Sermon on Mark 8:31-38
Text: [Jesus] then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. 32 He spoke plainly about this, and Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him.
33 But when Jesus turned and looked at his disciples, he rebuked Peter. “Get behind me, Satan!” he said. “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”
34 Then he called the crowd to him along with his disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 35 For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. 36 What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? 37 Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 38 If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.”
“I’m ashamed of you.” These words show the disgust that is felt. A parent may say that to a child who has behaved in a particularly bad manner. Sometimes, when we catch ourselves saying or doing something, we may be ashamed. Most often, we speak of being ashamed of someone when they have done something wrong. It is beyond imagination, for example, that you would hear a parent say he was ashamed of a child who brought home a straight “A” report card. This morning, we have an opportunity to study our lives and see if we are embarrassed of someone. We ask ourselves, “AM I ASHAMED OF JESUS?” We will look at 1. The Shame Of The Cross, 2. The Shame Of Indifference and 3. The Shame Removed.
Our text begins, “[Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again.” (Verse 31) This was the first explicit mention of his death. When Peter heard this, we are told, he “took him aside and began to rebuke him.” (Verse 32) Peter didn’t want Jesus to talk that way. Why would Peter do this, especially since, just prior to our text, he made a beautiful confession of faith? Jesus asked the disciples, “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” (Mark 8:29) What would make him turn around a couple of minutes later and rebuke Jesus for speaking about his impending death?
Peter was ashamed of Jesus for talking this way. Jesus was starting to get a following and then he told everyone that the leaders of the country were going to execute him. It is possible that Peter, as well as a portion of the crowd, had political aspirations for Jesus. This talk of death just didn’t fit into those plans.
Jesus used this opportunity for a lesson. After Peter rebuked Jesus, Jesus said to him, “Get behind me, Satan! You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Verse 33) This same temptation was used by Satan during those forty days in the wilderness. Satan offered all the kingdoms of the world and their riches, if only Jesus would bow down and worship him. Satan offered an easy way out, one that had nothing to do with suffering and death. However, Jesus saw through that temptation. He saw the same temptation in Peter’s words. So, in a very harsh manner, Jesus dismissed the temptation.
Then, Jesus addressed the crowd. We read in verse 34, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.” Jesus makes it very clear that following him will, at times, call for a sacrifice on our part. When Jesus used the word, “cross,” he is not necessarily speaking of the instrument of execution, though some Christians have been called upon to give their lives for the sake of the Gospel.
To the Christian who would follow him, Jesus gives three specific commands. 1. Deny Yourself — This means that we lose our sinful self and are found in Christ. We say “No” to our sinful nature and “Yes” to what God wants us to do. 2. Take Up Your Cross — Bear the burden which being a Christian involves in a sinful world. 3. Follow Me — This is a continual following of Jesus and his example.
Bearing the cross may bring shame to us. Has it ever happened to you that you were faced with a situation where you knew it would be wrong if you did something? Yet, you also knew that, if you did not do it, the people you were with would make fun of you? What do you do? That situation was a cross that God placed in your life. Sometimes, bearing a cross for Jesus will bring shame to us. People will make fun of you for being such a goody two shoes.
That is a minor example of the cross that we are, at times, called upon to bear for Christ. Yet, when you get down to it, our shame and cross are nothing in comparison with the shame and cross that Jesus bore for us. Jesus endured the shame of the cross for me, for my sins. While on the cross, Jesus had every sin in the world on his back. Yet, we rejoice in that cross, because we know that it was there that Jesus paid for every single sin that we have ever committed. Now, in God’s sight, I need not be ashamed for I have been declared holy because of the work of Jesus. So, I need not be ashamed of the crosses that God asks me to bear any more than the cross the Father asked Jesus to bear. Rather, we take our example from the early Christians. For example, after the apostles were called before the Sanhedrin, they were told that they were no longer to speak about Jesus and were flogged. Then we read in Acts 5:41, “The apostles left the Sanhedrin, rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.” They looked upon it as an honor. May God give us the same spirit.
Jesus continued by saying, “For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it.” (Verse 35) Jesus points to a very real possibility, especially for the early Christians. Some of them would be called upon to lose their lives for the defense of their faith. When they were faced with that situation, there would be the temptation to deny Jesus and his Word. For example, do you remember Peter in the courtyard of the high priest, denying he even knew whom Jesus was?
Yet, sometimes, is it even the threat of death that causes us to deny we know Jesus? Sometimes, it is only peer pressure that makes us deny Jesus. Notice, also, that Jesus includes that phrase, “for the gospel.” Jesus calls us not only to be faithful to him, but also to his Word. This, also, is a very great struggle. We live in an age when many church bodies want to join together. They say, ‘We all believe basically the same thing. Why don’t you join with us in a joint service?’ Here again, we face pressure. “What would be so wrong with it?” we ask ourselves. Yet, we know from the Scriptures that there must be complete and total agreement between church bodies and the Scriptures before we can have any fellowship with them. This includes things like scouting, which has a religious tone to it. It includes soloists and organists, not only for our Sunday morning services, but also for weddings and funerals. Now, however, you may feel some pressure. Do you bring shame on yourself by being called a separatist, that we think we are better than others because we are sticking up for what God’s Word says? May it be that we also rejoice because we are “counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name.”
When we hear about the shame and trouble that we may be asked to bear, we might ask ourselves if it is really worth it. Jesus almost seems to anticipate that question as he continues in verses 36&37, “What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” Jesus tells us to look at the cost. You can have everything in the world. You can have fame, popularity, wealth, an easy life. You could never have to stand up for Jesus. However, at what cost? Would all the accumulated wealth of the world be worth the loss of your soul? Jesus told the story of a man who was rich. In a particular year, he had a bumper crop. He didn’t have room to store it in his barns. How did he respond to these blessings from God? He said to himself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.” (Luke 12:19) However, that night his life came to an end and all of his wealth counted for nothing. He had forgotten to get rich in the knowledge of Jesus Christ, and he was lost for eternity.
This is a question that each of us must ask ourselves: “Am I exchanging my soul for some earthly thing? Am I more worried about the here and now than I am about where I will spend eternity? Am I concerned about being ashamed of Jesus and acting like a Christian?”
We continue with verse 38, “If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when he comes in his Father’s glory with the holy angels.” What a stern warning! Jesus makes it very clear that those who are ashamed to know Jesus will find that Jesus is ashamed of them on the Last Day. The shame will be theirs for eternity, as they are punished in hell.
If we are truly honest with ourselves, we must all admit that in one form or another, we have been ashamed of Jesus. For this, we come to our heavenly Father and ask for his forgiveness. We also pray for the strength and the willingness to boldly confess Jesus Christ in all that we say and do. As Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:32, “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.” In other words, those who believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior will enjoy eternal life in heaven. Then all of the shame that we were asked to bear will be replaced with a crown of glory that we will receive from Christ’s own hand. Until that time, may God grant that none of us is ashamed of Jesus and, as the hymn verse goes, “‘Till then — nor is my boasting vain — ‘Till then I boast a Savior slain; and, oh, may this my glory be, that Christ is not ashamed of me!” Amen.
Sermon on Mark 1:12-15
Text: At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.
14 After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
How would you define the word “religion”? I ran across a video which asked several different people how they would define that word. One person said, “I’ve always felt that it’s just kind of the energy of the universe, something higher to believe in, something that’s bigger than just what we have to go through on a day to day.” Another said, “Most people think of restrictions. I think of boundaries. This is an opportunity to embrace how I can perhaps find a path.” A third person said, “The point of religion? To basically be lined up with God so you can have a nice good life to go to Jesus at the end.” As we begin the season of Lent, we are going to do so under the theme: Rethinking religion. This morning, we are going to focus our attention on Jesus. Every couple of years or so, you will find a magazine that is devoted to a discussion of Jesus. They talk about the facts of his life. Then, you come to the conclusions about Jesus, and you will find varying opinions. Was he merely a good man, a kind healer, an insightful prophet or a wonderful example, and nothing more? In the four verses for this morning, we have a wonderful opportunity to do what so few seem to be able to do. We will use these verses to UNDERSTAND THE POINT OF JESUS’ LIFE. We will see that 1. He Defeated Satan For Us and 2. He Preached Salvation To Us.
Just prior to our text, Jesus had been baptized by John in the Jordan River. This event marked his formal entrance into his public ministry. Now, Jesus entered the desert for a battle. The battle was not against a flesh and blood opponent. Rather, it was to be a one-on-one battle with the devil. Note that Jesus did not recklessly expose himself to danger. Rather, according to his Father’s good purpose, Jesus went out to the desert to be tempted. The fact that it says that “he was with the wild animals,” (Verse 13) reminds us that Jesus was cut off from all human contact and support.
Mark’s account does not give us all the details of this battle, such as we find in the accounts written by Matthew and Luke. There we note that Jesus was continually tempted for forty days. It was not a one and done type of a deal. The devil sought to get Jesus to sin in a variety of ways. We have three of them mentioned in Matthew and Luke. Since Jesus had fasted those forty days, the devil tried to get Jesus to doubt his Father’s care and turn stones into bread. Since Jesus trusted that his Father would help him, the devil tempted Jesus to jump from the highest point of the temple, thereby testing his Father. Because the devil knew that Jesus had come to the world to redeem the world, the devil tempted Jesus by saying that he would give him the world, if only Jesus would bow down and worship him. There is no doubt that these temptations were fierce and attacking Jesus from every angle imaginable. Satan was fighting like a cornered animal. The reason for the intensity of his temptations was the fact that, if he could get Jesus to sin, even one time, he would have been the victor for all time.
We know that Jesus withstood the assaults of the devil, for at the end of verse 13, it says, “angels attended him.” The angels brought the nourishment and the companionship that Jesus has foregone for the past forty days. They were a reminder of the Father’s love for Jesus and his concern for the mission that Jesus was undertaking.
This was not the last time that the devil would tempt Jesus. Luke reminds us of this as he writes this epilogue to the forty days of temptation, “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.” (Lk 4:13) Satan would continue to tempt Jesus in subtler ways. Satan came through the crowds that followed Jesus as they variously tried to crown him as their king, which was not the reason Jesus had come to the earth, or they tried to kill Jesus by stoning him or throwing him from a cliff. This was not the way the Christ was to die. Satan attacked through close friends, like Peter, when he tried to dissuade Jesus from following a path that would lead to a cross. Satan tempted Jesus here at the beginning of his ministry and at the end of his ministry through Pilate’s sneers and the taunts of the Jewish hierarchy. It was a tireless assault on Jesus, all in the hope of getting him to trip up, if only one time.
How thankful we are to read in the book of Hebrews that he was “tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin.” (Hebrews 4:15) Never once did Jesus fall victim to the devil’s temptation. What makes us so thankful is that he was perfect for us. The devil also attacks us on many fronts. He attacks us when things are going well and gets us to start thinking that maybe we do not really need God. ‘Look at all I have accomplished!’ He attacks us when things are not going so well. He tries to get us to doubt God’s love for us. ‘If God really loved you, would you be going through this right now?’ He assaults us through our friends and family, as we are tempted to join in with things that are wrong. He tempts us to be quiet about our faith because we are afraid of what others might think about us or say to us.
The difference between us and Jesus is that, all too often, we have not withstood the devil’s temptations. We have been overtaken by our sinful nature and done what God says we must not do. Because of all the times that we have fallen, we deserve to spend our eternity apart from God. We should go to hell because of our sins. How thankful we are that Jesus was victorious in the desert in that one-on-one battle with the devil. He was doing this for us. Then, in the fiercest battle, Jesus won the victory of the devil on the cross. There, once and for all, Jesus beat the devil. Jesus was sacrificed on the cross to pay for our sins. He suffered and died. To the naked eye, it may have appeared as though the devil had won, as Jesus breathed his last on the cross. However, we know that Jesus rose from the dead on the third day, and through that won the victory for time and eternity. Moreover, as Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 15:57, “Thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” When you and I are brought to faith, we share in the victory that Jesus won over the devil. Jesus, as our champion, went out and defeated the devil for us. Rejoice in this victory that is yours through Jesus Christ!
The second half of our text took place about a year later. John the Baptist had been put into prison, and later executed by King Herod. Mark tells us that Jesus went into the northern part of Palestine and began to proclaim the “good news of God.” (Verse 14) This was his message. First, Jesus said, “The time has come. The kingdom of God has come near.” (Verse 15) The time had come. All those centuries of waiting for the Messiah to come had come to an end. Here was the fulfillment of those prophecies standing right in front of them. The kingdom of God was near them. It was not an earthly kingdom, which some had been looking for. Rather, it was God’s gracious rule of love in the hearts and lives of his children.
Jesus then told the people how this kingdom would be established. “Repent and believe the good news!” (Verse 15) First of all, we note the word “Repent.” To repent means to look into the mirror of God’s law. Do not just take a passing glance. Take a long, hard look into that mirror. How do you measure up? How many times, just over the past 24 hours have you done, said, or thought something that was not what God commands us to do? How have you treated your spouse, your children, your parents, your neighbor? Repenting means that we take an honest assessment of our lives. It means to feel the sadness and sorrow which flow from a broken heart. It means knowing that we have dared to offend our holy God. Jesus would have us repent of our sins. This is the first part of his message. It is not one that we might like to hear, but it is one that we need to hear. We need to know that there is no way we can ever save ourselves. This message must be first preached, before we can fully appreciate the second part of Jesus’ message.
The second part is “Believe the good news!” The good news that Jesus is talking about is the message that he has done everything for us. For all the times that we have fallen in the face of Satan’s attacks, Jesus stood firm. That is why we rejoice in the words I referenced earlier, that Jesus was “tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin.” In the face of every single temptation that you and I have succumbed to, Jesus stood firm. He was perfect where we were not. He was perfect because we are not. This is the first part of the good news that Jesus announces to you and me. He says, ‘I lived a perfect life for you.’
The second part of the good news that Jesus tells us is that he has paid for all our sins. This is the central message of the season of Lent. Lent gives us a unique opportunity to be reminded of just how much Jesus loves us. Jesus loved you and me so much that he was willing to be punished in our place. He wanted you and me to spend our eternity with him in heaven, so he was willing to do whatever it took so that this could take place. Because Jesus has paid for all our sins, we are perfect in God’s sight. Because we are perfect in God’s sight, heaven’s gates stand wide open for us. The faith that makes this our own comes to us through the working of the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus sends through the Means of Grace, namely the gospel message in his Word and the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
Jesus allows us a wonderful opportunity. He is no longer with us physically proclaiming this message. So, he allows us the opportunity to spread this message to others. We do so when we support our ministry here on the local level. We do so when we support the various avenues of Christian education, such as Nebraska Evangelical Lutheran High School. We do so when we give to our Mission offering, which is used to train future pastors and teachers and to go to places in our country and around the world with the message of Jesus Christ. We share this message with our children when we teach them from little on whom their Savior is. We share this message with those around us. It may come in the form of encouraging a fellow believer, who is having a difficulty in their lives. It may come as we reach out to someone who is straying from their faith. It may come as we tell someone who has not yet been brought to faith in Jesus. Jesus continues in his mission on earth to share the message of salvation, as he works through us.
Jesus once asked his disciples, “Who do people say I am?” (Mark 8:27) The answers were varied, but none had it right. Then, Jesus asked them, “But what about you? Who do you say I am?” (Mark 8:29) By God’s grace, they were able to answer that question. You and I live in a world that has so many different ideas about whom Jesus is and why he came to the earth. We thank God that he has revealed whom Jesus is. We also thank him that he has shown us clearly why he came to the earth. Jesus came to defeat Satan for us, and he came to preach salvation to us. Jesus came to be our Savior. Amen.
After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 3 His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. 4 And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus.
5 Peter said to Jesus, “Rabbi, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters—one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.” 6 (He did not know what to say, they were so frightened.)
7 Then a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and a voice came from the cloud: “This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!”
8 Suddenly, when they looked around, they no longer saw anyone with them except Jesus.
9 As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead. (NIV84)
Theme: Given a Glimpse of Glory
Once, on the fourth of July, the President was scheduled to speak at the Air Force Museum at Wright Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio—not far from where we lived. So my brother, my Dad, and I went to see him and hear him speak—the 11-mile trip usually takes 15-20 minutes. That trip took us several hours. We joined over 25,000 others to hear the speech—we were somewhat in the back, so far back that I could barely make out that it was indeed the President up at the podium. Another three or so hours were spent driving back to our house. In all, I would say we spent 7-8 hours just in order to see and hear the President give a speech on the fourth of July. Why? That’s what we do. We want to see famous people in person. Even in our day and age where we can see the President or some famous celebrity on T.V. or the Internet almost 24 hours a day, we see like to see famous people in person. People line the streets or cram themselves into small spaces just to see a glimpse of some famous person.
Today we get to see a glimpse—without waiting in line or standing up for hours on end. We see a glimpse of glory—the glory of our Savior Jesus Christ. And a glimpse of our own glory that we’ll enjoy in heaven.
Six days before our text took place Jesus was warning his disciples what would happen to him. Mark tells us, He then began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and after three days rise again. Peter wasn’t having any of such talk. In his ignorance, he pulled Jesus aside and rebuked him. How dare Jesus say that he was going to suffer and die. No one wants to hear such things. Jesus in turn rebuked Peter in front of the disciples. But Peter did not have the things of God in mind, but the things of men.
Almost a week later Jesus took Peter, James, and John to the top of a high mountain. Mark tells us what happened. There he was transfigured before them. His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them. Jesus changed his form in front of his disciples. As God he always had such glory, but in his state of humiliation he chose to keep that glory hidden; he put a veil of human flesh over his divine glory. But here on top of that mountain, the Lord removes the veil—he gave three of his disciples a glimpse—just a slight glimpse of his divine glory.
But even when Jesus revealed his glory he still had to hide himself. A large cloud came and enveloped them. This cloud hid the divine glory of Christ from the sight of the disciples, like the cloud that enveloped Mount Sinai when God spoke to Moses. Without it the disciples wouldn’t have been able to handle it. God is too great for us. We cannot look upon him in his full glory and live—he is too holy and we are too sinful. Luke tells us that while all of this was going on the disciples became sleepy. Perhaps God was shielding them from fully seeing or realizing his divine glory in order to protect them.
Nowadays, with our unprecedented access into the lives of others, we know more about celebrities than ever before. We love to hear stories that make celebrities sound normal. They are just like us—there is nothing special about them. They are just good at something that earns them a lot of money or makes them famous.
But we can’t say that about Christ. There is no comparing us with him. He is greater, there is something special about him. He’s not just a regular man. He is the son of God. He is true God from eternity. He is so great that we can’t even look at him in his full glory and live—he has to hide himself from us.
Peter, James, and John caught that glimpse of Jesus’ divine glory. It was something that Peter remembered years later as he wrote in 2 Peter, we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.
It wasn’t just the voice that Peter remembered, but also the lesson that God taught him. It was less than a week before Peter and rebuked Jesus for talking about his suffering and death and about six months or so before Jesus would die. He was preparing his disciples for that event. Soon they would see him betrayed, arrested, mocked, beaten, and crucified. Soon his lifeless body would be taken down from the cross, wrapped in linen, and placed in a tomb. But they need not worry—Jesus is God—he just showed him his divine glory! Even though all those things would happen to him, they would only happen because the Almighty God allowed them to happen. They need not worry because glory would follow after suffering.
And that is a great reminder for us as we enter the Lenten season on Wednesday—even though Jesus suffered and died, it was followed by glory. God allowed himself to suffer so that he could pay for our sins and rise from the dead!
Jesus took three of his disciples up on that mountain alone to pray. And yet, they weren’t alone. Moses and Elijah joined them on that mountain. They were there to talk to Jesus about his suffering and death. These are two of the most well-known members of the Old Testament Church. The Law of given through Moses on Mount Sinai, where he talked with God face to face. Elijah too talked to God; through him many Israelites rejected Baal and followed the Lord. Elijah, we know, was taken up in a whirlwind so that he never died. Moses died and was buried by God himself. So you have Elijah, soul and body talking with Jesus. And the soul of Moses talking with Jesus on Mount Sinai.
Two regular human beings—not hiding their faces, not falling asleep, with no need to be hidden from Christ’s glory talking to him. That will eventually be us. The glory of Christ is our glory too. Because of his suffering and death, our sin has been removed and paid for. On the cross Christ gave us his perfect life and as a result we are considered pure and righteous in the sight of our Lord. And Christ’s resurrection, which took place three days after his death, is a guarantee that we too will rise from the dead. Through faith we’ll live with him in heaven forever. And in heaven we’ll share in his glory. As Paul mentions in Philippians 3 about Christ, (he) will transform our lowly bodies so that they will be like his glorious body. And because he has removed our sins and given us his perfect life, because he will give us a share in his glory we will be able to see him in his full glory. John mentions this in third chapter of his first letter, Now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
It seems as if Moses and Elijah were talking with Jesus for awhile. So Peter asked if Jesus wanted them to build three shelters—really tents. One for each of them. It was a ridiculous comment, really. And Mark tells us that Peter was so afraid he really didn’t know what he was talking about. There are two reasons why people need shelter: For protection from the elements and for a place to sleep. Of course, Jesus in his glory and Moses and Elijah who share in that glory did not need any shelter. Peter was thinking that it would be great if everything stayed the way they were. Moses and Elijah were on the earth, Jesus was in his glory—why change a thing?
But then, just like that, it was all over. The disciples looked up and noticed that Moses and Elijah were gone. Only Jesus was left—back in the form he had before. He looked like any other human being once again. Why did Jesus end it? He was in his glory; Moses and Elijah were with him. Peter wanted them to stay—perhaps forever. But that wasn’t part of the plan. That wasn’t going to pay for the sins of the whole world.
For the disciples to share in Christ’s glory—for us to share in that glory, Christ needed to suffer. He needed to hide his glory once again. It was necessary for him to walk down that mountain and then to head to Jerusalem—to the place of his death. To give up his life on the cross. To suffer through many things so that we would join in him in eternal glory. Peter may have rebuked Jesus six days earlier—but now he understood. It was necessary for him to suffer and die so that we could share in his glory forever.
There was another lesson that Peter learned on the mountain that night. When a cloud enveloped them the Father spoke from heaven. He spoke words of approval—similar to what he said at Jesus baptism, This is my Son, whom I love. But then he added, Listen to him.
This is a continuous command. We are to listen to Jesus continuously. We might translate, “be listening to him,” or “continually listen to him.” Because he is the Son of God and God himself we are to read, learn, study, and obey his word. All the days of our lives we want to serve and honor the Lord by sitting at his feet and listening to his Word and by obeying his commands.
On the way down the mountain Jesus gave his disciples a curious command. Don’t tell anyone that you saw until I rise from the dead. It wasn’t time for the other disciples and the world in general to know about Jesus’ divine glory. But once they knew and believed that Jesus rose from the dead—then they would better understand what took place on the Mount of Transfiguration.
Of course, Jesus has already risen from the dead. His prohibition no longer stands. We are free to—and even encouraged to spread the gospel. To tell others about the love of Christ. To share with them the story of his transfiguration and the glimpse of his glory that we will soon share through faith in him.
People do many crazy things simply to get a glimpse of their favorite celebrity. And afterward the celebrity goes on with his great life and we go back living like we always have. Today, before his suffering begins, we see a glimpse of Christ’s divine glory. And the difference is, Christ’s glory is a glory that we’ll share in—but he has to suffer first. For through his suffering comes our glory. Amen.
Sermon on Mark 1:29-39
Text: As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew. 30 Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they immediately told Jesus about her. 31 So he went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.
32 That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. 33 The whole town gathered at the door, 34 and Jesus healed many who had various diseases. He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.
35 Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. 36 Simon and his companions went to look for him, 37 and when they found him, they exclaimed: “Everyone is looking for you!”
38 Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else — to the nearby villages — so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” 39 So he traveled throughout Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and driving out demons.
‘You’re not the boss of me!’ said the angry three-year old to his brother, who was telling him what to do. ‘Who do you think you are to tell me what to do?’ Often it seems like people have trouble with authority. They will question by what authority someone is doing something: ‘Who told you to do that?’. Today, as we study this portion of God’s Word, we see Jesus as he shows his authority as the Lord of all. Today we observe as THE EPIPHANY LORD REVEALS HIS AUTHORITY. He will reveal his authority 1. Over Sickness, 2. Over Satan and 3. Over Sin.
Our text immediately follows the events of our text from last week. Jesus had taught in the synagogue in Capernaum. He had driven an evil spirit from a man. The people were amazed at his teachings.
Now, as the services conclude, we read in verse 29: “As soon as they left the synagogue, they went with James and John to the home of Simon and Andrew.” Apparently, Jesus went to Andrew and Peter’s house for the evening meal.
But, when they got there, we read: “Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told Jesus about her.” (Verse 30) No further details are given regarding Peter’s mother-in-law’s illness, other than it was a fever. It was enough to keep her in bed. It must have been, at least, somewhat severe, for Luke, the doctor, describes it as a “high fever.” (Luke 4:38)
In verse 31, we read, “So [Jesus] went to her, took her hand and helped her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.” Jesus had compassion on her and took her by the hand. At that moment, the fever left her. Jesus healed her. Note that she recovered completely. If any of you have had the flu, you probably didn’t feel like jumping up and making supper. But, when Jesus healed her, her strength was restored immediately, and she began to wait on them. Jesus showed his authority over sickness.
So, also, we can see Jesus’ authority over sickness today. We often refer to Jesus as the “Great Physician.” This is more than just an honorary title. Jesus has the authority over sickness. We live in a day of fantastic medical breakthroughs. What doctors can do today was science fiction not all that long ago. With joint replacement, or heart surgery, or whatever medical example you might wish to give, it is truly amazing.
But, unless it is the will of God, it doesn’t matter what medical procedures are followed. If God says that a person’s time of life is to come to an end, it doesn’t matter what the doctor can or cannot do. The opposite is also true. There are many times when a person is supposedly beyond any sort of medical help yet makes a full recovery. Obviously, it is the Lord’s will that the person continues on the earth. No matter what modern man might think, or whatever medical advancements there might be, yet it is the Lord who has the ultimate authority over health and sickness.
Our text continues with the events of the day. “That evening after sunset the people brought to Jesus all the sick and demon-possessed. The whole town gathered at the door, and Jesus healed many who had various diseases.” (Verses 33&34) As soon as the Sabbath was completed at sunset, then the people began to carry the sick and suffering to Peter’s house. Those suffering demon possession were also brought. Some scoffers might say that when the Bible speaks of demon-possession, that it is just the poor, primitive medical knowledge that the people of that day had. They, obviously, couldn’t understand things like epileptic seizures, so they attributed them to “demons.” Nothing could be further from the truth! Here are two separate and distinct categories. Luke, the physician, speaks of both.
We might wonder why we read so much about demon-possession at the time of Christ, but don’t seem to see it today. Could it not be that Satan was unleashing his fiercest battle at that time, all in hope that Jesus would get distracted from his mission? For, if Jesus strayed even once, he would not be able to serve as our Savior. But, Jesus, as the Son of God shows his authority over Satan and his angels. When Jesus cast them from the bodies they possessed, we read: “He also drove out many demons, but he would not let the demons speak because they knew who he was.” (Verse 34) Jesus was not going to accept the testimony of the devils, and they had to submit.
Jesus further showed his authority over Satan as he continued the way that would lead him to a cross. You and I are by nature the slaves of Satan. We cannot, on our own, do anything good. We cannot, on our own, break free from Satan’s grasp. Because of our sinfulness, our lack of love for God and each other, we deserved the same punishment as Satan, which is to say, an eternity in hell. But, in fulfillment of the prophecy given to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, Jesus came and by his life, suffering, death and resurrection, he crushed the serpent’s head. He ransomed us, set us free. Now we belong to the Lord, and no matter how Satan tries, he cannot pluck us from our Savior’s hand. The Lord has complete authority over Satan.
Our text continues with the events of the next morning. In verse 35 it says: “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Just think about that for a moment. Jesus, the Son of God, took time, made time, to speak with his Father in prayer. He never got so busy that he forgot to pray. We would do well to follow his example. Sometimes we get so busy that we don’t make time to pray. ‘There is so much to do. How can I take the time?’ we might say to ourselves. But it is important for us to stay in contact with God. For, from him we receive the strength and ability to live for him.
But even here Jesus was not left alone. In verses 36 & 37, we read, “Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: ‘Everyone is looking for you!’” The people were looking for Jesus. No doubt some of them were hoping to see more miraculous signs, more healings.
To this, Jesus replied, “Let us go somewhere else — to the nearby villages — so I can preach there also. That is why I have come.” (Verse 38) Jesus was showing that he had not come to the earth to be just a miracle worker. He had come to be the Savior of the world. That is why Jesus speaks specifically about going to other villages so that he might preach to them, as well. The people of Capernaum had heard the message, but he wanted others to hear it, too.
So also, Jesus continues to tell us that he has authority over sin, both its guilt and power. While we may not directly hear him with our ears, yet he has made sure that the gospel message has continued to be spread from generation to generation. You and I have heard this beautiful message. The Holy Spirit has caused faith to be born and grow in our hearts. He has given us his Holy Supper by which we receive the strengthening of our faith as well as the forgiveness of our sins. Our Lord has the authority over sin. He has forgiven your sins and my sins.
While it might be that our sinful nature will balk at or question those whom God has placed in authority over us, we rejoice at the authority of our Lord. For, because of his authority, we live in peace and security. He has authority over sickness, Satan, and sin. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Sermon on Mark 1:21-28
Text: They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, Jesus went into the synagogue and began to teach. 22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, 24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are — the Holy One of God!”
25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.
27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching — and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.” 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee.
“Blessed.” People may have a picture in their houses that have that word. You may see someone’s picture on social media with the hashtag: “Blessed.” Every last Thursday in November, we pause and think about the blessings that we receive from God. We might even stop on New Year’s Eve and think about the blessings that we have enjoyed over the last year. It is good for us to take the time to think about all the ways that God blesses us, for we have been truly blessed. This morning, we are going to look at blessings that are ours as disciples of Jesus. It is true that there may be times when Jesus calls upon us to bear a cross for him. But the blessings far outweigh the hardships. We look, then, at THE BLESSINGS OF DISCIPLESHIP. There is 1. Security In Our Savior’s Power and 2. Strength From His Word.
Jesus had just selected the first four men to be his disciples: Peter, Andrew, James, and John. They entered the city of Capernaum, and, on the Sabbath Day, they went into the synagogue. As was often the case, when a visiting teacher was in town, Jesus was asked to speak to those assembled. Suddenly, there was a great disturbance. “Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an impure spirit cried out, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are — the Holy One of God!’” (Verses 23&24) This person had been physically possessed by an evil spirit. We don’t know exactly what form of possession this was. We read of many types in the Bible from causing that person to physically harm themselves to being able to tell the future.
Whatever the type of possession, it is his message that catches our attention. It also caught Jesus’ attention. We hear him command the evil spirit, “Be quiet!” (Verse 25) At first, we might wonder why Jesus would tell the spirit to be quiet. After all, it is true that Jesus is the Holy One of God. The devil and all his angels knew why Jesus had come to the earth. They knew who he was. But Jesus would not accept the testimony of the evil spirit, or of Satan, for those hearing could have said, “These are the words of the father of lies. How can we believe them?” It’s hard to say what the man said when he was possessed. Jesus, also, did not want to, at this time, proclaim openly that he was the Messiah. That word had too many political implications at the time. Jesus would not accept this testimony.
Rather he said, “Come out of him!” (Verse 25) Jesus commanded the evil spirit to leave the man. We read in verse 26, “The impure spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek.” The evil spirit had to obey, for this was the Son of God that addressed him. That man was set free from his bondage to that demon.
This was not this first time that Jesus had met Satan during his life on the earth. Just verses prior to our text Jesus was in the wilderness for forty days being tempted by Satan. Satan failed to get Jesus to sin. This, also, would not be the last time that these two would meet. Again and again Satan tempted Jesus and every time Jesus prevailed. The devil unleashed his fiercest temptations at the end of Jesus’ life. While in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus realized what lay ahead of him. He prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me.” But he also added, “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39) Jesus was tempted while on the cross. We hear the agony in his voice, as he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46) Yet, all of Satan’s temptations failed. When Jesus said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30), it marked the end of Satan’s reign. When Jesus rose triumphantly on the third day, Satan’s power was destroyed. Satan had been thoroughly defeated. Every time he and Jesus met, Jesus was the victor.
Jesus shares that victory with us. Jesus endured all the temptations of the devil and the pain of the cross to be our substitute. All our sins were placed on Jesus, and he was punished for every one of them. Now Satan can, no longer, accuse us of sin, because Jesus paid for every one of them. Our account has been paid in full. We also share in the victory, for we know that Jesus has defeated Satan. He is powerless. We, no longer, must bow to every sinful temptation that Satan may place before us, as we had done when we were his slaves. We can say, ‘No, I don’t want to do anything that would displease my God.’ We, also, share in Christ’s victory, for we know that whatever Satan may send against us, whatever hardships we might be called upon to bear, they cannot overwhelm us. Even if all our earthly possessions were gone, we would still have our eternal inheritance in heaven. The devil cannot touch our faith. Paul reminds us of this blessing in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear.” Martin Luther in his hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is our God,” wrote, “Though devils all the world should fill All eager to devour us, We tremble not, we fear no ill, They shall not overpower us. This world’s prince may still Scowl fierce as he will. He can harm us none; He’s judged, the deed is done. One little word can fell him.” We, the disciples of Jesus Christ, can boldly and confidently sing that hymn, because we have Security in our Savior’s Power. The first disciples saw this for themselves that day in Capernaum. We see it every day of our lives.
However, it was not only the exorcism that got the people of Capernaum and Galilee talking. After Jesus addressed the assembly in the synagogue, “The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law.” (Verse 22) Jesus held his audience spellbound while he taught. It wasn’t just because of his speaking style or delivery. It was the content of what Jesus said that held their attention. He spoke with authority. In other words, he knew what he was talking about.
What a change this was from what they were used to hearing. The problem with the rabbis, or teachers, of Jesus’ day was that their emphasis was teaching the people the traditions of the elders. They were so concerned with teaching their man-made commands and opinions of other rabbis that they had great difficulty coming to a conclusion about anything. They were so busy explaining things about the Scriptures that they many times missed the message of the Scriptures.
However, it was different when Jesus spoke and taught. He did not proclaim the teachings of others. He taught the Word of God. It is no wonder that he spoke as one having authority. He, as God, caused those Scriptures to be written. He knew all the Old Testament prophecies and, as God, knew how they would be fulfilled. Jesus spoke with authority because he was the authority, the author of the Scriptures. When the news about Jesus spread in Galilee, the exorcism was not the first thing that people talked about. We read in verse 27, “The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, ‘What is this? A new teaching — and with authority! He even gives orders to impure spirits and they obey him.’” The first thing that the people talked about was not the miraculous exorcism. It was the teaching that Jesus did and the authority with which he taught.
This was one of the first lessons for Jesus’ disciples. In Jesus they were face to face with the real authority. His was the final word. What came from Jesus’ lips was straight from God. His teaching was the authority on the subject.
We, too, would do well to learn the lesson that the disciples learned. We read our magazines, our newspapers, and our books. We quote from them saying, “I read in the newspaper the other day that . . .” We watch our televisions, listen to our radios, or go to the internet. We quote from them saying, “I saw on the news. . .” or, in the old days, “Paul Harvey said . . .” We treat them like they are the authorities, and, to some extent, they are. But, never let us be fooled into thinking that they are the final authority. Don’t just take their word for it, especially when dealing with moral issues. The devil will use the many forms of the media to convince people that what they are doing is not sinful. A few of the examples that come to mind are abortion, homosexuality, and euthanasia.
There is but one final authority, and that is God’s Word. There is a certain security in knowing that God’s Word doesn’t change. It remains the same from age to age. This knowledge also gives us the strength to face up to the situations in our life. Jesus compared it to building a house either on sand or on a rock. When you put your trust elsewhere, other than God and his teachings as they are found in the Bible, it is like building your house on sand. When the storms of life enter the picture, then life falls with a great crash. But, if our lives are built on the solid foundation of God’s Word, we can stand up under the storms and floods that may enter our lives. This also give us great reason to be involved with God’s Word, to strengthen our hold on him. Then we have a peace of mind that no one else can have. It is a special blessing that is given to the Christian.
We enjoy many blessings as Christians. We enjoy God’s protection and preservation. We know that eternal life is ours. This morning we have seen that we have security in our Savior’s power. The devil must flee defeated. We have the security of God’s unchanging Word. May we enjoy all the blessings that are ours as disciples, followers of Jesus Christ. Amen.
Sermon on Mark 1:14-20
Text: After John was put in prison, Jesus went into Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God. 15 “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God has come near. Repent and believe the good news!”
16 As Jesus walked beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. 17 “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.” 18 At once they left their nets and followed him.
19 When he had gone a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John in a boat, preparing their nets. 20 Without delay he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.
A book that I purchased several years ago is entitled, “The Greatest Generation.” That book is a collection of stories and memories of people who served in various capacities during World War 2. It is a very interesting book to read, because it puts a human face to the facts that are found in history books. An overriding theme in the book was the sense of duty and obligation to serve one’s country. This sense of duty was used by the recruiters, as they made a poster which had the face of Uncle Sam on it, with a finger pointing directly at the reader. The caption read, “I want you.” There was no getting around it or trying to hide from it. The country had a need, and the reader could fill it. In our text for this morning, our Savior called some men for service in his forces. Just as he called them, he calls us today. This morning we hear Jesus say, “I WANT YOU.” He wants us 1. For A Life Of Glorious Service and 2. A Life Of Total Commitment.
Our text begins by saying that Jesus went up to the region of Galilee. The message that he proclaimed was the exact same message that John the Baptist had proclaimed. There are many people who teach that Jesus came only preaching a message of loving one another. They fail to see that Jesus also preached about repentance. Many times, Jesus preached the Law and the punishment that is due those who sin. Yes, Jesus did preach a message of love. He lived a life of love. He died a death of love to pay for our sins. Jesus did all these things because he loves us. Yet, we need to be reminded that Jesus did preach the Law and the deserved punishment.
One day, as Jesus was walking along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Peter and Andrew casting a net into the sea. This was not the first time that Jesus had met these two men. Jesus had also met James and John earlier. They were disciples of John the Baptist. John had pointed Jesus out to them. They followed Jesus for a time and then went back to their occupation as fishermen. They were busily going about their work on the day that Jesus called them. Let’s take a few moments and look at both the call and their response.
Jesus came to these men as they were occupied with their fishing. Jesus came to them and said, “Come, follow me and I will send you out to fish for people.” (Vere 17) Jesus was showing them that their lives were going to be changed. They would go from being fishermen to fishers of men. They were now to fish for people. Of course, we realize the play on words that Jesus is making. Their work would be somewhat the same. Yet, there would be differences. Their catch would not be snagged and sold. It would be rescued and set free. The net that they would use would not be made of rope and weights. It would be the Word of God.
This was their formal Call into a new occupation. This occupation would be one of glorious service. They would begin to serve their Lord full-time. The Lord came to them and Called them to serve him.
We, too, have been called to a life of glorious service. Some people are called to full-time service in the preaching and teaching ministry. Just as the disciples needed a period of training before they were ready to go out on their own, so also our pastors and teachers go through an extended training process. Jesus Calls them to service through a calling board, whether it be through the Assignment Committee, the local congregation or school.
Yet, it is not just pastors and teachers who have been called to full-time service for the Lord. Every Christian has been called to a life of glorious service. Jesus tells every Christian, “Come, follow me and I will send you out to fish for people.” All of us have been called to be fishers of people. We do so by telling others about Jesus. We do so by giving our lives to Jesus, so that by our lives, people may see that we are different. We do so to open the door for telling others about their sins and what Jesus did to rescue them from their sins.
We also serve our Lord by doing things that are pleasing to him. Jesus calls us to obedience. Why do we obey? Because we have come to faith, we no longer do so out of fear of the law and the consequences if we don’t. Our sins have been forgiven because of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Because of this, we want to show our thankfulness for all that has been done for us. So, when Jesus calls us to a life of glorious service, we ask Jesus what he wants us to do. For guidance as to what we should do, we turn to the pages of the Scriptures. Just as a few examples, we hear Jesus’ words, “’Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27) These are just a few of the commands that Jesus gives to his disciples of then and now. We have all been called to lives of glorious service. Jesus wants us for this life of service.
When Jesus calls us for a life of service, he also asks for a life of total commitment. Let us look at the response of the four men, when Jesus called them into service. After Jesus called Peter and Andrew, we are told in verse 18, “At once they left their nets and followed him.” When Jesus called James and John, it says in verse 20, “They left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.” Their response was immediate. They left everything behind and followed Jesus. They gave themselves fully to service for the Lord. They committed themselves to being fishers of men.
This is the type of commitment that Jesus calls us to, as well. Jesus tells us in Luke 9:62, “No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.” Jesus calls us to total commitment in his service. We are to strive to be fully committed to him. We want to do those things that are pleasing to him. Again, we do not follow or obey out of fear, but out of love for God. God calls for a complete devotion of our life to him and his service.
It is only natural for us to want to live lives completely devoted to Jesus and his service. When we see what we have deserved and see that Jesus paid the debt that we owed, we want to do things that are pleasing to him. We do not want to do anything that displeases him. So, we devote our entire lives to him and doing his will. We shudder at the thought of sinning.
Yet, we must admit that, while we are still in this world, we will continue to sin. When we sin, we repent and ask God for forgiveness. Assured of this forgiveness, we start out again and ask God for strength. We start out again with a new resolve to live a life totally committed to God’s service. May God help each of us to be totally committed to following our Savior.
When Jesus calls us, may each of us respond in the same manner as the disciples did. Jesus calls us to a life of glorious service. He calls us to serve him with our entire lives. Jesus also calls us to be completely committed to him. May each of us respond when Jesus calls us say, ‘Here I am. Use me as you wish.’ Amen.
Sermon on John 1:43-51
Text: The next day Jesus decided to leave for Galilee. Finding Philip, he said to him, “Follow me.”
44 Philip, like Andrew and Peter, was from the town of Bethsaida. 45 Philip found Nathanael and told him, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote — Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.”
46 “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” Nathanael asked.
“Come and see,” said Philip.
47 When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, “Here truly is an Israelite in whom there is no deceit.”
48 “How do you know me?” Nathanael asked.
Jesus answered, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”
49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”
50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” 51 He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.”
When you find something exciting, you want to share it with others. If you go to a museum or a store with children, there will likely come a time when they want you to come and see something. If you have purchased something that you are excited about, you might tell others to come and see it, whether it be a new house or a television. When God blesses a couple with a child, you might be invited to come and see him. When you are excited about something, you want others to come and see it. This morning in our text, we find a man by the name of Philip excited about someone and asking a close friend to come and see. COME AND SEE THE SON OF GOD. 1. He’s The One Who Fulfills The Scriptures. 2. He’s The One Who Reads Our Hearts. 3. He’s The One Who Brings Us Heaven.
Our text begins with the words, “The next day.” The previous day, John the Baptist had pointed out Jesus to two of his disciples, John and Andrew. He said, “Look, the Lamb of God.” (John 1:35) So John and Andrew followed Jesus and spent the day with him. The first thing that Andrew did after this meeting was to go and find his brother Simon, who would later be known as Peter. Andrew told Peter, “We have found the Messiah.” (John 1:41) He had been brought to the faith that Jesus was the Christ.
Now the next day, as Jesus traveled to Galilee, he found a man by the name of Philip. He said to him, “Follow me.” (Verse 43) With these words, Jesus changed the life of this man. These words were an invitation to faith. The Greek word shows us that this following was to be a continuous action. Philip is to begin and keep on trusting in Jesus. It was also a specialized invitation for Philip to follow Jesus as one of his disciples. Philip was to continue to learn from this divine Teacher.
We note that the first action that is recorded following this encounter with Jesus is that “Philip found Nathanael and told him, ‘We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote–Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’” (Verse 45) Philip was so excited about what had happened that he went to his friend Nathanael with the message that the Messiah was here. He had been led to believe in Jesus and then he went to one of the most natural mission fields, a close friend, with the message.
Philip described Jesus as “The one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote.” He saw in Jesus the fulfillment of all the Old Testament prophecies. Philip mentioned Moses. Moses had prophesied in Deuteronomy 18:15, “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.” There were many prophecies about the coming Savior recorded in the Old Testament. From the first promise of a Savior in Genesis 3:15 to Isaiah’s clear prophecies to Micah’s words, God had told his people about the wondrous things that the Messiah would do. Jesus is the fulfillment of them all. Many times, as you read the Gospels, especially the Gospel according to Matthew, you run across words to the effect that: “This happened so that the Scriptures might be fulfilled.” The fact that Jesus was born of a virgin is in fulfillment of the Scriptures. Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem was exactly what God said would happen. When you read the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah or the twenty-second Psalm, it is almost as if the writers were sitting at the foot of the cross, recording everything that they saw. Jesus is the fulfillment of the Scriptures.
As disciples of Jesus, who have been also called to follow him, we delight in the fact that, by the working of the Holy Spirit, we have found the one in whom the entire message of God’s Word gets its meaning and significance. God has opened his Word to us and revealed to us that Jesus is the Savior he sent into the world to redeem the world. Because we know that Jesus is revealed in God’s Word, we want to dig deeper and deeper into God’s Word, so that we might learn as much as we possibly can about him and his will for our lives. May our attitude mirror that of Samuel when he said, “Speak, for your servant is listening.” (1 Samuel 3:10)
When Philip told Nathanael that, “We have found the one Moses wrote about in the Law, and about whom the prophets also wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.” (Verse 45), Nathanael was not overly impressed. As a matter of fact, he replied with a rather scornful question. He said, “Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?” (Verse 46) Nathanael hears the word “Nazareth” and, in that geographical reference, he finds reason to doubt Philip’s faith. His objection was that, as a Galilean, he was familiar with the village of Nazareth and, as a Jew, he knew no prophecy that said that the Messiah would come from there.
Rather than arguing with Nathanael, Philip simply says, “Come and see.” (Verse 46) The Holy Spirit had worked the faith in his heart. Philip loved his friend, who had a deep interest in spiritual matters. He wanted Nathanael to come under the influence of the same gracious Word.
People today do the same thing as Nathanael. They still pick at the words of the Bible and find reasons for doubting the message. We need to remember that clever arguments don’t work saving faith. No one has ever been argued into heaven. Rather, what we do is what Philip did. We invite them to “Come and see.” We show Jesus as he has revealed himself in his Word and leave the rest to the Holy Spirit. We today can do no more or less than Philip who invited his friend to “Come and see.”
Nathanael did come to see Jesus. In verse 47 we read, “When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, ‘Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false.’” Jesus gave a great compliment to Nathanael. In calling him “a true Israelite,” Jesus was saying that Nathanael was a true believer in the Messianic promise and was looking forward to the Savior’s spiritual kingdom. This is in contrast to many other Jews who were looking forward to a Messiah who would provide for all of their physical needs or would lead them from under Roman rule. Nathanael, though, was looking for the Messiah who would free the world from the rule of the devil and sin.
When Jesus said this, Nathanael was stunned. He asked, “How do you know me?” (Verse 48) The Greek word for knowing has the idea of knowing from personal experience. Nathanael had never been introduced to Jesus prior to this. Then Jesus showed Nathanael that he was the Son of God by saying, “I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.” (Verse 48) Jesus told him of something that there was no other way to know about, other than by being the all-knowing Son of God.
After this brief encounter, Nathanael is already convinced as to whom Jesus is. He said, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.” (Verse 49) Nathanael’s statement of Jesus being the Son of God is a bold statement, especially in light of the fact that the idea of calling any human being “God” was so appalling to the Jews. They were so careful about blasphemy. It was a bold step of faith that moved Nathanael to make this statement.
By means of his statement to Nathanael, Jesus showed that he knew what was in his heart. Jesus, also, knows what’s in our hearts. At first, that might be quite disconcerting. When I think about all the sins that I commit that only I am aware of, when I think of those words that I never spoke, but were loudly being shouted in my heart, when I think of the lustful thoughts that I have had, these sins Jesus is also aware of. Because of these secret sins, as well as the sins that are visible to others, I know that I deserve an eternity in hell because of them. But Jesus is the one who came in fulfillment of the Scriptures. He came to pay for my sins through his life, death, and resurrection. Now those secret sins have been paid for and I do not need to fear that Jesus knows what’s in my heart. As a matter of fact, it is quite comforting. He knows when I am feeling weak in my faith or trust, and he comes to me with his Word and strengthens me. He knows all the times that I meant to do what was right or say what was right, but it came off all wrong. He also sees my heart full of joy in the fact that I have been saved through his precious work. He sees me as I truly am, a forgiven child of God.
Jesus added some words of encouragement to Nathanael’s confession of faith. He said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” (Verse 50) Jesus isn’t reprimanding him for a lack of faith. Rather he is encouraging Nathanael to grow in faith through the greater things that he would see. Then Jesus referred to a greater thing that Nathanael and all believers would see. “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on’ the Son of Man.” (Verse 51) This is an obvious reference to the stairway that Jacob saw at Bethel as he fled from his brother Esau. The Son of Man, as Jesus calls himself, is the means for bridging the gap between earth and heaven. Through Jesus’ work, which the disciples would witness, heaven would be opened to all believers. The wall of sin which separates would be gone. This is one of the greater things that Nathanael would witness as he followed Jesus as his disciple.
We, too, are witnesses of the fact that Jesus has opened the gate of heaven. He is the only means by which we gain entrance into heaven. This is the confidence of every Christian. We know that, when we pass from this earth, heaven is waiting for us. Through the work of Jesus, the gates of heaven have been thrown wide open. Have you ever heard such exciting news? Jesus has paid for all your sins. Heaven is waiting for you. God help us to show this excitement to others that we encounter.
Come and see. Those are just three words. But, when you say them to someone else, you show that you are interested in them, and you care enough about them to share something special in your life. Can that be any more true than when we invite others to come and see Jesus? Jesus loved them enough to pay for their sins. May we reflect that love to others. So also, may we heed Jesus’ invitation, through his Word, to come and see. Amen.
Sermon on Mark 1:4-11
Text: And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. 6 John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. 7 And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
It is a common practice for advertisers to use celebrities to sell their products. People from television or the movies or the sports world will try to sell you just about anything and everything. How do they do it? They do so by telling you that their product is the best one available and that you absolutely need it. Because of their testimonial, you might believe what is said about a particular product is true. In our text for this morning, we see two different parties making testimonials about Jesus and his work on earth. As we look at these two testimonials, we see that JESUS IS ATTESTED TO BE THE SAVIOR. He is attested to be so 1. By The Forerunner, John The Baptist and 2. By The Holy Trinity.
The first part of our text focuses in on John the Baptist. As we read about him, we may be struck by several things that seem odd to us upon our first reading. First, we find John preaching in the desert region rather than in the centers of population. Secondly, we see that he was clothed in some rather unusual garb. He was clothed in a garment made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. This clothing would have been scratchy and uncomfortable. John’s diet is also sure to raise some eyebrows. He ate wild honey and locusts. At first glance, John would appear to be an unusual man.
Why do we focus on John? Is it because of his unusual location or garb or diet? No. If that were the extent of it, we would have little reason to look at John, except as a point of passing interest. Rather, we look at John because of the message that he proclaimed. We are told in verse 4, he was “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” John called for repentance. As the forerunner of the promised Messiah, he came to prepare the way for the Lord. For that reason, he came to preach the law in full force. When we look at other sermons that John preached, we see that he did not mince words. He did so to break the stony hearts of his hearers. What was the result he was looking for? He came preaching “repentance for the forgiveness of sins.”
The repentance that was called for was not just feeling sorry for sins. This repentance called for more than that. It called for a turning away from sin. This repentance was expressed as the heart turned away from sin, loathes it, and wants to be rid of it. It also includes the desire to make amends wherever possible. This is the repentance which John called for, and to which we are still called today. We know that we are sinners. The Bible calls for repentance. Not only are we to be sorry for our sins, but we also want to do everything possible so that we do not sin in that manner anymore. We loathe the sin and do not want to repeat it. This repentance is called for by every person.
This repentance is a necessary preparation for receiving Jesus into our hearts. Just as John prepared the way for Christ’s coming, so we want to be properly prepared to receive Christ into our hearts. We are believers and, as such Christ is in us, and we want to do everything possible to please him. This is why we repent of our sins.
John preached a baptism for repentance. However, he didn’t stop there. He also pointed ahead to the one who would bring comfort and peace to the repentant heart. We read of his testimony in our text, “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” John pointed away from himself to the one coming after him. He knew his role. He was to go before the promised Messiah. He was telling the people who were following to not look to him for their salvation. Rather, John told them very specifically to whom they were to look. We read in John 1:29, “John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” He told the crowd who Jesus was. Jesus was the one who had come to take away the sins of the world. John attested the fact that Jesus was the Savior of the world. He was the promised Messiah. He was the one they were to look to. We, too, look at John’s testimonial about Jesus, and see what is told to us about Jesus. We thank God for the testimony of John.
Jesus came to John to be baptized. We might wonder why Jesus would be baptized. After all, Baptism is for the washing away of sin and Jesus had none. For that reason, it might seem odd to us that he would be baptized. We are not the only ones to wonder at this. In Matthew’s account of Jesus’ baptism, we hear John objecting, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” (Matthew 3:14) Yet, Jesus told him it was proper for John to do this. Why was Jesus baptized? He was baptized so that he could take our place, as God sent him to do. Jesus was showing his solidarity with sinners. Though he was sinless, he was identifying himself with sinners, by giving to himself the task of bearing their sins. He was putting himself in our place. Jesus was not being baptized for himself, but for us. He takes our place by taking all our sins upon himself. He, who was sinless, bore the sins of the world. As such, he allowed himself to be baptized for us.
After Jesus was baptized, another party gave testimony as to whom Jesus was. We read in verses 10&11, “Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.’” The Trinity attested as to whom Jesus was. He is, as the Father says, “The Son of God.” The Father tells all those who were there that the person standing in front of them as the Son of God. The Father was testifying to the world that Jesus was indeed the Son of God, who had come into the world.
The Father attested as to whom Jesus was and so did the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit came down from heaven in the form of a dove, he was pointing to the prophecy from Isaiah, which said, “The Spirit of the Sovereign LORD is on me, because the LORD has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.” (Isaiah 61:1) The person speaking in that prophecy is the promised Messiah. When the Holy Spirit, in the form of the dove, descended upon Jesus, he was pointing to Jesus as the promised Messiah, the one who had come to save the people from their sins.
The Father said of the Son, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” (Verse 11) The love that the Father is speaking of here is more than just some sort of sentimental attachment. Rather, it expressed a complete approval of all that Jesus was doing and had done to this point. The climax to God’s plan of salvation, that had been promised to Adam and Eve, was now at hand. The Father was acknowledging the fact that Jesus’ life was perfect. Jesus led a perfect life for us, who cannot, so that we would be saved. The Father was telling the world that this Jesus was his Son, who pleased him. He attested to the fact that Jesus was the Savior of the world.
This morning, we heard two different parties telling us who Jesus is and what he has done for us. May we also be ready and willing to tell others about Jesus. First, we tell them, as John the Baptist did, that Jesus is the Lamb of God, who has come to take away the sins of the world. Secondly, we tell them, as the Godhead did, that Jesus is the Son of God, who lived a perfect life for us. May God help each of us to be ready to attest to the facts about Jesus, which we learn from the Bible. May each of us attest to the fact that Jesus is the Savior of the world and show our thankfulness by living lives of praise. We have something more important than cereal or cars to sell. We have the knowledge that Jesus is the Savior of the world to give away. May each of us be given the strength and courage to attest to these facts. May God help us to this end. Amen.
New Year’s Eve Sermon on Genesis 32:10
Text: I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant. I had only my staff when I crossed this Jordan, but now I have become two camps.
“What did I do to deserve this?” What thoughts went through your mind as I asked that question? It is possible that you pictured someone asking that question in despair. Something just went wrong, and that person throws his hands into the air and asks, in disgust, “What did I do to deserve this?”. It is also possible that this question could be asked when someone gets an unexpected gift. As that person looks at the gift, he asks, in wonder, “What did I do to deserve this?”. This evening, as we stand on the threshold of a new year, we want to take a moment and look back over the past year and ask the question, “WHAT DID I DO TO DESERVE THIS?”. We shall see that 1. I Did Everything and that 2. I Did Nothing.
As we look over this past year, we would do well to examine our lives in the light of God’s Law. Let us review the God’s Law briefly and measure our lives against it. The First Commandment tells us that absolutely nothing is to take precedence over God. He is to always be in first place in our lives. The Second Commandment deals with God’s name and its usage. God gave us his name so that we might know about him, pray to him, and give thanks to him. Any misuse of God’s name by cursing, false or needless swearing, or by any other means is forbidden. God’s Third Commandment deals with the use of God’s Word. We are to make every effort to use God’s Word to build up our faith. We are to be immersed in God’s word, through faithful usage.
Commandments Four through Ten deal with our relationships with those around us. In the Fourth Commandment we are told to obey our parents. That is expanded to anyone who has authority over us. For example, we are to follow the government’s laws, and not just those that we like. The Fifth Commandment tells us not to murder. This also includes any hateful or hurtful thought, word, or action. In the Sixth Commandment, we are told not to commit adultery. God is protecting his precious gift of marriage in this commandment. Any breakdown in the harmony of marriage is sinful, as well as any impure thoughts or words. We are told not to steal in the Seventh Commandment. This includes anytime that we do not help others keep their things. The Eighth Commandment tells us that we are to do everything to keep others’ reputations intact. We are not to gossip or listen to gossip. We are not to lie. The Ninth and Tenth Commandments teach us to be content with everything that God has given us.
So, as we have looked in the mirror of God’s Law, how did you fare? If we are honest with ourselves, we have to admit that we haven’t even come close to fulfilling God’s law. God demands perfection from each of us, but we cannot do so. God says that those who sin, even once, are guilty and are deserving of eternal punishment in hell. You and I deserve this. What did we do to deserve God’s sentence of eternal punishment in hell? As we have seen in God’s Law, we have done everything.
However, thanks be to God, that, though we did everything to deserve God’s punishment, we have received his salvation. We thank our God that our salvation does not depend on us. For, if it did, we would surely be lost. God stepped in, however, already at the first sin in the Garden of Eden and announced that he would do something for the world.
What God did we celebrated one week ago. He sent his only Son, Jesus, into the world to save us from what we deserved. He came to this earth to be our Savior. Jesus, alone, was able to keep God’s law perfectly. He did what we were unable to do. He, also, sacrificed, his perfect life on the cross for you and me. While on the cross, he uttered some of the most beautiful words ever recorded. He said, “It is finished.” How wonderful that word is: “FINISHED.” That means that it was completely done. There is nothing that needs to be added to it. There is nothing more that needs to be done. We did nothing to deserve the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus did it all. Because our sins have been forgiven, we can look forward to spending an eternity in heaven, even though we did nothing to deserve it.
We also did nothing to deserve the faith that was created in us. It was not that we were such good people that we deserved to be brought to faith. To the contrary, as we have seen, we did not deserve any good from God. We received our faith purely out of God’s grace. Again, although we do not deserve our faith, God gave it to us.
God has also been gracious to us this year by pouring out his blessings upon us. As we think over the past year, it is not hard to see how God has provided for all our needs. He opened his gracious hand and gave us all that we needed to maintain our bodies. Often God gave us even more. This, too, was not because God owed it to us anyway. This was purely out of God’s grace and not because we deserved it. Even if there were times this past year, when things didn’t go quite as well as we had hoped or we suffered a setback, it doesn’t mean that God is getting back at us for a particular sin. We know that all our sins were forgiven for Jesus’ sake. God may allow certain things into our lives that he wishes to use for our benefit. Again, we are not getting what we deserve.
When Jacob spoke the words of our text, he was returning home after twenty years. Remember how he had fled because he had tricked his brother Esau out of the blessing. Jacob faced an uncertain future. After a servant was sent to Esau to tell him that Jacob was returning, it was reported to Jacob that Esau was coming to meet him with four hundred men. Was Esau coming carry out his threat to kill Jacob? Was he coming to exact his revenge? Jacob turned to God in prayer and starts by confessing, “I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant.” God had greatly blessed him in the past, and Jacob realized that he was unworthy of any of God’s blessings.
This evening we face an uncertain future, as well. Before us lies another year. What will it hold for us? No one can tell. Before we step into the new year, we look back over 2023 and say, “I am unworthy of all the kindness and faithfulness you have shown your servant.” We say, ‘Lord, I know what I deserve because of my sins, but I thank and praise you that you did not give me what I deserve.’ As we face this year, we see that God has been gracious to us in the past year. If we have any uncertainty about the new year, we do well to look at the past and then think about such passages as we find in Hebrews 13:8, Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” We also can turn to verses like Deuteronomy 31:6, where we read this promise, “The LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Armed with these promises, we can face the new year with confidence. As we look back over 2023, we thank God that we have not been given what we have deserved and have been given what we did not deserve. How blessed and comforting it is to know that God will be with us in the future as he has been in the past. Amen.
Sermon on Luke 2:25-40
Text: Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:
29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31 which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and the glory of your people Israel.”
33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four. She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.
39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.
Everyone has their favorite Christmas carol. What is yours? Is it “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” or Silent Night”? Perhaps it is “O, Come, All Ye Faithful” or “Angels We Have Heard On High.” A popular carol is “What Child Is This?”. This morning we will use the title of that carol as we study our text. WHAT CHILD IS THIS? We See That 1. He Is The Salvation and 2. He Comes To Bring Peace And Division.
The events of our text took place forty days after Jesus’ birth. He had been circumcised according to Mosaic Law. Now, Mary and Joseph were carrying out the will of God. They were to offer a sacrifice that was required for all firstborn sons. As they came into the temple in Jerusalem, they were again reminded of the specialness of the child in their arms. While they were in the temple a man by the name of Simeon came to them and took the Baby Jesus into his arms. He had been promised by God that he would not die until he saw the Savior. Can you imagine the anticipation he felt every day as he waited for the Messiah? Now he was holding the Savior of the world in his arms. His joy filled him to the point that he sang a song of praise to God for sending a Savior into the world. He said, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.” (Verse 29) He knew that he could die in peace because he had seen the promised Messiah with his own eyes.
Simeon goes on to describe this child. “For my eyes have seen your salvation, which you have prepared in the sight of all nations: a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel.” (Verses 30-32) Simeon calls Jesus “salvation.” He was sure that this was the Savior of the world. Jesus came to save everyone from their bondage to sin. He did so by obeying God’s Law perfectly. He placed himself under God’s Law. We see this by the fact that already at the age of eight days, he was circumcised. This was just how God’s law prescribed it to be. He spent his entire life complying with God’s Law. As we are told in Galatians 4:4&5, “When the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.” This verse focuses on our inability to keep God’s law the way that we must. Our inability condemns us. So, God sent his Son, who was over the law. He placed himself under the law because of his love for us. He did so as our Substitute. He took the sins of the world on himself. He was salvation for us all. Simeon recognized him to be the salvation that God had promised.
Simeon also called him “A light for revelation to the Gentiles.” (Verse 32) The people who were not Jews had generally followed false gods. But now that Jesus had come, he would lead them out of their spiritual darkness into the light of the salvation that he brings. We are thankful for this. Most, if not all, of us are Gentiles. God into his love did not just keep the facts of Jesus’ birth to the Jews in Palestine. He has seen to it that you and I saw the light of his salvation and now walk in that light. Jesus is the light for revelation to the Gentiles and we praise God that he is.
Simeon also called him “The glory to your people Israel.” (Verse 32) Israel was greatly blessed. God had chosen them to be the nation from which the Savior would come. We thank God that he preserved the nation of Israel from all her enemies so that the Savior of the world might come from them, as he had promised. God sent his Son to be the Salvation of the world from the line of the Jews.
Simeon’s song called Jesus “Salvation.” (Verse 30) This child that was cradled in his arms was the salvation of the world. Simeon also alluded to the effect that this child would have on the inhabitants of the world. He said that the child would bring peace, but also division.
Simeon and Anna were both longing for the coming of the Messiah. Each day they looked for the coming of the Messiah. Now here was the Messiah right in front of them. The Messiah was cradled in Simeon’s arms. Anna must have witnessed this and heard what Simeon had said. When she saw and heard it, we are told she “gave thanks to God.” (Verse 38) She, too, felt joy at the arrival of the Messiah.
They felt peace. Simeon started his song with the words, “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you may now dismiss your servant in peace.” (Verse 29) The peace that he is speaking of is the very special peace that only the Christian can have. The rest of the world goes along its merry way as it sins. But, on Judgment Day, they will be held accountable for their sins. They will be filled with terror when they are face-to-face with the holy God. They will have no peace in hell. But the Christian can have true peace with God. Because of what Jesus has done for us, we are no longer God’s enemies. We are at peace with God. We can come before God in total confidence because we can point to Jesus’ work of salvation and how it is ours through faith. This peace the unbeliever will never know.
The Christian also has the peace of mind in knowing that all things in their lives are there for their good. God always has our good in mind. He may allow a difficulty to enter our lives, so that we realize that we were placing our trust in something or someone else other than him. He may be, by that difficulty, helping us to cling more tightly to him. With some difficulties in our lives, we may see why God has allowed them to come. With others we may never see why. We can be sure of the fact that God is our loving Father, who only wants all things to be for our good. That is the peace that Christ brought.
But, before we just see that Christ Child as a brightly wrapped Christmas gift, we also would do well to look at Simeon’s words to Mary. He said, “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed.” (Verses 34&35) This came true during Jesus’ lifetime as the leaders of the Jewish people refused to accept Jesus as their messiah who had been promised to their forefathers. They showed that their faith had become misguided. The Messiah they sought was one who would free them from Roman rule, or one who would follow all their man-made rules. When Jesus did not live up to their expectations, they put him to death. Their thoughts were revealed in their actions. Their unbelief became very clear.
There were people who did believe and became the core of the church. Their faith was also revealed by their actions as they worked to spread the message of the Savior to the world. While Jesus was a stumbling block to some, to others he was the foundation stone on which their faith was built.
Those two reactions are still in evidence today. There are many today who reject Jesus as their only Savior from sin. They refuse to believe the fact that they are sinners, in need of a savior. They oppose the idea that Jesus saved them from their sins. There are also those who have been brought to believe in Jesus as their Savior. They confess their sins and, through Spirit-given faith, accept the peace which can only come from knowing that their sins are forgiven. This is the division that the Christ would bring, as Simeon had prophesied.
Simeon and Anna were not priests in the temple. They had not gone through extensive, religious training. They were lay people, who were acting on their faith. They were able to answer the question, “What child is this?”. Even though you may not have gone through a specialized, intensive religious training, you can still answer the questions, as well. “What Child Is This?” He is our salvation, who brings peace to sin-tormented souls. We thank God that he has created this faith in our hearts that tells us who Jesus is and what he means to us. May each of us be ever ready to testify who Jesus is. May we always be ready to share with others the answer to the question, “What Child is this?”. Amen.
St. John's & Zion Lutheran Churches ©2024 All rights reserved.