The text for this morning’s sermon is the Gospel Reading, St. Luke 24: 36-49, especially these verses:
“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
When a man appears out of nowhere, who was dead, the first thing that comes to the Old Adam’s way of thinking: It’s a ghost! So right away the Lord questions, does a spirit, a phantasm have flesh and bones? Yet He again appeared among the 12, flesh and bones. He who needs no food eats and most importantly, no ghost has wounds. In the movie “Ghost”, the ghost, played by Patrick Swayze comes back to his wife. He was brutally killed, this ghost had no wounds. He came back to get his murderer. The Lord has the wounds of the Cross and is risen for the repentance of even murderers. The Lord cares for His flesh and blood, that is our flesh and blood, and our spirits and minds.
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself (Jesus) likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”(Hebrews 2: 14-15)
Body and soul in the forgiveness He has won for all. He did not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets, He came that they might be fulfilled, all the promises of God fulfilled, which we cannot fulfill in a thousand lifetimes or reincarnations. Now the Lord speaks of the entire Old Testament, the Law and the Prophets AND the Psalms, the Writings are fulfilled. The Scripture does not give eternal life, but they clearly, unmistakably, and without error point to Christ Jesus who does give eternal life, raising us up out of the mire and death of transgressions.
At the beginning of the written Gospels, Jesus tells Peter, James and John that from now on they would fish for men. Now the risen Lord has given them the net:
“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”
The Lord’s net is repentance and forgiveness of sins proclaimed in the Name of Jesus. The chaotic far and wide sea and ocean is in deep turmoil, “all nations”, all the Gentiles. Jesus sent the Apostles in the huge Ninevah of this world. The Lord’s will is all to be saved, to be fished out of the depths of the world, the flesh and the devil in His mercy won for us all in His death and resurrection. Jonah did not want to go to Ninevah as the Lord called him to preach. The Lord went into Ninevah willingly. Jonah was not executed. The Author of life who carried all sin and death, was killed and was raised.
Jesus taught that the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms are fulfilled in Him and are written about Him. God is just. He hates the sin but ever loves the sinner. The Lord’s will is the just must of Christ Jesus bearing the sin of the world upon the Cross. The three fold division of the Old Testament is the very pattern of Christ:
In the Law of Moses, it is clear: You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Deuteronomy 6:5 and equally clear is the text, “…you shall love your neighbor as yourself”, Leviticus 19: 18. Jesus put those two passages together to sum up the 10 commandments, the vertical and the horizontal of the commandments and more: In His Spirit and flesh they are put together perfectly, as He is true God and true man, perfect love that casts out all fear, for you.
In the prophets, Isaiah saw the day of the One who would be the Suffering Servant. The prophets of Israel were not treated well at all by Israelites. They were thrown into cisterns, marked for death, killed, mocked and despised. The false prophets who taught false doctrine were warmly welcomed into the courts of the cultured despisers of the faith. In Isaiah 52 and 53 is the depths of the prophecy of the Suffering Servant. Luke 22: 3737 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” He cited Isaiah 53: 12.
In the Psalms: When Jesus was upon the Cross, dying for your life here and to eternal life, He prayed Psalm 22: 1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Psalm 22 is clear: IN the depths of the rout of the world, the flesh and the devil, Jesus triumphed. The Psalms foresaw the royal Davidide, the King descended from David would come forth and yet this King would be David’s King, and our as well, yet more than King: Savior.
Law of Moses, Prophets and Psalms are all the Word God fulfilled in Jesus Christ. I do not need to have a Phd in theology to understand the Bible. The usual lament about the Bible is that it is so difficult to understand. The Bible is so plain. From today’s Epistle reading (1 John 3), Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. I get it. This practice does not make perfect, quite the opposite. Equally clear is godly repentance and sorrow over sin leads us ever to the Lord. Johann Gerhard preached this well:
Whoever preaches forgiveness of sins without preaching repentance is not holding to Christ’s command. For He sets both together: repentance and forgiveness of sins. Wherever there is a broken and shattered heart, there Christ wants to live, Isa. 57:15,wants to impart His blessings which He won through His death and resurrection. He, indeed, calls sinners to Himself, but [He calls them) to repent, Matt. 9:13. True repentance is the pathway by which sinners come to grace.
Isaiah 57: 15 is this Word:
For thus says the One who is high and lifted up,
who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy:
“I dwell in the high and holy place,
and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit,
to revive the spirit of the lowly,
and to revive the heart of the contrite.
In Psalm 51, after David committed adultery with Bathsheba, and his sin was shown to him by the preaching of the Law by Nathan the prophet, David prayed: “…a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.” (verse 17). Out of the depths, the Lord can reach those who have been humbled by their wrong, when we repent.
In these earthen vessels the Lord pours out His mercy to us as His blood covers our sin and comes into these earthen vessels. We are made His own to act as His own. The Bible is clear: You know the Lord is righteous, from today’s Epistle reading, “…you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of Him.” We are born of Him. We are God’s children now. His Word in our ears and hearts that we may share the vessel of His Word with others, our families, our co-workers, our friends, our colleagues…Abide in Him is the continual encouragement of the Word. Christ, and His unilateral redemption and salvation opens our hearts and minds to understand the Scripture and love and serve our neighbor. He opened their minds to understand Scripture, that all of the Bible points to Christ and undeserved grace, God’s grace in creating, redeeming and sanctifying us. Grace is sheer gift poured into our hearts, as the grace of God is key to the Bible. Paul called us earthen vessels,not cracked pots, or crack pots (!). We hold stuff and we can hold the wrong stuff, but in repentance the turmoil of sin is gone, He filled us with the Holy Spirit.
Yes, there are Scripture passages that are hard to understand. Luther wrote about not understanding Scripture passages:
To many people a great deal remains obscure; but that is due, not to any lack of clarity in Scripture, but to their own blindness and dullness, in that they make no effort to see truth which, in itself, could not be plainer.
A musician does not know and understand every piece of music, an artist every work of art, a chemist every equation, etc. but they can still all do their vocation well, as their understanding and love of their vocation increases. So can we as Christ’s communion and brethren. We need to read the Bible daily because daily we need to be so fed by what we have read. “I don’t have the time.” If I can watch Big Bang theory for a half an hour, I have time for the Scripture.
The great orator of ancient Rome, Cicero said: “Read at every wait; read at all hours; read within leisure; read in times of labor; read as one goes in; read as one goest out. The task of the educated mind is simply put: read to lead.” This also is true regarding the Lord’s written word in the Bible. The Lord reads us like a book, and by His grace alone, He has written us into the Book of life, as we believe. In Jesus Christ, His Word in the Bible becomes the times of refreshing. Read to lead. Read to lead and so serve someone who might be lost. Read to lead to stay true to the way who is Jesus. The task of the saved mind is simply put: read to lead.