Archive for March 6th, 2016

Do You Need a Miracle?

Sunday, March 6th, 2016

4th Sunday in Lent-HL, March 6th , 2016
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor
Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA

Click here for audio of this message

So do you need a miracle? Do you even believe in miracles? We’ve all considered these questions, maybe during those times when we’ve had grieving hearts. People sincerely wrestle with this question, and inevitably they’re led to ask, “Why don’t we see miracles today like Jesus use to do in our Gospel lesson?” Why don’t we see miracles performed like the ones the Apostles did, which left the unbelievers in awe because of the “wonders and signs” that were done through them?  The short answer is because, “You and I aren’t Jesus, and, we’re not the apostles.”

The problem with miracles is that we want to control them.  We demand miracles from God at a time when we think is right.  And that time is always when we want them; not when we need them.  When we think like this and act like this, we are simply being true to our nature, our sinful nature, just like the Israelites in our Old Testament lesson. [Exodus 16:2-21]

Here is a truth worth remembering.  All of our wants and desires are tragically wrapped in sin.

All illness, sickness, disease, crime, and heartless behavior has at its very root, sin; Original Sin. Whether it’s the common cold, cancer, crime, heartless behavior, or oppressive governments, they all have at their root a spiritual cause, which is sin.

While we call out to God for a miracle and grow impatient when one doesn’t come as we request, we also ignore the work that God IS doing, and we fail to thank Jesus for the miracles that we already have received through the advances in modern medicine which brings cures, and active and benevolent governments and leaders, which bring peace to our families, communities, and nation.

So, why don’t we see miracles today like we see Jesus performing in our gospel lesson, and those that flowed from the apostles’ hands (Acts 2:43)?

Simply put, Jesus knows our sinful hearts.  We see this truth demonstrated for us through His actions in today’s gospel reading (John 6:1-15), when after He miraculously fed the five thousand, with a few loaves of bread and two fish, He withdrew from the mass of humanity that began flocking towards Him.  “Why” you may ask? Because Jesus knew that their sinful hearts could not see past the miracles.  He knew that they wanted to forcefully take Him and make Him their King so that through Him they might overthrow the Roman government.

We must pause at this point and realize how much we sinners today are so similar to sinners then.  Don’t we still see people using their religion, using their faith as a tool get what they want out of others?  But Jesus is not that kind of King and His miracles are not meant to bring us heaven on earth.  Instead, they are meant to move our hearts by faith to see the promise of heaven beyond earth in the Word of God, even in the midst of pain and suffering.  So we could say that Jesus’ miracles aren’t meant to satisfy our temporary desires, but rather they are meant to open our eyes of faith so that we can see Jesus as the provider of our eternal security. In other words friends, Jesus is the miracle!

Because of His unique nature of being fully man and God, Mary, the most blessed Virgin, didn’t just give birth to an ordinary human being, but instead to a human being who is truly the Son of God the Most High.

Jesus revealed His divine nature when it pleased Him and not when sinful men and women demanded it.  He revealed His true nature not just after his resurrection and ascension, but also many times in the state of his humiliation. Think of all of the miracles He performed.  Water becomes wine, the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the dead come back to life, He walks on water, calms an angry sea, and in the Garden, with only a Word He struck the guards who came to arrest Him, down to the ground.

Scripture testifies that Jesus is fully man and fully God even in His death.  You see, Jesus didn’t simply die like all other people, but He died in a way that by and in His death He overcame sin, death, the devil, hell, and eternal damnation, which His human nature alone could not have been able to do, had it not been united with His divine nature.

And the miracles of Jesus did not just stop after His resurrection from the dead.  No, again Scripture testifies that after His resurrection, He ascended into Heaven, and He returned to His eternal position where He is forever exalted over all creatures in heaven and on earth. This means that He has laid aside the form of a servant completely (without discarding his human nature, which he retains forever by the way) and He’s been installed into the full possession and use of His divine majesty according to His assumed human nature.  And because He has ascended far above all the heavens, He truly fills all things, and now rules everywhere, not only as God but also as a human being, as your Brother, just as the prophets prophesied and the apostles testified. [Psalm 8:2, 7; 93:1; Zechariah 9:19; Mark 16:19–20]

And now, on the basis of His new nature, Jesus can truly be both God and our Brother who fights for us; He can be truly present with His body and blood in the Holy Supper according to His own words of institution, which He has directed us to repeat as often as we gather in remembrance of Him.

In Jesus the divine and human natures are personally united with each other and in such a way, so that in Him “all the fullness of the deity dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:9).  In this personal union the two natures have such a divine and indescribable communion with each other that even the angels marvel over it and desire and rejoice to look upon it. [1 Peter 1:12]

Dear friends, Jesus was sent to this broken world, He was sent to you, to preach the good news.  And for you, this is the One miracle you truly need, even if you don’t want it.  Do you understand, because Jesus, your sins have been forgiven?

It is through Christ alone, through His innocent bitter suffering and death that He has defeated sin, death, and the devil for you.

As our substitute Jesus suffered the punishment meant for us because of all of the sins we have, are, or ever will commit in our lives. Jesus did this because of His love for sinners; He did it because of His love for you, because He doesn’t want anyone to die in their sins.. Through Jesus’ work on the cross for you, death no longer can hold you down; sin has lost its power to create guilt that can’t be forgiven; and the devil is now a toothless lion who can only roar, because has no teeth to devour you with.  No force in all of creation, not even your grave can hold your body down.

Jesus mission was to preach the good news; good news, which proclaimed that through his suffering and death upon the cross we have complete healing of mind, body, and spirit. And so Jesus also performed miracles, because He is merciful, but also to demonstrate His credentials as the Savior of the world.

Credentials?  Why does the almighty need to show His credentials?  So that when He comes as one of us we would know that He is oh so much more than one of us!  So that you would know that He truly is God in human flesh and that you may believe His Words so that your soul will live and receive complete healing from His greatest act of mercy and healing; His death on the cross in our place for the forgiveness of our sins.

Christ’s Credentials displayed in His mighty work, were also proclaimed by St. Peter in his Pentecost sermon. Listen: “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves know, this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.  God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it.” [Acts 2:22-24]

Credentials were also built up and demonstrated by the apostles when they performed miracles as well. Their miracles were centered in God’s mercy as well, but the miracles they performed weren’t meant to bring them glory, but instead they were to glorify God by turning the hearts of sinful men and women towards Christ and His supreme act of mercy upon the cross.   Yes, the miracles were building their credentials, but only so people would listen to them as they spoke by the Holy Spirit the words that Jesus gave them to speak. [John 14:23] St. Paul says: “The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works” (2 Corinthians 12:12).

Now before we close, let’s turn our attention to our Old Testament lesson for today. [Exodus 16:2-21] Let’s think about who Moses was before God called Him.  Moses though born a Hebrew, was raised by the family of Pharaoh, as an enemy of God and His people.  He was disgraced and fled from Pharaoh and God’s people, but he could not flee from God.  God chose lowly and disgraced Moses as the one who would listen to God speak and then repeat His Words to sinful Israel.  Sinful Moses was empowered by God to speak to other sinners and then perform miracles from God, so that the people would be impressed and listen to the Word of God that Moses spoke.  The miracle of manna and quail was done through Moses so that the people would listen to the Word of the Lord he spoke.

You and I have diplomas and certificates that perhaps we frame and hang on our walls. Jesus, as well as His apostles, Moses and the prophets had living breathing credentials for the sole purpose of pointing people to the Word they spoke, because faith only comes by hearing the Word of God, which is the message about the Messiah, Jesus Christ.  [Romans 10:17]

Dear friends, Jesus is both the Bread of Heaven and the Living Word of God.  In Deuteronomy 18:15, Moses speaks about a prophet like himself coming to deliver Israel. In Jesus, One like Moses yet superior to Moses has come.  If we were to judge Moses’ credentials by the miracles he performed, certainly he by far surpasses all other Old Testament prophets. So to fulfill the words of Moses, Jesus performed an even greater abundance of miracles, so that we would know that He is the greater Moses who has redeemed us from our sins.

Yes, dear friends, you do need a miracle; you need this miracle.  You need the greater Moses who has come, born of Mary, suffered under Pontus Pilate, and through the greatest act of mercy ever performed, He died and was buried, but on the third day He rose from the dead, and He was lifted up from the earth that he might draw all men unto himself (John 13:31), to be with Him in Paradise restored, where there will be no need for credentials, miracles, or prayer; only songs of praise and thanksgiving. For there in Paradise restored, Jesus will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things (will) have passed away” (Revelation  21:4).  I pray that you will trust in this miracle that is yours now by faith and yours to come by power in Paradise, and I ask this in Jesus name… AMEN!