The Lord Jesus causes fear and trembling and division because His Word is “like fire … and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces” (Jer. 23:29). His Law puts us all to death, whereas only His Gospel can bring us to life. He has fulfilled that Word for us by His cross and in His resurrection from the dead. He undergoes such a distressing baptism, accomplished by His death, in order to open the way for us through our Holy Baptism into His cross and resurrection. So, then, if we are able “to interpret the appearance of earth and sky” (Luke 12:56), let us mark this sign of His cross — recognizing that this world is subject to death, but knowing that Christ Jesus also has conquered death and obtained life everlasting for us. Let us fix our eyes on “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith,” and “run with endurance the race that is set before us” (Heb. 12:1–2).
To live for earthly things “is vanity and a striving after wind,” and work that is driven by such vanity “is an unhappy business” (Eccl. 1:13–14). The man who lives like that has nothing to show for “all the toil and striving of heart with which he toils beneath the sun … all his days are full of sorrow” (Eccl. 2:22–23). So, too, your “covetousness, which is idolatry” (Col. 3:5), makes a god out of that which cannot give you life or happiness. For “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15). But “Christ who is your life” (Col. 3:4), in giving you Himself, gives you all the wealth of heaven. Instead of striving to lay up treasures for yourself, be “rich toward God” in Him (Luke 12:21).
Jesus catechizes His disciples in the way of faith by teaching them how to pray. He promises us: “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Luke 11:9). If earthly fathers know how to give good gifts to their children, “how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” (Luke 11:13). Thus, father Abraham was bold in his prayer because he believed the gracious promise of the Lord, that he would “surely become a great and mighty nation” (Gen. 18:18). When we pray in Jesus’ name, we also hold “fast to the Head” (Col. 2:19), “rooted and built up in him and established in the faith” (Col. 2:6–7).
“The LORD appeared to [Abraham] by the oaks of Mamre” (Gen. 18:1) and received his hospitality. But Abraham received the gracious promise of a son. Though Abraham and Sarah were very old, nothing is “too hard for the LORD” (Gen. 18:14). His Word appointed the time and fulfilled the promise. In the same way, the Lord Jesus “entered a village” and received Martha’s hospitality (Luke 10:38). “Martha was distracted with much serving” because she was “anxious and troubled about many things” (Luke 10:40–41), but her sister, Mary, “sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching” (Luke 10:39). The service of love is no sin, but “one thing is necessary” for both faith and love — the Word of Christ (Luke 10:42). Thus, the ministers of Christ are sent “to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints” (Col. 1:25–26).
The Law commands that “you shall love the Lord your God” with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (Luke 10:27), and that you shall “love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19:18). Love fulfills the Law because love does no harm to the neighbor. Christ Jesus is the Good Samaritan, who with divine compassion saves you from all evil. He takes your sin and death upon Himself and bears these in His body to the cross. He binds up your wounds with the healing balm of His Gospel, and He brings you into His Church, where He takes care of you at His own expense (Luke 10:34–35). By such mercy, He proves “to be a neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers” (Luke 10:36). Therefore, “you go, and do likewise” (Luke 10:37). By “your faith in Christ Jesus” and “because of the hope laid up for you in heaven” (Col. 1:4–5), you have the same love for others as the Lord Jesus has for you.
The Lord restores Jerusalem, His Church, because she is the mother of His children, whom He comforts “as one whom his mother comforts” (Is. 66:13). We are “satisfied from her consoling breast” with the pure milk of the Word, and we “drink deeply with delight from her glorious abundance” (Is. 66:11). The messengers of Christ bestow such gifts upon His Church. For He sends them out “as lambs in the midst of wolves” (Luke 10:3), bearing in their bodies the sacrifice of His cross, by which “the kingdom of God has come near” (Luke 10:9, 11). Wherever He enters in with this Gospel, Satan is cast out and falls “like lightning from heaven” (Luke 10:18). Thus, we do not “boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 6:14). Rejoicing in this Gospel, we “bear one another’s burdens” in love, according to “the law of Christ” (Gal. 6:2).
When the prophet Elijah became discouraged and despaired of his life, “the word of the LORD came to him” (1 Kings 19:9b) and stood him “on the mount before the LORD” (1 Kings 19:11). The Lord made Himself known to the prophet — not in the impressive power of gale force winds, or in an earthquake, or in the fire, but in “the sound of a low whisper” (1 Kings 19:12). Today God reveals Himself to us through the frail preaching of the Gospel. The Son of Man sends “messengers ahead of him … to make preparations for him” (Luke 9:52). Putting their hand to that plow of preaching, they “go and proclaim the kingdom of God,” and they do not look back (Luke 9:60, 62). What they preach is not the power of the Law with its “yoke of slavery,” but the power of God unto salvation through the Gospel of forgiveness, by which “Christ has set us free” (Gal. 5:1).
The Lord finds those who did not seek Him or ask for Him. He spreads out His hands “to a rebellious people” (Is. 65:2) and calls them to be His people and to dwell in peace upon His holy mountain (Is. 65:9). For wherever Jesus Christ enters in, Satan is cast out. Those who were enslaved and driven mad by the assaults and accusations of the devil are set free by the Word of Christ. He drowns and destroys the old Adam in us with the waters of Holy Baptism and thereby brings us out of death into life. No longer naked in our shame, living “among the tombs” (Luke 8:27), we are brought into the Lord’s house, fully clothed by Christ; He has come in “the fullness of time” (Gal. 4:4) to fulfill the Law on our behalf and to redeem us from its every accusation. Therefore, having been justified by His grace through faith in His Gospel, “you are no longer a slave, but a son” (Gal. 4:7).
The divine Word of the Father also is the holy wisdom who “was beside him, like a master workman,” who “was daily in his delight, rejoicing before him always” (Prov. 8:30). This Word became flesh and suffered death in order to bestow life by the preaching of His Gospel “to the children of man” (Prov. 8:4). He honors the Father, and the Father glorifies Him by raising Him from the dead, so that all who keep His Word “will never see death” (John 8:51). Long ago, “father Abraham rejoiced” in the day of Christ, for “he saw it and was glad” (John 8:56). Though Christ was “crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men,” “God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death” (Acts 2:23, 24). As He “received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:33), so it is by and through the Son that God the Father pours out the Holy Spirit upon His Church.
Following the flood, Noah’s descendants failed to spread out and fill the earth as God had spoken. Rather, they exalted themselves; with “one language and the same words” (Gen. 11:1), they spoke proudly and arrogantly. The Lord humbled them by confusing “the language of all the earth,” dividing and dispersing the people (Gen. 11:9). That dispersal was reversed on Pentacost Day (the 50th day of Easter), when God caused the one Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ to be preached in a multitude of languages. “At this sound the multitude came together” (Acts 2:6), for the preaching of Christ is the primary work of the Holy Spirit, whereby He gathers people from all nations into one Church. The Holy Spirit teaches and brings to our remembrance the words of Jesus, which are the words of the Father who sent Him. These words bestow forgiveness and peace to those who keep and hold on to them in love for Jesus. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hears be troubled, neither let them be afraid” (John 14:27)
In His resurrection, the Lord Jesus presented Himself alive to the apostles, “appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). Then He ascended to the right hand of the Father, not orphaning His Church, but filling all things in heaven and on earth, and giving gifts to His disciples. So today, He continues to preach “repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 24:47) through “the apostles whom he had chosen” (Acts 1:2), even “to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Jesus comes among us today by His Word and Spirit, whom He pours out upon “the church, which is his body” (Eph. 1:22-23). In His Church, He blesses us with forgiveness, lifts us up in His hands and seats us with Himself “in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:20).
“In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Jesus has opened the way to the Father so that “whatever you ask of the Father” in Jesus’ name, “he will give it to you” (John 16:23). We pray, therefore, in the confidence that we will be heard and answered, that our “joy may be full” (John 16:24). We pray because the Gospel has been preached to us and the Lord has opened our hearts to believe the Gospel (Acts 16:10, 14). We pray in the name of Jesus because we have been baptized into Him, as Lydia and her household were baptized (Acts 16:15). We have been healed, and we live and walk and pray in newness of life (John 5:8-9). For we stand upon the firm foundation “of the twelve apostles of the Lamb” (Rev. 21:14), and our temple is “the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb” (Rev. 21:22).
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came from the Father and became flesh among us in order to rescue us, His sheep. He laid down His life for us and took it up again in order to give us eternal life. By the preaching of His Gospel, He calls His sheep to Himself and keeps them with Him forever. As they hear His voice and follow Him, “they will never perish” (John 10:28), for “no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:29). In the same way, faithful pastors (literally, “shepherds”) “care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood” (Acts 20:28), “testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 20:21). Therefore, with all the company of heaven, the Good Shepherd gathers His flock in worship, as they cry: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Rev. 7:10).
“Worthy is the Lamb who was slain” (Rev. 5:12), who by His cross has conquered sin and death. With His blood, He has “ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9). This same Lord Jesus visits people of all nations and calls them to Himself by the Gospel, even as He “was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead” (John 21:14). He restored Simon Peter to faith and life, and He commissioned him to feed His lambs and tend His sheep (John 21:15-17). Likewise, He revealed Himself to Saul of Tarsus and brought him repentance, so that the persecutor of Jesus might carry and confess His name “before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15).
On the Lord’s Day, St. John the apostle was given a revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, the Alpha and Omega, the First and the Last, He is the Living One, “the firstborn of the dead” (Rev. 1:5). He died for all people, and behold, He is alive forevermore! Therefore, He has “the keys of Death and Hades” (Rev. 1:18). For His death atoned for sin and conquered death, and in His resurrection, He opened the kingdom of heaven to us. The “sharp two-edged sword” of His mouth (Rev. 1:16) calls you to “believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God,” that by such faith “you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). To that end, He sends His ministers of the Word, as the Father sent Him, “to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31)