You Do Not Belong to the Tomb

The Resurrection of our Lord [b]                             April 4, 2021

 

Isaiah 25:6-9

And in this mountain
The Lord of hosts will make for all people
A feast of choice pieces,
A feast of wines on the lees,
Of fat things full of marrow,
Of well-refined wines on the lees.
And He will destroy on this mountain
The surface of the covering cast over all people,
And the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever,
And the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces;
The rebuke of His people
He will take away from all the Earth;
For the Lord has spoken.

And it will be said in that day:
“Behold, this is our God;
We have waited for Him, and He will save us.
This is the Lord;
We have waited for Him;
We will be glad and rejoice in His salvation.”

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

What happened at that tomb?

 

It seemed, perhaps, a small thing at the time. At least on the world stage. A small thing in the great movements and history of the world.

 

A small thing, really. It was at a confined place, outside of Jerusalem, not up in Greece or in Rome. No world capitals or great cities would even know what happened at that tomb on that otherwise normal morning.

 

A confined location, a confined time. The crucified One on the first day of the week walks out of the tomb, alive! Death swallowed up in life in the person of Jesus.

 

But the particularity of it! It was done by a particular man, Jesus, on a particular day. It’s no normal event, to be sure, this resurrection of a dead man. But will it matter for others? Will it matter for you and me?

 

Will this single Name and life even be known by the philosopher in Athens or the politician in Rome? Will it help the sinner in Albuquerque?

 

 

This resurrection of this One man, it’s the defeat of death.

 

But death is not confined. Death isn’t limited to a particular place. To whom does death not belong? As Isaiah says, death is over all peoples, all nations, everyone. Isaiah 25:7:

 [The Lord] will destroy on this mountain
The surface of the covering cast over all people,
And the veil that is spread over all nations.

 

Death is so universal, so all-encompassing, it is sometimes referred to as a “natural process.” It’s part of being human. It happens to all. So our world, covered by the veil of death spread over all nations, tries to clean death up and act as if it’s acceptable. Death is like a leaf falling to the ground, we hear in our world, so that the leaf, in dying, gives life to the next generation.

 

But a man is not a leaf. Death is not good. No life comes from it. It can’t be cleaned up. It is the total negation of life. It is not part of being human. It’s part of being a sinner. To be human is to be alive. To be a sinner is to be under the veil of death. Death is the judgement, and this judgement knows no borders.

 

 

So what is the rescue from death? For the rescue to be true, it must be universal, all-encompassing, not confined to one small location on one particular day. For the rescue to be true, it must be a total swallowing up of the covering of death’s veil cast over all peoples, over all nations. Isaiah 25:8:

[The Lord] will destroy on this mountain
The surface of the covering cast over all people,
And the veil that is spread over all nations.
He will swallow up death forever,
And the Lord God will wipe away tears from all faces;
The rebuke of His people
He will take away from all the Earth.

 

This victory is full. No borders of place or time, no confinement of location or generation. Full victory over death, to all peoples, to all faces with tears of mourning, forever, for every day of every year of every generation—death taken away from all the Earth.

 

 

That’s what happened at that tomb on that particular day, when the Crucified One stood up and walked out.

 

The terror of death, the judgement of sin, the dead body on the cross, it came to one man, Christ Jesus. But he did it for all. For every person of every family of every nation of every generation, no one left out. He did it for all.

 

Our sin accounted to him—he took it upon himself, he was clothed in it, when John baptized him with all the sinners at the Jordan river.

 

His righteousness accounted to us—he clothed us in it when he baptized us into the Holy Name.

 

The judgement for all came to one Man.

 

Now the victory. The walking out of the tomb, the breaking the bonds of death. The victory is one man.

 

The victory is Jesus, the Lamb of God, atoning for the sin of the world by the shedding of his own blood, then, on the third day, raised up from the dead by the Father, never to be subject to death again (Romans 6:9).

 

The victory is Jesus making known his triumph over this death even in Hell itself. He descended into Hell to proclaim to the demons their defeat. Their defeat is the cross, where he redeemed all sinners. Their defeat is the open tomb, where he tore to shreds the veil death.

 

He descended to Hell to declare to the demons that it’s over, their defeat is complete, death no longer reigns over the sinner.

 

The victory, it is accomplished by the one Man. But the one who stood up out of the grave, he has a Name.

 

His Name is Jesus. And Jesus means, Yahweh saves. Yahweh is his Name he gave to Moses at the burning bush. Yahweh means, I am. He is the God who was, who is, who will be, and who brings all creatures to life.

 

He is the God not of the dead, but of the living.

 

With his Name, he gives you all that he is. With his Name he gives all that he promised. He has promised the atonement of sinners (Isaiah 53). He has promised the resurrection of the body (Job 19:25-26). He has promised that this salvation is a swallowing up of the shroud of death covering all peoples (Isaiah 25:7) and is an eternal feast of victory for all (Isaiah 25:6).

 

This salvation is universal. It is that the Redeemer has atoned for the sins of every sinner. Even those who walk away from this gift, they don’t negate the atonement—for Jesus, the Lord of life, did no deficient work—they only refuse the atonement for themselves, choosing instead to try to justify themselves in their rejection of the gift.

 

Now, the Redeemer is resurrected. Living and breathing. And his resurrection is for all. For every sinner. For every person fearing death. For you and me.

 

This salvation was accomplished at a particular time and location for all. But the Lord delivers it now not generally, not in a way that is unsure and uncertain to a particular sinner; he delivers this gift of life to a particular sinner at a certain time and place, by a manner of delivery he has designated.

 

The Name belonging to the cross and the resurrection, the Name who defeated death, standing up out of the tomb (Mark 16:6), is now the Name proclaimed to the sinner in the Gospel:

I declare to you the Gospel which I proclaimed to you, which you also received, and in which you stand, by which also you are saved.”

[1 Corinthians 15:1-2]

 

The Name is given us in the Gospel. The Name is given to. You bear the Name of crucifixion and resurrection.

 

In your Baptism, everything he accomplished on the cross, everything he did in breaking the bonds of death and walking out of the tomb, is now joined to you (Romans 6:3-10). Jesus’ crucifixion and his resurrection belong to you as surely as to him, or Baptism into his Name means nothing.

 

His victory over death, his righteous standing before the Father, his joy of the eternal feast, it is your victory over death, your righteous standing, your eternal joy—all by gift.

 

He is risen, he is risen indeed. He walked out of the tomb. You do not belong to the tomb. You belong to his resurrection. You are risen, you are risen indeed. You know it now by faith. You will know it then by sight.

 

In the Name of Jesus.

How to Get God’s Glory Totally Wrong

Fifth Sunday in Lent [b]                                              March 21, 2021

 

Mark 10:32-45

32 And they were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them. And they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. And taking the twelve again, he began to tell them what was to happen to him, 33 saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles. 34 And they will mock him and spit on him, and flog him and kill him. And after three days he will rise.” 35 And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to [Jesus] and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?” 39 And they said to him, “We are able.” And Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink, and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized, 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.” 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be indignant at James and John. 42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, “You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. 43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

Glory. Anyone could use a little glory in life. Glory, triumph, success, honor, strength—who would turn away?

 

How many books written, how many self-help programs sold, how many people signed up for motivational seminars, for just that—glory, success, triumph. We want to rise above, to excel; we want strength to replace failure and weakness.

 

James and John wanted glory. Mark 10:37:

And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came up to [Jesus] and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” And he said to them, “What do you want me to do for you?” And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”

 

The Lord’s glory—what did James and John think that would be? Maybe they were thinking of Mount Sinai. When Moses came down from Sinai to address the people, they saw thunders and lightenings and a thick cloud on the mountain, they heard a loud trumpet blast, so that all the people in the camp trembled. [Exodus 19:16]

 

Maybe James and John thought of that for glory. Or maybe of Mt. Carmel when the prophet Elijah smashed the false Baal prophets by calling fire out of Heaven.

 

What were James and John thinking when they said they wanted to sit with Jesus in his glory? Whatever they were thinking, they got it totally wrong. Mark 10:38:

Jesus said to [James and John], “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or to be baptized with the baptism with which I am baptized?”

 

 

The glory of the Lord. It’s not fire from the sky, not earthquake, not death to enemies. It’s no earthly success and triumph and honor and strength. It’s not the self-help program nor the motivational seminar. It’s nothing that anyone would put up on Instagram or Facebook as an inspiring photo.

 

The glory of the Lord is a man bleeding on the cross as he breathes his last breath. A man publicly accused and humiliated by teachers of the Law. A man who has taken upon himself the sins of the world, and who, in speaking of himself, said, “The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give a life a ransom for many.”

 

This is glory, true glory on Earth, the Lord’s glory. Glory is not God’s almighty dominion crushing sinners, not God’s holiness consuming everything unholy, not God’s infinite power unleashed here on Earth.

 

Glory is God’s holiness and power concealed, cloaked so that as God comes to the sinner to give gifts, the sinner is not destroyed by his holiness.

 

So God’s power is seen in Mount Sinai’s fire and lightening, but God does not come down the mountain to destroy the sinners below. Rather, God puts his Word on the tongue of Moses, and in the weakness and humanity of Moses, God approaches the sinner in weakness to forgive sins and give gifts.

 

And then God comes himself in the flesh as the child of Mary. He grows up just as any other human, in the normal way.

 

Why didn’t God just come down spiritually, in holiness, in power, and approach the sinner that way? Because the Son of God came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.

 

He came in weakness so as not to destroy the sinner by his holiness and power, but, cloaked in human flesh, as true Man, to give to the sinner gifts.

 

The gift. His Body and his blood on the cross. We want to see God in his glory? Then we look at the cross.

 

Not fire and lightening flashing, but Body and Blood dying. Not power and success dominating, but the Son of Man, speaking grace to give gifts.

 

 

Now God’s glory to us.

 

“Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory,”

James and John said to Jesus.

 

They will be with Jesus in his glory. As they see him dying for all sinners, including themselves, on the cross, they see him in his glory.

 

Jesus has us, too, with him in his glory.

 

His cross is his glory on Earth. We belong to his cross. Galatians 2:20:

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

 

His glory is not to destroy the sinner, nor to force the sinner to serve him, but to cleanse the conscience, serving the sinner with his gifts. His glory is the sinner baptized. 1 Peter 3:21:

Baptism … now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

 

His glory is him approaching us now not in uncloaked power which would annihilate us in our sinful flesh, but coming to us in his Body and Blood for the forgiveness of all our sin—for the Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.

 

 

And now we are the glory of God to one another and to our neighbor.

 

Not because we exhibit the glory of God as we live the victorious Christian life—whatever that nonsense might mean. And not because we show forth the glory of God by parading ourselves around as those who have overcome every obstacle and who prove ourselves through our obedience—that may make us look strong, but then we remember, our Lord comes in weakness.

 

We are God’s glory to one another as we proclaim the crucifixion of Christ Jesus, as we remind each other of his coming in weakness to be our Savior. We are God’s glory to our neighbor not in proving what good Christians we can make ourselves appear to be, but in speaking to our neighbor the grace and mercy of the Son of Man who comes not to be served, but to serve.

 

In short, we are God’s glory to one another and to our neighbor as we forgive sins.

 

For we belong to Christ who forgives sins, who came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.

 

In the Name of Jesus.

This Is the Man of Faith.

Lent 4, Wednesday Evening                       March 17, 2021

 

Deuteronomy 9:29-29

Thus I prostrated myself before the LORD; forty days and forty nights I kept prostrating myself, because the LORD had said He would destroy you. 26 “Therefore I prayed to the LORD, and said: ‘O Lord GOD, do not destroy Your people and Your inheritance whom You have re­deemed through Your greatness, whom You have brought out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 27 ‘Remember Your servants, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; do not look on the stubbornness of this people, or on their wickedness or their sin, 28 lest the land from which You brought us should say, “Because the LORD was not able to bring them to the land which He promised them, and because He hated them, He has brought them out to kill them in the wilderness.” 29 Yet they are Your people and Your inheritance, whom You brought out by Your mighty power and by Your out­stretched arm.’

 

Hebrews 9:1-28

Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service and the earth­ly sanctuary. 2 For a tabernacle was prepared: the first part, in which was the lampstand, the table, and the showbread, which is called the sanctuary; 3 and behind the second veil, the part of the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of All, 4 which had the golden censer and the ark of the covenant overlaid on all sides with gold, in which were the golden pot that had the manna, Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tablets of the covenant; 5 and above it were the cherubim of glory overshadowing the mercy seat. Of these things we cannot now speak in detail. 6 Now when these things had been thus prepared, the priests always went into the first part of the tabernacle, performing the services. 7 But into the second part the high priest went alone once a year, not without blood, which he offered for himself and for the people’s sins committed in ignorance; 8 the Holy Spirit indicating this, that the way into the Holiest of All was not yet made manifest while the first tabernacle was still standing. 9 It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the con­science—10 concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation. 11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the great­er and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance. 16 For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. 17 For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives. 18 There­fore not even the first covenant was dedicated without blood. 19 For when Moses had spoken every precept to all the people according to the law, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water, scarlet wool, and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God has commanded you.” 21 Then likewise he sprinkled with blood both the tabernacle and all the vessels of the ministry. 22 And according to the law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission. 23 Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. 24 For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; 25 not that He should offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the Most Holy Place every year with blood of another— 26 He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. 27 And as it is appointed for men to die once, but after this the judgment, 28 so Christ was offered once to bear the sins of many. To those who eagerly wait for Him He will appear a second time, apart from sin, for salvation.

 

Catechism Emphasis: What Baptism Indicates, Fourth Part

What does such baptizing with water indicate?

It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contri­tion and repentance be drown­ed and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

Where is this written?

St. Paul writes in Romans chapter six:  “We were there­fore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.” [Rom. 6:4]

 

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

The Catechism gives us two Adams. That’s how it speaks of us, as Old Adam and New Adam.

 

The first Adam is our sinful nature. It is our sinful flesh. It is the life we live by virtue of our natural birth, the life we live as children in the lineage of Adam, our father, who rebelled against God our creator by eating of the fruit not given him to eat.

 

Because Adam sinned, all those in his lineage inherit sin, so that we are all by nature sinful and unclean.

 

That’s the first Adam, our sinful nature, our life of flesh.

 

But that is the Adam which the waters of Holy Baptism put to death in drowning. As the Catechism puts it,

What does such baptizing with water indicate?

It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

 

The problem, of course, is that the old Adam refuses to die. As long as we are in this flesh, we continue in sin. And we will continue this until the day we die, when our sinful flesh is finally done away with, and the old Adam has no more voice.

 

But until then, we rejoice in Baptism, where the old Adam is by daily contrition and repentance drowned and killed with all sins and evil desires.

 

And from the killing waters of Baptism, out walks the new man.

 

The new Adam—that’s the second Adam—so that, as the Catechism puts it,

a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.

 

 

This is the man of faith.

 

For the old Adam, we need no faith; we know him by sight. We see him every time we see our own sin, or we tremble at travail in our sinful world.  The old Adam we know by our sight and our senses and our minds—we know him all too well.

 

But the new Adam is the man not of sight, but of faith.

 

The new man of faith created by the Holy Spirit, this is the man daily standing up out of the water of Baptism—he has no righteousness of his own, but clings to the righteousness of Christ Jesus. This new Adam, this man of faith, lives in no shame, will not be put to death, but stands before God in righteousness forever.

 

That’s what it means to have a clean conscience. This is the conscience cleansed of the dead works of the old Adam and brought into honor. That’s what the letter to the Hebrews speaks of when it tells us of the blood of Christ our Lord:

The blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanses your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

[Hebrews 9:14]

 

 

The blood of Christ Jesus cleanses your conscience. It cleanses the conscience because it was in his bleeding and dying on the cross that all our sins were put to death—that is, he was on our behalf clothed in our Old Adam, and he died in our place.

 

Now, because we are baptized into him, baptism joining us to him and his cross, Baptism is where we find the death of our old Adam, our sinful flesh.

 

But out of the waters of Baptism, daily the new Adam stands up in faith. For Baptism joins us not only to our Lord’s cross, but also to his resurrection, so that our daily life of Baptism is a daily standing up again in faith. For just as Christ our Lord stood up living out of the grave, so the promise of Baptism is that we are daily made to stand, alive in the righteousness of Christ our Lord.

 

And all this because the blood of Jesus was shed for our sins. And because Jesus is resurrected and living, the blood of Jesus continues to cleanse us of all sin, as he continues to intercede for us before his Father in Heaven.

 

So that, our consciences are clean!

 

How can we say any less of the blood of Jesus, than that it cleanses us of all sin? How can we say any less of Baptism, than that it daily puts to death our old Adam of sin and shame, and daily brings forth the new man of faith?

 

In the Name of Jesus.

How Will God Do His Work Toward the Sinner?

The Fourth Sunday in Lent [b]                                  March 14, 2021

 

Numbers 21:4-9

4 From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. 5 And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” 6 Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. 7 And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

In the Name of Jesus.

 

How do we want God to work toward us?

 

He is the creator, we are creatures. Creatures don’t get to tell the creator how to act.

 

He is holy. We are unholy. The unholy ones don’t get to tell the holy One how to act.

 

We don’t really have much leverage in this.

 

We may have thoughts of how God is unfair—maybe he gave my neighbor more gifts than he gave me. Or how he is unjust—maybe he doesn’t strike the evil person with the retribution I think he should. But then I remember, I’m unclean along with my neighbor. So I don’t really have much say in that.

 

So how do we want God to act toward us?—considering we are creatures who often act like we think we are the creator and we should call the shots. And considering we are unclean, and he is holy.

 

How would we choose for him to act toward us?

 

We don’t want him to act in all his power and retribution, we know that. We don’t want to fire from Heaven or the quake of the Earth every time we’re caught out as sinners, we know that. No sinner withstands God’s power.

 

But there is another way we try. It’s the way of the Law. The Law, after all, is written on our hearts, St. Paul tells us that, Romans 2:15.

 

The sinner, who has the Law written on his heart even as he sins against the Law, has a way of using the Law. It’s using the Law to try to justify self; using the Law to try even to make a deal with God. This is a misuse of the Law, of course, but that won’t stop us from trying.

 

So, I claim my righteousness under the Law by using the Law to accuse others, as if they are worse sinners than I am. But that won’t work. For by the Law, every one stands guilty before God.

 

Or, I will use the Law to make a deal with God. In this way, I have sinned, sure; but I am on a track of improving myself. I’m getting better every day. God will see my effort, and he’ll reward me. Even the fact that I confess my sins, isn’t that already a sign of my effort to do better?

 

 

But God doesn’t make deals. The sinner has nothing to bargain with, anyway. And God is not a used car dealer looking to make trades.

 

He’s the creator of the world and everything in it. He’s the creator of all life, and of all the gifts of life we know. He creates; he gives life; he bestows gifts. He doesn’t make deals.

 

Then how will God deal with the sinner?

 

Israel was sinner. They had turned their back on God. His gift of food? They acted like it was below them to eat it. His delivering them from Egypt? They considered that not worth even remembering. His promise of a new land, his covenant gift of life everlasting? It didn’t compute with what they wanted right now. His deliverance, his promise, his covenant of salvation and life? They shrugged their shoulders at God, and complained they didn’t have a better lot in life.

 

How will God deal with the sinner?

 

He sent the snakes, and they brought death. That is certainly God dealing with the sinner. Guilt, accusation, retribution, death, that’s the Law of God at work. But that’s not what God wants. He wants no one to live under the Law. So how will he deal with the sinner?

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.

[Numbers 21:9]

 

Will God deal with the sinner by an instrument of common bronze and wood?

 

The Law comes by the fire and brimstone of Sodom and Gomorrah, by lightning and earthquake, by poisonous snakes, by sickness and death. The Law comes by power and intimidation and coercion.

 

But now we see God coming by lowly bronze and wood. Not to harm, but to heal. Not in power and coercion, but in lowliness and weakness and gentleness.

 

In this wood and bronze serpent-pole which Moses holds in front of the people God is coming not to judge but to forgive, not to kill but to bring life.

 

The same bronze they use to make their shovels, the same wood they use for tent poles, God is here in these elements. Not because of the bronze or the wood, but because God has instituted this gift for these people at this time, because he has attached his word to it—God is here giving blessing, bestowing the promise, forgiving the sins, cleansing the sinners.

 

The power and might of God, his coming to accuse and coerce, that’s all the work of the Law. The gentleness and mercy of God, his coming in common elements bound to his Word, his forgiving of sins and bestowal of promise, this is the Gospel.

 

For the power and might of God, for the accusation of the Law, you don’t need faith. You need only eyes to see the power and senses to perceive the sickness and death.

 

For the grace and kindness of God, for his giving of gifts, for his Gospel, that is received by faith.

 

 

So we can speak of God working toward us in two ways.

 

One is proper to him. It’s of who he is. It’s of what he wants to be known for. It’s of his will to forgive, to cleanse, to show grace, to restore the sinner to himself. That’s all proper to who he is.

 

The other way is alien to him. It’s not what he wants to do. It’s not of who he is by his nature. This is the way of the Law. God does his work of the Law. He accuses, he holds guilty, he brings judgement. But not because he wants to. It’s alien to him. But he does it to drive the sinner to fear, to despair, to finally recognizing that the sinner cannot justify himself and has no hope.

 

When God has done that work through his Law, he now does what he most wants to do. He comes in lowliness and gentleness, in kindness and mercy.

 

He comes in ways or instruments which won’t destroy the sinner, but will bestow gifts upon the sinner. He comes in the lowliness of a piece of wood and bronze—but wood and bronze with a divine promise attached and taken up into the Lord’s use.

 

The wood and bronze serpent?

 

That was the gift of the Gospel to those Israelites at that time out at that place in the wilderness. The wood and bronze is not given to you and me and our families. To us, the Lord gives the water—the common water of Baptism combined with his word forgiving our sins and bestowing the promise. And he gives the bread and the wine—common bread, common wine, but combined with his Word of promise, taken up into his use, so that in this bread and wine, he is giving his Body and his Blood, forgiving sins and bestowing life.

 

 

How will God work toward us?

 

He has appointed the ways. The Law, yes, bringing to us God’s power of judgment, showing us our sin, taking us into death.

 

Our life of sinful flesh is under the Law. But our life of faith lives from the Gospel.

 

He has appointed his ways of Gospel. This is who God is. It’s proper to him. He is love. Love for the sinner, love for us. For God s loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever has faith in him will not be destroyed, but will have eternal life.

 

In the Name of Jesus.

What is Going on in the Temple?

Third Sunday in Lent [b]                                             March 7, 2021

 

John 2:13-25

13The Passover of the Jews was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14In the temple he found those who were selling oxen and sheep and pigeons, and the money-changers sitting there. 15And making a whip of cords, he drove them all out of the temple, with the sheep and oxen. And he poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables. 16And he told those who sold the pigeons, “Take these things away; do not make my Father’s house a house of trade.” 17His disciples remembered that it was written, “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

        18So the Jews said to him, “What sign do you show us for doing these things?” 19Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” 20The Jews then said, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?” 21But he was speaking about the temple of his body. 22When therefore he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

23Now when he was in Jerusalem at the Passover Feast, many believed in his name when they saw the signs that he was doing. 24But Jesus on his part did not entrust himself to them, because he knew all people 25and needed no one to bear witness about man, for he himself knew what was in man.

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

There is the old “Far Side” cartoon showing a dog riding in the back seat of a car pulling out of the driveway. As he happily wags his tail, the dog sticks his head out the window to tell his friend where he’s going. His friend is the dog next door named “Biff,” and Biff is looking across the fence at his buddy in the back of the car wagging his tail because he’s going on a car trip.  The dog in the car gleefully says to his buddy in the adjoining yard,

“Ha, ha, ha, Biff. Guess what? After we go to the drugstore and the post office, I’m going to the vet’s to get tutored.”

 

If you going to some place, you want to know what supposed to go on in that place. If you’re going to the veterinarian’s office, it might be good to know the distinction between being tutored and being neutered.

 

What’s supposed to be going on in the Temple in Jerusalem? If you are going into the Temple, it might be good to know.

 

Clearly, Jesus, and on the other hand, the priests and Sadducees and the king, have different ideas about what is to be going on in the Temple. Kind of like the difference between being tutored or being neutered—the two things just don’t quite meet up. The priests and Sadducees and the king have one agenda, Jesus has another.

 

Jesus is in the Temple driving out sellers of livestock and money-changers with a whip, spilling coins to the floor and flipping over tables.

 

So first, we want to get clear what the Temple is for. What is supposed to be going on in the Temple. Obviously, not what they have going on—Jesus makes that clear. But what is supposed to be going on in the Temple.

 

We start with when it was put up. The Temple was built by King Solomon 960 years before Jesus. Solomon built the Temple as he was instructed by the prophet Nathan.

 

Then, in 587 BC, the Babylonians burned that Temple to the ground, tearing down all the pillars and stones. The Lord had the Babylonian army sweep in and destroy the Temple because the Israelites were worshipping false gods.

 

Then the Lord had Ezra and Nehemiah rebuild the Temple in 516 BC.

 

Then the Temple fell into disrepair.

 

Then, around 20 BC, Herod the Great restored and expanded the Temple. And that brings us up to this account we have before us, where Jesus walks through the Temple with a whip driving out livestock sellers and money changers, throwing money to the floor and flipping over tables.

 

But what was supposed to be going on in the Temple?

 

 

For that, we hear Solomon, who first built the Temple at the Lord’s direction in 960 BC. When the Temple was built, King Solomon gathered Israel—Scripture says, “all the congregation of Israel”—to the dedication, and he gave a great prayer of consecration for the new Temple. It’s a long prayer Solomon prays. But this is part of it. 1 Kings 8:22:

Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of all the assembly of Israel and spread out his hands toward Heaven, and said, “O LORD, God of Israel, there is no God like you, in Heaven above or on Earth beneath, keeping covenant and showing steadfast love to your servants who walk before you with all their heart …

 

Then, as Solomon continued, we are given to see what is supposed to go on in the Temple:

[Then Solomon prayed,] “But will God indeed dwell on the Earth? Behold, Heaven and the highest Heaven cannot contain you; how much less this house that I have built! Yet have regard to the prayer of your servant and to his plea, O LORD my God, listening to the cry and to the prayer that your servant prays before you this day, that your eyes may be open night and day toward this house, the place of which you have said, ‘My name shall be there,’ that you may listen to the prayer that your servant offers toward this place. And listen to the plea of your servant and of your people Israel, when they pray toward this place. And listen in Heaven your dwelling place, and when you hear, forgive

[When your people, O Lord,] pray toward this place and acknowledge your name and turn from their sin, … then hear in Heaven and forgive the sin of your servants, your people Israel.”

[1 Kings 8:34]

 

What was supposed to be going on in the Temple? “O Lord, [says Solomon] listen in Heaven … and when you hear, forgive.”

 

Everything in the Temple is ordered toward the forgiveness of sins.

 

Not toward the fine clothing and fancy rules of the Sadducees. Not toward a showy ritual of sacrificing enacted by the priests. Not toward the impressive building and architecture put up by the king. But toward the forgiveness of sins.

 

Everything in the Temple is ordered toward the forgiveness of sins, toward the justification of the sinner, toward the cleansing of the conscience before God. Anything else is false; it’s not of the Temple.

 

So when Jesus, entering the Temple, walks past the guards belonging to King Herod, and looks at the flowing gowns of the Sadducees, and sees the priests demanding more and more sacrifices from the people, and hears preaching which says nothing about the forgiveness of sins, nothing to cleanse consciences of shame, nothing to proclaim the gift of eternal life to those living in the midst of a culture of death, Jesus starts driving the money changers and the sellers of sacrifice out with a whip, and he overturns their tables, for their tables have nothing to give to the sinner.

 

Zeal for your house will consume me,”

the Psalmist had written. It was a prayer of Jesus to his Father. (Psalm 69)

 

The zeal of the Sadducees is to be successful, dress in the finest clothing, have the highest seats at the table. The zeal of the priests is to have ever more sacrifices and to make incessant prayers of repetition. The zeal of King Herod is to have everyone consider him legitimate because of his government’s building program of which the Temple is the pinnacle.

 

The zeal of Jesus, though, is to forgive sins, to justify the sinner, to cleanse the conscience.

 

By chasing the pretenders out of the Temple, by restoring it to its purpose of forgiving sins, Jesus consigns himself over to death. The Sadducees and priests and the king will make sure of that. He is now on his way to the cross, they can’t let him live.

 

But tear down this Temple,”

says Jesus,

and in three days I will raise it up.”

 

Jesus spoke of the cross, of his own death. And of his resurrection. John 2:21:

[Jesus] was speaking about the temple of his body. When, therefore, [Jesus] was raised up from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this, and they believed the Scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

[John 2:22]

 

 

Everything in the Temple is ordered toward the forgiveness of sins.

 

Jesus stands as the Temple. Torn down on the cross, raised up in the resurrection, Jesus is the Temple for you and me.

 

Now, Jesus gathers us into his Church. When you walk into a place, you want to know what goes on there—you don’t want to be the dog being taken to the vet’s and thinking he’s going in order to be tutored.

 

Now, as Jesus, resurrected, comes to us in his Word, as he gathers his people each week to receive his Body and Blood, we may know why he gathers us into the Church. If you are not a sinner, you don’t belong here. For everything in the Church is ordered toward the forgiveness of sins.

 

In the Name of Jesus.

From Heaven He Bestows His Gifts

Lent 1, Wednesday, February 24, 2021

 

Catechism Emphasis, 1st Commandment

 

DEUTERONOMY 4:1-8

1 [And Moses continued,] “Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I teach you to observe, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the LORD God of your fathers is giving you. 2 “You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you. 3 “Your eyes have seen what the LORD did at Baal Peor; for the LORD your God has destroyed from among you all the men who followed Baal of Peor. 4 “But you who held fast to the LORD your God are alive today, every one of you. 5 “Surely I have taught you statutes and judgments, just as the LORD my God commanded me, that you should act according to them in the land which you go to possess. 6 “Therefore be careful to observe them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statutes, and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ 7 “For what great nation is there that has God so near to it, as the LORD our God is to us, for whatever reason we may call upon Him? 8 “And what great nation is there that has such statutes and righteous judgments as are in all this law which I set before you this day?

 

HEBREWS 1:1-2:4

                1 God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, 2 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. 5 For to which of the angels did He ever say: “You are My Son, Today I have begotten You”? And again: “I will be to Him a Father, And He shall be to Me a Son”? 6 But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: “Let all the angels of God worship Him.” 7 And of the angels He says: “Who makes His angels spirits And His ministers a flame of fire.” 8 But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your Kingdom. 9 You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.” 10 And: “You, LORD, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. 11 They will perish, but You remain; And they will all grow old like a garment; 12 Like a cloak You will fold them up, And they will be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will not fail.” 13 But to which of the angels has He ever said: “Sit at My right hand, Till I make Your enemies Your footstool”? 14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to minister for those who will inherit salvation?

1 Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him, 4 God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to His own will?

 

 

IN THE NAME OF JESUS.

 

 

The First Commandment tells us of our God:

You shall have no other gods.

 

What does this mean?

 

It means, as we learn it from the Catechism, that We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.

 

What does it mean to have a god? Or what is God?

 

The Large Catechism provides this answer:

A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe in him from the whole heart. It is the confidence and faith of the heart alone that makes both God and an idol. If your faith and trust are right, then your God also is true; and, on the other hand, if your trust is false and wrong, then you do not have the true God; for these two belong together, faith and God. That upon which you set your heart and put your trust is properly your God.

 

So if we want to know who our God is, we just look to whom it is, or to what it is in which we place our trust.

 

What do we turn to when we are in despair, when we fear, when we desire good gifts? If we fear our world or things of our world, or look to our world for good gifts, then we know who our God is—it’s this world.

 

If we fear shame, or something of ourselves, or we despair of our own sin, then we know who our God is—it’s ourself.

 

To fear something or someone other than the true God, to turn to something or someone other than the true God for every good gift, is to have a false god. The word for that is, idolatry.

 

So that we do not fear anything or anyone other than the true God, so that we do not turn to any false god for every good gift, so that we are rescued from every idolatry of our world and our own feelings and sinful flesh, so that we fear, love, and trust in God above all things, God in Heaven reveals himself to us.

 

This is who our God is (from Hebrews 1:8):

But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your Kingdom.”

 

He is our God, the Son of the Father, whose throne is forever and ever, and over all things and all times.

 

This is Lent, the season in the church year when the church considers her Lord’s journey to the cross, his passion and death. It is a time of prayer and repentance, a season of reflecting upon Baptism, as we look forward to our Lord’s resurrection on Easter Day.

 

But before Easter comes the shedding of blood on the cross. By that blood, he purges our sins, and, having purchased on the cross the kingdom of his people, he has now ascended to Heaven and taken his eternal throne. He is our God. As the letter to the Hebrews puts it,

He is upholding all things by the word of His power; He [having] by Himself purged our sins, [has] sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

[Hebrews 1:3]

 

He is our God. He has purged our sins with his own blood; he has been seated at the right hand of his Father in Heaven; and from Heaven he is bestowing his gifts upon us, upholding all things by his Word.

 

He is our God. That’s commandment “one.” The Large Catechism reminds us what it means to have a god:

A god means that from which we are to expect all good and to which we are to take refuge in all distress, so that to have a God is nothing else than to trust and believe in him from the whole heart.

 

We may expect all good from our Lord Jesus, for by his blood he purges us of all sin, by his word he declares us to be his people, and in him we take refuge in all our distress.

 

In Baptism, he makes us his brothers and sisters, so that his Father is now our Father. In his word of forgiveness, he breathes upon us his Holy Spirit. And the Holy Spirit continues to pour out his gifts of forgiveness and life.

 

In all of this, the Son has made himself our God, so that we rejoice in his salvation, and trust and believe in him from the whole heart.

 

IN THE NAME OF JESUS.

What Did God Do on That Mountain?

FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT                                               February 21, 2021

 

GENESIS 22:1-18

After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac. And he cut the wood for the burnt offering and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 On the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place from afar. 5 Then Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; I and the boy will go over there and worship and come again to you.” 6 And Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son. And he took in his hand the fire and the knife. So they went both of them together. 7 And Isaac said to his father Abraham, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” He said, “Behold, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 Abraham said, “God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.” So they went both of them together. 9 When they came to the place of which God had told him, Abraham built the altar there and laid the wood in order and bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood. 10 Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to slaughter his son. 11 But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 12 He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, behind him was a ram, caught in a thicket by his horns. And Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called the name of that place, “The LORD will provide”; as it is said to this day, “On the mount of the LORD it shall be provided.” 15 And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven 16 and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of his enemies, 18 and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”

 

IN THE NAME OF JESUS.

 

A most odd story. Surely one of the strangest accounts in Scripture, it almost seems bizarre. A man taking his son up a mountain to give sacrifice. And the sacrifice would be his son. And he was told to this by God.

 

Our eyes are on the man, on Abraham. Will he do it? Every step up that mountain ripping his heart out. Every step tearing at him with doubt. Does he really want to have faith in a God who would have you give up your own son?

 

How are you to feel about a God like that? You doubt him, how could you not? Loathing, even hatred would enter in, would it not? How can you love a God who rips from you a person you love? Even hatred had to be there, it would seem.

 

Our eyes are on Abraham. What does he feel? How far will his faith go? What will he do?

 

God can raise from the dead, that is true. He is the God of life, the God of creation, the God who brought every living being, including Abraham’s son Isaac into life. Can he not raise from the dead? Yes, Abraham knew he could. But did God say he would? Genesis 22:2:

After, these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”

 

In that command, we hear nothing of God speaking of resurrection—no promise to Abraham that he would see Isaac alive again. Yet, Abraham did know that God could bring life from death, he did have faith in the resurrection (Hebrews 11:17ff.). But is that what God would do with Isaac? How is Abraham to have certainty?

 

 

So Abraham goes up the mountain. Just him and Isaac. Isaac asking,

Father, behold the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering”?

[Genesis 22:7]

 

How do you answer your son a question like that? You know God has told you to sacrifice your son, and now your son, in all innocence, asks, “Where’s the sacrifice, Dad”?

 

What a sorrowful trip up the mountain when Abraham answers,

God will provide for himself the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.”

 

What did Abraham even mean by that? Was it just line to divert his son? Did Abraham really think God would provide a sacrifice other than Isaac? If Abraham did believe that, we don’t see it in his actions. For the next thing he’s doing is binding Isaac up as sacrifice—hardly the actions of a man confident that God will provide a sheep.

 

Our eyes are on Abraham. The distress, the pain, the thoughts of faith and of doubt, of love for God and hatred for a God who would demand such a thing; the turning stomach, the thoughts of what he would have to say to Sarah, his beloved wife and Isaac’s mother, when he returned home with no son.

 

Our eyes are on Abraham. What will he do?

 

But let’s turn our eyes to God. The one who created Abraham. Who gave to Abraham Sarah as bride, and gave to Abraham and Sarah Isaac as son. Turn our eyes to God who created all life, who names himself as the God not of death but of life, who put all people under the command to not kill, but to uphold life and care for one another.

 

Let’s turn our eyes to God. What is God doing in this account?

 

It’s clear he’s commanding Abraham to sacrifice his son. But what is he doing with that? What is God’s end game, and why does he have this strange account written down in Holy Scripture so that the Church throughout the generations would hear it and live from it?

 

What is God doing?

 

 

A strange thing about covenants. We think of a covenant as a promise from God, and that is, indeed, what a covenant is. A promise by God of grace and life; a promise that God will be with his people and will keep them, will continually cleanse them of all sin and make them holy.

 

Throughout the Old Testament, God gave the promise many times by covenant.

 

To Adam and Eve, he gave the covenant that through Eve’s lineage would come the one who would crush the head of Satan and save Adam and Eve and those who followed in the faith.

 

Later, to Moses and Israel he gave the covenant promise that Israel would be saved and would be brought into the promised land and in that land one would then be raised up from Israel as Savior.

 

He gave the covenant promise of salvation and eternal life to Noah and his family. He gave the covenant promise of the kingdom of Heaven and eternal life to David as he made him king.

 

And to Abraham, God gave the covenant promise that the sinner is saved not by works but by faith and that from Abraham’s lineage would come the Savior of mankind.

 

So what is God doing on that mountain with Abraham when he tells him to sacrifice his son Isaac but then doesn’t let him, providing to him the ram for a sacrifice?

 

Here’s the strange thing about these covenants God has given throughout history from Adam and Eve, through Noah then later Abraham, then later to Moses, later to David, all the way up until God the Son himself came in the flesh by Mother Mary.

 

The strange thing about these covenant promises is, when God gave a covenant, he was not just giving the promise of grace and cleansing and forgiveness and eternal life; he was, in all of that, giving by promise his own Son over to death.

 

That’s what God did when he promised Adam and Eve that from Eve’s lineage would come forth a Redeemer to save all sinners from sin and death. He was promising that his own Son would be born in the human lineage of Eve, and that his Son would crush the head of Satan and redeem sinners.

 

That’s what God was doing on that mountain with Abraham.

 

He was, in this most extraordinary way, a way never seen before and never to be seen again, giving the promise that there would be a sacrifice to save all nations—for he gave to Abraham the promise that he would be the father of many nations—and the promise was that that sacrifice to save sinners of all nations would be a son of Abraham. Not his son Isaac, for God withheld Isaac from sacrifice, but Abraham’s greater son, Abraham’s son many generations away—the son born of Mary.

 

The promised sacrifice would be God the Son in the flesh, given as the full, complete, final sacrifice to atone for the sins of every sinner of every family, tribe, and nation, of every generation.

 

 

That’s what God did on that mountain. He sealed a covenant, he made a promise in blood, an oath by his own Name, that he would give his own Son to die for the sin of Abraham, of Sarah, of Isaac, of you and me, of the world.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever has faith in him will not perish but will have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world would be saved through him.

[John 3:16]

 

My Confession: On Jesus My Sin Was Laid

ASH WEDNESDAY                                                                        February 17, 2021

 

2 CORINTHIANS 5:20b-6:10

We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. 6:1 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2 For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. 3 We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, 4 but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, 5 beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; 6 by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love; 7 by truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; 8 through honor and dishonor, through slander and praise. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; 9 as unknown, and yet well known; as dying, and behold, we live; as punished, and yet not killed; 10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything.

 

IN THE NAME OF JESUS.

 

David shows us how to be a sinner before God. Psalm 51:4:

4 Against you, you only [O Lord,], have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.

 

To be a sinner before God, we confess that our sin is against God.

 

We know that David’s sin was, indeed, against Bathsheba, the woman he seduced into adultery, and against his own family, which he damaged with his adultery, and against Israel, who was counting on him to be an honorable king, and against his own body for the lust he brought himself into, and, of course, against Uriah, Bathsheba’s husband whom he murdered in order to cover up his adultery. Yet, when he confesses his sin, it is confession of sin against the Lord:

4 Against you, you only, [O Lord,] have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight.

 

To properly be a sinner before God, the confession is that all the sin we commit, in our heart, in our family, against our neighbor, it is all sin against the Lord who created us and created our neighbor.

 

Then, to be a sinner before God, David confesses:

4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.

 

David shows us that to properly be a sinner before God, we confess not only that we are sinners, but that God has said we are.

 

In other words, even if we don’t know our sin, or if we do know it, but not the depth of it, nevertheless, God declares that we are, indeed, sinful, and we are, therefore, fully sinners according to his judgment. Psalm 51:

that you, [O Lord,] may be justified in your words and blameless in your judgment.

 

Then David shows more.

 

Not only are we sinners because we sin against our neighbor and against our own bodies, and because our sin is even more profoundly not only against our neighbor or ourselves but against God, and because God declares us to be sinners and he will be justified in what he says, but we are sinners also, David says, because we have been in sinful flesh even since we were conceived in our mother’s womb:

Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.

[Psalm 51:5]

 

David teaches us how to be a sinner before God. We confess our sin against our neighbor and ourselves; we confess our sin as even against God himself; we confess that we have heard God’s word declaring us sinful; we confess that our sin is not just our thoughts, our actions, and our desires, but is who we are even from conception: we stand before God with that confession.

 

 

Then, we look at who this God before whom we stand, and we have another confession to make. This is the God who became human to be with us, to know our sin against our neighbor, against ourselves, against him, the Lord, and he became man in order to take all that sin upon himself.

 

Who is it who stands before God as fully sinner?

 

Not you, not me. It’s Christ Jesus. He knew no sin; he was born with no sin. His desires are not sinful; he desires to receive every good gift from his Father; yet, he stood before his Father as the greatest sinner of all. 2 Cor. 21:

For our sake [God] made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

 

That’s how David teaches us to be a sinner before God. We stand before God confessing our sin, then we turn to our Lord Jesus and we make a greater confession. We say, There, in him, there you will find my sin. On him my sin was laid. In his body my sin was put to death. By his blood my sin is covered. This is my confession.

 

Psalm 51:9:

Hide your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities.

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation.

 

 

To be a sinner before God! We confess our sin. It is sin against our neighbor and against ourselves. We confess that it is, at its root, against God, and it is sin from our very origin.

 

Then we confess that our sin has been taken by Jesus.

 

We are accounted righteous by no worthiness of our own but purely by the grace and kindness of him who willingly took our sin upon himself that he might give us his righteousness.

 

Then we confess that we are his. He has ransomed us that we might live under him in his righteousness and purity forever, all as a gift of his grace and kindness. So Paul writes:

We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 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 Corinthians 5:20]

 

IN THE NAME OF JESUS.