Jesus’ Resurrection Gives You Peace!

Second Sunday of Easter

He is risen!  He is risen indeed! Grace and peace are yours from Him who is and who was and who is to come, our risen Lord Jesus, dear friends in Christ, worrying, anxious thoughts, fear, trouble, sleepless nights, a pounding heart, nervousness, fright, head-aches, we all know what those things feel like, don’t we?  I think we’d all classify those things as being in the opposite realm of that little 5 letter word: peace.  What is “peace”?  What is it like to be “at peace”?  A calm sunset on a beach?  A quiet house?  A walk through the woods?  Those things certainly might give us “peaceful” feelings, but not true peace.  Today in our text we see someone with true peace and it seems almost backward from what we might’ve expected.

Recently in our text the apostle Paul was arrested in Jerusalem, supposedly because he’d violated the temple by bringing a Gentile into it, but really he was arrested because the Jews hated him for telling people about Jesus.  They plotted to kill him, so the commander sent him to the governor in the port-city of Caesarea.  In Caesarea he was tried under the governor there.  While he should have been set free, the governor enjoyed hearing Paul.  After a while this governor was called to Rome and he left Paul in prison to do a service to the Jews.  Then this governor called Festus took over and he didn’t know what to do with this Paul guy and didn’t want to upset the Jews so he dragged his feet- no doubt he didn’t want to upset the Jews and get in trouble, but he also wanted to deal with this unfinished business that the previous governor left him- he seems to be willing to favor the Jews so Paul exercised his Roman right to appeal to Caesar in Rome, the higher court for justice.  The same thing happens in our courts today, you are allowed to appeal your case to a higher court.

Now, since Festus didn’t really know what to write on Paul’s charge to send to Rome he decided to have a big production to which he invited a neighboring ruler, King Agrippa, to attend to find out what to put on Paul’s charge.  It turned out to be a big festival with great fanciness and hype and glitter and pomp.  The governors are seated in the luxury booths, no doubt there are military commanders present, and all are ready to listen to Paul do his spiel.  Can you picture the situation?  We’ve got some grand spectators, walking in on a red carpet, a fanfare of trumpets, great pomp and hype and glitter.  And then… here’s Paul, probably in rags, in bonds, most pitiful looking.  And what does he do?  Paul uses the opportunity to preach the gospel and win hearts!

He told everyone about how God had miraculously called him to faith and called him to service in spreading the gospel.  And that’s exactly what he did.  He went around in Damascus and Jerusalem and all over spreading the good news about Jesus to Jew and Gentile alike.  And it was because of this message that prompted the Jews to hate Paul and want him dead.  But their schemes and plans have not worked, why?  Because Paul has had God’s own help- the Greek word implies a help of an ally that hastens to aid- which has led him to this very position to have the opportunity to speak about Jesus to a great many people –from unimportant people to great big-shots.

And what was Paul’s message? “I am saying nothing beyond what the prophets and Moses said would happen- that the Christ would suffer and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim light to his own people and to the Gentiles.”  Paul’s message is nothing new!  What he is telling people is exactly what has been true all along.  This is the message Paul wanted to get to: that the Savior would come and suffer and die and rise from the dead!  Paul’s job is to point to the fact that He has come!

But when Paul said all of this the Roman governor Festus couldn’t contain it any more.  How can Paul do all this?  He’s educated.  He’s smart.  He has incredible zeal that he goes all over the place with this message.  He’s perfectly calm and collected here in front of such important people.  He’s not even upset and angry he’s in prison.  And he’s telling me I need a Savior and that there is a Savior who rose from the dead!  He must be out of his mind!  He must be insane!

Paul calmly, coolly, and courteously said, “I am not insane, most excellent Festus.”  Then Paul turned to Agrippa, who at least professed to be a Jew and who would have known the OT Scriptures and about everything that had gone on in Judah- about Jesus, what he did and what had happened to him- and Paul asked him, “Do you believe the Prophets?”  If he really was a Jew he’d have to say, “Yes.”  But Agrippa didn’t want to deny his supposed Jewish faith by saying he didn’t and he didn’t want to get into a debate with Paul who was obviously well-educated, so he brushed Paul’s question off, “What do you think you’re going to persuade me to be a Christian?”

In the midst of all of this, being in prison, being accused, a totally unknown future in Rome, standing before great people and Paul essentially says, “My prayer is that all here may be what I am, a believer at peace in my Savior, just not in chains.”  Wow!  How could Paul have such confidence?  How could he be so calm?

You see, Jesus’ resurrection from the dead absolutely changed everything for the apostle Paul’s life.  You remember that beforehand Paul was a terrible persecutor of God’s church, rounding up Christians to put them in prison, causing them to suffer, trying to get them to blaspheme, even approving of their death.  Until something happened.  Jesus appeared to him… alive!  And that changed everything!

You see, Paul never had a 401k or a retirement account, he didn’t have friends in high places to help him out, he didn’t have guns or weapons or even a home, he didn’t have a full bank account or the latest fishing boat, he didn’t have any of those things our world will tell you that you must have in order to have a “peaceful,” easy life.

Well, why do you have peace?  What is it that gives you peace?  Knowing that your family is safe?  Knowing that you have a gun hidden in your home in case of an intruder?  Knowing that your investments and savings are secure?  Knowing that you have friends that will back you up no matter what?  Knowing that the doctor gave you a clean bill of health?  Knowing that you are needed and your job is secure?  Knowing that you are in a good physical shape?

These are all fine and nice blessings from God, which we thank Him for and treasure and are glad about.  However, none of those things give us true peace.  Imagine if those were the things to which we looked for peace in!  What happens when 2 of your kids die in a tragic boating accident?  No peace.  What happens when your house goes up in flames with everything in it?  No peace.  What happens when your health fails?  No peace.  What happens when the company you work for goes bankrupt?  No peace.

Where is your peace?  Where do you find true peace?  Peace that lasts, peace that persists, peace that can’t be taken from you no matter what?  Peace that changes everything?  Peace that calms you even in the greatest of tragedies?  Look to a vacant, empty tomb.  Look to a Savior who has conquered death.  Look to Jesus who is not dead, but alive!

That’s the peace that the apostle Paul had!  Look at this scene!  Everything seems so backward and opposite!  The beautiful, the rich, the powerful, the mighty, the strong who sit in their luxury box seats watching this Paul guy, they  have no real, true peace.  They might think they have peace, but they don’t have true peace.  They don’t have peace with God.  One day, if not sooner, on their death bed they’ll leave behind their beauty, their power, their might, their wealth.  This life won’t go on forever.  On the other hand here’s this raga-muffin preacher, who looks about as pathetic as anyone, no home, no power, no position, no money, no 401k, no wife and kids, no certainty of justice, no promise of a long life.  And yet, it didn’t matter to him!  Why?  Because he had all he ever needed: the peace that surpasses understanding.  Everything is just right between him and God- Jesus’ resurrection proves it!  Since Jesus is alive, his sins, every one of them are forgiven, there is no dividing wall of hostility between him and God.  And so to him doesn’t matter what happens here on this earth, because of Jesus he knows without a doubt that God has forgiven his sins, that God has a room prepared for him in the mansions of heaven!  That’s peace!  So it doesn’t matter what people might think they can do to him, Jesus lives, so he knows he will live!  So, since that’s taken care of, what does Paul focus his entire life on doing?  Telling others!  Sharing that message of peace!  He tells them about the peace found in Christ, so others can have it too!

That exact same peace that Paul had is also your peace!  You’ve seen the empty tomb!  Your Savior lives!  You will live!  You have the peace that surpasses human understanding!  God’s in control!  Can you imagine living with that peace?  Come what may in my life there isn’t going to be a single day in my life that Jesus isn’t alive, that that tomb isn’t empty.  Will Jesus be any less risen tomorrow?  Or the next day?  Or when I lose something very valuable to me?  Jesus lives!  That peace goes with me always!  Nothing can take that peace from me, from you!

What’s there left to do with our lives?  Use them to share this peace with others!  Tell others about the peace that we have!  That’s exactly what Paul was doing- even when it looks like everything is lost for him, he’s still telling other people about the Savior who lives!  And the peace of Jesus’ resurrection is ours to live in and enjoy.  Whatever it is that causes you to worry or be anxious or causes you trouble or consternation or hesitation or fear, look to your Savior’s empty tomb, see in it the peace that surpasses understanding, the proof positive that heaven is yours and you will live eternally.  See, Jesus’ resurrection gives you peace!  Amen.


Jesus’ Resurrection Gives You Peace!

Easter Sunday

He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Grace and peace to you from Him who is, and who was, and who is to come, Jesus Christ, our risen Lord!  Dear friends in Christ, what a glorious message Easter is!  Today there is nothing that could keep you from having joy fill your heart!  For we have once again seen our Lord and Savior betrayed into the hands of sinners, lied about, mocked, beaten, caused to suffer, and finally crucified and died.  Death seemed to win, the devil thought he was victorious; it seemed we were stuck in our sins.  But then Easter Sunday morning the tomb burst forth, it was empty!  Jesus rose from the dead!  All was not lost, all is gained!  Sin, death, hell, and the devil have been defeated once and for all!  They have no power!  Jesus won the victory!  It changes everything.  Alleluia!

Imagine being one of those women who went to the tomb.  That Sabbath Saturday must have been terribly awful and horrible.  Can you imagine anything worse in life than thinking your Messiah, your Savior is…dead?  In their consternation all they could think about was finishing the job of giving Jesus a proper burial.  So, as soon as the Sabbath day was over they went and bought certain spices in order to anoint Jesus’ DEAD body.  Can you picture the scene?

We’re told that they came early in the morning and the sun was just rising.  But there was a detail they seemed to have overlooked.  The main thing on their minds was, “Who’s going to roll the stone away from the tomb for us.”

Can you picture a more helpless and depressing scene than this?  These ladies trudging out to finish the job of burying Jesus, their Lord.  Dashed hopes.  Broken hearts.  Gloom.  Sadness.  Tears.  The gut-wrenching feeling that they were going to have to anoint their dead Messiah.  It must have been utterly painful!

But need it to have been?  Not if they had trusted His promises.  Remember, Jesus had told His followers time and again: I’m going to suffer, die, and on the third day rise again.  In the Gospel of Mark we’re told Jesus said that 3 chapters in a row (Mark 8, 9, 10)!  The women (and the disciples of all people!) should have been running to the grave Easter Sunday excitedly saying, “This is the day!  This is the day!  Jesus is coming out of the grave today!”  Instead what’s on their minds?  Who’s going to roll the stone away for us?  What a pitiful scene!  Can you imagine their doom and gloom, their fear and sadness?

We can, can’t we?  We can because it’s something all too familiar to our lives too, isn’t it?  Too easily we fall into feelings of doom and gloom, helplessness and despair.  We wonder, “What good does the future hold?  What war is going to break out next?  What economic disaster is going to happen next?  What bad news is the doctor going to tell me next?”  So many questions can leave us with fear, fear for the future, fear for ourselves, fear in our lives.  But, need there be any of those questions or fears?

You see, as every doctor knows, symptoms are only surface problems, the problems you see and feel, there’s a much deeper problem.  It’s the same for us.  Fear, doom, gloom, despair are only symptoms of a deeper problem inside of each of us: sin.  Specifically, sin that doubts the promises of God.  Fear is a lack of trust in the promises of God.  Think about it: God has promised to be with you always, He’s promised to watch over and care for you no matter what, He’s promised to always listen to your prayers and answer them in the best way, He’s promised to work all things out for your good, He’s promised to take you to heaven when you die.  Now if God has promised to work out all things for your good is there really anything that can happen in your life that is… bad?  If God has promised to take you to heaven when you die is there really anything that important in this life?  You see, if we focus on God’s promises, our lives will be full of peace, hope, joy, and excitement!

But so often we lose track of God’s promises like these women heading out to the tomb.  And soon doom, gloom, sadness, hopelessness, everything’s-lost-attitude fills our heads.  But notice what God did here.  He sent these angels to the empty tomb with a message: “Don’t be alarmed,’ he said.  ‘You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified.  He has risen!  He is not here.  See the place where they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples and Peter, ‘He is going ahead of you into Galilee.  There you will see him, JUST AS HE TOLD YOU.’”  Notice what the angel did?  He has risen!  Just like He promised!  He pointed them right back to Jesus’ promises!

God always keeps His promises, every single one of them, totally and completely.  Think about it.  Let’s say I told you that in a little while I would be arrested, sentenced to death, and crucified, and on the third day rise again.  You’d probably think I was crazy.  But, if I did it?  Oh!  That changes everything!  Then are you going to believe everything else I told you?  Absolutely!  That’s exactly what Jesus did!  The very fact that Jesus rose from the dead is proof positive that Jesus keeps EVERY promise that He’s given you!  If Jesus rises from the dead, if Jesus keeps that promise, and He did, then is there any other promise that will be too hard for Him to keep?  Jesus keeps ALL His promises!!  His resurrection proves it!

We need to know this.  Jesus’ resurrection is the key truth in Scripture as ultimate proof that your sins are forgiven- every one of them.  Easter Sunday is God’s way of saying Good Friday worked, Jesus paid your sins in full.  If Jesus didn’t rise we’d be facing an eternity of doom and gloom in hell, but He HAS risen!  He is alive!

And think about what this means for all of God’s other promises to you!  God has promised to be with you always.  Can you count on that?  Absolutely!  Jesus rose from the dead!

Jesus promises that in baptism you are washed clean of all of your sins.  He’s promised that He’s preparing a room for you in heaven.  He’s promised to work out all things in your life for your good.  He’s promised that when a believer, like you, dies, you’ll be in glory with your Savior.  He’s promised that on the Last Day He will raise your body from the dead and you’ll be given a glorious, amazing, new body fit to live in heaven forever.  You can absolutely count on all of these promises because Jesus has kept all of his promises and has the power to keep them all- His resurrection proves it!

But notice one more detail.  When the women leave the tomb…they’re still afraid!  They’ve just been told the Gospel, just been told the truth, the facts…and yet they’re still afraid!  Well, we can understand this too, can’t we?  We’ve heard the Gospel message before and yet we still experience fear, we’re afraid of this or that, this problem or that uncertainty.  We’re afraid of getting sick or ill, a job loss or financial trouble, afraid of the unknown or the uncertain future.  What are you afraid of?  What fears did you carry with you through that door this morning?

Why were the women afraid when they left the tomb?  Because Jesus wasn’t with them yet.  So what did Jesus do, we’re told of it in another Gospel, He came to them and appeared to them and calmed their fears.  So also He keeps coming to us.  He keeps coming to us through His Word and Sacraments to assure us of His promises, His victory, His guidance, His protection in life and death!  Whatever may be causing you fear is answered in this: Jesus lives!  The big question mark in your life is taken away: Because He lives, you live!  The most important thing in all of eternity has been taken care of: He lives, you live!  If He’s taken care of the most important thing, He’ll take care of the rest!

Behold the glory of Easter!  Jesus died.  Now He has risen and will never die again!  Your sin is gone!  Hell is conquered!  Your grave destroyed!  Because Jesus got out of His grave, because death could not hold its slimy grip on Jesus, because Jesus’ grave is empty, because Jesus burst forth from that tomb, because Jesus is alive forever and ever, there is no question, no doubt, no uncertainty, no fear: There IS a seat in heaven with YOUR name on it!  YOU’RE going to be there one day, because Jesus lives!  This is the Gospel!  This is your reason for life!  This is your joy in death!  This is your confidence in life!  This is your hope eternally!  This is your victory in life and in death!  Jesus lives!  He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!  Amen!

Rejoice! God is on your side!

6th Sunday after Easter

Grace, mercy, peace, and love be yours in abundance through God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.  Dear friends in Christ, things aren’t always what they seem to be.  Are they?  One of the jobs I had in college was to drive truck.  I remember one of the big contracts we had during the summer was a great big outdoor country music festival.  It was a couple of days long and so lots of people camped out there.  As I drove through the campground, I remember lots of people coming up to me and asking, “Can I purchase some fresh water from you for my RV?”  I would usually smile and say, “No, I’m sorry, I…I really can’t help you, you see that big, shiny, clean tank on my truck…well that’s not water…I work for the porta-potty company.”  Things really aren’t always what they seem to be, are they?  And for many reasons it’s very good for us to realize that.  It’s also true in our lives as Christians.  What you see is not full reality.  That’s what we’ll find out in our text for this morning.  But first a little background…

They finally made it.  It was the most glorious place in the world.  Beautiful, fertile, lush land…and it was all theirs!  The Israelites made it to the Promised Land.  But it wasn’t easy.  Questions needed to be answered, questions like “what happens when an argument arises, who’s going to solve it?  Who’s going to protect us from the nations around us?  Who’s going to rule us?  We need a king like all the nations around us.”  So in love God let them have a king.  He gave the people of Israel king David.  King David was a great king, ruled the nation well, but he had some shortcomings.   After him his son Solomon took over.  He started off great…but soon married many different women and even sought after false gods.  It got so bad that God promised that He would take the majority of the kingdom away from Solomon’s family and give it to someone else.

Well, when Solomon died, this is what happened.  Israel was split: the southern kingdom of Judah stayed in David’s family and the northern kingdom of Israel was ruled by Jeroboam.  God promised the new king, Jeroboam, “If you’re faithful to me, then I’ll bless your kingdom and your ruling.”  But unfortunately what was one of the first things Jeroboam did?  Disobeyed God and set up altars in rebellion to God’s Word.  So, the northern kingdom continued to decline.

But God remained faithful.  He continued to send prophet after prophet to the people in order to win their hearts back to Him.  One of those prophets was Elisha.  Elisha took the place of the great prophet Elijah.  Elisha spoke the Word of God to the people calling them back to the Lord.  God let Elisha do all kinds of miracles in order that the people would see that he’s serving the only true God.  The nation continued to have enemies.  One of their enemies was the nation of Aram (or Syria).  The king of Aram wanted to attack and take Israel over.  But there was a problem.  Every time he’d move his army, God would let Elisha know where they were and he would tell the king of Israel.  Do you think that would be of some advantage?  Certainly!  The king of Aram got pretty upset about all of this so he sent his army out to capture and probably kill this Elisha guy who was messing up all his plans.  So his army surrounded the city where Elisha was in.  That’s where we pick it up… (read text)

The reality is God’s in control.  Really?  What do you suppose Elisha’s servant was thinking as he gazed over the city at the possibly thousands of troops surrounding him?  “Hmm…this is sure a funny way for God to show His power, wisdom, and love to many people.”  I’m guessing probably not.  I’m guessing he was thinking things like, “What in the world!  This is what happens to us even after serving God faithfully, teaching God’s Word truthfully!  Now we’re going to be captured and probably die!  We’re going to have to take this into our own hands…but I don’t know what to do… I don’t know what to do!”  Fear and fright?  Yep.  Taking matters into his own hands?  Sounds like it.

Sounds a little familiar to us too, doesn’t it?  For a moment take a look at your own life, what do you see? How might you describe your life?  Hopeful but also still full of worry, fear and sadness?   Happy but also depressed, disappointed, and disillusioned?  Medical problems, fractured relationships, financial difficulties?  A successful job, but still unsatisfied?  Decent income, but still feeling like something’s missing?  Calm on the outside, but guilt of the past, frustration, and anger inside? Do you see some of that, most of that, all of that?  Ouch!  Are those things sometimes all you see when you look at your life?  And don’t we often answer all this with thoughts like,   “I guess I’ll be facing life on my own today.  What can I do to make my life better?  How am I going to handle the pressures today?  What am I going to do?”

But brothers and sisters in Christ, it’s far better for us to ask a different question: What’s the reality?  Thank the Lord that things aren’t always as they seem to be.  Listen to God’s Word, “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”  Certainly there are things that make life difficult, make life uncertain: pain, hardship, temptations, threats, disasters, etc.  If our hope rested only in the things that we see, soon we would discover life to be… hopeless.  But there is One who stands far above everything in this world.  A God who is far more capable, far stronger, and far more superior than anything in this world.  There is a God who holds the ultimate authority of heaven and earth in His hands.  There is a God whose infinite power controls all things.  That’s reality.

Take a look as God opens your eyes to the reality.  Things aren’t always as they seem; God’s people aren’t on their own to fend for themselves.  Through His Word God opens our eyes to the reality, just like He opened Elisha’s servant’s eyes, “and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.”  God Himself is certainly powerful enough to watch over the lives of His people night and day.  But God doesn’t deal in minimums, no He piles on the comfort and assurance.  He’s given His thousands upon thousands of angels the task to guard over and protect His children day after day.  Angels all around serving God’s people, watching over them, intervening on their behalf!  Yea, things aren’t always as they seem, angels are all around carrying out the will of God!

Take another look as God opens your eyes to the reality.  Does everything always make perfect sense in your life?  I’m guessing not.  Do you think it made sense to Elisha?  To lead this blind army into the capital city in order to sit them down for a feast?  Things aren’t always as they seem to be.  Why did God do this?  God showed both the Israelites and this army of many unbelieving Arameans that He’s in control, things will happen according to His plan.  Safety isn’t found in military strength, but in the Lord.  It’s useless to oppose God and His people.  God isn’t out to annihilate people; He is a God of love who wants all to be saved.  Can you see God’s plan now?

Finally look at something else that wasn’t quite as it seemed.  A man familiar with sorrow and suffering.  A man accused and sentenced to death on a cross.  It seemed like He lost everything; it seemed like His followers were the greatest losers.  But things aren’t always as they seem.  Yes, Jesus gave up His life on that cross, but He wasn’t losing, He was winning; we’re not losers, we’re winners.  Take a look into that grave, it’s empty!  Jesus won the ultimate victory for you and me!  Jesus won the victory over sin, death, and the power of the devil for you and me!  Jesus won you for God and so that God, who controls all things…He’s your God!  He is worthy of your trust.  He knows what’s best for your life.  He’s looking out for you, He cares about you.  He’s with you.

Yea, there are many reasons why it’s good to realize that things aren’t always as they seem to be.  Not only for practical things like telling the difference between a water truck and a porta-potty truck, but also for spiritual things.  Despite whatever is happening in your life right now, no matter how things seem to be, know for sure, that the God who remains in control of all things, who has an invincible army of angels at His command, who works all things out according to His plans, who can turn anything around for good- that God-that one and only God- He’s on YOUR side, He’s YOUR God, and He’s fighting for YOU!  Amen.

You are safe in the arms of the Good Shepherd!

4th Sunday after Easter

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  Dear friends in Christ: Having a 2-year old daughter I’ve learned to appreciate a certain word that her mother and I use a lot: “Megan, don’t touch that!  Megan, don’t walk into the road!  Don’t climb that tree!  Don’t put that in your mouth!  Don’t put that in Jenna’s mouth!”  Don’t, Don’t, Don’t. Warnings, warnings, warnings. Why such warnings?  Some of the things she’s doing are dangerous and we want to keep her safe.  We don’t want her to get hurt; we don’t want her to be harmed; so we give her warnings.  Warnings are meant to keep people safe; their meant for good.  In our text for today Jesus gives a striking warning.

It’s about four months before Jesus would be put on trial and crucified.  It’s December and there’s a celebration going on in Jerusalem.  They’re celebrating the Jewish festival called the Feast of Dedication also called Hanukkah.  They’re celebrating a time when a great Jewish political leader led a successful revolt against a foreign empire. This revolt led to a rededication of the temple and a period of independence for the Jewish nation.  (Read text).

“Come on, Jesus; if you’re really the Christ, the great promised leader, just say so!”  Jesus answered, “I DID tell you, but YOU do not believe.”  Jesus confronted them: “Why do you keep closing your ears to what is said? Why didn’t you listen?” “These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life” (Jn 5:39-40), “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry…” (Jn 6:35) “Before Abraham was born, I AM” (Jn. 8:58), “I am the Light of the world…” (Jn. 8:12), “I am the good shepherd…” (Jn. 10:11).  “And why do you keep shutting your eyes to what I do?  Didn’t you see how I changed water to wine, healed the paralyzed man, walked on water, gave sight to the man born blind?”  Jesus left all kinds of evidence of who He is; the fault lies not with Jesus, but with their unbelieving hearts.  “I DID tell you, but YOU do not believe!

Jesus’ warning was blunt, direct, and to the point.  Why?  Because of what’s at stake here.  Those who refuse to listen to Jesus are listening to the lies of the devil.  Those who do not believe are lost in darkness.  Those who keep turning their back on Jesus are headed for condemnation, judgment, and destruction.  Those rejecting Jesus will go to… eternal death.  So, in love Jesus warns them, “Look, you’re on the wrong path…you aren’t my sheep because you refuse to believe in me. Look at what you’re missing: Those who are my sheep, they listen to my voice and I give them eternal LIFE and they’ll never, ever perish!”

Jesus’ warning didn’t stop with His first hearers; it still rings in our ears today, doesn’t it?  I need to hear this warning; you need to hear this warning too.  How so? When I give God’s Word about as much attention as yesterday’s newspaper, I’m blocking out my Shepherd’s voice.  When I treat my spouse with neglect or disrespect, I’m shutting out my Shepherd’s call.  When MY hopes and MY dreams are all that matter to ME, I’m ignoring my Shepherd.  When I turn my back on Jesus’ words, I need to hear Jesus’ stern warning, “I DID tell you! But you’re refusing to listen to me!”

Indeed we constantly stray from our Shepherd’s fold.  But thank the Lord that our Shepherd is faithful; He’s never left us like we so often have left Him.  Thank the Lord that He still calls after us.  He continues to reach out after us through His Word and not only with warnings, but with the precious Words of life.  He tells us, “I am the resurrection and the life…he who believes in me will live” (Jn.11:25), “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn. 14:6), “I am the vine; you are the branches” (Jn. 15:5).  Jesus continues to call out after us, continues to care for us, and continues to seek us out.  And why?  Because as God’s dear children, God wants to give you the ultimate safety; life eternal!

What a glorious blessing this is!  Yes, you can turn your back on Him, you can shut His Word out of your life, you can jump out of His protecting hand, BUT He’s never going to do that to you!  The Good Shepherd is faithful.  He, on His part, is going to do everything in His absolute power to keep you safe.  Just like I warn Megan when she’s in danger, because I want her to be safe, so God warns you and me, God wants you to be safe.  He wants you to have the final, ultimate protection of heaven.  He will never forsake you.  He will never leave you.

Jesus says to you, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.  I give them eternal life and they shall never perish.”  You’re a member of God’s flock and look at what’s yours!  You hear your Savior’s voice, you hear your Shepherd’s loving call; it’s in His Word.  Your Good Shepherd knows you; He knows what’s best for you.  He constantly leads you, even through the rough and dark places of life.  He gives you the greatest confidence ever; He’s given you the assurance of eternal life right now.

And lest we ever doubt it or wonder about His faithfulness Jesus says, “No one can snatch them out of my hand.”  Nothing at all can rip you away from your Shepherd’s loving care.  How do we know this?  Look at whose hands you’re in!  These aren’t the hands of just anyone; these are the hands of the One whose might and strength created all things.  These are the life-giving and gracious hands of the Ruler of all! These are the hands of the One who by His unlimited power rose from the dead, defeated sin for all, conquered the devil, and won the victory over all His enemies for you!  Yes, these hands will keep you safe!

Yea, Megan might not always appreciate our constant warnings.  You might not always appreciate God’s constant warnings to you.  But in the end, He wants what’s best for you.  He wants to give you the ultimate safety- eternal life!  And so, be assured, you rest securely in the hands of your Good Shepherd! Amen.

You’re part of the Lamb’s eternal victory song!

Easter Day

He is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Grace and peace to you from Him who is, and who was, and who is to come, Jesus Christ, our risen Lord!  Dear friends in Christ, what a glorious message Easter is!  Throughout lent we have been looking at different sacrificial lambs which all pointed to one perfect, final Lamb.  Then we saw how Jesus, the Lamb of God, was sacrificed on the altar of the cross, He died, He was buried in a tomb.  Death seemed to win, the devil thought he was victorious; it seemed we were stuck in our sins.  But then Easter Sunday morning the tomb burst forth, it was empty!  Jesus rose from the dead!  All was not lost, instead all was gained.  Sin, death, hell, and Satan were defeated once and for all!  The Lamb, Jesus won the victory!  It changed everything.  Alleluia!

Imagine for a moment being one of those first disciples, imagine being the disciple John.  What do think life was like after Jesus rose?  It changed everything for the apostle John.  He had an awesome message to proclaim to the world!  He saw the risen Savior, he saw in person Jesus’ hands and feet and side that bore the marks of death-defeated, near the end of John’s life God gave him a special treat, a vision of heaven, and it’s our treat today as well as God had it recorded in His Word.  This is what’s happening…

John has just been invited to see the throne room of God Himself.  What he sees is breath-taking.  Circled around the throne of God he saw 24 elders sitting on thrones and inside the circle of the 24 thrones he saw 4 living creatures and a rainbow.  Then he focused in on a scroll.  This scroll revealed the future; revealed events of the NT church.  But no one could open it; John started to cry; but then one of the elders said, “Look, the Root of David, the Lamb can open it.”  Then all who were there began to praise the Lamb: (read text)

What a glorious sight for John!  What a glorious sight for John’s readers!  What a glorious sight for you and me!  John first wrote this book to the Christians in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey).  He wrote it probably around the turn of the 1st century.  The Christians to whom John wrote were experiencing horrific persecutions for their faith.  Thankfully it’s hard for us to imagine living on pins and needles wondering if someone is going to kill you because of your faith.  Wondering who you can trust or who’s going to throw you in prison.  Wondering what will happen to your family if you are caught.  Wondering when everything you own in this world will be forced away from you because you’re a Christian.  Wow!  It sure didn’t seem like they were part of Jesus’ victory parade did it!

We face many struggles too, don’t we?  Thankfully we’re not running for our lives.  But what do we face day after day?  In church we have questions: will we get a pastor?  Will our church grow?  In our lives we have questions: What if I can’t make ends meet?  Will I always be stuck in this same old routine?  Will my relationships with family and friends fail?  And even in our hearts we have questions: does God still remember those shameful things I’ve done?  Will my past failures haunt me?  Will I stand firm until the end?  Troubling questions attacking us from without, scary questions haunting us from within, God help us!

And God has.  He invites you to look at what’s happening in His throne room!  There is someone who is worthy to open the scroll of the future.  It’s Jesus, the Lamb of God.  Why is He worthy?  Because He did the greatest thing ever: He was slain and with His blood He paid for the sins of the world!  Yes, He went to the cross, He was killed, slaughtered like a lamb, but with His blood He bought people!  God paid His blood, the precious blood of Christ, a Lamb without blemish or defect for humans!  Now since He rose from the dead He is able to open the scroll of the future.  Since Jesus rose from the dead HE holds the future in HIS hands.  Since He rose from the dead He leads you by the hand into the future!  Since He rose from the dead He’ll be with you forever and ever!

The Lord’s with me, how awesome is that?  But can He help me?  What if I’m faced with a tragedy I’m not able to handle?  Will he be able to help me?  What about when I’m about to close my eyes in death, what’s so special about having Jesus with me?  Who is Jesus?  Why do I want Jesus with me?

Why?  Listen again to what’s happening in heaven right now; Listen to the resounding chorus of thousands upon thousands upon thousands of angels sing!  Listen to the most breath-taking and awesome song ever sung!  “Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise.”  Jesus is worthy.  Jesus is worthy because He lives.  Because Jesus didn’t stay dead but came back to life everything is His.  He has all power in heaven and on earth to do whatever He wants to do.  He has all might to destroy His enemies with a breath from His mouth.  He knows all things and He knows what is best to do in all circumstances.  He owns all things; everything in heaven and on earth belongs to Him.  He has rightly won all glory, praise, and honor.  HE is the final victor.  He proved it when He got out of the grave.  And He is the one who is on YOUR side.  He holds the future; you will win, because He won!

What amazing confidence we have as we go about our daily lives.  Jesus, the Lamb of God, now sits on the throne of heaven ruling all things with His power and might.  Wow!

But wait a minute.  Maybe today or tomorrow you’ll be going about your tasks when you pause and think.  It sure doesn’t seem like Jesus has won.  And it certainly doesn’t seem like I’m a victor.  What do we see in the world?  Murders and crime. War and death.  Cheating, stealing, and dishonesty.  In our own lives we’re constantly struggling against sin.  We’re struggling physically.  We’re struggling emotionally.  Then the devil will prod his little finger in our faces and say, “Look, you’ve lost!”

At that moment, with eyes of faith see what John saw.  Peak into the throne room of God.  Listen in on what’s going on in there.  Listen to the victory song of the Lamb.  Look at the Lamb who was slain, but rose and is sitting on His throne.  Listen to the resounding words, “To Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, forever and ever!”  And join with that heavenly throng and say, “Amen!”

Behold the glory of Easter!  Jesus died.  Now He has risen and will never die again!  Your sin is gone!  Hell is conquered!  Your grave destroyed!  Because Jesus got out of His grave, because death could not keep its slimy grip on Jesus, because Jesus’ grave is empty, because Jesus burst forth from that tomb, because Jesus is alive forever and ever, there is no question, no doubt, no uncertainty: There IS a seat at that victory song of the Lamb in the throne room of God with YOUR name on it!  YOU’RE going to be there one day, because Jesus lives!  YOU’RE going to be there wearing the white robe of Christ’s righteousness singing praises to our eternal King, because Jesus is alive!  He’s risen!  He’s risen indeed!  Alleluia!  Amen!