2022:Sundays of Easter

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Christ Will Return (Acts 1:6-11)

Note: the following was written by Pastor Rendahl but delivered by Richard Haynes, a lay leader at Christus Rex.

Message prayer: 

Oh dearest Jesus, we thank you for the perfect life you lead, the innocent suffering and death on the cross, and most of all, your resurrection from the dead.  You showed that death has no power over you, and because of the faith given to us by the Holy Spirit, we know that we too will one day ascend into Heaven to be with you forever. Thank you for your grace!  In your holy name we pray; amen.

Message:

  • Introduction: Today’s sermon was supposed to be entitled, “Not Chosen?”  Pastor Rendahl had plans to preach from the First Reading from the Book of Acts, but there wasn’t sufficient time to write a sermon for today while getting ready to travel a couple thousand miles, conduct a wedding of his dad with a beautiful gift of a bride named Melody, and then get onto a cruise ship where he was supposed to enjoy himself for a little bit.  So, he borrowed from a text he preached in 2013 about the Ascension of our Lord Jesus back into heaven from where he came.  Ascension Day was just this past Thursday and it is worth revisiting what that means to us believers to this day.  Besides, since he adapted this sermon for me to speak with inspiration from the same Holy Spirit who guides us all, Pastor is hedging on the commitment to never repeat a sermon.  He’ll have me do it instead. J  Full disclosure: this sermon is significantly different than then original in 2013, but maybe we will need him to prove it when he’s back next week.
  • Background: As just mentioned, last Thursday (5/26) was the celebration of Jesus ascending back into heaven from where He came to us. Jesus ascended into Heaven 40 days after rising from the dead.  We read from Act 1:3 - 3 After his suffering, he presented himself to them and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.  Over the course of those 40 days, the Apostle Paul noted that Jesus appeared to the Disciples and other who had been associated with Jesus’ 3yr ministry.
    • You would think that after spending 3yrs with someone as the Disciples did, they would understand the teachings Jesus gave them. However, the Disciples still did not understand Jesus’ purpose for coming to us in our flesh - even after He rose from the dead. 
      • This example I’m about to give indicates how clueless the Disciples were at times during Jesus’ ministry.  I’ve chuckled about the wording for years.  It’s from the New International Version (NIV) English translation of the Bible, but it is not far off from the Greek.  In frustration, Jesus once asked the Disciples, “Are you still so dull?” (Mat 15:16)  Jesus had just had another one of those encounters with the Pharisees that did not end well.  Jesus then turned to the crowd and said, 11 “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” (Mat 15:11)  Not long after that, the Apostle Peter asked Jesus to explain that statement to the Disciples.
      • I can just see Jesus’ eyes roll after Peter asked that question.  The Disciples did not yet have the gift of the Holy Spirit who enables all believers in Christ to remember Jesus’ words and to understand them.  Jesus went on to teach that what goes into the body does not defile a person.  What goes in eventually comes out and that’s that.  However, from out of the evil that exists in all of us that we inherited from our first parents, comes 19…evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.  evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. 20These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them.” (Mat 15:19b-20)
      • The Disciples thought Jesus came back to restore Israel, returning to the good ole days when David was king over united Israel. In the time period just prior to our First Reading for today, the Disciples asked Jesus,  6 “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” (Act 1:6b) They were still looking for Jesus to be the earthly king they wanted so that Israel would no longer be under the authority of a foreign power – especially the polytheistic culture of the Romans who had more gods than anyone has fingers and toes.  Additionally, if you recall, the Disciples James & John, wanted to be sitting at Jesus’ right and left hands ruling alongside of Him.  Hmm, maybe this restoration of an earthly kingdom could work out well for the Disciples? J
      • This misconception of Jesus restoring an earthly kingdom was reinforced by God’s promise to King Solomon in 1Ki 9:5 - 5 I will establish your royal throne over Israel forever, as I promised David your father when I said, ‘You shall never fail to have a successor on the throne of Israel.’  The disciples also knew Jesus’ human heritage per Luke 2:4 - 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.
      • They looked to Jesus to be a mere fulfillment of re-establishing the rule of King David on earth.  And yet, what did Jesus say to Pontius Pilate when Pilate was examining Jesus?  36 Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jewish leaders. But now my kingdom is from another place.” (John 18:36)  There are people to this day who think Jesus will come back to earth for a thousand year reign.  Pastor Rendahl once thought that himself, so don’t be embarrassed if you still think this way, but it’s just not true.  When Jesus returns, that’s it for the world.  It will be the last day of the reign of corruption that exists in this Age. Those in Christ on that day will stand up and cheer for their salvation is near (Luke 21:28).
  • Analysis: Wouldn’t it have been great if Jesus would have stayed in this Age to rule?  Why couldn’t Jesus stay with us in bodily form?
    • He went to prepare a place for each believer The Apostle John recorded Jesus saying, 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.  (John 14:2-3)  That’s what salvation ultimately looks like. 
      • Salvation won’t be heaven on earth as some people like to characterize a place they really like to visit.  Pastor and Karla are on a cruise to the Bahamas right now and no doubt living the good life.  But I’m sure if Pastor were here today, he’d tell us Nassau, Bahamas is only a sliver of what heaven is like.  Last week in church we read from Revelation chapter 21 which is where the Apostle John described the new heaven and new earth created for God to dwell with His people throughout eternity.  The old order of things had passed away.
    • All the members of the Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, want us to live with them for eternity in their place.  They don’t want us to live eternally in this world corrupted with sin.  They don’t want their most prized creation attacking each other.  But that’s what life would look like had the human race been allowed to eat from the tree of life.  We would have been stuck forever with no way out of this evil generation.  When it comes right down to it, would you rather have heaven on earth, or us go to heaven?  Wouldn’t it be better to go to a place Jesus prepared for us ahead of time where He can rule in peace, and we gladly follow Him free from the corruption of sin?
    • This swap of living conditions would not be possible without Jesus performing the work of salvation.  We had to first be cleansed of the original sin we inherited from our first parents, and cleansed from all the evil we committed throughout our life.
      • Additionally, had Jesus not left, we would never have been given the gift of faith provided by the Holy Spirit.  We would not be filled with the Holy Spirit.  John recorded Jesus saying,  7 But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7)  That advocate is the Holy Spirit.  The coming of the Holy Spirit will be something we celebrate next Sunday which is the anniversary of Pentecost.  This was a big deal so that we believers in Christ would not be so dull as the Disciples displayed during Jesus’ ministry.
  • Conclusion: What are we supposed to do while Jesus is gone from view?
    • We are to be witnesses unto the ends of the earth. Just before Jesus ascended back into heaven, Luke, the Gospel writer, recorded from his research something Jesus instructed all of us to be doing - 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Act 1:8b  We have the precious gift of knowing Jesus and what He accomplished for us.
    • We are to assist pastors in making disciples per the “Great Commission” in Mat 28:19-20 - 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
      • We should not keep the gifts we regularly received from the Lord here at Christus Rex only to ourselves.  There are a lot of people outside of this fellowship of saints who are hurting.  They have no hope in their life.  In  our church services during the season of Easter, we would stand before the reading of the Gospel for the day.  Additionally, we would speak the triple Alleluia which is tripled because of giving honor to each member of the Trinity.  However, in Divine Service IV (4), we also confess along with the original Disciples, “Lord to whom shall we go?  You have the words of eternal life.” We regularly hear the Word of God which builds more faith and trust in our Lord.  God’s word is there for everyone – not just a select few as some churches teach.  Unfortunately, not everyone will wind up in heaven, because they, like the Pharisees mentioned at the beginning of this message, rejected the words of eternal life. But that should not stop us from speaking the truth in love and patience.
    • And lastly, we should always focus on the hope we have in our life. Because of the work Jesus accomplished for us in cleansing us from our sin, the day is coming when we too will be with the multitudes in Heaven, because of the work of salvation that Jesus accomplished for all who believe in Him!  Rev 5:11-13 - 11 Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. 12 In a loud voice they were saying: “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!” 13 Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying: “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”  Remind yourself of this hope we have then next time you get overwhelmed with the garbage that is going on right now.  The tiny congregation of Christus Rex may be surrounded by enemies of Christ.  No one knows for sure except God.  However, the day is coming when we in Christ will encircle the throne of the Almighty, Sovereign God and be surrounded by His people – our fellow redeemed.  This hope is not false hope.  It *will* be coming true some day in our eternal life. Amen.

Jesus Settled It! (John 16:33)

  • Introduction: Our text for today is a verse from the Gospel according to John - 33 These I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation. But take courage; I have conquered the world[1].  Jesus said these words on the night before His execution, Roman style.  It was said to His disciples, but do you think it was recorded for us as well?
    • We will spend time looking into the unusual verb tenses the Apostle John used to record Jesus’ words. From these, we can draw the conclusion that Jesus is encouraging us to have peace in 2022.  We can have peace because He has already conquered the world.
  • Let us pray: Lord Jesus, we are grateful for the words You have spoken which were recorded for us by those inspired by the Holy Spirit to do so. Like Your disciples on that first Maundy Thursday, we too look forward to the consummation of the victory You have already won for us over sin, death, and the devil.  We are grateful You have settled this for us because we couldn’t. Send the Holy Spirit to build in us the true faith, so that we grasp onto this victory and have peace.  We pray this through You Lord Jesus, who lives and reigns with the Father, and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.
  • Background: As mentioned in last week’s message, chapters of John 13-16 inclusive are just of Jesus’ celebration of Passover with the disciples on Maundy Thursday.
    • Jesus’ final moments were of encouraging words and instructions.  This is the occasion when Jesus washed the feet of the disciples to demonstrate humility.  It was a time when Jesus repeatedly stated He would be going back to heaven, so that the Holy Spirit would come upon them and remind them of what Jesus spoke and taught to them in word and actions throughout the past 3yrs. 
    • Probably most important thing Jesus did that night was the fulfilling of the Old Covenant, that is the Passover, as promised in Jer 31:31-33 - 31 “Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. 33 “For this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord: “I will put My law within them and write it on their heart; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people[2]
      • The Old Covenant was promised in Ex 12:12-13 – 12 For I will go through the land of Egypt on that night, and fatally strike all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, from the human firstborn to animals; and against all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments—I am the Lord. 13 The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live; and when I see the blood I will pass over you, and no plague will come upon you to destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt[3].
      • The New Covenant is what Jesus instituted because the Old Covenant was not something our forefathers in the faith (the Israelites) kept.  Please don’t take that as antisemitic, because had we been living at the time of the exodus, we probably would have been just as short-sighted as they were.  We’re all of the same corrupted flesh that got messed up when our first parents decided to rebel against our Lord.  Mankind has chosen rebellion against God ever since that first sin.
        • We know the “new Covenant” to be the Lord’s Supper, something we celebrate every Sunday at Christus Rex.  The Apostle Paul wrote by inspiration – 23 For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night when He was betrayed, took bread; 24 and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, “This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” 25 In the same way He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.[4]” 
  • Definitions: Before we get into the details of John 16:33, we need to review some English grammar.  With this particular grammar lesson, the original Greek and English are the same. There is verb tense called the “perfect”.  Perfect tense verbs are those with the action completed in the past.  When translating a Greek “perfect” into English, the translator must add the word “have”.  Listen for example to the sentence “I have eaten cookies.”  The verb “eaten” has the helper word, “have”.  I’m not eating cookies right now.  The pleasure of eating cookies was done sometime in the past. 😋
    • Perfects are rare in the New Testament Greek. Only 5% of all verbs are perfects.  Despite their rarity, there are *two* perfects in John 16:33; the verbs “have spoken” (Greek: λελάληκα - leh-la’-lay-kah) and “have conquered” (Greek: νενίκηκα – neh-nih’-kay-kah).
    • Additionally, there is one imperative or command in the Greek of John 16:33.  That word is Greek: θαρσεῖτε (thar-say'- teh) which means to take courage.  The perfects are an indication to the disciples on that first Maundy Thursday that the actions of spoken and conquered have already occurred.  On that basis, Jesus then indicated to the disciples they should take heart or take courage in the fact that He already conquered all evil.  The plan to do so had already been made within the Trinity since before the earth was created.
  • Words of Peace: With these verb tenses briefly covered, let’s now dig into the details of our text.  Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you so that in Me you may have peace.” (1st sentence of John 16:33)
    • Unfortunately, due to rebellion, the words of the Lord don’t always bring peace. They can bring division. This happens in families as Jesus warned in Luke 12:49-53.  But we also see today how some loudmouths in politics and other influential places make policies to exclude anything to do with God’s word.   In a rare 9-0 decision by the US Supreme Court in Shurtleff v. City of Boston[5] earlier this month, the Court ruled the City of Boston couldn’t allow everyone except Christians from displaying a flag at the City Hall. I guess tolerance of all beliefs and lifestyles ends when it comes to God’s word being presented even symbolically in the form of the Christian flag.  The City of Boston provided a blatant example of the division amongst people that Jesus’ word can evoke in those who hate Him.
    • But Jesus’ word does bring peace. We receive peace with the understanding of forgiveness of sins.  Jesus once dined with a church leader at the leader’s home.  An apparently very overtly sinful woman learned of Jesus’ visit to her town.  She barged into the church leader’s home with a jar of perfume.  She approached Jesus and with her own tears wash His feet, then wiped His feet dry with her hair.  Pretty messy stuff if you ask me, but that’s how sin looks to God.  She then poured the perfume onto Jesus’ feet. The church leader host was scandalized that Jesus was allowing this filthy sinner of a woman to touch Him in any way (Luke 7:36-39).
      • Jesus then told a parable about two people who owed a debt. One of them owed 500 denarii and the other 50.  Neither could pay the debt back so the lender canceled the debt of both.  After this, Jesus asked the church leader, of the two debtors, who would love the lender more?  The leader supposed the one who owed more than the other.  Jesus made the point that the filthy sinner of a woman was forgiven of much.  The debt of her sins was lifted off from her by Jesus and therefore she loved Him very much (Luke 7:40-50).
        • We can draw from this parable that the more we are in touch with our own sinfulness, the more peace we will find in knowing that Jesus has paid the price for *all* our sins.  Nothing is left.  We no longer have any reason to constantly replay in our mind all the evil things we have done in the past and now regret.  That means there is peace in our soul instead of torment and tribulation.
    • Earlier the evening Jesus was handed over to the mob to be executed, He said the following to the disciples - 25 “These things I have spoken to you while remaining with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and remind you of all that I said to you. 27 Peace I leave you, My peace I give you; not as the world gives, do I give to you. Do not let your hearts be troubled, nor fearful[6].  In this passage, Jesus said another one of those perfects with the statement “have spoken”. The Holy Spirit would eventually come to them, and all believers, to remind of Jesus’ words.  We’ve discussed this previously, but it’s worth repeating that the Holy Spirit works non-stop to this day, reminding us of Jesus’ words He spoke.  The presence of the gift of faith brings peace that God is in charge.  Faith is why Jesus’ words are so pleasing to a soul troubled by sin and all the evil encroaching on us daily.  It really doesn’t matter how things turn out in this life when Jesus made us sinless.  Being sinless is our only ticket into heaven.
  • Take Courage (θαρσεῖτε): Jesus said in our text – “But take courage; I have conquered the world.”  He also said this to the Israelites through Moses during the exodus - …Moses said to the people, “Do not fear!  Stand by and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will perform for you today; for the Egyptians whom you have seen today, you will never see them again, ever[7].
    • The NASB20 rendered the Greek: θαρσεῖτε as “Do not fear!” However, in the Septuagint, it’s the same Greek word in both the Exodus and John passages.  Moses spoke to the Israelites the words of peace from the Lord as Egyptian soldiers were about to recapture the Israelites into slavery (Ex 14:5-9).  The Israelites forgot about the Ten Plagues of God’s weaponry when they saw the most powerful army on earth at the time bearing down on them.  11 …they said to Moses, “Is it because there were no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you dealt with us in this way, bringing us out of Egypt? 12 Is this not the word that we spoke to you in Egypt, saying, leave us alone so that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness![8]”  There’s that foolish rebellion against God on display once again in the lack of faith. Yes, even when it seems all evil is about to press in and kill, Jesus says, “take courage; I have conquered the world.”  The gift of faith from the Holy Spirit enables us to trust in Jesus’ words.
  • Conclusion: Jesus encourages us to have peace in the midst of the tribulation of 2022.  The tribulation for example of an inflation rate over 8% we all are enduring right now means people on a fixed income may get wiped out, just like it looked to the Israelites when the Egyptian army had them cornered at the Gulf of Aqaba.  Will the Lord allow His people to suffer? Yes, as it was not His idea for us to rebel against Him in the first place.  And yet, He told us to take courage no matter what the circumstances look like.  Jesus has settled the tribulation.
    • Like in 1450BC at the time of the exodus, we too need to have courage through faith in Jesus.  He has already conquered sin, death, and the devil when He said from the cross, “It is finished!” (John 19:30)
    • He says to us before eating and drinking the Lord’s Supper, “Peace be with you”.  That isn’t by accident.  This was the same message Jesus said to the Apostles when He appeared to them after rising from the dead (John 20:21,26).  Remember that evening of the first Easter when Jesus suddenly appeared to the disciples?  And again, a week later when Jesus appeared to the disciples with Thomas present?
    • Because He conquered, we like the Israelites will never see tribulation again once we are in heaven. We know this to be true, because Jesus said, “…there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.[9]”  
      • Furthermore, as we read from the Epistle for today, nothing will ever get into heaven to cause evil which brings about tribulation. We read earlier, “…and nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into [heaven], but only those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life[10]
    • Until then, take the Apostle Paul’s God-breathed advice as written in Php 4:6-7 and remember - Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and pleading with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus[11]. Amen.

[1] Original translation of mGNT at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/jhn/16/1/t_conc_1013033

[2] Jer 31:31-33 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=jer+31&version=NASB

[3] Ex 12:12-13 from NASV20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ex+12&version=NASB

[4] 1Co 11:23-25 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=1co+11&version=NASB

[5] Facts gleaned from https://adflegal.org/press-release/us-supreme-court-rules-boston-cant-exclude-christian-flag-when-allowing-other-flags

[6] John 14:25-27 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+14&version=NASB

[7] Ex 14:13 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/exo/14/1/t_conc_64013

[8] Ex 14:11-12 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ex+14&version=NASB

[9] Rev 21:4b from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/rev/21/1/s_1188001

[10] Rev 21:27, ibid

[11] Php 4:6-7 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=php+4&version=NASB

Holy Spirit Speaking (John 16:13)

  • Introduction: Our text for consideration on today is from a portion of the Gospel reading from John - “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.  Jesus was preparing the disciples for the first Pentecost on the night in which He was handed over to the Romans for execution. However, this text also sets us up for Pentecost which will be celebrated on June 5th this year. 
    • The disciples, on what turned out to be the first Maundy Thursday, learned about the work of the Holy Spirit.  We too have this same passage apply to us in 2022 regarding the work of the Holy Spirit which includes these items: He brought us to faith; He invites us and enables us to believe; He makes us holy by bringing us to Jesus and strengthens our faith along with giving us new desires to do what is pleasing in the Father’s sight.  This work could not have happened until Jesus ascended back into heaven.
  • Let us pray: O Holy Spirit, we are grateful for the work You do for us each moment we live in this Age.  Like the disciples of our Lord Jesus on that first Maundy Thursday, we too look forward to the celebration of the Feast of Pentecost which was the commissioning of Your work through Baptism and the Word.  Work in us to yield to your testimony in our soul, so that we grow in faith.  We pray this through the Lord Jesus, who lives and reigns with You and the Father, one God, now and forever.  Amen.
  • Background: In John chapters 13-16 inclusive, Jesus was addressing the disciples on the night of the celebration of the Passover.  What made the occasion known to us as Maundy Thursday is the institution of the New Covenant which we find in the Lord’s Supper.
    • Later that evening, Jesus would be delivered over to the Gentiles as He foretold long before that night.  We read from Luke 18:31-33a - 31 Now He took the twelve aside and said to them, “Behold, we are going up to Jerusalem, and all the things that have been written through the prophets about the Son of Man will be accomplished. 32 For He will be handed over to the Gentiles, and will be ridiculed, and abused, and spit upon, 33 and after they have flogged Him, they will kill Him…[1]
    • But after being killed on a cross less than a day after celebrating the Passover and instituting the New Covenant, He would rise on the third day (Luke 18:33b).
    • Once risen, Jesus would appear to people in the 40 days following that glorious first Easter Sunday (1Co 15:4-8). He then had to go back to heaven so that the Holy Spirit could do His work in the final days of this Age (John 16:7).
      • Otherwise, the disciples (and us) would remain spiritually dead with no understanding.  After Jesus foretold to the disciples how he would die, the Evangelist Luke wrote - 34The disciples understood none of these things, and the meaning of this statement was hidden from them, and they did not comprehend the things that were said[2].  
  • Small Catechism References: Let’s keep this passage in mind as we ask a fundamental question about our text from John 16:13 which I repeat - “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.
    • What is the work of the Holy Spirit in these last days of our world’s existence since Jesus’ ascension into heaven?  Luther’s Small Catechism is excellent source material about the work of the Holy Spirit, amongst other doctrines of the church.  The Catechism poses questions, then answers them with the scriptures.  Luther created this format of teaching, because the scriptures are the ultimate authority in the church.  What is neat about the Small Catechism is these questions are numbered for future reference.  In your outline, I have three questions posed in the Catechism that are answered with the scriptures.
      • I will read three questions that are relevant to answering the fundamental question regarding the work of the Holy Spirit.  We will then explore the answers in the scriptures to those questions.
    • Question 187: Why can I not come to faith in Jesus by my own reason or strength?
    • Question 188: What does it mean that the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel?
    • Question 190: What does it mean to be sanctified by the Spirit?
  • His Work, Point 1: Now let’s answer these questions starting with Question 187.  Apart from the Holy Spirit, we are spiritually blind and dead.
    • Well, that’s a happy thought.  And yet, most of the mainline religions have abandoned this concept of being born spiritually blind and dead.  However, for those religions who have remained steadfast in the scriptures, the Apostle Paul provides the proof on how depraved all of us are apart from Christ – And you were dead in your offenses and sins, in which you previously walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all previously lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the rest[3]
    • How well does a dead plant in your yard suddenly come to life on its own?  It can’t, can it?  This same concept applies to a person dead in sin.  They cannot accept God on their own.  They cannot suddenly come to life and choose Jesus as their savior. Listen to another of Paul’s inspired writings – But a natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned[4]
    • It is only through the external effort by the Holy Spirit who opens our mind to God.  Otherwise we would have eyes but not see, and ears but not hear.  We would not know or understand the will of God the Father unless the Holy Spirit revealed God’s will and His thoughts.  No one else except Jesus would know the Father well enough to testify to us regarding what the Father thinks (1Co 2:10-11).  This is how the Holy Spirit can accurately inform us about the truth.  Paul wrote - Now we have not received the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God[5].
  • His Work, Point 2: Our second question is being called to life by the Holy Spirit through the Gospel (Q188).  The Holy Spirit invites and enables us to believe in Jesus.
    • The Apostle’s Creed was written by men sometime in the 1st century as a summary of the Christian faith.  Martin Luther in the 15th century provided an explanation in the Small Catechism for what is confessed when we say the Apostle’s Creed.  One point Luther made about the 3rd Article of the Creed, which addresses the Holy Spirit, is we confess the Holy Spirit calls us by the Gospel. From where did Luther get this idea?  We find this in another of the Apostle Paul’s Spirit-inspired writings - 13 But we should always give thanks to God for you, brothers and sisters beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. 14 It was for this He called you through our gospel, that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ[6]
    • The gospel itself has the power of salvation (Rom 1:16).  The Holy Spirit provides the power through the word of God for spiritually blind and dead people to come to life through the Word. 
      • This is why it is so important for any messages from this pulpit to have the associated scriptural references for whatever is being said. The power for you & I to believe in Jesus is not provided by the pastor in this pulpit who delivers a sermon. It literally is the scriptures themselves which provide faith to believe in Jesus.  The Apostle Paul wrote - So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ[7]. In summary for Question 188, the Holy Spirit reaches us through the gospel by calling us to repentance from our sins and sinfulness, which is our spiritual “deadness”.  He also provides the faith to grasp onto Jesus’ mercy in the forgiveness He won for us in His innocent death and resurrection from the dead.
  • His Work, Point 3a: Another work of the Holy Spirit even in 2022 is His efforts of sanctification.  What does it mean to be sanctified (Q190)?  It means the Holy Spirit made us holy by bringing us to Jesus.  What was Jesus whole purpose in becoming a man?  In short, so He could be like us and win for us salvation from our spiritual blindness and deadness.  He did this because we couldn’t in that condition make ourselves holy as God the Father is holy.  We needed the power of God to make us holy.
    • We were washed through baptism from our sins of immorality, idolatry, thievery, and greediness – just to name a few sinful states of spiritual blindness and deadness.  Those sins are gone from a penitent sinner.  We were also sanctified by the Holy Spirit, which means we were made righteous before God the Father.  We know this from what Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians - …but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God[8]
  • His Work, Point 3b: Additionally, the Holy Spirit strengthens our faith and gives us the desire to please the Father just as Jesus sought to please the Father. Getting back to the plant analogy from earlier, there are no pretty flowers popping out from a dead plant.  In our blind and dead state apart from the Trinity, there is nothing pretty about us – at all.   There’s nothing that plant can do about making itself pretty to us either. It needs something from outside of itself to make it pretty.  It was the plan of the Trinity before the foundations of the earth were laid that each person of the Trinity would play a role in bringing us alive to be pretty. The Apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians - For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them[9]
  • Conclusion: None of this work of the Holy Spirit we spent the past several minutes reviewing would have come until Jesus ascended into heaven.  In John ch#7, the Apostle John observed - 38 The one who believes in [Jesus], as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’” 39 But this [Jesus] said in reference to the Spirit, whom those who believed in Him were to receive; for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified[10]
    • Jesus foretold of many things prior to His horrible death and subsequent resurrection.  Jesus as a prophet called it before it happened so to speak so we can believe His prophesy.  He said as much in John 14:29 - “And now I have told you before it happens, so that when it happens, you may believe[11].
    • I want to again emphasize neither the disciples nor us would be able to understand the words of Jesus if it weren’t for the work of the Holy Spirit.  Two chapters prior to our text in John 16 is something Jesus also said on the night He was delivered over to be killed - “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and remind you of all that I said to you[12]
    • Jesus did not want to leave His children as orphans (John 14:18).  He knew His days in this Age were numbered.  He would no longer appear to us in person, because His ministry would be fulfilled.  So, the Holy Spirit fills that void left when Jesus ascended back into heaven.  We are *not* orphaned children.  We are adopted sons of God, and the Holy Spirit maintains that status in us.
      • One final reading of our text from John 16 - But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. The source of what the Holy Spirit speaks is the same source Jesus used for His words.  They are the words of the Father (John 14:10).
      • The words we hear from the Holy Spirit are also from the Father (John 16:12-15).
      • We therefore can be assured that though we have grief now because we don’t see Jesus with us here now, we nonetheless will rejoice forever (John 16:22).  We know this, because Jesus indicated this in John 16:22, but also the Holy Spirit reminds us of this in our soul.  Both of them have spoken to us what the Father wants us to know.  He wants us back with Him in a perfect place far from the corruption of this Age.  He went through a lot of trouble to make this possible, and He has provided of Himself in His one and only Son, and of His Spirit, to do everything possible to make this happen. Amen!

[1] Luke 18:31-33a from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=luke+18&version=NASB

[2] Luke 18:34, ibid

[3] Eph 2:1-3 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=eph+2&version=NASB

[4] 1Co 2:14 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/1co/2/1/s_1064001

[5] 1Co 2:12, ibid

[6] 2Th 2:13-14 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2th+2&version=NASB

[7] Rom 10:17 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/rom/10/1/s_1056001

[8] 1Co 6:11 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/1co/6/1/s_1068001

[9] Eph 2:8-10 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=eph+2&version=NASB

[10] John 7:38-39 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+7&version=NASB

[11] John 14:29  from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/jhn/14/1/s_1011001

[12] John 14:26, ibid

Fish in the Right Place (John 21:6)

  • Introduction: An interesting real-life lesson occurred this past week.  Last Monday on my off day, I finally had all of the parts and tools to complete a network cabling project in my home.  More about the project in a moment, but there was point in the project when I had to drill a hole large enough to fish six (6) network cables. That’s so they reached the backside of a wall receptacle.
    • You can probably see this coming: I didn’t drill a 7/8” hole where I should have drilled it.  This is similar to the disciples in our Gospel reading for today who fished in the wrong place and came up empty (John 21:6).
    • What does fishing network cables through a wall and disciples fishing on the Sea of Galilee have to do with each other?  They both make the point that we can be fishing in entirely the wrong place from where the Lord wants us to be.  Therefore, the lesson we all can learn from today’s Gospel is we need to fish for souls where Jesus has advised us to fish (Luke 5:10).
  • Let us pray: Lord Jesus, we acknowledge You to be everywhere at once, all-knowing, and all powerful.  And yet, there are times in our life when we ignore what You instruct us to do in order to stay out of trouble or waste time on things that do not yield good results. Send the Holy Spirit to remind us that You and the Father speak with us directly – through the Holy Spirit.  All baptized members of Your body have the Holy Spirit ever-present in us.  Help us to overcome our fears, so that we do the work in this Age You ask us to do.  We pray this through You, Lord Jesus, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
  • Illustration: As you have probably heard, I now work what is called a “9/80” schedule with Pima County Information Technology.  That provides me with every other Monday off from work, because I now work 9hr days.  I always did anyway, but now there’s at least something in it for me that wasn’t there before. 😊  Last Monday happened to be my one day off in ten (10).  I had been planning a home network cabling project for some time. Last Monday was the day to finally wire our home office network so that I could mount networking equipment in our laundry room, high up and out of the way.
    • Any time there is pulling of networking cables, there is some drilling involved.  Thankfully this is up in the attic of the house.  I say thankfully, only if it’s not hot out.  It is not an exact science as to where to drill a hole sufficiently wide to, in my case pull six (6), Category-5 enhanced (Cat-5e) cables to a new network outlet I cut into one of the office walls. 
      • So, I took a lot of measurements and corrected for some obstructions to getting accurate measurements.  I “toned out” an existing networking cable, and wires leading to an electrical outlet on the other side of the wall where the network jacks were being installed.  To “tone out” wires is to literally send an audible signal across the wires. Once in the attic, I used a specially prepared microphone to hear the tone by scanning wires running through the attic.  After all this work, which I’ve done scores of times, intuition spoke – drill 11” from power cable coming up to the attic even though ending on the opposite side of the wall.
      • I get up into the attic and an argument broke out in my mind after I measured 11” from the power cable.  That measurement didn’t seem right.  Has that ever happened to you when you’re pretty confident about something only to confuse your confidence with something other idea?  Picture this: I’m up in the attic that’s getting hotter & hotter by the moment and now I have a devil on one shoulder telling me drill 15” from that same power cable, while an angel the other is reminding me to drill 11” away.
    • I had cut the hole in the office wall for the network jacks before going up into the attic.  I took a strong light and shined it into the hole so that when I drilled the hole from above between the wall of two rooms, I would know right away whether I hit the mark. The result?
      • I had a new hole between the walls with no sign of any light. Well, maybe I’m too far to the west and the hole is under me.  No problem; I’ll fish the cables through the hole and I will find the wad of cables from the hole in the office wall.  Nope! I was between the wrong set of studs – not something I usually do.
      • I guess that settled the argument between the angels giving me advice. ☹  I then drilled where wisdom originally advised.  It’s still early in the project.  I didn’t have to leave the house until 3PM.  I get the second hole drilled at 11” from my mark – and saw no light! 
    • I cannot repeat everything I said at that moment.  Frustration welled up in me and I lashed out at the Lord saying, “what am I supposed to do; drill holes into the cross beam all afternoon?” I aimed anger at the Lord like a spoiled child not getting its way.  I hadn’t read the lessons for this Sunday at that time, but when I did, I did not find Jesus’ name for the disciples at all strange - “Children, you do not have any fish to eat, do you?[1]”  These were grown men Jesus was calling children, but as we know, Jesus calls them as He sees them.
      • After I calmed down for a moment, intuition spoke again to fish the cables through the new hole anyway.  I was reminded by the Lord that even through the frustration of fishing all night but catching nothing, the Lord suggested just one more attempt at catching fish.  Okay, as I bent over to prepare the bundle of cable to fish through the new hole, I saw the light I had been looking for.  It wasn’t the brilliant light the Apostle Paul saw on the way to Damascus, but in my mind, it was close.  The 11” measurement that the Lord had given to me in the first place was correct all along.
      • I apologized to the Lord right then & there, because He didn’t deserve the tirade I leveled at Him.  He was blessing me all the way throughout the project including giving to me the correct measurement I needed.  I’m sorry to this day, while at the same time knowing I’ve already been forgiven for everything said and the doubt shown.  Confession here in church conducted a moment ago meant a lot more to me than usual.
  • Lesson: What does this experience of mine have to do with any of the readings for today?  It relates well to the seven (7) disciples mentioned in the Gospel for today who went back to what they were doing before Jesus came along.  At least four (4) of them were fisherman.  It says in Mat 4:18 & 21 that Simon Peter, Andrew, and the brothers James & John were on the shore of the Sea of Galilee casting and cleaning their fishing nets.  Jesus called them away from that profession to following Him in what turned out to be a 3yr ministry.
    • Fast forward to our Gospel for today.  Jesus had risen from the dead, and met with His disciples twice prior.  Jesus found these seven (7) disciples out fishing instead of continuing in the ministry they were a part of for 3yrs.  And, to make matters worse, they fished in the wrong spot all night (John 21:2-3).
      • Maybe they were rusty after a 3yr hiatus from fishing.  But maybe, the Lord withdrew His blessing from them to catch fish, because He had other ideas for their careers.  I can identify with that as well.  There is no reason I shouldn’t be making a 6-figure salary at this stage of my IT career.  Think about it though: would it be easier or more difficult to decide to attend seminary for 4yrs non-stop had I been earning over $100k/yr?  I probably wouldn’t be here on today to lead the Lord’s people in worship and proclaim His word in truth and purity had I been earning a lot more money.  The love of money can corrupt any of us and I’m no exception.
      • Jesus advised the disciples to drop their net on the right side of the boat.  Presto; instant success! 153 fish were caught in the matter of moments (John 21:11).
        • By the way, no one thinks about the fish in this scenario.  You could observe it sucks for the fish which obeyed their Creator only to die and be eaten. And yet, the fish followed the advice of their Creator.  I suspect it worked out well for them ultimately.
  • Definition: There is a word in the Greek: ζωγρῶν (tzō-grōn) which means to take alive like a prisoner of war, or figuratively to capture or ensnare.
    • Jesus used this word in Luke 5:10 when He said to Simon, “Do not fear; from now on you will be catching people.”
      • The background for Luke 5:10 is the same as Matt Ch#4 I quoted from a moment ago.  It was Jesus at the start of His ministry calling some of His disciples to follow him, instead of continuing to fish the Sea of Galilee for something edible to sell. 
      • I speculate, but they must have forgotten that original calling when they reverted back to fishing.  From our text - Simon Peter, Thomas who was called Didymus, Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of His disciples were together. Simon Peter *said to them, “I am going fishing.” They *said to him, “We are also coming with you.” They went out and got into the boat; and that night they caught nothing[2]
      • The scenario of John 21 is the same as Luke 5, so it’s worth making the comparison:
        • In both scenarios, the disciples fished all night on the same lake.
        • Also, Jesus said the word, and they suddenly had nets overflowing with fish.  Those nets would normally tear with such a blessing of a catch, but the nets held up in order to bring the fish ashore.
        • Both Mat 4 & Luke 5 document the start of these disciple’s work in Jesus’ ministry.  John 21 book-ended what they thought was the end of Jesus’ ministry.  Looking ahead at the end of John 21, we read about Peter’s career being nothing but full-time in the ministry of calling people to repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Act 2:38).  The other six who were there fishing also spent the rest of their lives confessing Jesus as Lord.  Like the 153 fish which were caught after following the Lord’s direction, all of the disciples, except for the Apostle John, died a violent death.  Nonetheless, I suspect it worked out well for them ultimately.
  • Conclusion: It is Good Shepherd Sunday next week.  In John Ch#10, Jesus identified Himself as the Good Shepherd. We’ll talk more about that next week, but there is something to think about in setting up for next week.
    • Jesus’ sheep hear His voice when He advises.  We read from John 10:27 - “My sheep listen to My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me;[3]
      • The only thing that can forcibly steal (Greek: harpátzō) a sheep is the sheep not listening to the Good Shepherd and wandering off; nothing else!  Continuing from John 10 -  28 and I give [My sheep] eternal life, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand[4].  
    • On the other hand, sheep listening to Jesus can catch (Greek: variant of tzō-grōn) people from out of the devil’s trap.  Let me read something the Apostle Paul wrote to his son in the faith, Timothy - 24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, skillful in teaching, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, 26 and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will[5].  The words rendered here as “held captive” is the same word the Gospel writer Luke quoted Jesus telling the disciples they would become catchers of men.  The difference here is that Satan caught people up in his net of lies, and is holding them captive.  However, disciples of Christ including us to this day, can catch people out of the trap that Satan has them in.  From a Lutheran perspective, we believe that catching of people from out of Satan’s trap is done through the Word of God and the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
      • If we have the courage to admit it, we each have been advised by the Lord to fish somewhere.  Are we fishing in the right spot?
      • Looking around church on today, I would say we need to start listening to the Lord’s advice on where to be fishing for people.  The Psalmist wrote – 7b  …Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as on the day of Massah in the wilderness, “When your fathers put Me to the test. They tested Me, though they had seen My work.[6]” 
      • Please do not harden your heart when you hear Jesus’ voice. Don’t get confused like I did last Monday in the attic of my house.  I did eventually see light cast on the error of my ways, similarly to the Apostle Paul. We have a treasure in Christ (peace) to be shared with others and not kept to ourselves (2Ki 7:9).  There’s got to be someone with whom you can start sharing the peace of the Lord’s promises.  If they’re suffering, feel free to give them the phone number of the church.  The call will redirect to my cell phone.  I will be happy to work with friend and foe alike until the Lord directs me otherwise. Maybe, just maybe, when we follow the Lord’s advice, or better yet, His calling, we too can be catchers of men – to His glory and their eternal salvation. Amen!

[1] Portion of John 21:5 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/jhn/21/1/s_1018001

[2] John 21:2-3 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=john+21&version=NASB

[3] John 10:27 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/jhn/10/1/s_1007001

[4] John 10:28, ibid

[5] 2Ti 2:24-26 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=2ti+2&version=NASB

[6] Ps 95:7b-9 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ps+95&version=NASB

The Living God (Rev 1:17b-18)

  • Introduction: The Apostle John was approached by Jesus some Sunday in the 90’s AD. John was so scared by the vision of Jesus that he fell at Jesus’ feet like a corpse.  Jesus identified Himself to John as the first and the last in our text for today from Rev 1:17.   Additionally, He is the living one in verse 18.
    • Why the extreme fright?  After all, John spent 3yrs with Jesus in the late 20’s AD.  Shouldn’t he have recognized Jesus? John had only experienced the human side of Jesus, except for the Transfiguration, when he, his brother James, and Peter saw Jesus and were scared out of their minds.  When we see Jesus, we will see Him the way John saw Him as recorded in the book of Revelation.  Jesus will be in His glorified state, more like what you see on the bulletin front cover.
    • Jesus chose specific language in His identifying of Himself.  He is the living God, who as the Old Testament prophet Isaiah recorded, “I am the first and I am the last.[1]”  Being known as the “living God” sets up the contrast to a man-made god the OT prophet Jeremiah wrote about in Jer 10:5 – “They are like a scarecrow in a cucumber field, And they cannot speak; They must be carried, Because they cannot walk! Do not fear them, For they can do no harm, Nor can they do any good[2]”.
    • What I’m hoping we receive from this message on today is a reminder to put our faith and trust in the *living* God who has power even over death and hades, instead of a god who cannot see, hear, nor walk (Rev 9:20).
  • Let us pray: Lord Jesus, we acknowledge You to be as You identified Yourself to the Apostle John; the first; the last; the living God.  We also acknowledge having other gods is a denial of You, and the salvation You won for us.  Denial of You is the only unpardonable sin.  We make these acknowledgements by faith built in us through Your Word and the power of the Holy Spirit.  Send the Holy Spirit to increase our faith and trust in You and only You, for no one comes unto the Father except through You.  We pray this through You, Lord Jesus, who lives and reigns with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.
  • Background: Revelation is a summation of the entire Bible.  For those of you who regularly attend bible class after this service, you’ve seen the margin notes in my Bible throughout the Book of Revelation.  I have more margin notes of cross-references with other verses throughout the Bible than I have in any other book.
    • This is an interesting insight: during Jesus’ earthly ministry, words He spoke were words He had given to the prophets of old.  Jesus was referred to as the “angel of the Lord” in many places of the OT.  Matthew’s account of the Gospel is particularly filled with acknowledgements of Jesus’ words and actions fulfilling OT prophecies.  Psalm 22, written by King David and inspired by the Holy Spirit, had a lot of the words that Jesus thought and spoke from the cross.
      • Our text for today is no different despite being after Jesus’ ascension back into heaven.  Let me reread Rev 1:17b-18, but from an original translation from the Greek - 17b “Do not be afraid; I am the first and the last, 18 and the living One. I became a corpse, and behold, I am alive forevermore. And I hold the keys of death and of Hades.”
      • Jesus is the living God Isaiah recorded in Isa 44:6.  I read a portion of that a moment ago, but let me now read the entire verse - “This is what the LORD says, He who is the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of armies: ‘I am the first and I am the last, And there is no God besides Me[3].  There are some chapters of Isaiah where God the Father is speaking to Isaiah about His one and only Son.  Jesus referred to Himself from Isa 61 in a synagogue in Nazareth that the Father provided to Isaiah.
      • In our Revelation text, Jesus made a contrast between Himself and a god fashioned from human imagination. Listen to a description Isaiah recorded on how a god (small “g”) originated - The craftsman of wood extends a measuring line; he outlines it with a marker. He works it with carving knives and outlines it with a compass, and makes it like the form of a man, like the beauty of mankind, so that it may sit in a house[4].  The Lord later in Isa ch#44 is sarcastically humorous about the craftsman who took some wood and made a fire to cook and warm up with.  Still another piece from the same tree provided the wood for the craftsman to create an idol to worship[5].  Then the Lord said through Isaiah - 19 No one remembers, nor is there knowledge or understanding to say, “I have burned half of it in the fire and also have baked bread over its coals. I roast meat and eat it. Then I make the rest of it into an abomination, I bow down before a block of wood!” 20 He feeds on ashes; a deceived heart has misled him. And he cannot save himself, nor say, “Is there not a lie in my right hand?”
      • Now before you wonder how stupid it was for a person to manufacture an idol to worship, we do this sort of thing to this day.  We might not go through the trouble of handcrafting a wooden or stone image to worship, but we do place things higher in importance than our Lord.  It is idolatry to put anything more important than God.  That’s right out of the 1st Commandment – You shall have no other gods besides Me[6]!  Those other gods made with human hands or imagination cannot see, hear, nor walk. And yet, we will worship them by spending more of our time, talents, and treasures on what we feel is more important than our Lord (Jer 10:5, Rev 9:20).
    • Jesus was there at the creation of this world.  The prophet Jeremiah wrote about a hundred years after Isaiah - 10But the LORD is the true God; He is the living God and the everlasting King. The earth quakes at His wrath, And the nations cannot endure His indignation. 12It is He who made the earth by His power, who established the world by His wisdom; and by His understanding He has stretched out the heavens[7]
      • He has the power over death and the grave (Greek:hades).  Is there any god you’ve heard of that has raised someone from the dead other than Jesus?
      • Whatever happened to the Greek and later Roman gods?  How about the god of the Philistines named Dagon?  Idols and human-made gods do not endure.  They are here for maybe a couple generations and then tossed into the wastebasket of time, burned up for fuel, or melted down to make something of better use. None of these gods I just mentioned, or any others you’ve heard of created the heavens and the earth.  However, they will be consumed, if not already, at the end of this Age when Jesus returns for a second and final time (Jer 10:11).
  • Analysis: It may seem a bit confusing in Rev ch#1 regarding who is who. For instance, is Jesus the alpha (α) and omega (ω) who spoke in Rev 1:8, or the first and last as mentioned in Rev 1:17b?
    • The alpha & omega are in the same verse (v4) with God the Father identifying Himself.  Let me read the relevant portion of v4 - Grace to you and peace from Him who is, and who was, and who is to come, and from the seven spirits who are before His throne[8].  The seven spirits are attributes of the one, Holy Spirit.  We know this from Isa 11:2-3a.  We have to read on into Rev 1:5 to get the final clue on who of the Trinity in v4 is referred to as, “who is, and who was, and who is to come”.  The beginning of v5 – “and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth.[9]”  Well, if there are three persons of the Triune God, and we clearly have identified the Holy Spirit and Jesus, who’s left except God the Father?
      • This is why Jesus identified Himself as the first and the last in v17.  He did not want to confuse the Apostle John (nor us) with the Father’s identity.
      • This distinguishing of identities changes with Jesus’ claim in Rev 22:13 - “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.[10]”  Now this can be confusing.  Is John confused with who he is seeing?  Did he just make up the Book of Revelation, or did He actually see a glorified Jesus?
        • Recall Jesus was quoted by John in his Gospel account that Jesus is one with the Father.  Chapter 10 of the Gospel according to John is where Jesus identified Himself as the Good Shepherd.  However, there were faith-dead Jews who were arguing with Jesus about Him being God.  Jesus then overtly claimed in v30 - “I and the Father are one.[11]” In short, if you have trouble with who is who in Rev ch#1, Rev ch#22 will not make sense.  Jesus can claim the deity of the Father, the Alpha and Omega, because He is one with the Father.  Let’s not be like the Jews of Jesus’ time, or even some religions today, who deny Jesus is Lord God, equal with the Father and the Holy Spirit.  It doesn’t end well to deny Jesus as the only Son of God, who was also fully human.
    • Looking again into this question, why the difference in references to two distinct members of the Trinity?
      • The Father spoke of His eternalness again in v8, to reinforce the fact that He always existed – from before time, in the current time, and the time to come.
      • Jesus is also of that eternal generation, because of His oneness with the Father.  But, His role in our salvation is to be the first & last of His bride, the Christian Church on earth that we confess in the Creed.  Jesus is the first & last of the Church just as He was to the Israelites (Isa 44:6, 48:12).  He was the cloud by day and pillar of fire by night for the Israelites at the time of the exodus from Egypt[12].  He’s in a similar role for us members of the Christian Church on earth to this day.
  • Conclusion: All authority has been granted to Jesus by the Father.  That was pretty clear when Jesus was recorded by the Apostle Matthew – 18… “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me.[13]
    • It is also clear no authority is given to man to create idols to be gods.  Referring back to Isa ch#44 once again - Those who fashion an idol are all futile, and their treasured things are of no benefit; even their own witnesses fail to see or know, so that they will be put to shame[14]. If the people who make idols into gods do so in futility, what does that make their handiwork?  Wouldn’t a created god need to have authority conferred to it before someone starts to worship it?
      • These gods are worthless.  Listen to what the Psalmist wrote about created gods that had a beginning and an end - 15 The idols of the nations are nothing but silver and gold, The work of human hands. 16 They have mouths, but they do not speak; They have eyes, but they do not see; 17 They have ears, but they do not hear, Nor is there any breath at all in their mouths[15].
      • The creators of such gods become what they worship (Ps 135:18). They can look straight at something obvious such as the world around us, but not see the one true God’s intelligent design.  They can hear the word of God, but it might as well be the teacher on a Charlie Brown special going wha, wha, wha…
      • The thing about idols is we have good imaginations.  We don’t need a physical idol to practice idolatry. Listen to a partial definition of idolatry as provided by the Apostle Paul - Therefore, treat the parts of your earthly body as dead to sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry[16]. Guys are more susceptible to idolizing a beautiful woman and thinking impure thoughts.  That doesn’t mean gals are immune from idolizing something.
    • Rather than waste a lifetime chasing after idols, put faith & trust into the One who has authority – even over death and the grave (Rev 1:18).
      • John in Revelation was sometimes warned to not worship an angel when he would bow down to the person speaking.  That’s how you can tell in Revelation whether Jesus is addressing John or if it is an angel.  In our first reading from Acts ch#5, whose authority was shown by the apostles when they performed signs and mighty wonders?  Some of the people healed by them no doubt wanted to worship them. But they were mere mortal beings commissioned by Jesus to proclaim repentance for the forgiveness of sins[17].  The miracles they performed were only to serve as a sign of God’s authority granted to them to do good works in the name of Jesus
      • The authority the Apostles received from Jesus was in turn granted to Jesus by the Father.  We established that a moment ago.  Jesus once asked a crowd of church leaders He was teaching -  23 Which is easier, to say: ‘Your sins are forgiven you,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins,” He said to the man who was paralyzed, “I say to you, get up, and pick up your stretcher, and go home.[18]” Jesus has authority over sin that would keep us from entering the Father’s house.  The crowd at the time could see that through the miracle Jesus performed.  The miracle was recorded by Luke for us to also see the authority of Jesus over sin, death, and the devil.
      • ‘Just a reminder from last week: Death has no goad or sting nor victory (1Co 15:55) against adopted sons of God (Eph 1:4-5).  Yes, our corrupted, decaying body will die.  But in the moment, the twinkling of an eye, after a human body dies, those who have confessed Jesus as Lord in their words and actions will instantly be in heaven.  Death will never touch a soul in heaven ever again.
    • This Easter season, let us go forward worshipping the living God! If you have some sort of idol, get rid of it.  The work of the kingdom of our Lord needs to be first, and that work isn’t just Sunday mornings at 9AM here at Christus Rex.  It’s 24/7/365.  Any other kind of worship is idolatry which does not end well. Amen!

[1] Portion of Isa 44:6 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/isa/44/1/s_723001

[2] Jer 10:5 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/jer/10/1/s_755001

[3] Isa 44:6 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/isa/44/1/s_723001

[4] Isa 44:13, ibid

[5] Summary of Isa 44:14-17 inclusive

[6] Deu 5:7 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/deu/5/1/s_158001

[7] Jer 10:10,12 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/jer/10/1/s_755001

[8] Rev 1:4 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/rev/1/1/s_1168001

[9] Rev 1:5a, ibid

[10] Rev 22:13 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/rev/22/1/s_1189001

[11] John 10:30 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/jhn/10/1/s_1007001

[12] Ex 13:21-22

[13] Mat 28:18 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/mat/28/1/s_957001

[14] Isa 44:9 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/isa/44/1/s_723001

[15] Ps 135:15-17 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=ps+135&version=NASB

[16] Col 3:5 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/col/3/1/s_1110001

[17] Act 2:38

[18] Luke 5:23-24 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=luke+5&version=NASB

Sting or Goad? (1Co 15:55)

  • Introduction: The Greek word, κεντρον (ken’-tron), can mean sting or goad.  A sting causes pain.  A goad is used to prod an animal into going the direction they were prodded.
    • The Apostle Paul wrote the sting/goad of death is sin and the power of sin is the Law.  But thanks be to God we have conquered sin, death, and the deliverer of sin and death – the devil – through Jesus Christ!  Death therefore has no sting; death has no victory.
    • We will spend time on this glorious Easter morning taking a deeper dive into what Paul meant by these words as we also decide which is the correct interpretation of the Greek: κεντρον; sting, or goad. 
  • Let us pray: Lord God, Heavenly Father, we thank you for being our gracious and loving Father, even to the point of turning from Your beloved Son when He took our sins upon Himself.  You are a God of integrity and consistency.  You will not allow sin into Your house.  Equally, we thank You for the Way into the Gate of Righteousness through which we can enter into Your house.  Send Your Spirit to work faith in our heart to receive the message we are about to hear, so that we understand the sting of sin, but also the grace of Your healing love.  We pray this through your Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.
  • Definition: Our text for consideration on today is 1Co 15:55 - “WHERE, O DEATH, IS YOUR VICTORY? WHERE, O DEATH, IS YOUR STING?[1]” Some of you may remember this verse from the King James Version (KJV) of the Bible - 55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?   I have this etched into my tombstone in the words of the KJV.  The Apostle Paul was almost exactly quoting from a portion of the Greek version of Hos 13:14 - Death, where is your judgement? Hades, where is your goad[2]?
    • I should note the word “death” in this verse is actually a proper title as if it is an animate object.  God was addressing “death” by name as a living being.  This may sound strangely until you read in Revelation 20:14 - 14 …Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire[3].  Death actually is a being which exists to kill, and its pretty good at it.  Additionally, the Greek word “hades” means grave. This is why the KJV rendered, “O Grave, where is thy victory?”, so that it was closer to the original quote from Hosea.
    • Hopefully, you can see the slight variations of the versions of the Bible for this verse are really not consequential.  Regardless of Bible translation version, there is a word found in our text upon which this entire message for today is focused.  The word from the Greek is κέντρον (ken'-tron).  I have this listed on the back of your bulletin. The noun, κέντρον, means a point created by a sting such as that from a bee, or a goad such as that to poke an ox, horse, or other beast of burden.  In English, to goad someone into doing something would be the verb form of “κέντρον”. If you goaded them hard enough, a κέντρον would be left wherever you prodded them.  Those of you who are husbands probably understand this better than others. 😊
  • Condition: The context in which Paul wrote our word for today was a discussion about Judgement Day.  Flesh & blood of this corrupted Age cannot inherit the kingdom of God. However, to those in Christ, Judgement Day will mean the corrupted body each of us has now will be replaced with an imperishable body.  For me, I won’t have to think about the missing joint of the second toe of my left foot.  My new body will be perfect and not wear out.  When that happens, I, with other believers in Christ, will be able to thumb our nose at Death and Hades, because those two menaces will be tossed into hell to dwell for eternity.  They will not bother us in Christ ever again.  After we thumb our nose at Death and Hades, Paul went on to say the sting or goad of death is sin, and the power of sin is the Law (1Co 15:56).
    • There is a concept of just because you don’t know a law exists doesn’t mean you may not be  breaking the law.  You may remember I found that out once driving into Minnesota from North Dakota. I thought the speed limit was 55MPH, but the officer who pulled me over said it was 35MPH.  I suddenly learned I had sinned.  😊 In this way, none of us are troubled by sin until we realize something is a sin (Rom 7:7-8).
    • In Romans 7:14-20, the Apostle Paul wrote about how coming to the knowledge of God’s Law made him understand how much of a sinner he was.  He also came to realize the pressure inside of his soul, goading him to sin, now that he knew God’s Law.  The power behind sin is the Law despite the Law itself being good.  In other words, God’s Law is good and just, but sin within each of us, due to the corruption of our nature from original sin, is the power behind sin. 
    • Remember, temptation to sin is not itself sin.  It’s acting upon temptations that brings about sin.  Sin prods us along through life to the grave. Paul wrote about this prodding in his life - 21 I find then the principle that evil is present in me, the one who wants to do good. 22 For I joyfully agree with the law of God in the inner person, 23 but I see a different law in the parts of my body waging war against the law of my mind, and making me a prisoner of the law of sin, the law which is in my body’s parts. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh, the law of sin[4].
  • Concern: God didn’t want His children prodded along to the grave.
    • God the Father demands perfection.  We discussed that in last week’s message about how we don’t just let anyone in our house.  Why then would God be held to some different standard?  Why should he allow as it says in Revelation, …dogs, the sorcerers, the sexually immoral persons, the murderers, the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying…[5] into His house?
      • We read responsively from Ps 118:19-20 that the righteous will enter through the gate of the Lord.  That implies no sin allowed into the house of the Lord.
      • Well, without divine intervention of some sort, God knew 100% of mankind would be goaded into hell if nothing were done.  Listen to the Apostle John’s account of Judgement Day - 12 And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. 13 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, and Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them; and they were judged, each one of them according to their deeds. 14 Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. 15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire[6]
      • If there weren’t a way for God’s prized creation to come into His house, there would only be an eternal sting of the second death for all.  We would be the latter of these two living circumstances after Judgement Day as described in Rev 21:7-8 - The one who overcomes will inherit [heaven], and I will be his God and he will be My son. But for the cowardly, and unbelieving, and abominable, and murderers, and sexually immoral persons, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”
    • This second death was *not* what God intended for His people.  The plan to fix this was simple – adopt us as sons of God.  This plan to adopt us through Christ was put together even before Adam & Eve were created.  The Apostle Paul wrote about this at the beginning of the Book of Ephesians - just as [God] chose us in [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we would be holy and blameless before Him. In love 5He predestined us to adoption as sons  through Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will[7]
      • In this plan of saving us from ourselves, Jesus knew the Father would have to turn His back on Jesus at some point.  Jesus and the Father are one; they are so close in mutual love. How could Jesus purposely choose to break that bond?
      • Also in this plan, the Father knew He would have to sentence His only and beloved Son to hell - in place of us.  Yes, instead of us being stung.  We are the people who, apart from Christ, are the filthy, dirty sinners mentioned in those passages from Revelation I just read a moment ago.  Jesus went to hell to save even notorious sinners throughout the Age – if only they would have repented from their sins.
      • This plan of salvation was not easy on either member of the Trinity! But, there was no other way for us to become adopted sons of God through baptism.   It is baptism which links us with Jesus’ work on the cross.  We learn that from another of Paul’s writings, this one from his letter to the church of the Colossians - 11…in [Christ] you were also circumcised with a circumcision performed without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ, 12having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you were also raised with Him through faith in the working of God, who raised Him from the dead[8]
  • Execution of the plan:
    • And so, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit developed the plan of salvation, in which each would play a role.  One of the Trinity had to become like us so that someone from humanity would be able to lead a perfect, sinless life.  God the Son became also Son of man to share our humanity.  It’s part of the Christmas Story, but this is a good time to be reminded of Jesus’ humanity as announced to the Virgin Mary by the angel, Gabriel - 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and give birth to a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; 33 and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end.[9]
      • He became flesh but not in the corruption of sin (Heb 7:26-27)
    • Jesus grew into a man from that tiny baby once placed into a manger. He began His ministry at His baptism by John the Baptist.  After a 3yr ministry, Jesus was goaded to the cross in our place.  The crowd who delivered Jesus up to Governor Pilate yelled on Good Friday, “Crucify, crucify Him!”  Pilate couldn’t find a reason for crucifying Jesus, but the crowd goaded him into ordering Jesus’ execution (Luke 23:20-24, Mark 15:20b).
    • Jesus felt the sting of His Father’s judgement against sin, when He yelled out from the cross, My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Mat 27:46) Can you imagine being God the Father and hearing your most beloved Son crying that out to you?
    • And yet, there was no other way for us to be saved from being goaded throughout our life in this Age, only to then feel the sting of eternal death in hell.  The mission was for Jesus to lead the perfect life so that He could make the perfect sacrifice to the Father so that there would be a Gate of Righteousness to let into heaven those in Christ.  That mission was accomplished from the cross when Jesus said, “It is finished!” (John 19:30) The “it” was the plan of salvation laid out before the foundations of the earth were laid.
  • Conclusion: His death on the cross ended the grip that sin would otherwise have on us. As Paul wrote in 1Co 15:56 - thanks be to God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus! 
    • Sin has no sting for God’s people. This Greek word, κέντρον, was also used by the Apostle John in Rev 9:10 in describing the henchmen of Satan.  They were released from hell to torture the people of earth and leave a sting.
      • I should clarify, the demons were ordered to stay away from the people who do *not* have the seal of God on their foreheads. They weren’t permitted to kill anyone either.  All these demons were allowed to do was torture people to the point when afflicted people would seek death, but not be able to die.  That’s sheer torture to be in pain with no way out.  However, it is adopted sons of God (through baptism) who are the ones with the seal of God on their forehead.  The demons are not allowed to sting or goad baptized sons of God (Rev 9:4).
      • Alternately, those under the Law are tortured by its power through Satan’s henchmen (Rev 9:2,5-6).  Take a look around our society and just look at the number of people dying from fentanyl overdoses alone.  They probably didn’t plan on committing suicide, but the fact that they ingested an illicit drug to escape the sting, the goading, from evil, set them up for a disastrous and fatal end.  It’s really sad, when there is no reason for anyone to seek an escape from evil on their own.  Jesus accomplished that escape for anyone and everyone who has ever been conceived.
    • Death has no sting nor victory. Those with the mark of baptism are a part of the first resurrection just as Jesus was resurrected from the dead. The second death has no power over anyone in Christ (Rev 20:6).
    • The devil has no power over the adopted sons of God.  The writer to the Hebrews summed up what we’ve covered these past several minutes - 14 Therefore, since the children [of God] share in flesh and blood, [Jesus] Himself likewise also partook of the same [flesh], so that through death He might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives[10]
    • Like Job wrote in our OT reading for today, we too will see God in His place, because of Jesus’ work of salvation. Even after our skin is destroyed, yet from our new glorified body we will see God with our own eyes, and not through the eyes of another (Job 19:25-27).
      • We adopted sons of God will not die, but live (Ps 118:17).  You heard me read that portion of Ps 118 when we read responsively earlier in the service.  It’s true!  And this is why Easter is such a big deal.  Because Jesus lives, we too live.  Death has no power over us, whether the first or the second death. Yes, everyone’s corrupted body will die. But those in Christ will instantly be in heaven, just like one of the thieves crucified with Jesus had experienced. Those not in Christ will die in both deaths because they denied Jesus being the Son of God.
    • So I ask you; which is the better English translation for the Greek word κέντρον.  Is it sting? Or, is it goad?  My answer? Yes!  Amen.

 


[1] 1Co 15:55 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/1co/15/1/t_conc_1077055

[2] Hos 13:14b interpreted from Greek at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/hos/13/1/t_concl_875014

[3] Rev 20:14 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rev+20&version=NASB

[4] Rom 7:21-25 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rom+7&version=NASB

[5] Rev 22:15 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/rev/22/1/s_1189001

[6] Rev 20:12-15 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=rev+20&version=NASB

[7] Eph 1:4-5 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=eph+1&version=NASB

[8] Col 2:11-12 from NASB20 at https://www.blueletterbible.org/nasb20/col/2/1/s_1109001

[9] Luke 1:31-33 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=luke+1&version=NASB

[10] Heb 2:14-15 from NASB20 at https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=heb+2&version=NASB

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