27 March 2013

The Lord Jesus Loves You to the End

Beloved, you also are among those whom Jesus has chosen: as your Holy Baptism testifies, and as His Word of Absolution reaffirms and upholds, whereby He washes your feet and cleanses you.

You are a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, whom He loves and serves faithfully, even unto death.

Indeed, He welcomes you to recline at His Table with Him, to lean on Him and rest yourself in Him.  Here He feeds you, from His own hand, that bread which is His own Body; and He gives you to drink from that Cup of Salvation which is the New Testament in His holy and precious Blood.

Consider and take to heart that He did the same for Judas Iscariot and Simon Peter, and that you are no greater, no better nor stronger, than either of those men, who were among the chosen twelve disciples and Apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Do not suppose that you can guard and keep yourself from harm and danger, from the assaults and accusations of the devil, from the temptations and deceptions of Satan, who hates you and seeks to destroy you.  For that wicked foe would sift you like wheat, and with craft and spite he would lead you astray, away from Christ Jesus, into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice.

By yourself, you are prone to both pride and despair; and, because of your fallen, mortal flesh, you are a sitting duck and easy prey for the enemy.  Left to yourself, you could not stand or survive.

Therefore, do not presume to take your life, nor any other matters, into your own hands.  Do not betray your Lord and sell Him out, neither for cash nor any other advantage.  And do not boast or presume that you are man enough (or woman enough) to do that which Jesus alone is able to do.

Do not attempt to save yourself, to go it alone, to be your own savior: by neglecting or declining the means of grace and salvation, by which Christ Jesus serves you and sustains you in His mercy.

Repent of your presumptuous pride and sinful self-righteousness.

Repent.  But do not despair of Christ and His Love; for despair is simply the other side of pride, and it is every bit as sinful and self-righteous.

Repent of your betrayals, and of your denials — and repent of your despair.

Repent.  And be lifted up by Christ Jesus in His free and full forgiveness of all your sins.

It is true that you cannot follow Him at the first, to go where He goes, nor to do what He does.  That is His prerogative alone, and His divine glory, to go and do this for you: for your salvation.

But you shall follow Him hereafter (by His Cross and Resurrection), by grace through faith in Him, as a disciple whom He dearly loves; by the Word of His Gospel, and by His Holy Spirit.

So does He call you to love your neighbor, as He has loved you, and as He continues to love you and serve you.  But you love, only and ever because He first loves you: faithfully, freely, and fully.

He loves you with divine Love — with which He washes the feet and feeds both the body and soul of those who betray Him and deny Him, and who run away from Him in fear in the time of trial.

It is for the purpose of this washing and cleansing that He has called and sent His slaves and the servants of His Word to speak and act as He does, on His behalf, in His Name and stead.  All of those slaves and servants and sent ones are sinful, mortal men, no better and no stronger than yourself; and of themselves, no better and no stronger than Judas or Peter.  But it is Christ Jesus who sends them to you, and it is Him that you hear and receive in the Ministry of His Gospel.

He knows you, your weakness, and your sin.  Your betrayals and denials have not caught Him by surprise, nor trapped Him in circumstances beyond His control.

No, He goes to the Cross as the Father has sent Him, and He lays His life down willingly for you; because He loves you, even to the end — and so does He love you precisely in this way.

And, not only that, but, in His great love for you, even now He welcomes you to recline upon His bosom, here at His Table, where He feeds you with His Body and His Blood.  Yes, even you!  For the forgiveness of all your sins, for life and salvation, for now and for ever and ever.

In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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