Wednesday, March 29, 2023

Sermon for fifth mid-week Lent service - Conclusion


Mid-Lent 5




          If you have ever been in the setting where you are praying the Lord’s Prayer with Roman Catholics, you have probably experienced a difference in practice. While Roman Catholics simply end the Lord’s prayer by saying, “Amen,” the practice we have inherited adds the doxology, “For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever and ever,” before adding “Amen.”

          It is interesting to note that neither way of praying comes from the New Testament.  The text of the Lord’s Prayer as found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke does not include either the doxology or the Amen.  Both are in fact are part of the way the Lord’s Prayer has been used in the life of the Church.

          The Jewish practice of prayer ended with a doxology.  A doxology is a statement that praises God.  When Jewish Christians began praying the prayer that Jesus had taught, they continued this tradition by adding a doxology to it.  The earliest text of the Lord’s Prayer that we have outside the New Testament comes from a work called the Didache, which means “Teaching.”  It is a Jewish Christan work that probably came from Syria at the beginning of the second century A.D.  Here the Lord’s Prayer ends with the doxology, “For power and glory are yours forever.”  You will notice how close this is to the form we use.

          The medieval practice in western Christianity did not include the doxology in catechesis. However, it did follow the practice of adding “Amen.” You will find that this word is not found in the biblical text either.  It too was part of the Jewish practice that was taken over by Christianity.

          The word “Amen” is directly based on the Hebrew word “Ameyn.”  It describes that which is certain or sure.  There is no prayer for which “Amen” is more appropriate because this is the prayer that Jesus himself has taught us.  These words are certain and sure because they come from the Son of God.

          Luther emphasizes this in the Small Catechism when he writes: “This means that I should be certain that these petitions are pleasing to our Father in heaven, and are heard by him; for he himself has commanded us to pray in this way and has promised to hear us.” We know for certain that these petitions please God.  We know that he hears them because God gave them to us through his Son.  And we also know that God has promised to hear them.

          The word “Amen” expresses the confidence of faith.  This is necessary because James says about prayer, “But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.”  Prayer needs to be the voice of faith which turns to God in confident expectation. 

          Our confidence in prayer finds its ultimate source in the One whose passion we prepare during Lent to remember.  Jesus did not simply teach us these words.  He is the One who has made it possible for us to be speak them in the first place.

          On our own we have no right to speak to God in these or any other words.  We are people who are curved inward on ourselves. By nature, we are sinners who do not trust God and do not believe in God.

          Yet because this is true God sent his Son into the world. As Paul tells us, “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”  All who are under the law are under a curse, because they are unable to do the law perfectly in thought, word, and deed. 

          As we celebrated at Christmas, God sent his Son into the world as he was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He took on our humanity so that he could take our place.  Jesus received the curse that we deserved.  In doing so he redeemed us – he freed us from the slavery of the law’s curse.

          Our sin brought the curse of the law.  It also brought death.  The words of Ash Wednesday at the beginning of Lent reminded us of this fact: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  God had told Adam that disobedience of the one command he had given would bring death.  Then after the Fall, God told Adam, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

          Sin brought death.  But Jesus passed through the death of the cross in order to defeat death.  We prepare to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection on Easter.  God raised Jesus from the dead and vindicated him as the Christ. He began the resurrection that will be ours, since Jesus is the firstborn of the dead.  And then he exalted Christ as he ascended and was seated at God’s right hand.

          The risen Lord who will return in glory has given us this prayer.  He is also the reason that we can pray all of these petitions.  Jesus is the reason that we can address God as “Our Father.” By his death and resurrection he has given us the status of being the children of God.

It is through the Spirit whom Christ sent that God’s name is hallowed as we believe his Word and lead godly lives according to it.  God’s kingdom comes as the Spirit causes us to receive through faith what Jesus won.  God’s will is done as he causes both of these things to happen on account of Christ in opposition to the devil, the world, and our sinful nature.

It is only as those who know the Father through Christ that we can recognize God as the giver of the daily bread we receive so bountifully.  The forgiveness for which we pray has been won by Jesus for us, and therefore we know it is certain and sure.  We also know that it is the forgiveness we share with others.

We trust that God will protect us from temptation because he is the God who acted in his own Son to save us. And we know that he will protect us from the evil one and all the evil he wishes to bring because in Jesus God has overcome sin, death, and the devil.

Our Lord Jesus taught us the Lord’s Prayer.  He, the crucified, risen, and ascended Christ is the reason that we know that these petitions are pleasing to the Father.  When get to end of the Lord’s Prayer we say “Amen” because these words are certain and sure.  God has commanded them, and God has promised to hear them. And so, “Amen, amen means, ‘yes, yes, it shall be so.’”








Sunday, March 26, 2023

Sermon for Lent 5 - Judica - Gen 22:1-14


Lent 5

                                                                                      Genesis 22:1-14




          During this school year we have been going through the process of Matthew and Abigail deciding what college they are going to attend.  As I think about this experience, one word comes to mind: waiting.  More than anything it seems like the process has been dominated by constant waiting.

          We waited to see what colleges they were interested in attending. We scheduled and waited to do visits at schools and to see how they went.  After applications were made, we waited to receive notification of acceptance. 

And then the real waiting started as we waited to see how much financial aid each school was going to provide.  I have learned that schools don’t tell you the total amount in one communication.  Instead, it occurs in several notifications as different sources of financial aid are determined.  You don’t know when this is going to occur, nor how many times it is going to happen. And so one is always waiting to see if another email or letter shows up.

The waiting isn’t done either.  After the financial aid from schools has been determined, there are still local scholarships.  There was a great push to complete and submit the applications for these.  Yet now we must wait until May at a high school ceremony when the recipients of these scholarships will be announced.  More waiting.

In our Old Testament lesson today, we find that Abraham has gone through a period of waiting. His was shorter – three days – but it must have seemed like an eternity because of the event which was to come.  In Abraham’s experience we learn about how we are to view difficult times of waiting, and why we are able to do this.

Abraham’s brief experience of waiting in our text is so difficult, because he had already waited for so very long.  God had called Abraham to believe in him when Abrahm was living in Haran – what is today southern Turkey.  God called Abraham to leave his country and family, and to go to the land he would show him. God promised, “And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

God promised to make Abraham into a great nation, and he promised that in Abraham all nations would be blessed.  We recognize that in this promise, God was saying that he would send the Savior through the offspring of Abraham. However, Abraham had no children. More importantly, Abraham was seventy five years old and his wife Sarah was sixty five.  They were beyond the age when they could expect children.

Yet Abraham believed God.  He trusted his word.  And God continued to speak his word of promise to Abraham.  He promised to give Abraham’s descendants the land of Canaan.  And he kept promising that Abraham would have many descendants.  Once he said that they would be like the dust of the earth.  On another occasion God challenged Abraham to count the stars and told him, “So shall your offspring be.” Then Genesis adds, “And he believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness.” Abraham kept believing.  The apostle Paul tells us, No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.”

          Abraham waited twenty five years.  And then, when it seemed that a child was completely impossible and would never happen, God blessed Abraham and Sarah with Isaac.  One can hardly imagine how much they loved this son – their only child for whom they had waited so long.

          This background helps to reveal how shocking the beginning of our text is.  We learn that God tested Abraham as he told him, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

          The problem with God’s blessings is that they become idols for sinners.  They become something that we love and trust more than God.  It’s not hard to understand how Isaac could have had this position in Abraham’s life.  If we are honest, we can identify people and things in our lives that compete with God for this position.  We know the things we think about more than God – the things to which we devote more time and money than God.  We break the First Commandment as we fear, love, and trust in them more than God.

          The first thing the next day, Abraham took Isaac, two young men and wood for a burnt offering and headed for the place God had told him.  Our text tells us that “On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar.”  Abraham traveled for three days knowing what God had told him to do.  For three days he contemplated the loss that he would experience if he did this. The twenty five years he had waited for Isaac probably seemed like nothing compared to the experience of waiting to arrive at the destination during those three days.

          However, Abraham had faith in God.  He believed in God’s  repeated promise.  He believed that even the sacrifice of Isaac would not deny this promise. And so he trusted God.  He resolved to obey God’s word despite the fact it seemed to be a denial of everything that God had said.

          Abraham told the two servants to wait with the donkey.  Then we learn that he laid the wood for the burnt offering on Isaac as he carried it up the mountain.  Isaac was carrying the very means by which he would be offered up to God. Then Isaac asked a question that was so obvious, and yet so poignant for Abraham.  He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?”  Abraham responded, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.”  Abraham said this knowing that Isaac was the lamb God had provided.

          The moment that Abraham dreaded finally arrived. After building an altar and placing the wood on it, he bound Isaac and put him on the wood.  He took the knife to cut Isaac’s throat in order to kill him as one would any animal that is sacrificed.  Once dead from loss of blood, he would then burn Isaac as a burnt offering to God.

          Yet just then the angel of the Lord called Abraham’s name and said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.”  Abraham had shown that he feared, loved, and trusted in God above all things by his willingness to sacrifice Isaac. Having been faithful, God stopped him, and provided a substitute for Isaac – a ram that was caught in a thicket.

          Immediately after our text, the angel of the Lord said, By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

          God reaffirmed all of his promises in the most emphatic way he had ever expressed them to Abraham.  Abraham would have numerous descendants.  They would have might and power.  And in Abraham’s offspring, all nations would be blessed.

          In this last statement we find a reference to Jesus Christ.  Abraham’s faithful action with Isaac helps us to see why we can trust in God when we find ourselves in difficult times of waiting.  It does because it points us to what God has done in Savior Jesus Christ.

          Because we are sinners who fear, love, and trust in other people and things more than God, our heavenly Father sent his only begotten Son whom he loves into this world.  Conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, he lived his whole life waiting for the moment when the Father would offer him as a sacrifice for us.

          In our text Abraham laid the wood for the sacrifice on Isaac, just as Jesus carried the wood of the cross on which he would be sacrificed.  At the moment when Isaac was about to die, God stopped Abraham and provided a substitute – a ram caught in the thicket.  This is a reminder of the fact that Jesus died as the substitute for us.  Peter tells us, “you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your forefathers, not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.”

          Jesus Christ the sinless One died as a sinner because he took our place.  He took our sin as if it was his own and received God’s judgment in our place.  He shed his blood in this sacrifice that won us forgiveness.

          Yet death was not the end.  It certainly looked that way. After all, when the disciples went to bed on Friday night, Jesus dead body was buried in a sealed tomb.  But on the third day – on Easter – God raised Jesus from the dead.  He showed that death had been the means by which God defeated sin and death.

          Baptized into Jesus’ death, you now have the promise of sharing in the our Lord’s resurrection on the Last Day. More than that, Jesus’s resurrection becomes the source of hope and strength provided by the Spirit.  What gives us confidence to trust in God when we are waiting in difficult times?  It is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

          We have seen what Good Friday looked like. It looked like failure and defeat in the midst of injustice. It looked like the utter absence of God.  But the resurrection of Jesus has shown us that God was not absent.  In fact, he was carrying out his most powerful action to save us.

          Faith in Jesus’ resurrection carries us through the time of waiting.  It gives us hope because of what happened on the third day.  Peter tells us, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

          The living hope of the resurrection gives us encouragement and strength to wait on God.  Times of hardship and difficulty are not the absence of God.  They are God at work through testing to bring us closer to him. They are God removing our false idols and humbling us before him so that we can look only to the true God.

          Everything about the command God gave to Abraham was a denial of his promises.  At least, that is how it seemed.  Yet Abraham continued in faith.  He continued all the way to the third day.  On that day, he learned that God’s promises remained true.

          It is the same for us when we face hardships.  We continue in faith, knowing that the present is not the absence of God’s love. We have this faith and confidence because of what happened on the third day – the day when Jesus Christ rose from the dead.   In the resurrection of Jesus we find the assurance of God’s love and care that nothing can conquer.  We have the confidence of the final victory that awaits us. Jesus Christ has risen from the dead.  So continue to wait in faith.














Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Sermon for fourth mid-week Lent service - Sixth and Seventh Peitions


Mid-Lent 4                                                                 Sixth and Seventh Petitions



We pray the Lord’s Prayer so often that we probably fail to consider how sobering its ending really is.  It concludes by warning us about the attacks we will receive as Christians.  Indeed, by teaching us to pray in his way, our Lord instructs us about what we must expect in our lives as Christians and about how much we need God’s help.

In the Sixth Petition we pray, “And lead us not into temptation.”  James tells us, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.”  God is never the source of temptation, because temptation has as its goal to lead us into sin.  Instead, temptations come from the devil as he works through the world and our flesh – our sinful nature.

At the same time, we must grant that the omnipotent God allows these things.  God does not tempt us in order to lead us into sin. But he does allow circumstances that test us.  A little earlier, James wrote, “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.”

From our perspective these certainly often look like the same thing.  The key difference will be how we choose to respond to them.  Do we turn to God in faith because of what he has done for us in Jesus Christ?  Do we ask God to sustain us in faith through his Spirit as we rely on his Word? Do we look to God as the source of strength to resist temptation and endure the attack we are experiencing?

In the Sixth Petition we pray that “God would guard and keep us so that the devil, the world, and our sinful nature may not deceive or mislead us into false belief and despair.” We are praying for God’s help.  Yet we also need to realize that does not necessarily mean that the temptation comes to an end. Luther says in the Large Catechism, “This then is what ‘leading us not into temptation’ means: when God gives us power and strength to resist, even though the attack is not removed or ended.  For no one can escape temptations and allurements as long as we live in the flesh and have the devil prowling around us.”

We will never be free from temptation.  These temptations shift and change over time.  Luther notes that young people are especially tempted by the flesh – by temptations to sexual sin.  Adults are tempted by the world – by the allurements of wealth.  Especially as we get older, health problems become temptations to doubt God’s love and care.

There is no question that we will experience temptations – we will experience attacks. The important thing is that we resist these temptations. Luther says in the Large Catechism, “To experience attack, therefore, is quite different from consenting to it or saying ‘Yes’ to it.”  We do not consent to the sin of the temptation, for to consent “is to give it free rein and neither resist it nor pray for help against it.”

God has promised that he will not allow us to experience temptation beyond what we are able by his grace to bear.  Paul told the Corinthians, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

In the petition, “And lead us not into temptation,” Jesus teaches us to turn to God in prayer as we face any and all temptations.  We seek God’s help, and trust his promise to give us the strength to endure.  In fact, the petition itself becomes the invitation to do so. As Luther comments about occasions of temptation, “At such times our only help is to run here and seize hold of the Lord’s Prayer and speak to God from the heart, “Dear Father, you have commanded me to pray; let me not fall because of temptation.”  In this way we rely on God instead of our own thoughts and resources.

In the Seventh Petition we pray, “But deliver us from evil.”  More specifically this is prayer for protection from the devil, because the Greek used her means “evil one.”  We pray that God will protect us from the devil along with all the evil that he wishes to do to us.

We call this opponent by two different names. The name devil comes from a Greek word that means “slanderer.” The name Satan is from a Hebrew word that means “adversary.” These terms teach us that the devil is our opponent – he is our adversary.  He operates on the basis of lies.  That is how he deceived Eve. He offered the lies that she could be like God.  The devil is our adversary who seeks to drag us into the damnation that awaits him.  As Jesus said, “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.”

The devil desires to bring every kind of harm upon us.  As the Small Catechism says in its explanation, “We pray in this petition, in summary, that our Father in heaven would rescue us from every evil of body and soul, possessions and reputation.”  We pray that God would deliver us from the many evils the devil wants to carry out against us.

We know that there are times when we do not resist temptation.  The devil lures us into sin by what we do, and what we fail to do.  We fall into temptations of thought, word, and deed. Yet as we saw in the First Sunday in Lent, we believe and follow the Lord who resisted the devil’s temptation.  Where we fail at times, he did not. Instead, he remained faithful to the mission the Father had given to him.

Jesus resisted every temptation to turn away from the cross.  After Jesus told the apostles that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised, Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” Yet Jesus’ response to was turn to Peter and say, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”

Jesus Christ had his mind set on the things of God in order to save us. In the Garden of Gethsemane he prayed three times, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.”  As he hung on the cross he ignored the devil’s temptations hurled by the crowd as they said, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. He is the King of Israel; let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him. For he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’”

Jesus showed that he is the Father’s true Son by suffering and dying for us.  He defeated the devil by submitting to the humiliating death of the cross. There he took our sins as his own and received the judgment that we deserved.

The devil’s temptation of Adam and Eve led to death.  But Jesus’ faithful obedience did not end in death.  Instead, on the third day God vindicated Jesus by raising him from the dead.  In his resurrection Christ began the life that the devil cannot touch.  He is impotent against the resurrection life of Christ.

In the Lord’s Prayer we pray for faith and against unbelief.  Faith in the crucified and risen Lord gives forgiveness and eternal life.  Jesus promised, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.”

Because this is so, death means that God graciously takes us from this valley of sorrow.  As Paul contemplated the possibility of his own death he told the Philippians, “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.”  Death is gain because it means that safe with our Lord, the devil can no longer tempt and attack us.

And the resurrection of Jesus means that the final evil worked by the evil one will be overcome. Paul told the Corinthians, “For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.”  The risen Lord will return to raise our bodies and change them to be like his own – immortal and imperishable bodies with which we will live in the new creation.

The Sixth and Seventh Petitions warn us that life in this fallen world will be one of temptation and attacks by the devil.  Christ has taught us to pray for God’s help in facing these things. We pray in the confidence that through Christ’ death and resurrection God has given us the victory that we now have by faith.  In death, God delivers us from the evil ones’ attacks. And on the Last Day he will give us the final victory he began in Jesus’ resurrection on Easter. 














Sunday, March 19, 2023

Sermon for Feast of St. Joseph - Mt 2:13-15, 19-23


St. Joseph

                                                                           Mt 2:13-15, 19-23



          “I didn’t sign up for this.” I wonder if a thought like this ever crossed Joseph’s mind. After all, it was certainly true.  Joseph didn’t choose to be in the position of the guardian of Jesus.  He didn’t choose to be the father of a child that wasn’t his – the “father” of a child who had no human father.

          Joseph didn’t choose this role.  Instead, God chose him.  When we first meet Joseph in Matthew’s Gospel we learn that Mary was betrothed to Joseph to be married.  This was a legal arrangement that committed them to marriage, though they were not yet actually married.

          Yet before that happened it was discovered that Mary was pregnant.  We learn about the character of Joseph when Matthew tells us, “And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.”  Joseph was a just man.  He kept the Sixth Commandment, and he wasn’t going to marry someone who had been unfaithful before they had even been married. However, in doing so he also sought to act in a way that protected Mary as much as possible.  

          While he was considering these difficult matters an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “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.”  Joseph learned that there was far more to the story than sexual sin.  Rather than being unfaithful, Mary had been chosen by God to be the instrument by which the Savior entered into the world. The child she was carrying was conceived by the Holy Spirit.

          Understandably, we normally focus on Mary when we think about the incarnation – about how the Son of God was conceived through the work of the Holy Spirit.  But this news transformed Joseph’s life in an incredible way as well.  Joseph was being placed in the vocation of father to a child that wasn’t his.  More than that, he was charged to care for Mary and her child who was the Savior sent by God.

          Joseph would be more than just a father – a guardian.  God had chosen Joseph because he was from the line of King David.  As we hear in our Old Testament lesson, God had promised David, “And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me. Your throne shall be established forever.”  God was fulfilling this promise because for Joseph to take Jesus as his child made him part of the line of David.  God was providing the Messiah he had promised in all of the Old Testament prophecies.

          Joseph hadn’t chosen this.  But he was a faithful man, and so we learn: “When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.”  He obeyed God’s angel. He took Mary as his wife even though she was pregnant.  Imagine what Joseph’s parents and friends must have though about this. Why was Joseph marrying this pregnant woman?  Maybe the child was his and he had broken the Sixth Commandment. The angel’s command transformed Joseph’s life.  But Joseph obeyed and kept God’s word.

          At some point after Jesus had been born, Joseph and Mary experienced the visit by the magi.  Gentiles from the east showed up offering homage to Jesus. They also brought expensive gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  What an incredible and amazing experience!

          But Joseph’s role of guardian and care giver immediately took a difficult turn. Our text tells us that when the magi had departed, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you, for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.”  Alerted by the visit of the magi, Herod the Great was leaving nothing to chance as he sought to kill a potential threat.

          Once again, Joseph was faithful.  He obeyed the word of the Lord. He rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod.  Caring for Jesus meant that Jospeh had to flee to another country and live in exile there.

          God chose Joseph to be Jesus’ guardian because by doing so he fulfilled his promise to David.  He provided the Messiah.  And when Joseph took Jesus to Egypt, he became God’s instrument to fulfill what Scripture had said the Messiah would be.  Our text tells us, “This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called my son.’” 

          These words from the prophet Hosea describe how God had brought the people of Israel out of Egypt.  Yet in Jesus they would be fulfilled in a new and better way.  Through Moses, God had told Pharaoh that Israel was his son.  In our Old Testament lesson God tells David, “I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son.”  We learn that the Davidic kind is Israel reduced to one.  He stood in the place of Israel, and represented the nation before God.

          As the Messiah, Jesus was Israel reduced to one.  But he was Israel carrying out what the nation of Israel had failed to be.  God had told Abraham, “In your offspring all nations will be blessed. Yahweh would work through Abraham’s descendant – Israel – to be bring salvation to all people. Israel was supposed to be a light to the nations.

          Yet Israel had failed completely. Rather than being a light to the nations, they had joined the darkness of nations’ paganism.  Now, Jesus the Messiah was the Son who would fulfill what Israel was meant to be.  He would be a “do over” for Israel, and so he had gone down to Egypt – to the place where Israel had become a nation in the exodus.

          Like Israel, we often fail to be what God has made us to be. He has made us sons and daughters of God. He has put his name upon us in Holy Baptism and made us his own.  Yet we do not live in ways that hallow God’s name.  And we see this especially in our vocations – in the callings where God has placed us.  As spouses, we speak angry words to one another.  As children we disobey and antagonize our parents. As employees, we don’t always work as unto the Lord and not as unto man.  As employers, we don’t always act in ways that are fair and understanding.

          In our text we learn about how God used Joseph to bring Jesus out of Egypt. When Herod had died, an angel of the Lord told Joseph in a dream, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child's life are dead.”  Joseph once again obeyed as the faithful guardian of Jesus.  He returned and settled with his family in Nazareth.

          God used Joseph to care for Jesus when he was young and helpless.  But this role is not one that needed to be done forever.  Jesus grew up, and by the time of Jesus’ ministry we no longer hear about Joseph. The safe presumption is that he had died.

          Jesus no longer needed a guardian because he had arrived at the time when he would save his people from their sins.  Just as Israel had passed through the Red Sea into the wilderness, Jesus passed through the water of his baptism into the wilderness of his temptation.  At his baptism God said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”  He identified Jesus as the servant of the Lord, just as he had called Israel through the prophet Isaiah.

          Israel was the servant who had failed.  But Jesus was the Servant who succeeded. Yet he did so in an unexpected way.  We are reminded about this unexpected work by our text when Matthew says, “And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled: ‘He shall be called a Nazarene.’”  Though born in Bethlehem, Jesus was denigrated as being from Nazareth.  This identification as a “Nazarene” teaches us that Jesus came to be rejected as God acted in unexpected ways.

          Jesus was the Messiah – the descendant of king David.  He was Israel reduced to One, and like Israel he was identified as God’s Servant.  But Jesus had come to be faithful where Israel had failed.  He had come to be faithful in a most unexpected way – a way that went to the cross.

          Jesus was the Messiah. He was Israel and Servant of the Lord.  But the Servant in Isaiah is also the suffering Servant.  Jesus had come to atone for not only the sins of Israel, but for all people.  He came to bear your sins. Isaiah’s words were fulfilled in Jesus for us: “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed.”

          Dead and buried in a tomb, it did not look like Jesus was the Messiah. After all, how could a Messiah be crucified by the Romans?  It looked like he was a failure, just as Israel failed again and again.  It looked like he was nothing more than a Nazarene.

          But God had acted in the unexpected way of the cross to give us forgiveness.  And on Easter he acted yet again to demonstrate this to all.  On the third day, God raised Jesus from the dead.  He vindicated Jesus as the Messiah, and as the true Israel who is the light to the nations.  He is our light because in him we have forgiveness and victory over death.

          Now, the risen Lord continues to give us this forgiveness through his Means of Grace.  Through baptism you have shared in his saving death. In Holy Absolution, he declared you to be forgiven.  And in the few moments, he will give you his true body and blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.

          Through these means Jesus forgives your sins, and the Holy Spirit strengthens you in faith.  He strengthens you so that you continue in the assurance of forgiveness and eternal life. But he also does this so that you can live in ways that are true to God’s will.  He does this so that you can live as the child of God that you are.

          And this returns us to Joseph.  In Joseph we find an example of what this looks like. Joseph was a just man.  He was also a compassionate man.  More than anything, we see that he was obedient to the word of God – even when this meant doing things that were hard.  We find in Joseph a model that we can follow because God has called us to be obedient to his Word in this world.

          We now seek to live in these ways because of what Jesus did when Joseph was no longer there as guardian.  God used Joseph to care for the Son of God when he entered the world in the helplessness of a baby.  Yet Jesus died in the helplessness of the cross in order to win forgiveness for us.  Risen and ascended, he assists us through his Spirit so that we can live faithfully and obediently like Joseph.