Sunday, November 29, 2009

Advent 1 Sermon -- Luke 19:28-40 (LSB Advent 1C)

November 29, 2009 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran ChurchMechanicsburg, PA

As Christ was drawing near the whole multitude of His disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, saying: "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!"

As all of you Latin scholars well know, this Season of Advent derives its name from the word adveniat = “the coming or arrival.” Or if you weren’t students of ancient Mediterranean languages, now you do know. Because of the nature of this season, we begin it with the reading of the Triumphal Entry, the record of Jesus’ entrance into the holy city of Jerusalem. That is the arrival of the Christ which all the faithful people of God awaited throughout the centuries.

The Triumphal Entry is the coming of Jesus to fulfill His mission to redeem this fallen world by His sacrificial death. Jesus is present to bring salvation to sinners, just as the prophet Jeremiah had spoken: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will fulfill the promise I made to the house of Israel and the house of Judah.” This is the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises that the Lord God made to His people, from Genesis to Malachi. Jesus’ arrival marks the time that the first promise of the Serpent-crusher made to Adam and Eve after their disobedience in the Garden would be fulfilled. His entrance into Jerusalem ushers in the promised day of righteousness that the last prophet foretold. The Christ arrives to accomplish what He was destined to do from before the foundation of the world.

Jesus’ arrival on that Sunday in Jerusalem was hailed by His people. It was a day of jubilation. You heard the accolades given as He entered the city: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” This statement from the crowds of Jerusalem recognizes the nature of this appearance. Their actions and words display the exuberance that the Lord God’s people will have as His promises to them are fulfilled.

Even though Jesus enters on a lowly colt, the people recognize Him as a King; but not just any king, their promised King, a divinely-promised King. This is no tyrant or foreign ruler who receives disdain and hatred from conquered enemies. No, Jesus enters triumphantly, not out of His own authority, but with a divinely-appointed position: He is “the King who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Because Jesus comes in the Lord’s name, He comes with a purpose. He will fulfill the divine prophecies. The source of eternal righteousness enters King David’s capital city. Salvation is brought to Israel and Judah, just as their Lord had promised: “In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch to spring up for David, and he shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.” And so, Jerusalem rejoices with their psalms and palms.

The city’s rejoicing echoes the heavenly message that was given to a different crowd, in a different town of David. As the Christ’s first arrival was made known in Bethlehem, as the angel declared that the Savior was born, the cherubic hymn was: “Glory to God in the highest, and peace to His people on earth!” Now as that same Christ enters Jerusalem, bringing the promised salvation, the crowd gives its reply to the angelic song years later: “Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

Peace in heaven, peace on earth: that is what the promised Christ would bring. He comes to reconcile man and God, the sinful to the sinless. He comes to bring life in its fullness to those cowering in the shadow of physical and spiritual death. That is what the entire story of Christ is: how God-incarnate, deity in our own flesh, brings righteousness to a fallen world. Salvation from our sins is given through Jesus, just as His name tells us. The righteous anger of God at our sinfulness is removed from humanity, the pinnacle of His creation which rebelled against Him. A divine peace is made on earth with effects in heaven.

But as the Christ brings that salvation to us here on earth, His arrival is not one of extreme splendor. Instead, Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem is wrapped in humility. This first coming, the Advent of our Lord, is not one of glory and majesty. Jesus receives great praise, as the crowd recites the psalter. But notice the appearance of Jesus, who is the object of their worship. The crowd adores their Savior, their God, who rides a colt, dresses as a peasant, and has an entourage of fishermen, tax collectors, prostitutes, and outcasts. What is said about Jesus on that day does not equal what the eyes see, but it does equal what the ears hear.

That is part of the mystery of Christ’s incarnation: salvation is brought to the world through a simple Man; redemption is made by God veiled in humility. Only the truth of the Lord God’s word reveals Jesus’ true identity. But that is only so regarding His first coming. That humility and simplicity of Jesus’ first coming is gone: glory and majesty are found in its place. Every eye shall see Him and know that He is Lord of all, the Judge of the living and the dead. Thus this season of Advent takes on a different character for all of Christ’s disciples.

What you anticipate is not what the people of Jerusalem saw on that Palm Sunday. For you, your Lord’s arrival to bring your salvation has already occurred. His appearance as the sacrifice to end all sacrifices has taken place. His days of servitude and humility are over; now the Christ bears the name greater than any other and all must worship Him. You aren’t looking for your King to come to you on a colt and donkey. No, you anticipate His advent on the clouds of glory. At His return, Jesus’ entourage will not be the outcasts of society, but the whole heavenly host.

So Advent becomes more a season of preparation for you. You recall how your Lord first came to this world as our Savior. But then you focus on how He will return to be your Judge. Because that is what Christ’s role for you will be, you make yourselves ready, preparing for His arrival with the means that your Lord has provided. Through confession, renewal of baptismal vows, participation in the Lord’s Supper, and hearing the Gospel of your Savior more often, you prepare yourselves for the promised Day of Christ’s Arrival.

Those are the things that bring Christ’s salvation to you. They are the way that you rely on Jesus and His merits, each time acknowledging that “The Lord is our righteousness.” You seek no perfection in yourselves, but ask your Lord to judge you at His return in mercy, looking only at what He has done for you. You desire from your Savior what St. Paul described to the Thessalonian Christians: “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, so that He may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints.”

That is what this Advent Season is about for all who follow Jesus. You recognize how Christ’s arrival in Jerusalem fulfilled the Old Testament promises and brought salvation to sinners in this fallen world. But you also realize how this was just the first chapter in your story as redeemed people. Greater things are yet to come. And this time of the Church Year directs your attention to those things which will be brought to us with Christ’s truly Triumphal Arrival.

Christ’s Advent brings to you the fulfillment of what the Lord God also promised through the Old Testament prophets. Jeremiah made such a promise to us: “In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will dwell securely.” The days of your oppression, your trials, your temptations, your struggles will be over. At your Lord’s return, you will be truly safe and secure, as you are given the resurrection of the body and the life of the world to come.

So prepare yourselves during this Advent Season for that great day, when you will experience the same exuberance as the people of Jerusalem, seeing the Christ in person with your own eyes. May your hearts be established blameless in holiness at the coming of your Lord Jesus with all His saints. And then you will join in the everlasting song: “Blessed is the King who came in the name of the Lord. Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!”

T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Christ the King Sunday Sermon (Year B) -- John 18:33-37

November 22, 2009 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church - Mechanicsburg, PA

Then Pilate said to Jesus: “So You are a king?” Jesus answered: “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to My voice.”

Pilate’s incredulous question is based upon what he had seen with his own eyes and what others had said about Jesus. The Sanhedrin had turned Jesus over to Pilate, seeking to have Him put to death. They had judged Jesus to be a blasphemer, deserving of death for making Himself out to be God. But such religious matters did not concern the Roman authorities.

In his interrogation, Pilate asks Jesus whether He is “the King of the Jews.” To that question, Jesus replies: “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about Me?” The implication is clear: Jesus’ accusers had reported to Pilate that Jesus had claimed to be the rightful heir to Israel’s throne. This is why Pilate answers: “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered You over to me. What have You done?” Any claim made by an Israelite to be the true monarch was Pilate’s concern.

What is it that Jesus had done to lead to charges of rebellion? Throughout His ministry, He had made mention of a kingdom of heaven and a kingdom of God coming near. He had prophesied about the Temple’s destruction, as well as clearing the Temple of all its merchants. Jesus had convinced people to leave behind family and jobs to follow Him. He had used Messianic titles to speak about Himself and the crowds had responded very positively to that, especially on Palm Sunday. Jesus’ criticisms of Herod and Pilate were duly noted.

But when Jesus stands before the Roman procurator, there isn’t a hint of rebellion. There really isn’t any hint of a royal presence, either. No, everything appears to be just the opposite. Hear again what Jesus says to Pilate’s question, “What have You done?” Jesus said: “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But My kingdom is not of this world.” Jesus’ reply leads to Pilate’s puzzled response: “So You are a king?” Nothing about that claim makes sense to his mind. And so, as John’s Gospel records further, Pilate declares to those who had accused Jesus: “I find no guilt in Him.”

The reaction that Pilate had to the whole business of Jesus’ being a king is how the world also reacts. Jesus’ words are true: “My kingdom is not of this world.” Because His kingdom isn’t of this world, all the earthly ways of measuring its greatness, evaluating its effect, judging its operations, and identifying its citizens don’t work. They fail to see what is there, because the earthly signs of Jesus’ kingdom are either missing or unsensible. His kingdom is hidden.

But just what is Jesus’ kingdom like? It doesn’t have geopolitical boundaries. It doesn’t possess much strength. It’s constantly under threat, as people on earth do not agree with Jesus’ teaching and His principles for life. But while the kingdom of heaven is assailed, its citizens do not wage war against earthly powers. And the truly confounding thing for the world is that Jesus’ kingdom is established and expanded through means that do not carry great earthly force. And yet, it is successful.

In the opening verses to the record of his revelation, the Apostle John writes about how Jesus’ kingdom came to be. Framed in doxological language, John’s words declare: “To Him who has freed us from our sins by His blood and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever.” In that statement of praise, the work of Jesus is cited: Jesus acts to establish a dominion by loving people, freeing them from their sins by dying for them, and turning them into His subjects. This is not a nation-building agenda for political leaders to follow, but it is successful for the Son of God.

Jesus’ kingdom is established by means of His crucifixion, burial, and resurrection. As the merits of these acts are given to sinners by receiving Jesus’ Word, they are forgiven and are made to be Jesus’ servants. But that type of kingdom-building doesn’t fit the expectations of this world. Confronted with this way of thinking, Pilate responds in disbelief: “So You are a king?” Pilate’s words summarize his ideas about Jesus: “Let me get this straight. You are a king. But Your kingdom isn’t of this world, Your servants don’t defend You, and they are made Your subjects by hearing Your truth. That is just plain odd. You are certainly no threatening rebel.”

But what Pilate and the world do not see, do not experience, do not comprehend is real. The hiddenness of Jesus’ kingdom is what throws them. What they sense and understand cannot reveal to their hearts and minds what is truly present. Jesus appears weak and insignificant. His teaching about selflessly loving one another, trusting in a great future while experiencing hatred from others, being willing to forsake the perks and benefits of this world in order to follow a disciplined way of life—it all seems so foolish. But for those who are born from above by the truth of Jesus, those who listen to His voice and follow it, Jesus’ kingdom is seen.

As Jesus stood before Pilate’s judgment seat, He appeared to be only a rustic Galilean craftsman who happened to be a good communicator. But listen to the description of the Incarnate Son of God that the prophet Daniel gives: “I saw in the night visions, and behold with the clouds of heaven came One like a Son of Man, and He came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before Him. And to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him; His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.” Quite a contrast!

Led by the Holy Spirit who works through the voice of Jesus, you know what is hidden behind His humbleness. You know the truth about Jesus’ identity. That truth includes the fact that He had to take on human nature in order to die for you. That is how Jesus “loved [you] and freed [you] from [your] sins by His blood and made [you] a kingdom, priests to His God and Father.” To do so, Jesus had to appear in great humility, undergoing the false accusations of the Sanhedrin and the unscrupulous judicial abuses of Pilate’s court. But such humility, such hiding of His identity from earthly eyes, doesn’t change who Jesus is. Rather, it confirms it.

The same Jesus described by Daniel is the same Jesus who stood before Pilate. As He offers His life for the life of the world, He fulfills His Father’s will. Though seemingly weak in His suffering and crucifixion, Jesus engages in a conquest over sin, death, and Satan for you. Jesus’ sacrifice allows Him to take possession of a kingdom, to take you as His people. Doing so, Jesus extends the Father’s care to you. As Jesus rises from death and ascends to heaven, He is rewarded by His Father, the Ancient of Days.

Ascending in glory and receiving an everlasting dominion and an indestructible kingdom is as much a part of Jesus’ identity as His earthly humility. Being of the same substance of the Father, holding a holiness like the Ancient of Days, is as much a part of who Jesus is as His being truly human, born of the Virgin Mary. So who stands before Pilate? Not just a simple Galilean craftsman with a golden tongue who dazzles people with His talk, but “the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth.” The Sanhedrin falsely accuse the Lord God they claim to believe in; Pilate issues a corrupt ruling against the Judge of the Living and the Dead. But it must be so, so that Jesus might make you His kingdom.

What is promised, however, is that this hiddenness will come to an end. So John writes: “Behold, He is coming with the clouds and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of Him.” Everything true about Jesus’ identity will be revealed for all to see. All will be made to say: “So You are a king.” But those who were wrong about Jesus’ identity during their earthly lives will lament their error.

But for you, the Day of Christ’s Return will be a day of great joy. He has made you His subjects. You know the truth about Jesus hidden from earthly eyes. For you have listened to His voice and believed His trustworthy decrees. And so you shall be honored by Christ the King, your King and Lord. Even so, Lord Jesus, quickly come!

T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Pentecost 24 Sermon -- Mark 13:1-13 (LSB Proper 28B)

November 15, 2009 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran Church - Mechanicsburg, PA

Peter and James and John and Andrew asked Jesus privately: “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are about to be accomplished.” And Jesus began to say to them: “See that no one leads you astray.”

The end times. The Last Day. Dies irae: day of wrath. The terms all convey a character of foreboding, a denoting of doom. With or without the anticipated return of Christ, the end of the age has been a fascinating and intriguing subject. Many religions include it as an aspect of their faith. It can be found in popular culture, including the new blockbuster movie 2012. Even Christian fiction writers have made a good deal on their novels that record their thoughts and imaginations about the End Times.

Jesus speaks about the Last Day and the End Times, so His disciples must also. Today’s Gospel Reading presents part of Jesus’ statements about the time before His judgment. As Jesus nears the day of His sacrificial death to fulfill the Old Testament, He visits the Jerusalem Temple. “As [Jesus] came out of the temple, one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Look, Teacher, what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.’”

Jesus’ comments to His disciple tell of an impending doom. He prophesies about the fall of Jerusalem. Invaders would come and tear down the magnificent structures of Israel’s chief city. And it was so. The Roman legions led by Titus laid siege to the city, eventually obliterating the Temple grounds in AD 70. The Lord’s words would be fulfilled by the pagan warriors from the north, nearly replicating the Babylonian assaults on Jerusalem six centuries earlier.

Jesus’ prophecy of destruction led His disciples to want knowledge. They wanted to know when and how the prophecy would be fulfilled: “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are to be accomplished?” Like all men, the disciples liked signs. Foreshadowing, clues, hints, symptoms: they all please the human mind. For by them, future events which by nature are unknown can be determined. In somewhat trivial and ordinary matters it is so: check how much fur is on the caterpillar to predict the severity of winter; red sky at night, sailors’ delight; observe the bellwether states or districts to predict an election’s result. If that is so with such minor events, then when the Lord speaks of cataclysmic destruction, signs will be sought.

But note what Jesus says in response to the disciples’ question: “See that no one leads you astray.” Jesus lists events that will take place before the Last Day: “wars and rumors of wars. . . . earthquakes in various places. . . . famines.” Jesus also prophesies concerning what will happen to the Twelve apostles: “They will deliver you over to councils, and you will be beaten in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, to bear witness before them. And the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations. . . . And you will be hated by all for My Name’s sake.” These are the signs which the Twelve should look for.

After what Jesus prophesied took place, Jerusalem did fall. The Temple was destroyed; the magnificent buildings were toppled. But these events were not immediately followed by the Last day. No, another 1,939 years have passed, and Jesus has yet to return. But He did say about those events: “This must take place, but the end is not yet. . . . These are but the beginning of the birth pains.” Jesus gives the signs to watch for, but the signs are things and events that will transpire every day, week, month, and year prior to His return.

What is much more important than the signs that Jesus presents are the exhortations that He gives. It is necessary that Peter, James, John, Andrew, and all Jesus’ followers know that Jerusalem would fall, that strife will take place in this world, and that the status of being His disciple will lead to being hated. But Jesus’ exhortations must be heard even more closely: “See that no one leads you astray. . . . But be on your guard. . . . But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

During these years before Christ’s return, it is easy to abandon the faith. Scoffers ask: “Just when was it that this Jesus fellow would come back?” False teachers lure people: “I am Jesus’ prophet. I am the Messiah you’re looking for. I am Jesus and I have returned.” Others posit their claims of truth: “Jesus was wrong. I have the true way of life to share with you.” All around the world, still others rage: “Everything associated with Jesus must be destroyed.” In the face of all these voices, in the reality that nearly twenty centuries have passed without Jesus’ return, it is tempting to toss in the towel and take up a different game.

Yet, in precisely such times when that seems a good idea, then Jesus’ exhortations must be heard: “See that no one leads you astray. . . . But be on your guard. . . . But the one who endures to the end will be saved.” That is why the epistle writer included his own words of instruction to Jewish Christians who were suffering for the faith and being tempted to abandon it: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

Reading the signs and not seeing Jesus’ return can truly frustrate and cause doubt. But you know the Lord to be faithful. He is not jesting with you or playing some celestial guessing game. He has already fulfilled the prophecies concerning the promise of salvation to you and to all believers. The signs that He gives about the future are not a chronological chart, because the Last Day will not be His decision. Jesus tells you what will constantly happen in this world of sin, the world He has redeemed. He wants you keep a constant state of readiness for the Last Day; that is what His exhortations are meant to instill in you. For even Jesus waits in expectation of the end: “But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, He sat down at the right hand of God, waiting from that time until all His enemies should be made a footstool for His feet.”

Until Jesus returns, you will be hated by all for His Name’s sake. Until Jesus returns, this world will be embroiled in disaster and destruction—both natural and manmade. Until Jesus returns, there will be false teachers promising all sorts of ways to salvation. Until Jesus returns, you will be tempted to choose a different way of life. But instead of focusing on the signs and events or on impossible attempts to divine when the Last Day will come, direct your hearts and minds to what Jesus has promised: “The one who endures to the end will be saved.” The prophesied, destructive signs continue to take place; that should confirm in your souls that the Lord’s promise concerning your salvation is even more true.

So in these times, as you abide by Jesus’ teachings, you shall be like the Psalmist who wrote: “I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me. I have set the Lord before me; because He is at my right hand, I shall not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad, and my whole being rejoices; my flesh also dwells securely.” What the Psalmist gives is the description of all those who heed Christ’s exhortations, being on guard and holding fast to the confession of their hope. It is a trust that Jesus’ words are true and that His salvation is near, even in the midst of seemingly endless troubles of these last days.

The promise of the Faithful One has been given to you, and He will deliver. These last days should not forebode doom for you, for you have been redeemed. Jesus says about His redeemed ones: “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.” You have that wisdom, for Jesus has made known to you the path of life. You may turn others to righteousness, for you have been put into relationship with your fellow believers and residents of this world.

So gather together and receive His promises over and over again, especially as His Day draws near. For by gathering and receiving Christ’s gifts, you will abide in Him and He will abide in you. Be on your guard; see that no one or no thing leads you astray. Rather, trust the words that the Lord has spoken, for they are made true for you: “The one who endures to the end will be saved.”

T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Pentecost 23 Sermon -- Mark 12:38-44 (LSB Proper 27B)

November 8, 2009 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran ChurchMechanicsburg, PA

[Jesus said]: “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

In the Gospel Reading for today, the Church is given a glimpse at the collection in Jerusalem’s Temple during the days before Jesus’ crucifixion. No offering plates are being passed around, but sacrificial gifts of thanksgiving and for atonement are being made. One-by-one, people enter the temple grounds, making their way to the offering box. People of all stripes are there, from “the scribes who like to walk around in long robes” to the common folk of Judea.

Rich and poor alike, the faithful people of God come to give their offerings. These attract the watchful eye of Jesus: “He sat down opposite the treasury and watched the people putting money into the offering box.” Jesus observes what is put into the collection. All is done as it should be, following the Levitical Code set by the Lord God: “Many rich people put in large sums. And a poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which make a penny.” As required, the offerings are given.

But one of the givers piques Jesus’ interest. He observed them all, but the widow with her two small copper coins causes Jesus to comment publicly to His disciples: “Truly, I say to you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Jesus’ statement tells why He is interested in the widow and her gift. It isn’t her dress, her hard scrabble life, her age. No, it is the amount she gives. Two mites are dropped into the offering box—a minimal amount, to be sure. But Jesus declares that the copper coins are of greater value than the pounds of gold and silver clanging in the charity containers. By any monetary measure, Jesus’ words make no sense at all. Copper has been worth less than gold and silver for millennia. Bags of coins outweigh and outpurchase a single pair of mites. Jesus’ words may have seemed ludicrous and loony.

But hear again why Jesus says the widow’s two mites are worth more than all the little fortunes given by the wealthy: “For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” The offerings of the rich held more monetary value, but the widow’s mites comprised all her assets. Once those coins hit the bottom of the offering box, the widow had no more to give from her state of poverty. The two ha-pennies may not have purchased anything great, not even a dove from the temple vendors, but they were a complete, total gift. Nothing was held back.

So why should this attract Jesus’ attention? Why are this widow and her small offering recorded by the Evangelist? It isn’t to teach you that pennies can add up to great amounts of money. That lesson is true, but it doesn’t take Jesus to tell you that. St. Mark didn’t include this incident to give a first-century stewardship lesson to an ancient congregation. The widow and her mites didn’t make the canonical Scriptures in order for the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League to distribute little boxes for offerings. Though, it must be said that it is wonderful that the mite boxes are given and used, since the collected coins accumulate to great gifts for mission projects home and abroad.

No, this event teaches us about Jesus. Consider again why Jesus praises the widow and her two-coin gift: “For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.” The totality of the widow’s gift causes Jesus to praise her. Her two-coin gift shows her faith: she believes that the Lord God will provide for her. She puts everything she had in the offering box, abiding by the divine commands concerning gifts to the Lord God. She acts out of her belief that the Lord God can rightly instruct her to give her coins—even if they are the last two in her purse—and demand her obedience. But her faith is also in the descriptions given about the Lord God’s care, just as the Widow of Zarephath was not abandoned in her want, and just as today’s psalm declares: The Lord watches over the sojourners; He upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked He brings to ruin.”

The mite-giving widow stands as a great example of faith. She is to be held up in front of the Twelve and all of Jesus’ disciples as someone to praise and to imitate. So her story has been recounted by Christians for centuries. But this widow’s gift also teaches about Jesus, and for that reason, it is to be even more remembered. Her offering is total—“she has put in everything she had”—and as such, it is a pattern or type of Jesus’ sacrifice. What Jesus says about the widow’s offering, He can say about what He would a few days later in Jerusalem. Jesus praises the widow’s total offering on Tuesday; He will offer a sacrifice of the same measure on Friday.

The completeness of Jesus’ sacrifice is the reason for the Author’s statement that you heard from today’s Epistle Reading: “For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf. Nor was it to offer Himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not His own, for then He would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, He has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”

The Author’s statement describes Jesus’ sacrifice. By offering Himself, giving out of His poverty, leaving nothing back, Jesus has made atonement for the world. Jesus doesn’t drop bags of gold into an offering box. Jesus doesn’t take some of the riches of the world He created and offer it to God the Father. No, it is just as you learned in the Small Catechism: “[He] purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death . . . .” There is no other way to describe that offering other than tweaking what Jesus said about the widow: “[He] has put in everything [He] had.”

The totality of Christ’s sacrifice shows His trustworthiness. What we learn about His action proves what the Lord God says to us in today’s psalm: Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation. When his breath departs he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish. Bless├Ęd is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord his God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever. . . .” Nothing of this world—not all the gold, silver, and copper; not any of the strength of man—can provide salvation. But the Creator of heaven and earth, who assumed humanity, and sacrificed His life, keeps faith forever, even for sinners who turn to Him for deliverance.

So you find what you need for eternity in Jesus, the One has put in everything He had for you. He is your hope for forgiveness, life, and salvation. He has made great and precious promises to all who trust in Him. Jesus says: “Believe in Me and the One who sent Me, and you will have everlasting life. Trust in My sacrifice that I offer for your sins and the sins of the world. I have overcome your great enemies: sin, death, and Satan. Because I have prepared a place for you, I will return and deliver you from this world of toil and trouble to live with Me for eternity.” All these effects of Jesus’ total and complete sacrifice are why the Author states about Him: Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for Him.”

Trusting in what Jesus has given for you and anticipating His return, you can give of yourselves and your possessions. You know that you will not lack any good thing. Even in the poverty of this world, you have been made owners of life and salvation. You have a great inheritance to receive at the time of your Lord’s return. What you have been promised by Him who gave His life and took it up again for your salvation proves the things of this world to be transitory and of no true value. So if the copper coins of creation can be used for others to be shown Christ’s love and to receive the benefits of Christ’s eternal and complete sacrifice, then toss them in the offering box! Know that the Lord God will still provide for you here on earth and there in eternity.

Having the faith of the widow that receives the profits of Jesus’ offering, you are heirs of everlasting life. Eagerly await His return, anticipating the day when you will take full possession of everything that is meant to be yours. Jesus has put in everything that He has, so that you who were lacking may appear in the presence of God. For your God does reign forever, keeping faith with you whose hope is not in the coins of this world, but in His total sacrifice for your salvation.

T In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.