The Most Precious Thing You Have

Text: 1 Peter 1:3-9

Grace, mercy, and peace to each of you from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Last Sunday people all over the world gathered together just like we did to celebrate the joyous good news that Jesus is risen from the dead. For most of us it was an Easter pretty much the same as any other. For some people though it must have been different. Christians in Egypt gathered together to celebrate Easter just 6 days after bombs went off in 2 churches on Palm Sunday killing upwards of 47 people.

After I heard about what happened in Egypt on Palm Sunday I was curious to see what these people and their churches would do about Easter and the celebrations around the resurrection of Jesus. I read in a news article this week that some of the celebrations were toned down a bit, the receptions and parties that are normally held on Easter Sunday were cancelled this year, but the main service, the Easter Vigil mass on Saturday went ahead as scheduled. The people came, the Word of God was read, the body and blood of Jesus was distributed in Holy Communion, and the resurrection of our Lord Jesus was celebrated. The article that I read was quick to note that the events on Sunday (the parties and lunches…) were canceled because they did not seem appropriate during a time of morning. They were not cancelled for safety reasons or in an attempt to avoid another attack. Instead, in defiance of what would seem to be common sense, Christians all over Egypt gathered on the Saturday night before Easter just like they had done 6 days earlier on Palm Sunday. That is amazing. The courage of these people is incredible. One article I read tried to put it in our perspective, it would be like going to church on Easter not knowing if you would make it home for Easter dinner or not.

Why bother, though? Why bother putting yourself in harm’s way like that just for one Sunday service even if it is Easter Sunday? Would we, North American, western, Christians like you and me do that? Would we go to church if the possibility of physical harm or even death loomed as a potential reality? I’m not so sure we would. All kinds of things much less serious than terrorism and death keep us from going to church. You and I can’t even begin to relate to what those people were faced with. We are not and never have been threatened with anything like that. Why did they bother?

The best person to ask that question would be one of those people who left home and headed over to church Easter Saturday and stood shoulder to shoulder with fellow Christians celebrating the resurrection of Jesus. But since they are not here for us to ask them we have to be satisfied with whatever we can come up with for ourselves. I would suggest that these Christians were so bold to go to church even if it meant they might lose their lives for it because they understood something that Peter says in our epistle reading today much better than we do. Peter says this: “In this (God’s salvation for you in Jesus) you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”

Why bother going to church if it might cost you your life? Because your faith, your Christian faith, is the most precious possession that you have in all the earth. It is more precious than gold as Peter tells us here, it is more precious than your own life. And Church, what is happening right here and right now, is the place where that precious faith is fed and nourished and given to us so that it can survive in a hostile and dangerous world that is filled with much greater threats that terrorists with bombs strapped to their chests. Faith is so precious and valuable that it is worth facing those kinds of risks just to have it strengthened.

What makes faith so precious though? What makes faith worth so much more than gold or even our lives themselves? Faith itself is not precious. There is nothing precious about faith or believing in something. Faith is not precious because it is some kind of virtue that makes God happy. Faith is not an attitude or an outlook on life that you choose for yourself. Faith is not something that you do.

In our Gospel reading today we heard Jesus say this to Thomas, the disciple who doubted that He was risen from the dead, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29) For you and me those words kind of feel like a pat on the back. We haven’t seen Jesus and yet we believe in Him, Jesus is talking about us here. He is saying that we are blessed, we did a good job. But what if we take that word “blessed” in a different direction. What if, instead of patting us on the back and saying “Good job, thanks for believing in me!” Jesus was really saying, “Look at the blessing that God has given to you! You believe in me even though you have not seen Me! What a wonderful thing that God has done for you! Blessed are you!” Blessed are you because God has done this for you, He has given you the priceless treasure of faith.

This faith is a priceless treasure because it clings to Jesus. Jesus told His disciples that if they only had faith like a grain of mustard seed then they would be able to move mountains into the sea (Matthew 17:20). Jesus does not mean here that faith itself is so powerful. He is not saying that if they just believed enough or believed in themselves they could do it. He is saying that if they even had such a tiny amount of faith IN HIM it would change everything. Faith in Jesus is a precious thing because Jesus is precious. Jesus is risen from the dead. He died on the cross carrying my sins, your sins, the sins of the entire world, and He rose from the dead after three days. Because He is risen your sins are forgiven and God’s wrath against sin is taken away.

The faith that God has given to us and blessed us with is precious and valuable because it takes hold of Jesus. Just like Thomas who touched the hands and side of Jesus and felt the nail marks and spear marks or like the women who ran away from the tomb that Easter morning after they had heard the good news from the angel and met Jesus on the way, fell down at His feet, grabbed His feet, and worshiped Him. Our faith, the faith that God has blessed us with, grabs on to Jesus. When we come to communion Jesus lays His body into our mouths and hands. He pours His blood shed for us into our mouths. When this happens our faith takes hold of Jesus again. We grab on to Him and don’t let go.

The faith that God has given to you is precious because of what it brings to you. Because your faith takes hold of Jesus and clings to Him it brings eternal life to you. At the end of our epistle reading today Peter calls this the “outcome” of our faith, “the salvation of our souls.” Your faith is the most precious and valuable thing in the world for you because it brings you salvation for your soul. Peter says here in this epistle reading that faith is more precious than gold because gold, even though it is refined and purified with fire, still perishes eventually. The brilliance of gold wears away, its shine fades, dents and scratches appear. Eventually it does not look as bright and beautiful as it once did.

This faith is much more valuable than gold. Your faith is tested, refined, and purified just like gold by the trials and struggles of this life. The imperfections are removed by the struggle of life as God purifies your faith in Him. That faith, unlike gold that has been purified but still perishes and wears out, will last forever, it will never perish. God who has made that faith, purified that faith, and sustained that faith will bring it to completion on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will be faithful to that faith He has given you and He will raise your soul and body to new life. Unlike gold that perishes, faith that clings to Jesus “will never perish, but have eternal life.”  

Your faith is precious. This is a precious gift that you have been given: you know Jesus and what means that He died and rose again for you. That is the most precious thing you own. It is more precious than gold or silver, more precious than your home or possession, more precious that your family or memories, more precious than your life itself. It is a precious thing that you have been given. This gift is so precious that it brought Christians in Egypt to church just a week after such a violent attack and it is so precious that it will bring you up out of this wicked, violent, and evil world into life everlasting. In Jesus name, Amen.

The Easter Difference

Text: Colossians 3:1-4

Grace, mercy, and peace to each of you from our risen Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen

I read an article the other day, it was an interview with a former bishop in the Church of England actually who has written a book called, “The Day the Revolution Began.” I haven’t read the book, I only just heard about for the first time just a day or two ago, but the title of the book intrigues me. “The Day the Revolution Began.” I find that title intriguing because the author isn’t talking about what we normally think of as revolutions (The French Revolution, American Revolution, Industrial Revolution). Instead, he argues that Easter, the death and resurrection of Jesus, was a revolution, a decisive turning point in history. In short, the book argues that Jesus rising from the dead changes everything.

That’s a nice thought, that Jesus rising from the dead changes everything, but is it true? Does Jesus rising from the dead really make a difference? You might be thinking to yourself, “Of course it makes a difference, why else would I be here!” or you might be thinking to yourself, “I’m not sure that Jesus rising from the dead actually makes a difference at all, to be honest.”

If you fall into that latter line of thinking, if you are not sure sometimes (or all the time, for that matter) whether or not Jesus rising from the dead actually makes a difference in your life I don’t blame you. I don’t blame you because it doesn’t always look like Jesus rising from the dead makes much a difference in my life either. Contrary to what some people might tell you, Jesus rising from the dead and you believing in Jesus does not mean that there are no more bad days. It does not mean that you will always feel happy and never struggle with anything in life because you believe in Jesus and He is risen from the dead. It does not mean that no bad things will happen to you or to people you care about. For this reason, it is not outside the realm of possibility and it should not be unexpected for every Christian to ask themselves from time to time, “Does Jesus rising from the dead actually make a difference?” Because it sure doesn’t feel like it sometimes.

Maybe it doesn’t feel like it, but Jesus rising from the dead does make a difference. In our epistle reading today from Colossians 3 Paul says this about Jesus being raised from the dead and what it means for you: “If you then have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set you minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Yes, Paul is saying, Jesus rising from the dead makes a difference.

Jesus rising from the dead makes a difference because you have risen with Jesus. Our epistle reading starts off with Paul saying “If then you have been raised with Christ…” “If you have been raised.” The implication is that you have been raised with Christ. You have been raised from the dead already with Christ to be a new person; a person set free from sin and death; a person who has been perfectly and totally forgiven; a person who lives a life filled with the love of Jesus. Anyone who believes and is baptised has died with Jesus and has also risen with Jesus. You have died with Jesus and you have risen with Him. That makes a difference.

Jesus rising from the dead makes a difference because it changes our perspective on life in this world. Jesus rising from the dead reorients the way we think about life in this world. Dead people don’t rise, that is not how the world works, but Jesus is risen. Jesus rising from the dead opens our eyes to a new reality that we could not have seen otherwise.

In our gospel reading we see the difference that Jesus rising from the dead makes in the lives of people like us who believe in Him. The women go out to the tomb early in the morning to finish the job of burying Jesus. You can imagine that there is a degree of grief and sorrow in their hearts as they make their way out to the tomb. But before they can get there the earth under their feet starts to shake and an angel of the Lord appears and rolls away the stone from the tomb. The guards posted to keep an eye on that tomb fall, brave men who should stand strong in the face of danger, down like dead men they are so afraid. If the soldier are falling down with fear the women were likely scared too. The angel says to them, “Do not be afraid, He has risen.” The women rush away from the tomb still afraid, Matthew tells us, but also filled with great joy. Jesus being alive makes a difference for these women. Their fear remains to a degree, but with that fear is great joy. Their joy comes from knowing that their Saviour, the one on whom they had pinned their hopes for salvation, is not dead. He is alive and He brings joy. Jesus rising from the dead makes a difference.

What difference does Jesus rising from the dead make for you?

Before we stumble around trying to make up an answer to that question for ourselves, Paul provides us with the answer in our epistle reading. “If you have been raised with Jesus (which as we talked about already, we have) then set your mind on the things that are above.” Jesus rising from the dead sets our mind on things that are above and changes how we see our lives day by day in this world. We still live in the world, but our lives are oriented around the central, joyous fact that Jesus is risen from the dead. That makes a difference.

When we struggle in life, when we suffer, when we get sick, when every thing seems to be going wrong, when life goes off the rails and nothing makes sense anymore Jesus risen from the dead makes a difference. We see in Jesus risen from the dead that this life and the stuff that burdens us here and weighs us down is not worth comparing to the future glory that has been prepared for us in Christ (Romans 8:18). On Easter we see the glory of Jesus, a glory that will be ours on the day when He raises our bodies too. We also see here that because Jesus is risen from the dead we have no reason to doubt God’s love for us. Trials and tribulations will not take away the love that Jesus poured out on the cross or that shines forth from the empty tomb.

When we grieve Jesus risen from the dead makes a difference. As Christians we do not grieve like other people. We still grieve but we grieve with hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13-14). Like the women running from the tomb our grief is paired with great joy. Our hope and joy in the midst of grief comes from knowing that we will be reunited with those we loved in this life in the life yet to come.

When we mess up and fall short of God’s glory, when we sin, Jesus risen from the dead make all the difference. Jesus paid the price for our sin on the cross and His resurrection is like the receipt that confirms that full payment has been made. To show us that our sin is taken away God the Father raised Jesus from the dead. He lives and we know we are forgiven.

As we live our lives in this world Jesus risen from the dead makes a difference. He has already raised us to new life and has set our minds on things above. He sets our minds on things like compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, patience, bearing with each other in love, and forgiving one another (Colossians 3:12-13). Jesus risen from the dead changes how we see each other and lifts our heads up above the anger, hatred, and violence of this world to see the new reality that is ours because our Saviour lives.

When we die Jesus risen from the dead makes a difference. We likely still fear death. I think that anyone who says that they don’t fear death at all is lying at least a little bit. But our fear is combined with joy, just like the women at the tomb. Our fear is combined with joy because we know that Jesus will come again and give life to our dead bodies. When Jesus comes again our bodies will probably be lying dead in the ground and may have been there for a long time. But on that day Jesus will call out our names and our bones will get up from the ground and Jesus will breathe the breath of life into our dead bodies and we will live. This knowledge, this good news changes everything.

Jesus rising from the dead changes everything. It changes everything for you right now and forever. It may not seem like much has changed, it may not feel like it, but it has. You have risen from the dead with Jesus and you have changed. In Jesus name. Amen.

Meditations on the Passion of Jesus

First Passion Reading: John 18:1-11

When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the brook Kidron, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.”10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.)11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”

Devotion: “Violent”

As Jesus is arrested we begin to see some of the worst that humanity has to offer. Not just other people, people a couple thousand years ago on the other side of the world, but all people. You and I included. We see here the worst that is in us beginning here at the garden of Gethsemane.

In this first stage of Jesus’ passion we see the violence and anger that is inherent in human beings like us. The soldiers, chief priests, and Pharisees led by Judas come to find Jesus. They come with lanterns, torches, and weapons. They come armed to fight. They come prepared to beat back any resistance. They come with weapons to arrest the man who has never laid a finger on anyone to harm them. They come to arrest the one person whose touch is able to heal and save rather than cause pain and injury.

It’s not just the ones who don’t believe in Jesus either. As the arrest starts to go down Peter pulls out a sword and lashes out at the mob that has come to arrest Jesus. He cuts off a man’s ear!  In the gospel of Matthew Jesus says to Peter at this point, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword.”

Like the mob that has come to arrest Jesus and like Peter, this anger and violence lurks in our hearts too. This anger and violence lashes out with words and actions at those we dislike, those we perceive to be a threat, those who see the world differently than us. This same violence lives in us.

For violent and sinful hearts like our own there is good news today. Christ has endured the worst violence that this world, our sin, and the devil can dole out. He has endured the cross and has won forgiveness for the anger and violence that lurks in us. His death paid for our violence.

 

The Second Passion Reading: John 18:12-27

12 So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him. 13 First they led him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. 14 It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people.

15 Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the courtyard of the high priest, 16 but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. 17 The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” 18 Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.

19 The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. 20 Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. 21 Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.”22 When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?”23 Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” 24 Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest.

25 Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” 26 One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” 27 Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed.

Devotion:“Fearful”

The violence still lingers here. When the officers who arrested Jesus don’t care for the way that He answers the questions the high priest asks Him they lash out again and strike Him. But Peter, who not long before lashed out with a sword and cut off a man’s ear, is not so bold anymore. He has moved from one extreme to another.

Now, rather than boldly standing up for Jesus and even trying to fight for Him, Peter is left cowering in fear. Violence and anger gives way to terror and fear. Just as Jesus had predicted, before the rooster crows Peter denies that he even knows Jesus three times. To the servant girl at the gate he says, “I am not one of His disciples.” To the others standing around the fire warming themselves he says the same thing. To a servant of the high priest who was related to the man whose ear Peter had cut off just a short while before Peter again denies. And the rooster crowed.

Fear paralyzes. Fear immobilizes us. Fear leads us even to deny the Lord who bought us with His death on the cross. The fear that we see in Peter here is a fear that lingers in our hearts too. It flairs up when we aren’t sure what the people around us would think of us if we told them what we really believe about Jesus, if we let them see who we really are, if they knew that we are Christians. Like Peter we also deny Christ. We deny Christ with our words when we don’t speak of Christ when the opportunity presents itself (even by telling ourselves that there was no opportunity) and when we fail to love one another as Christ has loved us first.

For fearful cowering disciples like us there is also good news today. Good news that Christ did not cower in fear, but carried on to the cross to die for fearful disciples like us. By His blood He has redeemed us from our sins of fear and given us new life. Stand tall, therefore, bold, forgiven in Christ.

 

The Third Passion Reading: John 18:28-40

28 Then they led Jesus from the house of Caiaphas to the governor’s headquarters. It was early morning. They themselves did not enter the governor’s headquarters, so that they would not be defiled, but could eat the Passover. 29 So Pilate went outside to them and said, “What accusation do you bring against this man?” 30 They answered him, “If this man were not doing evil, we would not have delivered him over to you.” 31 Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and judge him by your own law.” The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.” 32 This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death he was going to die.

33 So Pilate entered his headquarters again and called Jesus and said to him, “Are you the King of the Jews?” 34 Jesus answered, “Do you say this of your own accord, or did others say it to you about me?” 35 Pilate answered, “Am I a Jew? Your own nation and the chief priests have delivered you over to me. What have you done?” 36 Jesus answered, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting, that I might not be delivered over to the Jews. But my kingdom is not from the world.” 37 Then Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?” Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” 38 Pilate said to him, “What is truth?”

After he had said this, he went back outside to the Jews and told them,“I find no guilt in him. 39 But you have a custom that I should release one man for you at the Passover. So do you want me to release to you the King of the Jews?” 40 They cried out again, “Not this man, but Barabbas!” Now Barabbas was a robber.

Devotion: “Skeptical”

            As Pilate enters the scene for the first time we are confronted with something different. An outsider, a non-Jewish person, someone who has no baggage or history with Jesus. Pilate is confronted here with a problem, should he believe the crowd or believe in Jesus? Can he really believe that this is some kind of heavenly King who has come to earth or will he have to side with His own people who have rejected this so called king?

Pilate’s skepticism about Jesus shines through in these words: “What is truth?” He has gone back and forth with Jesus, tried to understand Jesus, but Jesus remains elusive for Pilate. Jesus says that He has come into the world to bear witness about the truth. Jesus has already told the people that He is the Way the Truth and the Life. He bears witness about the truth and He is the truth. What is the truth? That God would send His Son into the world to redeem and rescue the world from sin. But, does Pilate believe that truth?

“What is truth,” is all that Pilate can say. This “truth” seems pretty farfetched. Is there such a thing as truth in the world anyway? Isn’t truth subjective, doesn’t truth mean something different for everyone, could there be just one truth? Yes, there is one truth, Jesus is that truth. But are we able to accept that truth or do we want our own truth? Pilate is skeptical and so are we. Truth sounds great as long as it agrees with what we already think is true.

For skeptics there is good news today too. Christ died for skeptics in order to show us the truth that He would go so far as to give His own life on a cross to show His love for us and save us from sin. This is a truth worth believing.

 

The Fourth Passion Reading: John 19:1-16

Then Pilate took Jesus and flogged him. And the soldiers twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on his head and arrayed him in a purple robe. They came up to him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” and struck him with their hands. Pilate went out again and said to them, “See, I am bringing him out to you that you may know that I find no guilt in him.” So Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. Pilate said to them, “Behold the man!” When the chief priests and the officers saw him, they cried out, “Crucify him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Take him yourselves and crucify him, for I find no guilt in him.” The Jews answered him, “We have a law, and according to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God.” When Pilate heard this statement, he was even more afraid. He entered his headquarters again and said to Jesus, “Where are you from?” But Jesus gave him no answer. 10 So Pilate said to him, “You will not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to release you and authority to crucify you?” 11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.”

12 From then on Pilate sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, “If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar.” 13 So when Pilate heard these words, he brought Jesus out and sat down on the judgment seat at a place called The Stone Pavement, and in Aramaic Gabbatha. 14 Now it was the day of Preparation of the Passover. It was about the sixth hour. He said to the Jews, “Behold your King!” 15 They cried out, “Away with him, away with him, crucify him!” Pilate said to them, “Shall I crucify your King?” The chief priests answered, “We have no king but Caesar.” 16 So he delivered him over to them to be crucified.

Devotion: “Authoritative”

            The trial with Pilate continues. After Jesus is beaten, flogged, mocked, and crowned with thorns Pilate questions Him again, “Where are you from?” But Jesus does not answer. “Don’t you know that I have the authority to crucify or release you?!” Pilate demands. I have the authority, don’t you know that, I am in charge here! Answer me! Jesus responds simply, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given to you from above.”

Pilate can’t let go of his authority. He has earned His position in life after all. He is the governor of the entire Roman province of Palestine. He has worked his way up through the ranks with his work ethic and determination. He has earned this authority and feels that Jesus ought to respect that authority. He wants to do what is best for Jesus, after all.

Who has the authority? Who has the authority in your life? At first we might be quick to say, “Well in my life God has the authority, He is number 1.” But when God’s authority starts to crowd our own sense of authority we might change our tune a bit. We fall back into saying things like, “It’s my life; I’ll do it my way.” It’s not that we don’t love God, we just don’t want Him telling us what to do all the time. We don’t want His authority over us. We’ve earned what we have (our way of life, our station in life) and we aren’t planning on giving it up any time soon. “Don’t you know,” Jesus says, “that whatever authority you have comes from above?” We are power hungry, like Pilate, and hold on to whatever authority we can get our hands on.

For authority obsessed people like us there is good news for us today. Christ laid aside His authority as the Son of God and willingly took on the role of a servant. He washed the feet of sinful men like us who argue about who is the greatest. He died a criminal’s death for sinners like us. His death paid for our power hungry struggle. He reigns on high so that we can lay aside whatever authority we think that we might have and follow Him, our King.

 

The Fifth Passion Reading: John 19:16-24

So they took Jesus, 17 and he went out, bearing his own cross, to the place called The Place of a Skull, which in Aramaic is called Golgotha.18 There they crucified him, and with him two others, one on either side, and Jesus between them. 19 Pilate also wrote an inscription and put it on the cross. It read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20 Many of the Jews read this inscription, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city, and it was written in Aramaic, in Latin, and in Greek.21 So the chief priests of the Jews said to Pilate, “Do not write, ‘The King of the Jews,’ but rather, ‘This man said, I am King of the Jews.’” 22 Pilate answered, “What I have written I have written.”

23 When the soldiers had crucified Jesus, they took his garments and divided them into four parts, one part for each soldier; also his tunic.[a]But the tunic was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom,24 so they said to one another, “Let us not tear it, but cast lots for it to see whose it shall be.” This was to fulfill the Scripture which says,

“They divided my garments among them,
and for my clothing they cast lots.”

So the soldiers did these things.

Devotion: “Greedy”

Pilate hands Jesus over to be crucified and the soldiers lead Him out to Golgotha. He carries His own cross out there and is nailed up with two criminals, one on either side. At the foot of His cross the soldiers remain. The majority of their work is done, Jesus hangs there on the cross dying. Now they have to decide what to do with His clothing though. Most of the garments are easily split up among the four soldiers, but Jesus tunic is different. It is one solid piece of woven fabric from top to bottom. It would seem a waste to split up and destroy such a garment, the soldiers decide, so that cast lots to see who will get it.

Here we see the blindness of greed. These soldiers seem not to care about the fact that they have just nailed a man to the cross to die (not just any man either, but the Son of God!), but they do care about this garment. They wouldn’t want to destroy a fine piece of fabric like that but they have no problem destroying a human life. Greed drives them in their game of casting lots to covet this clothing that by all rights does not belong to them. It is greed that drove Judas to betray Jesus. For 30 pieces of silver he handed over His Lord and Master.

Greed drives us too. Greed drives us to pursue more and more for ourselves even if it might be to the detriment of others around us. Greed drives us to accumulate things for ourselves even if they might not actually belong to us. Greed makes us covet the things that others have. Greed blinds us to the value of people, to what God is doing, to the love the God shows us in His Son.

There is good news for greedy people like us today too. The good news is that Christ, willingly surrendered not only His clothing, but every possession He ever could have owned, and even His life for your sake. He died for our greed so that we could be set free from greed to love one another. He freely gives everything to us so that we have no need to accumulate things.

 

The Sixth Passion Reading: John 19:25-30

25 But standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing nearby, he said to his mother, “Woman, behold, your son!” 27 Then he said to the disciple, “Behold, your mother!” And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.

28 After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), “I thirst.” 29 A jar full of sour wine stood there, so they put a sponge full of the sour wine on a hyssop branch and held it to his mouth.30 When Jesus had received the sour wine, he said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

Devotion: “Helpless”

            Something changes now. We don’t see the sinfulness of humanity here. Instead we see the helplessness of humanity. We see the helplessness of a woman whose son is hanging on a cross dying. We see her grief; we see her fear; we see her uncertainty about what her future will hold without her son to care for her. But Christ, in the midst of the helplessness provides an answer. He looks at His mother Jesus said, “Woman, behold your son.” And looking at the disciple whom He loved Jesus said, “Behold, your mother.” Jesus provides help for the helpless.

For you too Jesus has provided help in the midst of helplessness. If you feel helpless, if you feel alone in this world, if you feel the burden of your sin and do not know where to turn for relief, Christ has an answer for you. Having made arrangements of the care of His mother, Jesus says, “It is finished!” and He bows His head and hands over His Spirit.

Just as Jesus appointed the disciple whom He loved to care for His mother in His absence, Jesus hands over His Holy Spirit to you to care for you. Jesus does not leave you alone as an orphan, He does not leave you without help. He pours out His Spirit in His death to be our help in the midst of sin and darkness. This Spirit draws us back again and again from the edge of oblivion into the good news of the cross. The Good News that Christ died for the helpless, for sinners who could not help themselves. Rejoice dear friends, in your helplessness there is a helper, the Holy Spirit of Christ our Lord.

 

The Seventh Passion Reading: John 19:31-42

31 Since it was the day of Preparation, and so that the bodies would not remain on the cross on the Sabbath (for that Sabbath was a high day), the Jews asked Pilate that their legs might be broken and that they might be taken away. 32 So the soldiers came and broke the legs of the first, and of the other who had been crucified with him. 33 But when they came to Jesus and saw that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. 34 But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water. 35 He who saw it has borne witness—his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth—that you also may believe. 36 For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken.” 37 And again another Scripture says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”

38 After these things Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, asked Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus, and Pilate gave him permission. So he came and took away his body. 39 Nicodemus also, who earlier had come to Jesus[a] by night, came bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about seventy-five pounds[b] in weight. 40 So they took the body of Jesus and bound it in linen cloths with the spices, as is the burial custom of the Jews. 41 Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden, and in the garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been laid. 42 So because of the Jewish day of Preparation, since the tomb was close at hand, they laid Jesus there.

Devotion: “Looking Upon Him”

With Jesus’ final words from the cross, “It is finished!” His work was truly complete. Nothing now remained to be done. He gave up His spirit and died. With that the soldiers re-enter the scene. They aren’t tossing dice over His clothes anymore. Now they are making sure that each of the men crucified that day is dead by breaking their legs. When they come to Jesus they do not break His legs because He is already dead, but they pierce His side just to make sure. Suddenly, from His side flows a stream of blood and water. The life of Christ poured out for the salvation of the world. All this happened, John tells us, to fulfill the Scripture that says, “They will look on him whom they have pierced.”

With all the characters who appear along the way during our Lord’s Passion, with Peter, Pilate, the soldiers, Mary, and everyone else, this is where we are left on Good Friday, looking upon the one that we have pierced. It would seem to be a dismal, depressing scene. A scene devoid of hope. A scene full of guilt for what has happened. But we need to remember the words of John the Baptist, “Behold (look!), the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” Looking upon Him whom we have pierced means looking at Him who has taken away our sin.

In His passion we see the worst that man can offer, the true nature of our shared sinful condition is on display. We are confronted here with our own attitudes and conceptions, we see our own sinfulness here. But we also see the One who has dealt with our sinfulness once and for all. As His body hangs there on the tree the good news is as real as it could ever be. Your sin is taken away, your guilt is covered, you will live forever with God in eternity. In Jesus name. Amen.

 

 

The Renewed Covenant

Text: Matthew 26:17-30

Grace, mercy, and peace to each of you from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

A week or two ago we got a letter at our house from the government of Ontario, the wonderful letter that comes every couple of years inviting you to renew the registration on your vehicle if you would like to continue to drive that vehicle in the province of Ontario. It’s not much of an invitation really, more of a warning. Pay or else. But once you pay your rights and privileges as a driver in this province are renewed.

I think of our gospel reading tonight kind of as an invitation for renewal like that. Not an invitation to come pay money to the government to get them off your back, but an invitation to renew the covenant relationship that our God has made with us. As Jesus shares the Last Supper with His disciples He says these words: “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” These are important words. With these words it is as if Jesus is taking many threads from the Old Testament and twisting them together to form a solid rope of New Testament good news of salvation.

The Old Testament is filled with covenants. God makes a covenant with Noah, with Abraham, with the people of Israel, with David, and many others. Old Testament covenants are promises and relationships that God established with people. Blood was involved in many of these covenants, so much so that for us 21st century North Americans it starts to sound kind of gross and uncomfortable. In the book of Exodus, when God made His covenant with the people of Israel, blood was involved. Our Epistle reading today talks about this. The portion of the letter to the Hebrews that we read says, “When every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses (when Moses had read to the people all of God’s commandments), he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all of the people saying, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.’”

To our sensibilities this sounds disturbing to say the least. The sprinkling with blood is a little over the top for us. But it is in this blood that God makes His covenant, His promise with the people of Israel. They will be His people and He will be their God.

A very similar thing is happening when Jesus eats the Passover with His disciples and takes bread, breaks it and says “This is my body” and then takes the cup and says, “This is my blood of the covenant.” Just as Moses sprinkled the blood of the covenant on the people back in the Old Testament, here Jesus passes around the cup of wine which in a mysterious, indescribable way also contains His own blood shed for us on the cross, in order to establish and renew His covenant with you and me.

And this covenant is much better than the one that Moses mediated in the Old Testament by sprinkling the blood of goats and calves on people. There are two reasons why this covenant is better. First of all, this covenant is not just made with the blood of some animal. This is the blood of the Son of God. This is the blood of the man who was born of a virgin, whose birth angels announced, who successfully resisted the devil in the wilderness, who healed the sick and raised the dead, who died on the cross for the sins of the world, and who rose from the dead and ascended into heaven in triumph. This is the blood of Christ, the Son of God, and it forms the most glorious covenant imaginable with us.

Secondly, this covenant is not just a onetime thing, it is a repeated action. Every time we come to the altar this covenant is renewed and made new. Every time we come Jesus gives us His body and blood again and makes the covenant with us all over again. That might seem kind of repetitive, but it is incredibly necessary. It is necessary to renew this covenant again and again, week by week, because we break this covenant at least that often.

Breaking covenants with God is one of the things that human beings like us do best. Right after Moses sprinkled the blood of the covenant on the people of Israel he went up onto Mount Sinai and was welcomed into the presence of the Lord. He stayed there for forty days and forty nights. Down below, at the base of the mountain, the people got restless. After a while they started to wonder if Moses was coming back. Maybe he died up there on the mountain. So, down below being somewhat impatient, the people concocted a plan. They would build a golden cow and worship it. Just like that, so soon after the blood of the covenant had been sprinkled on them, they had turned away and developed a god of their own. A god more to their liking than the Lord who saved them from slavery in Egypt.

In the same way, not long after Jesus shared the Passover with His disciples and gave them His blood of the covenant Judas, one of the twelve, would betray Him. And Peter, the most zealous and enthusiastic of the twelve, would deny that He even knew Jesus before the rooster crows that evening. How quickly they turn away from the covenant!

We ourselves are no better, we turn from the covenant just as quickly. We go out from the altar, into the world, and we make gods for ourselves. We make gods out of money, happiness, pleasure, possessions, prestige, reputation, and all kinds of other things. We go from here and we betray our Saviour by returning to lives of sin and falling into the same greedy habits that have become so comfortable to us. We go from here and we deny Jesus and pretend that we don’t know Him when we are surrounded by those who do not believe. How quickly we turn our backs on the covenant that God made with us here in the blood of Jesus!

But that is the true beauty of this covenant. It is renewed again and again and it is founded on the forgiveness of our sins. The blood of Christ poured out for us is poured out for the entire world to forgive the sins of the entire world. We who have turned our backs on the covenant and broken the covenant with our thoughts, words, and actions, are invited to come back to the altar and receive the gift of the blood of the covenant again for the forgiveness of our sins and the renewal of God’s promise to us. Each time the covenant is made new again, no history is remembered, no past is brought up, only the blood of Jesus shed for our sins. Nothing else matters.

As you come to communion tonight this is what Christ is doing, He is giving you His body and blood to renew His covenant with you. To make the covenant new and fresh again. To restore you as a child of God all over again. To make you clean and sinless all over again. Every time you come this happens again. There is no price for you to pay for this renewal, it has already been paid in full by Jesus.

“As often as you eat this bread and drink this cup,” the apostle Paul says, “you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.” May we eat and drink this bread and cup as often as possible all the days of our lives so that this covenant may be renewed and made new in us to life everlasting. In Jesus name. Amen.

 

 

Listening to the Shouting

Text: John 12:12-19

Grace, mercy, and peace to each of you from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

People like to shout things. Maybe not everyone and maybe not all the time, but people like to yell. I’m not much of a shouter myself, but my family can tell you that when I am watching sports on TV in our basement and things aren’t going the way I’d like them to go everyone in the house will know about it sooner rather than later. I get fired up about things and I start shouting at the TV thinking that someway, somehow, they will hear me wherever they are even on the other side of the country, if I just yell loud enough.

It’s not just me either. Lots of people like to shout. I can’t tell you how many video clips I’ve seen on the news lately with people yelling. People go out to protest or something and they yell. Other people protest against the people who are protesting and they yell things back. A conversation of shouting breaks out. For many of us all the shouting in the world today is probably quite off putting, especially in the current political landscape. But, it can be a useful thing to take some time to listen to the shouting, we might not agree with any of the ideas and we might not like what people have to say, but when people shout like that they tell you what they really think. People don’t shout things that they do not believe are true. You find out what people really think when you listen to them shout.

That’s why it is worthwhile, I think, to listen to what people are shouting in our Gospel reading today because in those shouts, in the yelling and screaming, we see what people really think. Jesus is coming up to Jerusalem from Bethany, the place where Mary, Martha, and Lazarus live. Not long before, Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead so there was quite a bit of hype around Jesus. As He left Bethany a crowd started to form. The folks from Bethany remembered what Jesus did and they were going to head up into Jerusalem with Jesus. As they make their way into town another crowd, this one from inside Jerusalem, hears that Jesus is coming. They pour out of the city and join with the crowd that has come out from Bethany to welcome Jesus into Jerusalem. Along the way this massive combined crowd is shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel!”

In their shouting we find out what these people really think about Jesus. First, they shout “Hosanna!” Hosanna is a Hebrew word that means “save us now” or “save us please.” These crowds believe that Jesus is someone who can save them, they believe that this is the reason Jesus has come. He has come to save them. They have seen and heard about how He gave sight to a blind man and how He gave life to a dead man. Clearly He has some kind of power to save and they shout at Him, “Save us now!”

Then they shout, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” Their shouting here tells us that they believe that Jesus comes in the name of the Lord. The Pharisees, after Jesus gave sight to the blind man, said that they do not know where Jesus comes from and, therefore, they cannot believe in Him. The crowds on Palm Sunday don’t have that problem, they believe that Jesus comes from God.

These first two parts of their shouting (“hosanna” and “blessed is he…”) are quoted directly from the Old Testament, from the book of Psalms, from Psalm 118. These are Bible words from the people of Israel, words that talk about the coming Messiah. God promised to send a Messiah and the people had been waiting for that Messiah for a long, long time. And here, when they see Jesus coming into town they pull out these words and shout them on the top of their lungs. This is the Messiah, they say, this is the one.

And, if there was still any doubt about what they think about Jesus, they finish it off with these words, “Even the King of Israel.” He is our king, they say. These people look at Jesus and see their saviour and their king and they rejoice because He is coming to them riding on a donkey.

The shouting we hear on Palm Sunday tells us what these people really think about Jesus. They couldn’t be much clearer than they are. They believe that Jesus is their Saviour, their Messiah, and their King. And they are right, He is all of those things. But the truly astounding thing is that there will be much more shouting still to come.

When Jesus gets arrested and put on trial the shouting is going to start all over again. But they aren’t going to be shouting for their King, Messiah, or Saviour to be set free, they will be shouting for Him to die. They will be shouting for a murderer named Barabbas to be released to them instead of Jesus. They will be shouting “We have no king but Caesar!” They will be shouting “Crucify Him!”

Why the change? Why do these people go so quickly from shouting to Jesus as their Saviour, Messiah and King to shouting for Him to die? It’s safe to assume that they believed what they shouted on that Sunday as He rode into town, so what changed?

There is no simple answer to that question, but it seems to me that these people realized some time during that week in Jerusalem that Jesus was not going to be the kind of saviour that they wanted. He was not about to overthrow the powers that be and give them their own country again like they wanted. Instead He went into the temple and started chasing out money changers and flipped over tables of people selling stuff. He wasn’t going to turn Jerusalem into the bustling, independent capital city it once was. Instead He told them that this city would be torn down to the ground one day. He wasn’t going to give them the glorious life that they were hoping for. He wasn’t going to give them what they wanted. They didn’t want the real Jesus, they wanted a Jesus who gave them what they wanted. Jesus was not that kind of saviour. Jesus still isn’t that kind of saviour.

For us on Palm Sunday, on the verge of Holy Week with Good Friday in view not far down the road, it is worthwhile to ask ourselves what kind of saviour we are looking for. What kind of saviour do we want?

Do we want a saviour like Jesus or do we want a saviour who meets our expectations for what a saviour should be? Do we want a saviour who gives us the best possible life with health, wealth, and happiness right now or one who promises us a better life beyond this world? Do we want a saviour who pats us on the back and tells us we are doing a good job on our own or who points out our sin so that we see that we need Him to die for us? Do we want a saviour who will fix the problems in our lives right now so that we can be happy or one who promises eternal happiness? Do we want a saviour who will take our suffering away right now or do we want a saviour who will suffer for on the cross and invite us to take up our cross and follow Him?

If we want a saviour who will fix this world or our lives or make us feel good about ourselves right now and not a Saviour whose sole purpose is to take away the sin of the world, then we will be disappointed on Good Friday just like the people in Jerusalem were disappointed after Jesus rode into their town triumphantly. If we want that kind of saviour then Good Friday isn’t going to make any sense. It won’t be good at all.

Jesus has come to be our Saviour from sin. This is what Jesus is about, this is what Jesus does, this is the kind of Saviour Jesus is. He is not a political hero, He is not the world’s greatest life coach, He is not our genie in a bottle who gives us what we wish for. He is our Saviour from sin who will die on a cross for us. This is what we really need. We feel like we need a lot of other things, but this one thing is what we really need.

If we want a Saviour who saves us from sin and death, who will rescue us from the power of devil and even save us from our own sinful selves, then we will never be disappointed in Jesus because this is what Jesus always does for us. This is the reason that Jesus bled and died on the cross for us. This is the kind of Saviour that Jesus is and always will be. He is our Saviour from sin, our Messiah, and our King, just like the people on Palm Sunday said.

The remarkable thing about the shouting on Palm Sunday and Good Friday is that when the people start shouting “Crucify Him!” They really are saying the same thing that they said on Palm Sunday, “Hosanna, save us now!” When they crucify Jesus (when we crucify Jesus with them!) that is exactly what He is doing, saving us now. Saving us from sin, saving us from death, saving us from the devil. So yes, crucify him, save us now, because that is the kind of Saviour He is. In Jesus name. Amen.

Someday? Today!

Text: John 11:1-45

Grace, mercy, and peace to each of you from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

I want to start off this morning with a warning. You pastor is going to be pretty tired over the next few months. At least, I hope it’s a few months. And no, I’m not talking about the baby that is coming to our house in a month or so. There will be tiredness from that too, but I am talking about something else. You see, my hockey team made the playoffs this week. For the first time in 11 years the Edmonton Oilers will be playing hockey when the regular season ends and will have a shot at the Stanley Cup. And, because the Oilers play out west most of their games start pretty late. I’m going to be a little tired as long as they keep playing.

11 years may not seem like that long of a time, but the last time the Oilers were this good I hadn’t gone to university yet. It was the year after I graduated from high school. I hadn’t even met Leah yet, I wasn’t even considering becoming a pastor yet, and I worked at a home hardware selling plumbing and electrical supplies to people. It was a long time ago, I can hardly remember what it is like to have my team in the playoffs.

Throughout those 11 years of waiting I tried to remind myself that it would have to happen eventually, someday they would break through and be a winning team again, someday. But at times that “someday” seemed pretty far away. It seemed that “someday” might never come. But someday is here, right now, staring me in the face. In a couple weeks the Oilers will be playing playoff games, it is going to happen. Until it does though, until they actually start playing the games, it’s going to be hard to get out of “someday” mode and realize that “someday” really happening right now.

I was wondering this week as I thought about our Gospel reading today if our faith gets into “someday” mode sometimes. Do we get to the point of seeing our Christian faith as a “someday” kind of thing that will matter someday in the future or make a difference someday in our lives rather than a right now, everyday kind of thing? I think this does happen to a certain degree. We talk about a lot of “somedays” here at church and the Bible talks about a lot of “somdays” and we can get so distracted by all the things in life that demand our attention that we start to push off our faith as something we will get back to “someday.” In our Gospel reading today though Jesus directs our attention away from “someday” to right now so that we can see what He is doing right now and trust in Him right now for our salvation right now.

Jesus’ friends Mary and Martha call Jesus to come visit them in Bethany right away because their brother Lazarus is sick, really sick. Lazarus is dying. Jesus gets the message, but He delays a couple days before He even starts the trip. When He finally does arrive at Bethany and the home of Mary and Martha, Lazarus is already dead. In fact, Lazarus has already been dead and laying in his tomb for four days. When Jesus arrives Martha says to Him, “Lord if you had been here my brother would not have died. But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”

Jesus responds, “Your brother will rise again.”

And Martha says, “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.” Martha believes in Jesus, Martha believes in what Jesus has come to do. Martha believes (just like we do) that Jesus will come again on the Last Day to judge the living and the dead. Martha believes that Jesus is the promised Saviour. Martha believes in Jesus. But Martha is stuck on someday. Someday, when the Last Day comes, her brother will rise again.

Martha isn’t wrong. This is exactly what Jesus has promised to us, He will come again and all who have died and been laid in the ground will hear the voice of Jesus and they will get up and walk out of their tombs and those who believe in Christ and trust in Him for the forgiveness of their sins will be taken into the new heavens and new earth that God has prepared for those who trust in Him. Martha is right on point here. She gets it. But, at the same time, she does not understand the whole picture. She has made a mistake, it is a pious, well-meaning mistake, but a mistake nonetheless. She is stuck on someday. She looks at Jesus and does not see that He is not just good news for someday or a saviour for someday, but a saviour for today, for right now.

Jesus responds to Martha’s very correct and well-meaning words about the resurrection on the Last Day by saying, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die?”

These words from Jesus give hope for the future, but they are not only for the future. “I am the resurrection and the life,” Jesus says, present tense, right here, right now. This is not just hope for someday this is hope for today. And then we know what Jesus does next, He walks up to that tomb where Lazarus’s dead body has been laying for 4 days, He commands them to roll the stone away, and then He calls Lazarus out of the tomb and Lazarus walks out. That day, at that very moment, Martha and Mary and all the other people who were gathered around to see Lazarus walk out of that tomb saw what Jesus meant, they saw who Jesus is, they saw the hope that Jesus gives for today.

I think we lose sight sometimes of the hope that Jesus gives us for today and we forget what Jesus is doing in our lives right now. We fall into the trap of thinking that Jesus only makes a difference someday in the future, when He really is working in our lives right now! How often when we go home from church on Sunday are we really, truly aware that we have just heard Jesus speak to us (not just the pastor!) in His Word and forgive us our sins? Or how often when we walk away from the communion rail on a communion Sunday are we really marvelling at what Jesus has just done, feeding us with His own real body and blood? These are things that Jesus is doing for us right now, this is not someday stuff, it is happening right now. But do we see it? Most of the time we don’t.

Jesus is the resurrection and the life for you right now. You have forgiveness today. Our epistle reading today talks about the present tense reality of what Jesus has done on the cross for us. Paul says, “There is now (at this very moment) no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1Now there is no condemnation for your sin, now there is forgiveness, now there is life, now there is freedom, now God pours out His love for you and does not condemn you for the wrong that you do but freely and joyfully forgives you for the sake of Jesus who bled and died for you on the cross. Now, not just someday, now.

You have eternal life today. Someday your body will die, but you will never really die because Jesus says that everyone who lives and believes in Him will never die. You might look at your life now and think that this doesn’t seem like eternal life or that if this is eternal life then maybe you don’t want it. But Jesus has a wondrous eternity of life in store for you and you are already living in it now. You live in Jesus and He lives in you. You believe in Jesus because He has given you faith. This means that you will never die. You are living eternal life now!

You have a new life today. Jesus changes your life now. Our epistle reading today also says that those who are “in the flesh” cannot please God (Romans 8:8-9). Sinners can’t do the things that please God, they are trapped by sin and death instead. But you have been set free from Jesus, you have died with Jesus, and the old sinful flesh does not hold you anymore. You have a new life, a life in the Spirit with the Spirit of God living in you. In this new life you can, thanks to Christ, do the things that please God. This is your new life!

Jesus makes a difference in Your life right now and makes you a new person who lives this life by faith in the Son of God who died for you, a person who loves their neighbour and prays for enemies and freely gives of themselves because Jesus loved you first and gave His life for you.

Like Martha we often don’t see the implications of what Jesus has done in our life right now. We don’t see what Jesus is doing today. We get caught up thinking about someday and fail to see what is happen right before our eyes. Someday will come, the day will come when Jesus really will raise our bodies from the grave just like Lazarus, but until someday comes we are not left without hope. We are not orphans waiting for Jesus to come back. Until that someday comes we live in the Jesus who died and rose for us. He has forgiveness for you today, eternal life for you today, and new life for you today. Your faith is not just for someday, it is for today and so is Jesus your Saviour. In His name. Amen.