Pentecost 9C – “One Thing is Necessary” (Luke 10:38-42)

C-73 Proper 11 (Lu 10.38-42)Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

To be Jesus is to be love. To that end, Jesus loved people, all the people. He loved faithful men such as the disciples as if they were His own kin. He loved faithful women for the great faith that they demonstrated and for their service to Him and His ministry. We see in our text today the love that Jesus had for two such women — Mary and Martha.

St. Luke doesn’t record much for us here in our text. In summary, Jesus and company enter a village, encounter Martha and are invited to her home, a home she shares with her sister Mary. This is the same Mary and Martha whose brother Lazarus Jesus’ raises from the dead. Little is known of these two ladies because not much is written in Scripture about them. From today’s text, it appears that once again Jesus has been invited to a meal. As it takes time to prepare a meal, Jesus does what He does best and that is teach. It is not recorded for us what the basis of His teaching is, but obviously it has captivated the ears of Mary, “who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching.” We have no indication what His teaching was but it was captivating… or was it?

As Mary was sitting and listening, Martha wasn’t. Luke tells us, “But Martha, was distracted with much serving.” For the two women, it came down to priority. What was the greater priority: listening to Jesus or serving Jesus? Mary and Martha could each give their reasons for their actions.

Now, both sisters face a choice as to how they will spend their time with Jesus. Martha hustles and bustles in the kitchen, arranging pots and pans, firing up the stove to prepare a meal. Her time is devoted to preparing the table, the food, or the many things necessary to serve Jesus. It’s possible that some of the other disciples were there and hungry also. For Martha, her main priority when Jesus visits is preparation for serving a meal.

Mary, on the other hand, just sits. She is nestled in the comfort that is found sitting at the feet of Jesus. She is there, listening to every word that Jesus speaks and she is all ears to what is being said. It is quite rare that one would have such an intimate visit from Jesus like this and Mary was not about to squander such an opportunity.

Jesus coming to dine with Mary and Martha is summed up in priorities. Each woman has her own priorities when it comes to Jesus. Which sister has the right priority? It may seem that Martha has the right priority. She has a guest in her home. When a guest shows up, you don’t ignore them. Your priority is to make sure that their needs are met, because that’s what a good host does. And that is what Martha sets out to do. She wants to insure that all of Jesus’ needs are met while He is in her home.

Certainly we can’t fault Martha for her servant attitude. From all accounts, it appears that she is the ideal hostess. But we cannot forget our Lord’s own words: “For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” We can certainly appreciate what Martha desires to do, but she forgets that our Lord’s duty is to serve, that is, serve the will of the Father by taking on the form of man, to be born of flesh and blood in order to live a life that is without sin, to go to the cross in order to serve man by becoming man’s sacrifice, a sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God.

Mary has the right idea about Jesus. She sits at His feet, listening ever attentively to what He has to say, and so she should. Peter’s words are echoed in what we see taking place in this house: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” Those are familiar words to us, as we sing those words prior to our Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. Mary desires for that good news, the saving act of Jesus Christ for her, but not only for her. She desires that good news for her sister Martha and her brother Lazarus, but not only for them. She desires that good news for all whom Jesus has come to save.

We live in a world whose view is that we are doing something for Jesus, as if our lives are one that we’re doing a favor for Jesus. But we are not the ones doing a favor for Jesus. Rather, it is Jesus who does us a favor, a favor that we can never repay, for He becomes our substitute before the Father. He takes our sin upon Himself and in return gives to us His holiness and righteousness as we stand before the Father. He does for us what we cannot do for ourselves. It is solely because of that fact that means we cannot do anything for Jesus, for what can we do that is greater than what He has already done for us?

Frustrated, Martha pleads to Jesus to have Mary help her. He doesn’t dress her down in His response. He doesn’t respond in anger. He doesn’t give any indication that He is upset. Instead, He reminds her just exactly what Mary is doing. He says, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.”

Focus on the words of Jesus here. He reminds Martha that “one thing is necessary.” What is that one thing? It’s not making sure the house is cleaned and dinner is done before Jesus arrives. No, the one thing that is necessary is that Jesus has come! He comes for you, to provide for you and to care for you, to give you what you need most — the forgiveness of all of your sins; not just some of them of most of them, but He comes to forgive ALL you your sins, for to be made holy means to be without sin COMPLETELY, for that is the only way to be given the gift of eternal life — to be without sin. And on account of Jesus Christ, you stand before God the Father with ALL of your sins forgiven.

Jesus also reminds Martha that Mary “has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her.” Jesus can most certainly say that mean that for He reminds us, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

Those are words that we need now more than ever. Amidst all the death and devastation that occurs what seems to be daily in these gray and latter days, we are reminded, no, we cling to Jesus’ words: “I will never leave you nor forsake you,” for these are our words of comfort when we are beaten down, when we feel forsaken, when we think that Satan finally has the upper hand on God. And when we start to think like that, we are reminded of the words of Jesus that He spoke to the disciples that are just as true now as the day He spoke them: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” 

How can anything or anyone be more important than the gift which our Lord gives to us? How can you and I neglect such eternal blessings that come from Christ and His Word of forgiveness? With everything that our Lord says and does, you would think that we would flock to Jesus and the salvation that He grants to us. But instead, we find that the opposite is true. We flock towards those things that bring earthly pleasure and make us happy. We flock to those things which may promise eternal life in heaven, but in the end, fall flat on their empty promises. The promise that Jesus makes for you is one that is indeed most certainly true. This is not like any other promise that you have ever heard or will ever hear again, for this promise of Jesus will give to you eternal life.

When being a Christian may seem unpopular, when following Jesus is ridiculed, we humbly sit at the feet of Jesus and listen. We receive the riches and treasures of heaven, for Jesus has promised, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God.” In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

Passion Sunday – “Christ’s Passion for Us” (Luke 23:1-56)

C-42 Palm SundayGrace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

You don’t want to hear today’s text. Really, you don’t want to hear what Luke has to say. We would classify it at least PG-13. Some of what Luke has to say could be classified as R. And yet, today’s Gospel reading is one that needs to be heard, read, meditated upon, because it is of great significance to you, whether you know it or not, whether you believe it or not.

Luke records for us the Passion of Jesus Christ. When we speak of the Passion here, we are not talking about strong sensual or sexual desires as the word is commonly used. Rather, we focus on the sufferings of Jesus that He experienced when He set His face toward Jerusalem. What occurred on Palm Sunday was not a glimpse of what the week held in store. Sunday, crowds are shouting out to Jesus, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!” Hosanna is translated as “Lord, save us!” The people were shouting out for the Lord to save them on Sunday, and by the end of the week, He was dead. Their shouts of hosanna were indeed heard, but that will come later.

We now find ourselves at the end of the week in Luke’s Passion account. Jesus is brought to Pilate, the chief Roman administrator in Judea at the time. In accord with a ruling imposed only a few years prior, only the Roman prefect could authorize capital punishment. Pilate, who ordinarily resided in Caesarea, had come to Jerusalem to oversee the Passover festival, since this was a time of year that religious and national fervor could easily boil over into open rebellion.

The Sanhedrin had found Jesus guilty of blasphemy. That charge would mean little to Pilate, whose job was to enforce Roman law, not adjudicate Jewish religious squabbles. While most of the charges meant nothing, there was one that Pilate could not ignore: the self-proclamation by Jesus of being Christ, a king. This was a charge that Pilate could not ignore, since if true, it constituted a direct challenge to Roman rule. No charge would be taken more seriously by Rome than this.

As things proceed, Pilate finds no guilt in Jesus, but that isn’t good enough for the people. They want something more out of Pilate. They want the guilty charge. In order to get what they want, Jesus must go before Herod. Unfortunately for the people, Herod also saw no guilt in Jesus and sent Him back to Pilate.

Things get ugly and they demand the release of a murderer. Pilate, against his own wishes, releases Barabbas and sentences Jesus to death, again, reluctantly. From there, Jesus is led to Golgotha where things escalate quite quickly.

There upon Golgotha’s hill, Jesus is mocked, scorned, and ultimately pleads on the behalf of the people. He cries out, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” No sooner speaking those words, they cast lots for Jesus’ clothing while more scoffing occurs. “He saved others; let him save himself, if he is the Christ of God, his Chosen One!” Jesus doesn’t come down from the cross because, while He can, He can’t. He can’t get off the cross because of you. If He gets off the cross, you are lost. If He gets off the cross, you are condemned. If He gets off the cross, there will never be forgiveness for you.

Now do you see why you don’t want to hear what Luke has to say? When you listen to what Luke says, you must come to one conclusion: you are the cause of Jesus’ death. You, along with the whole of creation, through your sinful human nature, have condemned Christ to the cross. But Christ doesn’t go to the cross because you have condemned Him. He goes to the cross to fulfill the Father’s will, to restore what once was but is no longer.

As Jesus hung upon the cross, the statement, the demand of the one criminal could not have been truer: “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” Little did the criminal know, that was precisely what Jesus was doing. St. Paul says, “Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”

One person, a criminal being crucified alongside Jesus, saw Christ for what He was – innocent. His words were plain, but spoke volumes: “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” While he may have been speaking strictly because they were criminals, his words apply to creation as a whole. We were receiving what our deeds deserved: death. Death came with Adam and Eve but with death came the promise of a Savior.

Christ was doing exactly what the criminal wanted: saving him, along with everyone there that day at His crucifixion, along with everyone before that day and everyone after that day. Christ was doing for us what we could not do ourselves. He was earning eternal life. Just as Jesus told the repentant criminal, so He tells us: “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

All of creation is guilty and thus unable to do anything about it. Christ, the only innocent, took the guilt upon Himself in order to make creation innocent. In the last moments of Christ’s life, the world around Him began to change. The Creator, who took on flesh and was born into creation, is at this moment of death, bringing in new and eternal life, a new creation. With the curtain of the temple torn, it symbolized the completion of Christ’s victory over death, therefore allowing Jesus to commit His spirit into the hands of the Father.

The death of Christ marked the end of creation as we know it. Sin and death no longer have dominion over creation. Satan lost the keys to creation that he wrongfully stole from God through sin. No intercessions by the priests were needed because the greatest intercession was made. No more animals needed to be sacrificed because the sacrificial Lamb was offered. When Christ uttered the words, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!”, He signified that His work was finished, once and for all. Nothing could undo what had just been done.

Through the life of Christ and His Passion, we have received life – life that came at an expense – the death of Christ. The King of the Jews, who “humbled himself and became obedient to death – even death on a cross,” died so that all of creation would be reborn in Him, purged from death and made “good” in the eyes of God. This was the way that creation was meant to be and what took place at our Lord’s Passion was necessary for creation to be restored. Today is not a time to focus on the brutality of Christ’s death or death itself, but to focus on what that death brought about – the dying of death and a restored creation. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

Lent 5 – “Cornerstone” (Luke 20:9-20)

C-39 Lent 5 (LHP) (Lu 20.9-20)Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

Dreams. Everyone has them. Dreams of becoming a star athlete. Dreams of winning the lottery. Dreams of becoming a certain vocation. Sometimes those dreams become a reality and sometimes those dreams vanish in a puff of smoke. As we hear of the parable of the vineyard, it reminds us that the dream envisioned is not always the dream that is fulfilled. Fortunately for us, God shatters our dreams and rebuilds them into something that becomes a reality.

Like the tenants in the parable, we may have our own dream. The tenants did not want to give the fruit to the owner. They had a comfortable arrangement: solid employment and a secure future provided to them by an owner who had set everything up. The owner had a right to his share, since it was his land, his crops, his everything. The owner sent three different servants to collect a portion of the fruit from the vineyard. Each time, the servant was sent away empty-handed, with each one beaten and wounded, worse than the one before.

What was the owner to do? What should have rightly been owed to him was kept from him. The owner has a plan to send his son in hopes that the tenants would respect him. Alas, that plan does not end well and his son is killed. “This is the heir. Let us kill him, so that the inheritance may be ours.”

What was the owner of the vineyard thinking when He sent His son? Who in their right mind is going to do that? If it were a normal earthly owner, he would send the first agent. When the first agent returned all beat up, the typical landowner would send a hit squad to collect the rent with extreme prejudice. In our day and age, we would call the police and ask them to arrest those criminals and prosecute them to the full extent of the law. The one thing we would not do is send our son to collect the rent after the tenants had put three of our rent collectors into the hospital.

No earthly landowner would send his son in this situation. Never the less that is exactly what God the Father did with His Son. You see, in spite of our tendency to treat His servants like yesterday’s trash, God still loves us. It is in that love that He sent His Son in spite of the fact that He knew He would die, for St. Paul writes, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

What a dream these tenants have! Does it make any sense? Kill the son and you automatically become the heirs to the owners’ vineyard just because you work there? This truly is a pipedream! It would be great the tenants if this were true, but alas, that is not what happens. The master comes to destroy those servants and to give the vineyards to others.

The tenants aren’t able to have it their way. They are not able to get away with what they had done. In the end, they had to be destroyed. Bringing this parable back to reality, Jesus is declaring how God will shatter the evil dreams of the real tenants, the Jewish religious leaders. Their system, and it truly had become their system rather than God’s, is going to be destroyed.

The temple will be destroyed. Jerusalem will fall. The way that the Jewish leaders had thought everything would work out would fall apart. What they thought would be a comfortable life with them in charge would eventually come to an end. Their response: “Surely not!” Jesus quotes from Psalm 118: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” He continues: “Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken to pieces, and when it falls on anyone, it will crush him.”

But what the Jewish leaders did not consider is that the temple would be restored, but it won’t be like it was before. Jesus had promised, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” That is precisely what Jesus does on Easter morning, but we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves.

This parable of Jesus was one of things that had happened and of things yet to come. The people had rejected Him; not only the locals but the Jewish rulers as well. God our heavenly Father has created this vineyard and sends His Son to redeem it, but instead of listening to Him, we put Him to death instead. Not realizing what our Lord was saying, the people exclaim, “Surely not!” and Jesus tells them, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” Instead of listening to Jesus, instead of asking for His forgiveness, Luke records that the scribes and the chief priests sought to put Him to death.

The death of Jesus had to be. His death was the payment for the world’s sin. Sinners treat God terribly with disrespect and irreverence. God gives them daily bread and they fail to be thankful. God gives them things to use in service to their neighbor, and they hoard it for themselves and use it to boast of their accomplishments. God gives them bodies and minds to be used for honorable purposes, and they misuse and pollute them both for temporary pleasure in self-destructive ways. That’s how sinners treat God. But that is not how God treats sinners. He gives us Jesus, for this is how God treats sinners: with patience, mercy and grace. He patiently waits. He continues to send His Word and preachers to proclaim it. He patiently showers you with forgiveness in His Word and Sacraments to keep you in the true faith, even as He patiently gives this dying world more time so that more might hear and be saved.

Jesus, who was the rejected stone, conquered sin, death, and the power of the devil with His holy life, His suffering, His death on a cross, and His resurrection from the dead. He is now the living cornerstone for me, for you and for all who believe. We have a Savior who suffered extreme rejection for us and is now alive. Jesus is the cornerstone that establishes the church forever. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

Lent 4C – “Going Home Again” (Luke 15:1-3, 11-32)

C-37 Lent 4 (Lu 15.11-32)Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

The parable of the prodigal son is one of those parables that everyone gets. We all know the story and we all know what it means. This is one of those times that we can easily see ourselves in the words of Christ. We can easily identify with and see ourselves in the prodigal son, both in the bad and the good. Because of this ease of relatability, we tend to gloss over and speed through the story. After all, we know it.  But maybe we don’t know it as well as we think we do.

Let’s start by asking this question: To whom did Jesus speak this parable? Who was the intended audience? Luke records that the “tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear [Jesus}.” That must be who Jesus was speaking to. If that is your answer, then you are wrong. Luke goes on to say that the “Pharisees and the scribes grumbled, saying “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” You see, it was the tax collectors and sinners Jesus was addressing. They were the guests of Jesus, the invited ones. The Pharisees and scribes, they were the ones who were not invited. They were the ones who were not welcome. They were the ones who sat in disapproval of who Jesus kept company with; in this case, the tax collectors and sinners.

As Jesus recounts this parable, we see several figures appear: a father and two sons. The younger son wanted what was coming to him, most likely at the death of his father. However, the father is not dead and the son wants what he is promised. It was a gutsy request of the son to ask the father for his share of in the heritance because he was telling his father that he essentially wished that his father was dead so he could get what would be his.

Who is this son? We can easily deduce that we are this son. We act in ways that are all about us, with no regard for our brother. We act as if it’s all about me and that’s all that matters. Yes, we are this son. And what does this son do when he gets what he wants, what he is deserved? He goes off and squanders all that he has until he has nothing.

The good news is that we can say that while we are like this son, at least we are not like the Pharisees and the scribes. What a relief! Did we forget who Jesus was telling this parable to? It was spoken to the Pharisees and the scribes. Whether we want to admit it or not, that’s us. We are the Pharisees and scribes, not concerned with the needs of our neighbor but solely with ourselves and our needs and wants and desires. It was all about them, just like it’s all about us.

If the Pharisees and scribes are identified as the younger son, do we really have to ask who the father in the parable is? Of course the father in the parable is God our heavenly Father. This father does not act like he is supposed to act. We would imagine this father to be cut to the heart at what his son had asked of him. Instead, the father acts in a way that is not proper. He runs to the son. A man of his stature does not run. Running in such a way would have been embarrassing. Secondly, why would he run after his son who more or less told him he wanted him dead and embrace him? It doesn’t make sense what the father did. But it does make sense because this was the father’s son. Even after all that the son has done in his wasteful life, at the end of the day, this is his son. He doesn’t chastise him for squandering all that he gave him. He doesn’t give him the “I told you so” speech. No, he gives to him the royal treatment: jewelry, clothing, food and drink, a great party – the works.

For you and I, our heavenly Father does nothing short of that for us. He gives to us the “best robe” as we are robed in Christ’s righteousness. You and I receive from God the gift of His name in our Baptism, marking us as those who have been redeemed by Christ. We are given that sonship that the young son had given up before his journey. We receive the fattened calf that was killed for the party, but we don’t receive it in the form of a calf. We receive it in the form of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. This Lamb of God was slaughtered for us upon Calvary, His blood washing over us to forgive us all of our sins in His sacrifice for us. The words that the father uses in the parable are descriptive of us as well: “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.” That’s us. Dead in our trespasses of sin, but made alive in the waters of Baptism. The image of God lost upon us in the Fall, but found and restored again by Christ’s death and resurrection.

The father treated His son as royalty. Everything his son had done was forgiven and forgotten. The Father, you see, doesn’t change. He is always the loving and caring and compassionate Father. And He always receives His dear children through the atoning work of His only-begotten Son, the Son that is of the same substance as He, the Son that is God in the flesh, the Son that takes away the sins of the world!

What the parable of the prodigal son tells us, what it tells you, is that you can go back home! In fact, when a sinner repents and returns to the Father, it is a happy day, a glorious day, a day to celebrate, a day to rejoice and give thanks. Indeed, “there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance.” The sacrifice has been offered and the banquet table has been set because you are home in the house of your father!

Today we celebrate and partake in the foretaste of the heavenly feast to come. Better than any fatted calf, the Lamb of God has been slain, once for all. The Lamb of God, who once was dead, now lives and reigns victorious, and today we feast on this Lamb with the King of Kings Himself as baptized and restored children of His heavenly, royal household! Today our Lord of lords and King of kings deigns to not only feast with us, but to serve us with His very Body and Blood. Here He lavishly welcomes, embraces, kisses, and feeds all His children with His free and undeserved gifts of Fatherly divine goodness, mercy, love, and peace.

God our heavenly Father has the last word in all of this. He is the one who never turns His back on the children who turn their backs on Him. He is the Father who comes running to us after we have run away from Him. There is always hope for the prodigal son and so there is hope for us as well. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

Lent 3 – “Repent…or Else” (Luke 13:1-9)

C-35 Lent 3 (Lu 13.1-9)Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

We love to turn on the news or read the newspaper and see what the daily outrage is. Right now, it seems to be presidential debates and who said all the wrong things. It might be over what is going on in the world of entertainment, of who got snubbed for this award or that award. We like outrage because it seems to give us a sense of purpose, as if we can take action against the injustices of the world. But in doing so, we fool ourselves into thinking that we might somehow be better than the next person because we would have done things differently and we would have done it right. But looking at our text today, it is not about how we can solve the world’s problems or assert how we are better than the next person. No, our text is about how we need to repent and we need to do it now.

The opening portion of our text today presents us with a unique teaching opportunity. Jesus is present in a setting of people and they report to Jesus how some who had suffered at the hands of Pilate. Their report implies that the ones who had suffered had somehow deserved it because they were more wicked than the crowds themselves.

What kind of asinine logic is that? The reason why they suffered or the reason why they died was because they worse than someone else was? Are they even listening to the words that come out of their mouth? We have that same thinking today. One such televangelist has said on multiple occasions of tragedy, examples like the attacks of 9/11, Hurricane Katrina and the like, that the reason why these events occurred is because the United States has turned away from God and we are getting are just punishment. Rest assured that such thinking is about as wrong as wrong can be. These events are the effects of sin in our world, not because of the faith a person has or does not have. St. Paul tells us as much: “Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned.”

Jesus quickly addresses their unspoken assumption. While they assumed that tragedies happened to people as divine retribution for specific sins, Jesus immediately dispels the theory that these Galilean victims somehow got that they deserved. He reminds His audience that there is such a thing as underserved suffering.

Jesus uses this tragedy to spur His audience into self-examination and an honest assessment of their walk with God. He says, “…unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Jesus does not mince words here. If Jesus spoke these words today, people would demand His resignation. Jesus hurts feelings when He talks and that’s the problems. So often we don’t believe that Jesus is speaking to us. So often we don’t get it. Instead of hearing His call to repent, we rationalize and try to make sense of it, chalking things up to “those people” being bigger sinners who deserved such punishment.

Such thinking should remind us of our own sinfulness and need for salvation. The time for repentance is not tomorrow or next week. The time for repentance is now. Jesus illustrates the seriousness of the situation with a parable.

What a shocking statement for Jesus to make, that everyone needs to repent or perish. Who does He think He is to make such a bold, sweeping statement like that, the Son of God? Oh wait, that’s exactly who He is. He knows exactly what will happen to the unrepentant sinner and that is why He is here. He comes to urge the people to repent of their sins. He comes as the means of their repentance. He comes as the one who will give His life for the lives of the repentant. He comes and will be our Judge on the last day.

To reinforce His message, he tells a parable of the fig tree. Looking at Jesus’ parable, it’s straight talk. It’s not pleasant. It’s not comforting, and it’s nobody’s favorite. But there it is, straight and to the point. The terms are established by God, not us. Our excusing and rationalizing, our complaining and postponing, our good intentions and sincerity of purpose all evaporate into the air and the voice that speaks inquires about the fruits of our lives.

God is patiently calling us to repent. We return to Jesus’ parable about the fig tree. It wouldn’t bear any figs! Year after year it grew, but bore no fruit. The owner wanted to cut it down. But the vinedresser said, “Give me a chance with it. I’ll take care of it, there’s still a chance. If it doesn’t produce fruit for you next year, then cut it down.”

That fig tree is you. There’s so much good fruit that we could be producing, but we aren’t. While God could leave us to our sin, He doesn’t; God isn’t through with us yet. Jesus comes in as our Savior. He gives His life for us on the cross. He comes to us in His Word. He washes us clean in Baptism. He feeds us with heavenly food in the Lord’s Supper. He does all this, waiting for us to produce that fruit that He can use.

Unless you repent; unless you turn away from your sinfulness, you too will perish. And make no mistake: Jesus is not simply referring to end-of-life kind of death, as in the pulse and breathing stop, which all people eventually experience. No, He’s speaking here of eternal death; of hellish death. This is what it means to perish from God’s perspective.

So what shall we do about it? How can we capitalize on the offer God makes? What response can we make? Jesus gives us the answer: repent. We do nothing more and nothing less than that. There’s nothing new to Jesus’ answer; and yet as old and as basic as it is we tend to forget it and act otherwise.

Maybe the word “repent” isn’t so bad of a word at all. Maybe the parable of the barren fig tree isn’t so bad either, for it reminds us that life is to be lived on God’s terms, it also reminds us that life and can be good and full and productive. Once again, Jesus gives to us the words that are most needed – words that remind us what our heavenly Father desires of us and the gift of forgiveness that comes through repentance. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

Lent 2 – “Jerusalem or Bust” (Luke 13:31-35)

C-33 Lent 2 (Lu 13.31-35)Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

Question: Do the Pharisees care for Jesus? Answer: No. Jesus poses a problem for the Pharisees, a problem they are desperate to get rid of at all costs. They are the ones who have been calling the shots up until this point with regards to the faith. Now, Jesus comes along and disrupts everything, teaching that He can save a person because He is the Son of God, or so He claims. It would just be better off for Jesus to disappear, and it would be better if it were sooner rather than later.

With that being said, we see a rather strange exchange take place between the Pharisees and Jesus. Luke records, “At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to [Jesus], “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.”” This makes for an interesting change of events. The Pharisees’ motive for warning Jesus is not clear. On the one hand, these men might have acted in good faith. If so, they did not allow their theological differences with Jesus to override their concern for His well-being. On the other hand, this could have been a ruse, a lie concocted to scare Jesus and perhaps silence Him; either way, we cannot know for certain what lay behind this warning. Regardless, this was not a threat to be taken lightly.

While the Pharisees here are likely not concerned with what will happen to Jesus, very real threats of death do indeed face Jesus in Jerusalem. Opposition to Jesus has been building for a long time. His preaching and teaching has been less than well received by the ruling Jews of the day. He was labeled a heretic because He claimed that He was the Son of God, the promised Messiah. Death was coming quickly for Jesus and instead of turning away from it, Jesus marched headfirst into Jerusalem to face His death.

Just a few weeks ago we heard how at the Mount of Transfiguration Jesus, Moses, and Elijah discussed His impending death. Now, what they had discussed on the mountain seems to be getting closer to reality. For the Pharisees, nothing could be better than this. They know that Jesus is going to be killed, one way or another. The Scribes and Pharisees have been plotting this for quite some time. Jesus knows very well what will happen when He makes it to Jerusalem. There won’t be a parade. There won’t be a warm reception for Him. He knows that when He gets there, He will meet His death. But there will be more than that. He knows that when He enters Jerusalem, you will have life.

Death for Jesus means life for you, the believer. He willingly goes to Jerusalem, to fulfill the Father’s will in order that you would have life. Our Lord’s journey becomes the journey of every Christian, for He leads us from death to life. That is what the scribes and Pharisees did not understand or did not care about. They were more concerned about putting a heretic to death instead of what His death would accomplish. The death of Jesus would restore creation to its rightful place as the beloved of God. Jesus is not afraid to go to Jerusalem, but why would He? He goes because of you, regardless of the rejection that He has faced up until now and the rejection that He will face there.

Going to the cross will be easier than you think. The Pharisees are more than willing to help Him get there. It appears that Herod is willing to help Him get there as well. But Jesus doesn’t need any help to get Himself to the cross because He is going willingly. He is going to fulfill the Father’s will for Him. He is going to the cross because of you and your sins, each and every one of them, regardless of how ugly and revolting they are. He is going to the cross in order to buy you back from the hands of Satan and to place you back into the arms of your loving Father.

But bear this in mind: They don’t make Him go away, not the Pharisees, not Herod, not Pilate or anyone else. The Lord is still in charge. He does not die on that cross because of Herod’s strength or the plottings of the Pharisees. Nor is He scourged and crucified because of the power of the Romans. He goes to that cross only because He goes willingly, because this is God’s plan for your salvation. This is the all-powerful Son of God, and He will not be denied your redemption.

This is your comfort and hope: Your Savior is not a weak man who is overpowered by evil men who seek to put Him to death. No matter the hatred of His enemies, He goes to Jerusalem. No matter the plots and plans of man, nothing keeps Him from suffering the full judgment for your sin. Nothing could deter the Son of God from that mission of salvation. No one, not Satan and his seductive attempts to buy Christ from His mission; not even Christ’s own disciples could dissuade Him from going to the cross with the hopes of Him staying with them forever; not even His enemies who threatened Him with suffering and even death; nothing in this world could side-track Him from that for which He came into the world. He came to be a ransom for many. He came to die that we might live. He came as Redeemer and ushered in the full meaning of God’s eternal love.

And so we say again: Jesus goes to the cross and dies only because He wills to. He did it willingly. He submitted to the suffering and the nails and the death because He willed to do so for you, in accordance with the Father’s will.

Fortunately, God loved us even while we hated Him. Jesus is God’s Son sent to rescue us. The events of today’s Gospel happened while Jesus was on His way to complete that rescue. He was taking His farewell tour of Israel before He went to Jerusalem to offer Himself up as a sacrifice for us. That is the reason He said, “It cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.” That is also the reason He had no fear of Herod. He knew that His death would take place in Jerusalem, not in Galilee.

Jesus’ heart for His people will send Him to Jerusalem, for her and for us. Once more, on Palm Sunday, Jesus would come to Jerusalem and be acclaimed by words of praise, but He will still be rejected and crucified. This is precisely why He would come. This had been Jerusalem’s purpose throughout her favored history: this would be where the Son would God would give His life for the Church. Jerusalem will be saved and so will you, as will all those who repent and are gathered into Christ. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.


Lent 1 – “Tempted” (Luke 4:1-13)

C-31 Lent 1 (Lu 4.1-11)Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

Temptation is everywhere around us. It can be used to motivate someone to perform better. It can be used to bring about negative results. It can bring a person to the pits of despair if used in just the right way. There is not a single place here on earth where a person can go to rid themselves of temptation, and that applies even to our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Following our Lord’s Baptism in the Jordan, He “was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil.” Luke records for us only three such temptations that Jesus endured, but we know fully well that the devil did not just stop at three temptations for our Lord. The goal was simple: get Jesus to give into temptation and then it’s game over, for Satan wins. If Jesus gives into temptation, then He sins and everything He does after that is pointless and meaningless, because everything He would do would be tainted by sin.

You have to give credit to Satan. What better time to go after the Son of God then when He was only for forty days with nothing to eat. Satan knows how to do it: go after Jesus at His weakest and lowest point. Lest we forget, Jesus is also full man and Satan is going to use that fact against Jesus, with the ultimate goal to wear Him down to the point that He gives into temptation.

The first recorded temptation from Luke comes in the form of food. Jesus has gone without food for forty days and to say that He was hungry was an understatement. He faces this temptation at a point where He was alone, arguable the time that we are weakest, the times we aren’t gathered together as the body of Christ.

He refuses to use His power to secure His own survival. Jesus is famished, and the devil invites Him to turn “this stone” into bread. The devil invites Jesus to use His power to meet His own needs, to insure His own survival. Responding, as He will each time, with a text from Deuteronomy, which was addressed to Israel in the wilderness, Jesus replies, “Man shall not live by bread alone.” Like the people in the wilderness who lived on manna, Jesus affirms that dependence on God and obedience to God are more important than securing one’s own survival. People can in fact suffer “death by bread alone,” as is clearly evident in our consumer society. Jesus says no to making His own survival the top priority and to using His power to meet His own needs. And if He had not said no, if He had pursued His own survival, there would have been no cross.

Second, the devil invites Jesus to use His power to establish a political empire grounded in the ways of the world. Jesus can have all worldly power, which has been given over to and belongs to the devil, or so he claims, if He will simply worship the devil. But once again, the devil makes a claim that he cannot back up.

First and foremost, to serve the devil in this way would be idolatry. To take this path would set Jesus on the way of the world rather than of God. Secondly, Jesus already has the authority, for so He declares, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Once again, Jesus returns to God’s Word, namely Deuteronomy when He says, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.”

Notice what takes places in this temptation. God gives unconditionally, while Satan gives conditionally. God gives and is then worshiped, while Satan must have the worship first. But Satan’s promises are lies. He promised Adam and Eve that they would become like God and they didn’t. He promised Judas thirty pieces of silver for betraying Jesus, and in the end, Judas threw the money away.

This temptation is still around today. The devil readily tells us that we can be at peace with all people. All we need do is surrender our faithfulness to God’s Word. So what if not everyone agrees with the Bible one hundred percent. The important thing is that we all get along, right? As long as we make this a better world where everyone is happy, we’re all good, right? That’s the important thing, worshipping the true god is not really that important. That is what’s behind Satan’s temptation. Why worship God when you can worship Satan?

The final temptation Luke records sees a different twist. In the final temptation, the devil put on the robes of the preacher. He quoted from the Word of God, but He only quoted the words that suited his purpose. He begins by first questioning whether or not Jesus is truly the Son of God. The devil quoted from the very psalm that we used in the Introit for today, Psalm 91, but he left out words that change the meaning of the passage. In this way, the devil changed the psalm from God’s promise to protect us into God’s permission to do stupid things, like jump from the pinnacle of a very tall building.

By jumping off the temple and having God’s angels protect Him before the eyes of all the people, Jesus could give the people dramatic proof of who He is; He could give them the kind of Messiah they want and avoid misunderstanding and rejection. But again, Jesus says no. He will not test God in this way; he will not try to use God for his own ends. Faithfulness and obedience to God are more important than effectiveness. And again, if Jesus had not said no, if he had used God for his own popularity and success, he would not have been crucified.

We come to the end result of all of the temptations: “And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.” This means that the devil did not depart forever, but only until an opportune time.  The devil tempted Jesus over and over again.  He did not quit until Jesus was dead. Jesus’ resistance to the temptations of Satan, which begins immediately following His Baptism, will lead to His crucifixion. Every temptation was fought with the Word of God. Even as Jesus died, He fought off the temptation with the Word of God, for His last words were a psalm: “Into your hand I commit my spirit.”

We often fall to the devil’s lies, but Jesus never did. Jesus withstood the devil’s temptation on our behalf. He is our champion. He never sinned. He stayed on the hard road to the cross. Jesus fulfilled every promise God made. Jesus withstood the devil himself in the wilderness of hunger. He endured temptation even to the cross. Jesus never wavered, and in the end, Jesus defeated sin, death, and the devil. He rose from the dead. He bought us back with His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death, earning for us the forgiveness of all of our sins. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

Transfiguration of Our Lord – “Come to an End” (Luke 9:28-36)

C-29 Transfiguration (Lu 9.28-36)Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

It seems, at times, that some things are never going to end. For instance, the red light seems as if it will never turn green, or that cold you have acts as if it has set up permanent shop and you will never be healthy again. Or there are those times that seems like our struggles will never end and that things will never go right for us. Turning to today’s Gospel, Jesus has a message for us about things that will end and things that will not end.

Luke begins this portion of his Gospel by saying, “Now about eight days after these sayings….” We need to ask the question: what were these sayings? About eight days before, Jesus had asked the disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Peter had responded with that great confession of faith: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” So far, things seem to be going good.

But what Jesus said next must have sounded anything but good to the disciples: “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.” Needless to say, that’s a lot for the disciples to take in. Being raised from the dead, that must have sounded mysterious. The part about being killed, well, that was all too clear of a message.

They barely had time to digest what Jesus just said when He followed up with words that were even more difficult, words that applied directly to them: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” That was what lay ahead for these men. Their Messiah would be killed and they would have lives of daily cross-bearing.

And now that brings us back to today, some eight days after our Lord spoke these ominous sayings. He takes with Him the “Big Three” of the disciples – Peter, James, and John. Their destination – a mountain to pray. Nothing out of the ordinary here, just Jesus and the disciples going to pray. It seems like just another, ordinary day; that is, until they get up to the mountain: “And as he was praying, the appearance of his face was altered, and his clothing became dazzling white. And behold, two men were talking with him, Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.”

Great men of old, dead for hundreds of years, faces unknown to the these disciples, are immediately recognized as Moses and Elijah. God’s Word is fully revealed here on the mountain: the Law, the Prophets, and the Gospel all in one place at one time. What joy it must have been to be there on the mountain and to see all of this take place. Here on the mountain, God peels back the lid of His shekinah, His glory, and the disciples get a small glimpse of the true majesty of God as revealed in the Word of God made flesh.

If you could pick one event that you don’t want to end, this would be it. To be in the presence of the fathers of the faith and in Jesus in His full glory, who would ever want to leave? But alas, things cannot stay like this forever. Things must go back to the way they were before. In doing so, Jesus gives His disciples a much-needed lesson in things that will last and things that will not last.

Unfortunately, Jesus will not be with the disciples forever. The time is drawing near that Jesus will set His face before Jerusalem, and when He does, there is no turning back. Despite the disciples’ best efforts, Jesus can not be tempted, Jesus cannot be convinced to turn away from Jerusalem and what that means for Him – it means His death.

What lies before Jesus is suffering and death. It means the disciples will be without their Leader, their Friend. It means that the world will be left without its Messiah, or so it would appear.

Remember the words that Jesus speaks to the disciples as He commissions them to go out and preach the Gospel: “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Though Jesus does not remain in body, His work ever remains present in the salvation that He wins for us upon Calvary’s cross. His Word remains present for us, a word that speaks salvation to all who hear and believe it, a Word that gives life to those who are dead in sin and trespasses. He remains ever-present in the life-giving waters of Holy Baptism and in His eternal life sustaining body and blood in His Holy Supper.

Just as Peter declared to Jesus that it was good for them to be there, so it is good for us to be here today. We come today to where God has said He will be found. We come together so that we may hear the words of Moses, Elijah, and Jesus; the Law, the Prophets, and the Gospel. We come here today to receive from the Lord’s bounty forgiveness of sins that have been won for us by Jesus Christ on the cross. We come here today to receive the very body and blood of Jesus. We do not come merely because God commands it but we come because He invites us. He invites us to come before Him, to confess our sins and to hear that word of absolution pronounced upon us. We come because Jesus Himself invites us to His Table, feeding us with the bread of life.

A moment like the Transfiguration would not be complete without God Himself being present. He comes with His almighty voice, speaking to the disciples: “This is my Son, my Chosen One; listen to him!” Hearing the voice of God was usually reserved for those of great stature, such as Moses, Abraham, David and other prominent leaders of the Old Testament. Yet God saw fit to come to Peter, James, and John to tell them to cast aside any fears, any doubts that they may have, both today and in the future.

Just as He did at the Baptism of Jesus, God the Father addresses mankind. This man Jesus is the beloved and chosen Son of God. At that point, God establishes for mankind who they should listen to; not the things of this world, but to the Son of God. How easy it is for us to give in and listen to what the world says because it’s what our itching ears want to hear. We don’t always focus our attention on the things of God, the promised salvation that comes through His Son, the love shown by Christ for the Father, a love willing to be put to death so that creation would once again belong to the Father. But the words that Jesus speaks to us are the words that we need to hear. Today, we boldly say, “Master, it is good that we are here.” In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

Epiphany 4 – “By Christ’s Authority” (Luke 4:31-44)

C-23 Epiphany 4 (Lu 4.31-44)Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

Authority is everything when it comes to respect. If you lack authority, one tends to lack respect as well. In today’s society, authority is something that can be taken advantage of or something that can be given up. The one to whom authority is given is the one to whom we should obey, but as we often see, that is rarely the case. As we look at today’s Gospel, it’s all about authority: who has it and who does not.

When we find Jesus today, He is in the city of Capernaum and teaching in the synagogue. As He was teaching, Luke says, “they were astonished at his teaching, for his word possessed authority.” The people listened to Jesus’ words, even though they may not have fully understood what He was saying. They didn’t need to know everything that Jesus was saying because they knew that what Jesus was saying had authority behind it. He wasn’t like any other teacher in the synagogue. No other teacher could stand before them and tell them what He did, for He had the authority that the teachers did not – the full authority that comes from God Himself.

Strangely enough, it wasn’t the teachers of the Law who declared that fact, but rather it was the demon-possessed man. He declared, “I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” Jesus’ authority comes from God, not from man. The teachers of the Law, though they had been given authority to preach and teach, did not exercise that authority properly, for what they preached and taught did not agree fully with what Jesus taught. They taught that the Messiah would come, while Jesus taught that He was the Messiah. They taught that in order to be saved, you must keep the Law in its entirety. Jesus taught that man could not keep God’s Law and so He comes to keep the Law in man’s place.

Jesus’ authority is in more than just preaching and teaching. His authority is also seen in actions. Jesus commands the demon to be silent and he is silent. Jesus commands the demon to come out of the man and he comes out. His words lead to actions being done. Once again, the people stood in amazement; not because the demon left the man, but because how the demon left the man: by Jesus telling the demon to leave. The people were so impressed with His authority that they spread the word of Jesus far and wide.

Once Jesus leaves the synagogue, He proceeds to Simon’s house, where Simon’s mother-in-law was ill. With a simple request of Jesus, the fever left her and she began to serve those in her house, probably as she normally would. The people saw what Jesus had done and other people with illnesses began to show up desiring to be healed. Jesus exercised His healing authority to heal those who were infirmed. By His powerful Word, He rebuked the fever and by His personal loving care with His hand of compassion, He healed them.

The common thread through all of these events is the power and authority of Jesus. He taught with power and authority. He rebuked demons with power and authority. He even rebuked a fever with power and authority. Jesus speaks to nature and nature listens and obeys. Jesus speaks to spiritual powers and they listen and obey. A little word from Jesus has power and authority over all things.

Jesus brought His power and authority to us in order to undo the damage that sin had done to His creation. Every sickness that He healed, every demon that He cast out, every person that He raised from the dead was a reversal of the curse of sin. Every healing was a sign that pointed forward to the ultimate healing that Jesus worked for us.

The ultimate, eternal healing that Jesus worked for us happened on a cross. On that cross, Jesus suffered the final, eternal consequence of our sin. He endured the full punishment of sin for us. He endured the full wrath of God in our place. He satisfied the judgment of God against our sin. As Isaiah writes, “He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.”

The message that needs to be heard—shouted from the rooftops and shared and lived out in all of everyday life—is the message of Christ’s all-redeeming suffering, death, and resurrection. This is not just religious truth, but whole Truth. It’s not just true for Lutherans or Catholics, Baptists, or even Christians. It’s not just true on Sunday mornings. Christ suffered and died for the entire world! This trumps everything, for there’s nothing more important than this: Christ Jesus bore and suffered the sins of everyone for all time, and that even includes the people you don’t like or those you don’t think deserve God’s mercy. Contrary to popular belief, you and I don’t deserve God’s mercy either, and yet He extends that mercy to us. We must remember what Paul writes to the Romans: “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

The healing that Jesus gives to us was authenticated by His resurrection from the dead. Through His resurrection we have the promise that all His work – His perfect life and His sacrifice on the cross – all His work is for us. He promises that we shall rise just as He rose. He promises that we shall also live with Him in heaven forever.

What is Christ’s teaching that Jesus gives to us? It was Jesus’ authoritative teaching that first caught the attention of those in Capernaum. It is the very Word of God that leads you to forgiveness in His name. The teaching is of God and what He has done for you, namely forgiven you of all your sins. His teaching is not of anything that you have done because whatever it is that you do, it will never equal the atoning sacrifice that was made on your behalf.

Through this Word, the Holy Spirit changes unbelieving enemies of God into faithful children. We cannot produce faith, our own or anyone else’s. Instead the Holy Spirit calls us by God’s word. He gathers us all together in one, holy, Church that is eternally united with Jesus Christ.

Christ’s Word is powerful. It has what we need. It does what it says. Christ’s Word has power and authority – the power and authority to rebuke demons – the power and authority to rebuke fevers, but ultimately, the power and authority to forgive your sins and save your soul. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

Epiphany 3 – “Fulfilled in Your Hearing” (Luke 4:16-30)

C-22 Epiphany 3 (Lu 4.14-21)Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, amen. The text for the sermon is the Gospel, which was read earlier.

Imagine for a moment that I said that instead of me preaching this morning, we would have guest preacher. What would your thoughts be? You might be happy or you might be saddened by the fact of a guest preacher. But what if I told you that the guest preacher would be none other than Jesus Christ Himself. Wouldn’t that be marvelous, to hear a message straight from God in the person of Jesus Christ?

That is precisely what we see happen in our Gospel reading for today. Jesus enters His hometown of Nazareth and goes to the synagogue, as was His custom. Instead of merely being a participant of the worship service, Jesus becomes the leader and reads from the scroll of Isaiah the following words: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” This in and of itself is not the issue. The Jewish Scriptures of the day were the Old Testament. Focusing on the words of the prophet Isaiah regarding what the coming Messiah would do would be seen as a good thing, keeping before the Jewish people who the Messiah is and what His work would be.

After He reads it, rolls up the scroll, returns it to the attendant and sits down, but now all eyes are on Jesus, almost as if He is expected to do something, and He is, for you cannot have Scripture read without explanation of what the Scripture means. And so Jesus interprets the prophecy He just read: “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” What a statement to make. He just said that the prophecy speaks of Him, that He is the one who fulfills it. And the people’s response was one of marveling at what He said. Jesus just hit the sermon out of the ballpark! But before we start celebrating, the tone of the people in the synagogue change. They say, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” Jesus must be out of His mind to say that Scripture has been fulfilled in Him because He is nothing more than a carpenter’s Son. That’s who they know Him to be, and so it must be that way.

Here’s the problem that the people have: they cannot accept Jesus as Messiah because He doesn’t fit their ideal vision of the Messiah. It is just too hard for the people to believe that this ordinary hometown Jewish man is infact, God’s own Son. Regardless of what the people think or don’t think about Jesus, He is the long-awaited Messiah that Isaiah had foretold of long ago, the Messiah that Isaiah speaks of and the Messiah that Jesus fulfills.

Jesus speaks an omen of sorts with regards to prophets, Himself included: “Truly, I say to you, no prophet is acceptable in his hometown.” What does Jesus mean here? Has He gone from claiming Himself the Messiah to being just a prophet? Not at all, for Christ as Messiah is indeed Prophet, Priest and King. Rather, it is that ominous declaration that He will not be taken seriously by His own people – not just in His hometown, but speaking of the Jewish people in general.

Jesus is on the losing side here. No matter what He says about Himself, He’s going to lose. They don’t recognize Him as the Messiah. They don’t regard Him as possibly being the Messiah. He is no more a prophet than what the regular person in the synagogue was. At the end of the day, Jesus was just the Son of Joseph, nothing more than a carpenter like His father.

Times have not changed that much from the time of Jesus in the synagogue until now. People still hold Jesus up as anything BUT the Messiah! Some religions speak of Him as being a prophet, but not the Son of God. Some will attribute good deeds, good sayings and the like to Him, but at the end of the day, Jesus died and He stayed dead. Even those within Christianity do not want to go so far as to say that Jesus is the sole means of salvation or ascribe Him as less than true God.

You can call Jesus whatever you want to call Him. You can call Him the Messiah, or you can call Him a man. You can call Him the Savior or a savior. You can call Him the Son of God or you can call Him the son of the carpenter, Joseph. You can call Him whatever you want to call Him. Just remember one thing before you call Jesus anything: there is only one appropriate response for salvation that you can call Jesus: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Alas, for the people of Jesus’ day, Jesus’ claim fell on deaf ears. In fact, Luke records that the people were filled with wrath, rose up and drove Jesus out of the synagogue, but that wasn’t enough for them. They “drove Him out of town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff.” They don’t like what Jesus said so much that they wanted to throw Him off of a cliff. If they got so worked up over saying that He has fulfilled prophecy, I can only imagine what the response would be if He told them point blank that He came into this world to live a sinless life for them, die on the cross for them and then three days later rise from the dead, all so that they would have eternal life.

It is fortunate for us that Jesus was not thrown from the cliff and that He continues to preach and teach what He has come to do, that is, be our sacrificial Lamb to take away our sins. Jesus wants to give us the gifts that He purchased for us with His holy life, His suffering, and His death. He wants to give the gifts that He won with His resurrection from the dead. He wants to tell us how His death on the cross has freed us from our captivity, opened our eyes to His salvation, and liberated us from sin’s oppression.

He comes to us as He came to the people of Nazareth in their synagogue. He has given us His teachings in the words of the Bible. He has promised that when we hear His words, the Holy Spirit will work in us to establish and strengthen our belief in Him. He has promised to put the very name of God on us in Holy Baptism. He has promised to come to us in His very body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar.

Jesus truly is the fulfillment of God’s promises. He is the Anointed One, the Christ, the Messiah. He has preached the Good News of the Kingdom of God. He has shown us the light of His salvation. With His life, suffering, and death on the cross, He has freed those oppressed by sin. With His resurrection, He offers the Lord’s favor to us. He gives these things to us through the Holy Spirit’s gift of faith, promising all these things to us and today, they are fulfilled in our hearing. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.