First Sunday in Lent

~ Invocavit ~

Readings: Genesis 3:1-21 | 2 Corinthians 6:1-10 | Matthew 4:1-11

Text: Matthew 4:1-11

Doctors who fight infections are all too aware that having just one weapon isn’t enough.  Viruses and bacteria each respond differently to medication.  Sometimes a strain comes along that refuses to respond to treatment.  Then, newer, stronger, and more innovative means must be developed.

But this is never the case with the Word of the Lord!  His Word endures forever (Isaiah 40:8). His Word always accomplishes the purpose for which He sends it (Isaiah 55:11).  Similar to acute infections, all of us suffer from original sin and its fruits. We’re also regularly attacked by the malignant spiritual enemy of the devil.  But no matter how cunning he is, he will never grow resistant to God’s Word.  The Word will always cause the devil to flee, as we heard today in the Temptation of Christ.

The context helps us better appreciate the Temptation.  In all three synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke—Jesus’ temptation comes immediately after His Baptism. There at the Jordan, He is declared to be the Son of God. Satan doesn’t comes to congratulate Him or bow down before Him, but to try to make Jesus fall like he had made the first man and woman fall.  The Serpent had gotten all mankind to fall by appealing to their reason—“sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned,”[1]

This time, the Tempter chose to appeal to Jesus’ divinity: Command these stones to become bread, throw yourself down, and gain the glory of the kingdoms of the world.  Do it for your own glory (doesn’t God want to be glorified, after all?).  Don’t trouble yourself with this pitiful human race. Didn’t you regret that you had made them once, anyway? They won’t appreciate what you do for them.  But Jesus, the Son of God, wouldn’t have it.  “If many died through one man’s [Adam’s] trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.”[2]  The devil was not successful in making Jesus fall, and that victory is given to all who are in Him.

The devil tempted Jesus because He is the Son of God, and Satan like cannot stand to have any child of God not be condemned. So, he tempts everyone whom God has made His children through faith.[3] This is why St. John heard the angel say, “Woe to you, O earth and sea, for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows that his time is short!”[4]  It’s not much comfort by itself, but one way you can know for certain that you have a true faith in Christ is that you will be assaulted by the devil. You have assurance from your Lord who endured this assault with you. On the other side of His temptation, He tells us, “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”[5]

No doubt, the devil is a powerful enemy over humanity.  He’s still extremely cunning, and if he pulled a fast one on sinless Adam and Eve, imagine how much more he is able to hoodwink us!  In our weakness, we won’t necessarily be able to put our finger on the temptation the way Jesus does in the Gospel.  Yet, the effect of the devil’s work is still evident.  Just like many diseases are identified by their symptoms, the devil’s temptations can be seen by their resulting sin. Take these examples:

  • The Tempter draws God’s children away from the Word—the only medicine that can heal them and drive Satan away.  You might hear someone say they had a falling out with people at church or they have a disagreement with whoever the pastor is. Yet, when the end result is them not hearing the Word you know who’s really behind it. Satan is delighted to cause those emotional wounds to fester and bring up bad memories that drive a wedge between the sheep and the voice of their Shepherd.
  • In school, your children’s future can seem like such a noble goal. At work, you can feel like you’re catching up on all the things you haven’t gotten to yet. Yet, if you would rather see your children at special events and projects get done around the house, more than being in the Divine Service where Jesus is, remember that Satan promised Jesus the kingdoms of the world and all their glory.
  • Another of the devil’s favorite tricks is to convince you that you’re so well-grounded in your faith that you can let Bible study or devotions slide.  You “passed” confirmation like you got your diploma from high school or college.  Trouble is, there’s no end to the things Satan can convince you to believe when you only think you know what God’s Word says. Being a student of God’s Word is something we never ought to “graduate” from!

The devil’s tactics have not changed from the time of Adam and Eve, to the Temptation of Christ, to today.  He is still the same evil angel who aims at the destruction of all who cling to God by faith.  But just the same as that hasn’t changed, God’s Word is still the antidote against his temptation.  St. John tells us, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”[6]  The work of the devil is seen in doubt and unbelief, robbing us of the salvation which Christ brought into the world for sinners. He stirs up doubts and makes the poison of sin look sweet and harmless.  But all these works are on the chopping block for the Christian. In His birth, His Baptism, His temptation, His Passion, His Resurrection, and Ascension, Jesus Christ destroys the works of the devil.

He destroyed them that day by overcoming where Adam and Eve had fallen, and standing in our place as the faithful and Holy One.  He won the victory for all who believe through His innocent suffering and death, breaking the sting of sin and the power of death.  He continues to overcome through the Holy Spirit in you, bringing that Almighty, life-giving Word to your mind and heart.

Unlike hepatitis B, it’s not that you’ll be inoculated by a one-time dose of the Word of God, but in each temptation, the Lord will show you His power to rescue you even in your weakness.  He taught us to pray regularly: “Lead us not into temptation” and it’s good for us to recall what this means:

God tempts no one. We pray in this petition that God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive us or mislead us into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice. Although we are attacked by these things, we pray that we may finally overcome them and win the victory.

That’s how we, as dearly beloved, baptized children of God withstand the devil’s assaults.  He may be strong, but the Word within you is stronger—“The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart.”[7]  Arm yourself with that Word, and believe its powerful work.  We can’t praise the Lord enough for how accessible His Word is to us now.  Study it, meditate on it, learn it by heart.  Keep studying your Catechism.  It may seem like the very basics, but it is the very Word which sends the devil running.

St. Peter, who was a fellow sinner whom Satan set his sights on, wrote to us: Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. 10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”[8]   In your Lord Jesus and His words, you will be blessed, not because you can suddenly go toe-to-toe with Satan, but because he will flee from you when you have the Holy One guarding your heart and mind.

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

[1] Romans 5:12

[2] Romans 5:15

[3] Galatians 3:26

[4] Revelation 14:12

[5] Matt. 5:11-12

[6] 1 John 3:8

[7] Romans 10:8

[8] 1 Pet. 5:8-10


Readings: 1 Samuel 16:1-13 | 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 | Luke 18:31-43

Text: Luke 18:31-43

The theme for Quinquagesima is “Grace is not easily understood” and you could broaden that to say that “God’s ways are not easily understood.”

In the lesson from 1 Samuel, we saw that God’s choice for king of Israel is not what Jesse, his sons, or even the prophet Samuel, expected. Was that because God just wanted to keep them on their toes, guessing at what He is going to do next? Not hardly. It’s an indictment against our understanding which we prize so much. It may have been a while since any of you thought of this, but consider the word, “sophomore” for those who are in the second year of school. From the Greek, it literally translates to “wise fool,” with a definite emphasis on the latter—a fool who thinks him or herself wise.

And this is the way that God humbles us in our wisdom, as we heard recently from 1 Corinthians 1: “In the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the foolishness of what we preach to save those who believe…For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.” (1 Corinthians 1:21, 25) What is the key which unlocks this wisdom of God?

Consider what happens in the Gospel today in Luke 18. Our Lord clearly predicts His passion (not for the first time):

31 And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” 34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.

Even though He says it in plain words, there’s this blindness—a threefold blindness that overcomes the Twelve (v. 34):

  • They understood (comprehended) none of these things.
  • This saying was hidden from them.
  • They did not know/understand what was said.

That is, they were totally in the dark when it came to understanding exactly how Jesus would save them and be the Savior of the whole world. It was as if they couldn’t even comprehend the sounds coming out of their Lord’s mouth as He was saying this. How ironic that those who were with the Lord day in, and day out, and yet utterly powerless to understand this crucial teaching! This is why we say today that “Grace is not easily understood” and why our Lutheran confessions explain, “[God] gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when he wills, in those who hear the gospel.” (Augsburg Confession, V)

To illustrate how this isn’t a matter of what “makes sense,” they went on to Jericho.  Even though the disciples were helpless to unravel these things, the Holy Spirit granted understanding to an unexpected person:

35 As he drew near to Jericho, a blind man was sitting by the roadside begging. 36 And hearing a crowd going by, he inquired what this meant. 37 They told him, “Jesus of Nazareth is passing by.” 38 And he cried out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Reason would dictate that those who had the most exposure to Jesus, heard the most of His teachings, would be the best informed when it comes to recognizing who He is and what He has come to do.  But this chapter 18 in Luke’s Gospel is about faith receives, not what reason can accomplish.  Just the very city in which this takes place carries a reputation.  Jericho was the first Canaanite city the Israelites encountered (Joshua 2). Even before God’s way of conquest—marching around the city walls—was demonstrated, there was seen an unexpected believer in Rahab. James commends her as a woman of faith: “In the same way [as Abraham] was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.” (James 2:25-26) The place on the way to Jerusalem, which was expected to be a place of ignorance, actually was the place where Rahab, the faithful woman, had lived.

So near Jericho, they meet another believer: a blind man who has been listening in faith about Jesus: He is the Son of David—the one seen by God not as man sees—that is to see with the eyes of faith.  Just like with Jesse and his sons, God is not choosing as man would, but as God does, who works in the inner man or heart.

39 And those who were in front rebuked him, telling him to be silent. But he cried out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 40 And Jesus stopped and commanded him to be brought to him. And when he came near, he asked him, 41 “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” 42 And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” 43 And immediately he recovered his sight and followed him, glorifying God.

Those who were leading the procession of the Lord through Jerusalem ought to be the ones who had the best understanding, but instead they were trying to silence this stupid beggar. “Kyrie eleison!” He’s crying after Jesus. Doesn’t he know this will get us in trouble with Rome, who insists that we give this cry to Caesar?

But the “problem” isn’t this blind man who is crying after Jesus; it’s us, who aren’t. This physically blind man has been given eyes to recognize Jesus with the sight which truly matters: “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” Kyrie, eleison! He’s crying out the most simple, and yet profound prayer in the Church: “Lord, have mercy.” To our thought, it doesn’t sound like much. How could you ask the Lord for so little as to have mercy? But in asking the Lord to have mercy is to ask Him to remember more than His just judgment against us. Instead, look upon us through the blood of Jesus Christ. Look upon us in your promise to save, and be as merciful to us as possible!

Look at us and our children, and do not give us what we deserve, but what your mercy toward sinners appoints. Like blind men who can only receive what your grace pours out, give us eyes to see Jesus and your mercy upon the cross!  Give us eyes to see why He goes to the cross.

Up to this point, many people have been asking Jesus to arbitrate (Luke 12:13-14), and to settle theological arguments (Luke 11:53-54).  But notice the ones who the Lord answers: Those who call on Him simply saying, “Lord, have mercy upon us!” Kyrie Eleison. Through granting us repentance, God gives us an understanding which our reason can’t see: “For He will be delivered over…mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him.” Yet, how often do we think of this merely as a cold transaction between the Father and the Son for us without any connection to us?

What repentance reveals is that it is actually our own sins for which Christ suffers. We would choose for someone else to suffer instead of us bearing the punishment we deserve. Our pride mocks the Son of God who has come in order to liberate us from sin, death, and the devil. By continuing in our sins, so that grace may abound, we are no better than those who mock Him to His face saying, “He saved others; He cannot save Himself.” (Luke 23:35) And yet those wounds and mockery were for you.  The flogging He endured is testimony to the ways we deserve to bear punishment for our disobedience to God and flagrant disregard for His stern commandments!

This grace is most difficult for us to understand, and without the Holy Spirit, all of us would be hopeless to find it! Yet, despite what we deserve, “the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” (Small Catechism, Creed, 3rd Article)

And rather than the judgment that we well know we deserve, He comes to the repentant heart with the question, “What do you want me to do for you?”  [The blind man] said, “Lord, let me recover my sight.” 42 And Jesus said to him, “Recover your sight; your faith has made you well.” And here we see how the Lord answered this poor man with more than He ever imagined or deserved. He asked simply for his sight to be restored. Yet in the Lord’s answer, He answered His request and gave him all that he truly needed: “Your faith has saved you.”

This is how the Lord deals with each of us, whom He draws in humble repentance, with eyes that He Himself has opened. Kyrie, eleison, Lord, have mercy. We don’t know what we ought to ask for, but the Holy Spirit has taught us that HERE in Jesus is where to look for help. Though we sit on the darkened side of that “mirror dimly” which St. Paul describes in those rich words in 1 Corinthians 13:12, our Lord and God has given us the sight which is better. By His grace, we are given to see Jesus Christ with all His gifts: Our sins, small and great, are atoned for by His blood passion. Through Him, God the Father has made peace with us. Now, we approach Him as dear children asking their dear Father. However weak or strong we look in the eyes of man, He has given us a heart which He knows and named us as His own.

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

Sexagesima (About 60 days until Easter)

Readings: Isaiah 55:10-13 | 2 Corinthians 11:19-12:9 | Luke 8:4-15

Text: 2 Corinthians 11:19—12:9

Hearing today’s Epistle lesson is like you came to church late, while St. Paul was already deep into his sermon.  In fairness to those of us who didn’t start reading at the beginning of chapter 10, I’ll catch you up to speed.

1. What happened after Paul left Corinth:

a. Paul established this congregation beginning with Aquila and Priscilla (exiles from Rome), and later Crispus and Sosthenes (former synagogue leaders) and stayed with them for over 18 months (Acts 18:1-18)

b. He continued to correspond with them [1 Cor. 5:9] in at least one letter we don’t have. What we have as First Corinthians was written about AD 55 from Ephesus.

c. Sometime after that, a group that had been upsetting the church elsewhere came in claiming to be better than the Apostle Paul, with a better understanding of the Law of Moses and how it related to Jesus. They were possibly disciples of the Judaizers or the original party moved north after the matter was addressed by the Apostles in Jerusalem (see Acts 15, circa AD 45).

III. Paul contrasts a true apostle with a “super apostle”

a. Paul is concerned for the Corinthians, that they have been devilishly deceived by smooth-talkers who come in the guise of servants of Jesus. Paul is exposing the “super-apostles” for their duplicity and seeking to profit from selling an “improved” Jesus. They claimed stronger eloquence (10:10, 11:6). They counter Paul’s free Gospel with the argument ‘you get what you pay for’ (11:7-9) and disparaging Paul because of his bodily weakness (11:9).

b. What Paul has to “boast of”—his curriculum vitae or resume—is not money, skill, and popularity. (After all, isn’t this what Satan himself promised Christ in the wilderness? Matt. 4:1-11). His boasting is not of things that “shine the spotlight” on him, but on Christ alone even while he suffers.

22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.

i. It wasn’t that Paul could make promises about how their congregation would grow under his tutelage, as some do in our day. The authenticity of Paul’s apostleship came from the Lord who sent him, and its truth was hidden under many rejections and the weakness of Paul the man.

c. Paul, even though he was gifted with a heavenly vision, was not thereby made anything more than a sinful and redeemed human being. He repentantly struggled against coveting (Rom. 7), and may have suffered residual eye problems from the Damascus encounter (Gal. 6:11)

i. Even more shocking is that the Lord allowed Satan to continue to harass him so that Paul’s flesh—so prone to pride and wickedness—would be kept in submission.

So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited.

d. For St. Paul (and we should expect no different), the outward evidence of our faith is not how many people we can influence, how well we can put Bethlehem Lutheran Church on the map or leave our mark in history. The success we want to be affirmed in isn’t this worldly kind.

III. Pastoral application: The Lord is working for our good in suffering, so that we may bear fruit with patience.

a. In the life of St. Valentine of Rome:

i. Valentine was a priest in Rome in the late 250’s AD, at a time when the Roman Empire was struggling to maintain its territory. They wanted to see a golden age return and were eager for whatever would bring that.

ii. At that time, since around the time of Decius (249-251), it was popular to blame the Christians for why the Empire was not prospering, and persecution was carried out in the name of “the safety of the empire”[1]

iii. Around that time, it was illegal to marry Christians. This was an order which the priest Valentine could not abide, because it came from God not Caesar.  But “obeying God rather than man” (Acts 5:29) did not gain him success or popularity. It meant his arrest and eventual beheading by government officials.

b. In the walk of every Christian:

i. We’re told the verse from Philippians 4:13 , “I can do all things through [Christ] who strengthens me.” Then, we lament our failure and think our faith is inferior. We want there to be a silver bullet solution to our persistent sin, our bodily weakness, the troubled marriage, the contention at work or school.

Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

ii. When the Lord says, “My grace is sufficient for you,” He means it. His grace is enough support you through your hardship and heartache, through the temptations and failures, in the long journey of the fruit of the Spirit growing.

iii. So long as you continue to rest on His grace. If you give up on His ways and timing, you can fall into unbelief which has an end far more dangerous and unpleasant than the temporal angst and pain you know now. Continue to hope in His steadfast love, His power made perfect in weakness, shown in how He will uphold you day by day.

iv. The Parable of the Sower warns us against this faith’s enemies:

1. Satan who would love for us to forsake God and treat Him as a stranger and enemy.

2. The troubles of this passing life as if “something strange were happening to them” (1 Pet. 4:12) and those struggles were more powerful than the Lord of heaven and earth.

3. The deceit of temporal cares and pleasure of this life, a desire for these over the Lord who calls us to the life to come.

c. Our aim is that good soil, “As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.”  That remaining firmly rooted in the Lord, we bear the fruit of faith in our daily life.

For the Christian, both the sorrows and the joys of this life are passing away. Neither ought to captivate us, since the Lord has given us something better: “The inheritance of the saints in light.” (Col. 1:12) This life, in its pains and pleasures, pales in comparison to what God has laid up for those who love Him.

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.

[1] Cited in D.S. Potter “Persecution of the Early Church” (1992), p. 241


Readings: Exodus 17:1-7 | 1 Corinthians 9:24-10:5 | Matthew 20:1-16

Text: Matthew 20:1-16

No doubt, envy is a powerful emotion.  It takes coveting up a notch, and is defined as, “painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage.” (Merriam Webster) The perception of another’s advantage is behind most tantrums from ages 3 to 83. Without envy, where would all this talk of such-and-such’s privilege come from?

Can envy in fact harm another person without them lifting a finger? Many ancient people have thought so, all the way back to the time of the Israelite Exodus. Hittites, Egyptians, and Greeks were terribly afraid of the power of the “evil eye.”

I. Belief in the Evil Eye is based on a fear of evil from outside, especially caused by envy.

a. It was believed that a look could bring a curse on another person, especially the vulnerable (pregnant women, children, the elderly).  This curse would cause poor health or other misfortune. At its root, the evil eye came from envying another’s prosperity or beauty.

b. Greek philosopher, Plutarch (AD 46-119), writing just after our Lord’s ministry, tried to reason an explanation:

“Now, when men thus perverted by envy fix their eyes upon another, and these, being nearest to the soul, easily draw the venom from it, and send out as it were poisoned darts, it is no wonder, in my mind, if he that is looked upon is hurt.” (Plutarch, Quaestiones Convivales, Book V, 7.4)

c. What can one do to protect against the evil eye? Solutions range from wearing amulets and painting large eyes on objects, to special gestures (akin to “knock on wood”) and avoiding the gaze of strangers.

II. Our Lord, the God of Heaven and Earth, exposes the truth about the supposed evil eye.

a. By now, you’re probably wondering why so much about the evil eye? At the heart of Jesus’ parable today about the Kingdom of Heaven is the Master’s response to the one who has worked a full day: “Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or do you begrudge my generosity?” (v. 15). The footnote in most Bibles will offer the literal translation: “Is your eye evil because I am good?”

b. Jesus also recognizes the power of envy which the full-day workers displayed, but He says it’s root is in a different place. In the Sermon on the Mount, Matt 6:22-23, He says,

22 “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy [generous], your whole body will be full of light, 23 but if your eye is [evil], your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

He doesn’t give the evil eye power to curse others, but makes a sad statement of one’s own condition: You are the one who suffers for the evil eye, because it means that you are filled with darkness and cut off from the life of God.

c. What of the evil eye and envy? That’s made even clearer in another place, where Jesus explains what defiles a person. In Mark 7:20-23, He says, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come…envy [the evil eye]… 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” Jesus lists the evil eye among things that come from inside our sinful heart and curse, not others, but defile us.

III. Through God’s truth coming to us, we see that our sin is the real peril each of us faces. Because of our sin, we deserve nothing but the reward of our evil hearts. Yet, God is gracious to offer what we could never merit.

a. Envy rises up in reaction to God’s goodness: “Is your eye evil because I am good?

i. To Cain whose face fell when Abel was regarded by God. Eventually Cain’s envy led to murder [Gen. 4:1-16]. Yet even in that, God showed grace to Cain by giving him undeserved protection.

ii. To the Israelites who ungratefully rejected God and Moses, even accusing both of evil intention. Yet to this rabble, He still gave water. [Ex. 17:1-7]

iii. It was not those who worked the hardest who gained God’s favor, but those who in repentance acknowledged their fault. Grumbling is the fruit of heart’s unbelief.

b.If there is any cursing going on, it this sin of grumbling against God and the wages of death which bring us the truest misfortune. Where pagans can only worry about bad luck and poor health, the end of this curse of sin is eternal suffering.

c. The true God is not fickle like our fallen minds imagine Him. He doesn’t leave us to figure out for ourselves what amulet or incantation will ward off the consequences. His cure to the evil eye is for His Son to be cursed for us:

13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree”— 14 so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith. (Galatians 3:13-14)

The grace of God is higher than our ways. Our natural minds are darkened and can’t fit God’s ways into our “I deserve better” system. We envy one another, but don’t see how the evil eye is actually an accusation against our inability to save ourselves. In spite of each of our evil thoughts—while we were still sinners [Rom. 5:8]—Christ took our curse and instead gives us what He has earned: “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well-pleased.” And at the last judgment, not on the basis of our works, He will say, “Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your Master.” (Matt. 17:5; Matt. 25:21).

In the Name + of Jesus. Amen.