Lent 4 2019
University Lutheran Chapel, Boulder, CO
In the Name of the Father, and of the X Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Jesus said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do.
Most of us don’t know what we’re going to do most of the time. I don’t mean that we don’t make plans. Rather, I mean that even in our planning things seem arbitrary. Why do I live here instead of there? Why did I study this in college and not that? It’s more than, “What shall I have for dinner?” It is also, “What am I supposed to do with the rest of my life?”
But Jesus himself knew what he would do. The Lord knows what he is doing. He is not arbitrary. Do not mistake the God who can do everything for a God who would do anything. The Lord does not do things willy nilly. He does not and cannot act contrary to his will or break his Word or be other than who He is. He is just and true, gracious and merciful. And He is your Father who made you, who gave His only Son to save you, who sent His Holy Spirit to sanctify you.
Because most people are figuring things out as they go, we have the expression, “Fake it ’til you make it.” The idea is that if you act like you know what you’re doing, people will generally assume that you do with the hope that one day you might actually have enough experience to know what you are doing.
But Jesus himself knew what he would do. This is called the doctrine of God’s providence, or fatherly care. It is a great comfort for our worries about our body and life, and yet it is a promise we are quick to forget. Even the smallest little thing in life, when it does not go our way, causes us to freak out and forget that our Father has promised to feed us. Our plans go awry, and we are lost. The promise is that not even a hair of your head falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will, and yet one grade, one bill, one job application causes us endless anxiety.
Know this: The Lord is not faking it until he makes it. He knows how to feed the 5,000 and he knows how to be crucified on a Thursday to rise again the third day. He knows how to feed you and he knows how to save you.
Jesus himself knew what he would do. This lovely verse expresses all three aspects of God’s providence and fatherly care: (1) his foreknowledge, (2) his will and purpose, and (3) his power to do it.
First, God’s foreknowledge. The Lord knows already what good things he will work out of your life. For you are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for the good works God has prepared beforehand for you to walk around in. Stop worrying about what you are going to do with your life, or “wasting” your degree, or whatever. The Lord has already set up the good works he wants you to do. You’ll find out about them as you go. Make your plans but commit them to the Lord and don’t get hung up on them. And likewise, stop worrying about what suffering may come your way. The Lord has eternally ordained by what sufferings and crosses he will conform you to the image of his Son. He knows how to save you and will bring you through.
Second, God’s will is to provide. Jesus feeds this crowd even though they will reject him and walk away by the end of this same chapter. Jesus doesn’t feed the crowd because they’ve earned it but because he has compassion on them. He does it not because we are good or deserve it, but because he gracious and abounding in steadfast love. Matt. 5:45: “He maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.” God certainly gives daily bread to everyone without our prayers. Even to all evil people.
God’s will to provide because ultimately his will is to save you. Your salvation is always a higher priority to him than your immediate bodily comfort. He wants all, including you, to be saved; to keep you firm in his Word and faith until you die; to bring you out of this valley of sorrows to himself in heaven. You will not starve. Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added unto you.
Now maybe you have no serious fear of starvation. But what about your fears of not getting the paycheck you’ll need to pay off the loans? Not getting as nice of a house as you’d like? Not getting to live where you want? Having to be alone?
Again, do not be afraid. We know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose…He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?
Third, God is not only planning and willing to care for you, but he is also able to. He is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think. It is the common confession of all Christians that, looking back on their lives, they can see how the Father’s hand provided and cared for them in ways they cannot fathom. And even in those things where we cannot see any good, we know that at the end of days we will join with all the saints in saying: “Behold, he has done all things well.”
Therefore lay aside your worries and rejoice this day. Christ has gone to the cross, to be your Passover Lamb, to provide the sacrifice required for your eternal good. He knows what he is doing. Do not worry about what will or will not befall you, or about what you do or do not have. These things do not produce joy in life. Joy comes from what the Lord does give. Joy comes when we rejoice with our mother, the heavenly Jerusalem. It is the joy of a child in his mother’s lap. There you are free from worry and want.
Don’t you see? Your hometown is not Boulder, or Broomfield, or Berthoud. It is heaven. It is the church. It is the presence of Jesus. It is Jerusalem above. She is free. You are born of her, born from above through the waters of holy baptism. She nurses you and feeds you with the Word and promises of God. Like newborn infants, long for the Holy Spirit’s pure milk of the Word.
Rejoice with Jerusalem. That is not a call to muster up some fake emotion, or to put on your happy face during the service so that people won’t ask you what’s wrong. The call to rejoice is the call to receive a joy that is given to you. A joy that is outside of you. It is the joy of the saints and angels in heaven. They know that the Lord knows what he is doing, and they are glad of it.
Don’t you see? Today you have arrived, all unawares, at a magnificent party where the angles are rejoicing over repentant sinners and Jesus is there wiping away every tear. You come all torn and weepy or numb but there is joy here waiting for you. Jesus gives it to you, keeps it for you. The joy of sins forgiven. The joy of the dead being raised and given back to their loved ones. The joy of being consoled in your mother, the church’s, lap. It is the joy of seeing each little moment in life as gift from God pointing you forward to the joy of the world to come. It is the joy of discovering that your Father really does count you as righteous, perfect, and holy as his very own Son. It is the joy of finding out time and time again that the Lord is true in all his words.
Come soon, Lord Jesus.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.