Sixth Sunday of Easter - The Living God Is Among Us!
Sixth Sunday of Easter May 22, 2022
Hymns 460, 557, 713
First Lesson Acts 14:8-22
Second Lesson Revelation 21:21-27
Gospel Lesson John 16:16-24
The Living God Is Among Us!
I. Revealing Himself to us, not made up by us
II. Giving Himself to us, not demanding from us
In the name of our living Lord Jesus, crucified and risen from death, the sinner’s only Savior, fellow redeemed,
Most every Christian congregation claims to follow God and says, “God is among us, and we worship Him!” That sounds good, until we hear explanations by some about who their god is, what their god desires, or how their god wants them to live. Some of that doesn’t line up with what the only true God has said about Himself and His will in His Word. And that false thinking about God threatens to infect us, too.
So we’re not done growing in knowing God’s Word. What we believe about Him and what we intend to do with Him in our lives is not what we decided to accept or do. It is what the Lord has planted, watered, nurtured, and grown in us. The living Lord is still among us to keep us growing His way and doing His work. The living God is among us, revealing Himself to us, not made up by us, as the way of truth. And He gives Himself to us, not demanding from us, as the way of salvation.
I. Revealing Himself to us, not made up by us
This is Acts 14. At the end of the Acts 13 we read about a new phase in God’s mission work. Paul and Barnabas were the first workers since Christ’s resurrection to be sent exclusively to Gentiles, non-Jews. Before this, they had worked among Jews who knew the history of their ancestors, the Israelites, and who believed in one God, though many Jews rejected Jesus as God. Now Paul and Barnabas were in Lystra (south central Turkey today) preaching to pagans, people who had no idea of one true God. Their religion revolved around many different gods with many different powers and personalities.
There, a lame man “was listening to Paul…speaking” (v. 9) about the one true God. God’s great apostle to the Gentiles was speaking about Jesus the Savior, maybe mentioning miracles Christ did to prove He is truly God.
Then the living Lord further revealed Himself. It was not in the flesh like Jesus did to Thomas, the rest of the disciples, and others in the first forty days after He rose from death. Jesus revealed Himself to the man and the rest of the crowd in Lystra by the power of His Word from the mouth of Paul. “Paul looked at the man closely” (v. 9) because the living God had let Paul know God wanted that man healed. “Paul said in a loud voice, `Stand up on your feet’” (v. 10)! No touching, no feverish gibberish, no crying or pleading or ranting. Just the healing Word of the living God. That’s how the living God revealed Himself to that man and to the Lystrans that day.
But what of the phrase, Paul “saw that he had faith to be healed” (v. 10)? Never is one healed because of anything he’s done. If so, the healed person would get at least a bit of credit for getting better. The living God let Paul know the lame man had been filled by God with “faith” to trust what God was about to do. From the power of God’s Word he had heard, the man trusted the living God was with him and could heal him.
Why was he healed and no others? Surely there were other injured, sick, handicapped, dying people. It’s not that God didn’t care about them. But the living God used him, known to all in Lystra to be hopelessly handicapped “from birth” (v. 8), to show all in Lystra His power as the one true God.
That there is only one God was a new idea to those pagan people. Their religion was, “We see the sun; there must be a god who sends it”, so they made up a sun god. “We see grain grow, flowers bloom, rain fall”, so they made up a god for grain, one for flowers, another for rain, and so on. But all that religion the living God condemns as ignorant, damning idolatry.
We’re tempted to congratulate ourselves for not worshiping false gods. But we have and still do! How? We make up our own gods to fit our nice niches in life. We convince ourselves God approves of what we like to do because He wants us to be happy. That’s the lie Satan uses so often on God’s people.
That lie is idolatry! We don’t make God what we want Him to be. The living God is among us, revealing Himself to us, not inviting us to dress Him up according to our wishes. God reveals Himself to us here, in His Word. Here God speaks to us. Here He tells us who He is. The truth is not man’s mistaken ideas like A loving God will never damn anyone to hell. The truth is the living God saying, “This is who I am and what I do!” When His Word guides everything, the living God is among us.
II. Giving Himself to us, not demanding from us
Some say, “Religion is complicated.” But every religion really boils down to one of two categories: Your god demands you do something to earn his favor, or, Your God has already done everything to give you His favor. Which do we want? Yes! And that’s one we have! Not because we worked hard to get it. But because the living God is among us, giving Himself to us, not demanding anything from us, for salvation.
The Lystrans were convinced Paul and Barnabas were gods. They had heard Paul and Barnabas speak, and at Paul’s words the man who’d never taken a step in his life “jumped up and began to walk” (v. 10). They thought Paul and Barnabas were “gods…come down…in human form” (v. 11). The priest of Zeus in town “brought bulls and garlands to the city gates…to offer sacrifices” (v. 13) to Paul and Barnabas.
Legend had it that Lystra was on the blacklist of the gods because earlier Zeus and Hermes had come to town, but were given hospitality by only one elderly couple while the rest of the Lystrans ignored Zeus and Hermes as ordinary humans passing through as strangers. This time they’d spare no effort or expense to show Zeus and Hermes appropriate praise. Behind all the fuss making and sacrificing was the thought If we don’t treat them right this time, they’ll never bless us again!
The living God was among the Lystrans, but not in the form of Paul or Barnabas. That’s why the two apostles did all they could to show the people they weren’t gods, but were only humans “with the same nature as you. We are preaching the good news to you so that you turn from these worthless things (idols) to the living God, who made the heaven, the earth, the sea, and everything in them” (v. 15).
And the best news Paul and Barnabas taught was about the Savior. It worked! “Disciples” – the New Testament term for believers in and followers of the Savior – “disciples then gathered around” (v. 20) Paul and Barnabas at Lystra. As has happened to us, so there the Holy Spirit used the truth about Jesus paying for all sins to bring sinners to trust the Son of God who took our place to suffer our hell and open heaven to us.
“The living God” is among us, not tapping His foot impatiently or wiggling His finger menacingly to demand money from us before we get gifts from Him, or to drain blood from us in payment for our sins against Him. “The living God” is among us to give us and all the world His forgiveness, grace, and heaven. Some people are terrified about the living God coming to them. If you know any like that, tell them what God has done for you and for them! “The living God sacrificed Himself to pay our debt for sin! He loved us before we do anything for Him!”
Others are bored by the thought of the living God being a part of their lives on earth. “Give me something more interesting or valuable!” If you know any like that, tell them what He has told you. “The living God has what all sinners need – full forgiveness of every sin, given us before we lift a finger for Him!”
Some people are tempted to abuse the gift of the living God being among us to give us Himself. All my sins are covered? Then I can sin all I want and come crawling back to God, right? Wrong! If you know any like that, tell them, “The living God is among us all the time. He has given us Himself to save us forever. But those who trust Him and His work will not go out and misuse His love as a license to sin. We thank the living God by living for Him with all we do and think and say!”
The living God is among us. No one else can give us what He has won for us and given to us: forgiveness of sins every moment every day, perfect commitment to keep us His own, the rock-solid guarantee He’ll take us to heaven when we die. No career or sport or political view or even family member is more important in our lives than “the living God”. By giving us Himself, He makes us the richest people in the world.
There is only one true God! And that living God is among us to reveal Himself to us in His Word as the only true God and as the only truth in this sinful world of lies whispering, We can make our god anyone or anything we want to and still be okay. There is only one true God! And that living God is among us to give Himself to us as our only salvation. How great He is! How blessed we are to have the living God among us! Amen.
Pastor David A. Voss
Fifth Sunday of Easter - What Does Love Have to Do with Glory?
Fifth Sunday of Easter May 15, 2022
Hymns 443, 469, 445, 450
First Lesson Acts 11:1-18
Second Lesson 1 Corinthians 13:1-13
Gospel Lesson John 13:31-35
What Does Love Have to Do with Glory?
I. Love is founded in God’s glory
II. Love is followed to God’s glory
In the name of Christ Jesus, whose blood cleanses us from the guilt of all sin, fellow redeemed,
Love isn’t often associated with glory. To many, love is only an emotion, and most see glory as honor resulting from a great victory. But here the Lord taught about love right after talking about glory. Clearly Christ Himself connects love and glory.
That’s not a connection sinners can make on their own. Like the people of Paul’s day, so we people who’ve just been fed by God with Paul’s familiar words in 1 Corinthians Chapter 13 need to be reminded all the time that true “love” isn’t waiting for someone else to be loving toward us. Like the Lord’s disciples, so we disciples of God frequently fall into the trap of self-glorification, of thinking, Glory be to me for what I did and do!
So, what does love have to do with glory? The Savior tells us! The word for “love” (v. 34) He used here and Paul wrote there, and the idea behind being “glorified” (v. 31), teach us that love and glory aren’t just for us to get some tender affection and rousing recognition. Rather, true love is founded in God’s glory and true love is followed by us to God’s glory.
I. Love is founded in God’s glory
John Chapters 13 through 17 are full of words the Savior spoke in one spot – the upper room the night He was betrayed, before He prayed in Gethsemane and was then arrested and tried and crucified and risen. In fact, the term our new hymnal no longer uses for that night, Maundy Thursday, is from this lesson. Maundy comes from the Latin word for command, “A new commandment I give you” (v. 34). But few people know that. Holy Thursday covers the events more completely, right?
Did you think we were past the Passion History of our Lord? After all, Good Friday was thirty days ago! But if we don’t know the background of these words, we won’t get the full truth from them. When “Judas left” (v. 31) the room in a huff, Jesus told him, “What you are about to do, do more quickly” (John 13”27). The eleven others thought Jesus meant, “Judas, since you handle our funds, get more food for our Passover meal.” But the all-knowing Lord knew what Judas had already plotted with the Jewish church leaders to do.
“After Judas left, Jesus said, ‘Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him” (v. 31). What Judas had left to do would start the chain of events and actions God would use to bring all honor to Him since those events and actions would bring salvation to sinners. What would glorify God was the Son of Man and the Son of God, man and God in one person, Jesus!, suffering death and hell for all who rebel against His holy will. Those events and actions would include the Redeemer rising from death, His ascending into heaven, and His right-now reigning in all power.
That chain of events and actions is the essence of love, the foundation of love. God the Father planned the events with the Son and the Holy Spirit, then with Son and Spirit set them into motion for our salvation. Jesus wasn’t giving a riddle to the rest of disciples when He said, “I am going to be with you only a little longer. You will look for Me, and just as I told the Jews, so I tell you now: Where I am going, you cannot come” (v. 33). Jesus was laying love’s foundation when He said that. He was talking His going to the cross in a few hours, not just to hang on a tree, but especially to suffer the punishment of hell for all sinners in the whole world. Since that was the plan of God to rescue us, successfully completing that loving plan is God’s glory. “Now the Son of Man is glorified, and God is glorified in Him”. Do you see what love has to do with glory?
Christ tells us, “Love one another” (v. 34), and is Himself the foundation of love. As we said earlier, we too often view love as a feeling or emotion of tenderness and concern for others. But true love is more than that. The “love” of which Jesus spoke and in which He laid down His life for all sinners is much more than a feeling or emotion. It is “love” which sees what the ones He loves need, and then acts to give the ones He loves what they need! That “love” is how God is “glorified”!
That’s the Good Friday and Easter season angle in this lesson: what God does for us in “love” and to His glory. It’s also the foundation of our love for others. Notice, believers in Jesus, what “love” is not. It is not love God owes us; it is His undeserved love given us. It is not love that waits for the one we love – spouse, child, friend, neighbor – to do something lovable or to nudge our love into action. Love acts first! Love even loves the unlovable! Love doesn’t say, “Do I have to do that?!” Love says, “I want to do that to help others!”
Jesus says, “Love one another” and displays love’s foundation as undeserved love, unconditional love, full love, action love. That is not a “new” love. That is love God has always desired. What would be “new” about it would be the model of Christ’s sacrificial love at Calvary just hours later. His loving suffering our hell is God’s greatest glory – and our eternal life!
II. Love is followed to God’s glory
True love isn’t forced, doesn’t need a law or command to be followed. True love is produced by, and founded on, Christ’s love for sinners – love that is the Savior-God’s greatest glory. And that connection between love and glory is another lesson from the Lord here. “Love one another. Just as I have loved you, so also you are to love one another” (v. 34). Love is followed to God’s glory, as we give God glory.
It sounds easy, but it’s not. We know about love. We talk about love. But the Savior who says, “Love one another” tells us to go deeper than what poets and writers and others describe or imagine about love. “Love…as I have loved you”.
Our love is to be patterned after the love Christ has for us, the love which led Him to give Himself for us. True “love” isn’t most of all concerned with What will this mean to me? Will it hurt me financially or in some other way? True love is Christlike care and concern which most of all asks, What do the ones I love need? What am I able to do to help them?
The Savior says, “Love one another”, then teaches this love lesson: “By this everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (v. 35). When the world sees us sacrifice our rights or blessings to help others, even if it costs us time or money or popularity, the world thinks, They follow the One they claim gave Himself for them.
That was the love followed to God’s glory by the Savior’s followers in the earliest Christian congregations. We are hearing about those early believers in the book of Acts this Easter season. They looked for opportunities to share earthly gifts they had been given by God with those who didn’t have as much as they had. Let that be part of the love we follow to give glory to God as we help those who need help. “Everyone will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another”.
Unbelievers don’t understand the standard the Savior sets for love. Only those who are, thanks to the Holy Spirit, connected to Christ in faith can begin to show this kind of love. Only God changes our hearts and powers us to “love as I love you”.
Children, is the way you play with one another, the way you talk to your parents, the way of the Savior’s love? Or it is often the way of selfish Satan, expecting everything to go your way?
Spouses, is the way we speak with one another, treat one another, the way of the Savior’s love? O is it often the way of the sinful nature? You be nice to me first, then I’ll be nice to you.
Parents and spouses, is the way we deal with problems in life the way of the Savior’s love, looking for more we can do to change the situation? Or is it often the way of the scheming world, insisting the only solution is for others to change?
Young people, is the way you are looking for a future spouse the way of the Savior’s love, searching for a young man or woman who will with you grow more deeply rooted in Christ as the most important quality for your husband or wife? Or is it often infected by the world whispering, “Look for looks and fun, and when those run out the marriage can be ended!”?
Parents, is the way you raise your children and set examples the way of the Savior’s love? Or is it at times the foolish and harmful idea that says, “We’ll let our children decide about religion”? Is that a love that is followed by those who are loved forever by the Lord? Does that idea give glory to God?
The Savior says, “Love one another”, then adds, “The world is watching! The way you love – or don’t love – says volumes to the world about you being – or not being – one of My disciples”. It’s not that we’re out to gain favor with the world. It’s that we love others to give glory to God for saving us. The sinful world desperately needs love followed to the glory of God by us who are filled with Christ’s saving “love”.
The Savior says, “Love one another as I have loved you”. That love extends beyond last Sunday’s Mother’s Day and next month’s Father’s Day, beyond “I love you!” spoken on Valentine’s Day and in marriage vows and at wedding anniversaries. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with those emotions of love discussed and displayed on such special days. But our lasting love will be discussed and displayed daily – not just on special occasions, because the Savior speaks of and displays His love for us daily – not just on special occasions.
Our lasting love is founded on God’s glory in saving us. And love is followed by us, too, to give God glory for saving us. Not, Glory be to me! But “Glory be to God in the way I love Him and others, doing so the way God has loved me first.” Amen.
Pastor David A. Voss
Fourth Sunday of Easter / Christian Family
Fourth Sunday of Easter / Christian Family May 8, 2022
Hymns 452, 552, 465
First Lesson Acts 13:15-16a,26-39
Second Lesson Revelation 7:9-17
Gospel Lesson John 10:22-30
Sheep of Jesus Stay Close to the Good Shepherd
I. Because of what He says to them
II. Because of what He knows about them
III. Because of what He keeps for them
In the name of Jesus, still our crucified and risen Savior, still our reason for living and our hope upon dying, fellow sinners washed by His blood and led by Him, our Good Shepherd,
The Lutheran teacher taught her students Psalm 23 and told them it would be used in church on Sunday, Good Shepherd Sunday. Later that day she helped the students make a project to give their moms that Sunday, Mother’s Day. A student asked, “Mother’s Day is Good Shepherd Sunday? What if moms don’t want to share the day?” The kind, wise teacher replied, “Christian moms always put Jesus first in everything!”
Mother’s Day is a cherished date on the calendar and in family life. The risen Jesus serving as our Good Shepherd is a cherished Word of God picture. There is, of course, no conflict between Mother’s Day and Good Shepherd Sunday. Every believing Mom is blessed, above all else, to be one of the Good Shepherd’s sheep. Every believing Mom wants, above all else, her loved ones, too, to be sheep of the Good Shepherd.
Sheep of Jesus stay close to the Good Shepherd. We do that not only out of loyalty to Him who’s done so much for us. Sheep of Jesus stay close to their Good Shepherd most of because that is the best place to be! Sheep of Jesus stay close to the Good Shepherd because of what He says to them, what He knows about them, and what He keeps for them.
I. Because of what He says to them
It’s not a compliment to be called “sheep” (v. 26). Sheep aren’t very smart. Some have followed others off a cliff, falling to their death without seeing the danger in the last step since sheep have poor eyesight. Sheep are slow, don’t have long claws or sharp teeth to defend themselves when attacked.
So when the Good Shepherd calls us “sheep”, He tells us we are weak spiritually by ourselves – defenseless, blind, headed to hell. That’s what He told the Jews who had tried to trap Him by asking, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly” (v. 24). Thinking the humble Jesus of Nazareth couldn’t possibly be the promised Messiah, the One come from heaven as God in the flesh, they refused to accept what they had heard Him say and seen Him do. Jesus did say He is God’s Son, the Savior. “I did yell you, but you do not believe. The works (miracles) I am doing in My Father’s name testify about Me. But you do not believe” (vv. 25-26).
We don’t like to hear that part of what the Good Shepherd says to “sheep”. God calls it the Law. The Good Shepherd’s truth shows us how we really are: sinful from conception when we took on the sin inherited from our sinful parents, separated from God, headed to hell, unable to save ourselves.
“Sheep” on the one-way path to hell need to be turned around. The Good Shepherd does that. Sheep of Jesus stay close to the Good Shepherd because He also says, “You are My sheep. And My sheep listen to My voice” (v. 27). He warns against drinking the poison of lies, walking into the devil’s traps of temptation to lust or greed or pride, trying to build a ladder to heaven with the rotten wood of our own works. He removes the curse of our guilt by telling us of His love – His forgiveness of our every sin, His living a holy life in our place, His suffering the full force of hell as our Substitute, His rising from the dead to assure us all of this is most certainly true!
Four-legged sheep recognize their shepherd’s voice; if a different voice calls to them, they run away! Do we? Any spiritual voice we hear that goes against what the Good Shepherd says in His Word is an voice from which we run!
We stay close to the Good Shepherd where He speaks to us! We stay close to the Good Shepherd long after formal years of instruction in the Word as children are over. We never graduate from learning God’s Word until the Good Shepherd takes our soul to heaven. Do we listen daily to the Good Shepherd? Or do we think once a month enough? That’s not the pastor pleading for people to attend services and classes. That’s the Savior telling His sheep, “Listen to My voice. Stay close to Me!” And we give thanks to the Lord for our Christian mother and family whom the Good Shepherd used to teach us that.
II. Because of what He knows about them
They won’t say it on Mother’s Day. But most young people go through a stage when their parents can’t tell them anything the young people don’t know. Too many teens suppose they have it all figured out and know exactly what to do. But sometimes they find out the hard way they don’t have it all figured out or know the right thing to do. Adults don’t know it all, either. But we, too, sometimes act like we do. Only the Good Shepherd knows it all, including knowing it all about us!
How does a famer know all the animals by name? To us, all the cows look alike, same with the pigs and sheep. But farmers know little details to tell one sheep from another. The Good Shepherd knows His sheep intimately. “I know My sheep (v. 27). I know them as individuals, not just as one huge group.”
He knows our sins – which of us are tempted to steal, are lazy, spread gossip, ignore Scripture, think we are the best, pick on some and plot against others. All of that, and all the other dirt in the dark corners of our heart, dirt we suppose no one else knows, the Good Shepherd knows. “I know them”. He knows our weaknesses – which of us are often afraid, easily depressed, lonely, sick, hurt, worried about inflation or finances, nervous about changing jobs or entering a new school.
That’s why “sheep” of Jesus stay close to the Good Shepherd! Isn’t it great to know He knows everything about us? No! Not when we realize He knows our wickedness and sins. None of that is hidden from Him. But “I know them” is also great news because He knows best what we need – and He gives it to us!
The doctor looks at the test results and knows what the patient needs: a brain which isn’t full of cancer. But there’s no such thing as a complete brain transplant, so there’s nothing any doctor can do for that patient. The Good Shepherd looks inside us and sees we’re full of sin and guilt. He knows exactly what we need: forgiveness of every sin. And He delivered that with His saving mission on earth!
Fellow “sheep” of God, the Good Shepherd has not promised to give us what we want. He knows earning millions of dollars might lead us away from Him, getting promoted might mean work hours preventing us from hearing His Word, having a boyfriend or girlfriend now might lead us down a wrong road. The Good Shepherd doesn’t always give us what we want.
But He always gives us what we need! Jesus walked this earth as much more than a teacher. He came as the world’s Deliverer. He suffered hell so we won’t be sent there. He knew we needed His sacrifice at Calvary and rising from death. He knows we need His Word and the life found only in Him. We “sheep” of the Good Shepherd stay close to Him because He knows us the way on one else ever will. Even your loving Mom doesn’t know you as well as the Good Shepherd does. And He acts in love to bless us with what He knows we need most.
III. Because of what He keeps for them
Moms, you’ll keep what your children give you today. Even if it has little monetary value, the love behind the gift they made or bought for you makes the gift precious beyond words. And God has used you, Christian moms, to tell them what is most valuable of all. You’ve told your children, and may do so again today, “Sheep of Jesus stay close to Him, the Good Shepherd, because of what He keeps for us!”
You tell your children that, Mom, because the Savior tells us that. “I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of My hand” (v. 28). What security! We emphasize grace in our services and classes, we confess God does all the work for the sinner’s salvation, because the Good Shepherd says so here – and in thousands of other places in His Word. “I give them eternal life”. It’s a free gift from God, nothing we earn. The most powerful being in the universe has given us life. No one and no thing have the power to rip us away from Him who saves us. We have the unending “life” of connection to God now and forever – guaranteed!
But, we “sheep” of the Good Shepherd could say to Him, “I no longer want to be part of Your flock, Your family, one of Your sheep. I’m leaving!” That would upset and sadden the Good Shepherd. But finally He would say, “If that’s the way you want it, that’s the way it will be! But without Me, it will be hell for you forever!” But why would “sheep” of the Jesus ever give up that precious gift?! He wants to keep us for Himself forever. May we never let His gift to us slip through our fingers because of our faithlessness to Him and to His Word!
Many who were once sheep of the Good Shepherd have gradually strayed. They may think they’re still sheep of the Good Shepherd. But if they don’t listen to His Word any more, they aren’t His sheep. “My sheep hear My voice”! Some of the Jews there that day had stopped hearing all God’s Word, and thus hated the center of the Word, Jesus. The only way our faith is fed is by the Good Shepherd leading us to the green pastures of His gospel. Every Christian mom wants her children always to hear the Shepherd’s voice, walk in His ways, and join her in heaven with Jesus through faith in His work.
Lots of people, things, and ideas want to be our shepherd. But only One is our Good Shepherd! He called us out of unbelief and into His family. Even before we – or the world – existed, He knew we needed His life, death and resurrection, so He came to earth to rescue us from what we deserved. He calls to us daily in His Word to tell us what we need to hear from Him, what He knows about us, and what He keeps for us. “I give them eternal life”. And that’s what you believing moms want for yourselves and all your family. Sheep of Jesus stay close to the Good Shepherd. Amen.
Pastor David A. Voss
Third Sunday of Easter - The Lamb Is Worthy of Praise
Third Sunday of Easter May 1, 2022
Hymns 446, 459, 885, 510
First Lesson Acts 9:1-22
Second Lesson Revelation 5:11-14
Gospel Lesson John 21:1-14
The Lamb Is Worthy of Praise
I. Because He was slain
II. Because He now reigns
In the name of Jesus, the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, fellow redeemed still rejoicing at His rising,
To many, the book of Revelation is a confusing collection of brutal battle scenes, scary creatures, awesome angels, and lots of songs. Even to regular church-goers Revelation verses like these may lead to the reaction, “Saints and angels praise God in heaven. We know that. Tell us something new!”
God doesn’t tell us much about what the throngs of angels and the saints in heaven are doing from now until the Last Day, other than a lot of praising God. That sounds boring to us who long for homes in heaven. We who enjoy going to games, playing outside, watching TV, tinkering with cars, chatting online, doing crafts, working with wood, going out to eat, hunting and fishing and camping, taking vacations, and playing video games, at times think it a bit dull that we will spend forever praising the Triune God. Where does the problem lie? With the Lord for being boring? No! It’s with us for being too earth-bound! And it’s not that we’ll have to praise God in heaven. We will want to praise God in heaven.
And we want to praise Him here on earth. Praise flows sincerely and delightfully from sinners who have peace with God in our Savior, the living Lamb. Praise flows from us who live in a world that sometimes seems out of control, but who trust the Lamb is still very much in control of our lives and family, church and church body, of everything! The Lamb is worthy of praise – from those in heaven and from us on earth – because the Lamb was slain and because the Lamb now reigns.
I. Because He was slain
What God revealed to John in Revelation is like a lengthy slide show, picturing the victory of God and His people over Satan and all evil from many different angles and in many striking scenes. The scene in Revelation Chapters Four and Five is God’s throne. “There was a door opened in heaven!…A throne was standing in heaven” (Revelation 4:2). There were twenty-four thrones around the elaborate central throne. On those thrones were twenty-four “elders” (v. 11), twelve Old Testament tribes of Israel plus twelve New Testament apostles, thus representing all believers of all time. Between the twenty-four elders on those thrones and the throne were four “living creatures” (v. 11) with six wings – most likely angels.
All that was fascinating. But the center of attention is the One on the central throne. That One is the Triune God. John saw the Triune God holding a scroll. But John “began to weep bitterly because no one was found who was worthy to open the scroll or to look into it” (Revelation 5:4). Then John’s sobbing stopped at this message: “The Lion from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed and is able to open the scroll and its seven seals” (Revelation 5:5). Next, John saw not the Lion, but “a Lamb” (Revelation 5:6), the Lamb who is “worthy to take the scroll and open it” (v. 9).
The scroll is the future. God the Father at the throne handed it to God the Son at the throne as God the Holy Spirit at the throne watched. Why was the Son the One “worthy” (v. 12) to open it? Not because He is stronger than Father or Spirit. Not because He knew the combination. The Father and Spirit are all-powerful and all-knowing, too. The Son is “worthy” to open it because He “is the Lamb who was slain” (v. 12a).
The Lion is Jesus, the great descendant of David from the Jewish tribe of Judah that used a lion for its symbol. Jesus is the great King who conquered our worst enemy. The Lamb is Jesus, the sacrificed lamb, “slain” for the world’s sins. What He who is both the Lion and the Lamb accomplished in the past determines the present and the future for all. Who better to open the scroll?! The Lamb’s blood shed for us wins our power over the devil now. The Lamb’s life given for us guarantees our future glory in heaven.
The future does not depend on political legislation or peace for Ukraine or increased giving by our members. The future is secure for sure and forever in Christ! Because of His work, our today and forever are bright and eternally blessed! That’s why the Lamb “who was slain” is worthy of our praise!
II. Because He now reigns
If the Lamb who was slain is worthy to receive praise now and forever, the Lamb must no longer be slain. And, of course, Christ is risen! But He’s more than risen. The Lamb is also worthy of praise because He now reigns!
The Lamb is praised by all created beings. The angels John heard singing the Lamb’s praises didn’t just pop up out of nowhere. The Triune God created them. Some of those created spirit beings, maybe as many as one third of them, rebelled against God’s reign and were thrown out of heaven before Adam and Eve sinned. How many remain permanently holy heavenly hosts? “Ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands upon thousands” (v. 11). Billions, it seems! All of them were made by God to serve God forever.
And not just angels praise the Lamb, but also “every creature that is in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them” (v. 13). Mammals and insects, plants and trees, lakes and mountains, the moon and sun, laws of nature and forces of wind. Their very existence and steady purpose in the universe praise the Lamb, Father, and Spirit – the Triune God who made them and who keeps them.
And especially rescued sinners praise the Lamb. “The elders bowed down and worshipped” (v. 14). Our pets don’t know Jesus shed His blood to rescue us, but we do! When we, the crown of God’s creation, keep in mind and heart where we’d be without the Lamb – in hell! – we gladly praise Him!
“Amen” (v. 14) means This is most certainly true. What is most certainly true? The Lord created all that exists. People who sin and deserve hell get pardon from the Lamb slain to shed His precious blood for all. The Lamb who was slain is alive and all-powerful, is risen and reigns. All that is most certainly true!
The Lamb is worthy of praise from us. Is that why we’re here and is that the attitude with which we’re here? The elders, all believers, remember!, “bowed down and worshipped” the Lamb. That will include us when we spend a few quiet moments Saturday night reviewing our life over the week coming to a close, recalling our countless sins against the loving, mighty God! If you’re not in the habit of doing that, consider starting a Saturday night review. Such a daily and weekly spiritual review sharpens our sense of awe and heightens our eagerness to come to God’s house as our first activity each week. Such a review will strike us with the realization we don’t deserve even to stand in His presence at worship, but ought to hide our faces from His holiness and burn in hell. Do we praise the Lamb with a yawn, thinking instead in here how we’ll spend a spring Sunday? Or do we praise the Lamb with reverent hearing His every word and giving Him our very best?
As we praise the Lamb here and at home and everywhere, we do so for all He is and does and has as He reigns. “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive power…and strength” (v. 12). Hold it! Didn’t the Lamb have power and strength? Yes! Even before time began! But He set aside the full use of His power and strength to let wicked men capture and slay Him that we might be free and live. With His mission accomplished, He’s taken back full use of His power and strength.
He reigns with “wealth” (v. 12). Christ became “poor” (2 Corinthians 8:9) to make us rich spiritually. But at His resurrection He regained and keeps ownership of all – our clothes, homes, bank accounts, vehicles – all belongs to the Lamb!
He reigns with “wisdom” (v. 12). During His earthly ministry Jesus didn’t make constant use of His perfect knowledge. But now He again uses His “wisdom” without interruption. He reigns with “honor and glory” (v. 12). The Lamb’s enemies didn’t heap honor on Him or give glory to Him during His work here. But now He reigns in heaven and is worthy of all honor and glory. On the Last Day even His enemies will have to honor and glorify Him – but it will be too late for them to be saved.
The Lamb reigns to receive “blessing” (v. 12). That sounds nice. But do we know what “blessing” is? It’s more than an admiring, “You’re great, Jesus!” “Blessing is used in most Jewish prayers to address God. Get it? If “blessing” is used for Jesus, then the slain Lamb is the risen Jesus, true God, our living Lord, our reigning Redeemer!
The Lamb is worthy of praise. We know that. We do that. But what we need held before us – and what many in the world need to hear from us – isn’t so much how we praise Christ, but why we praise Him. He “was slain”. As great as they were, Christ’s greatest acts were not showing pity for the paralyzed or restoring life to the dead or saying loving things to the poor or scolding things to the self-righteous. “The Lamb…was slain”. Christ’s greatest acts were living in perfect obedience to His own laws for sinners and dying in innocent sacrifice for sinners who break His laws. Without that, we had no hope!
The slain Lamb is risen and reigns. Christ’s greatest acts today aren’t delivering the stricken from disease and keeping travelers safe and giving us money to buy necessities and oxygen to breathe. He reigns in us with His good news of the full forgiveness He has won for us. Christ’s greatest acts until the Last Day are speaking to us in His Word, washing our infants in Baptism, giving His body and blood to communicants. The Lamb who was slain now reigns and gives us the victory won there for the world! The Lamb was slain and now reigns in us!
The Lamb is worthy of praise. Why? Because He purchased our redemption. Because He has reserved a place in Paradise for us. When Satan comes to convince us that praising the Lamb at home in devotions and here in services is a boring waste of time, we tell Him to take a hike back to hell. And Satan has to listen to us. Why? Because the Lamb who was slain now reigns! Amen.
Pastor David A. Voss
Second Sunday of Easter - We Are God's Resurrection Remodeling Project
Second Sunday of Easter April 24, 2022
Hymns 438, 456, 470: stanza 4, 449
First Lesson Acts 5:12,17-32
Second Lesson Revelation 1:4-18
Gospel Lesson John 20:19-31
We Are God’s Resurrection Remodeling Project
I. Believers made stronger by the message of this new life
II. Testimony made bolder about the power of this new life
In the name of our crucified and risen Savior, Jesus Christ, fellow Easter believers, still rejoicing at His rising from death,
On remodeling project shows, viewers see how a house’s structural problems are solved, how a dilapidated dump becomes a delightful place to live. Your remodeling projects redo what you don’t like about the original design or repair what has broken. And it helps when money isn’t an obstacle.
Every Resurrection season we take a long look at God’s remodeling project from the book of Acts. We see how Christ’s resurrection changed the early believers. God’s remodeling project isn’t necessary because He didn’t design us correctly. It is His way to repair what we’ve broken and to restore us as He wants us to be. Not just those early Easter believers, but you and I, too, are God’s resurrection remodeling project. Believers are made stronger by the message of this new life, and testimony is made bolder about the power of this new life.
I. Believers made stronger by the message of this new life
“I can’t believe this is the same house!”, they say near the end of remodeling shows. “I can’t believe these are the same disciples of Jesus!”, we say after hearing this lesson. This was a few months after the resurrection appearances by Jesus on back-to-back Sunday evenings from today’s Gospel Lesson. What a change in His apostles from those Sundays to this day! There, huddled in hushed and frightened fear. Here, assembled in open and joyous confidence. There, stubborn Thomas. Here, strengthened Peter, James, John, Thomas, and the other apostles. There, “behind locked doors because of their fear of the Jews” (John 20:19). Here, in “the temple courts… to teach” (v. 21) the work of Jesus and preach, “He is risen!”
What made the difference? “The whole message about this life” (v. 20). God had made the apostles invisible and led by one of His angels as they left the jail unnoticed. God wants the world to hear “the whole message about this life”. So He freed His main messengers to allow to tell more people about the Author of this new life, God’s Son, the world’s Savior.
What did the apostles do with their freedom? Sleep late after a nervous night in jail? Leave Jerusalem lest they be arrested again? “They entered the temple courts at daybreak” as God had His angel tell them to do, “and began to teach” more about the Savior, preach “the whole message about this life”.
Men who had been too timid to talk about Jesus now risked a return to jail by publicly proclaiming Jesus, strengthened by God with the message of this new life. Those who heard the message of this new life and believed it “continued meeting in Solomon’s Colonnade” (v. 12) outside the temple. There they heard and studied the Word, encouraged each other in the faith, and expressed their joy in this new life in Christ. God strengthened preachers and hearers with this same message.
What is “the whole message about this life”? Eternal life? Yes! But more than heaven hereafter. We are sinners from conception, were spiritually dead and separated from God by our sins and unbelief, on a trip to hell we were powerless to stop. But Jesus left heaven and came to earth to live and die in our place so sinners “may have life and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). In Him we live, no longer separated from God but connected to Him. In Him we live with God here now, not just there forever. Right now we enjoy “life” as God’s children. We receive forgiveness of sins, won by His death and assured by His rising. All that is “the whole message about this life” in Christ who took back His life for us and is our victorious King!
That message powered God’s resurrection remodeling project for the first Easter believers. It also changes and strengthens us Easter believers. How were our lives different last week due to the resurrection truth? Sin didn’t stay away because of the resurrection, did it? But don’t we find it easier to resist Satan as we trust more than ever Jesus died and rose for us? No? Then we aren’t using “the whole message about this life”. Trouble, sickness, and disappointment didn’t vanish because of the resurrection, did they? No. New sorrows arose, right? But don’t we find it easier to handle life’s assaults and setbacks as we trust more than ever Jesus died and rose for us, He lives in us, and He won the victory for us? No? Then we aren’t using “the whole message about this life”.
God’s resurrection remodeling project continues in us. As we receive “the whole message about this life”, we grow in our faith, our joy, our confidence in Him, our desire to serve Him with all we do. Others notice our spiritual growth and our change, just like people noticed the growth and change in the apostles. When they notice, we give all glory to Him who caused the change: the risen Christ. When they ask about our spiritual remodeling, we point to God’s good news of the Savior’s removing hell from all sinners by taking it on Himself – the worst of His Good Friday suffering, and to the Savior’s rising from His tomb – the best of our Easter Sunday celebrating.
II. Testimony made bolder about the power of this new life
Some homes on remodeling shows look completely different after the project due to bold decorating statements. Here we receive a bold faith statement. God’s resurrection remodeling project in the apostles and early believers continues in us, too, as testimony is made bolder about the power of this new life.
“I can’t believe they are doing that!”, high priest Annas maybe muttered when he heard the apostles were teaching, “Christ is risen!” at the temple. That they were free wasn’t found out until morning when they were to stand trial before their church’s leaders. The officers “found the jail securely locked and the guards standing at the doors, but when they opened them, they found no one inside” (v. 23). God let His apostles leave jail unseen, and had the angel bolt the doors again.
The escape was bad enough for Annas. But the apostles doing what he had forbidden them to do infuriated Annas. “Did we not give you strict orders not to teach in this name” (v. 28)? Did the Jewish apostles sin by defying the Jewish high priest? No. “We must obey God rather than men” (v. 29). Before they saw the risen Christ, the apostles were afraid to mention publicly their connection to Jesus. Once they had, they did! Their testimony was much bolder about the power of this new life.
They weren’t arrogantly defiant. When led from the temple courts to “the Sanhedrin” (v. 27) court, maybe the same room where Jesus stood before Caiaphas and Annas and near where Peter denied he even knew Jesus, Peter and the others spoke boldly against them – but also to them, and for their salvation.
“The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you arrested and killed by hanging Him on a cross” (v. 30). Imagine saying that to your accusers! That’s believing boldness! The Jewish church leaders couldn’t even bring themselves to say Jesus’ name. But Peter proclaimed the same Jesus risen from death, a report the Sanhedrin had paid a big bribe to the Roman guard to keep quiet. And the apostles’ message wasn’t a new one. It was the same truth and the same faith held by Jewish “fathers” Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Samuel, Elijah, David, and every faithful Jew. The promised Messiah would sacrifice Himself, then rise from the dead, to save them and all sinners.
“God exalted Him to His right hand as Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and the forgiveness of sins” (v. 31). Being at God’s “right hand” is word picture language that the risen and ascended Jesus has all power and authority there. After urging them to repent for rejecting Jesus, the apostles urged their accusers to trust Jesus as the powerful and saving Lord of life. Only through faith in Him are sinners rescued from hell. What bold testimony about Jesus by men who had locked themselves in a room for fear of being associated with Jesus!
“We are witnesses of these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey Him” (v. 32). After the Spirit gives sinners faith in Jesus as their Savior, believers “obey”, that is, say, “Yes!” to what the Spirit works in them. The Spirit gave them boldness about the message of this life.
We are part of God’s resurrection remodeling project. The same Spirit has given us the same testimony for the same faith in the same risen Savior. The power for God’s project remains “the whole message about this life” we have in Jesus.
When we talk about the risen Savior, we won’t be arrested for our testimony. But if a friend or loved one, if a church or job or government authority tells us to reject the risen Savior, or orders us to do something the risen Savior commands us in His Word not to do, we answer respectfully, firmly, and boldly, “We must obey God rather than men”.
Parents, don’t make your children choose between your plans and God’s will. Your family’s priorities on Sunday mornings, the way you use God’s name, your decision about devotions at home dare never force your kids to say, “Dad and Mom, God gets first place in everything! Please drop me off at church when you go shopping Sunday morning. God wants us to praise His holy name, not to use it to damn a phone that isn’t working. God wants His Word heard daily, not shrugged off because we are too busy for devotions at home .”
We are God’s resurrection remodeling project. We tell “the whole message of this life” to those who don’t yet have joy in Jesus and His forgiveness, who don’t yet know the boldness of trusting Him and the comfort of being saved by the crucified and risen Savior. We want those we know to have that, too.
We are God’s resurrection remodeling project on earth. He works to keep us growing in faith, knowing His Word, showing with our lives we do everything to thank Him for saving us. The crushing load our sins deserve is lifted off us by the triumphant work Jesus did to pay for our sins in full, and by His rising from death to prove it. “The whole message about this life” in Christ strengthens us. God continues in us His resurrection remodeling project until the project is complete and He takes us to heaven through faith in Him. Amen.
Pastor David A. Voss
Resurrection Sunday - Jesus Wasn't Taken; He Is Risen
Resurrection Sunday April 17, 2022
Hymns 442, 458, 824, 471, 444, 461, 441
First Lesson Matthew 27:62-66; Mark 16:1-8; John 20:10-18
Second Lesson 1 Corinthians 15:1-8, 19-24, 51-57
Third Lesson Isaiah 25:6-9; Job 19:23-27
JESUS WASN’T TAKEN; HE IS RISEN!
I. By His own power (vv. 1-9)
II. At His Father’s approval (vv. 10-17)
III. For His people’s rising (vv. 17-18)
In the name of Jesus, the Savior crucified for us and risen for us just as He said He would rise, fellow Easter believers,
What did the women expect to see early that Sunday morning? A Roman squad guarding the tomb. A wax seal around a large disc-shaped stone covering the tomb’s opening. And a cold corpse. What did they find when they got there? The soldiers gone. The seal broken. The stone rolled to the side. And inside, no body!
We know and trust the explanation. Jesus wasn’t “taken” (vv. 2,13,15), as Mary said three times before the risen Christ revealed Himself to her. Taken is the big lie Satan still spreads. Jesus did what only God can do. He is risen! That truth is not just what you expect to hear in His house this most glorious day of the year. That truth that changes life forever. Jesus wasn’t taken; He is risen! That changes life in the greatest ways, three of which we’ll ponder in Resurrection devotions.
I. By His own power (vv. 1-9)
The first is He is risen by His own power! What those humble, believing, devoted women and two of Christ’s disciples saw early that morning puzzled them. The stone problem – “The soldiers won’t roll it aside so we can put these spices on the body of Jesus. How will we few women shove the sealed stone out of the deep groove?” – the stone problem was solved.
But that revealed a new problem. The body of Jesus was gone. They supposed grave robbers added insult to the injury of their Lord’s death. What the women didn’t notice, the disciples discovered later. Jesus recorded in His Word to prove His power every Easter after this fact: “the linen cloths were lying there. And the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head was not lying with the linen cloths, but was folded up in a separate place by itself” (vv. 6-7). Would body snatchers take time to unwrap the burial cloths, then one say to the other, “Before we go with the body, let me fold this face cloth just so”? No! Jesus wasn’t taken; He is risen!
Jesus took back His life on the third day by the Jewish way of counting time, just as He had promised He would through His prophets and to His twelve disciples. John “saw and believed” (v. 8)! The next Resurrection verse, “(They still did not yet understand the Scripture that He must rise from the dead)” (v. 9), means they didn’t connect Christ’s resurrection with the Old Testament passages that predicted it, especially what King David had been given by the Holy Spirit to write one thousand years earlier about the Savior. “You will not abandon My life to the grave. You will not let Your favored One see decay” (Psalm 16:10). John had great joy in the linen proof Jesus had done what only God can do: destroy death’s power by His own power. Jesus was, is, and always will be truly God! That’s what His powerful resurrection from His sacrificial death means!
And that changes us forever! The memory of Jesus would be a cruel joke, and our trust in Him would be a false belief, if He was still dead. But He isn’t! He is risen from death! He isn’t who His enemies said He was, “A liar and a heretic to call Himself God’s Son and the promised Messiah.” Jesus is who He says He is: the eternal Son of God and the world’s only Savior! He isn’t dead and defeated. He is alive and well and ruling! The empty grave proves He is God. Jesus “was declared to be God’s powerful Son by His resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). That’s the life-changing truth God declared the first Resurrection Sunday. That’s the life-changing truth that drives our lives. That’s the life-changing truth we now confess in song: Hymn 471, stanzas 2-3.
II. At His Father’s approval (vv. 10-17)
Even serious students of God’s Word get confused by the order of events that Resurrection day. The events are written in all four Gospels. But by the Spirit each Gospel writer focused on different scenes. Let’s put the four together. The soul of Jesus returned from heaven and reunited with His body well before dawn that day. Then Jesus slipped invisibly and silently from the sealed tomb and went to hell to declare His victory over Satan to Satan and all wicked angels. Then two holy angels came down from heaven, punctuated by an earthquake, rolled the stone away, and their sudden arrival, gleaming appearance, and mighty power frightened the soldiers. The soldiers ran to town in fear when they saw the just-opened tomb was empty. Returning from declaring His victory in hell over the devil, Jesus appeared to some of His followers that day.
The Holy Spirit recorded many Resurrection details for all time and all people to prove that Jesus wasn’t taken, but is risen! That glorious truth changes our lives also because it proves Jesus is risen at His heavenly Father’s approval.
In John’s Resurrection report Mary Magdalene moved quickly from emotional wreck to ecstatic worshiper. It seems the two angels at first made themselves invisible to Mary, who turned right around at the empty tomb and ran maybe 800 meters to get Peter and John. When they arrived, they didn’t see the angels, either. But when Peter and John headed back to town, and when Mary peered deeper inside the tomb, she “saw two angels in white clothes sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying” (v. 12). Either she didn’t recognize them as angels, or didn’t consider why heavenly beings were at the empty tomb, because all Mary said was, “Someone has taken the body of my Lord!”
Then Mary “turned around and saw Jesus standing there, though she did not know it was Jesus” (v. 14). It’s possible Jesus somehow disguised His appearance to Mary, as He would do later that afternoon with two believers on the road to Emmaus. But there would be no mistaking the voice of her Lord. “Jesus said to her, ‘Mary’” (v. 16). At once Mary knew it was Jesus – dead on Friday, but risen from death on Sunday!
When Mary hugged Him and tried to hang on to Him, Jesus told her He was headed to heaven. “Do not continue to cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father…I am ascending to My Father and your Father – to My God and your God” (v. 17). The risen Savior wasn’t forbidding Mary Magdalene to touch Him. The next Sunday evening the Savior invited Thomas to touch Him. There is a greater truth here. Jesus didn’t want Mary to think He was staying on earth, and so let her know His mission on earth was perfectly accomplished.
For several Sundays we’ll hear how Jesus spent forty days appearing in various ways to His followers before He ascended to heaven. There the Father welcomed Jesus as the successful Savior returning home. The Word of God says in some places that Jesus raised Himself from death, in other places that the Father raised Him from death. That’s not a contradiction. That is the glorious mystery of the Triune God. The verses that say the Father raised the Son from death emphasize this saving truth: the Father accepted His Son’s payment for our sins and approves of His Son’s work for our redemption.
Jesus wasn’t “taken”; He is risen! The resurrection is also the Father’s shout to sinners who deserve hell for every sin, “You are forgiven!” By raising His Son from death, the Father declares to the world, “My beloved Son’s work for you is accepted! Live assured My Son has My approval! And through My Son, you have My approval, too!” We don’t stop praising God for that! We do so now with Hymn 444, stanzas 4-5.
III. For His people’s rising (vv. 17-18)
The Resurrection of the Savior changes life forever! This holiest day of the year isn’t only to tell Christ, “Well done! Good for You that You rose after all You went through!” He died for us, and rose for us! Jesus wasn’t “taken”; He is risen! That life-changing truth also assures His people’s rising from the dead.
Mary Magdalene passed the Resurrection report on to others. Now she knew, had seen, and would for the rest of her life believe Jesus wasn’t “taken”; He is risen! Mary “went and announced to the disciples, ‘I have seen the Lord’” (v. 18)! Her life had meaning.
And so does ours! Our life doesn’t end. It leads to heaven where the loving Father waits for His children who trust the Savior’s work to cover their sins completely. Life’s first short chapter is written on earth. But life-in-heaven’s chapter has no end! The death bed is only a station where the believer’s soul is carried to heaven on the early train of the Savior’s death and resurrection, while the body waits in the grave for the later train when the Savior comes back on the Last Day. The Resurrection truth is how we deal with the death of believing loved ones. We will rise with them, guaranteed by the fact that Jesus wasn’t “taken”; He is risen!
Until we die, we live here as sinners connected to the Savior through faith. We see our life’s span as the time God grants us to sink the roots of our faith in His Son’s empty cross and empty tomb so we’re ready every day for our rising to heaven. We see our life’s purpose as greater than making money, eating well, entertaining others, and enjoying ourselves. We live for Jesus in all we think, say, and do. And we shine the light of His death and resurrection that others live with Him, too.
The risen Savior’s sermon to Mary ended, “My God is your God” (v. 17). His sermon is for us, too! “My God is your God. Your faith is in Me, the powerful Son who died for you and rose for you! My Father doesn’t hold your sins against you! He won’t let you rot in the grave forever. Because I live, you, too, will live! I am risen, which means you have it all!”
Christ was not “taken”. We rejoice as we confess and sing today, “Christ the Lord is risen today! He isn’t still dead; we know that our Redeemer lives!” How long will our joy last? How long will we keep coming to hear that? The Resurrection truth is good forever! We hear it and use it today, tomorrow, next Sunday, and forever. The devil’s lie is Jesus was taken. The Triune God’s truth is Jesus is risen! That truth changes us forever! Amen.
Pastor David A. Voss
Palm Sunday - Our King Comes to Us...As a Servant!
Sixth Sunday in Lent – Palm Sunday April 10, 2022
Hymns 511, 411, 548
First Lesson Isaiah 42:1-4
Second Lesson Philippians 2:5-11
Gospel Lesson Luke 19:28-40
Our King Comes to Us…As a Servant!
I. Chosen by the best
II. Committed to the worst
In the name of God’s suffering Servant, Jesus the Christ, come to us to save us, fellow Holy Week worshipers,
Each time we gather here, we praise God for His great acts to pay our price by the death of His Son. The events we review and view anew this holiest week of the year are the culmination of Christ’s saving work for all the world.
But the first Palm Sunday events seem like an exception. Oh, there was certainly a lot of activity. A donkey colt ride. A processional amid palm branches. Crowds chanting words from Psalm 118 we’ll sing a littler later. But it seems nothing Jesus did that Sunday was essential for His saving work. No sacrament established for His Church. No betrayal by His disciple. No crooked trials. No literal God-forsaken suffering. In fact, shortly after riding into Jerusalem from the east, Jesus turned around and went back to Bethany the way He had come.
But to ponder Palm Sunday as nothing more than an afternoon procession – as a minor moment compared to the events in the upper room, Gethsemane, Caiaphas’ court, Pilate’s place, and Calvary – is to miss the point of how the Redeemer came to us. The way Jesus entered Jerusalem that day set the tone for the holiest week in history – both in what He did then and in how we now worship Him and the Father and the Holy Spirit. The events of the first Palm Sunday are heaven’s introduction for the enitre Holy Week, a faith-building fulfillment of Old Testament promises. The Palm Sunday events answer the question of the Palm Sunday psalm, “Who is this King of Glory” (Psalm 24:8)?
Along with many other Old Testament verses, this lesson foretold the kind of King who was coming to the world for the world. Jesus came to be the kind of King many in the world never understand, but the kind of King all in the world always need. On Palm Sunday the King comes to us as a servant. But not just any servant. Our King comes to as the Servant who was chosen by the best and who is committed to the worst.
I. Chosen by the best
“Here is My servant” (v. 1). The Lord had many Old Testament servants: Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David, Jehu, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others. In some places, the Lord even called the ancient nation of Israel His servant. But the Lord said about none of them or any others, “Here is My servant”. This announcement signaled the importance of this servant over all the others. And in the twelve chapters of Isaiah 42 to Isaiah 53, the Lord showed what makes this “servant” so important. Isaiah 53! What does that Bible reference mean to you? Yes! The suffering Servant of whom we’ll hear Good Friday, “stricken, smitten, and afflicted…pierced…crushed” (Isaiah 53:3-5). A King crushed? Yes! The King. This “servant” is the Savior!
Who chose Jesus to be King? Who sent Him to be our servant? God the Father chose God the Son for that. “Here is My servant, whom I uphold (v. 1). With My backing, no one can stand against Him and win. He is also My chosen one in whom I delight” (v. 1). With those words God the Father takes us to the Jordan River when God the Son began His public ministry. Remember? “This is My Son, whom I love. I am well pleased with Him” (Matthew 3:17). He also takes us to the Transfiguration near the end of His public ministry. Remember? The same words from the same Father about the same Son. The King comes to us as a servant, the Servant chosen by the best!
That’s not just the Father. It’s also the Holy Spirit. “I am placing My Spirit on Him. He will announce a just verdict for the nations” (v. 1). The King who comes as a servant has the power He needs to do His work because the Holy Spirit from heaven gives Jesus what He needs for His mission on earth. The King comes to us as a servant not to roar “in the streets” (v. 2) on a chariot or in a tank to crush, rout, and plunder opponents. The King comes to us as a servant to conquer by restoring people. The King comes to us as a servant to announce His “just verdict”, “I declare you Not guilty in My sight!” But how is that a “just verdict”? We are guilty of sin! We just confessed that! His is a “just verdict” because He, our King, comes as a servant to carry our guilt on Himself.
Are we disappointed our King comes to us as a servant? Not disappointed, but delivered! Christ is greatest King ever, chosen by the best! He wasn’t “chosen” after we told the Lord what kind of King we wanted, as though we were ordering an outfit for Easter. He was “chosen” by the best to give us what we need. Riding into Jerusalem that day was the One chosen by the best for us. Let there be no doubt about the success of His mission as it reaches its culmination this week. See who He is and who chose Him: the best chosen by the best.
II. Committed to the worst
Okay. So His mission is guaranteed to be a success. But this is awfully humble, isn’t it? A King riding a rented donkey colt? A King going to the capital city, not to stay there in the royal palace but to go back to a guest room in Bethany? Yes! Our King comes to us as a servant, chosen by the best – His Father and Holy Spirit, and committed to the worst – sinners like you and me. That is the reason for all His humility.
Our King comes to us. See Him! He’s not strutting like an arrogant athlete or screaming like an intimidating military commander. He quietly proclaims His message of salvation, of the forgiveness of sins He wins for sinners who are damned without Him. His way of doing things isn’t to promote Himself, but as a “servant” to help those who need His help – all sinners.
“A bent reed He will not break” (v. 3). Our King comes not as a tyrant to trample His subjects. Our King comes as a servant to help those bruised by their guilt, broken by the realization they have angered the holy God, “bent” almost to the breaking point under their desperate condition.
“And a dimly burning wick He will not snuff out” (v. 3). Our King comes to us not as a ruthless ruler to ruin all who have ever wronged Him. Our King comes to us as a “servant” to help us sinners when our faith and hope are barely flickering, at risk of going out. He doesn’t gruffly brush off those who repent of their sins. Our King comes to us as a servant to assure us His blood covers all our guilt. “Come to Me…and I will give you rest for your souls (Matthew 11:28-29). I am riding into Jerusalem to pay for your every sin!”
Why would a King do that for His subjects? Why would the mighty Ruler of the universe He created come to us as a “servant” and do that? Because He loves the worst, us! Because He is completely committed to the worst, to us and all sinners!
And not just for a brief battle. “He will not burn out, and He will not be broken until He establishes justice – again, that verdict of Not guilty! – on the earth” (v. 4). We need this Palm Sunday promise of the Savior when we get to Gethsemane and the courts and the cross this week. In all those places it will look like our King to whom we sing today has lost the fight and hangs broken in death. His commitment is to the worst, us sinners. So His work takes on the worst, the hell we deserve. It takes a King humble enough to be a servant to do that, and to do that in our place.
That commitment to victory in the worst war ever for the worst in the world, sinners, requires the most powerful tool ever. He has it. “The coastlands (an Old Testament expression for all the earth) will wait for His law” (v. 4), which here means all His Word – not just the words about our sins deserving hell, but also about His sacrifice winning our heaven. There is no more powerful force in all the world. His Word shows He remains the King, even as He hangs for us. Our lives live thanks to Him for coming not as King to give us what we deserve, but for coming as a servant-King to give us what we don’t deserve!
The Palm Sunday truth is exactly what we need God to put in us for the intense lessons and services this Hoy Week. Jesus rode into Jerusalem as the King the world doesn’t see as successful because the world can’t see a king as a servant. But the King is the “Servant”. He conquers His enemies by surrendering to them in Gethsemane. He crushes His foe by letting the opposition convict Him in court, though He’s sinless, and crush Him at Calvary. He rides to ultimate exaltation in heaven on the path of willing, loving humiliation here on earth that includes His very real suffering of our hell. This is the King who marches into battle as one of us and for us this holiest week of the year. We see all of that in Christ as we, too, sing to Him, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord! Amen.”