Holy Trinity Sunday Sermon

Holy Trinity

Year A

June 19, 2011

Matthew 28:16-20

In the name of God the Father who created us, God the Son who redeemed us, and God the Holy Spirit who keeps us in the one true Christian faith. Amen

Today is Trinity Sunday. This is the day in the church year that is set aside to preach and teach concerning the Trinity, God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, three in one. One God, three persons, not three separate gods, which is a heresy called Tritheism that the damnable and heretical religion called Mormonism is founded on and teaches, but one God. A Triune God who is the saving God.

To truly and completely understand the Trinity will never be fully done while we are alive on this earth. Our corrupted, fallible, and imperfect minds and hearts can only understand and comprehend God who is uncorrupted, infallible, and perfect in a limited, fallen, way. We have to use human logic and reasoning to understand God who made man, and who is, last time I checked, way more intelligent than man. We can understand the Trinity in our heads, and our hearts, but only partially, but we can believe it fully.

That is why God gave us the Scriptures, and that is why we have the Three Ecumenical Creeds. The Apostle’s, Nicene and the Athanasian Creed that was read not that long ago each confess the Trinity, three in one. All three Creeds ascribe the act of creation to The Father, the Son who was born of Mary and delivered you from the punishment of your sins by taking that punishment freely upon Himself on the cross, and the Holy Spirit who came on Pentecost to bring this message of salvation to all of the world.

In these creeds we testify with all of Christendom that God is one in essence and three in persons. All three Creeds, and all that is within them, are taken by faith alone. We cannot fully understand the Trinity, which is why we call it a mystery, but we believe that what God says about Himself is true.

The Athanasian Creed is, in my opinion, the perfect place to start in trying to understand the mystery of the Trinity because it teaches the Trinity in a clear way that we can begin to understand. Also, if I could get my way, we’d read it more than one time a year in the church.

So, it only seems good, right and salutary that this morning’s sermon is about the Trinity … more importantly how the Trinity can be seen in all of Scripture, and, more specifically, in the last verses of the Gospel of Matthew, the Great Commission.

Both the Old Testament and the New Testament are ripe with the teachings of the Trinity. Just look in the beginning, and not just of the Bible, but rather of all creation. You know how the creation narrative in Genesis goes. After God had finished creating everything from the waters, to the earth, to all of the animals. On the sixth day, then God said “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” (Gen. 1:26). This is not the royal “we”. The Hebrew word for God used here is elohim, which is plural, as in more than one, because the Son and the Holy Spirit were with the Father during the creation.

John’s Gospel attests to this in Ch 1:1-3, when he wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him was not anything made that was made.” In chapter 10:29, John quotes Jesus as saying, “I and My Father are ONE.”

These verses from John fight against another Trinitarian heresy called Adoptionism. Adoptionism says that Jesus was born fully human, just like you or I were. Then at His baptism, some argue His resurrection; Jesus was ‘adopted’ by God in a special way that made Him divine.

As you can see there are many Trinitarian heresies. Then again all heresies exist because someone doesn’t understand the Trinity as a mystery and instead tries to use failed human reason to understand it. What’s the result when we try to use human reason to understand the Divine that is hidden from us? We fail, and we misunderstand the mystery of the Trinity.

A misunderstanding that puts yourself and your intellect before God, thus breaking the first commandment, which says, “You shall have no other gods before me.” (Ex 20:3). The same God told Moses in Ex. 3:14 to say “I Am who I Am has sent me.” And in Deut 6:4 Moses says, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” The same message that St. Paul restates in 1 Cor. 8:4 when discussing food being given to idols, says, “we know that ‘an idol has no real existence,’ and that ‘there is no God but one.'”

St. Paul continues in verses 5 and 6, “For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth — as indeed there are many ‘gods’ and many ‘idols’ — yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.”

When Scripture, just like 1 Cor. 8, mentions the Trinity, it also mentions their unity… how they are side by side. Jesus, our Lord and Savior, began His ministry when His cousin John baptized him in the Jordan River.  When the baptism was taking place, Jesus was in the water, the Father spoke from heaven and the Holy Spirit descended as a dove. (Mt. 3:13-17). Jesus also ended His ministry on earth, after His death and resurrection, by ascending to sit at the right hand side of the Father. First He prayed to the Father to send the Holy Spirit who was sent on Pentecost.

In John 3:35-36, Jesus says, “The Father loves the Son and has given all things into His hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on Him.”

Jesus loves sinners. He loves sinners more than chocolate loves peanut butter, or Romeo loves Juliet. He loves sinners so much, that He used all of His power to save sinners from their state of sinfulness. He accomplished this with His death on the cross. He also promises to never leave. He even says in the last verse of Matthew’s Gospel, “And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” This is one promise that will never be broken. You can take that to the bank.

When Jesus ascended to sit with the Father all that was needed to deliver mankind from the devil, the world and it’s sinful flesh had been completed. Now our work is to bring the news of this salvation to the whole world, from the people of Belmont and out to Africa and everywhere in between.

The mission of the church is to share the Gospel with everyone who does not yet believe. You can say that this is the Christian’s obligation. An obligation that is made clear in these words from Jesus, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

C. F. W. Walther, the father of the LCMS, once said, “For this reason, the mission to the Gentiles remains the Christian’s obligation. It is an obligation that has been imposed on him both by Christ’s command and by the requirement to love God and man. It is a requirement that lasts for eternity.”

We can do this baptism and teaching only because the Holy Spirit stands with us and goes with us. All power that is on earth and in heaven has been given to Jesus Christ, the Savior, the God-Man. He is King of kings and Lord of lords. He is the Alpha and the Omega. He will reign forever. He revealed Himself to us and is going to again in His Sacrament, in His Body and His Blood.

Through Him we are able to make other disciples. We make disciples of other people with two things, and two things only…. baptizing and teaching. That is the work of the church, baptizing and teaching. The church is all about Word and Sacrament, not programs, not bait and switch techniques, not how to evangelize training. It’s all about Word and Sacrament.

There are times when we, the church, baptize before we teach. There are also times when we, the church, teach before we baptize. Both of these, baptism and teaching are used by the Holy Spirit to forgive people of their sins and give them faith in their risen and ascended Savior, Jesus Christ.

To state that baptism does nothing by itself or that one needs to be old enough to initiate baptism are total misunderstandings of this great and precious gift. In 1 Peter 3, Peter compares the salvation of baptism and the salvation that God sent to Noah during the flood with the ark. Peter writes, “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, in which He went and proclaimed to the spirits in prison, because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to Him.”

It is in baptism and teaching that the Trinity is revealed to sinners. The Father adopts you as His own child. St. Paul says in Gal 3:25-26, “But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.” Paul continues in ch. 4 “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God.”

The Son, Jesus Christ, becomes the one who redeems you. Eph 1:7-10 says, “In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of grace, which He lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight, making known to us the mystery of His will, according to His purpose, which He set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in Him, things in heaven and on earth.”

The Holy Spirit becomes the one who Comforts you. In John 14 Jesus says that He will give another Comforter to His disciples, before His death. Again in verse 16, “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Comforter will not come to you. But if I go, I will send Him to you.”

Last, the Holy Trinity lives where there is faith in Jesus Christ. As Jesus Christ says in His High Priestly Prayer found in John 17 says, “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word, that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me.”

The church has only one work to do in this world, that is to save sinners from their sinfulness. The Trinity have given the church, the power and the means to do this work in teaching and baptism. In short, Word and Sacrament are all about the Trinity. Word and Sacrament are how God comes to you and the world. Amen.

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Sermon 7th Sunday of Easter

Easter 2011 Year A

Seventh Sunday

June 5, 2011

John 17:1-11

Sermon

In the name of Jesus:

He is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

The last two Sundays we’ve been back in the upper room before Jesus’ betrayal, trial, sufferings and eventual death upon a cross. The Gospel readings were from the middle of Jesus’ final sermon to His disciples. The sermon was an extraordinary summary of the Gospel that Jesus is leaving His disciples after three years as a remembrance of why what is going to happen to Jesus must happen.

Among the many things John recounts for us, the focus of the last two sermons was on Jesus being The Way, The Truth and The Life and how Jesus was going to send to these men His Comforter, Paraclete, Helper and Advocate, that is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, to be with them until His resurrection and defeat of sin, death and the devil.

This morning’s Gospel follows Jesus’ last sermon. This is His prayer to The Father. This prayer is often referred to as the High Priestly Prayer because Jesus is the High Priest, He is the interceder between man and God. He is the Priest that stands before the throne of God the Father and offers the sacrifice, not of another animal, but of His own body and blood.

A body and blood that were willingly given. John 10:18 Jesus said “No one takes My life from Me, but I lay it down of My own accord. I have the authority to give it up and I have authority to take it again.” In our text Jesus says: “Father, the hour has come.” His hour of glory was the hour of death and the cross.

Scripture does not teach us that we should pray to the saints or that the saints pray for us and intercede on our behalf, like the Roman Catholics believe. However, Jesus does pray and intercede for us before the Father.

As Augsburg Confession Article XXI says “Of the Worship of Saints they teach that the memory of saints may be set before us, that we may follow their faith and good works, according to our calling, as the Emperor may follow the example of David in making war to drive away the Turk from his country. For both are kings. But the Scripture teaches not the invocation of saints or to ask help of saints, since it sets before us the one Christ as the Mediator, Propitiation, High Priest, and Intercessor. He is to be prayed to, and has promised that He will hear our prayer; and this worship He approves above all, to wit, that in all afflictions He be called upon, 1 John 2:1: If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, etc.”

The author of Hebrews 7 says ” The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office, but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them. For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.” (v 23-28).

The High Priestly Prayer that Jesus prays in John 17 can be broken into several sections: 1. prayer for Himself (1-5), 2. prayer for the disciples (6-19), 3. prayer for the church of all ages (20-23), and the everlasting security of His children (24-26). This morning’s focus will be on the first section, verses 1-5… Jesus’ prayer for Himself. His hour has come. The hour of His death on the cross when God’s glory is shone is now here.

St. Paul said: “We preach Christ crucified.” (1 Cor 1:23). The cross was the center of his life. That’s what he knew and that’s what he preached. Because the cross is where God’s glory was displayed for all to see. The world itself saw that God’s Son the God-Man, Jesus Christ, had died and the rocks split in agony. Even the pagan centurion and those around him in Matthew 27:54 couldn’t help but say “Truly this was the Son of God!

Before all of this could happen on that fateful Good Friday, Jesus prayed “Glorify Your Son that the Son may glorify You.”

The Son, the God-Man Jesus Christ was glorified at His incarnation. Jesus was glorified when He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born the Virgin Mary.

John 1:14 says “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.”

         God the Father glorified His Son by giving Him to you, and you, and you… and to all mankind. As true God, Jesus had the glory and majesty of knowing the glory of the Father from eternity.

John 1:1-2 says “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.”

Matthew 11:27 says, “All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

Jesus follows this train of thought up with 17:5 “And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.” This glory that Jesus had from eternity, His Divine nature, He prayed would be given to His Human nature, as true man to save sinners, to save you, from your state of sinfulness.

Sinfulness, the devil and the world, attack you constantly by saying that you can seek your own glory. A glory that is temporal and fleeting. You convince yourself that it’s ok because it at least it makes you feel good from time to time.

You seek this glory for yourself by getting and acquiring wealth. Maybe it’s from doing everything in your power to be seen as powerful in the eyes of the world. For some of you it’s just in having a good name that is well known in town or at least in the circles that you go around in.

Jesus is different than you. He is glorified in His being given as God’s Son instead of in getting something from you. A Son that when He was born, the angles says, “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace.” The work that this Son would eventually do would bring glory both the Father who sent Him and to Himself.

In Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer, Jesus asked the Father to glorify the Son so that the Son could glorify the Father.  How did the Father do this? The Father did this by giving His Son authority over all of creation … an authority not to rule with an iron first, but to die for … and in so doing to earn eternal life for.

In vs. 4 Jesus says: “I have glorified You on earth by completing the work which You gave Me to do.” What was this work that Jesus completed?

Jesus life, teachings, death and resurrection revealed the true God to us, the God of everlasting mercy. Jesus took the sins of you upon Himself. Jesus became poor so that you might become rich. The God-man, Jesus Christ, suffered and died for you. He became a curse for you. In so doing He removed your death and punishment by taking them upon Himself. In the Person of Christ God died. The God-man, Jesus Christ, truly died physically and rose again physically.

You remember God’s glory and how it was manifest with Christ hanging cursed on the cross every time we make the sign of the cross upon our head and chest. We sign ourselves with the cross as a remembrance of the suffering and death that Christ endured which has become ours in our baptism.

St. Paul says, ”Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?” (Roman 6:3) and ”For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. So death is at work in us, but life in you.” (2 Corinthians 4:11-12)

Martin Chemnitz in The Explanation of the Council of Trent, Part IV says, “Among all the ancient writers there is indeed frequent mention of the sign of the cross. …at the time of Tertullian and afterward the Christians with their fingers formed a transverse figure like a cross in the air, and in this way identified themselves. It was…a profession and reminder that they believed in Christ crucified, and that they were placing all their hope and confidence in Him.”

It is in the cross that you have glory. St. Paul wrote in Gal. 6:14, “God forbid that I should boast of anything except the cross of Christ through which the world is crucified to me and I am crucified to the world.” Jesus’ cross separates you from the sinful world and the sinful world from you.

It is in the cross that you have knowledge, true knowledge, of God the creator of the world. The works of His hands in nature give man a natural knowledge of God’s power. Just look west and see the gorgeous, some times snow capped, mountains that His hands formed on the third day. Just look at the intricacies of the human body.

Or as St. Paul says in Romans 1:18-20 ” For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”

However, this natural knowledge man has of God does not save man. The Jews at the time of Jesus had a natural knowledge of God, but they still remained dead in their sins and trespasses because of unbelief.

Many today also have a natural knowledge of God, and are yet dead in their sins and trespasses because of unbelief. They do not have a saving knowledge of God.

Why did Jesus come? In vs. 2 Jesus says that the Father has given Him rightful authority over all of mankind so that everything which the Father has given to the God-man may have life eternal. The Father gave you to the Son as a gift. And the Son gives you eternal life. You did not choose Him. He chose you. Despite what you may believe at times, you did not save yourself. Jesus, hanging on the cross, bloody and beaten saved you. Nobody makes a decision to be saved only to be condemned.

It is the cross that God gives to you eternal life. Jesus says in vs. 3 ” And this is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

When does eternal life begin? It’s not when most people think. Eternal life does not begin when you die. Eternal life means to know God, the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Eternal life began at your baptism and continues for all eternity.

In conclusion: How are the Father, Son and you glorified? The simple Sunday School answer works, and in fact, fits perfectly here … Jesus. In Jesus’ coming into this world as a man, meeting and conquering sin, death and the devil on the cross of calvary, you glorified and have life eternal.  Amen.

*Based on an outline by Dr. Harold Buls*

Sermon 6th Sunday of Easter

Easter 2011

Sixth Sunday of Easter

May 29, 2011

John 14:15-21

In the name of Jesus!

He is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Jesus Christ has a desire for you. His desire is that you love Him and observe His commandments. This is so important to Jesus that He not only mentions it here in verse 15, but again in verse 21.

Now, don’t be confused here and say that Pastor has flipped his lid and is going to preach a sermon that is all about us earning Christ’s love and forgiveness by our own actions. The ultimate conclusion of which is that we save ourselves. No, these commandments that Jesus speaks of here are not the Mosaic type but are the Gospel, just like Jesus says in John 8:51 Truly, truly, I say to you, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.

Martin Luther once wrote that Jesus is saying “that you faithfully preach concerning me, have my Word and Sacrament laid upon you, keep love and unity among yourselves for my sake, and suffer with patience whatever on this account comes upon you … For I do not mean to be a Moses to drive and to plague you with threats and terrors, but I give you such precepts as you can and will keep without commanding, if you, indeed, love me.”

Also, The Augsburg Confession Article VI: New Obedience also says, “Also they teach that this faith is bound to bring forth good fruits, and that it is necessary to do good works commanded by God, because of God’s will, but that we should not rely on those works to merit justification before God. For remission of sins and justification is apprehended by faith, as also the voice of Christ attests: When ye shall have done all these things, say: We are unprofitable servants. Luke 17:10. The same is also taught by the Fathers. For Ambrose says: It is ordained of God that he who believes in Christ is saved, freely receiving remission of sins, without works, by faith alone.”

John 14:16 “ And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever,

It is because of Christ’s love for His disciples that He promised them that he would ask the Father to send them another paraclete. Another way to put this is with the word Advocate, as in a lawyer who defends and pleads your case before the Father, who is the righteous judge.

This paraclete or advocate is the Spirit of Truth, the Holy Spirit. But why would the Son have to send the Holy Spirit? This is a mystery of the Trinity itself. We know that there aren’t three Fathers but one. There aren’t three Sons but one. There aren’t three Spirits but one.

We also know that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one in essence, but are yet diverse in action. Here we see the Son requests, the Father sends and the Holy Spirit is the one who comes. The Holy Spirit whom we confess is “the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son, who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified.”

John 14:17a “even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you.”

The world does not know the Holy Spirit because it is ignorant of the work that the Spirit does. This is because the Spirit is only seen like the wind. “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” (John 3:8). Since the world can’t see the Spirit it is unaware of anything that it does, even though it is here always working.

The Spirit is always working in the world and with Jesus’ disciples. He is the one who would live and remain with them after Jesus leaves. “He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26). Jesus also mentions in ch 16:14 that the Holy Spirit will “glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”

Not only will the Spirit be with these men, but in these men as well. Jesus has given these men the Spirit. The Spirit has been planted into their hearts by hearing these words of Jesus Christ, the Word made Flesh. The knowledge that these men have the Spirit will be made manifest after Jesus’ death and resurrection in a visible, physical and tangible way on Pentecost which will be remembered and celebrated here in 2 weeks.

John 14:18-19 “I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live.”

What an amazing promise these disciples have from the Lord. Even in their time of grief that is quickly approaching, He is giving them someone to watch over these men and followers. He is promising to send them someone to take care of them. He is giving them the Spirit of Truth.

Yes, Jesus would leave for a while. He was going to the cross. He was going to suffer at the hands of people who were afraid of a revolt which would lead to punishment from their Roman rulers. Jesus was going to suffer at the hands of the religious leaders afraid that He, the Messiah, was going to lead people away from the Jewish leaders’ man-made traditions and the source of their power.

He was going to die not only for these men, but for you, and for your salvation as well. For your sins of arrogance when you tell yourself that you don’t need church. For the sin of rejecting Christ’s love and forgiveness giving into the Devil and his temptation that says you can do it yourself and that you don’t need Christ.

Even for the sin of ignoring Christ and His Gospel when He says that because you love Him you can love others. You say that sounds nice. I can do that. Love God and love others, simple. Then you leave here and turn this Gospel message into Law and mandate love be done out of self-service or as an act of self-sacrifice instead of Christ’s work in you. Or worse, keeping this message of Christ’s life and death for the forgiveness of sins to yourself instead of sharing it with the whole world in your words and deeds.

All of these and everything you’ve ever done has been taken to the cross for you.

Christ’s salvation doesn’t end with the cross where He defeated sin and the Devil, it continues three days later on Easter Sunday when He, and He alone, rose from the dead for you and in so doing defeated Death.  Death has been put to death. Through Christ’s resurrection death has no more power over you.

Christ gives these gifts of life, the Spirit and a desire to love Him, to you freely without any asking, promises that end up broken by you, or pleas. He gives these gifts to you in His Word … a Word that is read to you by human lips … a Word that enters your human ears and goes straight to your heart that is pumping your blood.

You have received these gifts when you were Baptized, when the water with the Word of God, applied to your head and heart in the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit. You were given saving faith and an assurance of your salvation, as well as the Gospel gift of loving Jesus and a desire to keep all of His commands.

Through Baptism you were also made a member of the community of believers. You were brought here by the Spirit of Truth, the paraclete, the advocate. You are maintained in this community eating and drinking Christ’s body and blood… by hearing His Word.

It is through the Holy Spirit who has called you by the Gospel, enlightened you with His gifts, sanctified and kept you in the true faith (Small Catechism), that you are able to and keep Christ’s commandments.

It is through the power of the Holy Spirit, who was sent by the Son, that you are able to believe that Jesus is the Son of God. You can believe that Jesus is “very God of very God,” unlike the Gnostics and the Mormons who teach the damnable doctrine that Jesus is less than God and above man.

You can await Christ return to claim His believers as His own on the Day of Judgment. A return that we can never know when will be. His return can be this afternoon or in fifty years. We will never know when, despite what the heretical conman Harold Camping and his ilk are saying. By the way the latest info is that the world is going to be actually destroyed physically on October 21st of this year because last Saturday was only a Spiritual Destruction.

You have no fear for the Holy Spirit, the paraclete, the advocate is with you. He is in your heart and He is reminding you of the salvation that Jesus Christ has won for you on the cross and by leaving the tomb empty. Amen

Sermon for the 5th Sunday of Easter

Easter 2011 Year A

Fifth Sunday

May 22

John 14:1-14

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ:

He is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

We can try our best to deny it, although denial can make the situation all the more obvious. Once the situation is obvious it becomes increasingly embarrassing as the time goes on. As that time goes on, miles go by and the situation gets worse. I’m talking about being lost when driving.

Men, at least when we are behind the wheel of a speeding vehicle, cannot admit that we are lost. There is something hard wired into our heads that makes us say that we’re not lost, we’re just trying a different route … one that takes us several miles and an hour out of our way. It’s called the scenic route for a reason.

However, when it comes to salvation; men, women, young and old, are all lost. All of us are confused. All people are filled with sorrow, and dread. People need not be this way, for Jesus Christ came to seek and to save the lost from their state of lostness, the confused from their confusion, the sorrowful from their sorrow, and the dreadful from their dread.

Even the disciples of Jesus on the night when He was betrayed were all confused, sorrowful and full of dread. Peter asks in John 13:36 “Lord, where are you going?” Thomas asks in John 14:5 “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Phillip in 14:8 asks, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Judas (not Iscariot) in 14:22 asks, “Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?”

Because of these questions, Jesus the good teacher, who has taught His disciple’s over and over again the things that must take place to fulfill Scripture says, “Sorrow has filled your heart.” 16:6. Several times He encourages His disciple’s by saying ‘Let not your heart be troubled.’

You are those disciples. Often you feel lost, and not only when driving. There are times in this life when you feel confused, sorrowful and full of dread. Let those feelings and thoughts go. Listen to Jesus, the One who is the Way, the Truth and the Life.

1. Jesus is the Way.

Thomas asks Jesus “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”

Thomas has been with Jesus for three years and he still had a misunderstanding of what Jesus was going to do. Thomas, just like his fellow disciples, was expecting an earthly kingdom and reign from Jesus, as Acts 1 states “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”

Thomas couldn’t get past how Jesus could lead this earthly kingdom if He was in heaven instead of on His throne on earth? With this news Thomas becomes filled with sorrow. In response Thomas basically says, “You think we know, but really it all seems dark: this your going away and our knowing the road.”

Jesus knowing what is truly in Thomas’ heart says, “Just believe in Me. I Am the Way!” The question is, what way? 

In Matthew 7:14 Jesus says, ” For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”

There is only One Way and that way is narrow. It is narrow because it is the way of God and not the way of the world. It is the way that is according to God’s Word, not a way that is according to man’s understanding of others, themselves or a god they make in their own image.

How do you quiet your heart that is full of despair like Thomas’? It’s simple. Jesus answers you in vs 1, ” “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” Jesus goes on to say, “In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”

Jesus Christ, true God and true man, went the way of sorrows for the sorrowful. He alone went the way of suffering, a suffering that included betrayal by someone very close to Him. A way of suffering that ended on the cross for you. He went that way so you can go the way of peace and everlasting life. Jesus is the Way.

2.  Jesus is The Truth.

         Satan is “a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” There is no truth in him. All unconverted people are his children and are dead in their sins. As St. Paul says in Eph 2 ” And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience– among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

Satan is the one who works in the children of disobedience. He causes people to become lost in his lies as he hides the truth of God and His love from them. He even snatches the Word of God away from them when he is given the chance. As Jesus teaches in the parable of the sower in Luke 8 ” The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved.”

Satan, the one who hides and distorts the truth is like a ravaging lion. He is constantly on the prowl, never able to eat his fill and is always seeking people to devour, but Jesus is The Truth.

The truth that The Truth teaches is a truth that we don’t always like. The truth that Jesus came to show us is that we are all sinners from the moment of conception. The penalty of our sins is death. He also taught the need for salvation. No one can come to the Father in heaven except through Him, the One who has died and has taken your punishment for your sins, the One who has prepared heaven for you.

Jesus tells us the truth that if we believe in Him we also believe in the Father. He came to tell us that He is the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.

Jesus came to bring us God’s Word, for God’s Word is Truth (John 17:17). That Truth comforts you when you are sorrowful. That Truth which Jesus alone gives to you takes away your confusion.

The Truth that Jesus gives takes away your fears. It assures you that Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep and then rose to give you, His sheep, new life.

3. Jesus is The Life

You are all sinners. The wages of sin is death (Rom 6:23). You all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23). But the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom 6:23). All of you will die but Jesus has saved you all and offers to you eternal life. 

Jesus told the sorrowing sisters: “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, even though he dies, he will live. And he who lives and believes in Me, shall never die” (Jn. 11:25-26). Then He asks: “Do you believe this?” And we answer with Mary: “Yes, Lord, I believe that You are the Christ, the Son of God, Who has come into the world.”

In John 7, 8, 13, 14 and 16 Jesus mentions that where He ‘is going you cannot come’ to His disciples and to the Jews. This means that Jesus was going to suffer and to die on the cross. The Jews did not understand because it is stumbling block (1 Cor. 1:23). The disciples were filled with sorrow.

But the Father had planned Jesus’ suffering and death to save mankind. Therefore Jesus says: Do not let your heart be troubled. Believe in God. Believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many mansions. I go to prepare a place for you. And I will come back and take you with Me so that you can be with Me.” Do not be sad.

Jesus is the Way, the Truth, the Life. He is everything. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost from their state of lostness, the confused from their confusion, the sorrowful from their sorrow, and the dreadful from their dread. From His death you have life and life in abundance (John 10:10). Amen.

*Based on an outline by Dr. Harold Buls*

Sermon for Fourth Sunday of Easter

John 10:1-10

In the name of Jesus:

Another church has fallen to their knees to worship at the altar of the world. For those who have not heard, the PC (USA), are now allowing openly practicing lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders to be ministers. Late Tuesday night the Twin City Presbytery in MN casted the 83rd vote, out of 173 Presbyteries in the United States, to pass this new false doctrine, this heresy, in their church. A heresy that says ‘your sin is no big deal. You’ll be fine.’ Which ends up meaning that you don’t need Jesus to forgive you or to have died for you.

St. Paul says in Romans “I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.” (Romans 16:17-18)

Another church has fallen and worships at the altar of the world instead of the creator of the world. Today is certainly a sad day.

The 2.1 million members of the PC (USA) join the 2.18 million members of the Episcopalian Church and the 2.25 million members of the ELCA as being sheep whose under-shepherds have become thieves who have come to ‘steal, kill and destroy’. The leadership of the PC (USA), the Episcopalian Church and the ELCA are all wearing “sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15).

The leadership of these church bodies has abandoned the Word of God. St Paul says in 1 Cor. 6:9-10 “Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” and in Romans 1 “For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. … Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.” (26, 27, 32)

As St. Paul plainly states, and as the LCMS agrees, homosexuality is a sin. These other churches have gone from calling homosexuality a sin that needs to be repented of, just like theft, murder, and lying that we all do on a daily basis, to saying that it is no longer a sin and that one need not repent of it.   The church leaders who approved this ignoring of the Word of God need to repent. The ministers practicing the LGBT lifestyle need to repent. They need to seek forgiveness and turn from these false shepherds who have snuck in, to the true Shepherd Jesus Christ, The Shepherd who lays down His own life for His sheep, who knows them by name.

These shepherds of heresy, who enter the gate only to steal, kill and destroy, rule by fear. Just like the Pharisees in the days of Jesus Christ who cast the blind man in John 9 out of the Synagogue because he told them the truth about Jesus Christ who healed him from his blindness from birth.

False shepherds do not take care of their sheep. They will not lay their lives down when push comes to shove. Instead they lay down their sheeps’ lives to make theirs better. False shepherds make new ways to be inclusive at the cost of the souls of their sheep that they are given to protect. They ignore their sheep, all in order to bring forth social change, not only in their church, but in the world.

These false shepherds do not enter through the gate. Instead, they go around the gate. They find a place to climb over and get in any way that they can. For many church bodies that means making promises of church growth, or increased cultural impact. They well craft their lies and present them as perfectly as anyone can with tongues of silver, just like their father did in the Garden of Eden, for the Devil is the father of all lies.

Thank God that we have a shepherd who enters through the gate. Our shepherd is not just another shepherd, or an under-shepherd, someone hired to be an assistant. Instead He is the Good Shepherd. Our Shepherd, Jesus Christ, is the Shepherd that will leave the 99 to go find the 1 lost sheep. He knows all of His sheep by name, and they know Him by His voice.

His sheep know His voice. You know His voice, because you have heard Him speak to you. You have heard His voice in His Word that is proclaimed to you. His voice is the voice that tells you, ‘I forgive you all of your sins’ after you have confessed them at the beginning of this service.

His voice is the voice that says, ‘You are mine!’ His voice is the voice that you have heard in His Word, the Scriptures, telling people that He has healed, ‘Go! Your faith has made you well.’ His voice is heard in the Word that is read to you from the lectern. His voice is the Word that is preached to you and proclaimed from this pulpit.

When that proclaimed Word says ‘You are forgiven! You are mine!’ It is saying that all of your sins; the sins of anger that you feel towards your neighbor because that person almost hit your car because they weren’t paying attention while driving. The sins of lying to your spouse, even the small ones like saying that you’re going to do the dishes, but instead say ‘I forgot.’ I’m guilty of that one. To even your sins of arrogance and pride for accomplishing something that has nothing to do with you. You have also sinned in thought, word and deed, by things done and undone. You have fallen short of the Glory of God. You are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24).

The Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep. He knows you by name. He has formed your inward parts; He knitted you together in your mother’s womb, you are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:13-14).

That is why He, and He alone took your punishment, the punishment that you have deserved for a lifetime of sin. Christ redeemed you from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for you–for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree (Gal 3:13). For your sake God made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him you might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor 5:21).

Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, accomplishes this with His death and resurrection. This means that Jesus was, as we confess, conceived by the Holy Spirit, and born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. On the third day He rose again from the dead.

It was in this death, life was bought for you. It is from hearing the voice of your Shepherd that you know and believe that out of the death of the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, comes your life. He was wounded for your transgressions; He was crushed for your iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought you peace, and with his stripes you are healed (Isaiah 53:5).

From those stripes water flowed. The same water that you were baptized in, making you one of the Good Shepherd’s sheep. The blood that flowed from that same stripe, as well as from this stripes on his back where He was beaten, from the holes in His hands and His feet, as well as where the crown of thorns sat, you drink for the forgiveness of sin at the Sacrament of the Altar. The Sacrament where Jesus, the Good Shepherd is, as Dr. Luther once wrote, “at one and the same time chief, cook, butler, host, and food.”

It is from His voice, the voice of the Good Shepherd, that you know Jesus is Lord. It is from the Good Shepherd’s body and blood, from His water that flowed from His pierced side, that you know that Jesus is the Lord, that your sins are forgiven. You know that this shepherd has laid down His life for His Sheep, so that you may have life and have it abundantly. Amen.

Sermon for Third Sunday of Easter

Luke 24:13-35

In the Name of our Risen Savior Jesus Christ. Amen

             He is risen! He is risen indeed Alleluia!          

            Last week’s Gospel and sermon were all about Thomas, the disciple who went beyond doubting into damnation in eight days because he refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. He adamantly and concretely refused to believe what his brothers were telling him about what happened in a locked room. Thankfully for Thomas, at the end of the Gospel Lesson, he did believe when the Savior spoke and showed him his hands and side. It was Christ coming and speaking to Thomas that gave Thomas saving faith.     

            If this week’s Gospel seems similar, that’s because it is… sorta. Yet, the account of these two disciples traveling to Emmaus and talking with Jesus is different. It begins differently and everything that leads up to the end is different than the Gospel lesson on Thomas in John 20. However, at the end of both Gospel readings, whether it’s Thomas or these two disciples, they end up knowing that Jesus Christ has risen from the dead. 

            Here we are, Easter morning, the morning when Jesus rose from the dead and defeated death, and there are two men, Cleopas and his friend. These two, who numbered from the 70 that Jesus sent out in Luke 10, were traveling to Emmaus, which was about seven miles from Jerusalem. You can put yourself in their shoes, especially if you’ve lost someone very close to you. 

            Like two normal guys walking together, they were talking about the most recent events in a very disordered and tumultuous short time.  Their talking was full of grief over their close friend and Savior dying, and doubt at what they heard from the ladies, (Mary Magdalene, Joanna and Mary the mother of James) who were at the tomb earlier that morning, who said that an angel told them that Jesus was no longer at the tomb but had risen.

             While Cleopas and his companion were traveling, Jesus, whom they could not recognize, appeared and came upon them. Just like a person appearing to make small talk to pass the time, Jesus began asking these two men questions. Questions about what their conversation was about and about “what things” have recently happened in Jerusalem.

            The men stopped, and they stood. They were very σκυθρωποί. I know the ESV says ‘sad,’ but σκυθρωποί doesn’t mean sad. Intead, it gives the impression of having “a darkened face” or being “sullen”. You might even go so far as to say that these two men had an “air of gloominess” about them.

            Not knowing that it was Jesus that they were traveling and conversing with, the two sullen men said:  “Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, a man who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and rulers delivered him up to be condemned to death, and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things happened. Moreover, some women of our company amazed us. They were at the tomb early in the morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back saying that they had even seen a vision of angels, who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.”

             As I said, these men were sullen while speaking with the risen Jesus, whom they didn’t recognize. That was because the women came back from the tomb and told everyone what the angels had said. Then Peter and John go to the tomb and see that the tomb is empty. They don’t see Jesus, because He wasn’t there to be seen, and these two men needed more proof than the ladies’ word and an empty tomb, which could have meant any number of things to these men.

            The men were also sullen because they knew that Jesus would redeem Israel. Literally that Jesus would ‘ransom’ or ‘buy back’ Israel. However, these men had no idea how His death played into this. They didn’t know what Jesus’ death would provide for them, if it were freedom from spiritual powers, physical powers or what. All that they knew again was that their hope of being ransomed, or redeemed, or bought back was dying the longer that Jesus lay in the tomb and remained dead.

            Upon hearing what these men, these disciples who were part of the 70 that He sent out to do healings and cast out demons in His name, had said Jesus rebuked them. He said “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into His glory?”

            These two men thought that they were intelligent because they knew the Scriptures and part of what the Messiah was going to do and that He was going to ransom them. Despite this head knowledge these same men were actually foolish in a Proverbs sense of the word. They knew part of what writings of Moses and the Prophets wrote, but they didn’t believe it. For instance these two men knew and believed that the Messiah, that Jesus Christ, would come and establish His kingdom, but they overlooked the essential parts of the Messiah’s kingdom, i.e. His death and resurrection as a ransom for many from sin or that His death would be the final sacrifice and their relationship with God the Father would be restored.

            It is because of this foolishness that Jesus now explains Moses and the Prophets and everything in them that pertains to Himself. The Word made flesh explains the Word to these two disciples. He showed how “the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (1 Cor 1:25). Jesus also explained how “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God” (1 Peter 1:20-21).

            These men suspected something was different about this man who explained the Scriptures. They suspected enough to ask Jesus to stay with them and eat because the day was almost over. Yet, they didn’t believe.

            So Jesus stayed. “He took the bread and blessed it and broke it and gave it to them.” Then the men’s eyes were opened. The veil covering their hearts and minds was gone. They could see clearly now. 

            It wasn’t until Jesus broke bread, that is Communed with them in a way that brought to remembrance what Christ did in the upper room on Maundy Thursday, that they recognized the man who was walking, talking and explaining the Scriptures to them as their Savior. The Holy Spirit needed to open their eyes, hearts and minds and it was in the Sacrament and the Words from Christ that accomplished this miraculous feat.  

            The same goes for you. You know and recognize that Jesus in the Sacrament of the Altar that you are about to partake of because Christ says ‘This is my body!’ and ‘This is my blood!’ You know and recognize Christ because of His Word. The Word that says Jesus’ body and blood were shed for you for the forgiveness of all of your sins. It is in the Word that you hear that Jesus had to be betrayed, die and rise again three days to forgive you all of your sins. The only ways that we are able to comprehend the Lord and to receive Him are in the Word and Sacrament.  

            Joyously, after their eyes, hearts and minds were open from hearing the Word and receiving a foretaste of the Sacrament that Christ instituted a few days earlier, did they remember that their hearts were burning within them. They were moved to faith. Moved by something, or more importantly, by someone, outside of them.

            Cleopas and his traveling companion were moved so much that despite the hour and that they wanted to rest, they left post haste and went to the 11. They went as a testimony that Jesus had risen from the dead just as the women said. That Jesus had risen just like He said that He would. In Matthew 12:40 “For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Also in John 2:19″Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

            Jesus has done these things for the 11, for the two traveling to Emmaus, and for you.

            Rejoice. Christ is Risen! He has appeared to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. He has already appeared to you in Word and is also going to appear to you in just a moment in the Sacrament.

            Rejoice for you are forgiven because He is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia! 

Sermon for Second Sunday of Easter

Easter 2011 Year A

2nd Sunday

John 20:19-31

May 1, 2011

In the name of our Risen Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.

He is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

That is a beautiful phrase. He is risen! A phrase that can only be understood properly and fully by hearing it explained to you. He is risen, is not a phrase that we can understand by seeing it on a billboard, on a bumper sticker, or in the newspaper. Just like the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8, who needed Philip to explain the scriptures to him, we need to hear what ‘He is risen’ means. We need to hear it for our hearts to believe. When it comes to faith we have hearing hearts, hearts that don’t have eyes, but ears.

Take, for example, Thomas, called Didymus, or the Twin, in this morning’s Gospel lesson. He more than doubted that Jesus had risen on that first Easter Sunday. He didn’t believe the eyewitnesses of his brothers. He needed to hear the Lord speak to have faith, but I’m getting a little ahead of myself.  So, allow me to back up by about a week, to the beginning of this morning’s Gospel.

Here we are on the evening of the first Easter. Jesus’ disciples are present and accounted for, well at least ten of the twelve are. Judas the betrayer is not there, nor would he be because he already hanged himself. That leaves one disciple living but not present, Thomas. Now, those present are behind locked doors for fear of the Jews and what would happen to them.

Then out of nowhere Jesus appears before the ten in the middle of this room that had those locked doors. Luke says that the men there were frightened because they thought they saw a spirit. The men were just like Mary Magdalene who, while at the grave was talking to Jesus but thought He was the gardener, or the disciples on the road to Emmaus who spoke with Jesus but didn’t realize it was Him until He broke bread with them. These disciples needed to hear Jesus speaking even though they saw Him physically standing there, right before their very eyes.

These men were so distraught they couldn’t recognize their dear friend. It wasn’t until the voice of the risen Lord said “Peace be with you” that these men stopped being afraid and believed that it was Jesus, their crucified and risen Savior, speaking with them and standing in front of them. Then the ten knew for certain that John and Peter’s eyes or minds weighed down with grief weren’t playing tricks on them at the grave earlier that morning, or that Mary had not lost her marbles and thought that a gardener was Jesus, and not the other way around. No, it was the voice of Jesus, standing in the middle of a locked room.

What makes these ten men different than Thomas, also called Didymus, the Twin? Saint Chrysostom in his Homilies on the Gospel of St. John said; “Yet,” saith some one, “the disciples saw and believed.” Yes, but they sought nothing of the kind, but from the proof of the napkins, they straightway received the word concerning the Resurrection, and before they saw the body, exhibited all faith.”

That is to say, the disciple’s knew that Jesus had risen, but they needed to hear Him speak so they didn’t think that He was some apparition, or some trick played on them by the devil.

Was this a physical standing? I mean did Jesus actually appear before them in flesh and blood? How could a man of flesh and blood just appear in the middle of a locked room? Skeptics would say that ‘If Jesus was resurrected in flesh and blood, He must of been hiding in the room behind the coat rack, behind a curtain or under the table while the disciples gathered waiting for the time to jump out or to make His presence known. Or maybe there was a back entrance that was unlocked that the disciples didn’t know about. Maybe Jesus even switched places with a man who looked like him and let that man die on the cross while Jesus was waiting around for the right time to reappear to show that He had resurrected.’

No, that’s not what the text says. John is pretty specific, “Jesus came and stood among them.” John also says that Jesus spoke with them, showed them his hands and his pierced side from where water and blood flowed. He even breathed on them. Now do any of those actions sound like a spirit or someone that wasn’t flesh and blood.

Make no mistake about it, it was the speaking that calmed these men down, that eased their troubled hearts and took their souls’ burdens away. It was the clear and resounding voice of Jesus saying ‘Peace be with you’ that gave these men peace, when nothing else would do. It was at hearing their Savior’s voice that these men knew that Jesus had arisen, just like he said he would and that He was standing before them at that very moment instead of some spirit.

Then eight long days pass by. The ten disciples tell Thomas what has happened in that locked room. They tell him about what Jesus had told them about the Office of the Holy Ministry, how he appeared in the middle of the room from nowhere, and how he breathed on them the Holy Spirit.

Unfortunately, Thomas, the disciple who just a few weeks before, said in John chapter 11, “Let us also go that we may die with Him,” did not believe his brothers’ eye-witness accounts. What happened? This disciple of Jesus had gone from wanting to die with Jesus, to being openly defiant, antagonistic and a pagan in eight days after the resurrection when he said, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.

It’s as if Thomas is saying, “Look guys, I get what you’re trying to tell me. I believe that you are fully convinced that what you are saying is true. But you are crazy. There is no way that Jesus, who is dead, appeared before you in flesh and blood. You must have seen a ghost, or Jesus hired some guy who looked like Him to appear to come and talk with you. Even if what you say is true, which it isn’t, I still won’t believe even if Jesus shows me his hands and side, even if I touch them. There’s nothing you can say that will change my hardened heart. There is no way that I’m ever going to believe anything that you have to say, so just drop it.”

For all of you who think that Thomas was only doubting and that he needed his faith confirmed, get that notion and thought out of your heads right now. Thomas wasn’t doubting. He went beyond doubting, past denial and straight on into unbelief, as in being damned for his unbelief. In short, at that moment, Thomas had no salvation, much like those skeptics who believe that Jesus couldn’t have been raised, or if He was raised, could appear inside of a locked room if He wanted to.

Thomas, at that moment, had no faith to speak of. This man who spent three years with Jesus, talking with him, listening to him, doing miraculous healings and casting out demons in His name, stopped believing in only eight days. … But only through the grace of God, was not all hope for Thomas lost.

Fast-forward to the start of this sermon and Thomas is with the ten disciples, most likely in the same room as before. The doors were once again locked. Jesus again appeared out of nowhere in the middle of the room. Just like before in that room Jesus said ‘Peace be with you.’

Jesus then said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.”

It was this hearing of the voice of the risen Savior, Jesus Christ that put Thomas’ unbelief to death. Hearing those words of his savior, Thomas believed. His faith was made secure. It was so secure that he said “My Lord, my God!” If anything the touching of Jesus, if he actually did touch Jesus, was icing on the cake – the final bit of confirmation to Thomas who was saved because Jesus Christ came to him.

That’s right. Thomas, this disciple who went from faith, to pagan unbelief, was saved because Jesus came to him, and gave Him faith, not the other way around. Thomas didn’t search Jesus out. He didn’t spiritually accept Jesus into his heart, or pray the sinner’s prayer. Thomas heard the voice of Jesus Christ, physically standing before him in flesh and blood say ‘Peace be with you,’ and Thomas finally knew that his fellow disciples were right all along, and that he was idiot for turning his back on his faith.

We all know people like Thomas. We might even be one of those people right now. Constantly waiting for a sign. Saying that we will only believe enough to be a good person as far as the world is concerned, but as far as being saved goes, you want physical, tangible proof. And the Word of God in the Scriptures just isn’t enough proof for you.

You say this while ignoring the proof that God has already given to you. God gives you your reason and your senses and still takes care of them. He provides everything that you need for your body and your soul.

Jesus tells Thomas “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” You have not seen Jesus standing in front of you, with nail pierced hands and split side. But you have heard His Words. His Word of ‘Peace be with you.’ His Word of ‘Go, your faith has made you well.’ You have His Word tell you that are forgiven, and that you are a child of God. Your heart has heard these things, and it believes because “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

When I, your minister, or any minister, stand before you at the beginning of the service, after you have confessed your sins of thought, word and deed, absolve you. I am fulfilling what Christ says in verse 23, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld.”

I, and my fellow ministers in the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod are called and ordained servants of Christ, who by the stead and the command of Jesus forgive you all of your sins. I am a steward of Christ and give His forgiveness to you, without any merit or worthiness found within you. Just like Joseph the son of Jacob spoke in Egypt for the Pharaoh, I speak the forgiveness that Christ alone gives, the forgiveness that He won on the cross for you. When He alone paid the price and the penalty for your sins.

This is why we ask at the end of Private Confession, do you believe that my forgiveness is God’s forgiveness? It is because Christ is there working through me and my voice, forgiving you, in a way that your hearing heart can know that Christ died and rose for you. That Christ alone forgives you, and that through Him you have eternal life.

Rejoice, because He is risen! Let your heart hear the word of Christ that says “Peace be with you,” today and always. Amen.