Posts Tagged ‘Two Natures of Christ’

Do You Really Want to See Jesus?


Monday, April 10th, 2017

Palm Sunday, April 9 2017
Rev. Brian Henderson-Pastor of
Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA

http://www.tlcsd.org and
Our Redeemer Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
Http://www.ORLCSD.org

Click here for audio of this message

Text: “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” [John 12:21]

This is the request that the Greeks presented to Phillip, and I think it is the request that many people still ask of God today. It’s as if they are really saying, “I want to believe in Jesus as Savior, as my Savior, if only He would prove that He’s a Savior to me.” Well, at any rate, that was the last we heard from the Greeks. I would like to think that after the request was made to Jesus, and after His almost strange response to that request as delivered in His Sermon to the people who were gathered in the temple that He eventually met with them. And the answer He must have given to them privately, probably was not much different than the content of His Sermon.

The Savior the Greeks sought and the Savior many still seek today is not the kind of Savior Jesus really is, because Jesus is a suffering Savior Who calls His disciples to follow in His foot steps.

Jesus makes it clear that the jubilant joy of the Hosannas that were still ringing in the people’s ears, was not the glory that He was riding into the city to receive. You see, Jesus had long ago set His face towards the cross; a cross of suffering and pain that awaited Him on Good Friday.

It was Good Friday that would be “the hour for the Son of man to be glorified.” It was in His passion where Jesus would accomplish something glorious. It was His passion that would bring on both His resurrection and His return to paradise. It was through His passion that believers throughout time would also finally be assured that there is a place for them in God’s restored paradise.

Jesus was glorified by the obedience he rendered to the Father even unto the death of the cross, and in His death, He also achieved redemption for the fallen world; He was glorified when the Father highly exalted him, giving him a name above every name and seating Him at his right hand; He was and is glorified in the work of the Holy Spirit as He leads thousands to the feet of the Savior. Jesus’ glory begins with His passion—Jesus sees how from his passion and his death a magnificent vista opens, reaching onward through the ages into all eternity, and it is one shining path of glory.

With solemn assurance Jesus depicts the truth of what this great “hour” brings.

Amen, amen, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

If a grain of wheat is not put into the soil, it will, indeed, not die, but it will then “itself remain alone” and produce nothing. So will the Son of man remain alone if he does not stoop to death on the cross. But if the grain falls into the earth, dies, and is consumed, it brings much fruit. And this is exactly what the Son of man, God’s incarnate Son will accomplish through His death.

Jesus is like the grain of wheat which by dying produces much fruit, that is, it makes many thousands upon thousands of children of God. Now these true Christians are all like Jesus in that they do not selfishly love their own lives and this sinful world more than God and His Heaven.

Jesus is now teaching that the act of a Christian who by faith is willing to give up control of His life to God is a person who understands the passion of the Christ. But a person who is so attached to their life, with all of its happiness and its treasures, will ultimately see it all slip away and disappear.

To stress this truth, Jesus adds that conversely, a person “in this world” who hates his life of sin, and wants it defeated once and for all, is a person who’s ready to go against it and allow that old self to be denied, crucified and put to death. This is what it means to see Jesus and to follow Him.

But there is a great difference between the divine Grain of Wheat’s death which gives us life, and our own dying to self. We are the “much fruit,” that is produced in Jesus passion and our new life, which is always dying and forever germinated in Jesus’ Word and sacraments. It is only through Jesus’ suffering that sinners such as us can be saved, and through His death produce the church of believing children of God. All that we can do—and that only by his grace not of ourselves—is to use our earthly and natural life so as to gain for ourselves the life eternal. He alone is the Savior, we are nothing but the saved. He needed no salvation; we cannot save even our own selves.

So what the Greeks and all other sinners in search for a Savior must understand is that the salvation Jesus offers and the way He offers it is never what the world expects. If they and we will receive this truth, Jesus says, “Let (them) follow me.” Did the Greeks and the pilgrims on Palm Sunday understand what a high privilege Jesus offered and is still offering in the invitation to follow Him?

If you were in Jerusalem the day Jesus rode into town, humbly seated upon a donkey, do you think you would have gone after Him; made your way out to see him knowing what kind of Savior He is and the kind of salvation He was offering?

I think that you probably would have, aside from the truth that Jesus fame was spreading quickly due to the news that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, the very invitation to follow Jesus was powered by the same Holy Spirit that brought you into Christ’s church today. You are searching after the very same thing that some we’re seeking on that first Palm Sunday, salvation.

Hosanna literally means, “Save Us!” Do you need saving? Do you see Jesus as someone who can save you? Now, if you say you see Jesus as someone who could save you, the next question sets the stage for further investigation into who you think Jesus was and is. Are you ready? What would you want Jesus to save you from? I mean the choices are numerous. Should he save you from a bad marriage, addiction, unemployment, poverty, sickness, or a corrupt government? Or do you see Him as who He says that He is, very God in human flesh? Another way to ask this is, do you see Him as a kind of Messiah who will make all things right and good now, in this world, or is He your Messiah who makes all things well with you and your Creator for all of eternity?

Would you still be a sinner shouting Hosanna after discovering that Jesus is a suffering Savior who comes not to bring freedom from life’s woes and tragedies, but a Savior who comes to bring eternal life and peace with God. If you knew this in advance would you be more prone to shout Hosanna or “Crucify Him!”

Those were the words that a similar crowd shouted just a few days after Palm Sunday. Instead of saying “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel,” they said, “We have no king but Caesar!” They are the ones who complained that the whole world had gone after, and were following Jesus. They were the ones who were incensed that Jesus had turned over the market tables within the Lord’s Temple and called them a brood of vipers and accused them of turning the House of Prayer into a den of thieves!

They are the ones that continually came to Jesus for the miracles, but then walked away from Him when He demanded that they acknowledge Him as the Son of God. They are the ones that flocked to see the sight of the blind restored, the lepers cured, the multitude fed, and the dead raised, but when He offered forgiveness of sins, they rightly said that no one could forgive sins but God, and then, they picked up stones to kill Him for being a blasphemer.

To those people then and many today, Jesus was acceptable as a good man, a wise man, a wonderful teacher, but they were certain that He never should be called God and worshiped in a way that excluded all other ways of being a good in a religious sense. People then and today will gladly hear a message preached about the good Samaritan, and then agree with you that we should all demonstrate brotherly love through tolerance, but when you tell them that only Jesus can ever be the “Good Samaritan” and that outside of Jesus’ work for sinners, we can never know peace with God and our neighbor, they will call you an intolerant zealot.

Now let’s look at the people in the crowd that shouted Hosanna.

Do you think that they really wanted the kind of Savior that Jesus said He was? Did they even understand who Jesus really was? Maybe not, but they did know that before Jesus came into their lives, it seemed that if God was not dead, He was at least silent in their lives. The cruelty of the Roman government was getting more severe everyday; hunger and poverty were rampant to the point that there seemed to be only two groups of people, the very rich and the very poor. Sickness and death seemed to be the only reward for the average person, and then along comes Jesus. He was teaching with authority about a God who wasn’t angry with their sins as much as He was saddened by them. He was presenting a God Who wasn’t so much a punishing God as He was a forgiving God for those who turned to Him in repentance for mercy. He no longer was simply the God of their Fathers, but Emmanuel, a God who was with them right now, in what ever they were going through.

While Jesus taught in ways that caused the religious zealots to be angry, those who really listened to Him teach, felt shame over their sins, but then they experienced comfort and hope when Jesus proclaimed God’s forgiveness. In essence they were changed. They saw past the miracles and saw the man, who was much more than a man or a teacher. Could it be that what Jesus said is true? Is He really the God-man, the Son of God? While their faith was weak, and they were not quite sure what to make of Jesus, one thing was certain, they knew that He was sent by God; God was no longer silent in their lives, because in Jesus’ Words, God was right there with them.

So where do you stand within these two groups? Isn’t it true that in each of us, God can find a mindset that on some days may yell both “Crucify Him” and “Hosanna” within the same day? Don’t we many times, say one thing and then do another? Don’t we enjoy God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of our neighbor and then quickly refuse forgiveness to another, or at least withhold it until they feel our pain? Haven’t each of us been guilty of ignoring our need to worship God at His Church, or perhaps the opposite, when we have put the practice of our religion ahead of the demonstration of our faith? Does it not become an easy thing for us to justify our own sins, but at the same time amplifying the sins of our neighbor?

So what shall we do? And to answer that question, we turn to the Words of St. Paul in our Epistle lesson (Philippians 2:5-11), who says…

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus”.

What mind? Well, the mind of faith; a mind that is first led by faith and then rational thought. A mind that is part of a life that has been renewed in Holy Baptism and is sanctified every day by the Word of God. A mind that sees Jesus on the colt of a donkey and remembers that the prophet Zechariah spoke about this moment, long before it occurred through these Words: “(Fear not, that is) rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

This is the Word of God that allows you to receive both the truth and the will of God. It is a mind of faith that is able to see God as both righteous and forgiving; a mind that sees Jesus as both fully God and fully man. This is the kind of mind that understands that when the Son of God came to us sinners, He came to provide for our salvation; that is, He knew that He was coming to die for us. Even as He rode in on Palm Sunday and one group chanted Hosanna, He knew that another group was plotting to kill Him, and very soon would shout, “Crucify Him!” But here is the wonderful mystery that is hard but essential for us to understand… Jesus came to die for both groups; He came to die for sinners and saints, and He came to die for you!

In our Psalm this morning, we heard that Jesus is the gate of the LORD, and that He is the answer to our prayers for salvation, that is forgiveness for our sins. But, He is also the capstone of that gate, which the self-righteous and self sufficient people rejected then and reject still today. But how do they reject Him? When they refuse to repent of their independent ways and refuse to see Jesus as who He is. And who is he? He is God and there is none other. Outside of Jesus, there is no salvation; He is the only way to eternal life. He is the one who by taking on our flesh, that is by humbling Himself, became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

These are the people who reject God; they reject Jesus as God who not only died for sinners, but he died for them. Here then, is the gospel message for this morning; a message for all people, saints and sinners, rich and poor alike: Jesus died for you! While He rode in on that donkey, He had both the cross and your salvation on His heart.

This week, we will gather on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday to honor God and highly exalt our Savior, Jesus Christ. We will look deeply into His passion for sinners such as us, and we will allow both His Word and His real presence to transform our sinful minds. We will experience real truth, such as we have experience this morning. Real truth that exposes both our love for Him but also our sin that still clings to us. He alone will teach us His truth, and He alone will comfort our fears. And then on Easter morning, we will greet our Savior Jesus Christ, whom God has highly exalted, and we will proclaim the truth of that name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” AMEN

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
http://www.tlcsd.org

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!

Really?

Sunday, April 13th, 2014

Palm Sunday, April 13, 2014
Rev. Brian Henderson
Pastor of Trinity Lutheran Church,
7210 Lisbon Street, San Diego, CA 92114
http://www.tlcsd.org

Click here for audio of this message

“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. [John 12:18, 19]

If you were in Jerusalem the day Jesus rode into town, humbly seated upon a donkey, do you think you would have gone after Him; made your way out to see him?  I think that you probably would have, after all, the news was spreading everywhere, like a wild fire that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead, and remember now, he wasn’t just dead, he was dead for four days; that kind of miracle was unheard of.  So, let’s just assume that all of us would have been there, but there is another question worth asking, and it is this: Would you have been there shouting “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”

Now before you answer that question, let’s consider just a couple of things.  First, we must understand what the word Hosanna means.  It literally means, “Save Us!”  Do you need saving?  Do you see Jesus as someone who can save you?  Now, if you say you see Jesus as someone who could save you, the next question sets the stage for further investigation into who you think Jesus was and is.  Are you ready?  What would you want Jesus to save you from?  I mean the choices are numerous.  Should he save you from a bad marriage, addiction, unemployment, poverty, sickness, or a corrupt government?  Or do you see Him as who He says that He is, very God in human flesh?  Another way to ask this is, do you see Him as your Messiah who will make all things right and good now, in this world now, or is He your Messiah who makes all things well with you and your Creator for all of eternity?

Now this morning we will examine two groups of people who greeted Jesus then, and still greet Him today, and then we will allow God to show us where we fit in.

“Crucify Him!”  Those were the words that a similar crowd shouted just a few days after Palm Sunday.  Instead of  saying “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel,” they said, “We have no king but Caesar!”  They are the ones who complained that the whole world had gone after, and were following Jesus.  They were the ones who were incensed that Jesus had turned over the market tables within the Lord’s Temple and called them a brood of vipers and accused them of turning the House of Prayer into a den of thieves!

They are the ones that continually came to Jesus for the miracles, but then walked away from Him when He demanded that they acknowledge Him as the Son of God.  They are the ones that flocked to see the sight of the blind restored, the lepers cured, the multitude fed, and the dead raised, but when He offered forgiveness of sins, they rightly said that no one could forgive sins but God, and then, they picked up stones to kill Him for being a blasphemer.

To those people then and many today, Jesus was acceptable as a good man, a wise man, a wonderful teacher, but they were certain that He never should He be called God and worshiped in a way that excluded all other ways of being a good and religious person.  People then and today will gladly hear a message preached about the good Samaritan, and then agree with you that we should all demonstrate brotherly love through tolerance, but when you tell them that only Jesus can ever be the “Good Samaritan” and that outside of Jesus’ work for sinners, we can never know peace with God and our neighbor, they will call you intolerant and a zealot.

Now let’s look at the people in the crowd that shouted Hosanna.  Do you think that they really wanted the kind of Savior that Jesus said He was?  Did they even understand who Jesus really was?  Maybe not, but they did know that before Jesus came into their lives, it seemed that if God was not dead, He was at least silent in their lives.  The cruelty of the Roman government was getting more severe everyday; hunger and poverty were rampant to the point that there seemed to be only two groups of people, the very rich and the very poor.  Sickness and death seemed to be the only reward for the average man, and then along comes Jesus.  He was teaching with authority about a God who wasn’t angry with their sins as much as He was saddened by them.  He wasn’t so much a punishing God as He was a forgiving God for those who turned to Him in repentance for mercy.  He no longer was simply the God of their Fathers, but Emmanuel, a God who was with them right now, in what ever they were going through.

While Jesus taught in ways that caused the religious zealots to be angry, those who really listened to Him teach, felt shame over their sins, but then they experienced comfort and hope when Jesus proclaimed God’s forgiveness.  In essence they were changed.  They saw past the miracles and saw the man, who was much more than a man or a teacher.  Could it be that what Jesus said is true?  Is He really the God-man, the Son of God?  While their faith was weak, and they were not quite sure what to make of Jesus, one thing was certain, they knew that He was sent by God; God was no longer silent in their lives, because in Jesus’ Words, God was right there with them.

So where do you stand within these two groups?  Isn’t it true that in each of us, God can find a mindset that on some days may yell both “Crucify Him” and “Hosanna” within the same day?   Now, if you are thinking, “No, I would never be like that.” I have one word for you, “Really?  Really?!”

Don’t we many times, say one thing and then do another?  Don’t we enjoy God’s forgiveness and the forgiveness of our neighbor and then quickly refuse forgiveness to another, or at least withhold it until they feel our pain?  Haven’t each of us been guilty of ignoring our need to worship God at His Church, or perhaps the opposite, when we have put the practice of our religion ahead of the demonstration of our faith?  Does it not become an easy thing for us to justify our own sins, but at the same time amplifying the sins of our neighbor?

So what shall we do?  And to answer that question, we turn to the Words of St. Paul in our Epistle lesson (Philippians 2:5-11), who says…

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus”.  What mind?  Well, the mind of faith; a mind that is first led by faith and then rational thought.  A mind that is part of a life that has been renewed in Holy Baptism and is sanctified every day by the Word of God.  A mind that sees Jesus on the colt of a donkey and remembers that the prophet Zechariah spoke about this moment, long before it occurred through these Words: “(Fear not, that is) rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”

This is the Word of God that allows you to receive both the truth and the will of God.  It is a mind of faith that is able to see God as both righteous and forgiving; a mind that sees Jesus as both fully God and fully man.  This is the kind of mind that understands that when the Son of God came to us men, He came to provide for our salvation; that is, He knew that He was coming to die for us.  Even as He rode in on Palm Sunday and one group chanted Hosanna, He knew that another group was plotting to kill Him, and very soon would shout, “Crucify Him!”  But here is the wonderful mystery that is hard but essential for us to understand… Jesus came to die for both groups; He came to die for sinners and saints, and He came to die for you!

The mystery of both His birth and His death is 100% a work of God, and it is marvelous and wonderful in our sight.  You see, within this humble savior seated on a donkey rode the God of Creation.  The same mystery of God that confronted sinful men at the birth of Jesus and confounded Herod, rode upon a donkey towards Golgotha.  He was not riding to die only for good men and women, but for the no good sinners as well.

In our processional Psalm we heard that Jesus is the gate of the LORD, and that He is the answer to our prayers for salvation, that is forgiveness for our sins.  But, He is also the capstone of that gate, which the self-righteous and self sufficient people rejected then and reject still today.  But how do they reject Him?  When they refuse to repent of their independent ways and refuse to see Jesus as who He is.  And who is he?  He is God and there is none other.  Outside of Jesus, there is no salvation; He is the only way to eternal life.  He is the one who by taking on our flesh, that is by humbling Himself, became obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

These are the people who reject God; they reject Jesus as God who not only died for sinners, but he died for them.  Here then, is the gospel message for this morning; a message for all people, saints and sinners, rich and poor alike:  Jesus died for you!  While He rode in on that donkey, He had both the cross and your salvation on His heart.

This week, we will gather on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday to honor God and highly exalt our Savior, Jesus Christ.  We will look deeply into His passion for sinners such as us, and we will allow both His Word and His real presence to transform our sinful minds.  We will experience real truth, such as we have experience this morning.  Real truth that exposes both our love for Him but also our sin that still clings to us.  He alone will teach us His truth, and He alone will comfort our fears.  And then on Easter morning, we will greet our Savior Jesus Christ, whom God has highly exalted, and we will proclaim the truth of that name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  AMEN

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!

Those Fickle Crowds!

Sunday, March 24th, 2013

Rev. Brian Henderson, Pastor-Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
Palm Sunday C, March 24, 2013

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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! [John 12:12-19]

This Sunday morning is a special Sunday; some call it Palm Sunday and others prefer Passion Sunday, because it is the first Sunday in Holy Week.  I say, why do we have to choose?  Lets remember both, and so we have by preserving all of the Gospel readings assigned (John 12:12-43).  This morning, God wants us to answer this: Who is Jesus to me? I believe that is the question many who gathered on that first Palm Sunday also were struggling with.  Lets be honest, there were many who were there just for the show, for the hope of witnessing another miracle, another demonstration of unexplainable power.  Our reading this morning makes that clear: 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 I guess a second question I could ask you this morning is, Why are you here? But I think that question will answer itself once we answer the first question.  Who is Jesus to you?

Prophet yes, but also so much more!  In His flesh a man, but not just a man; no, because you see He is also God the living Word of God to be exact!  This is Jesus, our Prophet, our Priest and our King!  This is the One who has come and is coming again; He is the one who comes in the name of the Lord!  He is the one who comes with all of Gods power and authority.  Why?  Because He is God!  He is the one who comes to us humbly, mounted upon a donkey.  He comes with compassion and mercy, but He also comes to judge and punish.  He is a God of contrasts, a God who comes to kill and make alive; to wound and to heal.  And when He acts, none can deliver out of His hand! [Deuteronomy 32:39b]

In our Old Testament reading (Deuteronomy 32:36-39), God, speaking through Moses reminded the Israelites about His anger for their past sins and He warned them about His coming anger for their future sins.  But why was God angry?  What was this sin that angered Him so strongly that He would judge, punish, wound, and kill?  It was the sin of worshiping false Gods!  They did it in the past when they longed to return to Egypt as slaves, just so they could get their fill of the food they were accustomed to eating.  They did it when they tried to replace Moses as their leader, because they didnt like the message.  And of course they did it when they created the golden calf to worship.  And now, God is telling His people that He will judge them.  He challenges them to turn to their false gods, their false means of hope for protection from His anger.  Listen to how God mocks their false gods: Then I will say, Where are their gods, the rock in which they took refuge. [vs. 37]

Through Moses, God reminded the Israelites then and He reminds us today of our sinful tendency to be fickle and run after what ever new thing peaks our curiosity, and thus forgetting about the God who has never changed and never stopped saving us and providing for us in our time of trouble.  When we try to seek God in any way outside of His Word and Sacraments, we are setting up false gods to worship and follow.  Through Moses, this morning God is warning us to  Return to the Lord your God, for He is faithful and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love! What false gods have you set up in your life?

For some, the false god maybe in the man made government or political party that they are affiliated with.  For others, another false god in their lives can be found in their own self-sufficiency.  Maybe youve experienced this sin as I have.  It happens when we trust our own resourcefulness instead of having complete trust and confidence in God.  Another false god that we must consider is our family.  While its true that love for family is important, sometimes we can love them more than the God who gives us our family.  Sometimes our love for our children or other family members can lead us to do things that we know are wrong.

Finally, perhaps the most insidious false god may be the very comfort that Gods blessings bring to those of us who are part of Christs church.  We who make up Christs body have been blessed with eternal life, washed clean in the waters of our baptism.  We enjoy a certain peace of mind and soul that no other person outside of grace can ever experience.  Every day we are protected from the attacks of the devil and we have prospered.  We love our comfort and long for more of Gods blessings yet we ignore the leading of the very God who provides all of this for us.  How do we ignore Him?  By neglecting worship or the study of His Word; by forgetting that we too need to cry out to Him like the crowds on the first Palm Sunday, Hosanna!  We need to live a life that demonstrates praise to our Savior God and to Him alone; a life that gives back to Him just as generously as He gives to us!

How do we do this?  By knowing God as He really is.  How do we know God?  We know God by knowing Jesus!  By knowing who Jesus is for us and who He is for our neighbor our lives will be transformed! God wants us to know that Jesus is more than just His Son; He wants us to know that He is also our brother.  He wants us to know that Jesus is at all times both God and man.  He is eternal; He is the Son of God, who together with the Father and the Holy Spirit are eternally worshiped and glorified, yet Jesus was also born of the Virgin Mary.  What a mystery God was born!  But even more mysterious, Jesus died the God who is eternal and cannot die did in fact diebut not just any death He died upon the cross.  He died the death of a slave, the death of a condemned criminal.

And to all of this truth, our sinful minds cry out, But how can any of this be? But asking how is the wrong question friends.  It is wrong because Gods ways are not our ways; His ways are far above ours.  The right question to ask is why? If we understand the why, then the how becomes unimportant.  Hosanna!  Hosanna to the Savior God!

When the Son of God took on our flesh to save us, He chose to make Himself nothing by becoming our servant, so that as our servant, He could suffer and die in our place.  The God-man Jesus Christ humbled Himself for us, by dying for us!  From the moment He was conceived by the Holy Spirit He chose to be born in order to die.  Now here is where Gods ways become very mysterious to us; at no time did Jesus cease being God.  Not in the womb and not upon the cross.  Out of love for you, Christ put aside His deity and chose to live out your humanity.  At any time He could have walked away from our flesh, but if He would have done that, then He could not have paid the penalty for your sins.  If He would have allowed His angels to save Him from your death, the death that you should die, then He could not have won salvation for you!

Dear friends, by taking on your flesh and dying your death for your sins, Jesus became your Warrior King.  When He rode into Jerusalem that first Palm Sunday, He indeed rode in as a warrior king.  But not the type of warrior king the people expected.  Warrior kings ride in on strong stallions, suited with armor and with sword and shield in hand.  But Jesus rode in on a donkey armed with only our flesh, our mind, and our sin.

He who is Spirit and truth, and without sin took on our flesh and our sins so that He could fight and win for us!  But these strange weapons were exactly what He needed to defeat sin, death, and the devil.  They were in keeping with the work that He came to do.  He didnt come to conquer nations or empires; He came to conquer your sin; YOUR SIN.  This was Gods means of waging war against our enemies.  Jesus had to be our substitute, and He could only do this by being obedient to the Fathers will; by suffering and dying to pay for our sins.  And make no mistake friends; He could not have done this without His full deity.  He had to attach the full weight of His deity to His human flesh in order to be obedient unto death, even death upon the cross.  And as we will proudly proclaim and celebrate next week on Easter morning, He must have all of His deity in order to rise from the dead.  So, even in death, Jesus was mighty God so that by His death and resurrection we could be assured of the very same thing happening for us.  Hosanna!  Hosanna to our Savior King!

Dear friends, by knowing and believing in this truth our hearts cant help but cry out Hosanna!  We will naturally cry out Hosanna when we know whom our true Savior King is and how and for whom He came to save.  He came to save you dear friends, but not just you He came to save your neighbor.  You have a message to declare you have a story to tell.  Its a story that God wants you to share with as many people as possible.  But what shall you tell them?  Tell them that they have a God who comes to them as a Savior; a Savior who put Himself to death so that they could live.  Tell them that by putting Himself to death for them God was able to heal the sins of the entire world even their sins.  He is our true God and all that He asks from us in return is that we would worship Him and Him alone.  He asks us to trust only in His love for us and then rest in His presence and protection.

Friends, its no wonder that the crowds came out on that first Palm Sunday shouting Hosanna in the highest! But in five short days, another crowd would gather at the Roman headquarters shouting, “Crucify Him!” This morning let’s be on our guard to assure we don’t become one of those who make up the fickle crowd.  Let’s resolve to continue gathering around God’s Word and Sacrament as we are moved to continually turn by faith to  Jesus as our Messiah, the Savior God.  I pray that each of us will be moved to praise Him with our time, talent, and treasure, as we share His message of forgiveness with whoever God puts in our path.  Lets try to remember each day that it is the Lord alone who delivers us from all of our enemies, even sin, death, and the devil.  Lets try to thank Him each day that He has not only given us grace, but the faith to believe that Jesus died for each of us.

Dear friends, we say hosanna to our Savior God because it is He alone who saves us; He saves us from all harm.  He has defeated all of our enemies.  His name is great, and His name is . Jesus.  Theres something about the name Jesus.  Some thing about the name Jesus; it is the sweetest name I know.  And at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.  AMEN

We Need Jesus to Survive!

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost A, September 25, 2011
Pastor Brian Henderson-Trinity Lutheran Church, San Diego, CA
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Philippians 2:1-18

Do you know the music that’s playing?  Yes it’s the theme song to the reality T.V. show, “Survivor.”  it’s playing because I want to start off our message this morning with an analogy to that show.  On Survivor, the premise is this: If you want to survive, you need to outlast, out smart, and out play your opponents who are isolated with you on the island.  Well our message this morning calls us to do the opposite.  Like the reality show, we too are gathered together, not on an isolated island, but here in Christ’s church.  We are gathered together with a bunch of people who are completely different than us, yet we are all exactly the same.  Each of us has different life time experiences, but each of us are fighting against the same opponents, sin, death, and the devil!  Instead of playing to eliminate your fellow islanders by out-playing them, you’re living to see that they make it all the way to the end!

On the tv show, each player tries to obtain what’s called an immunity idol.  This “idol” protects the players from the strategy and attack of their opponents.  In our walk of Christian faith, we have our baptism.  It also makes us immune, immune from the attacks of sin, death, and the devil; as long as we are resting in our baptism, these evil forces can’t eliminate us from winning eternal life.  Now here is where the greatest difference is; in our walk of faith our goal isn’t to eliminate others but to include them by helping them reach the same goal… eternal life with Jesus.  How can this be done?  Only by having, and then helping others have the heart and mind of Jesus Christ; a heart and mind that can only be obtained through God’s Word!  Through the Word, we’re given Jesus and a new faith and obedience to trust and obey God!  When we have Jesus, we will naturally live to “Out Love, Out Sacrifice, and Out Serve” each other.  We will come to see the truth in the saying, “I need you, you need me, and we all need Jesus to survive!

In our epistle lesson this morning (Philippians 2:1-18), St. Paul is asking us to live a life of humility.  He’s asking us to put the needs of others above our own by out loving them, out serving them, and out sacrificing for them.  He is asking us to be a source of encouragement and comfort by participating in the ministry of the church.  He’s asking us to utilize our time, talent, and treasure to help further and build the Kingdom of God.  He says in verse 3 that we are to “do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than (ourselves).”  He says that we are to look not only to (our) own interests, but also to the interests of others. [vs. 4]

But how?  How can broken sinners like us fill such a tall and perfect order?  How can we sacrifice our time, talent, and treasure to spread God’s Kingdom of grace when everything in us and around us is convincing us to do the very opposite?  By being obedient to God’s will!  Here’s a truth that you might want to write down and remember: “Selected obedience isn’t obedience at all; it is merely convenience.”  Saints of God, we haven’t been called to do what is convenient, but what is inconvenient.  When we give of our time, talent, and treasure when it isn’t convenient, God calls that sacrifice.  And when God sees sacrifice, He sees love!

A husband and wife were discussing the possibility of taking a trip to the Holy Land.  The husband said, “Wouldn’t it be great to stand on Mount Sinai and shout out the Ten Commandments?”  To that the wife said, “Wouldn’t it be even greater if we stayed home and kept them?”  Men of God please hear me; our families and our community are waiting for us to be the spiritual leaders that God has created us to be!  They are waiting for us to lead them through love, sacrifice, and service!  The question is will we respond?  How do any of us respond?  How do we begin?

And to this Paul says: “Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”  And there you have it… we must have the heart and mind of Jesus.  We must live in the same frame of mind that He had; what is even more interesting is the fact hat he says we already have Jesus’ heart and mind! And what is the heart and mind of Jesus?  Well it’s the heart and mind of a slave and of a servant!  Do you see yourself as God’s slave and as the servant of your brothers and sisters in the church?  Do you see Jesus example and desire to make it your own?  If you’re anything like me, you are probably getting a little uncomfortable and feeling a little inadequate.  If you are, good!  That’s the work of God’s Law reminding you that on your own you can do nothing!  If you are listening right now, if you are really paying attention then you are also feeling helpless.  And that’s good, because you see, after God shows you your sin and you confess it, it’s no longer about you… it’s all about God and what He did for you through Jesus Christ!

Who is Jesus Christ to you? Is he really the Son of God who came to us in our flesh to set us free from our sins or is He only partly God’s Son or only a man and not even partly God’s Son? This isn’t some theological issue that only scholars argue about, this is an issue involving the life or the death of every Christian, including each of us.  How we believe will determine whether we’re obedient or disobedient; it will determine where we will spend our eternity! How we answer this question and what we believe about Jesus involves the whole saving work of Jesus for sinners like you and me!  The key that unlocks God’s Kingdom for us and allows us to be and remain in it rests entirely on who Jesus is, what He did, and whether or not He is our source of sincerity, obedience, and true sacrifice.  In Jesus we must see that the only sacrifice pleasing to God, could only be made by Jesus the Christ, Son of God and son of man!  If He was not truly man, then He could not have suffered and died for the world… for only man can pay for the sins of men.  Jesus suffered and died for you!

On Good Friday, Jesus the Christ suffered and died to pay for what we cannot pay for!  On that day Jesus defeated our chief enemy,which is sin!  But if His work stopped there, if His work in our flesh was all that He gave to us, then we would still have no hope, because our other enemies death and the devil would still be our master.  But His work didn’t stop there, because on Good Friday not only did Jesus the man die for us but Jesus the Son of God died as well!  On Good Friday, that which can’t happen happened… God died for us!  God had to do this, because only God has the power over life and death.  In the person of Jesus, the Son of God emptied Himself for us when He became our Christ… our Savior.  He became our brother by emptying Himself, becoming a slave and dying a slave’s death upon a tree!  But He also proved that He was our God by taking His life back up again.  God did all of this to save us; so that we could return to Him!  He did this so that you could enter and remain in His Kingdom of forgiveness and love.

This death and resurrection was something only the Son of God could and did do, and He did it for us!  And when it was finished this act gave Jesus the Christ the Name, which is above all names, so that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!  [vs. 10, 11]

But you already know this don’t you?  You are already struggling to live out this truth.  Or as Paul says, we are “(working) out (our) own salvation with fear and trembling.”  Why fear and trembling?  Because we know that our God not only suffered and died for us, but He also lives and works within us!  He not only wills that we live a life of love, service, and sacrifice, but He is accomplishing that very thing within us through the heart and mind of Jesus!  And because we know this is true, we find comfort knowing that the same God who has ignited a spark of true godliness in our hearts will keep right on working until it becomes a blazing bonfire!  We know that in our weakness and failures, we have a God who comes to us and strengthens us with divine help!

And how does He help us?  Only through His Word!  It is His Word alone that tells us that we have been saved by grace alone through baptism and new life!  It is His Word alone that not only encourages us but enables us to work out our salvation with fear and trembling.  It is the gospel that tells us that we have a God who is for us and not against; a God who is willing and working in us and among us to bring and sustain His Kingdom of peace and forgiveness.  And as we remain centered in His Word in our worship, prayers, and service we begin to sense His presence as we witness ourselves “(doing these) things without grumbling or questioning”. And this is God’s work within us, the real change He brings so that we may know that in His Kingdom, we are blameless and innocent children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom (we) shine as (bright) lights in the world.”  And all of this is done only because we are “holding fast to the Word of life, the Word of God, Jesus Christ!

I’d like to close with this story.  A missionary translator worked hard to find a word for “obedience” in the native language. This was a virtue that seemed to be lacking among the people into whose language he wanted to translate the New Testament. As he returned home from the village one day, he whistled for his dog and it came running at full speed. An old native, seeing this, said admiringly in the native tongue, “Your dog is all ear.” Immediately the missionary knew he had his word for obedience.

Dear friends, God wants us to be all ear; He wants us to hear His Word and allow Him to transform us.  We need the new obedience, the heart and mind of Jesus, which God’ Word provides. Yes, we need God and we need each other.  I need you and you need me, because together we are all part of God’s Kingdom.  I need you through the presence and power of God to out love, out serve, and out sacrifice me, and you need me and each other to do the very same thing.  I need you and you need me, but each of us needs Jesus to survive!  May God continue to do this great work of providing for our needs through Jesus Christ… AMEN!

Steadfast in Christ’s Word!

Sunday, January 4th, 2009

Pastor Brian Henderson, Trinity Lutheran Church-San Diego
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INTRODUCTION: “And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom.  And the favor of God was upon him.” Vs. 40

Does it seem strange to you that God the Son should grow, become strong, and be filled with Wisdom?  This is God, right?  God does not change, right?  Right, but this is also Jesus, son of man, born of the Virgin Mary.  What a mystery, God assumes human flesh and becomes the God Child Jesus Christ, but what does that mean and why is it so?  This morning we will explore these questions and receive some real answers that we can take home with us, but first, let’s go over our gospel lesson again.

I. Tucked away in a small town called Nazareth, is a young couple who started their union out in a way that is not uncommon to many other Christian couples today…they started out joined together by faith in God’s real presence in their lives.  Oh yes they were different, they were special, because they would raise God’s Son, but they were also very similar to us.  They lived in the real world, where a living must be earned, bills must be paid, and Children must be raised. 

Every year, this God fearing and God loving couple did the right thing; they made the long journey from Nazareth to Jerusalem to celebrate the eight day long pass-over festival.  This year was no different, in that they made the trip, but it was different, because their son Jesus had now turned 12 years old.  This was the age in which a Jewish boy became “a son of the law,” and was obligated to learn and to observe all of its provisions.  Well the eight day festival is over, and now it’s time to head back to Nazareth.  Joseph, Mary, and Jesus would return home along with about 100 hundred other families from Nazareth and other nearby villages and towns.  The caravan would be split into 3 groups, the men, the women and children, and then the young boys who often traveled together playing and having fun (yes even then, it wasn’t cool to hang out with your parents).  Parents really didn’t worry much about these young boys though, because they knew that they were somewhere in the traveling company, and back then neighbors were real neighbors and they all kept a watchful eye on each other’s children. 

Well after the first day of travel, as everyone in the caravan was pitching their tents for the evening, Joseph and Mary realized any parent’s worst nightmare, their child was missing!  There would be no rest for them, as they quickly turned around and went back up the hill making the long trek back to Jerusalem to search for Jesus.  Now it would be two days of travel without rest.  Once in the city, the couple began to search feverishly for their boy.  They retraced their steps and went to every place they thought that Jesus might be.  Finally, towards evening, they found Him, sitting on the steps of the temple as a student, engaged in a learning discussion about God’s Word with many teaching Rabbi’s who were also gathered there.  Whew…they were relieved of course but they must have been worn-out and irritated as well, for you see now it had been 3 days without rest.  But they held their temper and didn’t interrupt the discussion taking place between Jesus and all of those teachers.  It amazed them to hear Jesus asking and answering such deep spiritual questions.  The teachers seemed amazed at the boy’s wisdom too.  But now, Jesus seeing His parents, suddenly rises, and He obediently walks over to them.  And His mother says to him, “Son, why have you treated us so? See, your father and I have been searching everywhere for you; we were worried sick over you!” And Jesus who was honestly surprised by this said to them, “You were looking for me? Didn’t you know that I had to be doing my Father’s work?  Didn’t you know that I would be here in my Father’s house?”  And that was it, the dilemma was over!  Jesus and His family certainly got some rest, and then together they began the long trek back home to Nazareth.  Mary and Joseph didn’t understand, but they knew that Jesus was a good boy, and someday they would understand that He was also the “God-man”.  So Jesus grew as any child, and he became wise and strong, and he continued to find favor in the eyes of God and man!II. Why didn’t Mary and Joseph know where to find Jesus?  Why didn’t they remember what the angels, the Magi, and the prophets told them about their child 12 seasons ago?  Why didn’t they remember that Jesus was really God the Father’s Son?  Well, because Jesus was also a very real person.  As a boy, and latter as a man Jesus was under God’s authority and dependent upon him for all things just like we are.  As a boy, Jesus was expected to honor His parents and keep the 4th Commandment perfectly, just as you and I must do, but the difference between Jesus and us is He did it and we can’t!  But then why did Jesus become separated from Joseph and Mary if he wasn’t at fault?  Well the error was His parents.  When Jesus asked them how it was that they didn’t know where he would be, he wasn’t being sarcastic, but rather truthful.  “Why didn’t you look for me before you left?  I would have left with you, you know!  Have you forgotten who I really am?  Have you forgotten all that God told you about me?  Why would you need to wonder where I would be or where you must find me?  Have you forgotten who’s Son I really am?  I must be in my Father’s house!”  Here in our gospel lesson, at the age of twelve we see that Jesus clearly knew most certainly that God was his Father in a way in which he was not Father to anyone else!

Dear friends, do we understand the wonderful mystery here?   This boy Jesus is speaking as God the Son, begotten from eternity by the Father in an absolutely unique relation? Can we surrender to the mystery that declares that Jesus is true God and true man without trying to explain how this can be?  Yes we can if by faith we surrender the mystery into God’s capable hands!  And it is by faith that we believe, teach, and confess that the divine and human natures of Jesus are now and forever inseparable, not pasted together like to sides to a coin, nor one transformed or absorbed into the other, but rather, each essence simply is and completely retains itself in a way that truly makes Jesus the God-Man! 

According to this personal union this God-boy in our gospel lesson already and always possessed His majesty as God, and yet He allowed it to be hidden just as great clouds in the can hide the sun. This is how Jesus could grow in stature, wisdom, and grace before God and other people [Luke 2:52]. This is why Jesus, knowing that He was the true Son of God, continued being subjected to His earthly parents.  Make no mistake friends, Jesus knew that He was the Son of the Father, and He knew that He was divine, and yet, he continued as a child who was obedient to Joseph and Mary because by doing so He was being obedient to His Heavenly Father’s will. ILLUS: There’s a famous picture that depicts the boy Jesus running with outstretched arms to his mother, with the shadow of the cross being cast on the ground by his form as he runs. The picture’s underlying message is true. Jesus obedience is an example not just for children growing and preparing for adulthood, but for all of us!  He was obedient to His parents and He was obedient to God’s will; but His obedience is also so much more than just an example, because without it He could not have been our Redeemer, the Savior who came to free us from sin and death by His own death upon the cross.

III. Dear friends, when Jesus declared His relationship with the Heavenly Father and demonstrated His obedience to His earthly parents, He was also declaring His purpose for coming to this world; to fulfill his Father’s will, which was to seek and save all people who are lost to sin. By perfectly living His life, that same life became a perfect act of worship.  By being obedient to the will of God His Father in all things, He was obedient, even “unto death, even death on a cross” for us.  Through the obedient life of this God-boy, Jesus’ role as Savior was proclaimed every day until he obediently walked to His very death upon the cross.  As the God-Man Jesus lived and died to bring about reconciliation between God and us.  Jesus,  obedient to His Father’s will  brought all people back to a right relationship with His father, and He did that work finally just outside the very walls of the Jerusalem temple where His parents found Him-He did it on Calvary.  It was there upon that cruel cross that God the Father would forsake His obedient Son and lay upon Him the punishment for all of our sins.  But after three days, God resurrected His Son from death to life in order to ensure us of our own personal victory over sin and death.  Jesus was obedient, and because of His obedience we have been given the ability to call God our “Father,” not in the same way as Jesus can mind you, but in a very real way that eternally ensures us of a loving relationship between God and you.”

Can you accept this as truth?  Can you be like Mother Mary and simply treasure these truths in your heart?  Can you accept that God’s mysteries are beyond your comprehension and simply allow the living Word of God to remain steadfast within your heart allowing Jesus Christ to strengthen your faith unto eternal life?  I pray that you will.  In Jesus name…AMEN!