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First President of the LCMS and it's Grandfather CFW Walther
Here is a list of Pastor Wagner's sermons. Most of them have been preached at Christ Our Savior; however, some of the earlier ones were preached at other locations.
You might notice that some of of the sermons do not have an audio player. These sermons were not recorded. However, all of the sermons do have a link to the manuscript on Pastor Wagner's website.
When Moses came down from the mountain, He found the Hebrews worshiping an idol. He dashes the stone tablets in their presence, an object lesson in the people’s brazen denial of God’s Law. That doesn’t mean that the Law isn’t permanent; it is, and Moses would get a second set of stone tablets. First or second, it doesn’t matter, the Word of the Lord endures forever, whether it is actually carved in stone or not, and that includes His Law.
The Law was given, and God expects you to follow it. God expects you to stand upon these stone tablets as your own will—this you will do and not do. You are to stand on these stone tablets because they are important—they are the will of God—much like you should build your house on a stone foundation, and not sand. (cf. Matthew 7:24-27) Do you? Well, not exactly.
No, instead you write your will on lifeless and fragile paper, you take your finger to sand and write one thing while you say another and do yet something else. The winds change, and so does your will except for one point: that which God had carved in stone is to be avoided. This is your bound will: enslaved to sin and bound in chains.
So, what would you expect God to do? He who is greater than you, mightier than you, holier than you, reveals His will to you and you would rather do something else. What’s God to do? Well, right along with revealing His will, He also reveals what He will do: “I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Me...” (Exodus 20:5) Throughout the Word of God, you can find God speaking of His wrath, and even showing it, to those who sin again Him, and the result is always the same: death.
Jesus stood on a stone pavement—Gabbatha—before the Roman governor. As He stood there, He was bound and bloodied, having been captured the night before as He prayed in the garden. That night, He stood before the Sanhedrin whereat He was accused of all manner of evil. The next day found Him before the governor, where accusations were made against Him again. He stood on stone, being accused of not standing on the stone tablets which came down from Sinai. The chief priests and elders, speaking on behalf of the people—on behalf of you—accused the Son of God of sinning, and He didn’t respond one word, just as it was before the Sanhedrin.
Oh yes, you were right there along with those despicable priests and elders. Remember, your will is bound—that which God declares as holy, that which He tells you is His will, you are at work to contradict and countermand. God’s Law says, “Do this,” and your will says, “Hell no!” And your bound will delights in accusing the Son of God of lies—just as is the will of your father, the devil. (cf. John 8:44) Your sinful life—your sinful nature—is a contention with God, and it is that which was standing with the crowd before Pilate accusing innocent Jesus, standing on Stone Pavement, of breaking the Law carved into stone tablets.
So, you see, while you accuse Jesus of sinning through the voices of the priests and elders, they speak your evil against Him. And Jesus’ silence spoke volumes! He received the guilt and the shame—your guilt and shame—without a word, as a sheep before its shearers is silent. (cf. Isaiah 53:7) He received it because He was becoming your substitute. He who became one with you in His conception and birth—a man in every respect as you are, except without sin—stood before the Sanhedrin and Pilate and received your sins and the sins of all into His perfect flesh.
Listen closely to His silence, dear hearers, because the Great Exchange is happening right before your ears!
Or, as St. Paul put it, “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21) He stood at Gabbatha becoming your sin for you, but He wouldn’t remain at Stone Pavement for long. Later that day, He would be led to Place of a Skull—Golgotha—and there become the sacrifice for sin. Like the goats at the Temple on Yom Kippur, He would shed His blood as a propitiation for many—as your propitiation—and die with your sins for your atonement.
At Sinai, the Law was Given. At Gabbatha, the accusations were made and the guilty verdict pronounced. At Golgotha, the sentence was carried out. Jesus, with every one of your sins and every bit of your sinfulness, gave His life, crucified in your place, your substitute, died the death that the Law demanded for sins. And for His sake, you live.
Gloriously, however, His stay in death did not last long. His agony and forsakenness lasted only three hours; his death, only three days. Dead and buried, on the third day, He rose again from the grave. Jesus is victorious over death, and as much as His death is for you, He gives you the victory too. Death is swallowed up in victory! (cf. Isaiah 25:8; 1 Corinthians 15:54)
There was another goat present on Yom Kippur—the scapegoat. Here is the goat upon which the sins were confessed, and, despite that confession, it is allowed to live. Yes, in the Yom Kippur ritual, it was led out into the wilderness and abandoned. In so doing, the sins of the people were removed from them as the scapegoat was led out of the camp and into the wilderness. Still, but it lives for the sake of the sacrificial goat.
In one sense, Jesus is the scapegoat as He removes sin from you as far as east is from the west. (cf. Psalm 103:12) But there is another sense in which to understand the scapegoat: it lives, despite it sinfulness, because of the goat that is sacrificed for sins.
That day before Pilate, Jesus stood on Stone Pavement as the sacrificial goat, but there was another goat, too. Jesus stood before the governor, having done no wrong, and accepts all guilt and blame on your behalf. But, as was the custom of Pilate, he presented a criminal to the people, one he thought would surely be considered a worse offender than Jesus, in order to release Jesus, for His custom was to release a man of the people’s choosing at this time of year. But, Old Adam’s hatred for the Son of God won the day, and Barabbas was set free.
He was allowed to live for the sake of Jesus. He was cast back out into the wilderness while Jesus was sacrificed in His place. Dear Baptized, you are Barabbas! For the sake of Jesus and His sacrifice, you are allowed to live, despite having committed the sins. Jesus died for Barabbas, and He was redeemed. Jesus has died for you, and you are redeemed.
And this, by grace, you believe and receive. Therefore, as St. John wrote, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name...” (John 1:12) You are Barabbas, the Son of the Father as His name means, spared death and given life for the sake of the only-begotten Son of God, Jesus Christ. From manger to cross, from Gabbatha to Golgotha, to grave and the right hand of the Father, Jesus Christ is your atonement, standing on the Stone Tablets and Stone Pavement, hanging on the cross, and seated in glory for you, so you are forgiven for all of your sins.
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Of course, if you look only at the externals of today’s text, you might not come to that conclusion. After all, the Canaanite woman approaches Jesus asking for mercy, and He puts her to the test.
First, she approaches Jesus asking for mercy for her demon-possessed daughter, and Jesus ignores her. It’s not that He didn’t hear her, but He doesn’t respond to her, neither positively nor negatively.
Jesus’ disciples, taking their cue from His silence, bids that she be sent away. Now, He responds: “I was not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” If anything in today’s text would mask God’s mercy, this would be it; it seems as if Jesus is saying that His grace and mercy are reserved only for the Chosen Nation, and the lost people of that nation to boot. This woman, being a Canaanite, is wholly an outsider.
But the woman begs all the more. She calls Jesus Lord, and asks Him to help her. Once again, Jesus masks His mercy. “It’s not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the little dogs.” It’s as if Jesus is repeating Himself, but He throws in a little insult on top of it—Canaanite, little dog; the terms sounded so similar when Jesus said it. Nevertheless, the bread is only for the children, the Children of Israel.
Then she says it. “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Again, she calls Him Lord—this foreigner, this woman—and acknowledges her “outsidedness.” “Yes, I may be a little dog, but I’m only asking for the crumbs. Sure, bread would be nice, but all I need is crumbs. They are more than sufficient.” And Jesus praises her faith, telling her that her daughter would be healed.
Can you imagine the looks on the disciples’ faces? Shock and awe probably don’t begin to describe it.
Having recounted all of that, it does you well to remember that Jesus is the Nation of Israel reduced to one. Everything written of the Nation is fulfilled and exemplified in the person of the Son of God and Son of Mary. So, every expectation of that Nation is done in the person of Christ. One of which is one you sing in the liturgy every Sunday, and which Simeon sang many centuries ago: “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32) Jesus is a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles; to this Gentile woman, Jesus was revealed to be the Lord of all—the Lord of life.
So, about that mercy of God...if He delights in showing mercy—in showing abundant mercy—why put this poor Canaanite woman through such a test? Well, bear in mind that Jesus had in mind the entire time exactly what He was going to do. In fact, He had in mind everything that was going to happen that day in the region of Tyre and Sidon. There was something to prove in testing the Canaanite woman’s faith.
When God tests someone’s faith, it’s because He’s teaching. Sometimes the one being tested is the one being instructed. Sometimes, God is instructing others.
It’s probably safe to say that the woman knew all the right answers. She knew her daughter was demon-possessed. She knew that Jesus was the Lord, and by calling Him that, she acknowledged that He was the promised Messiah to come by way of the Hebrew people. She knew that Jesus, being Lord, could rid her daughter of the demon. In fact, she even knew that it could be done by a mere word from His mouth—a veritable crumb from the master’s table. It’s a wonder that Jesus didn’t say to her, as He had to another Gentile, “I have not found such great faith in all of Israel.” (cf. Matthew 8:10)
So, it would seem that in testing the woman’s faith, Jesus intended to teach His disciples. It’s only fitting; He’s the Master, the Teacher, and they are His disciples, His students. Again, imagine the looks on their faces when Jesus shows the woman mercy and heals her daughter. In their mind, especially given the end-around that Jesus puts her through, she did not deserve God’s grace and mercy. She’s an outsider—not a Hebrew, not a member of the Children of Israel. On top of that, she’s a woman; she shouldn’t even be talking with Jesus! But talk she does, and Jesus converses with her, and Jesus heals her daughter.
She demonstrated a greater faith than the disciples did, you could say. Despite the odds, she approached Jesus with boldness, knowing that He could that He would be merciful—faithfully confident that He would be merciful. The disciples figured that she would be sent away as the lowlife, Gentile woman that she was—that “little dog.” But God delights in showing mercy—even in giving crumbs to little dogs—and her daughter was healed.
The disciples were to be merciful as Jesus is merciful. Most of them eventually were, after being sent out after Pentecost, but it took a little more instruction. It also took the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. It is in Jesus’ passion, crucifixion, and rising again to life that God is most merciful, giving more than crumbs to all mankind. For it is there on the cross that Jesus died with the sins of the world, destroying them, removing them from all men as far as east is from the west, and opening the gate to Life for all where all should die for their trespasses and sins. The cross was also the power in the healing of the Canaanite woman’s daughter—for there was the power of the devil and his demons undone.
Now, risen and ascended, the Church is to continue the mission of Jesus. He has already done the hard part—dying and rising. And by way of Baptism, you have been joined to His dying and rising, for you were drowned at the font, died to all sin, and rose again from those waters a new creation. And so, to His disciples, upon the day of His ascension, Jesus said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18-20)
All nations...that includes you, dear hearers. Whether you consider yourselves at one time a member of the Children of Israel or your heritage is that of the Gentiles, you are part of all nations. Young, old, healthy, infirm, strong, weak, male, female, Jew, or Gentile—God has delighted in showing you mercy, and He delights in your showing of mercy to others as you participate in the activity of the Church in making disciples of all nations by baptizing and teaching them.
So, are you more like Jesus or like the disciples? It’s already been established that you are like the woman. For, like her, you are a beggar before God, seeking but crumbs that fall from His table. And God has delighted in showing you grace and mercy, for He sent His Son, Jesus, to die for you on the cross and rise again from the grave. Let me repeat myself: you were joined to His death and resurrection in a font like that one at the back of the church. Remember that you are dust (cf. Genesis 3:19); remember that you are redeemed—you are bought with a price (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:20); remember that you are baptized. (cf. Matthew 28:19-20; Acts 2:38; Romans 6:4) Remember also that, in Christ, the light of revelation to the Gentiles, you are a means through which He reveals Himself to unbelievers. Therefore, are you now more like Jesus or like the disciples?
I suppose that can be answered with the following questions:
Do you delight in the coming to faith of your enemies? If that’s a political enemy, then do you, Republican, rejoice over the Democrat who is your brother in the faith, or vice versa? If that’s racial, then do you, a Caucasian, rejoice over someone who is brown-skinned who is your brother in the faith? If that’s nationalistic, then do you, an American, rejoice over someone who is Mexican, Canadian, or even Russian who is your brother in the faith? Would you speak to a Buddhist, a Hindu, or even a Muslim about their Savior, Jesus Christ?
Do you delight in showing mercy to those who are different from you? If you are older, are you merciful to the young, and vice versa? If you are healthy, are you merciful to the infirm, and vice versa? If you are strong, are you merciful to the weak, and vice versa? If you are male, are you merciful to the female, and vice versa? In other words, if you are Jew, are you merciful to the Gentile?
Being merciful and gracious is easy to someone who is like you, but it can be difficult and borderline impossible to someone who is different than you, like the Jewish disciples toward the Canaanite woman.
However, with God, nothing is impossible. He is able to show mercy and grace to His enemies. In fact, as I have been saying all along, He delights in doing so. “For God...loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17) His delight is great in showing grace and mercy, that He did so for His own enemies—you. Don’t just take my word for it, as St. Paul wrote,
For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Romans 5:6-10)
The world, those without strength, the ungodly, sinners—these terms, as John and Paul used them, encompass all people—you and everyone here, those who are like you and those who are different from you, those you would consider your friends, and those you would consider your enemies. These are all for whom Christ died.
And these terms also include you. You are one for whom Christ died. Remember that you are redeemed—you are bought with a price. Remember that you are baptized! You are one whom Jesus loves. You are one in whom Jesus delights to show grace and mercy. And He has; and since He has, you are forgiven for all of your sins.
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
His sight could not have improved his standing among the people of Jericho. He would likely still have remained a beggar for a while, begging for food and drink and spare change for a while at first, then maybe work after that—after the people realized that this formerly blind beggar could actually see. One or two might reluctantly have sent the man into their vineyards to work, but the man would probably prove his inexperience by working rather incompetently so that he would not be hired again the next day.
So, why ask for sight? And why did Jesus grant it? This minor part of the text is there primarily to point out the irony of the rest of the text, and secondarily to give you a glimpse of the perfect restoration of the flesh at the resurrection on the last day.
The irony, though, is the point of the text, and it is this. The blind man could already see perfectly well, though not with his eyes of flesh.
The first hint you get of this is Jesus’ interaction with His disciples before meeting the man. He tells them that they are on their way to Jerusalem and why they are going there. This isn’t the first time they heard Jesus predict His death and resurrection. Still, they are confused by His words. In fact, as Luke tells you, “[T]his saying was hidden from them, and they did not know the things which were spoken.” In other words, they were blind to what He had just told them—they could not see it.
The second hint you get of the irony is in how Jesus is addressed along the road. When the blind man asked what was going on, he was told that Jesus of Nazareth was walking by. Hearing this, and knowing who Jesus was, he calls out to Him, “Jesus, Son of David.” To refer to Him simply as Jesus of Nazareth is to acknowledge only His humanity. It’s the same thing as calling him the son of Joseph. “He’s a carpenter, the son of the carpenter from Nazareth. He does some pretty amazing things, so it’s obvious that God is with Him. Or maybe not so obvious because maybe ‘he casts out demons by Beelzebub, the ruler of demons.’” (Luke 11:15)
So, that crowds were following Jesus is no indication that they knew who He was. They might simply have seen in Him someone they could make into their bread king. (cf. John 6:15) But the blind man was different. He called Him “Jesus, Son of David.” This is a messianic title. It acknowledges the prophecies concerning the descendant of David who would assume the throne and free His people. It acknowledges that the throne which Jesus will assume is no ordinary seat, but, as it turned out, a cross outside of Jerusalem—the very place which He told His disciples He was going; the very task which He told His disciples He was going to Jerusalem to accomplish. It’s to call Jesus the Christ!
How did the blind man know Jesus as the Son of David? That he was catechized, if only a little, is evident; how he was catechized is never revealed. But, to the blind man, Jesus was revealed to be the Son of David, the Messiah, the Christ. The blind man saw this. Jesus’ disciples did not. And when the blind man’s eyes were opened, the first thing he saw was not Jesus of Nazareth, but Jesus, the Son of David. He didn’t stick around to beg and find work in Jericho, but followed Jesus and glorified God.
Jesus, the Son of David, still comes among you. Do you cry out to Him, or do you listen to the cries to be quiet? Those cries come from within and without, and those from without from so-called Christians and pagans alike. They bid you to stop speaking about abortion, poverty, and true social justice in Christ for all people, including fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, sodomites, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, extortioners, and the like, because “such were some of you.” (cf. 1 Corinthians 6:9-11) And it is easier to speak of these things in terms of Jesus of Nazareth—or not speak of them at all—than in terms of who Jesus, the Son of David, is and what He has done about these things and for you!
Imagine what it meant for the blind man to receive His sight and follow Jesus, praising and glorifying God. Has Jesus not done as much for you? Has He not restored your sight? Do you not now see Jesus, the Son of David and not only Jesus of Nazareth? Where is your following Him and praising and glorifying God? Is it just too hard? Would you rather be quiet than speak of abortion and poverty or speak of the grace and mercy of God to fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, homosexuals, sodomites, thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers, extortioners, and the like? If these hear not the Word of God, then they are lost; and the scary thing is, if you had the chance to speak to them the Word of God and didn’t, then you are complicit in their eternal deaths.
Here is the church, now on the cusp of Lent, and this is a fantastic message to hear. Repent! Seek the mercy of Jesus. Lord knows, you need it! Mercy for your blind soul, your hardened heart, your ignorance and neglect—all those things which afflicted the disciples and the crowd that day outside of Jericho. Those things which afflicted you when you were enemies of God (cf. Romans 5:10), and which still torment you to this day. “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”
And your God is gracious and merciful. He knows well how to cure blindness and hardness of heart. See those same disciples, from whom the saying of Jesus was hidden, also had their eyes, ears, and hearts opened to the Word of God, and went into all of the known world proclaiming the Gospel of the forgiveness of sins in Jesus Christ—His life, death, resurrection, and ascension.
So, He can and does do the same to you. Here you are, hearing the message to repent, hearing of your silence, blindness, hardness, ignorance, and neglect, and you are killed to the core. The sharper-than-a-two-edged-sword-Word-of-God (cf. Hebrews 4:12) has slayed you in your sin, but the grace of God abounds, even in your weakness and death. For it is for His sake that you are killed all the day long (cf. Psalm 44:21-22), and by His grace and mercy, you are brought back again and again to newness of life in Christ, the righteousness of God in Christ. (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21)
What does that sound like? “Have mercy on me, O LORD, for I am in trouble; My eye wastes away with grief, Yes, my soul and my body! Make your face shine upon Your servant; Save me for Your mercies’ sake.” (Psalm 31:9, 16) “O Lord, open my lips, And my mouth shall show forth Your praise.” (Psalm 51:15) “Deal bountifully with Your servant, That I may live and keep Your word. Open my eyes, that I may see Wondrous things from Your law.” (Psalm 119:17-18) “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24)
The blind man asked for mercy, that he would receive His sight. Jesus granted the man’s request. You—your being here and singing the liturgy—are asking for the same mercy, and Jesus is here, time and again, to grant your request. Come, again and again. Sing the liturgy again not only on Sundays, but on Wednesdays for these upcoming 40 days of Lent. Receive your Lord as He gives you of Himself in the Sacrament. He is gracious and merciful to hear and grant your pleas for mercy. And you are forgiven for all of your sins.
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Now, as things happen, Naaman was a leper. With a word, the servant girl tells Naaman that there is a prophet in Israel who could heal him, and after some preparation and permission from his king, he makes his way to Israel to visit with this prophet, Elisha.
The centurion, on the other hand, while not personally afflicted with anything that is mentioned, has a servant who is paralyzed and tormented. With a word, he pleads with Jesus to heal his servant. Jesus agrees, it appears from most translations, and tells the centurion that He will go to his house.
Naaman makes his way to Israel, with a letter from his king in hand; the letter bids the reader to heal the bearer. He brings money and fine clothing. He gives the letter to the king of Israel who, upon reading it, tears his clothes, fearing for his own life since he has no power or authority to kill and make alive again, much less heal a man of leprosy. He is sure that the king of Syria seeks to go to war. Elisha gets wind of the exchange and bids that Naaman come to him. Naaman makes his way to Elisha, stands ready at the door, and receives a message via a servant. “Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored to you, and you shall be clean.”
The centurion stops Jesus. He wants his servant healed, but he also doesn’t want to put Jesus out. And what he says oozes with humility. “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof.” This is not merely embarrassment over the state of the house, because the kids have left it a mess, and he doesn’t want Jesus to see it. This is an acknowledgment that Jesus is someone wholly other, greater than He appears to be. In fact, this Gentile acknowledges that Jesus is God; he called Him Lord! And this is reinforced by what he says next: “But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed.”
How does Naaman react? He’s indignant. He received the Word of God—when Elisha, the man of God speaks, it is God speaking. He was told exactly what he needed to do, and his jaw hits the floor.
Indeed, I said to myself, “He will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place, and heal the leprosy.” Are not the Abanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?
Naaman does not get what he expects, and if he continues to go away furiously indignant, he will continue to be a leper.
Jesus marvels at the faith of the Gentile centurion. “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!” Anyone might expect, like Naaman, for God to wave His hands, do some rite, put on a show in order to perform a miracle. Not the centurion—he asked only for a simple word. “Then Jesus said to the centurion, ‘Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.’ And his servant was healed that same hour.”
Fortunately for Naaman, he was persuaded by his servant to wash in the Jordan. All the money, all the fine clothing, even the Abanah and Pharpar, didn’t matter. God said, “Wash here, and you will be clean.” He dips seven times in the Jordan as he was commanded, and his flesh was restored to that like a little child’s. He was made whole again and new.
God said, “Wash here.” God said, “Go your way; and as you have believed, so let it be done for you.” A little word—simple words—and miracles are performed. Leprosy is healed. Paralysis is undone. Torment is calmed. The mute speak. The deaf hear. The dead live again! A simple word, and the leper in Matthew 8 is also cleansed. “Lord, if You are willing, You can make me clean.” “I am willing; be cleansed.”
God speaks words to you, too. They are simple words, but they produce miracles. So, he bids you listen to them. When Jesus came up out of the waters of His baptism, the voice from heaven echoed, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) These words were repeated at the Transfiguration of Jesus, with added emphasis. “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” (Matthew 17:5, emphasis mine) “Hear Him!” you could say is God’s way of saying, “Do whatever He tells you.” These are the very words you heard from His Mother, Mary, last week, when she turned to the servants after bringing to Jesus the news that the wedding feast had run out of wine. (cf. John 2:5)
So, do you hear Jesus when He speaks His simple words to you? Do you do whatever He tells you?
Jesus says, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you...” (Matthew 28:18-20) Do you do what He tells you, or are you content to stay at home and not tell anyone what God has done in Christ? Are you afraid that someone very much not like you would be made a disciple of Christ like you? Do you become indignant like Naaman that an ordinary man says some words and pours a little water on someone, perhaps even an infant, and that person is made a child of God?
Jesus says, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17), and He promises absolution to those who repent. (cf. John 20:22-23) Do you do what He tells you, or do you simply mouth the words, thinking that you’re okay, and that repentance is for someone worse off than you? Are you afraid that your sin is one that cannot and will not be forgiven? Do you become indignant at the command because no man can forgive sins in Jesus’ stead, even though He said they would?
Jesus says, “Take, eat,” and “Take, drink,” calling the bread His true body and the wine His true blood. (cf. Matthew 26:26-28; Mark 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Corinthians 11:23-25) Do you do what He tells you, or do you refuse to eat every now and then because “you aren’t feeling it?” Are you afraid that this holy meal would lose its significance and importance if you eat it “too often” (as if its significance and importance relied on your whims and feelings)? Do you become indignant at the thought that Jesus body is true food and Jesus blood is true drink, that a little piece of bread and a little sip of wine can give you forgiveness, life, and salvation?
And there are many other things that Jesus tells you to do. Love one another. Carrying one anothers’ burdens. Do your work; see to your vocation. Hate no one in return for the hate that you have been shown, but turn the other cheek. Do not be quick to judge your brothers without first recognizing your own failings, misgivings, and sins. Do you do what Jesus tells you, or are you indignant, perhaps furiously so, at what He says?
The frightening part of all of this is that there are consequences for that indignation. Jesus comes with a gracious invitation, and if you continue to be indignant at it, then, as He said, “[T]he sons of the kingdom will be cast out into outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Naaman would have remained a leper if, in his indignation, he continued to refuse washing in the Jordan. He was convinced by the word of a servant to heed the word of the prophet. What about you? What’s it going to take?
Because the word of the prophet is that of God. And by the words of the prophet, Jesus graciously visits you. In Baptism, He makes you a son of God and gives you the gift of the Holy Spirit and faith in Him. In Absolution, He tells you again and again that you are forgiven for His sake, turning you back to see your Baptism and the cross at which He shed His blood to grant you forgiveness, life, and salvation. In Communion, He joins Himself to bread and wine in order to give you of His body and blood, the very tangible gifts of forgiveness, life, and salvation.
You see, Jesus validates all of this with a word. He speaks a word, and things happen. He spoke a word, and the universe came into being. He spoke a word, and man came into being. He spoke a word, and you came into being His son and heir with Him of eternal life. You may wish to echo what the centurion said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof,” especially—ironically—if you haven’t taken Him at His word, “But only speak a word, and I will be healed.”
What do you have to be healed from? Well, it’s a leprosy of sorts. It’s the indignation against the Word of God. Where you seek mighty miracles, Jesus speaks a simple word; so who wouldn’t be indignant at that? Like Naaman and like the centurion, you have problems that you need God to correct. It may be a disease. It may be a different kind of personal issue. And with a word, Jesus can and does and will correct it all. It may not happen in this lifetime, but it will happen for the life to come. He is willing; be cleansed. As you have been given faith to believe, so let it be done for you.
That’s why you’re here. There are many words spoken here. Some of them “fix” you for a time. All of them “fix” you for the time to come. You are here to hear the words—the Word—and to receive Him who is the Word-made-flesh. These simple words, as much as they tell you what to do, tell you also of what He has done for you. He was incarnate for you, born and lived for you, died on the cross for you, rose again from the grave and ascended into heaven for you. And He will come again for you, to take you where He is, to live with Him forever. You have His word on that, the word which declares to you that you are forgiven for all of your sins.
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Therein is the business of the House of YHWH, the living God: the receiving and making of offerings—sacrifices. There, in the House of YHWH, in the Tabernacle before, did God dwell among His people. There, in the House of YHWH, in the Tabernacle before, did God meet His people and forgive them.
So, there, in the House of YHWH, you hear of the boy Jesus, a mere 12 years old, just as His mother Mary and guardian Joseph did, having traveled a day’s walk from Jerusalem without Him. He was in the company of the people, in their presence, dwelling among them, and instructing them—listening to them, asking them questions, answering their questions—and amazing all in His hearing with His understanding. It would be nice to think that Jesus was catechizing them in the ways of the suffering servant from the prophecies of Isaiah. “Today, in your hearing, these words are being fulfilled,” He could have said; He certainly did so having read the Isaiah scroll at the synagogue in Nazareth some 16 years later. (cf. Luke 4:16-22)
Having spent three days in the company of the teachers in the temple courts, His mother and guardian find Him. And, as any worried parent would do—and who wouldn’t worry after having lost a 12 year-old for 3 days—they react with a bit of scorn: “Son, why have You done this to us? Look, Your father and I have sought You anxiously.” And then, He says it! “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Fathe’s business?” Some translations, perhaps some better known to you, use the word house instead of business. The Greek is vague, for lack of a better term, only letting you know that Jesus was in or about something of the Father’s. Nevertheless, business or house, it doesn’t matter, for this holy Child is in and about both.
Look in the house of the Father and see the 12-year old Immanuel about the business of the Father. Jesus is manifesting Himself to the People as their Savior. There is God-in-the-flesh, the fleshy tabernacle of God walking among them. (cf. John 1:14) In other words, Jesus is the fleshy house of the Father. And, as He is the Word of God, He is also the business of God—the fleshy business of God as the Word became flesh and “‘pitched His tent’ among us.” So, what a profound question Jesus asks His parents; “Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?” This Jesus is the house of God and the business of God, be He an infant, a 12-year old boy, or a 30-year old man, and even now in eternity, yet come to you in time by way of His means.
So, there He is, Jesus, the house and business of God, in the Temple, the House of God built by human minds and hands—first Solomon, then Zerubbabel, then Herod the Great. And if He is there about His Father’s business, then He is there for the forgiveness of sins, to make propitiation for the people as the priests would do. Jesus is always about the business of the Father, bring you salvation, even in those innocuous moments where He is not being circumcised or being threatened with stoning or being crucified. In the stone house of the Father, Jesus is likely foreshadowing what He would do in about 19 years. At the tender age of 12, He is still, as always, set about the task of redeeming the world. In about19 years, He will return to Jerusalem to be about His Father’s business of redeeming the world in a not-so-innocuous way. There, He will be the Sin and Guilt Offering—the lamb without blemish, the spotless Lamb of God—sacrificed on the altar of the cross, shedding His blood to cleanse sinners and make the guilty right with God, and suffering the burning hell of God’s wrath and abandonment as a Burnt Offering for satisfaction—as a propitiation—an aroma pleasing to God.
That’s why He is Immanuel. That is why He was born and why He lived and why He died: for the forgiveness of all of your sins—everyone who has lived, is living, and will ever live. “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” (Hebrews 2:14-15) Only 12 years old, Jesus is at work to save you, redeem you, forgive you—at work about His Father’s business.
That’s the reality; look back at what YHWH says: “When anyone sins unintentionally and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD’s commands...If a person sins and does what is forbidden in any of the LORD’s commands...he is guilty and will be held responsible.” Whether you mean to or not, you sin—“All have sinned,” says St. Paul. (Romans 3:23) And, according to the Law of God, whether you mean to or not, you are guilty of it. Intention means nothing when it comes to committing a sin—commit a sin, intentionally or not, and you are guilty—and ignorance is no excuse. So, this is the reality that you must face: all are guilty of sinning. And a Sin or Guilt Offering is then required...maybe even a Burnt Offering.
Therefore, God in His everlasting mercy, “became flesh and dwelt among us.” The sacrifices of the Sin Offering, Guilt Offering, and Burnt Offering could not appease God forever. These things were but a shadow, St. Paul says, and the reality or fullness (that is, the fulfillment) is found in Christ—in Immanuel. (cf. Colossians 2:16-17) The author of the Hebrews confirms this when He writes,
For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. Therefore, when He came into the world, He said...“Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the law), then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God.... (Hebrews 10:1-5a, 8-12)
The author also wrote,
We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens, a Minister of the sanctuary and of the true tabernacle which the Lord erected, and not man. For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices. Therefore it is necessary that this One also have something to offer. For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law; who serve the copy and shadow of the heavenly things, as Moses was divinely instructed when he was about to make the tabernacle. (Hebrews 8:1-5a)
To put it succinctly, the author also wrote “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews 2:17)
By being about His Father’s business, even at 12 years of age, He is about the business of the forgiveness of sins. Christ is the propitiation for your sins. He has taken your sin and guilt upon Himself, as it was transferred to the sacrificial animals by the laying on of hands, and died with it on the altar of the cross, removing it from you as far as the east is from the west. You are at peace with God—Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!
You see, there was one more animal sacrifice made at the Temple.
Thus says the Lord:
When his offering is a sacrifice of a peace offering...he shall lay his hand on the head of his offering, and kill it at the door of the tabernacle of meeting; and Aaron’s sons, the priests, shall sprinkle the blood all around on the altar. Then he shall offer from the sacrifice of the peace offering an offering made by fire to the LORD...and Aaron’s sons shall burn it on the altar upon the burnt sacrifice, which is on the wood that is on the fire, as an offering made by fire, a sweet aroma to the LORD. (Leviticus 3:1a, 2-3a, 5)
Thus is prescribed the Peace Offering at the Temple, the House of YHWH, the living God. In such manner does a man thank and praise God for being at peace with him and for being in fellowship with him.
While the bloody sacrifices are over, it is still well and good to thank and praise God for the peace we have with Him in His Son, Immanuel. This you do when you receive His good and perfect gifts as He comes down to you to serve you with forgiveness, life, and salvation, when you pray, praise, and give thanks in words and songs, and when you give back to God that which He has given you to support this body and life—your time, talents, and treasures. You do all these things joyfully rejoicing, because Immanuel has come, manifesting Himself for you, removing your guilt, and forgiving you for all of your sins.
In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.