Yes, Lord – Sermon on Matthew 15:21-28 for the Second Sunday in Lent

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Matthew 15:21-28

21 And Jesus went away from there and withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon. 22 And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out and was crying, “Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.” 23 But he did not answer her a word. And his disciples came and begged him, saying, “Send her away, for she is crying out after us.” 24 He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” 25 But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” 26 And he answered, “It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.” 27 She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table. 28 Then Jesus answered her, “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

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

I told you at the beginning of the service, but do you remember what this Sunday is called? Yes, Remember Sunday (in Latin it is called ‘Reminiscere’). In the Call to Worship (Introit) we asked God to remember His mercy and His steadfast love (Ps. 25:6), and we asked God to not remember our past sins (Ps. 25:7). This is the form and shape of prayer. We ask God to remember His good and gracious promises to us, and we ask God to not remember our sins so that He will not be angry with us and reject our prayers. As an example of prayer, we have before us this Canaanite woman.

The woman is not part of the people of God. She was a Canaanite, a pagan who was involved in occult worship, and this is likely why her daughter was severely demonized. James 4[:7], says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” It isn’t stretching the text at all to connect this woman’s Canaanite identity to her daughter’s terrible, horrific situation. Canaanites weren’t resisting the devil; they were dabbling in demonic stuff.

This woman knows that the demon oppressing her daughter is evil and that Jesus can help her. So, she prays. Jesus and the Syrophoenician WomanShe prays because she remembers that the God of Israel promised to deliver His people from the devil, which is why she addresses Jesus as the Son of David – to remind Him of His promises. And she remembers that she doesn’t deserve Jesus’ help because of her sins, so her prayer is, “Have mercy on me.”

She comes to Jesus in prayer, and what does your Savior do? He ignores her. He doesn’t answer her a word. But does she go away? Does she stop praying? No! She persists because she knows her trouble. She walks by faith and not by sight. She keeps praying because she knows that Jesus is the one who answers prayer. She prays so fervently that the disciples pray against her, “Send her away.”

So, Jesus answers the disciples, not this woman, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel.” Now, at least this woman knows two things: First, she knows that Jesus has heard her prayer. And second, she knows that Jesus knows who she is – a Canaanite and not an Israelite, not part of God’s people. She continues to persist in prayer. She kneels down before Jesus and says, “Lord, help me.” And finally, she gets her own word from Jesus, “It isn’t right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”Yes, Jesus called her a dog.

This looks to us like a terrible insult. It looks horrible, racist, and sexist. If you did this today, it would go ‘viral,’ and your reputation would likely be ruined. But in faith, this woman takes the insult. She says, “Yes, Lord.” In other words, “If You, Jesus, Son of David and Messiah, if You call me a dog, I’ll take it. I’ll be a dog. Go ahead and treat me like a dog. Just give me what the dogs get. I’m a dog, but dogs get crumbs. And a crumb is enough. Yes, Lord.”

Now, Jesus praises her faith. “O woman, great is your faith! Be it done for you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

Here’s the thing. God insults you as well. The Bible calls you worse than a dog. God in His Word calls you a sinner. He says that you deserve His wrath and anger. God says that you don’t deserve anything good from Him because you have rebelled against Him and hate Him. But here is what faith does. Faith believes that word from God. Faith clings to God’s declaration that says you are a sinner.

Faith says, “Yes. Yes, Lord. I am a sinner.” But faith doesn’t stop there either. Faith says, “Yes, Lord. I am a sinner. But, Jesus, You have said, ‘I came not to call the righteous, but sinners’” (Mt. 9:13). Faith says, “Lord, treat me like you treat sinners.” In other words, “Remember Your mercy and steadfast love. Don’t remember my sin.”

Boone, today you are Baptized. Boone, though you were a sinner, Christ has died for you and risen for you. Today in your Baptism, Jesus has clothed you with Himself (Gal. 3:27). Christ connected His Word to water and washed you clean making you His child and heir (Gal. 3:7, 9). So, Boone, Jesus has given you a word to remember, a word to cling to. Always cling to that Word. Remember His love and mercy for you. When you sin, have the boldness to ask Jesus to be what He says He is, the Savior of sinners.

The Table of GodBoone, and all of you, be bold in your prayers. Even when it seems that God is distant and ignoring you, He hears you. He loves you. Jesus has died and risen for you and is even now interceding for you before His Father in heaven (1 Jn. 2:1).

Know also that Jesus doesn’t only let you have the crumbs that fall from His table. He has given you a seat at His table. He invites you now to come to His table to receive the Bread of Life from heaven – His very Body. Come and receive His Blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of all your sins. Amen.

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


Miracle Sandwich – Sermon on Matthew 9:18-26 for the Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Trinity

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Matthew 9:18-26

18 While he was saying these things to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before him, saying, “My daughter has just died, but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” 19 And Jesus rose and followed him, with his disciples.

Woman with the Issue of Blood20 And behold, a woman who had suffered from a discharge of blood for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, 21 for she said to herself, “If I only touch his garment, I will be made well.” 22 Jesus turned, and seeing her he said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well.

23 And when Jesus came to the ruler’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, 24 he said, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And they laughed at him. 25 But when the crowd had been put outside, he went in and took her by the hand, and the girl arose. 26 And the report of this went through all that district.

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

One text; two miracles. One story begins, but before it finishes, another story takes place. Why would Matthew (along with Mark [5:22-43] and Luke [8:41-56], who also tell us about this event) lump these two miracles of Jesus together? Why make this miracle sandwich? Why take these two slices of bread – the healing of the woman who had a discharge of blood and the raising of a girl – and mash them together? The most obvious answer is that this is how it actually happened. But there are also important lessons for us to learn in this ‘holy hoagie.’ Those lessons are what makes this ‘supernatural sub-sandwich’ so delicious. So, let’s take a bite!

For the top slice of bread, we see Jesus is approached by a ruler. We learn from Mark and Luke that he is a ruler of the synagogue and named Jairus, and he is there to get Jesus to come and heal his daughter who is at the point of death. Matthew, inspired by the Holy Spirit, tells the story as quickly as possible. So, Matthew introduces Jairus as a father asking Jesus to raise and restore life to his dead daughter. But Mark and Luke let us know that Jairus had left his dying daughter to come to Jesus.

Notice Jairus’ faith. Jairus doesn’t offer any compelling reasons that Jesus should come to his house. He doesn’t mention his life of service in the synagogue. He doesn’t say how well-behaved his daughter is. He doesn’t make promises of how he will change his behavior if Jesus does this for him. Jairus simply believes that Jesus’ touch has life, so he says, “Come and lay Your hand on her, and she will live.” And Jesus confirms Jairus’ faith by going with him.

But as Jairus leads Jesus through the streets to his house, there is a problem. The crowd is getting in the way. People are all coming to get a glimpse of Jesus and pressing in on Him (Mk. 5:24). Jairus keeps his eyes forward, darts through the people, and pushes his way through the throngs merging to get close. Every moment is precious. Every second matters. But suddenly, Jairus notices that Jesus is no longer with him.

Jesus has stopped. Jairus makes his way back to find Jesus, and there He is chit-chatting with a woman which is the bottom slice of bread in our sandwich.

This woman had been suffering with a discharge of blood for twelve years. She had gone to every doctor and specialist she could find, but her every effort failed. Every bill she paid didn’t bring the relief she needed. Her last penny had been spent (Lk. 8:43), and yet her life was still slowly draining away. But this woman had an idea.

She thought to herself, “If I only touch the fringe of Jesus’ cloak, I will be,” (not, “healed,” or, “made well,” as our translation puts it), “I will be saved.”

Now, to any rational person, this is silly and even boarders on superstition. But notice her faith. Yes, it is uneducated; her doctrine is severely lacking. She doesn’t believe all the right things. Apparently, she doesn’t believe Jesus is God because she’s going to sneak up on Him, and you can’t sneak up on God; He knows everything. Also, all the other times Jesus healed people, He spoke to them or, at least, knew about them and their need. And this woman thinks, what? That she can steal what she needs from Jesus. Yes, her faith is silly and even infantile. There wasn’t anything special about Jesus’ clothing. Jesus wore the same types of clothing that everybody else wore. The type of stuff you would get at Eddie Bauer or Kohl’s today. But this woman has it in her mind that Jesus is so mighty, so powerful, and so gracious that just a brush of His cloak will save her.

So, she gets close enough, reaches through the crowd, touches Jesus’ garment, and is instantly healed (Mk. 5:29). And Jesus stops to confirm her faith. Jesus looks her in the eye and tells her, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has saved,”(again not, “made well,” as our translation says), “your faith has saved you.”

Now, back to Jairus. Don’t forget about him. While Jesus is speaking to the woman, someone from Jairus’ house arrives to tell him, “Your daughter is dead; don’t trouble Jesus any more” (Lk. 8:49). Imagine what the devil must have been doing in that moment to Jairus’ faith. But Jesus hears this and confirms and strengthens Jairus’ faith by saying, “Do not fear; only believe” (Lk. 8:50).

Arriving at the house, Jesus sees all the people gathered there to weep and mourn. And Jesus talks to them, and what He says is something that, to our ears, sounds as silly as the belief that Jesus’ clothes can heal. Raising of Jairus DaughterHe says to the mourners, “Go away, for the girl is not dead but sleeping.” And the mourners laugh, mocking Jesus and His words.

But Jesus isn’t concerned with their mockery. He marches straight into the house, takes the girl by the hand, and lifts her out of death just as easily as you would help your kid up after you have tied her shoe.

One text; two miracles. The healing of the woman and the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead. Two slices of good wholesome bread. But what makes this miracle sandwich so tasty; what is the Miracle Whip? Pun intended. What can we learn from this text?

Several things:

Go ahead and pray for things that seem silly or even impossible. Your prayers – whether they are big, small, or impossible – are not a bother to our Lord. Don’t be shy with your prayers. If you hold back on your prayers, you are showing that you don’t trust God. If you want your team to win the game, if you want a good parking spot, if you want your spouse to rise from the dead, ask God. He won’t laugh at your prayers any more than a mother would laugh at her four-year-old for saying he wants to be a dragon. Trust God with your desires – all your desires. He loves you. Don’t be afraid to ask. He already knows your desires anyway.

Also, don’t look at how things are going on in your life when you should be listening to Jesus. When your money is tight and you don’t know how you are going to make it. When you are arguing with your spouse and begin to wonder if they really love you or if your relationship will ever be the same. When your children fall into sin and make you doubt every parenting decision you ever made. When your health is so deep in the toilet and the pain is more than you can handle. In all those times, don’t let sin creep in and make you doubt God’s goodness, power, or love for you. Let Jesus’ words remind you that even if He doesn’t heal you like He healed the woman with the issue of blood, Resurrection Pulled out of DeathHe will raise you from the dead when He returns in glory. Even if you don’t get the things you want now, Christ will give you everything on the Last Day.

Finally, realize that, “True Christian worship is faith fighting against despair.”[1] When life seems hopeless or impossible, when the winds of despair blow, recognize that these are the temptations and assaults of the devil. In all those moments, Christ says to you what He said to Jairus, “Do not fear; only believe.”The greatest worship you can offer is to trust Christ’s words over everything you see, feel, and experience.

Listen to the words of Jesus. He is there to comfort you. He has delivered you from the domain of darkness and transferred you to His kingdom. He has redeemed you. He has forgiven you. And nothing in this life can ever take that away from you. Amen.

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

[1]Treatise on the Power and Primacy of the Pope, 44 (Kolb-Wengert, 338).

The War – Sermon on Ephesians 6:10-20 for the Twenty-First Sunday after Trinity

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Ephesians 6:10-20

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole Ephesians 6_10-18 - Armor of God Full of Eyesarmor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

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

Christian, the Bible does not call you a ballerina. You aren’t called to dance and twirl gracefully. The Bible does not say that you are a construction worker using tools and machines to build a temple. And the Bible does not identify you as a nobleman and ruling in a castle.

Instead, Scripture says that you, Christian, are a soldier. But you are not fighting against people. Politicians, mobs, or anyone who disagrees with you is not your enemy. You are fighting the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. The war is a spiritual war. The battle is an unseen battle, and we wouldn’t know about it unless the Scriptures told us. Thankfully, God has told us that the attacks on us, our families, our church come from our enemy, the devil. And even better, God has told us how we, as His soldiers, are to engage in the fight.

So, Paul is going to answer several questions in this text. If we are soldiers, where is the battle? What is our role? What is our protection? And what weapons are we given for battle, and how do we use them?

Ephesians 6_11–12 Armor of GodWhere is the battle? It’s not in the Middle East. It’s not in Washington D.C. It’s not in the media. It’s not even in the schools and universities. The devil brings the battle to the church. The devil attacks here, this congregation, and he attacks you.

Jesus has come. By His death and resurrection, Christ has delivered you from sin, death, and the devil. He has delivered you from the domain of darkness and transferred you to His kingdom (Col. 1:13). And Jesus places you in His church so that you are continually reminded of His work, deliverance, grace, mercy, and forgiveness. And the devil hates this. So, Satan comes and attacks our congregation. He attacks me as your pastor. The devil loves to whisper in my ear, “Everything you are doing is all in vain. Things aren’t going well at Christ the King. There are fewer people here now than there were last year. You don’t have the resources you used to have. The people don’t seem to care about the Scriptures.”

And the devil loves to attack you. But he doesn’t come straight on. Instead, he comes like a thief in the night. He attacks you by trying to weaken your love for the Scriptures. He tries to get you to focus on yourself which takes your focus off of Christ. The devil tries to lull you to sleep so you forget that because of Jesus you can stand before God with a clean conscience now and on the day of judgment. The devil brings the battle to you. This means that you are not called to be a soldier marching off to war. No, the battle comes to you.

What is our role? Stand. Did you hear how often this text told you to stand? Four times in three verses you are told to stand. Verse 11, “Put on the whole armor of God that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” Verse 13, “Take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm.” Verse 14, “Stand therefore.”

You are not told to attack (neither are you told to retreat). Stand. This is your duty. This means that you are a particular type of soldier. You are a sentry. You are a soldier who is commanded to keep guard, and you guard holy ground.

When Paul was writing this letter, one of the most important jobs a solder could have in the Roman Empire was sentry duty. All around the border of the empire were placed sentries who would be on guard through the night listening for an attacking army. This duty was so important that a sentry could be immediately executed for one of two failures in his duty.

The first offense he could be executed for was leaving the post either by retreating or attacking. If a sentry saw the enemy approaching and left his post to attack by himself, he would be killed (though, he’d probably die in the attack). The sentry wasn’t there to fight; he was there to call in reinforcements, battalions who were stationed behind the border at various intervals. The sentry would call in these troops so they could defeat the invading army.

And the second offense he could be executed for is if he fell asleep. If the sentry fell asleep while on duty, he’d lose his head. The sentry had to always be ready to call in the troops to defend the border.

Open Prayer HandsSo you, Christian, are to be praying at all times (v. 18), and keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints. Now, that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t ever sleep at night. And it doesn’t mean that you will be executed if you fall asleep during the sermon. Instead, you are to be spiritually aware and ready. Be watchful in your prayers.

So, here is the picture. You, believer, are a soldier who has been stationed at the border guarding the holy kingdom of Christ’s Church. You have a particular post. God has placed you in particular places where no one else has been placed and no one else has charge over. When you see the devil attacking, you don’t leave your post and fight. Instead, you pray and call in the reinforcements. When the devil attacks your spouse or kids, pray and call in the reinforcements. When you see the devil attacking your pastor and this congregation, pray. When you hear the enemy advancing on your friends and coworkers, pray. Those are the places God has called you to watch over, and He hasn’t called anyone else to that post. Do your duty. Stand. Watch. Pray. So that the devil may not find a way in. Your job is to stand, guard, watch, and pray. This is dangerous work, so…

What is our protection? God’s armor. You are not protected by your own might. You aren’t safe with your own ninja skills. Instead, you are clothed with the armor of Christ. God’s truth and Christ’s righteousness are your protection. The Gospel guards and makes your feet swift. The shield of faith in Christ protects you. And the helmet of salvation protects your head and mind. It doesn’t matter which direction the devil shoots his arrows at you, you are covered in God’s armor. The devil takes aim at you with a barrage his flaming darts trying to condemn you and attack your faith, “You said this. You did that. You fell into temptation here. You sinned against your neighbor.” But the armor of God stops every one of them leaving you unharmed.

The armor of God protects you. But there is one more thing you are given, the sword of the spirit, which brings us to the last question.

What weapons are you given for battle? Verse 17, take up the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God. How are you to use this sword? Verse 18, pray. Praying at all times in the Spirit with all prayer and supplication. Use God’s Word to pray.

Jesus Crushes the Serpent's HeadThe promises given to you in God’s Word are the very things you are to pray. When the fighting comes near you and you have to fight toe to toe with the devil, use God’s Word. It is what Jesus used when He was tempted by the devil. And when you pray, you are calling in the reinforcements, you are calling in Christ Himself. The Champion who defeated the devil. It looked like the devil won when Jesus was in the grave. But Jesus stood up. He vanquished Satan and crushed the serpent’s head. And you, dear Christian, you stand with Him. Amen.

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

Scary Success – Sermon for the Fifth Sunday of Trinity on Luke 5:1-11

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Luke 5:1-11

Jesus Teaches from Peter's BoatOn one occasion, while the crowd was pressing in on him to hear the word of God, he was standing by the lake of Gennesaret, and he saw two boats by the lake, but the fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets. Getting into one of the boats, which was Simon’s, he asked him to put out a little from the land. And he sat down and taught the people from the boat.

And when he had finished speaking, he said to Simon, “Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.” And Simon answered, “Master, we toiled all night and took nothing! But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done this, they enclosed a large number of fish, and their nets were breaking. They signaled to their partners in the other boat to come and help them. And they came and filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.” For he and all who were with him were astonished at the catch of fish that they had taken, 10 and so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, “Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men.” 11 And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him.

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

God gives better than you ask, and His promises exceed everything that you desire.

Peter was tired. He had spent the whole night fishing. Well, ‘fishing’ is too strong of a word. He caught nothing. If he had been using a pole and hook, he would have been up all night drowning worms, but Peter and his partners used nets to catch fish. Through the dark hours of the night, they cast their nets again and again and again only to bring them up empty each and every time.

You can imagine their frustration as they pulled the boats to shore while the sun broke on the horizon. They probably talked with each other about what went wrong. Maybe, they wondered how they would provide for their families and where their money would come from the next week. Now, they simply wanted to clean their nets, go home, and sleep.

But while they clean their nets, Jesus is there on the shore teaching God’s Word to a massive crowd. Everyone is trying to get close to hear Him. So, Jesus says, “Hey Peter, why don’t you row Me out a bit so I can keep preaching?”Peter obliges, and the boat becomes a pulpit.

Jesus’ sermon ends. Unlike me, Jesus doesn’t, apparently, slip into what I call a ‘post-liturgical coma.’ Instead, Jesus has an idea. “Hey Peter, why don’t we row out a bit further and catch some fish?”

Now, Peter knew fishing. There was a reason he and his partners had been out all night and not during the day – that’s when you catch fish. He had just finished cleaning his nets so they would be ready for their next excursion. Peter just wanted to go home and find his pillow.

Peter could have said, “Listen here, Jesus. Sure, You can teach the Scriptures like nobody else. But listen, Mr. Carpenter, fishing is my game. Why don’t You stick to teaching and woodworking?” But he doesn’t. Peter responds, “At Your word, I will let down the nets.” This statement is as good as faith gets on this side of eternity.

Now, imagine this. Peter and Andrew put down the nets and sail around a bit, knowing this isn’t the time to do this. They reach down to draw the net into the boat. That night, they had gotten used to lifting nothing but the weight of the net, but this time they feel resistance. They pull and tug and heft. The nets start creaking and breaking because of all the weight. They signal to their partners to come and help. All of them together can’t lift the net into the boat, so they start scooping fish into both boats as fast as they can. They are wet, slimy, and breathless as both boats become so full of fish that they begin to sink.

Pause here for a minute. Peter and his partners, apparently, had quite an operation going for themselves. They weren’t simply recreational fishermen. This was a business – several professionals operating several boats. They had never had a catch like this. You would think the first thing to go through Peter’s mind would be to sign Jesus as their navigator and guide. He could tell them when and where to cast their nets. They could buy a fleet of boats, hire more fishermen, and find a crew to clean and mend the nets. How slick would this be? Peter could retire early and live on easy street. But none of that enters his mind.

Catch of Fish from Luke 5Getting a catch like that would be the dream any fisherman. But it is too much of a good thing. This catch is threatening their livelihood, nearly breaking the nets and causing the boats to sink; it is killing them. And these fish – which had been their life and livelihood – could not save them. This fishing expedition is a massive success. Surrounded by what would provide for his life for months if not years, Peter can only see his sin.

Consider your life. What do you do each and every day? Where do you spend your time and effort? What are you focused on? What are your goals and dreams? What do you pray for and ask God to give you? Do you ever get frustrated with God when He does not answer? And when God does give you what you ask, how long are you satisfied?

Repent. Your goals and dreams are not what they should be. God knows what is good for you even better than you do. God is still good when He doesn’t give you what you what you ask for. God was good when He allowed the disciples to catch nothing that night. And Jesus is good by denying Peter’s request to depart.

“Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord,” is a stupid prayer. If Jesus answered that prayer, Peter would not only drown, he would go to hell because hell is where God is not present in His mercy for sinners.

Jesus knows how to answer better than Peter knows how to ask. Jesus answers Peter’s prayer in a way that exceeded anything sinful Peter could have desired. Jesus says, “Do not be afraid.”

Two weeks ago, we heard the scribes and Pharisees grumbling about Jesus, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” What they meant as mocking and jest is your faithful and holy confession.

Yes, Jesus does receive sinners. In fact, Jesus has this in mind when He gives Peter his new calling, “From now on, Peter, you will be catching men alive.”Jesus uses a particular word here. It doesn’t simply mean to catch, it means to catch alive.

Jesus does not depart. Instead, He draws closer to Peter so that Peter and the other apostles can have a new calling – to catch men alive with the net of the life-giving Gospel.

Cross and CommunionJesus’ will is that you be caught by the net of the Gospel, that you be brought into the boat of the church, and that you have fellowship with Him now and forever. It is Jesus’ will that He not depart from you but that He draw you to Himself.

Jesus says to you, “Fear not. I give to you My Body which was crucified but lives. I give to you My shed Blood which is the source of your life and forgiveness.”Jesus says, “Come and receive what you wouldn’t dare ask for, but I freely and happily give to you.”And you? You say, “At Your word, Lord, I will do as You say.” Amen.

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

God Has Options – Sermon for the Second Sunday after Epiphany on John 2:1-11

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John 2:1-11

1 On the third day there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. 2 Jesus also was invited to the wedding with his disciples. 3 When the wine ran out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” 4 And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does this have to do with me? My hour has not yet come.” Jesus Turns Water into Wine John 25 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” 6 Now there were six stone water jars there for the Jewish rites of purification, each holding twenty or thirty gallons. 7 Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them up to the brim. 8 And he said to them, “Now draw some out and take it to the master of the feast.” So they took it. 9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, “Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have become drunk, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now.” 11 This, the first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in Galilee, and manifested his glory. And his disciples believed in him.

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

When you think through all the miracles of Jesus, turning water into wine is probably the miracle you think is least significant. Jesus did so many other, more important, miracles. He fed the masses and healed diseases. He made the lame to walk, the blind to see, and the deaf to hear. He cast out demons and raised the dead. Turning water into wine just seems like a nifty party trick especially when you consider that Jesus did this for people who are drunk. (The word that the master of the feast uses in v. 10 is the drunkenness that Scripture warns about [1 Cor. 6:9-11; Eph. 5:18]). And yet, Scripture says this was the first sign Jesus does to manifest His glory.

Jesus, Mary, and the first few disciples are all at a wedding, and the wine runs out. Either the guests were enjoying the wine quicker than respectable people should, or the bride and groom didn’t plan well enough. Mary informs Jesus, “They have no wine.” Notice that she doesn’t ask for anything in particular. She doesn’t offer a solution. She doesn’t ask Jesus to rebuke the drunks. She gives no stipulations and doesn’t tell Jesus how to act. She simply puts the situation in front of Him, “They have no wine.”

But Jesus doesn’t seem too interested. “Woman, what does this have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come.”

But Mary doesn’t give up hope. She tells the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” She leaves every option to Jesus believing that Jesus knows and will do what is good and right. And this is a beautiful expression of faith.

Mary has no idea what Jesus will tell them. Jesus might not tell them anything, or He might tell everyone, “Go home. The party is over.” When Jesus does tell the servants to fill the jars, He might be setting up a purification station. He might start dunking their heads in hot and cold water to sober them up like Fezzik does to Inigo in “The Princess Bride.”

Mary doesn’t know what Jesus will do, but she trusts. She believes that Jesus is compassionate. She knows that God loves weddings, celebrations, and joy. Whatever Jesus tells them to do will be good – even if it is uncomfortable and unpleasant.

This is faith. Faith expects good things from God. Faith trusts God to keep His promises, to be a loving heavenly Father. But faith also recognizes that God has options.

Open Prayer HandsWhen you or a loved one is plagued with sickness and disease you pray for healing. You pray for a clean scan. You pray that the next doctor appointment will show that everything is normal. You pray for a miracle. These are all good things to pray for.

But remember, God has options. Yes, God can heal you instantaneously. But He can also allow the disease to spread. He can allow the sickness to remain. God can even use that disease to be your death or the death of your loved one.

Does that mean that God hasn’t heard your prayer? Does that mean that God is angry with you? Does that mean that God has abandoned or failed you? Does that mean God doesn’t love you? No. Absolutely no!

You look around and see a world filled with injustice. You see people starving. You see nations at war. You see corrupt governments and politicians. So, you pray. You pray that this person would get elected or that policy will be enacted.

But if God doesn’t submit to your solution, if the wicked continue to prosper and the world stays evil, you are tempted to doubt. You start to wonder if God really cares. But does He care? Does God still love justice and hate wickedness? Yes. Absolutely, yes!

Now, should you pray for things you want? Of course. God already knows the desires of your heart. But also, be ready to accept what God gives you because it will be, it absolutely will be, a good beyond comprehension. He is your loving heavenly Father, and He withholds no good thing from His children (Ps. 84:11; Mt. 7:11).

Remember, just before He was arrested, Jesus prayed three times, “Father, let this cup pass from Me” (Mt. 26:39-44). Never in the history of mankind was there a more futile petition prayed to God. Jesus Himself said that it was necessary for Him to suffer and die (Lk. 9:22). Yet, each time He prayed to be delivered from the crucifixion, Jesus also prayed, “Your will be done.”

Let God have His options. He will always do what is good, right, and best. Don’t let Satan fill your head with his lies that God is holding out on you. Remember that God delights in your prayers. And remember that He has answered all the sickness, pain, suffering, and The Resurrectionsin of this world. He has answered them by sending His Own, beloved Son to die and rise again. He has glory for you that is unspeakable and unimaginable.

Remember, you will never suffer anything that the Resurrection cannot fix. Look for that. God has promised it. He who has promised is faithful (Heb. 10:23), and He will surely do it. Amen.

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