The disciples didn’t know what Jesus was talking about. “What is this that He’s telling us—‘A little while and you will not behold me, and again a little while and you will see me,” and “because I am going to the Father’? What is this ‘little while’ He keeps talking about? We don’t know what He is saying.”
Jesus had already told them what He was talking about. But they didn’t understand because they hadn’t experienced it yet and they didn’t yet have the Holy Spirit.
In the same way Jesus has already told us what we are going to experience in His Church after His ascension, but we don’t understand apart from the Holy Spirit granting us faith through His Word. Apart from the Spirit, relying on our own experience and reasoning, everything is dark.
What He has told us is that in this world we will experience distress and sorrow, but that our sorrow becomes joy.
And to make this easier for the disciples and us to understand our Lord uses a picture that is very fitting for Mothers’ Day.
A woman when she is giving birth has distress, because her hour has come, but when the child is born she no longer remembers the sorrow because of joy that a human being has been born into the world.
Not that there is no distress and sorrow for mothers after childbirth. Being a mother is full of distresses and sorrows. It’s not only the near-death experience of giving birth. Then it’s waking up in the middle of the night to feed and change diapers and years of caring for a little life that needs constant attention. Then they become teenagers and need attention for other reasons but don’t want it. And these days moms also often have to do most of the work of providing for her child, because Dad isn’t around.
It’s a lot of work that is demanding but not highly regarded, despite all the money that we spend on Mothers’ day. How many people with a smart and talented daughter would be happy to hear her say, “I want to be a mother when I grow up”—if she didn’t also say—“and a doctor, or a CEO, or president…”
But Jesus said, “What is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.” (Luke 16:15) We are impressed when men build cities and name them after themselves, when they build companies or nations, when they make themselves wealthy and famous, when they create art and literature. But God calls it an abomination when one works to make a name for himself and instead of working and living for the honor of God’s name. it’s what the people of the world did after the flood—they tried to build a tower to the heavens and make for themselves a name.
It is supposed to be progress now when women have the freedom to pursue this same kind of idolatry that goes by the name “career”.
Work doesn’t exist to make ourselves a name or make ourselves rich. It is a calling from God, a gift, through which He wants to work through us to give life to others.
That’s why motherhood is highly esteemed by God and despised by the world. Mothers who do what they are called to do trusting in Christ to work through them, who do what they are called to do in obedience to His Word—they are pleasing to God. They do great works and get no praise from men. Changing diapers and spending your attention and energy on little children isn’t building the Eiffel tower. It’s more important. Mothers bear life into the world for God and then nurture that life.
Those kinds of works, done in faith in Christ, are not regarded as great by the world. But God has regard for them. He looks on works that are done not for the praise of men but out of faith in His Son, works that actually help our neighbor—help to give and sustain his life. Things like towers and music and athletic ability can bless people, but mothers do the work that makes it possible to enjoy these other things. They face death to bring a child into the world and they give up their youth and freedom to care for it.
But you don’t hear mothers, usually, describing being a mother with the words “distress” and “anguish.” That’s because the sorrows of motherhood God turns into joy, as He does with the sorrows of all callings He has ordained.
The agony of giving birth and the difficulties of raising a child don’t remain agony and difficulty and distress. They become joy.
The excruciating pain of labor becomes the joy of the mom holding her newborn, and the joy these two experience is greater than most joys ever experienced on earth. Dads can only stand and watch it with amazement and gladness for them.
The hassles of raising kids becomes the joy and pride of seeing them go out into the world as adults to walk with God the way to life. And even when they stray there is joy for a Christian mother, because she can turn to her Father in heaven for comfort and with confidence that He will care for her child just as He cared for her. Jesus says that the experience of His disciples will be like the experience of a mother in labor. They will have anguish, but the anguish itself becomes joy. The sorrows of Christians don’t go away and then joy comes. No, the sorrows and pains themselves become joy. Believing this, Christians begin to rejoice in the sufferings themselves.
The Scriptures say this in many places. Paul says in 2 Cor. 4: So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond comparison…” (2 Cor. 4:16-17)
And Hebrews 12 says: For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.” (Heb. 12:11)
When the disciples didn’t see Jesus for a little while, all they could do was lock themselves in a house and weep. He was shut up in the tomb; they were shut up in the house. It was unthinkable. They had seen Jesus calm the sea with a word, seen Him cure lepers and paralyzed people and raise the dead with a word. Then He had died in apparent weakness on the cross. Given up His Spirit. Blood and water poured from a spear thrust to His heart. He was dead.
Anguish seized the disciples. How could this have happened? They must have been abandoned by God. And for a person abandoned by God there is nowhere to run.
That very anguish of Jesus’ death and burial did not go away. It was transformed into joy, like the water at Cana didn’t go away but became wine.
So the disciples’ anguish turned into exceedingly great joy when Jesus appeared to them. But He really appeared to them before He came into the room and showed them His hands and side. He appeared to them when the women came and first proclaimed to them the message of the angel: “He is risen!”
That’s also how He appears to us.
He appears to us in the Scriptures, risen from the dead. HE appears to us in the preaching of His resurrection. And in those Scriptures and in that preaching the Holy Spirit is given to us so that we see Him and share the apostles’ joy.
After seeing Jesus risen, do you think the apostles were ever unhappy or scared or in anguish again? You might think they never were. But you would be wrong.
Paul says: We [apostles] are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair…always carrying in the body the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our mortal flesh. 2 Cor. 4:8, 10-11
The apostles still had pain, confusion, great suffering even after seeing Jesus raised. In the same way mothers have plenty of distresses after the great distress of childbirth is over. There may be some distresses that equal the pain of childbirth later. But mothers almost never refer to motherhood as “anguish”. Why? Because just as the anguish of labor became joy, so the pains that come after childbirth become joy.
The biggest anguish for us in the Church is over. Christ Jesus suffered, was forsaken by God, died and was raised from the dead.
The pain He suffered became the joy that He has now in justifying us while we are yet sinners.
Because He was laid in the grave not for His own sins but ours. He bore the wrath of God not against His sins, but ours.
Out of the anguish of His soul came the joy for Him of our reconciliation with God. Now nothing stands between us and God, not even for the chief of sinners. His suffering became the joy of clothing us with righteousness in Holy Baptism, of feeding us the righteousness of God in His body and blood given and shed for us.
And out of the anguish of the apostles’ souls came the joy of their message. The three days He was gone from us, they say, meant the reconciliation of the world to God. He atoned for our sins and rose and showed the new life that is ours, which will be ours in fullness when we are raised from the dead.
And it is the same with your sorrows and pains. You see Jesus. Your pain does not disappear.
It becomes joy, just as these bodies of sin and death in which we live will be raised up and transformed into the likeness of His glorious body.
You see Jesus forsaken by God for you and raised from the dead in the Gospel. He comes and preaches it to you. For you I was forsaken by God and for you I am raised, He says, and for you I reign at the right hand of God. For you I will return on the last day.
The anguish we feel over our sins becomes joy, because it is that pain which He uses to keep drawing us to see Him and hear His voice.
He does not change the face He shows us or change His message. He says, “I forgive you all your sins.” Though they be as dark as death and as deep as hell, I endured the darkness for you and I have come from the depths and pronounce your sins forgiven.”
No one can take this joy away from us, because Jesus is present in His church to the end of the world. Whenever His word is read or spoken; whenever someone is baptized in the name of the Trinity, and whenever His body and blood is distributed as He instituted, Jesus is with us. He is the very one in whom all our sins and agonies were transformed into righteousness and joy. Look at Jesus’ head crowned with thorns. Look at His hands pierced, crying, “My God, why have you forsaken Me?”
That is our sin and agony. And it has become righteousness and joy. The same Lord is risen and proclaims the forgiveness of our sins. He bursts their chains—their legacy of guilt, sadness, and death. In place He declares you righteous, free, alive. And with this true liberating word comes joy—even though it may only be a kernel just starting to grow.
Indeed, all our sorrows will become joy. We too are given over to death for Jesus’ sake so that His life may be revealed in these jars of clay.
Joy lightens our face when we look at Jesus—that is to say, when we listen to His Word. When we see Jesus we are seeing the one on whom our guilt and our despair were placed. And He descended into the depths of God’s wrath with that real and heavy weight. But He has risen and proclaims our guilt finished and our pain turned into joy.
The pain of childbirth becomes joy—great joy.
Are you experiencing some great anxiety or pain? Over yourself? Someone you love?
Do things look like they are closing in on you? It’s all too obvious that we feel that way in the church. And many of you have felt that burden for many years.
Jesus promises that just as labor pains become the joy of a child, our labor pains, your labor pains, will not be stillborn. They will become joy, and no one will take your joy from you.
Indeed, Jesus has already turned them into joy. He has borne them and the eternal wrath of God and risen again with the keys of death with which He sets you free.
And today He invites you to sit down and receive the testament that your sorrow has been changed into joy—the sacrament of His body and blood, which pledge that His agony has ransomed us and purchased us for everlasting joy.
The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Jesus is king. He gives an unmistakeable sign that He is king of the Jews when He sends His disciples to fetch the donkey and rides it into Jerusalem. And when the crowds respond to Him as the Christ, the anointed One, the promised King, He does not refuse their praise. He allows them to lay down their cloaks on the road in front of Him with leafy branches of trees as a royal carpet. He doesn’t stop them when they cry out “Hosanna!” Save us! “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!” The Lord has appointed you to rule in His Name!
The crowd reads Jesus’ actions as proclaiming that He is the King. And even the people of Jerusalem pay attention, the citizens of the city the Lord chose for His dwelling place, the temple. Living in such a holy place, the people of Jerusalem aren’t easily impressed by people claiming to be prophets. But today, on Palm Sunday, when the crowds of Passover pilgrims raise the festal shout of salvation, they ask, “Who is this?” (21:10) And the answer comes back, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.” (21:11)
Everything seems to be going so well. Jesus makes signs that He is the King, the Messiah. The people greet Him as their King. So what if Jesus has a few enemies? What are they going to do when the people are laying their cloaks on the road in front of Him? God seems to be making Jesus’ way straight before Him straight to the throne of the King of Israel, and from there Lord and King to the very ends of the earth, over all the nations.
The donkey Jesus needs is right where He says it would be, and its owner sends it just as Jesus said he would. Jesus goes into the temple and throws out the money changers, and no one does anything to Him. He comes back on Monday and Tuesday and silences and rebukes the priests and scribes with their false, godless teaching. God seems to be preparing everything.
And then everything changes. Doesn’t it? Was God really making His way straight before Him? Was He really being made King when He was flogged to the point of barely looking human (Isa. 52-53), clothed with a scarlet robe and crowned with a wreath of spiny thorns? Was He really being made king when the soldiers knelt down in front of Him and spit in His bloody face? Had God really prepared His way to the throne when Pilate brought Him out in front of the crowd, dressed up in this royal apparel, and said, “Behold the man,”? Had God made Jesus king then when the crowd roared “Crucify, crucify Him”?
What sins should we confess? Before God we should plead guilty of all sins, even those we are not aware of, as we do in the Lord’s Prayer. But before the pastor we should confess only those sins that we know and feel in our hearts.
If you get away from God, you’ll have freedom. Absolute freedom. You won’t have to worry about doing what He says and you won’t have to worry about dying.
Get away from God or get rid of Him; then you’ll be free. Unlimited freedom.
But really, chains.
Adam hides. That’s his freedom.
Peter hides and he won’t come back because he’s trying to escape chains and death. But he gets a different kind of chain. He has to keep lying and stay away from God in order to maintain his freedom.
Jesus doesn’t look like He’s free to us, but He is.
He confesses the true God. He confesses Himself.
He knows full well what this means; the people will want to kill Him.
He also knows that it is the Father’s will.
It seems to us that denying His Father (and Himself) would make Him free and that doing the Father’s will has made Him a slave.
Sin is a chain.
It gets you away from God. It cuts you off.
But to turn back to God is to turn back to punishment; the wages of sin is death.
To confess your sins to God is not like a get out of jail free card. Confessing your sins does not earn you freedom. Confessing your sins is like turning yourself in to the police.
It is to agree with God’s law that you deserve death.
It doesn’t make you not a sinner anymore. It’s like if Jeffrey Dahmer turns himself in to the police or pleads guilty. He isn’t now good and fit for life in normal society. He’s still worthy of punishment. He still would do unspeakable things if you let him out on the street again.
It’s not confessing that makes us free from the chains of sin.
It’s Jesus receiving our penalty of death and hell for us.
Then rising from the dead with our new life.
”To Crucify Desires that Still Entice Me”
In the Name of Jesus.
Desire drives you. Why are you here tonight? Because you desire something.
It might be that you desire to hear Jesus. Or it might be something else. Maybe you like getting ashes smeared on your forehead. Maybe you desire to be and be known as a pillar of the congregation, so you can be praised by men. Whatever it is, you desire something that you thought you would get by coming here.
Desire drives you. It drives the whole world.
God has longing and desire too, even though He has everything.
I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. Luke 22:15
Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, may be with me where I am, to see My glory…John 17:24
God’s desire is life for us. But God’s desire is not what drives most people. What drives most people is what the Epistle called “sinful desire,” also known as “lust.” Sinful desire, lust, is what drives human nature. Sinful desire controls human nature. It controls you as long as you are controlled by your old nature, your flesh.
The works that come from sinful desire are obvious, St. Paul says in Galatians chapter 5: “Sexual immorality…idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalry, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness…and things like these (v. 19-21).” We can see this evil fruit. You can see it in your workplace, you can see it growing up in your home. Sadly, you can see this fruit of sinful desire in the church. And you can see it in yourself—the jealousy and the anger and the lust that flares up in your heart but is put out before it can bear fruit in words or actions.
Other times you can’t see it until it has already been bearing fruit for a long time and polluting other people. The fruit of arrogant, selfish behavior that treats other people with contempt and provokes them. The fruit of stubborn refusal to listen to rebuke, even when it comes from God. The fruit of bitter words, accusations, condemnation, slander. The bitter fruit of sinful desire that is happy when another person falls, when he is laid low.
After listing these works of sinful desire, these obvious, manifest works that we see around us and even in us, Paul adds this terrifying sentence: I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:21
But we don’t always recognize what sinful desire is until after it has borne fruit. Sometimes we get sinful desire, which comes from the flesh, confused with the desire for God, which never comes from our flesh. Your flesh never desires God, only an idol it calls God.
How easily sinful desire can cause us to fall even when we think we are serving Christ!
Who knew this better than Peter? Let the person who is willing to be instructed by God listen to the apostle Peter, who says in the Epistle today, “If you practice these qualities, you will never fall, 11 For in this way there will be richly provided for you (S)an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Do you think Peter ever put those two words together lightly—“never” and “fall”? Without remembering the night of Jesus’ betrayal, in the upper room?
You will all fall away from me this night, said Jesus after giving them His supper. For it is written, I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be scattered.
And Peter had said, Though they all fall away on account of you,
away. (St. Matthew 26:31, 33)
But Peter did fall away. So hear him now when he tells you, “If you practice these qualities you will never fall,” but instead will have an entrance in the eternal kingdom of Christ richly provided.
He did fall. It’s no idle admonition Peter makes: For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith (I)with virtue,[e] and virtue (J)with knowledge, 6 and knowledge with self-control, and self-control (K)with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7 and godliness (L)with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection (M)with love.
Before Peter fell, it wasn’t obvious that sinful desire was at work to make him fall. Not obvious to us, although it was obvious to Jesus.
When Jesus “began to show that He must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised (Matthew 16:21),” Peter took Jesus aside and rebuked Him. That seems godly, doesn’t it? Of course it was wrong of Peter. But his heart was in the right place, right?
It looks like that to me. And right when Peter has just finished saying something that was revealed to him by God and now tries to follow it up with another home run, Jesus says, “Get behind Me, Satan.”
It seemed like Peter was trying to honor Jesus, but in reality Satan was there using him. Right after he confessed Jesus as the Son of God, right after Jesus had given him the keys to open heaven and lock it up, right then Satan speaks. And nobody would have ever realized it except Jesus.
It turned out Peter wasn’t really trying to honor Jesus. His sinful desire was trying to do what it always does—gain the whole world, save itself without receiving it from God. That’s why Jesus said, If anyone wants to come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross and follow me…For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Matthew 16:24-26
Deny himself and take up his cross, because your old self desires nothing good. Even when it seems good it’s not good. It pretends it wants to serve God, but your old self is lying. It just wants to see Christ glorified and the Church strengthened and people saved and society improved, it claims. But what it really wants is to gain the whole world, to slither into a hole so secure that God can’t find it and kill it.
Sinful desire wants to store up treasure on earth in the vain belief that wealth or honor or enjoyment can prevent the day from coming when we stand naked before the eyes of God who sees what is in secret. God sees now what is in secret. He sees what is hidden from men.
That is the reason for the ashes today. They really can’t do anything for you except preach what is in front of your eyes and in your nose every day.
That sinful desire has brought corruption into the world. Not just moral corruption, but literal corruption. You are going to die. Your body is going to get cold and stiff, and if it weren’t for concrete vaults and formaldehyde, it would rot and it would stink before it was eaten by worms.
Sinful desire brought this about, this corruption. Eve saw that the fruit God forbade was “desirable to make one wise.”
God’s wrath fell in sulfur and fire on Sodom and burnt it to ashes. The fire of God’s Law reduces us to ashes now, or the unquenchable fire of hell burns us forever.
Yet there is escape from the eternal fire, and deliverance from the corruption that is in the world through lust.
First comes the terror of God’s punishment and the hatred of the sinful nature and its desires.
I will renounce whate’er doth vex or grieve Thee
And quench with thoughts of Thee and prayers most lowly
All fires unholy.
Then comes deliverance and escape from the corruption sinful desire causes.
Peter says…he has given us his great and precious promises. Which ones?
Promise of justification and the forgiveness of sins through Christ’s blood.
The promise that you have died with Him and been set free from the sinful lust through your Baptism.
The promise of the Holy Spirit, who keeps us in faith in Christ, and who also renews us and puts to death our old nature
The promise of prayer, where Jesus says “The Father will give whatever you ask in my name.”
Through His promises we participate in the divine nature. We are justified by His blood and forgiven. And we are given His promises to bury the old nature controlled by sinful desire and to bring forth the new man in Christ who abounds in the qualities Peter listed.
We ask Him for His Spirit and to bring these virtues to pass in us, and we strive to fulfill His calling, and HE makes us participants in the divine nature.
Just think of this. What is God’s desire?
Your salvation. So much so that He gave His Son. To sweat blood, to suffer.
Yes, Father, Yes, most willingly, I’ll bear what you command me.
My will conforms to your decree: I’ll do what you have asked me.
O Wondrous love, what have you done? The Father offers up His Son
DESIRING our salvation! (LSB 438 stanza 3)
That you participate in His nature.
That you become rich in heavenly treasure.
But whoever does not have these qualities is nearsighted and blind and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins.
We are so sluggish. God eagerly desires to make us participants in His nature so that we store up treasures in heaven.
His desire is for us to be rich. So passionately He desires this that He gave His Son.
We were not set free from sin so that we could live in it; not forgiven so that we could stay in bondage to death
So we spend Lent rightly when we meditate on Christ’s passion
There we see what sinful desire has done, what it does
If God poured such punishment on His innocent, beloved Son, what will happen to those who do not repent and do not escape the corruption in the world because of sinful desire?
O wondrous love, whose depth no heart hath sounded
That brought thee here by foes and thieves surrounded
All worldly pleasures, heedless, I was trying
While thou wert dying.
There we see how God has desired us so as to give His Son for our forgiveness.
There we begin to desire Christ, and God fulfills our desire.
Yet unrequited, Lord I would not leave Thee
I will renounce whate’er doth vex or grieve Thee
And quench with thoughts of Thee and prayers most lowly
All fires unholy.
But since my strength will nevermore suffice me
To crucify desires that still entice me
To all good deeds O let Thy Spirit win me
And reign within me! (LSB 439 stanzas 7, 10, 11)
The peace of God, which passes understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Matthew 8:23-27
February 2, 2014
“Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you”
In Nomine Iesu
Think what kind of a storm that must have been, that Peter and the others came to Jesus and said, “Save us, Lord! We perish!”
Navigating the Sea of Galilee was Peter’s job prior to becoming a fisher of men with Jesus. Such a man is not going to fall on his knees and start praying unless it is a storm that he is sure is going to destroy him. Peter and the others must have been absolutely terrified. It must have been a storm unlike anything they had ever experienced.
And Jesus? Jesus is asleep. How do you sleep in a storm about to tear your boat apart?
The chances are good that you are here this morning or listening on the radio looking for calm in the midst of a storm. You may face imminent disaster. Or it may be that the storm you’re in isn’t the worst you’ve ever been through; it’s just that there have been so many, and you’re tired. The sails of your boat are torn to shreds. The masts are broken. You’re constantly bailing out water.
And sometimes calm weather can be just as deadly. When Portuguese and Spanish ships started sailing to America that was one of the worst dangers—that they’d get caught in calm seas and just sit for days and weeks in the middle of the ocean with no land in sight and no wind to carry them, slowly running out of water and the sailors growing more and more ready to mutiny.
What is your storm?
Deteriorating health? Constant physical pain?
Worries about money? Difficulties at work?
People speaking evil of you, accusing you? Chaos or suffering in your family?
Grief? A lost loved one?
Sin? A guilty conscience?
The fear of death?
And in the storm, the wind howling, waves roaring over the deck, where is Jesus? Well?
It seems like He’s asleep. Either He’s asleep, or He’s not who we thought. If He’s not asleep, why is your boat being thrown around by the waves? Why is your boat, or our boat, about to sink? This isn’t happening to everybody. There are lots of boats with people who claim to have Jesus on board that are doing quite well. In fact, there are lots of boats who with people who don’t claim to have Jesus on board that are doing quite well.
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. John 1:1-14
December 25, 2013
The Life—Not Taken, but Given
In Nomine Jesu
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. [ St. John 1: 4-5] The darkness hasn’t even understood it, as the bible of King James puts it: The darkness comprehended it not.
There is wisdom in the church, but it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. [1 Corinthians 2:6-8]
The devil and the fallen angels who rule this darkness don’t understand the wisdom imparted in the church. If they can’t understand it, certainly human rulers, celebrities, intellectuals won’t. Nor will our own minds.
But God reveals it to little children (Matt. 11:25), to the saints (Col. 1:26), this mystery hidden for ages and generations. God’s mystery (Col 2:2), the mystery of the Word made flesh, Christ.
Thy mind so weak/ Will seldom seek
Its comfort in the midst of sin and danger.
So turn thine eyes/ down from the skies
And find thy comfort in a lowly manger. (Gerhardt # 39 st. 10 Walther’s Hymnal)
What the vast intelligence of the devil can’t comprehend is revealed to little children in the Church. It is the light which enlightens every man, the life which is in the Word. To these little ones God is pleased to reveal His mystery. Through these little ones He is pleased to make known His wisdom and to make fools of the lordly angels who rule this darkness. In these children of Adam who were enslaved to death He is pleased to reveal His life. And His life erupts in triumph over death and its lord—in us.
The Life can’t be overcome or comprehended, seized by the will, or the emotions.
The Life is not taken, but given.
- 1. The Life is Not Taken
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that has been made. [John 1:1-3]
The Word is not an idea that can be grasped. He is a He, a person, eternal with God, yet a distinct person. Through Him all things were made, angels, archangels, thrones, men.
The Word is a person of the Godhead, so He and His life can’t be comprehended by His creatures. We need Him and the light He gives even to stage a rebellion and fight Him.
But the light always seems weak and contemptible to the darkness.
Today the Church appears to be marked for death, with no future, except to the extent that we are willing to make concessions to the darkness and to appeal to the darkness’ lust for glory.
This is not new. When the Word entered the world, He seemed utterly feeble, without a hope and a future. He came in a form despised by both demons and men—weakness. He became an embryo in the womb of a young virgin.
What could be more fragile and helpless? Embryos are easy to kill. Desperate mothers do it. Brutal soldiers and bandits do it. Well-trained, intellectually superior doctors do it. It is easy to erase the life of a baby in the womb—to end it and pretend it never existed.
And if God is a human baby, what easy prey He is for the lord of this world! He didn’t put Himself in the hands of reckless human beings only, but made Himself helpless before the one who hated Him most—Satan.
Why did the Word become so weak—an embryo that could be cupped in your palm, a baby nursed by a woman?
He knew that if Satan saw that He was really one of us—not only flesh and blood, but one with us under our sin, able to be tempted and suffer and die—Satan would murder Him. He would not be able to pass up this chance to erase Him.
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Luke 6:36-42
Oh, how great is your compassion
Faithful Father, God of grace,
That with all our fallen race,
In our depth of degradation
You had mercy so that we
Might be saved eternally.
Christians, your Father is merciful. He is the God of grace, the God of unspeakably great compassion. He looked on human beings and saw how low we had sunk, how we were evil beyond description, inexcusable and rightly damned.
And He showed these rebels against Him mercy.
“Be merciful as Your Father is merciful.”
Jesus preached this sermon to His disciples. And He lifted up His eyes on His disciples, and said, “Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Luke 6: 20)
The disciples of Jesus, not just the twelve apostles but “a great number” were mixed together with a great multitude of people from all over. They had come to hear Jesus.
They had come also to be cured of diseases by Jesus. And in the sight of both disciples and those who did not believe, Jesus healed the sick. He cast demons out of people. Disciples and unbelievers both looked on the mercy and compassion of the Father. They heard the Father’s mercy with their ears.
Jesus is the mercy of the Father. God’s only Son is in our flesh and bone. God is with us, not rejecting us for our filth and sin, but baptized into it. Plunged into it.
When you see Jesus, you are seeing the mercy of God the Father. We provoked God, but instead of cursing us He became one of us. The Son of God became a man to make men sons of God.
The Son of God preaches to you Be merciful as your Father is merciful. He doesn’t say “My Father.” He says, “Your Father,” because those who are Jesus’ disciples have God the Father for their Father and God the Son for their brother. Those who do not believe in Jesus have the devil for their father. But those who believe in Jesus have Jesus as their own. Jesus and all that He has is yours, a gift given by the Father to sinners.
Be merciful as your Father is merciful. But how is the Father merciful? The father of lies has been hard at work in the church since the time of the apostles to destroy the church from within by making the Father in heaven’s mercy empty, making it mercy in name only.
That’s why it has been necessary for 2000 years for the Church to confess what the Father’s mercy really is, who Jesus really is and what He has done. It’s because there are always many gathered where Jesus preaches who are not disciples, that is, believers in Christ, and therefore are not really His Church.
One of these confessions we confess every week even though it comes from the 4th century—the Nicene Creed. It was formulated to confess against false teachers who taught a false mercy of the Father within God’s church. The said that the mercy of the Father was that He sent His Son into our flesh, but that the Son of God was not one substance with the Father. He was a great being, but a lesser being than God the Father. Against this falsification of God’s mercy the true Church of Christ confessed that the Son is God of God, light of light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father…
To many people at the time this seemed like an unnecessary conflict. The Church was full of turmoil over it for decades, and even after the creed was drawn up, the Arians who denied that Jesus is true God continued to preach their heresy and make many converts.
But the Church can’t afford to live and let live while people believe different things about God’s mercy. Only the true mercy of God saves. Only the true Jesus saves.
The devil has tirelessly worked to have the Christian Church believe and teach that God’s mercy is a partial mercy. In one form or another the devil constantly pushes a false gospel under the name “Christian.” And it always amounts to this—God has shown great mercy, but in order for you to be saved you must do something to receive it, or you must add something to it.
That work of the devil is very active in the church today. The devil works tirelessly in this congregation to have us preach and confess that God has been merciful in Christ, but that mercy doesn’t benefit you unless you exercise your will to choose Jesus or unless you have more than just your baptism to rely on, but instead a transformation where you became dedicated to obeying Jesus.
When the Reformation of the Church began, the whole church was captive to this falsification of the gospel. There were people who believed and moments here and there where the Father’s mercy was proclaimed in truth. But the doctrine of the church opposed the mercy of God.
On June 25th, 1530, some Lutheran rulers had to stand in front of the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire and explain why they were causing trouble and making divisions in the church with their teaching. Luther could not be at this huge convention of noblemen because he was under a death sentence. So without Luther, less gifted men who held the same faith wrote up the Augsburg Confession to be read to explain what they taught.
And the Augsburg Confession was written with the purpose of confessing what the true mercy of God is.
[Our churches] teach that since the fall of Adam all men…are born with sin, that is, without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with [sinful desires]; and that this disease…of origin is truly sin, even now condemning and bringing eternal death upon those not born again through Baptism and the Holy Ghost.
Also they teach that…the Son of God, did assume the human nature…truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, that He might reconcile the Father unto us, and be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men…
Also they teach that men cannot be justified before God by their own strength, merits, or works, but are freely justified for Christ’s sake, through faith, when they believe that they are received into favor, and that their sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, who…has made satisfaction for our sins. This faith God [counts] as righteousness in His sight.
That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith, when and where it pleases God, in them that hear the Gospel…
They were confessing that the mercy of God is our whole salvation. Human beings are born completely and utterly corrupt and dead to anything good.
However God has become man, died for our sins, and reconciled God to us. Whoever believes that God is merciful to him because of Christ is justified, that is, counted righteous.
But this faith is not an action that human beings originate. Human beings are dead and wicked. The Holy Spirit alone must work faith.
The Lutherans were criticized for causing divisions with their teaching.
AC History and quote
The text does not say that our forgiving saves us.
It does not say that authorities should not judge.
Parents must discipline their children.
Pastors must judge doctrine and rebuke sinners.
It says that we should not pronounce final judgment on enemies or brothers.
We then would be denying that our own righteousness is really sin.
Romans 2:1–When you judge another and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? And that’s what we do: you may be a fornicator, but in God’s sight my righteousness is also filthy rags, because I have not kept the 6th commandment in my heart even when I’ve kept it outwardly.
There are callings that are required to judge in the stead of God–parent, ruler, pastor.
But privately we only are able to see our brother (or enemy) correctly when we see them through the mercy of the Father–through Jesus, who became incarnate and died for their sins.
We see them rightly when we see that them as those whose death God has no pleasure in but instead those for whom Christ’s blood was shed.
It is not then for us to condemn them, though we may recognize their sin as sin and their false belief as false belief. But even if they do us harm we have no right to judge them as anything other than a person for whom Christ died and wills to count righteous and give eternal life.
This is why assassinating friends or enemies with gossip, killing them with hatred and scorn, and stealing from them by laziness, or stinginess is incompatible with being a Christian. We have no merit of our own and no ground that would permit us to judge and condemn another person. The minute we do so we are no longer acting out of faith in Christ. Because faith in Christ is the assurance that we have no righteousness to bring to God whatsoever, only sin, but that God counts us righteous on the basis of Christ’s work only.
Your Father is merciful; He gave His Son not to save you in part, but simply to save you. He does not judge you, because He judged Your sins in His Son. He does not condemn you, but declares you innocent in Christ.
Showing mercy to those who sin against you is a confession in actions that God no longer counts your sins against you. When you are assured that you have been forgiven every sin you have or will commit through the grace of Jesus, the assurance He wishes to give through His Word, You will extend grace to those who repay your kindness with evil. Because this is how the father treated us when we had become a stench in his nostrils.
You cannot outdo God in showing mercy: with the measure you use it will be measured to you again
The peace of God, which passes understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.