Sunday, April 25, 2010

St. Mark's Day Sermon -- Mark 16:14-20

April 25, 2010 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran ChurchMechanicsburg, PA

Jesus said to [the Eleven]: “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.”

The Lord’s instructions to the Eleven are short and to the point: Go and proclaim. That’s what they are called to do. Where should they go? “Into all the world.” Their mission is not limited to the streets of Jerusalem, but to the farthest ends of the earth. What should they proclaim? “The gospel.” That is, what Christ had done among them to bring about salvation. Who should they tell? “The whole creation.” For Christ’s redemptive work was to bring forgiveness, life, and salvation to every single thing which was corrupted by the sin of Adam. That is the charge the Eleven are given, the charge that they fulfill as their Lord sends them.

But as the accounts of the Eleven’s work are read, it is readily noted that others were brought into this enterprise of going and proclaiming. Just a matter of days after receiving this instruction from the Lord Jesus, the Eleven fill the vacancy among them, bringing Matthias into their company as the replacement for Judas, the Betrayer. As the Church in Jerusalem grew, there were others brought into leadership positions, others who were entrusted with Christ’s gospel to proclaim. And when the apostles began their movement “into all the world,” beginning with the cities of the Mediterranean, aides and successors were added.

So it was for Mark, whose festival day the Church celebrates on April 25. This believer from Jerusalem was added to the roster of workers by the apostles. It is easy to see why. Mark was a member of the inner core of the Jerusalem Church, the son of a woman whose house served as a meeting place. It put Mark right into the company of Peter and the other apostles. He was a relative of Barnabas, a leader of the Church in Antioch. Mark was taken with Barnabas to accompany Paul on his first missionary journey. And though Mark would abandon the journey and return to Jerusalem, he would also prove to be a vital help in the mission of the Church. For even Paul would give the instructions to Timothy near the end of his life: “Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.”

Mark was useful indeed. For through him, the apostolic preaching was recorded for others to hear. It is through his work that the gospel is taken into all the world. The Twelve who left from Jerusalem only traveled so far. Their travels took them west to Spain, east to Persia and India, and south to Egypt. Mark himself ended up in Alexandria, leading the Church there. Yet there was much more of the world to be seen, more of the creation to be told the gospel. The apostles could not get there, but their proclamation did. For what they preached was heard and believed and retold. It was memorized, written down, and published.

This publishing of the gospel is where Mark was truly useful. The young man from the Jerusalem Church recorded the Chief Apostle’s preaching. Peter’s proclamation about Jesus—“the Christ, the Son of the Living God”—was heard by Mark from the very beginning. And through Mark’s pen, it was published for others to proclaim. His book begins with the simple statement: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” And then unfold the words and works of Jesus, the teachings and actions which bring redemption to the fallen world, which bring redemption to you.

This festival day is truly about your receiving the proclamation about Christ. That is why the Church remembers and speaks about Mark. She does so, because she has first heard what the Evangelist remembered and spoke. It is through him that you know about Jesus of Nazareth, about His identity and labor. Mark’s Gospel identifies Jesus as “the Son of Man,” the fulfiller of Daniel’s and Isaiah’s prophecy. His book reveals that challenge of hardheartedness. Mark’s record of Christ’s teaching includes the purpose statement about why Christ died for you: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” Through Mark’s pen, you are given the great promise that the Risen Christ makes: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

It is for this reason why Mark is remembered and revered. The Collect of the Day puts this well: “Almighty God, You have enriched Your Church with the proclamation of the Gospel through the evangelist Mark.” The Church has been enriched—you have been enriched—because the apostolic message has been given to you. Because you have been so enriched, you recognized Mark as great. He fulfills the description given by the Prophet Isaiah: “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who publishes peace, who brings good news of happiness, who publishes salvation, who says to Zion, ‘Your God reigns.’” That is the message that is brought to you through the Evangelist’s account.

Mark’s Gospel does not present an impotent, weak, wimpy teacher found holed up somewhere in seclusion. No, he shows you One who carries authority: an authority that the Twelve recognize, that demons fear, that the creation obeys. He records the signs that accompany Christ’s work, so that even in His death the centurion who watches declares: “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” The Evangelist gives to you the record of the prophecy’s fulfillment: “The Lord has bared His holy arm before the eyes of all the nations, and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our God.” This is what Christ has accomplished, and that forms the message that He sends with His apostles into the world.

To show the authority that Christ has and to confirm His message, He causes similar signs to accompany the apostles’ work: “And these signs will accompany those who believe: in My Name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” This is what happens during the apostolic mission. They carry Christ’s authority into the world with Christ’s gospel: “They went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.” His work is done through the apostles. His words are proclaimed through them. His salvation is delivered through them.

That is what you have received through the Evangelist’s record. For by his account of Christ’s words and works, the gospel has been proclaimed to you. As the Holy Spirit has worked through Mark and those who have delivered his account to you, your hardheartedness and unbelief have been removed. You have believed those who saw Jesus after He had risen. You have been baptized to be joined to that Crucified and Risen Christ. You are saved because the Lord Jesus has been taken up into heaven and is seated at the right hand of God, but has also left His authority with people here on earth. His commission was given and fulfilled: “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” And that is what has taken place here. You are far away from Jerusalem, but what transpired there—Christ’s sacrificial death and glorious resurrection—has effects here.

And so you remember Mark because he has presented what Christ has done for you. Your honor of the Evangelist is not faith or worship in him. No, even Mark would tell you the words of the 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 day his plans perish.” Instead, the Evangelist points you away from himself and toward Jesus: “Believe Him. Believe what He did and what He promised—the words and works that I merely recorded. Believe in His death and resurrection, for through those actions the Lord Jesus saves you.”

Mark was indeed useful for ministry. He was useful for you, so that you may know the Lord Jesus and be saved. The divine promise is given through Mark’s account to you. Even in the ends of the earth, you have seen the salvation of your God. May you firmly believe the glad tidings that the Evangelist has brought to you and daily walk according to Christ’s Word that he has proclaimed: “Whoever believes and is baptized shall be saved.” So the Risen Christ has declared through Mark, His useful servant, to you.

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

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Easter 3 Sermon -- John 21:1-14 (LSB Easter 3C)

April 18, 2010 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran ChurchMechanicsburg, PA

“After this Jesus revealed Himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and He revealed Himself in this way.”

Jesus reveals Himself to His disciples in many ways. The Apostle John is concerned with telling you about these revelations. He records the words of Jesus that speak about His nature and identity. The Evangelist includes several of the signs performed by Jesus, signs that revealed His nature and identity. Last week, you heard the Evangelist’s desire that you have these in your hearts and minds: “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name.”

Jesus’ nature and identity are revealed to you, so that you may have life in His name. This He also did for His first followers. The apostles had to know exactly who Jesus is and what He has done. For salvation comes through true faith in that. But there is another factor of importance: the identity of being an apostle is derived from who Jesus is and what He has done. And this He shows through His appearance to His disciples on the Sea of Tiberias.

This third appearance of Jesus to His disciples took place in Galilee. The disciples are back in their home region. Those who had first been called by Jesus are there: “Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and to others of His disciples were together.” And just what are they doing? “Simon Peter said to them, ‘I am going fishing.’ They said to him, ‘We will go with you.’ They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.” The disciples returned to their nets, to the life they had been called to leave in order to follow Jesus at the beginning of His ministry. But note what happened when they went back to their old profession: “That night they caught nothing.” It is so, because that is no longer what these men have been called to do.

The appearance of Jesus at the lakeshore confirms His resurrection, but it also confirms the change in life that these followers of Jesus underwent. This revelation to these seven disciples shows this: “Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know it was Jesus. Jesus said to them, ‘Children, do you have any fish?’ They answered, ‘No.’” Jesus is there, though the disciples did not initially recognize Him. But that changes. They know it is Jesus when He reveals Himself through a reprise of events that happened years before in Galilee: “[Jesus] said to them, ‘Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some.’ So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of the fish.” And in that moment, the disciples remember. What Jesus had done and said before is brought back to their minds.

Seeing the nets strain to hold all the fish, John recognizes just who is standing at the lakeshore: “That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, ‘It is the Lord!’” And not to be undone, Peter acts with his customary impulsion: “When Simon Peter heard it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea.” Jesus’ appearance reminds John and Peter of that first miraculous catch of fish on the Sea of Galilee, back when Jesus used Peter’s boat for a pulpit and then instructed him cast nets on the other side. In that moment, Peter recognized himself as sinful and Jesus as the Lord. And in this appearance of the Risen Christ, the same confession is made.

Yet there is more than the recognition of Jesus as One who controls nature. The fishing event early in Jesus’ ministry included His statement: “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men!” The apostles’ remembrance of what happened earlier is combined with what had just transpired: Jesus’ death and resurrection and His first appearance to His disciples. Jesus once told Peter not to fear; He once gave Peter a new identity. And this was also repeated “on that evening, the first day of the week, when the doors were locked for fear of the Jews.” This is what you heard last week in Jesus’ words: “Peace be with you! As the Father sent Me, even so I am sending you. . . . If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven.” That is the new identity of the apostles. It stems from Jesus’ identity as the Sent One who died, yet rose again, and who possesses all authority in heaven and earth. That same Jesus once stood in Peter’s boat; He now stands on the lakeshore. And there He commands Peter to “feed His sheep,” not to work the nets.

This new identity that Jesus gave to these men of Galilee will be fulfilled. Jesus will not let them go back to the fishing boats and be successful. They will cast nets and catch nothing, because that is not what Jesus has called them to be. These men of Galilee are to be His ambassadors in the world, men sent carrying His authority. The authority is to speak Jesus’ words and apply it to sinners in need of forgiveness. They are to go and forgive the sins of any. As the Father sent Jesus, so He sends them. Others can take up the fishing nets; these men are to take up the mantle of apostle that the Lord has given them. Their old ways of life have died with Christ; a new life has risen in with Christ’s resurrection.

And so it is for you. Not that you have been called to be apostles. All but a couple of you in this room have been given that mantle and authority. Jesus has not sent you as the Father had sent Him. But you have been given a new life and identity by Him. For as you have been called to follow Christ and His ways, as you have been called to share in the salvation that He has earned, you have a new life. Once you were not so. Once you did not know anything about Christ, about His identity and work. Once you really were no different than Saul who was persecuting Christ. But now that has changed. The word of life has been placed in your hearts and in your mouths. It has been given you by those whom the Lord Jesus has sent. And with that comes a new way of life.

This new identity given to you through the word of life coming to you is dependent upon Christ’s identity and work. Consider the worship that the Risen Christ receives in heaven. You have heard it; the lyrics tell what Christ has done for you: “Worthy are You to take the scroll and open its seals, for You were slain, and by Your blood You ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and You have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth.” Jesus is active and powerful: that is essential to His identity. Jesus did something for you! He was killed for you. And He rose to life again for you. So He has ransomed you. You have been delivered from sin, death, and Satan by His death and resurrection. And Christ gives you a new identity: being a kingdom and priests to your God. You are like the psalmist who said: “O Lord, You have brought up my soul from Sheol; You restored me to life from among those who go down to the pit.”

You have been called away from the trivial to something great. Though you are still in the world, you are no longer worldly. Though you have earthly lives, you are no longer defined only by them. Though you will die, you are no longer limited to mortality. What Jesus bestows upon you is greater than anything you possessed or anything that your enslavers could offer. Given a new identity, you are led to fulfill it. You are not to go back to what you once were. Such a return is worthless; it makes everything vain. It can be summarized in the psalmist’s words: “What profit is there in my death, if I go down to the pit? Will the dust praise You? Will it tell of Your faithfulness?” Going back to the former ways benefits you nothing. It makes Christ’s work for you null and void.

But the one who follows in His way gains everything. There is the great confession about what Jesus has done: “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing Your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to You forever!” This is what Jesus did for His disciples in His post-resurrection appearances among them. And so it is for you. When Christ reveals Himself and His goodness, reminding you of who He is and what He has done, your mourning and sorrow are ended. You have been drawn up; you belong to the divine kingdom. This is what Jesus has accomplished for you.

Like the first disciples, you also are reminded of Jesus’ identity and His work for you. Every time you trace the holy cross at the invocation of the Triune God, you remember your new identity given in Holy Baptism. Every time you participate in Confession, you remember the holiness that Christ bestowed upon you. Every time you participate in the Lord’s Supper, you remember that Christ died for your sins according to the Scriptures and that He was buried and that on the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures. Your Lord does not let you forget what He has done or the life He gives. No, He reminds you again and again that He has ransomed you and made you His.

Jesus has called you away from the nets of this life and into His kingdom. He has called you to follow, not to turn back. Remember what He has done and the identity He has given you. For there is found your true calling and purpose—an identity that entitles you to join in the everlasting, celestial praise of your Lord, the Risen Christ.

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

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Easter 2 Sermon -- John 20:19-31 (LSB Easter 2C)

April 11, 2010 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran ChurchMechanicsburg, PA

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said: "Peace be with you."

How much did the disciples need to hear those words from Jesus? That is a good question to ask on this day, as the Church concludes the week-long formal celebration of Christ’s Resurrection. Hearing the Evangelist’s description of the events in the Upper Room, remember that he recalls what he himself witnessed. Note well that John records the final appearance of the Risen Christ at the end of a long, confusing, hectic day.

The day began with what you heard last Sunday: “On the first day of the week, at early dawn, the women came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb.” With that discovery, the entire lives of Christ’s followers changed forever. The women’s discovery of the Empty Tomb, their report of the angels’ words—“Why do you seek the Living One among the dead? He is not here, but is risen!”— confound the reason of everyone who heard and saw. Christ’s Resurrection is but the first of many events on that Easter Sunday that caused everyone to search their memories of His words, to reassess their confession of His identity, to reexamine what they truly believe about Him.

So it was for the Eleven. They heard the report of the women, but as St. Luke told you: “these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them.” Then Peter goes himself to the tomb, and “stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.” An even more wondrous thing happens that afternoon, as the Risen Christ finds two of His followers walking the road to Emmaus. He speaks with them, explaining everything that happened in His life, including all the events that took place in Jerusalem: “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, He interpreted to them the things about Himself in all the Scriptures.”

John’s Gospel moves the events forward. He takes you back to the safe house where the apostles were hiding, where fear and doubt reigned. Even Peter, who had seen the empty tomb and believed Jesus was risen, goes back into seclusion. The Evangelist tells you the disciples were afraid: “the doors of the house were locked for fear of the Jews.” Despite all the amazing events of the day and the news of their Lord’s resurrection, the closest followers of Jesus had bunkered themselves. The stone of Christ’s tomb may have been rolled away, but the doors of the Upper Room remained tightly shut.

But why are they afraid? What causes their fear? Perhaps it stems from the fact they had not seen the Risen Christ. Perhaps they ultimately doubted everything that had been told them, finally convinced that the women’s reports were false. After all, there were many reasons why the tomb could have been left empty: most of all an ill-designed attempt to “raise Jesus.” And if the Jewish authorities had heard about it, just what would they think? They had killed Jesus. Certainly anything that smelled like a hoax being pulled by His disciples would not go unpunished. The clubs and torches of the Gethesmane arrest were still available for another use. The “idle tale” of the women might bring very real consequences.

Right into that setting of doubt and fear, Jesus appears. He manifests Himself to the disciples. He doesn’t bother knocking, but appears right in the middle of the room. The locked doors cannot prevent Him from standing in the presence of His disciples. And when He opens His mouth, Jesus plainly speaks to His followers: “Peace be with you.”

Those four words—or two Greek words—from Jesus summarize everything had happened during that first day of the week after His crucifixion. Though immediately it might not seem that way to you. Jesus’ statement might not seem complete. But in truth, it is. It is a greeting, but so much more than that. Nothing more needed to be said by Jesus, even though St. John tells you that countless volumes could be written and said about Christ’s life, teaching, and work. “Peace be with you.” Those words from the Lord’s mouth perfectly describe what He has given to the fearful disciples—what He has given to all of you.

What else were the events of Christ’s life all about? For what other purpose did the events in Jerusalem take place? Remember everything that was said about Jesus and His death. High Priest Caiaphas unwittingly prophesied: “It is better for you to have one man die for the people than to have the whole nation destroyed.” Christ testifies about Himself on the Sunday prior to His death: “Now is the time for the Son of Man to be glorified. When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to Myself.” Jesus promises His disciples just before leaving for Gethsemane and His betrayal: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.”

The Lord’s words are never idle or empty. It is especially so when He speaks about His purpose, His mission. His words revealed the purpose of His death. Jesus goes to die, in order to save the people. He is crucified, in order to draw all people to Himself. He is sacrificed, in order that sinful humanity can be absolved and reconciled to God the Father. Through Christ’s death and resurrection, peace is made, fellowship is restored. So it is that when the Risen Jesus appears in the midst of the locked room and beholds the faces of the men who had run away, who had abandoned Him, who had denied even knowing Him, He speaks those direct and powerful words: “Peace be with you.”

The disciples’ sins of dread, desertion, denial, and doubt: they are all waved away by Christ’s absolution—the forgiveness achieved through His suffering, death, and resurrection. Everything that Jesus had all right to hold against His disciples is dismissed by Him. And this has a great effect. The Evangelist tells us: “the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.” But the peace and joy given by Christ are not limited to those in that locked room. They are given to each of you who commit the same sins as those first followers of Jesus. Your Lord comes into your presence, bringing the same greeting, declaring the same message: “Peace be with you.”

When your Lord first encounters you through Holy Baptism, He greets you by saying: “Peace be with you.” Jesus says to you: “Peace be with you through My death and My resurrection. Peace be with you through the washing of regeneration, as My Spirit is granted to you. Peace be with you, as your sins are rinsed away.” Your Lord breaks through the locked doors of your sinful, corrupt, dead human natures. And when He does, you are reconciled to the Father by Him. There is great effect caused by His words. Unbelief is removed; faith is found in its place.

When your Lord encounters you again in Holy Absolution, the greeting is the same: “Peace be with you.” Christ speaks to you: “Peace be with you, as your sinful actions are declared null and void. Peace be with you, as the doors of heaven are unlocked for you. Peace be with you, as I acknowledge you as My disciples.” There is great effect caused by His words. Your Lord forgives you, extending the actions of the cross and the empty tomb to each of us over and over again.

And when your Lord encounters you in the Sacrament of the Altar, the greeting is the same: “Peace be with you.” He welcomes each of you: “Peace be with you, as you are invited to partake of the new testament. Peace be with you, as you receive My Body given in death for the life of the world and My Blood shed for you, for the forgiveness of sins.” There is great effect in His words. Like the apostles in the Upper Room, you are enabled to see Christ’s hands and feet which were pierced for you, as He presents Himself among you by making bread and wine become His life-giving Body and Blood for your salvation.

That is what your Lord Jesus Christ does even today, fulfilling the purpose of His suffering, death, and resurrection for each of you individually. Just like the dreading, deserting, doubting, denying disciples desperately needed to hear those words from Jesus, so do you. When faced with your sin and unbelief, there is great fear. When everything looks lost or pointless, there is cause for doubt. When faced with opposition, there is plenty of opportunity for denial. The events of Holy Week are replayed over and over again in your lives.

Your experience is the same as the Eleven, for you are no different than those apostles in the locked room. You need to hear your Lord speak. You must hear His voice to know that you have not been banished by Him, but are still counted as His followers. You must hear His voice to know that He still regards you as heirs of His salvation and everlasting life. You must hear His voice to know that the whole enterprise of discipleship isn’t vain and empty. And your Lord doesn’t fail to deliver.

So you learn from the account of that first Easter evening and the night one week later. He repeats the event again and again. For even now, your Lord Jesus brings His greeting: “Peace be with you. Your sins are forgiven. Your faults and failures are forgotten. I am your Lord and God, and You are My people.” May you be willing to hear these gracious words from Christ Jesus, especially when tempted to hide yourselves from your Lord’s presence in doubt and unbelief. For there is great effect in His words; through them you are forgiven and through them you are given everlasting life.

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

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Sunday Sermon -- Luke 24:1-12 (LSB Easter C)

April 4, 2010 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran ChurchMechanicsburg, PA

The angels said to the women: “Remember how He told you, while He was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” And they remembered His words, and returning from the tomb they told all these things to the Eleven and the rest.

Remember what was said: that was the message of the angels to the women at the tomb. It is also the message for you, why you are here. You have come to hear again what was said about and by the Christ. The prophecy was given many, many times: the Christ would appear on earth to bring salvation. He would come to rectify what was wrong with this world, to make up for every fault, every foible, every failing. The Christ appears to atone for the sin of Adam: “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” There would be a reversal of the death that plagued this creation, leading to renewal: a new heavens and a new earth.

This is what had been promised for centuries. The appearance of the Son of God on earth marked the beginning of this promise’s fulfillment. Remember what was said, what the shepherds and you heard on Christmas night: “Behold, unto you is born in the City of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Remember what was said about the Child that the Virgin Mary bore: “You shall call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.” That is what was said about the Christ. During His lifetime, the Christ made it clear that He would make good on what was said about Him.

Remember what He said. Remember His words that you have heard the past several weeks. He disclosed His mission: “Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish My course. Nevertheless, I must go on My way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.” Jesus told in parables what awaited Him: “When the tenants saw him, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.’ And they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him.” He had even prophesied the method that would be used to put Him to death: “And I, when I am lifted up from this earth will draw all people to Myself.”

Remember what He told you. That is the order of today. He foretold what He would accomplish and do. He left nothing a secret. Jesus said that He would give His life as a ransom for you. He was betrayed, so that you may be reconciled. He was condemned, so that you may be pardoned. Christ died, so that you may be spared eternal death. But there is more than His dying; there is the rising to life again. That is what Jesus promises: “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.”

So what do the women find on that third day? “On the first day of the week, at early dawn, they went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. And they found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.” They go to the place of the Crucified Christ’s burial, but they do not find Him. They do not see Jesus’ body, and they are scolded for looking for it: “Why do you seek the Living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” Everything is in order. The words of Christ have been fulfilled. He has risen on the third day, just as He said. What Jesus had foretold early in His ministry, even in Galilee, has come to pass.

Today you have come to hear again the prophetic words about Christ—the words HE fulfilled: “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” But you have also come to hear the prophetic words about you, the promises that have a foundation because Christ fulfilled what was said about Himself. Because they have been made true, you have a great hope: “But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a Man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.”

Those prophetic words are about you. They have one premise: Christ must have risen from the dead for it to be so. That premise has been fulfilled: “[The women] found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus.” This is what you have come to hear again: “Why do you seek the Living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” You may hear and know that “Christ has been raised from the dead.” You may hear and know that “by a Man has come also the resurrection of the dead.” You may hear and know that “in Christ shall all be made alive.” These words are about you, and they stand true.

The apostle gives another saying for today: “If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” But you are not to be pitied; you need no one’s sympathy. You have not hoped in Christ in this life only. No, you have hoped in Christ as the source of life and resurrection. You do not have an empty hope or a wishful dream. Instead, you have the sure and certain hope of the resurrection of the dead. You are banking on receiving the promises of the One who is powerful over death. Your trust and faith is placed in the Living One, the Holy One who did not see corruption.

With the psalmist, you may boast and take pride: “I have set the Lord always 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 secure.” Such a statement can be made because you always have your Lord beside you. He isn’t stuck in some tomb in Palestine; He isn’t rotted away. No, your Lord lives forevermore. Because death and the grave could not lock Christ up, He can be present wherever you go. Your heart and spirit may rejoice, but your flesh can also dwell secure because you also will undergo the resurrection of the body. Because the Holy One did not see corruption, He can restore you.

The resurrection of Christ gives you hope beyond this life. It brings you a new fate. It makes you a victorious people, not a bunch of pitiful victims and fools. Such a fate is always tied to the actions of Christ and belief in His words. Everlasting life is not a goal that you can achieve; it must be given to you. But a dead corpse lying in a tomb cannot help you. Everlasting life can only be given by One who Himself is living. But what do the angels say about Christ: “Why do you seek the Living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.” As the Crucified and Risen Christ, Jesus can give you life. That is why His resurrection is the most important act to have ever taken place in this world’s history. Without it, you are most to be pitied.

But remember His words. Remember what He has told you: “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” The bold and audacious words that Jesus spoke about Himself actually have come true. And so, you may trust everything that He says about Himself. Even more so, you may trust the bold and audacious words that your Lord Jesus says about you: “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.” What the psalmist says is true about Jesus: “You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” It is true because Jesus has risen from the dead. The Living One makes known to you the path to everlasting life—the path that He first traveled for you.

So hear again what He told you. Believe that your Lord is more than just an earthly guru or a coach for successful living. Such a measly hope is pointless: “If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.” Your hope is in something much greater; the Living One is your Lord: “In Christ shall all be made alive. . . . He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” Remember what was said and what took place. Remember and trust the words of Christ, for they all stand true, especially the bold and audacious ones: “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” He has fulfilled the promises about Himself, and so He shall fulfill His promises made to you: even that you also shall rise from death and live with Him forever.

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

Friday, April 2, 2010

Good Friday Sermon -- John 19:17-18 (LSB Good Friday)

April 2, 2010 at Calvary Evangelical Lutheran ChurchMechanicsburg, PA

“So they took Jesus, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified Him, and with Him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.”

Jesus is crucified among sinners. So it was prophesied by the Psalmist: “For dogs encompass Me; a company of evildoers encircles Me. . . .” The dogs of Rome stand at the bottom of the cross, their work of crucifixion reaching its conclusion. The Sadducees who no longer believed in the promises of sacrifices see the true High Priest offering Himself for the life of the world. The Pharisees who abandoned the Lord God’s Word see the Word of God Incarante dying in front of them. But “the dogs” and “the company of evildoers” include more than the pagan soldiers and the members of the Sanhedrin who watched. There were even more. “The dogs” and “the company of evildoers” also include those who hanged on either side of Jesus. Two robbers are crucified with Jesus, just as the Evangelist says: “There they crucified Him, and with Him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.”

Yet this was not simply the fulfillment of the psalm. Certainly, the prophecy is completed in Jesus’ crucifixion. But what Jesus undergoes on Mount Calvary is what He had undergone from the very moment of His conception. Jesus’ fate was to be crucified among sinners, but every day of His earthly life was spent in the company of evildoers. This is what the Incarnate Son of God witnessed every day. He was full of grace and truth, but the people He encountered were full of malice and lies.

That is the world into which the Son of God came. And yet, that is what His Father desired. His will was that the Christ would bring grace and truth to a condemned world. His will was that His Son would become part of the fallen creation in order to redeem it. Being in the presence of sin and sinners, the Christ faces rejection: “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces He was despised, and we esteemed Him not.” The Evangelist whose Passion Account was read puts it this way in his Prologue: “The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, yet the world did not know Him. He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him.”

But not only is Jesus crucified among sinners, He is crucified among their sins. Their guilt hangs around His neck; their burden is put on His shoulders. For this is what had been spoken about Him: “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to His own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” What had been spoken about Jesus is fulfilled in His death, even in His burial: “And they made His grave with the wicked and with the rich man in His death, although He had done no violence, and there was no deceit in His mouth.”

So Jesus is crucified among sinners. But it had to be so. For there is nothing but sin in this world, and the only thing that could bring salvation to this world was the death of a righteous man. This is what the prophet declares: “Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush Him; He has put Him to grief; when His soul makes an offering for sin, He shall see His offspring; He shall prolong His days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in His hand. Out of the anguish of His soul He shall see and be satisfied; by His knowledge shall the Righteous One, My Servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and He shall bear their iniquities.”

Jesus is crucified among sinners. But know this: it is for you and your benefit. But not only is it for you, Jesus is crucified among sinners, because He is crucified with you. For when you were baptized, you were crucified with Him. Jesus was surrounded in crucifixion by pagan soldiers, apostate religious leaders, and convicted criminals. But even more so, Jesus was surrounded by your profanity, your faithlessness, your immorality. He is crucified in your sins. His grace and truth is found among your malice and lies. Your guilt and burden is hung around His neck.

That is the great message of this day. For as His dying has made a mockery out of death and a victim out of Satan, Christ has earned the spoils. By the tree of the cross, where death arose, there life also might rise again. The serpent who overcame by the tree of the garden has by the tree of the cross been overcome. Since you were crucified with Christ, you also are raised with Him. The words of the apostle are true: “In the days of His flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to Him who was able to save Him from death, and He was heard because of His reverence.” That hearing includes the raising of the Crucified Christ from death.

And so the prophecy about the Crucified and Risen Christ is spoken for your benefit: “Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the many, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.” His soul was poured out to death for you. He was numbered with you and your sins. Jesus was crucified with you. But the Scriptures also say: “Being made perfect, He became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him.” So Christ is the source of your eternal salvation. You have a portion of what Christ has earned for you. The spoils of His death are divided with you.

“They took Jesus, and He went out, bearing His own cross, to the place called the Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha. There they crucified Him, and with Him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them.” They sent Jesus out bearing His own cross, and so they sent Him out bearing your cross. They crucified Jesus, and so they also crucified you. They laid Jesus in the tomb, and so they also buried you. For baptized into Christ, you are baptized into His death. But as Jesus has risen from the dead, so you shall rise into the newness of everlasting life.

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