February 19, 2019- How Majestic is God’s Name! – Psalm 8, John 1:1-5

Creation

O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!
You have set your glory above the heavens.   Out of the mouth of babies and infants, you have established strength because of your foes, to still the enemy and the avenger.

When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, and the son of man that you care for him?

Yet you have made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You have given him dominion over the works of your hands; you have put all things under his feet, all sheep and oxen, and also the beasts of the field,  the birds of the heavens, and the fish of the sea, whatever passes along the paths of the seas.

 O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!    Psalm 8 (ESV)

It is comforting to know that God is omnipotent. Someone beyond us has created the universe and all that is in nature, yet He cared for fragile humanity so much that Jesus became one of us.  Jesus lived on the earth. He entered into the wonder of human life as well as all its pain and brokenness. He laughed, He wept, He comforted, He taught. He rebuked.  He got angry. He shared joy. Jesus was fully God, and also fully human.

As we confess in the Apostle’s Creed, Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate. He suffered. He died and was buried, and descended into the place of the dead. He rose on the third day. As the prophet Isaiah teaches us, He was pierced for our transgressions, and by His wounds we are healed. (Isaiah 53:5)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:1-5 (ESV)

God Himself- Jesus- who has always been, beyond the constraints of time, has given us stewardship of the world. Out of His great love for us, He provides for us. The sun, the moon, the stars, the oceans, the fields and mountains, and all the animals that live in them are all His handiwork.

Thank God that we are always on His mind and that He always cares for us even though we are little more than dust.

The Psalms remind us to pray, to praise, and to bring everything to the omnipotent and endless God who created us and sustains us. It’s always a good time to look up and remember that God provides everything we need, including life with Him forever!

February 18, 2019- Jesus, the Bread of Life – John 6:25-40

fresh bread on the wooden board

When they found him (Jesus) on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?”  Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”  They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

 Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe.  All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” John 6:25-40 (ESV)

This is a story of contrasts. There were people who chased Jesus because they saw Him as a bread king- someone who would see to it that their bellies stayed full. Even today there are those who seek Jesus because they believe He will fulfill their material wants.  There are plenty of charlatans out there to sell the health and wealth prosperity “gospel,” but that is not the real Gospel. The real Gospel is the good news that because Jesus died to save us from sin, death and Satan, we are set free to rise to eternal life with Him.

God does provide for our daily bread, just as He (not Moses) rained down manna for the Israelites in the wilderness. Jesus instructs us to pray for our daily bread in the Lord’s Prayer. God’s provision is supplied for all- those who believe and pray, and for those who do not. The sun rises on the good and the evil alike, and the rain falls on the good and the evil alike. (Matthew 5:44-45)The instruction for us to pray is for our own benefit, so that we would direct our attention away from the gift and place it back on the Giver.

Jesus did not want to be seen as a bread king- handing out bread that will temporarily fill bellies- but for Who He is- the Giver of Life, the Bread from Heaven, freely given for us.

Jesus reinforces that it is by faith in Him alone that we have life. We can’t do anything or deserve anything from God.

Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.”

By faith, given to us by the grace of God, in Christ, we are given the gift of life with Jesus forever.

All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day

February 15, 2019- Jesus is God, The Only Way to Life- John 5:19-29

only way

So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise.  For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing. And greater works than these will he show him, so that you may marvel. For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. For the Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.  Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live.  For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.  Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. John 5:19-29 (ESV)

There is no mistaking Jesus for a mere prophet, or simply as a good teacher. Jesus is God Himself as he clearly attests here and at other points in the Gospels.  The Son and the Father, and the Holy Spirit are one.  Rejecting Jesus- or any of the Persons of the Trinity- is saying no to God.

It can be difficult for some to accept, but the truth is that there is only one way to God. There is salvation in one name alone, and that is in the name of Jesus.

When the apostle Thomas asked Jesus the way to the Father’s House, Jesus answered that He alone is the Way, the Truth and the Life, and that no one comes to the Father except through Him. (John 14:1-7)

How is it that we can “do good” and come out of the curse of death to the resurrection of life? Jesus says:

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

The wisdom of the world says that all paths lead to God, or that a good God would not pass judgment on His creation. We learn otherwise in the Bible.  There will be judgment, and we cannot stand up to God’s standard of perfection apart from Jesus. We are saved by faith in Jesus- in trusting that we are justified by His death on the cross to save us from our sins.

We are called to hear God’s Word, speak God’s Word and teach God’s Word. The Holy Spirit works faith in Jesus for others through us when we hear, study, and teach His Word.  Through His means of grace- hearing the Gospel, being washed in the waters of Baptism, and in taking and eating the elements of bread and wine in Holy Communion, we are brought to saving faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord.

February 14, 2019 – Jesus, Lord of the Sabbath, Comes to Heal- John 5:1-18

Bethesda pool

Now there is in Jerusalem by the Sheep Gate a pool, in Aramaic called Bethesda which has five roofed colonnades.  In these lay a multitude of invalids—blind, lame, and paralyzed. One man was there who had been an invalid for thirty-eight years.  When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had already been there a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be healed?”  The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, and while I am going another steps down before me.” Jesus said to him, “Get up, take up your bed, and walk.”  And at once the man was healed, and he took up his bed and walked.

Now that day was the Sabbath.  So the Jews said to the man who had been healed, “It is the Sabbath, and it is not lawful for you to take up your bed.” But he answered them, “The man who healed me, that man said to me, ‘Take up your bed, and walk.’” They asked him, “Who is the man who said to you, ‘Take up your bed and walk’?”  Now the man who had been healed did not know who it was, for Jesus had withdrawn, as there was a crowd in the place.  Afterward Jesus found him in the temple and said to him, “See, you are well! Sin no more, that nothing worse may happen to you.” The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath.  But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.”

This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God. John 5:1-18 (ESV)

Jesus met up with a paralyzed man at the pool of Bethesda (the name Bethesda means house of mercy) and asked him if he wanted to be healed.  For years the man watched as others had been dipped into the pool ahead of him, yet he lingered there, hoping that today might finally be his day for healing.

God’s timing is not always our timing. Our prayers are not always answered in the way or in the time in which we expect. Jesus is always at work in us and in the world, whether we see or recognize Him or not.  God doesn’t turn a blind eye to us, nor does He take a break. (Matthew 12:1-14) The Sabbath was put in place for our benefit, so that we would have an opportunity to rest and step back from ordinary work, to worship God and study His Word, as Martin Luther explains:

But to grasp a Christian meaning for the simple as to what God requires in this commandment,(meaning the Third Commandment) note that we keep holy days not for the sake of intelligent and learned Christians (for they have no need of holy days), but first of all for bodily causes and necessities, which nature teaches and requires; for the common people, man-servants and maid-servants, who have been attending to their work and trade the whole week, that for a day they may retire in order to rest and be refreshed.

Secondly, and most especially, that on such day of rest (since we can get no other opportunity) freedom and time be taken to attend divine service, so that we come together to hear and treat of God’s Word, and then to praise God, to sing and pray. – Martin Luther, on the Third Commandment, from the Large Catechism

How fitting it was then, that Jesus would heal a person on the Sabbath, during the time set aside for us to be served by God. How sad that the authorities were not able to recognize God Himself- here on earth with us, healing a man from his suffering.

The Son of Man- Jesus- is Lord of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8) and the Author of all healing.

It’s not about whether or not we want to be healed or made whole.  Apart from faith in Christ alone, which in and of itself is a gift of the Holy Spirit, we can’t even realize we want or need healing or wholeness.  The reality that human beings are born dead in trespasses and sins (as the apostle Paul spells out for us in Ephesians 2:1-10) means exactly that- not wounded, not injured, but dead, save for life in Christ.

The fact that Jesus was healing on the Sabbath in defiance of the religious authorities made Him a marked man. It made the religious authorities even more incensed because even as they observed the letter of the Law, the spirit and the purpose of the Law remained far beyond them.

God Himself came down to serve humanity, including healing people on the Sabbath, the day of rest that God put in place for man.

We learn in Isaiah 53:1-5 of Jesus, the suffering Servant, the Man of sorrows, who was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities. His suffering and death bought our eventual freedom from the curse of death.  As He went from place to place teaching and healing, He was mocked. He was called a blasphemer for telling the truth about  Himself.

Jesus brings the House of Mercy to us. We are powerless to help ourselves, but by the gift of faith in Christ alone. We wait for Him in confidence, knowing that by His wounds, we too are healed.

February 13, 2019- Trust Him. Jesus Heals-John 4:46-54

JesusHeals08

So he (Jesus) came again to Cana in Galilee, where he had made the water wine. And at Capernaum there was an official whose son was ill.  When this man heard that Jesus had come from Judea to Galilee, he went to him and asked him to come down and heal his son, for he was at the point of death.  So Jesus said to him, “Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.” The official said to him, “Sir, come down before my child dies.”  Jesus said to him, “Go; your son will live.” The man believed the word that Jesus spoke to him and went on his way.  As he was going down, his servants met him and told him that his son was recovering. So he asked them the hour when he began to get better, and they said to him, “Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him.”  The father knew that was the hour when Jesus had said to him, “Your son will live.” And he himself believed, and all his household.  This was now the second sign that Jesus did when he had come from Judea to Galilee. John 4:46-54 (ESV)

Jesus performed many miracles when He was here on earth. The important thing to remember in this case of miraculous healing that Jesus didn’t heal to give signs and wonders so people would believe in Him.  The official already believed in Jesus, as did the centurion we hear of in Matthew 8.  Jesus’ miracles only served to prove to those who already believed that their faith in Him was well-founded.

“Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed.” (Matthew 8:5-13)

Today we see still see miracles, but they are almost always performed through means- through the knowledge and hands of doctors or craftsmen or technicians. We believe that God works in and through means.  Physical healing is most often worked through surgical procedures or medications. Technological and scientific advances are the result of years of study and trial and error.  God’s work here on earth is almost always done through human minds and hands.

Even though forms of the miraculous go on today, the curse of the first death is still in effect. No matter what kind of physical healing a person may receive on earth, that healing is not permanent. The centurion’s servant in Matthew 8 eventually would have died, as would the official’s son in John 4.  Lazarus, who Jesus raised from the dead after he had been in the grave for days, already reeking of decomposition, eventually died as well.  Our physical bodies will die no matter what kind of effort and toil we put into preserving them. We will suffer disease and decay for which ultimately there is no cure. Every single one of our hearts will lose that tiny electrical signal that keeps them beating. We will lose our loved ones for a time to temporal death, and we will grieve them.

We believe Jesus for far more than temporary bodily healing. God does not always grant bodily healing in this life. Our ultimate healing is going to happen in the life to come, when we pass from death into eternal life.  We can believe Jesus that in the life to come our bodies will be healed and made perfect, without decay or aging or fault.  We share in His resurrection.  Jesus, who made the blind see, who raised Lazarus from the dead, is faithful.  Our trust in Him is sure.

February 12, 2019 – The Living Water, Jesus- the Savior of Sinners, John 4:7-42

woman at the well

A woman from Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give me a drink.” (For his disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him, “How is it that you, a Jew, ask for a drink from me, a woman of Samaria?” (For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have nothing to draw water with, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob? He gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did his sons and his livestock.” 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.”

Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.” The woman answered him, “I have no husband.” Jesus said to her, “You are right in saying, ‘I have no husband’; for you have had five husbands, and the one you now have is not your husband. What you have said is true.” The woman said to him, “Sir, I perceive that you are a prophet. Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, but you say that in Jerusalem is the place where people ought to worship.” Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” The woman said to him, “I know that Messiah is coming (he who is called Christ). When he comes, he will tell us all things.” Jesus said to her, “I who speak to you am he.”

 Just then his disciples came back. They marveled that he was talking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you seek?” or, “Why are you talking with her?” So the woman left her water jar and went away into town and said to the people, “Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?” They went out of the town and were coming to him.

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him, saying, “Rabbi, eat.” But he said to them, “I have food to eat that you do not know about.” So the disciples said to one another, “Has anyone brought him something to eat?” Jesus said to them, “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work. Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest. Already the one who reaps is receiving wages and gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.”

Many Samaritans from that town believed in him because of the woman’s testimony, “He told me all that I ever did.” So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.” John 4:7-42 (ESV)

Jews in Jesus’ time had “no dealings with Samaritans.” Rabbis did not talk openly in public with women- especially a Samaritan woman who had five husbands and was currently connected with a man who was not her husband.

Jesus was both a Jew and a rabbi. He wasn’t supposed to talk with heretics or “fallen women.” He broke social convention and transcended traditional boundaries, for the sake of the outcast, the forgotten, and the ignored. Jesus did not come to vilify the hoity-toity. He came to save flawed, broken, sinful humanity.

It is true that God’s Law is not negotiable. It is also true anyone who breaks even one tiny little point of the Law breaks all of it. (James 2:10)  With this being said, everyone is considered to be guilty and a law-breaker, Jew or Gentile, male or female.

A bruised reed He will not break, (Isaiah 42:2-4) as the prophet Isaiah said of Jesus. We are all bruised reeds, imperfect and not able to save ourselves.  We are all in need of Jesus.

Our backgrounds don’t matter. Our past and our station in life don’t matter. Jesus comes to us no matter how society views us.  By faith, Jesus lifts us up.  He forgives us no matter how terrible we might think our sins might be. He gives us the gift of repentance, so that our lives would give a witness to Him. There is nothing that Jesus cannot or will not forgive.  None of us are beyond the power of the grace of God.

Jesus offered the woman at the well living water. In our baptism, the living water is poured over us, so that in being in Christ we also are born into eternal life.  He offers Himself.  He poured out His blood for the salvation of the world- no matter what our heritage or our past would say about us.

We have heard for ourselves, and we know that this (Jesus) is indeed the Savior of the world.

February 8, 2019 -Cleaning Up the Temple-John 2:13-25

money changers

The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.  In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.  And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” But he was speaking about the temple of his body. When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken. John 2:13-25 (ESV)

We like to imagine Jesus as the Good Shepherd (and He is) but it’s a little more difficult to envision Jesus in a rage, wielding a whip, driving the merchants and moneylenders out of the Temple. Yet love – which is part of the Law- demands passion. Love demands respect and boundaries.  If we love the church building, chances are we’re not going to allow livestock sales and usury to go on inside its walls.

In today’s culture the line between the sacred and the profane is more and more blurry than it once was. We tend not to set aside sacred physical spaces anymore- for good or ill, cathedrals are few and far between.  We also are not that great about honoring the sacred in other planes either.  We fail to honor others in our speech and conduct.  We fail to set aside time and space for prayer, study and contemplation of God’s Word (Third Commandment, anyone) and then we wonder where God is.

Commerce is not a negative thing. It has its place. In Lutheran theology we do not consider the world or work or material things to be bad things, just part of the kingdom of the world (the left-hand kingdom if you will.)  We have trouble when we get our dual citizenship mixed up.  The kingdom of God should not be confused with the kingdom of the world.

Jesus was angry that the religious system of his time had become so corrupt that they could not see the real purpose of the Temple. They were more worried about fleecing the flock than feeding it. The Temple and its rituals and sacrifices pointed to Jesus and His ultimate sacrifice. It wasn’t put there so enterprising individuals could get rich off of it.

The real Temple was the Temple of Jesus’ body. Jesus so passionately loved and cared for this world and for the sorry state of lost humanity that He laid down His life to save ours.

When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.