Sunday, March 29, 2009
"Who of you all convicts me concerning sin? If the truth I speak, through what do you yourselves not believe in Me? The one being of God, the word of God that one hears; through this, you yourselves do not hear, because of God, you are not." Answering, the Jews also said to Him, "Do we not rightly say that, a Samaritan You are, and a demon you have?" Jesus answered, " I myself do not have a demon, but I honor my Father, yet you dishonor Me! And I Myself do not seek My glory; there is One seeking and judging. Amen, amen I say to you, If ever someone safeguards My word, death, no, he will not taste into the ages." The Jews said to Him, "Now we know that You have a demon; Abraham died, also the prophets; yet You say, ‘if every someone safeguard My word, no, he will not taste death into the ages.' You are not greater than our father, Abraham, who died; also the prophets died. What do You make of yourself?" Jesus answered, "If ever I Myself glorify Myself, , My glory is nothing; it is My Father who is glorifying Me, of Whom your yourselves say that He is our God; And you do not know Him, but I Myself know Him. And if ever I would say that I do not know Him, I would be like you–a liar; but I know Him, and His word I safe-guard. Abraham, your father, rejoiced in order to see My day, and he saw and was glad." Then the Jews said to Him, "Fifty years you do not yet have, yet Abraham you have seen?" Jesus said to them, "Amen, amen I say to you, before Abraham came to be–I AM!" Then the picked up stones in order to throw upon Him, but Jesus was hidden, and he went out of the Temple.
One time the Jehovah's Witlesses came to my door in a feeble attempt to prove that Jesus wasn't God. So we opened up to today's text, and they let me read out of my King James' Bible, "before Abraham was–I Am! Well, that proved to them that the KJV was simply apostasy, since it used such poor grammar. They opened up their New World Translation which read, "before Abraham was, I was". Then I opened up my Greek NT and showed them Jesus used bad grammar on purpose!
Now this is where my wife will probably get mad at me, English major that she was back in college. Jesus used bad grammar, and it was a good thing! For it was the very best way He could make His point before the Jewish leaders. He used God's name from the Old Testament, Yahweh, which is translated *I AM*. This was pure blasphemy to the Jews, Jesus claiming to be the same as the Father, so they did what they thought was right, and grabbed rocks in attempt to stone Him to death.
Jesus evaded death at this juncture, only to embrace it at a later date. For Jesus was correct in telling the Jews that Abraham rejoiced in looking forward to Good Friday. Abraham even predicted it to his son Isaac. "God will provide Himself, the Lamb" Literally, from the Hebrew, it reads, "God will *see* Himself, the Lamb." That's just what happened. Jesus, the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world was seen by His Heavenly Father looking down, forsaking Him at the cross for you.
God the Father beheld God the Son giving up His life as a ransom for many on Calvary's hill. There as the High Priest, Jesus is the Lamb of God slain to purchase eternal redemption for you; not with gold or silver, but with His body given, and His blood shed for your forgiveness. Jesus was that spotless Lamb which God alone could provide, the only perfect, sinless sacrifice there is. Without His Own blemishes, He takes your sins upon Himself on the tree, and is forsaken by God in your place.
Only God is perfect. God alone is holy. That's why God had to become man, to suffer and die in the once and for all sacrifice instead of Isaac, and in your place too! Into the holy temple of His body, your sins were taken. He died your death on the cross to cleanse your conscience from sin and death in Holy Baptism. Washed clean, pure and holy, you are given life in exchange for Jesus' death, that promised eternal inheritance which awaits you in the paradise above–the kingdom of heaven!
Yes, before Abraham ever came to exist, Jesus was already the Great I Am, the God of creation Whose plan it was to redeem the world at the cross. And that redemption is yours, given you as a free gift from the message of His loving gospel word. Not only that, but God has blessed you to be a God-fearer like Abraham, for He has worked faith in your heart by the power of the Holy Spirit; so that you may safe-guard that saving word entrusted to you, believing it with your whole heart.
You who believe that Word, and keep it safe in your hearts, belong to God. You are of God–that is–of Jesus, Who is God-in-the-flesh, the great I Am. In Him you live, never to taste death, forever!
Today's Hymns from LSB:
#429 We Sing the Praise of Him Who Died
#430 My Song is Love Unknown
#437 Alas and Did My Savior Bleed
Sunday, March 15, 2009
And He was casting out a demon–mute. And it happened, the demon having come out, the mute man spoke & the crowds marveled. But some of them said, "By the lord of the flies, the ruler of demons He casts out demons. And others were testing, a sign out of heaven they were demanding from Him. But He knew their thought; He said to them, "Every kingdom, against itself divided is devastated, and a house against a house falls. And if also Satan against himself is divided, how will his kingdom stand? For you say by the lord of the flies I cast out demons. And if I Myself, by the lord of the dung heap cast out demons, your sons, by whom do they cast them out? Through this, they will be your judges. And if, by the finger of God, I cast out demons, therefore the kingdom of God has come before you. When the armed, strong man guards his dwelling, in peace are his belongings. And whenever a stronger man than he, attacking, overpowers him, his armor he takes away upon which he relied, and his plunder he gives away. The one not being with me is against me, and the one not gathering with me, scatters. Whenever the unclean spirit goes out from the man, it goes through waterless places seeking rest; and not finding, it says, "I will return into my house from where I came out." And having come, it finds it swept clean and orderly. Then it comes and takes along 7 other spirits, more evil than itself, and entering, they dwell there, and the end of that man becomes worse than at first.
Most people don't believe in ghosts. Even Caspar the friendly ghost is a fiction. But spirits do exist. The Holy Ghost Himself is evidence of this. When we count angels, fallen angels who have now become demons, there are a many spirits, both good and evil, whether we believe it or not. But what would you say if you heard that your pastor was casting out demons? "Get your head examined!"
Well, that's just how many felt when Jesus began to cast out evil spirits back in His day.This just seemed all to weird, very odd indeed that anyone would dare to become involved with demons and the spirit world. It was just as creepy back then as it is today. And, though the people believed there were ghosts or spirits, they still found it strange stuff. He own family thought he was out of His mind. The Jewish leaders came down from Jerusalem accusing Him of being possessed by Satan Himself.
So Jesus uses some parables to put things back into perspective. It made no sense at all that Jesus was in league with the devil, since Satan wouldn't be against his own demons. But there was a battle going on all right, a spiritual war between the Archangel Michael and his angels against Satan and his demons. The battle had been going on for a long time now, but was about to finally come to an end. Jesus the ruler of angels would soon move on from demons to take on the devil himself!
Jesus had already battled Satan and won decisively in the desert by not giving in to any of the devil's temptations for 40 days and nights without food or drink. That lord-of-the-dung-heap should have known he would only succeed at attracting flies. But Satan pressed on, seeing God made vulnerable in the guise of a human carpenter from Nazareth. The devil would not rest until he could take the life of God come down in the flesh. And so their final show-down culminated at the cross of Calvary.
That's where the devil, that supposed *strong man* who thinks he's well-armed for battle, found himself out-matched. Jesus, the stronger man comes along, disarms him of all his accusations against you, and takes all he had as plunder to be given away. But Jesus surely didn't look like the stronger man while he suffered and allowed Himself to be nailed to the cross. But appearances can be deceiving. For Satan was duped that Good Friday, falling directly into God's trap.
For God's strength is made perfect in human weakness. What seems weakest of all, death, is strong in Christ Jesus. By Jesus death, your death is swallowed up forever in His cruciform victory over death. By Jesus death for you at the cross, He destroys death eternally. That's why we preach Christ crucified, even though it seems like foolishness to those who don't have faith in Jesus their Savior. In His death on the cross, Satan is finally crushed, and Jesus is raised on the third day to prove life's victory!
So don't fear ghosts who seek waterless places to dwell. You are well-watered in your baptism, sinful you washed clean to the cross, crucified, dead and buried there with Christ forever, and new-you raised up in Him forevermore. For yours is not the lord of a dung-heap, but the Lord who gives His body and blood at the cross, and gives the same to you to eat and drink at His supper table. Yours is the Strong man, God Almighty manifest in the flesh, Who proclaims you forgiven, never to be accused by Satan again!
Today's Hymns from LSB:
#439 Oh Dearest Jesus,What Law hast Thou Broken? words tune
#659 Lord of Our Life and God of Our Salvation words tune
#594 God's Own Child I'll Gladly Say It
Monday, March 9, 2009
And having come out from there, Jesus withdrew into the region of Tyre and Sidon. And look a Canaanite woman having come out from that territory cried out saying, "Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is badly demon-possessed!" But He didn't answer her a word. And having come forward His disciples kept asking Him, saying, "Dismiss her, because she cries out after us!" And He, answering, said "I was not sent on a mission if not to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." But she, having come, worshiped Him, saying, "Lord help me!" But He, answering said, "It is not good to take the bread of the children and to throw it to the dogs." But she said, "Yes Lord, for even the dogs eat from the crumbs which keep falling from the table of their masters." Then answering, Jesus said to her, "O woman, great is your faith! Let it happen to you as you desire;" and healed was her daughter from that hour!
Back in Jr. High, I remember hearing of a band called *Nazareth*. Thinking they might have wholesome, Christian lyrics (being named after Jesus' hometown, after all), I listened to a song of theirs on the radio called *Hair of the Dog*. This song had no edifying words to share, and in fact, used an offensive word referring to a female dog. Surely, that is something the man from Nazareth would never do...Then we come to today's Gospel. I can just hear a girl from my Jr. High class saying with attitude, *No He di'int!*. But yes, Jesus did. He called this woman a dog, right to her face!
Now there are some commentators who will try to soft soap Jesus' intentions here, claiming that He was only calling her a household dog, a beloved pet which was almost like one of the family. Even if Jesus is calling her a *nice dog*, He's still calling her a dog here. But what's more astounding is that she doesn't take offense to His comment. In fact, she does the most surprising thing...she actually agrees with it! She accepts that she is but a dog, in hopes of receiving only crumbs a dog would get.
What's all the more astonishing is that Jesus seems to have no good track record toward her. First she cries out for mercy, and He doesn't even seem to have the courtesy to answer. Then He makes it clear, perhaps within her hearing, that he has not come for the likes of her, but only for Israelites. Then comes the comment about her being numbered among the dogs. In most everyone's book, this would clearly be strike three. It sure seems like a clear, unadulterated *No* is Jesus' final answer.
But after being shot down 3 times, she keeps on hoping, continues begging, and persistantly agrees with Jesus once again. But this time she appears to catch Jesus in His Own words. He says she's the children's dog, fine. She will play the part humbly, and is willing to receive the meager crumbs that fall from their table, as spill prone children are apt to cause. But Jesus just loves to be caught in His Own Words. He's all about God's Word, after all. He just loves it when we call Him on His promises.
And that's just when, what appears as pure *no* becomes Jesus' pure *yes* to her. She exhibits great faith, persistent clinging to Jesus as the promised Son of David, as her Lord, as her God whom she worships. She who had little hope of even hearing about Israel's Messiah, much less actually believing in Him, gets this seemingly chance encounter with the Christ, and she makes the most of the opportunity. She cries out for mercy for her daughter, and Jesus healed her that very hour!
So what is there for you, already a member of spiritual Israel, as a formerly lost sheep whom the Good Shepherd has already found? If this foreign woman from a pagan nation could keep on trusting Jesus for His mercy, how much more for you! You know your Lord & Savior from His word, and have been trusting on His promises already. His holy gospel called you to faith long ago by the power of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus' gospel keeps on promising you forgiveness, salvation & eternal life in Him.
This story gives you great hope indeed. When you pray for the Lord's mercy on your predicament, be it financial, relational, physical or spiritual, don't be dismayed as you wait on His answer. He may appear to say n, by not yet providing an answer. But be patient. Persist in prayer for mercy knowing that you can trust on God's promises. Rely on your baptism which made you God's Own child, and keep coming to the Lord's Table to be fed as children, not with crumbs, but with Christ's body & blood
For what appears to be Jesus' *no* may soon become for you His joyous *yes*! Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace; behind a frowning countenance He hides a smiling face!
Hymns for today from LSB:
#613 To Thee Omniscient Lord of All
#615 When in the Hour of Deepest Need
#734 I Trust, O Christ, Your Holy Name
Sunday, March 1, 2009
Then Jesus was led up into the desert by the Spirit to be tried by the devil. And having fasted forty days and forty nights afterward He was hungry. And having come, the tempter said to Him, "If You are Son of God, speak in order that these stoned become bread." But He, answering said, "It has been written, `Not on bread alone will man live, but on every saying coming forth through God's mouth.'" Then the devil takes Him along into the holy city and stands Him on the highest point of the temple and says to Him, "If You are Son of God, throw Yourself down, for it is written that, "to His angels He will give orders concerning You", and "Upon hands they will bear You up, that You not strike against as stone Your foot." Jesus said to him, "Again it has been written, `You will not test the Lord, your God.'" Again, the devil takes Him along into a very high mountain and shows Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he says to Him, "These all I will give to You, if, falling down, You will worship me." Then Jesus says to Him, "Begone, Satan! for it has been written, `The Lord your God you will worship, and to Him only will you serve.'" Then the devil leaves Him, and look, angels came forward and ministered to Him.
Back in college, even before the What Would Jesus Do fad, I had a pre-sem classmate who wanted to be just like Jesus. Since Jesus went to the desert to be tempted, this young man began to pray publicly that God would lead him into temptation too! How foolish, since Jesus teaches His disciples to pray that God would lead us away from temptations. WWJD is often a foolish enterprise, especially when we try to do what is only given to Jesus to accomplish. We can't defeat temptation. Jesus could, and He did!
Like Jesus, we are tempted to doubt God's providence. Will He provide for us in these trying economic times? Will God let me lose my job and join the unemployment ranks? Will the Lord let our mortgage lapse into foreclosure? We could end up like Jesus, homeless and hungry, living out in the wilderness with nothing to eat or drink for forty long days. Will God come through for us to supply a means to get by?
Though we may think God won't always provide for us, Jesus had no such doubts. Although he was very hungry and thirsty too in the desert wilderness, He did not let the devil's temptations to doubt His heavenly Father have the victory. Jesus defeated Satan's temptations to doubt the Lord's providence, subsisting on God's Word alone, and on its promises. For Jesus knew this would not be the final battle with the devil, but that He had been baptized to the cross, where He would bury and raise us sinners to new life!
Like Jesus, we are tempted to lose our trust in the Lord. Should we test God by giving up on that relationship He has given us, to pursue one that seems better? Is it worth taking foolish risks, hoping that God may just bail you out in the end? We test His patience, time and again, placing ourselves in precarious positions just like Jesus teetering atop the pinnacle of the Temple, ready to fall.
Though we often fall in our efforts, Jesus did not test God's mercy by falling at the devil's command. He saw Satan's faulty interpretation of scripture as the devil tried to manipulate God's word for his own ends. Jesus would not tempt His heavenly Father to see if this was a word of prophecy or not. Instead, He stopped Satan in his tracks, rebuking him for even suggestion that He put God to the test. He knew the angels would minister to Him afterward, so that Jesus could continue on His journey to the cross.
Like Jesus, we are tempted with respect to our loyalty to God. We foolishly think that we can be part-time Christians, worshiping on Sunday, but our conduct is much like unbelievers at other times. We cheapen the grace of God by confessing that we are God's Own, yet acting like we belong only to ourselves. We seem to worship mammon, the stuff of wealth and riches Satan showed to Jesus from the mountain top.
Though our worship and prayers falter all the time, Jesus feared only His heavenly Father. Our Savior knew that the true worship of God is never in what we get to do or acquire, but in what God alone does for our salvation. True worship seeks Jesus as the only Savior, by faith. It is worship in Spirit and Truth, as the Holy Spirit leads us by faith to the Truth–Christ Jesus. Your Savior doesn't disappoint, but delivers your salvation, not cheaply, but at the price of His body and blood, given and shed for you for your forgiveness.
They say you can put lipstick on a pig, but that doesn't make it kissable. Likewise, the black devil may appear as an angel of light, or even as the majestic prince of this word as He tempts you. But don't be deceived. And those times when you do give-in to temptation, look no further for your redemption than He Who defeated that snake-in-the-grass-deceiver, not once, not twice, but thrice. For Jesus was not only victorious over Satan on this day, but ultimately triumphed for you by crushing his head at the cross.
Hymns for today from LSB:
#608 Lord to You I Make Confession
#656 A Mighty Fortress is Our God
#418 O Lord Throughout These Forty Days