He Is Risen

Six of our seven grandchildren have made at least one trip out of the United States during their college years. This was recommended highly as a part of their education believing that a contact with the outside world would be broadening and give them a new concept of what it is to live outside of the United States.

When I visit with them about these experiences abroad, it is evident that the goal has been accomplished. Their eyes have been opened that not all the world’s population enjoy the blessings we have. It is also believed that we could learn from parts of the world, and such knowledge would enrich our lifestyle.

On this Easter Sunday I would like to emphasize that looking at our future through the resurrection of Jesus Christ gives the Christian an eternal dimension to life. Life without the promise of eternal life limits our days to a few years on planet earth. Science has increased our longevity, for which we are thankful. However, ultimately we die and are left with the question, What happens after death?

On a visit to my home many years ago, my father and aunt asked if I would go with them to visit their brother and my uncle who was dying. I did and we had an enjoyable visit until it was time for us to leave and I asked if I could read him a few verses from the New Testament. He replied by saying that he had lived for more than 80 years and would soon return to the dust. He didn’t care to have the Bible read to him. When I asked if he did not believe the message of the Bible, he replied, “Only parts of it like the Golden Rule, but nothing that refers to life after death.”

Three heavy hearts were in the automobile as we drove away that day. Hearing a brother and an uncle say that he rejected the thought of eternal life brought tears to the eyes.

Just think of it Ð the Easter message gives us a whole new understanding of the future! Travel can broaden our view of the world, but only faith in the risen Christ can give us a whole new look at eternity. That is the Easter message!

In Luke 24:1-12 we learn that some women went out to the tomb planning to anoint the body, and they were wondering who would be able to roll the stone away. However, when they arrived, the tomb was open. The women walked in and found no body. Two men (angels) announced that Jesus had risen. They then reminded the women of what Jesus said, “The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and on the third day be raised again” (verse 7). Then the women remembered, and they ran off to tell the disciples the Easter message: Christ has risen!

That morning their lives were changed. They did not have a dead Master, but a crucified and risen Lord.

The disciples carried this message with them until their death. If you turn in your Bible to Acts 10:34-43 you have an example of the disciple’s preaching.

Peter was in Caesarea visiting in the home of a man called Cornelius. He had been sent there by God to share the Gospel with him. Here was Peter’s message to Cornelius and the group assembled at his home:

“Christ commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God has appointed as judge over the living and the dead. All the prophets testified about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

While Peter was still preaching, the Holy Spirit came on all who heard the message. Then Peter said, “Can anyone keep the people from being baptized with water?”

A few days later a small church was established in Cornelius’ home. This is the way the kingdom has been built from that day to this Ð one person telling another person that Christ is their crucified Savior and living Lord and then inviting their friends and relatives to ask Christ into their hearts. This would make them God’s children. That message has never changed.

The people of the world need to hear this message, and the Church of Jesus Christ must proclaim it to them. Unbelievers are looking for answers for their confused minds. In many churches they are not hearing those answers, and so they do not return.

In the first part of this sermon, I mentioned that I asked my uncle if I could read this message of Christ’s dying for our sins, to which he said, “No.” Think of what a difference this message would have made in his life if he had only let me be used by the Holy Spirit to lead him to Christ and live his few remaining days with the assurance of his salvation. But as far as we know Lars entered eternity alone to stand before a loving, but righteous God. Yes, our hearts were sad.

The comfort of Job is the comfort of all who on this Easter trust Christ, for they can say, “I know that my Redeemer lives” (Job 19:25)

He Did . . .

It was sunset that first Palm Sunday. A man named Avi was walking up a hill toward his home, preoccupied. He was on his way back from downtown Jerusalem. He ran into a friend named Jacob who was coming down the hill.

Jacob asked him, “What’s that hoof print on your coat? You’re a mess, Avi. Did you get run over by a donkey or something today?”

“Something like that,” Avi said. “My coat did get run over on the road.”

“Avi, what was your coat doing on the road?” Jacob asked.

“I threw it on the road.”

“And why would you do such a foolish thing like that?”

Avi said, “To honor the King.”

“What king?” Jacob said. “Not that rascal Herod, I hope, or Pontius Pilate?”

“No,” Avi said, “The Messiah. Jacob, the king has come!”

Jacob stood back. He said, “Sure he has. And, Avi, just how did you draw that conclusion?”

Avi said, “He told us.”

Jacob asked, “How did he do that? Did he just say, ÔHi everyone, I’m your Messiah King?'”

“No,” Avi said, “He rode into town on a donkey, just like the prophet Zechariah said would happen someday. His followers were talking about a kingdom, and there was talk of a Messiah.”

“Oh?” Jacob said, “What’s his name?”

“His name is Jesus.”

Jacob said, “Oh, I’ve heard of him. He’s a miracle worker, a rabbi. Some people think he’s a prophet, but a king? Come on now.”

“Listen, Jacob,” Avi said, “I wasn’t the only one who caught the message today. There were hundreds, thousands who were throwing their coats down on the ground for the king to ride over right along side me. Some cut branches from trees, waved and threw them on the road before Jesus. He’s the King! I’m sure of it.”

Jacob looked a little skeptical, and he said to his friend, “Avi, are you sure you’re not just getting a little caught up in the spirit of Passover? You know, we really get pretty patriotic when we talk about the good old days Ð when God set people free. Are you sure you’re not just letting your imagination get the best of you, kind of wishful thinking?”

“Jacob, I tell you,” Avi said, “Our prayers have been answered, the King is here!”

“And did you talk to this King, Avi?” Jacob asked.

“Yes, not personally, but I shouted to him just like everyone else.”

“And what did you say?”

“I said, ÔHosanna!’ You know what that means Ð save us now!”

Jacob asked , “And, Avi, did he answer you?”

Avi said, “No, but I’m sure he will.”

And at that point, Avi turned from his friend and began walking again toward his house, Hosanna still ringing in his ear Ð Lord, save us now!

Dear Friends Ð I don’t know if that kind of conversation actually happened that first Palm Sunday. But I do know this: Jesus did answer those shouts of Hosanna, which means save us now. However, he answered them in a far different way than the crowd imagined.

Fast forward to Friday. There is Jesus, the King. He’s not sitting on a throne; he’s nailed to a cross. He’s not wearing a crown of gold, but a crown of thorns. The crowds are not cheering for him, they’re jeering at him. What’s the King doing up there? He’s answering those shouts of Palm Sunday, but in a far different manner than what those people had in mind. He was saving them at the cross. He was saving us, but not from armies or oppressive governments. No, he was saving us from our sinfulness so that we might have forgiveness.

All of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, not just with our actions but also with our thoughts, our words, the things that we leave undone that God would have us do. This sinfulness within us rears its ugly head in self-centered ways. Every-thing from rushing to beat the crowd out of the plane after it lands at the airport to pretending that you don’t hear the baby crying in the middle of the night while your wife gets up to take care of the baby.

This sin of ours has consequences. The Bible says the wages of sin is death. And so Jesus rode into Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday as our King to save us from it. It was God’s plan, and on Easter morning God affirmed it.

Avi was right. The King had arrived, and Avi was right in affirming to his friend Jacob, “he will answer our request to save us.” Jesus answered the hosannas by giving his life at the cross. He answered the hosanna that first Easter morning as death is defeated and God approves the sacrifice. The stamp of approval is upon it.

Why did Jesus go to all this trouble? Why did he ride into Jerusalem knowing what lay ahead? The best answer I can give you, based upon scripture, is that He did it out of His love for you. He went through all of that for you and me.

Someone said something to me awhile back that stuck with me. It wasn’t the nails that held Jesus to the cross. It was his love for us, that he might make us his own, that he might make us right in our relationship with God.

Martin Luther also gives us an answer to that question of why Jesus did all this. Many years ago, Martin Luther wrote a little book called the Small Catechism. In it he talked about the important things in the Christian faith, such as the Apostle’s Creed. He also spent some time talking about the meaning of the second article of the Apostle’s Creed, which is about Jesus. He talks about how Jesus, with His innocent suffering and death, has redeemed us. But at the end of the article, Luther writes, “All this he has done in order that I may be His own, live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness.”

Jesus saved us, first of all, so that we may be his own. The King came to take over our lives. I am no longer my own when I belong to Jesus. I have been bought with a price: the precious blood of Jesus Christ. I belong to him. He did this in order that I might be his own.

Luther goes on to say, “and live under him in his kingdom.” Jesus saved us in order that we might live as obedient subjects acknowledging him as the Lord of our lives. “You’re the boss, Jesus. What you say goes. I am going to live obediently according to your Holy Word, even when I may not appreciate or understand what you’re saying to me.” Like those disciples that day on Palm Sunday when Jesus said, “Go in and find a colt.” It probably didn’t make any sense to them whatsoever, but they obeyed because their Lord commanded them to.

Luther also says, “. . .in order that I might serve him.”

Lord, use me. All that I have, all that I am, is yours. Like the guy in the story with the donkey today who gave his donkey to you, take my life, take my things, take everything and let it be consecrated, let it be yours, to be used for your glory. Lord, may I be a servant the rest of my days.

Jesus went through all that he did because he loved us. He went through it all in order that we may be his own, and live under him, and serve him from now into eternity.

My dear friends, I would be wrong to not invite you this day, if you’re standing outside that relationship with Jesus Christ, to invite you to let the King ride into your life today. Surrender your life to his care. He has so much love to give you, so many great promises.

May that petition in the Lord’s Prayer be yours personally today. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done” in my life. The King has come. He has answered our prayers Ð save us. Praise be to God for the gift of Jesus.

Capture Our Hearts, Lord

Last Sunday, in the first of four Lenten sermons, we studied the ninth chapter of St. John’s Gospel. Here we learned that Jesus healed a man who had been born blind. This miracle caused a great deal of discussion among the people because they had seen him sitting in the market place begging for money.

The big question was, Who performed the miracle?

The neighbors debated the question and came to no agreement. Some believed that he had never been blind, but only presented himself as blind so that those who passed by when he couldn’t see would give an extra large gift.

Others believed what he told them: he had been healed by a prophet named Jesus.

The next move was to take the healed man to the Pharisees and learn from the religious leaders what had happened to restore his sight. When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had healed him, they wanted to hear what had happened from the blind man himself.

Hearing the man’s story, the Pharisees concluded that it could not have been Jesus. They had calculated that the healing took place on the Sabbath, which would have been considered work. Therefore, the healer would have broken the third commandment, which is to honor the Sabbath.

Finally, the man who could now see said to the Pharisees, “Whether he (Jesus) is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know, I was blind but now I see!”

On the basis of that confession, the healed man was thrown out of the synagogue.

It had been a few days since Jesus had healed the blind man, but the greater miracle was yet to be performed. Meeting the man whom He had healed, Jesus asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

“Who is He?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”

Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”

Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped Him.

At one time this man looked at Jesus and called Him a prophet, meaning a great person. Now he called him God.

It is not until Christ has captured our hearts that he can open our eyes. Turn to Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). This young man had good physical vision. He probably could have boasted that he had no need of glasses. His eyesight was 20/20, but spiritually speaking he was blind, for he could not see how well his father had provided for him. He could not see his Father’s love for him. Instead he wanted the Las Vegas of his day. Even though his father pleaded with him not to go, at the son’s insistence for his share of the estate, his father gave him the money, and he headed for the bright lights. Soon his money was squandered and he was destitute. So he hired himself out to a farmer to care for the pigs. His pay was to eat what the pigs ate.

This is where a broken man came to himself and began to see how foolish he had been by leaving his father. He finally started back home, and when his father saw him from a distance, he ran to his son. The son said, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son. (May I be one of your hired men?)”

But the father was filled with compassion for him. He put the best robe on him and said, “Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” So they began to celebrate.

First the son’s eyes were open, and then he could see.

How blind we can be when our sight is limited to seeing only the riches of this world. Can you see your riches that money cannot purchase? You have a family who loves you and health that makes it possible for you to enjoy this world. You have a mind that can think, and so the list goes on. But more than that, you have a Savior who will never leave you. Death can separate you from your loved ones, but no one can separate you from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. The Lord can open your spiritual eyes and show you your true riches.

Our hearts are captured and our eyes are opened to see both the physical blessings of the years we spend on this earth and the eternal home that has been prepared for us in heaven through the suffering, death and resurrection of our Savior.

How many people walk around with good vision, but are spiritually blind? Christ will cure our spiritual blindness if we let him.

Open Our Eyes, Lord

Two topics can cause heated arguments Ð religion and politics. We are often told that it is best not to discuss these subjects in a mixed group.

What are some of the topics people argue about in their discussions of religion?

¥ The ordination of women.

¥ Contemporary or traditional worship services.

¥ The type of hymns sung in the services.

While these are important subjects to discuss, none of them will affect our salvation. Our text today is recorded in John 9. It tells of Jesus healing a man who had been born blind. Seeing the blind man, the disciples asked, “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” (vs. 2).

Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life” (vs. 3). God would use the healing to show the crowd who Jesus was. So our Lord put mud on his eyes, and then told him to go and wash in the pool of Siloam.

This miracle caused the neighbors to discuss how he was healed. Some said that Jesus healed the man. Others said he was never blind, but had presented himself as a blind man so that people might have pity on him and give him larger amounts of money as he sat begging for help.

When they came to no agreement, it was suggested that they take him to the Pharisees and get their opinion. The Pharisees asked him how he was healed, and the healed man gave them an honest answer: Jesus did it.

The Pharisees said that whoever healed him was not from God because the healing had taken place on the Sabbath day, and no man of God would heal on the holy day for that would have been a sin.

The next move for the Pharisees was to take the healed man to his parents and ask, “Is this your son? Is this the one you say was blind? How is it that now he can see?” (vs. 18, 19).

The parents were not going to become involved, so they simply said, “We know he is our son, and we know he was born blind. But how he can see now, or who opened his eyes, we don’t know. Ask him. He is of age; he will speak for himself” (vs. 20, 21).

The Pharisees told the man that Jesus could not have healed him because he was a sinner. He had healed on the Sabbath, and God would never honor such a person.

Somewhat irritated, he said, “Whether he is a sinner, I don’t know. One thing I do know, I was blind but now I see!”

Days later Jesus went looking for the healed man who had been thrown out of the temple. When he found him, Jesus asked, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

“Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”

Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.”

Then the man said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him.

Now he could not only see physically, but also spiritually.

In this Lenten season, when we see Jesus suffering and dying on the cross, and being raised from the grave, he meets us and asks, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” Another way of asking would be, Are you saved?

Many will answer, yes. Others will say, I hope so.

We began by talking about some of our religious questions, which have little to do with our salvation. Many of these questions are important and should be discussed. But when we are talking about Christ, we are discussing the basics of the faith. Pray that our spiritual eyes may be open to behold Christ as the Son of God who takes away the sins of the world.