Sunday, October 30, 2022

Sermon for the Festival of the Reformation - Jn 8:31-36



                                                                                      Jn 8:31-36



          In the verse just before our text John states, “As he was saying these things, many believed in him.”  In the verses that proceed this Jesus has said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me. And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him.”

          It is these words that have caused his hearers to believe in Jesus.  However, it quickly becomes clear that this “belief” is a very shallow one. We learn in our text that Jesus said to those who believed in him, If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

          Inherent in Jesus’ statement is the claim that apart from Jesus they are not free. And the Jews who were listening to Jesus – who had “believed” in Jesus - immediately took offense at this.  They said, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?”

Clearly, Jesus had struck a nerve, because their response was absurd.  The land of Israel and the Jews had been conquered and ruled by the Assyrians, the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Ptolemies, the Seleucids and the Romans. In fact between 587 BC and Jesus’ day, the Jews had only ruled themselves for about one hundred years.

          Our Lord’s answer to them reveals that he is talking about a profound reality that goes beyond anything they are willing to admit, or can even perceive.  He stated, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

          Jesus expressed that sin is an enslaving force.  It enslaves people, and apart from God’s saving action in Christ, this sin demonstrates the one who is really lord over a person’s life.  Those interacting with Jesus had appealed to the fact they were the offspring of Abraham. So Jesus responded, “I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. I speak of what I have seen with my Father, and you do what you have heard from your father.”

          The Jews were now rejecting Jesus, and so our Lord told them, “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 has nothing to do with 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. But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.”

          Jesus’ language about freedom and slavery reveals the true nature of humanity. Earlier, he had told Nicodemus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”  Our Lord declared that a person must be born again.  He expressed why this was so when he went on to say, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”  Since the disobedience of Adam in the Garden of Eden, sinful, fallen people have given birth to sinful, fallen people.  We are conceived and born as sinners for whom the devil is lord.

          By ourselves, we are slaves to the devil and sin.  Yet Jesus says in our text, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”  The Son has set us free from sin.  He did it when he was lifted up on the cross.  John says in his first epistle that “the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin.”  He added later that the Son of God, “appeared in order to take away sins; and in him there is no sin.”

          Jesus Christ died on the cross.  But death could not hold him, because on the third day God raised Jesus from the dead.  He is now the source of forgiveness and life.  The Spirit who proceeds from the Father and the Son has given us this life.  He did it in Holy Baptism as we were born again of water and the Spirit.

          We have been born again. But at the same time, the old Adam still clings to us.  As John says in his first epistle, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.”  In ourselves, there will always be a struggle against sin.  This means that if we tie salvation in any way to our actions and our doing, we can never have peace.

          That was the very situation that existed during the medieval period in the Church.  Everyone knew that Jesus’ death on the cross and resurrection from the dead was the reason for forgiveness.  Everyone knew that God’s grace was what made it possible to be a Christian.  Yet from that starting point, Christianity was defined as a matter of doing.  It was a matter of gaining merit before God.

          The central focus of the Christian life was penance.  A Christian confessed sins to a priest, and received absolution.  This absolution forgave the guilt of their sin.  However, medieval theology had developed the idea this was not sufficient in order to have fellowship with God and eternal life.  The sinner had offended God and so there was a penalty to be paid – a debt owed to God.

          The merits earned in penance were the means by which this debt was paid.  The problem was that each sin required penance.  The individual was constantly adding to the penance that was owed.  The person confessed sin and received penance they were to do.  The individual had to do the penance, or else the absolution was negated and the process itself became a mortal sin.  So priests assigned a small action, like saying a certain number of Our Fathers. Yet this didn’t come close to covering the full penance that was owed.

          The penance – the penalty owed to God – was always growing.  And the problem was that if a person died without paying off this penalty, they would find themselves facing thousands upon thousands of years in purgatory.  Purgatory was described as a fiery place of suffering that the individual had to endure before finally entering heaven.

          Christianity at the beginning of the sixteenth century was defined by doing.  It was about acquiring as much merit as possible to avoid – or at least minimize the time in purgatory.  And so Christians fasted. They went on pilgrimages.  They paid for Masses to be said. They bought indulgences that promised to remove years from the time in purgatory.

But if you were really serious about being a Christian – if you truly wanted to be “religious” you became a monk or a nun.  Martin Luther was certainly very serious about being a Christian.  His eternal salvation was the central focus of his life.  He entered a monastery of the Augustinian Order, and there he pursued the life of monk with all the rigor that was possible for a person.  It is widely believed that the health problems Luther experienced later in life were caused by physical damage done during his life as a monk.

What Luther did not find in this life was peace. He was keenly aware of his sins, and knew that he was in a losing battle to do enough. Luther was spiritually troubled, but also had a brilliant mind. He was sent to pursue graduate studies in theology, and eventually to teach at the University of Wittenberg.  There he encountered indulgences that were being sold in a nearby area.  There were aspects of this that troubled him and so he posted his famous 95 Theses as the topic for an academic disputation. Without Luther knowing, the 95 Theses were published and distributed throughout Germany, and also translated into German.

God used that event, and Luther, in ways that Luther himself never expected. Luther was forced to turn to the Scriptures and as he studied God’s Word he discovered two things.  First, he learned that forgiveness is a free gift from God.  It is something given by God’s grace – his undeserved loving favor.  It is something given on account of Christ’s death and resurrection.  It is something that is received by faith.  As Jesus says in our text this morning, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

When God gives forgiveness, there is nothing more to be done!  He gives it complete and whole because of Christ. And thank God that there is nothing more to be done, because our doing is always marred by sin.  If our doing is involved in way in receiving salvation, then we can never know if we have done enough.

The second thing Luther discovered was that many things being taught by the Church at that time were not found in Scripture, or in fact contradicted it.  Like the distinction between “guilt” and “penalty” it was the teaching of men repeated over and over until everyone believed it was true.

Luther discovered that the teaching of the Church must be based on Scripture alone.  It must be based on actual statements in the prophetic and apostolic Word of the Old and New Testament.  This is the source of revelation from God, not what people in the Church have said in the centuries that followed. 

Yet on this Festival of the Reformation, we also need to avoid a common misunderstanding about Luther.  Luther denied that doing has any part in why we are forgiven and saved.  But he was also adamant that those who have been saved by faith in Christ now do works.

Luther wrote that first we must receive Christ as a gift by faith.  But then he went on to say: “When you now have Christ in that way as the basis and blessing of your salvation, then the second part follows, namely, that you take Him as an example and devote yourself to serving your neighbor, just as you see He devoted Himself to you.  Then faith and love are both active, God’s commandment is fulfilled, and the person is cheerful and fearless to do and suffer anything.”

On this Festival of the Reformation, we give thanks to God that he used his servant Martin Luther to make the Gospel clear in the life of the Church once again.  Forgiveness and salvation is a gift from God – it is by his grace. He gives it on account of the death and resurrection Jesus, and it is received through faith alone.  There is nothing more to do.  There is nothing more than can be done. As Jesus says in our text today, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be freed indeed.”








Sunday, October 23, 2022

Sermon for the Feast of St. James of Jerusalem - Mt 13:54-58


St. James of Jerusalem

                                                                           Mt 13:54-58




During the course of our married life, Amy and I lived several doors down from a man named “Bob.” Now Bob is not really his name, but it will become obvious why I am not going to use it.  I also found that it is hard to tell this story without having a name, so we will call him “Bob.”

Bob had a brother who had gone into the entertainment industry as a comedian.  He has been quite successful. He has appeared very regularly on TV. He lives in the Los Angeles area and is worth ten to fifteen million dollars.  So we are not talking about a mega-star, but still he has done very well.

Bob also had the desire to be a comedian.  He had given it a try, but things had not worked out.  Bob was intelligent, and now worked in a job where he made a good living.  But as I said, Bob lived several doors down from us, so needless to say he was not worth ten to fifteen million dollars.

I always wondered what it was like for Bob.  His brother had been very successful in the occupation that he himself had wanted to do.  His brother had acquired wealth that surpassed anything Bob could hope to attain.  His brother lived a life that allowed him to do things that Bob never could.

I mention Bob, because in a similar way, I have wondered what it was like to be one of Jesus’ brothers. Today we celebrate the Feast of St James of Jerusalem. St James was the brother of Jesus, just as in our text we hear about Jesus’ other brothers, Joseph and Simon and Judas.

Now in the Church there has been a tradition that was well established in the medieval period that Mary, Jesus’ mother, remained a virgin her entire life. The passages that mention Jesus’ brother have been explained away by saying that these were half-brothers or cousins. While strictly speaking this is not impossible, it is also extremely unlikely.  Under normal circumstances, there is nothing about these texts that would lead us to read them in any other way than as describing actual brothers of Jesus who had been born to Mary and Joseph in the normal fashion.  Instead, the attempt to read them differently has been prompted by the desire to focus on Mary herself in ways that have proven to be false and very harmful.

So what was it like to be Jesus’ brother?  Apart from Luke’s account of the trip to Jerusalem when Jesus was a boy, we don’t learn anything else about our Lord when he was growing up.  At the end of that account Luke tells us, “And he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was submissive to them. And his mother treasured up all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”

Certainly, his brothers must have recognized that there was something different about Jesus.  Jesus never disobeyed. He always acted in perfect love towards everyone. For sinners like his brothers, Jesus was probably a little annoying.

And then one day, everything changed. John the Baptist began his ministry.  Jesus went down from Galilee to Judea and was baptized by John.  When he returned to Galilee, Jesus began a ministry of his own as he began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He started performing miracles as he healed and cast out demons.  Matthew tells us, “And he went throughout all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every affliction among the people.” Jesus’ fame spread and great crowds followed him from Galilee and the Decapolis, and from Jerusalem and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan.

So how did James and the other brothers of Jesus respond to this?  The first thing we need to recognize is that they are never mentioned in the Gospels as being followers of Jesus.  Mark tells us that during Jesus’ ministry some members of his family – we aren’t told specifically who was involved - wanted to take hold of Jesus because they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”

In the previous chapter, Matthew tells us, While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him.”  Here, Jesus’ family is described as being on the outside.  Our Lord replied, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” Then he stretched out his hand toward his disciples and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.”

In our text we hear about a visit Jesus made to Nazareth.  The hometown boy was religious celebrity, and so he taught in the synagogue.  Yet the response of the people in Nazareth was to reject Jesus because he was familiar.  They reacted by saying, “Where did this man get this wisdom and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? And are not his brothers James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And are not all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” We learn that they took offense at him.

Jesus responded by saying, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” And then we learn that he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.  The people of Nazareth didn’t believe in Jesus. And while the Gospel of John tells us that Mary was with Jesus at his crucifixion, it also tells us explicitly, “For not even his brothers believed in him.”

Like the residents of Nazareth, James and the brothers of Jesus did not believe in him.  They were offended by the familiar nature of Jesus.  There is a warning here for us. It is easy for us to become offended by the familiar nature of Jesus.  We hear about Jesus and the forgiveness of sins again and again.  We take part in the celebration of the Sacrament of the Altar Sunday after Sunday.  Over time, we can begin to take this for granted.  In the midst of the challenges and difficulties of life we start to ask, “Is this all there is? Doesn’t God have anything more for us?”  This is the language of little faith – of faith that is weak.  But if we continue in this way long enough it can turn into what Jesus encountered at Nazareth – unbelief.  It can turn into the attitude of James during Jesus’ ministry.

We know from the Book of Acts that James was a very faithful Jew.  When Jesus was crucified on Good Friday, James found the ultimate confirmation that he had been correct to reject Jesus.  Jesus claimed to be the Christ – the Messiah.  However, the Old Testament was clear that the Messiah descended from David would be mighty and victorious.  The two most quoted verses about the Messiah among Jews of this period where Psalm two and Isaiah eleven.  Pslam 2 talked about the nations and said of the Messiah, “You shall break them with a rod of iron and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel.” Isaiah 11 said, “and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.”

What is more, after Jesus died by the humiliating death of crucifixion at the hands of the Romans, James knew that his brother had been cursed by God as a false prophet.  After all, Deuteronomy said, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.”  After Jesus died on Friday and was buried, James went to bed on Saturday night knowing that he had been correct in rejecting Jesus.

And then, Jesus rose from the dead.  We don’t know precisely when James encountered the risen Lord.  But Paul tells us in First Corinthians fifteen, “Then he appeared to James.”  And it wasn’t just James.  All of Jesus’ brothers met the risen Lord.  Luke tells us that after his ascension, the apostles returned to Jerusalem.  Them he adds, “All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and his brothers.”

In the resurrection of Jesus, James learned that God had vindicated his brother as Lord.  Jesus’ crucifixion had actually been God’s saving work for us.  Paul summarized this when he told the Galatians using another passage from Deuteronomy, “For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.’”  The law brings a curse on all who fail to do it.  It brings God’s judgment upon all who sin in thought, word, and deed.

But the good news of the Gospel is that God has redeemed us from the curse.  He has freed us, and he did it through the crucifixion of Jesus.  The apostle went on to say, Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us--for it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree.’”

Through Jesus’ death we have been redeemed from the curse. And by his resurrection we have received the assurance of eternal life and resurrection on the Last Day.  James met his risen brother, and came to understand that he is in fact the Son of God.  He learned that through Jesus the Christ we have received forgiveness and victory over death.

This changed everything for James and the rest of Jesus’ brothers.  We learn from Paul in 1 Corinthians nine that Jesus’ brothers went forth as missionaries who proclaimed Jesus as the crucified and risen Lord.  Very quickly, James became the leader of the church in Jerusalem. In our first reading this morning from Acts 15 we see the surprising fact that in the Council at Jerusalem, James speaks the last word.

James, who did not believe in Jesus during his ministry, became a leader in the church because of the resurrection.  He now believed in Jesus and gave witness about him.  He gave witness in the ultimate fashion as he became a martyr for Jesus. We often lack firm evidence for what happened to the apostles and early leaders in the church. But that’s not the case when it comes to James.

The first century Jewish historian Josephus reports that the Roman governor Festus – the same governor who had sent Paul to Rome – died.  As you hear almost every year on Good Friday, the Jews did not have the authority to execute a person.  Only the Romans could do this.  Yet with Festus dead, and the new governor Ablinus still on his way to Judea there was a power vacuum. And so, the Jewish leader Ananus called the Sanhedrin together, and Josephus tells us they had James the brother of Jesus stoned to death as a breaker of the law. 

James died because he now believed so completely in his brother Jesus who had been crucified.  He died because he had met the risen Jesus and knew that death was not the end. Instead, those who believe in Christ have eternal life, and our Lord will raise us up on the Last Day.

In St. James of Jerusalem we receive a reminder that though Jesus Christ may seem familiar, he never ceases to be the amazing and remarkable way that God has acted in our world to give us forgiveness and victory over death.  His resurrection turned James into a believer who proclaimed the crucified Christ - something that was a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.  Because of the resurrection, James was willing to be a martyr – he was willing to bear witness to Jesus by dying because of faith in the Lord. 

The risen Lord who did this continues now to come us through his Means of Grace. He is present trough his Word and Sacraments.  His Spirit gives us forgiveness and strengthens us in faith so that we can bear witness to Jesus in what we say and do.  Jesus and his gifts may be familiar, but because he is the crucified and risen Lord they never cease to be what we need. They are the saving action of God, and are all we will ever need as we look toward the time when we will stand with St. James before Christ on the day of resurrection.      





Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist


Today is the Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist. According to Colossians 4:14, Luke was a physician.  He joined Paul during his second missionary journey (Acts 16:9-11) and accompanied him during several portions of his travels.  He traveled with Paul to Jerusalem and was with him during the two years that he was imprisoned in Caesarea (Acts 21-26).  It is likely that Luke used this time to gather material he used in writing the Gospel of Luke.  Luke wrote the Book of Acts as the second volume that accompanies the Gospel of Luke (Acts 1:1-2).  More than one-third of the New Testament was written by Luke.

 Scripture reading:

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go. And he said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few. Therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Carry no moneybag, no knapsack, no sandals, and greet no one on the road. Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest upon him. But if not, it will return to you. And remain in the same house, eating and drinking what they provide, for the laborer deserves his wages. Do not go from house to house. Whenever you enter a town and they receive you, eat what is set before you. Heal the sick in it and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ (Luke 10:1-9 ESV)

 Collect of the Day:

Almighty God, our Father, Your blessed Son called Luke the physician to be an evangelist and physician of the soul.  Grant that the healing medicine of the Gospel and the Sacraments may put to flight the diseases of our souls that with willing hearts we may ever love and serve You; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.



Sunday, October 16, 2022

Sermon for the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity - Mt 22:34-46


Trinity 18

                                                                                       Mt 22:34-46



          “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.”  This saying explains the strange alliance that the Sadducees and the Pharisees struck up together in opposition to Jesus.  Now on their own, the Sadducees and Pharisees were strident opponents.  The Sadducees base of power was tied to the temple.  They held that the only the first five books of the Old Testament were Scripture, and they denied that there would be a resurrection.

          The Pharisees on the other hand were a lay based group throughout Palestine. They had individuals who were specially trained in the interpretation of Scripture, such as Saul before he became the apostle Paul, but the majority of Pharisees were what we could call “lay men.” They accepted all of the Old Testament as Scripture and believed in the resurrection. As I have mentioned in the past, they also had their own oral tradition about how to interpret the Torah – the Law of Moses. This took aspects of the law that applied to priests, and instead required it of all Jews.  The antagonism between the two groups becomes especially apparent in the Book of Acts.

          Yet in Jesus the two groups had discovered someone they found so threatening that they were willing to work together in opposition to him.  We see this in our text which describes events that took place during Holy Week.  In this time, both groups launched a series of attacks against Jesus as they tried to find something they could use against him.  The Sadducees had just debated with Jesus using their denial of the resurrection as the basis of their question to him. However, they were unsuccessful.

          Our text begins by saying, “But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together.”  The Pharisees had seen the Sadducees fail.  So they got together and plotted another run at Jesus.  We learn that they sent the “varsity team” – a lawyer, that is someone who had special training in the Old Testament law and its interpretation. We are also explicitly told that he asked his question in order to test Jesus.

          He said, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”  Now we know that Jews debated questions about the law, though we don’t have any evidence elsewhere about this particular question being addressed. Clearly the Pharisee believed that by engaging Jesus in this question he could trip Jesus up and get something to use against him.

          The Pharisee and his companions got more than they expected.  First, Jesus provided not one, but two answers. And then he came back at them with a question that got to the heart of the entire dispute.

          In his answer, Jesus replied, “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.”  Our Lord replied with the verse from Deuteronomy chapter six that was frequently spoken in Jewish religious life.  This verse sums up the First Commandment. It says that we are to love God with all that we are.

          But Jesus didn’t stop there.  He added, “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”  This verse from Leviticus chapter nineteen, goes beyond loving God.  It says that we are to love our neighbor fully, because of course, that is how we love our selves. And then Jesus added, “On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” He declared that all of the Old Testament was summarized by these two commandments.

          Jesus tied love of one’s neighbor to loving God. He was saying that a person keeps the first of the commandments by keeping the second.  This was directed at the Pharisees’ lack of love for others as they focused on keeping their interpretation of the law. Twice Jesus had told the Pharisees that they needed to learn what God meant when he said through the prophet Hosea, “I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.”

          We may not be Pharisees focused on a particular interpretation of the Old Testament law, but we are no different in that we fail to love God by loving our neighbor. We speak angry and cutting words to our family members.  We gossip and hurt our neighbor’s reputation.  We ignore the things that we could do for others, because they would be inconvenient for us.

          The Pharisee had asked a question about the interpretation of the law. Jesus had answered. And now, while the Pharisees were still there, he asked them a question.  The manner in which their continuing presence is described in Greek indicates that we should understand Jesus’ question in relation to their original question about interpretation of the law.

          Jesus asked them, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” The answer was obvious.  Everyone knew from the Old Testament that the Christ would descend from David. And so they said to him, “The son of David.”

          Then, Jesus threw them a curveball that they never saw coming.  He said to them, “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet’? If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?”

          Jesus quoted the first verse of Psalm 110.  It is a psalm written by David.  Our Lord said that the Holy Spirit was speaking through David about the Christ.  David said that the Lord – Yahweh – had said to David’s Lord, “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” 

          Jesus did not deny that the Christ was the son of David – the descendant of King David. But he asked the question, “If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?”  The descendant of a great figure like David was not called his “Lord.” And beyond that, the Pslam verse said that the Christ would sit at the right hand of Yahweh. No human being was ever described in this way.

          We learn at the end of our text, “And no one was able to answer him a word, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.”  The Pharisees were baffled and could give no reply.  There were two reasons for this. First, we have basically no evidence that this verse from Psalm 110 was considered to be a verse about the Christ – the Messiah – by Jews of this period.  Jesus was using a Scripture text in a way that they had not seen before.

          Even more importantly, he was using this Scripture text because he was the fulfillment of it, yet the Pharisees were determined to reject him.  As readers of the Gospel we know that Jesus is the son of David because Joseph, who was from the line of David, had taken him to be his son.  But we also know Jesus is not merely a man. The angel had told Joseph, Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

          Jesus is the Christ, the son of David.  But he is the One conceived through the work of the Holy Spirit in the virgin Mary. He is the Christ, the Son of God. He is true man born from the substance of his mother in this age.  He is God, begotten from the substance of the Father before all ages. David must call him “Lord” because he is God.  He is seated at the right hand of the Father because he is God.

          The Pharisees had asked a question about the interpretation of the law – about how to interpret Scripture.  Jesus’ reply was that he was the key to interpreting Scripture. He was the fulfillment of all that God had said in the Old Testament. 

          Jesus fulfilled Scripture by loving God the Father with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his mind. He fulfilled Scripture by loving us more than himself because of his love for the Father.  Jesus said, “the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”  Jesus the Christ was in the world as true God and true man to offer himself as the sacrifice for our sins.  He came suffer and die for all of the ways we love ourselves more than God or our neighbor.  He received God’s judgment as he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Yet he did this for the very reason stated by the angel to Joseph - to save his people from their sins.

          In our text we see that Jesus is the Christ. He is the son of David, and the Son of God.  He is true man and true God. As true man, Jesus was able to die.  But on the third day, God the Father raised Jesus from the dead.  He raised him – the One who is still true God and true.  Yet he raised him with a humanity transformed so it can never die again.  Jesus is the firstborn of the dead.  He is the beginning of the resurrection in which we will all share on the Last Day.

          Christ gives the forgiveness he won to you.  He is doing it now, as you hear the Gospel proclaimed.  He did it in Holy Baptism, and your baptism remains the source of forgiveness as you believe God’s promise that he has attached to water and the Word.  He will do it yet again in the Sacrament of the Altar as he gives you his true body and blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.

          You receive forgiveness through faith in Christ and his gifts.  This faith is God’s gift worked by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit who called you to faith continues to sustain you in faith as you receive Christ’s Means of Grace.

          Because of the faith Christ’s Spirit has worked, we now listen to the words in our text and recognize in them the way we want to live. We seek to love God with all that we are.  We seek to love our neighbor as ourselves.  Will we ever do this perfectly? No.  But because the Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead is at work in us, we have the source that enables us to do this more and more.  We have the One who leads us to make decisions and take actions by which we love God, and love our neighbor.

          In our text this morning, the Pharisees are stumped by Jesus’ question.  But because the Spirit has called us to faith in the crucified and risen Lord, we understand.  The Christ, the One who brings salvation, is the son of David.  He comes from David’s line and is a human being, just like we are.  But he is also the Son of God, begotten of the Father from all eternity.  It is for this reason that the Christ is David’s Lord.  It is for this reason that he sits at God’s right hand.

          We live by faith in the crucified and risen Christ.  He is the reason we love God and love our neighbor. And we do so with hope, because in the Psalm 110, Yahweh says, “Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.” The Sadducees and Pharisees rejected Jesus.  Many today reject Jesus. 

But Jesus Christ is the risen and ascended Lord.  He said,  “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.” On that day all who rejected him – all of his enemies – will receive the eternal judgment of hell.  And we who believe in Christ will live forever with him as we perfectly love God with all that we are, and love our neighbor as ourselves.


Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Commemoration of Philip the Deacon


Today we remember and give thanks for Philip the Deacon.  Philip, also called the Evangelist  (Acts 21:8), was one of the seven men appointed to assist in the work of the twelve Apostles and of the rapidly growing early church by overseeing the distribution of food to the poor (6:1–6). Following the martyrdom of Stephen, Philip proclaimed the Gospel in Samaria and led Simon the Sorcerer to become a believer in Christ (8:4–13). He was also instrumental in bringing about the conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch (8:26–39), through whom Philip became indirectly responsible for bringing the Good News of Jesus to the people on the continent of Africa. In the town of Caesarea he was host for several days to the Apostle Paul, who stopped there on his last journey to Jerusalem (21:8–15).

Collect of the Day:

Almighty and everlasting God, we give thanks to You for Your servant Philip the Deacon.  You called him to preach the Gospel to the peoples of Samaria and Ethiopia.  Raise up in this and every land messengers of Your kingdom, that Your Church may proclaim the immeasurable riches of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, now and forever.


(Treasury of Daily Prayer, pg. 804)