Second Sunday of Easter (Quasimodo Geniti)

Readings: Ezekiel 37:1–14 | 1 John 5:4–10 | John 20:19-31

Text: John 20:19-31

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Everything in the Bible from cover to cover hinges on Jesus Christ.  Without knowing His birth, His life, His suffering, His death, and His resurrection, the Bible never quite adds up.  From the creation and promised redemption of the first man and woman, to the countless multitude who forever stands around the throne of God, everything depends on what God has done for His human creatures in Christ.

Because of this, what God tells us in the Bible is positively the most important thing for all people to know.  Everyone is a descendent of Adam and Eve, and all are corrupted by the same sin.  And just as all became sinners through Adam, Jesus Christ is the Savior of all [Romans 5:12-14].  When the Father sent His Son into the world, it was not to help just a select group of people; He has loved every person He has made.  Therefore, the blood of Jesus was shed for every single person.

When Jesus rises on that “first day of the week,” this is the message He announces.  Every one of His disciples who saw Him preach and teach, suffer and die, He encounters with the outcome of His suffering and death: Peace.  “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15)and that is exactly what He sets out to do with the marks in His hands and feet, and the spear mark in His side.  He goes out proclaiming to the sons of Adam that the gate to paradise has been flung open for them!  The seal of the grave has been burst!  He has conquered sin and death!  For everyone who believes in Him, sin and death are powerless, empty forms of their former tyranny.

This is the glorious news proclaimed in verse 23: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”  To every sinner who feels their guilt and the weight of God’s anger against their sin, Jesus says, “Your sins are forgiven.”  But to everyone who thinks himself better than lost and condemned person, who answers back to God, You fool, you don’t know what you’re saying!, this person has no forgiveness and no peace with God.  They remain in their sins and the wrath of God burns against them, because they have despised the very One who freely takes their sin away.  Yet, even if that is the case, it is still in God’s heart that such a person turn from their hard heartedness and live!

Jesus lives to breathe life back into to sinners.  When God first made mankind, Genesis 2 tells us, “the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature.”3  God’s breath (which is His Spirit[1]), gave that dust a soul and made him a living being.  This is why we confess in the Creed that the Holy Spirit to be “the Lord and Giver of Life.”

But when these souls, Adam and Eve, turned away from God, they asphyxiated themselves from the life He had given them.  Their first reaction was to cover their shame with their own work of fig leaves and hide from God among trees.  Flash forward to the Upper Room on Easter evening. “The doors [were] locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews.”  They were afraid, so they hid themselves—not just from Jesus enemies, but from God Himself because they all had all betrayed Him by what they had done and left undone.  And there’s Thomas too, who made his ultimatum that he would only believe in a Savior he himself could see and touch.

It’s the same thing that we are quick to do when we know we’ve done wrong.  We hide ourselves away from God, even though we probably wouldn’t call it that.  We lock ourselves away behind the diversions of life like our job, or shopping, or countless things we take pleasure in that keep us from having to look at it.  But in our guilt-ridden state, we also—like Thomas—refuse to believe the messengers the Lord sends to bring peace.

This is the double tragedy of our sin.  First, that when we know we’ve sinned, we hide ourselves and try to cover up our mess.  We use our God-given reason and ability to either patch up or ignore our guilt before God.  Second, by trying to deal with our sins ourselves, we show how broken our trust in God is.

But God would not have us stay in this tragic state.  The risen Christ passed through the stone that blocked the entrance of the tomb.  Despite the locked doors, He appeared in the midst of His frightened disciples.  Perhaps even more amazing is when the walls of the hard human heart are penetrated by Him.  Yet, He does not force anyone to believe.

The eleven disciples, less Thomas, stood locked away in the Upper Room.  They would hear no strange message from the women.  They were perplexed at what they had seen at His tomb.  They were each ashamed of their part in His death, and they were afraid they would suffer the same as their Lord.  Into the prison of sin they had locked themselves in, Jesus enters.  He stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.”  Through locked doors and numb hearts, the Lord brought them what they needed most.  They needed exactly what He had gained for them by His death and resurrection.  He gave them the only thing which could truly deal with their sins—the peace of God.

This is the same way He comes to us, when we are guilt-ridden, doubting, and hopeless.  Our reaction to our sin and the evil around us is to shut out everything but our own voice and that of the devil:  You’ve failed!  You deserve to be punished!  How could you even think of being in heaven?  Heaven is for good people.  But into that spiritual nightmare, Jesus enters.  He stands in your midst—even here today.  He brings you exactly what you need to answer those pangs of guilt and silence their voice.  He gives you the fruits of His passion and resurrection.  He gives you forgiveness for all of your sins and He raises you from death to live with Him.  And He does this by speaking.

In the beginning, the Holy Spirit breathed life into Adam so He became a living being.  But since we have sinned in thought, word, and deed, we need to be breathed into again.  In the Old Testament lesson, Ezekiel saw the valley of dry bones, and how the breath of the Lord made the slain ones live.  The risen Lord Jesus brings that vision to reality when He says: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”  The Holy Spirit breathes new life into the dying, burdened souls of Jesus’ disciples through the Word of forgiveness.

St. Paul wrote those memorable words, “the Gospel is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes.” (Rom. 1:16)  And it’s true.  God places the life-restoring Word of Jesus’ death and resurrection on human lips.  As it reaches human ears, it comes with the power of the Giver of Life, the Holy Spirit. 

And this is how it is for you as well.  Jesus places His Word of forgiveness on human lips.  But, in that Word, the Holy Spirit is breathed anew into you.  It is truly a new genesis [Titus 3:5] as the breath of God takes away your guilt and puts it on the cross of Jesus. 

It is God’s will for the whole of humanity to be breathed into anew with the Gospel of Jesus full atonement for sins and His resurrection victory over the grave.  In sinful rebellion, many will harden their hearts against the Spirit and choose to deal with sin by their own devices.  But God grant you here today ears that hear, and hearts that believe, because Jesus is your life today and forever.

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

[1] Hebrew Ruach means both wind and spirit; Greek pneuma carries the same double-meaning (John 3:8)

The Resurrection of Our Lord (Easter Day)

Readings: Job 19:23–27 | 1 Corinthians 5:6–8 | Mark 16:1–8

Text: Mark 16:1-8 (1 Cor. 5:6-8)

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

On Good Friday, I made the point that when Jesus was crucified, it was a change to the entire Cosmos.  Everything about how God relates to this world has changed.  On this holy day, we rejoice in what happened next.

“When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him.”

The Jewish Sabbath is now passed—not just in terms of the passage of time, but in that it has now been fulfilled.  Under Moses, the Sabbath connected back to the first creation

“For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day.” (Ex. 20:11) 

On that particular day, God commanded—even with threats—that His people stop their labor to keep the Sabbath.  But it was fulfilled when the Son of God, Jesus, took His rest from all the labors He had done in salvation…by resting in the tomb.  “And he rested on the seventh day from all his work that he had done.” (Gen. 2:3)  He truly made that Sabbath holy by entering it Himself, and fulfilling its true significance.

What’s left to the people of God is an even greater Sabbath—a true rest from Jesus, the Lord of the Sabbath [Matt. 12:8].  “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matt. 11:28)  Your works, no matter how long and arduous, no matter how obedient or disciplined you are in God’s Word, can save you.  Our labors cannot save; Jesus’ can and do.

Quoting from Psalm 95, the Apostle to the Hebrews writes:

11             As I swore in my wrath,
‘They shall not enter my rest.’ ”
12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end… 4:9 So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God, 10 for whoever has entered God’s rest has also rested from his works as God did from his. (Hebrews 3:11-14, 4:9-10)

All who believe in Christ have that promised rest, and the salvation that He has worked for them.

“2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb.”

With the close of the Sabbath is also the close of the command for a specific day—the seventh day—as the designated day for worship.  Many in the early Church, including the Apostles, took this as a cue to worship on the first day of the week, Sunday.  After all, while the Lord completed the first creation and rested on the seventh, He rose from the dead on the first day. 

As one hymnwriter so aptly put it:

This day at earth’s creation

The light first had its birth;

This day for our salvation

Christ rose from depths of earth;

This day our Lord victorious

The Spirit sent from heav’n,

And thus this day most glorious

A threefold light was giv’n.[1]

The first day of the week signifies the beginning of the new creation.  As we heard from St. Paul on Good Friday, “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.” (2 Cor. 5:17)  This is reminiscent of the words of Isaiah and of Revelation:

“For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth, and the former things shall not be remembered or come into mind.” And, “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away.” (Isaiah 65:17; Rev. 21:1) 

For us who are in Christ, we have the first taste of this new creation.

For the Christian, the first day of the new week signifies the beginning of eternity.  The Christian’s life is not only marked by weeks and years, but in a the rendering of time in the new creation—of endless days.  Why, then, insist upon certain days of this passing world?  In the words of St. Paul,

“Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” (Col. 2:16-17)

How we are to live as the people of God in Christ does not sever our roots with the sons of Israel.  Some accuse Christians of preaching a “replacement theology” that would discard all that God has done before for Israel and consider it utterly obsolete.  But this is far from true!  Consider the words of the Epistle, where Paul teaches us the fulfillment of the Passover:

Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. (1 Cor. 5:7-8)

The Passover has been fulfilled in Christ. The Lord, by His true Passover, though, goes deeper and wider to save.  He goes wider in that this is not simply for Jews and no alien; it is prepared for all people.  He goes deeper in that it is not an outward change that the Lord does, but one in the heart.  He doesn’t just want to see you in church or at Bible study.  He wants all of you to redeem you.  Cleanse out all that is contrary to His will in you.

No longer see God through Moses; but through His only-begotten Son.  Cleanse out the old leaven as God has cleansed out the old.  Ridding your house of leaven and painting your doors with lamb’s blood were certainly fine outward training—at the time.

[1] “O Day of Rest and Gladness” by Christopher Wordsworth (1807-85). Cited from LSB 906, st. 2

The Resurrection of Our Lord (Sunrise)

Readings: Isaiah 25:6–9 | 1 Corinthians 15:12–25 | John 20:1–18

Text: John 20:1-18

Alleluia! Christ is risen!

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

The last we heard from St. John, he and St. Mary Magdalene were standing at the foot of the cross.  He testified truly that His Lord had died and the spear had truly pierced His side and released a flood of blood and water [John 19:31-35].  So how now are to go on, now that their Lord has died?  It wasn’t that He had died of something that can be rationalized, or even sympathized much with.  It was an ignoble death, a shameful one.  He was unjustly condemned after being betrayed by one of His own.  He was made sport of by the Gentiles and spit upon by the Jewish leaders.  It was more than physical agony, but the utmost shame.  And they had been witness to all of it, and even stood at the foot of His cross.  Then, they, together with Joseph of Arimathea, had laid His body in the earth.

Those who loved Jesus, who were loved by Him, besides suffering the loneliness of His passing, also suffered from the injustice and tragedy, which they now had to bear without their Lord and Teacher.  What were they to do?

It would have been easy to give up on the whole thing and bury the memory of Jesus.  But no matter how much anyone has tried to erase the past when it ends in tragic loss, none of us can go back in time.  We can’t undo what we’ve done or said, and none of us can bring the dead back to life.  We must endure it.

So how could they endure?  By what the death of Jesus had done: The curtain of the Temple had been torn in two from top to bottom.  The mercy seat was now accessible because the once-for-all sacrifice was complete, perfect…”It is finished.”  For us, He had borne the iniquity of us all, and from the Lord’s had we received double—double the mercy instead of all our sins [Isaiah 40:2].  In the depths of His sorrow, forsaken by God on our behalf, He cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken Me?”  But that is only the very beginning of the Psalm; it ends with, “I will tell of your name to my brothers; in the midst of the congregation I will praise you…Posterity shall serve him; it shall be told of the Lord to the coming generation” (Psalm 22:22, 30).  Jesus had endured Good Friday with the Resurrection clearly in view.  This is an example to us, of how a Christian dies: in faith and confidence that the Lord will raise Him, though no thing and no one else could come to help.

This is how we in Christ face death.  But, that does not mean the pain is removed.  The forgiveness, the reconciliation of sinners to the Father in Jesus death does not take away the hurt.  But it does set a limit to it.  The pain is mitigated because, as intense as it is, it is temporary.  What we feel is not the sum total of our life, and as intense as it may seem, it is “not able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus.” (Rom. 8:38-39)  The death of Jesus was the very thing we needed to remove the eternal torment, the fear of being forsaken and rejected by God, the fear of death or annihilation being our end.

If Jesus had not died and risen, there would be no reason to go on—to love or to mourn.  Why mourn if all there is to look forward to is eternal destruction?  This is the hope of atheists who can only rejoice for this fleeting life and make the most of every passing moment.  We mourn death because we hope for paradise, and our heart aches in hope of entering it.  “How long, O Lord?” (Psalm 6:3) We go on loving because this is how He first loved us.  Without His love, there would be nothing truly good in this world, nothing lost which mattered, and nothing to hope in after this veil of tears.  But as for our pain, our bitter tears, they will be wiped away as we go the way of Jesus: through death into life.

Mary stood weeping outside the tomb, and as she wept she stooped to look into the tomb. 12 And she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had lain, one at the head and one at the feet. 13 They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 14 Having said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing, but she did not know that it was Jesus. 15 Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” 16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.”

Your God wants you at all times to have a firm confidence in Him alone.  This is especially true in painful circumstances, but also when your life is full of joy.  No one in this life can fill this role—not your pastor, not your parents, not your spouse.  All of these are mortal.  In the midst of this mortal life, suffering together, our only hope or meaning we can find is in the mercy of the God who died and rose again for us, the God who receives sinners.

Our aching hearts are constantly tempted to turn away from God.  In death, the nagging thought is that God is wrathful toward us or a fickle friend.  Job said to God’s face, “You have turned cruel to me” (Job 30:21)  But Job was wrong, because he imagined a god who is more like those of human imagination who toys with mankind.  This is not the God who was there with St. Mary Magdalene.  He is not cruel, but His mercy endureth forever [Ps. 136:1].  He is the God of all comfort, who does not withhold any good thing from His children—even the life of His Son.

And the faith to believe in the God who raised Jesus from the dead is an unfathomable gift.  The Holy Spirit works this faith to believe that even when God sends evil to us, He is ever gracious and merciful, and most certainly works all things together for good [Rom. 8:28].  It is the Holy Spirit in you who confesses this to be true even while our hearts are broken, conflicted, and uncertain.  When everything else breaks, Jesus lives and God is good.

This is the hope of the resurrection which nothing on earth can destroy.  Our eyes do not always see God’s goodness and mercy, but it is always there.  We ought not think that when the sun is hidden by clouds that it has left the world.  The sun keeps shining even when we are prevented by the clouds from seeing it.

16 Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned and said to him in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means Teacher). 17 Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’ ” 18 Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”—and that he had said these things to her.

The Lord has called us each by name.  Though Mary could not cling to that moment with Jesus outside Jerusalem, we are invited to cling to Him now in the places where He has promised to be.  He is in the midst of His holy Church, where we hear His Word, we sing His Word, and praise His work and are comforted by the hymns.  Here is where we are born anew of water and the Holy Spirit, where we are assured of our forgiveness and peace with God, where He feeds us with His Body and Blood.

In every time of joy and in every time of our sorrow, our hope is in the Lord.  He comforts us with a salvation available nowhere else and in no one else.  We rejoice this Easter season—if even through tears—because Jesus is not dead, but living, and we live because of Him.

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

Holy Saturday

Paschal Vigil

Holy Baptism of Matthew, Alonna, and Wyatt Reeves

Readings: The Creation – Genesis 1:1-2:3 | The Flood – Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18; 8:6-18; 9:8-13 | Israel’s Deliverance at the Red Sea – Exodus 14:10-15:1 | A New Heart and a New Spirit – Ezekiel 36:24-28 | Jonah Preaches to Nineveh – Jonah 3 | The Gathering of God’s People – Zephaniah 3:12-20 |

Text: Ephesians 5:8-14

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

St. Paul writes in Ephesians, chapter 5:

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), 10 finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. 11 And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of those things which are done by them in secret. 13 But all things that are exposed are made manifest by the light, for whatever makes manifest is light. 14 Therefore He says: “Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light.”

Darkness in Scripture is always more than the physical absence of light.  Yes, light belongs to God’s creative work, but it also says early on that God separated the light from the darkness.



And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night. (Gen. 1:3-5a)

Before this, it says that “darkness was over the face of the deep” (Gen. 1:2)  God’s creative work was ordering light and separating it from the darkness.  This is a spiritual truth as well, because there is spiritual darkness.   It brings with it chaos, an attempt to undo what God created orderly.  All mankind lies shrouded in this spiritual darkness, and only when one is given the light of God in Christ, do we recognize what the darkness does.  In the darkness, God’s order is under attack: “male and female He created them,” is twisted into our own self-chosen identity.  “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife and the two shall become one flesh,” is trivialized into chasing carnal pleasure and treating others as disposable.  “You shall have dominion over all the creatures on earth,” is abused either in waste or worship of the environment.

This darkness is what covers the creation God at first called, “very good.”  He says through Isaiah that there is a: “covering that is cast over all peoples, the veil that is spread over all nations.” But, “He will swallow up death forever” (Isaiah 25:7-8).

The darkness of sin and the shadow of death we know all too well. A fallen world full of fallen men, who, Jesus even declares, “love the darkness rather than the Light” (John 3:19).   Humanity follows the broken compass of our fallen flesh, a needle constantly pointed inward, drawn by the gravity of our sinful, selfish desires. Such is the darkness of fallen mankind, a mind, will, and heart of darkness whose thoughts are continually evil.

But into this creation came the God who is the Author of Light, of good, of order: “The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. 12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:9-13)

So, notice Paul’s choice of verbs in Ephesians 5. Once you were darkness: past tense. Now you are light in the Lord: present tense. In Christ, who is the Light of the world, our past sin and darkness have been changed into an eternally present reality: You are light in the Lord Jesus.

God’s brilliant light and love for us in Christ do not flicker. His grace and mercy to you cannot be snuffed out. Christ’s peace and light does not come and go like the rising and setting of the sun. No, Jesus Christ is the Light of the world, the Light no darkness can overcome. In His birth for us, His life for us, His death and resurrection for us, we have received God’s true, enduring, endless, and eternal Light.

In Jesus, “now you are light in the Lord.” You also called a city set on a hill. Do not hide who the Lord God makes you to be.  This is His creative work—a new creation bringing light out of darkness.  Similar to how it was in the original creation, He brought His creation out of water.  With His new creation in you, He brings it out of the waters of Holy Baptism.  As you have now been made light in the Lord, “let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). Glory in God your Creator, your Redeemer, and He who makes you holy and light in the Lord.

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

Good Friday

Readings: Isaiah 52:13—53:12 | 2 Corinthians 5:14–21 | John 18-19

Text: 2 Corinthians 5:14-21; John 19:30

“The Death of Jesus Changed How God Relates to the World”

The Old Testament sure is bloody.  People are dropping dead every other minute, it seems.  Reading through the Old Testament, you will find that there are many manifest judgments on the wicked—a worldwide flood, cities destroyed, plagues, ground opening up, people struck dead.  Yet, those things fade out in the New Testament.  Have you noticed that while Israel was commanded to conquer and slaughter the Canaanite nations, no such crusade has ever existed for the Church?

Judgments came upon the wicked overtly and immediately.

There are several examples of judgments coming on the wicked which were overt and immediate.  The whole earth was corrupt and rejected God, besides Noah and his family of eight, and God sent the flood over all the earth.  The wickedness of the men of Sodom and Gomorrah was so great that the outcry precipitated an in-person visit by angels, and at their refusal to repent, God destroyed the city and its surrounding region.  Pharaoh refused to let Israel depart under Moses, so God executed ten deadly plagues against the Egyptians while sparing His people. When the Levite, Korah, and his followers were jealous of Moses’ leadership and the priesthood God established, those rebels were swallowed by the earth.  The list goes on.

These judgments show the seriousness of sin.  It wasn’t a light matter for people whom God created to choose their own way to go, to innovate in what the highest purpose of life is or what constitutes right and wrong.  These judgments reveal the peril of rebellion against God.  Forgetting that we are all nothing but dust enlivened by the Spirit of God, the idea that we can stage a revolt against our Creator and the King of the Universe, if we can only gather enough like-minded people around us, is insane.  Remember and fear Him who destroyed the whole world at His command (2 Pet. 3:4-7).  The Lord’s judgments teach us the danger of putting the Lord to the test.  The fear of authority and serious consequences is something that is dulled in our day of overabundance and love of pleasure.  But to go on living as if God were not Almighty and Righteous, is only to put His patience to the test.  You can see how well that worked out for the Israelites who died in the wilderness (1 Cor. 10:1-11).

And yet these varied and serious judgments—even the worldwide Flood—are only a preview of the final judgment.  There is a Last Day on which all the enemies of God—both the Devil, and all evildoers—will be punished eternally: “There the evildoers lie fallen; they are thrust down, unable to rise.” (Ps. 36:12)

But something fundamental changed with the arrival of God’s Son, Jesus Christ.

Something tremendous happened when the Creator entered His creation: In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. 11 He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him…14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory” (John 1:4-5, 9-11, 14) It’s not that God changed.  He did not become any less holy and righteous when He took on human flesh.  He did not change His attitude toward sin, and soften up because before He just didn’t see things from our perspective.  His demands for righteousness did not diminish when He sent His Son in the flesh, as He teaches, “For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven…You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:20, 48)

It’s also not that you, or humanity as a whole, has gotten any better.   If anything, wickedness is on the rise.  People have moved into shamelessness toward their sin, and depravity which would have caused previous generations—even pagans—to wretch, is celebrated in our age.  Even murder has been made user-friendly by putting it under the guise of medical care. The idea of virginity is laughed at because it’s so foreign in our lack of self-control.  So, no, we have not gotten any better than our forefathers.

It is God’s Christ who makes all the difference here.  What you just heard in the Passion is God visiting all the sin every person in the world, not upon the people who deserve it, but upon His own beloved Son.  Four times in St. John’s Passion, the fulfillment of the Scriptures are mentioned, as they weave through this ultimate act of judgment and salvation.  All the Scriptures, from the very first day sin entered the world, every ounce of hot wrath, along with every evil intention of the sinful human heart, was fulfilled.  Every sin was answered for.

And that changes everything for you.  Everything which you have deserved from God was hurled upon Jesus.  In His suffering, see what your sin has cost Him.  Do you see Him abandoned and alone, standing in judgment while already being condemned, suffering immensely in bodily anguish, and forsaken by God?  Yes, that is what you have deserved because of your sin.  This is what you have earned from your sinful birth and all that you have done since. A one-way ticket to everlasting condemnation.

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

This changes everything about how God relates to the world until the end.

When He cried, “It is finished,” He meant it.  The Scripture was fulfilled: God’s wrath against the sin of the world is finished.  All is atoned for, for the payment has been made for all.  The only price which was high enough to redeem a race enslaved to sin, death, and the Devil has been rendered by the only-begotten Son of God.  This has changed everything about how God relates to His creation full of sinful men and women.

Notice how now, the immediate judgments are few and far between.  How many cities have been swallowed up, how many have actually been struck by lightning?  More often than not, if there is a judgment upon a person or people, it’s indistinguishable from the “natural” course of events.  The Black Death took the lives of Mongol invaders and pious Christian mothers alike.  HIV and AIDS doesn’t just impact homosexuals, fornicators, and drug users, but it has also made honest families bereft of a parent and spouse.

What God did on the cross through His Son changed how He interacts with this fallen world, as St. Paul writes, “In Christ, God was reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” (2 Cor. 5:19)  Until the Last Day, we no longer see what men deserve (what we deserve) because of our sin.  The idea that the world runs on something like the Hindus call karma is obsolete: “one has died for all, therefore all have died; 15 and he died for all.” 

Since the cross and the ascension of Christ to intercede for us as High Priest, we now live in the era of God’s longsuffering, “the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance” (Rom. 2:4)  People will not be scared by threats of punishments into believing, but they will be convicted by the preaching of the Word of Christ.  And by that powerful Word—the Word that “kills and makes alive,” “that breaks the rocks in pieces,” that “is the power of God for salvation to all who believe” (Deut. 32:39; Jer. 23:29; Rom. 1:16)—God will release all who believe from their sins.  His people will rejoice that He has nailed their sin to the cross, and joyfully share that life-giving Word.

That dark day on Calvary changed everything for this world.  In the same way, the Judgment at the end of the world has changed.  In this favorable time [2 Cor. 6:2], God refrains from visiting one’s sins upon them.  At the Last, when we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, it will be on the basis of Calvary.  All who are found in Christ “do not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” (John 5:24)  Only on that Day, will the consequences for those who spurned the Gospel be realized.  Then will the righteous “shine like the sun” while for the wicked, it will be “weeping and gnashing of teeth.”  Let all who have Christ as their Savior rejoice, now and into eternal life.

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

Maundy Thursday

Readings: Exodus 12:1–14 | 1 Corinthians 11:23–32 | John 13:1–15

Text: John 13:1-17, 34-35

This Maundy Thursday, I want to address two things: The connection between the Lord’s Supper and the Passover, and why this night we read about Jesus washing the disciples’ feet and commanding them to love one another.

In delivering His people from slavery in Egypt, the Lord could have done it any number of ways.  He had chosen nine plagues to display His judgment on Egypt and the false gods.  But on this tenth, He did something unique.  He didn’t just kill off the firstborn sons of Egypt and preserve the Israelite sons.  He gave them something to do: Take a lamb, slaughter it and paint your doorposts with its blood.  Then roast it whole with fire and eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.  This is the Lord’s Passover for Israel as they came out of Egypt.

But if we were to ask what the main thing in the Passover was—not that the parts of it are meant to be set against each other—it would be the blood of the lamb.  “The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you are. And when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague will befall you to destroy you.”  The blood of the lamb in God’s Passover, marked His people.

And this is the foundation upon which the upper room with the disciples is built.  Even though we don’t read the account from the holy evangelists Matthew, Mark, Luke, or St. Paul, the Lord’s first Passover sets the stage for what the Lord-in-the-Flesh institutes that night.  God has provided a lamb, as He promised Abraham (Gen. 22:1-14), one lamb for all the people.  A lamb without blemish, conceived and born by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary—free from sin so that He might free His people from their sin.  He shall be killed before the oncoming darkness—“Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour.” (Matt. 27:45)  And it shall be His blood that shall be a mark over the heads of His people to save them from plague and destruction.

As for you, you shall eat the flesh of God’s Lamb who has been roasted as a sin offering.  At some later point, not recorded in Scripture, it became the custom to drink wine commemorating God’s four promises in Exodus 6: “I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from slavery to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God.” (Exodus 6:6-7)  The cup of wine was often a sign of judgment (Ps. 11:6, Isa. 51:17, Ezek. 23:31-33), but it was also one of salvation, as the faithful sing, “I will lift up the cup of salvation and call on the name of the Lord” (Ps. 116:13)

But the Lord on earth embraced this practice and endowed it with significance when He took the 3rd cup, the “I will redeem you” cup, and said, “Drink of it, all of you, this cup is the New Testament in My blood.”  Lamb’s flesh, roasted and eaten, Lamb’s blood, painted on doorposts, now given to you—“Take, eat; Take, drink.”  This is the meal which our God-in-the-flesh instituted for us to remember His mighty act of deliverance at Calvary.

“Do this in remembrance of me.” These words adorn many an altar-table dedicated to this holy Meal.   The Lord commanded Israel to do the Passover feast in memory of that first Passover and Exodus.  However, this is not the memory of our fleeting and fickle minds.  It’s akin to when it says in the hymnal at the Invocation, “The sign of the cross T may be made by all in remembrance of their Baptism.” (LSB 151).  I have no cognitive memory of my baptism when I was three weeks old, nor would anyone else who was baptized as an infant.  The biblical way of remembrance is for faith to lay hold of what God as done, and for that mighty act to be applied to the present.

The Israelites were told, “Remember this day in which you came out from Egypt, out of the house of slavery, for by a strong hand the Lord brought you out from this place.” (Ex. 13:3)   Well, by the third generation, none of them would be able to recount that day.  Yet, the Lord said, “This day shall be for you a remembrance day, and you shall keep it as a feast to the Lord; throughout your generations” (Ex. 12:14). 

Remembrance began with God.  God remembered Noah in the ark; He remembered the sons of Israel in Egypt.  And when He remembered, it meant that He saw His people through the unilateral covenant He made with them—I will bring you out, I will deliver you, I will redeem you, I will take you to be my people.  And when He calls on His people to remember, He is bidding them to see Him through His covenant promise.  This remembrance is even It even applies to “Remember the Day of Sabbath, in order that it may be holy.”[1]  That’s also how, even Israel or individuals had sinned, when they repented, they would beseech God to remember His steadfast love—His faithfulness to His covenant [Ps. 25:6-7].

In the same way, all who are in Christ, beneficiaries of the New Covenant, eat and drink the Body and Blood of Christ often, in remembrance of what that covenant is: His Body sacrificed on the cross, His blood poured out for the sins of the world (including all of ours, too!).  This is the meal of our perfect and true Passover Lamb, which take His eternal covenant—“I will be their God, and they shall be my people…I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jer. 31:33-34)

On that night in which He was betrayed, He taught His disciples many things to bring them from the covenant under Moses to the New covenant in His blood.  One of those lessons came as an expression of His divine remembrance: “having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper…Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper.”  He got down on His holy hands and knees and did the menial labor of a servant.  Then, He said about it, “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”

This is how the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob ultimately remembered His covenant to bless all the families of the earth: He put Himself in the lowest place, the Lord who serves His rebellious enemies, the righteous saving the unrighteous.

At this point, the objection is raised that Jesus commanded foot-washing, so if we take the Lord’s Supper seriously and give it literal interpretation, why do we not literally wash one another’s feet?  Good question, but foot-washing and the Eucharist are two different topics.  Foot-washing has no Old Testament anti-type, or precedent, and no covenant promise attached to it.  If Christians choose to reenact this, well and good because He said, “I have given you an example.”  But, the bigger message isn’t the literal scrubbing of toes, but what is said in verses 34-35:

34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. 35 By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Rather than get hung up on whether we are doing our most exact obedience, the Lord is here commanding something that none of us can do apart from Him.  None of us can love as He has loved, unless we are those who know how the Lord has remembered His gracious promises toward sinners.  None but the Lord’s people, redeemed and marked by the sign of the blood of the Lamb of God, and having a living faith in those things, can remember God and see Him through His covenant.  And remembering our God through His gracious covenant—that God in Christ was reconciling the world to Himself, who tasted death to save man from it [2 Cor. 5:19; Heb. 2:14]—we also look at the rest of the human family without disdain or distaste.  If God, according to His own promise, came to serve even the lowest (even us!), how fitting it is that we should love even the lowest and meanest.  That’s not just a dirty, mentally unstable homeless person—that is a human being created and redeemed by God.  That’s not just a bristly, proud atheist professor—that is a person whom the Lord had in mind as He gave up His final breath.

This do in remembrance of Me—the eating and drinking for your grace and strength, the loving of all mankind.  In the Name + of Jesus.  Amen.

[1][1] My own translation from the Hebrew, reflecting the construction of what is normally translated “Sabbath day,” as if Sabbath inextricably happened only on the 7th day.  Also, the preposition-verb for “to make holy” is in the passive voice, indicating that the Remembering is to be done for the purpose of letting the Day of Sabbath be holy for them.

Palm Sunday

Readings: Zechariah 9:9–12 | Philippians 2:5–11 | Matthew 26:1-27:66

Text: John 12:12-19

Among the four Gospels, St. John’s provides a unique perspective.  Matthew (Matt. 21:1-9), Mark (Mark 11:1-11), and Luke (Luke 19:28-40) all contribute to the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.  Yet, the Holy Spirit inspired John with additional commentary on events in the Lord’s ministry. We’ll consider three of those today.

16 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him. 17 The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness. 18 The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign. 19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

First, the disciples that day, who witnessed these things first-hand, did not understand their full import.  We often think that if we were there in person, we would have a better time believing, and the Church would have a better time convincing people of the truth of the Gospel.  But it’s not true.  Even the disciples, who were with Him day after day did not understand.  At times, it even says they didn’t understand “because it was hidden from them” (Luke 18:34, also Matt. 11:25)

Now, why would God do this, if He indeed desires not the death of the sinner, and for all to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth? [Ezek. 18:23; 1 Timothy 2:3-4]  It’s because we are not gods; we are mortals, finite, time-bound creatures of God.  It was kept from them that day because it wasn’t time for them to understand yet.  That time did come, and they did reflect on it.  Despite what the Internet would promise us, we will not have all the answers at our fingertips.  With the things of God, we must wait on Him.

Our Lord taught this to Nicodemus, who was convinced that he had discovered by his own wisdom that Jesus was a teacher come from God.  Jesus took that boast right out of him by saying, “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.” (John 3:8)  This is what happens in every Christian’s growth as God’s child.  The adult convert often looks back on their past and says, “Why didn’t I get it sooner?  Why did I squander so many years in sin and rebellion?”  Any Christian who has prayed for a wayward child or friend has been mystified why the Spirit doesn’t move sooner in someone’s life.  But this waiting teaches us to rely completely on God to move and work in our hearts.  We cannot take any credit for it; we can only reflect on it in hindsight and give God the glory!

The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness.

The next thing the Evangelist John points out is the witness of the crowd.  Even though the disciples could not yet connect the dots, the crowds did not hesitate to share what they had seen.  A man who had died, and was four days in the tomb, was now alive and walking around again.  Certainly, they couldn’t explain the fine points of doctrine, or argue against heresy in a systematic way.  But, it’s like the man born blind, whom Jesus healed, in John 9, who said, “Whether he is a sinner I do not know. One thing I do know, that though I was blind, now I see.” (John 9:25)  This man bore simple witness to who Jesus was and what He had done.

We are far too preoccupied with convincing others by human reason.  I suppose this is because so many persuaders are around us: advertisers convincing us that we need this or that, the desire to live up to peer or family expectations, the flexing of persuasive muscles on social media by who has the most viral meme.

But when it comes to sharing the good news of Jesus, success does not hinge on our eloquence, but on God’s work.  From the noble St. Paul who was an unskilled speaker (1 Cor. 2:1-5; 2 Cor. 11:6), to Moses who stuttered (Exod. 4:10-16), and Jeremiah who was a youth (Jer. 1:6-7).  But also consider the witness of Rahab in Jericho (Josh. 2:8-14), Ruth in Bethlehem (Ruth 1:6-14, 4:13-17), and the slave girl whose words led to Naaman’s salvation (2 Kings 5:1-3).  Whoever says that Christian witness is an elaborate program of training and traveling long distances is trying to sell you something.  God uses the witness of lowly people like you and I where we already are, who have this treasure in jars of clay [2 Cor. 4:7].  The convincing and persuading belong to Him, the timing of events and saving of lives is His.

19 So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.”

Human power seems mighty.  The devil is a strong foe.  Our sinful nature is pervasive.

We Christians today would say that the world is going against Christ and toward antichrist.  The church after Covid seems all too content to “attend” through a screen.  Membership in many places continues to decline, as people find purpose and community elsewhere  Content creation has given rise to YouTube stars who—for better or worse—are able to contribute their opinions and delivery into the salad bar of bespoke (that is, self-chosen, tailor made) Bible study.

Children are indoctrinated with new racism, misandry (the hatred of men), and socialism at schools and by popular media.  Public policy is directed by a godless, materialistic worldview.  That worldview touts an ability to save our planet from forecasted man-made catastrophe and to upend natural law by redefining gender identity.  This is not about right versus left, but light versus darkness.

Isn’t it interesting that both the enemies of God and His followers today believe they are on the losing side of the battle?  But it is God’s will that is done, and we, as His children, do well to remember that.

Our Father is He who said even to the ocean, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed” (Job 38:11)  It is not an arm-wrestling match between equal forces of good and evil.  Jesus’ arrival at Jerusalem, His innocent suffering and death, crying out, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) changed everything.  It didn’t just turn the tables; it chained the devil [Rev. 20:2] and broke his teeth, as the Church prays in Psalm 3: “For you strike all my enemies on the cheek; you break the teeth of the wicked.”

Beware of those who would drive you to fear the encroaching darkness of the world, as if it had power greater than your God.  “Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16) And it will shine, because the darkness cannot overcome it [John 1:6]!  Remember the lessons of our forefathers: the Israelites under mighty Pharaoh, God’s people in Exile in Babylon, the Christians of the first few centuries who lived in a similar godless world.  The Lord prevailed and preserved His people then, and today is no different.

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

Fifth Sunday in Lent (Judica)

Readings: Genesis 22:1–14 | Hebrews 9:11–15 | John 8:42-59

Text: John 8:42-59

Jesus saw through their lip service.  He had been teaching the Jews at the time of the Passover, the same one that was mentioned in last week’s Gospel from John 6.  It all started out with Jesus saying to them, “I am the Light of the World. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”  Right out of the gate, at least some of His hearers were skeptical: “You are bearing witness about yourself; your testimony is not true.” (John 8:12-13)  By the point of today’s Gospel lesson, Jesus has touched quite a few nerves.  He called these men out in a way that only God is able to do.  He isn’t limited by secret thoughts, trying to look put together and acceptable.  He sees what is in us better than we can see it ourselves.

The Jews were offering to Jesus what they knew to be true: “Abraham is our father!” (John 8:39)  And it was true, as far as they could see.  Just because we know what transpired after, we dare not become arrogant and say, “How little you know!”  We also make a confession of faith, and that to the best of our ability.

At the end of the day, however, they are just words.  People have a capability of being surprisingly dualistic, able to say something but only selectively mean it.  Sometimes, we would rather perjure ourselves than to face the shame of having our double-speak exposed.

God is well-acquainted with putting our words—our confession—to the test.  Already in the world, before there was sin, the Lord put the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the midst of the garden, by which He would test the man and woman’s faithfulness [Gen. 2:9, 16-17].  Those sorts of tests continue, as we read last week in Bible study from Judges, that the Lord did not completely drive out the Canaanite nations “in order to test Israel by them, whether they will take care to walk in the way of the Lord as their fathers did, or not.” (Judges 2:20-22) There’s a truth about our humanity there: while only God knows the heart, He also tests the heart to see what is in it, and so He can show us what’s in it.  In this way, He exposes any double-mindedness for what it is, and shows us how much we rely on Him—especially to save us.

It’s that double-speak which Jesus presses back on and exposes within His hearers in the Gospel.  You say that you are Abraham’s children, and yet when the one who is testified to be the Seed of Abraham comes, you want nothing to do with Him.  You believe that the Lord freed you with mighty acts from the slavery of Egypt, but you cannot free yourself from bondage to sin and the Ruler of this world—the devil.

The Jews that day couldn’t have dreamed of murdering Jesus, and they went so far as to say He must be demon-possessed.  But He knew what they were capable of, and what they would do when it came down to the moment.  The point wasn’t that they were any more sinister, that they would “crucify the Lord of glory,” (1 Cor. 2:8) but He was pointing out how very strong our sinful nature wants to be left alone to keep a soul in bondage.

The Lord has the power to push back on our double-speak too.  With our lips, we confess that we believe in an Almighty Father, that we have a heavenly Lord whose Name is Jesus, and that the Holy Spirit gives us breath and life.  But in our lives, we confess man and creature comforts to be the source of life.  If you don’t believe me, consider the things you are afraid of; how you tell yourself “I can get by as long as I have…”; and how you can resent the family, property, government, and other gifts He has given you.

We say that we love Jesus, but take stock of how much time you spend with Him during the week—in worship and devotions, in being taught His Word, in prayer.  “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Matt. 6:21)  You and I treasure and love work and time with our favorite relatives; our favorite diversions; the excitement of the Amazon truck pulling up.  We’re fans of our favorite authors, but could we be called an obsessive fan of the Bible? 

If we all love Jesus, why is only 1/8 of the Sunday attendance regularly in Bible study? [If it needs to be at a different time, let’s make it happen!]  If we love Jesus, what are we doing to teach our children the faith?  There are only two families in Sunday School and that’s only because the moms make it happen.  We say we love Jesus, but our actions often confess at best that other things are more important than Him—be it sleep, or sports, or family visiting from out of town.

In short, we get burned out from the week, and give what’s left to our Lord.

Jesus did not poke the bear just to get a rise out of the Jews, or just to make them feel miserable or angry.  He did it to expose what was bent within them in order to save them.  As St. Paul would later explain to the Corinthian Christians: “I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret” (2 Cor. 7:9-10)

I don’t point out our deficiencies—yours and mine—to belittle anyone but to expose what is in us that is either the devil’s work or our filthy sin.  Jesus said to the Jews, “You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires…when he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”  The devil’s desire is to keep us in ignorance or with a twisted version of God’s Word, to keep you enslaved to your past sins, to make sure your children know nothing but what the television and their unchurched friends tell them.  That’s the kind of thing that Jesus needs to expose in us so that He can save us from it.

When the Lord sees such a people who are evil in their hearts—the Jews that day who fostered murderous thoughts, or us with all that is in us—the Lord’s reaction is shocking.  Where we might deem it necessary to show “tough love” and put those rebels out on their hind ends, that is not what God is up to.  For all our rebellion, how we speak out of at least two sides of our mouth, our neglect to study and keep the Lord’s Word—He gives His all, His devotion is to even His enemies:

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”

God sees the ugliness in you and I with full clarity…and He nails it to the cross.  And not just for past sins, but throughout our lives!  Jesus is our ever-serving High Priest, “He entered once for all…thus securing an eternal redemption…how much more will the blood of Christ…purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Heb. 9:12-14, Epistle)  This is what the love of God looks like—“not that we loved Him, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins…and we love because He first loved us.” (1 John 4:10, 19)

This is how the Lord changes us: by adopting us as His dear children, saving us from the wretched and cruel devil’s house.  He gives us His Name and His Spirit creates a new heart within.  So, rather than resembling the devil, with his lying and murdering, we day by day resemble our Father in heaven.  We rejoice to have Him as our God, and praise Him for His goodness and mercy toward us.  We delight in His Word, as the Psalmist who says, the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the Lord are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb.” (Psalm 19:8-10)  Being with our Savior and in the fellowship of His saints is what we look forward to, and even if His teaching may be hard for us, we know that He gives it to us for our everlasting good.  Like our Father, we see our family, our peers, our spouse and children, as fellow souls dearly purchased by Christ’s blood.  Therefore, we make it our aim to ensure that they know the true God, and that they see in us the life of a forgiven sinner who gladly follows Jesus.  And we can be glad that there are already ways to do this, because we are not the first generation of Christians: for teaching our children, that’s exactly what the Small Catechism is—“As the head of the household should teach it in a simple way.”  As the Church has been witnessing through our vocations, knowing our faith so that when people ask us what we believe or why we believe it, we can answer with the hope that is in us [1 Pet. 3:15].

Hard words from Jesus today, but words which He knows we need.  Especially at this time in Lent, as we will soon hear the passion of our Lord, His death and burial, and His resurrection.  May God forbid that this be merely routine, like we sing, “Do we pass that cross unheeding, Breathing no repentant vow?” (LSB 423:2)  Let the sufferings and death of Jesus be a meditation on God’s dedication to save us, even when we are a hard case, that we may glory in that death and resurrection which delivered us from the devil’s kingdom and tyranny.  In the Name of + Jesus.  Amen.