Sermon for April 11, 2021, Second Sunday of Easter

Acts 4:32-35 (Second Sunday of Easter—Series B)

“Faith Toward God and Love Toward One Another”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

April 11, 2021

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our text is the First Reading from Acts 4:

32Now the multitude of believers were one heart and soul, and no one said that any of his possessions was his own, but they held everything in common. 33And the apostles, with great power, were giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon all of them. 34For there was no needy among them, for as many as were owners of land or houses were selling them and were bringing the proceeds from the sales, 35and they were placing them at the apostles’ feet, and they were distributed to each just as anyone had need.

           During the Season of Easter we have a reading from the Book of Acts each week instead of a reading from the Old Testament. Acts is volume 2 of Luke’s God-inspired texts, the Gospel of Luke and the Book of Acts. Our readings from Acts will serve as the sermon texts for these Sundays of Easter as we continue to announce “Christ is Risen, Alleluia! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!”

          Acts 4 takes place sometime after Jesus’ Ascension into heaven and the Day of Pentecost, which was fifty days after His resurrection. The apostles continued to give witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. They continued to talk about it, to preach about it, and to announce that the Lord Jesus had died for the sins of the world and was raised to life again on the third day. That is the central message of Christianity. Jesus Christ is risen from the dead. He is alive, the living Lord and Savior.

          Of course, to be raised from the dead means that He once was dead. Jesus was crucified. He died and was buried. At the beginning of Acts 4, Peter and John were arrested and taken before the Jewish ruling council, the Sanhedrin. They had healed a lame man in the name of Jesus. They were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead. When questioned, “Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders,  if we are being examined today concerning a good deed done to a crippled man, by what means this man has been healed,  let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead—by him this man is standing before you well.This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved’” (Acts 4:8–12 ESV).

          This is the message of Easter. Christ has died for the sins of the world. Christ is risen from the dead. He gives forgiveness of sins and eternal life to all who believe in His name. There is salvation from sin and death only in Jesus—the Crucified and Risen One. And this is the faith that saves us from sin, death, and hell. By God’s great grace, you and I receive the blessings of Jesus’ cross and empty tomb in the Means of Grace.

In Holy Baptism, God the Holy Spirit created saving faith in your hearts that trusts in Jesus Christ alone for forgiveness, rescue from death and the devil, and eternal salvation, just as the words and promises of God declare. In Absolution, God announces to you through the pastor, speaking in the stead and by the command of Christ, that your sins stand forgiven in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. In the Lord’s Supper, it is the Crucified and Risen Jesus who comes to you in and under the bread and wine with His true Body and Blood for the forgiveness of all your sins, for eternal life, salvation, and the strengthening of your Baptismal faith.

It is this most holy faith in Jesus that unites us together in His mystical Body called the Church, the Communion of Saints, all the believers in Jesus in heaven and on earth. Luke writes, “Now the multitude of believers were one heart and soul.” What a wonderful picture of the Church! This great outward body of believers had one living personality. Its whole active life was one in thought, feeling, and will. “They all wanted one thing: to be saved eternally; they all thought one thing: only to be faithful to the Lord Jesus; they all experienced one thing: the comfort of the Holy Spirit.”

What held these first Christians together, what holds us Christians together, is our one faith in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Faith is the bond of unity in the Lord’s Church that centers us on the death and resurrection of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins and the salvation He alone won for us. Faith is thicker than blood! Luther: “In this communion of saints we are all brothers and sisters so closely united that a closer relationship cannot be conceived. For here we have one Baptism, one Christ, one Sacrament, one food, one Gospel, one faith, one Spirit, one spiritual body; and each is a member of the other. No other brotherhood is so deeply rooted and so closely knit.”[1]

The Risen and Glorified Savior lives and rules as the Head of His Church to keep it and to bless it. He makes sure that His Word is proclaimed in Law and Gospel. And from the Word, from the preaching of the cross and resurrection of Jesus for the forgiveness of sins, springs the faith and the love of the Church. Faith brings unity to the Church and faith brings works of love within the Church.

St. Luke records by the power of the Holy Spirit, “No one said that any of his possessions was his own, but they held everything in common. . . . For there was no needy among them, for as many as were owners of land or houses were selling them and were bringing the proceeds from the sales, and they were placing them at the apostles’ feet, and they were distributed to each just as anyone had need.” Faith produces many visible results—the fruits of faith. Those who believe show their faith by what they do. As Jesus said in the Upper Room before His betrayal and arrest, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. . . .  By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples.As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love.If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full. This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:5–12 ESV).

And that is what the early Christians were doing in Acts 4. Their living, active faith in the Crucified and Risen Lord Jesus was producing the good fruit of love. They were taking care of each other, providing for the needs of one another, even as they gathered together to hear the preaching of the Word and to receive the Lord’s Supper (Acts 2:42). We know that selfishness and our own self-centeredness often shows itself, sometimes in shameful ways, so that true Christian love and generosity do not flourish. But the Holy Spirit continues the good work begun in us in our Baptism, empowering us to repent of our self-centeredness and enabling us to overcome selfishness through the forgiveness and new life that flows to us from Christ. You and I are indeed new creations who can love one another in the Body of Christ, the Church. We are filled with the Gospel power of the Spirit so that we don’t think of ourselves first, but each other, according to the measure of faith that God has assigned (Rom 12:3). We have come to know the love that God has for us in the person and work of His Son, Jesus, our Risen Savior. We believe that God is love and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in us through His Holy Spirit. It is this love that is perfected within us as we love one another in the family of the Church (1 John 4:16-17).

Love is the fulfillment of the Law. Through faith in Christ, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we love God and we love our neighbor—anyone to whom we can show the love and mercy of Christ. And there is no closer neighbor than your sister or brother in Christ in the family of the Christian Church. Our love for others begins with our love for each other in this congregation, in the Christian Church at-large, and then extends to all other people, even our enemies. In the Post-Communion Collect we pray that the Lord’s Supper—the Body and Blood of Jesus—would strengthen us “in faith” toward God and “in fervent love toward one another.” That “one another” is the Church, believers in Jesus Christ, in this congregation and in the Holy Christian Church throughout the world. “Faith” in the God who gave us His Son to be crucified for our sins and be raised again for our justification empowers our “love” toward each other in the family of Christ, the Church. And that love is so abundant that it overflows from the Church to everyone.

By the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, be strengthened in your Baptismal faith through the Gospel of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ for you! Receive the forgiveness of sins and the new life of faith. And in that faith, show love, help, care, and mercy to your brothers and sisters in Christ here and throughout the world. United in one heart and soul in Christ, be generous with yourselves, your prayers, your money, and your possessions to support one another in love just as anyone has need. Amen.

[1] Ewald M. Plass, What Luther Says (St. Louis: Concordia, 1959), 275.

Sermon for Easter Day, April 4, 2021

Mark 16:1-8 (The Resurrection of Our Lord: Easter Day—Series B)

“That Will Never Change”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

April 4, 2021

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

1 When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 3 And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” 4 And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. 5 And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. 6 And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. 7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” 8 And they went out and fled from the tomb, for trembling and astonishment had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.

          The last time we saw Peter in the Gospel of Mark was extremely late Thursday evening or sometime in the darkness after midnight on Friday. A rooster crowed a second time. “And Peter remembered how Jesus had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows twice, you will deny me three times.’ And he broke down and wept” (Mark 14:72 ESV).

          The apostle Paul called himself “the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle” (1 Cor 15:9). He felt that way because he had formerly persecuted the Church of Christ. But how “least” and “unworthy” must Peter have felt? Peter denied knowing Jesus, “I do not know the man!” And to make matters worse for Peter, Luke records that “the Lord turned and looked at Peter” (22:61). What was in that look? Sorrow, disappointment, a look of “This is what I told you was going to happen, but you didn’t believe me.” Peter was the man who emphatically told His Lord and Master, “Even though they all fall away, I will not. . . . If I must die with you, I will not deny you” (Mark 14:29-30). But as Jesus rightly said in Gethsemane, “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”

          I wonder if Peter felt so guilty and so devastated by His denial that he believed he was no longer worthy of being a disciple, a follower of Jesus. After all, he was one of the Twelve! He was a part of Jesus’ inner circle with James and John. These three were all together when the Lord raised Jairus’ daughter. Peter, James, and John were with Jesus together on the Mount of Transfiguration. They were together with Him in Gethsemane. Perhaps Peter considered those days over. Jesus was dead and in the grave. He had denied the One whom he confessed to be the Christ, the Son of God. How would the others ever welcome him back, even if Jesus were still alive?

          Do you ever wonder that about yourself? After you’ve sinned and done what the Lord has commanded you not to do, do you feel overwhelmed by the guilt and despair? Perhaps you joined the crowd in mocking another believer because you didn’t want to be seen as different. Or when you had the opportunity to acknowledge your faith in public and you failed because you were scared of how people will react, do you wonder if the Lord and His Church will welcome you back? You, like Peter, have denied the One who is the Christ, the Son of God, without even realizing you’ve done it. And when you see your sins and your failures to always fear and love God and all the moments you did not love other people with a sacrificial love, the guilt can be overwhelming. When you see all the times you failed to do the good that God commands and instead have done the evil He forbids, it may be hard to even step into the church, knowing what a hypocrite you have been. I bet Peter felt just like that too.

          But Easter changes all these things for Peter and for you. Did you notice that interesting little addition in the angel’s announcement to the women? I want to give credit to Pastor Kevin Mongeau for highlighting it for me in our conversation last week. The angel said, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him.But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee.” Here Jesus clearly wants the message to be relayed to Peter that their relationship has not been broken, even though Peter denied knowing Him.

The Good News is that, on the cross, Jesus suffered and died to pay for Peter’s sin of denial. He bled and died to pay the price for your denials, your lack of confessing Him to be Lord and Savior, indeed, for every single one of your sins against God and neighbor. All of your failures to love God and others has been covered in the precious blood of the Lamb, Jesus Christ. Where we, along with Peter, are unfaithful, Jesus is always faithful. 2 Timothy 2:13, “If we are unfaithful, [Jesus] remains faithful—for he is not able deny himself.”

Our Triune God is faithful to His Word and Promise: “the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7 ESV). God’s Word does what it promises, even to us who daily sin much, deny our Lord, and turn away from Him time and again. Nevertheless, His blood cleanses. He is faithful! The death of Jesus on the cross was for your salvation from sin. Jesus won your forgiveness. That will never change. Jesus rescued you from death and hell. That will never change. In Christ, you “have an advocate with the Father” (1 John 2:1),  One who is perfectly righteous. You have an advocate who lived a perfect life and then turned around and offered His own righteousness to you and took your sins in return. He has clothed you with pure garments in return for your own filthy garments stained with lies, denials, hatred, gossip, immorality, and evil. Through Baptism, Christ has wrapped you up in the robe of His own righteousness, which covers all your sin. That will never change.

It didn’t change for Peter. He saw the Risen Lord Jesus when He was with the Eleven in the Upper Room on that first Easter evening. Later, Jesus made breakfast of bread and fish on a charcoal grill on the beach of the Sea of Galilee. After breakfast, the Risen Savior asked Peter three times, “Do you love Me?” And Peter responded affirmatively every time, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” And Jesus replied, “Then you’ve got work to do. Feed My Lambs. Tend My flock. Feed My sheep.” Peter was still a disciple, a forgiven sinner. Jesus was faithful and went to the cross and the grave and dealt with the denial. He took it to the cross along with all the other sins you’ve committed, along with all the sins I’ve committed, along with the sins of the whole world.

Now, nothing remains of your sins or mine. The blood of Jesus was shed on the cross to atone for our sins and the sins of the whole world. Forgiveness belongs to you because of the saving work of Jesus Christ. And He gives you that forgiveness through the Gospel Word of Absolution, in Holy Baptism, and in the Lord’s Supper. Jesus is faithful. He calls you to Himself over and over again, calling you in repentance and faith to receive the fruits of His cross and resurrection—forgiveness, eternal life, and salvation from sin, death, and hell.

And that’s not going to change. Jesus has taken away your guilt. As I have the joy to tell you over and over, there is nothing that you can do that will make Jesus love you any less. The proof is in His hands and feet, marked even now with the prints of the nails, His side marked with the scar of the spear—He is forever the Crucified One. And He is forever the Risen One. Death is defeated. Forgiveness of sins and everlasting life is yours in His name, the blessed Name of Jesus. And that will never change. Amen.

Sermon for Good Friday, April 2, 2021

John 19:28-30 (Good Friday)

“It is Finished”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

April 2, 2021

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our text is from our Lord’s Passion, recorded in John 19:

28After this, Jesus, knowing that now all things stood accomplished, in order to fulfill the Scripture, said, “I thirst.” 29A jar stood there full of sour wine. So they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and offered it to His mouth. 30When, therefore, Jesus received the sour wine, He said, “It is finished,” and He bowed His head and gave up His spirit.

“It is finished!”  It stands completed and accomplished, from that moment on and into eternity.

But what is fulfilled, accomplished, completed or finished by Jesus on the cross? A very quick read might produce the answer of the sour wine. “When, therefore, Jesus received the sour wine he said, “It is finished.” It’s very unlikely that Jesus meant that He had finished or completed sucking the sponge dry of its vinegar-wine contents. Given that He had been beaten and had been hanging on the cross from some six hours, Jesus would have been fortunate to get a taste on His lips, let alone drink it. So we can safely rule out that “It is finished” refers to drinking the wine from the sponge.

What, then, is finished by Jesus on the cross? John tells us at the beginning of our text, “After this, Jesus, knowing that now all things stood finished, in order that the Scripture should be finished, said, ‘I thirst.’” What is fulfilled and completed and finished by Jesus Christ in His death on the cross is salvation from sin and death in accordance with the Scriptures. Jesus completes the Scriptures as they pertain to the saving of humanity from sin and death. He thus completes salvation for the world.

Consider God’s first promise to save a newly fallen humanity. Genesis 3:15, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” The Seed or Descendant of Eve would one day bruise the head of Satan, that ancient snake, although that Descendant would be injured in the process. As the promise of a Savior unfolds throughout Scripture, we learn that the injury sustained by the promised Messiah would be fatal. In fact, He would die for the sins of the people, and through His death, secure forgiveness and everlasting life for the world. From Isaiah 53:

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed.All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth.By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? (Is. 53:4–8 ESV) 

It was for our sins, for our iniquities, and for our falling short of the glory of God that Christ suffered and died on the cross. There was no way possible that we could save ourselves from death and hell. It was not possible that we could c any of the Scriptures since we can’t even keep the Ten Commandments. So our heavenly Father sent us His Son to complete in our place what we could not ever accomplish. Jesus Christ, as True Man, fulfilled (completed) God’s Law for us as our substitute. Where we daily sin and fall short and fail, Jesus did not. Jesus kept the Commandments perfectly. He fulfilled the divine law to love the Lord our God and to love our neighbor. To fulfill the Scripture and to be our substitute, Jesus was “born of a woman, born under the Law, in order that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Gal 4:4-5).

          But because of our sins and utter failure to fulfill God’s holy Law, Jesus also had to satisfy the demands of God’s justice. “The wages of sin is death” and “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Rom. 6:23; Heb. 9:22). Therefore, the Son of God, Jesus Christ, took on human flesh and dwelt among us without sin, full of grace and truth, for the very purpose of completing the salvation of all people by shedding His holy, precious blood in death. Only Jesus Christ, true man and true God, could accomplish this. The salvation of a person costs too much—the very blood and the very life of Jesus, the Christ, God-made-flesh. The fact that it was God the Son who fulfilled the Law and suffered for our sins gives infinite value and saving power to the work our Redeemer completed—finished— on the cross.

In cosmic darkness on that Friday, it reached 3:00 in the afternoon. Jesus knew that now everything stood completed regarding the salvation of all people. He had carried our sins in His body on the tree that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds [we] have been healed (1Peter 2:24). Jesus had been forsaken—abandoned—by God the Father, left totally alone to suffer the punishment of hell as He hung on the cross in that black darkness. His blood had been poured out to cleanse all people from their sins (1 John 1:7). Our salvation had been won! Forgiveness for us had been obtained. And there was only one thing left to fulfill Scripture, “I thirst.” Psalm 69:21, “For my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.” And from Psalm 22, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death” (Ps. 22:14-15).

When, therefore, Jesus received the sour wine He said, “It is finished.” It is as if He had said, “The work of saving people from their sins is done. I have suffered their punishment of hell. I have shed my blood to purchase their forgiveness and atone for their sins. Now I will suffer death for them so that I might forever defeat death by my resurrection.” And bowing His head He gave up His spirit and died.

It is finished! It stands completed! Forgiveness is yours. Everlasting life is yours. Sin, Satan, and death have been vanquished. Jesus lives, and the victory is won! Amen.

Sermon for Holy Thursday, April 1, 2021

1 Corinthians 10:16-17 (Holy Thursday—Series B)

“A Communion in His Body and Blood”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

April 1, 2021

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our text today is the Epistle lesson from 1 Corinthians 10:

16The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a communion in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a communion in the body of Christ? 17Because there is one bread, we the many are one body, for we all share in the one bread.

          “Our Lord Jesus Christ, on the night in which He was betrayed . . .” The opening of the Words of Institution set the scene for the events surrounding the Lord’s Supper. It is the celebration of the Passover. Jesus has gathered with the Twelve in a large upper room to observe this Feast with the disciples. Later that evening, Judas Iscariot, one of the Twelve, would lead a crowd with swords and clubs from the chief priests and scribes and the elders. He would betray Jesus into their hands. But before those events in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus and the disciples observed the Passover meal.

          The Passover was a divine ordinance, to be observed by the people of Israel every year. It recalled God’s great saving act of the Old Testament—the deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt. More specifically, the eating of the Passover lamb reminded the Israelites of the lamb that gave up its life in order to provide blood as a sign on the door frames. When the Lord saw the blood on the doors of the Israelite homes, He passed over, and the first-born son’s life was spared. The Passover was to be celebrated by the whole community of Israel. It was to be a common and unifying experience for the nation.

          At this Passover celebration, Jesus took bread, and after giving thanks, broke it and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take, eat; this is my Body, which is given for you. This do in remembrance of me.” After supper, Jesus took the third cup of wine at the Passover meal, what was referred to as “the cup of blessing.” When He had given thanks, He gave it to them saying, “Drink of it, all of you; This cup is the new testament in my Blood which is shed for you for the forgiveness of sins. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

          The rhetorical questions that the apostle Paul asks in our text from 1 Corinthians 10 are based on Jesus’ Words of Institution and must be interpreted in that light. “The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a communion in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a communion in the body of Christ?” The answer we must give to both questions because of Jesus’ own words in His testament is yes! The cup of wine that is blessed—consecrated or set apart for the use in His Supper with Jesus’ own words—is indeed a communion in the Blood of Christ. The bread that we break that is blessed with Jesus’ own words is indeed a communion in the Body of Christ. What is truly present in this Supper is the bread and wine. What is truly present in, with, and under the bread and wine are the real Body and Blood of Jesus, the Crucified and Risen Lord. Luther ties this all up for us in the Large Catechism, “Now, what is the Sacrament of the Altar? Answer, ‘It is the true body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, in and under the bread and wine, which we Christians are commanded by Christ’s Word to eat and to drink.’ Just as we have said that Baptism is not simple water, so here also we say that though the Sacrament is bread and wine, it is not mere bread and wine, such as are ordinarily served at the table [1 Corinthians 10:16–17]. But this is bread and wine included in, and connected with, God’s Word.”[1] Jesus’ words make the Sacrament of the Lord’s Supper what it is—a holy communion in the bread and wine with the truly present Body and Blood of Jesus Himself.

          The church father, Augustine, wrote, “Through those elements the Lord wished to entrust to us his body and the blood which he poured out for the [forgiveness] of sins. If you have received worthily, you are what you have received.”[2] You are in communion with the Body and Blood of Christ. You are partakers of Christ and all the blessings offered, given, and sealed in the Sacrament—forgiveness, life, and salvation. You are also the body of Christ, the Church. Through our physical eating and drinking of the Lord’s crucified and risen Body and Blood, we become one body with Him and with each other in the communion of saints—the holy, Christian Church in heaven and on earth. “Because there is one bread, we the many are one body, for we all share in the one bread”—the one bread, which has been made from many grains, the wine, which has been produced from many grapes—the unity and communion of the Church in the Body and Blood of Christ.

          In the Lord’s Supper, then, we receive in, with, and under the bread and wine the true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, given and shed for the forgiveness of sins. We also receive the gifts of eternal life, salvation, and the strengthening of our faith. We are united to Christ and to one another in the Body of Christ, the Church. Luther reminds us that “the Lord’s Supper is given as a daily food and sustenance so that our faith may be refreshed and strengthened and that it may not succumb in the struggle but become stronger and stronger.” [3]

          Every day we face temptations from the devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh. Our new life of faith in Christ suffers a great deal of opposition. “The devil is a furious enemy; when he sees that we resist him and attack the old creature, and when he cannot rout us by force, he sneaks and skulks about at every turn, trying all kinds of tricks, and does not stop until he has finally worn us out so that we either renounce our faith or lose heart and become indifferent or impatient. For times like these, when our heart feels too sorely pressed, this comfort of the Lord’s Supper is given to bring us new strength and refreshment.”[4]

          I pray that the people of God in Christ, the members of His holy Church on earth, have not renounced their faith, lost heart, or become indifferent or impatient. And I know that what I’m going to say isn’t specifically directed to you who are sitting here today. But I am compelled to encourage those members who I hope may hear or read this message later online: the Lord’s Supper is still here for you. It has been here, yet there are some who have not received the Lord’s Supper in a very long time. Oh what a pounding their faith has endured! What opposition Satan has placed in their lives, what fears! These have prevented the people of God from receiving from His Table the bread and wine which are Jesus’ Body and Blood given and shed for the forgiveness of sins, life, salvation, and the strengthening of faith. The Supper is a communion with the Body and Blood of Jesus. It unites us together in the mystical Body of Jesus Christ, His Church.

          In Luther’s “Christian Questions with their Answers,” found in our copies of the Small Catechism, Pastor Luther asks, “What should admonish and encourage a Christian to receive the Sacrament frequently? First, both the command and the promise of Christ the Lord. Second, his own pressing need, because of which the command, encouragement, and promise are given. But what should you do if you are not aware of this need and have no hunger and thirst for the Sacrament? To such a person no better advice can be given than this: first, he should touch his body to see if he still has flesh and blood. Then he should believe what the Scriptures say of it in Galatians 5 and Romans 7. Second, he should look around to see whether he is still in the world, and remember that there will be no lack of sin and trouble, as the Scriptures say in John 15-16 and in 1 John 2 and 5. Third, he will certainly have the devil also around him, who with his lying and murdering day and night will let him have no peace, within or without, as the Scriptures picture him in John 8 and 16; 1 Peter 5; Ephesians 6; and 2 Timothy 2.”

          Beloved in the Lord, you are the Body of Christ. Our Savior Jesus was crucified to purchase the forgiveness of sins and everlasting life with His own blood poured out for you. He was pierced with nail and spear; His body given into death for you. The Lord Jesus, who on the night of His betrayal and arrest, instituted His Supper for you. He continues to come to meet you at this altar in, with, and under the bread and wine with His true Body and Blood, Crucified and Risen, for the forgiveness of all your sins, for eternal life and salvation. He comes with His Body and Blood to you personally in order to strengthen your Baptismal faith so that you can take you stand against all the schemes, fear, lies, and temptations of the evil one.

          The cup of blessing which we bless is a communion in the Blood of Christ. The bread we break is a communion in the Body of Christ. Because there is one bread, we the many are one body, for we all share in the one bread. Come; take and eat. Take and drink—whether it has been days, weeks, months, or a year or more. The Lord Jesus Christ is present with His Body and Blood and all the gifts won for you at the cross and empty tomb. You need what Christ Jesus gives you here in His Supper. And it will be here for you until that day we are with the Lord Jesus forevermore in His new creation at the Lamb’s High Feast. Amen.

     [1] Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 432.

     [2] ACCS, New Testament Vol. 12 (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 1999), 97.

     [3] Large Catechism, Lord’s Supper, 24.

     [4] Large Catechism, Lord’s Supper, 26-27.

Sermon for March 28, 2021, Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion

John 12:12-43 (Palm Sunday/Sunday of the Passion—Series B)

“His Glory”

Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT

March 28, 2021

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Our text today is recorded in the Gospel of John, chapter 12.

          The events of the first “Palm Sunday” didn’t make sense to the disciples at the time. They didn’t understand the greater significance of the King fulfilling Zechariah 9, riding into Zion on a young donkey to the shouts of “Save us, we pray. Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” But St. John tell us readers, “But when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about Him and had been done to Him” (12:16).

The disciples’ remembering is tied up with Jesus’ glorification. They word “glorify” or “glory” occurs 8 times in our text! That’s something we need to pay attention to as we seek to understand what Jesus’ glorification is.

The event in John 12 that triggers the glorification of Jesus is some Greeks who wanted to see Him. These Greeks had gone to Jerusalem to worship at the Feast of the Passover. Perhaps they were proselytes, Gentile converts to Judaism. Maybe they were “God-fearing” Greeks, those who expressed interest in Judaism and believed in the God of Israel but had not fully embraced conversion. Whichever these were, one thing is certain. They wanted to see Jesus. When Philip and Andrew told Jesus that some Greeks were here to see Him, Jesus exclaimed, “The hour has come in order that the Son of Man should be glorified.”

Say what? The moment for Jesus to be glorified is the moment when some Greeks want to see Him? Where’s the glory in that? Where’s the brilliance, the light, the majesty that we associate with glory? Not here. Jesus is merely seeing some Greeks. How can this be the hour for the Son of Man to be glorified?

It is so, because the hour is more than just this moment of the arrival of these Greeks. This is merely the triggering event, and there’s more to come. Jesus’ glorification means that He’s going to be like a grain of wheat in that the grain—the seed—dies so that it can bear much fruit as it grows anew into a plant. Jesus, in five days’ time, will be dead. Can there be any wonder as to why He would say, “Now is my soul troubled.” If you knew that in five days you would die a horrible death, you’d be troubled too. Jesus knew that at the end of this week a Roman cross waited for Him. He knew, as He had predicted three times to His disciples, that He would be handed over to the chief priests and scribes, that He would be condemned to death, that He would be spit upon, flogged, and crucified. This He knew would be in order that His death might produce a large crop of those who would receive forgiveness of sins and new, eternal life because of His dying. And this crop would include both Israelites and Greeks, Jews and Gentiles.

You’re still waiting for the glory, aren’t you? “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified!” Through an agonizing death on a cross? With the shedding of blood? Jesus should have prayed, “Father, save me from this hour. If this is glory, I don’t want it!” But He didn’t. For this purpose—to suffer and die and rise again—Jesus had come to the hour of His Passion. And it is in His self-sacrifice that God the Father receives glory. “Father,” Jesus prayed, “glorify Your name.” The Name of God is who He is. The Father receives all glory and praise through His only Son whose death and resurrection has brought salvation to the whole world. Because the Son’s glorification is being lifted up from the earth, drawing all people to Himself. In the words of one commentator, “The strange fact is that Jesus will die not in the normal way, by ‘falling to the earth’ like a seed . . . , but by being ‘lifted up from the earth’ like—what? Like a full-grown plant or tree? Or more like a snake upon a pole?”[1] Remember Jesus’ words to Nicodemus a few Sundays ago? “And just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so it is necessary for the Son of Man to be lifted up, in order that whoever believes might in Him have eternal life. For in this way God loved the world, with the result that He gave the Son—the only one—in order that whoever believes in Him might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:14-16).

This, dear friends in Christ, is Jesus’ glorification. There’s no glitz, no flashing lights, no brilliance, or majesty. In fact, “he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed” (Is. 53:2–5 ESV).

And this is a turn off for so many people. A grim verdict is pronounced in verse 43, “They loved the glory of people rather than the glory of God.” Why? Because the glory of people looks like glory. It’s magnificent, flashy, and self-satisfying. The glory of people gets you noticed. It gets you ahead in life, gets you what you want. Human glory is where it’s at, the world tells us. And it is our natural impulse to desire glory for ourselves—success, acclaim, and victory. We look to that which promises answers to all our questions and solutions to every one of our problems, that which gives us triumphs over our competitors, and exhibits the power of God. But what do we get? A God who “came as an outcast baby in a manger who grew up to die by the torture of crucifixion.”[2]

Jesus’ glorification which brings glory to God the Father is found in a cross whereby “Salvation unto us has come By God’s free grace and favor” (LSB 555:1). God reveals His love and His mercy to people who by nature only seek to serve and glorify themselves in the most unexpected way: the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is in the death and rising again of Jesus that Satan, the ruler of this world is driven out. With sins forgiven by means of the blood of Christ, there is no more sin that he can accuse you of before your heavenly Father. All your sins have been judged by the Father at the cross. Jesus was found guilty for them and He paid the price of death for you. The judgment rendered to you from the heavenly throne is now one of “not guilty.” Christ was lifted up on the cross and shed His blood to atone for your sins and the sins of the whole world. “It is finished.” You are redeemed, forgiven, and saved from eternal death and hell. And that is glorious!

Each time a parent brings their child, or an adult comes to the font, “In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” the new life of water and the Spirit is given, forgiveness is granted, and the baptized are united with the death and resurrection of Jesus. And that’s glorious!

Each time we come to the Lord’s Table and sing “Hosanna,” we are saying in faith, “Save us, we pray” with the Holy Body and Precious Blood given and shed for us all. In the Blessed Sacrament, we receive by faith in the eating and the drinking forgiveness of sins, life and salvation through Jesus’ cross and resurrection. And that is glorious!

When the Gospel is read and proclaimed, when Absolution is administered by the called and ordained servant of the Word, forgiveness is received because of the death and resurrection of Jesus who commanded His Church to forgive the sins of the repentant in His Name. And those words, “I forgive you all your sins,” are glorious!

And so we come to this Holy Week with our Lord—from His entry into Jerusalem on the donkey’s colt, to Holy Thursday and His anguish in the Garden, to Golgotha and the bloody crucifixion, and into the tomb of death. The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. In our Lord’s Passion, He is glorified as our Savior and King. And we await the light and glory of the Resurrection next Sunday. To God—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—be all glory, honor, and praise unto the ages of ages. Amen.

[1] J. Ramsey Michaels, The Gospel of John, NICNT (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2010), 701.

2 Gene Edward Veith Jr and A. Trevor Sutton, Authentic Christianity (St. Louis: Concordia, 2017), 108.