The Savior has taken up His cross for you. Will follow Him? The Savior walks into death for you? Do you grieve for Him? “Do not weep for Me,” He says, “Weep for yourselves and or your children.” Behold the Man who would be your king. He stammers through the streets of Jerusalem bearing a burden that is not His own. He is condemned, a condemned King, because humanity would have no king but Caesar and those in Caesar’s likeness. For all politics is the exercise of power and humanity covets power, worships power. But, it is not Caesar’s throne Jesus desires, for Caesar sits on a throne of lies. It is not the armies of Rome with whom our King battles. His is not a kingdom of power as the world desires. His is a kingdom of grace. No, our King is not of this world, nor is His Kingdom.
With the eyes of faith and the Word of God we are given this morning to see what the apostle sees. Like Moses standing atop Mt. Nebo we gaze in one direction and we see mighty Israel gathered for war. 12,000 from each tribe. 144,000 from the 12 tribes; Christ’s mighty Church symbolically portrayed as an army arrayed for battle, the Church militant. Clothed with the whole armor of God they wrestle not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. (Eph 6:12 ESV). Theirs is a righteous battle, a just war, a good fight for whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, (Phi 4:8 ESV).
Four hundred ninety nine years ago when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the church doors in Wittenberg he wasn’t just making a statement. He wasn’t just stating an opinion or putting forth some pious idea about how things should be in the church. No! Luther was making an assertion the first of which read, “when our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ said, ‘repent’ He willed that the whole life of the Christian be one of repentance.” He was following the Savior’s pattern. For when Jesus said, “If you abide in my Word, you are My disciples indeed. And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” Jesus made an assertion. That’s what truth does. That’s what truth is. Truth is an assertion of reality in the face of its denial. Jesus was asserting the truth of His Word and the power of the gospel to set captives free and He was asserting that truth in the face of those who would justify themselves.
Jesus is on the move. He has been ever since His descent from the Mount of Transfiguration. He’s heading south, making His way to Jerusalem. The bridegroom is coming. This is His advent. He is flanked by His attendants, friends of the bridegroom who delight in His voice, while He cries out to the highways and byways, to the crowds and multitudes, the scribes and Pharisees, to Jew and Gentile, sinner and tax collector in order to fill the wedding hall. Thus our Savior’s steps are marked by love and the desire for your salvation. So your God is on the move to redeem the world from sin, death, devil and hell.
Without words we would be forever lost. It is words that brought creation into being. It is words that condemned sin and the works of the devil. And it is words that restored Adam and His descendants through the promised Messiah. Without words, especially God’s Word we would be forever lost, forever hiding in the bushes, forever captivated and held captive by our sins. And so it is with Words that the God who made the heavens, the earth, and all therein, gives to us new life. Words give us life because God’s Word give us God’s life, the life of His Son, who comes to us and carries us along. The Word who was in the beginning with God has become flesh and dwelt among us. It is God’s Word in the Jordan sanctifying the waters of baptism as a lavish flood that washes away sin. It is God’s Word in the wilderness casting Satan away. It is God’s Word that heals the sick, enlightens eyes, opens ears and loosens tongues, even raises the dead. God’s grace comes to us through His Words and without His Words we would be lost forever.
God’s Children are His baptized children. Israel was baptized in the Red Sea, you were baptized in water and the word. God’s children are His baptized children. As His baptized children the Lord sets before you life and death, good and evil, not to tempt you – for the Lord tempts no one but to teach you that there is always a way from God and in the end that way leads to eternal death. Jesus is the only way to God and wherever Jesus goes there is life and there is all good. In the waters of Baptism is life because Jesus is in the waters of baptism. All is good in Jairus’ home because Jesus comes to Jairus’ home. There is life and there is all good in this place not because we are here, but because Jesus is here with His life-giving gifts.
They were watching Him, but their eyes couldn’t see His heart. There were listening, but their ears were deaf to His Word. It is the Sabbath and the teacher has been invited to a ruler of the Pharisees house for the traditional “Sabbath meal”. They were watching Him closely. “Jesus was not invited as a friend, but how He might be sized up, trapped, used.” They were watching Him closely when all of a sudden in walks a man with dropsy. We would call it edema today. He was bloated. His flesh full of water. His status “unclean.”
Every day it was right there in black and white except for Sundays, on Sunday’s it was in bright brilliant color. Every day, a man named Gary Larson would give me and anyone who cared to look, a picture of the far side, a window, if you will into a world full of irony, humor, and flat out hilarious absurdities. How many deer are born with a perfect bull’s eye for a birth mark? How many poodles actually plot the death of their master and then lament that the pampering will end?
Whenever I hear someone say, “don’t worry” I start to worry. Maybe I wasn’t worried to begin with but now that someone said it out loud I worry that maybe I should be worried about something, maybe there’s something I don’t know, something I should know. Maybe there’s something I did or didn’t do or something I should or shouldn’t do. In our text this morning (evening) Jesus says, “do not worry.” Some translations have the word “anxious” instead of worry but you get the point. Jesus is identifying something that’s going on in our heart and mind that we might not be paying attention to. He’s is placing His Word on a sore spot. By saying it out loud He not only brings it to our attention but then sets out to remedy it.
We’re all like this lawyer. This lawyer isn’t just any civil lawyer. He’s not a partner for Sam Bernstein. He doesn’t have his own Television studio promoting himself to local sports fans as part of the first family of law. This lawyer is a church lawyer, a disciple of the law of Moses, one who knows the Old Testament inside and out. He knows what to do and what not to do and what happens if the law is transgressed. But even all of that doesn’t make him like us. What makes this man like all men is that he’s trying to justify himself.
The gospel of our God is on the move. It is mobile, going from place to place, village to village, house to house, home to heart. Wherever Jesus goes there goes God’s Son, there goes God’s gospel. He is the good news made flesh, “the radiance of the glory of God, the exact imprint of His nature and he upholds the universe by the Word of His power.” (Hebrews 1:3) With each step Jesus tramples underfoot the enemies of humanity; sin, death and devil. …
Stepping out of the boat Jesus is met by a man from the tombs. He is a man unlike others, though very much like all. He is possessed by the devil, under the rule of a legion of demons. He is naked and his strength can break chains. He is a man unlike many others. But this man is also a gentile. He is unclean to the Jews. He is unclean because of unbelief. He is unclean because of sin. Together with his legion this man is the epitome of all men apart from God. He is the most unclean, living in an unclean place, with an unclean people, surrounded by unclean animals. He is a man unlike others but he is also very much like all people.
The children of men make much of words when it suits their agenda but men’s words often do little to save or heal. Kingdoms are built upon the words of the king. Nations are established on the words of their leaders. Our own nation is founded upon the words of the Constitution of the United States. Men make much of words when those words suits their agenda but the words of men cannot liberate the conscience or heal the heart. And the kingdoms of men, though established on words cannot help but enforce those words at the edge of a sword nor can they defend those words from enemies both domestic and foreign without the aid of guns and tanks.
Jesus is once again in Jerusalem. It is the festival of lights, the feast of dedication, Hanukah! And it is winter. But John is not giving us a weather report. No, beloved, John is describing his world. It was winter and the hearts of men were cold. It was winter and the Jews were unbelieving. It was winter and those for whom Jesus came were plotting His death. It was winter and the coldness of the world pressed around Jesus and even gathers around Jesus not so much to receive the warmth of His heart but to trap Him in His words and condemn Him. “Tell us plainly if you are the Christ.” They are not seeking the truth but merely a reason to cast stones.