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Hosanna!

Sermon: “Hosanna!”

Lectionary Series A; Palm Sunday

Sunday, April 5, 2020 

Gospel Processional Reading: John 12:12-19

 

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

Hosanna! It means, “Save is now!”

Under normal circumstances, we call out to God to save us now on countless occasions. We call out to God to save us when we are stressed out about work, finances, family. We call out to God to save us now when we are distressed about a decision we have to make that will change the course of our lives or perhaps the life of someone else. We call out to God to save us now when we are incensed with anger because of something someone did to us or said to us to cause us harm and we just can’t get past it. We call out to God to save us now because there’s something we need to be saved from and we can’t do what needs to be done. There are indeed countless circumstances where we utter our Hosannas, for God to save us now.

Scripture is filled with instances where God’s people called out to Him to save them now. There were the Israelites who were stuck against the Red Sea who called out to be saved when the Egyptian army advanced upon them in chariots. Then again, they cried out to be saved now when there was no food and water in the wilderness. There were the lepers who cried out to Jesus for mercy, to be saved now as they faced being left as outcasts. And then there is Peter, in my favorite Bible text, when he took his eyes off of Jesus while walking on the water and began to sink and drown and then called out to Jesus to save him now. There are indeed countless circumstances where people in Scripture utter their Hosannas, for God to save them now.

Today is Palm Sunday. Today is that day that Jesus fulfilled His promise to enter into Jerusalem to do the unthinkable. And as He did so while riding on the back of a donkey’s colt, He was met by a crowd…a crowd that had come together in Jerusalem because of the Passover. It is thought that there may have been as many as two million people (Josephus) who had come to the city and its outer regions for the feast. 

In a day and age where mass gatherings have all been cancelled, a stay at home order is in place, and social distancing is in effect, it is especially difficult to fathom that many people present in one place. To give you an idea of how many people that is, for those of you who have been to the outdoor mall in Washington DC, imagine standing at the Washington Monument, and looking toward the Capital building, and having it be completely filled with people. Then turn and face the Lincoln Memorial, and having that entire area filled with people as well. That would be a rough estimate of how many people may have been in the area for the Passover. 

And as Jesus came in toward the city, immediately the word spread like wild fire through the large crowd about the sign Jesus had done. This was the man who had raised Lazarus from the dead! So without hesitation, they grabbed their cloaks and laid them on the ground and cut down branches from the palm trees and waved them in the air, all to pay homage to their coming king. And upon their lips, they shouted “Hosanna!” “Save us now!”

But the salvation they sought was not the salvation Jesus came to deliver. He was no worldly king with an agenda to overthrow the reigning Roman government. He did not enter in with bands of armies and an entourage of great power and might. Instead, He came in peace. 

The Prince of Peace was entering into the city of Jerusalem to deliver to all people of every generation, the peace that passes all understanding. He was coming to fulfill the shouts of “Hosanna” by saving us from something far worse than what may stress us out, distress us, or leave us incensed.

Many of us are crying out our Hosannas at a time like this in our world where we are cut off from each other in our homes, just begging for an end of this pandemic’s oppression. In many ways, we probably feel like Peter who was drowning in the depths of the sea, crying out to be saved, but wondering at the same time if there will ever be a hand to reach out and save us.

I especially think of doctors and nurses and all medical professionals in countless forms of medical facilities at a time like this. And let me say on behalf of all of us: “Thank you!” Thank you for the great care that you give while serving on the front lines of this pandemic. We appreciate you, and we are praying for you and those to whom you give care as well as your families. No doubt you are crying out your hosannas more than we could ever imagine right now.

It is at a time like this that we all see just how vulnerable we are. None of us are invincible, and all of us are in need of help. All of us need to be saved. But it’s much more than even a pandemic that we need to be saved from. For this pandemic and all other forms of turmoil are evidence of sin’s presence in our fallen world. And what we all need more than anything is to repent and receive salvation from sin, from death, and from the devil himself. All of these foes are stronger than us and could easily cause us to spend eternity in the depths of hell.

So when we shout out our hosannas, this is what we are to cry out for. We cry out for our God to save us from drowning in the depths of hell itself. And just like He did with Peter who was drowning in the depths of the sea, so Jesus does with us. In our baptism, He reached down from heaven with His hand and He pulled us up to safety. And not just any hands, but with His hands that were pierced on Calvary just to save us…for that is why He came in the first place…

You see, Jesus came into Jerusalem to shouts of Hosanna, to shouts of save us now, and He did just that, because we couldn’t save ourselves. He did the unthinkable as the shouts of Hosanna quickly turned into shouts calling for His crucifixion. 

It is as the hymn “My Song Is Love Unknown” says: “Sometimes they strew His way, and His sweet praises sing; Resounding all the day Hosannas to their King. Then “Crucify!” is all their breath, and for His death they thirst and cry.”

Oh what a difference a few days makes. That’s probably what we are thinking as well. It is simply unbelievable to fathom just how fast the changes have come across our land. It was just three weeks ago, and we gathered here in the house of the Lord for worship. It feels like months as we are now forced to stay in our homes, with businesses closed, schools not in session, church services remaining cancelled. It is simply unbelievable just how fast things change.

And so it was in the city of Jerusalem as well. Jesus began the week fixed to the back of a donkey. By the end of the week, His body was being fixed to a wooden cross with nails in His hands and feet. It is simply unbelievable. How could this be?

It came to be because Jesus came to do the will of His Father who sent Him. Remember His prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane: “Not my will, but Yours be done.” And the will of His Father was for His Son to die. “For God so loved the world He gave…He gave His only Son…”

Jesus went to the cross. Your cross. My cross. He went and died your death and mine. He saved us by doing what we could not do. And the very “Hosanna” that we cry is much like the cry He let out to His Father when He cried out “Why?” “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” But His cry got no reply.

No reply. That is what our cries of “Hosanna” will never have to face. For our God did come to save us. In a world of stresses, distresses, pandemics and more, our God does not leave us to drown in the depths of hopelessness and despair. 

Our God has reached down from heaven in the person of His Son and grabbed ahold of us and He has promised to never let us go. He will never leave us. He will never forsake us. He is our Lord. He is our King. And to Him, and Him alone do we shout our Hosannas, and He loving answers and saves us. Because that’s what a Savior does. 

We may look around us and ask where our God is in all of this. We may wonder if He has abandoned us, and left us to drown in the depths of despair. But, my brothers and sisters in Christ, nothing could be further from the truth. The message of Holy Week is that God faithfully fulfills His promises. 

It is just as we heard in our text: Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt (John 12:15). 

Fear not! These words from the prophet Zechariah have their fulfillment on this day: Palm Sunday. Everything Jesus said He was going to do, He did it. When He set His face toward Jerusalem, he was not deterred in any way. Pressing through the crowds, carrying His own cross, crying from that tree, He did what His Father sent Him to do, and He did it for you.

And He did it not just for your last day, but for all your days, because your crucified and resurrected Lord comes to you today. He hears your shouts of Hosanna! And with His presence here today as His Word penetrates your ears and your very lives, He calms your fears, and He quiets you with His love. For you are His beloved children and He is Your loving Lord. And so we say, “Hosanna! Hosanna in the highest!” In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

 

A Preview of What's to Come

Sermon: “A Preview Of What’s To Come”

Lectionary Series A; The Fifth Sunday in Lent

Sunday, March 29, 2020 

Old Testament Reading and Gospel Reading: Ezekiel 37:1-14; John 11:1-45

 

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

At a time where most everyone is shut in their house, one of the things that people are finding enjoyment in doing is watching movies. Certain companies have even gone to early releases of movies to provide entertainment to housebound folks throughout the country.

I come from a family that loves to watch movies, and so it goes without saying that I really love watching movies as well. But you know what? Almost as much as I love watching movies, I love watching previews to see what the next movies will be that are coming out. Perhaps you’ve heard me say this, but my younger brother used to joke that he would love to watch a movie of just previews. Two hours of solid previews. Just think of that!

Now the whole point of a preview is to pique the viewer’s interest, to get them excited about what is to come. There are just enough details given to draw the viewer in, but just enough left out to leave the viewer hanging, just begging for more.

Today’s texts from the books of Ezekiel and John in many ways could be viewed as a preview. There is more than enough to pique our interest and get us excited. And they certainly leave us hanging, begging for more. And this isn’t the first time this has happened in recent weeks.

Transfiguration Sunday gave us a preview of Jesus arrayed in all of His glory. There Jesus was on that mountain arrayed in light as bright as lightning. To think of how one day we will behold Him in that same way, in all of His glory, certainly leaves us hanging, begging for more.

As we look at today’s texts, they are a preview, and they are perfectly timed right before we enter into Holy Week. Next week, we will witness Jesus enter into Jerusalem to shouts of Hosanna; He will host His Last Supper with His disciples; He will be betrayed by one of His own disciples; And then, He will die a horrific death on a cross before He rises from the dead in glory and splendor. But for today, we just get a preview. Jesus gives us a preview of what’s to come. Today, we hear of how our God holds the power over death, and it is truly something to behold.

Just think about Ezekiel from our Old Testament reading. How morbid and depressing it must have been to walk through that valley of dry bones. The wind blowing through carcasses, the rattling of bones in the breeze. It makes one shudder just to think of it. If this was a preview of what was to come, then the outlook was downright hopeless. But then God spoke to Ezekiel: Son of man, can these bones live?”

Now anyone in his right mind knows that no bones can live again. Dead is dead. But then God had Ezekiel prophesy. And then as the song from Sunday school goes: “Them bones, them bones, they gonna walk around, so hear the Word of the Lord.” By the very Word of God, them bones…came to life. 

What would that have been like, to have been in Ezekiel’s shoes, or sandals rather? To hear the rattling, to see the bones come together, to see the forming of sinews, flesh, and skin form upon what used to be a skeletal corpse. What would it have been like to hear the breath from all four winds…north, south, east, and west and witness life come into this exceedingly great army?

Here God gives a preview of His ultimate power over the grave, that one day all will be raised from their graves just as He told the prophet Ezekiel to prophesy: Therefore prophesy, and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will open your graves and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will bring you into the land of Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves, and raise you from your graves, O my people. And I will put my Spirit within you, and you shall live, and I will place you in your own land. Then you shall know that I am the Lord; I have spoken, and I will do it, declares the Lord” (Ezekiel 37:12-14).

Now think about the hopeful impact that these words of God prophesied through Ezekiel had in the lives of Mary and Martha in our Gospel reading for today. Think about what it meant to them to know that God has the power over death and the grave, that He would raise His people from the dead. Just think about how much it meant to them to have that preview of things to come embedded in their hearts and minds as they laid their dead brother to rest in the tomb.

Here Lazarus had been in the tomb four days, but the intensity of the grief still weighed heavy. Tears still abounded. And not just in Mary and Martha and those gathered with them, but Jesus too. We heard in the text that Jesus wept as well. Jesus is not immune to the hurt that death renders. He loves us far too much! But that does not mean that He shies away from the valley of the shadow of death either.

Jesus came on the scene of that valley of death and immediately Martha came to him and what ensued is perhaps the most beautiful exchange in all of Scripture. 

Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give it to you.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha said to him, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this? She said to him, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God who is coming into the world” (John 11:21-27).

Talk about a preview of what’s to come! Little did they know, what Jesus was about to do for them at that very moment. Jesus came to the tomb. There was a stone that lay against the opening. And He said, Take away the stone. And though people feared the stench of death, they followed His command, and He said, Lazarus, come out. And out he came, alive and well. Death had been defeated.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, these texts are a preview, a foretaste of the feast to come. And what greater comfort could there ever be in our lives with all that is going on around us? Since we last worshipped together, the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic across the globe has arisen. Lives continue to be lost. Loved ones continue to say their goodbyes. And sorrow and grief continue to grow in the hearts and minds of people everywhere.

For those of us who have stood by the graveside of a loved one at any time in our lives, we can relate. We know intimately the frailty and fragility of this life. We have felt to our core what it means that we are truly dead in our trespasses and sins. We have experienced the weight of the wages of our sins. Death darkens our days like nothing else does. But knowing that God has given us a preview of the resurrection brings light to even the darkest of moments we face, pandemic or otherwise.

It will not be long and we will enter into the week that is called Holy. Jesus, who had set His face toward Jerusalem, would enter into that city and do the unthinkable. He willingly and voluntarily laid down His life of His own accord. He suffered and died. Out of His depths, He cried out (Psalm 130:1) from the cross. He pleaded for mercy (Psalm 130:2), and got no reply. He breathed His last breath and gave up His Spirit before His body was placed in the tomb. And the stone was rolled in front of it.

But just as we saw in the preview with Lazarus, the stone had no hold over the grave. By the power of God, who holds sway over the grave, He bid His Son to come out. And out He came to bring life and light to us all.

It is as our Epistle reading states: If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you (Romans 8:11).

This is the hope of Jesus that we have been given as baptized children of God. Our bodies will not be held in the grave because the Spirit of Jesus dwells within us. We who face the reality of our own mortality will not be held in our tombs. God’s Word proclaims this very resurrection truth to us here today.

And if we think the preview was good with Ezekiel’s prophecy and Lazarus’ resurrection, just wait until our day comes. On the Last Day, it will be a great and glorious day. There will be no more tears, no more pain, no more viruses or diseases, no more fears or anxieties. All those things will fade away as the beauty of the light from the Son of God takes over. For there before us will be Jesus. Our Savior. Our Lord of lords. Our King of kings.

You see, unlike previews at the movies where we don’t know how the real show goes and how it ends, Jesus’ tells us how the end of the story will turn out. Trumpets will sound, Jesus will descend, graves will be opened, we shall rise, and we will always be with our Lord. 

Be comforted on this day as the frailties and fragilities of this life are present all around us as we endure this pandemic that this will not be the end of the story. Our God has given us a preview of the glory that is yet to come thanks to Jesus who endured the cross and came forth from the grave for us. 

And while you are thinking about that beauty that you will one day behold, take time to consider who might also need to hear this good news of great joy. Now more than ever is a time for the Church to rise up and reach out to those who need it. Start by giving them a preview, pique their interest, and then tell them the whole story. For His story is our story, and He has graciously given it to us to share…to Share Hope and to Teach Christ. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

The Light of the World

Sermon: “The Light of the World”

Lectionary Series A; The Fourth Sunday in Lent

Sunday, March 22, 2020 

Gospel Reading: John 9:1-41

 

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

We find ourselves living in a dark world these days. Restaurants and other establishments have turned off their lights and are no longer serving customers. Lines at the grocery stores and other places of necessity have darkened our spirits. Schools have closed their doors leaving us wondering when the bright light of face-to-face learning will continue. And churches are missing the shining presence of people gathered together in the joy of being brothers and sisters in Christ. Indeed, we find ourselves living in a dark world these days.

The pandemic of the coronavirus continues to rock our world. As I wrote this sermon, there were seventy-seven confirmed cases of the virus here in our state. Hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities have all closed themselves off to nearly every visitor leaving our loved ones in near-isolation. Household incomes are being negatively impacted. All of us are left to wonder will there ever be a light at the end of this dark tunnel.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, I have good news for you from our Gospel reading for today: Jesus said: “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5). 

Jesus has not abandoned us. He will never leave or forsake us. And His light shines as bright as ever for all to see. If ever there is something we know about darkness, is that the darker it gets, the more profound the light becomes. 

I can remember touring a cavern on a family vacation as a child. While in the cave, the tour guide shut off all of the lights. I have never experienced darkness of that magnitude. I waved my hand in front of my face, and I could not see a thing. Then, the tour guide lit one single match. Instantly, we could all see everything in the room.

And perhaps you have seen this on the news or on the internet. Americans are literally shining a light amid the darkness of this pandemic. Nearly three months after Christmas, people are putting their Christmas lights back up in an effort to lift everyone’s spirits. The thought is that this would give people something encouraging to do while still practicing social distancing.

Yes, circumstances may be bleak all around us, but our Savior still reigns as the Lord of our lives and the Lord of His Church. Again, it is as Jesus said: “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5).

Today’s Bible story is about a man born blind. If ever there was a man who understood darkness, it would be this man. He had never seen anything in his whole life. He had no concept of light. That changed in the most drastic of deeds ever done in his life when Jesus came on the scene.

Listen again: As Jesus passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” Having said these things, he spit on the ground and made mud with the saliva. Then he anointed the man's eyes with the mud and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which means Sent). So he went and washed and came back seeing (John 9:1-7).

Now close your eyes, and just consider for a moment what just happened in this man’s life. He had never seen a glimmer of light in all of his days. No sunrises or sunsets, no stars in the sky, not even the flicker of a candle. But when Jesus put mud on his eyes and he washed in the pool, he could see. And not only could He see the light, but what did he see? Now open your eyes. He saw the Light. The Light…with a capital “L”. He saw Jesus.

Now this miracle is amazing enough just in the fact that this man was able to see for the first time. That, in and of itself is unbelievable. But to think that His first sight that He saw was the Son of God! Now there are just not words to describe what He saw.

No words. That is probably how we feel about right now as we see that we are surrounded by so many dark realities all around us. There are no words to describe what we are witnessing throughout our country and our world right now. Who would have ever thought that it would have come to this. Gatherings reduced to 250, then 50, then 10. Who knew?

Our God knew. His eyes were never blind to this reality. What’s more is that He told us about it as well. In the Gospel of Matthew, He told us that there would be wars and rumors of wars, famines and earthquakes. He told us that there would be a host of terrible things that would be taking place. And what did He say it was all pointing to? Jesus, the Light of the world.

Jesus, the Light of the world is coming. His arrival draws nearer with each day. And Scripture tells us that as the day draws near, it is time to straighten up, stay awake, and repent. Repent, for the kingdom of God is at hand. 

The disciples were blind to the fact that the kingdom of God was standing right there next to them performing this miracle. Where Jesus stopped and saw a man in need, the disciples just saw a problem. They saw a sinner. They saw a man they thought had been punished because of his sins or his parent’s sins. But, what they could not see was their own sin. What they could not see was their own need to repent. And so it was with the Pharisees that cross-examined the man who had been given his sight. They were all blind to what the coming of the kingdom of God meant. It meant that it was time to repent.

As Christians, we are very familiar with the need to repent. As we examine ourselves according to the Law, we see just how dark things really are for us. Each of us were conceived and born blind, spiritually blind. In sin, did our mother conceive us. We were doomed. Doomed to be damned.

By our own reason or strength, we were not able to see Jesus as our Savior. But by the washing of rebirth and renewal of the Holy Spirit given in our baptism, our blindness was washed away in a pool of water and we were given sight. Perfect sight. For on that day of our baptism, we beheld Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

As we face the dark realities of this pandemic like our nation has never seen or experienced, let us fix our eyes upon Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2). Let us open our baptismally washed eyes to behold Jesus who is the light of the world. He will not fail us. He never has. He never will.

You see, it was when darkness covered the land from the sixth hour until the ninth hour that Jesus hung upon the cross. There has never been a darker time in all the world. All hope look to be lost. Stricken, smitten, and afflicted, He died upon that tree. But then with three words, He ended the darkness of sin, death, and the devil once and for all. “It is finished.” 

And then it came. The great stone over the tomb was rolled away and the light of Easter morning shone in. Hope was not lost. Hope never was lost. Nor will it ever be. Our God came from heaven to earth not only to bring sight to the blind, but also to bring hope to the darkness of our world.

We are not left in the darkness of death. There is a day yet coming when the darkness of our tomb will be penetrated by the light of the resurrection. And on that great and glorious day, we will behold with our own eyes the same Light that man born blind saw. The Light with a capital L. His name is Jesus. 

What a day that will be! And what a day today is as well. For this is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. And we can most certainly be glad in it. For we are an Easter people. We are children of the Light. And the darkness can never overcome the light. The light always wins. And as long as Jesus is in the world, He is the light of the world.

And He is most certainly is in the world. Through His very Word here today, God’s light has penetrated our world and our very lives to bring hope to our hurting hearts and our hurting world. 

Our sins are forgiven. Our death is defeated. The devil is done for. And the Light of Jesus now shines on us. And now He calls us to reflect that light to our world around us so that others may clearly see what we see: that hope is not lost. Hope comes in Jesus who is the Light of the world, and the tomb is empty and the King of all kings sits upon His throne. In these dark days, what greater news can there be for us to hear? What greater news can we bring to others? Indeed this is the good news of great joy that is for all people. 

What is so remarkable about our text for today is that this man born blind not only had never seen, but he had no clue who Jesus even was. Yet in his testimony about what took place, he went from calling Jesus, the man called Jesus, to a prophet, to One come from God, to exclaiming “Lord, I believe.”

It is like we just heard sung: “Amazing grace—how sweet the sound—That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost  but now am found, was blind but now I see!” And the same is true for us whose eyes have been open to see our Savior. (Pause)

Yes, these are dark days. But we can be confident that God is working for the good of those who love Him, and the works of God are still on display. They are seen when we call our neighbors to check in on how they are doing. They are seen when we offer to pick them up something from the store. They are seen when we kneel down to pray for each other and our community. And most especially, they are seen when we give testimony to Jesus who is our Lord.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, do not despair the darkness. Jesus said: “As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world” (John 9:5). You are not alone. Jesus never leaves or forsakes you. The light of Jesus shines bright. He shines on you, in you, and through you. And the darkness of the world will never overcome the Light. That’s Light with a capital L, and His name is Jesus. In His name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Thirsting for Living Water

Sermon: “Thirsting for Living Water”

Lectionary Series A; The Third Sunday in Lent

Sunday, March 15, 2020 

Gospel Reading: John 4:5-26 

 

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

What did you come here today for? What do you thirst for? In a world that has become overwhelmed with the pandemic of the coronavirus, maybe you thirst for some good news. Perhaps you thirst for some hope and encouragement amidst the heightened fears and anxieties that abound. Perhaps you thirst to listen to something that isn’t about the coronavirus. Whatever you come thirsting for today, may we all, like the woman at the well, thirst for Jesus and Jesus alone, for He is the Living Water that will truly quench our parched souls. 

You don’t belong. It was the only message that she had ever known. You are not worthy. You don’t deserve to be in our presence. You are not even worth talking to. You are a half-breed. You are ‘less’ than us. 

What’s more is that the life she had seemingly chosen for herself only verified these lines that she had been told her whole life. Seeking security in men, she flocked to whoever would love her. And when cast aside by one, she would simply go looking for love in all the wrong places. It was the only life she knew. And to make matters worse, because it was all that she knew, she really saw nothing wrong with it anymore. It had become part of the very fabric of her being.

Now, perhaps it’s speculation. Perhaps it’s not exactly what happened for the woman at the well. We don’t know all the details of her life. But what we do know is that after one conversation with Jesus, her whole life changed. She went to draw water from a well, and walked away quenched by the Living Water of the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

It was a simple exchange to begin with. There Jesus was sitting by the well and He simply asked her for a drink. To anyone looking from the outside without knowledge of the situation, this would seem like nothing out of the ordinary. But she was a Samaritan. A Samaritan woman no less. And He was a Jew. A Jewish man no less. And by the social and cultural standing of the day, this would have been about as taboo as one gets for a conversation. For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.

Let’s pause for moment and consider that line: Jews have no dealings with Samaritans. As we see mass public gatherings being cancelled left and right, people being forced to go into quarantine, who is it that we have ‘chosen’ to have no dealings with? Who is it that we have chosen not to gather with or speak to? Is it someone of a different race? Is it someone who has chosen an alternative life-style we don’t approve of? Is it someone who said something or did something that we just can’t seem to forgive? Where have we hardened our hearts so intensely that we have written that person or persons off and out of our lives?

Jesus could have done that with this woman and no one would have thought any less of Him. If anything, it would have been the behavior that was most expected. But then again, Jesus has a way of doing the unexpected. He healed on the Sabbath. He forgave sins. He ate with tax collectors and sinners, the unclean. His ways were far different than what people had come to expect as far as social and cultural norms go for the day. And this exchange with the woman at the well was no different.

Instead of ending the conversation with a request for a drink, Jesus continued to engage with her. He went from asking her for a drink to offering her something of priceless worth: living water. And though she didn’t understand what He was offering, Jesus did not belittle her for her lack of understanding, but rather offered Himself to her all the more.

Jesus said to her, "Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life." The woman said to him, "Sir, give me this water, so that I will not be thirsty or have to come here to draw water" (John 4:13-15).

Now remember, this whole exchange here is socially and culturally out of line. But Jesus cut through all of that like a knife through butter. Where any other Jew would have cast her aside, Jesus did the exact opposite. He saw her differently.

In the book, Leadership and Self-Deception, the author tells a story of how the company that was hiring him did their new worker orientation. The whole premise of the orientation was that we each need to get out of the box. And ultimately, that box is where we only see life from a selfish perspective and how things impact us. Getting out of the box is ‘seeing people as people’ and caring for them in ways that address their needs more than our own. As I read it, I couldn’t help but think about how the Bible instructs us to ‘love our neighbors as ourselves.’

If ever there is a message that comes out of this pandemic, it is to ‘love our neighbors as ourselves’. That is why we pay attention to the direction of public health officials while at the same time check in on our neighbors, especially the elderly, to ensure that they are doing alright. It’s why we give extra to the food shelf recognizing the impact on workers whose hourly wages may not be what they were before the pandemic came about. God’s Word calls all of us to help and support our neighbor and to love them as ourselves.

That’s how Jesus treated this woman at the well. Instead of seeing this woman as a mere social outcast to be kicked to the curb, Jesus loved her as a person who had been created in God’s image, in His image. And because He loved her in this way, she didn’t back off and run away when He exposed her sins. Here she had been divorced five times and was now living with a man, but when Jesus brought it up she didn’t run from Him and hide. She continued to converse with Him.

It may seem at first glance that Jesus was glossing over the gravity of her sin, but it was really anything but that. In great love for her, he called out her sin and allowed the weight of the law to do its work. Notice that she didn’t argue with Him and try and justify her sinful action. Instead, she accepted His faithful rebuke of her. And the reason He was able to do this with such success was not only because He is God, but because He took the time to cultivate a relationship first.

This speaks a lot to those of us who have cast aside someone because of their sin. Perhaps it was something they said or did to you. Perhaps it was something they didn’t do for you. Whatever the case, Jesus shows us the great importance of a caring conversation when the separation of sin has reared its ugly head. But what’s more, rather than seeing that other person as an enemy to cast off (like Jews saw Samaritans), God gives us eyes of faith to see others as those for whom Christ died.

This is true for those of a different race, those who have chosen a different lifestyle that we may not approve of, those who have sinned against us. That does not negate the weight of sin, but it does alter how we engage with those we may have cast off because of sin. Everyone is a person made in the image of God and one for whom Christ died, and that includes us. 

Because you see, for as much as we may be thinking about those who have been cast off, no doubt we have all felt that reality as well. We have been excluded. We have been shunned. We have been rejected. And all of it hurts. It hurts when someone treats us as if we aren’t worth even a brief conversation like Jesus had with this woman by the well. 

I asked you awhile back: What did you come here today for? What do you thirst for? Do you thirst to belong? Do you thirst to be welcomed back? Do you thirst for some hope and encouragement amidst the heightened fears and anxieties that abound? In a world of bad news, do you thirst for some good news? … Do you thirst for forgiveness? Do you thirst to have your sins washed away?

You have come to the right place. The Church is a place for people who hurt and those who have caused hurt. The Church is a hospital to treat the wounded in soul, and those who have caused such wounds. The Church is a gathering place where brothers and sisters in Christ come together to encourage one another. The Church is a place where fears are calmed by the presence of the Almighty God. The Church is a place where good news abounds. The Church is a well that is bubbling up with the waters of eternal life. 

This is where hurts and wounds are washed away. This is where anxieties are calmed by the soothing peace that passes all understanding. This is where the refreshment of repentance regularly takes place and free flowing forgiveness is given. This is where you find the living water of Jesus Christ. 

There upon the cross your Savior and mine gave His life. There He bled and died so that the sins committed against you and the sins you committed would be forgiven and washed away. For there upon that cross when He breathed His last, from His pierced side flowed blood and water. Living water. Loving water. Forgiving water. Everything He said He was going to do, He did it.

Everything that He did, He did for you. When He thirsted from the cross, what He thirsted for more than anything was for your salvation. And that’s why He died. Because giving His life was worth it to save you. You are not an outcast. The living waters of your baptism declare that you are forever a washed and welcomed child of God.

So are you thirsty? Come and have your thirst quenched by Jesus who loves and forgives you. Take, eat. Take, drink. This is Jesus, given and shed for you for the remission of all sins. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

 

Before we gather for the Lord’s Supper, I would like to close our sermon today with a hymn that speaks of the peace that we have in Jesus who is our living water. This hymn is written by Horatio Spafford after his four daughters tragically died by drowning in a shipwreck and his businesses had all been burned in the great Chicago fire. As fears and anxieties swirl around us, may we never lose sight of Jesus who assures us with His own body and blood given and shed for us, that it is indeed, well with our soul.

 

LSB #763 When Peace, like a River

https://app.lutheranservicebuilder.com/static-assets/composite/print/SDaS5UaujbDT8t3ByxgS5zbYduDqcQ~3TOzVcWnI.pnghttps://app.lutheranservicebuilder.com/static-assets/composite/print/CHFTO8kYCZUPvT7YxvnKotuCEN3L4EX3B9ecHvsa.pnghttps://app.lutheranservicebuilder.com/static-assets/composite/print/THe8bjaBSAQHgmrVfAhNbIgfsouCu2yYCdubgAsr.pnghttps://app.lutheranservicebuilder.com/static-assets/composite/print/aDEv1IJaLlJ83MpU.png

Text and tune: Public domain

Seeing Jesus as our Savior

Sermon: “Seeing Jesus as our Savior”

Lectionary Series A; The Second Sunday in Lent

Sunday, March 8, 2020 

Gospel Reading: John 3:1-17 

 

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

Our eighth grade catechumens are currently working on their Confession of Faith Essays that they will deliver before the congregation in the fall before they go through the Rite of Confirmation. Before writing their essay, they have to conduct four interviews. Two of those interviews are of their parents. The first question that they are to ask of their parents is to tell them about the day of their baptism. Most of them, like us, were baptized as infants, so they don’t have any recollection of that day.

Though many of us do not recall the day of our baptism, that does not cease to make it the most important day of our lives. After all, baptism is not about what we can do for God, but rather, what God can and does do for us. For there on that day of our baptism, God’s Word was combined with the water and as it was poured over our heads in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we were given the gift of faith to believe in Jesus as our Savior from sin, death, and the devil.

Now, not by our own reason or strength are we able to understand this. How can water do such great things? Well, certainly not just water, but the Word of God in and with the water does these things.

And what we know from John chapter one, is that the Word of God is none other than He who became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus is the Word of God. Jesus is in that water as the Word is combined to it, and Jesus is the One who saves us from drowning to death in those waters.

Now just like we are not able to understand this by our own reason or strength, nor could Nicodemus in our text. 

[Nicodemus] came to Jesus by night and said to him, “Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God, for no one can do these signs that you do unless God is with him.” Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:1-3).

Nicodemus just didn’t get it, when it came to what Jesus told him. He needed someone to open his eyes to the truth. And that someone was Jesus. And don’t we all need Jesus to open our eyes to the truth?

Remember the story of the Apostle Paul. Before he was Paul, he was called Saul. As Saul, he ravaged those who followed Jesus by persecuting, imprisoning, and even standing in approval at the death of Jesus’ followers. But, then on his way to Damascus, a bright light blinded Saul. There Jesus spoke to Saul and asked him why he was persecuting Him. When the bright light went away, Saul was blind. He was blind for three days until a believer by the name of Ananias came to him. There Saul received the Holy Spirit and was baptized, and the text says that immediately something like scales fell from his eyes. From that day forward, Saul became Paul and he could clearly see that Jesus was His Savior.

It is as the hymn goes: “Amazing grace—how sweet the sound—That saved a wretch like me! I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see!”

Nicodemus failed to see this truth that He was a sinner in need of a Savior. And here Jesus was, right before His very eyes. But Nicodemus was blinded…blinded by his own sinful dependence upon himself for salvation.

As a Pharisee, Nicodemus would have been confident of his salvation because of his ancestry and his good works. Because of his connection to the line of Abraham and his following of the law, he would have been convinced that salvation was a sure thing. But that was not the case…for Nicodemus or any of us. 

Are we saved because Grandpa or Grandma, Dad or Mom was a believer? The Jews thought so, to their own error. Are we saved by what we do? If so, how can we ever know we have done enough? To their own error, the Jews thought they could do enough…and so do the Muslims, Buddhists, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and countless other religions and cults who falsely think that salvation can be earned.

Jesus counters this notion of salvation when He says, Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5).

Salvation does not come in ancestry or human efforts. Salvation comes through water and the Word. It is as the Apostle Peter writes: “Baptism now saves you.” Baptism is God’s work, not the work of humanity. God does the saving, not humans.

Nicodemus still didn’t get it. He asked: How can these things be? Still relying on his own reason and strength, it was impossible for Nicodemus to fully grasp what Jesus was saying. 

And that’s the way it is for all of us. We don’t fully understand the ways of God. We are the creatures, and He is the Creator. How could we every fully understand how and why God does what He does? But in our sinfulness, we want to know. We want to be able to understand how God works. We don’t like things that don’t make sense. And if we are faced with a mystery, we want to be able to solve it. 

But what is at the core of this pursuit? Ultimately…it is that we want to be like God. We are not satisfied with being creatures under the Creator. We want to be on par with the Creator, or better yet, unseat him altogether.

You see, every sin we commit, hearkens back to that conversation back in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve were tempted with that fruit. And as Satan dangled it in front of them, what did he promise them if they ate it? “They would be like God.”

Like Nicodemus, our own idolatry has a way of blinding us from seeing the truth that we need God and the gifts He gives. We are sinners in need of a Savior. And that is why God sent His Son.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him (John 3:16-17).

There, sitting before Nicodemus, was none other than God’s Son. And with the precision of an ophthalmologist, Jesus was carefully opening Nicodemus’ eyes to see Jesus for who he truly was. He was not just some miracle worker. He was not some rabble rouser in the temple. He was the Son of God.

He was the Son of God who had come with one purpose in mind: As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life (John 3:14).

Remember what happened in the wilderness. The Israelites once again spoke against God and Moses, complaining that they had left Egypt, and whining that there was no food and water, and that the food God provided them was worthless. So, as a punishment, God sent fiery serpents among them, and the people of God cried out and confessed that they had sinned. So, the Lord told Moses to make a fiery serpent and set it on a bronze pole, and then everyone who was bitten who looked up at the serpent would survive.

We also look up for survival. We are helpless and cannot save ourselves, so we look to Jesus and His cross. If we look anywhere else other than Him for salvation, we will be like those who failed to look at that pole in the wilderness. We will be doomed to death and damnation. But with our eyes fixed on Jesus, we will have forgiveness, life, and salvation. (Pause)

We don’t know the whole story of Nicodemus, and whether he was saved or not. What we do know is that after that conversation with Jesus in the night, he defended Jesus. While Pharisees and the crowds wanted to arrest Jesus, Nicodemus spoke up in Jesus’ defense to keep him from being hauled away. And then after Jesus died, once again Nicodemus came by nightfall. Only this time he came with a mixture of myrrh and aloes to help Joseph of Arimathea wrap Jesus’ body and place it into a tomb. Though Scripture doesn’t tell us if Nicodemus was baptized, one might surmise from these portions of Scripture and that conversation that one night, that at some point he was. (Pause)

So, what if you were writing your Confession of Faith Essay like the catechumens? What would you say about the day of your baptism? 

Thanks be to God, by faith, we can look back on that day and say: It was the greatest day of my life. On that day God saved me. On that day God opened my eyes and gave me new birth. On that day God connected me to Jesus who alone gives eternal life. On that day God did for me what I could never do for myself.

You see, as we consider a text like this here in the season of Lent, Jesus gives us great reason to rejoice that we are baptized believers in Him. Though we may not fully understand Him and His ways, He has graciously saved us nonetheless. Through simple means of water and His Word, He opens our eyes to clearly see that He is our Savior…the One who was lifted up on a cross for us. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Misjudging Eyes

Sermon: “Misjudging Eyes”

Ash Wednesday; Midweek Sermon Series: “Eyes on Jesus”

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Gospel Reading: Mark 14:1-9 

 

 

Let us pray. O come, let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him, endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:2). In the name of Jesus. Amen.

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

What was her name? Where did she come from? Who were the members of her family? Who were her friends? Did she have any family and friends? Was she always the popular girl or was she one who was always picked on? What did she like to do when she had free time? Did she ever have free time, or did she always have to do whatever it took to just scrape by in life?

We don’t know much at all about this woman that anointed Jesus with the expensive ointment. We might even wonder why she was here at all. It certainly seems like she wasn’t invited. We might wonder how she got her hands on such an expensive item. Was it something that was passed on to her? Did she steal it? Was it a gift that she had saved for such a time as this?

Scripture doesn’t fill in all the details, but what it does tell us is that when the people who were there saw this woman pour this expensive ointment over the head of Jesus, they were indignant. They scolded her. The eyes of the those gathered around burned with anger toward this woman, and they didn’t even know her. They didn’t show a care in the world for her. 

How easy is it for our eyes to misjudge a person or a situation? How often do we judge someone with our eyes? How often do we cast them aside in a so-called righteous and arrogant anger because of the way they look or present themselves, or the way they talk or behave? How often do we come to conclusions about people simply because they don’t do things the way we would have done it, and far be it that what they are doing might actually be the right thing?

That is, after all, what Jesus makes clear. This woman did a beautiful thing. Jesus said it Himself as His lips dripped with the expensive ointment. Here the room was filled with this sweet smell, and those who were gathered around could only focus on the stench of waste.

That’s how ‘they’ viewed the situation: A waste. This was almost a year’s wages. It could have been used to help the poor. It could have been used much more wisely than to just dump it over Jesus’ head. Their anger made something that was intended to be beautiful into a situation turned ugly. 

Was it a waste for this woman to have saved this ointment for the Son of God? Was it a waste to prepare His body for burial? Oh how mere eyes can misjudge a situation. I mean, was it a waste to express love in such extreme fashion?

One has to wonder why this woman felt so compelled to pour this ever-so-expensive ointment on Jesus. What was it that motivated such an exorbitant act of love? 

The Gospel of Luke tells us of another woman who was known around town as a sinner. She entered the house of a Pharisee and anointed Jesus’ feet and then wiped them with her hair. The Pharisee who saw this with his own eyes, misjudged her much the same as those in our text did. Jesus concluded the story by saying that her loving action toward Him was evidence that she had been forgiven much. For one who has been forgiven much, loves much.

Was this the way it was for the woman in our text as well? Was she so overcome with love for Jesus at that very moment because when she looked at Jesus she could not help but be ever-thankful for the great love He had for her. Was she one who was once steeped in the stench of her own sin, but now the very scent of this ointment that now ran down Jesus’ head was yet another reminder of the sweet smelling forgiveness she had been given thanks to Him?

As we look at the situation with our eyes two thousand years removed, how do we see the situation? Was it a waste or was a beautiful expression of love for Jesus? What would we do if we were in this situation? Would we hold back our resources like the people did as they looked in anger on this woman for such waste? Or would we spare no expense and give abundantly because of all that we have been given?

Far be it from me, but who knew this was a stewardship text? Ask yourself: Are you generous toward God or aren’t you? And does your answer reveal your level of gratitude for all that Jesus has done for you?

Make no mistake about it, this unnamed woman was grateful to her Savior. Her eyes judged the situation correctly. Here was the promised Messiah. In fact, that is what the word Messiah means: Anointed One. And that is exactly what she did. She anointed Him before He went to fulfill His mission and ministry by suffering, dying, rising, and being buried in a tomb before His resurrection. How could she not love Him when she considered that everything He was about to do was all for her?

All for you and me too. Here we are in the season of Lent once again. We have been here before, and it is so easy to misjudge with our eyes the gravity of what took place on that cross of Calvary. Year after year we hear the same story and it can be so easy to just take what Jesus did for granted. 

Perhaps that’s where the people were at when they looked in anger on this woman. They had taken for granted what Jesus had told them He had come to do. Their eyes were fixed on this woman’s so-called wasteful act, when in fact their eyes should have been on the One dripping in ointment: Jesus.

Whenever we take our eyes off of Jesus and His cross we will always miss what is most important. That is the beauty of this text. Sure we don’t know anything about this woman, and that’s really the point. She was not in the text to draw attention to herself. She came on the scene to draw attention to the Savior who was seated there in the room. And for her, it was more than enough to just be in His presence as the smell of the ointment filled the room.

It is as St. Paul writes: Christ loved us and gave Himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God (Ephesians 5:2).

In a matter of days after this woman anointed Him, Jesus would sacrifice Himself to God. He would be covered in the stench of sin. Your sin and mine. Oh, how it must have been an ugly sight to see. And yet in God’s eyes, it was a most beautiful sacrifice indeed.

Hard to imagine the sight of someone bleeding and dying on cross as something beautiful to behold, and yet we who sit here two thousand years removed can’t help but agree. For there on that cross is our Messiah, the One who was anointed to die our death. Though blood covered His body and He breathed His last, there is nothing more beautiful than what Jesus did for us.

For in that moment, just as that alabaster flask was shattered and broken, so was the power of sin, death, and the devil broken in our lives. We are now set free.

We are free to love God as that woman loved Him. Love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength. Love our neighbors as ourselves. And that love that pours out from God through us is like the sweetest smelling fragrance to our Heavenly Father. For He can’t help but rejoice in His works of love being done in our lives as His Gospel is proclaimed throughout the world. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

Defying the Opposition

Sermon: “Defying the Opposition”

Lectionary Series A; The First Sunday in Lent

Sunday, March 1, 2020 

Gospel Reading: Matthew 4:1-11 

 

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

In the movie Hoosiers, the unlikely Huskers from the little town of Hickory find themselves in the Indiana State Basketball Championship playing against the highly favored Bears from South Bend. By any stretch of the imagination, Hickory did not stand a chance, and yet as the great underdog stories go, Hickory defied the opposition and took home the State Title, going down as one of the greatest upsets of all time.

In the movie, right before the game, the team chaplain leads the team in a Biblical devotion. He bases his devotion on the story of David and Goliath. Likening the team from Hickory to David, he attempts to inspire the players to victory as they recall that Goliath, though the heavily favored opposition, was defeated.

Defying the opposition is exactly what David did in the face of Goliath. Goliath was the champion warrior of the Philistines. The Bible records that he was nine feet tall. Like many favored athletes, arrogance oozed from his very being as he taunted the Israelites to send someone to fight him. When David heard Goliath speak, he set out to defy the opposition. Even though he was only a youth, and by far the underdog, in the strength of the Lord, he went to fight Goliath. And with one stone from his sling, David defeated Goliath.

By all appearances, immediately after Jesus was baptized, when the Spirit sent Jesus out into the wilderness, He looked like the underdog. Here he was all alone with no one to comfort or support him. Here he had fasted for forty days. In every respect physically, Jesus was weak and isolated. He was vulnerable to defeat.

The devil saw his chance, and he took it. If only he could get Jesus to fall to his temptations, even just once, then victory would be his. The hope of the world would be shattered.

So in a series of three carefully calculated temptations, Satan went in for the attack. First he went at the obvious, the belly. For one who has not eaten for forty days, this would seem to be a simple step. 

But, Jesus defied the opposition. It is written, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4).

So the devil went in again. Only this time, he tried to fight fire with fire. He used the very word of God against Jesus tempting him to defy death by throwing himself off the pinnacle of the temple.

But, once again, Jesus defied the opposition. “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test’” (Matthew 4:7).

The devil continued his prowling around like a roaring lion seeking to devour Jesus, and tempted him with all the kingdoms in the world and their glory.

But Jesus didn’t hesitate to defy the opposition once again putting him in his place. “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve’” (Matthew 4:10).

Then the devil left him. The enemy was defeated. Though by every stretch of the imagination, Satan looked to be the highly favored foe. But looks can be deceiving. For even in Jesus’ weakest human state, His strength far surpasses that of the devil. You see, this text is not to teach us how to fight temptation, but rather to assure us that Jesus has already fought in our place and won the victory.

Jesus’ whole purpose in coming to this earth was to defy the opposition of the devil and defeat him once and for all. And that is what He did. Fast forward in Scripture, and it looked like all hope was lost. It looked like Satan had finally won the victory he had so coveted. But as I just said, looks can be deceiving. For there on that cross, beaten, bruised, and bloodied, was none other than the devil’s worst nightmare. In a knockout punch heard round the world, Jesus finished Satan off by dying our death. 

We now live in that victory even as we walk through this valley of the shadow of death. Though sin still entangles us and temptations to sin are sure to come, we do not go into battle isolated, weak, and unarmed. We go into battle in the confidence of Christ who fought in our place and was determined to save us.

I recently watched the movie Hacksaw Ridge once again. It tells the story of the Seventh Day Adventist Desmond Doss who refused to bear arms in the Second World War for religious reasons. Serving as a combat medic in his unit, he found himself in Okinawa with his fellow comrades. When all hope looked to be lost, Doss distinguished himself by saving 75 men who would have most likely died in the battle. And he did it all without a gun in hand. While the fighting was the fiercest, he secured those soldiers safety by dragging them out and hoisting them upon his shoulders.

Jesus has hoisted us upon His shoulders. We were helpless, doomed to die. We were no match for the devil and his temptations, nor are we ever. Just look at us. Here we are gathered once again…another week of being beaten and bruised by the devil. And how many times have we fallen to those temptations? We can’t even keep count. Each of us was left for dead, dead in our trespasses and sins.

But the God and Father of all mercy, sent His Son to save us…to stare Satan down…and to take him down. And that’s what He did as He hoisted our sins upon His shoulders and hung upon the cross in our place. He forgave us, and He finished Satan off once and for all. 

Oh sure, Satan may still prowl around for awhile until Christ returns again, but know this: It is finished! Satan is a defeated enemy.

Defeated by none other than Jesus, our Savior who (as Scripture says) in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. So as Scripture continues: Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need (Hebrews 4:15b-16).

We do need help when we are tempted. But the good news is that Jesus came to be our help. Our Savior stood up for us when we couldn’t stand ourselves. He took the blows that Satan threw, and counter-punched and came out on top.

So, when you are tempted…and note the word “when”. It is not “if” you will be tempted, but “when”, because we will all be tempted. When we are tempted, we do not rely on our own strength to defeat the enemy. We rely on Jesus who has already won. He is our Savior. He is the King of kings and Lord of lords.

And so we pray in the confidence of Christ’s victory, again and again; “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” And that is exactly what He already did.

You see, as Scripture tells us, No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it (1st Corinthians 10:13). (Pause)

Look, if we could resist temptation, then we wouldn’t need Jesus. But thanks be to God, we have Jesus standing in our place, victorious, with His foot firmly planted on the Satanic serpent crushing his very head. (How’s that for an awesome image of victory?)

It is as we just sang: “Though devil’s all the world should fill, all eager to devour us, we tremble not, we fear no ill; they shall not overpower us. This world’s prince may still, scowl fierce as he will, he can harm us none. He’s judged; the deed is done; one little word can fell him” (A Mighty Fortress Is Our God; LSB #656).

That word is Jesus. We rejoice today in our champion Jesus, who took Satan on, head on, and won, not once, twice, three times…he is down for the count. And now Jesus has passed His victory on to us. He defied the opposition in our place. He didn’t sit on the sidelines to watch us lose the battle. He valiantly fought for us, carried us upon His whip-laden shoulders, and brought us home to safety.

As we journey through Lent, take comfort that our salvation is secure. Jesus told us we can take heart, and we most certainly can. We don’t have a God who succumbed to temptation, and lost the fight. Our God has made sure that finally when our last hour comes, He will give us a blessed end, and graciously take us from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven.

Let us pray. Almighty and everlasting God, through Your Son You have promised us forgiveness of sins and everlasting life. Govern our hearts by Your Holy Spirit that in our daily need, and especially in all time of temptation, we may seek Your help and, by a true and lively faith in Your Word, obtain all that You have promised; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

The peace of God which surpasses all human understanding guard and keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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