The Milk of Peace – Sermon on John 20:19-31 for the Second Sunday of Easter

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John 20:19-31

19 On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being locked where the disciples were for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” 20 When he had said this, Thomas Sees Jesushe showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. 21 Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I am sending you.” 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

24 Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25 So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

30 Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

The first words of Scripture you heard in today’s service came from 1 Pet. 2:2, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk [of the Word].” Hear that again, “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk [of the Word].” A newborn child, when placed on her mother’s abdomen, will push herself up to nurse from her mother’s breast. This is such a beautiful testimony to the fact that God has created and designed us so that even from the moment we are born, we know what we need and where to get it.

And then, we grow up… and think we know better.

As kids get older, their sinful nature becomes more and more evident. Kids don’t know what they need and they chafe under the direction and discipline of their parents. When I was a teenager, I would beg my parents to give me more freedom and let me stay out late. God be praised that they knew better than I did and loved me enough to not allow it. When I moved away for college and had the freedom to make my own decisions about when to be home, I quickly realized that freedoms came with responsibility. Just because I could stay out until all hours of the night didn’t mean actually doing it was a good idea. The need to study, pay attention during lectures, and function at work didn’t go away just because I exercised my freedom to start another round of Mahjong with my friends at 2:00 AM.

Christian, God knows better than you do. God has begun a good work in you, and He will complete it. But it isn’t complete yet. God knows that you need to be nurtured and fed, and God knows exactly what food you need – the pure spiritual milk of His Word and specifically the Gospel. Which is why Scripture tells us to continue longing for the pure spiritual milk of the Word as a newborn infant.

1 Peter 2_2 Pure Spiritual MilkListen carefully: You don’t outgrow your need for the Gospel. Ever. There are many things that Scripture teaches that are important about how to live and function in this world, and all of us need to heed that instruction from the Word. But you don’t graduate from the pure spiritual milk of the Gospel. You never mature past the point of needing to hear about the peace that Jesus has won for you on the cross and which He preaches to His disciples in this text.

That is why Jesus preaches the same little sermon three times in this text, “Peace be with you.”He proclaims it to them twice the on evening of His resurrection, and again one week later.

The day of Christ’s resurrection was a day of both joy and fear all mixed together. Jesus appears first to Mary Magdalene (Mk. 16:9; Jn. 20:11-17). Then, Jesus appears to all the women who had gone to the tomb (Mt. 28:8-10). Jesus appears to the two disciples who were on their way to Emmaus (Lk. 24:14-32). Shortly after that, Jesus appears to Peter (Lk. 24:34; 1 Cor. 15:5). And now, all the disciples are gathered together in Jerusalem minus Thomas. They are wondering what might happen to them because they knew that the chief priests were concerned about them stealing Jesus’ body which is why the stone had been sealed and the Roman soldiers kept watch at the grave (Mt. 27:62-66; 28:11-15).

So, imagine the ten disciples (again minus Judas and Thomas) gathered in that room terrified of any sounds outside. At any moment, soldiers could arrive to arrest or kill them. But instead of soldiers banging on the locked door, Jesus suddenly appears in the room. It is possible that they were even more afraid of Jesus than of the soldiers. Jesus could have shown up angry and mad. Jesus might ask them, “Where were you guys? Why did you all abandon Me?” Or they might have been afraid of Jesus because it was, after all, their sins (and ours) that He died for.

But Jesus doesn’t do any of that. Instead, Jesus is almost giddy (if you’ll allow that description of our risen Lord). He stills and removes their fears with His word, “Peace. Peace be with you.”And He shows them His wounds. In other words, Jesus is saying, “All of My suffering, My being forsaken by My Father, My death, and My burial is all so that you can have the peace which I have secured for you.”And He preaches to them once again comforting them with the same sermon, “Peace be with you.”

Jesus tells them that He is sending them out into the world with the Holy Spirit to forgive sins in His name. Keep this in mind for a minute: Jesus breathes on them, giving them the Holy Spirit, and commissioning them with the message of forgiveness.

Eventually, Thomas meets up with the disciples, and Thomas doesn’t just doubt, he is disbelieving. We have inherited the bad habit of calling him ‘doubting Thomas,’ but Jesus will call him ‘disbelieving Thomas.’ He refuses to believe until he sees what the other disciples have seen.

Now, fast forward to the following Sunday (Easter 2, if you will). Remember, the disciples have been given the Holy Spirit. They have been sent by Jesus with His authority to forgive sin. But where are they? Not out forgiving sins in Jesus’ name! They are in the same room, behind the same locked doors. If I was their pastor, I’d be irate. Time to give them some Law. Time to preach a new strategy – Four Steps to Being a Better Apostle. But what does Jesus preach? Literally, the exact sermon: “Peace be with you.”Jesus gives them the same pure spiritual milk of the Word – the same milk of peace. Jesus knows how to preach better than I or anyone else.

Christian, according to Scripture, you need this constant milk of peace. Paul writes, (1 Cor. 1:22-24), “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”

Jesus, with His same preaching of peace, also removes Thomas’ disbelief and calls him to faith,“Do not disbelieve, but believe.”And, of course, Thomas does.

Now, I could spend a lot of time on Thomas, his disbelief, and his conversion, but I have in the past. Instead, I want to close with Jesus’ response to Thomas’ conversion. “Have you believed because you have seen Me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Blood and Water from JohnJesus is speaking about you. Christian, Jesus had you in mind when He spoke those words. You have not seen Your resurrected Savior in the flesh. You don’t see the marks in Jesus’ hands and side. Instead, you see crosses that remind you of the death that Christ died for you. You see the font where Jesus delivers to you His mercy and forgiveness and washes away your sins. You see an altar on which nothing has ever been sacrificed but which Jesus uses as His table to feed you His risen Body and Blood.

You do not see, but you hear the same proclamation of Jesus, “Peace be with you.”That peace is yours because Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from all eternity was crucified, died, and was buried. He is risen again to give you the milk of peace, the forgiveness of your sins now and for all eternity. And, according to Jesus, because of what He has done, you are blessed. Christian, nurse on that, now and forever.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Amen.

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

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Where Is Your Sting? – Sermon on 1 Corinthians 15:51-57 for the Resurrection of Our Lord

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1 Corinthians 15:51-57

51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

“Death is swallowed up in victory.”
55 “O death, where is your victory?
O death, where is your sting?”

56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

In the name of Jesus. Amen.

“O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” Too often we think of death in wrong ways. We think that death is a state or a category or a condition. But v. 55 of that Epistle Lesson says that death is an enemy, a person who can be talked to and, most importantly, an enemy who can be questioned.

Imagine encountering death. When you or someone you love dies and you cross paths with death, you need to only ask death one simple question: “O death, where is your sting?”

Death might try to answer you with a pale, menacing, frightening voice, “My sting is your sin. I sting because you sin. If you didn’t have sin, I would have no sting. But I sting everyone because all have sinned. I am the wages and payment of sin (Ro. 6:23). And I will sting you because your sin is my sting.”

But you can simply respond, “I know all of that, death. I know that my sin has put me under your thumb. I know that the Bible says, ‘The wages of sin is death.’ So, what you say is true. But, death, I didn’t ask you, ‘What is your sting?’ I asked you, ‘Where is your sting?’ So, death, where is it, where is your sting?”

And death might smile and respond, “You simple Christian, have you forgotten how powerful my sting is? It is more powerful than the most poisonous snake or spider or jellyfish. My sting is the most powerful sting imaginable. My sting burns forever because the power of my sting is fueled by the Law. Yes, God’s eternal Law that abides forever, and you have broken that Law over and over.”

But you can look back at death and say, “I know my sin is no small sting. I know my sin is against the God who created me and loves me. I know the penalty of my sin is everlasting death, and I feel it in my conscience. I also know that the Law is not ever going to go away. I know that God’s Commandments are eternal. In fact, the Law was what made me scared of you. Because of the good and righteous Law, I know what you can do to me. I know that your sting is my sin, and I know that the power behind that sting is the Law. But, death, you still have not answered my question. Where is your sting?”

At this point, death is uncomfortable and a little fidgety, but he musters as much gusto as possible and says, “Well, you are face-to-face with me, aren’t you?”

“Yes, I am, but the sting of death is not death. The sting of death is sin. So, I ask you again, ‘Death, where is your sting?’”

Finally, death hangs his head. “I have used it, and I have lost it. But I’ll get it back again.”

Jesus Coming out of the TombAnd you can smile in his face, “Yes, death, you used your sting, didn’t you? You should have used your sting on me. The sting would have stuck on me. But you didn’t. Instead, death, you used your sting on my Savior, my God, and my Lord. You used your sting on Jesus, didn’t you? You had Jesus pinned tightly on the cross, and you stuck Him with your stinger and buried it into Him. Death, you were a fool that day. You stung God Himself. You stung Jesus who is the Resurrection and the Life (Jn. 11:25). But when you went to the tomb to find your stinger and get it back, Jesus wasn’t there. And guess what, death, Christ has taken my sin as He hung on the cross. And, death, you will not ever get your sting back. Never. That empty tomb means that your sting is lost forever. Death, I don’t fear you any longer.”

And having no other answer, death now turns around and walks away from you.

Dear saints, this is why we celebrate every Easter and every Sunday. Every Sunday, we celebrate what Christ has done in absorbing the sting of death so that death no longer has his sting.

And the day is coming when Christ will return. On that day, the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable. The day is coming when your perishable body will put on the imperishable and your mortal body will put on immortality.

Yes, death can and does buzz around now for a while. But death is like a bee that has used its stinger and soon dies.

Dear saints, “Death is swallowed up in victory.” Yes, the sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. So now, Christian, you need have no fear of death. Jesus has conquered the bitter tyrant of death. And He has connected you to that victory. You do not need to fear and watch out for death hiding behind a corner to pounce on you. Instead, Christian, you continue to look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.

Because Christ is risen, death is overthrown. Christ is risen and life reigns. Christ is risen, and dear saint, you are safely anchored in Christ who has given you the victory, now and forever.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

Amen.

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

Death Be Not Proud – Sermon on Matthew 28:1-7 for the Vigil of Easter

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Matthew 28:1-7

Now after the Sabbath, toward the dawn of the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And behold, there was a great earthquake, for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. And for fear of him the guards trembled and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified. He is not here, for he has risen, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and behold, he is going before you to Galilee; there you will see him. See, I have told you.”

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

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

In 1609 the English pastor and poet John Donne nearly died after being a pastor for eight years. After he recovered, he wrote a poem titled “Death Be Not Proud.” You would think that after nearly escaping death, you would be relieved and grateful. But Donne wrote his sonnet mocking death.

You would think death has a good reason to be proud. To our eyes, it appears that death never loses. Eventually, death gets all of us and our loved ones. We try to fight death with cancer screenings, seat belts, air bags, eating healthy, and a good fitness routine. Some fight death by coloring gray hairs and anti-aging serums. But, in the end, nothing works. And as much as you try to escape his grasp, death is happy and willing to be patient. If he doesn’t get you at sixty, he’ll wait around until seventy or eighty or ninety.

We try to ignore death. Sometimes, death is given more reverence than God Himself. In the Old Testament, people would avoid speaking God’s name because it was so sacred and holy. The same happens with death today. People don’t like to talk about death. Instead, they talk about their loved ones ‘passing away,’ or ‘going to a better place.’ Some insist that their loved ones not have a funeral but a ‘celebration of life.’

Death is lord in our culture and is seen as the answer to many problems in society today. The suicide rate continues to rise. States continue to pass “right to die” laws. And abortion – the murder and death of children in the womb – is viewed as a fundamental right by some.

Death casts a wide shadow, and we live in its shadow every day of our lives. But death has no reason to be proud because of what happened this day.

Death’s pride was death’s undoing. In his pride, death opened his jaws too wide and went too far. Death swallowed up the One who is Life (Jn. 11:24; 14:6) and it was death’s undoing. Our risen Lord and Savior Jesus Christ shows that death has been defeated forever.

Life and death fought against each other, and the Prince of Life came out of that contest victorious. Death stuck his stinger right into Jesus’ hands, feet, and side. And because of that, death has lost his sting (1 Cor. 15:54-56).

King Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a royal donkey to face death. Christ carried His cross to answer for all your faithlessness and sin. Jesus has drowned death in His blood which cleanses you from all your sin.

Death is defeated – now and forever. Even if death takes you, Jesus, the death Destroyer, says that you are not dead. Instead, Christ says, “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in Me, though he die, yet shall he live. And everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die” (Jn. 11:25-26).

Dear Christian, even in death you are not dead. Instead you are Christ’s. In your Baptism, you have already been joined to Christ’s death, which means that your death will not and cannot last (Ro. 6:3-5). In this Holy Sacrament, Jesus feeds you with His living Body and gives you to drink of His living, life-giving Blood.

Death has no reason to be proud. Not anymore. Jesus has conquered the bitter tyrant of death. And He has connected you to that victory. Amen.[1]

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

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

[1]The idea for this sermon comes from a sermon by Pr. Ralph Tausz which can be found here (http://www.apostlesmelrosepark.org/index.php?page=Sermons&sid=380).

It Is Finished – Sermon on John 19:30 for Good Friday

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John 19:30

30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished.”

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

Dear saints, Jesus says, “It is finished.”

Jesus isn’t talking about His suffering. He doesn’t mean His agony or pain. These words do not refer to the darkness over the whole land while Jesus hung on the cross between noon and three. Yes, those things are coming to an end when Jesus says,“It is finished.”But Jesus is talking about something much bigger.

He is saying that the war between God and man is over. “It is finished.”

All of creation was plunged into sin and rebellion when Adam and the woman ate from the tree of which God commanded them not to eat. In that moment, all of humanity declared war against God. But God would not let mankind, the crown of His creation, be at war against Him. God would not fight against us though we fight against Him. Instead, He would fight for us.

Right after we fell into sin, God came down to the Garden and said that He would put enmity between Himself and the devil promising that the Seed of the woman would come and crush Satan’s head even as the devil crushed His heel. Then and there, God declared war – not against us – but against the devil, against death, and against your sin.

The Scriptures are the record of that war. Throughout the Bible, you read of the devil claiming people as his own, putting his name on them, making them his servants and followers, and dragging them with him into destruction.

But all the while God was fighting back. He kept rescuing His people from the devil and his armies. He rescued Adam and Eve. He delivered Abel, Noah, Abraham, and Moses. God ransomed His people from slavery in Egypt. He saved Joshua, Samuel, Samson, David, Elijah, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and countless others – both named and unnamed. God was fighting back, calling His people back to Himself. Promising that one day the battles would cease. The war would end. And there on the Cross, Jesus proclaims the victory when He says, “It is finished.”

The victory was costly – more costly than we can ever fathom. And the victory did not appear to be glorious. The victory, in fact, looked like defeat as the eternal Son of God hung there, dead on the cross. It is much easier for us to see Jesus’ heel being crushed than to see the devil’s head being crushed because that heel crushing is overwhelming.

But, dear saints, if the crushing of Jesus’ heel appears to be that devastating, how much more annihilating is the crushing of the devil’s head?

Today especially, but whenever you consider Jesus’ suffering, see what God is doing. He is ending the war. The war is ended not with a ceasefire or a peace treaty, but with total and complete victory. “It is finished.”

Consider what God says the crucifixion of our Lord means. It means that everything that was ever demanded of you in the Law (Col. 2:14), Jesus says, “It is finished.”

All the prophecies about Christ’s suffering that were recorded for us in the books of Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms (Lk. 18, 24), Jesus says, “It is finished.”

Everything that was necessary for the Christ to suffer so you could be forgiven and adopted as God’s child (Php. 2:5-15), Jesus says, “It is finished.”

Everything that was necessary for you to be saved and have eternal life (1 Pet. 1:10-12), Jesus says, “It is finished.”

Remember that God calls Jesus “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (1 Pet. 1:19-20). It is God’s loving and gracious will for you to believe in Him. Everything that weighs on your soul, every sin that troubles your conscience, every burden of doubt, every fear, every worry, and every guilt is taken off of you and placed on Jesus. And Christ bears it away and buries it in the depths of the sea (Pr. Preus). “It is finished.”

Today is not bad Friday or sad Friday or black Friday. Today is Good Friday, the day that our Lord restored the original goodness to His creation, and that is most certainly good for us (Petersen).

The death of Christ is your redemption, your victory. Jesus is the Lamb who was slain, but now lives forever and ever. Christ has suffered and died in order that you might be His own, live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. Christian, just as Christ is risen from the dead and lives and reigns to all eternity, you will too. Amen.

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

Clean and Cleansed – Sermon on John 13:1-15 for Maundy Thursday

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John 13:1-15

Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, when the devil had already put it into the heart of Judas Iscariot, Simon’s son, to betray him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12 When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? 13 You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am.14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. 15 For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.”

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

Peter gets uncomfortable when Jesus laid aside His outer garments, tied a towel around His waist, got down on His hands and knees, and began to wash the disciples’ feet. Jesus washes the Disciples' feetThe Man whom Peter had confessed to be the Son of the living God (Mt. 16:16), the Man who had healed the sick, fed the masses, and raised the dead, the Head of all creation (Col. 1:15) kneels to wash Peter’s dirty, smelly feet.

Foot washing was a common thing in those days. Anyone who was going to be a guest at a banquet would have their feet washed even if they had just bathed. The walk from one house to another would make a person’s feet dirty and dusty enough to need another washing. But the task of foot washing was always reserved for the lowest of servants. Disciples would do many different chores for the rabbi they were following, but foot washing was never one of them. But here, Jesus, the Rabbi, the Teacher sent from God, and in fact God Himself in the flesh, humbles Himself to do the lowest of tasks for His disciples.

To understand how shocking this is, you have to imagine having some guests over for a fancy dinner. You have cleaned the parts of the house you expect they will go, but not the whole house – especially not that one bathroom. But imagine your horror if you found one of your well-dressed guests on their hands and knees on that hard, tiled floor with a sponge scrubbing the scum and stains around that neglected toilet.

We aren’t told how the other disciples react to this; however, they were probably uncomfortable with the arrangement as well. But Peter is, of course, the one to speak up and object, “You shall never wash my feet.”

But Jesus turns this event into a new lesson, “If I do not wash you, you have no share( or “no part”) with Me.”Jesus isn’t simply talking about washing feet anymore. He doesn’t say “If I do not wash your feet…,” He says, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with Me.”This is about Peter’s heart and his general need for the cleansing and forgiveness that Jesus has come to give. And Peter understands so he says, “Then don’t just wash my feet, but wash my hands and my head too.” In other words, “Jesus, I need You to thoroughly wash me and make all of me clean because I am so sinful.”

But Jesus responds, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.”

Not everyone who is in that upper room is clean because Judas was still there and was about to betray Jesus. Judas is not clean because he is not a Christian; Judas does not trust in Jesus’ promises of mercy and forgiveness. The other eleven disciples do trust in Christ, so Jesus says that they are completely clean. Their whole being is clean. Jesus is referring to not their bodies, but their souls. Even the dirtiest, most sinful parts of the disciples are completely clean. Their sins have been washed away and cleansed.

So, what is this that Jesus says they need to have their feet cleaned? Well, they keep falling into sin. They keep fighting with each other about who is the greatest. They keep making promises that they can’t keep. They are clean, but they keep sinning. They keep stepping in the same old sins, but their whole being is already clean.

We can’t get our minds around this reality that Jesus presents unless it is about sin, and even then, it is hard to grasp.

Christian, Jesus has died on the cross and absorbed the entire wrath of God against your sin. As Jesus said, “It is finished.”God isn’t holding a charge, a sin, or an accusation against you to judge you on the Last Day. There is no dirt or anything left to do for you to be cleansed by Christ. You are already clean.

Baptism 2In your Baptism, Jesus has sprinkled clean water on you thus cleansing you from all your uncleannesses (Ezk. 36:25). In your Baptism, God has given you the new birth (Jn. 3:5), He has connected you to Jesus’ death and resurrection (Ro. 6:3-5), He has given you the washing of regeneration and the renewal of the Holy Spirit (Tit. 3:5).

And yet, though you have been cleaned by God in this way, you still get dirty feet all the time. Even since this service started, you have had evil and bitter thoughts, you have let your mind wander from the Word of God, etc. You are clean, but you need to be cleaned again.

That is why you are here tonight. You are a saint and a sinner at the same time. You are holy and righteous in God’s sight, yet you have sinned. And you need mercy and cleansing again.

Well, sinner and saint, Jesus has the answer. After He washed His disciples’ feet, Jesus served the disciples again. Christ took bread and gave it to the disciples saying, “Take, eat. This is My Body.”Then, He took the cup and gave it to them saying, “Take, drink. This is My Blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sin.”

Christ gives this cleaning to Christians who are clean and pleasing to God but need cleaning again.

Dear saint, you are declared by Jesus to be clean. Your Lord and Savior is here to be your servant and clean you again. Come and receive what He gives you for your comfort, for your strengthening, for your cleaning. Amen.

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

Our Lord’s Passion – Sermon on Matthew 26:1-27:66 for Palm Sunday

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

Throughout history, great kings and rulers have been given great titles. Cyrus, Alexander, and Charles all had “the Great” as monikers. There was also William the Conqueror and Richard the Lion-Heart. Two of my favorites – there was Brochwel “the Fanged” who ruled in Scotland and Ferdinand “the Bomb” who ruled in Italy.

Palm Sunday King of GloryThe main focus of Matthew’s Passion account we just heard is the royalty of Jesus. Christ rode into Jerusalem on a royal donkey just like King David and King Solomon (1 Kgs. 1:38) had done. But Matthew doesn’t focus on Jesus’ royal greatness or magnificence. Instead, Matthew focuses on King Jesus’ innocence. Matthew points us to King Jesus “the Innocent.”

Though Jesus is falsely accused of many things, constant, consistent testimonies keep showing up that our Lord is innocent. After he had betrayed Jesus, Judas confesses, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood” (Mt. 27:4). Pilate’s wife tells her husband, “Have nothing to do with that righteous man” (Mt. 27:19). Pilate knows that Jesus was innocent and tries to wash his hands of the capital punishment. And the centurion, when he witnessed Jesus’ death, confessed, “Truly, this was the Son of God” (Mt. 27:54). Yes, Jesus was innocent.

Jesus was innocent, but you are not. When you stand on trial before God on the last day, innocence is what you need, not greatness. But, again, you have not been innocent. Instead, you’ve sought to be great, mighty, important, and powerful. In your quest for greatness, you have left a wake of pain and suffering behind you. You’ve been selfish, and your words and actions have hurt those who love you most. By your thoughts, words, and deeds, you place yourself not beside Jesus “the Innocent,” but by Barabbas “the Murdering Rebel” (Lk. 23:19).

But in our Lord’s Passion, guilty Barabbas goes free. The Gospel text you just heard is called “the Passion” because this is how God loved you and the reason that you love Him.

When you hear John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son,” have the Passion accounts in your mind. The word ‘so’ in John 3:16 means “in this way.”

King Jesus the Innocent has come into the world to trade places with sinners – to trade places with you. The weight of sin you carry on your back was whipped into His back. Your hurtful actions went into His hands so that your hands may be cleansed. The bitter words you have spoken have gone into His ears so that you can hear the sweet words, “Not guilty,” on the Last Day.

And even now, you are declared to be innocent by God. Connected to Jesus the Innocent’s death and resurrection in your Baptism, there is now no condemnation for you (Ro. 8:1). This is Christ’s love for you.

Revelation 17 14 War against the LambJesus has arrived in Jerusalem. The Priest has come to the Temple. The Prophet has come to Mt. Zion. The King has come to His city. But most importantly the Lamb of God has come to His altar, where He would in five days breathe His last and pour out His blood for you (Pr. Wolfmueller). This is your Lord’s Passion, done and completed for you. Amen.

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

 

The Eighth, Ninth, and Tenth Commandments: Truth & Contentment

Listen here.

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

Just a heads up: Tonight, we will not consider these Commandments in order. I’ll start with the 9th and 10th Commandments since they go together and are only slightly different (I’ll explain why they are different later). Then, we’ll close with the 8th Commandment.

Though it has been corrupted by sin, your conscience is an important gift from God. Imagine your conscience like a radar that picks up all sorts of sins. Blip, there’s anger violating the 5th Commandment. Blip, there’s laziness violating the 7th. Blip, there’s lust violating the 6th. Blip, there’s disrespecting authority violating the 4th. But your conscience probably doesn’t even register sins against the 9th and 10th Commandments about coveting. Coveting is, in a sense, the stealth bomber of sin. Paul mentions this in Romans 7[:7-8] where he says, “I wouldn’t even have known what it was to covet if the Law had not said, ‘You shall not covet.’”

I preached on training and softening your conscience a couple of weeks ago, and if you missed that sermon, I would encourage you to go back and read or listen to it (March 24th on Luke 11:14-28 titled “The Last State”). Tonight’s sermon will, hopefully, help to soften your conscience when it comes to the 9th and 10th Commandments. And softening your conscience to violations of the 9th and 10th Commandments will, I promise you, help you battle against your sins with regard to all the other Commandments.

Now, as we have gone through this series, I have tried to show you how God is giving and protecting His good gifts to you in each of the Commandments. If is helpful for you to see the whole Commandment, turn to p. 23 of the hymnal for the whole list.

In the 1st Command, “Have no other gods,” God gives you the gift of Himself. In the 2nd, “Don’t misuse God’s name,” God gives you the gift of prayer. In the 3rd, “Keep the Sabbath holy,” God gives you the gift of His Word. In the 4th, “Honor your parents,” God gives you the gift of order. In the 5th, “Don’t kill,” God gives you the gift of life. In the 6th, “Don’t commit adultery,” God gives you the gift of marriage. In the 7th, “Don’t steal,” God gives you the gift of stuff. In the 8th, “Don’t lie,” God gives you the gift of truth and a good name. You get the idea.

So, in the 9th and 10th Commandments about coveting, what gift is God giving you? Any guesses? I’ll give you a clue, it isn’t something that we usually recognize or rest in. Contentment. God is giving you and protecting His gift of contentment.

Everything around us screams at us that we shouldn’t be content. Open a paper, see a billboard, scroll through social media, surf the internet, turn on the radio or television and everything there will tempt you to break these Commandments of coveting. All marketing campaigns and advertisements are built around getting us to break these last two Commandments. Now, we can’t blame advertisers for our sins of coveting. And even if you cut out all media from your life, you would still break these Commands.

Now, I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. You never break only one Commandment. We’ve already seen how breaking the 6th Commandment about adultery is often followed by breaking the 5th Commandment about murder. But you never break Commandments 2-8 without first breaking the 9th or 10th Commandment. Sin, all sin, starts down in the 9th or 10th Commandment with coveting or, another way to put it, false desire. Scripture teaches this. James 1:13-15 says that God tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire, referring 9th and 10th Commandments. “Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”

In tonight’s Old Testament lesson (1 Kings 21:1-29), we heard how King Ahab broke the 9th Commandment and then broke the 5th, 4th, 8th, and 7thCommandments.

Now, this is why the 9th and 10th Commandments are so important. In these Commands, God gives us the gift of contentment and protects us from false desire. Colossians 3:5 says that coveting is idolatry. Hear that again: Coveting is idolatry. At its core, coveting is idolizing yourself and making yourself a (little ‘g’) god by saying, “God, You messed up. That thing my neighbor has over there should be mine over here.”

So, when you are struggling with sin, notice where it starts – coveting. If you are full of lust (which is adultery [Mt. 5:28]), you have the false desire to have a spouse that is attractive in a different way than your spouse. If you are angry (which is the same as murder [Mt. 5:21-22], you have a false desire for someone to act differently than they act. If you are lazy (which is thievery), you have a false desire there too.

Repent. Recognize that false desire and cut it off at the roots. Fight against the sin of coveting. Now, listen to these Commandments and see if you can tell the difference between the two…

The 9th Commandment
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house.

What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do not seek by craftiness to gain possession of our neighbor’s inheritance or home, nor obtain them under pretense of a legal right, but assist and serve him in keeping the same.

The 10th Commandment
Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his cattle, nor anything that is thy neighbor’s.

What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do not estrange or entice away our neighbor’s wife, servants, or cattle, but seek to have them remain and fulfill their duty to him.

Did you catch the difference? It’s so simple, it’s silly. It has to do with whether the thing you covet has legs or not. The spouse, servants, and animals outlined in the 10th Commandment could conceivably end up in your possession in a way that would appear to be righteous. You could make your neighbor’s dog love you more than your neighbor by giving it treats or something and steal it. Don’t covet it and steal it. Don’t falsely desire what your neighbor has that can’t move, and don’t falsely desire what your neighbor has that can move.

Finally,

The 8th Commandment
Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do not deceitfully lie about, betray, backbite, nor slander our neighbor, but defend him, speak well of him, and put the most charitable construction on all that he does.

I’ll be brief here because I know I’ve gone long on the 9th and 10th Commandments.

We break this Commandment when we desire the truth to be different and lie. But we also break this Commandment when we desire the truth to make our neighbor look bad and spread gossip. I remember when I was in Confirmation and memorized this Commandment and meaning. That last phrase, “put the most charitable construction on all that he does,” that phrase cut me down.

Yes, lying is bad, and we often have our conscience pricked when we lie. But gossip and tearing others down is just as bad. Even when you are telling the truth about someone else’s sin, you are violating this Commandment. Don’t tell someone else about another’s sin if the person you are speaking to doesn’t need to know about it. You don’t like it when it happens to you. Repent. In this Commandment, God protects His gift of the truth.

And recognize that this is the truth. Christ has come. He has kept the Law, all of the Law, perfectly on your behalf. He never fell short of perfectly loving God or loving His neighbor. He perfectly loved you by laying down His life for you. And because of what He has done on the cross, He takes all of your sin against God’s Law and in exchange gives you His perfect obedience. Christ has removed your heart of stone and given you a heart of flesh. Yes, fight against your sin, but live in Christ’s grace now and forever. Amen.

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