Your King is Coming

Text: John 12:12-19

“Hosanna!” They cried. “Save us, now.” Tens, dozens, maybe hundreds of people, all gathering in Jerusalem. The time for the Passover had come, and many had come into town for the annual festival. Some had come from Galilee, others from farther. Wherever they came from, they gathered at the gate with palm branches in hand to see this coming king, Jesus. “Save us,” They cried. Save us like you did the wedding at Cana when they ran out of wine. Save us like you did for the five thousand, whom you fed in the wilderness with only five loaves and two fish. Save us, and get these Romans off our back. Save us like you did Lazarus, who was dead for 4 days but now is alive. Save us, they cried, but little did they know what that meant.

Hosanna to the one coming in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel. Surely Jesus heard these cries, and here on Palm Sunday wasn’t the only time that the people pleaded with Him to become King, or threaten to make Him one by force. History has shown us many who would delight in the situation, those who would capitalize on it. They would ride in on a great big horse, rouse all of the people and take back the land for the people – or for themselves. But Jesus, He rides in on a young donkey. Just as it is written, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt.”[1] Not with the bearing of a king does Jesus come, but with humility. As a servant. Humbly, Jesus our King, rides to cross to bear our sin and win our salvation.

I.

Palm Sunday 3We read in John 12, “The next day the large crowd that had come to the feast heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, crying out, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!’”[2] Here we are, at the last Passover of Jesus’ ministry. Shortly before this, He had raised Lazarus from dead. After lay in the tomb, dead for 4 days, Jesus called out to him, “Lazarus, come out,” and he did. This only served to upset the Jewish authorities, particularly the Pharisees, even more. They realized now that there was nothing they could do to prevent the people from following Jesus. They must put Jesus to death. Fittingly, the high priest had prophesied that year that Jesus would die to gather the children of God together. (Jn. 11:51-52)

Enraged at the raising of Lazarus, the Pharisees put out word that anyone who saw Jesus should let them know – so they could arrest Him. This made many wonder whether Jesus would actually come to the Passover, but here He is. And it’s not just Him, but by the Pharisees’ own admission, the whole world has gone out after Him. We see here that not all of the Jews are out to kill Jesus. There were many, many, faithful who recognized that Jesus is the promised Messiah long-hoped for.

The group at the triumphal entry was a mixture. Some were there mainly for the Passover. The festival itself wouldn’t be for a bit yet, but lots came early to purify themselves beforehand. Others were there to see Jesus. They had heard of all the signs that He had done and they, like the Greeks who would come to Philip in the following verses, wanted to see for themselves this King of Israel. This was, probably in no small part, thanks to the crowd that had witnessed Lazarus rising from the dead. The text says that, despite what the Pharisees were planning against Jesus and His followers, that crowd continued to bear witness to all that they had seen. This King of Israel was no ordinary king; He had the power to save, even from the grave.

And so they cried, “Hosanna!” Save us now, blessed King coming in the name of the Lord. Save us, O King. Save us from trial and tribulation. Save us from these oppressive Romans. Save us from hunger and thirst. Save us, and act like the King of Israel that you are!

II.

Amidst their cries for glory and salvation, the true King of glory comes forth. The text says, “Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it.”[3] This was to fulfill the prophecy from Zechariah 9, our Old Testament reading, which the Evangelist cites, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming, sitting on a donkey’s colt!”[4] Humbly, Jesus rode into Jerusalem to accomplish our salvation. He did not come in pomp or fanciness. He knew what He must do so that the daughter of Zion, a term for God’s chosen people, may live without fear.

Humbly, Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, a beast of burden, even as He Himself is a beast of burden on our behalf. He was born without sin, conceived by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. There was no deceit in His mouth nor did He bear iniquity in His actions. His life was a perfect and complete fulfillment of God’s Law. And now, in perfect submission to the Father’s will, Jesus rides to His own death on our behalf.

While the crowds cry out, laugh, and cheer, Jesus knows the real purpose of it all – their salvation. He knew that in just a short time crowds would be crying out for His blood. In true kingly fashion He would receive a crown, only His was made of thorns, pushed on His head to bring out that much more blood. In just a short time He would die. Why – for sins that He committed? No – for sins that we committed, and ones that we still do. Our sins put Him there. Our demands for glory, our demands for a life full of pleasure and happiness, our demands for freedom and independence caused He who came to give life to all to give up His own.

III.

“Hosanna,” They cried. The words that we hear from Scripture are the same for them, “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your king is coming.” “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”[5] Rejoice, it says. Rejoice and shout aloud, for the King, your King, is coming. Not like kings of the world does He come, but as the humble Son of God. Into Jerusalem He rides for our salvation. As the Disciples did not understand these things at the time, so does this fly in the face of our sinful nature. We’re so used to pictures of Jesus with a halo, the glorified Jesus, that we sometimes miss the humble Jesus.

This humble King rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, amidst glorious shouts, knowing full well that He rides on to His death. He went to fulfill all Scripture, to prove the His Word is true, to die for you. He went to comfort those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death and to bring them out of fear. “Hosanna,” we cry. Save us, we pray to Jesus that He would rescue us from the perils and pitfalls of this world. And save us, He does.

And so ride on, O King of Glory:

Ride on, ride on in majesty. In lowly pomp ride on to die. O Christ, Thy triumphs now begin o’er captive death and conquered sin. Ride on, ride on in majesty. In lowly pomp ride on to die. Bow Thy meek head to mortal pain, then take, O God Thy pow’r and reign.

[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), John 12:15.

[2] Jn. 12:12-13.

[3] Jn. 12:14.

[4] Jn. 12:15.

[5] Zec. 9:9.

The Very Voice of the Gospel

In Article XXV of the Augsburg Confession, one of the documents that identifies us as Lutherans, it says:

Confession in the churches is not abolished among us… 2The people are very carefully taught about faith in the Absolution. Before, there was profound silence about faith. 3[But] our people are taught that they should highly prize the Absolution as being God’s voice and pronounced by God’s command.[1]

Elsewhere in the Lutheran Confessions the absolution, or forgiveness, that is spoken by the pastor in the Divine Service or in private absolution is called the very voice of the Gospel itself. This means that when the pastor says, “In the stead and by command of my Lord Jesus Christ, I forgive you,” you are at that exact moment receiving forgiveness for your sins.

But by now I’ve already said a bad word, at least according to some Lutherans. Say the word, “confession,” and all sorts of images pop up. Images of confessional doors and awkwardness, the ideas of penance and obligation. It may surprise you that the Lutheran confessions do not abolish the practice of confession, but instead embrace it. But what we embrace is not the confession part, the part that we do, but the part God does – He forgives. It is for that reason we retain confession, for the sake of receiving absolution. We turn to the Fifth Chief Part of the Small Catechism, Confession and Absolution.

What is Confession?

Part of what makes our Lutheran minds cringe at the very word is that for such a long time the universal church had fallen out of Biblical practice. It was taught that confession had three parts: contrition, confession, and satisfaction. All three were works that man does. You become sorrowful over your sin, you confess it, and then you make amends for it. By adopting that practice the Church moved away from the teaching of Christ and robbed faithful Christians of the Gospel.

Instead of beginning and ending the process with the works of man, the Lutheran reformers sought to return the Church to the Biblical model of confession and absolution, which has only two parts: confession and absolution. That’s exactly what we learn in the Catechism. “What is Confession? Confession has two parts. First, that we confess our sins, and second, that we receive absolution, that is, forgiveness.”[2] That’s it. No forced guilt, no obligation to go at least once a year, no works of satisfaction. In fact, if we wanted to be real technical: both parts are worked by God. Sorrow over sin comes through the preaching of God’s Law and absolution is through the death of Christ and is applied by Him through the mouth of the pastor.

But, let’s step back and put things straight. The order goes confession then absolution, just like Law, then Gospel. What sins should we confess? Before God, everything. We should plead guilty of all sins, even those we aren’t aware of. We actually do that in the Lord’s Prayer, too. In Psalm 19 King David confesses that no one can discern all his errors or hidden faults.[3] We also admit with him that we were conceived and born in iniquity. Before God we should always plead guilty, but before our neighbor we should only confess those sins which we have committed against him. Jesus advocates that in Matthew 5, “So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.”[4]

These forms of confession we do fairly frequently. We confess in church often, confessing that we have sinned in things we do and things we don’t do. We usually ask forgiveness from those we offend and usually receive it. Now the one the scares confession_and_absolution_lutheranus – confessing before a pastor. This is called private confession. We still have this because sometimes there are certain sins that weigh down heavy on your soul. We confess them in church, we maybe confess them to our neighbor, but they just stick in our heads and cause us endless grief. These are the sins that you can confess before the pastor and receive forgiveness for that specific sin. If you have a sin that is particularly bothering you, you can confess it to a pastor and be forgiven. In confession a pastor’s ear is a grave where the sin that is confessed dies and is buried. And then we rise to new life in Christ.

What is Absolution?

The second part of confession is absolution, forgiveness. Jesus sets this model, for example, in Matthew 11 when He says, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”[5] “Come to me,” is the confession part, the part that we do. We are brought to repentance through the preaching of the Law. We realize that we sin in thought, word, and deed, and that we cannot save ourselves. Jesus urges us to come to Him, to confess our sins, and He gives restful forgiveness. Jesus also said, “Repent and believe in the gospel.”[6] Two parts. We spoke this verse in the liturgy, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”[7]

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We confess our sins, and then we receive forgiveness. We learn in the Catechism how we should regard the forgiveness we hear in church. We should receive it from the pastor, “as from God Himself, not doubting, but firmly believing that by it our sins are forgiven before God in heaven.”[8] When we confess our sins and receive absolution, we can know that a great burden is now lifted. The millstone of sin around our necks is lifted each and every time we hear those words, “In the stead and by the command of my Lord, Jesus Christ, I forgive you your sins.” By those words we can know where we stand before our heavenly Father. We are forgiven because of Christ and cleansed from all unrighteousness.

How can we be sure of this? It’s not because pastors are especially awesome and holy men who are closer to God and can say things like this. No, it’s because Christ has given the gift of forgiveness to the Church. This is what is called the Office of the Keys. In Matthew 16, in Matthew 18, in John 20, and in the Great Commission (Matthew 28), Jesus gives the church the authority to bind and loose sins. He says if we forgive anyone their sins they are forgiven, and if we do not forgive them, they are not forgiven. It’s called the Office of the Keys because forgiving sin is like opening heaven to believers in Christ while not forgiving the sins of those who do not repent is like closing the gates to them.

This is an authority that we all have as Christians. Christ gave the authority to forgive sins to the Church, but He also instituted the pastoral office. The pastoral office is a position distinct from the priesthood of all believers. It was instituted by Christ so that we may obtain the gift of faith and receive the forgiveness of sins. For that purpose Jesus called, and still calls, men to preach His Word, to teach it, to administer the sacraments and forgive sins in His name. That way we can be confident that when the pastor says, “I forgive you,” it’s not just the man saying these things, but it is Christ Himself who has called him to speak those words to us.

What is confession? Confession has two parts: first that we confess our sins, and second, that we receive forgiveness. This forgiveness comes freely as a gift flowing from Christ’s death on the cross as payment for our sins. We do not abolish confession, because to do so would be to silence the voice of the Gospel for poor sinners like us. Instead, we embrace it. We cherish absolution, that is, the forgiveness of our sin, knowing that through those words we receive it as from our Lord Himself.


[1] Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 50.

[2] Lutheran Service Book, 326.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001. Ps. 19:12

[4] Matt. 5:23-24.

[5] Mt. 11:28.

[6] Mk. 1:15.

[7] 1 Jn. 1:9.

[8] Lutheran Service Book, pg. 326.

Holy Baptism

“O Christian, firmly hold this gift and give God thanks forever! It gives the power to uplift in all that you endeavor. When nothing else revives your soul, your baptism stands and makes you whole and then in death completes you.”[1] That was the fifth stanza of the hymn, “All Christians Who Have Been Baptized.” They speak pretty highly of Baptism. The hymn paints Baptism as a precious gift of God that is able to cheer us in all situations. Not only that, it makes us whole again. Interesting. We’ve now come to the fourth section of the Catechism, Holy Baptism.

I. The Nature of Baptism

We turn to the first question in the fourth Chief Part: What is Baptism? It’s a simple question, really, but depending on who you ask you’ll get different answers. Some will say that it is a sign of God’s good favor towards us. Some would say that it is a sign of our commitment to God. Both of those definitions would assert that Holy Baptism actually does nothing. If it is just a sign, than it doesn’t really do anything. A sign points to an action that has already happened or will happen. If Baptism is just a sign or something that we do, then it is just plain water. Let us turn to the Catechism. What is Baptism? “Baptism is not just plain water, but it is the water included in God’s command and combined with God’s Word.”[2] We see that Baptism is not just an empty sign, but it is actually a washing of water with the Word for the forgiveness of sins.

The washing of Holy Baptism actually does something, it introduces things to us that were not there before. Baptism works the forgiveness of sins, it rescues from death and the devil, it grants eternal salvation and the faith that holds onto all those things. This is all because Baptism finds its institution not in man, but in the Words of Christ. Jesus says in Matthew 28, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”[3] Our Lord and Savior instituted Baptism to be a life-saving flood. In Baptism He places His own name upon us and marks us as children of God, bringing us into fellowship with the Triune God.

To that end, Jesus says that “all nations” are to be baptized. This includes all people, both young and old. One of the differences between the Scriptural teaching of the Lutheran church and others is that we hold to Jesus’ Word and promise in Baptism, which is why we baptize infants and children. Certainly they are included in Jesus’ instruction to baptize all nations. St. Peter also includes them when he says that the promise of Baptism, “is for you and for your children…everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”[4] Jesus is also especially welcoming of children, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them, for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”[5] St. Paul says that we were all by nature children of wrath (Eph. 2:3), and therefore children are in need of Baptism as well.

II. The Benefits of Baptism

LSB-Icon_039Jesus desires that all people be baptized. This is because of the miracles that Holy Baptism works. It brings life to the dead. It restores water in the barren wilderness of our souls. In Baptism we receive the forgiveness of sins. St. Peter said that Baptism in the name of Jesus Christ is for the forgiveness of sins. St. Paul also exhorts us to, “Rise and be baptized and wash away your sins.”[6] Because in Baptism we are given forgiveness, we are also rescued from the powers of death and the devil.  We read in Galatians 3 that, “as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.”[7] By Baptism we have been delivered from the realm of darkness and are transferred into Christ’s Kingdom. (Col. 1:13) In Christ we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins, and where He reigns death has no power.

Thus, having been given the forgiveness of sins and being rescued from the power of death and the devil, in Baptism we also receive eternal salvation. In 1 Peter we learn that Baptism has now saved us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 3:21) Jesus also promised, “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.”[8]

One question that may come up now is, if we say we are saved by faith – that Jesus won for us full and complete forgiveness by His perfect life, suffering, death, and resurrection – why do we baptize? We baptize because, though Jesus won our forgiveness on the cross, He doesn’t give it out there. The cross isn’t where He distributes forgiveness; it’s where He suffered to pay for it. In order to give us that forgiveness, He instituted what are called the Means of Grace – the ways by which His grace gets to us. Holy Baptism is one of them. Titus 3 says, “He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit…so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”[9]

III. The Power of Baptism

Martin Luther asks the next question: How can water do such great things? The answer is that it’s not just the water that does all these things. It’s not the water, but the Word of God in and with the water that does all this, along with the faith that trusts the Word of God. Without the Word of God, it’s nothing but water, but with the Word is a water of life, a washing of renewal and rebirth. In Baptism we are given all these awesome things, including the faith that receives them. We are saved by grace through faith, and faith is given in the Sacrament of Holy Baptism.

We all probably know the words of Jesus, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”[10] He says that one cannot enter the kingdom of God unless He is born of water and the Spirit. What Jesus is saying is that flesh is flesh and spirit is spirit. The old sinful flesh is bad, but the Spirit is good. One cannot enter heaven unless he has put off the old sinful nature and is reborn in the Spirit. Well, that is exactly what happens in Baptism.

St. Paul writes to the Romans that we were buried with Christ in Holy Baptism. We know that in Baptism our old sinful self was crucified in order that the body of sin be brought to nothing so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. We know that, because of Baptism, we must also consider ourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. We are reborn through the washing of water and the Word and raised to new life in Jesus.

IV. The Meaning of Baptism

So, what does this all mean? If Baptism is a washing of renewal and rebirth in the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, what does that mean for us years after Baptism? Does my baptism still have effect later in life, whether I’m 25 or 105? The explanation of what Baptism indicates says, “[Being baptized] indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.”[11]

That’s why we begin most of our services with the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit – to remind ourselves that we have been washed and made clean of our sins, that we have been claimed by Christ for His Kingdom. Therefore the Old Adam, the sinful desires and passions within us are daily drowned and die through repentance of our sins and faith in the promise of Jesus Christ. That is what the daily life of a baptized Christian looks like. Daily we walk in repentance and faith in the forgiveness of sins. It’s a daily cycle, but one we walk together as redeemed in Christ.

Now we’ve covered 4 of the 6 sections of Luther’s Small Catechism. Next Sunday we’ll be looking a part that is sometimes neglected. We’ll look at these words, “Confession has two parts: the one is that we confess our sins; the other is that we receive Absolution, or forgiveness, from the confessor, as from God Himself.”[12]


[1] “All Christians Who Have Been Baptized,” in Lutheran Service Book, 596.

[2] “The Small Catechism,” in Lutheran Service Book, pg. 325.

[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Mt. 28:19.

[4] Acts 2:39.

[5] Lk. 18:16–17.

[6] Acts 22:16

[7] Gal. 3:27.

[8] Mk. 16:16.

[9] Titus 3:5–7.

[10] Jn. 3:3–4.

[11] Lutheran Service Book, 325.

[12] Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 341.

The Lord’s Prayer

One of the most common, common fears that Christians have is prayer. More specifically, public prayer; but most of us struggle with just our own personal prayer life as well. Jesus tells us in Scripture to pray. It says that Jesus taught the Disciples that, “they ought always to pray and not lose heart”.[1] St. Paul also urged Christians to be constant in prayer. This is because Jesus promised, “ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”[2] But, that doesn’t stop us from being afraid. Though we have the command from God to pray and the promise that He hears us, it’s too easy to be scared.

A lot of times the ability to whip up a prayer is made into some sort of scale by which we can judge how good of a Christian someone is. If the prayer is good, they must be a good Christian. To avoid the judgment of others we often pull the verse from Matthew (6:8) about God knowing what we need before we ask in order to not pray. Likewise, at various points the Disciples felt the same way. They then asked Jesus how to pray and He gave them what we call today the “Lord’s Prayer.” The prayer stands not only as a fantastic prayer on its own, but it also serves as a model upon which we can base our own prayers. But, what does it mean and what are we praying for in the Lord’s Prayer? To find out, we look at the third Chief Part of Luther’s Small Catechism.

I.

the-lords-prayer0001I think that maybe the easiest way to divvy up the Lord’s Prayer is to tackle the first three petitions together, then we’ll hit the last four. We begin by addressing who we are praying to, “Our Father.” By inviting us to call Him Father, God is assuring us that He graciously cares for us as a father does his children and will hear our prayers. The first thing we pray in response is, “hallowed be Your name.” Here we are asking that God’s name be made holy, which it actually already is. God’s name is holy in and of itself, but we pray that it may be kept holy among us also.

We ask this because, though we have received the name of the Triune God in Baptism, we do not always use it in holy ways. Instead, we lie and curse His name through our speech. We also act dishonorably as Christians. This applies not only in our personal lives, but especially in public when, though people know that we are Christians, we behave ourselves as if we weren’t. We say things we shouldn’t, we do things we shouldn’t, and live in violation of God’s commandments.

Therefore we pray that God’s kingdom would come. Again, like His name being holy, God’s kingdom comes whether we request it or not. His kingdom comes in two ways. It comes in this life through His Word and faith, and it comes in eternity. We pray that, despite our sinfulness, God would continue to give us His Word and Sacraments to create and sustain faith in us and that He would expand His kingdom in the world through the Means of Grace. Also, we plead that God would continue to beat back the devil’s kingdom until that time when we shall be united with Christ and all believers in heaven.

Now when we hallow God’s name and pray that His Kingdom come among us, we know that suffering will soon follow. This is because the world cannot stand that the Word is preached and that people believe it. Therefore Satan persecutes Christians through His influence in the world. Against him we pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven. We pray that He would strengthen and give us patience to overcome all things.

II.

In this life we are in a constant struggle. We’ve prayed that God’s name be made holy, that His Kingdom come, and that His will be done. That’s all good and dandy, but even during these things we live in the flesh. Our bodies have needs. We have need for food and water, oxygen, shelter, safety, family; the list could go on. When we pray that God would give us our daily bread, we are not just praying for bread, but everything that is needed to support this life. Jesus says that our Father in heaven, “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.”[3] This means that He continues to provide daily bread for the entire world even without prayer, but we pray that we would recognize all good things as coming from Him, gifts of divine mercy and goodness from our Father in heaven.

We ask for that because we are sinners. We daily transgress against God’s commandments and disobey His will. Therefore we pray, “Forgive us our trespasses.” We humbly ask God that He would not hold our sins against us or punish us for our iniquity, even though that is exactly what we do deserve. We pray this so that we may recognize that we are redeemed in Christ. Because of His perfect obedience to God’s will and His death for our transgressions, we are reconciled to God and are no longer subject to His righteous punishment. As He strengthens us with His Word and Spirit, we are led to forgive those who trespass against us. We don’t do this to merit our own forgiveness; we forgive because He first forgave us.

Living in this life of forgiveness, we pray that we not be led into temptation. This doesn’t mean that there are times when God leads into temptation, because Scripture is clear that God tempts no one to sin. Rather, temptation comes from three places. It comes from our own flesh, which is fraught and will be with evil desires until we die. Then, it comes from the world, which encourages us to act on our sinful desires and congratulates us when we do. Lastly, there’s the devil. He comes to agitate everything. It’s like our lives are pop bottles. We’re under pressure from all the temptations we bear, and the devil comes and shakes the bottle. We pray in the Sixth Petition that God would give us the power and strength to resist temptation. Note, however, it will not be completely removed until our flesh is dead and buried.

Matthew 6:9-13
Matthew 6:9-13

Lastly, an overarching petition, “Deliver us from evil.” It the Greek it is in the singular, “evil one.” At multiple points in the Lord’s Prayer we pray against the influence of the devil and the world, and this last petition asks for protection from whatever scheme or plot of the devil that may happen in this world: car crash or house fire, blizzard or flood, death or sickness. This is the final petition because it sums up everything. To be preserved from the devil means that God’s name be hallowed, His Kingdom come, and His will be done.

As we said a little bit ago, praying is a great fear that many of us have. We’re afraid that we don’t know how to pray, or that people are going to judge us if we do. Well, you can always use the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus Himself gives it as the most perfect prayer. But if you don’t want to use it, borrow a petition. Give thanks for daily bread and pray for it to continue; ask that God would give you the strength to forgive as you’ve been forgiven; praise God that His will is done on earth as it is in heaven. In these things you’ll never go wrong, and your prayer will always be answered.

So far we’ve covered the Ten Commandments, the Creed, and now the Lord’s Prayer. These are the absolute basics of what every Christian should know. Next week we’re going to up our game a little bit and take a look at Holy Baptism before focusing on the Lord’s Supper in a few weeks. Let us close with prayer.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Luke 18:1.

[2] Lk 11:9.

[3] Matt. 5:45.

At the Right Time

Text: Romans 5:1-11

romans_5_8_by_jcwhatcounts20-d46nbykOur text this evening, Romans 5:1-11, works for well for the Lenten season. Lent is the period of time where we especially look to the suffering, death, and resurrection of Christ for the forgiveness of our sins. Here in Romans St. Paul describes one of the results of Christ’s sacrifice on our behalf: we have received reconciliation. Paul writes, “Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”[1] He continues, “We also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”[2] Since we have been justified by faith, Paul says, we are reconciled to God and we are at peace.

Now this peace, what is it? What do we mean by peace? It seems that as we get older, the world begins to revolve faster and faster. Most of us remember life before the internet, but now even some of our grandchildren have cell phones with internet on them. Life used to seem calm, quiet, and peaceful, but increasingly the world is becoming chaotic to the point that many of us just want some peace and quiet – peace, meaning the lack of chaos. Peace in this sense is negative, it is the lack of something. In our text, the peace we have with God is positive. It is not only the removal of the hostility between Him and us because of our sin, but it is also an introduction of the active good will of God our Father for us through Jesus Christ. As our text says, “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”[3]

I.

This peace and reconciliation between God and us is something that comes entirely from outside ourselves. Throughout Scripture our state of being apart from faith in Christ is described as death. Without faith we are dead in our trespasses. Those who lack saving faith live their lives in sin only to go to the grave unrepentant and to eternal torment. Such were some of us. Lured by the influence of Satan and the world, at various times and places, we have each devoted ourselves to sinful desires and actions. At those times we were not only without God, but we were actively turned away from Him.

But, Scripture says, “While we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.”[4] Before new birth in Christ, we were weak. No, it’s worse than that – we were ungodly. At times we behave as if we still are, yet at the right time Christ died for the ungodly; He died for you. This is not something usually reflected in the world. As Paul says, one will scarcely die for a righteous person; how much less, then, would one die for an enemy? Or, how about an entire nation, an entire world, of people who hate and curse your name? I don’t think I would be so willing, yet Christ was. In this God showed His love for us and the world, that “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

The result of Christ’s work is this: that He has broken down the wall of hostility that existed between God and us. Ever since our first parents were cast out of the Garden, there existed a wall between God and us, a flaming sword separating everything sinful from everything good and righteous and pure. This wall was broken down by Christ on the cross, as we read in Matthew 27 that the veil in the Temple was torn in two at His death. Because of this, the hostility and wrath of God against sin, sin that existed in us, is replaced by God’s good favor.

II.

Scripture says, “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”[5] One of the things that we were just talking about in new member class is the end of the world. In the past couple years contemporary society has seemingly become more conscious of the fact that our earthly lives, and the world, will end. On the shelves we see books like, Heaven is for Real and Love Wins. But, concern over what will happen at the end of life is not new.

Paul writes to the Romans, that if we are now justified by the blood of Christ, meaning that the guilt of our sins is removed through His death, how much more then, when we die, will we be saved from God’s wrath. Scripture is perfectly clear that God and sin cannot coexist. Out of mercy Christ has delayed His return so that many may be called to faith and receive forgiveness. But there will be a time when He returns and sin is punished. This should not scare us, for we have received reconciliation and are saved by the life of Christ. However, it should motivate us to share the Good News of Christ so that others may enter His rest with us.

There’s a children’s song that goes, “At time like this, oh, I need the Lord to help me.” In our text tonight we learn that, at a time like this, we are helped by the Lord. As it says, while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. He died for us; He died for you. By His blood the wrath of God has been removed from us and we now have peace. Instead of God the Father seeing our sin, He now sees His beloved children, whom He will soon welcome into eternal life. In His name, amen.


[1] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Rom. 5:1.

[2] Rom. 5:11.

[3] Rom. 5:8.

[4] Rom. 5:6.

[5] Rom. 5:9–10.

The Apostles’ Creed

Today we continue our second week of Catechism study. Last week we focused on the Ten Commandments, about how they are God’s will for mankind, and yet we fail to keep them. We fail the very core of the Commandments, which is to love God and our neighbor. The only one to ever keep the Commandments is Jesus, who instead of claiming the blessing that would come from obedience, bore the curse of the Law and died to redeem us from our sins. If we were able to keep the Ten Commandments, then Scripture would stop at Mt. Sinai and there would be no New Testament, nor anything else in the Catechism to learn. However, today we move on to the Apostles’ Creed.

Martin Luther wrote,

I am also a doctor and preacher; yes, as learned and experienced as all the people who have such assumptions and contentment. Yet I act as a child who is being taught the catechism…I cannot master the catechism as I wish. But I must remain a child and pupil of the catechism, and am glad to remain so… [for] catechism study is a most effective help against the devil, the world, the flesh, and all evil thoughts. It helps to be occupied with God’s Word, to speak it, and meditate on it, just as the first Psalm declares people blessed who meditate on God’s Law day and night (Psalm 1:2).[1]

For this reason we continue to learn the Catechism today, particularly the Creed. In it we learn what every Christian should and must believe. In history, it has been divided into twelve articles, understanding that each of the Apostles contributed a line. There isn’t necessarily any proof for that, though the Creed is a summary of the teaching of the Apostles. For our purposes, the Creed is divided into three parts, which reflect the Triune God. First, the Father creates; second, the Son redeems; and Third, the Holy Spirit sanctifies.

I.

The First Article of the Creed confesses, “I believe in God, the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth.” The First Commandment taught us to have no other Gods before God Almighty, and here we confess who God is, and what is His will and work. By saying God is the maker of heaven and earth, we confess exactly that. All that we see and have is the result of His work. We believe that He gives each of us our body and soul, our eyes, ears, and all our members. In addition to those things, He gives us food and drink, clothing, children, house and home. Besides even those things, He gives what we need to support this life, which include the sun and moon, air, fire, water, the earth and everything in it. To watch over these things, He also gives us good government, peace, and security.

From this we should learn that none of us owns themselves, nor can we preserve or create any of those things we just heard. This is true, whether we’re talking about something as small as a grain of wheat or as big as a jumbo jet. All these things are included in the work of God as Creator. What is more, not only does God give us these things, but He also guards and protects us against all evil. Like a good Father, He diverts danger and misfortune from His children. All of this He does out of Fatherly, divine goodness and mercy without any merit or worthiness within us.

This article is of one of those things that we all seem to know, and yet we don’t really consider what it means. If we did, maybe we would pride ourselves less in the lake house we just built or the new truck we have, thinking that those come as a result of our own hard work. The world works that way, and so abuses the gifts that God gives by denying Him the thanks and praise that we do owe Him. We know that we sin daily, and often use things that God gave us to sin. If that doesn’t make you shake for a second, I don’t know what will. That is why we must move on to the Second Article.

II.

The Second Article begins, “and in Jesus Christ, His only Son, our Lord.” Here we confess the work of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. After man had received all good gifts from God, the devil came and led the world into doubt, disobedience, sin and death. Because of these things the entire world, us included, was subjected to God’s wrath. But rather than destroy the world, God sent His only begotten Son into the world to be our Lord. Lord, in the sense that the Creed uses it, means to be our redeemer. God the Father is the Creator, and the Son is the Redeemer. He is the one who took on flesh to beat back Satan and rescue us from the powers of sin and death, giving us free forgiveness and eternal life.

The Second Article outlines the things He did to make that so. First, He became man. We learn that, for example, in John 1: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”[2] He was conceived without sin and born of the Virgin Mary, as we read in Luke 1, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God.”[3] Then, as we read in 1 Corinthians, “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, [that] he was buried, [and] he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures.”[4] Lastly, as the angels testified at the Ascension, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

These things sum up the work of Christ as our Lord and Redeemer, but now we must move to the Third Article, which confesses how the benefits of Christ’s work get to us.

III.

“I believe in the Holy Spirit.” There are many kinds of spirits. There is the spirit of man, what Scripture calls heavenly spirits, and evil spirits; but there is only one spirit called “holy,” and that is God’s. It is the Holy Spirit who makes holy and continues to make holy. Just as the Father is the Creator and the Son is the Redeemer, we call the Holy Spirit the Sanctifier. His work is done after Christ won for us forgiveness by His life, death, and resurrection. The Spirit gives us the benefits of Christ through the Christian Church, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

First, the Holy Spirit brings us into the Church, the communion of saints. Apart from the work of the Spirit, we cannot know Christ or believe in Him. The Holy Spirit calls us to Christ through the preaching of the Word. If He didn’t, then Christ’s work was in vain. Because we cannot earn God’s favor ourselves, the Holy Spirit brings us to faith in Christ. The Holy Spirit does what His name implies and makes us holy by bringing us into the Church. In church we receive the forgiveness of sins. This comes through the Sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, through Holy Absolution, and through the preaching of God’s Word. Because we are in the flesh and sin much, we should always continue to gather around Christ’s Word and Sacraments, which reassure us of forgiveness and actually bring it to us.

Though new life has been created in us through the work of the Holy Spirit, we can expect that some day our flesh will die and be buried. This is the result of sin in the world – that our bodies die – yet, we believe that as we are united with Christ in His death, so are we united with Him in the resurrection. What is perishable must put on the imperishable. We confess in the Creed what we learn in Scripture, that we will all be resurrected in the flesh. When we die we are immediately in Christ’s presence, and when He returns He will raise our bodies as well.

This we must always confess. Creation is done, as is our redemption, but the Holy Spirit will continue to work until the Last Day. He is always at work to call us to repentance and faith, to assure us that we have forgiveness in Christ, and to keep us in the one true faith.

This section of the Catechism has been quite different from the Commandments. They taught us what we are supposed to do and what we fail at, but the Creed tells us what God does for us and gives to us freely. The Commandments are not what make us Christians, because we are unable to keep them. Instead, the Creed tells us of God’s grace and favor in Christ. Through faith we learn to love and delight in God’s Commandments as good and wise. In the Creed we are reassured of our gracious God: the Father, who gives us all things; the Son, who gives us His righteousness; and the Holy Spirit, who bestows His grace upon us.


[1] Paul Timothy McCain, ed., Concordia: The Lutheran Confessions (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 2005), 353.

[2] John 1:14, ESV.

[3] Lk. 1:35.

[4] 1 Cor. 15:3-4.