Sunday, February 24, 2013

Lent 2, Series C

Sermon on Luke 13:31-35
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
February 24, 2013 (Second Sunday in Lent)

Wayward children.  That’s how Jesus speaks of Jerusalem in today’s text.  The people of Jerusalem are wayward children.  Children are born sinful, and so through the course of their lives they do many things they shouldn’t do.  But when they get to be teenagers, and on into the process of becoming adults, their parents have less and less control over how they live their lives.  And sometimes children will continue to live rebelliously once they are free of parental control and have become adults, simply because they can.  These overgrown teenagers, so to speak, are a major cause of heartbreak for their parents, as they see their children doing one thing after another in their lives that is contrary to the way they were raised, but the parents can do little more than pray for them.  Very often such people have no idea, if they even care, of the pain and sorrow they are causing their parents.  But the parents continue to pray for them, and continue to hope that the Word of God which was taught them as youngsters will eventually bear fruits of repentance in their lives.  The parents continue to love their children despite the children’s seeming rejection of that love.

Such parents are a picture of God’s relationship to sinful humanity.  The pain and the heartache our sins have caused our God is beyond imagining.  That pain and sorrow was shown most fully in the painful, bloody, tormented death of God’s Son on the cross.  But there are other times during Jesus’ ministry when the loving sorrow of a parent for wayward children comes out as well.  This text is one of those occasions.  You can hear the anguish in Jesus’ voice as He cries out, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!”  And Jesus has real reason to weep over Jerusalem.  As the Son of God, He was present in the Temple, in the Holy of Holies for the centuries of decline in the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah, while abomination after abomination took place in the city, often even in the courtyard of the Temple itself.  We can get an idea of the wickedness of many of the Israelite leaders by reading the prophets, such as Ezekiel and Jeremiah.  And now the religious leaders of the Israelites are about to commit the ultimate abomination against their God, namely to put Him to death for blasphemy, of all things.

At the same time, though, the sins of Jerusalem and the Israelites are only a small part of the suffering and pain which Jesus endures.  Not only the sins of Israel, but our sins as well grieve Him.  Our sins also contributed to His suffering and anguish.  We too have been wayward children from our birth, who refused the guidance, counsel, and comfort of our heavenly Father.  We too have run after everything except the one thing needful, namely Jesus Christ and His Word.  We too have killed Christ, for it was our sin which nailed Him to that cross.  We, too, made it necessary for Him to travel to Jerusalem and die.

But there was something else which caused Him to go to Jerusalem and be killed by the high priests and the Roman government.  The love of God the Father for His creatures, a love which His Son shared, also caused Jesus’ suffering and death.  Just like the prophets of old, Jesus was sent by God to His people in order to preach repentance and forgiveness to them.  And just like the prophets of old, the leaders of the people, and many of the people themselves, rejected the message Jesus brought them, and they put Him to death.  This is what happens to a prophet when he has delivered his message.  It happened to all the Old Testament prophets, and it happened to Jesus as well.  But God kept sending prophets to His people, and finally He sent His own Son to preach to them, and even Him they killed.

There is one difference, however, between the death of the prophets and the death of Jesus.  When the prophets were killed, it meant that they had to some extent failed.  Yes, they had delivered the message they were sent to deliver, but the people did not receive the message and instead killed the messenger.  And of course it’s not the prophet’s fault that the people refused to listen to him, but nevertheless, the deaths of the Old Testament prophets were not victories for God; rather they were victories for the satanic forces who killed them and thereby silenced their preaching.  With Jesus’ death it is just the opposite.  Jesus’ death is His goal.  He intends to die in Jerusalem.  It is for this purpose that He came to earth.  While the crucifixion of our Lord may look at first glance like a victory for Satan and those who want to silence the preaching of a true prophet, in fact Jesus’ death is the greatest victory that has been won for the people of God.  Through His death He destroyed death.  Through His death He has won eternal life for those who believe in Him.  Through His death, in other words, He has healed us of our offenses and sins.  In His three-day journey through the cross and the grave to the resurrection, He healed us.  He cast out the demons, the servants of Satan who would tempt us to sin.  He healed us of every form of disease and suffering we now experience.  And on the third day He reached His goal, namely to become the firstfruits of those who will rise again from the grave and live forever in God’s presence.

Everyone baptized into Him has been baptized into His death and resurrection.  In those few moments when we were washed with water in connection with the Word of Holy Baptism, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, we took that three-day journey with Christ.  We traveled with Him through death into life.  When He was raised to life on that first Easter morning, He reached His goal, and we reached it with Him.  When you were baptized, you died with Christ and were resurrected with Him.  When you finally die to this life, and when Christ comes again in glory and raises you up out of the grave to live forever with Him, what will be happening is that you will be experiencing what already happened to you when you were baptized.

On that last great day our journey through death to life will be fulfilled.  We will have reached our goal, even as Christ reached His goal on the third day when He was raised from the dead.  He will come again in glory, and we will meet Him with joy and exultation, for we will know that our sorrows and are pain are ended.  We will greet Him with joyous shouts of exultation, saying, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!” just as the crowd did on Palm Sunday.  And, truly, He is blessed who comes in the name of the Lord, because that Man is our Savior, who has taken us from death into life, from sorrow into joy, from sin into righteousness, from corruption into perfection.  He has had mercy on us children of men and sent His only begotten Son into our flesh to bear our sin and be our Savior.  While the ungodly ones who rejected Him will be crying and gnashing their teeth, even as they recognize Jesus as the Son of God whom they rejected, we will be greeting Him with open arms and with the voice of praise and thanksgiving.

We greet Him that way even now in the Divine Service.  He comes to us here to give us what He won by His suffering and death.  The same body that was broken for us, the same blood that was shed for us, is given to us today in the Holy Supper.  And with that body and blood come all the blessings He has for us.  Despite our sins, despite our inborn sinfulness that expresses itself with rebellious and wayward childishness, He comes to us to forgive us and to nourish the new man in Christ which He has created in us in Holy Baptism.  He comes to gather us under His wings in His care and protection.  He comes in the name of the Lord, with blessings more than we can recount.  Today, for you, He comes with forgiveness, life, and salvation.  Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.  Hosanna in the highest!  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Lent 1, Series C

Sermon on Luke 4:1-13
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
February 17, 2013 (First Sunday in Lent)

Temptation.  It is a big part of the human experience.  Some of the most powerful and dramatic novels, movies, and plays, and TV shows have a major element of temptation in them, and it is the main characters’ struggle with temptation that gives the work its energy and its compelling force.  One reason for the decline in modern drama and literature is the fact that so often today the characters give in to temptation without any struggle at all, and not only is that wrong, it also leaves out much of the drama that makes a story great.  We can identify with those who are being tempted to do something they know they shouldn’t do, because we are tempted every day ourselves.  Ever since Eve gave in to the temptation of the devil in the garden, mankind has constantly been subjected to temptations.  Whether they be temptations coming from the world around us, also known as peer pressure, or temptations coming from the old sinful flesh, which constantly desires and lusts to do what is wrong, or temptations coming from the devil, who constantly stands behind and provokes both the world and our sinful flesh, temptations are a real source of struggle and conflict within every one of us.

In today’s Gospel lesson, we see Jesus being tempted by Satan.  Jesus came to earth to live life as we live it, except without sin, to face the same pains and troubles and problems that we face, and to overcome them.  Here we see Him facing the temptations that face each of us every day.  Our Gospel lesson records three temptations which Jesus faced, and how He overcame each one of them by the proper application of the Holy Scriptures.  These temptations may seem to be unusual and extraordinary; after all, how many of you have fasted for forty days straight, or been offered rulership over the whole world, or stood on the highest part of the temple in Jerusalem?  But when you dig beneath the surface, these temptations are the same as the ones we face each day.  Each of these temptations asks us to violate the First Commandment, which says that we are to have no other gods before the true God; each of these temptations asks us to rely on something else than what God in His providence, mercy, and love gives us for our well-being.

The first temptation is to rely on something other than God for our daily sustenance.  The Son of God came to earth to share in our experience, and that means that although He used His divine power to help others, He never used His divine power to help Himself, but rather suffered what an ordinary man would suffer in the same circumstances.  Here Satan tempts Him to break that rule.  God had not provided bread for Him in that wilderness, and so He had to suffer the pangs of hunger.  If He would have taken the stones and made bread for Himself from them, He would have been criticizing the Father’s providence by doing so.  We, too, often try to get things apart from what God has given us.  The sins of stealing and adultery are of course what happens when we give in to this temptation.  We often want something other than what the Lord has given us, and when we try to get such things, the end result is sin.

The second temptation is to focus upon success rather than upon faithfulness.  Jesus, after all, had come to this earth in order to be the Lord of the whole earth.  But His purpose was to become the Lord of the whole earth by becoming the Savior of the whole earth.  And to save the people of the world He had to pass through some mighty unpleasant things, including the scorn and contempt of the religious leaders, pains and sorrows, and finally beatings, mockery and a painful, ugly death.  It would be so much nicer if all He had to do was to pretend to bow down to Satan, and mouth a few words worshiping Satan which He didn’t really mean.  It would be so much easier just to play-act for a few seconds and gain lordship over the whole world that way rather than to endure all of that suffering and pain.  Many people in our society face this temptation.  To live the good life, to be on the fast track, to measure a person by how much money he has rather than how he uses it; this temptation is operative there as well, especially when dishonest means are used to get where you want to be.  But God does not call us to worldly success.  He calls us to faithfulness.  He calls us to act within His will for us even if it means that by the world’s terms we finish last.  Because when we cheat, the way Jesus was tempted to cheat here, we really end up worshiping someone or something other than the true God, and behind that someone or something is always Satan.

The third temptation is to test God.  How do you really know that God is supporting and upholding you and protecting you unless you make Him show Himself?  After all, if Jesus had jumped down from the Temple and landed unhurt, or even better been carried back up to the top by angels, it would really have shown the world that He was somebody special.  But God has not promised to take away the consequences of our own foolishness, nor does He condone the unbelief that wants to make God show Himself by forcing His hand.  And that’s really what it is when atheists try to argue that God doesn’t exist just because He doesn’t do what they want Him to do to prove Himself.  After all, in order to answer a question that begins, “If you are the Son of God,” or, “if God exists,” you first have to accept that little word “if” there as if it’s legitimate.  And that’s already putting God in a position inappropriate for the Creator as He deals with His creatures.

Our Lord overcame these temptations using the Means that God had given Him to use, namely the Holy Scriptures, the Word of God.  This is our defense as well, against all the temptations which come against us.  God’s Law is clear, and the better we know it, the better we will be able to remind ourselves of it when we are faced with temptation.  But in this text Jesus stands, not merely as a good example of how to overcome temptation, but more importantly He stands as the One who overcame temptation for us.  Adam and Eve gave in to temptation, and so all of their descendants, including you and me, have been infected with the disease of sinfulness.  But in our baptism we were adopted into Christ, and so we have become part of the new family, the descendants of the new Adam, namely Christ Jesus.  He overcame temptation, and we overcame those temptations in Him.  Because of this we can be declared righteous and holy, which is what happens when your sins are forgiven.

Christ overcame temptation, not for Himself, but for us.  He is the new Adam who won the victory over temptation where the old Adam fell flat on his face.  He now comes to us in His body and blood.  By partaking of His body and blood we receive everything He won for us, including His victory over temptation.  This means both that our failures to resist temptation are forgiven, and that we are nourished and strengthened by Him to resist temptation in the future.  We do not need to rely on the rocks of our own inadequate spiritual resources when we face temptation.  We have the true living bread from heaven.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday

Sermon on Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
February 13, 2013 (Ash Wednesday)

Why do you come to Church?  Why do you volunteer your time and money and effort to see to it that God’s Word is preached and His Sacraments administered?  Why do you come not only on Sunday morning but also on Wednesday evenings during certain seasons?  Why do you give of your time, talents, and treasures for the projects and programs of the Church?  This is the question that Jesus asks us in the Gospel lesson for this evening.  Tonight we stand at the beginning of the season of Lent.  During Lent many people give up certain types of food or drink or other things they enjoy in order to remember that our Lord gave up everything for us.  In Church, we give up the Alleluias and certain other, more joyful, parts of the liturgy.  In most congregations, Lent is also marked by an additional number of services, with the Wednesday night Lenten services being added to the Sunday morning Divine Services.  Now, the fact that all of this takes place is good and helpful.  But we still need to ask ourselves what our motivation is for doing all of this.  Why do we do what we do during Lent?  Why, for that matter, do we do what we do in relation to the Church the rest of the year for that matter?

Our old sinful natures have an answer to that question.  The answer that we by nature would give to that question is, “Because it will impress others, and maybe even God, with how holy I am.”  We like others to think well of us.  Our old selves are always concerned about our own reputations.  In the realm of religion, that means that we like others to think that we are pious and holy.  We like others to look up to us, to see how much we are doing for God.  That’s the way the Old Adam deals with things relating to the Church.  If he can’t stop you from participating in the things that have to do with God’s blessings to us, he’ll warp your motivations and your thoughts about what your are doing so that you end up doing these things, not for God, but for yourself, to show off and get praise from others.  That’s how sneaky the Old Adam in us can be.  He doesn’t just try to do bad things, he also tries to put the wrong motivation on good things.  And so Jesus warns us today, at the beginning of this season, that what we do, what we give up, in order to observe this Lenten season, is not for others to see.  It is for God, so that we can remember what Christ our Lord gave up for us, and so that the message concerning Christ’s journey through death to life will have fewer thorns and rocks to contend with as it enters our hearts and begins to sprout.

But when I say that whatever you do during Lent, or during any season of the Church Year for that matter, is “for God,” I don’t mean that you are doing something to try to impress God.  That would be just as bad as trying to impress other people by your actions.  God doesn’t need your good works.  Rather what I mean is that what you do for the Church, and whatever you may do as part of your Lenten discipline, is just that: discipline, outward actions that help you be a better disciple, a better hearer of God’s Word.  It’s all for the sake of being able to hear and be nourished by God’s Word free from the distractions of the devil, the world, and the sinful flesh.

And so Jesus exhorts us not to lay up treasures on earth, not to try to impress other people, or God for that matter, with our own outward actions, but rather to lay up treasures in heaven.  But what does that mean?  After all, if nothing we do is going to impress God or cause Him to give us any rewards, then how can we lay up treasures in heaven?  What treasures are there to accumulate?  The answer is, those treasures which come to us as a free gift.  First and foremost among these is the forgiveness of sins won by Christ through his pain and suffering.  Any other treasure we may have in heaven is only ours because we have this primary treasure, Christ Himself and the forgiveness of sins that He grants unto us.  And having that treasure, we have all the other riches of heaven as well, riches which will not rust nor fade away nor be stolen by any thieves, which don’t exist in heaven.

As I said, this treasure comes to us as a free gift.  It comes to us, however, not through feelings, not through God speaking in our hearts, but through God speaking in our ears, through God washing us with water comprehended in and connected with God’s Word, through the bread and wine which are His body and blood.  Because this treasure comes to us through such ordinary-looking Means, and we can’t see the effects of this treasure with our physical eyes, it is tempting to despise it and instead focus upon things we can see.  But that’s part of the reason why Lenten discipline is helpful, because it keeps our eyes focused on those treasures in heaven, especially when we give up, or at least temporarily give up the enjoyment of, some of our treasures here on earth.

After all, as I hinted earlier, the events that we are leading up to through our Lenten journey are events in which Christ our Lord gave up everything for us.  His entire state of humiliation, from his lowly birth in a stable in Bethlehem, through His rejection by the religious leaders of the day and ultimately even by the people, and finally His painful and unjust persecution, suffering, and crucifixion, were all for us.  We take this journey through Lent to Easter because He took that journey for us.  He didn’t just give up meat on Fridays as many folks do, not that there’s anything wrong with that.  He didn’t just give up alcoholic beverages or desert or what have you.  He didn’t just give extra money to the Church or come to an extra service per week; He gave up everything.  He, the Lord of heaven and earth, subjected Himself to a human life that involved all of our poverty and sickness, all of our little pains and hurts, all of the anger and bitterness that sin has created between us and our fellow men.  He went through all of that, lived for more than thirty years a life in the midst of that sin and sorrow and trouble, and then gave up even that life so that we might be saved.  That’s why we give up certain things for Lent, so that the treasures in heaven, which He won for us by that sacrifice, can be more fully and completely appreciated.  After all, since we have those treasures, we have it all, and so the pains and sorrows of this world, including whatever Lenten discipline we choose, will not truly affect us, since our heart is with Him and not with the things of this world.  We have Christ.  Our hearts are lifted up to Him, and He is with us.  That’s all that matters.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Transfiguration, Series C

Sermon on Luke 9:28-36
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
February 10, 2013 (Transfiguration of our Lord)

How often have you looked around while you were in Church and said, “Lord, it is good for us to be here?”  Probably not all that often.  If your old sinful nature is anything like mine, I bet when you come here on Sunday mornings your thoughts more often go like this: “I sure could use a few more hours of sleep.”  “(Sigh) Pastor chose that hymn that has 15 stanzas . . . again.”  “Well, so-and-so is here.  It’s been a while.  Wonder what made them come.”  “That whole section of the pews is empty.  I wonder where everybody is this morning.”  “It sure was cold this morning.”  “Why doesn’t the City of Racine do a better job of plowing the side streets after these big snowstorms?”  And so on.  I’m sure all of you could name a thousand different things that go through your minds while you are here that go against what Peter said in this morning’s text.

When we read the story of the Transfiguration, often our first reaction to what Peter says there is to say, well, he’s being silly.  After all, his suggestion is pretty dumb.  Moses, Elijah, and even Jesus are really in heaven, discussing Jesus’ upcoming death at Jerusalem, and the disciples are merely being allowed a glimpse into that glorious reality.  They don’t need tents because they are in the Father’s mansions.  But even though Peter’s suggestion is kind of silly, the reason why he suggests it is right on the money.  Lord, it is good for us to be here.

It is always good to be where our Lord is, where He has promised to be found.  Of course, He is everywhere.  But He has not promised to be found everywhere.  He has promised to be found where His Word is rightly proclaimed and His Sacraments rightly administered, that is, in the regular worship services of a Christian congregation.  Thing is, we can’t always see the glorious reality around which we gather Sunday after Sunday.  The disciples couldn’t always see the glorious reality into which Jesus gave them a short peek in this morning’s Gospel.  Usually we walk by faith, not by sight, because what sight shows us isn’t so glorious many times.  I’m sure many of you have experienced festival worship services that so moved you that you wish every service could be like that. But of course it cannot.  This world continues to be an imperfect, sin-filled world, and so therefore what we experience with our senses doesn’t always live up to expectations.  Christ Himself could not stay on that mountain, but rather He had to go down and go to Jerusalem so that He could go up a different hill, called Golgotha, and be nailed to a cross.  The disciples had to follow Him and endure hatred and persecution from those who killed their Lord.  We may not suffer the same things they suffered, but we have a multitude of pains and sorrows and troubles in this world.  Even in the Church, where heaven itself comes to meet us in the person of Christ, what we sometimes experience is conflict and turmoil instead of joy and peace.  While we remain in this life, the heavenly realities we have in Christ will more often than not be hidden under the earthly pain and sorrow that comes from the sin that lives in every one of us.

But we can take comfort in the fact that Christ has won us the victory over this sin-filled world.  The conversation of heaven, which we hear on the lips of Moses and Elijah in the presence of their God, and which St. Luke records for us as being a discussion of Jesus’ upcoming death at Jerusalem, is the same as the content of the Holy Scriptures, and it is what we preach.  Christ suffered, died, and rose again for us.  Christ won the victory for us by His death, and proclaimed that victory over sin, death, and the devil to the whole world by His glorious resurrection.  It is precisely because Christ suffered on the cross that our sufferings will eventually have an end.  It is precisely because He bore the guilt of our sins and endured the punishment we deserved that we can stand in the presence of God.  Peter had quite recently asked Jesus to go away from him because he was a sinner.  Now Peter wants to stay with Christ forever.  This transformation is only possible because of our Lord’s suffering, death, and resurrection.  It’s no wonder that even in heaven, the redemption that Christ won for us will be the focus of our conversation and our worship, even as it was, and still is right now, by the way, for Moses and Elijah.  Even the Father tells us to listen to the One who was Crucified.  St. Paul sets the example for all pastors when he writes to the Corinthians that He knows nothing among his congregations except Christ, and Him crucified.  This stark and gruesome execution is in fact the most glorious reality in a heaven full of wonders and glory, because it was precisely through this event that we are able to enjoy the bliss of heaven.

The glorious vision of heaven ended.  Christ’s clothing no longer looked like the sun.  Once again he appeared to be an ordinary man.  Moses and Elijah were no longer visible.  We can imagine that Peter and the others were somewhat disappointed.  But they need not have been.  They were still in the presence of the Creator of heaven and earth.  And because of that the glorious reality they had just seen was also still with them.  Where Christ is, there is heaven.  The important thing about being in heaven is being with Christ.  All the other blessings we will enjoy there are mere side-effects of His glorious presence.  And in fact, He is with us right now.  Wherever there are two or three gathered in His name, there He is in the midst of them.  Through Holy Baptism He has taken up residence in your heart and remade you into new creatures, who will stand with Moses and Elijah before His throne and sing His praises forever.  Through Holy Absolution and through the preaching of the Word He is speaking to you the words of eternal life, the words which the Father exhorts you to hear in our text.  And through Holy Communion He is feeding you with Himself.  The communion liturgy teaches us that where Christ is, there are the angels and archangels and all the company of heaven, singing, “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Sabaoth.”  Moses and Elijah are here with us because Christ is with us, and so are all the other saints, including our own loved ones who have died to this life and who are right now experiencing the joys of eternal life.  We may not be able to experience this glorious reality with our five senses.  But it is real.  What really happens to us on Sunday morning may not be visible to our five senses, but it is in fact the same thing that happened to Peter, James, and John on the mountain when Jesus was transfigured.  Heaven itself comes to us in the person of Jesus Christ.  The one who died on the cross for us now gives us Himself, and with Him comes everything else that He has won for us.  Where there is the forgiveness of sins, there is also life and salvation.  How good, Lord, to be here.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Epiphany 4, Series C

Sermon on Luke 4:31-44
For Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Elmwood Park, WI
February 3, 2013 (Fourth Sunday after Epiphany)

In today’s Gospel we see Jesus healing Peter’s mother-in-law, casting out a demon, and healing many other people, including more demon-possessed people.  These are great and impressive miracles, of course.  Casting out demons, and healing people simply by speaking the Word is certainly not something you see every day.  It is a testimony to just Who Jesus is, that He can do this.  He is the fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies, including the ones which prophesied that the Messiah would make the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, and the poor have the Gospel preached to them.  It’s no accident, of course, that today’s text comes right after the account of Jesus’ reading of that passage from Isaiah in Nazareth which we heard about in last week’s Gospel.

But there’s more to it than just the fact that Jesus is doing miracles.  Remember why it is that people get sick in the first place, and why it is that demons can possess people at all.  The creation itself has been fundamentally corrupted by the sin of its inhabitants.  All disease, hunger, thirst, injury, disaster, and, yes, even demon-possession, are symptoms of the fact that mankind, the crown of creation, is now subject to death, and therefore creation itself is subject to futility, instability, and breakdown.  Jesus’ mother-in-law’s fever, and the possession of various people by fallen angels, are things that are only symptoms of the basic disease of sin that was brought into the world by Adam and Eve’s disobedience in the Garden of Eden.

And so, Jesus’ ability to heal people and drive out demons is more than just merely a miraculous demonstration of the fact that He’s God.  It’s more than just a rather dramatic way of proving His claim to be the promised Messiah.  It is, in fact, part and parcel of what He came to do.  He came to put to death the old creation in His own body, and raise up for us a new creation, in which we, cleansed and purified of sin and all its effects, will live forever.  He came, not just to do away with the effects of sin temporarily for a few people back in first-century Palestine, but to do away with sin itself, forever, and restore the creation to what it was originally intended to be.

Now, St. Luke actually hints at this in his choice of words to describe what Jesus does for Peter’s mother-in-law.  He says that the fever left her.  The verb that is translated “left,” as in “the fever left her,” is actually the same word that is translated “forgive” when the object of the verb is sin.  Fevers, and other forms of illness and injury, are only in the world because of sin, since the wages of sin is death, and these are reminders and precursors of the death that comes to all sinners.  And so, forgiveness and healing go together.  Because we have the forgiveness of sins now, we will have perfect healing when Christ comes again to raise us up and undo the death that is only in the world because of sin.

It’s also not surprising that demon-possession is also healed by this Jesus who comes into the world to forgive sins.  We see an exorcism every time there is a baptism.  Holy Baptism is actually a casting out of the chief demon himself, Satan, in order to make room for the Holy Spirit.  The same thing is true of Holy Absolution, the preaching of the Gospel, and the Holy Supper.  That which is corrupted, and desecrated by sin is destroyed to make way for the new creation that God will resurrect to live before Him in righteousness and purity forever.

And I’m not just speaking of purely spiritual things, either.  Peter’s mother-in-law eventually died.  So did everyone else that Jesus healed during His earthly ministry.  But when Jesus forgives us and raises us up, He raises us up not just spiritually, but physically as well.  He makes us part of the new creation, the new heavens and new earth, in which righteousness dwells.  Peter’s mother-in-law, we can assume, was a believer, and so even though she died, yet she lives.  Even though Peter himself was crucified upside down under Roman persecution, he lives in eternity.  You and I also, because our sin has been forgiven, are also raised up.  We will live forever, not just spiritually, but also bodily.  When Christ comes again to judge the living and the dead, we will be raised up from the dead to live forever with Him in the new creation.  Compared to this, the miracles recorded in our text are actually not all that spectacular.  They are merely dim foreshadows of the greater miracle that happens here every Sunday, where your sins are forgiven and you are raised up to eternity.  You become part of the new creation when you eat and drink the first-fruits of that new creation, namely the risen body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Instead of being granted temporary healing, we receive here a new and eternal life where neither sickness nor demons will ever come near us again.  You are forgiven.  You are raised up.  You will live forever with your Creator.  Amen.

+ Soli Deo Gloria +