Scarville and Center Lutheran Churches
Sermon – Isaiah 49.8-13 (Lent 4 – 2020)
Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, by Your Son You fed five thousand men in the wilderness with five loaves and two fish, showing that you nourish our bodies: We beseech You to nourish also our souls with Your gospel, that by the redemption of Your Son, we may be freed from sin, and be led with believers from every nation to our eternal inheritance by Your merciful Son, our Lord, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen.
Grace to you and peace, from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
8 Thus says the LORD: “In an acceptable time I have heard You, And in the day of salvation I have helped You; I will preserve You and give You As a covenant to the people, To restore the earth, To cause them to inherit the desolate heritages;
9 That You may say to the prisoners,`Go forth,’ To those who are in darkness,`Show yourselves.’ “They shall feed along the roads, And their pastures shall be on all desolate heights.
10 They shall neither hunger nor thirst, Neither heat nor sun shall strike them; For He who has mercy on them will lead them, Even by the springs of water He will guide them.
11 I will make each of My mountains a road, And My highways shall be elevated.
12 Surely these shall come from afar; Look! Those from the north and the west, And these from the land of Sinim.”
13 Sing, O heavens! Be joyful, O earth! And break out in singing, O mountains! For the LORD has comforted His people, And will have mercy on His afflicted.
These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.
Dear fellow redeemed,
In the desolate place, Jesus fed the many who were hungry and faint. He had mercy on them. They needed food. Where there was very little to nourish them in this desolate place, Jesus gave them a feast. Miraculously He fed the multitude out of five loaves of bread and two fish.
This miracle is a sign, or indication, that Jesus is the Christ, the promised Messiah. But this feeding is not the feeding that is prophesied in Isaiah.
Let’s examine the prophesy Isaiah puts before us. Pictured before us is Israel returning to their inheritance. God’s servant will go and say to those imprisoned Israelites in exile, go free. They who are in darkness, come into the light. They who hunger in desolate places, will now have pasture from which to eat. They shall return to God. The mountains will not prevent them. God will make His mountains into roads. The highways in the valleys will be lifted up. They shall come from all over the earth. He who has mercy on them will lead them. He will give them plentiful pasture, and water for them to drink to sustain them on the way. They will return with singing and great rejoicing, because they are comforted and have received God’s mercy.
But what exactly is pictured? What is God prophesying here?
He’s speaking about the acceptable time, the day of salvation. At the time of Isaiah, the day was yet to come, but for us the day has already come. The Father hears the prayers of the Son. The Son of God became man and though He was without sin, He was able to sympathize with weaknesses of man, and thus He prayed to the Father on behalf of all mankind. And so the Father hears, and He plans out the day of salvation. He sends His Son to be the covenant of the people. That means He will be the personal bond which unites Israel and its God in a new fellowship.
So this return prophesied in our gospel reading is not a return to the land, but a return to God, who created us, but from whom we have lost communion. But on the acceptable day, the day of salvation, the Father gives up His Son to draw us to Himself and accept us for the sake of Christ alone. This is not a two-sided agreement, that we do our part and God does His. Rather Christ has made all things right between us and God. He has accounted for our sins, paying the price for them. He is the righteousness that justifies us with God. He is the bloodied, beaten, and crucified Mediator that creates peace between us and God.
This is meaningful for us only when we know what our spiritual situation is. We were in exile, separated from our Creator on account of our sins. We were in darkness, alienated from God, not knowing Him as our gracious God, but only our Judge, from whom we hide in the darkness.
We are hungry and thirsty in this wilderness. There is that innate longing for something that is missing, something lasting, that which we lost, the relationship with God. But we cannot satisfy it. Even the crowd Jesus fed had the answer before them–there was Jesus who is their righteousness and life. But they wanted from Him only satisfaction for their bellies. So also, in this wilderness, there is nothing to give us what we lost. In this wilderness, we try to fill our longings with whatever we can find, we even try to produce our own righteousness to make us right before God, but this is a delusion. It fails.
Furthermore, our spiritual situation can be compared to captivity. We can perhaps relate to this most of all these days. We’re stuck at home. Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s a blessing to be home, but yet, we are limited on what we can do outside the home. We leave only for necessities. But how much greater is the captivity under sin and the devil. Our wills were completely bound to the devil. We were slaves of sin. We think we were free, but we were not. We could not budge from their grasp, not an inch to the left or to the right.
The way to God, is fraught with mountains and difficult terrain. There is no way we can make our way to Him.
But then because of Christ, what happens!? By His saving work, and through the preaching of His gospel, what wonderful things now happens for you. You in captivity: “Go forth.” You are free! Free from sin and Satan! You in the darkness, “Show yourselves, live in my light and life, and see that I am gracious to you!”
“The way to Me has been opened. Jesus is the Way. Through Him I have drawn you to Myself.” My mountains have been made into roads, the highways in the valley have been lifted up. There no longer anything separating you from Me. You are Mine, and I have claimed people from all four corners of the earth to be Mine as well. I have drawn all of you to Myself through My Son, who was lifted up on the cross. And while you remain on the earth, though it will be difficult, suffering the evil of the world, war, disaster, and famine, He will be with you. He who has mercy on You, will lead you. He is your Good Shepherd. He is also the Bread of Life. Eat of His Word, and partake of His body and blood, for He satisfies your hunger, for He is the righteousness by which you have peace and communion with Me. He will lead you beside still waters, upholding you in the grace of your baptism, and refreshing you in my grace.”
And so we go led by our Lord, feasting on Him, and living in our baptism, until we enter the glorious presence of God in heaven. And so we go, with believers from every tongue, tribe, and nation.
It hasn’t been long that we’ve been away from church, but I’m really looking forward to when we can leave the walls of our house, and we will come from the north, the west, the south, and east, and join together within the walls of our Father’s house, to gather in His most gracious presence, and partake of the Bread of Life, in Word and Sacrament, receiving from Him, His forgiveness, righteousness, and refreshment! It will be a joyful day!
And this is a foretaste of heaven, isn’t it? Gathering together with one another in God’s most gracious and glorious presence. And so we sing and rejoice, for the Lord has comforted us and has mercy on us! He has united us to Himself, and we shall be with Him forever. Amen.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.
Sermon – Matthew 17.1-9 (Transfiguration – 2020)
O merciful and everlasting God, heavenly Father: We thank You that You have revealed to us the glory of Your Son, and let the light of Your Gospel shine upon us: We pray that You would guide us by this light that we may walk diligently as Christians in all good works, ever be strengthened by Your grace, and conduct our lives in all godliness; through the same, Your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever. Amen
Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves;
2 and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.
3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him.
4 Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
5 While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!”
6 And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid.
7 But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.”
8 When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only.
9 Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.”
These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.
Dear fellow redeemed,
It was quite a sight that Peter, James, and John had on the mountain. Jesus’ appearance changed before them, and He displayed His divine glory and brilliance. There are the two natures in Christ. It is not the character of human flesh to shine like the sun, and to emit light. We can enter into a pitch black room, and our bodies will produce no light. It will be pitch black. But the body of Christ, which is a real human body, shines like the sun, because He is also true God. The fullness of the divinity dwells in Christ. The early church fathers used to give this picture, and our Lutheran Confessions make use of it, it is like fire and iron. Iron does not have characteristics to glow. It produces no light. But it is the character of fire to glow. So that when fire is joined to the iron, it causes the iron to glow and emit light. So also, because of the union of the divine and human natures in the person of Christ, the divine attributes of His divinity, such as majesty, is communicated to His human nature, such as His body. Christ did this whensoever He willed during His humiliation, such as we see in our gospel reading. And since His ascension, His divine majesty always and fully is being revealed through His flesh.
And Peter, James, and John were in awe of Christ and His glory. They loved this sight!
It is interesting to note that they weren’t afraid of Jesus. Three years earlier, much less caused Peter to flee Jesus’ presence. Jesus gave them the great catch of fish, and Peter seeing the divine power of Jesus fell down at Jesus’ knees and said, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord” (Luke 5:8). But now they see not just the works of His divinity, but also His divine radiance, and they are not afraid. They have come to know not only of His glory, but also His grace and meekness. For John also testified of Him, being “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14). And they know that He has come in mercy for the benefit of sinners.
But they see their friend, their teacher in such glory, and speaking also with Moses and Elijah, who represent the entirety of the Old Testament. They want this to last. They want to remain in the presence of His glory.
So Peter, still showing respect to His Lord, requests the will of His master “if you wish.” But it is Peter’s desire that he build three tabernacles, one for Jesus, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.
Peter much preferred this sight over the words that Jesus spoke six days earlier, that He would “go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day” (Mt 16:21). Peter wished to remain in the glory, but tried to prevent Jesus suffering. Of course Peter didn’t learn his lesson. Peter wanted the mountaintop glory, but not Jesus’ suffering on the top of Mt. Calvary. And when Jesus was being judged under Pilate, Peter denied Jesus. And when Jesus was on the cross, Jesus and the disciples abandoned Him.
But on that mountain, the Father intervenes and turns Peter’s attention to where it should be directed: to His Word. He says, “Hear Him.” “Mark this vision you see now, remember who this is before you, this is My beloved Son, begotten from eternity. Hear His Word. He speaks of suffering, humility and death. Do not object to Him. Do not dismiss Him. Hear Him, and trust upon His Word.”
Like Peter, we want to dwell in glory. We want to see it and experience it. This desire ordered in the right way is a good desire. We want to be in heaven with Jesus. That is good. We should wish to dwell in the presence of His glory. This is was the good intention of God in creating us. But the desire for glory in sinful human hearts is easily turned bad.
There is the desire to have a connection to God’s glory, through means other than His Word and Sacraments. There’s that desire to have that mountaintop experience. Some actually go to the mountaintops, or else look for experiences in creation and seek in the beauty of creation, a connection with God. God’s creation declares the glory of God, but it gives no indication of how we stand before Him. In fact, when we think about it, being held accountable to this glorious Creator is very frightening.
Another place where the desire for experiencing God’s glory goes wrong is seen in some styles of worship. God’s Word is to be preeminent. “Hear Him” is God’s command. Music is to serve the words. But for many the music is played for the purpose of eliciting emotions, getting a person to feel God, and feel His love apart from the words. It is often the case that there is a lack of substance in the lyrics, which goes to show that they don’t matter much.
But how else does this desire go wrong? What do we wish to see in our every day lives. A happy life! We have a plan for our lives, that everything would go swimmingly. We seek to build our little kingdom here on earth. And of course, we don’t want things to go bad. We pray to God for blessings, and our daily bread. Jesus tells us to pray for this. And certainly, we are blessed with so many things by God in our lives here on earth. And we give thanks to Him for it. But it goes bad when this becomes the glory in which our hope, confidence, happiness, and comfort is grounded. For these things come and go like a mist.
Life is good, everything with God is good. Life is bad, God’s glory has departed from me. Well, this isn’t how we are to see it.
We operate our lives so much on what we see and experience, and what we want to see and experience. But when it comes to God, and our status before Him, His will for us, we ought to close our eyes and hear Him.
God’s glory on this earth wasn’t only found on that mountaintop. It was also found on another mountaintop, on Calvary. God’s glory was revealed in the crucified Christ. We can’t see it with our eyes, but God calls us to hear Him who was crucified, and there in Holy Scripture we learn, this is God’s atonement for our sins. He is defeating the devil. He is winning salvation for the world!
We need to close our eyes, and open our ears and hear Him, because we don’t see glory in our own lives, for Scripture says, “In this world you will have trouble,” and “We must through many tribulations enter the kingdom of God.”
But we have the confidence
God is with us. That through faith, we are His children. His glory will not destroy us, for we are forgiven.
This word is sure. This is what Peter speaks of in our epistle reading. This is not the word of man. This is the word of God, and they have seen with their own eyes His glory. What they have heard, what they have seen, they reported. And this Word, which is God’s Word is sure! Peter was sure of it, and was willing to die for it. And we too, must be willing to bear our cross, and suffer, but we know that we have the glory of being God’s children, righteous, and forgiven, and that when our time here comes to an end, we will enter into glory, where we will live in the light and brilliance of God’s glory.
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.
In Nomine Iesu
Pastor Thomas L. Rank
Quasimodogeniti, Easter 2
April 23, 2006
Text: John 20:19-31
22Then, the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst, and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When He had said this, He showed them His hands and His side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” 24 Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 The other disciples therefore said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” So he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” 26 And after eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, “Peace to you!” 27 Then He said to Thomas, “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” 28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” 30 And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ our risen Lord,
Joseph had been stripped of his coat of many colors, a special and unique gift from his beloved father; he had been thrown into a pit, and then sold into slavery. His own brothers had done this to him. But Joseph did not stay a slave. Over the course of years he rose to become one of the most powerful men in the world. His brothers probably figured he was long dead. They were wrong.
They found out how wrong they were when they needed food during a severe and long-lasting famine. Joseph was in charge of the food in all the land of Egypt, and that’s where the brothers had to go to get food. Without the food they and their families would starve to death. Joseph recognizes his brothers when they come to Egypt, but they do not recognize him. Finally though, Joseph lets them know who he is. And Moses, the writer of Genesis, tells us: “they were dismayed in his presence.” Yes indeed, the brothers who had wickedly sold Joseph years before out of their jealousy and hatred of him, the brothers who despised him, the brothers who had to “settle” for just selling him into slavery when most of them wanted him dead – these are the ones who are now “dismayed” in front of Joseph.
The fate of these brothers, these sons of Israel, is in the hands of Joseph. Joseph has reason to hate them. He has reason to want them punished for their evil; for their betrayal, for their cruelty. Yet what does Joseph do? Listen to what Moses tells us: “And Joseph said to his brothers, “Please come near to me.” So they came near. Then he said: “I am Joseph your brother, whom you sold into Egypt. But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life” (Gen. 45:4-5). Joseph knows that God had a purpose for his slavery – the purpose was that Joseph might save lives through God putting him in the right place at the right time. Joseph does not use his power nor his advantage over his brothers to give them what they deserve. Instead, he forgives them, he accepts them back as his brothers, as his family, and rejoices to be with them again.
You can probably figure out the connection between Joseph and Jesus. On that first Easter evening Jesus meets His disciples. What are His first words to these men? These are the ones who all promised that they would never leave Him. These are the ones who said they would die before they would abandon Him. But what did they actually do? They fell asleep instead of praying. They ran away when Jesus was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane. Peter had actually denied even knowing Jesus three times. They did not rally around Jesus to protect, support, or help Him in any way. They left Him alone during the time of His greatest need.
So, now it is the evening of the third day. Stories of resurrection have been circulating, but the disciples have hardly dared to believe. How does Jesus greet these men? He could have refused even to meet with them. He could have met them with fire and brimstone, punishing them for their cowardice, their lack of faith. He could have scolded them.
What are His words? “Peace be with you.” I want you to remember that. I want you to have this picture of Christ in mind when you wonder if God will forgive you, if He wants to forgive you, if He’ll hold your sins against you. Jesus did not scold. He did not punish. He gave peace to them.
Now, some abuse this peace with God and interpret it to mean that now God allows every and any thing to be done, as if there is now no morality, no right and wrong, and that God will simply love no matter what. There is enough truth in that statement to make it sound right, but it also has enough error to make it deadly to souls.
Why doesn’t Jesus need to scold or punish the disciples on that Easter evening? There’s no need for more law because they know their sin. They know they failed. They know they cannot excuse their actions or lack of action for Jesus. They are not trying to say that what they did was right or something that God should allow. The disciples, like the brothers of Joseph, understand their sin. And by the grace of God alone they are forgiven.
One disciple is not there on that first Easter evening. When he hears the story of the resurrection for the other ten Thomas doubts it. He demands to see, to touch.
When Jesus shows Himself to Thomas the next week, He doesn’t need to scold Thomas much either. Jesus says: “Do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas sees Jesus and recognizes Him. He does believe. He confesses his faith in the risen Jesus: “My Lord and My God.” Thomas knows why the nail prints are in the hands of Jesus, and why the side of Jesus has a wound. These are the marks of the crucifixion. These are the marks of the winning of salvation: forgiveness from sin, life.
The wounds of Jesus are a reminder that forgiveness came with a price – the death of the Son of God. Those who imagine that God’s love for us allows us to continue in sin or to think that God doesn’t care about sin, are not only mistaken, but they also blaspheme the death of Jesus Christ. Jesus died to pay for sin. He didn’t die so we can consider sin as of no consequence.
But as we realize our sin, as we come to understand more and more that our sins are known to God even more than Joseph knew the sins of his brothers against him, then let us remember that Jesus wants us to believe in Him. Jesus wants us to know peace with God. Jesus wants us to hear forgiveness for all sin. He doesn’t want us to be afraid of Him, or to run away from Him, or to hide from Him. Jesus calls us to Him with words of peace, forgiveness, and love.
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name.
Blessed are you, by faith in Jesus Christ. Life is yours, by believing in the name of Jesus. You have a God who forgives, who paid for sin with His own death, who rose again in triumph, all for you. Trust the words written for you, that you may believe and live. God grant this to you all in the name of Jesus – Christ is risen, He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
In Nomine Iesu
Pastor Thomas L. Rank
Misericordias Domini, Easter 3
April 30, 2006
Text: John 10:11-16
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. 12 “But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. 13 “The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. 14 “I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. 15 “As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. 16 “And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd.
Dear fellow redeemed in our Risen Lord Jesus Christ,
Have you ever noticed that the word and idea of “sheep” is not much used as a name for things like cars or military vehicles? In World War II the German army named their tanks after animals like: Tigers, Panthers, Rhinoceros, Elephant: power, size, killing ability. British airplanes were called Spitfighters and Hurricanes; the Americans had Thunderbolts, Lightning, Mustang, Flying Fortress. Some modern American planes are Hornets, or Super-hornets. Trucks and cars are given names with numbers and letters, or names like Titan, Mustang. These things are given names that we associate with power, or speed, or sophistication. About the only sheep-related name I can think of that’s used for a vehicle is “Ram.” Not many people would talk about how they drove their “Ewe” into work today, or took their “Lamb” our for a spin on the back forty.
The word “sheep” does not bring up images of power and might, nor great speed or intelligence. In fact, we use the word “sheep” to describe people who follow a leader without thinking. It is not considered a compliment for a group of people to be called “sheep.”
But this is where the distinction between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of the world can be seen. The world has its power games. The world thrills to the powerful. And the power of the world is mostly very blatant: bigger engines, more powerful weapons, faster vehicles, and so on. There is a time and a place for such power. It has its rightful sphere in the way this world must operate. But the church is different.
Power in the church is very different from the power of this world. The most powerful in the Christian Church, and in the history of the world, is the One who went like a lamb to the slaughter, who deliberately did not use the power of the sword, but relied on His word. This one was even called “the lamb of God.” What a contrast between the power that people are impressed with, and the power of God.
God shows His power by allowing death to come to Him and kill Him: “The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep.” The world shows its power by its ability to deal out death. Again, such power has its place, but it is not in the church, for the church is not about such punishment, it is about how God takes our place in the deserved punishment for our sin. And that is what the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, wants us to know.
Sinners, without Jesus Christ, are the prey, the targets, and not the predators. Sinners without Jesus Christ are gobbled up by sinful flesh; they are dominated by the world for their end is death; and they are run over by Satan. Yet we sinners like to imagine that we have power, that our human strength, or the power of our machines, can overcome obstacles. So we invest so much in the power of this world. And we are left at the end with nothing. Death destroys us, just like rust and wind and water erode, dissolve, destroy the things of this world.
We are sheep. And we need help. Our help is the Good Shepherd, Jesus.
How does this Shepherd help? He calls to us. He speaks to us. He lays down His life for us and then tells us that His death is our life. He takes the poison of our sin into His own body, and gives us instead the green pastures and pure springs of water that restore us and keep us.
All of this is brought to us as we hear His voice, as we listen to the Word of God. Jesus says, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and I give them eternal life.” Martin Luther preached: “[Christ and His kingdom] all depends on hearing it with faith….Its whole makeup and nature is to hear….We Christians should be and remain attentive, for all depends on the hearing of the Word and believing it….We Christians know Christ through the voice of the his gospel, and Christ knows us by our hearing, that we hearken to his gospel which proclaims to us that he died for our sins” (Hauspostille, II, 84).
The voice of Jesus, His Word, the Gospel, is the power of God for salvation. This is a power which turns upside our ideas of what power should be. And this is really the nature of the Gospel – it turns everything around. How does Jesus get rid of death? By dying. How does He get rid of evil? By taking it upon Himself. How does He show power? By being weak. How does He take on the dogs, the strong bulls of Bashan, the lion? By being a lamb.
Because this is so against what we want power to be we may very well find ourselves rebelling at such a 180 degree shift in our thoughts. That is part of the struggle in the life of a Christian. But it is a necessary struggle for us – for our Savior says to us and shows us in many ways that whoever would lead, let him become like a slave; whoever is strong, let him become weak; whoever is proud, let him become humble; whoever wants to be first, let him be the last. God didn’t pick the powerful nations of Egypt or Assyria to be His chosen people; God chose a small family, a family that became slaves, and then God rescued them and He alone, by His power, makes them strong. David, small and unarmored, defeats the giant and well-armed Goliath. Jesus, alone, bloody and tortured, takes on death. David cuts off and lifts up the head of Goliath in triumph. Jesus rises glorious on Easter Sunday, alive, victorious, undefeated.
This is the way of God. This is the way of Shepherd and sheep.
This victory is yours by hearing and believing the voice of the Shepherd. That means hearing the Word of God, reading Holy Scripture wherein we find the bread of heaven, the life-giving work of Jesus Christ, the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls.
Wolves, the lies of Satan, the power of the world, the false teachings of those who want to lead you away from the truth of God, the voice of Jesus, all these are around us in this world. That is why we continually hear the voice of the Shepherd. We keep learning to distinguish His voice from all that falsely mimic Him or try to sing a different song to us.
God keep us safe in the hearing of our Good Shepherd, the one who knows us, who calls us by name, who makes us His own. In that way we are safe, safe from all predators that would prey on the people of God. May the Lord keep us steadfast in His Word, and may we by faith trust the blessed voice of Jesus: “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” In the name of Jesus, our risen Lord, Amen.
In Nomine Iesu
Pastor Thomas L. Rank
Resurrection of Our Lord
April 16, 2006
The joy of Easter does not depend on the weather – if it is snowing and cold or if it is stormy or if it is bright and sunny – such things do not change the meaning of Easter. The joy of Easter does not depend on us, on whether or not we have an “Easter feeling.” The joy of Easter does not depend on its recognition in the world – what do headlines on magazines or newspapers, or lead stories on daily news shows, which today are here and tomorrow are gone – what can these do to Easter? Nothing.
The joy of Easter is about a fact, and about what that fact means for people, for you. Easter is the fact that Jesus, the Jesus who was dead on Friday, is alive on Sunday morning. Easter is the fact that the Son of God was not defeated by worldly enemies, nor by Satan, nor by death itself. Easter is a time of joy because it proclaims to the world what God has done in Christ, the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
Therefore we rejoice this Easter morning, not depending on anything other than the truth of God’s Word which brings to us the news, the message and power of salvation, the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Away then with all worries and cares and concerns and troubles. For Jesus is alive, and that means you have life, too. Let us then all rise and join in singing to each other and praising God with the hymn:
Hymn 348 – “He Is Arisen! Glorious Word!”
Text: Mark 16:1-8
Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. 2 Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. 3 And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” 4 But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away – for it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. 7 “But go, tell His disciples – and Peter – that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” 8 So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Dear people gathered on this day of resurrection,
We know that every year for the past several decades, at least, various efforts are made through printed materials and through special broadcasts to raise doubts about the facts of Christianity: especially the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Mary’s Son. So this year we have the fantasy of the Gospel of Judas examined by so-called “scholars” and declared to be another hurdle for the Christian Church. “What will this do to those who believe in the resurrection of Jesus?” the scholars wonder.
After you’ve been around a few decades, most Christians get used to these contrived events. But, for those of you who see this as something that does make you wonder, think of it this way: instead of it being looked on as a challenge to the faithful, I suggest that we look at these efforts, in whatever media they appear, as just more evidence of the fact of the resurrection. One can hardly imagine there needing to be such efforts year in and year out to discredit something, if that something were not considered too dangerous, and, true. If the resurrection of Jesus Christ on Easter morning was not a bone stuck in the craw of many people, do you think they would expend the money and time to try to disgrace this great event in the history of humanity? By the very scale of the protests we get a good picture of just how much the resurrection truly discomforts people. It reminds me of the Passion history of Jesus when Pilate hears from the Jews that Jesus is called “the Son of God.” That’s when Pilate determines he wants nothing to do with judging Jesus. He washes his hands and says to the crowd: “you do it.” He was nervous about Jesus, and rightly so. There are many people nervous about the resurrection of Jesus, and they calm their nerves, or try to, by finding reasons not to believe it.
Why? Why not just believe it? Well, belief in the resurrection of Jesus entails believing in Jesus Himself, His birth, His life – the miracles and teachings – His suffering, death, and then resurrection. It also means believing in the reasons for Jesus coming here: our sin, our need for a Savior, and the love of God which sends the Savior. Believing in the resurrection of Jesus, for you, means believing that you need it, and that, more than anything else, is what makes people not want to accept it.
Do you see what it comes down to? It comes down to confessing: “I am a sinner in thought, word, and deed, a sinner against God and against people.” And that is hard to admit; it is hard for us, it is hard for the unbeliever. Pride and stubbornness get in the way. And so Jesus is rejected. But that is just where we need Jesus the most.
Think of the efforts so many religions require of their followers. Think of the life of denial that Buddhists try to live, or Hinduism’s ways of works, knowledge, or devotion; or Islam’s requirements of prayer, almsgiving, fasting, and pilgrimages. Other religions all have their own sets of rules and regulations that are to be followed so that you can become more at peace with the world, with yourself, and with your ultimate destiny.
Now, sadly, some even make of Christianity a religion of rules, legal requirements, godly principles, and so on. And every time that happens, Christianity sinks away from its unique message, and becomes one more works-oriented religion of the world.
Christianity, biblical, Christ-centered Christianity, has no equal. It points away from our efforts. And it points to Christ. Sure, there are many things of good that we can do and even should do as the people of God: works of charity of all kinds, support and encouragement for the many people who need help. But these works are never part of the main fabric of the Church, for that place of honor is given only to the work of Christ and never to us or what we do. It is that unique understanding and teaching of God’s Word that puts Christ at center stage that the world hates. For as Christ is put there, we see how little our works can do. The world cannot stand when our efforts are minimized and Christ’s are maximized. Never forget that. It is never Christian charity that is despised here in this world, but it is the teaching of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ alone that will be attacked. That is why the resurrection is attacked, as well as the virgin birth of Jesus, the fact that Jesus is both truly God and truly man, and that He suffered and died, and rose again the third day. These are attacked, undermined, mocked, declared a hoax, because they are at odds with the religion of the sinful flesh and devil and world which wants us and what we do at center stage.
The resurrection of Jesus puts all that in the proper perspective. Our celebration of Easter says to the world: Jesus is at the heart of it all. He has won the victory and declares to all people on this day of His resurrection from the dead. He died for us all, for our sins, for our pride at thinking we could ever, in any way, measure up to what is needed for eternal life. He sweeps that all away like the remains of last year’s leaves from our yards and patios. He replaces our failed efforts with His own victory, His own death for us, His own resurrection so that we, too, may one day rise from the dead to life eternal, through faith in Jesus Christ.
On this Easter morning let us rejoice in the fact of the resurrection, and even more, rejoice in what it means for us, for all who have died in faith in this Jesus Christ, and for all who cling in faith to the One whom even death cannot destroy. This is Jesus, our Savior, our Redeemer. God keep us in such faith, from now until we see Him face to face in life eternal. In the name of Jesus who was dead and is now alive. Amen. Alleluia! Christ is risen, He is risen indeed
In Nomine Iesu
Pastor Thomas L. Rank
April 4, 2004
Text: John 12:20-33
Now there were certain Greeks among those who came up to worship at the feast. 21 Then they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and asked him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip came and told Andrew, and in turn Andrew and Philip told Jesus. 23 But Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. 24 “Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain. 25 “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. 26 “If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor. 27 ” Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. 28 “Father, glorify Your name.” Then a voice came from heaven, saying, “I have both glorified it and will glorify it again.” 29 Therefore the people who stood by and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to Him.” 30 Jesus answered and said, “This voice did not come because of Me, but for your sake. 31 “Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be cast out. 32 “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” 33 This He said, signifying by what death He would die.
THESE ARE YOUR WORDS, HEAVENLY FATHER, SANCTIFY US BY YOUR TRUTH, YOUR WORD IS TRUTH. AMEN.
Dear fellow redeemed in Christ,
Shortly after Palm Sunday, some of the disciples of Jesus are approached by some Greeks who, we are told, “want to see Jesus.” Perhaps these Greeks had witnessed Jesus coming into Jerusalem, lowly and riding on a donkey. Perhaps they had been impressed by the loud shouts and praises of the crowds that greeted Jesus as the one “who comes in the Name of the Lord.” It appears, by the way Jesus answers, that these men were intrigued by the enthusiasm of the crowd on Palm Sunday. For Jesus goes on to speak about “glory” in ways that show His glory as being quite different from the glory of the world.
Glory is usually associated with great achievements. We may think of glory in regards to sports: a pitcher who pitches a perfect game, a quarterback who leads his team to victory in the last minute, the basketball player who sinks a three point shot at the buzzer to win the game by one. Glory is also associated with politics: winning an election brings glory to the winner. Glory may also be won on the battlefield by those who are victorious. Glory and winning go hand in hand.
When Jesus receives the glory and honor from the crowd on Palm Sunday, He does so as someone who looks like the winner. Even though He rides in on a lowly donkey, still the great numbers of people who greet Him are impressive. But is this what is attractive about Jesus? Is it the glory and praise and honor of Palm Sunday that stand as one of the great highlights of Jesus’ work here on earth? Humanly speaking, this day does appear as the high point. After all, at no other time after this would Jesus receive the great public show of glory and honor. So why is this not the high point? Because Jesus did not come to receive the praise and honor of men, but He came to be glorified by His Father, and that would happen only through being “lifted up from the earth.” As John tells us, “This He said, signifying by what death He would die.” Jesus repeats here what He told Nicodemus early in His public ministry. “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up.”
Jesus will be lifted up when He is nailed to the cross and the cross is raised. It is at the cross that the glory of Christ will be revealed. The glory of Jesus at the very highpoint of His ministry for us is going to be hidden. Oh, lots of people saw Jesus lifted up on the cross, so it was not hidden in that way. But the glory was not apparent to them. The glory was hidden by the way God chose to show it. The cross, with the blood, the pain and suffering, the death, does not bring to mind the victory that we associate with glory. Jesus Himself knows what lies ahead of Him. He shows us His thoughts when He said, “Now My soul is troubled, and what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour.” His road has only one direction to go. Jesus is on a one way street to the cross.
To all the eyes that watched Him the day He died Jesus looked like the loser. The winners seem to be the enemies of Jesus. They are the ones who can go and celebrate. The followers of Jesus are in mourning, grieving over the death of their beloved friend and leader. This is not glory.
But remember what Jesus said, “unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” With this picture of planting, decay, and new life, Jesus teaches us about the way He achieves glory. Just like a seed seems to be dry, dead, and without life, so the body of Jesus on Good Friday shows nothing hopeful. But seeds put in the ground are invigorated by the warmth and moisture; new life grows from what was dry and dead. So with Jesus. He is planted in the tomb, and He will rise again, showing His victory over sin, death, and devil.
In the same way Jesus tells us about ourselves as those who follow and believe in Him: “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.” The glory of this world will tempt us to love our lives here and now, to put this world and its glory ahead of the way of the cross, ahead of the way of following Jesus no matter what. But Jesus does not direct us to seek the glory of this world. In fact, that is the way ultimately to lose our lives.
This world seeks glory in what gives the appearance of immediate victory. For example, Muslim extremists who kill our brothers and sister in Christ in Rwanda and the Sudan believe they have achieved victory. The glory is theirs, they believe, when they can see the bodies of dead Christians. The same is true in communist China and other totalitarian states. The persecution of our fellow believers looks like the defeat of the Christian Church and glory and victory for the forces that hate the Church. The same was true in the early days of the Church. Think of the death of St. Stephen. He was stoned to death by a mob that wanted nothing to do with Jesus Christ, even though Stephen showed them from Holy Scripture how Jesus was the Messiah. Other countless believers have followed Stephen in the twenty centuries since he died. Time and time again the followers of Christ have been put to the test: will you follow Christ, or will you follow the world. “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”
The Greeks who wanted to see Jesus probably heard more than they bargained for. They liked the Jesus of Palm Sunday, the One who received all the glory, the praises and honor of the large crowd. Were they still following Jesus on Good Friday when the glory was gone? We do not know.
We do know about ourselves. What do we find attractive about Jesus? Do we prefer for Jesus to receive the accolades and honor of this world? Do we feel better when the news media or other sources of glory in this world praise our Savior? Do we need that? Or are we content to remain with the Jesus hidden in shame, suffering, and death of the cross?
As we travel the way of Holy Week this year, God help us to trust in the Jesus of the cross, the Jesus who died for us, the Jesus who did not shy away from the path to His glory, the way of crucifixion. This Jesus does not promise us riches and glory now, but He does promise us eternal life with His Father in heaven. “If anyone serves Me, him My Father will honor.” Let us see Jesus in the glory of the cross, as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.” In the hands of this Jesus we may safely place our lives for now and for eternity. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.
In Nomine Iesu
Pastor Thomas L. Rank
March 24, 2005
Text: Psalm 111:1
Praise the LORD! I will praise the LORD with my whole heart, In the assembly of the upright and in the congregation. 2 The works of the LORD are great, Studied by all who have pleasure in them. 3 His work is honorable and glorious, And His righteousness endures forever. 4 He has made His wonderful works to be remembered; The LORD is gracious and full of compassion. 5 He has given food to those who fear Him; He will ever be mindful of His covenant. 6 He has declared to His people the power of His works, In giving them the heritage of the nations. 7 The works of His hands are verity and justice; All His precepts are sure. 8 They stand fast forever and ever, And are done in truth and uprightness. 9 He has sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever: Holy and awesome is His name. 10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever.
THESE ARE YOUR WORDS, HEAVENLY FATHER, SANCTIFY US BY YOUR TRUTH, YOUR WORD IS TRUTH. AMEN.
Dear fellow redeemed in our crucified and risen Lord Jesus Christ,
This evening we commemorate the events of the night Jesus was betrayed. Especially we focus on that great institution, the Supper of our Lord, the Sacrament of the Altar.
It was the time of the Passover, when the Old Testament people of God remembered the great deliverance from slavery God provided. God brought about the deliverance through His power that brought death to His enemies, and yet provided safety to those who believed in Him. The safety was found in blood, the blood of a pure, male lamb. Wherever that blood was painted on the door, there death would not go. Wherever that Passover meal was eaten, there was life and salvation.
Psalm 111 recalls the great meal of the Lord at the Passover, calling it “the food given to those who fear Him.” This food was a wonderful memorial meal done each year. But on the night He was betrayed Jesus began a new meal. This meal surpasses the old meal as much as the sun outshines a 15 watt light bulb. For in this meal we do not have the blood of a male lamb, but we have the Son of God, who gives us His body and blood for the forgiveness of sins. And if the Lord’s name was holy and awesome because of that deliverance from slavery in Egypt for the people of Israel, how much more awesome is His name because of the greater work of Jesus, who goes not against a Pharoah and Egyptian army, but against the hosts of hell, against sin, against death itself. The Old Testament Passover, as wonderful as it was, could only be a mere shadow of the great work of Jesus, and the wonderful Supper that commemorates that death of Jesus.
The psalm teaches us that God “has made His wonderful works to be remembered.” And what does Jesus tell us about His Supper? “Do this in remembrance of me.” Through St. Paul we are taught “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” The death of Jesus is the wonderful work of God that is to be remembered, proclaimed, treasured, as long the earth remains. For there will be no greater event in the history of the world than that precious death of Jesus until He returns again on the Last Day.
Why? Why all the fuss about this Supper of the Lord, or about His crucifixion and death? What makes this so special? Why should it be something that 2000 years later we are still talking about? The reason is that this is the work of God, and it is a work we desperately need.
Israel in the Old Testament was in slavery for centuries. They had left the promised land of Canaan about 1800 BC. Four hundred years later, almost twice as long as the history of the United States, Israel remains slaves to Pharoah. Pharoah had been killing the baby boys of Egypt, a sure way to attack God himself and the promises given to Abraham. How so? Because through Abraham there would be a special baby boy born one day that would bring blessing to all the nations of the earth. If all the male descendants of Abraham are slaughtered in Egypt, the attack of Satan against God’s promises would have succeeded. Therefore God does not allow such satanic work to go unchecked. He promises and provides deliverance for these people through His servant Moses. The slaves are freed, and the line of descendants that will one day lead to Mary giving birth to Jesus in Bethlehem goes on.
This history of Israel, and the life of Jesus which goes to the cross, and which includes the blessed Supper of the Lord, communion, none of this will be of much value to us unless we have come to realize more and more the situation we are in without it. Earlier we answered the last question from the catechism. “But what shall a person do if he is not aware of such trouble and feels no hunger and thirst for the Sacrament?” In other words, what if you don’t think you are sinful, or do not need the death of Jesus and His body and blood for the remission of sins? What then? We then said:
To such a person no better advice can be given than that, in the first place, he put his hand into his bosom, and feel whether he still have flesh and blood, and that he by all means believe what the Scriptures say of it….
Secondly, that he look around to see whether he is still in the world, and keep in mind that there will be no lack of sin and trouble….
Thirdly, he will certainly have the devil also about him, who with his lying and murdering, day and night, will let him have no peace within or without….
Our bodies are troubled by the sin that clings to us as long as we remain in this world. The world itself is a burden to us in that many temptations and trials arise from it that leave us exhausted and worn out, frustrated and discouraged, as we battle them day in and day out. And finally the devil who so desired the death of Jesus, now desires your death in such a way that you do not receive the gift of eternal life in heaven.
These are why the death of Jesus on the cross is proclaimed. This is why this wonderful meal from Jesus to you continues to be offered regularly at this congregation. The Psalm says, “The LORD is gracious and full of compassion.” No where is this more apparent than in this Sacrament of the Altar. Martin Luther noted:
if you are afraid to go to the Sacrament, and your conscience frightens you, as if you were unworthy, put this verse into your heart and on your lips. Then you must hear and feel how sincerely He calls and invites you. He is here and is waiting for you with hands and heart wide open, for you to take and receive grace and mercy. He does not want you to flee and shy away from Him but to flee to Him and with full confidence go to Him. Here is called nothing but this: the gracious and merciful Lord….What is the suffering of Christ but pure grace and mercy, offered, given, and imparted to us through the Sacrament? It is grace that He shows us all the benefits and by his blood brings us from sin to righteousness, from death to life, and from the devil to God. It is mercy that He unceasingly forgives our sin and spares and endures our ingratitude and all wickedness in which we are still bound as long as we live in the flesh. All this He earned for us, once and for all, by His suffering, and daily offers and gives us by His remembrance and Sacrament, actually driving us to it with sweet and gentle words (LW 13, 374-5).
“The Lord is gracious and full of compassion.” As we hear and mediate on the great events of Holy Week, let this phrase from Psalm 111 be our constant guide to the meaning of it all. It is about the grace of God and His compassion for you, that you be saved, that you receive life eternal, that you be forgiven all sin, and be confident of that through faith in the gracious word of your Savior, Jesus Christ. “The Lord is gracious and full of compassion” – for you. Amen.
In Nomine Iesu
Pastor Thomas L. Rank
March 25, 2005
Dear fellow redeemed by the crucifixion of our Lord Jesus Christ,
This evening of Good Friday we mediate on the words of Psalm 22, an astounding prophecy of the work of Jesus, written 900 years before He was even born. The psalm begins with the words we would hear from the very lips of Jesus as He hung on the cross:
My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me? Why are You so far from helping Me, And from the words of My groaning? 2 O My God, I cry in the daytime, but You do not hear; And in the night season, and am not silent.
Jesus is forsaken, abandoned, left, by His Father. God, in His holy and perfect justice, does not allow evil to remain in His presence. Jesus carries all sin and evil upon Him. Therefore with these words our Lord is proclaiming the judgment of God upon sin, and we see Jesus suffering the punishment of hell. That is what our sins deserve, and that is what Jesus takes upon Himself. For you and me.
3 But You are holy, Enthroned in the praises of Israel. 4 Our fathers trusted in You; They trusted, and You delivered them. 5 They cried to You, and were delivered; They trusted in You, and were not ashamed.
God acted to save Israel time and time again. He brought them out of the slavery in Egypt by defeating their enemies. He protected them and gave them victory on the way to the promised land. Their trust was in God was not disappointed. But the Savior of mankind will not be delivered in that way. Rather, He came to make the deliverance by staying on the cross to the very end, to death.
6 But I am a worm, and no man; A reproach of men, and despised by the people. 7 All those who see Me ridicule Me; They shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, 8 “He trusted in the LORD, let Him rescue Him; Let Him deliver Him, since He delights in Him!”
As Jesus hangs on the cross His enemies mock Him and laugh at Him for what they thought was misplaced trust. There He is, the one who spoke so strongly about being from the Father, yet where is the Father now? They fail to see the reason for the crucifixion of Jesus. They think it is a judgment on Jesus, rather than their own judgment put on Him in their place. So they despise Jesus and consider Him no better than a worm.
9 But You are He who took Me out of the womb; You made Me trust while on My mother’s breasts. 10 I was cast upon You from birth. From My mother’s womb You have been My God. 11 Be not far from Me, For trouble is near; For there is none to help. 12 Many bulls have surrounded Me; Strong bulls of Bashan have encircled Me. 13 They gape at Me with their mouths, Like a raging and roaring lion.
It is no wonder that Jesus sweat drops of blood as He anticipated His time in the hands of the enemies of God. It is no wonder that He said, “Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” The wonder is that He went ahead to Golgotha, knowing exactly what lay before Him. The gaping mouths of those who curse Him and ridicule Him are before His eyes as He dies. He does not see gratitude for His sacrifice of love. He sees only hate. But even that ingratitude does not deter Him.
14 I am poured out like water, And all My bones are out of joint; My heart is like wax; It has melted within Me. 15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd, And My tongue clings to My jaws; You have brought Me to the dust of death.
In the death of Jesus we see the true nature of death. Death is not a time of bliss, or release, as some would have us think. Death is the opposite of everything that is truly good and right for us. And so those who speak or write of death as some friendly act that you can do to help someone are really spreading only a demonic lie. Death is not good. And yet, as we hear what Jesus went through we learn that despite the evil death is, even it must bow to Jesus. So when Jesus is brought to the dust of death, for to dust we all return, He is changing death. In Christ we view death differently – because of His victory. But without Christ death remains the enemy.
16 For dogs have surrounded Me; The congregation of the wicked has enclosed Me. They pierced My hands and My feet; 17 I can count all My bones. They look and stare at Me. 18 They divide My garments among them, And for My clothing they cast lots.
The nails go through the hands and feet of Jesus, in order that He and the cross are connected. The soldiers at the foot of the cross roll dice to find out who gets His clothes. The psalmist, with insight given by the Holy Spirit, pictures for us the events of the cross with an uncanny accuracy. The bulls gape at Jesus. The dogs surround Him like a pack of hyenas that surround the wounded gazelle, waiting for the moment to move in for the kill. There is our Jesus in the middle of it all.
19 But You, O LORD, do not be far from Me; O My Strength, hasten to help Me! 20 Deliver Me from the sword, My precious life from the power of the dog. 21 Save Me from the lion’s mouth And from the horns of the wild oxen!
What will be the end of Jesus? Will He remain in death? Will the cross be the sign of the victory of Satan, Sin, and Death over the beloved Son of God? Will the power of the dog be greater than the power of God? Will the jaws of the lion crush the Messiah? Will the horns of the wild oxen pierce the Son of Mary and nail Him forever to the grave? The words of Jesus at the end of His time on the cross are: “Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit.” Even now there is no doubt in Jesus. He does not pray in despair and uncertainty, but with confidence. He is in His Father’s hands. All is well.
You have answered Me. 22 I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will praise You. 23 You who fear the LORD, praise Him! All you descendants of Jacob, glorify Him, And fear Him, all you offspring of Israel! 24 For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from Him; But when He cried to Him, He heard.
This day of Good Friday does not end with doubt, nor with hopelessness, nor with desperation. God is not lying in defeat at the foot of His enemies. Lion, ox, bull, and dog; Satan, sin, death, and demons; none of these can finish their victory dance. For the Father answers His Son. He heard. That means the price of sin is paid, the agony is over, the blessed work of atonement is at an end. Finished. The name of Jesus, the praise for the God of all love and compassion, will go forth, and at the name of Jesus every knee will bow. The victory is His, which means the victory is yours, as you believe, as you trust this great action accomplished for you, o Sinner!
25 My praise shall be of You in the great assembly; I will pay My vows before those who fear Him. 26 The poor shall eat and be satisfied; Those who seek Him will praise the LORD. Let your heart live forever! 27 All the ends of the world Shall remember and turn to the LORD, And all the families of the nations Shall worship before You. 28 For the kingdom is the LORD’s, And He rules over the nations.
This psalm that began with forsakenness, with darkness, with death, ends with a glorious reunion, with light, and with life. Let your heart live forever! For with Jesus, the One who died, there is true life for you, for all who believe. There is a feast that fully satisfies, the feast of this one whose death we proclaim. For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup you proclaim the Lord’s death. This the Son of God, the Lamb, around whom we gather to worship and praise, along with all of God’s people around the world.
29 All the prosperous of the earth Shall eat and worship; All those who go down to the dust Shall bow before Him, Even he who cannot keep himself alive. 30 A posterity shall serve Him. It will be recounted of the Lord to the next generation, 31 They will come and declare His righteousness to a people who will be born, That He has done this.
He has done this, and it is finished. On Good Friday you see the way of God, the work of God, that achieves your salvation. You see the awful condemnation your sin and my sin deserves, the Son of God who is poured out for us at the cross. But you also hear the results: going down to dust, the return to what we were taken from, is not our end. For Jesus did not come to end up in a cold grave. He came to defeat death, and show this great victory on the first Easter Sunday. He has done this. And to you and to all the generations since that great day the righteousness of Jesus Christ has been preached and declared. His righteousness is yours by faith, His death is yours, and this means forgiveness of all your sin, salvation, and eternal life. Thanks be to God for this day, for the Good Friday that brought victory for us all, through the death of God’s Son. That is His love for you. Believe it in Jesus’ name. Amen.