Reconciled Through the Son
LAST SUNDAY OF THE CHURCH YEAR [Proper 29] November 20, 2016
13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. 15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross.
IN THE NAME OF JESUS.
We get to look at who Christ is, and to consider what that means for us.
We are in the Last Sunday of the Church year. It’s the last Sunday in the Pentecost season, the banners are green, but we know next week the colors shift to blue and then to white, for Advent and then Christmas. But now we are closing out the long season of Pentecost where the color is green and throughout Pentecost we consider the gifts our Lord bestows upon his Church.
The Lord bestowing the gifts, it is Jesus, who has baptized us into his Name. But the reason we have Jesus as our Lord is the Father, who, as Paul says, has delivered us out of the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.
So Paul tells the Christians in Colossae who this Jesus is. They have already heard all this. But with the Gospel, the church never stops teaching.
We are in a sinful world, a world which continues to put forth a false reality of mankind, a false reality holding up before everyone’s eyes the capability of humans to set up works and methods and systems of solving all problems; and because we are in this world, the church never stops teaching the Gospel, that is, the Gospel in the full sense—the Law and the Gospel. For in this Law and Gospel, this Word from holy God, we are given to see that a person is sinful, is incapable of making himself not sinful, and the men and women of this world, then, are locked in either a false confidence of mankind’s abilities, or in despair when we see what we have wrought. And then in the Gospel, we see, standing in front of us, the Man, Christ Jesus, who has taken all sin upon himself, and has reconciled us to his Father by the blood of his cross.
We continue teaching this Gospel, which we have heard before, but which we and our families need to hear again and again, until our Lord comes again on the last day.
But we are not just in a sinful world. We are in our own sinful lives, our own sinful bodies with our sinful minds and sinful spirits. And our own sinful nature holds up before us one great false reality. The false reality is that we, ourselves, can somehow remedy our own problem. We can make ourselves a little bit less sinful, or a little bit more spiritual, or we can put ourselves on the road to improvement, we can even make a decision for Christ or call Jesus into our hearts, and by virtue, then, of what we do, or what we decide, or what we think or feel, we can make ourselves more worthy of God.
So the church continues to teach the Lord’s Law and Gospel, where we are given to see that no sinner calls Jesus into his heart, but, rather, Jesus calls the sinner into his salvation; no one makes a decision for Christ, but, rather the opposite, he, in his grace, chooses us to be his own. [John 15:16] And we see that the only one who is without sin, the only one holy and bearing the Holy Spirit, the only one knowing that holiness is not a road to improvement, but is standing before God with no guilt and no shame, is him, Jesus Christ, who has reconciled us to his Father by the blood of his cross.
So Paul, knowing that the Colossae Christians have heard the Gospel, but also knowing that they live in a sinful world—as he does, and in sinful flesh—also as he does, does not want his Colossian brothers and sisters left in any doubt or despair.
So he again teaches the Gospel, that the Father in Heaven has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of our sins.
But in teaching this Gospel, Paul begins with who Jesus is. Jesus is the image of the invisible God, says Paul, the firstborn from creation. That is, Jesus is true God, not created nor made, but having been brought forth from the Father from eternity. He is his own person, for he can be spoken of separately from the Father and the Holy Spirit, for he is called Son, and neither the Father nor the Holy Spirit may be called that, yet he is true God, of one substance with them.
And he is the image of God. That is, when God reveals himself, when he makes himself known, when he comes into creation in such a way that he can be seen and touched, God the Father does it through his Son, Jesus.
So when people in Galilee, for instance, saw Jesus walking on the water, or healing a leper, they didn’t see the Father, they didn’t see the Holy Spirit, but they saw the Son, who comes by the Name Jesus. But in Jesus, in holding onto him, in hearing his Word, in receiving gifts from him, the sinner in Galilee has also the Father and the Holy Spirit, for all the fullness of God dwells bodily in him, the Son.
And at that point, we don’t get it. How can we comprehend this? We’re contemplating things of eternal God, who has revealed himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, who has created us, by the Father sending forth his Son, and from them proceeding the Holy Spirit who gives life, and yet, we are creatures, and we are trying to contemplate and comprehend that which is not created, but which creates all.
Maybe we could say, God didn’t create us in order that we could get control over all eternal creative power and knowledge, but he created us to receive gifts from him, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It might be a little like my dog trying to understand where I got the credit card with which I purchased his dog food and milk bones, when really all he needs to care about is receiving the dog food from me and grabbing the milk bone from my hand. He’s a dog. That’s what dogs do—they receive gifts from their master. They don’t figure out how to open a Visa account.
We were created to receive gifts from God—to receive the gift of life, the gift of husband and wife and procreation, of family and friends as appointed for us, the gifts of all of creation, including food and drink and all the rest.
When Paul tells us that Jesus is the image of the invisible God, by whom all things were created in Heaven and on Earth, all things being created through him and for him, Paul is telling us, not, how we can get control of this information, like a student getting control of the information in her civics book; Paul is, rather, showing us from whom comes every good gift.
Jesus was there, at creation, along with his Father and the Holy Spirit, creating all things for our blessing and benefit. Jesus is over all things. He reigns in Heaven and in him all of creation holds together.
There is not a part of creation, not a corner of our own lives, not a scintilla of what is in our created mind or spirit, that God the Son is not there. For in him all things of creation hold together.
But this God the Son, he took on our human flesh, he became a man, just as human as you and me, so that, having given himself on the cross, the person dying on the cross is, truly, that person born of Mary going by the Name Jesus, and is, truly, at the same time, full, complete, eternal, God.
So his death on the cross is full and complete, and pertains to all eternity—to creation and to Adam and Eve, to those gathered around the cross hearing him say, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” and to you and me and our families, and our neighbors, who need to hear again and again his Gospel, as long as we are in this sinful world and in our sinful flesh.
He who took on our humanity, he is now and for the rest of eternity, both God and Man. We will not find one place where God is—in the farthest stretches of the universe or in the most tight corners of our own sinful minds, where God is there as God but not also as man.
And that is the Gospel to you and me. For Jesus is not just God over all which he and his Father and the Holy Spirit created—he is that—but he is also true Man, having taken his humanity up into his divinity, so that he is over all, and he is with us in the wholeness of each of our lives, as also true man.
True man, who has suffered as we do, yet him without sin; who has seen the despair of our world as we do, yet without losing faith; who has looked at a loved one who has died, as we do, and yet holds tight to the word of life; who is with us in our doubt, and who knows our sin even better than we ourselves do, yet declares us to be clean by virtue of his blood.
Jesus is true Man, along with us. And then he who is over all and in all and in whom all things hold together, comes into our human lives in a way that we can know, that our ears hear and our human senses touch and receive.
We cannot have him by ascending to the heavens, not by becoming more spiritual, not by some superhuman exercise of the mind. He who is over all, comes to us, and presents himself to us, as a gift, so that we receive him in the way that he created us to receive gifts.
Hear my Word, he says—you are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. [John 15:3]
Be baptized into my Name, he says, for this water poured over your head along with my Word bound to it to be spoken into your ears, it is a washing of regeneration and it saves you. [1 Peter 3:21]
Eat and drink, take my Body and my Blood, receive the fullness of who I am and what I have accomplished for you for the forgiveness of your sin.
And we hear his invitation, we receive his gifts as he has appointed them for us, knowing that in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile unto himself all things, both on Earth and in Heaven, and he has made peace for us by the blood of his cross.
IN THE NAME OF JESUS.