6th Sunday after Pentecost – C (Proper 8) LSB #474, 852
Text – Galatians 5:25
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
WALKING BY THE SPIRIT
Freedom & slavery are two words which evoke strong emotions in people from the United States of America. There’s a long history, of struggle in our nation, with regard to those two words. They’ve been internal & external struggles, & no matter what any politician tells you, those struggles will always continue until this world is set free from sin.
Guns are the not issue, radical Islam is not the issue, hate crimes are not the issue. Death is the result of sin no matter how politically incorrect that teaching of Jesus is today. No political solution will ever grant all people freedom in this life. There will always be injustice in this universe until the final Day of Judgment arrives.
Politicians & political correctness are not the answer. More government is not the answer. More truth, more of Jesus, more forgiveness, more humility & more repentance are the only answers to what ails our nation & our world. Are you hearing anything about those issues in the news, or on the late night talk shows, or from any of our political candidates?
So the apostle Paul begins chapter 5, of his letter to the church at Galatia, with these words: “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, & do not submit again to a yoke of slavery...” Freedom & slavery do not only evoke strong emotions in people of today. St. Paul used both words in the same sentence of Holy Scripture, almost 2000 years ago.
Yet, the apostle is warning us of an even greater struggle than physical freedom over against physical slavery. The Founding Fathers of our nation understood that the struggle for physical freedom began with their Creator, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty & the pursuit of Happiness.” The Apostle Paul, being even more specific, is telling us that it is Christ who has set us free, but he’s not talking about mere physical freedom. Paul is also talking about spiritual freedom, about the freedom to live with a conscience that is joyful, & unafraid of the wrath to come on Judgment Day.
That last part is what so many in our society are ignoring, or have completely written off as a fairy tale. To them, the judgment of God for sin is no more real than the Big Bad Wolf in the story of Little Red Riding Hood. Even Christians find Hell to be too horrific to contemplate for long. Our ungodly culture looks at it as a completely intolerable teaching.
Who could dare to suggest that human beings will suffer for eternity just because they want to take their own path in life? That is the height of intolerance in American culture, & it’s what drives people crazy if they aren’t children of God. But what if heaven & hell are real? Is it not even more intolerant to refuse to warn others? That is the crux of the issue.
At verse 13 Paul continues: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” The society we live in seems to be descending into the abyss of using freedom for the flesh. Although they may despise our attempts to warn them, God calls us to do so with gentleness & love.
Since hell is real, allowing them to take their own path without warning is not love. At verse 19, St. Paul clearly describes what the path looks like when using freedom for the flesh:
“Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, & things like these.” The things like these are becoming more & more evident in the United States today. Looking at his society, the Apostle then concludes:
“I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the
kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:21b ESV) Can those sins be forgiven? The clear answer is yes, but only if they’re covered with the blood of Jesus. People who want their lifestyle more than they want forgiveness are going to have a problem at Judgment Day. We should love them, but we should not surrender our beliefs to theirs. We should not surrender truth for a lie.
Freedom in Christ does not absolve a man of responsibility for his action; rather it heightens his responsibility. Our sinful nature rejects & denies responsibility. After The Fall, when God confronted Adam, what did Adam do? He blamed Eve, & God. Eve blamed the serpent. Politicians are very adept at it, but hasn’t every one of us tried to pass the buck?
St. Paul knew that we would, because King Solomon put it correctly when he wrote, “What has been is what will be, & what has been done is what will be done, & there is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9 ESV) Man’s sinful nature rejects & denies responsibility & we see the results throughout history in things such as terrorism & corrupt government.
We tend to think of God’s solution as ‘sending Jesus to die for our sins,’ & it pretty much ends there until we get to heaven. Yahweh’s plan goes so far beyond that simplistic, narrow & short-sighted view. We tend to look at the evil going on in the world & think that God isn’t doing a lot of important things right now.
After all, we are not seeing a revival of Christianity in this country. We aren’t seeing people being raised from the dead. Our culture is leaving God behind. These past 8 years especially, have seen our federal government imposing more & more restrictions on our freedom to practice & to express the faith that Jesus taught.
The society we live in is becoming more & more like the culture to which the Apostle Paul was bringing the good news of life in Jesus Christ. As to the culture surrounding the church at Galatia, here is the antidote to what ails our nation: “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions & desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:24-25 ESV) People like to talk about being spiritual, but talk is cheap. St. Paul writes, that if we truly are living by the Spirit then there will be some walking the talk going on. We will be loving our neighbor through serving them.
Jesus taught that if we remain in Him we will bear much fruit. That’s synonymous with living by the Spirit & walking by the Spirit. In case his readers aren’t sure what that means, the Apostle lays it out for them: “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23 ESV)
Satan no longer owns us nor controls us, so God’s children aren’t just waiting around to die & go to heaven once Jesus has saved them: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Did you hear that walking language again?
The freedom that our Savior gives heightens, rather than diminishes, our sense of responsibility to love our neighbor & to serve him so that his heart, mind & soul can also be changed from death to life. People who refuse to live under the constraints of the Christian life, are refusing the work of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
They’re choosing death over life, & Satan wages a vicious battle against us, 1st hoping to destroy us & then hoping to destroy the good works our Lord prepared in advance for us to do. All it takes is convincing you to use your freedom to serve yourself, instead of the people around you. All it takes is convincing you to deny your responsibility & to cast the blame on others.
Jesus stepped up & took the blame from us. He shouldered your sins & destroyed their hold over you at the cross. In the mystery of Holy Communion, Jesus offers to you His resurrected body & blood. As you trust & believe in His Words, “take, eat, this is my body; take, drink, this is my blood,” you partake in heaven on earth. Jesus’ resurrection becomes yours. The new creation is begun in you again. In something as mundane as the Lord’s Supper, Yahweh’s plan goes so far beyond our simplistic, narrow & short-sighted view. Eternity is being doled out to us in holy perfection to heal the damage & the death caused by sin.
As we receive Jesus’ body & blood we are living by Christ’s Spirit & walking by His Spirit too. Our sins of the flesh are being washed away. Our heavenly Father’s promise of life everlasting is being restored & renewed. Creative ways of serving our neighbor are given life. Walking by the Spirit is empowered & brought to fruition.
Freedom becomes a life-giving power instead of a selfish & life-devouring force. Ironically, if we use our freedom only to serve our selfish needs, that very freedom becomes our slave master. Therefore, discipline is required on our part to crucify the flesh with its passions & desires. Faith is required on our part to trust in God’s promises, even as our sins are before us.
That is the life of sanctification. It’s the work of the Holy Spirit thus St. Paul calls us to, not simply live by the Spirit, but also to walk by the Spirit. It’s a life that is about repentance & humility, while trusting solely in Jesus for anything good in our day-to-day living. It’s a life of prayer & thanksgiving, a life of joy in serving the needs of others.
Easter morning is a joyous time & a special day of the year for God’s children as we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. However, every day of the year is a day of resurrection for those who trust in God’s Son as Savior. As each morning arrives, we are alive when we should be dead. It’s the new creation in us that is walking by the Spirit.
“Walking the way, Christ in the center telling the story to open our eyes; breaking our bread, giving us glory: Jesus our blessing, our constant surprise.” LSB 474:2 In the OT reading, Elijah, one of the greatest prophets, was ready to surrender & prayed that he would die. He’d given up on walking by the Spirit, yet when all seemed lost, God came to Elijah in the sound of a low whisper & revealed that there were still 7000 believers in the land. His heavenly Father came to him & restored him, because for freedom, Christ would set Elijah free even though he’d given up & was ready to submit again to a yoke of slavery.
Freedom & slavery will do battle until the final day, but our Lord & Savior has won the victory. His resurrection proves that fact. So until our own resurrection, keep on walking, for we do so completely by the power of the Holy Spirit. He is faithful. Amen.
O God of mercy, God of might, in love & pity infinite, teach us, as ever in Thy sight, to live our lives in Thee. In sickness, sorrow, want or care, may we each other’s burdens share; may we, where help is needed, there give help as unto Thee! And may Thy Holy Spirit move all those who live to live in love till Thou shalt greet in heaven above all those who live in Thee. Amen. LSB 852:1, 5-6
 United States Declaration of Independence
 Ephesians 2:10 ESV
5th Sunday after Pentecost – C (Proper 7) LSB #709
Text – Isaiah 65:8
Thus says the Lord: “As the new wine is found in the cluster, & they say, ‘Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it,’ so I will do for my servants’ sake, & not destroy them all.”
FINDING THE NEW WINE
In the ancient world, wine was a really big deal. When it was time to harvest the grapes the people celebrated. When the wine was ready for drinking, the people celebrated. The alcohol had something to do with that, but it also had to do with the scarcity of water. The water that ended up in the grapes had been purified by the process the vine uses to gather the water.
In a desert culture, in ancient Israel, quite unlike the abundance of water we have here in Michigan, it was much easier to find safe drinking water in the form of wine, than it ever was to find safe drinking at the end of a faucet in the kitchen. And because of the alcohol in the wine, it did not need refrigeration or chemicals to preserve it from spoiling.
Leading up to the reading from Isaiah 65, Israel had been praying for God to intervene in their lives by displaying His power & might. As usual in this type of response, they had left God behind, He disciplined them through exile to another country, & finally they had turned back to Him for help. Today’s reading is the beginning of God’s answer to their prayer:
“I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am,’ to a nation that was not called by my name. I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices…”
That doesn’t sound like the typical child who’s been good all year & can now expect their Christmas list prayers to be answered. Yet the description in verses 1 & 2 of Isaiah 65 does sound like someone we know. It sounds like us – a rebellious people following our own devices. Yes, that may be difficult to believe, with as prim & proper as all of us look this morning, but it’s true. We just can not, & we will not, follow the ways of God. After all, He expects us to forgive each other when we’re offended or hurt, & above & beyond that, He even expects us to love, & forgive & pray for our enemies.
Have you even attempted that in the past week? When answering that question you should remember St. Paul teaches us to pray without ceasing. That sounds difficult if we’re praying for Christmas presents, though some children might hound you constantly on that one. But to pray for our enemies – without ceasing?
Keep in mind that, in our natural state, by our own efforts, each one of us is an enemy of God. It’s not just the radical Muslims that are the enemy of God. It’s not just the Democrats or the Republicans. All of us are God’s enemies. The people of Israel certainly demonstrated that throughout the OT. The disciples of Jesus demonstrate that throughout the four Gospels.
In the end, the bottom line reason that our heavenly Father gave us the Bible, is not to show us how to live. It was given to show us that in spite of how we live, the Lord of the universe chooses, every moment of every day, to call us back to Him for healing from sin:
“I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, ‘Here I am, here I am,’ to a nation that was not called by my name. I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices…”
If we’re only reading verses 2-7 there is no hope, so that’s why verse 8 is the sermon text: Thus says the Lord: “As the new wine is found in the cluster, & they say, ‘Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it,’ so I will do for my servants’ sake, & not destroy them all.” That’s where the Word of God really gets down to business. That’s where the tension comes into play between our sinful rebellion & God’s gracious love. It can be explained this way: ‘As men do not destroy a juicy cluster of grapes, just because there are a few dried up or rotten ones in it, so Yahweh will not utterly destroy the entire nation even if most of the people have rejected Him.’
In other words, “As the new wine is found in the cluster, & they say, ‘Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it,’ so I will do for my servants’ sake, & not destroy them all.” Isaiah is reassuring the faithful people of God that no matter how depraved & twisted their culture becomes, the Lord God will be able to work perfection out of those who will trust in Him.
We see an example of that with the man in the Gospel reading: “He was kept under guard & bound with chains & shackles, but he would break the bonds & be driven by the demon into the desert.” (Luke 8:29c ESV) Jesus came along & cast out the demons.
“Then people went out to see what had happened, & they came to Jesus & found the man from whom the demons had gone, sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed & in his right mind, & they were afraid.” (Luke 8:35 ESV) The tension is clear. Yahweh’s gracious love sets the man free of demon possession. The rebellious people, who came to see, were afraid & asked Jesus to leave.
For the sake of the man who was healed, for the new wine found in the cluster, Jesus did not destroy the entire cluster. The unbelievers were seized with great fear, so Jesus leaves them behind. Fear is the natural reaction of sinful beings to a demonstration of unearthly power. The recognition of a loving God behind that power leads to a glorifying of God.
The tension between our sinful rebellion & God’s gracious love, demonstrates itself in that, when Jesus performs miracles, some people ask Him to depart, while others glorify our heavenly Father. Belief & unbelief, submission & rebellion, good grapes & sour grapes, those pairings reflect the ways in which people respond to Jesus’ revelation of truth.
Much of the final 11 chapters of Isaiah can be seen as God’s filing of a covenant lawsuit.
Israel had entered the covenant in the Sinai wilderness. Before Moses even made it down from the mountain, the Golden Calf was a foreshadowing of things to come. Now, Yahweh is the Judge, Isaiah the prosecuting attorney, & the rebellious Israelites are the guilty defendants who have shattered the covenant of Sinai.
There’s an intense law-Gospel interaction at work in Isaiah 65, between a God who has “held out my hands all day long” (v. 2 ESV) & a people whom God “will indeed repay into their laps both your iniquities & your fathers’ iniquities together.” (vv. 6–7 ESV) Nevertheless, God’s loving kindness has the final word:
“As the wine is found in the cluster, & they say, ‘Do not destroy it, for there is a blessing in it,’ so I will do for my servants’ sake, & not destroy them all.” (v. 8 ESV) That word of promise is for both Jew & Gentile, (v. 9 ESV) & we need to hear it today. As our culture moves away from Christ, we are becoming a minority – we could say a Remnant.
This is the doctrine of the remnant cast in a new form. In the nation of Israel, former believers predominate, but mixed within the people is the faithful remnant. Something valuable is in these grapes so the cluster must not be completely destroyed. The word ‘destroyed’ in v. 8 is the same Hebrew word used in Noah’s flood & in the judgment of Sodom & Gomorrah.
The Remnant is a common theme in the Word of God. Noah & family were a remnant. Believers in the time of Elijah were a remnant. Lot & his daughters were a remnant. Zechariah & Elizabeth, Mary & Joseph were a remnant. The remnant is the fruit of the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ. It is those who take the hard & narrow way that leads to life.
With The Remnant, new life comes from what would be discarded as hopeless & dead. A shoot burst forth from Jesse’s burned-out stump as Christ was born in the stable at Bethlehem. Being The Remnant is living a theology of the cross, instead of living in glory. When God’s
judgment strikes the community, it won’t be indiscriminate. Yahweh will spare The Remnant of believers who are accounted clean & righteous by the holy Work of the justifying Servant, which is Jesus Christ. Through the prophet Isaiah, Almighty God illustrates The Remnant by means of a grape cluster.
The divine blessing is to be found in His elect servants, whom He has 1st sought out & who then respond in faith by seeking Him. They alone are the ones who will inherit & possess the ancient promises to Abraham of “blessing.” Only the humble & contrite servants will inherit the kingdom of God.
Regardless of their broken outward appearances, Yahweh will take them to glory in the next life. The first will become last & thus the last will become first. Judgement will remove those who claim to be members but are not, while also purifying those who truly are believers.
In order to encourage us to remain faithful & to warn the disobedient of the horrors awaiting them, the Lord depicts the joy & misery which will result when He separates the sheep from the goats. The Remnant from among all nations, saved by grace through faith, will one day gather before the Lamb of God to give thanks to Him forever.
As children of God these are also our promises. The nation of Israel is no longer defined by ethnicity or geography. It is made up of all who embrace new life through the death & resurrection of Jesus. There are enough faithful servants left for God to achieve the purpose for which He created His chosen people, so He spares the whole cluster rather than destroying it.
Making wine was a really big deal in desert communities of the ancient world. Making children for Himself is an even bigger deal for our heavenly Father. Of ourselves you & I are full of contamination, unfit to drink like the water in Flint, MI, but through the Vine, which is Christ, we are purified, & all of heaven rejoices when even one of us repents. The Holy Spirit is an expert at seeing into our heart & finding the new wine. Abraham, Moses, David, all of them were deeply flawed men. All their failings, on the part of men who were revered as heroes of the faith, serve to underscore the lesson Israel learned at the foot of Mt. Sinai.
Not only did Israel become the people of God by His choice & His action alone, but also Israel’s continuance as the people of God depends not on Israel’s ability to keep the Torah, but upon the gracious & compassionate character of God.
Three times the people of Israel swear to keep all of God’s commands – Exodus 19:8, 24:3 & 7 – & then they immediately break the 1st commandment in the most egregious way possible. They made & worshipped the golden calf before Moses was even finished receiving the instructions Israel had sworn to obey.
Today’s OT reading shows this = Even when no one is looking for God, Immanuel is here looking, waiting for us. That’s not frustration. That is grace. “This is my body. This is my blood,” – waiting for you, so that He might once again give to you the new creation.
“The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him, but Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Return to your home, & declare how much God has done for you.’ And he went away, proclaiming throughout the whole city how much Jesus had done for him.” (Luke 8:38-39 ESV) Amen.
Perverse & foolish oft I strayed, but yet in love He sought me & on His shoulder gently laid & home rejoicing brought me. And so through all the length of days Thy goodness faileth never; Good Shepherd may I sing Thy praise within Thy house forever! Amen. LSB 709:3
4th Sunday after Pentecost – C (Proper 6) LSB #’s 748, 370, 490
Text – 2 Samuel 12:14
Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.
THE CHILD BORN TO YOU
Do you trust & believe in the Word of God? That’s an easy question for Christians to answer, on the surface. Yet, the topic of this sermon is a difficult one. I want to emphasize up front that this sermon is not saying the death of every child is the fault of the parents. The Bible doesn’t say that, & I’m not preaching it.
However, in this specific case God’s Word tells us that it is, & because the death of a child is always a troubling event, it is helpful for our walk ‘in faith’ to consider these Words of God. They seem to be totally unfair, a travesty, a violation of justice! How could a loving God be so intimately involved in the purposeful death of a child because of the sins of its father?
Another opportunity to ask questions about fairness came two weeks ago when a male gorilla at the Cincinnati Zoo was shot to death in order to save the life of a small boy. Many were outraged that the gorilla, who was where he was supposed to be, protecting his territory like male gorillas normally do, had to pay the price with his life for a child’s foolish mistake.
There’s a tremendous amount of tragedy in our world. The same is true of all history. It began with the murder of Abel, by his brother Cain, & has not stopped to this day. After king David commits adultery & murder, God chastens him by saying the sword will never leave his house. Thus, three of David’s other sons would suffer a violent death.
When the Prince of Peace is betrayed by Judas, Peter takes out his sword & strikes a man. Jesus heals the man, but tells Peter, “…all who take the sword will perish by the sword.” In other words, people who sow violence will reap violence. We might guess that hell will be a place filled with violence & vengeance & hatred. So, living in a sinful world, it’s not surprising that we become weary & want to give up. It grieves our heart to hear these words:
“Nathan said to David, ‘The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child who is born to you shall die.’ Then Nathan went to his house. And the Lord afflicted the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, & he became sick. …On the 7th day the child died.”
The Lord afflicted the child… Now, we’ll go back to the sermon’s opening question, “Do you trust & believe in the Word of God?” Maybe it’s not such an easy question to answer after all. Human nature likes quick & easy, yet powerful explanations.
With the death of David’s son, the only quick, easy & powerful explanations are the kind that rebel against Yahweh’s wisdom & power. By nature, they defy the very 1st commandment, “You shall have no other gods.” You see, up to a point, money can provide quick, easy & powerful answers. As it does, it easily slips into the role of god.
Charisma can provide quick, easy & powerful explanations. For a time, by mere force of personality, someone with charisma can make things happen. Years ago, a pastor came to the area in which I lived. After a few years he began using his charisma to swindle little old ladies of large sums of money. Children complained, & he ended up resigning from the ministry.
Charisma & force of personality can easily slip into the role of god. Yet, children of God live by faith, not by sight, nor by money, nor charisma, & not by quick or easy explanations. The book of Job gives us some insight as to how our wisdom stands relative to Almighty God:
“Can you find out the deep things of God? Can you find out the limit of the Almighty? It is higher than heaven – what can you do? Deeper than Sheol – what can you know? Its
measure is longer than the earth & broader than the sea.” (Job 11:7-9 ESV) The death of David’s son, on account of the sins of his father, was not a fair situation. There is no quick & easy explanation for all the suffering & tragedy of the past. The same holds true for the agony & heartbreak of our day, & of the days yet to come.
On the surface the sermon text appears to be totally unfair, a travesty & a violation of justice! Nevertheless, as you hear these words, “…the child who is born to you shall die.” I’d like you to think of another Child who died a tragic death which was absolutely the most unjust death ever to occur in all of the sad state of human history.
We sang of this child in the sermon hymn: “What child is this, who laid to rest, on Mary’s lap is sleeping? Whom angels greet with anthems sweet while shepherds watch are keeping? This, this is Christ the king, whom shepherds guard & angels sing; haste, haste to bring Him laud, the babe, the son of Mary!” LSB 370:1
David’s son, by Bathsheba, was for all practical purposes born to die for another man’s sin. It comes across as so utterly unfair, even cruel. If we step back for a moment & consider it from another angle, this child’s life sounds a lot like someone else we know.
He too was born to die for another man’s sin – in His case for the sin of Adam, along with every man, woman & child since him. Adam, whom the Lord God personally formed with His own hands “…of dust from the ground & breathed into his nostrils the breath of life,” that Adam chose not to trust in & believe this Word of God:
“…but of the tree of the knowledge of good & evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:17 ESV) Instead, Adam listened to the lie of Satan, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1 ESV) For that one act of rebellion, “…all the days that Adam lived were 930 years, & he died.” (Genesis 5:5 ESV) Adam disobeyed the command of the Lord of life. In so doing, Adam separated himself from life, & joined himself to death. Through becoming a human being, Jesus reconnected human flesh to God, & therefore, to life. Interestingly, there are numerous places in Holy Scripture where Jesus is referred to as the Son of David. Here are a couple examples:
At Mark 10:47, “And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out & say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’” At Matthew 15:22, “And behold, a Canaanite woman from that region came out & was crying, ‘Have mercy on me, O Lord, Son of David; my daughter is severely oppressed by a demon.’”
In Matthew 12:23, “…all the people were amazed, & said, ‘Can this be the Son of David?’” Today’s reading from 2 Samuel is part of the larger succession narrative that establishes the legitimacy of the monarchy of David, as the house chosen by God to rule Israel. King David, flawed as he was, is a foreshadowing of Jesus who is the true King.
Jesus, as The Son of David, is the ultimate fulfillment of that. The son of David, conceived in the adulterous relationship with Bathsheba, was also foreshadowing of The Son of David. Neither son was meant for an earthly kingdom. Both of them would die for another man’s sin. Jesus, as The Son of David, was the ultimate fulfillment in that role as well.
Jesus did not die for only one man’s sin, but as the Lamb of God, He took away the sins of the world. He died an unjust death as payment for the sins of David, & payment for your sins, & as payment for mine. Jesus, however, did not see His death as a travesty, but:
“…for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, & is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Hebrews 12:2 ESV) As we hear these tragic words, “…the child who is born to you shall die.” Jesus wants us to know that even the complicated & heart breaking words of Holy Scripture were written for our benefit. Given that, it’s helpful to hear these following words from the Book of Hebrews as they set the context for all the tragedy & suffering that goes on this broken & sinful world:
“Think of all the hostility [Jesus] endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary & give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin. And have you forgotten the encouraging words God spoke to you as His children? He said, ‘My child, don’t make light of the Lord’s discipline, & don’t give up when He corrects you. For the Lord disciplines those He loves, & He chastises each one He accepts as His child.’ As you endure this divine discipline, remember that God is treating you as His own children. Who ever heard of a child who is never disciplined by its father? If God doesn’t discipline you as He does all of His children, it means that you are illegitimate & are not really His children at all. Since we respected our earthly fathers who disciplined us, shouldn’t we submit even more to the discipline of the Father of spirits, & live forever? For our earthly fathers disciplined us for a few years, doing the best they knew how. But God’s discipline is always good for us, so that we might share in His holiness. No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening – it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way. (Hebrews 12:3-11 NLT)
With the death of David’s son, our heavenly Father was disciplining David for all the evil & brokenness David set in motion through his choice to commit adultery with Bathsheba. After all, David was king of the most powerful nation on earth. He had wealth beyond our dreams. It would take a lot to discipline a man in those shoes.
Yet the son who was born to die plays a far greater role beyond that of being a tool to discipline his father. This son demonstrates for us in a very concrete way, something that is extremely crucial in our heavenly Father’s plan of salvation. This son gives us a picture of the role that Messiah would play. He also would die an unfair death because of someone else’s sin.
Jesus died because we have sinned, & will continue to sin until our dying breath. In David’s story, God’s mercy is evident in that He sends Nathan to confront David, giving him a chance to repent, rather than simply killing David for his sins.
Nathan calls David to repentance & in so doing he is actually calling David back to life. In last week’s Gospel lesson Jesus raised a man who had been physically dead. Here, Nathan calls David from spiritual death & the Holy Spirit raises David back to life. Preachers & churches that offer Christians encouragement in the form of an easy reconciliation with their immorality are faithless watchmen. Where there is no repentance there is only a self-serving faith – faith centered in ourselves rather than in Christ. Only when we’ve joined David in genuine repentance can we share his joy in being truly forgiven.
It’s been said that the most godly thing in man is repentance & great was the repentance of David after this episode in his life. In Psalm 51, written after David turned back to God, he pleads with Yahweh, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation…” (51:12 ESV) Thus St. Paul confessed in today’s reading from Galatians 2:
“And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me & gave Himself for me.” (2:20b ESV) David had two sons who were born for the purpose of dying for another man’s sin. Yahweh caused that in order that we might have life & live that life by faith in Son who is no longer in the grave, but lives & reigns to all eternity.
That is so unfair & yet, Christ’s death for us was purely out of love for us even while we were yet sinners. “No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening – it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” Amen.
Why lies He in such mean estate where ox & ass are feeding? Good Christian fear; for sinners here the silent Word is pleading. Nails, spear shall pierce Him through, the cross be borne for me, for you; hail, hail the Word made flesh, the babe, the son of Mary! So bring Him incense, gold & myrrh; come, peasant, king, to own Him. The King of kings salvation brings; let loving hearts enthrone Him. Raise, raise the song on high, the virgin sings her lullaby; joy, joy, for Christ is born, the babe, the son of Mary! Amen. LSB 370:2-3
 Matthew 26:52 ESV
 2 Samuel 12:13b-15, 18a ESV
 Genesis 2:7 ESV
3rd Sunday after Pentecost – C (Proper 5) LSB #668
Text – Luke 7:16
Fear seized them all, & they glorified God, saying, “A great prophet has arisen among us!” & “God has visited His people!”
SEIZED BY FEAR
Arachnophobia was a horror film released in the year 1990. It plays on the aversion some people have to spiders. Other common aversions are Ophidiophobia, Acrophobia & Claustrophobia. In order, they are the fear of snakes, heights & confined spaces. They are typically irrational fears that fall into the category of anxiety disorders.
Phobias are one of the most treatable types of mental disorder if the patient is willing to receive, & to work at, a regimen of treatment. Rather than going through the desensitization process, most people prefer to avoid the circumstances causing the distress, & they’re fairly well able to do that.
Knowing even the number of hairs on your head, your heavenly Father also knows your fears. His Word, given to us in Holy Scripture, tells you & me, on 33 different occasions, “Fear not!” One of them was when the people of Israel had their back to the Red Sea & the Egyptian army facing them. Death looked to be certain, yet the mighty arm of Yahweh rescued them.
Remember how I said that phobias fall into the category of anxiety disorders? It seems that even God is aware of that. As proof, listen to Isaiah 35:4, “Say to those who have an anxious heart, ‘Be strong; fear not! Behold, your God will come with vengeance, with divine retribution. He will come & save you.’”
Death is our greatest enemy, & the Son of God took on human flesh for the express purpose of destroying death & the power it held over us. Jesus raises this only son of a widow in order to prove, for those who have faith in Him, that He is indeed powerful enough to overrule death. For those who still were not convinced, such as Doubting Thomas, Jesus Himself will be raised from the dead on Easter morning to make an even more dramatic point. Still, we need to keep in mind that Jesus demonstrates His power over death, not that we might live forever in this cursed & broken world.
Jesus raises the man from Nain, certainly to bless the widowed mother, but also to show that God has overcome this world even in its brokenness. Yet, so we don’t put our faith in a Pollyanna view of this life, Jesus spoke very clearly of reality in this world at John 16:
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (V. 33 ESV) Jesus is showing us that death will not be part of the new heavens & earth. The final resurrection from the dead will be our re-creation for the next, & everlasting, life.
In our current state, we cannot fathom an existence without sin & death. We see that in the reaction of the people to this miracle: “Fear seized them all, & they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has arisen among us!’ & ‘God has visited His people!’” They were thankful & yet seized with fear at the same time.
Seeing a young man raised from death to life isn’t normal, but it is what we want, isn’t it? The people there at this miracle weren’t suffering from just a phobia. Luke makes it clear that they were ‘seized by fear!’ We are of the world of sin, & the wages of sin is death. That’s why death strikes fear into our hearts, but why would coming back to life cause fear?
Fear seized them because it became undeniably obvious that Jesus is of a totally different world, one not affected by illness, sin or death. That is a world unknown to us & the unknown commonly brings fear into our heart, even if it’s along with thanksgiving. Fear is the natural reaction of sinful beings to a demonstration of unearthly power. The recognition of a loving God behind that power leads to a glorifying of God. The situation is similar for St. John in Revelation 1:
“When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the First & the Last, & the living one. I died, & behold I am alive forevermore, & I have the keys of Death & Hades. Write therefore the things that you have seen, those that are & those that are to take place after this.’” (Vs. 17-19 ESV)
It’s amazing to think of this widow receiving her only son back from death, yet, focusing on Jesus’s prophetic & divine visitation activity is more far-reaching. Pay attention to the last phrase of the sermon text: “Fear seized them all, & they glorified God, saying, ‘A great prophet has arisen among us!’ & ‘God has visited His people!’”
In Jesus’s life & ministry, the true voice of Yahweh Himself is heard, & the ‘end times’ saving deeds of Yahweh arrive. Listen to some of the other occasions when God visits His people. From Genesis 21:1, “The Lord visited Sarah as He had said, & the Lord did to Sarah as He had promised.”
Ruth 1:6, “Then she arose with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab, for she had heard in the fields of Moab that the Lord had visited His people & given them food.”
1 Samuel 2:21, “Indeed the Lord visited Hannah, & she conceived & bore three sons & two daughters. And the boy Samuel grew in the presence of the Lord.”
Luke 1:68, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited & redeemed His people.” That comes after John the Baptist is born & Zechariah is able to speak again for the 1st time in nine months. Listen & note the similarities to today’s Gospel reading:
“And he asked for a writing tablet & wrote, ‘His name is John.’ And they all wondered. And immediately his mouth was opened & his tongue loosed, & he spoke, blessing God. And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, & all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, ‘What then will this child be?’ For the hand of the Lord was with him. And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit & prophesied, saying, ‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited & redeemed His people.’” (Luke 1:63-68 ESV)
In those circumstances too, Yahweh does a miracle & fear came upon all their neighbors. Meanwhile, Zechariah describes it by saying the Lord God has visited & redeemed His people. However, I’d be remiss if I did not mention at least one example of Yahweh visiting people also for the purpose of judgment. From Isaiah 29:6,
“You will be visited by the Lord of hosts with thunder & with earthquake & great noise, with whirlwind & tempest, & the flame of a devouring fire.” In Jesus’s earthly life & ministry, the true voice of Yahweh Himself is heard, the voice of salvation for all of God’s people. The ‘end times’ saving deeds of Yahweh have arrived on scene.
Once Judgment Day comes, those saving deeds will be accomplished & done. Then the whirlwind, tempest & flame of a devouring fire will sweep all unbelief away, never again to corrupt even a single aspect of God’s new heavens & earth.
Today’s Gospel text conveys this awesome truth – as Jesus raises the son of the widow of Nain, the end times reign & rule of God broke in to our world – into history. The Word of Life conquered the word of death in human history. It broke in, we might say, ahead of time, before the full consummation of all things = which is the age to come.
It broke in as a kind of foretaste because not all the dead were raised. Indeed, the son of Nain’s widow died again, as did Lazarus & Jairus’ daughter. Jesus Himself rose triumphant from the grave on Easter morning, that too an ahead of its time manifestation of the reign & rule of God, but now as a full manifestation of the age to come. Jesus arose never to die again.
You & I are guaranteed to participate in that fullness, we who have been baptized into Christ & have put on His robe of righteousness. In the resurrection of the young man at Nain & in our Lord’s resurrection, then, our own resurrection at the full implementation of the age to come is assured. As certainly as Satan brought death into the world, Jesus is the Lord of Life & Yahweh cannot be defeated by death. The empty tomb of Christ is proof of that.
Thus Jesus says to us in Holy Scripture, “Fear not!” Come the Last Day, for all who trust in Jesus, fear will be forever banished from our hearts & minds. No more arachnophobia, claustrophobia, or acrophobia, but in this life, all of us should be able to identify with this widow of Nain.
She was completely helpless & yet in Jesus, God visited His people to bring her blessing & hope. In an indirect way, Jesus also rescues the mother from death for without a husband or son to support her she would have died very quickly. After all, who but a mad man would tell a mother not to weep at the funeral of her son?
Jesus is no madman, but Lord & Creator of the universe. We should approach Him with fear & awe & the utmost respect. The words of St. John apply also to us: “When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as though dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the First & the Last, & the living one. I died, & behold I am alive forevermore…’”
Because Jesus lives, those who trust & believe in Him shall live also, forevermore. We truly have nothing to be afraid of. Amen.
Rise! To arms! With prayer employ you, O Christians, lest the foe destroy you; for Satan has designed your fall. Wield God’s Word, the weapon glorious; against all foes be thus victorious. For God protects you from them all. Fear not the hordes of hell, here is Emmanuel. Hail the Savior! The strong foes yield to Christ, our shield, & we, the victors, hold the field. Wisely fight, for time is fleeting; the hours of grace are fast retreating; short, short is this our earthly way. When the Lord the dead will waken & sinners all by fear are shaken, the saints with joy will greet that day. Praise God, our triumph’s sure. We need not long endure scorn & trial. Our Savior King His own will bring to that great glory which we sing. Amen. LSB 668:1, 3
 Revelation 1:17-18 ESV
Pastor Dean R. Poellet