In the Name of Jesus
Vorletzter Sonntag des Kirchenjahres 071 (26. Trinity)
Briccius, Bishop of Tours, France. † 444
13. November 2011
1. O Lord Jesus Christ, as the Church Year draws to a close, we are reminded of our sinfulness and our failure to live sanctified lives full of good works for our neighbors. We have no excuse for the weakness of our flesh, and so we do fall at Your feet with humble and repentant hearts, trusting in Your compassionate mercy to forgive us of our failures, assuring us that we are justified in Your sight and sending to us the Holy Spirit who will indeed mold us into sanctified Christians complete with good works. Amen.
2. Our sermon text for this morning, dear brothers and sisters, is from the Epistle to the Romans where the Apostle Paul writes: 18For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us. 19For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of Him who subjected it, in hope 21that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience. This is our text.
3. It was common in Medieval cathedrals to portray today’s Gospel Reading in graphic detail either as a painting or in stained glass. Often, these portrayals of the Last Judgment terrified Christians into doubting whether or not they were saved. All too often, Christians focused only on the sinners being sent to hell and rarely took comfort from the other side that depicted believers welcomed into heaven. To be sure, the Last Judgment is a terrifying event for those who do not believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior from sin, death and the devil. Those who refuse to repent and acknowledge their total depravity and sinfulness should be afraid of rejecting Christ, because for many people Judgment Day will be a day of weeping and sorrow as they are eternally cast away from the Triune God’s holy presence.
4. Hell is a real place, and it was created for the devil and the angels he convinced to rebel against Yahweh (Matthew 25,41). The devil is most certainly not the lord of hell, but he will be hell’s most notorious prisoner and criminal. The devil will suffer in hell for all eternity because he rejected the Triune God. Jesus tells us in today’s Gospel Reading that those who likewise reject Yahweh will suffer the same eternal destiny as the devil. All unbelievers who reject Christ should rightly fear the Last Judgment.
5. How should we, believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, view the Last Judgment? Should we cower in fear when we think about that last day? Should we be terrified that our sinfulness will bar us from Christ’s presence? We confessed this morning in the Apostles’ Creed: I believe in the forgiveness of sins and the life everlasting. This is a confession of faith and salvation based upon Jesus Christ. This is a confession that Christ Himself has opened the gates of heaven and everlasting glory to you.
6. The Apostle Paul explains it this way: »We wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies«. We should, therefore, view the Last Judgment with confidence and certainty, for it is the day when Christ will restore His fallen and corrupt creation to pristine purity. First, Paul promises you that at the Last Judgment you will receive your resurrected body. This body will be pure, holy and sinless; it will never get sick, grow old, suffer infirmities or die. Your resurrected body will live forever in eternal youth and it will behold God’s glorious presence in all His Divine glory. Second, this present earth will be made new. »Creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God«. This new earth will be a place of peace where crime, warfare and death will not exist. Destructive hurricanes, floods and blizzards will not trouble you. Mankind will once again exercise full stewardship over the animals where if you want to go and pet an alligator you will be able to do so without any fear that the alligator bite your hand off. It is also very probable that extinct animals will live and thrive again on this new earth.
7. All of this is the result of Yahweh’s promise given to Eve after the fall into sin. The promise is proclaimed to Eve: »I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; He will strike your head, and you will strike His heel« (Genesis 3,15). This promise would rescind God’s curse levied against Adam and Eve and all their descendants: Adam will work with difficulty and Eve will bear children in pain; both will suffer and die; this curse has been passed onto each succeeding generation. The promise given to Eve that the curse would be removed was fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
8. Jesus on the cross was the fulfillment of Genesis 3,15. Jesus’ crucifixion crushed the head of the devil even as that very crucifixion was used by the devil to bite Christ’s heel. A snake’s venom will kill a man just as a man striking a serpent’s head will kill the snake. Thus the Son of Man struck the devil’s head even as the devil bit His heel. Both die, but only one is victorious for Jesus, the Son of Man, rose from death. Mankind has been freed from the curse, sin, death and the devil. The gospel proclaims that the enmity between God and you has been reconciliated by Jesus Christ on the cross. The gospel promises the full and complete forgiveness of all your sins. Jesus died for you; He rose from the grave for you; believe it.
9. Jesus told the Jews: »For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will but the will of Him who sent Me. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in Him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day« (John 6,38-40). This is the very word and promise you have from Jesus when you will stand before Him at the Last Judgment.
10. On the other side, the unbelievers will have no part in this new heaven and new earth not because they were worse sinners than you or me, but they will be denied Paradise because they wanted nothing to do with Christ on this old earth so Christ Himself will declare that they will have no participation with Him on the new earth. You do not enter into the joys of heaven because you were more pious and charitable than the person standing next to you, but you will enter heaven because Jesus sacrificed Himself for the entire world, redeemed the fallen world back to His Father and you believe this unto salvation.
11. Today’s bulletin cover beautifully portrays eternal salvation. Lucas Cranach painted this for the Reformation. The painting stands over the Lutheran altar at the Church of St. Peter and Paul in Weimar, Germany. The painting was begun by Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553) and was completed by his son, Lucas Cranach the Younger, in 1555. In the center background to the rightr of Christ’s feet, Moses is shown teaching the Ten Commandments to the Old Testament prophets. They are standing on a circle of barren path, along with a figure representative of all human beings who are under the law’s condemnation. Man is shown here being chased into the fires of hell by death (who is pictured as a skeleton holding a spear) and the devil (in the form of a monster wielding a club). The prophets taught, as did Moses: »Cursed be anyone who does not to confirm the words of this law by doing them« (Deuteronomy 27,26; Jeremiah 11,13). Yet it is not only our actual sins that condemn us, but also the prior sin that we inherit from our parents (original sin). In the right background God’s merciful grace is shown saving all who put their trust in Him. When the people of Israel in the wilderness sinned and were bitten by snakes, God provided a way of escape that prefigured His Son’s death on a cross. All the Israelites had to do to be saved was look at the snake mounted on a pole (Numbers 21,4-9). To the right of the crucifixion stand John the Baptizer, Lucas Cranach and Martin Luther. Luther’s feet and hands are positioned like those of Moses. His message, however, is one of gospel, not law. On his face is a look of steadfastness and serene confidence. He stands on lush grass in which flowers grow, unlike the bare, stony ground on which Moses stands. The open Bible in his hands has three verses: »The blood of Jesus Christ purifies us from all sin« (1. John 1,7). Luther’s finger points directly to the verse: »Therefore let us approach the seat of grace with joyousness, so that we may receive mercy within and find grace in the time when help is needed« (Hebrews 4,16). The third verse is: »Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert, so also must the Son of Man be lifted up, so that all who believe in Him may have eternal life« (John 3,14). Thus Christ crucified dominates the painting. The amazing message of the gospel is that by His death, Christ takes away the world’s sin. The message written in Latin on the transparent banner held by the lamb in the center foreground declares that Jesus is »the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world« (John 1,29). This was John the Baptizer’s message, and in the painting John with right hand pointing up at Christ on the cross and left hand pointing at the lamb, he is shown proclaiming the meaning of Jesus’ death to Lucas Cranach, the painter. Therefore like Luther, Cranach also stands confidently, for a stream of Christ’s blood lands on his head showing that by Christ’s blood all sin is forgiven. On the left, the risen Jesus is shown youthful and full of life, standing with His feet on the very necks of death and the devil (who in the background had been harassing mankind), with the staff of His victory flag pushed in the monster’s throat signifying that death and the devil have been conquered by the Resurrected Jesus. His gold-edged red cloak flows toward the lamb’s banner and the cross so that both the banner and cloak bear the words: »the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world«.
12. There is no need for you to fear the Last Judgment before Christ on His throne. He has born your judgment upon His own body and as such He has redeemed you and declared You righteous by His own merit. You may live each day in blissful security for before Christ will be Your Judge He was first Your Mediator. If you believe on Him, then you have eternal life, both now and on the day of Last Judgment, because Satan, the accuser of mankind before the Heavenly Father, has been judged, condemned and defeated by the risen Christ. All creation will prosper when at the Last Judgment Christ casts Satan, his devils and all unbelieving sinners into hell while all believers in Jesus Christ will be welcomed into the joys of the new heaven and the new earth. Amen.
13. Let us pray. O Lord Jesus Christ, our Righteousness Judge, give us the certainty of salvation so that in this life we are assured of our forgiveness and in the life to come we will join all of creation in renewed glory. Amen.
One Message: Christ crucified and risen for you!
All Scriptural quotations are translations done by The Rev. Peter A. Bauernfeind using the Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia, 4th Edition © 1990 by the Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart, and the Novum Testamentum Graece, Nestle-Aland 27th Edition © 1993 by Deutsch Bibelgesellschaft, Stuttgart.ELKB. Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche in Bayern. www.bayern-evangelisch.de/www/index.php. Copyright © Evangelisch-Lutherische Kirche in Bayern.
The description of Cranach’s painting is from The Rev. David Buck.