✠ One Message: Christ crucified and risen for you ✠
The Word of the Lord Endures Forever
Verbum Domini Manet in Aeternum
Psalm 34,18.104.22.168.22; 25,15 1817
Okuli (3. Sonntag der Passionszeit) 026 „My eyes“
Joseph, foster father of Jesus. Widow
19. März 2017
1. O Christ Jesus, Thou who prevails the Will of God; let Your justice be declared unto us, so that we may stand before You righteous. Amen. (Gradual).
2. When My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for He will pluck my feet out of the net. The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears toward their cry. The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth. The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit. Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all. The Lord redeems the life of His servants; none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.
3. The Introit tells us: »My eyes are ever toward the Lord, for He will pluck my feet out of the net.« and the Psalmist is more optimistic than Jesus’ forboding declaration in today’s Gospel Lection: »No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the reign of God.« And we all know where Jesus’ path ends: It ends with Judas Iscariot betraying Him, His arrest, conviction of sedition against Rome and His execution on the cross. The other apostles and disciples all scattered in fear and went into hiding save His mother, a couple of other women and John. When the time had arrived for His apostles and disciples to stand next to Jesus and confess Him boldly and proudly as the Christ, only a few were at Jesus’ feet silent and sorrowful. The apostles had forgotten Jesus’ petition in His high priestly prayer on Maundy Thursday: »O Father, I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that You keep the from the evil one« (John 17,15). Jesus would not leave them without protection or providence.
4. Therefore, we must keep the truth before our eyes that »The eyes of the Lord are toward the righteous and His ears toward their cry.« But who are the righteous? The Apostle Paul answers that question in his Epistle to the Galatians: »we know that a person is not righteous by the works of the law but that a person is righteous only through faith in Jesus Christ« (Galatians 2,16). »The Lord hears the prayer of the righteous« (Proverbs 15,29; 1. Peter 3,12).
5. But He is far from the wicked (Proverbs 15,29; 1. Peter 3,12). He is so far from the wicked that »The face of the Lord is against those who do evil, to cut off the memory of them from the earth.« It is a serious thing to be cut off from God, and that is what Hades was created for: to be an abode for those opposed to God where their wish is granted, namely they will not have to dwell in His presence. To make yourself independent from God, to become your very own god, is to ultimately dwell apart from the One True God. But it is not God’s desire that anyone dwell alone and apart from Him. Sin and death set fallen humanity upon that wretched, dark path, but God would not see us walk down that road without His Light to show us the way back to Him and His method of redemption.
6. The Introit comforts us with this very promise: »The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.« The Holy Scriptures are replete with examples of God redeeming people. He provided for Adam and Eve after they had sinned and promised them a Messiah would be born from Eve’s descendant. Barren Sarah and Rachel were given sons. Jacob was spared from his brother’s wrath. Israel was redeemed from slavery. Nineveh was spared the fury of God’s destruction. The exiles were returned from Babylonian Exile. Jesus escaped Herod’s infanticide. Lepers were cleansed, the sick healed, the demon-possessed freed and even the dead returned to life. Whatever brokenhearted situation we experience in this life, we know that we do not endure it alone, for God is with us, comforting us and working to restore our joy. »A bruised reed the Lord will not break, and a faintly burning wick He will not quench; He will faithfully bring forth justice« (Isaiah 42,3).
7. The Introit reminds us that »Many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the Lord delivers him out of them all.« Jesus Himself fulfills this: »Draw unto Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest« (Matthew 11,28). Suffering on account of Christ produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope in Christ and this hope does not disappoint us because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us (Romans 5,3-5).
8. »The Lord redeems the life of His servants; none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.« All the redemptive events in the Bible were types of the antitype of Jesus redeeming all the world though His crucifixion. Jesus knew the cost to redeem fallen men and women, and upon the Mount of Olives Jesus showed true self-denial and perfect cross-bearing. He suffered rejection, slander, false accusations, condemnation, scourging, ridicule, crucifixion and death in order to save us. Such was the high price the law required to be paid in full on account of sin, and Jesus willingly and lovingly paid that price with His own body and life to restore mankind back to fellowship with His Father.
9. Lent reminds us to once again discipline ourselves to follow Jesus to the cross where He merits the forgiveness of sin for the entire world. This forgiveness is given out in proclaimed Absolution, the preached Word, in the poured water of Holy Baptism and proffered in the Lord’s Supper; these means of grace promise us that all our sin is forgiven. We receive this promise by faith which is a gracious, free gift given to us by the Holy Spirit. Christian discipleship trusts in Christ for salvation and seeks to live a God-pleasing life in response to this trust. Self-denial and cross-bearing are performed as expressions of faith in Christ. On account of Christ, we may put our hands to the plow and look to Jesus as those fit for the reign of God.
10. The wonderful story that unfolds within the pages of the Holy Scriptures from Genesis to Revelation is that the Lord’s people fall into sin and never live up to His strict demands of discipleship, but the Lord draws near to His fallen, discouraged people and brings them the gospel of forgiveness that is grounded upon His Son who is Christ crucified and risen for our righteousness and salvation. Christian discipleship is not about living the good, morally improving life – any philosophy, religion or self-improvement methodology can offer that – but Christian discipleship is about Christ, believing in Him whole-heartedly for the forgiveness of sins and rejoicing in the amazing gospel that says you are saved, you are the beloved of the Heavenly Father – not because you have lived up to your Christian potential – but rather Christ has lived it for you, and He gives it to all of us as a free gift. It is a gift that we cannot buy or earn by our good intentions or merits, but it is a gift that was earned by Christ so that He alone gives it to us through the Holy Spirit. This is the gospel, and its message is unique in all the world, and we have it by Christ alone for our eternal salvation. Amen.
11. Let us pray. O Lord Jesus Christ, Thou alone are worthy to put Your hand to the plow and sow the field for the harvest of the reign of God, keep our eyes on You so that we never look back in doubt but look forward to the joy set before in Your gospel. Amen.
To God alone be the Glory
Soli Deo Gloria
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.
All quotations from the Book of Concord are translations done by The Rev. Peter A. Bauernfeind using Die Bekenntnisschriften der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche, 12. Edition © 1998 by Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.