John 2:1-11 X Epiphany 2 C
January 20, 2013 Zion Lutheran, Pampa, TX Rev. Michael Erickson
It’s really sobering to think about. There are a couple of epidemics that plague our society these days – and I am not talking about the flu that is hitting many people this time of year. It is a spiritual epidemic that troubles people of faith to no end. Fifty-four million babies have been killed in our nation since 1973 since abortion became legal. 54 million – that is staggering. We need to recall that number as we think about people’s attitudes toward the Word of God. We are NOT listening to Him.
The other epidemic that I see growing in our society is the attacks and mistreatment of the holy estate of marriage and family. Young and old seem to take marriage as to mean very little to them. This shows itself in many people living together outside of marriage, divorce, and those who try to redefine marriage as somehow between same – sex partners. People that follow Christ cannot ignore these things and worse yet we don’t want to ignore God’s Holy Word and accept them as OK for us either. God help us.
In the Gospel today, Jesus honors marriage as He is invited and attends this wedding in Cana. Jesus sanctifies things and we know from other Scripture that our Lord is deeply concerned about marriage, and family, and the sanctity of human life itself.
The church needs to be CLEAR. Our young people are seeing and hearing so many false and dangerous messages from many different places. But please hear me: Save yourself for your marriage partner and don’t live with them before marriage. That is not just some old time attitude, but God’s holy will for your life. To put your will over the Lord’s is only to rebel against the Sixth commandment (and the others also). The Fifth commandment is still intact also: Don’t murder your neighbor – whether in the womb or on their sick bed.
But sin is everywhere around us. The world is so full of it. And sin is in you and me also. We are sinners and sinners like to go with the world and hell bound society rather than God’s holy Word. In reckless rationalizing you tell yourself, “Well if my kid does it, it is not that bad.” “Oh, I don’t want to speak out for the unborn, people will think I am too forceful or it will offend.” I can do what I want, so what if it hurts other people or myself.” “The church just wants to spoil people’s fun.” And the list goes on like that. Those words and thoughts are born out of sinful pride that wants to push God out and take away His authority. Repent. Turn from those evil thoughts and believe our Lord.
Remember some early history. The early Christians showed themselves to be different in matters of marriage and family than many of their pagan neighbors. Sure, they were sinful, but for the most part – the Christian husbands didn’t have mistresses that were common in Rome and Greece. They were faithful and devoted to family. Christians spoke out in their literature against the taking of life of those in the womb and upheld the sanctity of life for all people. May be we Christians need to start doing the same today. We need to believe the Lord and trust in Him!!
Mary did in the Gospel. When the wine ran out this is what she said in her solid faith in her Son. She told the servants to, “Do whatever He tells you.” That’s right: “Do whatever He tells you.” Mary could speak these words because she had faith and knew that whatever Jesus would do --- IT WOULD BE GOOD. That is faith which does not spurn God’s word, but trusts in Him – that He is good.
We, like Mary, as the Church need to say to the Servants – the pastors of the church – do whatever He tells you.” And faith TRULY BELIEVES WHATEVER THAT IS – IS GOOD FOR US.
Jesus has told His servants of the Word what to do: Go and preach the kingdom of God. Preach the Gospel to the people. Go baptize all nations and teach them. Forgive their sins. Feed my sheep. Administer rightly the blessed Supper given and shed for the many. Those things our Lord has graciously given to His Church and that is WHAT IS GOOD FOR US.
“Do whatever He tells you,” is not just some more law that will whip us all into shape by our efforts and pious acts. Those are filthy rags says the prophet Isaiah. Our efforts and works are not good (in and of themselves) – only Jesus is good and has good for us. That goodness is found in the Gospel of Christ.
You, as Jesus’ followers can trust and believe that He has what is good for you. His law and Gospel. His Word and Sacraments. His discipline and His testing. His love and mercy. His grace and compassion. That is His goodness for you.
But you sin and you confess those sins. And Jesus FORGIVES THOSE SINS. Christ comes and this God – man who can turn the simplest water into the finest of wine, as He did for the couple at Cana – goes to the cross for you. Jesus loves you with an everlasting love. There is forgiveness – even for those sins that you are ashamed of, and the wrongful actions in your life. Don’t continue in them, but turn to the Lord Jesus and you will find mercy and forgiveness with Him. For He is good.
Jesus manifested His glory by this wonderful miracle at the wedding feast. Jesus also manifests His glory as He is beaten, suffers upon Calvary, and is crucified for the sins of the world. Jesus manifests His glory when He steps out of the tomb and defeats death. This Jesus does for you. Jesus’ glory is also found here – HIDDEN in His body is given to you to eat, and His very blood – which really is the finest of wines- is given to you to drink in the Lord’s Supper. Here Jesus showering you with His gifts of mercy and love.
The wedding of Cana teaches us to rejoice that Jesus cares about all of our lives. So much so that He has come to redeem us with His precious body and blood hung upon the cross. May His holy medicine given by grace always keep you from the plagues of the world. Amen.
Luke 2:22-40 X Christmas 1 C
Your Eyes of Faith Have Seen Salvation
December 30, 2012 Zion Lutheran, Pampa, TX Rev. Michael Erickson
A blessed sixth day of Christmas to you all. I am so glad you have joined the Church today to continue to rejoice in and celebrate the wonderful birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord God Almighty has broken into our world in the flesh of this Babe born at Bethlehem. He has come and He comes to work salvation.
That is sure what our Introit was saying today. Did you catch all that from the Psalm 98 & Isaiah 52? It kind of sets the tone for today. The Lord God has bared His holy arm before the nations, and all the ends of the earth will see the salvation of our God. Hearing this, one gets the idea that the Lord, the Almighty Majestic God has rolled up His sleeves (if He had any) and is going to do something BIG. It’s as if He is going to wipe out the evil and crush all the wicked and slam down the worthless villains of this earth. It is as if He is going to work something mighty and wondrous – a great miracle like He has done many times before in which the whole world can see: parting a sea, crushing a whole army, keeping the sun standing still for a while and more.
So God is going to make known His salvation and He does this very thing with the incarnation— in the birth of Jesus in His taking on of flesh and becoming man! And we see this God in the flesh, Emmanuel at His 40th day as His mother and father brought Him to the Temple for Mary’s purification and to present Jesus as the OT reading spoke of in Exodus 13. If you recall, the OT required the redemption (the buying back) of the firstborn, a reminder of the Lord’s saving the firstborn at the Passover. There was also a purification of new mothers. Bleeding would take place in any birth and blood was a sign of death. So there was need of purification. Mary came to do as she was required in God’s holy law and was offering the sacrifice needed.
So here, Jesus enters the Temple being so near to the Holy Place, He Himself being the Holy One, the Holy of Holies, everything Holy really – in His person Himself. And Jesus is received by faithful members of God’s people – Simeon and Anna who were awaiting this Savior and looking to see Him. Here they see the SALVATION OF GOD in the 40 day old infant Jesus. And they are blessed.
So the salvation of God is certainly a big deal, but it doesn’t look like that big a deal here in the Gospel today. A meek couple with a baby, doing what the Law required of them and a couple of elderly faithful people thanking God and blessing Him in faith. Simeon, full of the Spirit speaks the canticle we call the Nunc Dimittis about how he can now depart in peace, his eyes have seen salvation, they have been placed on Jesus and now it is all fulfilled – He is a light to the Gentiles, and glory for Israel.
To help us see how big a deal this incarnation is in the Church, all one has to do is notice what we sing in our LITURGY. This really shows the importance and significance of the INCARNATION of the Savior – that He pitched His tent among us in becoming man.
There are 4 canticles or songs that come from Luke’s Gospel: Mary’s song, we call the Magnificat; Zechariah’s song, we call the Benedictus, the angel’s announcements of Christ we call the Gloria in Excelsis, and Simeon’s song we have here in our Gospel. Each of these canticles have a prominent place in the liturgy of the church. Each one REJOICES and exclaims the Lord’s taking on of flesh and coming to save mankind. That is how prominent this all is. The church has sung these over a thousand years in the Liturgy.
But it is no real big deal to us is it? We plod through life and probably don’t pay much attention to such things. Is Jesus taking on flesh the reason for your joy these Christmas days? Is the birth of your Savior a point you ponder much? Is faith, devotion, and trust in this Christ your peace and comfort as we look ahead to a new year?
Devotion, faith, trust in Jesus—this is the devotion Simeon and Anna display in our Gospel today. They were in the temple day by day just waiting for this Redeemer/Savior. They didn’t waver, they waited and they believed. They laid their eyes on the Lord Jesus.
How devoted are we anymore? We are more devoted to us than our Lord! And when we consider flesh, we must look at our own flesh and our own awful condition. Our flesh is full of sin, guilt, regret, self ambition, pain, grief – which all lead death. Sin and death – that’ our condition. We must all repent. Thank God He does not leave us in this condition.
But your faith, your eyes of faith also see the salvation of our God!!! That is the joy of Christmas and the coming and birth of our Savior Jesus Christ. Angels can sing, Simeon and Anna can rejoice in the old age, and you too can have joy and peace in this Savior.
For you hold the Christ in your hand (or He is placed on your tongue) as you partake of the Holy Supper. Your eyes of faith see the salvation of our God in body and blood of Christ you eat and drink this very day. Your sins are answered for and God’s salvation has been made known. He has revealed His righteousness and you have it in Christ. All your sins that trouble you this day – forgiven. All your guilt and rebellion – covered up and redeemed by Jesus. For Jesus’ death paid for them all.
Thus, like Simeon, you can depart in peace, real and true peace with God. Whether it is that you can now face death with little or no fear because you know things are right with God, or you can depart in peace to go serve your neighbor and love them in your daily calling and station in life. You can depart in peace. What joy and comfort to have your eyes of faith so opened and fixed upon Jesus, the Savior, God in the flesh having been born to die for us and our salvation. Your eyes of faith have seen, your ears have heard, and your mouth has tasted the salvation of our God. Merry Christmas and blessings to all. Amen.
Luke 1:39-45 X Advent 4 C
December 23, 2012 Zion Lutheran, Pampa, TX Rev. Michael Erickson
Well, what do we have in our Gospel today? Two pregnant women greeting each other. It doesn’t seem like that big of deal, especially to the casual onlooker, but these two women are going to have a couple of important children that will change the world. One is old, the other young. Both are pregnant through miracles! Elizabeth was barren all her life, but now in her old age she is carrying John, the Baptizer, the prophet who is going to prepare the way for the Messiah. Mary is with Child through the power of the Holy Spirit and is carrying that Messiah, the Son of God in her womb.
This is not just some normal greeting knowing all that, is it? The presence of God is among His people and He is housed in Mary’s womb. Soon she will give birth to fulfill the promise of God.
We need to think a moment about God’s presence to help us understand the great joy of this reading. God was certainly present with His people in the OT. One can recall the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night that did not depart from the people (Ex 13:22). One could also think of the Ark of the Covenant and the tabernacle, and later the Temple. In all of these God manifested His mighty presence. Think about how the Ark and the Tabernacle MOVED around with God’s people, keeping the people focused on the presence of God. The ark and tabernacle and these sacred vessels were vital physical signs of the Lord God dwelling amidst His chosen people.
Behold, now the true God has been conceived and is squished about in Mary’s womb. That is where the true God is housed at this greeting. Did you hear what Elizabeth said: “Why is it that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Mary is the vessel of God. And thus, she can be called the ‘God- bearer.’ Colossians reminds us that in Jesus all the fullness of the Godhead/deity dwells bodily (Col 2:9). So as in the Temple still in Jerusalem, Mary is also bearing the Holy One. He is the Lord.
Thus, her greeting to cousin Elizabeth is more than just hi and how’s it going. Mary comes with the greeting full of the substance of Christ, whom she carried. In her greeting the all powerful Word was shared for the child in Elizabeth’s womb leaps for joy. And where there is joy, there is faith. Mary’s greeting could very well be what Luke recorded in the next verses in his Gospel, in what we call the Magnificat.
Two things we learn from John’s leaping in joy in his mothers’ womb. One, babies are human. They are not just a blob or some advanced tissue or some other thing. Those inside the womb, the UNBORN, are people and thus God cares for them and loves them also. In our day when many want to take away personhood from the fetus, we must stand fast and speak what is clear in the Scriptures.
The second thing we learn is that babies can have faith. Yes, that is what the Bible teaches, and we Lutherans believe wholeheartedly. Babies, even in the womb, are able to be given faith. Now this does not downplay baptism, or take away original sin, but displays the all powerful and living Word that the Holy Spirit uses to create faith in John at Mary’s greeting. John heard the Word in the womb and leapt for joy in His Savior!! Now that is a blessed greeting to be sure! That is the joy of the Gospel reading.
So too, should not all the faithful in His Church not also leap for joy in the presence of the Lord?! For we in the church have the greater womb in the font of Holy Baptism where the Word springs forth and gives faith!!
But we don’t like to look at the Church that way do we? We like to think of the church as a small business. That is why so many want to market the church to young people, because we surely need young people to keep things going don’t we? The Holy Church is not about marketing some age group or in how much money we take in, or how well things are going! NO, the Church is about JESUS and the Word and Sacraments and faith nourished and the presence of God giving His gifts to His holy people. The church is about the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His person and work in His life, death, and resurrection. If that is lost, then we do become a club or a social center, not the living body of Christ.
This Gospel is great for us to learn this day. For what we learn is that the Church and God’s kingdom is not about glory and looking powerful or hip to the world, but really consists of lowliness and sorrow and shame. Lowly Mary, this teenager, poor and of no social status to impress people, lives in scandal being with Child as a virgin. Here she is the God bearer. Mystery and miracle, those are marks of the Church, still today. Keep this in mind as you sing all the deep and wonderful Christmas hymns and carols in the days to come. Keep this in mind as you ponder the mystery of the Light of the Word who is born to save sinners.
That is good for us for the kingdom of God that comes in the Church today is lowly and of no mighty status in our world. We live in weakness and in lowly estate, like Mary and Elizabeth. But the miracles never cease to bring God’s holy presence to you and me in the word and Sacraments. Jesus presence is now housed in His life giving word and in the Holy sacraments that have been given to you – that you partake of in this holy place.
Jesus was born for this – to bring you into God’s presence of kindness and mercy. He brings about God and sinners reconciled and that He is born in us anew. Jesus has purchased and won the forgiveness of your sins and freely gives His grace to you. We look to Jesus in His suffering and shame, His lowliness and sorrow. It is how He comes to take away the sins that weigh us down. Emmanuel has ransomed captive Israel! Your captivity is ended in Christ’s atoning death.
What hope and comfort to know that we are among God’s holy people through the merits of Christ the Lord. With that good news you can leap at the presence of the Lord. Amen.
Luke 7:18-28 X Advent 3 C
Are You the One?
December 16, 2012 Zion Lutheran Church Rev. Michael Erickson
I am sure that some of you get tired at how much I talk about the church year and the praise I give it. But it is such a treasure in the way it helps us be disciplined (especially for preachers) in looking at the Scriptures that focus us on of Jesus life and ministry. It is vital and this Gospel today just nails such an important question: Are You the one?
With so many other distractions and hustle and bustle we are in at this time of year, with the pain and suffering that seems to be exploding around us,…. the Church slows us down again to really ask, who is this Jesus? What is He about? Why the fuss? JESUS IS MORE THAN JUST A CUTE BABY WHO GROWS UP TO HELP PEOPLE. John wants to be specific about who this man really is.
We heard about John last week, out in the wilderness preaching about repentance and baptizing. John confronted Herod in his preaching for having His brother’s wife and thus was in prison at this time. While he was in prison he sends a couple of his disciple over to Jesus to ask Him this very important question: “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?”
John is important. He’s great, in fact. Last of the OT prophets. That’s what Jesus goes on to say. But it is NOT about John, it is about the ONE John points the people to – Jesus, the Christ.
Jesus basically identifies Himself in His answer to them. What do you see and hear: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead raised up… and so on. Jesus did some of these things right in front of John’s disciples. They saw for themselves. This is the Messiah. This Jesus is God who has broken into the world to make new, restore, and bring comfort to the people! This is what Jesus is doing – so He is the One!!!! Jesus is the Lord your God in your midst as the OT testifies (Zeph 3:17). It is by His VISITATION that will lighten the darkness of our hearts.
But here is the important statement that Jesus speaks in His answer that we need to ponder today: “And blessed is the one who is not OFFENDED by me.”
Now who can be offended by this man who is healing these poor folks and raising dead people and bringing so much joy and comfort to the maimed, the decrepit, the hurting, and the downtrodden? Who is getting scandalized (what the word means here) over Jesus delivering wholeness to the crowds?
Well, most people are not bent out of shape over healing, but they are scandalized over Jesus! His message, His person, His ministry, His whole being is one that polarizes people! Our Lord had a few faithful followers but He also had many opponents that possessed so much hatred toward Him they wanted Him dead!!
Why does Jesus offend? Most likely over different things. One is that Jesus is saying and confessing that He IS Messiah, the one promised for thousands of years in the OT. Just for any man to claim that He is God, that He speaks with this authority is offensive to many. If you remember when Jesus went back into the town He grew up in of Nazareth and spoke in the synagogue? What did the towns people want to do to Him? Throw Him off the local cliff!!!!!! This was too much for them.
Jesus is Immanuel – God with us. God in the flesh. That is still too much for many today also – and it offends.
The other way Jesus comes off offending others is the way He comes as a Messiah. Most of the OT thinking was that when the Messiah came He would come with vengeance and judgment. He would rip apart the evil and pulverize Israel’s enemies and make all the wicked ones pay with condemnation. But that is not how Jesus comes! This Messiah, the true Messiah comes preaching about the kingdom, healing many, and He comes to serve and die! He comes humble and lowly, not to blast and destroy the earthly enemies of Jewish nation. In His first coming Jesus doesn’t come to take vengeance, but to seek and save the lost. His second coming will deal with the judgment!!
Now for the vital question: Does this Jesus offend you? I sure hope not! But be careful, many people want a Jesus that just lets their short-comings and sin be OK in their life. They have certain EXPECTIONS of Jesus. WRONG ONES. They want and believe in a Jesus that lets anything go and allows them to live as they wish. These are the spiritual people, but NOT religious crowd. They are the so called Christians who NEVER attend the Divine Service, don’t care a lick about the assembly of believers, and the gifts of Christ delivers here.
Are you scandalized by Jesus?! Are there issues He speaks of in His Word that you just DON’T WANT TO HEAR? Are you like some who are offended by Jesus being true God and suffering so terribly on the cross? Are you one of those who can’t stand that Jesus says He IS THE ONLY WAY to salvation and heaven and to the Father? All other gods and religions are doomed! They hate that. Are you one of those who are scandalized over the sacraments, that Jesus really forgives sins and created faith in baby, and the His true body and blood are really there in His Supper? The list could go on. If you are offended by Christ or His Word or His ways, REPENT.
Jesus simply offends and you are so blessed if you believe what He says and confess who He is!!! It is a gift – a work of the Holy Spirit as the Bible teaches.
The Holy Spirit brings the true and faithful Jesus into your life! This Jesus who comes to absorb God’s holy wrath for you on Calvary. Jesus’ mighty work is that He took your sinful wicked spot and bore the punishment and ANSWERED for all your sins. This Jesus dies so you can have life and salvation.
That great joy I can share still today: Jesus still visits and comes to serve and save you in water and word, body and blood! He steps into our world, for you. Your sins answered for by the sacrifice of our Lord. It is His gracious visitation that lightens the darkness of our hearts. Rejoice, Jesus is the One. Amen
Luke 3:1-14 X Advent 2 C
Make Ready the Way!
December 9, 2012 Zion Lutheran, Pampa, TX Rev. Michael Erickson
Advent is a penitential season. Not to the extent of Lent. Some of you most likely remember that a number of years ago the color for the Advent season was purple, just like Lent. Now Advent is blue, which does help it be distinguished from the season of Lent and blue is a color of hope and the color of the sky in which reminds of Jesus’ Second Coming, for He will come in the clouds.
Since Advent is penitential we subdue our praise, and that takes form by omitting the Gloria in Excelsis or Hymn of Praise in the Divine Service. Being penitential means Advent is about REPENTING. And that is the message John the Baptizer comes to proclaim. He cries out: REPENT.
John is the prophet who comes before Jesus and is out in the wilderness proclaiming a baptism of repentance. What is this repentance? To repent means to TURN – to make ready the way. This turning is a complete change which v. 5 alludes to: “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways…”
John is preparing the people for Jesus. They must repent and see Him as the salvation of God. We must repent and turn from sin to Christ. Repentance is not a turning from sin to good works, but rather a turning from sin and putting one’s faith in Jesus Christ. It is not just a one time event – it goes on day to day. We don’t rid ourselves of sin, sin still plagues us and we need to continue to repent and look to Christ.
Do you remember the Small Catechism on what Baptism indicates? “It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by DAILY contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires… for a new man daily emerges…” So we daily repent and daily look to Christ for our forgiveness – that is living in your Baptism. That is Advent living.
If we only turn from sin to good works, then one would trust in your works – the turning is always to Jesus, the true Savior. He came into our world to die and rise – what WE ARE BROUGHT INTO in Holy Baptism. It is our death and resurrection. What comfort to know that God came into my world, into my sin and guilt to wash it away by His work and sacrifice.
But there were those who came to hear John that it was NOT their main goal to repent and turn from their sin. John preaches to them in the crowd a harsh message of judgment. “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” But these folks didn’t want to turn or look to Christ as any Savior. They wanted their father Abraham and nothing more. They thought they could get right with God through the coattails of Abraham. But John lays them bare by telling them that the Lord doesn’t need them, He can raise up children of Abraham out of the very stones around them if they don’t want to repent. They desperately need to confess their sins and turn to Christ. If not, there is God’s wrath to face.
And many still don’t want to hear and repent today. There are those among us don’t see any urgency here. They think this is silly. They want to hang on tightly to their hard hearts and their sins. And this is what I notice about such folks. If you really confront people with their open and public specific sins (which the Scriptures say to do) then they often get offended and leave the church. They can’t handle the real turning from something wrong with them and they often can’t admit that certain transgressions live within them. They like what they are doing that much to forsake the Word of Christ and the assembly of His believers. The warning for us all – admit your sin and humbly take comfort in such the vast and great mercy of Jesus.
The other group in the crowd, those who listened to John the Baptizer and turned from their sin and were waiting for the Messiah asked what to do. John does point them to acts of mercy toward others. John gives them specific and concrete ways to treat others and live in their vocations. Share what you have. Don’t cheat others. Don’t exhort or falsely accuse or threaten those you deal with from day to day. After the call to repentance, and faith in a Messiah, then John gives them to godly living and showing the fruits of the repentance and faith.
Why call to repentance and point to the Messiah? Because of the wrath to come. That is why John prepares the way of Christ by calling to repent. The axe is laid at the tree. Those who don’t bear fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. Who will save us from God’s righteous wrath? Our Lord and Savior. Jesus will save us from the holy wrath of God by His bloody sacrifice upon the cross. Through His crucified body and His blood shed we have life and peace with God. Jesus reconciles us with God. Jesus takes on the wrath of God FOR YOU. Through our Baptism we are buried with Jesus and rise to new life. Through His body and His blood we are fed the fruits of life and salvation in His Eucharist.
Christ gives you this joy and comfort in life. His love is so vast. And thus you have the peace of a good conscience knowing all your sins are wiped away. That was spoken in our Collect today: “… that we may be enabled to serve You with pure minds…” You have a pure mind and heart for you rest in such comfort in Jesus. His forgiveness really gives you life, eternal life. Thus you are prepared, made ready, and living in faith with a good conscience before Almighty God.
This is the joy and confidence you have in Jesus Christ. He has caused repentance and faith within you. He has brought salvation to you. He has saved you from the wrath to come. All this Jesus does and makes ready the way! Amen.
Hebrews 10:11-25 X Pentecost 25 B (Proper 28)
Hope Without Wavering
November 18, 2012 Zion Lutheran Church, Pampa, TX Rev. Michael Erickson
Hebrews 10 is LOADED with substance – rich theological truth for you. There is a lot here. So much so that it could take an hour or two to really go over it. But we don’t have that, so we look into our reading today with this in mind: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering… (Hb 10:23).”
First off, there is this ONE SINGLE SACRIFICE of our Lord Jesus Christ. The writer here brings to mind all of the OT sacrifices that were done over more than a thousand years before Christ. Countless numbers of rams, and bulls, and lambs and other clean animals were offered upon the altar at the Tabernacle and later the Temple. So much blood spilt and thrown upon the altar, but even though they did not forgive the sins, they were not useless. ALL OF THESE sacrifices pointed to the ONE sacrifice of the true Messiah, Jesus and his cross.
Why all those sacrifices? Why Christ’s one all sufficient sacrifice? It all happened on account of sin in the world. Many of the OT offerings were guilt or sin offerings. We have a dire problem. We are born dead in our trespasses, wicked, hostile to God. It is in your life also. You show forth lawless deeds in breaking God’s commandments. You have a bad conscience because of your actions. You have not always encouraged or loved your fellow believers as our Epistle calls for today. No we all have sinned, and the sacrifices were to try to cover those sins.
But only one sacrifice does cover the sins of the whole world. That is Jesus’ offering up of Himself upon Calvary. He is the LAMB of God that takes away the sins of the world. He gets the job done. Jesus’ suffering and crucifixion does it all, pays for it all, truly suffices for the redemption price. The ransom is complete. Jesus pays it in full. And God the Father accepts His SINGLE holy offering of Himself and in His resurrection brings Jesus to His right hand to reign – to sit with Him to rule. One act, one deed, one PERFECT SACRIFICE and all your sins are forgiven. What could be better news?
Because of Jesus one all sufficient sacrifice you have something so wonderful – and that’s CONFIDENCE. “Therefore brothers since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus…. (v 19).” This is staggering!! You, sinner that you are, have confidence to enter the presence of the almighty holy God and not be obliterated. That is good news! Remember in the OT only the high priest could enter the most holy place, after he consecrated himself and that was only once a year on the Day of Atonement. Regular folks just didn’t wander into the holy places. They were protected from that.
But you have this confidence. The blood of Jesus covers you and yours sins are wiped away and you have access to God. You have total access to a loving, merciful God who wants you to be with Him. Did you notice in the reading that the writer also mentions, not only the blood of Jesus, but also His flesh. He opens the curtain, this refers to curtain that separated the holy places, and this curtain is opened through the FLESH of Jesus.
So your confidence rests in the body, or flesh of Christ and His blood. There you have the Lord’s Supper!!! Jesus flesh and His blood, there for you, to give you confidence before God. Sins forgiven, life restored, salvation – a gift to you. This is not haughty confidence in yourself, but a faithful confidence in Christ.
And that is not all. Then Hebrews brings us to the other blessed sacrament of the Church, Holy Baptism, when he speaks of the sprinkling clean of an evil conscience and how our bodies washed with pure water. The gifts abound in our fine reading.
We get to draw near (to God) with a true heart because of this washing, this Holy Baptism. You have this true heart, because your evil conscience is done away with. This IS the joy and comfort of the holy faith, you are a baptized child of God. He has washed your clean and you can live each day in a good conscience on account of Christ. You are covered with Christ. You can rest in Him. Your sins are really taken care of and you can draw near to your heavenly Father in peace and joy.
So our Epistle gives us such hope without wavering in the one sacrifice of Christ, the Lord’s flesh and blood of the Supper, and in Holy Baptism – all gifts He bestows upon us. But He is not done yet.
He also wants His church to spur each other on to love and good works. Since we have this hope without wavering, our Lord desires that we NOT give up meeting together. In other words coming to the Divine Service is absolutely vital in enlivening and strengthening faith that flows out into good works. I love how the The Lutheran Study Bible put it in the note on this verse (TLSB pg. 2122): “Those who despise the Church easily fall from faith.” Neglect the preaching of Christ, neglect the absolution, the Holy Supper, the assembly and you will strangle your faith and allow it to die. This is huge and reminds us that our many friends and loved ones who are on path of faith killing need our prayers and encouragement to get the Divine Service. I pray the Lord will use me to that end, but if you can help- by all means have courage and speak when you can. The Divine Service should be absolute central to our lives! It is the refuge for sinners.
Not only do we receive the gifts of Christ here we get to encourage one another as the final Day approaches. And we need that encouragement. Our Lord is coming back. He blesses us with all that we have heard today. And as our collect reminds us He has released us from the bonds of our sins that we have brought upon ourselves. In that we have confidence, we have a hope without wavering that we will stand firm until that day.
In Christ you stand firm. Jesus’ all sufficient sacrifice paid for all your sins. He gives you His Supper, His baptism, His word to keep you always alive in the Faith. Amen.