In November 2016 the Chinese government started testing an entirely brand new technology for their society called: A Social Credit System.
Did you hear about this? The Social Credit System uses cameras and computers to monitor and track social and financial behavior in order to assign credit ratings to citizens. Computers scour through your transit receipts (for the bus or subway), making sure you pay the appropriate fares. Cameras can pick you out of the crowd and determine if you obey civil laws. Programs filter through your internet searches to confirm that you agree with the communist state. All this information is collected and stored in an enormous database; a file is put together on you. Then, based on your behavior you are assigned a credit score. That credit score either allows you access to certain services or it may blacklist you from certain services.
This system has been in place in Beijing for two years already. You’re starting to see the results. A Chinese businessman is actually prohibited from purchasing train tickets because he lost a lawsuit against a landlord. A mother got caught using her son’s student discount-card for a subway ticket and the government publicly shamed her by plastering her face (and crime) on television screens hanging throughout the city. If you jaywalk, you may not be able to take out a personal loan. If you have more than one child, you may be banned from sending your child to private school. If you do not pay parking meters, you may not be allowed to check-in at a luxury hotel. Those who behave well are put on a “red list” and have quicker access to government services. (For example, if you were a good person, you could cut to the front of the line at the Secretary of State.) China hopes to monitor the entire nation by 2020. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/chinas-new-tool-for-social-control-a-credit-rating-for-everything-1480351590) This system forces obedience driven by fear. Obey the law and good things happen. Break the law and consequences follow.
Could you imagine living under a system that forces obedience? (Be good, or else!) I think you could and you do— because your heart (and mine) often struggle to properly love God. It can feel that you must live a certain way in order to be a Christian. Be good, and you can be sure you’re saved. Act bad and, well, you might not really be a Christian.
God busts through the faulty imaginations of your heart and teaches you the proper motivation for life. Christian Living Starts with God. He frees your heart from condemnation. He gives you the Spirit to serve.
Today we’re talking about: “sanctification.” Now, I understand that can be a challenging word, but it’s a word the Bible uses (for example, 1 Thessalonians 4:3). [The word:] “Sanctify” means “to make holy” or “to be holy.” To be without sin. To be pure, innocent, blameless in the sight of God.
When you look at yourself and examine your life, you realize that “holy” is probably the last word you would use to describe yourself. But you are “holy.” You are without sin in the sight of God. How? Because of Jesus.
You see, the sacrifice made on the cross paid your spiritual debt against God. It is gone, removed, paid in full— and you did not have to work for it. This precious gift of forgiveness becomes yours by faith. Faith— that is, trusting in Jesus as Savior. He rescued you, you did not rescue yourself. He removes guilt; it’s not up to you to feel better. The Holy Spirit uses the waters of baptism to wash you clean before God (1 Corinthians 6:11). God the Son removes sin. God the Holy Spirit puts Jesus’ perfect life on you. God the Father declares you “holy.” And that is what you are. You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ (Galatians 3:26-27; see also 1 Peter 2:9-10).
It remains important to remember that order. Jesus dies to wash you clean; he rises to call you clean. Now you live a holy life. Christian Living Starts with God.
What happens when you flip that order? What happens if you think Christian living starts with you? You begin acting as though God set up his own Social Credit System.
The thinking goes like this: In order to be a Christian you must act like a Christian. So, go to church. Be kind. Help the poor. Be patient. Do not drink. Support mission work. Be a better spouse. Do not curse. Encourage your children. Read your Bible. Give a percentage of your income as an offering. Do not dance. Wear certain clothing. Eat the right foods. Pray the right prayers. Choose to accept Christ into your heart. Obey this. Stay away from that. Be better. Be a Christian.
Do you see where the motivation for Christian living comes? From guilt! From fear! From pride! You obey in order to avoid punishment and receive a reward. You obey in order to be saved. You find comfort for heaven by the way you live. If you please God with your life, then God will reward you. If you do not please God with your life, then you must work off your crimes against him. If you study that closely, you soon discover that believe you saved yourself. (1) You have heaven because you pleased God. (2) You have heaven because you made the right decision. And both of that thinking rejects the need for a Savior— because you did all the work.
The disciple John stresses: Christian Living Starts with God. You cannot examine the way you live and find the assurance that you are saved. You will constantly wonder if it is enough.
Christian living comes as a result of what God has done for you. You live as a Christian because God frees your heart from condemnation.
[This is] how we will set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. When your heart condemns you, when you feel that Christian living is a way to convince yourself that you are saved, look to Jesus. Christ died for you Christ chose to die, not asking that you repay him. He carried your sins. He suffered your punishment. [He] was made sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21). It is the saving work of Christ that makes you a Christian. He frees your heart from condemnation.
So, when Christian living feels more of a “must” than a “want to,” reset your focus. Christian Living Starts with God. He frees your heart from condemnation and He gives you the Spirit to serve.
You live a Christian life because the Holy Spirit lives in you. John writes: Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us. Notice, you did not choose to please God and God rewarded you with faith. You did not behave like a good person and so now God loves you. God gave you the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit living in you gives you peace and freedom. Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us… that is, your heart does not condemn you. It finds rest in the Son of God who takes guilt and buries it into the depths of the sea. [W]e have confidence before God. You can point to the cross and say, “But Jesus died! And he died for me!” You can point to the baptismal font and say, “But God forgives! Baptism brings the Holy Spirit into my life. That’s God’s promise; that is what happened!” (Acts 2:38; Titus 3:5) You can kneel at the altar and hear those precious words: “Take eat, take drink this is Jesus given for you, for the forgiveness of your sins” (Matthew 26:26-29). You may be certain that you are holy before God because God himself plainly calls you “holy” and points you to his sacraments which made you holy.
God gives you the Holy Spirit so that you are equipped to serve. If you are set free from fear and guilt, you will live as one without fear or guilt. That happens naturally. You do not have to make a conscious effort to be a better person. As you set your attention on the Word and the sacraments, you will grow in appreciation for what God has done for you. Naturally, you will show your appreciation to God by serving others.
That’s why John can say: And this is his command: to believe in the name of his Son, Jesus Christ… which, you already do and to love one another as he commanded us. You love one another with more than just words or tongue, you love with actions and in truth.
God at work in you produces fruits through you. Some of your fruits are seen. The care God has for you moves you to care for others. So, you write cards. You visit the homebound. You grow concerned when someone is sick. You encourage your son or daughter when they have not been to worship for a while. You donate to food-drives and shelters. You volunteer at hospitals and soup kitchens. You babysit your [great]grandchildren so that parents may work. You are not trying to prove that you really a Christian. You already are! You are connected to Jesus the Vine! The natural result is to do what branches connected to the Vine do: Produce fruit (John 15:1-8). Touched by God’s love, you reflect that love.
Continue loving with more than just words or tongue; love with actions and in truth. That means, when your congregation highlights a tight budget, do more than just say, “Oh, someone should give more.” Consider in your heart if you might be that person; if you—along with others—can adjust your offerings to meet the need of carrying out God’s work. That means, when you see someone struggling with a child or with physical need, do more than just say, “Oh, that kid needs to quiet up!” or “Ah, she’s complaining again.” Consider if you are able to help handle an upset child or if you can be the answer to someone’s challenge. Again, the reason you would even consider this in the first place is because Christian Living Starts with God. He gives you the Holy Spirit, who motivates you to serve others.
See the order? Sanctification— the way you live as a Christian— only comes after Jesus frees your heart from condemnation. Since you are free from condemnation, you do not have to live as though God has set up a Social Credit System— where God expects good behavior or else suffer the consequences. Rather, God first sets you free from condemnation and then gives you the Spirit to serve.
Remember why you live a Christian life. It’s nothing you owe to God. Rather, it is who God made you to be. Connected to the Vine, you produce the results of being connected to the Vine. You touched by God’s love touch others with God’s love.
That is the motivation for life. Christian Living Starts with God. He frees your heart from condemnation. He gives you the Spirit to serve.
"I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb; Ever glad at heart I am… " Be honest with yourself, when singing those words, was there a moment when you felt this hymn was just a bit childish? …like this song is meant for little kids and not for adults? …that you’re too old to be singing this? … that you need something with a more complex focus and moving melody in order to capture inner angst? To be honest, sometimes I think so.
The words are simple and the melody catchy. It’s a song for little kids. But, isn’t that the point? That this child-like hymn is purposely in our hymnal so that you can be a child?
For just a minute, step into the life of a child. Picture it: you have no job, no stressful deadlines, no demanding schedule. You have no need for a certain amount of income, and therefore, no pressure to make a budget work. In fact, your parents pay utility bills, doctor bills, grocery bills, and car bills. Children have such simple and sincere relationships. No stewing over the harsh words she said to you. No nervousness of saying the right things in order to keep others happy. Children simply blurt out what’s on their mind without a second thought. Children have an innocent view of life. They trust, not question. They’re relaxed, not worried. They have peace, not anxiety. Does that hymn sound childish now?
I would guess that most, if not all of you have wished at some point in life to be a child again. To get rid of the stress. To get past the tough relationships. To remove those pressing responsibilities. To put an end to all the nonstop, incessant worry. To live at complete ease.
Perhaps that is what makes these words (John 10:11-18) some of the most beloved words for a Christian. Today you sink into the bliss that comes from living under the care of Jesus, Your Good Shepherd. But remember this: Good Shepherd Sunday does not exist for one day only. Each day Jesus Remains Your Good Shepherd who sacrificed his life for yours and who brings life in his fold.
He cannot stress that enough. Jesus plainly says, “I am the good shepherd.” In the Greek language (the original language of the New Testament) that little phrase comes out even stronger. Jesus literally says: “I, I am the Good Shepherd.” It’s like he’s tapping his finger on his chest saying, “Hey! Look at me! Concentrate on who I am; focus on what I am capable of doing! I am Your Good Shepherd.”
Do you understand what he means by calling himself “good?” In our English language “good” can mean many things. You eat “good” cake. A ‘B+’-grade-average in school might be “good.” Those standards of “good” change from person to person. “Good” cake does not mean it’s the “best” cake ever. A “good” grade could be an even better grade. Jesus is not just another “good” Shepherd— one among many shepherds (and you might find someone better). No. When Jesus calls himself “good,” he sets himself apart from everyone else in the world. He’s “good” because he lays down his life for the sheep.
The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. Since he does not own the sheep, he abandons the sheep and runs away when he sees the wolf coming… The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep. If you lose a friend’s book, you do not lose money; you did not lose a possession. Your friend suffers the real loss; you do not. If the wolf mauls the sheep, the hired hand loses nothing! The sheep-owner must purchase replacements. The hired hand only cares about saving his own life.
Jesus sets up this marvelous contrast between self-centered, careless shepherd and himself, the Good Shepherd who sacrificed his life for you.
That is a truth you (and I) will never outgrow. Yet, that is a truth with which you (and I) grow discontent. I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb; Ever glad at heart I am? How childish!
If it feels that you have lost that sense of child-like innocence, then it is because you have wandered from the protecting care of Jesus, the Good Shepherd. You stress out over money because you do not trust Jesus will provide. You grow anxious in a society growing more God-less because you do not think Jesus will keep you safe from your enemies. You worry because you think Jesus will lead you headfirst into danger— and you will lose grip on your family, lose your health, and lose your life. You lose child-like trust because you feel that Jesus is not leading you in the places you should go.
The truth is, if you do not follow Jesus, the Good Shepherd, you will follow someone else. Those self-centered, careless shepherds (Jesus condemns) are not these wicked thugs lurking around every street corner. Instead, a “shepherd” is anyone you trust more than Jesus. A “shepherd” can be a non-Christian friend who urges you to follow her unpleasing, non-Christian advice on marriage. A “shepherd” can be listening to a preacher on the radio or television who twists the clear teachings of the Bible simply to make you feel emotionally happy.
Do you see what those shepherds do? When danger comes and the unexpected happens, they leave you! They do not care to soothe your sorrows. They do not provide rock-solid assurance. They leave you abandoned for the devil to devour you. So, here’s a key point: when Jesus says, I am the good shepherd, he’s telling you, “Focus on me!”
Jesus Is Your Good Shepherd who sacrifices his life for you. That makes him “good”— because he does something no one else does.
Pay attention to that one little word: “for.” The Greek way of saying it is: For your benefit or for your advantage. Jesus lays down his life for the advantage of the sheep. The devilish wolf circles around you— and at one time had your life in his death grip. Jesus did not run away, leaving you to die. He ran towards death on Mount Calvary. He allows nails to fasten him to wood. He braces up under God’s death sentence: “Guilty for sin!” (2 Corinthians 5:21). The jaws of death close around him— and you go free. You, the sheep, the one who liked to wander, go free and you get to live.
Do you have a “good” Shepherd? Yes! Yes, you do! You have a Good Shepherd who lays down his life and takes his life up again. Jesus descends into hell, not to suffer, but to announce: “Devil, you have lost your hold on my flock!” He bursts out of the tomb to tell you the good news: “I Am Your Good Shepherd and I remain Your Good Shepherd!” I sacrificed my life for you in order to bring you life in the fold.
Yes, life. You see, while you live, you either live as believer or nonbeliever; there’s no in-between. You either live with God now by faith or you do not.
When Jesus laid down his life for you, he brought you out of one way of life and into a completely different way of life. You once wandered in the pastures of death, but now he has led you into his believing flock. He uses a special word to tell you that: He “knows” you. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me… To “know” means more than just memorizing facts and information. To “know” means “learning something by experience.”
So, for example, I may “know” your child. Your child is a man (or woman), about yea-tall, about this age; she works in town, he travels, she is married with this many children. Yet, I only know facts, information. Would it be safe to assume that you “know” your child better than I do? Yes, you know information, but you have a personal relationship with your child. You can decipher their body language and behavior. You recognize their interests and needs. You can describe their demeanor and personality. You have learned about your child’s needs and you respond appropriately to those needs.
So, when Jesus says: “I know my own…” he’s not saying, “Yes, I stuck my cattle-tag in their ear. That one’s mine.” He knows you personally. Jesus, Your Good Shepherd, understands the fears that keep you up at night and comprehends why they bother you. He comforts your fears with a promises, I, the Almighty God, am with you always (Matthew 28:20). Jesus, Your Good Shepherd, senses the concerns you have about your health, and he gives you the strength needed for your health battle. Jesus, Your Good Shepherd, sympathizes with your sadness at a funeral, and he comforts you with promises of eternal life. Jesus, Your Good Shepherd, knows your gifts and special skills, and he opens opportunities for you to serve and he smiles as he watches you serve. Jesus is Your Good Shepherd who brings life in his fold.
Yes, an entirely new way to look at life. You do not live for your own self-wants. You are not abandoned. You have Someone great who stands watch over you. You can be certain of this. In our final verses Jesus says: The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father. This sounds like a disconnected, random thought— but don’t miss the point. Pontius Pilate, the Jewish leaders, and Roman soldiers did not muscle him onto the cross. Jesus submits to and follows the Father’s plan to save you. He lays down his life willingly. Then, he willingly takes his life back from death. This he does, not for his own benefit, but for yours.
Since he has made this great payment, it means nothing will separate you from the fold. With your Good Shepherd bringing you life, you will live protected. You will live perfectly content. Jesus is Your Good Shepherd who brings life in his fold.
Yes, I Am Jesus’ Little Lamb sounds childish. But, isn’t that the point? That this child-like hymn is purposely left in our hymnal so that you can be a child?
That is how you live! As a child under the care of another! As a little lamb under the protection of Someone greater! Yes, life with Jesus presents a clear path. How? Know this: (1) Your Good Shepherd sacrificed his life for you, for your advantage. He has called you to faith and has brought you into his believing flock. You have eternal life.
Yet, you have life now too. Even though the future may be murky and decisions weigh on your mind, you have a powerful Shepherd to guide you. Listen to his voice. Trust those promises because they are meant for your good, not to harm you. When perplexed, go to your Good Shepherd in prayer and trust that he will guide you, even when you do not know how. You are Jesus’ little lamb.
Perhaps that is what makes these words some of the dearest for a Christian. Jesus Is Your Good Shepherd. But remember this: Good Shepherd Sunday does not exist for one day only. Each day Jesus Remains Your Good Shepherd who sacrificed his life for yours and who brings life in his fold.
Wave after wave of stress washed over Tracy. She cradles her newborn son, rocking him ever so gently. His little face sleeps so peacefully— something she hasn’t been able to do in years. How can she sleep like that? She’s responsible for this little guy and his two rambunctious brothers. She feels the pressure to provide the best life possible for each of them, but she’s not sure she can. There’s paying for college and saving for retirement, providing opportunities and raising disciplined children. When she ponders the future, she feels so overwhelmed. Where do you find peaceful certainty?
Sydney slouched in her desk. High school isn’t so easy. She finished her history presentation late last night and had no time to study for her math test or science quiz. Her best friend is miffed at her because they both liked the same boy. Now even her other friends cold-shoulder her. Upperclassmen look down on her; underclassmen ignore her. She feels so isolated. Where do you find strength?
Jeff stared back at the reflection in the mirror. How could he think such disgusting thoughts about his friend? The soul-crushing shame leaves him worried that God cannot forgive him. In fact, at this moment, he does not even feel saved. And if he does not feel saved, then does that mean he is not saved? Is he even a Christian anymore? If he were to die this minute, would he go to hell? How can you be sure that you have faith?
Walt sat beside the pit. A casket was suspended above it. His beloved wife of 53-years lay inside. This is it. After decades spent together, this is where he must leave her and where she leaves him. It hurts. He feels so empty inside, so abandoned. Tears flow as the memories replay. The future appears so empty, so unfulfilling. Will you ever feel happy again?
Well… what are the answers? You have four different people at four different stages in life, all looking for the same security, the same certainty, the same rock-solid assurance that everything will truly be alright. Where do you find the answers?
The natural reaction is to dig inside of yourself. To consult your mind, to trust your decisions, and do whatever makes sense. Yet, God gives an even better answer, an answer that fills you with the security you crave. The Mighty Word of the Risen Lord Crushes Fear! It reveals promises kept and it unlocks a life of peace.
We’re still focusing on Easter, and more specifically, Easter Day. Do you notice that each gospel book (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) share various reports about the first Easter? You do not read, “On the third day Jesus rose from the dead. Then he ascended into heaven. Now he sits at the right hand of God the Father. The end.” No, each gospel writer spends time recounting the many different events happening at the tomb. In fact, each gospel-writer describe the angels surrounding the empty tomb, sharing the happy message: “He’s risen!” The disciple John says he and Peter sprinted off to the cemetery to see for themselves if the tomb was really empty. Luke tells you that Jesus appeared to two disciples who were hiking to a city called Emmaus. In our Easter sunrise service, we piece these Easter events together into one ongoing narrative. (It takes 40-minutes to read that account—and some resurrection-visits are still left out!) You see, God provides so many details about Jesus’ resurrection because the human heart is so slow to grasp the precious peace Jesus brings you.
I mean, just look at our reading from Luke 24. It’s still Easter evening and you discover the Eleven disciples are still barricaded behind locked doors (John 20:19)—even after everything that has already happened. Yes, still hiding even after Mary Magdalene tells them: “Jesus is alive!” (Luke 24:9-11). Yes, still afraid for their lives even after Peter saw the empty tomb (24:12). Yes, still unsure what happened to Jesus even after the two Emmaus disciples say they ate with Jesus (24:34-35). The disciples still do not understand what the resurrection means for their present-day life.
While they were still talking about [these resurrection reports], Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.” What kind of reactions would you expect? Joy? “Jesus, you’re not dead! Hurray!” Relief? “Jesus can protect us!” Peace? “Our Teacher is alive!” Nope. They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.
Did you catch the reason for their fear? They thought [they saw a ghost]. And it sounds so silly, doesn’t it? Like the disciples are these uneducated, superstitious dummies. Why do you think they saw a ghost? Well, they saw Jesus crucified. They saw him buried. They saw a large stone seal the tomb shut. Dead people remain dead; they do not come back to life. So, they think they see a ghost because they this is what their brains and their hearts tell them is true.
Yet, do you see what they rely on? Their brains. Their hearts. Two sources that cannot give them peace, safety, or certainty.
Are you any different?
Yes, you may not fear ghosts, but the future is scary. So much is unknown: how will you pay for college? …provide opportunities for your [grand]child? …make sure your [grand]child has a great life? You trust your own decisions and feelings, always nervously fretting if everything will be fine.
You feel not-saved. Guilt makes you feel so unworthy to be a child of God. In order to silence the worry, you try to feel saved. You point at your good behavior. You try to convince yourself that you must be pretty good. You never know if this is enough.
Life feels aimless. Your friends forsake you. Your spouse leaves you. How will you feel better? You do not really know, so you just sink into despair.
You see, like the disciples, you (and I) have a heart that craves security. Yet, when troubles flare up, you rely on your own guidance instead of running to God’s Word for strength. You trust yourself, thinking you can control the future. Yet, that is why fear grips you— because you cannot control the future.
So, why rely on yourself? Isn’t that what Jesus is asking you? “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?” When has Jesus ever broken a promise? When has putting God’s Word to work led to greater misery? Why do you (and I) live troubled? Because, if you are truly honest with yourself, you do not trust God will keep his Word. That, my friends, will throw you (and me) into unending misery.
When you are frightened, when you are scared, when you face trouble but do not know where to turn, remember this: The Mighty Word of the Risen Lord Crushes Fear!
Each word Jesus speaks reveals promises kept. Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have. The disciples shove their fingers into the hands and side. They touch the soft, warm flesh. Their hands stop at his body; they cannot pass through. Little by little they realize this is no ghost. Yet, They still did not believe it because of joy and amazement…
So, He asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence. Yet, touching and watching does not strengthen faith. Jesus gives something even better. He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”
There’s the comfort. The Mighty Word of the Risen Lord Crushes Fear because It reveals promises kept. The Old Testament promised: The Christ would suffer. Did the Christ not suffer in your place, for your self-trust? Since he died for you, has God not kept his Word? The Old Testament promised: The Christ would rise on the third day. Did the Christ not rise to declare your sins removed? Since he does rise and brings your forgiveness, has God not kept his Word?
You see, all things have happened just as God said they would. When your heart search for peace and when worry seizes you, turn back to the Word of God and grab onto those promises. The Mighty Word of the Risen Lord Crushes Fear! It reveals promises kept and It unlocks a life of peace.
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. Understand, the disciples knew their Bibles. They knew Moses promised a great Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15). They read the Old Testament prophecies which pointed to a Savior who would be pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; and our punishment that brought us peace placed on him (Isaiah 53:5). The disciples knew the psalms told how God would raise Jesus up to be the capstone, the King of the heaven and earth (Psalm 118:22-24). Yet, Jesus takes what the disciples saw and connects it to what Scripture promised. With renewed focus they saw Jesus as he truly is: the Son of God! They could turn to their Bibles, read them, take hold of God’s promises and know those promises are as good as kept. Yes, Jesus opens their minds unlocking a life of peace.
The Mighty Word of the Risen Lord Crushes Fear! Your minds have been opened to understand God’s Word as truth. The Holy Spirit has created faith in your heart to receive the Bible as God’s truth. The Holy Spirit continues strengthening faith only through the Word and sacraments.
Set your attention on the promises your Jesus has (1) made and (2) kept in the Word for you. In baptism, water is splashed on the head and God’s Word spoken. “Baptized in the name of the Father, Son and (+) Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). When you were baptized, God made you his family member. So, when you feel hopelessly alone, point at your baptism and see God stands with you. When guilt crushes you, point at your baptism and say, “I am forgiven because Jesus promises so!” The Mighty Word of the Risen Lord Crushes Fear as it unlocks a life of peace.
In Holy Communion Jesus gives you his body and blood with the bread and wine. He wraps his arm across your shoulder and says, “See, I carried away your guilt and shame. I died to set you free from hell. I rose to tell you that all is done. Go, live in peace because you are at peace with God.” When you are tempted to think that you must remove your sin, point to the Lord’s Supper and say, “Jesus died to cleanse me!” The Mighty Word of the Risen Lord Crushes Fear as it unlocks a life of peace.
When life seems aimless find peace in The Mighty Word of the Risen Lord. God makes promises he will not break. When the anxiety of older age and the pressures of parenting leave you feeling without answers, The Mighty Word of the Risen Lord gives you strength. Jesus promised to open heaven and kept his Word. You can be sure he will be with you always, even to the end of the age (Matthew 28:20).
The natural reaction is to dig inside of yourself for answers. To consult your mind, to trust your decisions, and do whatever makes sense. Yet, God gives an even better answer—one that does not fail or fall like ours so often do. Turn to the Word of God. The very instant trouble rises up, go to him. When fear nags you, remember your baptism, remember the Lord’s Supper. Here, he makes you his and strengthens you to remain his.
You hear so many Easter events because our hearts struggle to grasp the real peace Jesus gives. Set your attention on The Mighty Word of the Risen Lord Crushes Fear! It reveals promises kept. It unlocks a life of peace.
Lisa craved to be adopted. Every morning she opened her eyes, imagining waking up in her own bedroom with her own mother gently caressing her cheek and her own father warmly smiling in the doorway. She daydreamed sitting at the dinner table, recounting the events of her school-day to parents leaning in with excitement. She closed her eyes each night dreaming of a father pushing her on the backyard tree-swing while mom beamed with pride.
Then it happened. A soft voice floated through the air, “We’re thinking about adopting you.” Lisa looked up to see a blonde-haired woman wearing a flowered sundress standing in the doorway beside a clean-shaven man whose arm wrapped around her waist. “But, before we adopt you, we want to bring you home for a month,” she continued. “At the end of 30-days, we will make our decision.”
Can you imagine the emotions twisting through Lisa? She hugged both tightly, but made sure not to pinch them. She hopped out to the car with her bags, but still gently loaded them into the trunk. She gladly finished her chores, but anxiously wondered if her parents were satisfied. For 30 days she obeyed and respected and made sure not to be the cause of frustration or irritation. Only after day-30 would she know if her efforts were enough.
Another couple stood in her doorway. This time a firm declaration went out: “We have adopted you. You have become our family. You are one of us.” No trial period. No conditions. The papers were signed; the adoption finalized.
How do think Lisa responded to this second set of parents? She would obey them! She would respect them! She would love them! No, not because she fears rejection. Rather, she loves because she is set free from fear! She loves because she is accepted already! The conditions of Lisa’s adoption governs how she lives.
The same is true for you. The conditions of your adoption govern how you live. That is an important truth to remember as you live your Christian life. God sets your attention on the empty tomb. There you discover: The Resurrection Brings New Life. You have been born into victory. You have been born to overcome the world.
The resurrection really does change everything. Because Jesus lives, you also will live (John 14:19). The disciple John connects the events of the resurrection to your life now. Yet, before he ever tells you how you live, he starts by reminding you who you are. Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God… Remember what the name “Christ” means. [It means] “Anointed One.” To “anoint” means to “set someone aside for a specific purpose or mission.” Jesus is not “set aside” to free the Jews from Roman rule. He is not appointed as a motivational Speaker with words to inspire you for a better earthly life. No, Jesus is “anointed” (or “set aside”) for the specific purpose of taking away your sins (John 1:29).
That is what Jesus comes to do for you— because without him, you (and I) are dead. The Bible says, You are conceived and born in sin (Psalm 51:5). The punishment for sin is death (Romans 6:23). You cannot change that fact. If you are without sin— never hating, never lying, never gossiping, never holding resentment— if you are perfect, you have no fear of death. Yet, death comes to all because all sinned (Romans 5:12). You are dead by nature, doomed to eternal death in hell. Not just that, you are dead spiritually (Ephesians 2:1). You cannot live to please God. You cannot choose to come to faith by praying and inviting Jesus into your heart (John 15:16). The Bible makes it clear: Faith comes from hearing the message and the Holy Spirit creates faith in the heart (Romans 10:17; 1 Corinthians 12:3; Titus 3:5). Just like Lisa could not choose her parents, you (and I) cannot choose to come to faith. Without Jesus there is no eternal hope.
That is why John holds Jesus up high for all to see, as though saying, “Pay attention! Look! This is the one who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ. See Jesus walk into the water of the Jordan River at his baptism. The heavens instantly rip open, the Holy Spirit comes down as a dove and God the Father trumpets: “This is my Son, whom I love, with him I am well-pleased” (Matthew 3:17). It’s as though a spotlight shines on Jesus, highlighting him as special. This man right here(!) comes from heaven. He is perfect. He is your payment, your Substitute for sin.
[Jesus] did not come by water only, but by water and blood. He not only lives a perfect life, but he gives a perfect life by his death on the cross. On Mount Calvary Roman soldiers crush thorns into his skull. Nails are pounded into his hands and feet. A soldier spears his side. As Jesus’ blood trickles down the cross, his life slowly trickles away until he dies. For three days he lies in the grave. Then on Easter, he rises from the dead. He appears to you saying, “The wages of sin has been stamped ‘Paid in Full!’ Peace be with you!” (John 20:19)
Jesus is the ‘Christ!’ He has been set aside for the specific purpose of adopting you into the family of God. His blood is the ink which frees you from the orphanage of hell. His perfect life are
the adoption papers that declare you his. He brings you up to God and says, “This is my Father—and now he is your Father too” (John 20:17). Jesus lays a hand on your shoulder saying, “My house has many rooms. I have your room prepared” (John 14:2-3).
What have you (or I) done to deserve this? If you look at the words you have used over this past week, if you honestly reflect on the selfish thoughts you had, if you admit the hurt of your actions, you realize you have done nothing. Jesus has done it all— free of charge!
The Resurrection Brings New Life. Keep looking back at the empty tomb and see that You have been born into victory. Because Jesus lives, you already have victory over death. You will not stay in the ground forever, you will rise immortal. You will not enter hell; you will enter heaven. [You] who believe that Jesus is the Christ [have been] born of God. God has brought you an entirely new way of life. Not just life to look forward to, but a new way of life now. You have been born to overcome the world.
That’s what John says. [F]or everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. The Bible often uses [the word] world as a reference to everything that stands against God. The “world” can refer to a proud, arrogant attitude. The “world” can refer to the greedy love for wealth in this life. The “world” can refer to adultery, murder, stealing, gossiping, hatred, love for anything that is not God— the actions non-Christians do not consider to be wrong (1 John 2:15-16). Remember who you are. You have been adopted into God’s family. Since you live with God, it means you live on the side of God. Since you live on the side of God, it means you stand opposed that which stands opposed to God; you stand against the world.
You have been born to overcome the world— to fight against sinful desires. Better yet, you now life a Christian life. But, what does that mean— a Christian life? The kneejerk reaction is to say, “Live a ‘good’ life?” Here’s the question: “What is a ‘good’ life?”
God does not leave it up to you (or me) to determine what a Christian life is or how it looks. He simply says: This is how we know that we love the children of God: (1) by loving God and (2) carrying out his commands. This is love for God: to obey his commands. A Christian life is obeying the Ten Commandments.
Before you set out by saying, “Alright! I can do it!” Remember your motivation for loving God. Little orphan Lisa obeys, respects, and loves her new parents. Why? Not because she must succeed in trial period. Rather, she loves because she is already accepted! Lisa has nothing to earn or prove. Lisa lives out of thanks for her new parents. In the same way, you (and I) love God’s commands. You have nothing to prove to God. You are not trying to earn his love; you already possess it. You are not trying to make sure you go to heaven; you already have a room there. You are set free from the fear of rejection. This is why John points you to the empty tomb first. Since (1) you already are made a child of God by faith, (2) you are free to live as a child of God by faith.
So, you have been born into a new life which overcomes the world. No longer is life about fighting to get more money. You already have heaven! What more is there to gain? So, you give generous offerings to God because God has been generous to you. No longer must you fight to gain more popularity! God calls you “His.” What better title is there? None! So, you are kind and patient to those around you. You encourage the depressed. You let others go first. You put the needs of [grand]kids ahead of your schedules. No longer do you hold onto grudges in order to hold onto power over another. God holds no grudge against you. So, you work to reconcile with your family, your child, your friend. You have been born to overcome the world. See what Jesus has made you. See how you live on his side. As a result, you will naturally stand out from those who stand against God.
The conditions of your adoption govern the way you live. Remember little orphan Lisa. Her first set of parents demand that she earns their love. She cannot do that. Yes, she would obey. She would love them. Yet, she would never know if it was enough. She would live in constant fear. Yet, being chosen by the second parents motivates her to an entirely new way of living. She loves because she is set free from fear! She loves because she is accepted!
My friends, Easter Day continues every day. Jesus rose from the dead once— and the results continue on. As you ponder how to live a Christian life, first set your attention back on the empty tomb. It all starts there. Jesus has adopted you into God’s family. No trial period. No conditions. The papers are signed with the life and blood of Jesus. The adoption is final.
So, you are set free for life. You live free to serve and others. No, not because you must, but because you already have everything. The Resurrection Brings New Life. You have been born into victory. You have been born to overcome the world.
(from Easter Festival service)...
Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed!
Doesn’t that just fill you with joy? Christ is Risen! He is risen indeed! That is good news. That makes today a happy day! A lighthearted day! A day of peace.
That’s what Easter tends to bring: peace. Most people do not work today— and maybe that includes you. No boss hands you a list of deadlines. No customer demands your immediate help. No co-worker irritates you. Today is quiet. What joy that brings! Quiet! The phone is not ringing. No text messages buzzing at you. No Facebook post to reply to. Stressful conversations are not on your mind, not even on your radar! In fact, perhaps you planned a perfectly peaceful family gathering. You’ll gather around a splendid Easter dinner, gorge yourself on honey ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, and those addictive Pillsbury crescent rolls. The [grand]kids will hunt for Easter eggs. You’ll watch them, those innocent little faces bubbling with sheer joy. At the end of it all, you’ll sink into your plush, over-sized La-Z-Boy, close your eyes, and drift off to sleep. What joy Easter brings! What happiness! What peace!
So, here’s the question: How long does that peace last? A year?... Six months?... One month?... One week?... One day?... Less than that?
I’m going to assume that you do not have the luxury of stretching Easter out into a multi-day celebration. Chances are, tomorrow, you must resume all the things you put off today. That means, tomorrow you must work, and with it comes the stress of deadlines and irritating requests.
You have doctor appointments to make, appointments that only stress you out. The [grand]kids and family return home and the family grudge returns as well. It does not seem like peace remains too long, does it?
So, what do you do? Where do you find peace— and not just temporary peace, but the deep-seated peace that puts your mind and heart at rest forever?
God directs your attention to the only place where you find that real, lasting peace. Not just a peace he wants you to know, but a real peace in which believers throughout the ages have stood and one in which you get to stand today. Welcome to the Feast of Victory! Jesus has swallowed up death forever. Peace reigns for the people of God.
In our Old Testament reading, God prepares just that for you: a feast! On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare a feast of rich food for all peoples, a banquet of aged wine— the best of meats and the finest of wines. Just imagine the scene. Standing high on a majestic mountain, away from the noise and busy-ness and stress and deadlines of life. Buffet tables stretch out before you as far as the eye can see. The finest of foods heaped on tabletops. The most expensive red wines opened just for you. Can you picture that? Imagine the absolute, complete satisfaction from indulging in such an extravagant feast! Your physical needs stuffed with emotional delight. Your body relaxes in sheer bliss. Your mind at peace— because all your stress has been answered; God has removed every single worry you will ever have.
Do you see where this feast takes place? On this mountain… This is not a literal mountain like Mount Everest or Mount Olympus, some actual location you find God. Rather, “this mountain” pictures God wrapping his arms around every Christian and every Christian standing around God. A victorious God who stands over every trouble to satisfy your physical, emotional, and mental needs perfectly. No worry. No stress. No fear. That, my friends, is peace.
The devil does such a tremendous job of dragging our eyes down from this majestic mountain scene. He drags our minds away from feasting on God’s promises. He lures our heart away from placing trust in God’s control. The devil pulls us back under this shroud, this covering, so that you (and I) cannot and do not see the peace that already exists with God.
Instead, the devil wants you to find peace inside yourself. In your own trust. In your own choices. In your own efforts. Look around at your world. You turn on the nightly news and see school shootings. You watch riots and protests erupt as tensions between two groups escalate. You shake your head when hearing of people in powerful positions crossing physical boundaries. Lives are lost. Injustice spreads. Trust is broken— and where do many search for re-uniting peace? In social media #hashtag groups! In electing the “right” politician! In protesting for change! And while these are noble causes to address abuse, they are not the answers to trouble.
Violence continues because hatred burns inside the heart. Physical boundaries will continue being crossed as long as people ignore God’s expectation of sex within the bonds of marriage. Arguments will rage on as long as selfish, self-centered hearts refuse to consider the needs of anyone else. If you hope to find peace for the troubles and stress of this life in your own efforts, you will be sorely disappointed. The reason peace escapes us is because of the sin inside of us.
Sin not only breaks relationships with others, but it breaks a relationship with God. God says: The soul who sins will die (Ezekiel 18:4). In fact, [Your sins] have separated you from your God; your sins have hidden his face from you, so that he will not hear (Isaiah 59:2). Knowing that your (and my) choices deserve eternal death in hell gives no peace.
Instead, God give you a real, lasting peace by raising Jesus from the dead. It seems so simple. A body once dead has returned to life. Yes, simple action, but profound truth. Because Jesus lives, you will live forever.
You see, Jesus is born on Christmas Day to bring peace on earth (Luke 2:14). No, not world peace, but peace to you— in your life— on earth. Jesus brings real peace by living the life you (and I) have not. He is perfect. The sick approach him; he calls on God to heal. Soldiers arrest him; he places trust in God. Jewish people want him to be king; he sets his sights on opening the kingdom of heaven. Jesus is perfect, and in him is the perfect payment for our self-trust and despair.
On the cross your sin (and mine) covered Jesus. Jesus is punished. Because he carries our sin, God turns away from him. Jesus is abandoned, cut off from the love of God. He suffers hell. Since he carries sin, he dies; the shroud of death covers him.
For three days he lies dead, in a tomb. He looks like everyone else, people who live and die and remain dead. But, on the third day, everything changes. Jesus comes back to life! Yes, a dead body starts breathing. Heart beats. Brain functions. Muscles flex and move. Eyes open, see, and react. Jesus sits up, swings his legs over the edge of his rocky bed, stands up, and walks out of the tomb alive!
So, what does the resurrection of Jesus Christ mean for you? First, The LORD Almighty has destroyed the shroud that enfolds all peoples, the sheet that covers all nations, he will swallow up death forever. Jesus rips away your sins (and mine). If he ripped away your sin, then there is no more punishment. You are forgiven! You have peace with God!
That means, you will gather on that mountaintop in heaven. You will stand in that great banquet hall with tables stretching out for miles in front of you. You will feast on the finest of foods and drink the finest of wines. Your body and soul will be completely satisfied as you stand in the presence of God. The resurrection of Jesus Christ brings you the peace of knowing you have eternal life!
Second, The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears from all faces… from your face. He does that now. When cancer scares you and you feel crushed that you doubted God’s care, God forgives you. When you fight with your family and feel ashamed of the words you use, see Jesus step out of his tomb and say, “You are forgiven.” The debt is removed, canceled out, pardoned. You stand before God without guilt. God himself says this! [H]e will remove the disgrace of his people from all the earth. The Lord has spoken. Because Jesus lives to declare you forgiven, tears caused by sin are wiped away forever. You still live at peace with God. You still hold the peace of eternal life.
Third, you have peace in life now. Even after Easter ends. Even when you return to the stress of deadlines and dreaded conversations. Even when you are unsure about safety in schools, shopping malls, or in your home. You have peace.
Because Jesus has guaranteed your future, you can say, “Surely this is our God; we trusted in him, and he saved us. This is the Lord, we trusted in him; let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”
God has become our God. This feast of victory does not only exist when you enter heaven; this feast of victory goes on now. God stands triumphant over every evil. He has secured your future. It means, you can trust his promises, his guidance. While you may not know the future, while you may grow stressed out over what the future might hold, remember this: Jesus lives! He lives to make heaven your home! He lives to bring you safely there!
That means nothing will separate you from the love of your God. Not the stress of deadlines. Not the fear of cancer. Not the strife that comes from family arguments. Set your minds on the peace of knowing God is with you and God will keep his Word. He promised a Savior right when the world was created. He kept that promise. You can be sure that you may run to him in every time of need. You can be sure God reigns and rules now! Peace reigns for the people of God.
I’m going to assume that you do not have the luxury of stretching Easter out into a multi-day celebration. Chances are, tomorrow, you must resume all the things you put off today. That means, tomorrow you must work, and with it comes the stress of deadlines and irritating requests.
You have doctor appointments to make, appointments that only stress you out. The [grand]kids and family return home and the family grudge returns as well. Yet, peace will remain.
Jesus lives! He lives to be your life. To be it. Always set your attention to the life God has prepared for you. A feast of victory—victory over sin and death and the lies of the devil! Heaven open! Heaven is yours! God sees you reigning with him!
Since this is so, you set your eyes on this glorious sight. Jesus lives to keep his Word. To comfort fears. To pardon guilt. To guide you through this life knowing where you are heading.
God directs your attention to the only place where you find that real, lasting peace. Not just a peace he wants you to know, but a real peace in which believers throughout the ages have stood and one in which you get to stand today. Welcome to the Feast of Victory! Jesus has swallowed up death forever. Peace reigns for the people of God.
(from Easter Sunrise service...)
The warm, bright sun was melting the snow into a slushy, sloppy mess. His feet burrowed into a firm spot in the fresh, soft earth. A few feet away from him opened a hole measuring four-feet wide, eight-feet long, and six-feet deep. Above this pit was suspended a casket.
Off to the side several young girls sobbed, heaving, gasping for little shots of air. Tears dripped down their cheeks. Lips bent into trembling frowns. This is grandma— someone who impacted their lives. She cradled them as babies and watched them at night. She taught them how to ride horses. Helped with homework. Smiled and laughed, told jokes and fabulous stories. Now she’s gone. Closed in a casket. Lowered into the earth. Never again to step foot into their homes. Never again to step into their lives.
As the creaky crank carefully lowered the casket into its vault, a sharp rebuke cut through the air: “Be happy! Come on, this is a celebration!” Those words may have cut deeper than the sight of death itself.
Demanding that people be happy at a funeral does not automatically bring happiness. Call it a celebration if you will. Tell jokes. Drink beer. Blast rock ballads. Relive memories. Yet, those human efforts do not stop the source of tears. Paint death as this beautiful escape from life, but it still leaves an empty hollowness inside.
You see, human solutions offer very little comfort when confronting death. Your Jesus does not skirt around the cause of death; he confronts death head-on. Because Jesus lives, you also may boast in the face of death: I Know My Redeemer Lives! This is our reality. This is our confidence.
Listen to our reading from Job 19:25-27. I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand upon the earth. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!
What a marvelous truth to hear— because we can so easily overlook it! Tucked right in the middle of those words is a reality we are all too familiar with: “My skin is destroyed.” That is not a pleasant thought. Yet, it is a reality every single person faces— whether you want to admit it or not. Babies are born. They enter this world without blemishes, healthy, have all these years ahead of them. Yet, the minute that baby arrives, the clock of life keeps ticking down. Babies get older. Teeth come in and fall out. Bones grow longer and then grow brittle. The mind learns and later forgets. Eventually that young, healthy baby grows into his own aches and pains, sore joints, cancer and disease, and watches death approach ever closer.
That’s why our Bible reading says: After my skin has been destroyed. It’s not a matter of “if” you get older; it’s a matter of “as” you get older.
That is a reality the entire world faces. That is not much to celebrate. Yes, shake a fist at death. Say: “Ha-ha, Death! I still have a smile plastered to my face!” Drink beer and blast rock ballads. Yet, none of those human solutions address the real issue of death. Paint death as this beautiful escape from life. But it will not stop the tears from flowing at the graveside.
In order to solve the problem of death you must deal with the cause of death. The cause, God explains, is sin. “Sin” is breaking God’s law (1 John 3:4). This stubborn arrogance refuses to bow down to God’s instructions. Instead, this puffed-up-pride wanders off after the rash foolishness of a faulty heart. That is “sin,” disobedience. “The wages of sin is death,” the Bible says (Romans 6:23). That’s the punishment; the soul who sins is the soul who will die (Ezekiel 18:4). Death came to all people because all sinned (Romans 5:12).
But that sounds so harsh, doesn’t it? Who wants to hear that? It just drags you down. It is not popular to say or admit. In fact, you may believe (or genuinely feel inside) that God loves you just as you are. That he chuckles when you lose self-control at the bar. That he leans in with balled up fists propping up his chin, nodding in agreement as you explain that you will use your body outside of marriage, how you will reject the parts of his spoken word you don’t agree with, how you have the right to lambast your elected leaders. With great big smug smile you can act this way and God has no right to hand down consequences. And still, remember, the wages of sin is death.
Not just the end of time on earth, but the end of time with God. Those who rebelled against God are thrown into hell, where their worm does not die and the fire is not quenched (Isaiah 66:24; Mark 9:48). That’s not really much to celebrate. Yet, that is the reality sin brings.
Here is another reality: My Redeemer Lives! Mary Magdalene races to the tomb, arrives, puzzled. The stone is rolled away. The tomb is vacant. It takes two angels to piece the puzzle together: Jesus is not here! because He has risen! (Luke 24:6)
My Redeemer Lives! To “redeem” means to “buy back.” In the Old Testament, if a widow was on the verge of losing property or found herself in dire financial straits, a close-relative would buy back the property for her. He would buy her back from financial calamity. The debt owed to buy back your life from death in hell is perfection— a price you (and I) could never offer God.
Yet, Jesus, your Redeemer buys you back from spiritual calamity. The Son of God submits to God’s Word. Did you catch that? “Submits.” He obeys his leaders— like Pilate, who sentences him to death. Like Herod, who is a Jew drunk on power and greed. Like Caiaphas the high priest who calls the Son of God a liar! Never does Jesus cut himself off from the Word. Yes, Jesus knows everything in the Bible, but still worships every single week. His heart thrives listening to God’s commandments. Delights in obeying them. He hands over his perfect life as the price needed to buy you back from hell’s dungeon. And God accepts the payment.
He raises Jesus back to life, declaring him to be without sin, without the punishment of death. My Redeemer Lives! This is true! This is seen in a tomb that is empty! This is our reality! My Redeemer Lives! This is our confidence!
You can be absolutely sure that you will live forever in heaven. Jesus is your Redeemer, the One who rose Easter day in order to say: Everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day (John 6:40).
Even after my skin has been destroyed… Yes, bodies laid into the ground decay. Flesh and skin rot away. Bones dry out into dusty remains. Scoop a handful of sandy dust and you do not see life. The pile is so dry, lifeless, unable to be reassembled. Yet, because your Redeemer lives, in my flesh I will see God. In your flesh. In your body, with your legs standing you up, your neck turning your head, your hands reaching out, your mind comprehending who you see. The God who created Adam from a pile of dust in the Garden of Eden will use his same power to recreate you— and everyone else who died.
Yes, everyone. That includes Adam and Eve. That includes their son, Abel, the one murdered by his brother Cain. That includes those killed in wars fighting for the Babylonians, Greeks, Romans, English, French, and Americans. That includes those lying in marked graves and those lying in unknown locations. That includes those cremated. That includes your mother or father who died. That includes your spouse, your son, your daughter, your Christian friend. Because Jesus lives and declares you guilt-free, it means death cannot hold you. He will raise you from the dead—body re-created, body made immortal. We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. (1 Corinthians 15:51-53).
Job (the author of our reading) understood that reality. If you have no sin, then you should not die; you should live forever. Since death races towards each of us, it means you are sinful. Since you are sinful, it means you (and I) have turned away from God. The reason to celebrate this morning is not because we ignore what causes death. The reason we celebrate is because Jesus Christ removed the cause of death. Jesus Christ has removed sin from you (and me). And so, I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me. This is our confidence.
I remember standing a few feet away from a hole measuring four-feet wide, eight-feet long, and six-feet deep. Above this pit was suspended a casket. Off to the side several young girls sobbed, heaving, gasping for little shots of air. Tears dripped down their cheeks. Lips bent into trembling frowns. This is grandma— someone who impacted their lives. She cradled them as babies and watched them at night. She taught them how to ride horses. Helped with homework. Smiled and laughed, told jokes and fabulous stories. Now she’s gone. Closed in a casket. Lowered into the earth.
In the end, on the Last Day, the trumpet will sound. Jesus Christ will send his angels to gather the living and the dead. That grave on that hillside will open up. Grandma will sit up, body perfectly restored; flesh and bones immortal. She will open her eyes and see Jesus. Yes, the next person grandma will see is Jesus.
This is the reality for a believer. This is the confidence we carry because Jesus rises from the dead. So yes, blast the music. Relive fantastic memories. Smile—if you wish. But understand the real reason for your celebration. Jesus Christ has removed sin and therefore swallowed up death forever. Jesus, My Redeemer Lives to give me life!