The Triumphal Entry
 The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem.  So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”  And Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it, just as it is written,
 “Fear not, daughter of Zion;
behold, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt!”
 His disciples did not understand these things at first, but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written about him and had been done to him.  The crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to bear witness.  The reason why the crowd went to meet him was that they heard he had done this sign.  So the Pharisees said to one another, “You see that you are gaining nothing. Look, the world has gone after him.” (ESV)
In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
Jesus comes to us in ways we would never expect. He comes to us in weakness. God clothed in humanity. God born in a manger. God living in poverty, eating and drinking with the outcasts, the disreputable, the tax collector, the sick, the beggars and all sorts of sinners. A God who doesn’t come in the magnificence of lightning, clouds and thunder, riding a beautiful royal horse with His heavenly entourage, but instead rides on a donkey. A young donkey.
Although the crowd who gathered, we are told were there because they had heard about his power, in raising his friend Lazarus from the dead, he has come in a way we would never expect, simply riding on a humble animal headed to do what no one would expect, he would ride in to suffer and die on a cross for sinners.
It’s no wonder our expectations of our Lord are wrong, for we don’t even really know ourselves much less our God. We expect ourselves to find a way to make things right with a God whom we have dishonored. We expect the good people go to heaven and the bad ones go to hell. We expect that God would grade on some kind of curve, or forget about the awful wickedness we have committed and all of our years of commandment breaking and will instead accept us since we have showed up at church, or given money to this or that good cause. We are definitely much better than this person or that person. We aren’t as bad as we could be. Our kids are better than this person we know, or those kids over there. Yet, all of this thinking is nothing but useless religion, false teaching and all the stuff our Old Adam loves to contemplate so that we can become our own Saviors, we don’t need someone to do it for us, we can do it ourselves. This is the way of the flesh, the way of sin and the way of death.
Jesus however, as not only our Creator, as the One who spoke “let there be light, and there was light”, and “Father forgive them” doesn’t come in the ways a sinner, full of guilt and shame would expect. Rather than wait until the sinner cleaned himself up a little, or does something of merit, Jesus comes in the midst of all the sin, shame and suffering in the world to be among us. To be present with the sinner in their sin. To actually take the sin and the shame upon Himself and head to Jerusalem on a donkey to take on false accusation and ridicule and scorn, to suffer and die in your place, for your sin. To humbly receive all of this, instead of demonstrating His power in these events of Holy Week, in weakness, for you,
“but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom 5:8
Even today our Lord doesn’t come to us in ways we would expect. He doesn’t come through loud and flamboyant events, or world leaders gathering in important places, He doesn’t come in a loud voice from heaven with trumpets and all kinds of fanfare. Instead he comes to you, truly, certainly and actually in the weakness of preaching. From a preacher who himself is a sinner in need of the same Savior as everyone else.
St Paul tells the church this:
“Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?  For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe.  For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom,  but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles,  but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.  For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”
(1 Corinthians 1:20–25)
God has chosen the weakness of preaching and words spoken by a sometimes, stumbling, mumbling pastor who also is a sinner and saint at the same time, to deliver His gifts of forgiveness to you. He has chosen the simplicity of water with a promise to wash you clean, to give you personally His death and resurrection, all that He wins during His Holy Week through such simple means.
He has chosen to come to you personally and actually in bread and wine that you may receive the same Jesus who entered into Jerusalem on a humble donkey, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and buried for you.
He comes to you, while you’re still a sinner, in your actual sin, fear, shame, uncertainty and even your outright denial, to repent you, to give you faith, to cleanse you and make you His own.
He comes in weakness and humility to take the judgement for your sin, cast out the devil and his demons, that you would walk in freedom, in newness of life as His own friend and brother. He has come for you and for all men to deliver His victory over sin, death and the devil to the world.
 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.  And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”  He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. (ESV)  He said this to show by what kind of death he was going to die. (John 12:31–33)
So He comes to you this morning, in the weakness of words, water, bread and wine to deliver to you the forgiveness of all your sins, that you may know and believe that all He does and accomplishes this Holy Week is for you.
In the Name of Jesus,
Our Father in heaven.
What does this mean? With these words God tenderly invites us to believe that He is our true Father, and that we are His true children, so that with all boldness and confidence we may ask Him as dear children ask their dear father.
Hallowed be Thy Name.
What does this mean?
God’s name is certainly holy in itself, but we pray in this petition that it may be kept holy among us also.
How is God’s name kept holy?
God’s name is kept holy when the Word of God is taught in its truth and purity, and we, as the children of God, also lead holy lives according to it. Help us to do this, dear Father in heaven! But anyone who teaches or lives contrary to God’s Word profanes the name of God among us. Protect us from this, heavenly Father!
In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
We are given the gift of The Lord’s Prayer from Jesus Himself. Unlike the vain babbling of the hypocrites, Jesus tells us, who think they will be heard by their many words, rather this prayer Jesus gives us asks our heavenly Father to provide for all we need, even though He already knows what we need even before we ask. This Prayer is given to us so that we may be confident that what we pray is exactly what God Himself would have us to pray, and as Luther tells us in the Large Catechism, “there is no nobler prayer to be found on earth, for it has the powerful testimony and assurance that God loves to hear it.”
God who is OUR Father, invites us to this prayer, as His blessed children, who are adopted into His family through the work of His Son, our Lord Jesus who has given Himself for our sins and has become our brother through His coming into the flesh and dying as our substitute. So in Heb. 2:17 we are told:
“Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God to make propitiation for the sins of the people.”
Not only do we pray to God as our father, as His beloved children, but Jesus, who has become our brother and our high priest prays and intercedes with us and for us always. We pray then, with assurance and confidence, in faith, believing that our Lord will hear us and answer us when we call upon Him.
We are given in this first petition to ask that God’s name be kept holy in us and among us. God Himself alone is holy, and we aren’t asking Him to be what He already is, this petition is for us, our families, the church, the government and all the earth. It is for us to extoll the Name given to us in holy baptism. It is to acknowledge that in our sinful flesh we don’t keep his name holy, but rather we misuse and even profane the name of the Lord, but in asking “hallowed be thy Name” we plead for God to help us to honor His name by honoring His Word both with what we say or teach, and in how we live. It is the fulfillment of the Second Commandment to not misuse the Name of the Lord, but instead that “We should fear and love God that we may not curse, swear, use witchcraft, lie, or deceive by His name, but call upon it in every trouble, pray, praise, and give thanks.”
We pray to speak His Gospel in all its purity to one another. That we would speak His Word of all sins forgiven on account of Jesus, and words of reconciliation to our families and neighbors, as well as for the church to teach His Word rightly and in all its purity. In this, we also ask for God to repent us and any false teachers who speak false doctrines and teach false liturgies, but that they would speak our Lord’s doctrine in all their teaching and living.
In all of this we ask that it would begin with us, when we make this petition.
This petition is also our confession that we so often believe falsely, and as we know, so many both preach and believe falsely and so they attack, persecute and suppress His Gospel and pure doctrine through which He gives His gifts.
As Luther reminds us:
“Likewise, this petition is for ourselves who have the word of God but are ungrateful for it and fail to live according to it as we ought. If you ask for such things from your heart, you can be sure God is pleased. For there is nothing he would rather hear than to have his glory and praise exalted above everything else and his word taught in its purity, cherished and treasured.”
So in this petition we also proclaim with the Psalmist as we sang earlier:
“O Lord, our Lord,
how majestic is your name in all the earth!” Psalm 8:1
And we ask this of a loving heavenly father who gives His promise to hear us and answer our prayer:
“Call on me in the day of trouble, I will deliver you” (Psalm 50:5)
And “Ask and it will be given to you….for everyone who asks, receives.”
So we pray certainly with the very words He Himself gives to us knowing He WILL hear our cry for help and answer us.
In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
“ Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,  and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.  For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.  More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
The Lord gives His Promise to the sinner. He cleanses the sinner, He makes righteous the unrighteous. He is the ultimate gift giver, promise giver and promise keeper. He freely, graciously and abundantly gives to His people, to those whom He has purchased with His own blood. He not only creates us through His Word of promise or Gospel, but He also re-creates, sustains and nourishes. He finishes what He begins. He gives again and again. So much so, that His Words of Promise, or His Gospel are always the gifts that keep on giving. They aren’t measurable, instead they are poured out immeasurably. This is why Paul keeps using the phrase in Rom. 5 “much more…and more than that” when speaking of God’s gifts in Christ for us. Just when you think it can’t get any better, God gives even more…much more. 70 times seven, we cant quantify it.
He does all of this, not for the good or godly person, but He does it for the sinner, the ungodly. He gives His gifts to you, while still a sinner. Our Lord doesn’t wait until you’ve gotten it together or have shown a little effort. He doesn’t wait until you do “your part” so that He can finish what you’ve begun. He doesn’t justify or make clean the one in whom He sees some sort of potential or hope down the road, but rather St. Paul tell us:
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
During this season of Lent, while we are still here in our sinful flesh, we can actually get it all wrong. We can reverse things, wrongly flip them around and make the Gospel, His gifts, about OUR doing, OUR restraint, our Law keeping, our own efforts to make ourself clean. The Old Adam, or sinful flesh always turns gifts into earnings, grace into some form of Karma, but Jesus tells the crowd and His disciples
“ And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.  For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.”
For while we would like to make Lent and every season of the church for that matter about us and what we do, Jesus came to earth to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He came to die on a cross and rise for us.
So to be clear, even the denying of ourselves, Jesus speaks of, is not some form of monastic living where we do “this or that”, refrain from this or that or follow some sort of pious regiment in order to better or justify ourselves, but Lent truly looks to Jesus who is heading to Jerusalem as the Lamb of God who bears our sins. He has come to take up His cross and destroy sin death and the devil for you. To give His victory to you. So, denying yourself or, “losing your life” as Jesus puts it, is ceasing your various means of self-justification. It is confession. “I, a poor miserable sinner” It is confessing that you can’t fix what is broken in you and the world around you because of Original sin and instead “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb. 12:2) Lent is about being repented by the Lord Himself and being cleansed by this Jesus who goes to die for you. Lent is about the death, or drowning of our Old man, the one who always turns Gospel or God’s gifts, Promises into Law, and turns receiving from our Lord into your own doing and working.
So, while we’re still trying to justify ourselves, despising the Lord’s gifts, while we were even enemies of God, Jesus died for us. He didn’t wait until we got better, because we never would get better, He didn’t wait until we fixed our spiritual blindness, deafness and deadness because we can’t. With man, Jesus said, this is impossible.
Rather it is Jesus Himself who is our Healer, the One who absolves us, is our righteousness, our life. He speaks us clean & righteous with His Word of Gospel or Promise, delivering all that He has won for us…to us. . He washes us clean and pours out His own precious holy blood for us. He justifies us before the Father, so that we are at peace with God, and not at war any longer. Therefore, we walk and even “stand” as Paul puts it, by faith, or by simply receiving all that He gives us in His Promises.
This way, even as we suffer in this world, we can rejoice, for God is with us and for us, not against us. In other words, even the struggles, the suffering we experience in this world becomes gift to us, as Christ Himself has joined us in our weakness, given us the Holy Spirit and is our strength and comfort. We know that because of His demonstrated, ongoing and active love for us at the cross, where His blood was poured out to forgive our sin, any suffering we experience is never to destroy us, or because God is angry with us, but it is God’s gift for our endurance, character and hope. So, as those who are purchased and loved by Christ Himself, as sinners who have been cleansed, washed white as snow, we don’t see suffering as pointless and hopeless, or even something to try and figure out, but we receive all from the Lord as gift, for our benefit, from the hand of a Father who loves us as certainly as we are Christ’s own. We have been baptized by Him, given His Name. For, in Christ we are made alive and we, through holy baptism we are joined both to His death and His resurrection. So any suffering, trials or hardship are only for a season, they are not eternal, for we look forward to the resurrection of the dead and by faith we walk and are upheld by His Promise to deliver us from all the evils of sin, death and the devil. Therefore, we confess with St. Paul:
“If God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?  Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.  Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?  As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”
 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.  For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
 And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching.  And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.  And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out,  “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.”  But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!”  And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him.  And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”  And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.
In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
In Mark’s Gospel, the first miracle of Jesus recorded is Jesus, while teaching in the synagogue, freeing a demon possessed man. Mark doesn’t record whether or not the man with the demon interrupts his teaching, but it is enough of a disruption that people see and hear the demon controlling the man cry out ““What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” This was quite a scene to everyone who witnessed this.
We haven’t had demonic encounters like this one, but the reality is that there is a real enemy, the devil and all his fallen angels or demons, and they do attack, accuse and torment us whether we are aware of it or not.
Jesus rebukes the demon saying ““Be silent, and come out of him!”  And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him.”
Now, the demon had recognized correctly who Jesus was, after all it’s this same Jesus who made all the angels, all men and women and everything else. The demon also correctly knows what Jesus has come to do, for he calls Jesus “The Holy One of God”. Not only is Jesus the God who Himself IS Holy, but with this title the Holy One of God, even the demon recognizes that Jesus has come to make people holy as He is holy. He has come to forgive sin. After all Jesus has been preaching, we are told earlier in this same chapter, “he was proclaiming the gospel of God”, which is Jesus making the unclean, clean.
In contrast, the demon here is called “unclean”, and is possessing a man who is also unclean, a sinner condemned to death and being tormented by this spirit. But it is Jesus who has come to set this man free, or release him, and the demon knows this, he knows Jesus has the authority to destroy him, but Jesus simply speaks here ““Be silent, and come out of him!”
This is quite the contrast from the TV preacher or the false teacher who makes a big deal and even a production out of casting out demons. Long prayers, made up and lengthy and loud speeches or formulas and the like, where Jesus, the Holy One of God, simply rebukes & speaks, and the man is free.
Jesus has come to make this man Holy, to forgive sin. To make clean the unclean. This is why He came for us men and for our salvation. Jesus came for the sinner.
Notice here, Jesus doesn’t come in power, according to Mark, but in authority and that’s what differentiates him from the scribes they had been hearing in the synagogues. The scribes came looking for and trying to demonstrate power, control over the people. They had numerous methods for good holy living. More principles than we can even imagine, and yet they had no authority, for that belongs only to Jesus. Jesus taught, not like the scribes who tried to teach the people how to behave and follow the law, how to justify or make themselves clean, rather Jesus words accomplished what they said. Only Jesus had authority to forgive sin. When He forgave sin, it was forgiven. When He spoke, demons fled, for although He had omnipotent power, for after all He was almighty God in flesh, He came in weakness to sinners, and through what we might consider the simplicity or even ordinariness of words, he taught.
But Jesus wasn’t just “some” teacher, some trendy new guru who had come to teach new things for us to do better ourselves, but He was the Promised One, the new Moses, the final and ultimate prophet and the final and ultimate Word of God.
As our Old Testament reading tells us:
 “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— just as you desired of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’  And the LORD said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken.  I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him.  And whoever will not listen to my words that he shall speak in my name, I myself will require it of him. (ESV)
Jesus teaches and speaks and casts out demons as the final prophet about whom all other prophets speak. In fact, He is the Word of God Himself, so the prophets only speak, including Moses, what Jesus gives them, and now He has come in the flesh to speak for Himself. He is the greater Moses spoken of in Deuteronomy and the one who speaks to us now as the One who has born all of our sin on the cross and risen from the dead and ascended. Who sits at the right hand of God the Father almighty and from thence He will come to judge the living and the dead.
The author of Hebrews puts it this way:
“ Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,  but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.  He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” (Hebrews 1:1–3)
As the one who speaks to us, the Word of God in the flesh, tempted in all ways that you are, yet without sin, He brings His Word of comfort to you. Fear not! You are forgiven. His very Word cleanses you, frees you. He speaks you clean who are unclean. For He has taken your sin upon Himself, nailing it to the cross and it’s gone, he suffered and died for all your sin. He has removed it as far as the east is from the west says the Psalmist. Our Psalm today puts it this way:
 Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven,
whose sin is covered.
 Blessed is the man against whom the LORD counts no iniquity,
and in whose spirit there is no deceit. (ESV)
Jesus covers your sin and makes you holy. Having washed you clean in the waters of baptism and placed upon you His very name. The name above every name. The name by which the devil and all of his fallen angels flee, because of Jesus death on the cross, paying the penalty for your sin, and His rising again in triumph over the power of sin, death and the devil, the demons have no accusation against you, for this Holy One has removed your sin and the devil has no power over you, for you belong to the Lord of life, the holy one who is with you always.
“If God is for us, who can be against us?” Paul reminds us.
It is in our Gospel that we see, we have no need to fear, no need to be anxious, ashamed, for the Lord Jesus, who has authority over the devil and his demons, has come for the worst of sinners, the harlot, the murderer, the adulterer, the liar, and even the demon possessed and oppressed. He is the Lord over all His creation and has entered into sinful humanity to save you. To gather you to His name, cleanse your sin and feed you His true body and blood for the forgiveness of you sins.
In speaking of the Lord’s authority and triumph over all of our enemies of sin, death and the devil Martin Luther’s most famous hymn, A Mighty Fortress speaks of the greatness of this Holy One of God named Jesus, and all He has accomplished for us, and he writes:
Though devils all the world should fill, all eager to devour us
We tremble not, we fear no ill; they shall not overpower us
This world’s prince may still scowl fierce as he will
He can harm us none
He’s judged the deed is done
One little word can fell him
In the Name of Jesus, Amen
“ In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove.  And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
In the Name of Jesus. Amen
As we hear about the baptism of our Lord, we, like John, don’t understand why Jesus, who is God in the flesh would need to be baptized. It all seems backwards to us. He is the sinless One, the Righteous One, God in human flesh, born of a virgin with no Original Sin. That’s why John says of Jesus “he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
John knows he is the one who needs to be baptized by Jesus, not the other way around. Nevertheless, Jesus tells John in Matthew’s account of Jesus’ baptism “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.”
Here we have the Righteous Son of God entering into the Jordan, not to be cleansed, but to be baptized into your sin and mine, to become the greatest of sinners for you. To be God WITH you, bear the sin of the world. This is what Isaiah promises,
“Surely he has borne our griefs
and carried our sorrows;
and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. “
by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant,
make many to be accounted righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.”
Then St. Paul tells us:
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Cor. 5:21
So all that is yours, every bit of your sin, Jesus took upon Himself, and all that is His, His cleansing blood & righteousness, is given to you by means of His baptizing of you into His name.
For not only did Jesus take upon human flesh at His conception and birth, but at His baptism, He was baptized into the sin of the whole world, so that He could then give you His righteousness. As John the Baptist says of Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God who bears the sin of the world!”
We also have all 3 persons of the Trinity together at our Lord’s baptism. Jesus is being baptized into our sin, the heavens are literally torn open, and the Holy Spirit, descends in bodily form, like a dove, upon Jesus, and the Father speaks audibly, ““You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”
So often we speculate about what God may think about us, or even if He thinks about us at all. We are after all sinners, who are guilty both by birth and by choice of His commandments. To be sure, we can’t even keep the first one.
“You shall have no other gods”
WE have countless other gods, so many other things that we fear love and trust besides the Lord. So suffice it to say, we usually speculate that God is mad at us, as would be fitting for one who has rejected their Creator. We know that we deserve for God to be against us, even. When we see awful things around us or go through difficulties of various kinds, we are certain that God has finally had enough, and has come to punish us.
When we hear His word of Law spoken to us, and even the law He’s written on our hearts, we know and feel our guilt. We are not just imperfect, or mistake prone, but we are tainted through and through with Original Sin. We are conceived in and continue in sin, and we don’t seek God, none of us do.
Jesus came, however, not for the righteous, but for sinners. He seeks us! He seeks you! He came not for the healthy but for the sick. However, the Father sent his son into the world, not to condemn it, but that through Jesus’ shedding of His own blood on the cross for us, we would be forgiven. Absolved. Righteous. The spoken word of the Father at Jesus’ baptism is directed at Jesus, ““You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”, but by the gift of His Gospel it’s also our word, it’s a word for you.
So today, for the baptized, the one who has been Named by our Lord Himself, claimed as His own, the same word the Father speaks to Jesus is yours. “with you I am well pleased” Not because you’ve done anything yourself, or improved enough that He should be happy with you, but because He’s pleased with the Son, and He has baptized you, all that is Christ’s, including the pleasure of His Father, is now yours by gift or grace, received through faith. Paul puts it this way in our Romans reading:
“ Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.”
For the most part, growing up in the Baptist church, although I had read about and knew about Jesus being baptized, it was never anything that was emphasized or really even explained to me. Even though it is mentioned in all 4 Gospel accounts, it was not really a point of emphasis, and was even overlooked. Jesus’ baptism was seen and taught as Him being our example, but nothing was really accomplished. In other words, I was taught that you should be baptized, because Jesus was baptized and you should obey and do what He did. There was no gift in this however. I had a backwards understanding that baptism was and saw it as something that we did, not a gift to be received. In other words, Baptism, including the Baptism of Jesus, was Law (something we do) and not Gospel (what our Lord gives to us in Jesus). It was important, but it didn’t give anything, and didn’t DO anything. I then, after carefully simply reading every verse about baptism I could find, by God’s grace, it became so very clear that baptism itself was pure gift, it was the delivery of the forgiveness of all sin, by Jesus for me. Peter puts is crystal clear when he says baptism NOW saves you. All that Jesus won on the cross and resurrection, is actually, truly, certainly and fully given to us in this gift of baptism. Although a pastor may speak the words and pour the water, it is actually Jesus Himself who does the baptizing, does the saving, does the forgiving, does the rescuing. We must have someone to do this for us, since we are unable to save ourselves, unable to repent, unable to clean ourselves up, and that’s exactly what Jesus does through the means, or with the gift of baptism. You are cleansed, you are righteous, because the Jesus became the greatest sinner in your place, paying the penalty, receiving God’s judgement for you. Pure gift, absolute forgiveness, the Gospel.
We now have the connection between Jesus baptism into your sin and His baptizing you as the One who removes your sin. Jesus, after being baptized into the your sins, carries them all the way to the cross, to Good Friday where He is crucified for you. Defeating sin, death, which is sin’s consequence, and the devil for you. Everything against you is defeated, because God is FOR you NOT against you.
The same word of the Father that says ““You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” is now His word to you, as Christ’s own baptized, cleansed and holy child from this time forth and forevermore.
In the Name of Jesus, AMEN
 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.  He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him.  He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.
 The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world.  He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him.  He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God,  who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.
 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
In the Name of Jesus,
John begins his gospel account unlike Matthew, Mark or Luke. Rather than speaking about the birth of Jesus in a narrative form, listing a long genealogy, mentioning Mary and Joseph, the manger and shepherds, he begins speaking of Jesus as the Word of God, beginning, not in the manger but “In the beginning…” In hearing the first verse of the first chapter of John’s gospel, one can’t help but think of the comparison to Genesis 1:1, and this is exactly what John intends. The Word of God, who created “all things”, would now become flesh, fully human, and dwell among us, His creation, fulfilling the Promise he spoke to our first parents in Gen. 3 after their fall into Original Sin. The backstory then, for Christmas, is truly the backstory of humanity, where Adam and Even were tempted by the serpent and sin entered into God’s perfect creation. Through this infection of Original sin, all of mankind would perpetually rebel against their Creator, unable to do anything about their predicament. Humanity, in desperate need for a Savior and Redeemer, someone coming from outside of us to save us, to cleanse us from sin and its horrific and tragic effects.
The background of Jesus coming into the world is the darkness of Original sin, and yet John tells us that the Word who came into the world was the light. According to St. John, “The true light, which gives light to everyone” Even though “the world he created and even his own people, whom he had given this promise to through the prophets did not receive him.” Instead of receiving or believing the Word of God who had promised to deliver them through the Seed who would come to crush sin death and the devil, they were looking for what all of us in our sinful flesh look for, false gods, idols, ideologies, systems, or some plan of action that we can follow or accomplish, to make ourselves clean. Our Old Adam, or sinful flesh looks to the Law, some teaching, religion or training that would make us holy and acceptable, yet for man, we are reminded again and again through this same Law, that this is impossible, for we are born into this same darkness of sin and death. In fact spiritually, we are born dead in trespasses and sin, and all that the Law and any additional law or system of our own doing always ends in death.
Thanks be to God that Christmas, and the coming of Jesus in the flesh, as true God and true man, is all about our Lord doing what we could never do for ourselves. It is about as John records, “the right to become children of God. who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” The Word of God, the Son of God who speaks and who has created man, has now entered His creation as fully one of us, as a man, who has come to “dwell with us”, to be the Lamb of God who literally shoulders or carries the sins of the whole world on a cross, in order to re-create us with His Word of forgiveness, to cleanse us completely through His Word of Gospel.
Jesus, would have a ministry where he would preach, teach, and even in His speaking, things would actually happen, He would re-create that which was destroyed as a result of sin, He would undo the curse of sin, for He is the Lord of life. Blind men would see, the deaf would hear, the lame would walk, and even the dead would rise again. For His words weren’t just the words of a man, although He was truly man, but He was also truly God, He was the creator of all things as John makes clear,” All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.” Vs. 3 .
Jesus didn’t just come to teach however, He did not just come to give us a new system or new way of living better or improvement, He was born to die for us. So, this Christmas morning, the manger always has the cross in view. We can’t speak of Jesus being born of a virgin without also speaking of His suffering under Pontious Pilate, His being crucified, His dying, rising and ascending for you and your salvation as the we confess in the Creed.
As we hear from St. John’s Gospel “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” vs. 14 Here we have more Old Testament language to help us see more clearly who this Jesus truly is, since in the Greek language John is telling us that Jesus became born of the Virgin Mary in order to tabernacle with us. Now that doesn’t seem to make sense in English, but John is letting us know that Jesus was the one present, in the holy of holies in the tabernacle that delivered this Word of forgiveness to God’s saints in the Old Testament. The tabernacle is where, through the sacrifice, atonement for sins was made, and the sinner was cleansed. God Himself would speak the verdict through the priest, the office of the ministry given by God to the His people in the Old Testament. The tabernacle was the center of Israel’s worship, and it went with them wherever they wandered. But Now, John is saying, Jesus is the true tabernacle, everything has now changed with the Advent or arrival of the Word becoming flesh, or Jesus being born of Mary, and Christmas is the real tabernacle coming to be among His people in real flesh and blood. The God who delivered His people Israel out of the bondage of Egyptian slavery, who filled the tabernacle and later the temple of Solomon, the One who is the maker of heaven, earth and everything in it, has come as a human to be the true sacrifice for us, and is full of, not anger and wrath, but grace and truth. For in His suffering and death on the cross, Jesus would take the wrath of God that you deserve as penalty for your sin, for you, in your place. God has spoken, the author of Hebrews tells us in these last days, through His Son, and this is Christmas, the Word has become flesh, for you. To be with YOU. To enter into your life, your suffering, your pain, your sin, to deliver you. To literally Exodus you.
Jesus, who is the Word who became flesh, comes to you this Christmas morning in His true Body broken for you, and His true blood shed for the forgiveness of your sins.
Hundreds of years before the first Christmas morning, the prophet Isaiah tells us:
“For to US a child is born, to US a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
In the Name of Jesus, AMEN.
I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth.
What does this mean? — Answer.
I believe that God has made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my limbs, my reason, and all my senses, and still preserves them; in addition thereto, clothing and shoes, meat and drink, house and homestead, wife and children, fields, cattle, and all my goods; that He provides me richly and daily with all that I need to support this body and life, protects me from all danger, and guards me and preserves me from all evil; and all this out of pure, fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me; for all which I owe it to Him to thank, praise, serve, and obey Him. This is most certainly true.
In the Name of Jesus, Amen.
The Lord gives His gifts. The One who created us, is also the Lord who sustains us. Every detail of our lives, every part of our person, even down to the very number of hairs on our head matter to our Lord. Jesus put it this way:
His care for you isn’t based on anything in you either. He doesn’t care for and provide for you based on karma, your goodness, or anything you do or have done, because truthfully, there is no good in you. Everything good is from God Himself, for He alone is good and is the giver of all good gifts. So, real goodness must be given to you, it’s not from inside your heart but from outside of you.
Everything we have that’s good, a great meal, great drink, nice clothing, friends, family, a house or apartment to shelter us and on and on, all of it we receive from the hand of our Lord as His gift to us and for us. Good is also not some arbitrary feeling. It’s not just something emotional or subjective, but according to Genesis 1, God calls His creation good and then when He creates man, He tells us for the first time that something is NOT good, when man is there alone. So, He creates the woman, and the two are one flesh, and now are called VERY good. Now there is life that comes from this created man and woman, and we see that our Lord, our Creator tells us good is something definitive, something objective, towards the giving of life. It is towards the giving of life, care of life and sustinence of life, therefore it is good. So, we give thanks, in fact for all of these things, knowing they are from the Lord who cares for us, and does so through other means and people, all of whom are also His created work.
In other words, our Lord uses His very creation to continue His blessings and order all towards life, care sustenance and enjoyment. An example of this is found when we pray for our Lord to “give us this day our daily bread” in the prayer He has given. He answers this prayer by means of His creation. Through what we may even look at as normal or natural means. He gives this bread through the vocation of a farmer, who grows the bread, the truck driver who delivers the bread, the grocery store and workers who stock the bread, and the clerk who checks us out to get the bread. He gives the job or money to be able to purchase the bread as well. So God works in what we may consider ordinary means to extrodinarily provide for us, His creation, and so we give thanks to Him for all things.
Not only does God use His gifts or creation to provide for our physical needs, but He gives to us that which we desperately need spiritually, through created or physical and material means.
Ultimately, we receive all that is needed for us, as sinners who are in need of the forgiveness of sins, justification, through physical means. The Gospel itself is given by way of God Himself entering into our created world, into physical and material time and space, becoming one of us, the Son of Man to redeem us from the devastating effects of sin, death and the devil. Jesus is the Gospel. It is Jesus, the One who has come to save us from our sins, as His name reminds us, who was born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, and was crucified as the Lamb of God who carries our sins and pays for them on the cross. He does so for us men and for our salvation as we confess I the Creed.
He ascends into heaven, as true God AND true man, the One who now speaks us righteous and feeds us His own true body and blood for the forgiveness of sin. He is the one, as the Son of Man who stands in for all of humanity, having taken upon Himself all of our sin and shame. The author of Hebrews tells us that He does so, “for the joy that was set before Him”. His redemption of you was not done begrudgingly or with any reluctance, but willingly and joyfully. He did it because He loves you.
All that Jesus has accomplished for you, the shedding of His blood to cleanse you, is given freely to you through created means as well. He gives to you through the work of the Holy Spirit, whom He gives through means that are material, or through the real or actual, so there is certainty in what our Lord gives. There is certainty to how these gifts of salvation are received, and where they are located in actual time and space.
He speaks this Gospel to you through a real preacher, who uses real words that you hear through your actual ears. The material or phyisically spoken Word is used by our Lord, not the hidden or subjective way of feelings or something secret. Preaching in the Lord’s service is His use of His own creation for your salvation. He has chosen that your faith is given to you through this preaching for Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ preached to you.
The Lord places His holy name upon you in Holy Baptism, where he uses real water, His creation, with His Word to cleanse you and deliver to you the victory of His cross and resurrection, His righteousness is now completely and certainly yours. All gift. Given to you physically and actually so that you certainly know that you belong to Him.
Our Lord give His true body and true blood to you through real wine and real bread with His supper where He speaks to you “This is my body given for you, and 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.”
When our Lord speaks, He acts and gives, He accomplishes what He promises and delivers what He says, using the very things He created to recreate us as new men and women in Christ, and as His church, the people of His own making and remaking, Those whom He has repented and gathers to Himself, whom He will be with always, even unto the end of the age. Creation and Redemption, our salvation from sin is all His gift, His work, He’s done it all for you.
Isaiah 35:10 says:
“And the ransomed of the LORD shall return and come to Zion with singing; everlasting joy shall be upon their heads; they shall obtain gladness and joy, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away”
In the Name of Jesus, Amen.