Come join us as we celebrate the wondrous news that Christ is Risen to Free Us!
Maundy Thursday service, April 17, 6:30 p.m.
Good Friday service, April 18, 6:30 p.m.
Easter Festival Service, April 20, 9:00 a.m.
Come join us as we celebrate the wondrous news that Christ is Risen to Free Us!
Maundy Thursday service, April 17, 6:30 p.m.
Good Friday service, April 18, 6:30 p.m.
Easter Festival Service, April 20, 9:00 a.m.
… 25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. 26 "Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. 27 "And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave – 28 "just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."
“One of these days I’m going to be living the good life.” Such a statement has implications: 1) that there is such a thing as “the good life,” and 2) that I’m not living it yet. But is that really the case? In the future is your life going to be vastly different from what it is right now? Or is your life now better than you think?
Jesus’ words for today challenge our notion of what Living the Good Life means—both for Jesus and for us.
From the disciples’ point of view, life couldn’t get any better! They were headed up to Jerusalem, making their way there for the Passover. Huge crowds were meeting them everywhere they went. And they believed that when they got there, Jesus would finally establish the kingdom and take the throne of glory. Good times!
So it was in the midst of all this sunshine and happiness, while they were on the way, that Jesus took the disciples aside, to “burst their bubble” when it came to the “good life” they were going to find in Jerusalem. He told them: “the Son of Man will be betrayed to the chief priests and to the scribes; and they will condemn Him to death, and deliver Him to the Gentiles to mock and to scourge and to crucify” (vv. 18-19a). The only throne Jesus would be taking in Jerusalem would be the throne of the cross. Yet it wasn’t all doom and gloom. He also told His disciples about the glory of His coming resurrection: “And the third day He will rise again” (v. 19b). Sin would be conquered! Death would be defeated! Victory for all! But the road to get there was not going to be sunshine and lollipops.
This was the third time that Jesus had told the disciples what was coming. Just as the other two times before, the disciples couldn’t grasp how being betrayed, slandered, beaten, mocked, and then handed over for execution could be seen as a good thing. And so when Jesus talked about it, it went right “over their heads.” Some things just don’t sink in.
Yet for Jesus, from His point of view, His self-sacrifice for mankind was the ultimate good that His life could carry out. For Jesus the cross was “the good life.” It’s why He came to this earth in the first place: “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (v. 28).
The fact of the matter was that the world needed Jesus to live the life that He lived. The world is full of mockers and scoffers, people who don’t take God seriously—or His Word. How many in the world today laugh at the notion of sin and disobeying God? How many look at God’s revealed will—His Word—as just an attempt for God to “run their lives”?
There are plenty who call themselves religious, but whose shows of repentance are just that: a show, a put on to try to get God to do what they want Him to do. Oh, how the churches were full after 9/11/2001. But not even three months later, things were back the way they were. “These people draw near with their mouths And honor Me with their lips, But have removed their hearts far from Me” (Isaiah 29:13). We’ll show up; we’ll pray; we’ll put on the sackcloth and ashes—and then God will come and rescue us again, right?
Yet looking at the world means looking at ourselves too. We have that same mocking spirit in each of our own hearts too, the same innate hatred for God and for His Word. That betrays God’s Truth for the world’s lies when it suits our purposes. That mocks God’s judgment over sin by continuing to sin anyway. That instead of conforming our lives to what He wants, tries to stuff God into the box of our own desires—to make God do what we want.
As the Son of Man Jesus perfectly conformed His will to the will of His Father; and He did it in our place. He paid the ransom price of His own flesh and blood to satisfy the punishment the world owed for its hatred and disobedience. And the price having been paid, God raised Jesus from the dead on the third day, the living proof that His ransom has set us free! Free from the guilt of sin! Free from death and sorrow! Free to live with Him for all eternity!
To this day there are those who do not get the cross of Christ, who fail to grasp just how good it is that Jesus Christ “came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the worst.” The suffering of Christ just sails right over their heads. But that’s because they don’t get the depth of their own sin. But you and I know it. Grasp the “good life” of Jesus! Take hold by faith to the perfect life of selfless obedience to God that Jesus lived in your place. Embrace His cross and receive your salvation!
For Jesus “the good life” was the cross; it was suffering; it was selfless, never-ending service. And therein lies the challenge for us when we think about our own lives. What is “the good life”? Jesus also challenges us to think about:
Among those who didn’t grasp what Jesus’ coming passion was all about were James and John, the sons of Zebedee, along with their mother. She came with her boys to see Jesus, requesting that her sons be placed at Jesus’ right and Jesus left when He came into His kingdom (vv. 20-21). James’ and John’s mother only wanted “the good life” for her sons; she only wanted to be able to point with pride at the people standing next to Jesus in glory and say, “That’s my boys up there.” She wanted everybody to know that it was her boys standing next to Jesus in glory and triumph.
James and John wanted the “good life” too. They wanted the glory that came from the recognition that they were Jesus’ best disciples—that they were the greatest! They wanted that glory without understanding what it was going to take Jesus to win that glory.
And the disciples—when they found out what James and John were up to along with their mother—they were pretty mad. James and John were horning in on their share of “the good life,” the glory that they all would receive as Jesus’ disciples.
Now just remember, Jesus had just finished talking about all of the suffering He was about to go through when He came to Jerusalem. They really didn’t understand what they were asking. The fact that they were asking for a share of Jesus’ cross had gone right over their heads. All everybody cared about was the “party” afterwards.
It gets to what we think of when we think of “the good life” for ourselves. It seems in our day that the “good life” is all about fame and fortune, about getting rich and being able to do whatever you want without having to be accountable. Yet how different are our own wishes and goals in life? “To work my way up the ladder high enough so that I can be the boss.” “To scrimp and save and make enough money so that I can quit my job and retire someplace warm and not have to answer to anybody ever again.” Even as kids, we want “to be able to do what I want for a change instead of what everybody else wants.” Do we really know what it is we’re asking for?
Jesus defines the true nature of “the good life”: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave” (vv. 25-27). People in the world gain glory by forcing their will on others. But in God’s kingdom, the good life is found, not in telling others to do for you, but in being willing to do for others. Jesus gives Himself as the ultimate example of this, doesn’t He? “The Son of Man came not to be served, but to serve…” (v. 28).
This is the good life that we’ve been given as a result of Christ’s death and resurrection. The good life that is a life of doing good—a life of service to God and to others. We’re already beginning to enjoy the “good life” even now as we live each day trusting in Jesus as our Savior. Through faith Jesus enables us to sip a couple drops of His cup of suffering in this life, as we take up our crosses and follow Him. To embrace the suffering that goes with service in this life.
And this is the good life we will enjoy for all eternity in heaven. What will heaven be like? It won’t be all about sitting back on the Barco-lounger, sipping your mojito without a single care in the world! It will be a life of service! A life of always, perfectly doing what God wants. A life of always submitting to the needs of others. That’s because in heaven, with our sinful nature gone forever, finally what God wants will always be what we want. Finally, we will love our neighbor as ourselves.
One of these days you’re going to be “living the good life”? Try today! You already are living the good life! Through faith in the good life that Jesus lived in your place, you are now living the best life possible! The life of true, selfless love and devotion! It’s a “work in progress” now. But thanks to that good life—and death and resurrection—of Jesus, it’s a good life that will find its ultimate fulfillment one day—in the life that lasts forever. Amen.
John 9:1-7, 13-17, 34-39
… 39 And Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not see may see, and that those who see may be made blind."
I like daylight savings time. I like the longer days, the greater amount of time—not just for pleasure but also for work. Yet even with daylight savings time, you only have so much time to get things done—before it gets dark. Thus the half-mowed lawns testify.
Jesus in the lesson this morning spoke of the work the Father had given Him to do while it was day—because the night was soon coming when no one can work. For us, it is still day. Jesus, the true light that gives life and light to men, still shines in this world through the preaching of the Gospel. But make no mistake. Night is coming—the night when we enter our eternal rest in Christ Jesus—either when we die or when He comes again. There’s so much to be done and so little time! Our children need their Lord and Savior. Our friends need the sweet comfort of their sins having been washed away in Jesus’ blood. Our coworkers and neighbors need the seed of God’s Word planted in their hearts.
Yet as we go about the urgent work the Father has given us in our various callings in life, there’s no need to worry or panic. In the end the work isn’t up to us. It’s up to the light of Christ shining forth in Gospel. Even as we head for the darkness of our eternal night—our eternal rest, the True Light still shines. It shines (I) that the blind may see, but also (II) that the seeing may become blind.
One Sabbath day Jesus and His disciples came upon a man who was blind from birth—who had never seen a sunrise or a rainbow in his entire life. So Jesus, the Light of the world, gave sight to the man who was born blind. Jesus rubbed a little mud he made from his spit on the man’s eyes and told him to go wash in the Pool of Siloam. And the results were straightforward. The man went; he washed; and he came back—seeing! The true Light still shines so that the blind may see!
Yet there was more than just a physical healing going on here. Later on, after the man was kicked out from before the Pharisees, when Jesus found him again, the man wanted to know who the Son of God—who his Savior—was. So Jesus revealed Himself to Him. “You have both seen Him and it is He who is talking with you,” Jesus said (v. 37). Right at that moment, with the spiritual eyes of faith opened by the words of Jesus, the man said, “I believe,” and worshiped Jesus on the spot (v. 38).
And yet the events of that day weren’t just about that man who was born blind. It was also about His disciples. They were blind too: blind to the true purpose of this man’s physical blindness. The disciples were of the commonly held opinion that bad things happen to bad people and good things happen to good people. But by healing the man of his blindness and opening the man’s eyes of faith Jesus opened their eyes too: to see the truth of His words, that the man was born blind for a reason: so that the works of the Lord could be revealed in his life (v. 2-3).
The Light of the world still shines so that the blind may see. To this day there are people who are born blind. To this day there are people who are affected by diseases like glaucoma and macular degeneration that lead to blindness. To this day there are people whose eyes just don’t quite work right—nearsightedness, farsightedness, astigmatism, cataracts, and so on. Jesus didn’t cause these things to happen. Nor is there such a thing as karma—where if you send out bad actions into the universe, those actions are going to be returned to you in some totally random, unrelated way. We live in a sin-filled fallen world; and for us to completely avoid the consequences of that is impossible. The word of God clears away our blindness about that fact.
And yet there are no coincidences either. The physical problems we have are allowed to happen so that the works of God might be displayed in our lives. Jesus by healing this blind man showed Himself to be the true Light of the world. He showed Himself to be the One who came to this earth to defeat the ultimate cause of blindness—sin—at the battle of the ages on the cross. And in the glory of Christ’s own resurrection from the dead, we can be sure that sin—in all its manifestations—has ultimately been defeated. We can be sure that when Jesus comes again and we are raised up in glory, that all our eye issues have been dealt with. There will be no more blindness, no more glaucoma or cataracts, no more bifocals and trifocals, no more annoying contact lenses! Instead, we will see the light of Jesus with our own eyes!
It’s in that certainty that Jesus, the true Light of the world, has taken care of our own spiritual blindness, hasn’t He? It’s in that gospel certainty that He has opened our eyes of faith, leading us to trust His words, to say, “I believe,” and to worship Him. And as long as that Light—the Light of Christ Jesus, the good news of what He came to this earth to do—as long as that Light continues to shine, you and I can be sure that the blind will see. The Holy Spirit will open people’s eyes to see the works of God’s grace in their lives. That they see it’s not about good things happening to good people and bad things happening to bad people; it’s about good things and bad things happening to sinners by the grace of God for their salvation. It’s about the worst things happening to Jesus in their place so that they can have eternal life.
Yet at the same time what’s a person’s natural reaction if they’ve been sitting in a dark room for a long time and then all of a sudden they’re dragged out into the light of day? That guy’s not going to want to open his eyes, is he? Yet when it comes to the effect of Christ’s salvation, the true Light still shines not only to open the eyes of the blind to see, but also
The Pharisees believed that they could see. That’s what was frustrating them about the whole situation. After learning about this particular miracle of Jesus, they were divided. Jesus had “worked” on the Sabbath—by making mud out of spit and rubbing it on the man’s eyes. How could a Sabbath-breaker be from God? some argued. Others were basically saying, “How could He not be from God?” So they called in the man who Jesus healed and asked him what he thought. And so he let the light shine of what Jesus had done for him.
At that point, the Pharisees should have been able to see. They knew the Scriptures—they knew what God’s Word had said about the coming Messiah. They knew what Isaiah said in our reading for today about leading the blind and turning their darkness into light. They should have been happy to hear about how those words were now coming true!
But the Pharisees thought they could “see” better than the man who stood before them. They said, “You were completely born in sins, and are you teaching us?” (v. 34). He had no right to lecture us, they thought. They saw this man as being a sinner—while they, of course, were not. After all, bad things happen to bad people right? And wasn’t this man born blind to begin with? Having their eyes opened to the Light of Christ would have meant seeing themselves as they really were—as sinners. And so the Pharisees reject Jesus Christ, the light of the world.
So it is that Jesus’ coming into the world becomes the basis for judgment. Since Jesus was put to death for our sins and raised for our justification, there’s really nothing left for us to do but to have our eyes of faith opened by the light of God’s gracious assurance that the blood of Jesus, His Son, purifies us from all sins. But in order to receive that assurance, you have to have sins to be purified from, right? How do people usually first react when they first hear that they’re sinners or that something they’re doing is a sin? “No I’m not!” “No it’s not!” Some just change the subject; others lash out in anger at having the bright light of truth flipped on over their head. They can “see” just fine on their own, thank you very much. They don’t need the light of Jesus in their lives.
But as they fumble around in the darkness they’re just showing how spiritually blind they really are. Their rejection is not on you; it’s not even on Jesus; it’s on them. “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn 1:8). And if they persist in that rejection, they will remain spiritually blind for all eternity.
Yet the true Light still shines—that the “seeing” might become blind. We keep putting God’s Word before them in the hope that they may ultimately see their own spiritual blindness for what it is and be brought to repentance and, in the end, salvation. That in confessing their sins, they would come to know Him who is faithful and just to forgive them of all their sins and cleanse them from all unrighteousness (1 Jn 1:9).
So we continue to work while it is day, doing what the Father has given us to do, caring for and loving the people He has placed in our lives, reflecting the light of Christ to them in our daily callings, knowing that some eyes will be opened by it and that some eyes will remain closed to it. It’s urgent work. But in the end it’s not up to us. The true Light still shines. Nobody stopped Him from being the Light of the world to this man; no one will stop Him from being the light of the world even when night comes, and with it our eternal rest. Amen.
Matthew 4:1-11 Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil...
The British cavalrymen mounted their horses and made ready to charge. The field was wide open ahead of them. At the edge of the field, lay the German Army’s camp, and behind the camp, a dark forest. Everything was going according to plan. In the late August sunshine the charge was sounded, and off they ran to enter the fray. As the cavalry reached the camp, the Germans seemed to be caught by surprise. The mounted soldiers believed they were on their way to an easy victory. But then from the dark forest came the flashes and the noise of death itself. German machine guns mowed down everything in their path, soldier and horse alike, leaving few survivors.
In 1914 as Britain declared war on Germany, it was still believed that cavalry regiments with horses could still be effective in frontal attacks. Sadly, the planners and the strategists were mistaken. When you go off to war, you have to match your strategy to the strategy of your enemy. It’s a lesson we find ourselves having to repeat time and again.
The same is true of spiritual warfare. When he was kicked out of heaven, the devil declared war on humanity. And when we engaged him as our enemy for the first time, like the British cavalry—as good and as perfect as we were—we just were not prepared for his attacks, his lies, his twisting of the truth. Adam—and everyone who came after him are the casualties of that war, including you and me.
But the war didn’t end there. We had an ally who came to our rescue: Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Empowered by His baptism and led by the Spirit, The Son of God Goes Forth to War! As the second Adam—as our substitute—Jesus takes the fight into the wilderness. (I) To do battle with Satan, and (II) to win the victory.
The Son of God goes forth to war to do battle with Satan. That’s who the enemy was. And when it comes to Satan’s attacks, he usually never engages in a frontal assault. The devil, the father of lies, likes to hide his true intentions. He even is capable of making himself appear as an “angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). Even here with Jesus—even though he appeared to Jesus directly in the desert, his attack was disguised to look like something good.
So, if you’re the devil, how do you make your temptation look good to the Son of God? Make it look like you’re trying to help Him. So it was that after forty days and nights in the desert, at Jesus’ weakest physical moment, Satan tempted Jesus by offering Him shortcuts in completing His mission. How? By using the greatest weapons at Jesus’ disposal, His divine attributes. The author Dostoevsky in The Brothers Karamazov outlines these divine attributes—these weapons the devil wanted Jesus to use.
The first weapon Jesus is tempted to use is the miracle. “If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread” (v. 3). It was as if Satan were saying, “Jesus if only You’d turn those stones into bread, then You’d be doing a miracle that would convince the whole world to follow You. You wouldn’t have to struggle at all to gain followers.”
The second weapon mystery—of being able to do things that no human being can do. Then the devil took Jesus to the top of the Temple and said, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down” (v. 6). This is what Dostoevsky characterized as “mystery.” “Jesus, if only You’d throw yourself down from the temple in front of everybody and survive. Then the clout that you’d have because of what You were able to do would have made You a person that folks actually listened to and obeyed.” And to sweeten the deal, the devil even quotes a couple of Scripture passages out of context to make it sound God-pleasing.
The third weapon the devil tempts Jesus with is authority. He takes Jesus to the highest point overlooking the whole earth, “all the kingdoms and their glory” (v. 8), and tells him, “All these things I will give you if you will fall down and worship me” (v. 9). Oh, Jesus, there’s so much disunity in the world, but if you bow down to me, you’d instantly be able to unite the entire planet—the whole human race—under Your authority.
Satan presented all his temptations to Jesus as shortcuts He could use to finish His mission now. But they weren’t really shortcuts; they were ways to short-circuit Christ’s mission for good. Why? Because remember what Jesus actually came to do: it wasn’t about uniting all people under Himself; it wasn’t about getting people to follow Him; it wasn’t about taking care of their earthly needs. It was bigger than that; it was about gaining back everything that Adam lost. It was about regaining righteousness before God—not for Himself, but for all people. That meant living in a perfect relationship with the Father, in perfect harmony with God’s Word. It was about regaining life itself—the life that Adam lost for all of us—by taking His own innocent life to the cross, where He would pay for the sins of all with His own suffering and death, while at the same time defeating death for us all.
Getting Jesus to fall into any of those temptations would have put an end to His mission once and for all. No more would Jesus have been our sinless substitute, keeping His perfect, obedient relationship with the Father in our place. No more would Jesus have gone to the cross to pay for all of our sins. We all would still be in Satan’s clutches.
And that’s what the devil’s temptations are to this day. He wants us in his clutches; and so the devil is constantly trying to sever your connection to your heavenly Father—the connection you have received by grace through Jesus Christ. And so the devil still comes to us in our weakest moments and presents “shortcuts” to the good life: health, wealth, a life without pain, a way to get rid of your sorrow, a way to feel good—at least for a while; you want these things? All you have to do is just commit this single, tiny act of disobedience against God. In the devil’s eyes, if he can take one believer and separate him from the body of Christ, then he has won a tiny victory!
But thankfully we know that victory does not belong to the devil, the father of lies, but to our heavenly Father and to His Son Jesus Christ our Lord. The Son of God goes forth to war to do battle with the devil and
Jesus won this battle with the devil. He defeated all of Satan’s temptations. And He did it without relying on His own divine reasoning or power. Instead, Jesus did what Adam should have done when the serpent came-a-calling. He used the very Word of God. Each time the devil comes, how does Jesus respond? He doesn’t say, “I think” or “I feel” or “I believe.” He doesn’t say, “Well everybody else says this.” What does He say? “It is written.” He quotes clear passages from the Bible every time. “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’” (v. 4). When the devil tries to use the Bible to convince Jesus to it’s okay to jump off the temple Jesus says, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the LORD your God.’” (v. 7). And finally, in the end Jesus says, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the LORD your God, and Him only you shall serve’” (v. 10).
Jesus sent the devil packing with the Word of God. He won this battle, just as He won every battle with the devil. He continued on in His mission, healing the sick, driving out demons, and raising the dead—doing it all in perfect righteousness and holiness. He kept on going until He reached the finish at the cross. And when that last nail was pounded into Jesus’ body, in reality it was the last nail in the coffin for all of Satan’s tricks and schemes. There by His suffering and death, Jesus paid for every last sin that separated us from our heavenly Father. And there, by His own death, Jesus defeated the devil for all eternity. We know it’s true because on that third day Jesus was raised to life bodily in all glory and exaltation.
And with Jesus’ victory we are winners too—winners in the battle against Satan. With every sin paid for, our relationship with God is restored; every sin is forgiven. No longer are we condemned to eternal suffering in hell, but we look forward to an eternal life in heaven through faith in Jesus.
Even now, in our own everyday battles with temptation, we know that through Jesus, we already have the victory. As far as the devil goes, “one little word can fell him.” We know the effectiveness of God’s Word in doing battle with Satan. As the old saying goes, “A chapter a day keeps the devil away.” And we also know that on those occasions when we do sin, when Satan comes a-calling to rub our noses in it and to try to convince us that God could never love lousy sinners like us, we still have one word that silences the devil’s accusations and sends him packing. And that word is: “Jesus.”
The war still rages; tough battles lie ahead. But it’s a war where the victory is already won and the evil forces of darkness are in retreat. They may lash out at us, but really—they can’t hurt us anymore. It was a war we couldn’t win for ourselves. So the Son of God fought it in our place. “For us fights the Valiant One, whom God Himself elected… He holds the field forever.” Amen.