Monday, March 28, 2016

The Resurrection of Our Lord Sermon

[Ugh! So sorry, but no audio today. Of all days, the battery in my recorder picked today to die during the sermon . . .  :-(  ]

Text: Luke 24:1-12; 1 Corinthians 15:19-26; Isaiah 65:17-25

Alleluia! Christ is Risen! [He is risen indeed! Alleluia!] Alleluia.

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

Alleluia. That’s what the women wanted to say. But they didn’t know how. They didn’t have it in them. All that filled their hearts was sorrow and grief. All that filled their minds were the horrible images of that day - an abused friend, a crucified and dead Saviour. They was no joy for them. No alleluias they could utter. Only silence as they walked to the tomb. The heaviness of the spices nothing compared to the heaviness of their souls.

When they got there, it got even worse. The stone had been rolled away. Oh no. Someone came and desecrated the grave. Someone came and abused the body of Jesus. They had crucified Him! Hadn’t they abused Him enough? Couldn’t they even let His body rest in peace now? The tears they didn’t think they had left started to flow again. This was going to be even worse than they thought.

Perhaps you understand the women. Perhaps you’ve been there. Wanting to say alleluia, wanting to praise the Lord, but not being able, not knowing how. Grief filling your heart instead. Images haunting your mind. Past and present hurts, difficulties, struggles. With no end in sight. Wishing things could be different. Wondering why all this happened and where the heck is God when you need Him - really, really, need Him. That’s a tough place to be.

But God was exactly where He needed to be for these women. And for us. He needed to be on the cross. And He needed NOT to be in the tomb. He needed to be delivered up for our trespasses, and He needed to be raised for our justification (Romans 4:25). The women didn’t understand that yet, though, and so peer into the tomb with heavy and hurting hearts, expecting the worst. But they find there not a desecrated tomb and an abused body. It’s empty. His grave clothes there, but no body. And even as questions perplex them and fill their minds, two men appear, seemingly from out of nowhere, standing by them, and in dazzling white robes. Startled at first by the men suddenly there with them, and then frightened by their appearance, they look down, not sure what is going to happen next.

Well, what happened next was the Word of God. Why do you seek the living among the dead? Well, they weren’t, they probably thought. They were seeking the dead among the living. He is not here, - Yes, we can see that, Captain Obvious! - He is not here, but has risen. What? Remember how He told you . . . ?

And then they did remember his words. For the Holy Spirit worked through the Word spoken to them - as Jesus had promised He would - to bring to their remembrance what He had spoke (John 14:26). He said He was going to be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and He was. He said He was going to be crucified, and He was. And He said that on the third day He was going to rise, and (count on fingers) . . .

Alleluia! They could say it! Finally. Their sorrow shattered and banished by the preaching of these two men, who the other Evangelists tell us were really angels, sent to preach this Word to them. The angels which had preached to the shepherds the good news of Jesus’ birth had now preached to them the good news of His resurrection. He was not dead - no, death was dead! And their hearts, once so full of hope and then crushed, were now filled to overflowing again! Jesus did it! Jesus won! Alleluia!

And that same hope - confidence, really - is now yours. Confidence not that things will work out for you exactly as you want in this life - because sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. This is still, after all, a world filled with sinners that sin and death that robs us of loved ones. But confidence that now in the midst of such a world, that in Christ there is a life that defeats death. And in defeating death, overwhelming all the death inducing struggles and troubles of this life as well. The troubles and sins and hurts that make you feel dead; the struggles that make you wish you were dead; the sadness and separation that death brings . . . If Jesus defeated death, then He is the remedy for these things as well. To give us confidence and hope for this life, yes; but as Paul said, even more - not for this life only, but for a life that will not end. Life in Christ and life with Christ.

And you have that life. Jesus gave it to you when you were baptized. Paul says in his letter to the Romans (chapter 6) that baptism joins you to, connects you with, Jesus’ death and resurrection. That when you were baptized, the death Jesus died was your death, and His resurrection became your resurrection. When you were baptized, what He did . . . it’s as if you did it. Or as we heard earlier, from Paul, For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

And so you are alive. And I’m not trying to be Captain Obvious there - you are alive in Christ. You are alive spiritually. You are now living a life that will not end, that not even death can end. For though you will one day, sooner or later, die (unless Jesus comes again first!), death is now dead to you! Because of Jesus’ resurrection, death is now for you just the gate to fullness of life in the kingdom of heaven. The gate to the new heavens and the new earth that Isaiah spoke of. The gate to life without sin, without death, without weeping or calamity or distress. The gate to life where there is only peace and rest. 

And that confidence is not only for later, the future, but helps you even now. For the one who defeated death is also able to help you in the sin and death-caused and sin and death-causing troubles, trials, hurts, and sins you struggle with now. For when Paul said, If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied, he did not mean that the hope we have in Christ isn’t for this life - but that it’s not only for this life. But it is for us here and now as well. Because knowing that your future is safe and secure enables you to live your life now in confidence and peace. Knowing that your sin is forgiven enables you to forgive others. Knowing that Christ is here for you enables you to be there for others. Knowing that Christ is risen and serving you enables you to rise and serve others. Knowing that Christ is free enables you to live free. And whatever struggles and troubles,hurts and fears satan hurls against you, however omnious and threating satan wants to make himself seem and appear . . . just remember who was the last man standing on Easter. It wasn’t him. It was Jesus!

He has risen, he is not here, the preaching of the angels said. But even before that, Jesus preached too, not only telling His disciples that He would rise, but also telling them where He would be for them from now on. That His Body and Blood would not be in the tomb, but now on altars, on tables, all around the world. Everyplace His Supper is celebrated in remembrance of Him, He would be there. Just as He was both host and meal on the night when He was betrayed, so He is still both host and meal for us today. Giving you the Body which died and rose again, giving you the Blood poured out for you, for the forgiveness of your sins, the strengthening of your faith, and the life that will never end. Here it is, here I am, for you, He says. Take, eat. Take, drink.

And what else can we say but Amen! Alleluia! 

The women could finally say it. And having now no reason to remain at the tomb - no body to prepare, no vigil to keep - they returned to the city and told the eleven and all the rest what they had seen and heard. But they didn’t believe them

You’ve been there too. What joy you have, what hope, what confidence! Jesus is here, His Word is here, His forgiveness and life are here - you tell folks what you have seen and heard and received here. And they don’t believe you. I’m sure the women did their best, as you do, to explain, convince. But when you’re living in a world of death it’s not easy to believe in life. Impossible, actually. But all things are possible with God. An angel said that once, too, and a virgin conceived (Luke 1:37). And in the same way faith was conceived in your heart, by the Word. So speak, and do not give up. Speak, and be patient. Speak, and let the Spirit work through the Word. For He will. He specializes in creating life and raising the dead, after all. And at just the right time.

And Peter and the others did come to believe. They, too, would learn to say Alleluia! We’ll hear their story next week. 

But today is our day to say Alleluia! And not just say it, but live it. For now,
The strife is o’er, the battle done;
Now is the victor’s triumph won;
Now be the song of praise begun. Alleluia! (LSB #464)

For Christ is risen! [He is risen indeed! Alleluia!] Alleluia.

In the Name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Easter Vigil Meditation

Jesu Juva

Blessed are you when you see Christ in the Old Testament.

Blessed are you when you know that Christ not only created you, but re-created you. And when He did, as in the beginning, He pronounced you good.

Blessed are you when you know you are safe from the waters of sin and death in the ark of the Church. And that one day, that ark will come safely to rest on the mountain of God in heaven.

Blessed are you when you know that all your sin is rusting at the bottom of the baptism font, just like Pharaoh’s chariots at the bottom of the Red Sea.

Blessed are you when you know that Christ has raised up children for Abraham from stones, because He has removed your heart of stone and given you a new heart and a new spirit.

Blessed are you when you who are dust and to dust you will return can sit in that dust with Job and say I know that my Redeemer lives.

Blessed are you who know that Christ gathers His people from every time and place, shepherding them through the wilderness, exile, Egypt, and even here.

Blessed are you when you know that Christ descended into the fiery furnace of hell to rescue us from the flames that burn but do not consume.

Blessed are you when you know that these stories are your stories. Your baptism into Christ has put you in them. They are not just cool stories from the past, about other people. They are cool stories from the past that teach you about you; and about Christ, your Saviour. That teach you where you’ve been, where you’re going, and how Christ will get you there.

So we’ll hear the stories again tonight. Old Testament stories. Our stories. Our ancestors teaching us and handing down to us the faith. That we may live with them and they with us. 

For this is the night when all of history is reduced and packed into one event - everything before pointing to it, and everything since springing from it: the Passover of our Lord. The night when our Lord passed over from death to life, that we who die - from Abel to the end of time - might live in Him. 

This is the night everything changed. When sin’s tangled web was forced to release its prey. When the grave’s cold fingers were pried off the dead. When hell’s steely doors were torn off their hinges. When Christ, the Life, rose from the dead . . . inocence is restored to the fallen and joy is given to those downcast.

This is the night of fulfillment and promise, of the past and the future. 

This is the night of rejoicing and of light. The ancient darkness has been forever banished. And we are blessed. Blessed in Christ.

So we gather tonight, not in vigil for the dead, but as wise virgins awaiting their Bridegroom. 

We gather in quiet joy, before the full-throated joy of tomorrow. 

We gather in candlelight, before the rising of the sun, before the rising of the Son, tomorrow.

Blessed are we. 
God has brought His Israel into joy from sadness (LSB #487).

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Good Friday Evening Homily

Jesu Juva

“Our Light in the Darkness”
Text: Isaiah 52:13-53:12; John 18-19; Hebrews 4:14-16; 5:7-9

This is our darkness. The darkness of our sin. In the beginning, God said “Let there be light.” The darkness we have created.

It is the darkness we have created by hurtful words spoken, cutting worse than any blade. The thoughts that would make us so ashamed if anyone else knew them. The desires of our hearts that were against what we know is good and right. The destructive deeds that have erupted out of us.

It is the darkness we have created by the words we have left unspoken, that could have healed, could have helped, but we swallowed them. The thoughts of what we could do that never made it past the thought stage and into action. The deeds we didn’t do . . . why? Laziness, fear, lack of care, someone else will surely do it? 

I know the sins on my heart and mind tonight. What are they for you?

This is the darkness we have created. The darkness of regrets, pain, fear, fallenness, separation, isolation. It is not a good place to be.

When children are young they are afraid of the dark. We think it a childish thing; something to outgrow. But maybe they know more than we adults. Maybe we should be more like them. And fear the darkness. This darkness. The darkness we have created.

And yet the lone candle on the altar testifies that we are not here, in this darkness, alone. And we are not just here with each other. Jesus is here with us. Our Christ is here. Our Saviour.

The one who had no sin, no darkness, no regrets. The one from whom nothing hurtful has ever come or ever will. He is here with us. For He plunged Himself into our darkness to be with us. The Son of God was made man. But not just to be with us - to be for us. Not just to walk with us through this darkness, but to carry us through it. To give us hope. To be our Saviour from a darkness which would, without Him, quickly engulf and destroy us.

We heard it tonight from Isaiah, and then heard how He did it from John. How He was stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted, for us. How He took our sorrows, shame, and grief upon Himself. How He was despised and rejected, wounded for our transgressions, and crushed for our iniquities. He came into our darkness and took the darkness upon Himself. That it crush Him and not us. Engulf Him and not us. That it take His life, not ours. That we be forgiven.

This is the reason why He was born; why the Word was made flesh. To do this. For this dark night. 

So what a happy coincidence for us that today is March 25th - the day exactly nine months before December 25th, Christmas; the day set aside to remember when the angel Gabriel came to a young virgin in Nazareth, spoke to her God’s Word, and our great High Priest was conceived in her womb by the Holy Spirit. Tonight is why that happened. The light of the world came into our world in the darkness of Mary’s womb, and He leaves it in the darkness of death.

But by so doing, as the reading from Hebrews said tonight, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him. Obey him how? By believing this. By believing that all this He did for you. And by seeing all your sin on Him. That’s what He wants. 

That whatever sins hound you, you see them on Him. What regrets you have, let Him have them. Whatever struggles you’re enduring, throw them on Him. Whatever doubts, fears, troubles, burdens, sorrows, failures, He came to bear them for you and set you free. For He came to take your darkness and be your light, your hope, your salvation, your sin offering. 

Tonight, we get a glimpse of this darkness we live in daily, but don’t realize. The darkness we daily add to as well. This candle will leave, but not for long. It will return, for the darkness cannot overcome the light. Death will not hold life. Sin will not win. Our Saviour will. He will return, He will rise, and so will we.

But for now, we still live in this darkness we have created; that we thought was better; that we choose every time we sin. The darkness of division. The darkness of terrorism. The darkness where evil is called good and good evil. And Jesus knows what it’s like. For as He dwelt with us in this darkness, Jesus, as we heard, offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. But how can that be? For He wasn’t saved; He died. He was crushed. It seems as if His prayers were not heard, not answered.

But they were heard. He was saved. He did rise from death. But He had to go through this time of darkness and death. For although he was a son - the Son of God! - he put Himself in our place - as a man - to learn obedience through what he suffered. To rely not on what He saw or felt, but to rely on the words of the prophets. That this must be, so that in His resurrection, He become the source of eternal salvation for us.

So know, dear sons and daughters of God, that your prayers are heard, and your loud cries and tears precious to your Father in heaven. Though we must go through this darkness now, do not rely on what you see or feel - believe the Word. For though we die, yet shall we live. You, too, will be awakened from death and your eyes shall see the Son of God, your Saviour. And then the darkness, finally, will be no more, and you will praise Him without end.

In the Name of Jesus. Amen.

Good Friday Noon - Readings and Meditations

I. In the Garden  (Mark 14:26-42)

L: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
C: Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives. And Jesus said to them, “You will all fall away, for it is written, ‘I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I am raised up, I will go before you to Galilee.” Peter said to him, “Even though they all fall away, I will not.” And Jesus said to him, “Truly, I tell you, this very night, before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” But he said emphatically, “If I must die with you, I will not deny you.” And they all said the same.

And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”


Peter is bold and courageous. He loves his Lord. His life had been changed. Three years isn’t a long time, really, but three years following Jesus . . . hearing His teaching, seeing His compassion, witnessing the miracles . . . how could that not change you? Peter is sincere. He wasn’t a fisherman anymore - he was a disciple. A follower of Jesus. He would not fall away. He would not deny. He would die for Jesus.

His spirit was willing, but his flesh was weak.

For even before the Shepherd was struck, even before he had a chance to deny, he falls asleep. Three times. He couldn’t even watch and pray for one hour with his distressed and sorrowful friend. Peter meant well, but good intentions aren’t enough.

You know what it’s like. We have good intentions, too. But how often have we failed? How often have we fallen asleep? How often do we not keep our word - to others and to God? Too often. Our spirit is willing, but our flesh is weak.

But Jesus remains steadfast. Greatly distressed and troubled, He turns to His Father in prayer. In great sorrow He prays, Not what I will, but what you will. Jesus knows the cup He must drink, the cup of wrath and condemnation for the sin of the world. It will not be easy. But His Father’s will is His will. He will drink it. Peter will not die for Him; He will die for Peter. And for you. He will be the strong one for the weak, the faithful one for the faithless. He will go as it is written of Him. 

The hour has come. Now He gives His life for the life of the world.

II. Betrayed and Alone  (Mark 14:43-52)

L: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
C: Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

And immediately, while he was still speaking, Judas came, one of the twelve, and with him a crowd with swords and clubs, from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. Now the betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “The one I will kiss is the man. Seize him and lead him away under guard.” And when he came, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And he kissed him. And they laid hands on him and seized him. But one of those who stood by drew his sword and struck the servant of the high priest and cut off his ear. And Jesus said to them, “Have you come out as against a robber, with swords and clubs to capture me? Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.” And they all left him and fled.

And a young man followed him, with nothing but a linen cloth about his body. And they seized him, but he left the linen cloth and ran away naked.


Until this time, the people didn’t run away from Jesus, they ran to Him! They came from all over - the sick, the lame, the blind. Wherever He went, they went. That He might touch them. Because His touch brought life. It healed the sick, restored sight to the blind and hearing to the deaf, and even raised the dead. They were in danger and turned to Him.

But now Jesus is alone. His disciples have all left Him and ran away from Him in fear. They were in danger and fled from Him. Even a young man who followed in nothing but a linen cloth ran away naked. The only disciple left was the betrayer, the one who had run away to arrange all this, and whose kiss was the kiss of death. And now the hands were on Him - not to help Him but to arrest Him. They come with swords and clubs, weapons of the world. They didn’t need them. He would give Himself to them and place Himself into their hands. They didn’t need them, for the battle now commencing was not a worldly one, but a spiritual one.

Jesus had been fighting this battle for three years, day after day, in the Temple, teaching. For His weapon, His sword, was His Word. And many battles had been won - demons were expelled, and sinners brought to repentance and faith. But now the last and greatest battle will unfold, a battle of life and death. The battle of the cross. Satan and men will slay the Son of God, but will not be victorious. The Scriptures will be fulfilled. After the Sabbath is past, they will come looking for Him in His tomb. But all they will find is His linen cloth, left behind, when He left the tomb empty and defeated. They seized Him, but not for long.

III. Condemnation  (Mark 14:53-65)

L: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
C: Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

And they led Jesus to the high priest. And all the chief priests and the elders and the scribes came together. And Peter had followed him at a distance, right into the courtyard of the high priest. And he was sitting with the guards and warming himself at the fire. Now the chief priests and the whole council were seeking testimony against Jesus to put him to death, but they found none. For many bore false witness against him, but their testimony did not agree. And some stood up and bore false witness against him, saying, “We heard him say, ‘I will destroy this temple that is made with hands, and in three days I will build another, not made with hands.’” Yet even about this their testimony did not agree. And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, “Have you no answer to make? What is it that these men testify against you?” But he remained silent and made no answer. Again the high priest asked him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus said, “I am, and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.” And the high priest tore his garments and said, “What further witnesses do we need? You have heard his blasphemy. What is your decision?” And they all condemned him as deserving death. And some began to spit on him and to cover his face and to strike him, saying to him, “Prophesy!” And the guards received him with blows.


The outcome was predetermined. They weren’t letting Him go, now that they had Him right where they wanted Him. He was not going to leave alive. But still they wanted the appearance of justice. But witness after witness would not agree. Not even false witnesses, lying witnesses, could get the job done. So frustrated, the high priest stands up and tries to get Jesus to speak - but He will not. He will not defend Himself.

But He will confess. He will confess and not keep silent when it comes to the truth, no matter what the result. So when asked: Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? He does speak. He has come that all the world might know the love of God. That all might know Him. That all - even the high priest, chief priests, elders, and scribes - might be saved. So He speaks: I AM, He says. I AM. The divine name. The name God gave when Moses asked Him at the burning bush what His name was (Exodus 3:14). That same God was now standing before men, answering the same question. And for this, they accuse Him of blasphemy, condemn Him to death, spit on Him, and mock Him. 

They are pleased with themselves. They have accomplished their mission. Jesus will die. But even as they try to get Jesus to prophesy, they have fulfilled prophecy already - the prophecies that said all this would happen. And the Word of the Lord will be fulfilled. For you. He is accused and condemned for you. He is mocked and hit for you. He is spit on for you. His love for you will let Him do nothing less. The chief priests and Jewish leaders want to save themselves and their nation. The Son of the Blessed wants to save only you.

IV. Denying and Confessing  (Mark 14:66 - 15:5)

L: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
C: Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

And as Peter was below in the courtyard, one of the servant girls of the high priest came, and seeing Peter warming himself, she looked at him and said, “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” But he denied it, saying, “I neither know nor understand what you mean.” And he went out into the gateway and the rooster crowed. And the servant girl saw him and began again to say to the bystanders, “This man is one of them.” But again he denied it. And after a little while the bystanders again said to Peter, “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” But he began to invoke a curse on himself and to swear, “I do not know this man of whom you speak.” And immediately the rooster crowed a second time. And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, “Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.” And he broke down and wept.

And as soon as it was morning, the chief priests held a consultation with the elders and scribes and the whole council. And they bound Jesus and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate. And Pilate asked him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” And he answered him, “You have said so.” And the chief priests accused him of many things. And Pilate again asked him, “Have you no answer to make? See how many charges they bring against you.” But Jesus made no further answer, so that Pilate was amazed.


Are you one of them? the servant girl asked Peter. 
Are you the King of the Jews? Pilate asked Jesus.

I am not. I do not know Him, says Peter vehemently.
You have said so, Jesus affirms.

What was going on outside and what was going on inside could not have been more different. Timidity versus steadfastness. Denial versus confession. Fear versus quiet strength. When the rooster crowed, Peter remembered his own crowing, the boast he had so confidently made that he would never deny his Lord, his friend. But he did. Jesus must have heard the rooster too. But hearing just made Him more steadfast - for it was for folks like Peter and you and me that He will not deny, but go to His cross.

What a comfort for us, when we shrink back in fear like Peter. When we don’t say what we know we should. When fear gets the better of us. When the trouble of the moment seems greater than our Lord. It is not so. Our Lord is greater than whatever troubles us, haunts us, frightens us, or condemns us. He is greater than whatever threatens us, overwhelms us, or crushes us. He is greater that our sin, our death, and the devil. For all this comes upon Him, and He allows it to crush Him for a time, that He might crush it for eternity. And in His resurrection He does.

So Peter broke down and wept. But as Jesus said in the psalm: Weeping may remain for the night, but joy comes in the morning (Psalm 30:5). And joy would come for Peter, and for you. The joy of His Saviour risen. The joy of sin forgiven. The joy that though we may deny Him, He will never deny us.

V. Traded and Mocked  (Mark 15:6-20)

L: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
C: Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

Now at the feast he used to release for them one prisoner for whom they asked. And among the rebels in prison, who had committed murder in the insurrection, there was a man called Barabbas. And the crowd came up and began to ask Pilate to do as he usually did for them. And he answered them, saying, “Do you want me to release for you the King of the Jews?” For he perceived that it was out of envy that the chief priests had delivered him up. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release for them Barabbas instead. And Pilate again said to them, “Then what shall I do with the man you call the King of the Jews?” And they cried out again, “Crucify him.” And Pilate said to them, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Crucify him.” So Pilate, wishing to satisfy the crowd, released for them Barabbas, and having scourged Jesus, he delivered him to be crucified.

And the soldiers led him away inside the palace (that is, the governor's headquarters), and they called together the whole battalion. And they clothed him in a purple cloak, and twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on him. And they began to salute him, “Hail, King of the Jews!” And they were striking his head with a reed and spitting on him and kneeling down in homage to him. And when they had mocked him, they stripped him of the purple cloak and put his own clothes on him. And they led him out to crucify him.


A rebel. A murderer. An insurrectionist. A prisoner. A trouble maker. Barabbas? No, I was talking about you. Oh, Barabbas too. But this is where you are in the story. And me. We who rebel and rise up against our heavenly King. We who fail to help and support our neighbor in every physical need. We who are prisoners to sin and death. We deserve to die.

But what happens? Barabbas is set free! Imagine the thoughts that must have been going through his mind. Just moments before, he had heard the shouts from his prison cell: Crucify him! Crucify him! His blood ran cold, for he thought they were shouting this for him. And then the soldiers come down to his cell and turn the key, but instead of binding him to the horizontal beam of a cross and leading him out to die, they say: You are free to go. What? What happened? And then they tell you: The Passover pardon was given to him. The decided to keep another prisoner, named Jesus. They’ll be crucifying him instead of you. And just like that, He is free. 

Talk about being in the right place at the right time! Barabbas? No, I was talking about Jesus. This is why He came. To trade places with Barabbas. To trade places with you. To trade places with every sinner, every condemned person. To take our sin and condemnation upon Himself, in our place, that we receive the Passover pardon. His Passover pardon. That we hear those wonderful words spoken to us: They’ll be crucifying Him instead of you. Go, you are forgiven; you are free.

Jesus, the Son of God, becomes the criminal, that the name of Barabbas, the criminal, might come true. For Barabbas, bar-abbas, means literally, son of the father. And Jesus takes your place, that that be true for you, too. That you be a bar-abbas, a son of the father, a son of God.

VI.  On the Cross  (Mark 15:21-37)

L: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
C: Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

And they compelled a passerby, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming in from the country, the father of Alexander and Rufus, to carry his cross. And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. And it was the third hour when they crucified him. And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” And with him they crucified two robbers, one on his right and one on his left. And those who passed by derided him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha! You who would destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save yourself, and come down from the cross!” So also the chief priests with the scribes mocked him to one another, saying, “He saved others; he cannot save himself. Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.” Those who were crucified with him also reviled him.

And when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. And at the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” And some of the bystanders hearing it said, “Behold, he is calling Elijah.” And someone ran and filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” And Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last.


Let the Christ, the King of Israel, come down now from the cross that we may see and believe.

If Jesus had come down from the cross at that very moment, they would see and perhaps believe, but they would not be saved. For they would have no Saviour. There would be no atonement for their sin. They would be lost. Yet if Jesus stays, they would not see and therefore not believe, yet they would have a Saviour. Their sin would be atoned for. There would be hope for them.

So Jesus stays. For it is not miraculous signs that produce faith anyway. If Jesus had come down from the cross at that moment, would they have believed, or would they have accused the soldiers of doing a shoddy job in not attaching Him more securely? You know the answer to that. No, it is not signs and wonders that produce faith, but the Word and Spirit of God.

And the word of God that we heard was this: My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? But He was not calling Elijah. He was teaching us. That we learn the meaning of the cross. That He was forsaken because of our sin, to pay for our sin, to suffer for our sin. That He was forsaken, that we never be. And yet even in that moment of mysterious forsakenness between the Father and the Son, there is a word of faith: MY God, Jesus says. Forsaken, yet mine. Jesus trusts, even in the darkness of death and the pangs of hell. 

And because He did, because He did what we cannot, your sin is atoned for, there is hope for you. You will never be forsaken. Jesus’ Father is your Father, His God your God, and His death the death of your sin and death. Blessed are those who have not seen, and yet have believed (John 20:29).

VII. Death and Burial  (Mark 15:38-47)

L: We adore you, O Christ, and we bless you.
C: Because by your holy cross you have redeemed the world.

And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that in this way he breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God!”

There were also women looking on from a distance, among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. When he was in Galilee, they followed him and ministered to him, and there were also many other women who came up with him to Jerusalem.

And when evening had come, since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the Sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself looking for the kingdom of God, took courage and went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Pilate was surprised to hear that he should have already died. And summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he was already dead. And when he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the corpse to Joseph. And Joseph bought a linen shroud, and taking him down, wrapped him in the linen shroud and laid him in a tomb that had been cut out of the rock. And he rolled a stone against the entrance of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.


The curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The curtain of the temple, which separated the Holy of Holies, the dwelling place of God, from the rest of the world, was torn open. God had left the building.

Bad news? No, good news! Now, there was no more separation between God and men. The wall of sin that divided Creator and creature was gone. No more sacrifices need be offered in the temple. God and man were reconciled by the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). God had indeed left the building. No longer would people have to come to Jerusalem to offer sacrifice for sin. He now goes out into all the world to give the gift of forgiveness of sin. That in every place where His Word is proclaimed and His gifts given, there is He.

They didn’t realize that yet, of course. All they knew right at this moment was that their friend, the one who they thought was their Messiah, was dead and needed to be buried. They would do this one, last, final act of love for Him. They take Him down, lay Him in the cold, stony tomb, and close it up.

You’ve been there. You know how that feels, when standing by the grave of a loved one, and the dirt covers their remains. It hurts. Death hurts. God knows. It took His only-begotten Son. But coming is the joy. The joy of life. The joy of resurrection. The joy of reunion. The centurion was right . . . almost. Truly this man was the Son of God? No. Truly He is. For He lives, and so will all who put their trust in Him. For just as the grave will not be able to hold Him, so it will not be able to hold us. And so we have hope, in the midst of this world of sorrow and death. We have hope, and so name this day GOOD Friday. For this is the day when we are made good again. When creation is restored to its goodness. By Jesus. 

So we are not sad today. Serious, yes. Sad, no. For we know this is not the end of the story. The best is yet to come. So to our Saviour Jesus Christ, we give all thanks and praise. To our Great Redeemer, be all glory, honor, and worship, now and forever, and unto the ages of ages. AMEN.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Holy Thursday Sermon

Jesu Juva

“He Came to Wash Sinners Clean”
Text: John 13:1-15; 1 Corinthians 11:23-32; Exodus 12:1-14

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

I think it is hard for us to understand just how shocking that night was for the disciples, when Jesus got down on His hands and knees and began washing their feet. One by one, He goes around the table, carefully, lovingly, wiping the grime of the day from between their toes and from the soles of their feet. Each disciple, slightly embarrassed, yet marvelling at the same time. Their Lord, the Messiah, doing this, for them.

And then He gets to Peter. He wasn’t the first, but I wonder if he was last - if Peter had been watching Jesus wash all the others’ feet, all twenty-two of them, and now He was kneeling before him. Lord do you wash my feet? No, this was not right! It sounds a little John the Baptisty, doesn’t it? When Jesus was then doing when wasn’t expected, coming to be baptized, and John objected. I wonder if Peter didn’t pull his feet back at that moment, away from Jesus. No, you shall never wash my feet. Or even more accurately that would be: You shall never, ever, not today, not tomorrow, not ever, not if we were the only two people left on earth! wash my feet. Peter really meant it. This was not the Lord’s work.

Except it was. This is exactly what Jesus had come to do. And so He says: If I do not wash you, you have no share with me. At that point, Peter, probably scared by those words, relents, and even more, wants Jesus to wash him entirely - head to toe! Jesus, perhaps, chuckled a bit at that, and then explained further: Peter, you don’t need a bath. You just need this cleansing.

For it is the Lord’s work to cleanse, to wash. It is to get down on His hands and knees and serve sinners. It is to get on the cross and serve sinners. It is to serve sinners His Body and Blood. For this cleansing: that we who are sinful and unclean, might be clean. That our worst grime, our worst sins, be washed away by Jesus. That not just the dirt of our bodies, but the sins of our souls be washed away.

So this night, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world and to the Father, when the hour of His death had come, He serves them one more time. The foot washing service, His. The meal, His. This is His night. To serve them. To love them to the end.

How would you have reacted, had you been there that night? 

Would you have been like Peter, pulling back from Jesus’ washing? Perhaps, for haven’t you already done so? Holding back something of yourself from Jesus. Not wanting to let go of but hold onto grudges or hurts, to use later. Trying to hold onto your pride, your complaints, what you think you are entitled to or deserve, or some sins you like? Yes, pulling back, like Peter.

Or would you have been like Judas, harboring sin in your heart even while your feet are being washed? We do that too, don’t we? Plotting revenge, dwelling on past sins against you that you are unwilling to forgive.Thinking about how you can get your way. Or doubting Jesus’ claims of love and care because things don’t seem to be working out right at all.

Our hearts, they need cleansing too.

So tonight, look at Jesus. With none of that in His heart - only love for you. With no motive except to cleanse you. Only wanting to serve you, give Himself for you and to you, and give you His gift of forgiveness. How different His heart than ours!

And so He washed your feet earlier. Not outwardly but inwardly. Just as you were once bathed in the water of Holy Baptism, so tonight He washed away the grime that you collected today in your life - the sins of thought, word, deed, and desire, your sins of commission and omission, your stupid and petty sins and your big and horrible sins, the sins you are too ashamed to tell your pastor or anyone else - all washed away as He washed you with His Absolution: I forgive you all your sins. Jesus serving you.

But there’s even more. For on this night, Jesus not only gave His disciples this example of service, this foreshadowing of the washing and cleansing He has come to provide and is going to the cross to provide, He gave them His Supper as well. The food of His own Body and Blood. Food for both our bodies and our souls. To nourish all of us with Himself. To share His life with us. To forgive us and have His forgiveness live in us. That we not pull back or harbor sin, but be partakers of His new covenant, receiving His inheritance and the promise of life. This is His Passover, in His blood. That with His blood marking us, death pass us over.

So let a person examine himself, Paul says, and judge himself truly. That’s not easy to do. Not because it’s so difficult, but because the judgment is not a good one: I am a poor, miserable sinner. But it’s good, for tonight we see that Jesus has come to dwell with sinners. Jesus has come to serve sinners. Jesus has come to cleanse sinners. And so judgment is overcome with gift: This is my body which is for you. This cup is the new covenant in my blood. The body that once washed feet. The body that hung on the cross. The blood that poured from His head and hands and feet and side. Here, for you. The forgiveness, His. The meal, Him. To love you to the end.

But to what end? The end of His life? No, for He will not stay dead, but rise. The end of your life? Not that either. But to this end, this purpose: to raise you to a new life with Him. To give you a new heart, a new spirit; to make you a new person, even now; and to raise you to a life which will have no end. For that end He was born. For that end He got on His hands and knees. For that end He laid down His life on the cross. And for that end He is here with His service for you.

And He who has given such love to us, bids us so to love one another. To wash one another’s feet. Maybe literally! But maybe also in other forms of service or sacrifice or forgiveness. Not out of compulsion, but willingly. Not because you have to, but freely. Not because there are any prizes or points attached to it, but because that’s where Christ is, and you live in Him. And not in being served, but in such service, you will find your life.

So look to Jesus tonight, here serving you; here being served to you. His amazing heart and love holds nothing back, harbors no ulterior motives, but gives all He is and all He has for you. He goes to the cross for you. To love you to the end.

And with such service, such a sacrifice, you do have a share with Him. For you are washed, you are clean, you are fed, you are His.

In the Name of the Father, and of the (+) Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.