Epiphany 3 – “Man’s No and God’s Yes” (Jonah 3:1-5, 10)

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 Old Testament, which was read earlier.

One of the first words a child learns is one that will stick with them throughout all of their life, a word more important than “mama” or “dada.” That word is “no.” And once they learn that word, they love to use it at every opportunity they can. As we get older, that word becomes ingrained in our everyday vocabulary, because we too like to use that word as much as we can. For the prophet Jonah, saying no was no different.

We all know the account of Jonah. To refresh your memory, God calls upon Jonah to go to the city of Nineveh and deliver a message of repentance to them. Jonah felt that they were not worthy of God’s graciousness and so he refused. In order to get away from God, Jonah jumped into a boat that was heading the opposite direction, as if Jonah could really escape God. God sends a storm that threatens to destroy the boat he is on and so Jonah requests that the crew throw him overboard. The crew refuses to throw him overboard, knowing full well that he will drown. As the storm grew worse, the crew relented and threw Jonah overboard, but instead of drowning, he is swallowed by a big fish and kept alive in the fish’s belly for three days until he is spat out onto the shore. And that brings us to our Old Testament reading for today.

“Then the word of the LORD came to Jonah the second time, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it the message that I tell you.” So Jonah arose and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD.” This time, Jonah was not about to take any chances. Even if he doesn’t feel that the people of Nineveh are worthy of God’s graciousness, he is going to go to Nineveh regardless of his personal feelings. He still doesn’t like the idea of going, he still doesn’t like the people, but he goes anyways because this is what God has commanded of him.

After everything that had happened to Jonah, it would be hard for him to say no a second time, and yet he still doesn’t have anything good to say about the Ninevites. He goes to Nineveh and declares God’s message: “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” This time, Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh, to be God’s mouth in that city. This same word was used when God promised to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, and God followed through with His threat of punishment for the unrepentant. That’s the same thing that Jonah wanted for Nineveh, for God to wipe them out as He had done earlier.

The Lord was calling Nineveh to repent. God is a serious God, with serious love and mercy for the repentant. But what do you think? Do you God is being too gracious, or are the billions of unbelievers out there today, or those of us gathered here, really worth His effort?

For as stern as God’s warning is to Nineveh, there’s reason for hope. For if God had decided to destroy the city, just for the fun of it, just because He’s a mean, angry, hateful God just looking for people and cities to destroy, if that’s who God really is, then there would be no real purpose for Him to ever send a preacher with His message. There would be no need for Jonah, no need for me. God detests sin because it kills those whom He loves, His creation. His earnest desire, what He wants most and has moved the ends of the world for, is salvation, salvation for Nineveh, salvation for you.

We are quick to say “no” to God, to think that we don’t need what He has to offer, to think that someone is beyond God’s salvation because of how bad they are. How great it must be, to be so good, to be someone who is so righteous of their own accord that they don’t need what God offers through Jesus Christ! How sad for everyone else who isn’t such a righteous person as this.

Fortunately for us, when we say “no,” God says “yes.” God says yes to us from the very beginning of man’s fall into sin. God says yes to us sinful human beings who don’t deserve His forgiveness. God says yes to us when our self-righteousness says that we don’t need God. Man’s “no” is God’s “yes,” and I am glad that’s the way it is.

Nineveh was spared because the Ninevites repented of their sins. God saw no reason to destroy them any more. When we repent, God sees no need to destroy us any more. We shout from the rooftops, “I, a poor, miserable sinner, confess unto You all my sins and iniquities with which I have ever offended You and justly deserved Your temporal and eternal punishment. But I am heartily sorry for them and sincerely repent of them.” And God joyfully shouts back to us, “I forgive you all of your sins.” What a wonderful thing to hear! We have God’s promise that all of our sins have been forgiven on account of Jesus Christ. We don’t have to guess and wonder if our sins have really been forgiven or not. We don’t have to guess and wonder if God will follow through with His threat of destroying us or if He will forgive us, for we already know the answer to that question.

God desired to save the wicked people of Nineveh, so He sent His preacher there and He saved. He had compassion and did not bring down the destruction that they deserved. God desires to save you, as well, sending forth preachers still today, preaching a message of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. With that forgiveness, God spares you from eternal destruction, from hell and it’s torment, it’s absence from God.

As certainly as Jonah was swallowed up into the belly of the fish three days and was delivered, so Jesus was swallowed up by death and in the tomb for three days. His being raised on the third day has brought the kingdom of God now to you. Christ’s great death and resurrection have become the door to life for you through Christ and this He has given to you by His Word, Holy Baptism, and His Supper. Through these gifts, He has had compassion on you, drawing you near unto Him. Here, in His Means of Grace, does He pour out on you comfort and forgiveness in His blood instead of the Father’s wrath and anger. All is made well again, all has been forgiven you because your hearts have been turned and have repented. Death passes over you as you receive everlasting life. 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 – “God Calls” (1 Samuel 3:1-10; John 1:43-51)

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 Old Testament and Gospel, which were read earlier.

When Martin Luther was a student at the University of Erfurt, he found a copy of the Bible in the school library. As he paged through Scripture, he happened upon the words in verse 10 and read them with great interest: “And the LORD came and stood, calling as at other times, “Samuel! Samuel!” And Samuel said, “Speak, for your servant hears.”” He wished he could be like Samuel and hear God’s voice! The great discovery of Luther’s life was that on the pages of the Bible, God does speak to us as He once spoke to Samuel.

In Samuel’s day, as in Luther’s, “the word of the LORD was rare.” People had little interest in hearing what God had to say. The five books of Moses were kept in the tabernacle, but even the priests neglected them. Not since the death of Moses had there been a great prophet in Israel.

No greater judgment can fall upon a nation than when it suffers the loss of God’s Word. When people do not appreciate the Gospel, God often takes it from them. Israel suffered this time and time again. Eventually, they would repent and God’s Word would be proclaimed to them again, though it didn’t take long for them to neglect God’s Word as they had previously done.

Wouldn’t it be nice if God were to call us the same way as He did Samuel? How would He call us? What will He call us to do? Fortunately for us, God does call us, just as He did Samuel. He doesn’t call us in the way that He did Samuel, but He calls us through another voice, that of His Son, Jesus Christ. He calls us to come to Him, just as He did Samuel.

As God called His people of old, He used the prophets to do so. But that is no longer the case today. In fact, the writer to the Hebrews says, “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son….” What we sometimes forget is that God did not stop calling His people, He merely changed the messenger who was calling. Before, it was the prophets calling the people of Israel to believe in the promised Messiah of God. Later, it was John the Baptist who was the final voice of the people, preparing them to receive the Messiah who was closer than what the people thought. In the end, God sent His long-promised Son to be the ultimate voice, calling the people to repent and believe. But His calling went even further than that. He called 12 lowly men to be His disciples, to be His mouthpieces and to proclaim who He was and what He had come to do. They had three years to learn just what to say and how to say it. When it was time, they continued the same preaching and teaching as their Teacher.

All throughout His ministry, we see our Lord calling people. He calls the sinner to Him to repent. He calls the child to Him, to be the example of faith. He calls for the non-believer to come to Him and believe. He calls the believer to Himself so they may be strengthened. He calls the entire world to Himself in order to be baptized. He calls you each and every time you enter this place, His Father’s house, to confess your sins and receive His absolution. He calls you to feast upon His body and His blood for the forgiveness of your sins, a forgiveness that is certainly needed by all.

As we look at Jesus calling Philip and Nathanael, the calling is reminiscent of that of Samuel. Samuel is called by God to be His servant and to do His work. Philip is first called by Jesus and he declares to Nathanael, “We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” Nathanael asks the all-important question: “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” The question is one that is meant to establish who Jesus was. Everyone knew that Nazareth did not produce anything. But in this instance, Nathanael was wrong. Nazareth did produce something good: it produced the Savior of creation.

When God calls us, the message that He calls us with is not one that is fluff, not one that can be ignored. However, throughout Israel’s history, they viewed God’s message as fluff and it was ignored, time and time again. Apparently, God’s people knew better than God Himself did. They knew exactly how to get themselves into trouble – ignore God and His Word. Eventually they would realize that they were not capable of getting themselves out of trouble and so they would turn to God, sometimes rather reluctantly.

When God sends forth His Son, unfortunately, the world had the same problem as they did with God – the world knew better. They didn’t need to listen to Him, just like they didn’t need to listen to God. But the message of Jesus was the exact same as that of God. Both call the people of God to repentance. Both call the people of God to believe. Both call the people of God unto themselves, for there is found everlasting life.

Try as we might, we can never cease depending on God. God created us. Jesus redeems us. The Holy Spirit sanctifies us and makes us holy. We are called by God to come to Him, to receive from Him, to worship Him, to serve Him as we serve our neighbor. God calls us, not for His benefit, but for ours. Even though God is calling, we seek to flee. Why is that? Why do we flee the gracious hand of our creator?  We flee because deep down inside we know who we are. While we are with others who are like us, we draw comfort from the fact that we are more or less about as good as the people who are around us. We go into denial about our sin. We can deceive ourselves into thinking we are not so bad after all. But that’s where we are wrong. We are so bad. In fact, we’re even worse!

Despite the fact that we are sinners, God calls us unto Him. He calls us to be forgiven. He calls us to receive. He calls us to be His beloved children. Just as God called Samuel, just as Jesus called Philip and Nathanael, so are we called. We are called in our Baptism to be made forgiven children of God. We are called to serve our neighbor, to spread the Gospel to those who have not heard.

God calls men of every culture to proclaim His message … the message of repentance and the forgiveness of sins. The message of repentance is always similar to the message that God gave to Samuel that terrifies us of our sin. The message of forgiveness is always similar to the message that God gave to Philip that always points to Jesus.

Like Samuel the first and second and third time, maybe we do not recognize that the Lord is calling to us. Yet He does call. He calls to us gathered here in His home. He calls through His living Word. He calls us unto Himself and we respond, “Speak, LORD, for your servant hears.” In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

Baptism of our Lord – “Baptism” (Mark 1:4-11)

B-18 Epiphany 1 (Mk 1.4-11)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.

As we look at the major events of the Church Year, we immediately think of the big two: Christmas and Easter. Christmas, as we just celebrated, is when God takes on human flesh in the form of Jesus Christ. Easter, which we will celebrate in just a few months, marks the resurrection from the dead of Jesus Christ and His defeat of sin, death, and the devil. We would most certainly say that those two events rate very high in the life of the Church. But as we look at our Gospel for today, another event is highlighted, one that is indeed very important to the life of the Church: the Baptism of Jesus.

In our text, we see two sets of Baptism taking place. First, John the Baptist “appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Repentance was the purpose or result of John’s baptism. One way to view this is that one could not be said to have repented unless and until one had been baptized. This was so because baptism was not one way to achieve repentance for John – it was the way to attain it, indeed, the only way. John’s baptism enacted the plea and vision of the Old Testament concerning preparation for the coming personal presence of God in the promised Messiah. Through the baptism of John, God made for himself a cleansed and repentant people, prepared for His visitation.

The people acknowledged who John was, the last of the Old Testament prophets, and went to him in order to be baptized and to confess their sins. Everything that John did was not for his benefit or for his own desires, but rather it was for the benefit of those who came to him. The baptism that John offered, a baptism of repentance, said something of the individual coming to be baptized. They desired to repent, to turn from their sinful ways.

To keep from drawing attention to himself, John never took credit for anything. He always sought to get the focus off of himself and onto the One to whom the focus was deserved: the coming Messiah. John says, “After me comes he who is mightier than I….” That brings us to the second Baptism that takes place in our text. “In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.”

In an interesting turn of events, Jesus comes to be baptized by John. Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God; He had no sins to confess! Why did Jesus need to be baptized for the remission of His sins that didn’t exist? St. Matthew records for us Jesus’ simple reply to John when John questions the Baptism: “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then John baptized Jesus with no further discussion.

We need to make sure we fully understand what took place in the Baptism of Jesus by John. The view that by being baptized by John, Jesus only showed His willing obedience and though He didn’t need to be baptized and yet submitted to it, makes the baptism nothing but a formality and misconstrues what John’s Baptism really was. It wasn’t law, but gospel. It wasn’t a demand to obey but a gift of grace to accept and retain. Jesus was baptized by John because He regarded this as the right way in which to enter upon His great office. Jesus, the sinless one, the very Son of God, chose to put Himself by the side of all the sinful ones, for whom this sacrament was ordained. He signifies that He is now ready to take upon Himself the load of these sinners, that is, to assume His redemptive office. As Luther points out, Jesus was here rightly beginning to be the Christ, the Anointed One, and “was thus inaugurated into His entire Messianic office as our Prophet, High Priest, and King.”

Here, in the Jordan River, Jesus became one of us. He took on all that has gone wrong with us, every sin. By taking our sin onto Himself, He becomes the greatest sinner. He becomes the greatest sinner so that He could become our only Savior. He takes His place under our sin, so that He could lift it from us and carry it away. He carried our sin away from us so that the punishment for that sin will not fall on us, but on Him. That is how God has decided that His judgment and His righteousness should go. Jesus should take our sin to Himself with all its condemnation, guilt, and punishment. God turns His friendly face to us because Jesus became one of us and took our sin on Himself.

So it is that Jesus submits to the Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. He repents of your sin. He undergoes the sinner’s baptism for sinners. Jesus stands with us in the waters of a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

The Baptism of Jesus reveals the plan of God to restore this love – to heal our relationship with Him – to open heaven to us once again. Here we see the Son of God in the flesh in order to take our place under the law. Here stands the sinless Son of God who carries in Him the sin of the entire world. Here is Jesus standing with us in the waters of baptism in order that we might be joined to Him in eternity.

From the moment that Jesus came to be in the womb of the Virgin, the Son of God has carried the sins of the world. Up until this moment of baptism, He carried our sins in silent anonymity. Now, at His baptism, His role as sin bearer becomes public. The heavens were torn open. The Spirit descended on him like a dove. A voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” The time has come for Jesus to publicize His journey, a journey that will pass through the cross where He will take away the sin of the world, a journey that will also pass through the empty tomb of Christ’s resurrection that demonstrates His power over death.

God the Father is pleased with His Son as He continues this journey of salvation. This is God the Father expressing delight in God the Son. This is God the Father expressing delight in us as well. For Jesus’ journey through the cross and the open tomb earned salvation for us. Through baptism, the Holy Spirit joined us to Christ Jesus. All that is ours belongs to Him, and all that is His belongs to us. So God delights in us just as He delights in Jesus. In a world that has long ago surrendered to sin, death, and the devil, there is one place where we receive the delight of God. That is where we are in solidarity with Jesus who heard the Father say, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

Christmas 2 – “Home” (Luke 2:42-5

B-15 Christmas 2 (LHP) (Lu 2.40-52)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.

Tomorrow morning, school is back in session for our kids. We send them off to school in order to learn, to become educated so that they may become contributors to society. As our children grow older, we send them off to the best colleges and universities to sit at the feet of well-respected professors, hoping that some of their wisdom will rub off onto our children. And one day, our children will become the teachers to others, teaching them all they have learned in their lives. That’s the way thing are supposed to work. When we look at our Gospel reading for today, we see the makings for the young boy Jesus to sit at the feet of the teachers of the Law.

Everything for Jesus begins just after our Gospel reading from last week where Joseph and Mary take an eight-day old Jesus to the temple as is the custom. Simeon holds the long-promised Messiah in his arms and then Luke ends with these words: “the child [Jesus] grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him.” That’s where the story ends until today. Continuing right from where he left off, Luke now shows us Jesus, but He is no longer an infant. Rather, He is a twelve-year old boy who has journeyed with His parents to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover. This was one of the major feasts for the Jews. Every Jew who was able would journey to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover, marking the yearly remembrance of how God spared His people from the devastating plagues while they were slaves in Egypt.

When the feast had ended, the Holy Family did what everyone else did: pack up and head home. They were traveling in a large caravan with other family and friends on the multiple day journey and after a days worth of travel, Joseph and Mary noticed that Jesus was not with them. Was this something to be alarmed about? No. Traveling in a caravan like this, if Jesus wasn’t with His parents, then He was surely with other family members in another part of the caravan. It was likely that they didn’t see other members of their extended family very often so why not let Jesus play with His other family members? Eventually it was determined that Jesus was nowhere in the caravan and so Joseph and Mary returned to Jerusalem in search for Jesus.

Even after the Passover busyness had ended, Jerusalem was still full of people and that meant because of the crowds, it would take a while to find Jesus. After the first day of searching, there was no sign of Jesus. After the second day of searching, still no Jesus. Surely their luck was going to improve on the third day. Luke doesn’t record when on the third day they found Jesus, other than the fact He was found. Where He was found might have seemed like an unlikely place for some, but the obvious place for others. He was found in the temple.

While Jesus was in the temple, just what was He doing? According to Luke, Jesus was “sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers.” Now, the first part of what Luke says wasn’t surprising. Jesus was 12 years old. That meant He would have been of the age of study so listening to the teachers of the law and asking questions would not have been out place. However, it’s the second part of Luke’s account that is out of place. Everyone who heard Jesus was amazed at His understanding and answers. Jesus was nothing more than a mere child. He had no right to be doing anything other than listening and definitely not doing anything resembling teaching.

Jesus had no authority to be teaching anything, especially teaching the teachers of the Law. Not only was He teaching them, they were amazed at what He said. One can imagine the teachers hanging on every word that Jesus spoke. Out of the mouth of a twelve-year old boy came such great wisdom. In one sense, you wouldn’t expect much to come out of Jesus because of His age. He was nothing more than a boy who is at the right age to study in the synagogue. Yet on the other hand, He was the Son of God who had all the answers because He knew all the questions. Everything that the teachers and those gathered could ask, Jesus had an answer for them. Jesus has come of age. He has found His voice and taken His place. And that voice and place, we learn, are “in my Father’s house.”

When Mary makes a fuss of looking for Jesus and how they were treated, He responds, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” In these short utterances of Jesus we see the beginning of His break away from familial attachments in order to identify more intimately with God the Father. He is doing so in the immediate presence of His parents, presumably for the first time. His commitment to the Father now transcends His love for the family. Jesus knows that He is here for a purpose – to do the Father’s will.

Jesus’ words not only convict Mary and Joseph, but they also convict us. We too try to search for Jesus and can’t find Him. We find ourselves with Mary and Joseph in that we too are looking in the wrong places. Jesus said, “I must be in my Father’s house.” Never the less, we look among the things of this world. We look to earthly security, wealth, power, popularity, and so forth. We look for Jesus everywhere He is not.

Today, we must be our Father’s house looking for Jesus. We need to look for Him in worship, where His Word is proclaimed, and His gifts are given – in the absolution, in the waters of Baptism, and in the Holy Supper, which He lays before us every Sunday for our refreshment, and for our forgiveness, and for our blessing, and our strengthening. Here, in His holy Word. Here, in His body and blood is where you need to look. Here in the fellowship of His people – His holy body – is where He is to be found, and nowhere else.

All the work that Christ does for the Father culminates on the cross. That’s where the true intersection takes place between God and man. It takes place in Christ on the cross. Holy, perfect, and almighty God Himself gave up all of heaven in order to come down to this fallen and sinful world and take on our fallen and sinful flesh. However, Christ—in the flesh—did what fallen and sinful man can never do, no matter how hard we try. Christ Jesus lived the perfect life. He kept every one of God’s laws perfectly. He did this for us, in our place, precisely because we cannot do this. Christ Jesus took every single sin of the entire world upon Himself, taking every single one of those sins to the cross so that they would be put to death, once and for all.

Today, we are where we need to be. We are where Jesus is, where God the Father invites us to be. There truly is nowhere better to be than “in my Father’s house.” In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

Pastoral Year in Review – 2014

Now that 2014 has ended and I’ve had a few days of rest following the Christmas marathon of sermons, I’ve gone back and compiled all of my stats for the year with regards to my ministry.

This marks nearly 9 1/2 years at Trinity. It’s hard to believe that it has been that long, until you ask me tomorrow and my response is, only 9 1/2 years! Seriously, I have greatly enjoyed the opportunity to shepherd God’s people at Trinity and the experiences here (good, bad, and ugly) have helped shape who I am as a pastor.

Now for the part that you’ve been anxiously waiting for:

Sermons: 62 (not counting midweek Advent and Lent sermons)
Weddings: 3
Funerals 5
Includes 2 men whom God called home too soon
Baptisms: 7
Junior Confirmation: 5
Adult Confirmation/Affirmation of Faith: 3

Pentecost 5 – “The Accomplishing Word” (Isaiah 55:10-13 & Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23)

A-67 Proper 10 (Mt 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 Old Testament and Gospel, which were read earlier.

Do you ever have one of those “ah-ha” moments? It’s one of those times where everything seems to just make sense. In looking at our text for this morning in Isaiah, this is one of those “ah-ha” moments. Listen to the words of Isaiah again: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.” It sounds very simple, but is it really?

Take Isaiah for example. Isaiah stands midway between Moses and Christ. His ministry spanned the reign of the Kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah. In chapter 53, Isaiah revealed the vicarious atonement accomplished by the Messiah: “He was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” In chapter 54 Isaiah assured the Church of God’s careful guidance and bountiful grace. Despite the attacks of Satan and the sinful world, the Church will endure. All believers are to find comfort and strength in the Lord. As Isaiah says, “‘Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,’ says the Lord, who has compassion on you.” What Isaiah says is much easier said than done.

Jesus tells us in both Matthew and Mark, “Only in his hometown, among his relatives and in his own house is a prophet without honor.” It’s not always easy to proclaim the Word of God. There are Christians around the world that are persecuted for even mentioning the name of Jesus. We have people who are like the types of seed in our Gospel lesson for this morning. First, we have those who are like the seed that fell along the path and was devoured up by the birds. Jesus later explains what He means: “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart.” It’s a shame that we have people who hear the Gospel but through the powers of Satan, a stumbling block is put up so that they cannot hear the saving message that while we are sinners, Christ died for us and has made us clean by His shed blood. Unfortunately, not all who hear will believe.

The second type is the seed that fell on rocky ground, had no soil and was scorched away. Christ tells us, “As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away.” Unfortunately, this type is seen all too often. People attend a gathering or a conference, read an inspirational book that really gets them fired up for Christ and with direction, they could probably do great things. But their new-found spirituality quickly dims because no one is there to help guide them and give them direction, to answer questions that they have, to share the real Gospel message behind the gathering or conference or inspirational book. No one is there to nurture them in the Christian faith and they lose all interest.

This is all too apparent with pop evangelical Christianity today. Look at some megachurches and the large non-denominational churches. Their goal is to bring people into the building. Once that’s done, you become a number of the many thousands they have on the book. They may offer certain programs at the church but are they truly nurturing your soul? What tends to be important is your involvement in the church, in the small groups and programs that the church has to offer. However, what is often missing is the Gospel itself. What you tend to be left with is nothing more than fluff, things that make you feel good but in the long run, do nothing for nurturing of the faith of the individual.

The third example that Jesus speaks of is that which fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. How Christ describes it is unnerving: “As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful.” This is the kind that places the riches of the world above that of the spiritual riches that we have received through our baptism into Christ, the nourishment that we receive when we come to the Lord’s Table, placed above the Word that we hear.

There is a saying that very appropriately describes this kind of seed: “He who dies with the most toys wins.” While that may be true among the rich and wealthy, someone will come along after you’re dead and surpass your riches and wealth. When that happens, you lose. The more appropriate statement to make is this: “He who dies with the most toys still dies!

What riches can you take with you when you die? Show me someone who has bought their way into heaven. That’s not how it works. Christ has purchased our sinned-filled lives and has cleansed them by His blood. Listen to what St. Peter writes: “And if you call on him as Father who judges impartially according to each one’s deeds, conduct yourselves with fear throughout the time of your exile, knowing that 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.” That is our only way into heaven.

Finally, Christ speaks of seed falling on good soil. “As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.” That is true Christianity. That is the Word accomplishing what it has set out to do. Hear again the words of Isaiah: “So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.”

The Gospel is God’s declaration of universal grace and pardon. It offers and conveys the Lord’s grace to men—God’s absolution of our sins and His promise of grace and forgiveness without any strings attached. Christ said, “The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.” The Gospel not only has the power to convert people to faith but also to motivate believers to be fruitful Christians. Isaiah tells us that God’s Word is never proclaimed in vain. It is not a waste of time to declare the mercy and grace of God in Christ. The possibility is always there for those who hear it to come to faith and be saved. And when it is rejected through the hardness of the human heart, the Gospel has a purpose to be preached as a testimony against unbelief.

The Word is power. To those who believe in Jesus Christ and the Word, God gives the power to become the children of God and bestows on them the Holy Spirit. The Word never returns empty. It always accomplishes what it was sent out to do, though we may not be able to see it. The Word of God is still the powerful force it has always been. Therefore, let us not lose confidence in its effectiveness, since the Lord stands behind it with the promise So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. The world around us declares that there is no good use for the Gospel anymore, that it doesn’t have any power or might. So many suggest that we get rid of it. Sometimes in our weakness we might think it isn’t accomplishing anything. However, let us have confidence that God is behind His Word and will use it according to His will. Let us keep on proclaiming the Gospel, the power of God to do all things. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

Pentecost 4 – “Easy Yoke” (Matthew 11:25-30

A-66 Proper 9 (Mt 11.25-30)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.

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus makes some outrageous claims about His person and His ability to get people right with God the Father, and goes on to make a fantastic offer to all who feel beat, bushed, and burdened. In fact, Christ’s claims about Himself are so extravagant and His offer so unbelievable, one must wonder if perhaps this is nothing more than a ruse of some sorts because it sounds too good to be true.

Of the outrageous claims that Jesus makes in His ministry, there is one today that sticks out like a sore thumb: “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.” To say something this ludicrous is beyond that which even the prophets of old could not say. In fact, no one dared to say something as outrageous as this because if they did, they would be put to death as a heretic. With death charges possible, Jesus makes such a statement as this and more with what He does throughout His ministry.

After making such an outrageous claim as this, Jesus makes a fantastic offer, one that no one before or after has been able to make and keep. Sure, there have been those who have made such an offer before, but in the end, they were unable to fulfill such an offer. Just what is the offer that Jesus comes and makes? Our Lord simply says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” 

“Come to Me,” says Jesus, but He doesn’t mean “If you work hard enough to make your way to Me, I’ll reward you.” No, think instead of the parent who scoops up a little child while at the same time saying, “You come here!”, and you have a better idea of the Savior. He has rest for all those who are weary and heavy laden, and that would be you. There are two types of people in this world: those who are weary and heavy laden with sin and weakness and know it, and those who are weary and heavy laden with sin and weakness and don’t know it. The former understand that the salvation isn’t about the rules of daily living; if it is, they’ll never get the work done. Thus, they’re happy to be rested by the Savior. The latter don’t think that the burden is heavy, so they see no need for the Savior. Instead, they’ll seek out salvation by their own rules. And they’ll never make it.

Note carefully again the words of Jesus. Not “take My yoke upon you and pull with Me,” but “take My yoke upon you and learn from Me.” Hear from His Word that He has paid the price for your sins. Hear from His Word that He gives you grace and faith and salvation and all good things. He does not come like the ox-driver, whip in hand and demanding a good performance before He rewards you. No, He is gentle and lowly and humble in heart, so much so that He gently rode into Jerusalem, suffered most lowly, and humbly went to the cross in your place. Because He’s suffered God’s wrath for you, you have rest for your souls with God forever. His yoke is easy and His burden is light, because the price for your salvation is already paid.

The Christian life is not about being a better person and it never has been. We get to be real, true, honest sinners with a real true, powerful Savior. When we fall short and fail, we’re not surprised. We’re not home in heaven yet. We don’t invest a ton of time and energy in trying harder for salvation, because anything that starts with us is doomed to failure.

The burden, the yoke, that we bear and carry has all been carried and done for us by Jesus Christ. It is Christ that carried the burden of our every shortfall, every time we failed to keep God’s Law perfectly. It is Christ who wore the yoke of obedience that feels to us like being trapped in a vicious cycle: You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” There is no way for us to be perfect as God demands and as Jesus tells us. Instead, it is Christ’s perfect obedience, His perfect keeping of every law of God, that is given to us, that is credited to us.

The reason that Jesus can say this is that He is the Son of God who entered history in order to save us from our own sin. While we can do nothing to please God, everything that Jesus does is pleasing to God. While we cannot endure the punishment that will satisfies God’s justice, Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross totally satisfied God’s justice for you. Jesus is the one who takes our hard yoke on Himself and gives us the easy yoke of forgiveness in its place. He is the one who took up our heavy burden of sin and replaced it with the light burden of His righteousness. He has taken the labor and burden of false belief and replaced it with the rest of true faith.

Jesus has done all the work that makes us right with God. The blessings of that work become available to us when the Holy Spirit works faith in us. The Holy Spirit establishes the faith that receives the gifts of God – forgiveness, life, salvation. At the same time, the Holy Spirit creates a new being in us — a holy child of God. We now have the easy yoke of Christ’s forgiveness and the light burden of His righteousness.

Yoked to Christ we find peace; not toil and burden and work. How are you saved and redeemed? Is it because of anything you do to work or earn forgiveness? Do you have to toil and labor to get your little slice of heaven? Does your salvation consist of Christ does His share and you do yours? Of course not! We are saved because of God’s grace alone, which is ours because of the redemptive work of Christ alone. In terms of salvation, it really is easy, just like Christ says. We are yoked to Christ through faith alone. How much easier can it get? Trust in God above all things. Trust; that is, have faith in the fact that Christ has done it all, and it is finished. Trust in the fact that He is with you always, even when it feels like you’re being crushed under the crosses and burdens of life in this fallen and sinful world, for it is precisely here, under the burdens and loads and aches and pains and despairs and crosses of this life that we find Christ’s Word and Promise to be true: “I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Life is a rat race, a struggle. You get out of it what you put into it if you’re lucky; and sooner or later, you can’t put enough into it to sustain. That’s how life works in this sinful fallen world. But that isn’t how salvation works with your sinless Savior. The Lord Jesus declares that He gives it to you freely as a parent gives to a little child. While your struggles and setbacks dictate that you labor wearily and bear heavy loads in this life, it is not so for eternal life. Your Savior bids you, “Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” That rest and salvation are yours, because you are forgiven for all of your sins on account of Jesus Christ and the easy yoke that He gives to you. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

Pentecost 3 – “Law to Gospel” (Romans 7:1-13

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 Epistle, which was read earlier.

Have you ever wondered why we have laws? Why is there a law that says the speed limit is 75 on I-90? Why is there a law that says no shoplifting? Why is there a law that says you must stop at a stop sign or red light? Laws are put into place in order to protect people. They often come about as a result of injury or death. While it might be fun to drive down I-90 at 100+ miles an hour, it isn’t safe and speeds like that cause death. Therefore, the Wyoming Department of Transportation deemed fit that 75 miles an hour is an appropriate speed limit.

As Paul addresses the church in this part of his letter, he is speaking to those who know and are under the law. The legal principle that Paul sets forth is fairly simple and straightforward. A law, any law, has authority over a person so long as that person is alive. The law obligates living people; it has no claim on the deceased. The latter are both literally and figuratively “dead to the law.” They take no orders, they make no response. The point Paul would have us notice is that death changes a person’s relationship to the law.

The apostle now proceeds to illustrate this truth with an example from everyday life. He draws from the marriage laws that regularly are in force in an orderly society. The death of a spouse allows the surviving partner to remarry. In both cases, the point is the same – a death changes things; it breaks the power of the law. Paul now moves on to show that this general legal principle in everyday life has its counterpart in the spiritual realm. There too death changes things. It loosens the Law’s grip.

We have to remember to whom Paul is writing his letter. He is writing to the Church, to the fellow believers in Jesus Christ. They are the ones who have been convicted by God’s Law. And because he is speaking to fellow believers, he can boldly say, Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.”

In just a single verse, Paul says so much to this Church. First, he acknowledges the fact that they are brothers in Christ. What a joy and privilege it is to know that you are one counted amongst those who are called by God. Secondly, these are those who have died to the law. Because of Christ, they have been made a new creation because the blood of the Lamb has atoned for their sins. The Christian has “died to the law.” A death has happened, in this case, that of the sinner, so that the Law’s hold on the Christian has been broken, making the Christian alive in Christ who has bore their sins. The fact that Paul must remind them of this fact is sad because it means that they have forgotten or ignored this truth of the Gospel. Regardless of whether or not they have forgotten or ignored it, it doesn’t make it any less true.

A third fact to remember is that because they died to the law, they belong to another, that is, they belong to Christ. The marvel of God’s plan of salvation is that it provided a way that did not require the sinner to die. Rather, God provided a substitute, His sacrificial Lamb, to die in the sinner’s place. This substitutes’ death was credited to the sinner. Sinners themselves do not actually die, as they rightly deserve for their sins, but instead die “through the body of Christ” on Calvary.

What great news for the Church at Rome to hear! It is especially great news if some heard it for the very first time! It is always important for news like that to be put front and center of the Church. That same message is still at the forefront of the Church. And why shouldn’t it be at the forefront? Isn’t that the central focus of the Gospel, of how on account of Jesus Christ we have been made a new creation, with sins forgiven and everlasting life granted to us and to all who believe?

As great as that news is, there is the unfortunate side of it. There are those when presented with the Gospel reject it. There are those when presented with the Gospel forget it. There are those when presented with the Gospel feel as if it doesn’t apply to them. The Good News of Jesus Christ is that news which we all need to hear as the blood-bought and redeemed children of God. Left to our own devices, we are slaves to the Law.

Using Paul’s illustration, we are married to the Law. You lived under its direction and you sought your life and meaning from it. This isn’t all bad: the one who abides with the Law generally leads a Law-abiding life. But there are a couple of big problems with the Law as your partner. For one thing, the Law of God always accuses. It’s always telling you what you should be doing and aren’t, as well as what you shouldn’t be doing and are. It’s always pointing out your sins, both the bad you commit and the good you omit. This has an effect on you, perhaps worse than you imagine. When the Law shows you your sin, it does more than just point out your imperfections: it actually makes you sin more.

But there is good news, news that we heard before: the death of somebody else has set you free: “Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead….”

You’ve died to the Law. You died to the Law through the body of Christ. In other words, He died for you. He bore all of your sins to the cross—every last thing that the Law could accuse you of. He died for them all: and because He forgives you for all of your sins, the Law looks at you and says, “I don’t see anything left to condemn you with.” But Christ hasn’t just died for you: He is also risen for you. That’s why Paul says, “You also died to the Law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another.” You’re no longer bound to the Law. Who do you belong to? Paul says you belong to, “Him who has been raised from the dead.” You’re not partnered to the Law anymore: you belong to Christ. You’re part of His Church, His bride; and He’s the Bridegroom who has laid down His life to make you His own, and then taken up His life again.

You’ve died to the Law, says Paul; but does this mean that you live a lawless life? Does this mean that you go ahead and do whatever you want to do? That now you get to show that you’re the boss? No. You’re joined to Christ, and He is your Lord and King. You’re no longer bound to the Law, but you obey it because it’s Christ’s Law; and by following it, you bear fruit to God. By obeying the Law, you do the good works God has created you to do.

You’ve died to the Law, because Christ died for you and He’s joined you to His death. You live—not as a slave to the Law, but as member of the Church, the bride of Christ. By His death, you are released from the Law. By His resurrection, you have life with Him forevermore. By His work of redemption, you are forgiven for all of your 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.

Pentecost 2 – “Nothing to Fear” (Matthew 10:5a, 21-33)

A-64 Proper 7 (Mt 10.24-39)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 was Franklin Roosevelt who said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” He described that fear as a “nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.” Of course, the fact is there would have been no reason for the president of our country to assert his firm belief that there was nothing to fear unless there actually was something to fear. The country was in the throes of a staggering economic crisis, the Great Depression, sparking fears that were not nameless or unjustified. Later in his speech, Roosevelt himself admitted: “Only a foolish optimist can deny the dark realities of the moment” – dark realities that gave substance to people’s real and understandable fears.

In today’s text, Jesus repeatedly tells His disciples to “have no fear” as He sends them out to proclaim the coming of His kingdom to “the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Yet Jesus knows and acknowledges that He is sending them out not just to sheep but “as sheep in the midst of wolves.” His very words of admonition and encouragement, “Have no fear,” show that He knows that there is much to fear, at least from a human point of view.

Jesus is sending His disciples out into the world to preach a specific message. They will proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is near; and as they do so, they will work miracles and wonders. This is the good part, but the Lord pulls no punches: They will face heavy opposition. They will be rejected sometimes by households, sometimes by whole towns. Sometimes by family members, sometimes by close friends; and sometimes by the heads of state and church. “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves,” He has just declared. He tells them as our text begins, “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.” As things turn out, it is no less than the Pharisees and Scribes who call Jesus “Beelzebul,” the “lord of the flies.” And if those church leaders, who can do no wrong in the eyes of the people, call Jesus such, they will consider His followers gnats to be swatted. The disciples will face some terrible intimidation for telling the Good News about Jesus.

But the intimidation is no excuse. The disciples are not to remain silent. “Do not fear them,” Jesus commands.

For one thing, they are not to fear because “nothing is covered that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known.” Those enemies of Jesus may look to have the strong hand; after all, what is a teacher and twelve men against the world? However, the disciples know the end of the story because Jesus tells it to them: He will be the Victor, and He will return in glory to judge all nations and condemn those who reject Him. Therefore, the disciples should not be intimidated: In this battle of good vs. evil, evil will appear to have the upper hand for some time to come. But the disciples know the end of the story, and it would be foolish to side with those who will lose in the end.

If they are intimidated, it is no excuse. They are not to remain silent, and they have no right to change the message that is given to them. They are to preach that the kingdom of heaven is near. “Do not fear,” the Lord says again, and this time He is even more specific. And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” The disciples will suffer at the hands of sinners, this is certain; but those evildoers can only kill the body. God, the Father almighty, wields a much bigger sword: He can send body and soul to hell for eternity. Who is more to be feared?

For the Church today, it is the same proposition. The Lord calls His people to proclaim what He tells them: His Law in all of its severity, and His Gospel in all of its sweetness. As an individual Christian, you will face such intimidation: When confronted with a crisis where the righteous decision means suffering, will you do what is right or take the easy way out? When a family member or close friend chooses a sinful way of life, will you lovingly speak the truth and risk hostility, or keep silent to maintain the family peace? In the school locker room and the business office alike, there will be constant attempts to turn you from what is good and pure and holy to what is wrong and impure and most unholy.

If Jesus had not given us the words of today’s Gospel, sharing the Good News of salvation would be a very confusing activity. It would be easy to think that we were doing something wrong when people did not eagerly desire to receive this gift when we told them about it. It would be easy to think that we were doing something wrong when people actually fought against us and tried to destroy us when all we want to do is tell them about a gift that is more valuable than all the riches contained in the world. You would think that people would fill this building and line up around the block and down the street in order to get this gift, but they don’t. They persecute it instead. Why?

Well, there is something fundamentally different about the proclamation of salvation in Jesus Christ. There is a spiritual war going on all around us. While we are proclaiming the free gift of salvation through Jesus Christ, sin, death, and the devil are fighting a war of lies against that proclamation. They are doing everything within their power to make truth look like a lie and to make lies look like the truth. Although sin, death, and the devil want to enslave us, they present themselves as a way to freedom. Although true freedom is in Christ Jesus, the forces of evil proclaim Christ as restrictive and domineering. The forces of sin, death, and the devil are the ultimate con artists. They pose as friends, but are really deadly enemies.

Today’s Gospel is a great comfort for persecuted Christians around the world. It tells us that the opposition of the world is no surprise to God. God knows all about our situation. He understands that the world makes it hard to be a Christian. He understands that His faithful confessors will undergo hard times. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians: “We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles.” Today’s Gospel is one of many places that tell us to expect opposition from the world. Today’s Gospel tells us that we are not doing something wrong when the world or even our own family hates us for making a faithful confession of Jesus Christ.

That is the reason that the Gospel is so sweet to those who believe. The Gospel proclaims that Jesus is the only one who never compromised God’s Word. He is the only one who remained faithful to His calling. He remained faithful to His calling even when His calling led to the cross. He is the one who paid for our sins with his death on the cross. He faced not only the persecution of this world, but He also faced the combined guilt of all the sin of this world. Even then He remained faithful. With the victory He won with His death on the cross, He has purchased the forgiveness of sins for all people.

In spite of our many shortcomings – in spite of our fear – in spite of our desire to get along with the world at the expense of Christ’s teachings, the Holy Spirit will continue to keep us in the faith. Just as the Apostles endured to the end by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit will one day bring us to a blessed end here on this earth – only to take us to a blessed eternity there in heaven. There we shall wait with all the other believers in Christ until the Last Day when Jesus will return and raise all the dead, and all who believe in Him will live forever with Jesus on a new earth where there is no sin, no sorrow, and no persecution. In Jesus’ name, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.

Holy Trinity – “Disciple Making” (Matthew 28:16-20)

A-59 Holy Trinity (Mt 28.16-20)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.

As the Church makes her transition from the festive season into the season of Pentecost, the “Time of the Church,” it is fitting that we begin by focusing our attention not on the Church itself but on the Creator and Sustainer of the Church’s life, the Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. As we spoke in the Introit earlier, “Blessèd be the Holy Trinity and the undivided Unity. Let us give glory to him because he has shown his mercy to us.”

All three persons of the Trinity were present and active at the creation of the world, as we saw in our Old Testament reading from Genesis. Life cannot and does not exist apart from the divine life and cooperative work of the Holy Trinity. The Father clearly and decisively revealed His love for us and for all people by sending His Son Jesus, to live, die, rise, and ascend into heaven for us by sending His Spirit to bring us to faith in Jesus Christ, as we see recorded for us in the Book of Acts. Finally, as the Father sent the Son and the Spirit, so the triune God now sends us into the world to be His witnesses, assuring us that, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.”

Our Gospel reading for today tells us that the disciples went to Galilee because Jesus told them to go and wait for Him. He told the women to have His brothers go to Galilee, that there they will see Him. When the disciples saw Him, they fell on their hands and knees, worshiping the Lord. This worship is the recognition of His deity, the adoration of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Only after the resurrection did the disciples engage in this form of adoration, for Jesus had died and risen again. He was no longer their Rabbi and friend, but He was now the Christ, the exalted Son of God, their risen Lord and Savior.

Jesus approached the disciples, some still worshiping and some doubting. He begins with a simple twelve-word sentence that sets up the rest of what He has to say to the disciples: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Where does Jesus get such an authority? Satan tells Jesus in the Gospel of Luke when He is tempted that, “I will give You all their authority and splendor,” talking about the kingdoms of the world, “for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. So if you worship me, it will all be yours.”

Unfortunately for Satan, he has no authority to exercise. The true authority came when Christ spread out His hands and feet on the cross, said His last words, “Father, into your hand I commit my Spirit,” and then breathed His last.

This authority is like no earthly authority. Jesus Himself shows His disciples the kingdoms of this world after the cross had been borne and points out the conquest His sacrifice and love shall achieve through the Gospel. This authority reduced demons to beggars and caused fearful citizens to plead for Jesus’ departure. This was done to demonstrate the Son’s authority on earth to forgive sins.

But what authority does Jesus receive? We know that it is all authority in heaven and on earth, but what does that constitute? It is the authority over heaven, all that lives and has its being, authority over the angels and archangels, and the powers, principalities, might, dominion, thrones and the saints in glory. This is authority that no one but God could give and it was given at the price of His Son, Jesus Christ.

Our Gospel text for today provide the main reason of the disciples’ journey to Galilee: there is a job that is to be done and the disciples are the first that are tasked to do it. The job is nothing more than going out and making disciples of all nations. They are the make all nations followers of Jesus Christ. This was not an easy task to do. As the disciples traveled, they would come into contact with the various ethnic groups of the world. Some would be eager to hear their message of Jesus Christ, while others would be very hostile in their response. Regardless, the cure for sin was to be made known to each and every nation; for all nations are sinners, all have souls in need of redemption, and all are in need of and are capable of salvation through the grace of God that comes through Jesus Christ.

As we are given to call today’s text the “Great Commission,” we must remember that all things stem from the Father. Mission begins in the heart of God the Father and expresses His great love for the world. This heart of mission has been with God from the very beginning. In looking at the Old Testament reading for today, we see how God, along with Jesus and the Holy Spirit, create all things. In the next chapter of Genesis, we see how God’s creation revolts against God’s command and the length that the Father goes to in order to restore creation unto Himself. He makes a promise to creation that is fulfilled in Jesus Christ, as He comes to lay down His life in order to redeem this sinful and fallen world.

God’s mission centers in God the Son, Jesus Christ. He is the promised Messiah sent by the Father to reconcile the world to Himself by His life, death, and resurrection. By His life, He perfectly satisfied all the demands of God’s Law. By His suffering and death on the cross, Jesus atoned for the sin of the world, suffered the wrath of God for all people, crushed the head of the devil, and opened wide the gates of heaven.

Through the work of the Holy Spirit, faith is granted to the individual so that he may believe. He enables God’s people throughout the history of the Church to confess that “Jesus is Lord!” And so our Lord commands the disciples to make disciples from the people by baptizing and teaching. We baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. We teach of all that our God has done for us: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. When you are baptized in the name of the Trinity, it conveys certain things. We inherit the Father’s love, the Son’s redemption, and the Holy Spirit’s gift of fruitful faith. We continue to spread the Gospel to others as we have heard it spread to us. We are privileged to go out and make disciples of all nations, of sharing the Gospel message that we ourselves have heard: Christ crucified for me and Christ crucified for you. Christ died for my sins and Christ dies for your sins.

As Christ prepares the disciples for this great task of making more disciples, He tells them, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Jesus assures His followers that He will be with us every single day until the completion of time. He assures the Church that she will never be alone in her work of spreading the Gospel.

As the baptized believers of Jesus Christ, we have been made His disciples. We continue in the long line of the saints gone before us of making disciples and adding to the ranks of the Church, that all would hear of the saving message of Jesus Christ, that they too would receive the gift of everlasting life that comes through what Jesus has done for us. In the name of Jesus, amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through faith in Christ Jesus, amen.