P [To the bridegroom] Will you have this woman to be your wedded wife, to live together in the holy estate of matrimony as God ordained it? Will you nourish and cherish her as Christ loved His body, the Church, giving Himself up for her? Will you love, honor, and keep her in sickness and in health and, forsaking all others, remain united to her alone, so long as you both shall live? Then say: I will.
P [To the bride] Will you have this man to be your wedded husband, to live together in the holy estate of matrimony as God ordained it? Will you submit to him as the Church submits to Christ? Will you love, honor, and keep him in sickness and in health and, forsaking all others, remain united to him alone, so long as you both shall live? Then say: I will.
When we hear the words of these solemn promise, it can bring tears to our eyes. Tears of joy in the promise of years to come. Tears of regret for our failures and those promises made to us which were not kept.
It’s a humbling reminder to us that our promises always have a contingency. They’re always subject to failure.
31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord.
When we hear the story of God, it resounds with His faithfulness. He is the faithful Bridegroom, the faithful God who never speaks an idle promise, or says what He is unable or unwilling to do.
He created everything that is, intimately acquainted with each piece of His world, and especially of man and woman in it. He redeemed even when our parents and us had fallen into sin and rebellion. He rescued from slavery as He had promised, despite the power and stubborn refusal of a wicked ruler. Under a different tyrant, when the fires of hell threatened, He faithfully took the place of His people so that they would come out without even the smell of smoke.
This is the very faithfulness we need in order to be saved. All of us have turned aside, all of us have failed. But He has forever remained the faithful Bridegroom, the faithful Savior:
33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
This is the solemn promise He has made to you in His Son. He will never forsake you or fail you. Thanks be to God!
“The Lord became king…when the heads of the people were gathered, all the tribes of Israel together” (Deut. 33:5)
“Who is the King of glory? The Lord, strong and mighty, the Lord, mighty in battle!” (Ps. 24:8)
“The Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver; the Lord is our king; He will save us.” (Isa. 33:22)
But they had even more often denied it:
“Is the Lord among us or not?” (Ex. 17:7)
“In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Judges 17:6)
“We have no king but Caesar.” (John 19:15)
That day, they were being asked who their king was. They threw their lot in with Pontius Pilate and Tiberius Caesar. Hardening their heart, they forgot this: “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever” (Ps. 146:3-6)
There will be times when we will be asked whom we are loyal to: Either to Him who has delivered us from sin, death, and hell, or people who promise an earthly kingdom of contentment and peace.
But like the people who threw their lot in with Egypt or Rome, they will be disappointed because the power of those rulers is only for a time. Their glory is a façade which one day will be ripped away. And who will they meet when this world passes away, but the true King?
They can try to strip Jesus of His kingship, but they don’t have the power to do this. We too, can harden our hearts and try to get out of His reign, but it’s only delaying the inevitable. To this King has been given the authority to judge the earth—to judge rulers, and to judge every person.
Repent before it is too late. Bow before the true King of the universe. “Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him.” (Ps. 2:10-12)
The rulers of this world are no lasting help! Put not your trust in President Biden or Donald Trump, in the power of AI, or the social contagions of each year. These have no power to save at the last, and whatever power they exercise now is not theirs, but has been entrusted to them from above for a time.
We have heard once again tonight what this King has done for the sake of His rebellious subjects who would not honor him. What happened to the Israelites and the hard-hearted Jews has been written for our learning. May it wake us up from our slumber to consider the right fear of God the King. He desires all to be saved, but only through faith in His Son: His holy, innocent suffering and death, His rest in the tomb, and His glorious resurrection and ascension.
The King will return, His holy angels with Him, and His judgment will be carried out:
3 The books are opened then to all, A record truly telling What each has done, both great and small, When he on earth was dwelling, And ev’ry heart be clearly seen, And all be known as they have been In thoughts and words and actions.
4 Then woe to those who scorned the Lord And sought but carnal pleasures, Who here despised His precious Word And loved their earthly treasures! With shame and trembling they will stand And at the judge’s stern command To Satan be delivered.
5 My Savior paid the debt I owe And for my sin was smitten; Within the Book of Life I know My name has now been written. I will not doubt, for I am free, And Satan cannot threaten me; There is no condemnation! (“The Day is Surely Drawing Near” LSB 508:3-5)
At the hour of our death and in the day of judgment, good Lord, deliver us!
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
In the Passover, God provided salvation from death by the substitute of another. But this couldn’t be the fullness. No lamb could take the place of a person, for how had a lamb sinned and deserved a bloody death? The crude whole-roasted lamb, whose blood set the people free, ultimately could not our place.
At that time, the Lord was present among His people in the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. And even though He mighty acted on behalf of His people, He was still far removed from them, “For man shall not see me and live” (Ex. 33:20).
What mercy God showed in that he didn’t remain as far removed as a lamb is from a person!
The great love of God could not stay distant—God remembered His mercy, He saw our affliction, and God knew [Gen. 8:1; Ex. 2:25]. It moved Him to come near, even more so than seeing the cruelty of the Egyptians.
The Lord, who once delivered His people with a metaphorical “mighty hand and an outstretched arm” (Deut. 5:15) then did so concretely. To His people—suffering in the flesh and harassed by the devil, sin, and death—He came as Immanuel, God with us.
Behold this Lamb of God, by whom He saves not just the sons of Israel, but takes away the sins of the world. He came in our flesh to be condemned for our sin, to suffer our death. For He was not as far removed as a Lamb, but He became our brother, yet without sin. He was like us in every way, except sin (Heb. 2:17). Therefore allegorically, He is the true spotless Lamb whose blood shields us from destruction.
Unlike those bloody sacrificial lambs whose ashes were discarded outside the camp, Christ the Lamb of God has risen over death as its master. This is the Lord God who has joined Himself to us. He says, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:20), and indeed that is truer than it was for His ancient people, Israel. His living Word is spoken in our congregation, His benediction is upon us and our children, His Baptism unites us with His death and resurrection, and—especially on this night—are we comforted and strengthened by His Body and Blood, broken and shed for us.
Here’s how Martin Chemnitz explained this heavenly and saving union:
“Our body is the body of death, but in that same body of ours which the Son of God assumed from us, death was again destroyed. Although our sins have separated us very far from God (Is. 59:2), so that we have been alienated from the grace, righteousness, and life of God (Eph. 2:12), yet the Son of God has brought very close to us those heavenly blessings which had been removed far from us (Eph. 2:13-19)…
Moreover, in His Holy Supper He joins Himself to us in that flesh, so that we may be strengthened by this most certain pledge of the salvation and glorification of our nature; for He does not blush to call us brothers. Therefore, because we are such, He also joins Himself to us in that flesh and blood (Heb. 2:14). Flesh brought death into this world and, again, the flesh of the Son of Man was given for the life of the world in order that he who eats the flesh of Christ may have eternal life. (John 6:54)” (Martin Chemnitz, Two Natures in Christ, pp. 55-56)
And that’s the whole picture of God’s deliverance. It’s not just about Him delivering us from adversity, but that He also dwells with us, giving us His peace, His strength, and His keeping with His mighty saving arm, and His hand once outstretched upon the cross for you and me. Take comfort in this meal because it is not just a symbol of a lamb, but the very Lamb of God who once was slain and now lives and reigns that we might live with Him.
At last this is how He gives us the command: “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.” (John 13:34-35) For Israel it was the commandments and the statutes which set them apart, and the Lord who dwelt in the midst of the congregation. But in Christ we have more: We have the Living God, who has made us people for His own possession, living in us and doing His work in the world. He has washed us in the Red Sea of Baptism, making us die to sin and live before Him. To love one another as He has loved us is the result of His dwelling in our midst. Whenever we see a coldness or hard heart in ourselves or our brothers, it must be drowned and die in our Baptism. And living in God’s abundant mercy, people will know that we belong to Him, the Christ, the Son of the Living God.
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,”
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.” 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. 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!” 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.”
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.”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.” 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: “8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 9 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.” 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.
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:
8 For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9 (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.
3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. 5 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.
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: “4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…9 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.
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. 7 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.” 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. 2 During supper…3 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, 4 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.
 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.