Holy Week

Sermon – John 19.38-42 (Easter Vigil – 2019)

Heavenly Father, by the burial of Your Son, you sanctified the graves of Your believers, that it has become merely a resting place for us. We have eagerly awaited the celebration of Christ’s resurrection from the dead. Give us full confidence, peace, and joy that comes from Christ’s resurrection, as we await the day when He returns and your redeemed shall awaken from the grave unto life eternal. Amen.

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

38 After this, Joseph of Arimathea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly, for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus; and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took the body of Jesus.

 39 And Nicodemus, who at first came to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about a hundred pounds.

 40 Then they took the body of Jesus, and bound it in strips of linen with the spices, as the custom of the Jews is to bury.

 41 Now in the place where He was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid.

 42 So there they laid Jesus, because of the Jews’ Preparation Day, for the tomb was nearby.

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

A Kingly Bed for Nappers

Dear fellow redeemed,

Notice what kind of death Jesus suffered. He suffered the death of a scoundrel, of the worst of criminals. It was the kind death that we deserved for we are guilty before God. We have sinned against the good and holy demands of the Law.

But then take note of how Jesus was buried. He was buried like a king by Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus. From the Gospels, we know that Joseph was a member of the Sanhedrin. He was a disciple of Jesus, perhaps one of the 70 followers of Jesus. But he was a disciple secretly, for he feared what would become of him if other Jews would have known. For one reason or another Joseph was willing to associate himself with Jesus. He asked Pilate for Jesus body, that he may bury Him, and permission was granted.

And so Jesus’ tomb was the tomb of a rich man. It was a beautiful and unused tomb with a garden nearby.

And then there’s Nicodemus, who was also one of the ruling Jews among the people. He also feared the Jews, for he came to Jesus under the cover of night to speak to Him. But now he shows his love for His Lord embalming Jesus with ointments fit for a king! He brings 100 Roman pounds which is the equivalent to 75 pounds as we know it.

What did they know about His resurrection? Were they burying and embalming Jesus merely out of love and respect for Jesus, hoping for His resurrection, or did they lack understanding, as just about everyone did, thinking that He was not rising from the dead. We don’t quite know.

But nonetheless there Jesus was laid to rest with a burial and a tomb made for a king.

In various pagan cultures kings were buried with their treasures, their horses and riches, and so on, believing that they would use those things in their next life. Jesus, our King, was buried, not with gold, riches, and possessions, but with our sins, that there they may remain.

Luther speaks about Jesus’ burial, “Just as Jesus took all our sins with Him to the cross and bore them in His body on the tree, so also He took all our sins with Him into the tomb; indeed, wee are buried with Him through Baptism. He took into the tomb with Him not only the cloths and linen shroud in which His body was wrapped but also the whole world’s sin, damnation, misery, fear, affliction, and peril, and He covered and buried it all so that it might not harm those who believe in Him.”

It’s strange to talk about a beautiful tomb, though Jesus once did when speaking about the hypocritical Pharisees. He was speaking about the whitewashed tombs, “beautiful on the outside, but on the inside full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” There in that rich man’s tomb, were our filthy sins, all our uncleanness. But also in that tomb was our beautiful Savior, which as expensive and kingly as that tomb was it was not a proper bed for our Lord, the King of Creation. How strange, how unfathomable, that our Savior, the Lord of Life lie dead there.

Yet, there He rested, making our own graves a resting place. And they are made royal beds, no matter how beautiful or how simple, how new or how deteriorated they are. For who are those who lie there? They are those who belong to Christ through faith, brothers and sisters of the King. They are children of the heavenly Father, they are the royal priesthood of God’s eternal kingdom.

And though death is a nasty thing, a result of our sins, but for us who trust in Christ’s redemption, our sins have remained buried in Christ’s tomb. And Christ, our Lord, is risen. And He makes our death merely a sleep from which we too shall waken.

So tonight we have kept vigil, we have waited, and soon we will begin to celebrate with Easter joy, our Lord’s resurrection from the grave with alleluias. But we also keep vigil, and await the eternal morning, the great Easter of our own resurrection, the day when the Lord who woke from the sleep of death and left the grave powerless behind Him will do the same for you. Amen.

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

Holy Week

Sermon – John 19.31-37 (Good Friday – 2019)

Let us pray: Almighty and everlasting God, You willed that Your Son should bear for us the pains of the cross, that You might remove from us the power of the adversary: Help us to remember and give thanks for our Lord’s Passion that we may obtain remission of sin and redemption from everlasting death; through the same, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

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

31 Therefore, because it was the Preparation Day, that the bodies should not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken, and that they might be taken away. 32 Then the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first and of the other who was crucified with Him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that He was already dead, they did not break His legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out.

35 And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. 36 For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “Not one of His bones shall be broken.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.”

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

It’s All According to Plan

Dear fellow redeemed,

The Jews had plans for Jesus. Some wanted to make Him a king of one sort or another, whether it was a bread king who would provide for them all their earthly needs, or a revolutionary king who would bring Israel out from Roman control. Others, particularly the Jewish leaders, made plans to kill Jesus.

What happened here in these days of Christ’s life? Many of those in the world who do not understand who Christ is and what He came into the world to do might view Jesus’ suffering and death as a tragic ending to a promising future.

None of us make plans for tragedy. We make plans for vacations. We make plans for our children preparing them for the future. We make plans for the gift of a family, for career aspirations, for a happy home. We make plans for an enjoyable retirement. And we thank God for these gifts that we can look forward to. But never do we plan for tragedies. We might make plans in case of tragedies. The school students, for example, perform fire drills and tornado drills. Many of you have generators to provide electricity to avoid the problems that might ensue from a power outage.

But God’s plans looked different. Jesus’ death is a tragedy, but not an unfortunate one, as though it happened by chance. God planned this awful suffering and death of His Son. It was planned from even before the foundation of the world. This plan was first revealed to man in the Garden of Eden. The woman’s offspring will have his heel bruised by the serpent, but He will crush the serpents head. Our gospel reading before us also makes this clear.

These things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “Not one of His bones shall be broken.” And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.” The prophets had foretold this plan from the mind of God.

The Son of God became flesh and was born for this. He was anointed to be the Suffering Servant. The path before Him was divinely appointed to go directly to the cross, where He would be lifted up.

But why? On the one hand, it is because of our sin. On account of our sin, we deserve the shame, the mocking, the beating, the nails, the cross, the hell. It was our sins of thought, word, and deed, that rejected Him, treated Him shamefully, and put Him on the cross. On the other hand, the reason Jesus followed this pre-ordained path to the cross was because of His love for you, to redeem you from you sins.

He set His face to Jerusalem to suffer and die. In the Garden of Gethsemane, the weight of the suffering He was about to encounter was overwhelmingly great for Him. He became sorrowful and troubled, more than anyone can imagine. A most awful cup of suffering He had to drink. Yet He was willing to do the Father’s will, drinking that cup to the bitter dregs.

Behold Him on the cross. The suffering, the shame, the aching breaths, the Son abandoned by His Father, the divine wrath heavy upon His shoulders, and then His lifeless body. It is all according to the loving plan of God to save you from your sins.

And Jesus said, “It is finished.” The plan of your rescue, planned from before the foundation of the world, and foretold by the prophets, is perfectly completed in His death!

Yes, how evil the rejection, the slander, the murder. Tragic, yet not unfortunate. Tragic and very wonderful. We are eternally blessed because of Jesus’ willful suffering and death.

And so, now, as God’s baptized, joined to Christ, we possess present realities that can not be touched by any tragedy or trouble that may come our way. For on account of Christ, we are forgiven, and righteous before God. We are members of His kingdom of grace, children of God, and heirs of life in eternal glory! This was the joy that was set before Him, the joy for which He was willing to endure the cross. Thanks be to our Lord, Jesus Christ. 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.

Holy Week

Sermon – Luke 22.19-20 (Maundy Thursday – 2019)

Let us pray: O Lord Jesus Christ, we thank You, that of Your infinite mercy You have instituted this Your Sacrament, in which we eat Your body and drink Your blood: Grant us, we beseech You, by Your Holy Spirit, that we may not receive this gift unworthily, but that we may confess our sins, remember Your agony and death, believe the forgiveness of sin, and day by day grow in faith and love, until we obtain eternal salvation; through You, who live and reign with the Father 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 And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.”

 20 Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.

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

The New Passover Meal

Dear fellow redeemed,

Jesus had kept the Passover with His disciples, but now He establishes a meal that will take the place of the Passover meal.

This is new and better meal. The Passover meal revolved around the eating of a lamb, a lamb with wool and hooves. This is not to belittle the Passover meal. It is a significant meal, for God had established that through the sacrifice of these lambs death did not enter the houses of His people, and through them, God claimed His people and delivered them from the bondage of the Egyptians. It is significant, also because God commanded that this meal be celebrated as a memorial to the Lord’s redemption every year.

However, the Passover was a meal that was a shadow of a greater meal that was coming. And that night it was replaced by a meal that revolves around the eating of the Lamb of God, the Lamb of God with skin and feet; He shares our human flesh, yet is true God.

Jesus says of the bread, “This is My Body.” He says of the wine, “This is My blood.” Our reason cannot understand this how bread can be at the same time the Body of Christ, and the wine the blood of Christ. But we do not deny Scripture on account of our reason. Our reason must give way to the wisdom and power of God, and the authority of His Word.

But what a wonder we receive here, the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ. The body that was beaten, nailed to the cross, and hung lifeless there is given you to eat. The blood that flowed from His wounds, His pierced brow and His hands and feet, are given you to drink. The body and blood of the Lamb were sacrificed for your redemption. The body and blood of Christ has won for you forgiveness of all your sins, and has redeemed you not from Egypt, but from bondage to sin and Satan. The catechism takes from the words of St. Peter, saying, “You have been purchased, not with gold or silver, but with the holy and precious blood of Christ, and His innocent suffering and death.

And this very body and blood of Christ, our Passover Lamb, is given for you in this meal to eat and to drink for the remission of sins.

And so let us be partakers of this most blessed feast! Yet Paul warns us that we must examine ourselves before we partake. The body and blood is given to all who receive it, but it can be received to someone’s harm, not because the body and blood of Christ can be like a poison, but because a person can sin against the body and blood of Christ. When an unbeliever, or someone who is not repentant of his sin and has no intent to live a more godly life, or someone who does not recognize the body and blood of Christ, when such a person partakes of the Holy Meal, he sins against the body and blood of Christ, and make a mockery of His Passion. The chief of the Concordists, the theologian Martin Chemnitz says, “they become guilty of that body in which life itself dwells, like Judas, who betrayed that body—like the Jews, who tried to bury it with stones—like Pilate, who condemned it with a death sentence—like the soldiers who scourged and crucified the body of life.”

And so since the body and blood of Christ given you in this supper is given for the forgiveness of your sins, we know that it is a supper for sinners. So confess your sins. We gather here as idolaters, blasphemers, rebels, murderers, adulterers, thieves, slanderers, and an ungrateful people. We are deserving of condemnation, of God’s eternal wrath. We are guilty, and there is no escape from this guilt and our punishment unless God would forgive us. And so we need Christ’s forgiveness that He paid for on the cross. And He gives you this forgiveness through the Sacrament of the Altar.

This Supper is also a Supper for believers. The Holy Spirit has granted you faith through water and the Word so that you believe that Christ was crucified as the atoning sacrifice for your sins. And the body and blood offered upon the cross is offered you in the Sacrament of the Altar. It is the true body and blood of Christ. And through faith in the words “given and shed for you for the remission of sins,” you rightly receive that body and blood of Christ for the forgiveness of sins.

Jesus instituted this most blessed and holy Meal for His Church on this night. He tells us, “Do this.” And with joy, we celebrate this Sacrament of the Altar. For as we receive Christ’s true body and blood with our mouths, we receive by faith, deliverance from sin and death, Satan and hell. As God joined Israel to Himself as His people through the Passover meal, so also we who have been made God’s people through baptism, enjoy through the Sacrament of the Altar Christ joining us to Himself in intimate communion, partaking of Him, His life, and eternal salvation. 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.

Holy Week

Sermon – Matthew 21.1-11 (Palm Sunday – 2019)

Almighty and everlasting God, You have caused Your beloved Son to take our nature upon Himself, that He might give us the example of humility and suffer death upon the cross for our sins: Mercifully grant us a believing knowledge of this, that we may follow the example of His patience, and be made partakers of the benefits of His sacred Passion and death; 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.

Now when they drew near Jerusalem, and came to Bethphage, at the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples,

 2 saying to them, “Go into the village opposite you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Loose them and bring them to Me.

 3 “And if anyone says anything to you, you shall say,`The Lord has need of them,’ and immediately he will send them.”

 4 All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying:

 5 “Tell the daughter of Zion,`Behold, your King is coming to you, Lowly, and sitting on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.'”

 6 So the disciples went and did as Jesus commanded them.

 7 They brought the donkey and the colt, laid their clothes on them, and set Him on them.

 8 And a very great multitude spread their clothes on the road; others cut down branches from the trees and spread them on the road.

 9 Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David!`Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ Hosanna in the highest!”

 10 And when He had come into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, “Who is this?”

 11 So the multitudes said, “This is Jesus, the prophet from Nazareth of Galilee.”

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

A Better King; A Better Kingdom

Dear fellow redeemed,

On Facebook I saw a video someone took of a train passing by, and on the train were an endless line of tanks and other military vehicles. Perhaps some of you saw it, too. It was quite a sight to see, there getting a glimpse at the military power of our nation. These vehicles are to be used for the purpose of protecting the freedoms and rights of this nation’s citizens. We take pride in that power, don’t we? We rely on it, lest we be taken advantage of and harmed by foreign nations. We want a powerful nation. God has given this authority to our government, as we read in Romans 13, “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God.

Paul is saying nothing different than what Jesus said to Pilate. Pilate first said to Jesus, “Are You not speaking to me? Do You not know that I have power to crucify You, and power to release You?” Jesus responded, “You could have no power at all against Me unless it had been given you from above.” God had given Pilate his authority to rule upon the earth.

Pilate had power and might. He had an army at his disposal. He had authority to put people to death, and the power to release them. His entrance into Jerusalem would certainly have looked much different than Jesus’ entrance. He wouldn’t be found riding a donkey, and he probably wouldn’t be travelling without a company of soldiers accompanying him. But that is the way it is supposed to be. The earthly authorities should have such power.

Now of course, when God establishes governments and gives men authority, such authority is to be used for good, to create peace and order, to protect a people and a nation, to preserve our freedoms, and uphold the sanctity of human life. And might is necessary for that.

And we as members of the kingdom of the left, are called to honor our authorities, for they are to be representatives of God to rule this kingdom on earth. Paul’s is quoted in the Small Catechism’s Table of Duties, on this matter, “Therefore you must be subject, not only because of wrath but also for conscience’ sake. For because of this you also pay taxes, for they are God’s ministers attending continually to this very thing. Render therefore to all their due: taxes to whom taxes are due, customs to whom customs, fear to whom fear, honor to whom honor” (Rom 13:5-7).

It is good that we honor our nation, the authorities in the land, and the Constitution to which we are all bound. As Christians and by means of our citizenship here, we vow ourselves to this nation, and obedience to the laws of the land, of course as long as they do not contradict God’s laws, for we ought to obey God rather than men.

Yet we make a mistake to make a god out of this nation. Whether people see this nation as something to provide for all our needs, or whether people make the freedoms of this nation their religion. Anyone trying to make heaven on earth is confusing the two kingdoms.

So can we trust our authorities, in our government? Can we be certain that those tanks passing by on the train tracks will never be used against us?

Trust not in princes.” So says the psalmist. “Do not put your trust in princes, nor in a son of man, in whom there is no help. His spirit departs, he returns to his earth; In that very day his plans perish. Happy is he who has the God of Jacob for his help, Whose hope is in the LORD his God” (Psalm 146:3-5).

And it is the LORD in whom we trust and rely. We make our vows to God. Allison will be confessing Him as LORD, and will make a vow to remain faithful to Him, to His kingdom, and to His doctrine, even unto death.

And in Him is the far greater kingdom. For His entrance into Jerusalem shows that He is a king of a different sort. Not one like Pilate. Not one like Herod. He is not threatening to be a powerful political leader. Rather, as Zechariah foretells, He enters into Jerusalem humble and lowly. He is a king of a different kingdom, one not of this world.

Luther says, “In the realm where He is king and Lord, he’s not concerned about teaching us how to farm, plow, so, harvest, be a housekeeper, pile up money, conduct war, or rule over land and people. All such things he entrusts to earthly kings and lords…Our Christ-king, on the other hand, wants us to know how to inherit the kingdom of heaven, how to be saved and become eternally rich, so that we may finally enter that other better life.” This life is temporal, one day we will leave it all behind, but Christ comes that we may be heirs of His eternal Kingdom. And so it is for this kingdom that Christ goes comes to Jerusalem to obtain for Himself, that you may dwell in it.

The way by which He gains your entrance is by His life. He must sacrifice Himself. He must be the sacrificial Lamb to cover all your sins. And so He doesn’t enter as a conqueror who will fight for an earthly kingdom. Rather, there He goes humbly into Jerusalem, as a Lamb to die. He submits to the earthly authority, He submits to the sentence of death. The governing authorities which uses a cross to punish evil doers, punishes the Son of God, innocent of all sin, though carrying your guilt.

And thus through His sacrifice, you have life in His kingdom. There you have forgiveness, peace with God, and life without end.

This is the kingdom of heaven. It is not found in earthly power, might, and authorities. It is found in Christ, our crucified, and now exalted, King of grace.

And so if we, on this earth, live in great wealth and peace and freedom, there will be a time where we will die and leave these things behind. For such blessings are only temporal. Yet, we have a much better treasure, Christ our King and His heavenly riches which nothing, not even death, can take from us.

Or if we, on this earth, live in dreadful poverty, and utter unrest, and our freedoms taken away, (for who knows what your future holds, Allison, since we see this culture becoming more and more hostile to Christianity) yet we know that in Christ, we have a kingdom in which we are blessed now and forever.

And so we live in this kingdom of the left, living out our duty to be good citizens, being led by the Holy Spirit, and guided by our Lord’s Word doing what is best for our neighbor and our country. Yet we place much greater value upon the Lord’s Kingdom, which is everlasting, and is most blessed. And so we vow ourselves to the Lord for He entered into Jerusalem in lowliness for our eternal salvation. And we vow ourselves to the faithful use of His Word and Sacraments, for that is the means by which He draws us and preserves us in the true faith and in the citizenship in His kingdom.

And even as we vow ourselves to Him, we do not rely upon our power to keep it. Allison said, with the help of the Lord. Our Lord gives you such a will, but even better, the Lord has vowed Himself to you. He has vowed Himself to His Bride, His Church. He has washed her with water and the word, sealing her with the Holy Spirit. In great love He goes to Jerusalem to suffer and die for you. And He is risen again to guard and keep you in the true faith. He holds you in the palm of His hand, and no one can snatch you out of His hand. And the gates of hell shall not prevail against His kingdom. He keeps you with His Gospel. Now that’s a power beyond an army of tanks or anything else you can find in the kingdom of the left. 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.