yours when He chastens you for your sins.  They are yours when you share in Christ’s weakness and humiliation in this world.  But crowds ignoring you, even crowds screaming against you, spitting on you, mocking you, condemning you to die, if God allows this, cannot take away God’s power and glory from you.  They can only do that if they can take away Jesus, who loved you and gave Himself for you.

 

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

 

Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria

You are Not a Hypocrite When You Call Jesus Your King. Palm Sunday 2018

jesus palm sundayPalm Sunday

St. Peter Lutheran Church

John 12:12-19

March 25, 2018

You are Not a Hypocrite when You Call Jesus Your King

 

Iesu Iuva

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

Jesus rides into Jerusalem on the back of a young donkey, and there is a celebration.  A multitude goes out to meet Him.  They acclaim Him as the King of Israel, the long-awaited Messiah.  John tells us they carried palm branches.  Matthew tells us in his gospel that they laid their outer garments on the ground for Him to ride on—a costly sacrifice when most people owned one set of handmade clothes.  This is the first time Jesus allowed Himself to be honored in public as the King of the Jews.  It was a day of joy, when His disciples and the crowd expected the world to change.

 

And why did the crowd come out to meet Jesus?  Because a little while before in a small town a short distance from Jerusalem, Jesus said to a man who had been lying in a tomb for four days, “Lazarus, come out!”  And Lazarus came out.

 

In a desert land, the ever-green branches of the palm tree signify life in the midst of death.  And because palm trees live for centuries, the people regarded them as symbols of immortality.  The crowd carried them and waved them before Jesus because they rightly believed that He was the King who had come to give them life.

 

But only a few days later a crowd in Jerusalem is shouting and crying out for the King of Life to die hanging on a cross.

 

How quickly it all changes when people praise Jesus as their King.  When I was a child they put palm branches in our hands in the narthex and we all marched into church happily singing, “Hosanna, hosanna, the little children sang!”  But within a short space of years all of us were gone, and as Jesus looks down from heaven into pews on this Palm Sunday, no doubt He sees that very few of those children who once called Him King have come back.

 

And in a slightly earlier time, this Sunday not only saw Sunday School children in a crowd singing, but children on the cusp of adulthood making vows, confessing their faith in the Triune God and promising to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from the faith they had been taught by their pastors.  But most of them have not kept their promises either.

 

And as we sit here, we reflect on how we have watched and prayed since Ash Wednesday, whether we have spent this season of Lent fruitfully, whether we have been renewed in our struggle against sin and the evil one, pressed forward to take hold of the crown of life, or whether we have remained unchanged, treaded water, been carried downstream a little further.

 

There is a reason why the crowd that shouts “Hosanna!” becomes the mob crying “Crucify!”  Why the twelve who say they will die before they deny Jesus are all gone on Good Friday when He is hung from a tree; why the newly confirmed in white robes forget their promises to their King.

 

It is because the King of Life leads us into death.  It is because the Son of the Most High does not lead us to a throne to be waited on and glorified, but to the slave’s quarters, to wait on others.  He does not lead us to the halls of power except as prisoners who are to undergo trial and condemnation.  He leads us with Him to Golgotha.  Only through that way do we come, at last, to glory.

 

And though by now we know this and heard it many times, we still choke on it.  Every day we have to learn it again.  Every year on the first Sunday of Advent Jesus begins to teach it to us again, as the Gospel of His triumphal procession is read to begin the new church year.

 

He is the King of humility and patience.  The epistle for today reads, Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a bondservant, being born in the likeness of men.  Phil. 2:5-7

 

The One who shared the glory and nature of God the Father shared our nature too.  He was born a man subject to death, like us in every way, to serve us.  God the Son was born to serve lowly, lost slaves, by giving His life for us.  He calls us to become what He is.  And He is making those who believe in Him what He is—making us like Him in giving up our lives in service to others, making us like Him in immortality and glory.

 

And because He was willing to make Himself nothing and serve you, He does not give up on you when you prove to be like the crowd and the disciples—fickle, unsteady, quick to return to the old ways of seeking to keep your life instead of giving it up.  He does not give up on you when you think He will or should and discover about yourself what Peter did when he denied his Lord, or what Paul did when He wrote: For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh.  For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.  Rom. 7:18-19

 

He is not surprised and does not shy away from you in your wretchedness because He who was in the form of God made Himself nothing and emptied Himself to serve you, to take your place under God’s judgment.

 

And that is why you are not a hypocrite when you praise Him as your King and shout “Hosanna!” with the Palm Sunday crowds.  Hosanna means “All hail!”  It is praise to our King.  But it also means “Grant salvation; save now!”  It comes from Psalm 118, which was sung by the priests of the Jews as the Passover lamb was led into the temple to be slaughtered.  Save us we pray, O Lord!  O Lord, grant us success!  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!  We bless you from the house of the Lord!  The Lord is God, and He has made His light to shine upon us.  Bind the festal sacrifice with cords up to the horns of the altar.  Ps. 118:25-27

 

“Bind the festal sacrifice with cords” means “prepare your animals for sacrifice.”  Our Passover lamb is Jesus.  When He rode the donkey’s colt to Jerusalem He prepared Himself to be sacrificed to make us free, to redeem us from slavery to death and our sins.  But He had been preparing Himself long before—when He was conceived as a man, when He emptied Himself of glory and majesty and took our form, joining Himself to us in the lowest place where we were captive to the power of sin, in bondage to the devil, doomed to an eternity of God’s punishment.

He does not balk at serving you there.  He comes willingly and gives Himself to be slaughtered so that His blood may mark you as one to whom death has already come.  His blood marks you as free from sin and judgment.

 

And He comes to serve you with that blood, to mark you with it again, to mark you free, to mark you as one belonging to God and life.

 

So do not be afraid to call Him your king.  Don’t be afraid to come out to meet Him and to start down the road with Him to Jerusalem.  Don’t be afraid that what you start you won’t be able to finish.

 

He knows you.  He knows your depths because He descended into the depths of your sin and its punishment.  He was bound as a sacrifice to the altar of the cross, bound to you and the full punishment of your sins.  He knows you, what you are capable of, what your weakness is like.  And He carried it all.

 

So acclaim Him as He comes to serve you.  Eat His body, drink His blood in memory of Him, in praise of His patient love toward you.  Glorify Him by calling upon Him to save you with the depths of your failings and believing that He does not turn away from you there, but that He, who was in the form of God, made Himself nothing for you.

 

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

 

Soli Deo Gloria

Worthiness is Unworthiness. Maundy Thursday Tenebrae. March 29, 2018

jesus last supper cranach.PNGMaundy Thursday—Tenebrae (9:15a)

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Lamentations 1:1-14; 1 Corinthians 11:17-34

March 29, 2018

Worthiness is Unworthiness

 

Iesu Iuva

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

The service of shadows, called Tenebrae, began with readings from the first chapter of the Lamentations of Jeremiah.  Jeremiah mourned over the destruction of Jerusalem, the capital city of the people of God.  She has become lonely, like a widow.  Once she was a princess, but now a slave.  The lovers with whom she has committed adultery—the false gods, the idolatrous worship—have abandoned her.  No one comes to the festivals of Passover and the other holy days of Jerusalem.  She has been stripped naked.  Her dignity has been taken away.  So have her sacred things, her treasures.  And she mourns as she remembers the good things she once had.

 

Jeremiah’s description of Jerusalem sounds very similar to the way people describe the decline of this congregation, St. Peter.  It is also a description of the degradation of all human beings from the dignity we had when we were created in the image of God.  And Jeremiah says clearly why this happened to Jerusalem:  God gave them over to punishment because of their sins, because they had turned away from Him.

 

We read about the suffering of Jerusalem on these three days at the end of Lent because the suffering of God’s people is the suffering of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.  On Thursday night, after celebrating the Passover meal with His disciples, He went out to the garden called Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives.  There He pleaded with His Father that the cup He had to drink might pass from Him.  The cup He gave His disciples was the New Testament in His blood for the forgiveness of sins.  The cup that His Father gave Him was the cup of woe and punishment for the sins of Jerusalem and of the whole world.

 

The desolation of Jerusalem became the desolation of Jesus.  His sweat in the garden became like great drops of blood as in agony He experienced what it is to be the subject of God’s burning anger against lawlessness and evil.

 

He was led away from the garden as a captive.  His followers deserted Him; His enemies laid their hands on Him.  His dignity was taken away.  He was beaten as a wrongdoer, a slave, held up to mockery and stripped naked.  And after being nailed to a cross and lifted up to die a death of shame, He was forsaken by God to die alone with His sins.

 

His sins.  Because He had taken them as His own, not because He had done them.  The sins of Jerusalem, of God’s people; the sins of the world; the sins of this congregation; your sins.  He made them all His sins.  Our desolation became His desolation.  Our destruction became His destruction.

 

When we eat the bread of the Lord and drink the cup of the Lord we are to do it “in remembrance of Him”—in remembrance of His death and desolation for us.  Christ shows us the greatness of His heart, the wealth of His love, in instituting this Supper before His suffering, and turning the yearly Passover meal into the Sacrament of the Altar.  He was not content merely to suffer for us, but even before He suffered for our sins, embraced our destruction, He instituted a memorial meal by which we would be comforted and assured that His suffering and death applies to us.  That we also have the forgiveness of our sins through His desolation on the cross.

 

It is not only on Good Friday or in Holy Week that we are meant to remember His death.  Every Sunday is a commemoration of His death and resurrection from the dead, along with every other day we eat His body and drink His blood.

 

In the epistle to the Corinthians, Paul faults the church in Corinth for misusing the Supper of the Lord.  The Corinthian Church is not recognizing that they eat Jesus’ body and drink His blood in the Supper.  They have made it into a mere eating and drinking of bread and wine, or perhaps some mystical divine feast that is supposed to unite them with God.  But they have forgotten the death of Jesus in shame and agony, the death which made this Sacrament.  So Paul warns: Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.  This is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.  1 Cor. 11:27-30

 

A person who drinks the cup of the Lord worthily, in a worthy manner, is a person who is like Jerusalem in the reading from Lamentations.  A person who eats the Lord’s body worthily is a person who knows himself to be unworthy of God.  You are worthy when you know yourself to be unworthy.  When you find yourself to be weak in faith and afraid of hell and death; when you have failed to keep God’s law and have fallen into sin; when your heart is cold toward God and you know that you have not been living as His servant but as a servant of yourself—then you have the first part of what makes you worthy to be a guest at the Lord’s table.  That is, you know yourself to be a sinner, worthy of God’s wrath and destruction.  Because it is unworthy sinners Jesus came to serve and for whom He came to suffer, whom He came to call to Himself.

 

The second part of receiving the Lord’s Supper that He instituted on the night of His betrayal in a worthy fashion is this: that you believe that Jesus’ body and blood are given for you, as He said on that night.  That you believe that He made your destruction and your punishment His own.  That He received the cup of God’s wrath that belonged to you when He sweat blood in the garden, and that He drank that cup to its bitter dregs when He cried “It is finished” from the cross.

 

This is not so easy to believe as we imagine.  In fact, for flesh and blood it is impossible to believe.  That God our judge would be punished to free us from our sin and its condemnation?  That God Himself would endure the hell that He threatens us with for our sins?  But this is the Gospel.  This is what Jesus clearly said when He instituted this Supper: “This is My Body, which is given for you.”  And this is what we confess in the creed when we say, “I believe in Jesus Christ, who was crucified, died, and was buried.”  We are not confessing simply that Jesus died and that He rose again, but that I believe that Jesus died for me, for my sins, to take away hell for me and to make me an heir of God.

 

When you come wanting to receive a public declaration that Jesus was abandoned and forsaken for you and that you have the forgives of sins through Him, then you come to the Lord’s Supper worthily.  And so you should come.  Jesus wants you to come and eat His body and drink His blood.  He wants you to come with your desolation and affliction, your weakness of faith, your poverty of good works, and eat His body that He gave for you, and drink deeply, not of the cup of God’s wrath, but of His blood of the New Testament, poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.

 

He wants you to come so that you may become strong in faith and grow until you do not fear death and hell.  He wants you to come so that you may become strong, and die to sin, and rise to new life.

 

If for years you have been His guest at His table but have seen no change, and you seem to be just as weak in faith and loveless as you were years ago, Jesus calls you and me today, as this Lententide ends.  He calls us to remember His death during the Holy three days ahead and as we receive His holy Supper.  To remember His sufferings, His death, and believe that these sufferings were for you.  And to take our weakness of faith and lack of good works and lay them before Him as we receive His body that He gave to be pierced and bruised for our transgressions.

 

He who was willing to suffer to redeem you will by no means despise your prayer when you ask Him to strengthen your faith and increase your love.  He has provided everything necessary for your salvation and your sanctification when He offered up His body and blood for you.

 

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

 

Amen.

 

 

Soli Deo Gloria

What We Deserve. Wed. After Judica, 2018

Wednesday after Judica

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Passion History: Calvary

March 21, 2018

“What We Deserve”

 

Iesu Iuva

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

They lead Jesus away to Golgotha, the place of the skull, the place where they crucify Jerusalem’s criminals.  Even on this occasion a great crowd follows Him.  And is usually the case with the people who follow Jesus, they do not understand Him.  The crowd of women who follow Jesus and the North African visitor to Jerusalem, Simon, who has been made to drag Jesus’ cross, weeps.  Jesus turns His face toward them, bruised by fists, cut by thorns, and says to them, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but for yourselves and your children…for if they do these things with a green tree, what will happen with a dry one?”

 

If they do these things to the Son of God, green with everlasting life, what will happen to you, who are by nature dry wood, dead in trespasses and sins?

 

Jesus did not come so we could feel sorry for Him.  He did not come for our pity.  He came to save us from what we deserve.

 

And so, about nine in the morning, they arrive at the place of execution.  They give Him wine mixed with gall, which is a poison, which perhaps deadens the pain of what comes next.  Another evangelist tells us that there was also myrrh in the cup, which is a painkiller.  Long ago David foretold this, though the passion history does not quote him: I looked for sympathy, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none.  They also gave me poison for my food and for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.  (Ps. 69: 20-21) Whether it was meant in mercy or malice, Jesus refuses the drink.

 

And they crucify Him.  As the nails are driven through His hands and feet, Jesus prays to His Father to forgive the ones who pierce Him.

 

In case we are forgetting why this is all happening, the enemies of Jesus, standing beneath His cross and mocking Him, remind us.

 

The people say, “Aha!  You who would destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself!”

 

Then the chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees: “He saved others; He cannot save Himself!”

 

And the soldiers: “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!” 

 

And finally, at the bottom of the barrel, one of the two criminals crucified with Jesus: “Are you not the Christ?  Save yourself and us!”

 

Saving is on everyone’s mind at the death of Jesus.  The four groups of people all tell Jesus, “Save yourself!  Then we will see that you are the Son of God and the King of the Jews!  Then you will be worthy of our allegiance!  Then our opposition toward you will change into admiration.  We will cast our vote for you.”

 

Jesus is taunted because all they believe that if Jesus really is the Son of God, worth loving and trusting, He should show it by saving Himself from the cross.  And the criminal adds that Jesus should also save him from the consequences of his deeds.

 

The world’s mind hasn’t changed at all in two thousand years.  Jesus isn’t worthy of our attention—unless He can provide us with a path to bliss and power right now in this world order.  Unless He can save us from dying, or pain, or the feeling of insignificance, poverty, and emptiness that still gnaws at us who live in the greatest material comfort history has ever known.

 

You can be so close and yet so far away.  It is right when people expect Jesus to save, especially here, at Golgotha.  Jesus is here to save.  He is here to save us from our sins.  And because that is why He is here, He cannot save Himself from the cross.

 

The other criminal grasps this as he hangs on the cross near Jesus.  Imagine hanging from your pierced hands and your pierced feet, dying slowly, in agony, like this man does.  What realization are you likely to come to then?  At that time people have a hard time thinking or concentrating on anything.  But this man realizes what most people never realize—We are getting what we deserve for what we have done.

 

He tells the other criminal, hanging mangled and pierced from the other tree: Look at us.  Look at where we are.  You and I are here because this is what we deserve for our lives.  We deserve to have this be the final verdict on us and all we have done in this world.  Don’t you fear God?  We’re here because we deserve this. But Jesus has done nothing wrong.  He is innocent, and suffers the same death as we do.

 

Can you imagine experiencing the pain and shame this criminal did and saying, This is what I deserve?  Is that what we here from parents and relatives when a kid murders classmates or shoots a cop?  No.  They say: “He was a good boy.”  And we probably would too if it were our kid.  Because we love them and cannot bear to face that the one we loved is evil.

 

Is it what we say when people criticize us, suggest we have failed, suggest we have done wrong?  I am getting what my deeds deserve?  No.

 

Of course, the criminal on the cross next to Jesus had probably beaten people, robbed them.  Left them lying bloody in a ditch.  Perhaps he murdered someone.  Probably none of us have done those things.

 

But we have stolen from God.  We have wasted the heartbeats and breaths he has given us to gather for ourselves, to hoard for ourselves gifts He gave to be used in thankfulness and trust in Him.  We have demanded that people treat us with honor and respect that we have no right to claim when all our lives we have thought and done what we know God has declared is worthy of death.

 

This is what we have deserved for our lives too.  This is how our lives ought to be summed up.  Not that we die looking back with pride and contentment.  But that we die condemned, in pain, in shame, in regret.  And after that, to be forsaken by God forever.

 

Otherwise, why is God’s Son, who has done nothing wrong, experiencing this agony?  Is God so unjust that He would allow this to happen to His Son, who never once displeased Him?  That He would even forsake His Son while He died cursed and mocked by men?  After His only Son had lived a life of perfect obedience to Him?  We don’t deal with our children this way even when they have turned out to be no good by human standards.  Would God deal this way with His faithful, ever-obedient Son?

 

No.  This man who has done nothing wrong, who is truly the Son of God, is dying to save us from what we have deserved for our deeds.

 

He isn’t dying to save the criminal or us from the pain with which God corrects us.  The pain of God’s correction is to spare us everlasting pain.  He lays His rod on us so that having been chastened, we become better.  So that we turn from our ways of straying like an errant sheep and direct our steps to walk with Him and His flock in the way of eternal joy.

 

No, He has come to save us from eternal pain, eternal shame, from an eternity of being abandoned.  From a condemnation that does not end.

 

This is the saving we need.  And that is what Jesus is accomplishing.  When you see Jesus’ agony and shame, you see your own.

 

He was right in what He prayed while these sinners pounded nails through His innocent hands: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”

 

When the people, the priests, the soldiers, the criminals all said, “Save yourself, and we will believe you are the Messiah”—and when the world demands that Jesus prove Himself, and we also demand it—they, we, do not know what we are saying.  We think that if Jesus saved Himself from the cross, He would prove that He was the Christ, the Son of God.

 

But if He had saved Himself, He would not have saved you.  He would have been no Christ at all if He had saved Himself.  He would have done a miracle that would leave us unsaved, still in our sins.

 

We too have pounded in the nails in Jesus’ body.  We have spoken and thought what we wanted, without considering the consequences, like Jesus told Peter: When you were young, you dressed youself and went where you wanted.  But when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will lead you where you do not want to go.  We went where we wanted.  We injured and insulted and hated the people Jesus bore on His own body.  And then we demanded, “Save yourself and us!  Get down from the cross and get us down too!”

 

Jesus did not save Himself from our hands.  He gave Himself into our hands, and while we did what we wanted, He went where we did not want to go.  He was numbered with the transgressors and died as one of the guilty, though He had done nothing wrong.

 

So when you come to Jesus with your life that can only come to this, to the place the criminals found themselves—rightly under God’s condemnation—and you dare to ask, “Remember me, Jesus, when you come into your kingdom,”—when you come to this church the next time asking, “Be gracious and merciful to me, a poor, sinful being,” Jesus says to you, “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”

 

It is a bold thing this criminal asked the man he knew was dying on a cross though He had done nothing wrong, when he himself had lived a life even other mere men condemned as evil.  “Let your innocent suffering benefit me.  Let my stealing and murder be at your expense.”  But that is what we say when we ask Jesus to forgive our sins.

 

And in response He says, “All my suffering is for you.”

 

“Today I save you by not saving myself.”

 

“And by the price I payed for you on Golgotha when I was forsaken by God, I declare the grace of God to you, and forgive you all your sins, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

 

Amen.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

And Sinners Will Return to You. Wed. after Oculi.

jesus caiphas frangipaneWednesday after Oculi—Vespers

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Passion History—Trial Before Caiaphas

March 7, 2018

And Sinners Will Return to You

 

Iesu Iuva

In the Name of Jesus.

 

There is a fire in the courtyard.  Simon is trying to keep warm and trying to keep his head down.  He is also trying to keep an eye on Jesus across the courtyard without anyone noticing.  Jesus has His hands tied.  Around Him are the scribes, the elders of Israel, members of the ruling council called the Sanhedrin, and the chief priests.  Jesus is on trial.

 

And as Peter listens, he hears his Lord give His testimony.  You will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of God’s power and coming with the clouds of heaven.  And the high priest tears his robes.  Jesus has just referenced the seventh chapter of Daniel’s prophecy and applied it to Himself.  He says that He is the Christ, anointed by God as king over all the peoples of the earth.  That He will return as God’s judge of the men assembled in this night court.

 

And the assembled dignitaries of Israel give their decision—Jesus must be put to death for blasphemy.

 

The chief priests and the elders of the people were wrong to condemn Jesus, of course.  He had not taught people to worship a false god or prophesied falsely in God’s name.  The man standing before them was the God of Israel.

 

But Jesus did not deny that they had the responsibility and the right to judge.  They were God’s representatives.  It was their duty to try and condemn blasphemers and false prophets.

 

What was true of the chief priests and Sanhedrin is also true of this church named after the apostle who fell so badly that night.  You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that apostle later wrote despite his great sin.  All who are baptized into Christ and believe in Him are, like Peter, priests, and share with Jesus the authority to forgive and retain sins.  To judge, despite the fact that we, like Peter, have ourselves sinned and denied Jesus.  Jesus has entrusted us with the office of the keys, that special authority that Christ has given to His Church on earth to forgive the sins of repentant sinners, but to withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant as long as they do not repent.

 

St. Paul writes about this, “It is actually reported among you that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife.  And you are arrogant!  Ought you not rather to mourn?  Let him who has done this be removed from you…  When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.”  (1 Cor. 5:1-5)

 

Paul means that the Church in Corinth is supposed to remove the unrepentant sinner from fellowship; pronounce that his sins are not forgiven, just as after confession the Church pronounces the forgiveness of sins by the authority of Jesus.  This is not putting him to death physically.  It is pronouncing God’s judgment that He will speak on the last day.

 

Paul says to do this “so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.”  By speaking it now, the unrepentant may turn and be delivered.

 

Most of us here relate with Peter.  We know that we are not pure.  We have denied Jesus ourselves, and so we are very hesitant to ever speak words of judgment to anyone else in the name of God.

 

We should be hesitant to ever judge or condemn anyone in our own name.  When we judge people on our own authority, we condemn ourselves.  But when we hold back Christ’s judgment from unrepentant sinners, we are not really showing them mercy.  We are going easy on ourselves, because we are afraid of being condemned by unbelievers as harsh and unloving.

 

Jesus preached, Whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matt. 5:19-20)  About that Jesus we are saying, “I do not know Him.”

He proclaims that our righteousness must be perfect to enter the kingdom of heaven.  For that He was condemned to die on the cross as a blasphemer—for confessing that He would return with the clouds in divine majesty to judge the living and the dead.  The priests tore their robes and called it blasphemy and handed Him over to Pontius Pilate.

 

We do not want to stand with Jesus and proclaim His judgment.  We do not want to be His Church that proclaims His judgment and His forgiveness because we are afraid.  “I do not know Him,” we say, with Peter.

 

Repent.

 

Before us is Jesus, the Son of the Blessed.  He is the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens.  (Rev. 3:7)

 

He preaches the judgment of God on us and through us, His Church, so that the world may be saved from eternal death.  The times have changed, people say.  The times have changed; the hour is late.  Judgment is very soon.  But the judgment of God has not changed.  The torment of hell will never change.

 

Jesus preaches the judgment of God so that the lost may be brought to repentance and saved from eternal death.

 

When the priest questioned Him, He confessed the truth—that He is the Christ, anointed by God to be king over human beings and to be priest for human beings.  He alone will rule over human beings, as their Redeemer and Savior, or as their judge.  He alone is able to reconcile God to us.  Our leniency toward sinners cannot take away their sins or our own.  Our leniency has no more validity before God than our self-righteous judgment, our unjust judgment, like the unjust judgment of the priests that Jesus was a blasphemer.

 

Only God’s mercy makes sin go away, and only His condemnation makes us truly guilty and condemned.

 

It was God who condemned Jesus as a blasphemer, and a denier.  It was His mercy that permitted His only Son to take up our sins as His own; it was His mercy that allowed Him to be condemned for them instead of us.

 

Only those who know that they are condemned by God are able to come to Jesus and receive God’s mercy.

 

Jesus was silent before the accusations they made against Him to the high priest because He was willing to bear every charge against us and the whole world and be condemned for them..  He was willing to shed His righteous blood so that we would be acquitted by God.

 

He was willing to be Christ for us, to be anointed as our king and priest.  He was willing to be our King and be led into hell to rescue us.

 

He was willing to be our priest, and to offer up Himself as the sacrifice that brought the wrath of God against us to an end.

 

This is why you are no longer the one who has denied Jesus countless times.  This is why you are no longer the hypocrite who has no right to speak His Word to anyone.  The judgment and the forgiveness that you speak and that I speak in His name are not spoken on our own authority, but in the authority of the Son of the Blessed One, the Christ, anointed by God, the rightful King who judges the living and the dead.  What He says, and what He authorizes and calls us to say, is not for the destruction of our family, neighbors, brothers.  It is for their salvation.  It comes from the mouth of Him who was silent as He was tried and condemned for the sins we try and fail to deal with ourselves.

 

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

 

Soli Deo Gloria

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lord of the Flies. Oculi, 2018. Luke 11.14-28

jesus legion.PNGOculi, The Third Sunday in Lent

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Luke 11:14-28

March 4, 2018

“The Lord of the Flies”

Iesu Iuva

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

Think of flies, that terrible noise they make when they buzz past your ear, the sound of a whole lot of flies buzzing in a swarm.  Where do you hear this noise?  Usually you hear it when you are near something that stinks.  Public latrines with no plumbing, dog parks, the rotting corpse of an animal in the sun.  Wherever something is decaying, rotting, wherever there is excrement and filth and stench—that’s where you hear flies buzzing.

 

“Beelzebul” was the name of a Philistine idol.  The Jews changed one letter of his name and called him “Beelzebub” which means “lord of the flies”.  They meant that Beelzebul was the lord of excrement and the stink of decay, the lord of uncleannesss and death.  And since the Old Testament prophets associated false gods and demons, they said that Beelzebub was really the prince and lord of demons.

 

This is a fitting name for the devil.  Just like flies have a party and make a great buzzing whenever they find something dead and stinking, the devil and his demons delight in death and the pollution of God’s good creation.  And since human beings are the crown of God’s creation, they find no greater pleasure than when they have polluted us, degraded us, and watched us die, physically and spiritually.

 

But while the devil is evil, he isn’t dumb.  Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, the Bible tells us (2 Cor. 11: 14).  He doesn’t tell us that he wants to pollute us and murder us.  He convinces us that he is not the devil at all.  He convinces people that he is their best friend and God’s word is not to be trusted, that it will harm them.

 

Most of us can smell the reek of moral rot around us.  But it’s hard to smell yourself.  The smell of death is on us too, because we too are “by nature sinful and unclean.”  In the epistle, Paul said Be imitators of God as beloved children, and walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Eph. 5:1).

 

To God, all sin stinks.  Even the slightest putrid whiff He cannot tolerate in His nostrils.  But sexual immorality and all impurity and covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints.  Let there be no foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. 

 

The demon who possessed the man in the Gospel reading took away the man’s speech.  Even to allow a useless word to pass our lips is a misuse of the power of speech.  God gave us the power of speech to speak what is true to His glory.  Even to speak idle, foolish words is a degradation for us who were created in the image of God.  It is decay and corruption.  It also is the work of the lord of the flies, along with impure thoughts and covetousness, anything less than the love that made Jesus a sweet-smelling sacrifice to God for us..

 

We think we can live with the foul odor that is in us, because it’s less (we think) than what we smell in others.  But we really can’t.  Meat that is only partly rotten right now is meat that will be completely rotten.  For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it.  James 2:10

 

Jesus came to destroy the work of the devil—not to destroy the things he does that we think are really terrible, and leave the rest of it.  We live under His grace while we are not perfect, but He does not intend to let us remain imperfect.  If we have no interest in becoming perfectly holy, we have no interest in Jesus.  We are not yet done with worshipping the lord of the flies.

 

Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters (Luke 11: 23).  You cannot be with Jesus unless you are an enemy not only of the uncleanness outside of you, but all of it within you.

 

But hating the uncleanness in us is not the same as being clean.  The more intensely we pursue life and holiness, cleanness and honor, the more death and decay seems to arise in us.  We find that our hearts are not united.  Satan’s kingdom is.  Satan doesn’t drive out Satan.  But in us there appear to be two wills opposed to one another.  We sometimes wonder if we are sincere in what we say: I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them.  I renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways.  And if we are not sincere, how can we make ourselves?  Job asked, Who can bring a clean thing out of an unclean?  (Job 14:4)  We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment.  (Is. 64:6) 

 

There is another one who is not divided against Himself.  Jesus has one purpose.  The devil’s purpose is to dehumanize and bring death.  Jesus’ purpose is to restore and make people whole.  To make us alive; to make us holy as God is holy, perfect as His heavenly Father is perfect.  So that we are clean, in perfect health, sound, morally, mentally, spiritually whole.

 

 

Since Satan will not let anyone he controls go, he has to be beaten in combat.  And then, Jesus says, his armor has to be taken away, so that he can’t try to oppress people again and take back what he lost.

 

The devil’s armor is the fear of death.  We fear death because it is the sentence for sin.  Because of our sin we face God’s condemnation.  This is Satan’s armor that he uses to keep human beings in slavery.  Nobody can take this armor away from him unless they can take away our debt of sin.

 

So take to heart the good news that Jesus preaches in this Gospel.  You have heard it before, but hear it again, and keep it in your heart.

 

The demons obey Jesus because He is the Lord.  But He is also one of us.  He shares our flesh and blood.  But unlike us the devil has nothing to blackmail Jesus with.  There is no uncleanness, no decay or corruption in Him.  He was conceived in holiness.  He did no sin.  It couldn’t even be named of Him.  He had no unclean words, no unclean thoughts, no hatred, lust, no fear, love, or trust of anyone before God.

 

In this pure flesh Jesus overcame Satan and disarmed him.  He took the decay of your sinful nature, your broken and corrupted body, mind, and soul, into His own body.  The record of your debt of sin was inscribed on His body.  And it was torn up and put away.

 

Surely, our sicknesses He hath borne, and our pains, He hath carried them…And He is pierced for our transgressions, bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace is on Him, and by His bruise there is healing to us.  (Is. 53:4-5, YLT)

 

This is a strange sort of victory.  But the laceration of Jesus’ body, the anguish of His soul, and His death were His victory over Satan, where he tore away the devil’s armor and weapons.  When He was bound to the cross with nails and bound up in the grave clothes and laid in the tomb, He bound Satan.  He took away Satan’s blackmail against us, because He was condemned for us.  And His death is the healing of the uncleanness of our flesh.  Our gangrene was cured in His wounds and death.  And the cure is now at work in us who believe.  We are like people with an infection who have just begun taking an antibiotic.  He destroyed sin in His body.  As we eat His body and drink His blood by faith, His cure of sin begins to cure our flesh of its corruption.  We are not yet fully cured in ourselves, but the medicine we receive ensures that we will be.

 

So by faith we laugh at the devil when he tries to keep us in slavery, in filth, with the flies buzzing around us. There is now therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  (Rom. 8:1)

 

This is why Jesus says, Blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it.  Blessed are those who go on hearing this word of the Gospel, and who keep it when the devil knocks on the door.  The

word of Jesus’ death is your armor.  When he tempts with false appearances and the promise of life and freedom in sin, the death of Jesus is our armor, showing us what sin really is.  It is death.  It shows us who Jesus really is.  He is the one who loved us and gave Himself as a fragrant sacrifice to God to cover the stench of our sins and make us pleasing.

 

When the devil reminds you of your sins and uncleanness and tempts you to believe that you are not really Christ’s, Jesus’ passion is your armor.  You keep the word of God.  You say, “I am Christ’s not because I have no sicknesses, but because Jesus carried my sickness on the cross and healed it by his wounds, even the sickness still in me.”

 

This is what makes a saint—not doing great things, like Mary, who bore Jesus in her womb and nursed Him.  But hearing the word of God and keeping it.  Hearing that Jesus made us clean with His suffering and crucifixion, believing it.  Not resting our faith on the healing we see in us, but on the healing that God accomplished for us in Jesus’ wounds and blood.

 

This is why you must keep hearing this word, why you must keep eating this bread and drinking this cup, why you must keep being absolved by the minister as by God Himself.  This is how Jesus makes you whole and clean.  This is what keeps the flies away.

 

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

 

Soli Deo Gloria

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