Sunday, June 5, 2011

Exaudi–The Seventh Sunday of Easter (Easter 7)


John 15:26 – 16:4; 1 Peter 4:7-14; Ezekiel 36:22-28

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

The Incarnation of the Son of God was much more than the Word becoming flesh and making His dwelling amongst us, it was the beginning of the resurrection and the eternal life of men, a resurrection and life that the resurrection of Lazarus was but a shadow and type of and that the resurrection of Jesus was the guarantee of. When Gabriel proclaimed that the Holy Spirit would come upon the young virgin Mary and that the Spirit of the Most High would overshadow her, the Word of God became flesh and true and eternal life came into man for the first time since God breathed His life-giving Spirit-breath into Adam’s nostrils and he became a living being.

In Jesus, God’s salvation came to men. In Emmanuel, God had visited His people. But there was nothing showy or spectacular about Jesus, He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him, and no beauty that we should desire Him. But, in this humble, common way, as a boy, as a man, He honored His father and His mother, He loved God with all His heart, soul, and mind, and He loved His neighbor as Himself. He fulfilled the Law of God for us who were corrupted by the sin of our fathers before we took our first breath or committed our first of countless transgressions of thought, word, and deed thereafter.

At twelve years of age, Jesus learned under the Rabbis and amazed them with His faith and knowledge. He Himself became a respected Rabbi enjoying the favor of both God and men. Even the Pharisees counted Him as one of them and sought to have table fellowship with Him and listen to His teaching. Though the Scriptures are silent about the intervening years of Jesus’ adulthood, we can assume that they transpired in much this same way as Jesus experienced life as a human man, eating, drinking, working, sleeping, praying and worshipping God, teaching and learning, growing, experiencing joy and sorrow, growing in faith, love, and trust, while experiencing temptation yet without sinning.

Then the day came when He submitted to be baptized by His cousin John in the Jordan River. For some time John had been teaching his disciples that Jesus was the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world, but when Jesus was baptized, miraculous and powerful signs occurred indicating both the truth and the fulfillment of John’s prophecy: The heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on Him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, "This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased." The voice from heaven was that of God the Father. Not only did the Father reveal that Jesus was His Son, but He proclaimed that with Jesus He was well pleased. This was remarkable and wondrous, for not since the creation of Adam and Eve was it possible for God to look upon man and proclaim that He was well pleased.

There in the waters of the Jordan stood the sinless, obedient, humble, and holy Son of God incarnated as a man. Where sinful men came to wash themselves as a sign of their repentance, the one who knew no sin came to become sin for us that we might become the righteous of God. The descent of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus anointed Him, christened Him the Christ of God, the Messiah. Just as King David was chrismated for a reign of humble, sacrificial service, even death for God’s people, so Jesus the Christ, the Son of David and the Son of God began that day His reign of humble sacrificial service, even death for all men. But, where David succumbed to temptation and was no shepherd to God’s people, even, at times, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, Jesus was the Good Shepherd who willingly laid down His life for His sheep.

Jesus showed the world what it truly meant to love God and to love the neighbor. He showed mercy, love, and forgiveness to tax collectors and prostitutes and sinners and had table fellowship with them. He would allow lepers and the unclean to enter His presence and He healed them by proclaiming the forgiveness of their sins. It came to pass that the Pharisees were not so enamored with Jesus any longer. They were offended and scandalized that Jesus showed love and compassion to such people, but that is what it truly means to love God. The Pharisees showed themselves to be not only unloving of the people that they were appointed to shepherd and to lovingly teach and comfort, but they showed themselves to be truly unloving and resentful of God.

So, they began to plot, with other like-minded accomplices, to get rid of Jesus and to secure their own power and influence. They even colluded with the ungodly, pagan Romans, who enslaved them, to crucify the Christ of God, the Messiah, because He showed and taught love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness to people that the Pharisees refused to love, because they did not truly love God. One of His closest disciples betrayed Him, and they all, even Peter, deserted Him. He was arrested, tried, and convicted as a criminal. He was scourged, beaten, whipped, and mocked. At last, they nailed Him to the tree of the cross and He died, the sinless one for sinners, because He was the LORD’s Christ, His anointed one, the Messiah, and this is how God so loved the world.

The Incarnation of the Son of God was the beginning of the resurrection and the eternal life of men, but the resurrection of Jesus was the guarantee of that for all who would believe. And yet, that is not where it all ends, but still there is more! Our resurrected Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ continued to experience life as a human man, eating, drinking, working, sleeping, praying and worshipping God, teaching, experiencing joy, in perfect faith, love, and trust, but now, glorified in human flesh no longer experiencing suffering, sorrow, or temptation. Jesus lives, the firstfruits of all who will be raised from death to eternal life through faith in Him.

I think that many Christians are content to end the story with Jesus’ resurrection – And, they lived happily ever after – but, there was a reason that Jesus lovingly taught Mary saying, “Do not cling to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brothers and say to them, 'I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" Jesus’ ascension to the Father is every bit as important as is His incarnation, His fulfilling of the Law, His suffering, death, burial, and resurrection from the dead. In Jesus’ incarnation, human flesh could live once again. In His obedience to the Law, Jesus fulfilled the Law for all men. In His innocent suffering and death, Jesus became the curse of man’s sin and men, in exchange, became His righteousness. In His resurrection, the final bonds of death were broken for all men so that, on the Last Day, all the dead will be raised. But in His ascension to the Father, we have the guarantee that we will live in the presence of our holy Triune God forever, for a flesh and blood man, Jesus, the Christ of God, has ascended there as a human man in resurrected and glorified flesh. He now sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven, reigning over all things, working all things, even the bad things, for the good of those who love Him. And, on the day which only the Father knows, He will return in the same manner in which He was seen to go, in human flesh, as a man, the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord.

Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again. That is a guarantee! And yet, still there is more to celebrate! Jesus promised His disciples, His Church, that if He left them, He would send to them a Helper, a Counselor, a Comforter to comfort, guide, and keep them in the little while during which the Church must wait for His return. As is recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, Jesus said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."

Even now we are in that little while, witnessing the self-giving love of Jesus to our congregation, community, and the world while we wait in confidence for the return of our King. Satan, the world, and our own flesh conspire against us to deceive us, to tempt us to not believe that Jesus will return, but that the world will continue on as it has so that it is wisest to live for one’s self and do what pleases each one. But, we have the gift of the Holy Spirit who guides us in the truth, and the Truth is Jesus Christ. We have the gift of forgiveness and comfort and the strengthening of our faith through the Means of the Spirit, the Means of Grace, in the preaching of the Gospel, in the Holy Supper, in Holy Baptism, and in Holy Absolution. And, we have the gift of faith, the assurance of things hoped for, the certainty of things unseen, that our Holy Triune God, the Father who has created us and who sustains us, the Son who has redeemed us in His holy innocent shed blood, and the Holy Spirit who calls, gathers, enlightens, sanctifies, and keeps us in the one true faith are always working for us and for our good so that no matter what may happen, nothing can snatch us out of the Father’s hand and nothing can separate us from the love of the Father through Jesus Christ.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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