Jesus’ Resurrection Is My Resurrection (Easter)


Jesus’ Resurrection Is My Resurrection

What is a mystery? A mystery is two things that don’t seem to go together, but yet do. Right before high school we moved to a new town. And in this new town there were kids who drove in from their ranches. And they wore cowboy clothing. And I always thought that was the greatest mystery. They wore cowboy boots, for example. Cowboy boots were initially made for riding on horses and walking on the plains and grasslands. And there my classmates were, getting out of their Ford F-350 ranch-rigs for class. That was a mystery. A few weeks ago I discovered another mystery. Years ago there were these clothing companies that got their name and their start by making high quality clothing for the outdoors. But now these clothing companies have become fashionable. So, on their discussion boards they talk more about whether this new shirt will match their sand-colored pants instead of talking about whether the shirt will last when it has days of backpack straps rubbing against it. A mystery is where you have two details that don’t seem to go together, but they do. This morning God’s word draws us into a massive mystery. At the end of 1 Corinthians 15, we read these words: 51 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— 52 in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality.” (1 Corinthians 15:51–53 NIV11-GKE)

In these words Paul tells us that there will be an amazing exchange. The decaying will be exchanged for the imperishable. The dying will be exchanged for the immortal. What is Paul speaking about? He’s speaking about our bodies. And there’s your mystery. God gave us our bodies. We get used to them. We learn to care for them and take care of them. We get attached to them. And yet, as Christians, what do we at the very same time learn to do? We learn to be willing to say “goodbye” to them. And Paul here gives us the reason why: The decaying gives way to the imperishable. The dying gives way to the immortal.

What good news this is. For when you begin to get a little older you realize that your body begins to decay. You go out for a jog and you can’t catch your breath like those in their 20’s. You get done running and it takes your body days, not hours to recover. You decay. But even more, you are able to die. On more than one occasion I’ve been at the bedside of someone who is dying as they said, “how did the years go by so fast and I got this old?” But the great mystery is that we can say, “goodbye” to the bodies we are so used to because Jesus will exchange our old decaying and dying bodies for new ones. And all of this is true because Jesus’ resurrection is now my resurrection. But God’s word has more to tell us: 54 When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.” 55 “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54–57 NIV11-GKE)

In these words Paul gives us encouragements. Since Jesus’ resurrection is my resurrection, what is my reaction to this? Paul invites us to sing. Sing. Rejoice. Jesus resurrection is now your resurrection. But Paul goes into more detail, answering the question, why should I sing? The sting of death is sin. One of the challenges of preaching on Easter Sunday is that Easter preaching is built on top of Lenten Preaching. For this last entire season of Lent we have been preparing for this day by speaking about the real problem in our lives. The real problem in our lives is not too much snow. It’s not the high cost of housing or even renting a house. The real problem is my own sin. The real problem is that when I come into this world I don’t know who God is and I don’t want to know who God is. And I show God what I think of him all throughout my life. I lie. I cheat. I steal, or at least really want to. I hate. I think that I’m better than others. All of these sins I have and I commit, if not with my hands, then with my heart. And those sins demand payment and judgment. Who will right the wrongs I have committed? Our consciences tells us that what we have done is wrong and that we deserve the punishment of death and hell. But then Paul comes along in these words and tells us that death no longer has any sting. Why? Jesus’ resurrection is now my resurrection.

So my dear friends in Christ, on this day of victory, sing! Your voice may be rusty. And your voice may be out of tune. That’s ok. That’s why we have a beautiful organ and trumpet. They help. But sing. And sing with joy. For Christ’s resurrection is now your resurrection. Paul then ends with these words: “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58 NIV11-GKE)

Christ’s resurrection is your resurrection. So sing. But here Paul adds this detail: Don’t just sing, also stand. The fact that Jesus’ resurrection is now my own shapes and structures every day of my life. When Paul says, “where O Death is your victory” that shapes and structures every day of our lives. It addresses all the “what ifs” that crush our hearts and keep us up at night. What if I don’t have any friends? Jesus is your friend and he proves it by rising from the dead. What if I don’t find a spouse? Jesus has risen from the dead, and even if you fly solo throughout this life, know both that Jesus is here with you now, and this life here now is just a blink of an eye to having our brand new bodies in heaven. What if I don’t get the right job? Jesus’ resurrection is now your own. If he has taken care of the greatest problem of your life: death and hell, won’t he also give you work for your hands and shelter for your head? It may not always be fun and fulfilling work. But just think of the work waiting for you in heaven. Why? Because Jesus’ resurrection is now your resurrection. What if—what if I grow sick, or frail, or get old, or die? Then Jesus will take you to be with him and when the time is right he will exchange your decaying and dying body with an upgraded version of your own body.

My dear friends in faith, Jesus’ resurrection is your resurrection. Sing this truth. But don’t just sing this truth here on this day. Also, take your stand on that truth every day. Then, what Pauls says here will be true for you and already is. Then your labor out there in every day life is not in vain. But notice the context in which it is not in vain. Our english versions say, “your labor in the Lord is not in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:58 NIV11-GKE). A better translation would be, that your labor is not in vain in the Lord.1 Your Lord Jesus has risen from the dead. So sing on this day. And take your stand on the fact that Jesus’ resurrection is your resurrection every day. Amen.

158 ⲟ ⲕⲟⲡⲟⲥ ⲩ̈ⲙⲱⲛ ⲟⲩⲕ ⲉⲥⲧⲓⲛ ⲕⲁⲛⲟⲥ ⲉⲛ ⲕ̅ⲱ̅·” (1 Corinthians 15:58 GNT-ALEX)

Jesus Prepares A Feast For You (Maundy Thursday)


Jesus Prepares A Feast For You

If you care, you prepare. When we used to live in Pennsylvania, Karin and the girls would travel over to visit her parents a number of times throughout the year—especially during the summer. I was left then to hold down the fort at home. But when I would be able to come over and visit, Karin’s mom would make Rouladen for me. Let me describe what Rouladen is. Rouladen is a meal made in southern Germany. It is braised beef wrapped around choice cuts of bacon, surrounding a dill pickle spear. And at the end, there is generous portions of gravy to go along with the Rouladen and dumplings. And, with so much goodness packed together at the same time, as you can well imagine, it tastes amazing. But to me, that’s not the most amazing part. The most amazing part is that I know that my Mother-in-law cares for me because of the extravagant amount of time it takes to prepare such a feast. If you care, you prepare. For a number of verses here in Luke 22, that is what we see in Jesus. We see how much he cares for his disciples and for us today in the extravagant planning and preparation he goes through for his disciples to prepare a feast for them. In Luke 22, we read: 7 Then came the day of Unleavened Bread on which the Passover lamb had to be sacrificed. 8 Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, “Go and make preparations for us to eat the Passover.” 9 “Where do you want us to prepare for it?” they asked. 10 He replied, “As you enter the city, a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him to the house that he enters, 11 and say to the owner of the house, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 12 He will show you a large room upstairs, all furnished. Make preparations there.” 13 They left and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.” (Luke 22:7–13 NIV11-GKE)

Look at the extravagant planning and preparation Jesus goes through to provide this feast for them. And, as we read these words we see why he went through this extravant planning. Jesus says that he thoroughly desired and really wanted this feast.1 But then we have the next question, don’t we: Why does he want this feast with them? And in the words that follow, we find answers to that question: 14 When the hour came, Jesus and his apostles reclined at the table. 15 And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16 For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.” 17 After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you. 18 For I tell you I will not drink again from the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”” (Luke 22:14–18 NIV11-GKE)

Twice in these words what does Jesus emphasize? This Holy Supper that Jesus has with them will be finally fulfilled in heaven. This very earthly feast he was having with them connected them with a perfect feast he promised to have with them in heaven. Jesus wanted them to know that what made this feast special and meaningful was not the quality of wine they drank or the stories they told around the table. It wasn’t the texture of the bread or even the emotions in their hearts. What made it meaningful is the fact that this supper connected them to a perfect feast in heaven when the time was right.

And if we think about it even a little, that’s the problem with feasts. We can plan and prepare. But the taste of the food lasts a little while and we have to move onto with our lives or onto the couch to take a nap. The great problem we face and temptation to sin we have when it comes to this feast of the Lord’s Supper is that we try to make it meaningful instead of letting Jesus make it meaningful. And we face temptations to do this in so many ways: Did we buy the right bread or wine to use in the Lord’s Supper? When the wafer drops to the floor or the chalice drips down the side of the cup and we panic; when the pastor says, “take, drink” when you’re standing there with the wafer in your hand; When the feast is done and the pastor can’t get the fancy white cloth to cover all the silverware; When you leave and go to your seat and you think to yourself, “was I sad enough” or “was I happy enough?” All of these are examples of ways we can be tempted to sin for one simple reason: In all of these ways we are the ones who are trying to bring meaning and forge fulfillment in this feast. But, my friends in Christ, Jesus is the one who brings fulfillment to you in this feast. And when we do this we turn the amazing gospel of this sacrament into law. For it is no longer Jesus’ work that he does here. Instead, we face this huge temptation to make it our work.

And that’s why Jesus prepares this feast for you. He wants you to know that this feast is a premise and a promise of fulfillment to come in heaven. There we will be joined with him and all his apostles and disciples. There the wine will taste perfect. And there might even be Rouladen there too. Jesus prepares this feast for you. And it’s a feast finally fulfilled in heaven. But there’s more. We read: 19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 20 In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 22:19–20 NIV11-GKE)

There, waiting for us in heaven is the fulfilled feast. But what is there right here and now in this feast? Jesus says it so clearly. Here in the Lord’s Supper there really, truly is Jesus’ body and blood along with that bread and wine. And that makes us as a very important question. Martin Luther, in our small catechism, asks the question:

What blessing do we receive through this eating and drinking?

That is shown us by these words, “Given” and “poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.” Through these words we receive forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation in this sacrament. For where there is forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.

If you get Jesus’ body and blood, what then do you also get? You also get forgiveness, life, and salvation. What amazing thought! What an amazing promise. For all the times we tried to force meaning where there wasn’t and forge fulfillment where Jesus alone only could, there Jesus is to give us his own body and blood to deliver forgiveness to us. Every time we were overly picky about the kind of bread or wine; every time we gasped with grief when a wafer dropped or the wine dripped; every time the pastor spoke the words for the wine when he was giving the bread; every time the pastor couldn’t cover all the silverware at all or soon enough—all those times we tried to forge fulfillment in the Lord’s Supper instead of letting Jesus do that word, here in our hands and here in our mouths Jesus gives to us his own body and blood. And since he promises to us that there is not just bread and wine here, and that there is also his body and blood, we also have forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation.

And so, my friends, from here on out, Jesus invites you to be just as eager to receive this supper as he is to prepare and provide it for you. For in this supper is a feast. It is a feast that is finally fulfilled in heaven. It is a feast full of forgiveness now. Amen.

1 “ⲉⲡⲓⲑⲩⲙⲓⲁⲉⲡⲉⲑⲩⲙⲏⲥⲁ” (Luke 22:15 GNT-ALEX)

Cry Out (Lent 6—Palm Sunday)

Palm Sunday Cross

Cry Out

Processions need preparation. Many months ago I thought it would be a good idea—it would be fun to expand our processions in our congregation to not just include the children, but also us adults. But then the joy was quickly replaced by the work of preparing. There was first of all the planning to answer the question, “why?” And so, with sermons, bible studies, emails, and other avenues, we talked about how processions are nothing new to our society and nothing new to the Christian Church. Christians have joined together in processions on special Sundays for thousands of years. And on Palm Sunday we have the privilege to not just picture Jesus riding into Jerusalem in our minds. But we also can picture that by walking with our own two feet. So there’s the preparation of teaching. But there’s also the preparation of the logistics—All the what and what if sorts of questions. And I thank you all for your willingness to spend the time learning a way of worship that is both very old and common throughout Christian Churches, but very new to our own church. Processions need preparation. But, as we look back to the first Palm Sunday, our procession here this morning was far less involved than Jesus’ own procession. Luke gives us the details in the 19th chapter of his gospel: 28 After Jesus had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29 As he approached Bethphage and Bethany at the hill called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of his disciples, saying to them, 30 “Go to the village ahead of you, and as you enter it, you will find a colt tied there, which no one has ever ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ say, ‘The Lord needs it.’ ” 32 Those who were sent ahead went and found it just as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They replied, “The Lord needs it.” 35 They brought it to Jesus, threw their cloaks on the colt and put Jesus on it. 36 As he went along, people spread their cloaks on the road.” (Luke 19:28–36 NIV11-GKE)

Look at all the details. What we need to see here are promises and prophecies. The Lord had made many promises about what would happen on this day. And he also made many promises on how these events would happen. And here we see the amazing care Jesus has in arranging and preparing this procession. And Luke carefully records this to let us know that, even if we do not have control of every situation, Jesus does. But, as these words travel on we see that there are more reasons why Jesus carefully plans and prepares this procession: 37 When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen: 38 “Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord!” “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”” (Luke 19:37–38 NIV11-GKE)

Jesus prepares this procession so that God’s people would cry out in praise. The first way that they cry out in praise is to the Christ, the anointed one. Notice the two amazing titles they use for Jesus. They call him “the King.” Jesus was the son, the descendent of David. Jesus was the true King of Jerusalem. This was his city. This was his home. The second title they call him is the “Coming One”. This is a title we are not as used to. But it was one they knew very well. And all of these were powerful titles that these disciples cried out.

So they cried out to the Christ. But they also cried out to the heights and heavens. Why is it that they are crying out to the heights and heavens? There is where God was. Praise has a direction. Hands are lifted up to heaven. Here voices are lifted up as the people cry out in praise.

And here is where we ask the important question, “why is this so important?” This event is so important because there is nothing better or more beautiful in the ears of our Father in heaven than to hear his people praising him. For the fact that that has happened shows that a miracle has taken place. People do not naturally praise God. By nature, as we all come into this world, we all do not know who the true God is. And the little we do know about God, we hate. And so, when the Holy Spirit creates faith in us through is word, a miracle happens. And when we cry out in praise, our Father sees this and rejoices in this. And so, on this day, sing your “hosannas.” On this day, call Jesus by the names and titles he likes to be called by. Cry out in praise. But, my friends, that’s not the end of these words. In our final few verses, we read: 39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” 40 “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.”” (Luke 19:39–40 NIV11-GKE)

These words take a strange turn in these last two verses. In the beginning words the people cry out in praise. But in these words, Jesus threatens to have the stones cry out. Now, my dear friends, here is where I invite you to listen closely so that you will know what these words mean and what they do not mean. When I was a child I thought that these words meant that God does not like to be alone. And so, if we didn’t exist, he would make stones alive so that they could praise him. That’s not what is going on here. Here in these words Jesus is reaching out to the Pharisees to call them to repentance. Here we are taken back to a very Old Testament way of speaking. You remember back to the very beginning when Cain killed Abel. Do your remember what the Lord said? He said these words: 9 Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is your brother Abel?” “I don’t know,” he replied. “Am I my brother’s keeper?” 10 The Lord said, “What have you done? Listen! Your brother’s blood cries out to me from the ground.” (Genesis 4:9–10 NIV11-GKE)

Notice the point of these words. Cain had committed murder. The preaching in this passage is that there are some sins that are so grievous that they demand justice and punishment. And these sins are so violent and so grievous that if there is no one there to act as a witness, then the lifeless parts of creation will then be called on as witnesses to testify against the sin so that there can be vengeance. So, in Genesis, the Lord calls on blood as a witness against murder. Here on Palm Sunday Jesus calls on stones as witnesses against unbelief. The Pharisees who had more of God’s word at their fingertips and in their hearts and minds than so many others should have known that Jesus was the Christ. They should have been there with palm branches in their hands and praise on their lips. But instead, the only thing they had to offer was unbelief. And the heartless way they treated Jesus demands justice and vengeance.

What a strange place to end. Why couldn’t we have just said our “hosannas” and gone home in joy? Why do we need to hear of stones crying out for judgment? These words are a present and powerful reminder to us that all the days we are on this earth we will need to hear both law and gospel, both sin and grace. There will always be this need to crush our sinful nature with threats of vengeance and punishment. And my dear friends, there will always be the need to comfort our souls with the reminder of why Jesus came to Jerusalem at all. In one of our hymns, we sing:

Abel’s blood for vengeance Pleaded to the skies.
But the blood of Jesus For our pardon cries.1

And so, my dear friends in Christ, in humility be ever so willing to loudly and joyously cry out in praise to Jesus. But also, in humility, be ever so willing to let even the stones cry out in punishment against your sinful nature. For there will be a day when we are in heaven where there will be no stones to cry out against us. Instead, there will only be people to praise our King Jesus along with us. Amen.

1 CW 103:4

What If You Don’t Know? (Lent 5)


What If You Don’t Know?

They needed to know. During the Civil War it was well-known that one of the brightest and most brilliant generals was Robert E. Lee. He was a commander of the armies of the South. He was brilliant because he could gather data and then quickly go into action. But his strength was also his weakness. For, towards the end of the war he ended up sending his troops into battle without enough data. And, in one battle, the soldiers wrote their names on their backs. They wrote their names on their backs because they knew more than their general did. They knew that, as bravely as they fought, they wouldn’t be coming home. So, they put their names on their backs so that, the people the next day would know who they were, and their family members would eventually know what happened. All of this they did because they needed to know. These are the sort of actions people take to communicate when there are no GPS devices and no cell phones. Communication was slow and it wasn’t always reliable. But my friends, what if you don’t know? What if you don’t know all the details and all the context? What do you do then? This morning Jesus teaches us a parable and a lesson. And the parable is about one who does not know. In Luke 20, we read: 9 He went on to tell the people this parable: “A man planted a vineyard, rented it to some farmers and went away for a long time. 10 At harvest time he sent a servant to the tenants so they would give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the tenants beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 11 He sent another servant, but that one also they beat and treated shamefully and sent away empty-handed. 12 He sent still a third, and they wounded him and threw him out. 13 “Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my son, whom I love; perhaps they will respect him.’ 14 “But when the tenants saw him, they talked the matter over. ‘This is the heir,’ they said. ‘Let’s kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 15 So they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. “What then will the owner of the vineyard do to them?” (Luke 20:9–15 NIV11-GKE)

I these words Jesus introduces us to an owner of a vineyard. He rents out the vineyard to tenants. And when it’s time to get some proof that the tenants are actually doing their work, he sends a servant to get proof that they have been faithful in taking care of the vineyard. And here is where the parable gets interesting. The servants beat the first servant. The owner is many miles away. There are no cell phones. There’s no facebook updates. There’s nothing. He does not know why they beat his servant. So what does he do? He puts the best construction on the situtation. And he sends another servant. They reject him and send him away. The owner is frustrated. But he works hard to be optimistic. So he sends a third servant. The tenants beat the servant up and threw him out.1

Now, here at this point, you would think that the owner would begin to realize that he can be as optimistic as he wants, but it will not change reality. These tenants are bad people. But does he? No. He is still optimistic. And he makes the final, tragic mistake. He sends his own son because he’s convinced that they will respect him. And to no surprise to any of the people who were listening to Jesus, when the tenants see the son, they kill him so that they get his inheritance. And Jesus ends the parable with the question, “What will the owner do?” The fancy word for this sort of a question is a “deliberative subjunctive.” In other words, this is not a passing question, a rhetorical question that is said for emphasis. No, instead, this is a question that Jesus wants the people of Jerusalem and us to today to really think about and think through.

What do you do if you do not know? The owner of the vineyard did not know, so he went way beyond the call of duty. He concluded that wicked people were actually good. Isn’t our temptation that, when we do not know, we put the worst construction on it? Martin Luther in our catechisms puts it this way:


You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God that we do not tell lies about our neighbor, betray him or give him a bad name, but defend him, speak well of him, and take his words and actions in the kindest possible way.

Our temptation to sin is that, when we do not know, we arrive at the worst conclusion. When we do not know because we do not talk to people, we fill in the gaps and our sinful nature gets the best of us. And sometimes even when we do talk to people this happens when we misunderstand the words that people use. Years and years ago there was a man who had been a member for years. The man was quite wealthy. But every Sunday he would come to church and put a very small amount of money in the offering plate. This happened week after week and year after year. And finally there was an elder who told the pastor that it was wrong that the man came year after year and gave so little when God had blessed him with so much. The pastor asked the elder if he had ever met the man’s wife. The elder confessed that he hadn’t. So he went and visited the man and his wife. And then he understood. The wife hated Jesus and the church that her husband went to. She said that all the church wanted was their money. So the man came to church, Sunday after Sunday, wanting to give more. But because of his wife’s hatred of the church, he was only able to give what he could get away with. The elder came back to the pastor and told him that now he understood.

What do you do when you don’t know? There is a huge irony in these words that Jesus speaks. In all the other parables Jesus speaks, the people don’t know where Jesus is going because they haven’t heard the parable before. This parable is different. And we see that from the words that follow: 16 He will come and kill those tenants and give the vineyard to others.” When the people heard this, they said, “God forbid!” 17 Jesus looked directly at them and asked, “Then what is the meaning of that which is written: “ ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone’? 18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces; anyone on whom it falls will be crushed.” 19 The teachers of the law and the chief priests looked for a way to arrest him immediately, because they knew he had spoken this parable against them. But they were afraid of the people.” (Luke 20:16–19 NIV11-GKE)

Jesus asks that question he wants them to think about and think through: What should the owner do? And when Jesus gives the answer, that he will come and kill the tenants in righteous judgment, their response makes no sense. The say, “May this never be!”2 Their response seems strange, at least, until we realize that they have already heard this parable. This parable was 800 years old by this point. We read this parable already in our first lesson. They said, “May this never be,” because they knew that they were the tenants. They were the ones deserving of judgment. Jerusalem was ripe to be punished. And Jesus was the stone that would crush them.

What do you do when you do not know? The people of Jerusalem did know. They knew the point of the parable. But as we close these words, what amazes us is that Jesus too knew. Jesus knew that every hour he spent in his own city of Jerusalem brought him closer to being put to death outside the walls just like the son in the parable. And what amazes us is that he knows all of this and yet does it anyway. He does this to prove their worthiness of being punished. But he also does this to pay for their sins and our today too. Jesus keeps coming back to Jerusalem so that he can die outside of Jerusalem. And that sacrifice pays for all the times we thought we knew the truth when we didn’t even speak to people. That sacrifice pays for all the times we went so far as to actually speak to someone and then completely misunderstood what they were saying. His sacrifice pays for that too. And his sacrifice paves the way for the Holy Spirit to teach us through his word the good and proper path.

So, my dear friends in Christ, what do you do when you don’t know? Cling to Christ who knew it all and was sacrificed for you. And, day by day, wrestle and struggle by the power of God’s Holy Spirit to take people’s words and actions in the kindest possible way.

1 “ⲧⲣⲁⲩⲙⲁⲧⲓⲥⲁⲛⲧⲉⲥⲉⲝⲉⲃⲁⲗⲟⲛ·” (Luke 20:12 GNT-ALEX)

2 “ⲙⲏⲅⲉⲛⲟⲓⲧⲟ·” (Luke 20:16 GNT-ALEX)

Jesus Is Used For Us (Midweek Lent 5)


Jesus Is Used For Us

Oh, one more thing. I haven’t worked in a normal office setting for many years. But I remember Fridays. I remember those few hours from noon to quitting time, waiting patiently or not so patiently till it was time to punch out and go home. But I also remember living in fear of the boss stopping by about an hour before quitting time. And he’d say those ever-fearful words, “Oh, one more thing.” And with those words we knew we were delayed from going home. Or even worse, it was one of those times when we’d have to come in over the weekend. When we would hear those words, “Oh, one more thing,” we would wonder when use became abuse. Nobody likes to be used. And yet that’s what we see in these words this evening. We see people who have power using people to keep their power and, if they possibly can, gain more power. In Luke 23, we read: 1 Then the whole assembly rose and led him off to Pilate. 2 And they began to accuse him, saying, “We have found this man subverting our nation. He opposes payment of taxes to Caesar and claims to be Messiah, a king.” 3 So Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you the king of the Jews?” “You have said so,” Jesus replied. 4 Then Pilate announced to the chief priests and the crowd, “I find no basis for a charge against this man.” 5 But they insisted, “He stirs up the people all over Judea by his teaching. He started in Galilee and has come all the way here.”” (Luke 23:1–5 NIV11-GKE)

It embarrassing to see someone being used. How much more is this true when it is our Savior being used. In these words we see Jesus as a sort of hot potato that no one wants to actually treat as he actually is. The leaders of the Jews condemn Jesus and dump him into Pilate’s lap. And Pilate has no idea what to do with Jesus. And he says to Jesus, “You are the king of the Jews.”1 And Jesus doesn’t help him very much—at least in the way Pilate wanted to be helped. So Jesus says in response, “Says you.2 Pilate has a problem with Jesus because he refuses to look at Jesus as a person. Instead, to Pilate, Jesus was just a problem. And what do you do with problems? You solve them. You only spend as much time as you need to get rid of the problem. And to give him incentive, he’s trying to figure out how to keep these angry Jews from punishing Pilate. So Pilate uses Jesus. He uses Jesus so that he can escape the anger and punishment of the Jews. But Pilate isn’t the only one. We read: 6 On hearing this, Pilate asked if the man was a Galilean. 7 When he learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time. 8 When Herod saw Jesus, he was greatly pleased, because for a long time he had been wanting to see him. From what he had heard about him, he hoped to see him perform a sign of some sort. 9 He plied him with many questions, but Jesus gave him no answer. 10 The chief priests and the teachers of the law were standing there, vehemently accusing him. 11 Then Herod and his soldiers ridiculed and mocked him. Dressing him in an elegant robe, they sent him back to Pilate. 12 That day Herod and Pilate became friends—before this they had been enemies.” (Luke 23:6–12 NIV11-GKE)

Herod too wanted to use Jesus. But instead of using Jesus as a way of dodging the punishment of the Jews, Herod wanted to use Jesus as if he were a side-show act at a carnival. He had heard that Jesus had performed many miracles. So he wanted to see a miracle. He didn’t want to listen to Jesus speaking about who he truly, actually was. All he wanted was to be entertained. And maybe, just maybe he would see a little of God’s glory coming out of this powerful prophet. But he didn’t want to listen to the prophet. And he didn’t want to worship Jesus as God even if he saw his glory. This is important for us to recognize. For this is not the only time that we meet Herod. In the book of Acts there was a time when Herod put on a royal robe and made a speech to a large crowd. The crowd said that this was not the voice of a man, but instead the voice of God.3 There, at that moment, the Lord sent an angel and struck Herod down and he died. The Lord took this sudden and severe action because Herod did not give glory to God.

Jesus’ enemies used Jesus. And that is shameful and embarrassing. But even worse, we are willing to use Jesus too. How often, like Pilate have we been willing to use Jesus to avoid punishment. Each of us has this sinful nature and this sinful voice inside of us that likes to be forgiven, but not so that we can run away from sin. Instead, we like to be forgiven so that we can run back to that sin. And are we really any different than Herod. How many times have there been people who have complimented us. And instead of giving glory to God, we inside of our hearts and brains pat ourselves on the shoulder and say to ourselves, “Yes, indeed, I’m pretty awesome, aren’t I?”

Jesus’ enemies aren’t the only ones who use Jesus. We do as well. But what about Jesus? How does Jesus feel about all of this using of him? First, Jesus sees the sinful ways we have used him. And in silence he carries all those sins all the way to the cross and dies for them. And with that death our sins are paid for. But there’s even more to speak of here. Not only is Jesus used for us, but he also invites us to use him. No, he does not invite us to use and abuse him by choosing, loving, and living in sin. Instead, he invites us to make use of him. Think of all the beautiful invitations Jesus speaks to you in his word to make use of him still to this day. Jesus gives to us this invitation: 8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (1 John 1:8–9 NIV11-GKE) Jesus openly and freely invites us to make us of him by confessing our sins to him and he will purify us. What about this invitation: 6 Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7 Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:6–7 NIV11-GKE) Make use of him. Don’t just throw all your sins on Jesus, also throw all your cares, concerns, and anxieties on him. For he cares for you.

Nobody wants to be used—for bad. But my dear friends in Christ, Jesus wants to be used. He wants to be used as the one and only one who can take away your sin. Jesus wants to be used as the one who can give grace to the humle and lift away our burdens. So then, take him up on that invitation. Make use of him. Amen.

1 “ⲥⲩⲉⲓⲟⲃⲁⲥⲓⲗⲉⲩⲥⲧⲱⲛⲓ̈ⲟⲩⲇⲁⲓⲱ̅” (Luke 23:3 GNT-ALEX)

2 “ⲥⲩⲗⲉⲅⲉⲓⲥ·” (Luke 23:3 GNT-ALEX)

3 Acts 12:21-23

I Will Praise You, Lord (Lent 4—Lætare)


I Will Praise You, Lord

You can’t take it back. As humans grow, how they act changes. When we were in Psychology class in college we learned about this concept called, “object permanence.” When a child is tiny “peek-a-boo” is a great game. The parent disappears from reality and ceases to exist. And then, suddenly, out of nowhere, the parent comes back. But eventually the child thinks to himself or herself, “wait a minute. What if the person continues to exist but I just can’t see mommy or daddy.’” And when the child figures this out, “peek-a-boo” is no longer a fun game anymore. At every stage of life of a person’s growth there are these changes. At the Junior High stage, the child begins to figure out that authority figures don’t always practice what they preach. Years ago there was a young man in the eighth grade who was at this stage. And on that day his teacher told him that his habit of not paying attention was getting in the way of his grades. The teacher said this in front of everyone. And the young man, without thinking, said in front of the other students, “It could be worse. I could be a teacher.” And as soon as he said it, he realized he could not take those words back. The teacher was so angry that he took the young man outside the class into a separate room and asked him one question: “why?” Why would you say words those only purpose was to hurt and harm? The young man was silent for a while. But finally he apologized for what he said and was ashamed of what he said. The teacher accepted his apology. And in the next days, the young man discovered that the teacher was not at all angry with him at all. The teacher even went out during recess and played basketball with him and his friends. Who would have thought that words that demanded anger in response could be forgiven and finally forgotten? But it happened. That’s the picture that Isaiah paints for us this morning. In Isaiah 12, we read, “In that day you will say: “I will praise you, Lord. Although you were angry with me, your anger has turned away and you have comforted me.” (Isaiah 12:1 NIV11-GKE)

The people of Israel had, as a people, abandoned the Lord. They had followed other gods. They had abandoned the real and true God they had, the Lord. They could not take back their actions. And the results of their actions were so real that they as a people went off into exile. But yet, these words begin with praise. The Lord invites Israel to praise the Lord. The Lord invites every one of them to use that first person pronoun, “I.” I will praise, you Lord. And what follows it two reasons why they are invited to praise the Lord. First, each of them can say, “I will praise you, Lord” because the Lord pays for their salvation. We read: “Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord himself, is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation.”” (Isaiah 12:2 NIV11-GKE)

Notice how strong these words are. The Lord doesn’t just have salvation. The Lord is salvation. But my dear friends in Christ, salvation is not this empty idea and a word without meaning. They had committed real sins against their real God. How can God so suddenly go from extreme anger to real comfort and compassion? The answer to that question is the word, “context.” The Lord doesn’t want us to read Isaiah 12 by itself. We read Isaiah 12 in the full context of Isaiah 53. The Lord can say, “I am not angry anymore.” The Lord can say, “I am your salvation” for one real reason: the Lord pays for our salvation. When we read, “Surely God is my salvation;” (Isaiah 12:2 NIV11-GKE), we should understand, “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.” (Isaiah 53:4 NIV) The Israelites could know that their rebellions were paid for because blood, innocent blood was spilled. Every sacrifice pointed forward to that once sacrifice that would pay for sin forever. Salvation was not just an idea. It was also an action.

The same is true for us. Each of us, whether it’s our terrible two’s or our Junior High years, each of us has not just questioned authority, but even rebelled against it. And if this is true about our earthly authorities, how much more is it true for our God above? And yet, each of us can say “Surely God is my salvation;” (Isaiah 12:2 NIV11-GKE) because all those Old Testament sacrifices pointed ahead to Jesus who would bleed and die for me. Salvation isn’t just an idea. It’s also an action. And with that action God’s anger is taken away. And for that reason, God invites us to say, “I will praise you, Lord.” But he also gives us another reason: “With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation.” (Isaiah 12:3 NIV11-GKE)

Salvation isn’t just an idea. It’s also an action. Good Friday is all about action. There, on that cross, we see the tears in Jesus’ body. And we see the tears that stain his face. That’s where salvation is paid. But how is it provided? In other words, what good is Jesus’ salvation if it stays there on the cross? The tool, the vehicle that the Lord uses to deliver this forgiveness to us is his word. And there’s this beautiful picture in these words. It’s the picture of a well. How often do we need water? The answer is: “a number of times each day.” And to have a well right next to you in the Old Testament where there is no indoor plumbing—that’s an amazing picture. But my dear friends in Christ, the Lord is not speaking about water here. He’s talking about salvation. He’s talking about the Holy Spirit working through God’s word.1 He’s talking about the fact that when you were two years old or twelve years old was not the only time you have rebelled against the Lord. We continue to do this. And as we sin, see our sin, and repent, there is God’s word, like a well. And we go to it again and again to receive forgiveness and salvation.

And now we see how real this invitation is. The Lord invites us to say, “I will praise you, Lord.” For the Lord pays for my salvation. And the Lord also provides my salvation every day in his word. But how these words end is very beautiful: 4 In that day you will say: “Give praise to the Lord, proclaim his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted. 5 Sing to the Lord, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. 6 Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you.”” (Isaiah 12:4–6 NIV11-GKE)

This chapter starts out with the word, “I.” The words end with the words, “us” and “You” (plural). I remember years ago I was on vacation and went to a busy church. And there was a mom with her little boy. And the boy had this book that he loved. And in the middle of the service he would walk around and turn around, letting everyone know how amazing this book was. The mom tried to calm him down, especially during the sermon. But this book was just that awesome, he had to share it with all those around him.

We find the same picture in these words in Isaiah. The Lord invites us to share this with the world. He invites us to invite others to praise the Lord. But the why is the real issue. We invite all those around us to say, “I will praise the Lord” because he pays for my salvation on the cross and because he provides my salvation in his word. Amen.

1 John 7:37-39

Jesus Is Disowned For Me (Midweek Lent 4)


Jesus Is Disowned For Me

There once was a group of guys who went camping. And, since it was cold outside they wanted to start a fire. So each of them went out into the darkness in the forest to find wood. There were for guys who went to find wood. And three came back. And the three were wondering what happened to the one gut who was not there with them. Well, the fourth guy had stumbled through a bunch of bushes in the darkness. The bushes scraped up his clothing and his face. But finally he gathered enough sticks and came back to the campsite. When he got there there was already a fire blazing. So he got close to the fire and set down his branches. And when he came into the light the three guys began to laugh at him. They asked him if the reason he was so late was because he was putting make up on his face. He didn’t know what they were talking about until he put his hand up to his face and realize that he must have walked through some berries as he was making his way through the bushes. And his cheeks were extra red. There is a risk in coming into the light. If you come into the light the people see the stains on your skin. Tonight in this part of God’s word, we see Peter come into the light. But what is exposed is not the stains on his skin, but instead, the stains on his soul. In Luke 22, we read: 54 Then seizing him, they led him away and took him into the house of the high priest. Peter followed at a distance. 55 And when some there had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and had sat down together, Peter sat down with them. 56 A servant girl saw him seated there in the firelight. She looked closely at him and said, “This man was with him.” 57 But he denied it. “Woman, I don’t know him,” he said. 58 A little later someone else saw him and said, “You also are one of them.” “Man, I am not!” Peter replied. 59 About an hour later another asserted, “Certainly this fellow was with him, for he is a Galilean.” 60 Peter replied, “Man, I don’t know what you’re talking about!” ” (Luke 22:54–60 NIV11-GKE)

In these words Peter wants, needs to follow Jesus. And so he follows from a distance. But he’s not close enough to see what is going on. So he gets closer and closer. And he would have been safe if only he stayed in the darkness. But he was cold. So he wanted to warm up. So he made the choice to get close to the fire. But where there is a fire there isn’t just heat. There’s also light. And when he came into the light, people could see him. And even worse, they could see the stain on his soul. And what follows is an interrogation. There’s a small group of people there gathered around the fire. And after a little while, there’s a servant girl, probably a teenager there. She accuses Peter of being one of the ones who was with Jesus. Peter is afraid of what she says because he wants to find out what it going on with Jesus. But he doesn’t want to be put on trial and then be put to death like Jesus is. So, the fear inside of him is replaced by anger. He lashes out against the girl and says, “no!” He denies knowing Jesus. He, with his words, disowns Jesus. And, sadly, this same event happens three times in a row. One man repeats what the servant girl said. Then another man asserts the same accusation with even more severity. And, if the accusations against Peter were more and more severe, Peters denials were more and more severe.

As we look at what Peter did, so many hundreds of years later, we are ashamed of what Peter did. Not once, but three times he denied even knowing Jesus, let alone following him. But, my dear friends in Christ, these words are not written just for Peter. These words are written for us too. For Peter isn’t the only one who has denied Jesus’ name and disowned him. We too have done the same—even thousands of times in our lives. Sure, the ways we denied Jesus are more subtle. But they are real sins. Martin Luther in his description of the second commandments writes these words:


You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God that we do not use his name to curse, swear, lie or deceive, or use witchcraft, but call upon God’s name in every trouble, pray, praise and give thanks.

How many times have we used God’s name to curse, to swear, to lie, and deceive others? Each of those times we denied Jesus. How many times should we have called on God’s name in whatever trouble we were in, but instead calling on God’s name to ask for help is what we did when every other plot and plan inside of us fell apart. Peter had three massive betrayals. But we have had thousands of betrayals where we misused God’s name or didn’t use his name at all when we should have. Peter denies Jesus three times. But what happens next: 60 Just as he was speaking, the rooster crowed. 61 The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter. Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows today, you will disown me three times.” 62 And he went outside and wept bitterly.” (Luke 22:60–62 NIV11-GKE)

Martin Luther once said that most amazing display of the gospel is found in the garden of Eden after Adam and Eve disown the Lord. In Genesis 3, does what is shocking and astounding. It’s amazing that the Lord appears in the garden at all. He could have destroyed Adam and Eve and started over. He had every right to. We see the same care and compassion here in Jesus. Jesus has his hands full when he is on trial. But, out of love for Peter, he looks over to him across the courtyard precisely when the rooster is crowing.

But these words are even more amazing than that. For Jesus doesn’t just look at Peter. Jesus also look into Peter.1 When Jesus looked at Peter his gaze bored and borrowed deep into his heart and soul. His gaze asked one question, “I have only been kind to you. So why did you deny me and disown me?” That’s what drove Peter to leave and weep bitterly.

And my friends, doesn’t Jesus do the same with us? Jesus approaches us with his word. And that word seizes our consciences. It shows us where we should have trusted in God’s name and used God’s name for good and not for bad. But we did the opposite. And that same word creates inside us true hatred of our sin and true repentance in us.

But my friends, Jesus did not leave Peter there weeping in the darkness of the night. And does not abandon us either. Jesus was disowned by us. But if we look ahead just a few hours we see just the opposite. The rooster crows and a new day begins. Good Friday arrived. And that was the day on which, instead of Jesus being disowned by us, Jesus was disowned for us. On the cross Jesus said those amazing words, ““My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).” (Matthew 27:46 NIV11-GKE) Jesus was disowned by us. But Jesus was disowned by his Father above. And he was disowned for us. Because of this we can know and trust that all the thousands of times we used, abused, and abandoned God’s name are forgiven. Because Jesus was disowned for us, instead of hiding in the dark, we can step into the light and confess our sins. Because he was disowned for us, we know our sins are forgiven. Amen.

1 “ⲉⲛⲉⲃⲗⲉⲯⲉⲛⲧⲱⲡⲉⲧⲣⲱ·” (Luke 22:61 GNT-ALEX)

Who Repents? (Lent 3)


Who Repents?

Beware of “Gapers Block.” About a decade ago I heard a phrase I had never heard before. The phrase was “gapers block.” Gaper’s block is when you see an accident on the side of the road. And what is your reaction? You slow down. Well, on an interstate where people are used to going 70 or 80 mph, when people slow down to 40, the traffic can back up. And when that happens, we tell ourselves that we’re slowing down to be safe. But let’s face it, there’s also that curious part of us that wants to know what’s going on. The problem with gaper’s block, of course, is that if you’re looking off to the side of the road, where are you supposed to be looking? As they told us in driver’s ed. class: “keep your eyes on the road.” These words this morning start out with a sort of gaper’s block. They start out with a distraction from the main point that Jesus wants them to focus on. In Luke 13, we read: 1 Now there were some present at that time who told Jesus about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. 2 Jesus answered, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans because they suffered this way? 3 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish. 4 Or those eighteen who died when the tower in Siloam fell on them—do you think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem? 5 I tell you, no! But unless you repent, you too will all perish.”” (Luke 13:1–5 NIV11-GKE)

So there were people who came to Jesus with this odd and cruel story. Pontus Pilate, the governor of that area had done something shocking and stunning. There were people bringing animals up to the altar to sacrifice them. In some way that we aren’t told human blood got mixed in with the animal blood. Did Pilate’s soldiers cut down someone else and then that blood spattered onto the animals? Did Pilate’s soldiers cut down people as they were offering up their animals so that, there on the altar, was animal blood and the blood of those who were offering up those animals? We aren’t told those details. But we do know that is was bloody and it was wrong. And isn’t the same true today? If you buy a newspaper today or turn on the news, do you hear headlines like this: “Woman comes home after hard day of work” or “Dad finally learns how to change diaper?” No, instead you hear about that which is bloody and wrong. And when we hear about it, we can obsess over it.

Notice where Jesus takes the conversation. They had already decided that they knew the answer to the why question. Why did they suffer like this? They had done something worthy of dying this way. So, to them, Jesus says, “Unless all of you repent, you all will perish.”1 And just to make sure that they understood him correctly, he makes the same point with a different example. There was a tower people were building. And the tower fell on them. And the people concluded that it fell on them because they had done something worthy of being punished. And again, Jesus told them that unless they all repent, they will perish.

Now, my friends in Christ, there are two points to take home and ponder here. The first is that tragedies happen. And when they do, God and God alone is the only one who knows all the reasons why it happened and what he is going to do with the situation. And the second is this: Tragedies out there do not give me the right to ignore what is happening here in my heart. For each one of us has this real temptation to conclude that I have the right to not repent. We can say in our hearts that there are those people out there. Those tragedies happened to them because they are so bad. And we say this to avoid the bad that is in our own hearts. Or a little closer to home, we can say to ourselves that we do not need to repent because what that other person did to me is so much worse than what I did to them. To all of these made-up-rights Jesus says, “repent or perish.”

But my dear friends, see where Jesus goes from here: 6 Then he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it but did not find any. 7 So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ 8 “ ‘Sir,’ the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. 9 If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’ ”” (Luke 13:6–9 NIV11-GKE)

Who is the one who repents? I am the one who repents. And in these words, if we ask the question, “why do I repent,” we find the answer. Jesus tells a parable. And here is where, whether you know it or not, each of us automatically chooses which character we are in the story. So who are you in this story? Are you the owner that hates waste and yearns for justice and fairness? Are you the gardener who loves his plants? No, my dear friends, each of us is the fruitless fig tree. What we see in these words is the heart of God and the struggle in his own heart over each one of us. He sees our sin and out of justice and fairness wants to cut it out like it’s a cancer. But he also, out of mercy for us, loves us and cares for us. And so what does he do for each of us? He is patient with us. He cuts digs away the excuses and made-up-reasons why we do not need to repent. He gives us the nourishing promise of forgiveness that Jesus died for our sins. And then a miracle happens: we repent. And Jesus tells us this parable so that we could go back into our memories and find examples where we were stubborn sticks in the mud and God still gave us repentance. God still forgave us. And that memory of the past gives us every reason to repent now.

And so, my dear friends in Christ, the main point in these words is not that we are supposed to pry open God’s hidden will with a crow bar to find out how God deals with tragedies. No, instead, the real issue he wants us to focus on is the answer to the question: “who repents?” He urges each one of us to say to our Triune God above, “I repent.” And, my good friends, here is where it is good to remember what repentance is. In the words of our catechisms we memorize these words:

First: What is Confession?

Confession has two parts. The one is that we confess our sins; the other, that we receive absolution or forgiveness from the pastor as from God himself, not doubting but firmly believing that our sins are thus forgiven before God in heaven.

We focus in on the fact that repentance is seeing and admitting our sins. And this is important. But there is that other part to repentance. That other part of forgiveness is rejoicing that our sins are forgiven. There is such joy in knowing that when we confess our sins, God really, truly, and actually forgives them. He forgives them and forgets them. He gives us peace and joy, where before there was anger and bitterness. And so, my dear friends in Christ, in your own soul whenever you ask the question, “who repents,” knowing the promises of forgiveness Jesus speaks here, let your answer always be, “I repent.” Amen.

1 “ⲉⲁⲛ ⲙⲏ ⲙⲉⲧⲁⲛⲟⲏⲥⲏⲧⲉ ⲡⲁⲛⲧⲉⲥ ⲟⲙⲟⲓⲱⲥ ⲁⲡⲟⲗⲉⲓⲥⲑⲉ” (Luke 13:5 GNT-ALEX)

Jesus Prays For Me (Midweek Lent 3)


Jesus Prays For Me

Prayer is powerful When I was a child we had catechism class at 8 AM on Saturday mornings. And let’s just say, that at that time of the day, I wasn’t always at my best. So there weren’t too many thought-provoking questions I asked our pastor. But others did. I remember a fellow student ask this question once, “If God knows everything we are going to say and has it all planned out, then why should we pray?” And I thought to myself, “oooh, good question.” The pastor said that it was true that God knows every word you are going to say even before you open your mouth to say it. But he promises that he will hear your words. He promises that he will listen. He promises that he will answer your prayer according to his good and kind will. He told us that it ends up being a mystery. On the one hand, God has all events all planned out. On the other hand, in prayer, out of kindness to us, God bends his own will to meet our own. On that day, maybe for the first time, we began to see how powerful prayer actually is. This evening we see how powerful prayer is too. Only in these words the emphasis is not as much our prayers. The emphasis is Jesus’ prayers. In Luke 22, we read: 39 Jesus went out as usual to the Mount of Olives, and his disciples followed him. 40 On reaching the place, he said to them, “Pray that you will not fall into temptation.” 41 He withdrew about a stone’s throw beyond them, knelt down and prayed, 42 “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.”” (Luke 22:39–42 NIV11-GKE)

These words take place on Holy Thursday night. They have had a large feast. They have had wine. It’s really late at night. And they have already had a long day. The only item on Jesus’ disciples is to get some sleep. But Jesus give them this invitation: “Pray that you will not fall into temptation” (Luke 22:40 NIV11-GKE) Then, in what follows we see a very clear and specific way that they and we too today can fall into temptation. Jesus offers up a prayer. He has a two part prayer. First, he says, “take this cup away from me.” Often in the bible, the phrase “drinking a cup,” simply means “to finish what you start.” Jesus knows that in a short amount of time he will be betrayed. And when that begins he needs to faithfully follow that path all the way to the end—all the way to crucifixion on Calvary. But isn’t what he asks for strange? He’s been telling his disciples that that is what he came here for, to suffer and die for them. It almost seems as if it’s a sinful prayer, against his Father’s plan and Jesus’ own purpose. But that is precisely why this prayer is so amazing. He prays and pours out his thoughts to his Father even though they are messy. Here Jesus is being tempted in every way as we are. But where we sin, Jesus did not. And that is shown by the words in the second part of this prayer. He says, “yet not my will, but yours be done” (Luke 22:42 NIV11-GKE). Jesus put his Father’s will and work above his own.

And this is where we pause and compare Jesus’ prayers with our own. How often could we say of our prayers that instead of saying, “thy will be done, “ we say, “My will, not thy will be done?” For example, when the Lord chooses to bring suffering into our lives in all its various forms. We pray that God would take it away, and he doesn’t. We get frustrated and angry and say, even if it’s in our own heart and never reaches our lips, “My will, not thy will.” Or we could say the same when it comes to silence. We pray and it seems like nobody up there is listening. If only God would do what we want, right?

That’s where the prayer that Jesus offers up tonight is so powerful and precious. For Jesus’ prayers cover up all those prayers I prayed when I said or meant “my will, not thy will be done.” But these words continue: 45 When he rose from prayer and went back to the disciples, he found them asleep, exhausted from sorrow. 46 “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray so that you will not fall into temptation.” 47 While he was still speaking a crowd came up, and the man who was called Judas, one of the Twelve, was leading them. He approached Jesus to kiss him, 48 but Jesus asked him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?”” (Luke 22:45–48 NIV11-GKE)

Notice how these words continue. Again Jesus begins with an invitation. Jesus invites his disciples to not fall into temptation. In the first part the temptation was to fall into the temptation of not letting God’s will be his will. Here the temptation is to not pray at all. And isn’t this such a temptation for us? Think in your life of all the opportunities you had to pray but didn’t. You were too busy. You had other priorities. You forgot. You thought you could do with your own hands only what God could do with his own will. I had a professor once who invited us to go to our church council and say, “I want 10 hours a week off to do nothing but pray so that our church would grow.” And when the church council says, “You need to get out there, do more visits, fill out more reports and attend more meetings,” then remind them of the book of Acts, where the apostles appointed deacons so that the disciples could devote themselves to prayer. That is our great sin sometimes, isn’t it? Sometimes we don’t pray because we overlook and forget it. Other times we don’t pray because we conclude that it might not really work.

And that’s why what Jesus does here is so important. Jesus prays for me not just when I do pray. Jesus also prays for me for all those times when I don’t pray. For all those times when I concluded that prayer was something I could forget or something that didn’t actually do a whole lot—those sins are forgiven by Christ and covered up by his own prayer.

The last detail to add here is to mention here at the end of the sermon the promise that the Holy Spirit gives to us in prayer. Jesus prays for us. And that means that all our sins of either mis-praying or not praying at all are forgiven. But the Holy Spirit doesn’t just deliver that forgiveness to us through his word. No, he also teaches us to pray properly. He teaches us to continually pray that his will would be done. He teaches us to take advantage of prayer, trusting that it is powerful. And so, my dear friends in Christ, Jesus prays for us. Jesus prays for us when we do pray. And Jesus prays for us when we do not pray. Amen.

I Must Press On (Lent 2)


I Must Press On

Take this cup away. It’s the season of Lent. And as a boy, year after year, during our midweek lent services we would hear about Jesus praying alone in the garden of Gethsemane. And one of the strangest expressions Jesus used was when he told his Father, “take this cup away.” I always thought it was weird, since from everything I could tell, he wasn’t even holding any cup. It was only years later, when I had grown up, that I realized that the expression of “drinking a cup” basically meant, You finish what you start. There are some tasks or projects that you take on and there’s no looking back. There is no pit stop. There is no pull off lane. You have to press on. And that’s precisely the point that God’s word makes to us this morning. In Luke 13, we read: “At that time some Pharisees came to Jesus and said to him, “Leave this place and go somewhere else. Herod wants to kill you.”” (Luke 13:31 NIV11-GKE)

Notice here in these words how Jesus is opposed. He is opposed sneakily and yet forcefully. The Pharisees do not say that they want to put Jesus to death. Instead, they say that Herod wants to put Jesus to death. It reminds me of when I was a child in 7th grade science class. My public school science teacher knew that I was a Christian. So he aske me once, “Steve, how do you know? How do you know that when it says that God created the world in 6 days a day wasn’t longer than 24 hours? We all know that one day is a rotation of the earth on its axis. What if it took millions of years for the world to rotate. That could be one day, right?’” At that time I didn’t know what to say in response. But I knew two things. First, it was sneaky. Second, it was very forceful. The same is going on with Jesus in these words. How then does Jesus respond to these words? 32 He replied, “Go tell that fox, ‘I will keep on driving out demons and healing people today and tomorrow, and on the third day I will reach my goal.’ 33 In any case, I must press on today and tomorrow and the next day—for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem! 34 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were not willing. 35 Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”” (Luke 13:32–35 NIV11-GKE)

Notice how Jesus responds. Jesus presses on. Jesus does not give into fear. He does not lash out. Also, he does not give out. Instead, he patiently presses on. And that makes us ask the vital question: Do we press on? When each of us faces attacks either from the outside of the church or even from within those that call themselves, Christian, do we press on? Do we patiently, pleasantly, and persistently answer them, speaking the truth in love as the bible asks us to? Sadly, if your Christian life is anything like mine, you face the temptation to stop. Instead of pressing on, you stop. First of all, you stop to lash out. Many years ago there was a vicar—a pastor in training. And as part of his vicar duties he would visit the hospital to see if any of his members where there. When he got there the lady at the front desk introduced him to the pastor from the other Lutheran church in town. The pastor was a lady and definitely held to views of the bible that were different than that vicar’s. So what did he do? He panicked. He lashed out against her, accusing her of being a false teacher. And many of the words that the vicar said were true. But what was the problem? He didn’t speak the truth in love. Or to put it in the context of these words, instead of pressing on, he stopped to lash out.

But the opposite can also happen. Instead of pressing on, we are tempted to stop and give out. For a year, I was a resident assistant at our WELS campus ministry house at Mankato State. And there I had the great privilege of getting to know many WELS students from around the US. But, as part of my work, I had to call the students on campus, letting them know what opportunities to grow in God’s word were there for them at the campus ministry center. On any given week there were about a dozen students who came to the campus house. But there were over 200 people on my calling list. And it makes you wonder how many of them grew up in good strong Christian families and churches. And then they went to classes at MSU and for the first time had their faith challenged so that it might be crushed. And it makes you wonder how many of them gave in. Instead of pressing on, staying in God’s word, they gave out.

Each of us faces the same sorts of temptations, don’t we? We face the temptation to lash out and the temptation to give out. And that’s why these words here are so meaningful to us. Jesus doesn’t fall into either trap. Jesus presses on. For all the times we lashed out and gave out, Jesus spoke the truth in love. Jesus presses on. And notice where pressing on led to. Jesus says, “surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem!” (Luke 13:33 NIV11-GKE) Jesus knew what lay at the end of this trail. His own death was what lay at the end. And he did this all for us, to pay for the sins of the entire world. Jesus presses on.

But my dear friends, Jesus isn’t the only one who presses on. He invites us too to press on. For, as the bible says in our second reading from this morning, “For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.” (Philippians 3:18 NIV11-GKE) And since there are many who live as enemies of Christ, we face opposition throughout our lives. And with that fact firmly set in our minds, Jesus invites us to press on. But he invites us to press on with the following facts in our minds too:

  1. Jesus promises to us that our sins are forgiven. There is this fear that comes from failure. When we face opposition, we can lash out or give out. And that demoralizes us when we face the same opposition again. Know that your are forgiven. Jesus perfectly pressed on in your place.
  2. But my dear friends, also know what happens when you do press on. God gives unity, true unity. How wonderful it is to know that any one of us can go down to the road to one of our neighboring sister congregations and there receive the Lord’s Supper, knowing that you confess the same faith as your brothers and sisters in Christ down the road. That’s why we press on. For that is a unity to hold onto.

So my dear friends in Christ, continue to press on. When you face obstacles and opposition, press on. Jesus forgives the times we lash out and give out. And he gives us every reason to continue to press on. Amen.