The Eighth Sunday after Trinity – Pr. Faugstad sermon
Text: St. Matthew 7:15-23
In Christ Jesus, who brought truth from heaven to earth when He took on our flesh and who still imparts the truth through His holy Word, dear fellow redeemed:
The devil is opposed in every way to our merciful God. The devil is “a liar and the father of lies” (Joh. 8:44). God is the Lord of love, full of grace and truth. Both the devil and God are contending for your soul—the devil wants you to have the eternal torment of hell, and God wants you to have the eternal bliss of heaven. This battle is constantly raging inside you as the devil leverages your sinful nature against the new man of faith that God has raised up in you.
How the battle goes inside you—inside your mind and heart—has a lot to do with what happens outside you. Most of what happens inside your mind starts outside you. The mind is exercised by what comes through the five senses: sight, hearing, smell, taste, and touch. What we look at can refresh and cheer the soul or draw us into temptation. What we hear can encourage us to do good or to do evil. What we smell and taste and touch can lead to overindulgence or to contentment and thankfulness toward God.
While the devil can and does tempt us through each of our senses, his temptations often start with our ears. First there is a suggestion: “Hey, come take a look at this.” Or, “Why don’t you give this a try?” Or, “Another drink or two can’t hurt.” A temptation in the ears quickly leads to more temptation. Then you are looking at what you should not look at, doing what you should not do, consuming things that dull your senses and impair your judgment.
When the devil tempted Eve, he started with her ears: “Did God actually say?” (Gen. 3:1), he asked. He wanted to draw her in, lead her along. After she responded innocently enough, the devil acted like an old friend sharing secrets, “God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (v. 5). Eve listened, and then what happened? She saw that the tree was good for food, a delight to the eyes. Perhaps it gave off a sweet smell. She reached out to touch the fruit, pulling it off the tree and bringing it up to her lips to taste it.
The devil slithered into the minds of Adam and Eve through their senses and corrupted their thinking. And that is what he still tries to do to us. Jesus warns us about this in today’s Gospel reading. “Beware of false prophets,” He says. A false prophet is someone who claims to be speaking the truth of God but is really telling lies. Such a prophet may not realize he is leading people astray. He might think that he speaks for God. But if what he says contradicts the Word of God, then he speaks for the devil and not for God.
There are many prophets like these who stand in the pulpits of Christian churches all over the world. If the devil can corrupt the shepherd of a congregation, the sheep are exposed to attacks from every side. Many Christians judge their pastors by how nice or how relatable they are, how easy they are to listen to, and how healthy the church is in attendance and finances.
What Christians should judge their pastor by is whether he is faithful in proclaiming the Word of God. Does he preach and apply God’s law in all its force to drive sinful hearts and minds to repentance? Does he preach the sweet message of forgiveness through the blood of Jesus? Does he bring the means of grace to the hurting, the sick, and the elderly, who are unable to attend church? Is he willing to seek the sheep who have strayed?
This is what Jesus means when He speaks of “the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.” This is the opposite of false prophets, who are “workers of lawlessness,” who teach their hearers to give in to their sinful desires and pursue what God condemns. Jesus says, “You will recognize them by their fruits.” These fruits include the way they conduct themselves. But false prophets could appear outwardly good and kind. The main way to identify false prophets is by what they say, what they teach.
That means you need to know the difference between what is true and what is false, what is from God and what is from the devil. That knowledge is important not only within the walls of the church as you listen to your pastor. That knowledge is required in every part of your life. You need to be able to defend and confess the truth when your co-workers or friends or members of your family repeat lies that they learned from their favorite politicians, singers, or even their teachers.
Here are some popular lies of today: that God did not make each one of us male or female; that you can choose to do whatever you want with your body; that consent is all that is required for sex and not the commitment of marriage; that what God cares the most about is your happiness; that what you’re doing is okay as long as it’s not hurting anyone else. All those are lies, lies that are repeated again and again, so that they are constantly echoing in our ears.
That’s why your ears need to be filled with the truth, with a Steady Diet of God’s Word. You know what will happen if all you eat is junk food. Your body will not get the nourishment it needs, and your health will suffer. For a similar reason, you do not want to put “junk food” in your ears. You want to listen to what is good, what will improve your spiritual health. You want to drown out the lies of the devil by listening to the clear voice of your Good Shepherd.
Many people today believe it is impossible to know the truth. “Truth is relative,” they say. “You have your truth, and I have my truth.” But everything that comes from our own sinful hearts is a lie. Jesus proved that His Word is truth by perfectly carrying out the will of His Father. Not only did He predict the impossible, He also performed it. “I lay down my life for the sheep,” He said. “I lay down my life that I may take it up again…. This charge I have received from my Father” (Joh. 10:15,17,18).
Jesus predicted His death on the cross and His resurrection on the third day, and everything happened just as He promised. He told the truth all along. That’s why you can be sure that your sins are forgiven. He clearly stated the purpose of His suffering and death—it was to save you and all people from their sins and eternal death.
He died for the sins of your eyes, the sins of your ears, the sins of your nose and mouth and hands. All those ways that you let the devil gain a foothold, that you let him into your mind and heart, Jesus washed clean with His holy blood. There is no other way to be saved. There is no other way to enter the kingdom of heaven than by faith in Him. Jesus said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (Joh. 14:6).
Jesus was no wolf in sheep’s clothing. He did not come to gain your confidence so that He might destroy you. He became one with you to redeem you and reconcile you with the Father. He took on your flesh, so that He could do everything required of you by the holy God. He was no “worker of lawlessness”; He was a keeper of the law. He did not let the devil tempt Him to sin through His ears or any of His senses. He perfectly listened to the Word and will of God, and He credits that perfect listening to you.
We know how often we have filled our ears with what is false, misused every part of our bodies, and given in to sin. But because of what Jesus has done, God does not see our sin anymore. He sees us covered by the perfect life of Jesus. False prophets cannot offer more, but they try. They promise the world, but can deliver nothing that lasts. Jesus promises joy and peace that never end.
How does that sound to you? Is it enough? Or are you looking for something more, something that can make your life better now, something that fits better with the world? St. Paul wrote nearly 2,000 years ago, “the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths” (1Ti. 4:3-4).
We pray that God keeps us from such “wolves in sheep’s clothing,” from such “workers of lawlessness,” who offer what our sinful nature wants. These are all disguises of the devil who “prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1Pe. 5:8). The devil’s temptations are resisted by the Word of God. The Holy Spirit works through the Word to reveal our weaknesses, to lead us to repentance, and to strengthen us by the promises of Jesus.
When our ears have a steady diet of God’s Word, then we will know the truth that sets us free (Joh. 8:32). Then we will be able to recognize the fruits of false prophets. Then we will be prepared to enter the kingdom of heaven where sin will never again overcome our senses, and we will see and hear and smell and taste and touch with perfect fullness for all eternity.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.
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(picture from “The Sermon on the Mount” by Rudolf Yelin the Older, 1912)
The Sixth Sunday after Trinity – Pr. Faugstad sermon
Text: St. Matthew 5:20-26
In Christ Jesus, who reconciled us with God and grants us the gift of reconciliation with others, dear fellow redeemed:
When a star athlete, a talented actress, or a top student takes his or her talents to a larger community, it can often be a humbling experience. These individuals were the best in their hometown, but they find that things don’t come so easily on the big stage. They thought they were pretty good, but they learned they were not good enough.
Jesus told the crowd that had gathered around Him while He taught from the mountainside, “unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” The people may have thought they were living a good life before God. They were trying to do what was right. They were at least as good as those around them. They maybe weren’t on the level of the scribes and Pharisees, the people who dedicated their entire lives to learning and doing the Law of God. But they were doing okay.
Jesus sent the clear message that their level of righteousness was insufficient. Even the scribes and Pharisees were not good enough to stand before God. He told the people their righteousness needed to exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. To illustrate His point, Jesus brought up the Fifth Commandment: “You shall not murder.” The people knew that if they committed murder, they would have to go on trial in a human court. But as long as they did not murder, they imagined they had kept the commandment.
“Not so,” said Jesus. “This commandment is not kept by outward actions alone. It must be kept in the heart. I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” The people were completely shocked. They had never heard the Law explained in this way. If what Jesus said was true, then no one was righteous before God. If what He said was true, then they were guilty of sinning against the Fifth Commandment and all the rest of them.
To amplify His teaching, Jesus offered some examples of what keeping the commandment should look like. In this part of His sermon, He switched from addressing the crowd as a whole—using plural pronouns—to speaking to individuals, personally—using the singular pronoun. “This is for each one of you to consider in your own heart,” He was saying, including you and me today.
Jesus spoke about what to do when we have wronged another person in some way. When we remember an offense we have committed in our words or actions, we should seek to be reconciled with the one we offended. Our memory might especially be jogged as we listen to God’s Word. Jesus said when “you are offering your gift at the altar,” when you have come to hear the Word of God and glorify His name, that is when the memory of an offense may come to mind. The Holy Spirit works through the Word to convict us of our sins, which He is also doing today.
When our sins are not illuminated by the bright light of God’s Word, it is easy to think we are doing pretty well, like the people who first listened to Jesus so many years ago. The people in our community who have rejected the regular hearing and learning of the Word generally have the opinion about themselves that they are “good people.” They don’t need some preacher telling them what he thinks about God or about them.
Apart from God’s Word, it is also easy for us to justify the wrong things we have done or said or thought. “Well maybe I could have treated him better, but he treated me much worse!” “She doesn’t deserve Christian love and compassion after what she has done!” “I might have lost my temper and said some mean things, but he needed to hear it!” “I have every right to be angry with the way she hurt me!”
But God’s Law does not teach us to mistreat others if they have mistreated us. God’s Law teaches us to “[l]ove [our] enemies and pray for those who persecute [us]” (Mat. 5:44). Jesus says that if you “remember that your brother has something—anything—against you,” go and “be reconciled to your brother.” This thought is overwhelming. We have sinned against so many people in so many ways. How could we ever start to make amends with them all?
The place to start is with the person and situation that God has often brought to your mind—maybe someone you are thinking about right now. Very likely, your conscience has been troubled about how you treated them, but you don’t know how to fix what was broken. You tell yourself that maybe that person has forgotten what you said or doesn’t think it was a big deal. Or you worry that by admitting your wrongs to them, they will not admit the wrongs they did which hurt you. Or you are not sure they will even hear you out, and you are nervous about how they will respond.
Apologizing to someone for a sin you have committed is a hard thing, one of the hardest things to do. It is hard because apologizing makes you vulnerable. It puts your sin out in the open. It puts you at the mercy of another. And you cannot control how the other will respond. You cannot make them forgive you or apologize for their own hurtful words and actions.
So why would you ever want to go through with it? Why not just ignore the conflict in your conscience, try to forget what you have done, bury it deep? Because then you have harmed not only your neighbor, but you do tremendous harm to yourself, including spiritual harm. Jesus indicates the damage that comes if you refuse to be reconciled. He says that if you fail to “[c]ome to terms quickly with your accuser,” you will be judged and “put in prison.” And He adds that “you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.”
Insisting on our own righteousness even when we have done wrong, and ignoring the harm we have done to another, is a recipe for losing our faith. And that leads to the eternal prison of hell. We cannot trust our own righteousness and Jesus’ righteousness. We cannot justify our own words and actions and believe we are justified by grace. The righteousness that counts before God cannot come from ourselves. It has to come from outside of us.
Just before today’s reading, Jesus told the crowd that He had not come “to abolish the Law or the Prophets,” but “to fulfill them” (Mat. 5:17). He did not come to do away with the Law or to soften its impact. He sharpened its point, so that none could think on the basis of God’s Law that they are right with God. We feel the sharp point of the Law today. Our hearts are pierced as we think about how we have let selfishness and pride get in the way of love for our neighbors.
Our sin and guilt are why the Son of God came down from heaven and was made man in Mary’s womb. He came to fulfill all righteousness for us, to keep the holy Law of God to the smallest detail. His righteousness far exceeded the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees. He never did an unkind deed, spoke an unloving word, or had a sinful thought toward any of the people around Him, not even those who wanted to destroy Him.
He went to the cross to pay for all their sins and yours and mine. He accepted the curse of the Law for us, even though He had not done anything to deserve it. He willingly took our punishment, so that we would be reconciled to God the Father. St. Paul writes that “in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them…. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2Co. 5:19,21).
We are at peace with God because Jesus fulfilled the Law for us and shed His holy blood on the cross to redeem us. Jesus was the ultimate Peacemaker. Who else could have brought together the sinful human race and the perfect God? Now Jesus wants us to be the same kind of peacemakers in our communities, workplaces, and in our homes. He doesn’t ask us to make peace by our own skills of compromise and negotiation. He expects us to extend the peace to others that He shares with us.
You may not see how you can reconcile with someone who has caused you deep pain. But Jesus can do it; it is not impossible for Him. He reconciled you with God, even though you had broken His Law time and time again. And He can reconcile you with a brother or sister in Christ, a sinner just like you.
When He pours His peace and forgiveness into you through His Word and Sacraments, it spills over into your relationships with others. Acknowledging your sins takes courage, and He will give you that courage. Humbling yourself to apologize takes strength, and He will give you that strength. God forgives all your sins, and as He works through your humble words of repentance, He can move the heart of your friend to forgive you too.
At the beginning of His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed Are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God” (Mat. 5:9). All of you are “sons of God” through faith in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:26). That means you are God’s peacemakers on this earth. As you extend His peace and seek reconciliation with others, you most certainly will be blessed, as Jesus promises.
Even if others do not return the peace to you that you extend to them, you can go forward with a clear conscience. You “have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). His righteous life counts for you and all sinners and is the reason why you will enter the kingdom of heaven.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.
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(picture from “The Sermon of the Beatitudes” by James Tissot, 1836-1902)
The Fifth Sunday after Trinity – Pr. Faugstad sermon
Text: St. Luke 5:1-11
In Christ Jesus, who by the power of His Word “is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think” (Eph. 3:20), dear fellow redeemed:
About the middle of this past week when I was attending our church camp with the youth, Kristin asked me if my time there seemed like work or like a getaway. As much as I enjoy camp—and we do have a good time—I told her that we pastors stay very busy with teaching, preaching, and chaperoning. And it’s not always clear what effect our efforts have. Do the campers leave camp with a clearer understanding of Law and Gospel? Have they grown in their faith? Has their love for God and for each other increased? Those things are difficult to measure.
We live in a results-driven society where everything gets measured. The success of a sports franchise is determined by how many titles it has won. Businesses are constantly doing cost and profit analyses to find their way in the market. Individuals are judged by their grades and their personal accomplishments. Even churches fall into the “results” trap and measure the effectiveness of their mission by their attendance totals or by how significant their financial holdings are.
Judged by this kind of standard, we would conclude that Simon, James, and John were not the greatest fishermen. They worked all through the night and didn’t catch a thing. What was the problem? Were their methods faulty? Had they chosen the wrong parts of the lake? Did they try at the wrong time? What exactly was keeping them from success?
But the message of today’s Gospel is not a tutorial from Jesus about how to maximize one’s success at fishing or anything else. The message is that no matter what skill and effort we might apply in our work, no matter what plans we make and what success we have had in the past, we cannot accomplish anything good apart from God’s mercy and the blessing of His Word.
The fishermen hadn’t done anything wrong in their approach to catching fish. They had been fishing for a long time, probably since they were kids. They wouldn’t stay up all night fishing unless they felt confident that the fish they would catch would outweigh the lack of sleep. They couldn’t explain why their nets came up empty. For whatever reason, the fish just weren’t there. They must have felt frustrated as they cleaned their nets on the shore. And tired.
But then something happened to take their attention away from their troubles. A great crowd had gathered on the lake shore. The people were listening to Jesus, that prophet from Nazareth, whom John the Baptizer identified as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Joh. 1:29). Everyone wanted to hear Jesus and get a good look at Him, so they pressed toward Him. It was similar to how people act around a famous person today, all crowding in to get a picture or an autograph.
Jesus decided that a change was needed, so the people could focus on His Word and not on how close they could get to Him. He saw fishing boats on the shore and asked Simon to take Him out a little ways. From His place in the boat, He continued teaching with Simon sitting there listening. When He was done speaking, He told Simon to row to a deeper part of the lake and let down his nets for a catch.
Conventional wisdom said that if the fish couldn’t be caught the previous night, they certainly couldn’t be caught that day. Simon said to Jesus, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing!” But he had been listening to what Jesus was saying that morning. He recognized that Jesus was a prophet of some sort. “[A]t Your word I will let down the nets,” he said.
He was shocked to see the fish swarming, the nets breaking, and the boats filling. Simon cast out the nets just as he had the night before. The method hadn’t changed. But now he had an abundance of fish whereas before he had none. What was the difference? The difference was the Word of Jesus. Jesus spoke the Word, and He gave the increase. Jesus gave success to Simon. Jesus put fish in the boats.
This should teach us to put our trust in the Lord’s Word. Look at what His Word accomplished! It moved the disciples to action even after their previous efforts had failed. It filled the nets that before had come up empty. And it caused them to leave behind their historic haul of fish to follow Jesus. His Word continues to do amazing things like these each and every day. The problem is that we don’t recognize the hand God has in supplying our daily needs and giving us success.
We imagine that our work succeeds because of how gifted we are and because of how hard we try. “Look at what I have accomplished,” we think. “Look at what my hands have built.” But if we take all the glory for our successes, don’t we deserve all the blame for our failures? That’s not often how it goes. We are glad to receive praise for the good things, but we quickly pass the blame for the bad things.
Or maybe we do see our failure in earthly things as proof that we are no good. We imagine that God frowns on us and that He must be punishing us. We approach our work with a defeatist attitude. “Why should I even try? It isn’t going to work anyway. If it failed once, it will certainly fail again.”
Both of those perspectives are sinful—the idea that everything good we have is a result of our efforts, and the idea that we’re better off not trying anymore when we have failed. Simon was right to fall down before Jesus and acknowledge his sins. Each of us should do the same. We should recognize and acknowledge every day that we are sinners.
When our prideful or despairing hearts have been pierced by the Law of God, the difference between His holiness and our sinfulness couldn’t be more obvious. We see that even our best moments in life did not put us close to the glory of God. The thought that we could ever be good enough to get ourselves to heaven is an outright lie of the devil, and it destroys saving faith.
Simon had just pulled in the greatest catch of fish that he had ever seen, but when he realized what had happened, his eyes shifted to Jesus. And when he saw Jesus, he felt as though all his sins were laid bare before the almighty God. He wanted to hide. “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord,” he said. “I am not worthy to be in Your presence. I am not worthy to receive Your gifts.”
Simon was right about that. But Jesus did not leave him. He said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” Simon did not have to fear the wrath of God. Jesus had come to save sinners. He had come to atone for Simon’s sins and to give Simon special work—the work of preaching the Word of Jesus. Jesus’ Word which had filled Simon’s nets with fish would also fill God’s nets with repentant believers.
This is a net you want to be caught in, and which you are in through the saving Word. You were lost in the darkness, living without hope or a purpose like so many in the world today. And God drew you to Himself with the net of His Word. He called you out of darkness. He brought you forgiveness and life in the calm waters of Baptism. He claimed you as His own, and He still claims you.
But as you look back through your life, you know how much time you have wasted in pursuing your own plans. You know how prideful you have been when you have done well, and how you have failed to give glory to God for your success. And you know how easily you have given up when everything didn’t work out just the way you wanted. What kind of servant are you in the Lord’s kingdom? Why should He look kindly upon you? You can understand why Simon said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
But Jesus says, “Do not be afraid; I forgive you all your sins. I died and rose again for you. I will not depart from you; I will never leave you nor forsake you.” His Word of grace restores you. It lifts you out of your sin and despair. It shifts your focus from the gifts to the Giver, from your successes to your Savior, from the nets full of blessings to the One who fills them.
And when you recognize that The Word of God Gives the Increase, then you are ready for the work He has called you to do. You are ready to give your best to your family and your employer, knowing that God has called you to these vocations and will bless your efforts. You are ready to work humbly, knowing that you do not deserve either the opportunities you have or the success.
All the good things you have in this life and in the life to come are from the powerful Word of God. The Word He has spoken makes the sun shine, the rain fall, and the plants grow. His Word brought about your existence through the union of your parents and keeps you going. His Word gives life all around the world. Hebrews 1 says that the Son of God “upholds the universe by the word of his power” (v. 3). And His Word brought the light of faith to your heart and makes your faith strong.
The Word of God can do what we consider impossible. It works even when the conditions don’t seem right and conventional wisdom says it will fall flat. The Word changes hearts. It comforts consciences. It is always effective. That means as the Word continues to be in your ears, in your mind, and in your heart, God will bring blessings in all that you do.
These blessings are not measurable according to the standards of the world. God’s Word may not appear to make much difference. But God is constantly at work through His Word. He promises that His Word will not return to Him empty, and that He will continue to give us blessing upon blessing each and every day.
Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.
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(picture of the miraculous catch of fish by Raphael, 1515)
The Second Sunday after Trinity – Pr. Faugstad sermon
Text: St. Luke 14:16-24
In Christ Jesus, who invites you to His great feast not just once in your life but every single day, so that you are continuously nourished and strengthened in Him, dear fellow redeemed:
The setting for Jesus’ parable was a dinner table. A ruler of the Pharisees had invited Jesus to a meal one Sabbath day. It seems like a generous invitation, but it was actually because the Pharisees wanted to catch Jesus saying or doing something that contradicted the Law of God. The evangelist Luke says that “they were watching him carefully” (14:1). What they did not realize is that Jesus was watching them carefully. In fact, He saw to the very bottom of their hearts. He spoke His parable to open their eyes to their unbelief and create faith in their hearts.
But His parable was not for them only; it is also for us and for all who hear the words of Jesus. He told about a great banquet that should have been anticipated by all. But when the time came for the banquet, the invited guests had excuses for why they couldn’t come. This was a description of the Jewish leaders who claimed to be waiting for a Messiah. But when He came, they opposed Him. They closed their ears to His convicting words of Law, and so they were not prepared to hear His beautiful words of promise.
When the Jewish leaders would not come, Jesus turned His attention to “the poor and crippled and blind and lame”—the outcasts like the Jewish tax collectors, public sinners, and the demon-possessed. Many of them gladly heard the Word of Jesus, repented of their sins, and put their trust in Him. Still there was room in the Master’s banquet hall, so servants were sent out to “the highways and hedges” looking for more. This refers to the Gentiles, the people outside the city, which also includes you and me today.
What a surprise for the outsiders to hear the servants say, “Come, for everything is now ready!” “There must be some mistake; how could we be invited to the banquet of someone we don’t even know?” But that’s how the Gospel works. We were called by the Holy Spirit to the Master’s feast, not because we were old friends and not because we had proven ourselves worthy of an invitation. We didn’t know someone on the inside to let us in. We didn’t even know there was a great feast going on until God made it known to us.
The call of the Gospel is a free gift. A couple weeks ago, we heard Jesus’ words to Nicodemus about the work of the Holy Spirit. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God…. The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (Joh. 3:5,8). We enter the kingdom of God because He wills it. We do not decide to enter His kingdom—He decides.
But we cannot enter His kingdom as we are. No guest at the Master’s feast can come in the rags of his own righteousness. The way the Master cleanses us of our filth and covers us in holiness is through the life-giving waters of Baptism. “[A]ccording to his own mercy,” He saved us, “by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Ti. 3:5-6). The robes of Jesus’ holiness were placed over us in Baptism, and we started to “walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4).
Your Baptism put you on the Master’s guest list. You are invited to His great banquet. The banquet is the continued hearing of His Word and partaking of His Sacraments. Jesus said disciples are made for Him out of the nations by baptizing and teaching them (Mat. 28:19-20). Baptism happens once and lasts a lifetime. But the teaching of His Word is ongoing. It continues to guide sinners to repentance and keep them in the grace of their Baptism until their time here comes to an end.
Jesus your Savior calls you to hear His Word and meditate on it every day. Some of you might have an hour each day that you could dedicate to reading the Bible. Others might only have five minutes in the morning and evening to read a devotion and pray. The point is to take your seat at the Master’s table as often as you can and receive the rich food that only He can give. His Word serves up forgiveness for your sin and grace to free you from your guilt. His Word delivers peace to your heart and strength to your soul. It prepares you for the work God has given you to do in your home, workplace, and community.
The work you do in those vocations is important work. There was nothing wrong with the man in the parable wanting to see a field he had bought, or another man wanting to inspect his oxen, or another man giving attention to his new bride. The problem was that they chose to do those things instead of attending the Master’s feast. There is nothing wrong with putting in hours at work, expanding your business, and focusing on your family. The problem is when these things take the place of God’s Word and are given priority over God’s Word.
When one of the Pharisees asked Jesus to give “the great commandment in the law,” Jesus quoted from the book of Deuteronomy (6:5): “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Mat. 22:37). God doesn’t ask you to love Him with half your heart, a quarter of your soul, or a tenth of your mind. He says your devotion to Him should be total, should be perfect. All of your focus, all of your being, all of your days should be directed toward learning His Word and doing His will.
It’s easy to come up with reasons why that just isn’t possible. If you “lived by the letter,” how could you get along with anyone else? Wouldn’t they think that you think you are better than them? And besides, you pay more attention to God’s Word than just about everyone else you know. You figure you are in pretty good shape. You might not always attend the Master’s feast—and certainly not every day—, but you know about it. You know God’s Word is there when you need it.
One of the important questions to ask is whether Christianity fits into your life, or whether your life fits into Christianity. What I mean is: do you look at your Baptism into Christ and His work in your life through the Word as just one piece of the pie? And home life is another piece, and work is another piece, and hobbies and leisure time and so on are other pieces? Or is Christ in all of it?
That’s the way St. Paul talked. “For you have died,” he said, “and your life is hidden with Christ in God” (Col. 3:3). Your life was joined to your Savior in Baptism. That is where you died and where you rose again with Him. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,” wrote Paul, “he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2Co. 5:17). In another place he said that we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).
These passages say that your life is not about your purpose, not about your plans. Your life is about the Lord’s purpose and His plans. Your life is lived in Him and through Him. But then why does our Master have to keep inviting us to His feast? It is because our sinful nature is still active, and our sinful nature is great at making excuses. The old Adam has all sorts of reasons why we don’t have time for God’s Word. And the more we set aside the Word, the easier it gets to set aside the Word.
Jesus did not suffer from these same weaknesses. He never set aside the Word of His Father. He listened to it perfectly and did everything God commanded. And when His suffering began to intensify in the Garden of Gethsemane, He did not make excuses why He had to be somewhere else. He said to His heavenly Father, “not my will, but yours, be done” (Luk. 22:42).
Because Jesus carried out His Father’s will, you have forgiveness for your sinful excuses. Jesus went to the cross and paid for all of your transgressions against God—your sins of not making His Word a priority in your home, your sins of not sharing the hope you have in Christ with your friends and co-workers, your sins of doing what you want instead of what God wants.
Despite your many sins, the Master still sends His servants to say, “Come, for everything is now ready.” I am one of those servants, but the message is for me too. The feast of salvation is prepared for all of us sinners. The table is set right now with God’s grace-filled Word and life-giving Sacraments. His Word is ready for you every day. He wants you always to be a guest His table. He wants you to enjoy His feast. He wants by this rich food to prepare you for the eternal feasting in heaven.
The invitation making its way to you is no mistake. Jesus intends for you to have His gifts. Now is no time for distractions and excuses. Now is the time for repentance, for a humble trust in His Word, and for the desire to grow in faith and in a godly life. Now is the time to eat from the Bread of Life and drink from the living waters of God. Now is the time to “taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him!” (Psa. 34:8).
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(woodcut of the poor, the blind, and the lame being invited to the banquet from the 1880 edition of The Story of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation)
The Festival of Pentecost – Pr. Faugstad exordium & sermon
It was an astonishing event. First a sound from heaven “like a mighty rushing wind” filled the inside of the house where the disciples were. Then tongues of fire rested on each one of them. Then these common men—many of them Galilean fisherman—could instantly speak in other languages. The Holy Spirit had come just as Jesus had promised.
How could anyone deny the powerful working of God? How could anyone question His presence? How could anyone ignore the inspired message that came from the mouths of the disciples? But some did. They mocked the disciples and said, “They are filled with new wine” (Act. 2:13). “They are drunk!” they said. “Nothing to see here!”
Did the scoffers not know the difference between drunkenness and clear preaching? A drunk man is laughed at. A serious man speaking in a language he isn’t supposed to know is listened to. But no matter how true, no matter how compelling, no matter how wonderful their message was, the sinful nature of their opponents pushed against it.
That’s how all of us are by nature. We are skeptical about the things of God. We want everything to fit the way that we think. We want everything to make sense to our rational minds. That was not possible on Pentecost. Things were happening that could not be explained. God the Holy Spirit had been poured out, and by the end of the day against all odds, thousands of Jewish people heard the disciples’ preaching and believed it.
This shows us how the Holy Spirit is able to overcome our sinful stubbornness. He is able to pierce our sin-hardened hearts, and He does it through the Word of God. We need Him to keep working in us through the Word, so that we ignore our know-it-all nature and put our only trust in the only God—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
We now rise to sing our festival hymn—a prayer for the Holy Spirit’s continued blessing—hymn #399, “O Light of God’s Most Wondrous Love”:
O Light of God’s most wondrous love,
Who dost our darkness brighten,
Shed on Thy Church from heav’n above,
Our eye of faith enlighten!
As in Thy light we gather here,
Show us that Christ’s own promise clear
Is Yea and Amen ever.
O risen and ascended Lord,
We wait fulfillment of Thy Word;
O bless us with Thy favor!
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Text: St. John 14:23-31
In Christ Jesus, who made peace between us and God by shedding His precious blood, and who imparts that peace to us by the power of the Holy Spirit, dear fellow redeemed:
What troubles you today? Is it a medical issue or some persistent aches and pains? Is it concerns about family members or friends? Is it the pressure of work that needs to get done? Is it the rising price of gas and food? Or maybe your troubles are deeper: a guilty conscience, a burden of grief, a sense of worthlessness.
“Let not your heart be troubled,” says Jesus in today’s reading. He said it first to His disciples the night before His death. It is clear that the weight of the moment and of Jesus’ predictions did trouble them. So Jesus spoke many comforting words to them (Joh. 14, ESV):
- “I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also” (v. 3).
- “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it” (v. 14).
- “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever” (v. 16).
- “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you” (v. 18).
- “Because I live, you also will live” (v. 19).
Despite all these comforting words, Jesus still saw the turmoil in the hearts of His dear friends. They could not see His plan clearly yet, but they would. In time, they would understand why Jesus had to suffer and die. They would understand the significance of His resurrection and His ascension to the right hand of God the Father. They would understand these things because of the work of “the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father [would] send in [Jesus’] name.”
The events of Pentecost were Jesus’ promise kept. God the Father and God the Son did send out God the Holy Spirit, and the change in Jesus’ disciples was immediate. Not only were they enabled to speak in languages which earlier that day had been foreign to them. But now they stepped forward boldly preaching the death and resurrection of Jesus in the same city where He had been arrested and crucified fifty-two days before.
Peter called out to the crowds, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Act. 2:38). About three thousand souls were baptized that day. Countless more have been baptized since then, including you. That means you also have received “the gift of the Holy Spirit” that Peter talked about.
But how do you know you have the Holy Spirit? Could it be that He has come and gone since the day of your Baptism? You don’t hear “a sound like a mighty rushing wind” to show He is near. You can’t feel His presence inside you. As far as I know, you can’t speak in tongues like the apostles did. And besides all that, your heart is still often troubled. Would that be the case if the Holy Spirit were with you?
The tremendous outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost did not mean that the apostles’ troubles were all over. The Christian congregation in Jerusalem had a good beginning, but it wasn’t long before persecution set in at the instigation of a young man named Saul. Christians were arrested and thrown in jail. Some of them were killed. Many were displaced from their homes and fled to other cities and towns.
And the Holy Spirit was with them through it all. We know this because they had the Gospel. They had the message of what Jesus did to save sinners, and they rejoiced in it even as they were chased from their homes. They held onto the Word of Jesus as their most valuable possession. They paid attention to it. They kept it close. That’s what the word “keep” means when Jesus said, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.”
Clinging to the pure Word of God, the Christians could be certain they had God Himself. This is still true. You can know God is with you as long as you are connected to His Word and hear and learn it with a humble faith. Through the Word, the Holy Spirit teaches you all things. He brings to your remembrance the comforting things Jesus said. And He gives you the gift that Jesus left behind when He ascended into heaven. He gives you peace.
But it is not peace like the world gives, says Jesus. The world offers peace through entertainment and pleasures—“Connect yourself to this thing, and you can escape the stresses of life for a while.” Or it offers peace through medication or other substances—“Take this pill, drink this down, and you will be able to cope.” The peace the world has can only be a temporary peace. The world is focused entirely on symptoms and not the underlying condition.
Peace is not possible where sin goes undiagnosed. The poison of sin inside us and around us in the world is the reason that peace seems so elusive. We want to escape our troubles, but we can’t. We want to feel better, but we don’t. In order to open our hearts to the peace of God, the Holy Spirit must expose those things within us that stand in the way of peace.
Our pride stands in the way of peace—refusing to forgive others who have sinned against us. Our bitterness stands in the way of peace—blaming everyone else for the troubles in our life. Our doubt stands in the way of peace—wondering if God’s Word really is trustworthy. These sinful thoughts are encouraged and magnified by the devil. He wants us to be discontent and cowardly. He wants to keep us from true and lasting peace.
The Holy Spirit counters this diabolical work. The Holy Spirit leads us to the Prince of Peace, the One who made peace between us and the mighty God. The peace He made is an everlasting peace, not a temporary one. It doesn’t just treat the symptoms of our spiritual condition; it gets to the very root of it. Jesus made peace by fulfilling each and every demand of God’s holy Law and by offering Himself as a perfect sacrifice for the sins of the whole world.
The shedding of His precious blood made peace with God. The peace that Jesus won on the cross means that heaven is open to you and the gates of hell are closed to you forever. The peace He won means that all your sins—no matter what they might be—are forgiven before God. Your pride is forgiven. Your bitterness and anger are forgiven. Your doubts and your weak faith are forgiven.
But your sins and my sins are so many. Can it really be true? You know it is true because God says it is. Whenever this becomes unclear to you, whenever you forget, the Holy Spirit comes powerfully through the Word to remind you. He comes to apply this peace to your heart. He works the peace of God within you each time you hear His Word and partake of His Sacraments.
And as He brings you “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Phi. 4:7), you will find that the troubles in the world, the troubles at work, even the troubles in your home are not as severe as they seemed. None of these troubles is too much for God. None of them is beyond His help. Like the disciples, you may struggle for a time wondering how God can possibly turn your troubles into good. But the sun always chases away the darkness. The Lord’s mercies “are new every morning” (Lam. 3:23).
The holy God loves you. He is committed to your care. He knows what troubles you and promises to save you from it. Jesus did not leave His disciples to fend for themselves. As He did for them, so He does for you. He sends you the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit brings peace.
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(picture is stained glass at Saude Lutheran Church)
The Sunday after the Ascension – Vicar Colin Anderson sermon
Text: St. John 15:26-16:4
In Christ Jesus, dear fellow redeemed:
Most of us can think of a time when someone helped us, perhaps even at a time when we felt we needed it most. It might have been someone lending a hand to help bring in your groceries or offering an arm to help you cross the street or out of a chair. There are also times when people rally together after a natural disaster hits their community, such as a tornado or hurricane. Or instances where a person goes missing and people come together in a joint effort to search for them. We saw this call to action in our country after the attacks on 9/11 and we see it throughout history when nation attacks nation in War.
In our text today Jesus warned the disciples of a different kind of warfare, telling them that their lives were going to get harder. He said He would have to leave the disciples and when He goes people were going to hate them and even try to do them harm. The warfare they were about to face would be both physical and spiritual.
Jesus was going to die a brutal death on Good Friday at the hands of the Jews and then on Sunday He would rise from the dead. For the next forty days on earth, Jesus would appear to His disciples at least nine times.
At the end of these forty days Jesus visibly ascended in body before His disciples to the right hand of power, ruling over His kingdom for all eternity. Lifting off the ground and rising up high above the disciples, He would disappear behind the clouds never to be seen again until He returns on the last day.
The disciples would try and remember the words of their Lord. They would remember that their lives are going to become worse and now, it appears, as if Jesus leaves them alone to face this persecution. But, Jesus taught His disciples and us that His departure is also good for them. He said to them, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you. (John 16:7) Jesus clearly tells them they will need a helper and that they will receive one from Him.
Just as Jesus faced opposition and persecution in His life now His followers will face the same. On their own the disciples would not be able to withstand the hardships ahead of them, and Jesus knew this. Jesus promised to send His helper to equip the disciples with the tools to proclaim this truth, first around Jerusalem and then to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8) It is why he gave them, and us, the Holy Spirit.
At first it appears like this ‘helper’ Jesus speaks of isn’t all that helpful. Jesus warns, “Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God.” (John 16:2) The Spirit of truth coming at Pentecost is offensive to the world because He comes to bear witness to the truth of Jesus Christ. (John 16:13)
It is becoming more and more prevalent in our society to look for help and comfort in the things of this world rather than in God’s Word. This isn’t surprising considering we rely so heavily on what we can see, feel, touch and smell for our comfort. Lately I’ve been hearing people use the statement, ‘as long as they feel better, that’s all that matters.’ Is receiving help based on lies and uncertainty good for us and really all that matters? Should we really promote “feeling better” based on lies and deception?
There are plenty of things that could make us feel better for a time, but are ultimately terrible for us. They may bring us temporary physical relief, but can they bring comfort to our soul? Every day people turn to vices, addictions, habits and pleasures to help the hurt and pain they are feeling inside. But, all of these do tremendous damage to their soul and God warns us to stay away from them for our own good.
These poisonous thoughts and beliefs are everywhere and Jesus’ Words are a warning to us as much as they were for His disciples. Being told you are a sinner is hard to hear and many people, even so called Christians, don’t want to hear it. Those who refuse to hear the truth will claim you are intolerant and closed-minded if you try to point towards their sin and speak the truth in love.
These are who Jesus refers to when He said, they will think they are doing service to God; when they cast you out and make up their own truth claiming it’s for God’s Kingdom. (John 16:2) You can’t predict what you will face in your life, but you can be certain that affliction and persecution will come.
We too can find ourselves deceived by this way of thinking. When we are in need of help, do we always look to Jesus and His Word first? Many times we look for help and comfort apart from Him, wanting something to make us feel good, wanting something to numb the bad feelings we have. St. Paul urges us, to “watch out for these deceptive human philosophies of the world that are not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8) The devil and this world are always trying to entice you away from the truth by their deceptive teachings.
Thankfully the Holy Spirit has worked repentance in our heart through the Law and worked faith in our heart through the Gospel. He has shown us the truth about ourselves and the truth about our Savior. Jesus said, “but the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26) He reminds us that all of this is found in the words Jesus said. In His Word the Holy Spirit comes to us and helps us. In His Word that He bears witness to Christ and to the truth of all that He has done for us.
In the same way the Father sent Jesus purely as a gift so also is the helper sent by His Son. He is sent to pierce our ugly cold hearts and to turn them into beautiful warm hearts. The Spirit of truth does not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He speaks. (John 16:13) This is the truth the Holy Spirit taught the disciples and what He still teaches you today.
This is what He helps you to remember, especially when you are deeply burdened by your sins and failures. (John 16:4) He comforts you by coming to you through His Word and Sacraments and declaring only what He has been given to declare. He proceeds from the Father and the Son. He brings the gifts of the Father, which were obtained for you by the Son.
The help the world offers usually makes you feel good inside, but that is not always the case for the Holy Spirit. You’ll hear our opponents ask, ‘if you can’t feel Him how do you know He is there?’ You know He is here because He bears witness to the truth grounded in Jesus, the Son of God. Wherever God’s Word is taught in truth and purity, there is the Holy Spirit.
Emotions are deceptive; they are good and bad, feeling high one day and low the next even moment to moment. Feeling good isn’t always what we need and this is why our helper doesn’t promise to make us feel good. Jesus came to first and foremost address your heart and soul. The physical hurt and pain of this life matters to Him, but the cleansing of your soul matters far more. He came to take away your sin in order to hand you salvation and this goes deeper than feelings and emotions.
Jesus Sends You the Greatest Helper. He is the greatest helper because He bears witness about Jesus the Son of God who came to save you! He sends the Holy Spirit to speak about Him, not to make you feel warm and fuzzy inside, but instead to shape you and refine you through the means of God’s grace. He uses the visible means of bread and wine to bring the invisible forgiveness, mercy and life found only in Jesus given and shed body and blood.
He brings you the true body and blood of your Lord even though you can’t see them. He uses earthly elements to bring you heavenly gifts and blessings. Though not always seen or felt, the forgiveness and redemption won by Jesus is truly bestowed on each of you through the power of the Holy Spirit and this is far greater than feeling good because God’s promises are certain and are never deceiving.
The Holy Spirit is your helper; He picks you up and puts the strength of His power in you even as you feel like you can’t do it. He helps you depend on Jesus and His Word alone. Jesus said all of these things to you to keep you from falling away and it is with the help of the Holy Spirit that you can persevere. (John 16:1) He gives you the strength to speak up against false doctrine and motivates you to speak about the hope you have in Christ Jesus.
He is at work in you throughout your life. Working through your hardships and trials always turning you back to Jesus for your comfort. The process isn’t always pleasant and at times it is very hard, but through hardship the Holy Spirit is making you wiser, stronger, courageous and more humble always relying on Jesus.
The forgiveness won by Jesus Christ and brought you by the Holy Spirit forgives you of all the times you looked for help in other things and the things of this world. Jesus’ life and death brought to you by the Helper is the greatest help there is. It isn’t a false hope that only makes you feel better for a little while, it is a true hope that makes you feel better forever. He has come to bring comfort and relief for the burdens of your soul. Your soul rests in the truth that God sees you cleansed in the blood of Jesus.
The Helper brings the free gifts of heaven to earth, from our precious Savior to us unworthy sinners. He was sent by Jesus to bring you righteousness and salvation. He brings you everything you need for this life and for the life to come in heaven.
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(picture from stained glass at Saude Lutheran Church)
The Fifth Sunday of Easter & Saude Confirmation – Pr. Faugstad sermon
Text: St. John 16:5-15
In Christ Jesus, who brought the light of life into this dark world, who became our sin so that we might become the righteousness of God, who has called us to be His disciples and set us free by the truth of His Word, dear fellow redeemed [and especially you, Ethan, Reese, and Marit on your Confirmation Day]:
What Jesus said in today’s reading was difficult for the disciples to understand. It was difficult for them because Jesus was speaking about things that would happen in the future. How could it ever be good for Jesus to “go away”? How could that be to their “advantage”? Hearing Jesus’ words filled their hearts with sorrow.
It has the opposite effect on us. Jesus’ words fill us with joy because we know what He accomplished. We know what happened after He talked with His disciples. Jesus gave Himself over that night to those who opposed Him, and by the next morning He let Himself be nailed to a Roman cross. This was for our redemption! It was to purchase and win us from our sins by suffering and dying in our place. And then on the third day—Easter Sunday—He rose from the dead.
He appeared to His disciples many times over the next forty days and then ascended into heaven. Ten days after that, He poured out the Holy Spirit on Pentecost. It was to the disciples’ advantage that Jesus go away because this would signal that His work to save sinners was complete. Only after His work was complete would “the Helper”—the Holy Spirit—come to apply His saving work to sinners.
So the work of God the Holy Spirit is based on the work of God the Son, which is based on the work of God the Father. God the Father sent His only-begotten Son to redeem the world. God’s Son perfectly fulfilled the work His Father gave Him to do. And God the Holy Spirit dispenses the benefits of Jesus’ work to you today.
But not all people acknowledge the work of God’s Son to save sinners. In fact none of us by nature recognizes or appreciates what Jesus did on our behalf. This is why the Holy Spirit must “convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment.”
The Holy Spirit “will convict the world concerning sin,” says Jesus, “because they do not believe in Me.” The chief sin in God the Father’s eyes is not believing in the Son He has sent, not believing that He did what so many eyewitnesses report that He did. God promised to send His Son to save the world and kept His promise. Jesus carried out the work His Father gave Him to do and then returned in glory to His Father.
But the world and sometimes our own hearts say, “No big deal. I’m fine on my own without religion, without church, without God. I’ll live by my own code. I’ll make my own decisions.” This self-centered approach is why “Black Friday” gets far more attention than “Good Friday”; why the family get-togethers and egg hunts of Easter are more special than the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.
But what do our things get us? Pleasure and enjoyment… until these precious things break. What does self-made spirituality get us? Nothing but uncertainty, emptiness, and ongoing guilt. What do our best efforts result in? Maybe praise from the world for a time, but no matter how much we accomplish, death still comes. The Holy Spirit through the Law shows us how empty our pursuits and plans are without Jesus. He is the only one who can save us and give our life true purpose.
The Holy Spirit also convicts the world “concerning righteousness.” In other words, the Holy Spirit points out the lack of righteousness among us. This is hard for us to accept. In general, we like to think of ourselves as “good” people. We work hard at our jobs. We are loyal to our family and friends. We help others out. But if we set our righteousness next to Jesus’ righteousness, we see how different they are.
We might work hard at our jobs, but what about the times we took it easy when the boss wasn’t looking? What about the little things we snitched because we figured we deserved some extra benefits? We love our family and friends, but what about when we resented our responsibilities toward them? What about when we became angry and bitter and didn’t want to serve them anymore, brooding over how little they do for us? We do help others out sometimes, but how often have we walked away from neighbors in need?
Jesus did none of that. He perfectly served, perfectly loved, and perfectly helped His neighbors. When the disciples could no longer see Jesus’ perfect actions toward others, the Holy Spirit reminded them what Jesus had done and said. You and I have not lived as we should, but Jesus lived a perfect life for us.
The Holy Spirit convicts the world “concerning judgment.” By living for ourselves and not Jesus, by trusting ourselves and not Jesus, we are really tying ourselves to the devil. Jesus refers to him as “the ruler of this world,” but he is a powerless ruler. He “is judged.” He has lost. To be in his camp is to have no hope. Jesus defeated him. He took away any claim the devil had on our soul. All his accusations are washed away in the blood of Jesus.
It is clear that the Holy Spirit has done this convicting work in your heart because just a little bit ago, you confessed your sin and unrighteousness. You admitted that you are by nature sinful and unclean, and that you have sinned against God by thought, word, and deed. You know that you deserve to be judged along with the devil.
But the Holy Spirit has done more than convict you of your sin. He has guided you into “all the truth.” He has brought you to faith in Jesus who was without sin, who lived a life of perfect righteousness, who triumphed over the ruler of this world. Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would take what is His, which Jesus received from His Father, and would declare it to you. He would reveal what Jesus’ coming meant for the world and for every sinner in it.
He revealed this to you personally at your Baptism. [Ethan, you were baptized on October 7, Reese on April 13, Marit on May 18.] On your Baptism day, the Holy Spirit guided you into all truth. He washed you clean from your sins. He covered you in the righteousness of Jesus. He caused you to be reborn and to walk in new life. He sealed you in an everlasting covenant with God, in which God put His own powerful name on you. “You are my child,” He says, “with whom I am well pleased!”
God the Father is well pleased with you because you believe in His Son. You trust that Jesus fulfilled the holy Law for you. You trust that He paid the penalty on the cross for all your sins. You trust that He conquered your death by rising from the dead on the third day. You have not believed these things by your own power or choice. The Holy Spirit has brought you this faith through the Word of God.
That is also how He keeps you in the faith. We can’t help but think of Confirmation in the church sort of like we do Graduation. It is the culmination of a lot of work, a recognition that a standard has been reached, a stepping into a new chapter of life. But Graduation does not mean you have learned everything there is to know. If you have been taught well, you realize better than before how little you actually do know.
I hope I have taught this year’s Catechism students well enough so that they know how little they actually know. If their faith is not constantly strengthened and rooted more deeply in Jesus through His Word and Sacraments as they go on in life, they will lose their faith. And if they lose their faith, they will lose the eternal benefits of their Baptism.
The Holy Spirit works through the Word. Jesus said, “He will guide you into all the truth, for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak.” What the Holy Spirit heard, He delivered through the pens of the evangelists and apostles who recorded the inspired Word of God. You have this Word. It is working in you even now. God’s Word is a living Word that never returns to Him void (Isa. 55:11).
That is why “the ruler of this world” does his utmost to pull you away from the Word. He does the opposite of what the Holy Spirit does. The Holy Spirit convicts you of your sin; the devil tells you that whatever you choose to do is fine. The Holy Spirit convicts you of your lack of righteousness; the devil teaches you to trust your impulses and follow your heart. The Holy Spirit warns you of judgment if you deny Jesus; the devil says there is nothing to worry about, so live it up in the world!
You must stand strong against the devil’s tricks and lies, and you can by the power of the Holy Spirit. He works faithfulness and courage in you every time you receive the holy gifts of God in the means of grace. [Ethan, Reese, and Marit, you know the great importance of God’s Word and Sacraments, and we are excited to have you join us today to receive the holy body and blood of our Savior and King. We pray that you continue to come to the Lord’s house to receive His gifts, so that you will be strengthened and kept in the true faith.]
You and I need the forgiveness, righteousness, and salvation that Jesus won for us. We can’t live without them. And those things are what the Holy Spirit declares to us. Those are the things that Jesus told His disciples would come, which He then secured by His death and resurrection. The Holy Spirit verifies through the Word that The Mission to Rescue You Has Succeeded.
God rescued you from the darkness of the devil’s kingdom by baptizing you into His holy name and applying to you the holy work of Jesus. And He still “guides you into all the truth”—not just up to your Confirmation Day but as long as He gives you here, until you join Him in the glories of heaven.
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(picture from stained glass by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, c. 1660)
St. Philip & St. James, Apostles – Pr. Faugstad sermon
Text: St. John 14:1-14
In Christ Jesus, whom we did not choose, but who chose us, and appointed us to go and bear fruit in His name (Joh. 15:16), dear fellow redeemed:
What do you want to be remembered for? Being a hard worker and achieving success in your job? Winning at the highest level of competition? Making a better life for yourself and your family? Being a pillar in the community? A good neighbor? A nice person? All of those are proper goals. But in all likelihood, most of what we do will not be remembered—at least not a few decades from now and certainly not 100 or 200 years from now.
The only reason we remember anything about the apostles Philip and James is because of their connection to Jesus. If He did not call them to follow Him, they would have been completely lost to history. As it is, we still know very little about them.
We know a little more about Philip. After Jesus was revealed as the Messiah at His Baptism and was tempted for forty days in the wilderness, He then went north to Galilee. He entered the town of Bethsaida where Andrew and Peter lived, and He found Philip. “Follow me,” He said (Joh. 1:43). Philip in turn found Nathanael, and from then on, both of them followed Jesus.
The other times that Philip is specifically mentioned in the Gospels, he seems most closely connected with Andrew. When Jesus put the question to Philip about feeding the crowd of 5,000, Philip replied that the need was too great (Joh. 6:7). Then Andrew chimed in that a boy had “five barley loaves and two fish” (v. 9). But what good could they do for such a large crowd? Another time, some Greeks approached Philip and said, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus” (Joh. 12:21). Instead of going right to Jesus, Philip told Andrew, and both of them went to Jesus. And then we heard the exchange between Jesus and Philip about seeing the Father.
James was there too at all those occasions, but we have no record of his words like we do for Philip. There were two Jameses among the apostles. This one is not the fisherman brother of John, who was part of Jesus’ inner circle. The Gospels identify this James as “James the son of Alphaeus.” Matthew’s father was also named Alphaeus (Mar. 2:14), so it is possible that James and Matthew were brothers.
James’ mother was one of the Marys who followed Jesus from Galilee, who stood at His cross, watched His burial, and was greeted by the angel at the empty tomb on Easter morning. So his mother witnessed the most important events in Jesus’ life, which James missed because he was afraid and had gone into hiding along with most of the other disciples. James is referred to as “the younger” or “the less” to distinguish him from the other apostle of the same name (Mar. 15:40).
The reason Philip and James are remembered together on May 1st is because their supposed remains were transported to Rome at the same time in the sixth century. So then they began to be commemorated in the church on the same day. That’s about all we know of these two apostles.
While we might want to know more about them, there is something good about knowing so little. It makes it easier for us to imagine ourselves in their place. We see how Philip failed the test that Jesus gave him at the feeding of the 5,000. We see how he failed to understand Jesus’ words in today’s text. In both cases, Philip was concerned about having “enough.” “Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little” (Joh. 6:7), he said. And in today’s Gospel, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Philip worried about having enough for physical needs and enough for spiritual needs.
We can certainly relate to that. We often worry about having enough money, enough strength, enough patience, enough support. “What are we going to do? How will we make it?” Jesus gave us a prayer for times like these, a very simple petition: “Give us this day our daily bread.” But how can we be certain that our Father in heaven hears us? And why should we have to pray for what He already knows we need? And if He already knows we need it, why hasn’t He given it?
So our concerns about physical things quickly turn into spiritual concerns. We always want more from God—more assurance of His love, more proof of His power, more evidence that He really is in charge and will provide for all our needs. If only God would give us a glimpse of His glory. If only we had more to go on than Jesus’ Word. “Lord, show us the Father,” we say, “and it is enough for us.”
We can relate to James too, James who didn’t say or do anything that needed to be recorded in the inspired pages of the Bible. Maybe he was quiet and introverted, hardly noticed. Maybe he felt ashamed that he didn’t have the courage of Thomas who was ready to die with Jesus (Joh. 11:16), or of Peter who drew his sword in the Garden of Gethsemane. Maybe he wondered what caused Jesus to choose a person like him in the first place.
But Jesus did not choose the disciples for what they could do for Him; He chose them for what He could do for them. When Jesus asked Philip about feeding the 5,000 in the wilderness, He did it to strengthen Philip’s faith. “He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do” (Joh. 6:6). And when Philip wanted more evidence of Jesus’ connection to the Father, Jesus taught the disciples that they already had everything they needed.
He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also…. Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own authority, but the Father who dwells in Me does His works.” Everything Jesus said and did, He received from His Father. God the Father and God the Son worked perfectly together. One was not before or after the other; one was not greater or less than the other (Athanasian Creed).
This is the God who loves you. His love for you is seen most clearly in the cross. When Jesus told His disciples, “Let not your hearts be troubled,” He said it because of what He was about to accomplish. He was going to the cross to pay for their sins. He was going to pay for their sins of doubt and fear, and for their sins of wanting more when they already had everything in Him.
In the disciples, we see ourselves. We see our own weaknesses and fears. We see our own doubt and discontentment. We feel like we need more from God than what He has given us, even though we already have more than we can comprehend. It sounds foolish to hear Philip say, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus is God incarnate! The disciples had seen Him heal the sick, cast out demons, raise the dead! What more did they need to see?
But we are no better. We have the living Word of God breathed out by the Holy Spirit—a Word that has brought us out of death to life, that has given us tremendous comfort and hope and strength, that has given us clear purpose and confidence for living out our life in the world. We know everything that Jesus did for our salvation. We have the clear eyewitness accounts of those who saw what He did.
And yet we think the Word is not enough. We are quick to become impatient when God does not answer our prayers as fast as we want or the way we want. We don’t trust Him to give us our daily bread as He has promised, and we put more stock in our work, our efforts. God’s Word is life, but we would rather pursue the things of this world that will all be forgotten, that will all pass away.
That’s why we needed Jesus to go to the cross in obedience to His Father. We needed Him to take the scourging and mockery and death that we deserved. We couldn’t pay the price for our sins, but He could. He did. And then He rose again to assure us that we have a place in heaven. We have a place there not because we earned it, not because we have proved ourselves worthy. We have a place in heaven because God is merciful. Jesus made our sin His own and has given His righteousness to us.
He is “the way, and the truth, and the life.” He is the Way to the Father because of His death and resurrection. He is the Truth because He spoke by the authority of His Father and carried out all things that His Father gave Him to do. He is the Life because death could not hold Him; He was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father. “No one comes to the Father except through [Him],” which is to say that all who trust in Jesus are children of God the Father.
You are a child of God. He cares for you and provides for you like a shepherd tends his sheep. Your sinful weakness and stubbornness have not caused Him to reject you. As He patiently guided and instructed the twelve disciples, so He guides and instructs you. As He strengthened and comforted them through His Word, so He strengthens and comforts you. As He fed them with His holy Sacraments, so He feeds you.
Do You Have Enough in Jesus? Yes, and more than enough. He prepares a table before you in the presence of your enemies; He anoints your head with oil; your cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy will follow you all the days of your life, and you will dwell in the house of the LORD forever (Psa. 23:5-6).
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(picture of Philip and James from painting by Duccio di Buoninsegna, 1311)
The Second Sunday of Easter – Vicar Anderson sermon
Text: St. John 20:19-31
In Christ Jesus, who rose from the dead on Easter morning and speaks His peace to you today, dear fellow redeemed:
Fear, uncertainty and sorrow caused the disciples to run and hide on that first Easter evening. They feared the consequences for following Jesus, a man despised and innocently slain by the world, and were afraid to speak of what had happened. Confused and disappointed they locked themselves in a room and out of the sight of others.
In the eyes of these men all appeared to be lost, the One whom they put their trust and hope in was now dead and they did not yet fully understand the significance of this. Had Jesus deceived them about why He had come? Had they been following a fraud this whole time; was anything He said the truth?
Jesus wasn’t a fraud or a liar and, though they did not yet know this, He was no longer dead! He had risen from the dead; He had triumphed o’er the grave!
Thomas was absent from the locked room when Jesus first appeared to the other disciples. We don’t know exactly why, but we might assume it had something to do with his stubbornness and unbelief. The rest of the disciples had seen Jesus that first Sunday night and sometime between Easter night and the next Sunday they shared their joy with Thomas. They said to him, “we have seen the Lord” (John 20:25) but he wouldn’t believe.
He said, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” (John 20:25) The words and truth of the other disciples were not good enough for Thomas; it had to be Thomas’ eyes and his own hands that would determine whether Christ was truly alive.
Thomas was close to losing faith. In stubbornness, and perhaps hopelessness, he refused to believe the words of the other disciples who had seen Jesus with their own eyes. He demanded that Christ show him the proof. Not only had Thomas forgotten Jesus’ word he had built up a wall against it, a wall of stubbornness and pride.
Jesus had never lied to His disciples before and He hadn’t done so now. Jesus told them directly what would happen; that they would all run away and be scattered and that He would rise from the dead on the third day. He also said He would go ahead of them into Galilee where He would meet them. (Mark 14:27–28) But because they were consumed in doubt and uncertainty they didn’t remember His words.
We often make the mistake of thinking, ‘had we just seen Jesus after His resurrection believing in His resurrection would be so much easier.’ But would it really have made it any easier? Our mind, body and our reasoning can’t comprehend the resurrection, even if we saw it with our eyes! Wouldn’t we be, as the disciples were, skeptical as to if and how this happened?
All of His disciples doubted that Jesus would rise again from the dead. Some still doubted even after they saw Him alive. (Matthew 28:17) Doubt is weak and wavering faith, it is the opposite of belief. Doubt opposes faith and fights against it. It puts our reasoning over trust and puts hope in our own abilities rather than in God’s hands.
We doubt whenever we stop trusting Jesus’ word and instead trust our own judgment. We doubt when we start thinking that our plans are better than His; That His way is wrong and our way is right. When God doesn’t do things according to our plans we selfishly and ignorantly accuse Jesus of making the mistake. We falsely accuse our perfect God of letting us down. We determine He’s not credible or dependable anymore so we decide to follow our own plans even more.
Jesus didn’t acknowledge Thomas’ doubt immediately. Instead, He allowed him to dwell in it for about a week. Jesus knew exactly what Thomas wanted from him. He had heard Thomas’ words when he doubted His resurrection and would soon address it. Jesus permitted this time so that Thomas might come to recognize his stubborn sinfulness and repent of his unbelief.
When we doubt Jesus He sometimes lets us dwell in it for a time. He chastens us out of love. This is why we feel burdened by shame and guilt when we doubt Him. We know we shouldn’t doubt Him but life can get difficult. Sometimes the world, the devil and our sinful flesh are so overwhelming that we begin to think Jesus has let us down. But these are lies only the devil and the world would have you believe.
Jesus has not let you down; He is calling you back to Himself. He desires that you seek Him where He promises to answer you and He urges you to quit looking inward at yourself and instead look to Him. He comes to you just as He did His disciples to comfort you and to lift you out of your doubt.
Eight days after Jesus first appeared to the Twelve, His disciples again met inside the same locked room. This time Thomas was with them and Jesus came and stood among them. We don’t know exactly how this occurred, but Jesus truly stood among them in His glorified body. Jesus wasn’t limited by space and didn’t need to pass through the door or be snuck in by someone. Jesus could pass through any structure He wanted. With Judas no longer a part of the Twelve, only eleven men would have been in the room. It would’ve been startling to notice a twelfth man in the room who wasn’t there before.
Jesus again speaks, “Peace be with you” to all of them. “Then He said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.’” (John 20:26–27) Jesus addressed Thomas’ exact hesitation and uncertainty; Jesus had heard him and answered him.
Our Lord is so gracious and patient even with doubters. Jesus doesn’t shame us for our weak faith or doubt, instead He comes directly to us in His word and says, “do not disbelieve, but believe” (John 20:27). Jesus loves and cares about us so much. He doesn’t want us to lose our faith. He hears our questions and concerns and He meets them, He calms our fear and strengthens our soul. He brings us the peace the world cannot give (John 14:27) and forgives our sins of doubt.
St. Paul writes on the certainty of the resurrection, “And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” (1 Corinthians 15:17–19, 21–22)
Jesus walked out of the tomb on Easter morning to bring life eternal to all who believe in Him. He has made all believers alive through His resurrection. Jesus met the disciples’ fear and uncertainty with His words, “Peace be with you.” (John 20:19) He stood among them and brought the peace He secured by His death and resurrection. With His words Jesus offered peace because He alone is peace. (Philippians 4:6) His words accomplished exactly what He said.
He does the same for you. He meets your fear and uncertainty with His peace. Peace He brings to you in His Word and Sacrament. The undeserved love of God is poured out upon you through these means of grace. You receive the peace between God and man, the forgiveness of sins secured by Jesus, which removes all your guilt and makes you holy and innocent in God’s eyes. He speaks His word of peace and we recognize Him as our Savior just as Jesus spoke His word to Thomas and he exclaimed, “my Lord and my God.” (John 20:28) Jesus spoke His word to Thomas and all of his doubt vanished.
You also know Jesus by His voice. Jesus said, “Blessed are those that have not seen and yet believe.” (John 20:29) You who have not yet laid your eyes on Jesus are blessed because you see by faith and not by sight. As we heard in our Epistle lesson today, Jesus Christ is the testimony of God.
He testifies through His Word by the Holy Spirit and through His Sacraments, by the water in baptism and by the blood in the Lord’s Supper. In Word and Sacrament Jesus speaks peace to your doubting hearts. The Holy Spirit works through these to bring you the peace of God found only in His Son. “Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself.” (1 John 5 10a)
St. John writes, “And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.” (1 John 5:9–10, 11–12) Jesus points us to something far more sure than our own reasoning and senses, He points us to His word, which is life.
Through it He never gives up on us, Jesus knows the weaknesses of our faith and He comes to aid and strengthen it. When we doubt Him He doesn’t condemn us or discard us, instead He treats us with love and safekeeping by bringing us His peace. He comes to us and feeds us His life giving Word and body and says, ‘don’t doubt dear one, but believe.’ (John 20:27)
He meets your doubt with the assurance found in His word. He knows the difficulties you have believing in Him and knows your deepest fears. He hears your cries and answers them, He knows your need for guidance and He leads the way. Jesus stands among you to strengthen your faith and speaks His peace to soothe all the trials and troubles you face in life. He is always with you and promises to never leave you or forsake you. (Matthew 28:20)
Hear His words of peace spoken through the Apostle Peter, “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls” (1 Peter 1:8–9).
Jesus is Risen! He is with you now in this very sanctuary bringing you His peace. Though you cannot see Him with your eyes, by faith you obtain the salvation of your souls. On the last day when your body is raised and glorified you too will see Him in your flesh, your eyes will behold Him and not another. (Job 19:26) You are truly blessed indeed!
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(picture from “The Incredulity of St. Thomas” by Caravaggio, c. 1601-1602)
The Fifth Sunday in Lent – Vicar Anderson sermon
Text: St. John 8:46-59
In Christ Jesus, who gave up His life on the cross to give you eternal life, dear fellow redeemed:
Maybe you can remember a time in your childhood when your Mother or Father left the house and put you or a sibling in charge? It’s a difficult job and comes with great responsibility and quite a few annoyances.
You now had to listen to your big sister or brother, or you were the one in charge, enforcing the rules and instructions of your parents. The sibling in charge received instructions from mom and dad and shared those instructions with the younger ones. These were in a sense the laws because they were given directly from parental authority.
But a problem exists; the younger sibling didn’t want to listen. Even when they knew it was the truth they still made up every excuse in the book to ignore it. “Leave me alone I’ll get to it later.” “You’re crazy there is no way mom and dad said that.” “Who do you think you are, you aren’t mom and dad and you can’t tell me what to do!” Not only is this dishonoring an older sibling it dishonors the parents because the instructions come straight from their authority.
The authority God sent for all of us, was likewise questioned. Jesus acted on behalf of His Father. He brought them the truth of God’s Word directly from His Father in heaven. But the Jews wouldn’t listen and made excuses for their defiance. They claimed Jesus couldn’t be who He said He was. They said, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” (John 8:48)
This is what often happens when we are confronted with the truth; if it doesn’t agree with us we only want to fight against it. If the truth doesn’t convict our heart and cut deep enough to where we are humbled, it will lead to a hardened heart that only denies the truth. Of course not all Jews rejected Jesus but the ones in our text surely were. With every Word of truth that came out of His mouth they only became more calloused towards it.
In a sense, Jesus is confronting His defiant and sinful younger siblings; who blatantly denied the truth until they exploded in anger and hatred. They wanted salvation without Jesus and wanted to know God apart from Christ. In doing so, they repressed the truth of His Word, which is this, that having or knowing God apart from Christ can only mean eternal destruction.
After speaking Law Jesus once again offers the sweet truth of the Gospel and said, “if anyone keeps my Word they will never see death.” But this only convinced them more that He had a demon. They said, “Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” (John 8:53)
It was clear they wouldn’t hear Jesus; it was clear they had rejected Him and the Truth He spoke. Jesus gave them warning and encouragement and still they picked up stones with the intent to kill Him. They claimed that by being sons of Abraham in the flesh they knew who their Father was. Jesus said to them, “But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you” (John 8:55).
Jesus shows that a person does not automatically know God the Father; righteousness is not a right we are born into or something we can earn. This arrogant thinking causes us to look for God and His truth apart from who and what He has given us. We think, ‘The Word is great and all, Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are neat, but we want to know that Jesus is proud of us and want to feel loved by Him.’ We search and look for it apart from His Word. Maybe we think we have found it when peers and our superiors praise us and tell us how well we are doing?
Or maybe it’s when we feel happy and our emotions have never been more positive. Or when we’ve been working really hard and now things are going well for us; then we know we are in His good favor.
We forget God isn’t like us. He doesn’t value us based upon how likeable we are or how generous and good we have been. This is what weak and fallen humans do. We turn ourselves into the judge and make others judge over us. We try to earn people’s favor and we only like those we consider likeable. We can’t love like God does; it’s not something humans can do by nature. If God valued us by how likeable we were or how good we have been we would be of no value to Him. But, we still think we can be good enough and God will recognize it, or at the very least make up for the sins we have done. This is a complete denial of the truth.
When we deny the truth and only want to pick and choose what truth is then we are bound in slavery to our sin. Then what was supposed to free us from our bondage only binds us further. It causes us to grasp at straws and make absurd and false claims to justify our sin. When we do this we dishonor the Word, we dishonor Christ and therefore dishonor His Father. We lose the knowledge of the Father the true and only judge (John 8:50) and when His gavel falls He will give the due penalty for sin, which is eternal death.
Like those who relied on their human ancestry with Abraham for a good standing with God, many today believe their own works earn redemption. But God’s Word, which is truth and life, tells us that only through faith in Christ is His righteousness granted to us. (Romans 4:3) It was granted to Abraham the same way (Gen 15:6) Jesus said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” (John 8:56) He saw this by trusting in someone else’s work, someone far greater than he was and we are. That someone is Jesus.
The same God who made Himself known to Abraham through His Word also made Himself known to us by the power of His Word. Jesus didn’t need God the Father to reveal Himself to Him like we do, instead Jesus revealed and made His Father known to the disciples and to all believers. We can only know God the Father through His Son.
Jesus said to Thomas, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.” (John 14:6–7) Being fully God and fully man Jesus is the perfect human and the only one capable of keeping the entire letter of the Law. He is the perfect older and younger sibling. He perfectly declared the truth of God’s authority and He also perfectly listened and fulfilled everything God had set before Him.
He honored the Father and His Father glorified Him. (John 8:54) He is truly the offspring promised through Abraham; the One in whom the whole world would be blessed and redeemed. (Genesis 12:1–3) Only the work of Christ can redeem us, which culminated in the shedding of His blood on the cross. Jesus was judged by His Father in heaven and declared guilty for all our sins. Jesus lived the life we couldn’t and died the death we deserved. Your judgment rests on the shoulders of your Savior and them alone. Judgment fell on Him so now no judgment falls on you.
Christ our High Priest offered His body and blood as a sacrifice for your sin. He is the true sacrifice provided by God alone and what all Old Testament sacrifices pointed to. The sacrifice that redeemed all lost and condemned creatures, who purchased and won them from all sin from death and the power of the devil. (SC, Meaning to Second Article)
The Lamb of God spilt His holy blood on the cross to cleanse your soul from all guilt. He paid the wages of sin. St. Paul writes, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) Jesus blotted out with His blood the judgment that stood against you. He made the payment that wiped away your debt and freely hands you eternal life.
In Christ through Baptism you stand cleansed in His blood; purchased and won by His life, sacrifice, honor, and glory. The salvation won by his sweat, blood and tears is freely distributed to you through His Word and Sacraments. The judge’s gavel has fallen, Jesus was declared guilty and you are declared innocent. Jesus willingly walked into the darkness of sin and death and you walk freely out of the chains of death into the righteous life won for you. You possess His life and His life is eternal. Death has no hold on you!
“Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my Word he will never see death.” (John 8:51) “This is the sweetest and most wonderful Gospel-news. Temporal death will have no terrors for you, being merely the gate and entrance to eternal life.”(Kretzmann p. 460)
Jesus saw real death; He saw eternal death (John 8:51) Instead of death you see Jesus and His Word; you know and trust in His works instead of your own. The Lord of all the living overcame death and hands you eternal life. Truly, truly, you will never see death; to die is gain for you. (John 8:51) (Philippians 1:21)
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(picture from the altarpiece in Weimar by Lucas Cranach the Younger, 1555)