Genesis 22:1-18 – The Son is Slaughtered

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Genesis 22:1-18

1 After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” 6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. 7 And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together.

9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. abraham sacrificing isaac 210 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The Lord will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the Lord it shall be provided.”

15 And the angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

This text draws you in. The details paint a vivid picture that makes you wonder what it was like for the characters in the story. I wonder what Abraham’s wife, Isaac’s mother, Sarah, thought of this father-son trip. Did she know why they were leaving? Or was it the shock of hearing what happened that killed her? (She dies six verses after this text). What about the servants who accompany Abraham and Isaac? What kind of conversations did they have with their master and his son on the three-day journey? Or were the daily marches and nightly campfires morbidly quiet? And how did Isaac get on top of the wood; did Abraham have to wrestle with him? Probably not, but the text doesn’t say; or how did Abraham go about explaining to Isaac what the plan was?

But what is usually the biggest question, how could Abraham go through all of this? That question is what makes this story so mesmerizing and etches it into our minds.

Listen to how God starts this whole circus – He says, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering.” God Himself pours on the sentimental words and phrases then says, “Slit his throat and burn him to a charred crisp – reduce him to ashes.”

And Abraham rises early in the morning, saddles his donkey, takes his two servants and his son, and cuts the wood for the offering.

On the third day – those words are so precious wherever they come up in Scripture – on the third day, Abraham saw the place from afar. Abraham tells his servants to stay with the donkey, but then listen carefully to what Abraham says. One subject governs all the verbs, but I’m going to supply the subject before every verb, “I and the boy will go over there. I and the boy will worship. And I and the boy will come again to you.”

Isaac Carries the WoodAbraham takes the wood and lays it on his son, and Isaac carries his own location of death.

Abruptly, Isaac speaks up, “My father!”

“Here I am, my son.”

“Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” A poignant, touching question.

But we need to interrupt the text. We need to slow down and gaze at Abraham’s answer and ponder it. The Hebrew word here in v. 8 which gets translated ‘provide’ is a really bad translation. The Hebrew word actually means ‘to see’ But basically every English version you can get your hands on will translate it as ‘provide.’ They say that the verb ‘to see’ here has the sense of ‘will see to it’ as in, “God will see to it Himself that there is a lamb.” But to translate it that way makes us miss something big.

Because there is one other part of Abraham’s words here that we miss in English. The most literal, wooden translation of Abraham’s response to Isaac is, “God will see Himself – a lamb” (Dr. John Saleska) God will see Himself – a lamb. Are you beginning to see?

Now, the story slows way down giving every excruciating detail. They come to the place. Abraham built the altar. He laid the wood in order. He bound his son. He laid him on top of the wood. Abraham reaches out his hand. He takes the knife to slaughter his son.

And the angel of Yahweh steps in. You can ask me about this sometime, I’m not going to take the time to fully explain it in this sermon, but the “angel of Yahweh” in the Old Testament is Jesus. For now, the only proof I’ll offer is that the angel of Yahweh speaks as God Himself with God’s same words earlier. Notice He says, “You have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.”

Abraham lifts up his eyes and “looked” (same word that means ‘see’ but gets translated ‘provide’ earlier) and there is a ram crowned with thorns in a thicket.

Passover LambAbraham offers up the ram as a burnt offering instead of his son. And Abraham names that place, “Yahweh will see.” And it became a saying, “On the mount of Yahweh it will be seen.”

Again, do you see? The Son is slaughtered, but not in this text. Jesus stops this sacrifice because He will be the sacrifice. Isaac could not bear the sins of the world. But Jesus could. In Jesus, God did see Himself – the Lamb, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

Jesus, the son of God, the only begotten Son of God, the Son in whom the Father is well pleased came. Jesus, the Son, was offered by the Father as a burnt offering for your sins. Jesus carried His own wood, His own place of death. Jesus was caught in a crown of thorns. Jesus willingly let Himself be slaughtered. And God did not stop Himself.

What does that mean for you? Romans 8:32 says, “He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?”

Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the wolrdOn Mount Calvary, God saw Himself – the lamb. On the mount of Yahweh, God saw. And now, when He looks at you, all He sees is Jesus. Amen.

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

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Mark 9:2-9 – To the Top of the Mountain! (Warning: This is not a pleasant sermon)

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Mark 9:2-9

2 And after six days Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, 3 and his clothes became radiant, intensely white, as no one on earth could bleach them. 4 And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus. 5 And Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good that we are here. Let us make three tents, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 For he did not know what to say, for they were terrified. 7 And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” 8 And suddenly, looking around, they no longer saw anyone with them but Jesus only.

9 And as they were coming down the mountain, he charged them to tell no one what they had seen, until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Transfiguration by RaphaelToday, it is important for us to go to the top of the mountain. Today, it is important for us to see this event in Christ’s life, to see Jesus transfigured, metamorphosized. Today, it is important for us to see His clothes turn radiantly white – brighter than the sun glaring off of freshly fallen snow. Today, it is important for us to see Jesus’ face shining more brightly than if He had swallowed the sun. As Peter said, “It is good that we are here.”

The Transfiguration is full of the imagery of the Resurrection. In fact, one liberal theologian, who denies that Mark is divinely inspired, has said that this text is a misplaced Resurrection scene. He says that Mark made a mistake when he wrote the Gospel and put a scene of the resurrected Jesus right smack in the middle of the Gospel. Oops. Well, he is wrong, but this text is a preview of the resurrection glory of Jesus.

It is good for us to see this vision of Jesus today, the last Sunday before Lent because the next six weeks will be focused on the cross. The glory of Jesus will fade, and we will follow Jesus down the mountain and into the valley of the shadow of death. Over the next six weeks, the glory radiating from Jesus on the mountain will disappear from our sight as we watch Him be beaten, whipped, stripped, crucified, dead, and laid in the grave. The glory revealed here will be hidden behind suffering. But the glory of the Transfiguration will once again be visible on Easter after Jesus is raised, and that glory will never fade.

But we cannot put the cart before the horse. There is no resurrection unless death comes first.

The Transfiguration occurs six days after Jesus told the disciples that He must suffer, be rejected, killed, and rise again (Mk. 8:31). Peter didn’t want to hear this. He didn’t want this to happen to Jesus – understandably so. Peter rebuked Jesus for saying that this would happen to Him, and Jesus rebuked Peter for setting his mind on the things of man and not on the things of God.

The glory that is revealed here in the Transfiguration is the glory that Christ receives because He is God’s Suffering Servant. Christ is glorious because He bears your sins. The Transfiguration serves as a preview of what is coming. The glory that shines forth on this mountain before Peter, James, and John is a glimpse of what will come. It is how Jesus will appear after He has risen from the dead. But Jesus can’t stay on the mountain. Jesus can’t dwell in Peter’s tent because He hasn’t yet done His glorious work. Jesus has not yet died for the sins of the world (Php. 2:6-9). Defeat must come before victory. Death must come before resurrection. Suffering must come before glory. This is God’s way, and it is not completely foreign to us.

Take the story of Cinderella for example: You can tell the story in a way that makes it completely forgettable. “Once upon a time, there was a girl who married a prince, and they lived happily ever after.” Boring.

CinderellaOnly when you hear the whole story does the happily ever after mean something. “Once upon a time, there was a girl named Cinderella. After her mother died, her dad married a wicked woman who had two nasty, ugly daughters. Then Cinderella’s dad died too. Her step-mother and step-sisters made Cinderella their slave. But then Cinderella gets a taste of the good life – she is given beautiful coach with magnificent horses. She gets beautiful shoes, mascara, and a stunning evening gown. She dances all night with the prince. But then – bong, bong, bong, bong. Back down she goes. But the prince eventually finds her, marries her, and she lives happily ever after.

Your story follows the same pattern. You are born dead in sin. You are brought to the waters of baptism where God puts His name upon you. You are forgiven and declared innocent before God. You have been raised up with Christ and seated with Him in the heavenly places (Eph. 2:5-6). But you now live in the time of suffering. You live in the time after the clock has struck twelve, and you wait for Jesus to bring you to the palace and live happily ever after.

But suffering currently hides that glory. We need to be ok with that because it is reality. We do ourselves no favors if we deny this fact. Do you want to follow after Christ? Listen to what He says right before the Transfiguration, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me” (Mk. 8:34).

In this world, as a sinner saved by Jesus, you have tribulation (Jn. 16:33). Your husband, father, or friend will have a stroke and not be able to talk. You will have back issues that cause you pain and discomfort for months. Crying to GodYour loved ones will die. Your kids will make bad choices and cause you all sorts of heartache. And you can shake your fist at God and be angry with Him. Or you can endure the suffering. And you can even rejoice in your suffering. Rejoice in suffering? Yes. Rejoice in suffering, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into your hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to you (Ro. 5:3-5).

This Lenten season, you will watch your Savior go to the cross. You will behold Him as He suffers, bleeds, and dies. But you will watch all of that pain and suffering knowing what lies at the end – the resurrection.

The resurrection also awaits you. But for now, you suffer. You suffer until your own transfiguration is complete. “We all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed (transfigured, metamorphosized just as Christ was on the mountain) into the same image” (2 Cor. 3:18).

O wondrous type! O vision fair
of glory that the Church may share,
which Christ upon the mountain shows,
where brighter than the sun He glows!

With Moses and Elijah nigh
th’incarnate Lord holds converse high;
and from the cloud the Holy One
bears record to the only Son.

With shining face and bright array
Christ deigns to manifest today
what glory shall be theirs above
who joy in God with perfect love.

O Father, with the’eternal Son
and Holy Spirit ever one,
We pray Thee, bring us by Thy grace
to see Thy glory face to face.[1] Amen.

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

[1] “O Wondrous Type! O Vision Fair” LSB #413

Mark 1:29-39 – Bringing the Reign of God – To You (A Frantic Sermon)

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Mark 1:29-39

29 And immediately he left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay ill with a fever, and immediately they told him about her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

32 That evening at sundown they brought to him all who were sick or oppressed by demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together at the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons. And he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

35 And rising very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he departed and went out to a desolate place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him searched for him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is looking for you.” 38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

FranticThe Gospel of Mark moves along at a frantic pace. No time to stop and look at the scenery in Mark. No time to take a selfie. In last week’s text, Jesus preached in Capernaum’s synagogue and immediately a demon shows up. Jesus silenced the demon and cast it out of the man. The people were left astonished and wondering who this Jesus is.

But there is no slowing down. With the loud cries of the demon still echoing in the synagogue, Mark is already herding us to the next thing. “Immediately He left the synagogue and entered the house of Simon (Peter) and Andrew, with James and John.” Into that unremarkable house Jesus enters.

You can imagine the reaction of Peter’s family, “If there aren’t enough chairs, we can sit on the floor. If only we had known You were coming, Jesus – everything is such a mess. We’ve had our hands full taking of mother-in-law, You know what a bother she can be, and our men have been no help at all, off listening to some new Preacher – that is You” (Nagel).

“Immediately” on hearing about mother-in-law, Jesus marches to her. Jesus doesn’t knock on the door to make sure if mother-in-law is decent or presentable enough for Him to enter the room. Jesus doesn’t pause. He simply goes to her. He enters the woman’s room and sits next to her bed – not really a place for a man to be. Jesus heals Peter's Mother-in-law 1Here is the Messiah, the Holy One of God, who is preaching about the reign of God – whose presence is the reign of God. Straight to the bed and to the feverish, flustered women He comes. “There is nothing more important in all the world than for Jesus to be there for the sick woman” (Nagel). Sent with the task of redeeming the whole world, Jesus is there just for her.

Jesus takes her by the hand. Jesus lifts her up, and the fever leaves her. Last week, the demon asked Jesus, “Have You come to destroy us?” But now, the Man whose presence puts the fear of fire into demons removes the fire of fever from Peter’s mother-in-law.

She doesn’t begin to worship Jesus. She doesn’t leave her family to dedicate herself to some spiritual service to God. She does what is right for her to do. She serves. She puts on the coffee and cooks her favorite recipe.

You know how weak you can be when you are sick and even when you get better it still takes days for your strength to return? Yeah, none of that here. Mother-in-law moves from coughing, feverish, and bed-ridden to serving. The restoration that Jesus brings is full and complete. No trace of the fever remains. The fever “left” her. Just so you know, that’s the same word that gets translated often as “forgive.”

From that day on she was never the same. She knew to whom she was precious – to Jesus, the Man whom the boys had brought home. That old woman knew that the reign of God had come to her.

Just as Jesus was for Peter’s mother-in-law so He is for you. He doesn’t look for people who are worthy. He doesn’t seek the pure and holy. He walks straight to those who are unworthy. He approaches those who are in need. Only His worthiness matters. He walks to you, not you to Him. He takes you by the hand, you don’t take His. “He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength” (Is. 40:29).

Jesus lifted Peter’s mother-in-law up. He lifts you up too. “Lifts you up” – that’s the word for “resurrection.” He resurrects you who are dead in sin. He forgives you, removing your sin and restoring you. He does all this so that “at the last day, [He] will raise up [you] and all the dead and will grant everlasting life to [you] and to all who believe in Christ. This is most certainly true.”

As important as it was for Jesus to do all of this for Peter’s mother-in-law, Jesus wasn’t content just raising her up. He wasn’t satisfied healing all the sick and demonized in Capernaum. He insists on moving on. Christ of St John on the Cross Salvador DaliHe has one goal in mind. He has come to do His Father’s will. He has come to die. Jesus dies for the same reason you will die – because of sin. Jesus raises you up because He was raised up from the earth on the cross with the sins of the world on Himself. Because of His death, your sins have left you. Because He rose again from the dead, you can know that you too will rise from the dead. In your baptism you were united with Jesus’ death so you too can rise again (Ro. 6:4-5).

Jesus brings the reign of God to you so that He can fill you. You can go from this house raised up by Jesus with your sins gone. Jesus is present here, bringing the reign of God to you. There is nothing more important in all the world to Jesus than to be here for you. He sees your helplessness. He knows your unworthiness. But He is not deterred. He comes to you. Takes you by the hand. Raises you up. He serves you. And all your evil, all your sin, all your badness leaves you.

And your life is forever changed. You know to whom you are important. You know to whom you belong. You know that Jesus has brought the reign of God to you. 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 a sermon by Rev. Dr. Norman Nagel as inspiration for this sermon.

Mark 1:21-28 – Unclean? No Problem!

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Mark 1:21–28

21 And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. 22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. 23 And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. 27 And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28 And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

This Sabbath probably began like every other Sabbath in Capernaum. Families were scrambling to get ready and out the door so they could to go to synagogue. Fathers hounding their kids to finish breakfast and get their teeth brushed because they already running late. Mothers arguing with daughters about what was and what was not appropriate to wear to synagogue. Sons complaining that the services were too long. Elderly people trying to prepare themselves for another boring sermon. Boring sermons are nothing new.

People entered the synagogue and nestled themselves into the benches that served as pews (pews aren’t new either). The liturgy began. Opening prayers taken from the Psalms were prayed. The hymns were sung. The creed confessed. The Scripture lessons read. With the Scriptures still ringing in their ears, it was time for the sermon. Normally, the preacher would cite rabbi after rabbi. “Rabbi so-and-so learned from rabbi so-and-so who learned from rabbi so-and-so who learned from rabbi so-and-so that this text means….” Scintillating, isn’t it?

But this seemingly normal Sabbath would take a turn. Things would never be the same for the faithful of Capernaum. Today, they would hear a message from God unlike any other. They would hear God speak. They would hear God’s word from the lips of the Prophet that Moses spoke of (Dt. 18:15-19). But this Prophet was more than a prophet. His words were the words of God spoken by the Word of God made flesh.

Jesus Teaching at CapernaumThis particular Sabbath, Jesus preaches. But Jesus doesn’t preach like anyone else. Jesus preaches with authority, “You have heard it said of old… but I say to you (Mt. 5:21ff). Oh, and by the way, the time is fulfilled and reign of God is here. Get rid of your sin. Confess it. I’ll take it. I’ll deal with it, and it will be gone forever. Repent and believe the Gospel.”

The people are sitting there in their pews and thinking, “Whoa. This is different.” Some find it refreshing; others find it disturbing. The best way to get people riled up is to change something at church. But as disturbed as the people sitting in the pews were. Satan and the demons were even more upset.

Right in the middle of Jesus’ sermon, all hell breaks loose – literally. A man with an unclean spirit – a demon – was present in the synagogue that day. In the middle of holy worship, a demon cries out, “What have You to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God.”

Jesus heals a Demonic at CapernaumBut Jesus keeps right on preaching. He preaches directly to the demon. He doesn’t use swift spiritual ninja moves to shut the demon up. He simply uses words, “Be silent, and come out of Him.” And the evil, unclean spirit obeys. The demon threw the man into convulsions. And the screaming – can you imagine how violent this would have looked? And all of this is happening right in the middle of church! But the evil spirit leaves and the man is unharmed (Lk. 4:35).

The normal reverence of the service was gone. People erupted in astonishment. “What is going on here? We hear this new teaching – these Gospel-filled words – and now we see evil spirits obeying this Guy? This is crazy!” It was the talk of the town. The news spread. Twitter lit up. People throughout the region were hearing about this Jesus who uses words with authority.

Today, we tend to hear stories like this and think of some bygone era when miracles took place. We wonder where the epic battles between God and the forces of hell are taking place today. Maybe we wish something like this would happen here at Christ the King. If we could see this happen, then we would have a story for our friends and neighbors, “Hey, you’ll never guessed what happened at church this week…” Maybe then more people would come and we’d have to add those extra spaces to our parking lot. Maybe we’d even have to add a second service or build a larger sanctuary. But here we are with nothing but our same old liturgy, the same old sermons, the same old words.

But hold on now; just a second. The same Jesus who teaches with authority and commands evil spirits is the same God who is speaking through the liturgy, through the sermons, through the same words.

The demon asked Jesus, “Have you come to destroy us?” The answer is, “Yes.” Jesus came to destroy the power that Satan, the demons, death, sin, and all evil has over His creation. These few verses from Mark are a microcosm of what Jesus, the Holy One of God, does here and now.

You see, there are only two kingdoms – a kingdom of darkness and a kingdom of light. A kingdom of evil and a kingdom of holiness. You are either under the lordship of Satan or under the lordship of God. There’s no such thing as dual citizenship.

Assailed by DemonsThe forces of hell assail our worship today. Demons are here. You have brought them with you into this holy place. Your demons of drunkenness, your demons of gossip, your demons of adultery, your demons of hatred, your demons of laziness, your demons of despising the Word of God. Don’t just give them little pet names. Call them what they are! They are evil, wicked, damnable sins. They too need to be silenced and ripped out of you. And that is precisely why Christ is here – to remove your demons with His words.

And that is precisely what Jesus has done. He has conquered sin, death, the devil, and all of hell’s strength through His death and resurrection. And Jesus still wages war on evil through His Words. He’s been doing it all through our service. Through the Absolution, Jesus speaks His words to you that you are forgiven, freed, and made holy. Through this simple sermon, Jesus speaks to you that you are delivered by His prefect life, His atoning death, and His glorious resurrection. And, soon, the climax of it all, when you will come to this altar, when you will be fed the body of your Savior. Where your thirst for righteousness will be quenched by the blood of your Redeemer.

Are you unclean? Absolutely. But that’s no problem because here’s Jesus – for you. Amen.

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