He Died For All, That Those Who Live Might No Longer Live For Themselves. Quinquagesima 2017. St. Luke 18:31-43
St. Peter Lutheran Church
St. Luke 18:31-43 (1 Cor. 13)
February 26, 2017
“He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves”
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and he died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves, but for him who for their sake died and was raised. 2 Corinthians 5: 14-15
For whom do you live your life? For yourself? Or for Jesus?
There was a grandmother who had a grandson that she loved. When he was little, his parents would bring him over to her house on Christmas and at his birthday and other important days. The grandmother had very little money, but she always gave him the best present she could on Christmas and his birthday, because she loved him. When he was little, he would open his present and say, “Thank you, grandma!” and give her a hug.
When he got to be a teenager and started to grow up into a man, he didn’t have much time for his grandma. She still saved up to give him gifts at his birthday and Christmas, and his parents still brought him over, even though he usually looked like he wanted to be somewhere else. And when he opened the card with money in it, he still said, “Thanks, grandma,” and gave her a hug. But except for those occasions when he came over, she never heard from him.
Later he went to college and then got a job in another city, far away. His grandmother still loved him, and still sent him gifts. And sometimes he would call her on the phone and say “Thanks, grandma” when he got them. Other times he wouldn’t.
Soon she went into a nursing home. The family had all moved away. She seldom got visitors. Her grandson called very little. He was busy with work and his family. The grandmother didn’t feel any bitterness toward him. She loved him. She never sent him those gifts because she wanted to buy his affection; she just loved him.
When she died, and her grandson came to her funeral, he didn’t have any flash of insight where he realized he had been ungrateful. He went home and went on with his life, never realizing how he had been loved.
Has anyone here ever seen this story happen in real life? I have not only seen it; I have been the grandson—so wrapped up in my own desires and problems that I did not recognize when love was being shown to me. So I did not receive it. I did not respond to it. I appreciated the gifts, but did not receive the love of the person that motivated the gifts. How tragic.
But not only tragic for me. Not only tragic for the people in your life who have treated you or others you know in the same way. Tragic for you as well! Because the way the grandson responded to his grandmother’s love is the way that you—often, maybe always—respond to the love of God.
Today is Quinquagesima, which means “fiftieth”, because it is roughly 50 days before Easter. On this Sunday the Gospel reading records how Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem and how, near the city of Jericho, a blind man heard the crowd that was going with Jesus travelling through. He cried out to Jesus, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” We heard how even though the crowd told him to stop making a scene he kept shouting this, and how Jesus stopped, called the man over to Him, and restored his sight. Then, St. Luke records, “He immediately recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God.”
The formerly blind man immediately begins to follow Jesus. Where is Jesus going, and what will happen to Him there? The formerly blind man doesn’t ask; he doesn’t care. He follows Jesus without worrying about what will come from following him. He loves Jesus and wants to be with Him. He loves Jesus because he has received not only his sight, but Jesus’ love.
You might think, “Of course he followed Jesus after Jesus did such a great miracle for him!” But it’s not obvious at all that he would do this. A chapter before this in Luke’s gospel Jesus healed 10 men with leprosy, and only one came back to give thanks to the Lord.
No. Many times Jesus does wonderful things for people, and they are like the grandson in the story I told you. “Thanks, Jesus,” they say. “Now I can get back to my life—to my job, my family, my friends, my cell phone.” In fact, that is how people normally respond to Jesus’ gifts. Even more often, people don’t even acknowledge that Jesus has given them a gift.
They go on living for themselves.
When it is pointed out to us that this is what we are doing, we frequently get mad. Look, we say, what do you expect from me? Don’t you know I have to pay my bills? Don’t you understand that it is impossible to follow Jesus the way the world is now without being an outcast, without suffering financially? Don’t you understand people are already doing all they can without you demanding more? And are we not supposed to have any enjoyment and pleasure in life? You’re telling me Jesus doesn’t want us to be happy?
What I’m saying is that the first commandment of God is this: You shall have no other gods—which means, We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things. God is always commanding His servants in the Bible to do things that seem impossible to do without risking their happiness, their good name, even their lives. We heard it in the Old Testament reading. The Lord said to Samuel…Fill your horn with oil, and go. I will send you to Jesse the Bethlehemite, for I have provided for myself a king among his sons. And Samuel said, “How can I go? If Saul hears it, he will kill me. And the Lord said…I will show you what you shall do. And you shall anoint for me him whom I declare to you. (1 Sam. 16:1-3) And Samuel goes and does what God commands, because he loves the Lord, and he trusts the Lord even though he doesn’t understand.
Yes, God commands us to love Him, fear Him, trust Him above all things. Those who don’t love God above all things are sinners. They provoke Him to anger, real and serious wrath that will burn for eternity. Those who don’t love and trust God above all things are as wicked in His sight as men who dishonor their bodies with other men, as women who murder their infants in their wombs, as those who defraud and rob and steal. We do not become good in God’s sight because we refrain from the grave sins others do. Lack of love for God in your heart means you love someone or something else more than God. When we devise excuses for this in the Church—and we do it so easily, both me and you—we become just what the world accuses us of being: Pharisees.
No, let us admit the painful reality. Just like the world, we don’t love God above all things. When we look at the blind man, who out of love jumps up and follows Jesus, not caring where Jesus is going or what will happen if he follows Jesus, we see in the mirror of his example that we are the grandson who doesn’t respond to the love of his grandmother.
Jesus has done more for each one of us than He did for that blind man. He healed not only our eyes but our entire body and soul. He joined our bodies of dust and ashes to His resurrected, immortal bodies, and renewed our souls when He baptized us. Yet we often say, “Thanks, Jesus! See you in heaven when I get done living my life for myself.”
When we are challenged on this and asked, “Shouldn’t you follow Jesus? Shouldn’t you run to hear His Word when it is offered? Shouldn’t you gladly serve Him in His Church? Shouldn’t you give Him Your life, and follow Him in giving it up for the people He wants you to serve? Shouldn’t you give Him the firstfruits of your wealth so that others can hear the joyful news of salvation? Shouldn’t you use all your strength to see the gospel of Jesus given to other people?” Then we say, “But Jesus is going to be mocked, treated shamefully, to be spit on, to be flogged and nailed to a cross!”
Even if we agree, to our shame, that we should follow Jesus with joy like this man who had been blind, we find that we cannot do so. We look ahead of Jesus and see the cross and suffering. The fear overwhelms our joy.
And the more we are told that we should follow Jesus, that we should do it out of love and not out of compulsion, the more we find that we can’t. Those who are annoyed to be told this become more annoyed and resistant. Those who agree but are afraid become more afraid and less joyful.
This is the terrible reality of original sin. We are born not loving God, and we cannot will ourselves into loving Him. The love of God must come to us from outside into our hearts, and once it has begun to come in, it must continue, and we cannot make this happen.
The grandson who didn’t respond to his grandmother’s love needed not to force himself to act like he loved her. He needed to receive the love that was already there from his grandma. That is the way it is with us and God.
Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem to be mocked, treated shamefully, spat upon, flogged with whips, crucified. He told his disciples this not to scare them, but to cause them to see when it happened that this was no accident. God foretold it centuries before through the prophets. In eternity He planned it, before the world began. It was His will that Jesus should suffer all these things. It was Jesus’ will also. As He pulled His disciples aside and explained it to them again, now for the third time, He saw it coming clearly. He could have avoided it and said, “We’ll go up to Jerusalem next year.” He didn’t do it. He saw it clearly and unmistakeably, and journeyed toward it.
Those were Jesus’ actions, motivated by His will, by the engine of His heart. What powered that engine was this—love. Love for human beings who do not love Him. Love for His enemies, love for His disciples, love for you, love for me. In love He saw us with a clear eye. He saw that our love of ourselves had to be punished by a just God with shame, mockery, physical suffering, with endless spiritual torment.
So He journeyed to Jerusalem to receive it for us—to be treated with contempt. To be mocked and spit on. To have His flesh opened with stripes from the whips. To have His hands and feet pierced and pinned to the cross and be lifted up from the earth as a curse. To cry out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?” To bring to an end God’s anger against us, His righteous condemnation for the lives we have lived for ourselves, spurning His love. And then on the third day to rise again, God declaring our sin paid for in full, God announcing that Jesus and we are no longer in bondage to our sins. He no longer counts them.
Consider the love behind this gift. Meditate on it.
You are not able to stop living for yourself. But Jesus has blotted out the life you live in the flesh. He lived His life on earth in love toward His Father and in love toward you. For His sake the Father’s anger against your life of self-love has ended. For His sake, the Father counts you and all who believe in Jesus not only as if they lived their life following Jesus, for Jesus, but as if you lived Jesus’ life.
As you receive this love of Jesus, which is given to you when His Gospel is preached, when the Scripture is taught, when you read the Bible at home, when you receive the body and blood of Jesus in the Sacrament—as you receive His love in these ways, His love is born in you. The death He died for all becomes active in your life. Just as the grandson would have loved his grandmother if he had paid attention and received the love that was behind her gifts, so as you hear the word of the forgiveness of your sins through Jesus’ gift of His life for you, His love will enter your heart and do what it did in the man He healed of blindness. It will cause you to forget yourself and follow Jesus, not out of compulsion, but out of love, with joy.
On Wednesday the season of Lent begins, with its call to baptized Christians to renew the fight against our flesh, with its constant desire to live for ourselves. This fight, in which we exercise our will, is necessary. No one can be a Christian without it. We have to daily drown in Jesus’ death, in which we died in Baptism, the desires, thoughts, and impulses of our flesh that want us to live the old way—for ourselves, in sin, with our hearts denying Jesus’ love, closed to it.
We have to fight. But our fighting, our willing to no longer live for ourselves doesn’t create love. Love comes from seeing the love Jesus has in His heart for you—the love revealed in His joyful willingness to go to Jerusalem, to be treated with contempt, to be spit on, whipped, pierced with nails, and forsaken by God.
In that love we are secure, now and forever. That love has destroyed the life you lived for yourself.
The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
Soli Deo Gloria
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.