These are lessons 4-6 of our Christlight Sunday school series.
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.
1 “58 ⲟ ⲕⲟⲡⲟⲥ ⲩ̈ⲙⲱⲛ ⲟⲩⲕ ⲉⲥⲧⲓⲛ ⲕⲁⲛⲟⲥ ⲉⲛ ⲕ̅ⲱ̅·” (1 Corinthians 15:58 GNT-ALEX)
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)
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?
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:
THE EIGHTH COMMANDMENT
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
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
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