Archive for November 24th, 2013

Who Is Like the Lord?

Sunday, November 24th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Last Sunday in the Church Year-C, November 24th, 2013

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“And (Jesus) said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.””

“Who is like the Lord?”  The Lord being, of course Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  But what does that mean, “Son of God?”  How you answer that question will determine whether or not you our worshiping and serving the One true God!

Some folks like to say that Jesus was a just man, filled with the Spirit of God.  And because He was “Spirit filled” His flesh was used by God to do great things for us; things like remaining sinless and rising from the dead.  Others will say that Jesus was simply a great prophet like the many prophets that came before Him and after Him.  These folks will deny things like virgin birth and the resurrection but will accept the other miracles that are recorded in the gospels as simply the power of God at work in a man of God!

If these false teachings and other wild ideas about Jesus were true, well then the scoffers recorded in our Old Testament reading (Malachi 3:13-18) might have some validity.  They spoke out loud, words like, “It is vain to serve God.  What is the profit of our keeping His charge or of walking as in mourning before the Lord of Hosts?  And now we call the arrogant blessed.  Evildoers not only prosper but they put God to the test and they escape.”  In other Words, these grumblers are saying that it is impossible to live up to God’s standard of perfection.  No one could do it; no one can keep the Law of God perfectly.  So, what is the point of trying?  Why should we keep feeling bad for our sins when the people who don’t care about God or His law seem to be living a great and blessed life?”

The people then, in the time of Malachi, and the people that gathered around Christ’s cross in our Gospel lesson (Luke 23:27-43) did not understand God’s plan or His ways, because they would not see who the Savior truly was and is!  They would not see that their struggling to be good, their trying to keep God’s Law and their many failures to do it were intended to turn the eyes of their hearts to God’s solution to the sinfulness of the world, even their many sins.  And that solution is Jesus Christ, the One who keeps the law for you!

To those people then and to us today Jesus speaks eight strong and powerful words: “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”  Not, “I hope you will be with me” but “you WILL be with me”.  Not a promise of condition, “If you keep the Law of God you will be with me” but “you WILL be with me”.  And not a promise fulfilled in an undetermined amount of time, but a sure and certain promise that will be fulfilled very soon, “TODAY you will be with me in Paradise.”  Jesus can make this promise then and today because He is the Lord; He is God the Son.  He is the BELOVED SON of the Heavenly Father.   And because He is the Son whom the father has loved throughout eternity…

(Colossians 1:13-17) “(The Father) has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son.”  Here you can place the favored saying of the church that points the hearts of all sinners, all victims of evil, all those who are weak and have fallen to disease, addiction, hopelessness and despair: “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whosoever believes will not perish but have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

In Jesus Christ and through His suffering death upon the cross, God the Father made all things new and right.  Through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, all of God reached out to snatch the world out of the powerful darkness of sin and the control of the devil and return it into the Kingdom of God.  Through the cross of His Son, God rescued the world.  It is a rescue that could only be done through the power of God.  Why?  Well, because of where and how the world was being held captive.

Please don’t underestimate the power of the domain of darkness.  It is a power that no man or woman, nor any system of living and thinking could ever rescue you from.  Good teachings from wise teachers can only fail, because the power that holds us captive is the power of the devil and the desires of our own flesh.  Try telling a person who is dying of cancer that all they have to do to be healthy is believe that they are better and they will call you a cruel person.  And try telling an addict of any kind that all they have to do is want to get better, and you are likely to get a punch in the nose for your useless advice.

No, the kingdom of darkness, its power and domain, could only be destroyed and replaced by the coming of God’s kingdom and power.  And now the world has been delivered by that coming kingdom and it’s power.  But it can only be received through the One who has redeemed us; by the One who has purchased us and set us free through His own suffering and death.  In Him alone do we have this redemption and the forgiveness of sins, but don’t cheapen this by thinking that only some sins are forgiven.  When the Son sets you free you are free indeed (John 8:36); free and forgiven of all sins.  But how can this truly be?

Because Jesus Christ, the Son of God is the very image of the invisible God.  He Who is Spirit and can not be seen by flesh has come to flesh in flesh, so that we would know that there is a God who loves us.  Every essence of God worked to reach out to sinful men and women so that we would know forgiveness of sins and a new an eternal life with our Creator, but only the Son of God became Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world!  “He is the first born of all creation.”  He became like us in every way but He was and remains sinless.  He was born of the Virgin Mary, but He was not created.  When we say that He was the first born of all creation, we are simply declaring that He has always been first, over, and above all of creation.  He was begotten and not made; not created, because He is the Creator!

There is nothing that ever is or was, or shall be that is above or outside of the person of Jesus Christ the Son of God.  And there are no powers, governments, authorities, or rulers that are in place without the knowledge and permission of the Son of God.  He is very God of very God, and He is before all things, and in Him and through Him all things are held together and shall be.

This is the truth that we must never let any false teacher or religion tear from us.  We must never allow anyone or anything to turn our eyes from these truths.  And to be sure that we are not led astray, we have Jesus own Words to cling to and protect us.  This morning Jesus says to you, “I and the Father are One.” [John 10:22]  “He that has seen Me has seen the Father.” [John 14:9]  And we have the testimony of the apostles through St. John who wrote, “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.” [John 1:14]

(Colossians 1:18-20) But how can you know that this is true?  Because the love of the Father has come to you personally and testified that it is true.  By the power of the Holy Spirit of God, through the washing of water and His Word, He has called you by grace and truth, and given you faith, and allowed you to see and believe that Jesus is the Christ , the Son of God, “the head of His body, the church.”  Within the church, Christ’s body, you have continuously received the gifts of God to not only believe in and see the invisible God through Christ, but you have tasted and received the forgiveness of all of your sins!

It is here in Christ’s church that you have been taught that not only is He the beginning of all creation, but He is also the firstborn from the dead.  In His church you are not just shown a cross that paid for the sins of the world, but you are also shown and empty tomb.  You are shown Jesus resurrection and assured by God that like your Savior you too shall one day rise from the dead.  The empty tomb declares as fact what God has declared from the beginning:  Sin, death, and the devil no longer reign upon the earth.  You have been set free.

By faith, your eyes now move from the cross and empty tomb, and then to the waters of baptism, and there at the font you can say without a doubt, “It was there that God made the redemption of the world mine.  It was at the font that I was given forgiveness of sin unto eternal life, and it is at the font that my ears were opened so that I would hear and read God’s Word and receive faith to follow Jesus, the Son of God unto eternal life.

Who is like the Lord?  No one else but Jesus, because He is the Lord!  It is Christ alone who can not only assure a worthless sinner that “today you will be with me in paradise,” but also show that sinner that, which can not be seen.  What does He show us?  The fullness of God, which was pleased to dwell in Him.  And through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, we have been reconciled to our God; that is we have been made right with God forever.

Who is like the Lord?  No one… He is God!  AMEN!