Growing in Faith

The Feast of St. Andrew

Text: John 1:35-42a

Who was Andrew? How is he remembered?

Andrew was the brother of Peter, first a disciple of John and moved by the words, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”

Although he was the first to believe, he wasn’t as impetuous as his brother. The two of them were called together at some point after this initial meeting (Matt. 4:18-22)

His mark on in the Gospel narratives is only pointing out the boy with five loaves and two fish at the Feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:8-9) and being among the four who asked Jesus about the destruction of the Temple (Mark 13:3-4).

Later tradition says he was a missionary around the Black Sea. Died in Patras, Achaia in the 60’s. Legend says that he was crucified on an X-shaped cross, which is why he is pictured with the two beams of wood. Owing to the tradition of his wide travels, Andrew is the patron saint of Scotland, which is why the flag bears a white cross on a blue field.


Almighty God, by Your grace the apostle Andrew obeyed the call of Your Son to be a disciple. Grant us also to follow the same Lord Jesus Christ in heart and life, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

John the Evangelist provides the background of how Andrew first came to learn of Jesus.

18 While walking by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon (who is called Peter) and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea, for they were fishermen. 19 And he said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” 20 Immediately they left their nets and followed him. (Matt. 4:18-20)

His call to be an apostle is not the impulsive, hasty “get out of the boat” moment that people make it out to be. He learned from Jesus, first calling Him “Rabbi,” but eventually telling his brother, “We have found the Messiah.”

Likewise, all disciples grow through the Word of God. We all start as babes on the “pure spiritual milk of God’s Word…[having] tasted that the Lord is good.” (1 Pet. 2:2) And over time with growth, we become ready for “solid food,” for “solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.” (Heb. 5:14).

How has your walk been in following Jesus? Perhaps earlier you had misconceptions, underestimating Him. This misunderstanding may have led you to doubt.

What brings you from weak faith to better know Him, and more fervently follow Him, is hearing His Word in the crucible of life. Faith comes by hearing, but maturity comes through trials (Rom. 10:17; James 1:2). We need both.

The Lord knew this for Andrew, just as He did for Peter and all the apostles. The Lord directed Andrew’s growth though His questions and teaching, healing Peter’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:29-31), through his doubts in the crowd of 5,000, through the Messiah’s passion and resurrection and ascension. All of this prepared Andrew for what the Lord would do through him: preach the Gospel to the Gentiles of Scythia, Thrace, and Asia Minor.

What does Andrew teach us about during Advent?

The point for us is that every disciple starts somewhere which the Lord knows. According to His saving purpose, He calls us with His Gospel and enlightens us. As we answer His call and follow Him, Jesus causes us to better know Him, so that we can also tell others accurately about who He is—our Christ and theirs.

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

First Sunday in Advent

~ Ad Te Levavi ~

Readings: Jeremiah 23:5-8 | Romans 13:8-14 | Matthew 21:1-9

Text: Matthew 21:1-9

“Your King Comes to You”

This is the beginning of Advent, the season leading up to Christmas.  This word, Advent, is handed down to us from generations of Christians before us. It means, “to come to” (ad + venire), It’s about Christ’s coming—first to save His people from their sin, and again at the Last when He “will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him” (Heb. 9:28)

“Say to the daughter of Zion,

       ‘Behold, your king is coming to you,

humble, and mounted on a donkey,

on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’ ”

Behold says Zechariah. Wake up! Pay attention! Why? Because your King is coming. He alone shall reign among you. What does it mean to have a king when we live in a democratic republic? We did not choose Him, but He was given to us.

Christ alone is your king, not Moses with his law. Sin, death, and the devil are not your master. Let none but Christ your Master be. All these tyrants who have long plagued you are vanquished by your King, Jesus.

Jesus alone is chosen, promised, and sent by God to you. He has purchased and won you.

He came in this way because He is King—more than a personal King, but King of Creation.  Above His cross, He bore the inscription, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews,” but He is so much more.  It would simply be a tragedy if Jesus came as the rightful King of the Jews, they didn’t receive Him and rather crucified Him.  But in fact by their rejection, God established His reign, so that after He rose from breaking the power of His enemies, He proclaims, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.” (Matt. 28:18)

What sort of King He is

            He is not an earthly ruler of an earthly kingdom.  He is a spiritual King whose Kingdom is one of faith (yet one day of sight).  The Jews had it wrong when they heard of God’s Messiah coming as King.  They heard terms like kingdom, land, and Zion, and they were confined to merely physical interpretations.  Right before His ascension, the disciples still asked Him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6)  By which they meant, are you going to set up a nation state, establish a worldly government, choose people to be your “right hand man” and so forth. Some false teachers even still say that Christ will come to establish an earthly kingdom in a “golden age” for a 1,000 years. But if we listen to all of Scripture, and to Christ Himself, it’s clear this is not how He reigns.

We are at a severe disadvantage to think of the Kingdom, of Zion, of Israel, and our King in merely earthly ways.  He is God, so His reign extends not borders found on a map but extends over the whole universe—“He upholds all things by the Word of His power.” (Heb. 1:3)  His Zion is not merely a special name for the earthly city Jerusalem, but for His dwelling in the midst of His holy people—“For the Lord has chosen Zion; he has desired it for his dwelling place: “This is my resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it.” (Ps. 132:13-14)  His Israel is not the blood descendants of the patriarch Jacob, for “All who 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 1:12-13)

At Jesus’ entry into the city Jerusalem, it was expected that He was an earthly king, for He was riding in as Solomon, the natural son of David (1 Kings 1:44).  Yet, it was soon clear that His reign would not be a continuation of King Solomon.  God raised Him up, not to a dazzling throne with fanfare.  The shouts of Hosanna quickly came to a close.  Instead of a gold-clad throne, He was raised up to reign from the tree of the cross.  The justice He established was the “temporal death and eternal punishment” that we “justly deserve.”[1]  The righteousness He established was the sinless, obedient heart and life that no son of Adam could do.  He was indeed righteous and having salvation, as Zechariah foretold (Zech. 9:9).  But what earthly King could do this for His subjects?  As the King of the Jews breathed His last and was laid in the tomb, it became all too clear that His reign would not be limited to Jerusalem.

How He reigns

            Among earthly rulers, you find power, politics, sway, and even corruption.  Not so with King Jesus.  He comes “humble and mounted on a donkey.”  He comes not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28)  He comes not with threats of condemnation but with words of comfort for the broken, the sinful, those “harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matt. 9:36)

That is how He still comes, in humble means, as a servant-King.  He brings people into His Kingdom, under His reign, not by coercion and threats, but by His humble, yet powerful Word.  He doesn’t display His power in mighty acts of destruction, but in the peaceful fruit of sins forgiven and the hope of eternal life.  He nourishes His people, not with glorious power to overcome every obstacle, but with His crucified and risen Body and Blood.  All this so that His power might be perfected in our weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).

            Indeed, the Day is coming when He will come in power, but now is the day for His Kingdom to grow.  We often grow impatient with His ways, but He who knows the hearts of all also knows what truly “work” to extend His reign.  When we’re surrounded by businesses and churches-modeled-after-consumerism that seem to thrive we grow envious of their visible success.  But if we are to be faithful to our Lord, we too remain humble servants, waiting to be exalted by our God.

Why He Comes

Lastly, we consider why He comes.  It might occur to us that we get by just fine without a King.  But who is able to face the Judgment Day without fear?  King Jesus intercedes for you.  Who is able to face the spiritual warfare that would deceive us, make us complacent in our sins, and drag us ignorantly to hell?  King Jesus is able to loose our chains and fight for us.  Which one of us can do battle with death and overcome?  King Jesus comes to give you His victory over the grave!

The crowds who saw Jesus coming into Jerusalem cried, “Hosanna!” This wasn’t just praise for Him. It’s a cry that means, “Save us, we pray!” So that cry is still on our lips every week. Our King comes to us with His victory, His intercession, and the victorious host, and gives it all to us His Body and Blood. That continues to be our cry, “Hosanna!” and He answers us with His might!

He purchased and won you from sin, death, and the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy precious blood and innocent suffering and death.  He did all this so that you would belong to Him and live with Him and serve Him in His Kingdom.  In this life, that Kingdom may not look like much—it is sometimes hard and painful, take sacrifice, even cost you your life—but it is a Kingdom which endures beyond time, gives victory over death, and promises you eternal prosperity and blessing from God.

Behold, daughter of Zion, who are the faithful of God in this place, your King is coming to you, and God grant you to receive Him.  Amen!

[1] Lutheran Service Book, p 184

The Feast of All Saints (observed)

Readings: Revelation 7:2-19 | 1 John 3:1-3 | Matthew 5:1-12

Text: Revelation 7:2-19

Theme: The victory and salvation of the Church of all time belongs to the Lamb, which He has given to you.

I. Reading the Book of Revelation is kind of like diving into the Old Testament. It seems to be full of contradictions, scary judgments, and uncertainty about who belongs to God and who doesn’t.  Only occasionally are there some quotable parts that bring comfort…

Examples of seeming contradictions: The wickedness of man is great, so God destroys all except eight through the Flood.  God desires to bless the nations, and then he orders Joshua to exterminate them. He promises great things for Israel, but then sends them into slavery in Egypt, then later rebellion and exile. 

But neither the Old Testament, nor the Book of Revelation can be properly understood without God’s Son, Jesus Christ.  Just as the Old Testament is the story of God’s people—the patriarchs and Israel—Revelation is about the Church.

II. One of the reasons Revelation isn’t appealing is because it has a stark, honest view of the fallen world.  It’s like a horror movie that takes a level view of the evil so that you can see just how insidious and deadly it is. Unlike slasher movies or grotesque video games, it does not glorify the evil or cheer for how bad things can get.  Rather, Revelation shows the true nature of man’s wickedness, the devil’s contempt and murderous plans, and the only Power that can overthrow such worldwide corruption.

III. This section of Revelation gives us a view from above, the eternal picture of the Church, lest we be weighed down with the moments we endure right now.  It’s actually through the past history of God’s people, recorded in the Old Testament, that we understand the full significance of this vision.

a. The evil of this world (as uncontrollable as it seems to us) is held back at God’s command, just as it was when God sent the Flood (Job 38:11).  It is God who knows His own, and calls them out as an exceedingly great host, preserving them against the seemingly out-of-control forces of darkness.

b. The ranks of Israel recall the battle census of Numbers, where each tribe is accounted. But something is different here! Judah is at the head of the line.  The Lion of the Tribe of Judah has conquered as the Lamb standing even though it had been slain.

“Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” And…I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain…And he went and took the scroll from the right hand of him who was seated on the throne” (Rev. 5:5-7)

c. Now that the Lamb has conquered in the fight, there is a great multitude—an exceeding army[1]—that no man can number. This is what the Lord indeed had sworn would be to Abraham (Gen. 15:5-6).

d. The great tribulation has played out from the time when enmity was set between the woman’s seed and that of the Serpent (Gen. 3:15), carried out by those who are of the devil.  It’s pictured in Daniel 12:1-3, rising again in the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD (Matt. 24:15-21), but reaching its apex in the time immediately before the return of Christ. It is not identified merely by intensity at a particular point in history, but from the Fall all the way until the final Judgment (Matt. 23:29-36).

e. Because of the Lamb’s victory, they stand in victor’s robes and bearing the palm branches of pilgrims (Lev. 23:40) and victors (1 Macc. 13:51). Not because they had the strength, but because the Lord fought for them (Exod. 14:14)

40 And you shall take on the first day the fruit of splendid trees, branches of palm trees and boughs of leafy trees and willows of the brook, and you shall rejoice before the Lord your God seven days.” (Lev. 23:40)

The Jews entered it with praise and palm branches, and with harps and cymbals and stringed instruments, and with hymns and songs, because a great enemy had been crushed and removed from Israel.” (1 Macc. 13:51)

So their cry gives glory to God: “Salvation (security, safety) is by our God who sits on the throne and by the Lamb” 

f. They are before the throne of God and are serving Him day and night.  He who sits on the throne makes His dwelling among them 27 My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 28 Then the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore.” (Ezek 37:27-28, and John 1:14).  Theirs is the victory over God’s enemies—over sin, devil, and even death itself.  Hear the promises all rolled together here:

10They shall not hunger or thirst, neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them, for he who has pity on them will lead them, and by springs of water will guide them.” (Isaiah 49:10)
6The sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.” (Psalm 121:6)
8He will swallow up death forever; and the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces, and the reproach of his people he will take away from all the earth, for the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 25:8)

IV. From this eternal, heavenly perspective, we see what is true for us.  These words are already yours in Christ.

So what do you think of the Church?  If you were to just look with your eyes and measure by your human understanding, you would see defeat and scattering, division and failure.

No!  Look with the eyes of faith which God gives you, so that you may know that the Church is the weak and victorious.  Small and forlorn in ourselves.  Dead and dying to the world.  But in Christ—the Lion of Judah, the Lamb who has conquered His foes—we are God’s great host, beloved and holy, though we die yet shall we live.

Beloved of God, we are already part of that multitude, so take up the praise already, because it is yours to hold onto, even while we now dwell in the shadow of death.  That shadow will pass away when the true light comes.  In the Name of + Jesus.


[1] In this context, ochlos can mean “a mass of soldiers” (