Humble – Sermon for Palm Sunday on Matthew 21:1-9 & Matthew 27:11-54

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Our service today included the Rite of Confirmation.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Palm Sunday King of GloryThe first words of Scripture you heard in today’s service told how Jesus rode into Jerusalem. Matthew tells us that it happened this way to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, “Behold, your king is coming to you, humble, and mounted on a donkey” (Zech. 9:9 quoted in Mt. 21:5). That word that gets translated as ‘humble’ means ‘of no importance.’

But then, people welcome Jesus with shouts of, “Hosanna” which means, “save us now.” The people spread their cloaks and palm branches as a royal runner. The people welcome Jesus as their King. And for the first time in His life, Jesus accepts their praises.

If Zechariah prophesized that when Jesus comes that He is considered to be of no importance, why do the crowds welcome Him the way they do?

Well, King Jesus’ humility was much lower than simply riding on a donkey. And because of that the people despise Him and reject Him. They considered Him of no importance (Is. 53:3). And that is exactly what we heard in the Gospel lesson (Mt. 27:11-54).

Jesus Cross Heaven & EarthKing Jesus didn’t come to sit as judge. Instead, He came to be judged. He didn’t have subjects who shout, “Long live the king!” Instead, they holler, “Crucify Him!” He didn’t come to command armies. Instead, He came to be beaten by soldiers. He didn’t come to be clothed in the finest garments and crowned with gold and jewels. Instead, He came to have a robe ripped from Him and be thorns pressed into His head. He didn’t come to drink fine wine from a golden chalice. Instead, He came to be offered wine mixed with gall. He didn’t come to sit in a fine hall with nobles surrounding Him. Instead, He came to hang on a splintered cross between two thieves. He didn’t come to execute justice. Instead, He came to die an unjust death.

But most importantly, He didn’t come to be blessed by God the Father. Instead, He came to be forsaken by God the Father because, there on the cross, He took all of your sin and became sin for you.

Bethany, Naomi, Siobhan, Wyatt, Gavin, Grady, Zach, Elijah, Gabriel, and all of you here: Because of the humility of Jesus, the eternal Son of God, you are made righteous. You are declared innocent, righteous, and blameless.

Yet, the world still does not recognize this. The world still sees Jesus as being of no importance. So, the world will reject you because you bear the name ‘Christian.’

The world looks at what Jesus has done and what He has given the Church, and they say it has no importance. They see the Church gathering Sunday mornings to hear the Word of God and say, “Don’t those silly Christians have anything better to do than to listen to those old-fashioned ideas?” They see Baptism and say, “What good can a little water sprinkled on a head do?” They see the Lord’s Supper and say, “What’s the big deal about a little cracker and wine?”

Word and Sacrament IconBut Christian, by God’s grace, you know better. You know that those are the very things that God has given and uses to complete the good work of faith that He began in you.

You hold fast to that Word because even though it convicts you, you know that those very Words give life. You rejoice in your Baptism because you know that God has said that it joins you to Jesus’ death and resurrection and saves you. You hunger and thirst for the Lord’s Supper because you know that God has promised that it delivers Christ’s living Body and Blood given and shed for the forgiveness of your sins.

Your King comes humbly, but He brings your salvation with Him. And He is coming again. Then, every knee will bow. Every tongue will confess that He is Lord. He is King. He is Savior, your Savior. Amen.

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

The Devil’s Lie – Sermon for the Fifth Sunday in Lent on John 8:42-59

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John 8:42–59

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God and I am here. I came not of my own accord, but he sent me. 43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot bear to hear my word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me. 46 Which one of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me? 47 Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God.”

48 The Jews answered him, “Are we not right in saying that you are a Samaritan and have a demon?” 49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, and you dishonor me. 50 Yet I do not seek my own glory; there is One who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” 52 The Jews said to him, “Now we know that you have a demon! Abraham died, as did the prophets, yet you say, ‘If anyone keeps my word, he will never taste death.’ 53 Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? And the prophets died! Who do you make yourself out to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say, ‘He is our God.’ 55 But you have not known him. I know him. If I were to say that I do not know him, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and I keep his word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” 57 So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” 59 So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

So, you wake up this morning. Shower (hopefully). Get dressed. Drive yourself over to church. Grab a cup of coffee. Catch up on how others’ week went and talk about the weather. Grab your bulletin. Sit down in your pew. Speak some Scripture. Sing some songs. Confess your faith. Pass the offering plate. And this is the Jesus you hear?

Combative Jesus. Intolerant Jesus. Name-calling Jesus. Rude Jesus.

Jesus is fed up because these people, like you, have believed the devil’s lie rather than the truth of God’s Word. So, Jesus doesn’t beat around the bush. The people arguing with Him are Satan’s spawn, children of the murdering devil.

Jesus says something extremely important here. Look at the last sentence of v. 44. Our translation reads, “When he (that is, the devil) lies, he speaks out of his own character.” What Jesus actually says is, “When [the devil] speaks the lie, he speaks out of his own character…” Now, it’s not that we have a bad translation, but that little nuance gets to the core of what the devil is constantly doing to you. He tells you his one lie.

The one lie that is under all of the devil’s work is simply this: God is not good and does not love you – which is the boldest, basest lie there is. But the devil doesn’t just come out and say that. Instead, the devil disguises that lie. Little by little, Satan is always pointing you away from Jesus crucified for the complete, total forgiveness of all your sins.

You don’t get that promotion, raise, or contract. The devil comes along and says, “You must have made God mad. Until you get yourself in order, God isn’t going to bless you or help you.”

Then, rather than fixing your eyes Christ crucified for you, you put every aspect of your life under a microscope. You examine your motivations and try to make them purer. But then when blessings do come your way, you pat yourself on the back and, like little Jack Horner, say, “What a good boy am I.” And the devil has you right where he wants you.

Or you keep falling into the same sin. No matter how hard you try, you can’t keep yourself from doing that one thing. So, the devil comes along and whispers his lie into your ear. “Sure, God said that He forgives sin. But You can’t expect Him to forgive it all the time. Maybe you haven’t repented enough. Sure, you believe in Jesus, but you must have not fully yielded to Him.”

And you fall for the devil’s bait. Your eyes are diverted just a little from Jesus. You go off and try this program to keep you from falling into sin. Or you go and try to make up for your sin by doing some good work. And you trust in your self-improvement rather than in Christ’s sacrifice.

Repent. Knock it off. Stop believing the devil’s lie. All your works, all your efforts, all your striving does is take the crucified Jesus, the only Jesus, out of the equation. It puts you in the driver’s seat of your salvation. And when your salvation, or even the maintenance and preservation of your salvation, rests on you, you are going to fall big time. And every time you fail, the devil’s lie is easier to believe.

That is why Jesus is so combative and abrasive in this text. Jesus in this passage shows us what God meant what He said that He is a jealous God (Ex. 20:5). God wants you for Himself. That is why Jesus came and gave Himself for you. He wants you to trust in Him for your salvation and for everything else.

Jesus, by His cross and death, has secured for you an eternal redemption and given you an eternal inheritance. His blood poured out for you on Calvary will absolutely purify your conscience (Heb. 9:11-15).

Jesus doesn’t give you credit or leave part of the job in your hands. He works repentance in you. He puts His Word of forgiveness in your ear. He turns your heart of stone into a heart of flesh. He raises you from death. He pays your debt in full by His precious blood.

That is Jesus’ word, that is His promise, to you. Keep that word. Trust that promise, and Jesus says, “You will never see death,” because Jesus will pull you through death to eternal life with Him. Amen.

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

It’s Not Enough – Sermon for the Fourth Sunday in Lent on John 6:1-15

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John 6:1-15

1 After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2 And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. 3 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.

5 Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” 6 He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” 10 Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. Jesus feeds the 5000 112 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. 14 When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”

15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

Armies can’t feed a crowd this size without preparing in advance. But Jesus knew all along what He was going to do. He knew that this boy would be there with his little snack of five loaves and two fish, and what Jesus does is absolutely remarkable. This miracle shows that Jesus doesn’t need soil and seed and rain and time and combines and grain elevators and flour mills and bakers and grocers to feed people bread. It shows that Jesus doesn’t need fishing boats and bait and nets and processing plants or even water to feed people fish.

But if we come away from this text seeing only Jesus’ power, we miss the point. Now, don’t get me wrong. This miracle certainly shows His power, that He is God in the flesh. But there is much more than simply that. This text shows us who we are as sinners and how generous God is. That is why the text tells us that Jesus set this whole situation up as a test (v. 6). Because we are sinners, we always think that what God provides isn’t enough. The disciples show how we aren’t content when God gives little, and the crowd shows how we aren’t content when God gives an abundance.

Phillip is the first to say there isn’t enough. Jesus asks, “Hey, Phillip. Know any good bakeries around here where we can buy bread for all these people?” Without even checking his pockets or asking the other disciples how much they have in their wallets, Phillip answers, “Whoa there Jesus. We don’t have enough. Two hundred day’s wages wouldn’t scratch the surface.”

Andrew chimes in as well. “This kid has five loaves and two fish. But it’s not enough. It’s just his afternoon snack.” The disciples see their lack and fall into despair.

You and I do the same. We never think we have enough. We sinfully think that we need more income to pay the bills, more time to get things done, more resources at our disposal. Like the disciples, we worry when there is a lack. We forget that we have a God who has promised to be our Father and give all that we need for this body and life. Jesus has promised, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you” (Mt. 6:33).

So, the disciples see their lack and say, “It’s not enough.” But Jesus proves the disciples to be wrong.

Christ extravagantly feeds the whole crowd. Jesus has them lie down. Our translation says ‘sit down,’ but Jesus has them lie down like lords, kings, and emperors at a feast so they can be served. When their ancestors were fed with mana in the wilderness, they had to go out each morning and gather it up themselves (Ex. 16:2-21). But Jesus makes sure they are waited upon.

Each and every last one of them gets to stuff their face with as much food as they like. No one is told, “Look fatty, slow down. You’ve had enough.” There is always more – even for the gluttons.

But even in the midst of this abundance, the crowds say, “It’s not enough; we need more.” They see this sign and want to make Jesus their bread king. They figure that if Jesus can provide food for them to eat like royalty, they can make Him their king and they won’t ever need to worry about food or clothes or homes or anything ever again. Just put Jesus on a throne in Jerusalem and they can live the rest of their lives on easy street.

But Jesus didn’t come to be their bread king. Jesus Himself says, “It’s not enough. I will not be your bread king. I will not be your king apart from the cross.”

Jesus came to give them more than bread and fish. He desired to give them more than food, clothing, homes, shelter and protection. Jesus had come to give them, and you, Himself.

Cross and CommunionJesus came to have His back torn by a whip and His forehead sliced open by the crown of thorns. Jesus came to have His body broken. Jesus came to have His hands and feet nailed to the cross, His side run through with a spear. Jesus came to give you every last drop of His forgiving blood. Jesus came to give you eternal mercy, forgiveness, and life.

So, don’t be like the disciples who see their lack and day, “It’s not enough.” Jesus wants you to believe when you have nothing because He will certainly provide.

And don’t be like the crowds who see the abundance and say, “It’s not enough; we want more.” Jesus wants you to receive what He gives. Don’t let it spoil. Use it knowing that He will always provide more than you will ever need.

Also, don’t forget about the boy. He is the picture of faith in contrast to both the disciples and the crowds. This boy generously gives everything he has. He doesn’t know what Jesus will do with it. He doesn’t give because there is a promise that he will be blessed or rewarded. The boy simply believes that what he gives to Jesus will be used for good. And it is. Jesus multiplies what the boy gives – multiplies it and satisfies the hunger of others.

The same is true when you give, no matter how much or how little. God can and will multiply it because God knows how to multiply the gifts that you bring and satisfy the needs of others. Amen.

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

The Finger of God – Sermon for the Third Sunday in Lent on Luke 11:14-28

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Luke 11:14–28

14 Now he was casting out a demon that was mute. When the demon had gone out, the mute man spoke, and the people marveled. Jesus Rebuking Demon15 But some of them said, “He casts out demons by Beelzebul, the prince of demons,” 16 while others, to test him, kept seeking from him a sign from heaven. 17 But he, knowing their thoughts, said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and a divided household falls. 18 And if Satan also is divided against himself, how will his kingdom stand? For you say that I cast out demons by Beelzebul. 19 And if I cast out demons by Beelzebul, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they will be your judges. 20 But if it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. 21 When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own palace, his goods are safe; 22 but when one stronger than he attacks him and overcomes him, he takes away his armor in which he trusted and divides his spoil. 23 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.

24 “When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ 25 And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. 26 Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first.”

27 As he said these things, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” 28 But he said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it!”

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

Some people will never believe. Their hearts are so hardened that, no matter how great a sign they see from the hand of God Himself, they still refuse to believe. This doesn’t mean that we should stop proclaiming the Gospel to them or stop praying for them. It is just reality. And, in fact, it is a call to further prayer because we recognize that conversion is always, always a work of the Holy Spirit chiseling away at sin-hardened hearts.

Jesus casts a mute demon out of a man. Some marveled. Some were still seeking from a sign from heaven. And some accused Jesus of casting out the demon by the power of Beelzebul (which means ‘lord of the flies’ a derogatory title for Satan stating that the devil is the lord of the dung heap).

Now, as illogical as the accusation is, we need to see how that it infinitely more blasphemous. Jesus delivers a man from a demon that made him mute. But people say, “Jesus is doing the devil’s work.”

And we need to pause here because nothing has changed. This world still calls good evil and evil good. If you are pro-life, you are sexist who just wants to control women’s bodies. If you stand for marriage as God created it or believe that men are men and women are women, you are homophobic.

Believer, this world hates God and hates Jesus, and it hates you too because you are God’s child. We live in a world that constantly stands good and evil on their heads. And the sooner you admit it, the better.

Jesus shows how ludicrous the claim that He is casting out demons by the power of Beelzebul. Instead, Jesus says it is by the finger of God that He is casting out demons which means that the kingdom, the reign, of God has come among those who scoff at wheat Jesus is doing.

This expression Jesus uses “the finger of God” is interesting. That phrase is only used four times in the Bible. You heard it in our Old Testament lesson (Ex. 8:16-24). Pharaoh’s magicians recognize that the plague of gnats is the finger of God coming in judgment against them. In Exodus 31[:18] and Deuteronomy 9[:10], Scripture talks about God’s finger writing the Ten Commandments on the stone tablets. Now here, Jesus talks about God’s finger casting out demons. The point is that Jesus casting out demons is a fulfillment of the Law and a plague on hell. Jesus tells demons to go and they have to go.

Then, Jesus tells something like a parable. He says that when a strong man [the devil] who is fully armed guards (and keep that word ‘guards’ in the back of your mind because it comes up again in a little bit) his house [the world] his goods [sinners] are safely under his lordship. But Jesus says that when one stronger than him [Jesus] is going to come and attack him, take away his armor, and divide the spoil [you].

Jesus says that He has come to rob the devil’s house and you are the spoils, the treasure, the plunder that Jesus is taking out of the devil’s cellar. He has won, redeemed, purchased, and grabbed you from the devil’s clutches. All by the power of His finger.

He has pulled you out of darkness and into His marvelous light. And notice what Jesus says, “Whoever is not with Me is against me.” There is no spiritual neutral ground. You are either rescued by Jesus and delivered into His kingdom, or you are held captive in the devil’s domain. And if you are not filled by the Holy Spirit, then the demons come back, and your last state is worst than the first.

So how do you know if you are in the kingdom of God or in the kingdom of the devil? Well, Jesus answers that. A woman says to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts that nursed you.” Now, Mary was certainly blessed. She is the mother of our Lord. But Jesus says, even better than being His mother is to hear the Word of God and keep (there is that same word used about the devil ‘guard’) it.

Though you were guarded by Satan, Jesus has come and rescued you with His finger transferring you to His kingdom. Now, you guard the Word that Jesus used to deliver you from Satan.

Cross and CommunionGuard it. Keep it. Take it. Eat and drink it. Because Jesus joins that Word of deliverance and forgiveness of sins to bread and wine. With His little finger, He destroyers the stronghold and armor of the devil. He claims you as His own. And He guards and keeps you now and for all eternity. Amen.

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