John 14:15-21 – Because I Live, You Also Will Live

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John 14:15–21 15“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. 16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17 even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.

18“I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. 19 Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. 20 In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. 21 Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Jesus gives a hard word here. “If you love me, you will keep My commandments.” Ouch. Doesn’t Jesus know we’re all sinners? Doesn’t He knew that we all fall short of God’s glory? Doesn’t He know that this statement shows that no one really loves Him? Yes, He does.

Jesus doesn’t care how many e-mails you forward or Facebook statuses you repost saying that you love Him. If you want to show that you love Jesus, it’s pretty simple – keep His commandments.

By your own actions – your every thought, word, and deed – you show that you don’t love Jesus. You aren’t devoted to Him. You aren’t ‘s-o-u-l-e-d out’ for Jesus. Your actions reveal that you disregard Jesus and His Word.

“If you love me.” We are wary of statements that begin like this and rightly so. Kids say this type of thing to their parents, “If you really loved me, you would let me stay out later.” Or, “If you really loved me, you wouldn’t make me do so many chores.” Spouses use this type of phrase as coercion. Have you said the phrase, “If you really loved me…” (or some similar statement) before making a selfish request of your spouse?

But simply because we sinners abuse phrases like the one Jesus makes here, that doesn’t mean that Jesus is abusing the statement. Jesus’ statement is simple: “If you love Me, obey Me.”

Yet, we don’t obey Jesus, and therefore, we don’t love Jesus. And that is not ok. Jesus meant what He said, and it is not good for you to somehow work your way around His clear statement.

Of course we know that Jesus forgives. Jesus is in the forgiveness business. You can always come to Him and say, “I have shown that I have not loved you because I have not obeyed you.” And Jesus will always meet that confession by saying, “I forgive you.”

But He doesn’t detract His statement. He doesn’t have this command struck from the record of Scripture. The law stands, “If you love Me, obey Me. Love God. Love your neighbor.”

But this command isn’t the only word He gives in these verses. He promises to send a Helper. Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit. Jesus promises that He will not leave us as orphans. Then He speaks an even stronger word than “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” He says, “Because I live, you also will live.”Thomas Sees Jesus

I like stories. There are good stories and bad stories. Bad stories fix all the problems of the characters. Even worse stories fix all the problems of everyone. Good stories imitate life – in this life there is no “happily ever after.” The best stories don’t tie up all the loose ends – instead, they leave you hanging a little bit.

In the parable of the Prodigal Son (arguably Jesus’ most beloved parable), you are left hanging. The son who left home and wasted away his inheritance is showered with forgiveness and welcomed home with a banquet. But the story ends with older son, the son who stayed, hearing the invitation to join the celebration; however, you aren’t told how the story ends. Does he swallow his pride and join party? We aren’t told. We are left in the dark.

The story of Jesus’ ministry is the best story ever, and frankly it leaves you hanging too.

Imagine Jesus as a lifeguard. He strolls the beach carefully watching the swimmers. He realizes that there is a strong undertow, so He calls everyone out of the water. People complain, but they comply. Instead of an afternoon of swimming in the cool waves, they settle for playing Frisbee and volleyball on the beach.

Suddenly, a young boy cries out, “Hey look out there! There’s a girl drowning!” Sure enough, a girl is struggling in the waves and getting pulled further and further out. Lifeguard Jesus dashes across the sand and dives into the breakers. The girl flails her arms trying to stay above the water. The crowds wonder if Jesus will make it in time.

Finally, He reaches her. But He too begins to flounder in the waves. Suddenly, he goes under and doesn’t come up again. The girl is now alone and helpless, and she too sinks for the last time below the rough surf.

The people on the beach can’t believe it. The lifeguard gave His life trying to save the girl, but now both are dead.

The police show up. They get the whole story from the crowds on the beach. People are dumbstruck. How could this have happened?

One officer searches the lifeguard’s stand. He finds a clipboard where the lifeguard had written on a small slip of paper, “Everything is ok. The girl is safe in My death.”

The whole town is talking about the tragedy. It leads the evening news. People admire the Lifeguard for doing His job, but they begin to wonder if He really had the qualifications to be a lifeguard in the first place. He should have been able to rescue her. He shouldn’t have drowned.

Three days later, people are still shocked, but they are timidly coming back to the beach. Who do they find there, but the very Lifeguard who had drowned. He is back on the stand. They all ask Him, “What happened? Where have You been? Where’s the girl?” He insists, “The girl is fine. Didn’t you get My note? She is safe in My death.”

The Lifeguard shows up on the beach every now and then for a month. People still ask Him the same question, “What happened?” But He gives the same answer. And then one day, He is just gone.Jesus Coming out of the Tomb

This Thursday marks 40 days after Easter when Jesus Christ physically ascended to heaven. Jesus is sitting there with His nail-scarred hands and feet. He is seated at the right hand of the Father with His pierced side. There He lives. Death has done its worst to Him. Death got even worse than it gave. Death could not hold Jesus. And death was defeated by Christ’s death.

As surely as He is raised, you too will rise.

Jesus dies, rises, and sticks around just long enough to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that He is really, truly risen. Then, He leaves. But His life is your life. If Jesus lives, you too will live.

Jesus no longer appears like He did during the forty days after His resurrection. This is a good thing. If Jesus continued to appear here and there like He did during those forty days after His resurrection, we would have to wonder if He was really with us whenever we didn’t see Him. The ascension of Jesus proves what He said on the cross, “It is finished.” Jesus doesn’t have any work left to do. His work of reconciling you with the Father is complete.

Because He lives, you also will live. Amen.[1]

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

 

[1] I am thankful to Robert F. Capon for the lifeguard illustration which he uses in a couple of his books.

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John 14:1-14 – Let Not Your Hearts Be Troubled

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John 14:1-14—“Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. 2 In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. 4 And you know the way to where I am going.”

5Thomas said to him, “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

8Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. 11 Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.

12“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. 13 Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.”

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

I want to tell you a little bit about how I prepare my sermons.

The first couple of days in my work week are spent studying the text. I read it often. I read the other texts appointed for the week trying to see how they shed light on the sermon text. I plow through the original language trying to find some of the major words and phrases that are being highlighted. I read commentary after commentary after commentary. I read and listen to sermons on the text as well.

I try to find things in the text that shed new light on the passage. My goal in all of this is to write a sermon that will deliver Jesus to you and to me. I am always blessed by all the studying and grappling with the text. I need to hear these sermons, and I am blessed by them.

Sinful Tree PersonAs your pastor, I covet your prayers, and I know that many of you are very faithful about praying for me and my family. This was an extremely hectic and rough week for me personally. And this sermon, more than any of the 289 others I have preached here in the past four years and five months, is what I need to hear today.

My prayer, as always, is that it is a blessing for you as well.

“Let not your hearts be troubled,” Jesus says to the disciples. But why would the disciples’ hearts be troubled? They are troubled because of what Jesus said just a few moments before in Jn. 13:33, “Little children, yet a little while I am with you and where I am going you cannot come.” Where is He going? He is going away. He is going to the cross, to His death, to His tomb, to the resurrection.

The disciples cannot go with Jesus. He is going the way in which they cannot go. He is going to accomplish the salvation that they need and that you and I need.

So Jesus comforts them. “Let not your hearts be troubled.”

Jesus promises that He is going to prepare a place for the disciples. The first seven verses of our text have been read at almost every funeral I have done. They are comforting words that Jesus gives. The words promise God’s protection and abiding care through eternity.

But Jesus goes on. “Let not your hearts be troubled,” because Jesus promises the disciples that He is in the Father. The words that He has spoken in the past and that He is speaking now are the words that God the Father wants Him to speak.

But Jesus still goes on. “Let not your hearts be troubled,” because Jesus promises that the disciples will do even greater works than He has done during His ministry. He invites them to remember that He has healed the sick, opened the ears of the deaf, restored sight to the blind, and even raised the dead. But the disciples will still do even greater works. How foolish we often are looking and waiting for spectacular things to happen while we close our eyes and neglect to see the works Jesus is doing right here – delivering words of forgiveness, life, and salvation.

But Jesus still doesn’t stop there. “Let not your hearts be troubled.” Jesus makes a reckless promise that whatever His disciples ask in His name – whatever they ask – He will do it so that God will be glorified. Do we really believe that whatever we ask in Jesus’ name He will give us? We should. Jesus is not a liar; He is a man of His word.

Temptations of the world and MonastacismThis world is filled with troubles and sin and death. This world throws all sorts of sufferings and crosses that trouble our hearts. But Jesus’ words in this text show that no matter what comes our way, God is using them to conform us, His chosen, elect children, into the image of His Son. “For neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Ro. 8:38-39).”

“Let not your hearts be troubled.” Jesus wants us to know that He will lead us to His presence. Jesus wants us to know God’s loving heart which was willing to sacrifice His only Son for us. Jesus wants us to know that because of His grace all is well for us both in this life and the next.

“Let not your hearts be troubled.” Believe in God; believe in Jesus. Those are His words for us today. In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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

John 10:1-21 – In Christ, Your Cup Overflows with Life

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John 10:1-21—“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber. 2 But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 To him the gatekeeper opens. The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has brought out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice. 5 A stranger they will not follow, but they will flee from him, for they do not know the voice of strangers.” 6 This figure of speech Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

7So Jesus again said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8 All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture. 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.”

11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 He who is a hired hand and not a shepherd, who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. 13 He flees because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.

14 “I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

17 “For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life that I may take it up again. 18 No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father.”

19 There was again a division among the Jews because of these words. 20 Many of them said, “He has a demon, and is insane; why listen to him?” 21 Others said, “These are not the words of one who is oppressed by a demon. Can a demon open the eyes of the blind?”

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

The most important rule in real estate is, “Location, location, location.” The same rule applies to interpreting Scripture, but since Scripture’s location isn’t geographical but the written word, we need to tweak the rule. The most important rule in interpreting Scripture is, “Context, context, context.”

So what is the context for our passage this morning? I’m glad you asked. The context is Jesus’ healing of the man born blind which begins at Jn. 9:1 and continues through all forty-one verses of that chapter. But the passage shouldn’t be broken at 10:1. Sometimes the chapter breaks in the Bible do you no favors. The story of the man born blind doesn’t end until 10:21.

It has been six weeks since our sermon text was Jn. 9 where Jesus heals the man born blind. So let me give you a summary of that chapter. Jesus heals the man born blind. The Pharisees accuse the man of lying that Jesus healed him; they say he must have never been blind at all. The Pharisees summon the man’s parents. They confirm that he is their son who was born blind. But they are fearful of the Pharisees so they make their son tell his own story of how his sight was restored. The man repeatedly says that Jesus opened his eyes. The Pharisees say that Jesus is a nobody and a sinner, and they try to get the man to accuse Jesus of being guilty of sin, but he refuses. So they throw him out of the synagogue. After he is thrown out, Jesus finds the man and tells him that He is the Christ. And the man believes.

The last three verses of Jn. 9 quote Jesus speaking some of the harshest Law recorded in all the Gospels and are an important lead-up to our text. Jn. 9:39–41 39 Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” 40 Some of the Pharisees near Him heard these things, and said to Him, “Are we also blind?” 41 Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.”

After these harsh words of law, the scene continues with our sermon text which is the heart of the Gospel message. Jesus speaks about this Good Shepherd stuff. Jesus tells this little parable – a “figure of speech” – about the sheep and how desperately they need the shepherd to lead them safely into the sheepfold.

However, as the Pharisees and the crowds listen to this figure of speech, they don’t understand, so Jesus explains it more fully. Jesus says that He is the Door through which the sheep enter safety. Only by entering through Jesus will a person be saved and find good, green pasture, still waters, and restoration of the soul.

Blessings from the CrossJesus says that He is the Good Shepherd of Ps. 23 who provides security in the valley of the shadow of death, He prepares the table, and He pours into your cup so that it overflows.

Only in Jesus does your cup flow over with life.

Your Good Shepherd says, “I have come that they may have life.” If Jesus has come so that you can have life, than what did you have before? You had the absence of life – you owned death.

Because of our sin, we all are the owners and creators of death. We are born dead, and we perpetuate death. We spread death through our words and actions which are all sinful and unclean. Even though we live, we are the walking dead.

Annalise and Naomi, and our boys for that matter, love singing the song “In Summer” from the new Disney movie Frozen. The song is sung by a snowman, Olaf, who is magically alive. Olaf has never experienced summer, but he really, really wants to. Olaf sings about how he can’t wait for summer to come so he can go lie down in the burning sand and get a tan. He wants to see “what happens to solid water when it gets warm.” As Olaf sings about summer he imagines walking through the green grass and sings, “Winter’s a good time to stay in and cuddle, but put me in summer and I’ll be a… happy snowman!”

The song is actually a good picture of us in our sin. We live our lives in a blissful, sinful ignorance. Because of sin, our days are numbered. We will all melt in the coming judgment of God.

But your Good Shepherd says, “I have come that you may have life and have it abundantly.” This is much more holistic than you or I can possibly imagine. Because of the Good Shepherd and His work, He gives you life. This is the reason Jesus, the Son of God, the Good Shepherd, entered creation.

Passion of Christ on the CrossHow does the Good Shepherd give this life? By lying down His life for you, the sheep. Five times in v. 11-18 Jesus says that He is the Good Shepherd because He lays down His life for you sheep. The Good Shepherd gives up His life for you. “He overcomes the wolf by filling the wolf’s mouth with His own body and thus saves the sheep from being lost” (Rev. David Petersen).

Your Good Shepherd lays down His life for you. No one took Jesus’ life from Him; He laid it down Himself so that He could take it up again,.

Brother and sister, in your Good Shepherd, you have abundant life. Even death becomes life in the hands of the Good Shepherd because He conquered death by rising from the grave. The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the law, but your Good Shepherd has given His life so that you too have victory over the law and sin and death (1 Cor. 15:56).

Easter season is not just about celebrating the fact that Jesus is risen from the dead, but that you also are risen with Him. Just as your Good Shepherd has risen so you too have risen. Where your Good Shepherd is, there you are also. Amen.

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

Luke 24:13-35 – He Was Known to Them in the Breaking of the Bread

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Luke 24:13-35—That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, 14 and they were talking with each other about all these things that had happened. 15 While they were talking and discussing together, Jesus himself drew near and went with them. 16 But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. 17 And he said to them, “What is this conversation that you are holding with each other as you walk?”

And they stood still, looking sad. 18 Then one of them, named Cleopas, answered him, “Are you the only visitor to Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?”

19And he said to them, “What things?”Jesus meets the disciples on the road to Emmaus

And they said to him, “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, 20 and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. 21 But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. 22 Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, 23 and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. 24 Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”

25And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. 28 So they drew near to the village to which they were going. He acted as if he were going farther, 29 but they urged him strongly, saying, “Stay with us, for it is toward evening and the day is now far spent.”

Jesus eats with the Emmaus disciplesSo he went in to stay with them. 30 When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them. 31 And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And he vanished from their sight. 32 They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”

33And they rose that same hour and returned to Jerusalem. And they found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, 34 saying, “The Lord has risen indeed, and has appeared to Simon!” 35 Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he was known to them in the breaking of the bread.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

Eating is a significant part of our lives. We have to eat to live. We connect eating with important events in our lives. We’re going to have a potluck after completing a year of Sunday School in a couple of weeks. Most weddings and funerals are followed by eating together with the other guests. Who ever heard of going to a graduation open house where there wasn’t food? Just try to think of a time when you had guests over to your house or you were someone else’s guest when food wasn’t at least offered.

The average person spends about six years of their life eating. Our son, Elijah, turns seven tomorrow. It is hard to imagine that if you broke up his life into activities, he would still be clearing his place from the six years of eating.

Eating is significant in Scripture too. Significant events in the Bible are centered around food and eating. Jacob bought Esau’s birthright in exchange for soup. After God changed Jacob’s name to Israel, he and his sons moved to Egypt because they needed food to eat. God’s act of delivering the nation of Israel out of Egypt was connected with the Passover meal. When the nation of Israel was in the wilderness, they were concerned about food, so God gave them manna and quail. When Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from death, He commanded that she be given something to eat (Mk. 5:43). Jesus fed the multitudes. And almost every time Jesus appears after the resurrection you see people eating.

Scripture tells us about two meals that define our existence. The first meal that defines our existence is the devastatingly fatal meal in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3ff).

Adam and EveGod had instructed Adam, “Do not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Satan came. He came disguised as a scaly, slithery serpent. He taught Adam and Eve a different lesson than God had taught them.

The devil said that they were blind to what that forbidden fruit would do for them. Satan promised, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Eve ate, and so did Adam. Their eyes were opened for sure, but they saw that they were naked. Their eyes were open to evil and death. Then they saw God and tried to hide themselves from His sight because they saw too much. “The parents of the human race – and we in and with them were left – with a belly full of food, but a life empty of God” (Chad Bird).

Because they ate, God has hidden Himself from humanity. God’s existence and presence is visible everywhere we look in creation (Ro. 1:19-21), but we do not see God Himself. And even though we see God’s presence, we sinfully do everything we can to ignore Him. We do not fear and love Him. Because of our sin, which we have inherited and constantly commit, we cannot see God and live.

But look at what God does here for the disciples on the road to Emmaus – Jesus Himself walks with them. But Cleopas and the other disciple do not recognize Jesus. They were just like you, “Their eyes were kept from recognizing Him.” Their hopes for deliverance and redemption were dashed to pieces as the man who was mighty in deed and word before God and all the people was smashed on the cross and killed. Cleopas goes on lamenting, “Some of the women who are with us went to the tomb this morning, but they didn’t see Jesus’ body. They said they saw a vision of angels who said that Jesus is alive. But we haven’t seen Him.”

Cleopas said all this looking sad (v. 17). He is still mourning even though He is looking straight at the risen Savior. You have to love Jesus’ response, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

Then look at what Jesus does. He teaches them, but unlike Satan’s tricksy and false lesson about how to become like God, Jesus teaches the disciples a lesson about how God became like them. Jesus teaches them that His suffering was necessary for His own glory and for theirs too. Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself. What a Bible study that must have been. You would think that with His mastery of teaching the Scriptures, the disciples would have recognized Him, but they still don’t.

They reach the village they were going to, and beg Jesus to stay with them as a guest. But look at what happens – the Guest becomes the Host. As He was at the table with them, Jesus took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to them. (Sound familiar?)

Just as Adam and Eve’s eyes were opened to their nakedness and their sin and their death after eating the forbidden fruit, the disciples’ eyes were opened to see Jesus – real Jesus in whom is Life. It was only after receiving that bread from the hand of Jesus that Cleopas and the other disciple recognize Him. They recognize Jesus, and what does He do? He does a disappearing act and vanishes! Why? Where did He go?

You know what? He didn’t go anywhere. He wasn’t visible, but He was still there. Before He died, Jesus had blessed bread, broke it, and gave it to His disciples saying, “This is My body.” Cleopas and the other disciple were still holding that bread. They still had Jesus physically present with them in the bread.

Communion Cross with JesusFaith is a gift of God, and you can’t get it until God gives it to you. God gives you faith through the teaching of the Scriptures and through His Supper. You see, Jesus wants us to connect His teaching with this Sacrament. He wants you to know Him as the suffering Savior with His body broken and His blood shed – for you.

He is here now teaching you His Word and revealing Himself to you in His Supper.

Do you want to want to know Jesus better? Learn from Him in His Word.

Do you want to see Jesus? Open your mouth. Take, eat the body of Christ given unto death for your sins. Take, drink the blood of Christ, shed for the forgiveness of your sins. Amen.

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