Sermon – John 15.26-16.4 (Easter 7 – 2019)

The Lord Keeps Us Confessing

Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, we give thanks to You, that through Your Holy Spirit You have appointed us to bear witness of Your dear Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: We beseech You, inasmuch as the world cannot endure such testimony and persecutes us in every way, grant us courage and comfort, that we may not be offended because of the cross, but continue steadfastly in Your testimony, and be always found among those who know You and Your Son, until we obtain eternal salvation through the same, Your 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.

26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. 27 And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.

16:1 “These things I have spoken to you, that you should not be made to stumble. 2 They will put you out of the synagogues; yes, the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. 3 And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me. 4 But these things I have told you, that when the time comes, you may remember that I told you of them. And these things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.”

These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

Dear fellow redeemed,

Bear witness (confess) or stumble. These are the two ways to go—two options. Of what do we bear witness? We bear witness of the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

Notice the clear teaching of the Trinity in our text. Jesus is the Son of God. He will send the Helper, the Spirit of truth, from the Father. The Holy Spirit has testified to us about Jesus, through whom we also know the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Knowing the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and trusting what God has done for us, we bear witness about Him. This knowledge about Him, and His saving work is not just some good useful information to have at hidden in your hearts. Rather the doctrines of Scripture that proclaims the Triune God and His work of salvation affects everything that we think, say, and do.

We think a certain way. Our minds are shaped by Scripture. Scripture is judge, and we don’t accept every sentimental platitude that the society proclaims, but we judge every thought, every philosophy, every fad of thought to the timeless and universal truths to Scripture.

We speak a certain way as Christians. Our speech is not governed by political correctness, but it is governed by truth and love. We confess Christ to a world in need of Him. We proclaim the Triune God and His marvelous works. We say sin is a sin. We proclaim salvation in Christ crucified alone.

Our works also bear witness about God, His salvation, and the life to which He has called us. Our morality is different than the morality of the world. We go to church regularly. We live chaste lives and don’t live with a significant other until we’re married. We conduct our business according to our biblically shaped consciences. We submit ourselves to God and His will. We seek to live in truth and goodness, and holiness.

By what we think, say, and do we bear witness to the truth of God, and His working for us and in us.

And the world opposes us. The world has always hated the testimony of God’s Word.

Jesus said, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her!” Stephen, who spoke with wisdom and the Spirit, preaching Christ, was falsely accused, and was stoned to death. Tradition has it that all the disciples died a martyr’s death except for John whom we know was exiled onto the island of Patmos. Early Christians were killed for their faith, whether by lions, fire, or beheadings. There is an entire book, “Foxes’ Book of Martyrs” that recounts their stories. Today in parts of the world Christians are still being killed for their faith. This past Easter, bombings backed by ISIS killed hundreds of Christians as they were worshiping. Parts of the Middle East and Africa is seeing Christianity disappearing. In China, pastors are being imprisoned and churches are being destroyed. Anti-Christian persecution and its severity is increasing around the world.

Though, the persecution in America is very tame compared to other places around the world, we do encounter increasing hostility. Amy Coney Barrett, a Christian and a judge on the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals, during the confirmation process when she was nominated to the court a couple years ago, was questioned about her Christian faith as though that would disqualify her from her appointment. Other Christian politicians have been questioned along the same lines.

Christian business owners have been sued and received much hostility for running their business according to their consciences, like Colorado baker, Jack Phillips.

Christian adoption agencies are forced to close down because they will not send children to gay couples.

States are boycotted because of pro-life legislation, and businesses are banned because of their association with good moral causes.

At the Great Plains Pastor’s Conference a couple weeks ago, the president of Bethany Lutheran College, Gene Pfeifer spoke about one scholarship organization that provides $50,000 yearly to Bethany Lutheran College to assist students attending the college, but this group only distributes money to colleges that are in favor of the LGBT cause. A representative of this group called Bethany about the issue. Bethany expressed its unwillingness to budge on the issue willing to lose that yearly scholarship money, and the college now no longer receives that money.

Though, violence hasn’t broken out against Christians on a wide scale in our country, there is still much contempt, mockery, and hostility toward Christians in our culture.

Christians are made to be the bad guys, and the persecutors are thinking their hostility is backed by a worthy cause, pleasing their god. Early Christians were blamed for the fire of Rome. They were falsely accused of being baby eaters, for being atheists and committing perverse sexual deeds. People blame Christianity as much of the cause for wars. They say that Christianity gets in the way of progress, and that it oppresses people.

Why this hostility toward Christians? Jesus says, that they do not know the Father, nor Him. They have other gods, and the Christian doctrine, morals and life, threaten their false worship. The prophets got in the way of the peoples’ worship of pagan gods. The law and gospel crushes the pride of the one who wishes to get to heaven by his works. The exclusivity of salvation through Jesus Christ and Him crucified is offensive to the pluralism of our country. The Triune God who does not change, is directly inconsistent with the false god of tolerance and progress, and ever changing moral standards.

So, Jesus speaks these words that we do not stumble. What is it to stumble? To silence our confession of Christ, by our thoughts, words and deeds, and to conform to the expectations of the world; it is to doubt the truth we believe, the truth that shapes our thoughts, words and actions; to doubt Christ’s love and care for us in these days, post-ascension. But we hear the words of the Psalm “Though an army may encamp against me, my heart shall not fear.” That’s not me. My heart has fear. It is a heavy trouble that we endure.

But Jesus said the Holy Spirit comes so that we may not stumble. The Holy Spirit bears witness of Christ to you. First of all, that you may be forgiven. You may falter and deny your Christ. But He who forgave Peter and showed Him grace, forgives you and loves you. His perfect confession of His Father clothes you, and your stumbling was upon Him on the cross, which He paid for, His shed blood covers it. You are forgiven.

He gives you His Holy Spirit to put the gospel in your hearts, that He may strengthen your faith, and strengthen your confession, so that you may courageously bear witness of God and what He has done for you through your thoughts, words, and deeds.

Part of this testimony of the Holy Spirit to you is that Christ is risen! It is fitting that this is the last reading of the Easter season before we reach Pentecost. The victory is won by Christ’s resurrection! He has overcome the world! And the Holy Spirit bears witness of this fact! Also, the Holy Spirit bears witness of Christ through your fellow Christians. We are brought to love one another as our Epistle speaks today. You encourage one another with the good news of Christ’s forgiveness and His victory over all our enemies. In love, you support one another as you endure the hostility of the world.

Even while you live in this world of hostility, you dwell in the house of the Lord. You inquire in His temple, His Church. And the Lord provides. He keeps you and nourishes you and strengthens you. In His Church, through faith, you rest in Him, who is your refuge and strength. He prepares a table in the midst of your enemies, giving you His true body and blood that gives you eternal life! Through this supper, He has intimate communion with you, that you may know that even as you are surrounded by your enemies, your victorious Christ is with you, and He is in you!

What hostility and persecution take you away from His Church?! They can take your life, but they cannot destroy you forever. You will, as today’s Psalm says, “see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living!” That is how it ends, and we may have confidence in this. Life in the land of the living, forever in the presence of our God, that is where we will be.

May God the Holy Spirit bear witness to our hearts the good news of Christ crucified for us, that we may courageously confess Christ in thought, word, and deed, to His glory and for the world that needs to know Him. Amen.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spiirit. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.


Sermon – John 16.23-30 (Easter 6 – 2019)

Lord God, heavenly Father, through Your Son You have promised us that whatever we ask in His name You will give us: We beseech You, keep us in Your Word, and grant us Your Holy Spirit, that He may govern us according to Your will; protect us from the power of the devil, from false doctrine and worship; and also defend our lives against all danger. Grant us Your blessing and peace, that we may in all things perceive Your merciful help, and both now and forever praise and glorify You as our gracious Father; through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, 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.

23 “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.

 24 “Until now you have asked nothing in My name. Ask, and you will receive, that your joy may be full.

 25 “These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; but the time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but I will tell you plainly about the Father.

 26 “In that day you will ask in My name, and I do not say to you that I shall pray the Father for you;

 27 “for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God.

 28 “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father.”

 29 His disciples said to Him, “See, now You are speaking plainly, and using no figure of speech!

 30 “Now we are sure that You know all things, and have no need that anyone should question You. By this we believe that You came forth from God.”

We Know the Father, and So We Pray

Dear fellow redeemed,

We know the Father and so we pray. How can one pray to the Father without knowing Him? And how can one know Him without the Word. This is what Jesus is saying, He will teach the disciples plainly about the Father that they may know Him. In that day, that day in which they know Him, they will pray to the Father in Jesus’ name.

The Word and prayer go together. Where there is faith in the Word, there is prayer. Martin Luther said, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.” But where the Word is not heard, and not received by faith, there is no true prayer.

So the Word and prayer go together. So consider first the necessity of the Word for prayer. It is maybe best understood by seeing the futility of prayer without the Word. When visiting with people who don’t go to church, they often defend themselves by saying “I pray to God every day.” But what is prayer without the Word? Shall a person think so highly of their prayer, but act as though God has nothing worthy to speak to them? Shall a person act as what they have to say is more important than what God would have to say to them? When a person starves themselves of the Word through which the Holy Spirit teaches them of the Father, they starve themselves of the knowledge of the Father, and it is no longer the Father to whom they are praying, but to an idol. They might as well be speaking to a mannequin. Such are the prayers of unbelievers. Luther says, their prayers to God are like the noise of geese as they eat. They neither know the Father nor are able to pray in the name of Jesus.

But Jesus said to His disciples, “The hour is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figures of speech, but I will tell you plainly about the Father.” During His ministry, Jesus taught a lot in parables. The disciples did not have full understanding of the work Jesus came to accomplish. Even when Jesus spoke clearly that He was going to be delivered up to be crucified and rise from the dead, the disciples did not understand. But on that Sunday of all Sundays in which they saw their risen and victorious Lord they began to understand. But it wasn’t until the Holy Spirit came to them on Pentecost that the words of Christ came through plain and clear to them. They then knew the Father. Knowing the Father, knowing His will, His gracious attitude toward them, and their relationship with Him, they were able to pray confidently to Him in Jesus’ name.

Moved by God, the Apostles wrote this Word of Christ on paper for you, and the Holy Spirit works through that testimony of the Apostles that you too may know about the Father. Knowing the Father, knowing His will, His gracious attitude toward you, and knowing your relationship with Him, you may confidently pray to Him in Jesus’ name.

The Word is all about the Father’s gracious will for you. And the Holy Spirit has opened your eyes of faith that you may plainly see God the Father as your gracious heavenly Father.

But this knowledge about the Father isn’t common knowledge. This isn’t the natural relationship we have with God. Because of the fall into sin, our knowledge of God was broken, and our relationship with Him was destroyed. Our reason knows that a God exists, but our reason cannot know who He is, and what His nature is. We have sinned against Him. We have sought the desires of the flesh rather than sought the holy and righteous will of God, and thus have rebelled against Him and made ourselves enemies of Him. Separated from His light and life, we were stuck under the power of sin and under the authority of the devil and death. In this state of separation from God, we have no access to the Father. And in this condition, prayer, no matter how sincere was just noise, futile.

But the Father had pity on us. His will is the restoration of our relationship with Him, our forgiveness, and eternal salvation.

And so by the power of the Holy Spirit working through the Word and Sacrament, He brings you to know the Father through the Son. Through the Son, you come to know the Father and are restored to a right relationship with Him. In the Son, you know the Father. You know that He is love. For it was the Father’s will, that His Son would come into the world and be given the name “Yeshua” or “Jesus” as we call Him, which means “The Lord saves” for He will save His people from their sins. Jesus went to the cross to sacrifice Himself to take away your sins, and look to the cross, and there you have proof of the Father’s love for you. For by the cross of His Son, He paid the price for all your sins, that you may be forgiven of them and freed from their bondage and their deserved consequences. By the cross of His Son, the Father reconciles you to Himself, for Jesus had taken the Father’s wrath for our sins, so that without our sins, the Father receives us as His forgiven and redeemed children.

This is the truth of God’s Word. Through God’s Word and through the working of the Holy Spirit, the truth about the Father is known to you! You know He loves you, though we cannot fathom the depths of His love which caused Him to send His beloved Son for us unworthy sinners. You know that He is your Father in heaven! You know that His will is your eternal salvation, that you may live in His glory forever. And with this great love for you He gives you the gift of prayer. He commands you to pray! And He gives us no shortage of motivation to pray!

Because of Jesus, we have direct access to the Father. Our righteousness falls short. We are unworthy for God to hear us because of our sins. But we pray in Jesus name. Because of Jesus’ forgiveness, because of His righteousness, our prayers are heard and are pleasing to the Father in heaven. And so it is foolishness to think that praying to Mary or some other saint in heaven will be more effective than our prayers to the Father. For isn’t Jesus’ forgiveness perfect? Isn’t Jesus’ righteousness perfect? And aren’t we justified and loved children of the heavenly Father, through faith in Jesus? We are indeed, and so because of Jesus our perfect Mediator, we can go directly before the Father’s throne of grace with our prayers. He promises to hear you, and to answer your prayers according to His loving will for you, in His time and in His way.

Prayer is a wonderful gift that Jesus has given you. Jesus tells His disciples about this gift right after He told them about the trouble that they will experience in the world. We are not of the world. We are Christians in an unbelieving world, in a world of sin and death. What a blessed communication we have with the Father in this world. He speaks to us love, forgiveness, righteousness, life and salvation to us through His Word, and we get to speak to Him through prayer!

So having the Word, we pray. Because of the Word we know to whom we are praying (which we have already talked about), what it is to pray according to the Father’s will, and with what confidence we may pray! The Word teaches us the Father’s invitation to cast all our cares and anxieties upon Him for He cares for you, and so we pray to Him in all our need. The Word teaches us that God gives us prayer as a defense against temptation, so when the world tempts us, we flee from temptation and through prayer we run under the safety of our Father’s arms, asking for deliverance. The Word teaches us that prayer is a weapon in our battle against the devil and all his minions, so when he tempts us to hate our enemies, we oppose the devil by praying for our enemies. The Word teaches us that to walk as God’s children in the world, to be conformed to the Father’s image which we lost in the fall and regained in Christ, is love our neighbor, and so in the freedom of the gospel, we then love our neighbor and pray for them.

The Word teaches us that every good and perfect gift comes from above from the Father of the heavenly lights. And so in prayer we give thanks to God for our every gift, for our food, for our health, for our lives, for our loved ones, for our successes, for everything and in everything, we give glory to God. And even in difficult times, even when it seems as though our prayers are not being answered, we keep praying and give praise, for the Word gives us the promise that the Father holds us in the palm of His hand, and will let no one snatch us out of His hand. We still have that promise, that He will never leave us nor forsake us.

The Word and prayer go together. You know your loving and merciful heavenly Father through the Word, and thus you pray. Prayer is worship. Prayer is an act of trust in God and His promises. Prayer is the Christians response to God’s Word, and putting into practice what God has taught us in His Word.

This is a real conversation. This is a real relationship! He becomes our Father because of Jesus’ cross and through the gift of faith. He speaks to us through His Word, and we hear by faith through the power of the Holy Spirit; and we speak to Him through prayer in Jesus’ name, and He most certainly hears! 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 – John 16.5-15 (Easter 5 – 2019)

Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, through Your Son You promised us Your Holy Spirit, that He should convince the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment: We beseech You, enlighten our hearts, that we may confess our sins, through faith in Christ obtain everlasting righteousness, and in all our trials and temptations retain this consolation: that Christ is Lord over the devil and death and all things, and that He will graciously deliver us out of all our afflictions, and make us forever partakers of eternal salvation; through the same, Your 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.

5 “But now I go away to Him who sent Me, and none of you asks Me,`Where are You going?’

 6 “But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart.

 7 “Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you.

 8 “And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment:

 9 “of sin, because they do not believe in Me;

 10 “of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more;

 11 “of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

 12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.

 13 “However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come.

 14 “He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.

 15 “All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.

These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your word is truth. Amen.

The Holy Spirit Must Convict Us

Dear fellow redeemed,

A simple way to look at the Bible is this: The Old Testament books are written by the prophets pointing forward to the coming Christ who would save the world. The Gospels tell us about Jesus and His work as the fulfillment of those Old Testament prophesies. The epistles are written by the apostles and they expound on what Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection mean for us.

It’s a pretty simple way to look at it, but when we consider the content of Scripture, that is Jesus, His work of salvation for us, and the new life that we have in Him, it is truly remarkable. The essence of this truth is so simple that a child can understand and believe in it, yet we can never finish mining the depths of the truths and significance we find in Scripture! It is so simple that the wise of the world scoff at it, yet it so transcendent, so far above their reason and understanding that they cannot comprehend it.

We’ll consider today the meaning of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and also the fact that we need the Holy Spirit’s help to understand and believe.

The disciples probably knew the Old Testament well. They were witnesses of Jesus ministry. They saw Jesus preach and heal, and tell them the events that will occur. When Jesus spoke the words of our gospel reading to the disciples, they were only hours away from His betrayal and the events of His death and resurrection.

This was going to be a lot for them to comprehend. Too much for them. What is the meaning behind His suffering and death, and His resurrection?

Jesus wasn’t going to reveal it all to them at this time. On a future date, the Holy Spirit will come to them, and give them an understanding of these spiritual truths and the faith to believe in them. At this point in time when Jesus was speaking to His disciples, they lacked knowledge and understanding, but when the Holy Spirit would come, they would understand and be equipped to preach and teach and to write the New Testament, of course, being led by the Holy Spirit.

But consider what their understanding had to overcome. Their religious practices consisted of sacrifices, cleansings, festivals, sabbaths, food restrictions and so on. All these pointed forward to Christ and are fulfilled in Him. And now Christ has come, all those Old Testament requirements were unnecessary. This isn’t a new religion, but a switch from promise to fulfillment, and this makes for a drastic change in their religious practices!

And then there was the popular theology taught by the Pharisees which said that God’s favor was obtained by doing good works, by following the Law. As it is at every period of time and in every place, this is a problem. This is our continual battle. This is a hurdle for our reason, knowledge and understanding. It even has a Latin name, the opinio legis. The opinion of the law. It is the idea that since we got into a mess with God because of our sinful works, we then need to fix the mess with good works. This is the default religion of man. Every other religion in the world other than Christianity is based on this concept. It’s up to you to appease God, to ascend to Him, and to earn your reward.

We wrestle against this no matter how mature in the faith we are. Most of us have grown up in the faith. You’re all at different stages of learning the faith, whether you are digesting the meat of Scripture, or whether you are still drinking milk, learning the basic things of the faith, or whether you are somewhere in between. Nonetheless, we are all in the constant practice of overcoming the opinio legis, for it continues to plague us. We have a fallen sinful will that desires us to view our salvation as dependent upon what we do.

The thoughts cross our mind that we must clean up our act and get our life right before we are worthy of being in God’s presence, before entering into the Father’s house. We doubt His word of forgiveness thinking that we need to earn just a little bit of it first.

When we have done some good works the devil uses those good works against you, tempting you to pat yourself on the back, and to think God must be pretty happy with you, you’ve earned some brownie points with Him. Or the devil uses those good works to lead you to be self-righteous, comparing yourself with others, looking down your nose at them who have more sins, and think that God must be more pleased with you than with them.

Or we are tempted to adopt the participation award mentality of the culture, that as long as we don’t be like Hitler, we’re good enough in God’s sight, and we are rewarded by God simply for playing the game of life without killing millions of people.

And so there is this opinio legis, this works-righteousness, that is the mind of the fallen Adam in us. And the life, death, and resurrection of Christ completely contradicts that theology. The doctrine of grace is directly opposed to our natural religion. And the truth is is that we don’t have the capability to know and understand even this most basic truth of Christianity about God’s grace and our salvation.

We must be convicted by the Holy Spirit. In a devotion this week by Pastor Scott Murray, he was talking about one-upmanship. When you are in the midst of trouble, and tell someone else about it, you don’t want to hear them say, “You think that is bad, let me tell you about what I had to deal with.” That or the saying, “It could be worse,” don’t offer any comfort, and don’t lessen the weight of the trouble. But God does this in a way. When it comes to the trouble of our sin, He piles it on. You think you have it bad, you have it worse than you think. He says through Paul, “By one man’s offense many died.” This is not talking about sins committed, but about our original sin, our sinful nature, that it alone makes us worthy of condemnation. Don’t you think that when the disciples reflected on Jesus hanging on the cross, that they got a fuller understanding of their sin. Yeah, that’s how bad it is. That’s how sinful we are and how serious it is.

The Holy Spirit must teach us this and convict us of this truth, for we do not have the capability to do so.

And so in this way the Holy Spirit teaches us to look outside of ourselves, to look to the one who did hang on the cross to bear our sins, Christ Jesus. There Jesus received the judgment of guilty by the Father, that we might be judged righteous.

And our works have nothing to do with this. God doesn’t wait for some spark of goodness in humanity to make this race worthy of redeeming by sending His Son. He would still be waiting. His love, His salvation is completely undeserved. That love is unfathomable. Nothing in us would cause Him to love us, even in the slightest bit, but yet He loves this world of fallen people, so much so that He even gives up His only begotten Son unto a bitter death. How great is that love, there we see it in the words of Jesus to those who hated Him, were mocking Him, beating Him, and crucifying Him, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they’re doing.

By Jesus’ perfect life, innocent death and triumphant resurrection righteousness is won for us, for all people! And it is ours through faith, and again works are excluded. It’s not “faith and…” Just faith. Not, faith and an ounce of worthiness. Not faith and a little bit of penance, not faith and a life committed to Jesus, not faith and a genuine enough and sufficiently felt repentance, just faith, just believing that this forgiveness and salvation that you need is fully won by Christ and is free for you.

The righteousness that saves, that makes innocent before God is the righteousness Christ achieved by His perfect life and innocent death. And He goes to the Father to intercede now on our behalf, and to send His Holy Spirit to convict us of these things.

And now because we through faith have this righteousness of Christ, and because Christ is risen, and we are joined to His resurrection by baptism, we walk in newness of life. And how different this is. We no longer look at works as means to be righteous before God. Our righteousness before God is already taken care of by Christ, and it is perfect. But we now look at works as something we are freed to do. We love the law, and desire to keep it in love for God and in love for neighbor. It is good. And by doing the law, we conduct ourselves according to who we have already been made in Christ. How could we ever come to such understanding about the law and the new life we have in Christ by our own reason? But the Holy Spirit has led us to this understanding, and to this new life.

And so may the Holy Spirit continue to convict us and lead us to know and understand our sin and the righteousness of Christ which is ours by faith. It’s a simple thing to say, and we understand it. But I urge you to never stop exploring the depths of this truth in Scripture, for it is a mine filled with inexhaustible treasures of God’s grace. Read, study God’s Word praying to the Holy Spirit that He would guide you into its truth. 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 – John 16.16-23 (Easter 4 – 2019)

Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, of Your fatherly goodness You allow Your children to come under Your chastening rod here on earth, that we might be like Your only-begotten Son in suffering and hereafter in glory: We beseech You, comfort us by Your Holy Spirit in all temptations and afflictions, that we may not fall into despair, but that we may continually trust in Your Son’s promise, that our trials will endure but a little while, and will then be followed by eternal joy; that we thus, in patient hope, may overcome all evil, and at last obtain eternal salvation; through the same, Your 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.

16 “A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me, because I go to the Father.” 17 Then some of His disciples said among themselves, “What is this that He says to us,`A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’; and,`because I go to the Father ‘?” 18 They said therefore, “What is this that He says,`A little while ‘? We do not know what He is saying.” 19 Now Jesus knew that they desired to ask Him, and He said to them, “Are you inquiring among yourselves about what I said,`A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me ‘?

 20 “Most assuredly, I say to you that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; and you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned into joy. 21 “A woman, when she is in labor, has sorrow because her hour has come; but as soon as she has given birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish, for joy that a human being has been born into the world. 22 “Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you. 23 “And in that day you will ask Me nothing. Most assuredly, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in My name He will give you.

The Father Chastens His Children

Dear fellow redeemed,

Christ bore His cross, and at the same time the disciples had one to bear, too. But they failed in carrying it. Their Lord was crucified. Their lives were not really safe. They did not bear these troubles with trust in their Lord. They did not heed the words of Jesus, that their sorrow would be only for a little while. They did not look forward to the day soon where their sorrow would turn into joy. Instead they based their outlook of the situation upon their reason and fears.

They didn’t see anything good about Good Friday.

They despaired, having no hope in the saving work of God.

Little did they know that Christ’s death was for their eternal good. He was crucified out of love for them, and they should have found comfort in that love during that little while that Jesus was away.

But in a short little while, on the third day, they saw Jesus again, risen bodily from the grave. And they had joy. They understood afterward the meaning of Jesus’ words. And found strength in them.

Like the disciples, Christians suffer in the world. We don’t have to live long in the world to learn that it is indeed a vale of tears. Consider the nursing home, and with all those years lived there, there are a lot of stories of sadness and difficulty. We have plenty of stories in our own congregation. And you children, if you haven’t learned of the difficulty of life here on earth, the day will come when you will.

God will allow us to suffer through such trouble. What shall we think of it? It is the chastening rod of our Lord. It is the discipline that He gives to us. It would not be accurate to view it as punishment for specific sins that we commit. This is what the friends of Job was trying to convince him of. Rather, God chastises and disciplines us for our good, for the building up of our faith. As I heard one theologian say, God brought Job low, so that He may exalt him very high. And we see what faith God formed in him, for Job in the midst of his suffering was able to confess, “I know that my Redeemer lives.

He chastises us because He loves us. Scripture says, And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons: “My son, do not despise the chastening of the LORD, nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him; for whom the LORD loves He chastens, and scourges every son whom He receives” (Heb 12:5-7).

Like a parent and child. A child not only learns of the parent’s love through affection, but also through discipline. Rules and loving discipline teach the child that the parent cares for their safety and wellbeing.

God’s chastens us that we may acknowledge our weakness, our sin, and go to His Word of forgiveness and comfort, to pray to Him, and rely upon Him and His loving care.

But as we endure the Lord’s chastening, as we go through the little while when we are weeping and lamenting, we don’t always do so well to remember God’s love. The devil tempts us to sin in the midst of our trouble. On the one hand we may grow bitter. We get angry with God, thinking that God has unfairly dealt us a bad hand. We think we know better than Him, not submitting to His wisdom and His chastening rod, but developing an attitude of resentment and bitterness toward God, and perhaps toward others. On the other hand, in suffering we may fall into doubt and despair. And this seems to be more of what the disciples were experiencing. You do not see God’s love and care. You do not go to Him in prayer, seeking help and comfort. You do not go to Scripture to be reminded of the promises of His love and the joy that will follow in a little while. And sometimes, in the midst of suffering, you go through both of these in one day.

But God is gracious. After seeing the doubt and despair of the disciples, He didn’t turn His back on them. Rather, Jesus still sought them out and appeared to them to bring them joy and comfort. So also, God still loves you, and desires you to have the grace of His Word, that you may have comfort and joy.

There you see Christ who bore the Father’s chastening rod. In fact, there on the cross, it wasn’t just the loving discipline that Jesus received, but Jesus received the Father’s just wrath and hatred of wickedness, our wickedness. And Jesus willingly endured it, never doubting, never having bitterness toward His enemies or towards the Father. He as the perfect Son of God, is the only one who could say that this was unfair. But He perfectly submitted to His Father’s will, fully trusted in Him, endured the suffering, showed love to His enemies. His perfection is yours. And His suffering removes from you your sins of bitterness, doubt and despair. You are forgiven. You are clothed in His righteousness.

In God’s holy Word, you have this comfort and joy of God’s love from which you cannot be separated, and the free forgiveness and righteousness He has for you!

And you also have the joy and comfort that the Lord’s chastisement is only for a little while. Jesus is risen, and thus you know how it ends. The Lord chastises you so that in your suffering, you may be joined to Christ and His cross and suffering, so that you may share in His victory and eternal life in glory!

And this is a joy that you may have even now as you wait for a little while until you receive relief and eventually into glory!

In Acts we read the example of Paul and Barnabas preaching in Antioch. The Gentiles in the city heard the their preaching and received it with joy! But the Jews were jealous. They opposed and contradicted their preaching. They “stirred up the devout and prominent women and the chief men of the city, raised up persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and expelled them from their region.” What then did Paul and Barnabas do? Scripture says, “They shook off the dust from their feet against them, and came to Iconium. And the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.” They had joy in the midst of their troubles.

So also for us, even when the sufferings and troubles of this life bring us weeping and lamenting, we at the same time may have joy. The devil will use our sufferings against us. But Christ has won the victory over the devil and over death. For Christ’s sake the Father loves you, His baptized. He keeps you, is with you, and sustains you until you enter into glory. Turn to these promises of His Word, trust in His infinite wisdom, and call upon Him in prayer.

And thus through His chastening rod, and the work of the Holy Spirit, He refines your faith, and carves you into beautiful living stones.

God’s good and gracious will be done, even if it is done through suffering. By the comfort of His forgiveness and the joy of His victorious resurrection, may He give us courage and joy to meet these troubles, until we leave them behind to behold our gracious Lord in His glory! 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 – John 10.11-16 (Easter 3 – 2019)

Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, out of Your fatherly goodness You have been mindful of us poor, miserable sinners, and have given Your beloved Son to be our Shepherd, not only to nourish us by His Word, but also to defend us from sin, death, and the devil: We beseech You, grant us Your Holy Spirit, that, even as this Shepherd knows us and helps us in every affliction, we also may know Him, and, trusting in Him, seek help and comfort in Him, from our hearts obey His voice, and obtain eternal salvation; 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.

Grace to you and peace from God, our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

11 “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.

These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your word is truth. Amen.

Not a Hireling, but the Owner

Dear fellow redeemed,

If you talk to real estate investors who rent out their houses, they can tell you horror stories about renters who have utterly trashed their homes. Typically houses are better taken care of if the homeowner lives in it. Don’t worry, we’re taking good care of the parsonage. Or take an example of a business. Oftentimes a business owner has a difficult time handing off managing duties to someone else, because no one cares about a business as much as the owner. The house, the business is especially prized, and cared for, and loved, when it was purchased at a great cost.

Likewise, a flock of sheep isn’t so loved and carefully tended by a hireling as it is by the owner of the sheep. And that is especially the case if that flock has been purchased at a great price.

In this 10th chapter of John, Jesus contrasts him to a few different characters. There are the robbers and the thieves. They are the ones with ill intent. They wish to destroy the sheep and steal the sheep away from life in God’s kingdom. Jesus, however, gives life for the sheep.

Then in our text, Jesus talks about the hirelings. The hirelings may not have ill-intent. They do not seek to destroy and steal like the robbers and thieves, but they do not care for the sheep so much. They are hirelings. They’re in it for the money, for the benefits. They want money, prestige, they want the acceptance of the world. But if a threat confronts the hireling and the flock, at the time the sheep needs the hireling the most, the hireling flees. What is it to the hireling if a wolf, if the devil, or a false teacher, or the world, or the sinful flesh destroys the faith of the sheep. What loss is it to him? He does not own the sheep. But he values his money, fame, and acceptance in the world, and that is what he guards.

But Jesus is not a hireling. He is the owner of the sheep. And He dearly loves His sheep, for He is a loving shepherd, and because of the great price He paid to make them His own. He dearly loves you. He has paid the great price of His blood and His innocent life so that you may be His own. He brought you out from under the just wrath of God, and paying the penalty for our sins, He has made you the sheep of His pasture.

He will not run from the wolf or any kind of danger that threatens Him or you, rather He will stand guard and keep you. For He was willing to do battle with the devil for your sake. He was willing to give up His life to save you. He was willing to suffer the Father’s justice on the cross to redeem you. He gives up His life, but then takes it back up again, so that He is your living Shepherd. Now He has dominion over all things, sitting at the right hand of the Father. Nothing can threaten Him now. All His enemies, the devil, the world, and death are defeated before Him. And so He fills all things, and rules over all things for the sake of His flock.

He has gathered His flock and continues to add to His flock with His Holy Spirit through the gospel in word and Sacraments. He says, “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.” This includes you who have been added to this flock, and those yet to be added to the flock of Christ. He has brought you to faith, to recognize the voice of Christ, to believe in Him as Your Savior, and believing Him, you are dear members of His flock. You are under His tender care.

How blessed you are to belong to the Good Shepherd, who laid down His life for us! So what do you then make of this wandering and straying and sinning that persists? It’s frustrating and awful isn’t it!? With your ungratefulness, you belittle the cost it took for Jesus to make you His own. You desire to go your own way. You obey the lusts of your flesh. You fall into temptations the wolf sets down before you. You think that there are greener pastures for you if you rejoined the world in its evil pleasures, and you step into it to nibble on its deceiving promises. And furthermore, how do you treat those things that the Good Shepherd instituted and given His flock upon which you are to be nourished, preserved, and saved? So that you may benefit from His giving up of His life, He has given you the precious gospel in Word and Sacraments. But you do not make use of it as you should. You do not appreciate the grace, power, and holiness of that gospel!

What sad sheep you and I are. Certainly not fit to belong to the flock of the Good Shepherd. But you were never fit to belong in that flock. No one was. But Christ made it so. It was for sinners that Christ laid down His life. And thankfully, He doesn’t treat us as a hireling would. But no you belong to Him. He has claimed you in your baptism. And that sacrifice, that price He paid so that you may belong to Him still covers your sins. You are here in His pasture, and He does not say to you, “get out.” Rather He says, “repent,” and He draws you to Himself. His voice proclaims to you, “You are forgiven! Feast upon that word, and be filled with it! Feast upon the table that I prepare for you, My body and blood that I have laid down and taken up again!”

What grace there is in that voice of His! That is the voice that we know, that we cherish. And so may our Shepherd who has gathered us by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel, keep us in His pasture, and hearing His gracious voice, so that all our days we may live holy lives as we follow Him, rejoice in His forgiveness and love, and be shepherded through the valley of the shadow of death into eternal life! Amen.

Glory be to the Father and to the Holy Spirit. As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, forevermore. Amen.


Sermon – John 20.19-31 (Easter 2 – 2019)

Let us pray: Lord God, heavenly Father, we thank You, that of Your indescribable grace, for the sake of Your Son, You have given us the holy Gospel, and have instituted the holy Sacraments, that through these we may have comfort and forgiveness of sin: We beseech You, grant us Your Holy Spirit, that we may heartily believe Your Word; and through the holy Sacraments day by day establish our faith, until we at last obtain eternal salvation; through 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.

19 Then, 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.”

22 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.

These are Your words, heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

Peace to You!

Dear fellow redeemed,

Peace was destroyed in the garden by the deceiver Satan. Because peace was broken between man and God, Adam and Eve hid themselves from God’s sight. Because peace was broken between mankind, Adam and Eve had to cover themselves to hide from each other their shame and guilt. And ever since then, peace has been an elusive thing for mankind. Our consciences are in a state of unrest, burdened with the guilt of our sins. Sin is lawlessness, rebellion against the holy God. We have the troublesome effects of sin in our lives, which are decay and death. And then there is sin against one another breaking the peace in our relationships with one another. Selfishness and pride, a lack of love and forgiveness, cause peace in our relationships to vanish, and destroy those relationships. And of course this lack of peace plagues not only peace between two individuals, but also plagues the world, people verses people, nation pitted against nation. Wouldn’t it be great to have peace?

John Lennon offered a solution in his atheist anthem, “Imagine.” One of the ingredients to peace in the world is to do away with belief in heaven and hell and all religions. It is a common idea out there that religion is the greatest disturber of the peace. Though, ironically, the atheistic evolutionary worldview resulted in the death of over 200 million people worldwide in the 20th century.

And then there are others who choose to ignore the lack of peace with God, dismissing the judgment of God over our sins. The prophet Jeremiah was telling the Jews of impending judgment that God was going to bring upon them through the Babylonians. But the people chose to listen to the prophets who would speak what they wanted to hear. Jeremiah condemned these prophets, who said, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace.

The disciples lacked peace. The text tells us that they were in the locked room for fear of the Jews. They were afraid that they might suffer the same fate as their Lord. From the account of the two disciples on the road to Emmaus they were troubled by the events that took place, the madness that swept over the Jews as they were desperately trying to get Jesus executed, and their hearts were heavy with the sadness that their Lord died. Scripture doesn’t say it, but they must have been distressed by their own lack of faithfulness. The shepherd was struck, and the sheep scattered. The disciples abandoned their Lord at the first sign of trouble.

But He who’s birth was announced with a message of peace by the angels, appears to the disciples pronouncing to them peace. When Jesus says “Peace to you”, there is good reason to have peace.

Jesus, is bodily risen from the grave, and there He stands with His wounds from which flowed His lifeblood that won their forgiveness and salvation. His resurrection means that the price of redemption is paid in full, they are forgiven!

If Jesus did not rise, Scripture says, “your faith is futile; you are still in your sins!” So if Jesus did not rise there would be no forgiveness and no peace. But since Jesus, our Mediator, is risen, forgiveness is won. Peace is made between man and God again.

They see their risen Lord! He who has won peace pronounces to them divine, heavenly peace. They trust their risen Lord! Their consciences put at rest.

But then Jesus also gives them some work to do. Jesus gave them the ministry of peace, or the ministry of reconciliation as Paul calls it in 2 Corinthians.

They are to forgive and retain sins. To those who do not believe in Jesus’ crucified and risen for their forgiveness and salvation, and those who do not repent of their sins, they are to be told that their sins are not forgiven. They disqualify themselves from the forgiveness and salvation that Jesus won on the cross. And thus we should not give the impression, that there is peace, peace, when there is no peace, as the unfaithful prophets did in Jeremiah’s day. But the desire is that they would then seek peace with God, repent of their sins, and trust in Jesus. In that case, the disciples would pronounce forgiveness. They would pronounce peace.

And this is ministry that the Church conducts today for you and the world. If you refuse to repent of your sin or if you simply do not trust Jesus as the One through whom you have peace with God, then your sins are not forgiven, and you do not have peace. But to you who are repentant, to you who trust Jesus for your forgiveness and salvation, you are indeed forgiven all of your sins. Christ is risen, and thus you have peace with God. Let your consciences be at rest, because Christ lives, and thus the Father holds no sin against you! You may stand before Him knowing that you are not under His just wrath, but under His favor for Jesus sake. You do not have the wounds of Jesus to touch, but you have His Word of peace and forgiveness that He has given me to speak to you. “Blessed are you who have not seen and yet have believed.

The risen Christ is the source and foundation of our peace. You have peace with God! Let that sink into your hearts and minds. Your soul be at rest!

So you have this preeminent peace through all the difficulties and troubles of life. This peace is also the solution to your relationships where your peace is broken. With this peace of Christ, you are able to be peacemakers in your relationships, at least as much as it depends on you. Christ is risen, and joined to His resurrection through baptism, you walk in the newness of life. And thus you put away pride and selfishness, and you share this peace you have in Christ. You forgive and show mercy to your neighbor, you cover a multitude of their sins, healing your relationships as much as it depends on you.

But we know that we there will never be peace upon the earth. After all, the world is full of sinners who have selfishness and pride, and Christians are among them causing trouble. But also, there will never be peace, because the world resists the truth. Luther said, “peace if possible, truth at all costs.” We seek to create peace, but the one thing we cannot compromise on is the truth of holy Scripture, and this stance on Scripture brings resistance and rebellion in the world. This is the meaning behind what Jesus said, “I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” We may be called troublemakers and hateful, but we will not budge for the sake of the peace that Christ makes between man and God. It is a peace Christ has won for all people, a peace that is possessed only by the repentant and believing. The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Glory be to the Father…

2019 Sermons Easter

Easter – 2019

Sermon – Mark 16.1-8

Festival exordium

Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!

You that have kept the Lenten fast, and you that have not, rejoice today for the Table is richly laden!
Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one.
Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith.
Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!

Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again; for forgiveness has risen from the grave.
Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.

Hell took a body, and discovered God.
It took earth, and encountered Heaven.
It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting?
O Hell, where is thy victory?

Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated!
Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down!
Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice!
Christ is Risen, and life is liberated!
Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

Dear members of the Feast, let sing our praises to our Risen Savior, with the exordium hymn, hymn number 348. Please rise.

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.

The Path of Life

These are Your Words heavenly Father. Sanctify us by the truth. Your Word is truth. Amen.

Dear fellow redeemed,

Thursday and Friday and Saturday of holy week was a dreadful time for Jesus’ followers, after all that went down on those days. But wouldn’t you think that on that Sunday morning, instead of just a few women going to the tomb, all of Jesus followers would have gone. And instead of carrying spices and ointments, they would bring some clean clothes for Jesus to wear. After all, Jesus said to them very clearly in at different times that He would rise from the dead on the third day! And the Old Testament foretold of His rising. You would think that they would  gather in the garden where the tomb was, excited and anxious, waiting for the tomb to burst opening, so that they could embrace their beloved Teacher and Lord, and probably looking forward to seeing the confused look on the faces of the soldiers guarding the tomb.

But of course, this did not happen.

Jesus’ followers were filled with utter sorrow.

Think of Mary Magdalene. Jesus rescued her from 7 demons that possessed her. And now that Jesus is dead, who will rescue her from the devil and his wicked works?

Think of Peter, and the awful guilt he carried. He rejected his friend and Lord three times, claiming no knowledge of Him, and there he is left with that guilt, and the hope of his forgiveness was lying there dead in the tomb.

Think of the rest of the disciples who all scattered and abandoned their Lord, when He was being imprisoned, judged, beaten and mocked.

Christ was their hope, their teacher, their leader. And now He was dead. Where will Mary find rescue from Satan? Where will Peter find a peaceful conscience? Where will the others find of forgiveness and salvation from death?

It appeared as though death had won the day, as though sin claimed its power over them. It seemed as though they were on their own to deal with Satan, guilt, and death. But we know that they were powerless before these troubles.

But these same things plague our lives. It may appear sometimes as though sin, death and the devil win the day.

What did the women do in the midst of their sorrow? They brought spices and ointment to anoint Jesus’ dead body. They did this out of love and respect for Jesus, but they were misguided. They thought that that was it. He’s dead. Make the best of it.

In the same way, we are misguided in the way we face fear, sorrow, Satan, sin, and death.

In the face of fear, doubt and uncertainty, we try to embalm those feelings with the illusion that we are in control of our lives, and that we can stand independent of God, that we’re not lost sheep, but that we’re strong giants in our own right. But when it comes down to it, we must admit that we are not in control, and putting our trust in ourselves is downright foolish, because we know that we make for some lousy gods.

In the face of sorrow, we try to look on the bright side of things, rationalizing our pain, our heartache and sadness. Sure this is a way to cope, but it doesn’t get rid of the fact that everything is not okay. We may try to put on a smiley face to cover the sorrow, but we know that it is a show. This earth is a vale of tears.

In the face of sin, we try to put ointment and spices on our sins trying to cover the stench of their filth. We ignore them, rationalize them, close our ears to parts of God’s Law so that we will not feel the guilt and shame. Or maybe, for some of you, you are very well aware of your guilt and it weighs heavily on you, but it seems as though there is no relief or forgiveness for you. Whatever camp you’re in, sins are real, they are an offense to the One to whom we are held accountable, and He says in the book of Exodus, “I will by no means clear the guilty” (Exodus 34:7).

In the face of death, we tend to grasp on to youth, to fill our lives with adventure or significance, some sort of lasting legacy. But the end does come and puts an end to it all. And the worse death that comes after death is eternal death in hell, which is the right judgment for our sins.

And plus, Satan goes around as a roaring lion seeking to devour us. We like to think we can withstand him, but we are sinners. We are already victims of the devil, and we are vulnerable.

Is this it? Is this all that we’re left with? Fear, sorrow, sin, Satan, and death? However we may try to cover the path of death with spices and ointments, it remains the path of death.

And sometimes, like the followers of Jesus, we live and think as though we forgotten the promises of God’s Word, and as though fear, sorrow, sin and death have won the day.

But these things are all turned upside down by the amazing discovery of the women! The tomb is empty! The prophecy of the Psalmist is true! “You will not abandon My soul to Sheol, or let Your Holy One see corruption.” The angel declared its fulfillment: “You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; He is not here! See for yourselves the place where they laid Him!”

Jesus lives! The good news is not just that Jesus lives! Certainly they were happy to see and be with their beloved Teacher and Friend again! But the greater news is that His perfect life, and His suffering and death on Good Friday had truly accomplished their salvation!

For Peter, the One who holds and gives the word of forgiveness lives, that his conscience may be at peace.

For Mary, the One who delivered her from the oppression of demons lives, that she may, in Him, have continual protection from the evil one.

For all the followers of Jesus who mourned His death, He lives that they may know that in Him, death is conquered.

What joy there is this day! The Psalmist speaks of it: “You make known to me the path of life; in Your presence there is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.”

Christ is our path of life, and in Him, we have an answer to all our fears, our sorrows, our sins, and to death! The tears of sadness they bring to us turn into tears of joy in Christ.

Jesus is the answer to our needs. He did not rise for His own sake, but for Peter’s sake, Mary’s sake, for our sake. Our Savior lives. Our Lord has conquered death for us, He has become for us the way of life and guards and keeps us in Himself and His victory with His holy Gospel in Word and Sacraments.

You having fears, know that your living Lord, with His pierced hands, holds your lives in His tender care.

You who are heartbroken, hurting and in sorrow, know that you are baptized into the man of sorrows, Jesus Christ, who though being without sin, became acquainted the griefs of sin and all its ugly consequences for your sake. He lives, sympathizes with you, and for your sorrow gives peace and joy for your soul.

You afflicted by the devil with temptations to despair, through faith, you belong to Christ who has caused the devil’s might to become unraveled. Christ is risen, and therefore you have the certain hope that you have life in Him.

You sinners, Jesus lives and is the answer to your sins. So confess them before God that they may be covered under the blood of Christ, gone forever! You who are burdened by the weight of your guilt, Christ has taken the load of your guilt and suffered for your sins on the cross of Good Friday! He lives, that the forgiveness He won for the world may be freely given to you. He lives that He may be present with you each week in Divine Service, giving you through His Word, Absolution, and Supper the forgiveness He won for you! The finished work of His redemption is guaranteed by His resurrection, and thus you may have a clean conscience before God. And through faith in His salvation, you are also given the gift of the newness of life, that you may live each day as children of God.

Jesus is the answer to the death that looms over us. Death still looks ugly, and a great enemy, but in reality, through Christ, death is destroyed. Death was the power of Satan, our great enemy. But in His death, Jesus crushed the ancient serpent’s skull! Jesus rises from the tomb, showing that death is nothing more than a nap for those who are in Him. Through His Word received in faith, Christ gives you His victory that your foot too stands over the devil’s skull, that in death, you may pass safely from this the land of the dying into heaven, the land of the living. As He is risen from the grave, so too, one day, you and all those who died in the faith shall rise, too, that we whole, and complete, body and soul, may enjoy eternity with our gracious Triune God!

Jesus lives! He is our path of life! Though the realities of life in a fallen world and in our fallen flesh are ever so vivid, we know that the Holy Spirit through Baptism has brought us into the path of life, where we know we live each day in our living Christ, in His forgiveness, in His life. 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.

The peace of God which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.