Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Sheep Need The Good Shepherd

And when he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Mark 6:34

All humans are to be compared to sheep, who without The Good Shepherd continue to go astray, each to his own way, and this leads to eternal death/separation from God and His blessings and protection. (Isaiah 53:6, John 10:26 and Proverbs 14:12) It is not flattering at all to be compared with sheep, for left to their own ways they end up either consuming poisonous food or water or being consumed by predators. Thus, the need for a Good Shepherd who can provide both wholesome food and water and protection.
The bible is full of such imagery of humans being sheep who have gone astray, each to their own way and thus in need of a Good Shepherd. This is none other than Jesus, who identifies Himself as such especially in John 10: "I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep."
Jesus' sheep are called by their name and placed into His flock at baptism through the power of His Holy Word and are kept following His voice only to eternal life. (John 10:22-30) There are only two flocks in reality, the flock who follows the devil and the flock who follows Jesus, The Good Shepherd.
Pastors are placed among the flock of the Holy Christian Church to shepherd Jesus' flock and lead them to eternal pastures so wonderfully espoused in Psalm 23. These under shepherds (see 1 Peter 5:1-4) speak on behalf of the Good Shepherd and speak not what the sheep want and like to hear (2 Timothy 4:3-4) and Jesus' sheep will not follow one of these false shepherds who will not speak the whole counsel of God's Word, nor warn and protect them from predatory teachings. (John 10:4-10) It does all come down to the pure teachings of the Bible, as Jesus in Mark 6 does just that after proclaiming that these sheep without a shepherd need to be fed, so he had Bible Study with them. (Mark 6:34b)
Following the voice of the Good Shepherd, Jesus, His sheep from the moment of faith have the life He came to give them (John 10:10, 28) and enjoy His goodness and mercy all the days of their lives, dwelling in His house forever. (Psalm 23:6)

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Miraculous Food Of Eternal Life

Jesus answered them and said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate of the loaves, and were filled. Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man shall give to you, for on Him the Father, even God, has set His seal. They said therefore to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God? Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent." John 6:26-29

Some humans spend all their time, focus and energy on temporal things, and little if any on eternal things. This is what Jesus is always trying to teach us. He did that right after He fed over 5,000 with a few bread loaves and fish. This caused many to follow Him across the Sea of Galilee, not to learn more of eternal, spiritual truth but to have their bellies filled with a fine miracle meal again. So, Jesus confronts them on this, and urges them and us to focus more on what endures to eternal life than to our temporal needs.

And when He says "work for the food that endures to eternal life" He is not insinuating that we humans have to do something to earn either partially or completely eternity, but He clearly teaches that this is "given to us by the Son of Man." This He sums up by the miracle of faith which is given to us by His Word and Sacraments that we believe in Him who God does all the work necessary to save us: Jesus' perfect life, death and resurrection for the forgiveness of our sins."

Superficial hearing of His Word occasionally or even habitually will not achieve the eternal life we all desire, only believing in this Son of Man crucified and raised for our righteousness will grant this miraculous gift. And this believing is of a continuous nature!

Truly the physical food we eat is also a miraculous gift as one of our Creator God's blessings, but it does not endure to eternal life. For that, only spiritual food will do! The soul food which God gives in His Word and Sacraments (Baptism and the Lord's Supper) are unto life eternal, producing spiritual life now and to eternity in Jesus Christ.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Trust in God's Will? The Cross?

Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.
2 Corinthians 9:12

A Lutheran pastor tells the story of one of his parishioners, whom whenever the Pastor prayed with him would make the sign-of-the-cross when it was prayed that God's will be done. This was as this man lay in intensive care after open-heart surgery.

However, when this man's daughter visited him, she would dispute this by telling her father and the pastor that he be assured that God would heal him. The pastor recalled about this that the man seemed to take no comfort in his daughter's will but always made the sign-of-the-cross. This man knew and took comfort that our confidence in God's love and will for us is not in whether he will or will not heal us at times, but rather that in the Cross of Christ we were truly healed: "By His stripes we are healed." (Isaiah 53:5d) This pastor wrote of this incident: "As much as parishioners may want to see the hand of God in nature's beautiful sunrises, moving stories of conversion, or success in parish programs, it is in the cross of Christ and in bearing their own crosses that God chooses to reveal his heart to them."

Lying in intensive care totally dependent on the medical staff and equipment certainly can make us feel weak and helpless. But let us remember as this man did continually, in the weakness of our sin, Jesus became the punishment for them that we may be strong in faith. We learn and sing of this when little: "We are weak, but He is strong. Yes, Jesus loves me!" He loved us on the cross!

So, by making this sign-of-the cross when in weak and trying situations, we entrust ourselves to the One who loved us and gave Himself for us and the One who promised to never to leave us nor abandon us, but take us where He went, to heaven forever!

Blessed dependency on a more intimate and deeper reliance upon Jesus Christ, who meets our sin and suffering in His cross and empty tomb. Amen.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Resurrection of Jesus: Sense or Nonsense?

And having returned from the tomb, they reported all these things to the Eleven and to all the rest. And they were the Magdalene Mary and Joanna and Mary, the mother of James, and the rest of the women with them. They were telling these things to the apostles, but these words appeared before them as nonsense, and they were not believing them.

Luke 24:9-11

These blessed women are vital in Christianity. They were the first evangelists, as they are the first to announce the Resurrection of Jesus. They had followed Him with their own finances (Luke 8:3) and watched the crucifixion (Luke 23:49). Now, they who were the first to view the empty tomb and hear the angels' proclamation that Jesus is risen. Subsequently, they repeat this amazing news to the apostles. The grammar here of "they were telling" suggests that this telling was being repeated to the apostles.

The apostles' reaction? Nonsense! The Greek word for "nonsense" (leros) has a ring of male superiority in it, and it forms the basis for our English word "delirious." In any case, these apostles were not buying into any resurrection account, at least not yet. They have not been blessed by the Holy Spirit to incorporate these events of crucifixion and resurrection into God's plan of salvation, although Jesus had repeatedly taught them this.

No one can incorporate the historical facts and spiritual significance of the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus for the sins of the world without the Spirit of God providing the understanding, acceptance and faith in them. The Apostle Paul teaches this in 1 Corinthians 1 and 2. Martin Luther taught this same essential in his explanation of the Third Article of the Creed: "I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith."

Thanks be to God that He enlightened the apostles to come to faith in the Resurrection. They bravely turned the world upside down then with their preaching of Jesus crucified and raised for the forgiveness of sins.

And we, who have also been enlightened by this same Gospel to believe in the cross and empty tomb for our eternal life, continue to tell the Good News of the Lord's death and resurrection for the forgiveness of sins till His return. So, we continually pray that the Spirit would open the spiritual ears and eyes of unbelievers to join us as Jesus' blessed people.

Christ has triumphed! He is living! Alleluia!