Live In The Light (Christmas Eve)

Light Of The World
Pastor Steve Bauer
Live In The Light (Christmas Eve)

There Was Light, But Darkness Came

How did I get here? One of the details about moving to MN that they didn’t tell me is that, when you are in the more rural areas, your GPS device doesn’t always have all the roads on it. And so, it’s easy to get lost. But when the darkness comes, if you’re already lost, it makes it even worse. This evening in our opening reading from God’s word we start out by asking that question: how did we get here? There is darkness in the world around us. But how did we end up here? At the beginning, in the Garden of Eden, it was completely good. But, as we read, in Genesis 3, Satan entered our world and brought darkness with him. And so, if you want to begin to understand why our world is perpetually broken, here in God’s word is where you need to look. Only here do we read how this darkness of sin came. Only here do we read how thoroughly it affected humanity. If we look to our own experience or to popular opinion, we might conclude that our world is only broken…a little, or in the darkness…a little. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of WW I. They called it the “war to end all wars.” It was so bad that no one thought it could be followed by another, even worse war. No, the darkness of sin is real out there. And the darkness of sin is real inside of us. But in these words we don’t just here where where this darkness of sin began. We also hear of the one who will bring it to an end. The Lord promises that there would be a “he” would end the Satanic Serpent, but at great cost to himself. He would be the one would bring light into this dark world.

They Needed Light

How bad is it? Whether you have a broken bone or you have cancer, that’s the question you ask. You need a diagnosis as to how bad it actually is. The words we are about to read give us a spiritual diagnosis. The spiritual darkness that is out there in the world and in my heart—how bad is it? In the words we are about to read, we meet two brothers. By the end of the day Cain had murdered Abel. But what drove him to it? Where did that darkness come from? It came from the inside. Cain murdered his brother with his hands. But the spiritual darkness inside of us is so real that we murder others with our hearts. Jesus said that whoever hates his brother is a murderer.1 And yet, in the midst of all that darkness, light was promised. Adam and Eve fixed their eyes on that promise of at “he” who would come like people looking at a light house on a dark and terrifying night.

The Light Was Promised.

To you. Sometimes the best and most beautiful theology is found in the pronouns. About 800 years before Jesus was born the Lord promised to shine out and reach out his light to Judah and Israel. And what we need to focus on in these words is those two little words, to you. For there was no reason whatsoever why the Israelites could look forward to the Lord shining out to them. They had broken every commandment and every covenant. They had shattered their relationship with him. But when I read these words from Isaiah 60, listen for those words, “to you.” For the Lord also speaks these words to you. The Israelites aren’t the only ones who have broken God’s commands and destroyed relationships. Who of us can say that our hands are clean? With the words we have spoken and the actions we have taken we have shattered friendships and maybe even family relationships. And that’s why those two words, “for you” are so precious and important. Just as Jesus pays for and forgives the sins of the ancient Israelites, so also he pays for and forgives your sins. So when I read these words written so long ago, don’t hear them as dry, dusty words written for people without your problems. Hear those words, “to you” as precious promises spoken to you.

Jesus Is The Light

Look quickly. You might miss it. Some years ago we went on a family vacation and we stopped at McDonald Observatory. And so, we got to look at the stars through massive telescopes. And at one of the stations where where was a telescope, I got to see a twin star. And the lady at that station kept saying the same words to each person: “Look quickly, you might miss it.” In these words the same is true. There’s a very important detail about Jesus, the Light of the world, spoken. But it’s easy to miss. The angels appear to shepherds in the fields. And then there’s a very important detail they add. But it’s easy to miss. The angels says to the shepherds that Christ, the Lord is there. But then, what is this Christ, and where should they look for him? The Lord of the universe is a baby boy. And they should look for him in a manger. That is a detail that is easy to miss. The angels encouraged the shepherds to look for the King of kings in humble places. And the same is true today. Don’t look for the Light in the rumbling thunders of the sky. Don’t look for Jesus in the powerful yearning emotions of your heart. You will not find him there. Look for the light in these humble words, the bible. Why is it that we come to church Sunday after Sunday; why we take our bibles home and read them to ourselves and to our children? Here in these words is where we find the light. And here in these words we learn of the one who keeps all his promises. One of the greatest proofs of this darkness of sin inside of us is what we do with promises. We make them and then are unable to keep them. Sometimes we make them knowing that we probably won’t keep them. Not so with the bible. The shepherds saw the Christ. And everything they saw was just as the angels had told them. Look for Jesus in the humble places. Look for him in his word. There is where he makes his promises. And since he is the light of the world, he will keep them.

Live in the Light

Some descriptions are beyond our imaginations. Before I was a pastor I had a year of internship. It was called my vicar year. And Karin and I spent that year in the Northwoods of WI. And in that area there were thousands of lakes just as there are here. And what I remember is asking the people there what it was like to get up or go to bed with the light shining off the lake. And all the words they used didn’t seem to get the job done. In these final words from the final part of the bible the same is true. Can you imagine a place where there is no darkness? Can you imagine a place where there is no suffering, sin, death, and despair? Jesus won that place of light for all of us. And in these final words he gives us the invitation to live every day with that light firmly fixed in our minds and hearts. And he does so for a reason. Since we do not see the light of heaven right here and right now in front of our faces, it’s so easy to forget that there is where we are headed. It’s so easy to have the stress of school and work, the busy-ness of life, and even have the blessings that are fun here in this life lead us back into the darkness. No, the light that lasts is not here on earth. It’s there in heaven. There in heaven there will be no darkness of sin. There in heaven we will see those who put their faith and their lives in Christ. There in heaven we will see Jesus face to face. So, my friends in Christ, live in the light every day. Do this by repenting of your sin every day and rejoicing that Jesus is the Light of the world who takes your sin away. And keep lifting your eyes to you home above in heaven where there will be no darkness ever again.

1 cf. Matt 5:21 sq.

Who Will Take Jesus Down? (Good Friday)

Pastor Steve Bauer
Who Will Take Jesus Down? (Good Friday)

Who Will Take Jesus Down?

Who gets to set the agenda? I never was one to watch presidential debates. But, years ago, I watched a presidential debate because, I was told, that was the responsible, grown-up course to follow. And what surprised me right away is how the course of the entire conversation could be guided if not even dominated by the person who got to ask the questions. The one who asked the questions was the one who got to set the agenda. Tonight, on this night of darkness we spend more time in Mark’s gospel. And so we ask the question: who will set the agenda? In Mark 15, we read: 29 Those who passed by were yelling insults at him, shaking their heads, and saying, “Ha! The one who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, 30 save yourself by coming down from the cross!” 31 In the same way, the chief priests with the scribes were mocking him among themselves and saying, “He saved others, but he cannot save himself! 32 Let the Messiah, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross, so that we may see and believe.” Even those who were crucified with him taunted him.” (Mark 15:29–32 CSB17)

Notice how these words start out. People pass by and say, “come down from the cross.” Then the Jewish leaders follow up and with scorn and derision, say, “come down from the cross.” And with those questions, they set the agenda for all the words which follow. Who will take Jesus down from the cross? And if the Jewish leaders ask the question, what follows after this makes the question all that much more important. We read: 33 When it was noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. 34 And at three Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lemá sabachtháni?” which is translated, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?”” (Mark 15:33–34 CSB17)

Who will take Jesus down? Who will rescue him from this torment and torture there on the cross? With such clear please and cries of pain, Jesus lets us know that his Father abandoned him. So, if the question is “who will take Jesus down,” the answer is definitely not God above. So if Jesus cannot seem to take himself down as the Jewish leaders invite, and if God above cannot take him down, who will take him down? Let us read some more: 35 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “See, he’s calling for Elijah.” 36 Someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, fixed it on a stick, offered him a drink, and said, “Let’s see if Elijah comes to take him down.”” (Mark 15:35–36 CSB17)

If Jesus cannot take himself down and God will not take Jesus down, then who will take him down? The crowd concludes that maybe Elijah will. These words here that the crowds speaks are probably the most incomprehensible and non-sensical words in the entire bible. They make no sense. Earlier Jesus had made the point that John the Baptizer was the Elijah that was to come.1 They were all there waiting for Elijah to come. But Elijah already came. And they missed it.

In these words, by God’s Holy Spirit, Mark shows us the depth of their sin. God’s word never reached their heads. And since the meaning and understanding of God’s word never reached their heads, it never reached their hearts. They did not know what God’s word said. And they should have. The the result was that they cared about the wrong concerns. The question they needed to ask themselves was not whether Elijah would take Jesus down. No, instead, the question they needed to ask was who would save them from sin, death and hell?

And we find the same pattern among us today. Years ago, I used to belong to a gym. And there were two elderly gentlemen on the other side of the lockers. And they were talking about about lazy kids were now-days. And one of them said, “It’s like it says in the good book, God helps them who help themselves.’” Now, I wasn’t exactly dressed at that moment. So I didn’t address the situation. But I wanted to. I wanted to go around the corner and ask the guy, “So, just where does it say that in the bible?” God’s word never reached his head, so it never really reached his heart.

We too face this same temptation and trap. It is ever-so-tempting to not study God’s word. And there are consequences that follow and flow into our lives when we do not set aside time to study God’s word. First, we don’t care. Years ago I visited with a man who didn’t read God’s word when he was a younger man. But, when he retired and especially when he got sick and became a shut-in, he read God’s word. And he said to me, “Pastor, I hurt a whole lot more now then I used to.” That is what happens when we read and study God’s word. The Holy Spirit makes us care. He shapes our consciences so that we hurt, we mourn, we grieve over our sins. But the second consequence is just as bad. If God’s word does not reach our heads and then reach our hearts we end up caring about the wrong concerns. It is important to talk about children stealing their parents fire arms and then shooting people. It is important for us to talk about North Korea using nuclear arms against Japan. But neither of those is that important compared to what the crowds were forced to face there on the cross. For what good would it be to get rid of all fire ams and all nuclear arms and then, one by one, have each person die without a knowledge of the gravity of their sin and the sincerity flowing from their Savior? If God’s word does not reach our heads, it does not reach our hearts. Who will take Jesus down? In their stupidity, the people ask, “maybe Elijah.” But what happens next? We read: 37 Jesus let out a loud cry and breathed his last. 38 Then the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. 39 When the centurion, who was standing opposite him, saw the way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”” (Mark 15:37–39 CSB17)

Who will take Jesus down? Not Jesus; not God above; not even Elijah. Who would take Jesus down? No one will take Jesus down. But when Jesus dies, because no one took Jesus down, the temple curtain was torn down. At the temple there was this massive curtain that divided the Jewish men from all the Gentiles. In fact, the Jewish Historian Josephus tells us that there were signs up that said that if you crossed over you took your life in your own hands. Imagine the sermon that preached: you cannot get to God if you are a Gentile. But then what happens? Jesus dies and the temple curtain is torn down. And this centurion is able to look up and over at the temple and conclude, “Now I can get to God. Now heaven is open to me.

And the same is true for us. When we do not allow God’s word to reach our heads and then its meaning never gets to our hearts we show and prove that we do not belong with God. Instead, we belong separated from God in hell. But no one took Jesus down. He was tortured and in torment for me. My sins of caring more about studying hobbies and habits is put to death there on the cross. My sin of not caring or just as bad, caring about the wrong concerns—those sins are dealt with by Jesus’ death. And as a result, each of us can conclude right along with the centurion: “I now have open access to God and the heaven he has prepared for me.”

Who will take Jesus down? The crowd wonders whether Elijah will take Jesus down. Jesus dies and the temple curtain is torn down. But there’s one final detail to take care of in thes words: 40 There were also women watching from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. 41 In Galilee these women followed him and took care of him. Many other women had come up with him to Jerusalem. 42 When it was already evening, because it was the day of preparation (that is, the day before the Sabbath), 43 Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent member of the Sanhedrin who was himself looking forward to the kingdom of God, came and boldly went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’s body. 44 Pilate was surprised that he was already dead. Summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had already died. 45 When he found out from the centurion, he gave the corpse to Joseph. 46 After he bought some linen cloth, Joseph took him down and wrapped him in the linen. Then he laid him in a tomb cut out of the rock and rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb.” (Mark 15:40–46 CSB17)

The women watch at a distance because they cannot take Jesus’ down. But then, amidst all the fear and cowardice of this day we read that word, “boldly.” With such boldness Joseph of Arimathea dares to ask Pilate for Jesus’ body. There is such urgency in these words. But there is also such confidence. For Joseph carefully cares for Jesus’ body knowing that his sins are paid for and that there will be proof that his sins are paid for when Jesus rises from the dead. And with such amazement and joy we find the answer to the question: who will take Jesus down? Not Jesus; not God above; not Elijah. No one takes him down. He dies there. And then after he dies, with boldness Joseph takes his body down to fulfill scripture and show his faith. Amen.

1 Mark 9:13

You Have A New Covenant (Maundy Thursday)

The Lord's Supper
Pastor Steve Bauer
You Have A New Covenant (Maundy Thursday)

You Have A New Covenant

This is my blankie. As you can see, it has seen lots of loving throughout the years. It served its purpose. And then it was set aside. But I have to tell you that when it was time to set it aside, I was not happy about it. And my mom asked and even begged me to let her throw it away. I couldn’t let it go. So, even though I’ve thrown many things away over the many years we have moved, I keep moving my blankie with me. It’s hard to let go, isn’t it? That’s the situation and context we find ourselves in as we begin to work through these words in Hebrews 8. We read: “But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.” (Hebrews 8:6 NIV11-GKE)

The new covenant was better. But the Jewish people that God’s word is speaking to this evening didn’t want to set the old covenant aside. They had had this covenant for about 1400 years. And it was hard to let it go. So notice what the writer to the Hebrews does. He lets them know that hundreds of years before Jesus was born God’s word, in the book of Jeremiah, already let them know that the old covenant and the laws in it were “flawed.”1 He writes: 7 For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. 8 But God found fault with the people and said: “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. 9 It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord.” (Hebrews 8:7–9 NIV11-GKE)

About 1400 B.C. the Lord met with the Hebrew people at Mt. Sinai. And he made an agreement with them. No, it was even more official than that. He made a covenant with them. It was a two-sided covenant. He would be their God if and only if they would be his people. He kept up his part of the agreement. But they did not keep up theirs. Even though he “took them by the hand” to lead them out of Egypt, they rejected him. This old, two-sided was flawed because the people were flawed. They could not keep the promises they made. So the Old Covenant served two purposes: First, it showed them their sin. For they could not keep the promises they made. Second, it connected them to the Savior and Sacrifice that would come later on. It served its purpose. And when Jesus came, it was set aside.

But my dear friends, what happens when, like me with my blankie, we don’t want to set the old aside? Then a tendency can turn into the temptation to sin. When I was growing up dad had a chair. It was old and vinyl and orange. It had a handle that didn’t work right. You would pull on the handle and it either would not go back at all or it would fly back. It had a seat that was all worn out enough to have the thick springs poking through. Dad “repaired” it with duct tape. But eventually that made it worse because not only would your back side get poked by the exposed spring but your back side was stuck to the seat. But the chair was not thrown away because it was easier and more comfortable to keep the old than get the new.

That is our temptation today. We have the new covenant. The old has given way to Jesus and the new covenant. But there is this tug on us to forget the benefits and blessings of the new. Tonight ask yourself one simple question: If my friend or coworker asked me what benefit or blessing there is in the Lord’s Supper, what would you say to that person? If you have to think hard about an answer, doesn’t that show the real and true fact that there are these blessings in the new covenant in the Lord’s Supper. But we sin by forgetting them.

But the situation gets worse. If we forget the benefits and blessings we have in the Lord’s Supper—in this new covenant, then it’s ever-so-easy to be led away, back to the old covenant, by churches that deny the blessings that are there in the new covenant. When we were in PA, there was a small country church that would pull out all the stops for Maundy Thursday. They would put on an elaborate Tableau. They would dress up thirteen men and station them around a big table to recreate the mood and feel of the Lord’s Supper. They would put on elaborate recreations of the passover to get back to our Hebrew roots. And theologically speaking, they had to. There’s the old saying, “nature abhors a vacuum.” When you deny the benefits and blessings that Jesus gives to us in this new covenant in the Lord’s Supper, all you have left is a need to cling to the old—like me clinging onto a blanket that was worn out and ready to be set aside.

You have the new covenant. Jesus says, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” (Mark 14:24 NIV11-GKE) Well if we have the new covenant here this evening the Lord’s Supper, wouldn’t it be good to talk about the benefits and blessings that are there for us in the Lord’s Supper? The writer to the Hebrews tells us what blessings this new covenant gives to us: 10 This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. 11 No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”” (Hebrews 8:10–12 NIV11-GKE)

What benefit and blessing does the new covenant give to us? First, it forges a family with the Triune God. In the Lord’s Supper we get to use some precious pronouns. God calls us “his” people. We get to call him “our” God. And not only do we get to use these precious pronouns, we are treated like family. When there are special occasions family gets together and feasts. That’s what is going on in the Lord’s Supper. We are feasting with our Triune God, proving we are part of his family. And feasting doesn’t stop here. For Jesus gives us this promise: “Truly I tell you, I will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”” (Mark 14:25 CSB17) We get to have the perfect version of this feast finally in heaven.

So the first blessing we receive in the Lord’s Supper is that through it God forges a family with us. But the second blessing is just as important. The second blessing is forgiveness. Notice what God’s word says here. In this new covenant God forgives our wickedness. In this new covenant he remembers our sin no more. This too is what the Lord’s Supper delivers to us. Jesus wins forgiveness there on the cross and then delivers it to us here in the Lord’s Supper. And that’s exactly what we need. We need forgiveness for the times we have forgotten the very blessings he promises to give to us in the Lord’s Supper. We need forgiveness for the times we have looked over the fence at other churches, envying what they do on Maundy Thursday nights—all the while forgetting that the reason they have fancy tableaus and Seder meals is that, long ago, they denied the blessings that you receive every month in the Lord’s Supper. Those sins, those acts of wickedness are forgiven here in Jesus’ body and blood given to you in the Lord’s Supper.

So where does that leave us this evening? The writer to the Hebrews concludes with these words: “By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.” (Hebrews 8:13 NIV11-GKE)

You have the new covenant. So it’s ok to let the old go. We are thankful for those Old Testament laws and ceremonies. They showed the Old Testament believers their sins. They connected them to the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. But they disappeared. Let us then cling and hold onto the covenant we have. The Lord’s Supper forges a family between us and God. The Lord’s Supper delivers forgiveness. Amen.

1 “ⲁⲙⲉⲙⲡⲧⲟⲥ” (Hebrews 8:7 GNT-ALEX)

What Are You Looking For? (Midweek Lent 5)

Pastor Steve Bauer
What Are You Looking For? (Midweek Lent 5)

What Are You Looking For?

You have to deal with it. One of the challenges in our lives is that it is far, far easier to put off till tomorrow what we could be doing today. But, at some point you have to deal with the situation. It could be your Spring cleaning. It could be your taxes. I hope it’s not your Christmas decorations. It would be past time to deal with those. And these are all small examples. But the larger, more important example of this that Mark brings to our eyes is what we do with or deal with when it comes to Jesus. In Mark 15, we read: 1 As soon as it was morning, having held a meeting with the elders, scribes, and the whole Sanhedrin, the chief priests tied Jesus up, led him away, and handed him over to Pilate. 2 So Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You say so.” 3 And the chief priests accused him of many things. 4 Pilate questioned him again, “Aren’t you going to answer? Look how many things they are accusing you of!” 5 But Jesus still did not answer, and so Pilate was amazed.” (Mark 15:1–5 CSB17)

As you have grown accustomed to, there is a familiar A….B…A structure in Mark’s gospel. Here the pattern is spacial. People deal with who Jesus is inside, then they deal with Jesus outside, then finally, inside again. And so, the first person to deal with who Jesus is is Pilate. So remember where we were last Wednesday. The Jewish leaders had a secret, illegal trial in the middle of the night. Then, just when the sun comes up, they assemble the entire Sanhedrin and make their illegal verdict official. Then, very quickly, they dish Jesus off to Pilate. And Pilate is just simply not equipped to handle the situation in front of him. He is used to the Jewish leaders being against each other in just about every issue. But here, in front of him, they were united in one issue. They wanted Jesus dead. What we need to picture this evening is the prætorium. The Pætorium is this big courtyard. So you picture steps and a dais on one side with Pilate’s living quarters behind that. In the middle is Jesus. And around him are hundreds of soldiers. Just outside that are the Jews accusing Jesus. But Mark gets to the conclusion of the conversation. Pilate says, “You are the King of the Jews, aren’t you?’”1 It’s a question that expects a “yes” answer. In a very interesting way Jesus responds to him. He says, “That’s what you say.’”2 It reminds me of when I got into stupid arguments with other children when I was growing up. When someone made fun of me, the ‘go-to’ response was “Sez you!” Here Jesus means these words truly and sincerely. Pilate had a warped notion of what a king was and should be. But Pilate wasn’t there to learn from Jesus. Pilate was there to use Jesus. To Pilate Jesus was a convenient King. Pilate’s plan was to use Jesus to hopefully free Jesus. But if that didn’t work, at least he could use Jesus to survive at least one more day. But that’s not the sort of king Pilate had in front of him. Kings make commands. Instead, Pilate wanted to make commands to Jesus.

And isn’t the same true today. The King of kings says today, “I have mercy on some and send them to heaven” and “I will be fair and just ot others and send them to hell.” And in response, the sin-filled world around us says: “I will not follow a king who allows such evil people into heaven and I will not follow a king who sends people to hell who do so little that’s really wrong.’” Instead of hearing and obeying commands to the King of Kings, they give commands to him or ignore his commands.

And isn’t the same true of us? We can despise Pilate or laugh at the world around us for making Jesus into a convenient King. But we do the same. Our King makes commands. He tells us to worship him with our whole heart, but our focus and attention drifts in and out the entire time we are here this evening. Our king commands us to grow in God’s word by reading our bibles at home and studying them here, but it’s ever-so-tempting to ignore those commands from our King. He commands us to come to him regularly in prayer. But it’s ever-so-tempting to redefine that command into “when I get around to it.” Pilate called Jesus the King of the Jews. But he made him into a convenient king. And all of us do the same today. But then, Mark shifts our away from the inside to the outside: 6 At the festival Pilate used to release for the people a prisoner whom they requested. 7 There was one named Barabbas, who was in prison with rebels who had committed murder during the rebellion. 8 The crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do for them as was his custom. 9 Pilate answered them, “Do you want me to release the King of the Jews for you?” 10 For he knew it was because of envy that the chief priests had handed him over. 11 But the chief priests stirred up the crowd so that he would release Barabbas to them instead. 12 Pilate asked them again, “Then what do you want me to do with the one you call the King of the Jews?” 13 Again they shouted, “Crucify him!” 14 Pilate said to them, “Why? What has he done wrong?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him!” 15 Wanting to satisfy the crowd, Pilate released Barabbas to them; and after having Jesus flogged, he handed him over to be crucified.” (Mark 15:6–15 CSB17)

Here, as the focus shifts to the crowd on the outside we see a fascinating irony: The harder Pilate tries, the worse the situation gets. Pilate pleads for this king’s innocence. Then, when that doesn’t work, he tries to compromise and just have the king beaten. But that just makes the situation worse and they then go for everything they can: they shout, “Crucify him.”

But, as ironic as the situation is, it is also perfectly completely appropriate. For Jesus was the only one there who took that title that Pilate spoke seriously. The King of the Jews must finally take responsibility for the Jews. Who would pay for the piled up generations of rebellions and lies the Jews told? To whom much is given, much is expected. And so, it was appropriate and even perfect that their shout would be Jesus’ will. For the King of the Jews had to take responsibility for the Jews. And even more amazing still, Jesus takes responsibility not only for the rebellions of the Jews, but also for us Gentiles. Pilate looked for a convenient King. And we too have followed in his footsteps. The crowd looked for a crucified king. And, in such a perfect and appropriate way, what they wanted, they got. For this king takes responsibility for their rebellions and ours. But these words end back inside the prætorium again: 16 The soldiers led him away into the palace (that is, the governor’s residence) and called the whole company together. 17 They dressed him in a purple robe, twisted together a crown of thorns, and put it on him. 18 And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 19 They were hitting him on the head with a stick and spitting on him. Getting down on their knees, they were paying him homage. 20 After they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple robe and put his clothes on him.” (Mark 15:16–20 CSB17)

Pilate looks for a convenient king. The crowd cries out for a crucified king. The soldiers make Jesus into a clown king. They beat him up. They spit on him. They make fun of him. All of my life I’ve had a strange understanding of clowns. For I’ve never known exactly why they exist. When I was a child there were a bunch of clowns who came to our school. And there was this one clown who gave a kid a bat and then made fun of the kid until the kid beat the clown with the bat. Then, when the kid hit the clown the first time, the crowd around looked at the clown in shock. What would the clown do? Would he encourage the violence or stop it? The clown did everything he could to get the kid to beat him more. Why? Maybe he was trying to provide the children with an outlet: beat on me instead of beating on each other. Maybe he just simply thought it was funny and knew others would think it was funny too. But it taught a very real lesson: it was ok to beat on this guy—and it was even fun. That’s what the soldiers learned about Jesus. No one would get in their way. And the abuse they poured out on Jesus was fun.

We too have the same temptation. But our temptation is not to beat Jesus with rods. Instead, it’s with our words. We can cry out and use the name of our King in the wrong way when we are angry because we think it will make us feel better. We can cry out and use the name of our King as a punchline to a joke. And we can conclude that’s “ok” because it makes us feel better. No it isn’t. When we use the name of our King in a sinful way either through anger or laughter, it is wrong. We are making Jesus into a clown king.

But here is were we return back outside again in our own hearts. For Jesus wasn’t just the king of the Jews, he was also the King for the Jews. He paid for that sin along with all the others when he was crucified. For Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the entire world. Amen.

1 “ⲥⲩⲉⲓⲟⲃⲁⲥⲓⲗⲉⲩⲥⲧⲱⲛⲓ̈ⲟⲩⲇⲁⲓⲱⲛ·” (Mark 15:2 GNT-ALEX)

2 “ⲥⲩⲗⲉⲅⲉⲓⲥ·” (Mark 15:2 GNT-ALEX)

What Are You Looking For? (Midweek Lent 3)

Pastor Steve Bauer
What Are You Looking For? (Midweek Lent 3)

What Are You Looking For?

He stood his ground. One of the joys of re-reading God’s word is walking through all the parts and details that you missed. Slowly, bit by bit, I’m reading through the Old Testament. And at the end of David’s life there is a list of King David’s “mighty men.” In those words we meet Eleazar, son of Dodo. And he’s in that list of mighty men because when there was a battle with the Philistines all the rest of the Israelites ran away. But he stood his ground. And he attacked so many Philistines that his hand seized up and was stuck to his sword handle. At the end of that paragraph, we hear how the Israelites came back, but only to plunder the dead…because there were no more Philistines left to fight.1 On that day Eleazar stayed. And that’s why he was their hero. This evening it’s not Eleazar who stays. Instead, it’s Jesus. And because he stays, he is our Savior. In Mark 14, we read: 32 Then they came to a place named Gethsemane, and he told his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” 33 He took Peter, James, and John with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled. 34 He said to them, “I am deeply grieved to the point of death. Remain here and stay awake.” 35 He went a little farther, fell to the ground, and prayed that if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. 36 And he said, “Abba, Father! All things are possible for you. Take this cup away from me. Nevertheless, not what I will, but what you will.”” (Mark 14:32–36 CSB17)

In these words we see what those forty days in the wilderness led to. All those forty days of temptation led to this one hour of temptation. And in these words we see why Jesus is our Savior and not a human hero. Satan is bringing all his pressure against Jesus. And he asks that the hour would go away.2 In minutes from that point in time he would be betrayed. But the calm before the storm can be the worst part. When you run in a race or play in a game, it’s not the game that’s the hard part. It’s the waiting before hand. It’s not the surgery that’s can be the hard part, instead, it’s the waiting. That’s when all the bad and fearful thoughts rise up. And here we see the same and so much more with Jesus. And so he asks that the hour would be taken away. But notice what follows right after this: He says those amazing words, “but not what I want, instead, what you want.” This is why Jesus is our Savior. He stays up to fulfill his Father’s will. But these words quickly shift and change focus to Jesus’ disciples: 37 Then he came and found them sleeping. He said to Peter, “Simon, are you sleeping? Couldn’t you stay awake one hour? 38 Stay awake and pray so that you won’t enter into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” 39 Once again he went away and prayed, saying the same thing. 40 And again he came and found them sleeping, because they could not keep their eyes open. They did not know what to say to him. 41 Then he came a third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting?” (Mark 14:37–41 CSB17)

Are you sleeping? That’s the question that Jesus asks them. Jesus is weighed down with sadness to the point of death. And their eyes are weighed down with weariness, so they sleep. And in these disciples we see our own sin too. Jesus could ask the same question of each of us too: “are you sleeping?” Our sinful nature is powerful. And it gets to us and at us when we are weakest. There is this unique set of temptations that come to us when we don’t get enough sleep. When we are sleepy—that’s when our patience runs out when others are speaking to us. When we are sleepy—that’s when we are tempted to pass off “C” work as if it were “A” work. When we are sleepy—that’s when we might have seen Satan’s temptations coming and take our stand. But our sinful natures get us at our weakest. That’s why we look at this bitter hour with such joy in our hearts. Satan poured out all the pain and sadness he could at the very moment when Jesus was most tired. He had eaten a passover feast. He had drunk wine. And he had stayed up so very far past his bed time. And that weighed his eyes down. But that was nothing compared to the pressure Satan was pouring out on him. And for all the times we sleep, Jesus proves that he is our Savior by staying up. He stays up to fulfill his Father’s will. And, as if that’s not enough of a reason to worship and praise Jesus, Mark gives us even more reasons to praise and worship him. We read: 41 Enough! The time has come. See, the Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. 42 Get up; let’s go. See, my betrayer is near.” 43 While he was still speaking, Judas, one of the Twelve, suddenly arrived. With him was a mob, with swords and clubs, from the chief priests, the scribes, and the elders. 44 His betrayer had given them a signal. “The one I kiss,” he said, “he’s the one; arrest him and take him away under guard.” 45 So when he came, immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Rabbi!” and kissed him. 46 They took hold of him and arrested him. 47 One of those who stood by drew his sword, struck the high priest’s servant, and cut off his ear. 48 Jesus said to them, “Have you come out with swords and clubs, as if I were a criminal, to capture me? 49 Every day I was among you, teaching in the temple, and you didn’t arrest me. But the Scriptures must be fulfilled.” 50 Then they all deserted him and ran away. 51 Now a certain young man, wearing nothing but a linen cloth, was following him. They caught hold of him, 52 but he left the linen cloth behind and ran away naked.” (Mark 14:41–52 CSB17)

Jesus stays to fulfill his Father’s will. But notice here the other reason why Jesus stays. Jesus stays to fulfill his Father’s word. Jesus says, “the scriptures must be fulfilled.” So long ago Our Father in Heaven promised that there would be a betrayer. And this betrayer would be the one who would hand Jesus over to be tortured and murdered. The Father’s prophecy and plan was to save us by surrendering his Son. And how amazing this is that Jesus doesn’t only allow this, but he helps them betray him.

And these words are so poignant and important for us to hear this evening. For Jesus stays up. But there are times that we stay up. There are times when we have slept either physically or spiritually. And that failing keeps up at night unable to sleep. The times that through our own sleepiness our sinful nature got to us. We were not patient when we should have been. We were indulgent when we should not have been. Through our sleepiness our sinful nature gets to us and later on, when our consciences catch up to us we loose sleep.

With these words we read here, Jesus comes to us and says, “Rest and be at peace. I stayed up to fulfill my Father’s will for you. I stayed up to fulfill Our Father’s word for you. Rest and be at peace for those sins are forgiven.”” And if that isn’t enough, look at what he also does. He gives us a new nature to wage war alongside the old sinful nature. Jesus says, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And we need to focus in on how willingly weak our sinful nature is. For he is always ready to wait for those times we are weak and tempt us. But, my dear friends in Christ, don’t forget about the first part of that statement. The spirit is willing. This new person placed in us through water and word in baptism is ready, willing and able to see these traps and temptations and stand up against them. And so, just as Jesus stays up, so also, you too stay up. Be awake. Be aware. Pray to your Father who hears every prayer and is there for you. For Jesus stayed up to fulfill his Father’s will. And Jesus stayed up to fulfill his Father’s word. Amen.

1 2 Samuel 23:10

2 “ⲓ̈ⲛⲁⲡⲁⲣⲉⲗⲑⲏⲁⲡⲁⲩⲧⲟⲩⲏⲱⲣⲁ” (Mark 14:35 GNT-WAS)

There Is Only One Winner (Lent 3)

Pastor Steve Bauer
There Is Only One Winner (Lent 3)

There Is Only One Winner

What do you watch in the Olympics? Some people like to see the competition between the one who will get first place and the one who will get second place. Sometimes that struggle is interesting to watch. But if you really want to see a struggle, see the struggle between third and fourth place. Because, with third place, you get to be up there, standing on that podium with a smile on your face and with a medal around your neck. With fourth place, you get to go home. And so, very often the mose intense struggles are for third place, not first. But at the end of the day, the Olympics are just games. The struggle between first and second, or third and fourth is nothing compared to the struggle that happens in war. And that’s what Jesus works so hard this morning to let us see. There is a war going on every day around us. It’s a war between Jesus and Satan. And there can be only one winner. In Luke 11, we read: 14 Now he was driving out a demon that was mute. When the demon came out, the man who had been mute spoke, and the crowds were amazed. 15 But some of them said, “He drives out demons by Beelzebul, the ruler of the demons.” 16 And others, as a test, were demanding of him a sign from heaven.” (Luke 11:14–16 CSB17)

In these words Jesus is working a miracle. None of the people gathered there could do what Jesus just did. Jesus had just driven out a demon from a man. And instead of standing there in awe and appreciation, they accused him of being on the side of Satan. In the words which follow notice how Jesus goes out of his way to show them what is going on. In war there is only one winner: 17 Knowing their thoughts, he told them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is headed for destruction, and a house divided against itself falls. 18 If Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say I drive out demons by Beelzebul. 19 And if I drive out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons drive them out? For this reason they will be your judges. 20 If I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his estate, his possessions are secure. 22 But when one stronger than he attacks and overpowers him, he takes from him all his weapons he trusted in, and divides up his plunder.” (Luke 11:17–22 CSB17)

In war, the most stupid thing a person could do is help the enemy. What motivation or reason would Satan have for getting rid of one of his soldiers? It’s complete nonsense to conclude that this makes sense. Then Jesus illustrates his point with a story. There’s a strong man. And he has and enjoys what he has because he is strong and well-armed. But what happens? A stronger man comes along. He beats the strong man up, takes his weapons and armor. Then does he give anything to the strong man? No, the stronger man takes every item for himself and gives it to whomever he wants. What’s the point? There is warfare going on between Jesus and Satan. And there is no middle ground. Either Satan wins entirely and does entirely what he wants with people, or Jesus does. He then concludes with these words: “Anyone who is not with me is against me, and anyone who does not gather with me scatters.” (Luke 11:23 CSB17)

There are those times when we hear sermons and ask the question, “so what” or “now what?” This is Jesus answering that question. There is no middle ground. In the battle for your soul either Jesus wins or Satan wins. There is only one winner. There is only one winner in conversion. When we are speaking about conversion, what we mean is that instant and moment when you used to be an unbeliever and then in an instant you became a believer in Jesus. Jesus has converted your hearts and your souls to him. But with that fact comes the temptation to sin. The temptation to sin comes from forgetting what Jesus speaks of here. There is warfare for each person’s soul. And either Satan wins or Jesus does. And I can speak of how I have sinned against this fact. There have been people I have known—friends and family members who were not Christians. And I wanted them to be Christians. But I forgot these words and failed. Instead of bringing this warfare to them, I sold them salvation. I thought that if I were nice enough and showed them that my church was nice enough, then they would be Christians. I thought if I showed them with unshakable, unbreakable logic that God’s word was true, they would become Christians. But it never worked because I forget what Jesus preaches here: People either belong to Jesus, or to Satan. And if they belong to Satan they don’t care. They don’t care how nice your church is or how clear or true your logic is. They belong to Satan and they love to belong to him. What has to happen instead is warfare. Jesus has to enter in as the stronger man and defeat Satan so that they belong to him and not to Satan anymore.

There is only one winner in conversion. But the same is true when it comes to sanctification too. Sanctification is what happens after you are a Christian. It’s the daily struggling and wrestling against sin. And the point is the same: there is only one winner. Every day you wage war against your sinful nature and Satan. And not just every day, but many times within each day. And we need to wage this continual war because, day after day, there is this powerful sinful nature in us that loves sin instead of having a Savior. It’s that sinful influence and voice inside of us that loves being forgiven but yet also loves sin: the places on the internet we should not visit, the greed we should not gather, the gossip and slander we should not spread, and the list goes on. Do not think that there is some middle ground where you can love your sin and also love your Savior at the same time. There is only one winner when it comes to your soul: either Jesus or Satan. And in the words which follow Jesus lets us know that if we continue to love sin and our Savior at the same time, there are horrible consequences which follow: 24 “When an unclean spirit comes out of a person, it roams through waterless places looking for rest, and not finding rest, it then says, ‘I’ll go back to my house that I came from.’ 25 Returning, it finds the house swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and settle down there. As a result, that person’s last condition is worse than the first.”” (Luke 11:24–26 CSB17)

So Satan’s soldier, a demon, is driven out of a person. It goes away for a time. But then what happens? It sees that where it used to live is unguarded. So what does it do? It invites seven other demons. It says, “I will go back to my house.” And since the house is swept up and prettied-up, it can’t wait to trash the place again. What is the house in these words? You are the house. If we love our sin and pretend that we can also love our Savior, eventually all we will have is our sin. There is only one winner in your soul: either Satan or Jesus. Jesus is so focused and so determined. Then, out of nowhere, we hear these words: 27 As he was saying these things, a woman from the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you and the one who nursed you!” 28 He said, “Rather, blessed are those who hear the word of God and keep it.”” (Luke 11:27–28 CSB17)

A woman in the crowd raises her voice. And she blesses Jesus. And from her interruption and interjection, we see that she really doesn’t get the seriousness of what Jesus is saying. It was not the time or occasion to bless Jesus. So what does Jesus do? He puts her back on track. The ones who are blessed are those who hear the word of God and guard it!

There is only one winner. In your every day life, who will that be? Satan or Jesus. These are the sorts of questions which drive us to despair. For this is a battle we cannot win. We are powerless to stand up against Satan, aren’t we? How many times have we been tempted and failed? The victor on this battle field has to be someone else than us. And that victor is Jesus. When you came into this world you belonged to Satan. And you loved to belong to him. But what did Jesus do? He poured water on you and put his name on you in your baptism. From that point on you no longer belong to Satan, but instead, to Jesus. And there have been so many times even as Christians we have thought we can play both sides, loving sin and loving our Savior. So what does Jesus do? Through those waters of baptism he takes the forgiveness that he won on the cross and delivers it to you, individually and personally. And day by day we have to carry out this warfare against Satan and our sinful nature. So what does he do? In these waters of baptism he gives us the Holy Spirit to combat Satan. And in these waters of baptism he gives us a new nature to fight the old sinful nature.

There is only one winner. In conversion and in sanctification, there is only one winner. Give thanks and glory to God for in your souls that victor is Jesus. And out of pure thanks listen to his words and keep them. Amen.