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.

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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

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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.

Jesus Hid – Sermon on John 8:42-59 for the Fifth Sunday of Lent

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

If you want to play a game you are sure to win, play hide and seek with a small child. When it comes to hiding, kids are silly. “Why is that door half closed?” “There can’t be anything attached to that leg sticking out from behind the couch.” “I wonder what could be under that bulging, wriggling blanket?” Kid hides with eyes closedOr my favorite, the boy standing in the middle of the room with his eyes closed tight. (To my great shame, I learned closing your eyes doesn’t make you invisible when I was in fourth grade.) Silly kids.

But adults are even more silly when it comes to hiding. The first game of hide and seek was when Adam hid from God because he was afraid. His hiding spot? A few leaves and a couple of trees. Did he really think he could hide from the Creator? I guess he did. Silly Adam. And then there was Israel’s first king (1 Sam. 10:20-24). Saul was a whole head taller than anyone else in Israel. But when God chose him as king, Saul went and hid behind some luggage. Silly Saul.

And, let’s consider the hiding you do. Do you really think you can keep hiding your crummy work and half-hearted efforts from your boss? For how long? Silly thief. Do you think you can keep making up stories? Silly liar. When you say, “Maybe I shouldn’t tell you this, but you should be aware that so-and-so is…,” we know you’re a loudmouth. Silly gossiper. Do your eyes keep wandering for more glances at that woman? Silly adulterer. Your anger is plain as the nose on your face. Silly murderer (Mt. 5:22). And even if you can hide your transgression from others, you can’t hide it from God. Silly sinner.

Repent. You’re guilty. You’re guilty, and you can’t hide it. Or do you really think you can stand before God’s wrath against your sin and say, “Well, nobody’s perfect”? Silly, silly sinner.

Repent. You don’t have to hide. Jesus has freed you to speak the truth and confess your sins. Christ has provided all the cover you will ever need – no luggage, no fig leaves, no closed eyes. He has provided His holy Body and Blood. Don’t hide your sins. Hand them over to Jesus. Let Him have them and receive what He wants to hand over to you – His righteousness, innocence, and blessedness. You can hand your sins over to Jesus because, today, Jesus hid for you.

Jesus threatened by stonesJesus stood in the middle of people who have been looking for a reason to kill Him for almost His entire ministry (Mk. 3:6). Today, Christ declares Himself to be no less than Almighty God. When He declares Himself to be the great I Am, Jesus announces that He is the One who is Lord over all things, and the One who always was, always is, and always will be, the One who spoke to Moses from the burning bush, the One who led their ancestors through the Red Sea on dry ground, the One whom Isaiah saw in the Temple.

They didn’t like that, so they picked up stones to throw at Him and kill Him. Silly sinners, thinking they could kill God. But Jesus hid. Jesus didn’t hide because He was scared of death. He didn’t hide because didn’t trust His heavenly Father’s protection. Jesus hides because He is fully in control. Jesus hides so that He could die at the right time and in the right way. Judged and condemned twice, once by the religious leaders and a second time by Pilate. Jesus sentenced and condemned to death bearing all your sins in His body (1 Pet. 2:24).

Jesus hides here because His hour had not yet come. Christ had more to accomplish for you. He still had to raise Lazarus from the dead. He still had to institute His holy Supper. He still had to be betrayed by a kiss, arrested, and denied by Peter. Jesus had to hide here because His death won’t be by stones. It can’t be by stones; it must be on a tree for all to see. Today, Jesus hides Himself in the thicket so that He will be there at the right time to die in the place of another (Gen. 22:13) – to die in your place.

There on the cross, He must die for you. And then, He must be hidden again. Hidden at dusk on Friday night and all of Holy Saturday in that tomb sealed with a stone. Hidden with Him is the wrath of God, the Law, and Hell. Cross and CommunionAll of that is hidden so that you do not have to face it. It is hidden so that you do not need to hide.

And now, Jesus hides Himself again but this time in Bread and Wine. Soon, He will come in glory when every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is the crucified Lord who is risen and reigns. And know that you are joined to Him. You have died with Him and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, you also will appear with Him in glory (Col. 3:3-4). Amen.[1]

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

[1]This sermon was adapted from a sermon by Rev. Ralph Tausz on the same text (http://www.apostlesmelrosepark.org/index.php?page=Sermons&sid=235).

The Sixth and Seventh Commandments: Marriage & Stuff

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

When Jesus is asked what is the great commandment in the law, He answers by giving a summary of all the Commandments (Mt. 22:34-40), “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”Commandments 1-3 are summarized as “Love God,” and Commandments 4-10 are summarized as, “Love your neighbor.” And Scripture boils down the law even further in Ro. 13:10 which says, “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” In other words, if you want to keep all the Commandments, love.

We think that the word ‘love’ is such a nice word and much easier to do than to keep all the Commandments. But the word ‘love,’ rightly understood, requires everything. Jesus says, “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends”(Jn. 15:13). If you keep a ‘to do’ list and included Christ’s requirements to love God and neighbor, you can never ever check them off as completed.

The devil is always working to tear apart what God has created. Satan is always trying to bring chaos where God has made order. We see this clearly in the 6thand 7thCommandments tonight.

With the 6thCommandment in particular (but with all the commandments really), the devil is trying to drive a wedge between the Ten Commandments and the summary of the law – love. Here is how the devil has worked to bring chaos and disorder to our lives and our society. Today, many people who claim to be Christians will say that we can just ignore the 6thCommandment about adultery. They claim that instead of calling people to repent of their sins (especially when it comes to homosexuality and fornication) we should just love them. That is not love. The devil tries to twist real love into something much less, tolerance or acceptance.

If someone is breaking the 5thCommandment about murder by ruining their life with destructive, harmful drugs, it is not loving to accept them for who they are. They need real love. They need to be called to repentance and the forgiveness that Christ freely gives.

The devil tries to twist our understanding of the word ‘love’ and weaponize it against the Commandments. So, we need to recognize that the Commandments are a full description of what love looks like. The first three Commandments, the first table of the Law, tells us what love for God looks like. It is to have no other gods, to pray in God’s name, and to hear God’s Word. The 4-10thCommandments tell us what love for the neighbor looks like. It is to honor parents, to help our neighbor when he has any need, to lead a chaste and pure life, to assist our neighbor with his property, to defend our neighbor’s name, and to not covet what our neighbor has. So, let’s move to…

The 6th Commandment
Thou shalt not commit adultery.

What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we lead a chaste and pure life in word and deed, and that husband and wife love and honor each other.

Our Old Testament text (2 Sam. 11:1-17) shows how we never break the Commandments in a singular way. It started when David broke the 10thCommandment and coveted Uriah’s wife. David’s sin then moved to committing adultery, breaking 6thCommandment. Then to breaking the 5thCommandment by murdering Uriah. David certainly was not truthful in his actions, so he broke the 8thCommandment. All of this was also breaking the 7thCommandment by stealing Uriah’s wife. It also broke all the first table of the Law as well. Today, breaking the 6thCommandment about adultery is still often followed by breaking the 5thCommandment about murder. Eighty-five percent of women getting abortions are single.

Our culture is almost completely numb to the accusations of the 6thCommandment, and that includes Christians. So, rather than simply detailing the sins of pornography, fornication, homosexuality, transgenderism, etc., I want you to see how greatly God honors marriage and wants to protect it.

First of all, marriage was a gift of God that came before God instituted either the church or the government. So, after life, marriage is the first thing God protects with a Commandment.

Couples, your marriage is to be a picture of Christ and the church. Ephesians 5:31-33says, “’Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.’ This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.”

If you are married, let your marriage be a relationship of continual forgiveness, like Christ and the Church. If you are not married, know that the most precious gift that God will give you after your life is a spouse. Lead a chaste and pure life now to protect marriage in the future – even if it is not your marriage.

The 7th Commandment
Thou shalt not steal.

What does this mean?
We should fear and love God so that we do not rob our neighbor of his money or property, nor bring them into our possession by unfair dealing or fraud, but help him to improve and protect his property and living.

In the 7thCommandment, God protects your stuff. God has given you everything you have, and He wants you to have it. God wants you to have stuff, though, not just so you can accumulate piles of wealth for yourself. Instead, God gives you stuff to serve your marriage, your family, your life, etc.

Don’t start patting yourself on the back if you haven’t shoplifted or broken into someone’s car and taken their purse. When you are at work, are you working and attentive to your tasks? When your boss pays you for an hour of work, have you worked that whole hour, or are you stealing from your employer? When you see that someone has a need, have you been greedy with what God has given you and stolen from the poor? Repent.

Repent and know that Jesus is the divine thief who has stolen from you. Jesus took what was yours – He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. But in an amazing twist, Christ’s thievery is actually a keeping of the 7thCommandment. By becoming sin for you, Jesus has given you everything – mercy, forgiveness, resurrection, and eternal life with Him.

As we sang earlier, “The world seeks after wealth and all that mammon offers yet never is content though gold should fill its coffers. I have a higher good, content with it I’ll be; my Jesus is my wealth. What is the world to me!” Amen.

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

That Nothing May Perish – Sermon on John 6:1-15 for the Fourth Sunday in Lent

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John 6:1-15

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

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?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” Jesus Feeds the 500010 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. 12 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 the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

In the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus does what He was already doing and is always doing everywhere throughout the entire world – providing food. The only difference in this instance is that Jesus does it in a way that is not normal. This is not to undermine the miraculous nature of what Jesus does here. Feeding this massive crowd with five loaves and two fish is, absolutely, a miracle and reveals that Jesus is God in the flesh. But don’t lose sight of the fact that the food you ate yesterday was also a gracious gift of God miraculously provided for you. You have just grown used to God delivering your food to you through your paycheck or your parents, then through a restaurant or grocery store, your fridge, and your stove.

Jesus multiplies the snack of a boy and feeds the masses. Everyone in the crowd reclined (v. 10 ἀναπίπτω means ‘to recline at table’ not just ‘sit’) like kings and emperors on the grass in the wilderness. They had as much food as they wanted set before them by their servers, the disciples. Even the gluttons had their fill, and there is still more leftover. God’s gracious and miraculous provision at work through Jesus is certainly the main focus of this event.

Now, I’ve preached on Jesus feeding the 5,000 eight times since I’ve been your pastor – this is the ninth. And there are two aspects of this event that I normally don’t spend too much time on for certain reasons. But the two are, I think, related. And today is the day to focus some time on them. The two aspects are the generosity of the boy and the twelve baskets leftover.

The text doesn’t spell it out for us, but I think there is no question that this boy offers his food, his five loaves and two small fish – everything he has – to Jesus and the disciples. When the Gospels show how Jesus interacted with children, there is almost no question that Jesus would have rebuked the disciples for taking this boy’s snack. And Jesus has set this whole situation up. Remember, Jesus first asks Phillip where they would buy bread for the crowds, but it was a test, “[Jesus] knew what He would do” (v. 6).

Jesus and a ChildImagine a husband and wife are discussing their serious financial troubles and debt – the car needs expensive repairs, they are behind on their mortgage, and their credit cards are already maxed. They discuss all of this privately in whispers so they don’t scare their children. But suddenly, they are startled to see their young daughter in the room. The daughter holds out a handful of coins from her piggy bank and offers it to them saying, “Here, I want to help.” That handful of change, of course, won’t put a dent in their debt. That daughter doesn’t understand the complexities of the problem, so she imagines that her parents’ problem is easily fixed by her small offering. But it is moments like this that show a beautiful childlike faith which Jesus often praises, “Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it” (Mk. 10:15).

Again, Jesus asked Phillip about how to get bread as a test. Phillip scoffs at the thought of buying enough bread for everyone to get a little. And this boy offers his snack to Andrew who mentions the food to Jesus, but even Andrew balks at the idea that it will suffice. But the boy’s offer is genuine. He is no less trusting than the widow who gives her last two pennies in the Temple (Lk. 21:1-4). This boy gives not knowing what Jesus will do with his gift, but trusting that Jesus will use it for good. And, of course, Jesus does.

As the crowd unbuckles their belts, Jesus sends the disciples out once again saying, “Gather up the leftover fragments.”Christ here is not worried about waste. If He was worried about waste, Jesus wouldn’t have even given as much as everyone wanted. He could have provided only what was needed. But Jesus says, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may perish.”Our translation only says ‘lost,’ but it is the same word Jesus uses in John 3:16. In God’s infinite love, He sent His only-begotten so that whoever believes in Him should not perish(same word) but have everlasting life. In other words, every last bit of this boy’s gift, multiplied by Jesus is useful for Jesus’ sake in Christ’s kingdom. Nothing of the boy’s gift and Jesus’ multiplication of it perishes.

Dear saints, here is the point today. Don’t think that what you do is ever lost or left to perish. God has called you to good works, and those works are holy and useful for the furthering of God’s kingdom. Christian, God has given each of you different vocations, different callings. I use the term ‘vocation’ frequently, but it is good to have a quick summary of this term again.

Your vocation is not simply your job or career. Instead, your vocation is your God-given calling in every situation according to God’s ordering of the world. You have vocations in your family – father, mother, son, daughter, sibling, cousin, etc. You have vocations in the state – citizen, voter, neighbor, driver, doctor, patient, fellow grocery shopper, etc. And you have vocations in the church – member, deacon, trustee, president of the congregation, listener, etc.

It is good and right to be asking yourself, “Who has God put in my life right now to serve, and how am I to serve that person in light of the Ten Commandments?” Right now, I, as your pastor, have been called by God to preach, and you have been called by God to listen. The service will end, and you will be called by God to be a fellow Christian and have opportunities to pray for your brothers and sisters in Christ. You will go out to your vehicles, and you will have the vocation to be a good driver or good passenger. You will go have lunch and there will be vocations there – good cook, good eater, good customer, etc. In each of these instances, God is calling you to good works that serve your neighbor.

And do not think that any of those works you do is unimportant. God places you in each situation with a unique relationship to your neighbor to be God’s hands and feet to serve your neighbor. In each of these vocations, God is calling you to holy work. Romans 12:1 says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.”

Jesus takes what you offer in each of those vocations and uses it for the furthering of God’s kingdom. We are always tempted to minimize what we do in our vocations as though it doesn’t matter is insignificant. “Well, I’m just changing a diaper.” “God doesn’t care how I empty the dishwasher and fold the laundry.” “What I put in the offering plate doesn’t help as much as what so-and-so puts in because they can put in a lot more.” No, everything you do is used by God, and Jesus makes sure none of your works perish, Christian. God takes what you do, multiplies it, and uses it for the good of your neighbor and for God’s kingdom. Nothing you do, Christian, will ever perish because it is holy work rendered to your neighbor in service to God.

The disciples failed Jesus’ test here. They were left staring at their lack while this boy puts them to shame as he offers what he had. Yet, there is no recorded rebuke of Phillip or Andrew. Their lack of faith is forgiven and covered by Christ’s mercy just as your sins are covered. Cross and CommunionRemember, Jesus came to seek and to save you, the lost (lit.‘perishing’ Lk. 19:10), again, the same word in Jn. 3:16and v. 12. Jesus saves you, body and soul. And Jesus saves your works. Through His death and resurrection, Jesus provides more than we could imagine.

And now, to strengthen you for service in His kingdom, Christ feeds you with His Body and gives you to drink His Blood so that you are satisfied and ready to go from here to serve God by serving your neighbor. Amen.

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

The Fourth & Fifth Commandments: Order & Life

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

To recap the first three Commandments: God has told us to have no other gods than Himself, to not misuse His name, and to keep the Sabbath holy. In those Commandments, God has given and protected for us the gift of Himself as our God, the gift of His name to use in prayer, and the gift of His holy Word which gives us rest in His mercy.

Tonight, we move to the second table of the Law which has to do with love for our neighbor. But before we dive into the Fourth Commandment, it is good for us to briefly consider the order God has given in these Commandments because it is no accident. Turn in your hymnal to p. 23 because it might be helpful for you to see these Commands since I won’t quote them verbatim. Notice, the order: #4 – Honor your parents. #5 – Don’t murder. #6 – Don’t commit adultery. #7 – Don’t steal. #8 – Don’t harm your neighbor’s name or reputation. And for tonight, I’m going to skip over #9 and #10 both for the sake of time and for the fact that the 9thand 10thCommandments bring us back to the 1stCommandment according to Colossians 3:5.

Again, these Commandments, this second table of the Law, have to do with love for our neighbor. If it were up to us to order the Commandments, we might think the most important Commandment about loving our neighbor is to not murder because that is the most unlovingthing we can think of, but God puts the honor of parents as the first Command when it comes to loving our neighbor. Here is why: The 4thCommandment is about setting up and protecting order in creation. Without the gift of order, life is filled with only chaos and anarchy, so the 4thCommandment comes first. The 4thCommandment is the link between our love for God and our love for our neighbor (more on that in a minute). Now, on to…

The 4th Commandment

Honor thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God so that we do not despise our parents and superiors, nor provoke them to anger, but honor, serve, obey, love, and respect them.

This Commandment is unique. Of all the Commandments, only two are positive Commands. By ‘positive’ here, I don’t mean that it makes us feel good or something. Instead, this Command is telling us, “Do this,” just like the 3rdCommand told us, “Remember the Sabbath by keeping it holy.” All the others are negative, “Don’t do this.” But the main way this Command is unique is that it is the first Command with a promise (Eph. 6:2), “that your days may be long…” The first three Commands don’t contain a stated promise and blessing, but the 4thdoes.

And notice that God does not command that we love our parents; He commands that we honorthem. To honor someone is a higher command than to love because honor includes love but it also includes service, obedience or submission (more on that word in a minute), and respect. In the 4thCommandment, God puts parents right next to Himself as the most important thing in all creation because parents are a manifestation of God on earth.

Think about it this way: Where does your life come from? It comes from God; He is the Author and Giver of life (Act. 3:15; Ps. 139). But through whom does God give you life? Through your parents – through the role, the office, the vocation of father and mother. In that office and vocation, God has hidden Himself.

When you are (or were) a child God gives you protection, food, clothing, shelter, and education, but He did all of that through your parents. When you grow up (or now that you have grown up), God continues to give you all of those things through your boss and through the authorities over you. No one is ever free from being under authority. Even if both of your parents have died, you are still not free from the requirements of this Commandment because there are still parent figures over you either in your workplace or in the government.Romans 13:1connects the civil authorities to the 4thCommandment when it clearly states that everyone is to be subject to the authorities over us because there is no authority except what God has established.

The home is the foundation of all order in all society. Unfortunately, today we have largely lost sight of this, and cultures around the world are suffering because of that. It is from the home that other institutions get their authority. Parents, God gave your children to you, and your children are your responsibility. It is your responsibility as parents to raise your children in the faith, to educate them, to feed and clothe them, etc. There are times when it is good and right to delegate those responsibilities to someone else. But do not think that because you have delegated those responsibilities that you are free from them either. The further you delegate your responsibilities, the more likely it is that those responsibilities will not be carried out well. I don’t want to get too political here, but this is why socialism will never work. Socialism upends the way God created because it tries to replace the government as the source of order and authority instead of father and mother as the source of order and authority.

So, kids listen up, you are to honor your parents simply because they are your parents. It doesn’t matter if they are good parents or not. Their role or vocation as parents demands honor because God has given you life through them. So, if you want to show love for God, listen to God when He says, “Honor your father and mother.” And parents, listen up. You are to serve in your office as a parent in an honorable way because you are the visible, tangible, manifestation of God for your children to protect and enrich their lives which brings us to…

The 5th Commandment

Thou shalt not kill.

What does this mean?

We should fear and love God so that we do our neighbor no bodily harm nor cause him any suffering, but help and befriend him in every need.

God has given you a body and life, and in this Command God protects that body and life because after the order that God established in the 4thCommandment, your body and life are the most important gift God has given you.

I’m going to be brief on this one because I spent so much time on the 4thCommandment (and I could have gone on for hours on the 4thCommandment). The devil has done a very good job of diminishing God’s gift of life in our society. From abortion to euthanasia and assisted suicide in between, the sanctity of life has been lowered.

Because God created human life by joining body and soul to make a living being, all life from womb to tomb is sacred – period. Jesus tells us how serious God is in this Commandment by saying that anger toward another is the same as murder (Mt. 5:21-22).

With regard to both of these Commandments, we see how we have not lived up to God’s requirements of us. We have not honored our parents and the other authorities over us as we should. We have not helped our neighbor when we have had the opportunity to do so. Repent.

Repent and remember that is why the Son of God became flesh. Jesus had parents and was submissive to them (Lk. 2:51). Jesus loved you perfectly by taking on a body just like yours. In that body, Jesus perfectly loved you by taking all your sin into Himself as He suffered the wrath of God against your sin on the cross. Christ has given you His obedience and taken all your sin. Because of His righteousness and His self-sacrifice, you are made right with God. And know that when He returns, He raise up you and all the dead. And He will grant everlasting life – body and soul joined perfectly together – to you and to all who believe in Him. Amen.

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