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Know Who Your Shepherd Is


John 10:1-10  

"Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.  2 "But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.  3 "To him the doorkeeper opens, and the sheep hear his voice; and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  4 "And when he brings out his own sheep, he goes before them; and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice… 

James, today’s the day you’ve been waiting for.  It’s the day you’ve been looking forward to these past two years of confirmation class.  It’s the day that you’ve been preparing for even from the time you were small and first starting in school with the “Memory Treasures” you had to learn for your teachers.  Today is your confirmation day. 

Yet what was it all for?  Was it so that you could be done with confirmation class, so that you could “graduate from church,” so that after today you would never have to crack open a Bible or a catechism ever again? 

Someone once compared catechism instruction to driver’s education class.  Just as driver’s ed prepares you for when you go out on the road for the rest of your life, so also studying the catechism prepares you for your entire life spiritually.  And just as a driver’s license or a driver’s ed diploma doesn’t excuse you from growing into becoming a better driver, so also finishing your catechism instruction doesn’t excuse you from growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 

When it comes down to it, what’s the point of all the instruction?  The fact of the matter is that you won’t always live under the same roof as your parents or be under their thumb.  More than likely you won’t always belong to this church.  You need to know how, with God’s help, to separate truth from falsehood.  You need to know whether someone’s leading you down the right path, or whether they’re leading you astray.   You need to know who your Shepherd is:  your true Shepherd, the Good Shepherd, your Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 


  1. He goes through the door.

The first thing to recognize about Jesus is that, as your Shepherd, He goes through the door.  How do you know if someone going into a house is a burglar or not?  One of the first questions to answer is always, “Well, which way did he enter the house?”  Occasionally you hear about the poor guy who got locked out of his house and had to sneak around back through the open window, but that’s the exception to the rule.  Most of the time, the owner of the house walks right in through the front door.  He doesn’t have to sneak in through a window or hunt around for an unlocked door in the back of the house.   

So it is with the sheep-pen of the church.  Jesus, standing before a crowd of Pharisees, said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door, but climbs up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.  But he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep” (v. 1-2). 

Sadly, there are many false teachers—false shepherds—who have gone out into the world:  people who dress the way a shepherd’s supposed to dress; people who maybe even use words that sound like the words a shepherd’s supposed to speak.  Yet they’re not true shepherds.  They have ulterior motives.  Their goal is to steal sheep—not from a particular congregation, but from the Lord’s flock. And so they sneak around, mixing truth with falsehood in the hopes that you’ll swallow it hook, line, and sinker.

But with Jesus, everything is straight up.  Your Shepherd—your true Shepherd—always uses the door.  With Jesus there are no secrets—no secret motives, no secret knowledge, no secret handshakes.  Nothing sneaky whatsoever.  Jesus comes straight through the front door every time. 

That’s because He is the Good Shepherd, who knows all of His sheep by name (v. 3).  Even you.   He called you into His flock from eternity.  He brought you into the sheepfold of His church on the day of your baptism.  He still cares for you each and every day. 

And you know Him.  “The sheep follow Him, for they know His voice” (v. 4).  By the Holy Spirit’s power, you recognize the voice of the Good Shepherd, the voice that speaks to you loud and clear through His Word.  The voice that guides you and rebukes you with His Law.  The voice that comforts you with the assurance of peace and forgiveness through the Gospel.  You know that voice—that Word—and that is what you follow. 


  1. He is the door.   

By that voice you know who your Shepherd is:  that He doesn’t just come through the door, but that He is the door.  Jesus explained what He meant by that:  “I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (v. 9).  

There’s only one way into the kingdom of God.  And it’s not by believing in yourself, or by being a good person, or by trying to obey the laws of God.  We are nothing but foolish sheep, disobedient and stubborn.  Left to ourselves we were headed for the cliffs of everlasting destruction. 

So Jesus came and took our place.  He lived the life of perfect obedience before God that you and I couldn’t.  And then, as our Good Shepherd, Jesus laid down His life at the cross, taking our punishment, satisfying God’s wrath on our behalf. 

But that wasn’t the end of the story.  Jesus, the Good Shepherd, not only laid down His life.  He took it back up again.  He rose from the dead on the third day.  He came back to life—as the proof that He is, indeed, the Shepherd of our souls.  He came back to life to show that all of our sins had been forgiven.  

Jesus says, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly” (v. 10).  In Christ you now have more life than you will ever know what to do with.  Through Him you are brought into the safety of God’s kingdom; and through Him you go out to find nourishment for your life in the truth of God’s Word.  Since you know who your Shepherd is, since you know Jesus Christ by faith, you have life to the max.  Life that begins now—and continues forever. 

That’s why Jesus can say, “I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father, except through me” (John 14:6).  Speaking about the name of Jesus, Peter put it this way, “Salvation is found in no one else.  For there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).  Jesus is the door—the door to forgiveness, the door to life, the door to heaven.  Without Him there is no salvation.   

So as you go forth in your life after confirmation, the Good Shepherd is the means by which you can judge all other shepherds.  Basically it all comes down to one thing.  When you listen to a “little ‘s’” shepherd—is he pointing you to the Good Shepherd? 

When he talks about how you get to heaven—is it all about what Jesus did for you by the grace of God?  Or is it somehow up to you?  Do you have to make a decision for Christ?  Do you have to live a good life?  If he’s not pointing you to Jesus—then he’s not a true shepherd, but a thief and a robber.

When he talks about the daily Christian life—about the source of your strength—is it all about trusting or believing more fervently or praying harder for more gifts of the Spirit?  Or is it all about the Savior who lives in you through Word and Sacrament, and who leads you by the still waters and through the valley of the shadow of death?  If he’s not pointing you to Jesus, then he’s not a true shepherd, but a thief and a robber. 

It’s not always easy to tell the shepherd from the thief—the true teacher from the false teacher.  But by God’s grace you have one important thing going for you.  You know who your Shepherd is—the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, who laid down His life for the sheep.  Since you’ve studied His Word, you now recognize His voice:  the same voice by which He leads you each and every day.  The same voice by which He keeps you close to Him—no matter where you are. 


You know who your Shepherd is.  Keep listening to His voice—to His Word.  Receive His love in His holy Supper.  And by His undeserved love for you, He will keep you close to Himself now and forever.  Amen. 


The Risen Savior Points to God's Promises

Luke 24:13-35  

…  25 Then He said to them, "O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!  26 "Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?"  27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself… 

Even in the midst of all the bad weather, you know that the month of May is a beautiful time of year.  The lawns are greening up.  The flowers and trees are just beginning to bud.  The renewal that is the season of spring is in the air!  

People of all times and all places have looked for renewal—either outwardly or inwardly.  There are times when we feel worn out and used up by all the ups and downs of life.  But you don’t need to go out into nature to find renewal for yourselves and for your faith.  You have Jesus who does all the renewing for you. 

Today we go back in time again, back to the first Easter day—the day of Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.  We go back to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus.  They find the renewal that they needed—not in themselves, but in the Risen Savior.  How?  The Risen Savior Points to God’s Promises.   

  1. To overcome confused disappointment.

The two disciples on the road to Emmaus were a bundle of confused disappointment.  They had had high hopes.   They had hoped that Jesus of Nazareth—the Prophet who was mighty in deed and word before God and all the people—was going to redeem Israel.  They had hoped that Jesus would have been the one to ascend the throne of David and bring Israel back to her former glory, that Jesus was going to save their nation.

But now their hopes were dashed.  Jesus was condemned to death by the chief priests and Jewish authorities, and handed over to be crucified.  And that wasn’t the worst of it.  Now, on the third day, they had found out that Jesus’  tomb was empty!  The women had gone there in the morning and came back spouting off about visions of angels and that Jesus had risen.  Peter and John had gone down to the tomb to see and sure enough it was empty.  But there was no risen Jesus to be found.

Yet why were these two so disappointed?  Why was it that they couldn’t make sense of their situation?  John explains in his own gospel account:  “They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead” (John 20:9).  The last few days had left them disappointed because they had only chosen to believe the parts of the Bible that met up with their preconceived notions about what the Messiah was supposed to do. 

Our own preconceived ideas can leave us feeling disappointed and confused too.  Sometimes we are disappointed because we only have it in our heads that God is about sunshine and happiness, glory and success.  And everything that God has to say about suffering we just put out of our minds.  Think about it:  which are the Psalms that we like, that we enjoy reading and listening to?  Psalm 69?  Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck.  I sink in deep mire, Where there is no standing; I have come into deep waters, Where the floods overflow me.   I am weary with my crying; My throat is dry; My eyes fail while I wait for my God.  we don’t want to hear about that!  We’d rather hear the soothing words of Psalm 23, right?  The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters.  He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness For His name's sake.

So it is that in His words to the disciples on the road to Emmaus, Jesus is rebuking us too:  “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken!” (v. 25).  Slow to believe in all the words and teachings of Scripture; slow to believe in everything that God’s Word has to say.  And so we wind up disappointed and confused when things don’t go the way we expect. 

Yet we have a risen Savior who overcomes our confused disappointment by pointing us to God’s promises.  He points us to all of God’s promises—not just the ones that are easy; not just the ones we want to hear.  From the book of Genesis onward Jesus walked those two through the entire Bible—the entire Old Testament—“expounding to them the things concerning Himself” (v. 27). 

He pointed out to them the fact that the Christ had to suffer and die.  He pointed them to Adam and Eve and their failure to live in perfect holiness before God.  He pointed them to the constant refrain of the book of Genesis:  “And he died.”  He pointed them to the Psalms that express the depth of human guilt and sorrow over sin.  He pointed them to their need for a Savior.

And then He pointed them to what the Bible said about what that Savior would do.  He would crush the serpent’s head.  He would be like the Passover Lamb—without blemish or defect, sacrificing Himself to spare God’s people from death.  He would be the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 52-53—who would be pierced for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities… by whose stripes we are healed.  He showed them how Jesus had fulfilled all those prophecies, taking our place with His life of perfect obedience and His innocent death on the cross.  

And He pointed to the fact that the Christ—after first suffering and dying—would indeed rise from the dead.  That the tomb was empty because Jesus was, in fact, alive.  That Job was right to have said so many years before it happened, “I know that my Redeemer lives, and that in the end, He will stand upon the earth.”

So it is with us, that the Risen Savior points us to the promises of His Word.  He tells us that this life is a life under the cross for those who follow Him:  “Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Mark 8:34).  And yet in the end—the very end, when this world is long gone—that is when we find our glory in Christ:  “Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev 2:10).       

That’s a powerful promise that God has given us—a powerful promise among many powerful promises.  Promises that have the power to not only tear down our false notions, but to build us up in the truth.  The Risen Savior overcomes our disappointment by pointing us to God’s promises

  1. To renew lasting hope and joy.

By the time they reach the village of Emmaus, the change in the two disciples is obvious.  Though their traveling companion would rather continue on, they happily urge Him to stick around, to abide with them since it is evening.  And when Jesus gave thanks and broke the bread—when He finally opened their eyes to see who He was—joy filled their hearts in the assurance that it was the risen Lord who had opened the Scriptures to them on the way.  Leaving their supper behind, they hurried back to Jerusalem—all seven miles of the trip—to share the good news with the Eleven!  Their hearts were filled with hope—the hope of the risen Savior! 

They had hope because Jesus had opened the Scriptures to them on the way.  They had hope because the Risen Savior had pointed them to God’s promises—so that when they finally saw Him, everything fell into place.  “Oh, it’s you, Jesus!  You’ve been there the entire time!” 

People are constantly talking about using renewable energy sources:  ethanol, bio-diesel, wind-power, solar energy.  And yet with all the talk of renewable energy these days, we recognize that we have the ultimate renewable energy for our souls.  The devil, the world, our flesh—they do all they can to snuff out our faith, to lead us to think that everything is pointless and hopeless.  Yet we have the Word of God by which Jesus stokes the fires of our faith.  Through the Law which cuts us to the heart and strips away all our illusions about ourselves and our world.  Through the good news of God’s grace and forgiveness in the resurrected Jesus.  Disappointment and despair is replaced with hope and joy! 

Not that we’re never unhappy, never disappointed in life.  Sometimes we just wish Jesus would jump out and give us all the answers Himself.  And yet, really, hasn’t Jesus done just that by His Word?  Maybe you’re feeling alone in your life right now.  Maybe you’re facing a big challenge in your life that seems insurmountable.  Maybe you’re just plain dealing with disappointment—things didn’t go the way you thought they would.  Seek Jesus out where He has promised you He’ll be:  in the pages of your Bible.  Look at what He has done for you.  Listen to what He has to say.  Realize that—like those two Emmaus disciples—the living Jesus is right there with you all the way. 

And sure, things in life maybe didn’t go the way you thought they would.  But really, in the end, nothing will go the way we think it should—it’s going to be way better, even beyond our imaginations!     

When we feel like we can’t go on, His words give us the strength and endurance to walk without wearying and to run without growing faint.  His words are the words of everlasting life.  Seek Him out in His Word.  Come to His table and receive His blessings.  There He will renew your faith, your heart—your very life—with His love.  Amen.

The Risen Savior Removes All Doubt!

John 20:19-31

     …  27 Then He said to Thomas, "Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing." 
     28 And Thomas answered and said to Him, "My Lord and my God!" 
     29 Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed."… 

“Get it off of me!” the child cried when he looked in the mirror and saw the tick latched onto the skin of his neck.  Yes, once again tick season is right around the corner, and with it the usual warnings about ticks and all the diseases they carry.  One thing you perhaps didn’t know about ticks is that in some cases when they latch on with their jaws, they can cause minor paralysis.  It’s true; it’s called “tick paralysis.”  They have a toxin in their bite that’s meant to paralyze its prey.  The symptoms start small; you become uncoordinated.  Then numbness spreads across your limbs.  Before you know it, parts of your body can’t move anymore.    

Kind of scary to think about, isn’t it?  But the funny thing is, shortly after you remove the tick, the symptoms go away.  The body returns to normal.

If only it were that easy to deal with the things in life that paralyze us with fear!  If only it were so easy to remove those nagging doubts that exist in the back of our minds!  And yet, in the power of Christ’s resurrection, isn’t it just that easy?    

It’s the Sunday after Easter and all the decorations are put away.  Everything seems to be back to normal, but really—in the light of our risen Lord we live in a new normal, don’t we?  A normal where, yes, we continue to experience fear; where doubts still latch themselves onto our hearts and try to suck the life out of us and paralyze us with fear.  Yet in our new normal, we have a Risen Savior—and The Risen Savior Removes All Doubts!   

  1. The risen Savior removes all doubts with His resurrection proof.

Jesus’ disciples were caught up in that paralyzing fear, weren’t they?  On that first Easter night they were hiding for fear of the Jews.  The “doors were shut to them” (v. 19), but now every door in life seemed to be shut to them.  They didn’t know what to do.  They had all but forgotten about the promise Jesus had given to them before His death—the promise that He would rise again on the third day.  But then, out of nowhere, without having messed with the locks at all, “Jesus came and stood in their midst, and said to them, ‘Peace be with you’” (v. 19).  He showed them His hands and side.  He gave them the proof they needed to see to know:  1) this was really Jesus; and 2) He was truly alive!  In that moment, when they saw the nail holes, when they saw the mark of the spear, “Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord” (v. 20).  There could be no doubt.  The risen Savior removed them all with the certain proof of His resurrection!

And that same proof was there for Thomas too!  Thomas, who wasn’t there on that first Easter night, stubbornly refused to believe what his fellow disciples were telling him, that they had seen Jesus alive.  He wanted more evidence.  He wanted to see with his own eyes, touch the nail holes with his fingers, thrust his own hand into the hole in Jesus’ side.  So, on the eighth day after the first Easter—today, according to the church calendar—the disciples were in the upper room again, Thomas included this time, and Jesus appears again!  And Jesus challenges Thomas, almost word for word with Thomas’ own need for evidence:  “Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing” (v. 27). 

The evidence is incontrovertible.  There’s no mistaking now for Thomas that Jesus is alive.  He’s so shell-shocked and stunned that Thomas simultaneously confesses the shame of his own doubt and trust in the Risen One standing before him:  “My Lord and my God!” (v. 28).  All of Thomas’ doubts were completely removed by Jesus with the sure and certain proof that He was alive! 

Thomas could easily be the poster child for our generation, couldn’t he?  People today largely look at the world the same way that he did:  “Unless I can see it, feel it or touch it for myself, then I’m not going to believe it.”  Neil DeGrasse-Tyson, the famous scientist on the Cosmos mini-series, is known for knocking the Bible because in his words, “It’s not scientific.”  (On that point, he’s right, by the way.  The Bible is not scientific, but that does not mean that the Bible is not true.)  The idea that a human being after dying could come back to life would, under most circumstances, be the most far-fetched fantasy a person could concoct. 

And yet… when it comes to Jesus of Nazareth, what does the evidence say?  Jesus was truly dead.  John wrote about how when the spear pierced his side, blood and water flowed out.  The red blood cells had separated from the plasma because the blood had stopped circulating—and had been stopped for some time.  Jesus didn’t suffer a fainting spell or fall into a coma.  Everyone around Jesus knew He was dead—otherwise they wouldn’t have buried Him.  And then we have the testimony of the women who saw the empty tomb, who talked with the angel.  When Jesus appeared to them on the road, they clung to His feet—ghosts don’t have feet!  The disciples not only saw Jesus that night, but they saw Him eat!  And they continued to see Him on many occasions over the next forty days.  The apostle Paul recounts an occasion where 500 people saw and heard the living, resurrected Jesus. 

The Bible is not scientific, but it gives us all the evidence we need through the eyewitness accounts recorded by the gospel-writers and the and the apostles.  We have all the resurrection proof we need to know and believe that “Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (v. 31). 

And yet we still have our doubts.  Even in light of all the evidence some still refuse to believe.  In our heart of hearts sometimes, don’t we struggle with nagging doubts, lingering questions of “what if”?  “What if it’s not true?”  “What if Jesus wasn’t the Son of God?” 

That’s why Jesus says what He says:  “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (v. 29).  Faith by ourselves is impossible.  “No one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:6).  Faith that believes in our risen Lord is a real blessing—a blessing that the Spirit gives us when we hear the truth of Christ’s resurrection.  A blessing that removes all doubts.               

In the moment of our conversion, faith is planted in our hearts, not just with the assurance of the fact of His resurrection, but with the assurance of the peace His resurrection brings us in our lives. 

  1. The risen Savior removes all doubts with His resurrection peace. 

Time and again, Jesus greets His disciples with peace:  “Peace be with you!” (v. 19).  But what kind of peace is this?  Christ tells them exactly what it is:  “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (v. 22-23).  In the power of Christ’s death, all sins were paid for.  Now, in His resurrection, Jesus demonstrates that all people have been declared not-guilty of sin!  Now, when you tell people that their sins are forgiven, you’re telling them the sure and certain truth!  It’s not some pious wish or heartfelt prayer; it’s a fact!  It’s a blessing!  It’s the peace of reconciliation! 

And this peace belongs to you and me through faith in Christ.  “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).  By the Spirit’s work in bringing God’s grace to us in Word and Sacrament, we now have the peace that removes every doubt we might have about our relationship with God!  In other words, I don’t have to rely on my own feelings or my personal experiences to be sure about my relationship with God.  And neither do you! 

You no longer have to live in the paralyzing fear of God’s wrath.  No matter what’s happening to you, no matter what temptations might have befallen you, you have the proof in black and white.  Jesus lives—and in His life all of your sins are forgiven!  God now sees you as His own dear child through faith in Him.  And you’re going to live with Him! 

This peace belongs to us—and it’s this peace that we proclaim!  Christ has sent His church to proclaim this peace to all the nations (v. 21).  To proclaim the proof of the risen Christ—the clear testimony of the Gospel.  To proclaim the forgiveness of sins for all nations.  And to do so trusting in that same peace of reconciliation for ourselves:  that by believing  we “have life in His name” (v. 31).  The life that lasts forever. 

The paralysis of fear may still grip us from time to time.  The teeth of doubt may try and latch onto our souls.  But we have our risen Savior, Jesus.  By His Word all doubts are removed.  He reaches into our hearts and pulls them right out.  And with our doubts removed, our fears dissipate.  In their place:  the certainty of faith and the peace of forgiveness.  In Him we live and move and have our being.  Amen.

Chris Driesbach Pics!

Pictures from when singer/songwriter Chris Driesbach was here back in March!






Risen to Set Us Free!

NKJ Jonah 2:2-9  

8 "Those who regard worthless idols Forsake their own Mercy.  9 But I will sacrifice to You With the voice of thanksgiving; I will pay what I have vowed. Salvation is of the LORD."

Freedom.  It’s the thing in society that we Americans value above all else.  It’s the subject of our music, art, and poetry.  People have written songs and books and poems about it.  People have painted paintings and carved sculptures in honor of it.  It’s the thing that we are most willing to fight and die for as a nation:  our freedom. 

Yet when we think about freedom—about the most basic freedom we possess, it isn’t a freedom that we could take or make for ourselves.  It isn’t political freedom or socio-economic freedom.  It’s the freedom that flows purely from God’s grace and mercy.  It’s the freedom that we received as God’s free gift on the first Easter, when Jesus Christ rose from the dead.  It was for that freedom that He died and came back to life.  In the imagery of Jonah’s prayer from the belly of the fish, we are reminded of the fact that “Salvation is of the LORD” (v. 9); we are reminded that Christ was raised to save us, that He is risen to set us free.  

  1. Free from the death that we deserved.

The prophet Jonah believed that people ought to get what they deserved.  That was why he dragged his feet—even worse, ran the opposite way—when the Lord had sent him to preach judgment on the people of Nineveh.  It wasn’t that he was afraid to go; but he was afraid of what would happen if the people of Nineveh took his words to heart and actually repented.  He was afraid that God would have mercy on these people and that they wouldn’t get the judgment they had coming to them. 

Ironically the one who was so worried about others getting what they deserved was now getting his just desserts.  Jonah in his arrogance and his petulance, had directly disobeyed God!  He hopped a boat in the city of Joppa that was headed as far away from Nineveh as possible, headed for Tarshish.  You know what happened next.   You can’t run from God.  A storm blew up and the crew tossed Jonah overboard.  Then the Lord sent a great big fish to swallow Jonah up and drag him to the bottom of the sea. 

Jonah knew what he had done.  In his prayer he uses the imagery of going down into the depths of the sea to talk about the death that he thought was coming.  “The waters surrounded me, even to my soul; The deep closed around me; Weeds were wrapped around my head.  I went down to the moorings of the mountains; The earth with its bars closed behind me forever” (v. 5-6). 

In Jonah we see a bit of ourselves.  Who of us hasn’t thought, “I know better,” when it comes to people getting what they deserve.  The con artist who robs the elderly of their retirements, the mass murderer, the sex offender—they all deserve to rot, right?  But they’re not the only ones who rot.  We rot—we die—too.  What does that say about us?  We’ve strayed from God’s will too.  For our disobedience we deserve to die—not just physically, but eternally—going down into the depths of hell, to live forever in the darkness that is the absence of God’s light. 

But Jonah’s experience in the belly of the fish was more than just Jonah getting what he deserved.  It was a picture of Jesus.  Just as the Lord prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah up and drag him down into the depths of the sea, so also Jesus in His death at the cross was swallowed up.  Jesus said it Himself:  “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Mt 12:40).  God punished Jesus for Jonah’s sin—and our own sin—sending Him to our grave, putting on Him the death that we deserved.  But then on the third day, Jesus came back to life again!  He emerged from His tomb alive just as Jonah emerged from death to life after three days in that fish! 

So now, like Jonah, we don’t get what we deserve.  Christ’s resurrection is the living proof that when it comes to all your arrogance, all your reluctant foot-dragging, all the times you thought you knew better than God what needed to happen—when it comes to all of your sin—the Lord has forgiven it all!  Out of all the prophets in the Old Testament, Jesus chooses to compare Himself with arrogant, whining Jonah.  How can this be?  Because Jesus took Jonah’s place!  He took the place of the sinful man who deserved nothing but death and judgment.  Thanks to Jesus’ resurrection, Jonah now stands before God as His redeemed child!  And so do we!  Together with Jonah we can sing God’s praises, saying, “You have brought my life up from the pit, O LORD my God!” (v. 6).  “Salvation is of the LORD” (v. 9); it’s who He is and what He does.  Christ is risen to set us free from the death that we deserved!   

And our freedom in the risen Christ is even greater than that!  It’s more than just “freedom from”; it’s also “freedom to.”  Christ is risen to set us free—

  1. Free to live with the Lord forever. 

Thanks to Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, not only is Jonah a picture of Jesus, he’s also a picture of us!  By sending the fish to swallow Jonah, the LORD wasn’t trying to kill him.  He was leading Jonah to repentance.  He was killing him spiritually.  That way when Jonah emerged from the waters—when that fish finally vomited him back up on the land—he would come forth as a new person, with a new life. 

And the lesson of repentance wasn’t lost on Jonah; we see his penitent heart in the prayer that he prayed:  “I have been cast out of Your sight; Yet I will look again toward Your holy temple… When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the LORD; And my prayer went up to You… I will sacrifice to You with the voice of thanksgiving” (v. 4, 7, 9).  He was sorry for what he had done and now he wanted to change his ways.  He wasn’t trying to bargain with God; he wasn’t trying to work his way out of the trouble he was in.  He already knew he was saved!  He already knew that “Salvation is of the LORD” (v. 9). 

Christ by His resurrection has set us free from sin and death!  And in the power of that resurrection, we—like Jonah—are killed spiritually in the waters of holy baptism.  “We were buried with [Christ] through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we should also walk in newness of life” (Ro 6:4).  On the day of our baptism, our sinful nature was put to death and we were raised to new life in the risen Christ.  The life that came forth that day still lives even now as we return to our baptisms in daily sorrow over our sin and trust in Jesus as our Savior.

And in that new life we have through Christ’s resurrection, we now have the freedom to join Jonah in proclaiming that “Salvation is of the LORD!”  We have the freedom to offer our entire lives as living sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving to God.  Those sacrifices are sometimes small; sometimes they’re big.  This past week three guys got together and pulled the garden hoses out of the shed out here, and arranged them in the pattern of a big fish—not knowing they were going to hear about Jonah today.  They sacrificed a little warmth and comfort, a little time out of their day, simply because they thought it would be cool to have a Christian symbol for the aerial photographers as they took pictures of the Howard area this week.  

But that small sacrifice represents an attitude that governs their hearts and lives—and ours.  An attitude that sets our minds on things above (Col 3:2).  There are still days when we’ll feel like Jonah—in the fish’s belly, with seaweed wrapped around our head, headed for no man’s land.  Yet even in the midst of the worst trials and temptations, we can still remember the Lord.  We can still recall His goodness; we still trust in His grace and mercy.  That’s because we know Jesus lives!  We know that when Christ our life appears—no matter what happens—we also will appear with Him in glory (Col 3:4).  It’s because we know that we’ve been set free from the death we deserved that now we’re free to live with Him for all eternity! 

“Those who regard worthless idols Forsake their own Mercy,” Jonah says.  Our freedom in the risen Christ is a freedom that’s meant to be enjoyed as we live in it each day.  Yet there are so many things, so many worries, so many cares that wind up taking priority in our lives to the point that they keep us from enjoying that freedom.  Stay focused in faith on this freedom first, and you will find true joy in every circumstance.  Freedom from sin and death; freedom to live with Jesus now—and forever.  Christ is risen; He is risen indeed, alleluia!  Amen.