Thursday, February 25, 2021

“Beggars of God’s Grace” Mark 1.9-15, Lent 1B, Feb. ‘2

1.         Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Heavenly Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The message from God’s Word on this 1st Sunday in Lent is taken from Mark 1:9-15 and also from Matthew 5:48, which says, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” It’s entitled, “Beggars of God’s Grace,” dear brothers and sisters in Christ.

2.         475 years ago, on February 18th, 1546, Martin Luther died. He knew that it had been coming. He’d been expecting it for some time. But when it came, it was distressing for his friends and his two sons who were with him, as well as his family who heard the news back in Wittenberg. He had lived under a death sentence for some 25 years. So, when in “A Mighty Fortress” we sing “And take they our life,” Luther meant it. It was a real possibility. But God spared him for some years, and his work continued. He died in Eisleben, Germany the town of his birth.

3.         Near the end of his life, Martin Luther had to make a pastoral trip from Wittenberg to Eisleben. It was difficult. There were floods, it was cold, and he was distressed by how his heart was weakening, and he knew it. He was also going into a situation that broke his heart: two counts of Mansfeld, an area where he had lived when he was a boy, had been in controversy. “Luther,” they said, “you are the only one who can solve this! You must come.” He said, “I’m an old man. I must stay home.” But into the carriage he went, and so to Eisleben he made his way. There, it was clear to him that his life was nearing its end. “I fear that I will remain in Eisleben, where I was born,” he said. So, on the evening of February 17, 1546, it was clear that the end was approaching. Luther knew. He did what he could to ease the pain and hoped it wouldn’t be the last night, but in the end, it was.

4.         As things grew worse, his pastors and friends came to him and said, “Dr. Luther, are you prepared to die in the faith that you have confessed?” He gave a strong and hearty “Ja,” “Yes, I am,” and a little later, early morning on February 18, he breathed his last. After he died, his colleagues found a little note, written in German and Latin, which said, “Wir sind bettler, hoc est verum,” “We are beggars, this is true.” Those were the last words Luther wrote. That fits so well with our texts this morning, as we recognize Luther’s death and also enter the season of Lent.

5.         We hear from our Lord Jesus in Matthew 5, that we must be perfect, as our heavenly Father is perfect. And you know, that was the very point of Satan’s temptations in the Gospel for the First Sunday in Lent from Mark 1. If Jesus was in the tiniest point imperfect, then we could only be saved if in every commandment we were perfect. Now in our circles, we like to talk about perfection being the enemy of the good. Have you heard this saying? It typically means that you’ve had enough committee meetings and argued enough about a perfect solution, so finally you say, “We have to do something. It won’t be perfect, but it will do.”

6.         This is where the words of our Lord Jesus confront us in Matthew 5:48 where Jesus says, “You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” “You have heard,” the Lord also says in this text, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’” (Matt. 5:38). There’s a kind of wisdom in that sort of statement, the retribution being limited to evening things out in a methodical kind of way. If someone punches me in the mouth and knocks out a tooth, I can guarantee you, I’m looking not only for a tooth from that guy, I’m looking also for an arm. I’m looking for a head on a platter. The wisdom that we have from this text seems to say, “Do it evenly. Respond evenly.” But then it goes on to say, “And more.” Perfection means something more than just evening things out. Because if you consider your life in light of what Jesus says here, it’s not good enough, certainly not perfect. No, it’s not good enough. “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you” (Matthew 5:39–42).

7.         Almost 50 years ago, there was an extensive survey done by the old Aid Association for Lutherans and Lutheran Brotherhood, today’s Thrivent Financial, in which they interviewed hundreds, thousands, of Lutherans about how they viewed their relationship with God. It was called A Study of Generations. Maybe you’re familiar with the big book and their demographic findings of Lutherans during that time. The most striking result of the survey was that most Lutherans didn’t believe in salvation by grace through faith because of Christ. Do you know what they believed in? 60% plus of Lutherans believed that if they were good enough, God would forgive the rest. Good enough.

8.         Is it? This, of course, is the heart of the Lutheran Reformation. We’re talking about the righteousness of God. And Luther as he read the New Testament, particularly read Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, was confronted by this question of righteousness: What does it mean to be right in God’s eyes? And the Scriptures were clear to him: keep God’s Law perfectly. Luther knew he didn’t keep God’s Law perfectly. He knew that he didn’t keep God’s Law sufficiently. He knew he wasn’t good enough. Oh, he tried. To the confessor he went repeatedly, into the booth, dredging up every thought, word, and deed from a lifetime of sin, confessing it, being conditionally forgiven, and then sent forth to do good works. But even as he went forth to do the satisfaction, he remembered other sins. His mind recalled other things that he had done, and he realized that his confession wasn’t good enough. Even as he did the works of satisfaction, they weren’t good enough, because as he did them, he hated God. “You make demands of me that I can’t fulfill.” Finally, Luther’s confessor said that much to him, frankly: “Luther, it is not that God hates you; it is that you hate God.”

9.         This then led to God’s gracious unfolding of the Gospel to Luther. The righteousness of God isn’t about us being good enough. The righteousness of God is about Christ, who is perfect. Christ, the God-man, who has completed salvation for you and for me, perfectly, once and for all. He was perfect in resisting the devil’s temptations, as Mark records for us today. So, when you or I take a look at Matthew 5:38 and following, we see this in terms of our own failures. But in fact, what we see working here is Christ describing his own work for us. “Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also” (v 39). Jesus did that for you. “And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well” (v 40). Jesus did that for you. “And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles” (v 41). Jesus went all the way to the cross for you. He went to the tomb, and he left the tomb empty, for you. Jesus actively fulfilled God’s Law in each point perfectly for you. That’s the message of the First Sunday in Lent. Then Jesus paid the ransom price, made the sacrifice, perfectly for us. So, when he spoke from the cross, “It is finished,” it was perfectly finished once and for all.

10.       Our gracious Lord now applies that perfection to us freely. There’s a great exchange that goes on. The tunic that was once ours—of sinfulness and rebelliousness toward God—Jesus took upon himself, carried it to the cross, and crucified it once and for all. In his perfect righteousness, he clothes us through the waters of Holy Baptism. So that where before there was “sinner,” God now sees “perfect”; where before there was “not even close,” there is now “completely a child of God.” This is God’s work for us, finished freely and completely because of Christ.

11.       Was it good enough? Far more so! Perfect! “Wir sind bettler, hoc est verum.” Yes, We Are Beggars, This Is True . . .but Now Perfect Beggars. We beg for God’s mercy and forgiveness, and he does not refuse us. He gives it freely, in Christ. He promises to stay with us always, sustaining us through his Word and Sacrament, so that we come to his presence, again, all by grace, clothed in the perfect righteousness of Jesus, crucified and risen again. Luther recovered this teaching, but he didn’t make it up. It was in the Scriptures; it was always there. We remember him because he did a good thing in drawing this back to our attention, but in the end, Luther said, “Don’t look at Luther, look only at Christ, for he is your perfection.” Good enough? Yes, and more so: perfect in Christ. Amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, until life everlasting. Amen.



Thursday, February 18, 2021

“The Ashes of Paradise Lost,” Genesis 3, Ash Wednesday, Feb. ‘21



1.                Please pray with me.  May the words of my mouth and the meditation or our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock, and our Redeemer.  Amen.  The message from God’s Word this day we begin the season of Lent with Ash Wednesday is taken from Genesis 3 and is entitled, “The Ashes of Paradise Lost,” dear brothers and sisters in Christ.

2.                Since yesterday was Fat Tuesday, is today Skeletal Wednesday? Ash-the-skeleton-Wednesday, we may call it. Christmas is long finished, Epiphany over, Lent and Ash Wednesday stand at the door. They stand at the door and knock, but the question is: Will you let them in? Will you let these next 40 days have their way with you, or will you have your way with them? Will it be a season of repentance for you?

3.                Hard questions, but good questions to ask on Ash Wednesday. It’s a day unique in a sad sort of way, for it’s about the only holy day that the world hasn’t brainwashed into a child that the Church no longer recognizes as her own. I suppose little huggable Ash Wednesday maggots wouldn’t vanish from the shelves quite as quickly as Easter bunnies. So, let us thank God for this Wednesday of ashes, as we glance over our shoulders to the Garden of Eden and the ashes of Paradise lost.

4.                “By the sweat of your face,” God told guilty Adam, “you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return” (Gen 3:19). Adam to ashes, Eve to dust. So, go our father and mother, the stuff beneath our feet. And we their children dance in the circle of death east of Eden, chanting: “Ring around the Garden, Souls in need of pardon, Ashes, ashes, We all fall down.”  Down into sadness, down into sin, tumbling from the mountaintop Paradise that once was ours to the jungle of mortality far, far below.

5.                O Adam, what have you done? O Eve, why have you done it? In love the Father created you both in his own image and likeness, so that as he is in heaven, so were you on earth. Tell me, was that not good enough for you? In love the Father gave you bodies and souls, wisdom and beauty, innocence and purity. Were these gifts somehow not up to par? In love the Father planted the Garden of Eden, gave you this little piece of heaven on earth as your home sweet home. But a five-star Paradise wasn’t up to your standards, was it? In love the Father gave you one to another, man to woman and woman to man, that you might live in an unending honeymoon of wedded bliss. Was your union flawed, your spouse not quite perfect enough for you? In love the Father gave you every single tree of Eden for food, save one. Was he holding out on you, by keeping from you that which would only work eternal harm? O Adam, what have you done? O Eve, why have you done it?

6.                Why don’t you ask yourself, O sons of Adam, O daughters of Eve? Or do you think you can remove the speck from your parents’ eyes while a log sticks out of your own? At least Eve took the fruit to gain (what she thought would be) wisdom; but we, in our foolishness, boast of a wisdom we don’t have. Our mother saw that the fruit was a delight to the eyes, but we’ll lick our lips at something ugly, so long as it makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside. Yes, Adam should’ve spoken up to warn his wife, to forbid her from doing such an evil deed; but what do we, his sons, do? We out-Adam, for we elbow our Eves out of the way so that we might be first in line to sink our teeth into the forbidden fruit. Or we lend our lips to Satan to tempt our wives and our daughters into doing whatever suits our fancy.  Adam and Eve went up the hill, To fetch a pail of poison, Down they fell and humored hell, And we’ve come tumbling after.”  Tumbling out of Eden, exiled from the Paradise God wanted us to enjoy, living now in a wild jungle where Satan, the king of beasts roars, seeking someone—like you—to devour.

7.                Repent. For dust you are but to worse than dust you shall soon return, if you don’t receive the grace of Christ Jesus. Return, man of dust, to the good and gracious God who formed you and breathed into your nostrils the Spirit of life. Return to your Heavenly Father who stands daily, gazing out the window, eagerly awaiting you, his prodigal children, to come home from the pigsty. Come home, fallen Adams and Eves, come home to Eden, to the garden prepared and still kept for you.

8.                Do you fear the anger of the almighty Judge, who exiled you from this holy place? Fear not, for his anger has been spent upon his Son, the second Adam. For “Christ, the second Adam, came To bear our sin and woe and shame, To be our life, our light, our way, Our only hope, our only stay” (LSB 562:4).

9.                Do you fear the cherubim, who long ago were posted there with flaming swords in their hands? Fear not, for these have hammered their swords into trumpets, announcing your return from exile, as the Church sings, “O, where is your sting, death? We fear you no more; Christ rose, and now open is fair Eden’s door” (LSB 480:4, copyright © 1941 CPH)—opened wide for you to be ushered back in by the very angels that once blocked your way.

10.             Do you fear the ancient serpent, who tempted Eve and defiled Adam, who sank his fangs so deep into humanity that his poison still courses through our veins? Do you fear him? Fear not, for, “the God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Rom 16:20). In fact, the heel of the woman’s Seed has already smashed the skull of that slithering devil from the top of the cross. Jesus’ heel has absorbed the venom of those hellish fangs and stood upright again outside his 3 day tomb.

11.             Fear not. For your exile from Eden has come to an end. Today, you shall be with Jesus in paradise; long ago you entered paradise with him, for you have already been crucified with Christ. In the cross of the baptismal font, with liquid nails you were pinned to the tree with him, in him, through him, that as he is, so are you. He remembers you when he comes into his kingdom. For can a man forget his own body, his hands, his feet? And is that not what you are? For you are the body of Christ and individually members of it, his hands, his feet, his skin, and his bones. Jesus will not forget you.

12.             Kiss the jungle good-bye. Or rather, wipe its mud from your feet, wash them in the river that flows from the heart of Eden, and step once more into the Garden that God himself calls home. Here in the Eden of the Church, you are truly home. God has prepared a table before you beneath the branches of the tree of life. Take, eat, dine on its fruit, and be filled with the life of the One who gave up his life on its branches. Take, drink, quench your thirst in the crimson red fruit of the vine. Here’s the forgiving feast of Paradise regained.

13.             By the sweat of his face, like drops of blood, the second Adam, Jesus Christ, has earned for you the bread of life. In love, he’s earned your way back into the Eden of God’s presence, from which you formerly were banned. In love, he’s crushed the head of the serpent. In love, he’s bid the angels to put away their swords. In pure and perfect love, he’s made everything ready for you, his beloved Eve, his bride, the Church. Come to him who is bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh. Welcome back from exile. Welcome back to Eden.  Paradise, We Lost, but Paradise Jesus Regained.  Amen.

“Lord Help Us to See Jesus Clearly” Mark 9.2-9 Transfiguration Feb. ‘21


1.                Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Heavenly Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The message from God’s Word as we observe Transfiguration Sunday is taken from Mark 9:2-9. It’s entitled, “Lord Help Us to See Jesus Clearly,” dear brothers and sisters in Christ.

2.                It is hard to see clearly these days. While we have never been able to see as much as we would like, today we are more aware of our inability to perceive things as they really are. It took me a while to keep straight the German word for the Transfiguration. The main reason is that it has a lexical similarity to other words. The German word for Transfiguration is Verklärung. It is a combination of the prefix ver and the root klärung. The root means clarification. Like many German words, change the prefix and the meaning changes. Aufklärung, for example, refers to the Enlightenment. Erklärung means explanation, or declaration. As a native English speaker, it’s hard to keep track of the differences. You had to listen carefully to see if we were talking about: clarification, explanation, the Enlightenment, or the Transfiguration.

3.                Why the German vocab lesson you might ask? The relationship between these words in German might help us to consider the impact of this unique event of our Lord’s Transfiguration on the disciples. Mark 9:2 says, “And after six days Jesus took with Him Peter and James and John and led them up a high mountain by themselves. And He was transfigured before them.” The Greek (μετεμορφώθη) draws attention to what happened to Jesus. He was changed, transformed, metamorphized. But, Martin Luther’s translation of the German invites reflection on how the disciples perceived it. Jesus was verklärt or glorified before them. Words like clarification, explanation, and enlightenment come to mind.

4.                The disciples saw something. Jesus gave them a glimpse of His divine nature, a peek beyond His humanity, not only through the radiance of His intensely white clothes, but also through the appearance of Moses and Elijah. Peter recognized the two prophets. He saw something important was happening and he wanted it to last. But then, as quickly as they appeared, they vanished. The glimpse was over. The sneak peek was ended. And all they saw was Jesus only.

5.                It’s hard to see clearly these days. While we have never been able to see as much as we would like, today we are more aware of our inability to perceive things as they really are. It’s hard to see, for example, which reports, which posts, or which headlines paint the most realistic picture of the important news of our day, particularly pertaining to the pandemic. Photoshop is only part of the problem. Add to it the rapid spread of misinformation, the constant potential for hearing false reports, and the inescapable biases which color every commentary. There’s also our desire, at times, to avoid looking at the truth. And that is just the present. Try looking to the future and you will be even less certain of what you see.

6.                So, how exactly might we clearly see what Jesus did on the Mount of Transfiguration? Here, Jesus gives us a clear picture of His divinity. This vision clarifies for us who Jesus is, what He has done for us, and how He helps us see everything else more clearly.

7.                So, what does Jesus allow us to see? For one thing we see Jesus’ relationship to Moses and Elijah. Jesus is the Prophet who stands head and shoulders even over these two prophets. He fulfilled their words and proclaimed an even more expansive vision of divine grace and mercy than they foresaw.

8.                On the Mount of Transfiguration, the light of Jesus’ transfiguration drew the disciples’ attention to him in a new way. There on the mountain, the Father showed Jesus in a different light than the disciples had ever seen him before. Their friend wasn’t just a carpenter, not just a teacher, not just a rabbi. He was much, much more. “Look here!” the light emanating from Jesus demanded. The Father’s voice proclaimed, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” Today in worship, God uses the light that shone from Jesus once again. In this light that shines from the Word, the Father once again draws our attention to Jesus to enlighten us. “He’s more than you’ve imagined!” the light exclaims. “Listen to him!” the Father decrees.

9.                We also see more clearly Jesus’ resurrection from the dead and the way in which it sheds light on everything else. The light of Easter morning is ultimately the only light in which we see Jesus clearly. St. Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 15:14–20, “14And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. 15We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. 16For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. 17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. 18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied. 20But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.”  The risen Lord helps us see His victory over all our enemies. He gives us a vision for new life in service to others. He opens our eyes to the eternal life that is ours by grace. And importantly, the risen Lord helps us see we do not need to see everything perfectly here and now. As long as we see Jesus—crucified, risen, returning—we can get by, for the time being, seeing everything else dimly. St Paul writes in 1 Corinthians 13:12, 12For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.”

10.             We know that there on the Mount of Transfiguration the disciples were treated to a glimpse of what was to come. By peeling back a corner of the plain brown wrapper of Jesus’ human nature to give just a glimpse of the glory that would be his forever after his cross and resurrection, the Father showed the three disciples who it was whom they were called to follow.

11.             One could simply say that we need this story because it happened in a real time and place within human history. That just because it happened should be reason enough for it to be included in the Gospels. And yet that isn’t quite satisfying. That the transfiguration is remembered as a pivotal event in Jesus’ ministry should be enough to clue us in that something important is being proclaimed here.

12.             We need this story because it is one of those flashing lights that catch our attention. It’s a very brief story, yet like the flash of a distant light on a dark night it demands that we look here and see. And when we look—even if we’ve looked here before—Jesus, briefly robed in brilliant light, calls us to consider again more fully who he really is. The danger, even for us who put our faith in Christ, is that we become so accustomed to hearing about Jesus and hearing his Word that it all becomes routine. Familiarity then breeds indifference to his Word and disobedience to his will. And when faith in Jesus becomes routine, we miss the transformation that God intends for us. So again today we see Jesus transfigured—the eternal Son of the eternal Father, the brightness of his glory beyond our imagination.

13.             We also need this story because we need to hear again the Father’s words, “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” We need to hear the Father’s admonition to hear and believe that the crucified Messiah is our only hope—that in his death and resurrection is our life. We need to hear that only in following Jesus is there ever real life. We need to hear from him that to pursue any way other than the way of the cross is to lose forever the hope of life. This is important for us as we approach the season of Lent and remember his great suffering and death on the cross for us and for our salvation.

14.             For us, people who too easily grow indifferent to Jesus and his Word, the story of Jesus’ transfiguration is a flash of light that draws our attention again to the truth of who he is. This is an account of God’s Word that helps us to see Jesus more clearly. He is the light of God’s mercy, the glorified Son, the one to whom we must listen and in whom we must follow. Amen. Now The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus until life everlasting. Amen.

“Preaching That Breaks Through the Darkness” Mark 1.29-39 Epiphany 5B, Feb. ‘21



1.                Please pray with me. May the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be pleasing in Your sight, O Lord, our Rock, and our Redeemer. Amen. The message from God’s Word this 5th Sunday after Epiphany is taken from Mark 1:29-39 and is entitled, “Preaching That Breaks Through the Darkness,” dear brothers and sisters in Christ.

2.                He’s a one-trick pony,” they sometimes say about an employee or entertainer or athlete who only does one thing well. Like maybe a placekicker—he’s only even on the field for a few plays each game. But what if he always makes the game-winning field goal, maybe even to win a Super Bowl or two? Well, then they say, “Yeah, he’s a one-trick pony. But if the trick is talking, that’s a pretty good pony!” Jesus certainly wasn’t a one-trick pony. In today’s Gospel, he’s already healed all manner of diseases and cast out countless demons (Mk 1:29–34). The crowds will later say that “he has done all things well” (7:37). And finally, he’ll go to the cross for our salvation. But at this point, he knows it’s time to focus on just one thing. He says, “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also, for that is why I came out” (1:38). Talking, preaching, isn’t the only thing Jesus did well. But his preaching, like Christian preaching today, actually delivers forgiveness of sins, comfort in suffering, and eternal life. For one thing, that’s pretty good!

3.                Disease, demon possession, and darkness, that is the context for this reading from the beginning of Mark’s gospel. Peter’s mother-in-law was sick (v. 30), and many others suffered various diseases (v. 32, 34). A man in the synagogue was oppressed by an unclean spirit (v. 23-26) and he was not alone (v. 32, 34). The darkness which followed sundown (v. 32) wasn’t simply literal. It summarized the spiritual and physical condition of a creation corrupted by sin. This was the world into which Jesus was beginning His ministry. The direct temptation of the Devil (v. 12-13) was only the beginning.

4.                But, Jesus wasn’t intimidated. Undeterred by the Devil, disease, the demons, or the darkness, He went on the offensive. With recently gathered followers by His side (v. 16-20), He taught in the synagogue with authority (v. 22, 27). With the crowds paying close attention, He exercised lordship over the physical and spiritual forces of evil. His rule was clear for everyone to see, and His fame began to spread (v. 28). Then, after a night of wrestling power from the Devil, the prince of this world, Jesus withdrew to a desolate place for conversation with the Father.

5.                It was predictable for the people to still be seeking Him the next morning (v. 36-37). He was breaking the darkness, as several hymns put it. The people were increasing with hope. But, Jesus had other things in mind. He informed His disciples that He wouldn’t stick around and satisfy every appeal in town. R.T. France describes what this meant: “Here for the first time, we meet a recurrent theme of the gospel, that of the difference between Jesus’ programme and His disciples’ (and still more other people’s) expectations. It is not just that He is one step ahead of them; His whole conception of how God’s kingship is to be made effective is quite different from theirs. While they would naturally pursue the normal human policy of taking advantage of popularity and building on success on their own home ground, following Jesus will increasingly involve them in having to learn a new orientation” (The Gospel of Mark, NIGTC, 111).

6.                And what is Jesus’ “programme” in Mark’s gospel? What is His conception of, “How is God’s kingship made effective?” It would happen through preaching. “Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach (κηρύξω) there also, for that is why I came out” (v. 38). Here Jesus makes explicit the nature of His mission. He has come not to heal or cast out demons for a select few in a single location, but to preach, and to preach to more and more people.

7.                Preaching” in our context often connotes moralistic criticism. “Don’t preach at me!” “Practice what you preach!” But κηρύσσω, means: “Announce,” “Proclaim out loud,” or “Make known.” Jesus has come to make an announcement. And what does He announce? Mark doesn’t spell it out here, but the Centurion at the cross makes it known, as do the demons: “Surely, this man was the Son of God” (15:39; 3:11-12; see also Mark 1:1).

8.                As the Son of God and Lord over creation, Jesus was demonstrating His divine authority and sovereign rule in this text. Demonstrations would continue throughout His ministry. They would culminate in the ultimate sign of His lordship on Easter morning. The announcement of His resurrection would provide life and salvation which exceeded even the temporary healings and exorcisms described in our text.

9.                The world is still dark. It is still filled with disease. The Devil and the demons still tempt and oppress. Much like the people in verse 37 of our text, we have come to worship this weekend looking for Jesus. We are looking for help and healing. We look for the Lord to rule graciously over our particular struggles with darkness. But, often, Jesus seems to depart for other towns. He seems to leave us in the darkness and without deliverance. But the preaching continues! The announcement goes forth. That is how Jesus continues coming to town after town, even to our own. Through Pastors today, Jesus proclaims His victory over all the forces of darkness. Through the preaching of His Word, Jesus makes known and spreads forth the gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation for you.

10.             It’s easy to list the usual suspects of darkness that we are currently facing—the pandemic, social unrest, political dysfunction, and economic uncertainty. But there is other darkness that we deal with: doubts sown by the Devil, family relationships sick with selfishness, and the internal demons of fear, suspicion, or jealousy. Jesus has come to defeat these, too. He has come to forgive, restore, comfort, and encourage. And when He returns, He will break the darkness once and for all. That is the promise that He has called His Church to preach. This is how Jesus’ mission continues in our community.

11.             This life is very often not pretty, not comfortable, not fun. People look for comfort. People hunt high and low for every way to cope with trouble in life, and they light upon something that they think will turn things around. An adulterous relationship, a bottle, gambling, clothing, makeovers, food, shopping sprees, travel, philosophy, endless entertainment—vanity, vanity, vanity. Looking for consolation in these things not only doesn’t help but very often makes the problem worse. It may deaden the pain temporarily, but it doesn’t console. Our Lord brings us something more.

12.             “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10). Jesus our Savior said that. He served Simon’s mother-in-law with his life. She received it, and then she got up to serve others. What better way to understand your life? What better way to understand what takes place in this Divine Service and then what takes place out there, in that world where you will walk? Jesus serves you, here. He serves you through the Word, the preached Word that you hear. At this altar where he gives you his body and blood. He consoles you with his resurrection and sends you out to serve your fellow man. The great fever of your sin is not on you. You are forgiven. Your shame has been removed, your guilt atoned for. You are embraced by the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit. You have been made new in Christ’s blood.

13.             On the holy cross, as Jesus bore the weight of man’s horrible deeds, there was none to comfort him. Sacred head, horribly wounded, with grief and shame weighed down. In that act, in that sacrifice, your eternal comfort was in view. To bless you and sustain you, Jesus died. To console you in whatever grief this world brings, the Lord of heaven and earth died. Receiving his consolation, we mount up with courage, strength, fortitude, and hope. His consolation provides momentum; we walk toward heaven, each day closer to consolation in a cup that runneth over. We shall run in this life, the race marked out for us; we shall run and not be weary. We walk toward heaven. We will not faint. Jesus our Savior is with us. Amen. Now the peace of God that passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus until life everlasting. Amen.