09 March 2014

The Faith and Life of the Son

Here, then, is how the Son of God lives: by faith in His Father.  It comes naturally to Him, since He is the only-begotten Son of the Father from all eternity: God from God, Light from Light, very God of very God.  But, see here how He lives the same divine Sonship — He lives by fear, love, and trust in His God and Father — also now in our human flesh, in the nature that He has received from His Mother in the fullness of time, in which He is now and forevermore your blood Brother.  Not only that, but He lives by such faith, this beloved and well-pleasing Son, even under the curse and consequences of Adam’s fall into sin.  He shares the sin and death of all men, as though it were His own, even though He Himself commits no sin, nor is there anything but grace upon His lips.

He knows the weakness, pain, and urgent tug of hunger in His gut.  He knows the slow and steady passage of time, from one moment to the next, within which He waits upon the Lord and looks to Him in patient trust.  The days and nights come and go for Him, as they do for you, and His flesh feels their weight and burden, while He yet waits for His Father to feed Him in due season.

Although He is a Son — He is, and was, and ever shall be the Son of God by nature — yet, for you and your salvation, He learns the obedience of sonship through His suffering and temptation in His Body of flesh and blood.  He learns, not as one who is ignorant, but as the One who is compassionate.  He learns by the experience of your condition.  He bears your griefs and shares your sorrows, in order to become your merciful and great High Priest in all things pertaining to God.

This is what it’s all about.  This is what it means.  Everything that Jesus does and says and suffers, He does it all for your sake, in order to save you from sin and death, to the Glory of His God and Father.  For this is the Glory of God, that He is the Savior of sinners; the Savior, not of fallen angels, but of fallen men and women, who are precious to Him.  Therefore, He becomes like them, in order to rescue them, to raise them from the dust of the earth, and to recreate them in His Image and Likeness.  He comes in the likeness of your mortal flesh, in order to enliven your flesh and blood, your body and soul, with His Holy Spirit and His divine Sonship; so that you become a child of the heavenly Father in this Lord Jesus Christ, who loves you.

The Temptations of our Lord are both unique to Him and universal to all the children of man.  For He is tempted in all the ways that you are, yet without sin.  And whereas temptation arises for you, not only from without, but also from within you — from the discontent and covetous lust of your own sinful heart — for Christ our Lord, there is no sin within Him.  His heart and mind are set upon His God and Father from the inside-out; therefore, His Body also lives and dies in peace and love, because He always abides in perfect faith.  At all times and in all places, He gives all thanks and praise to the Father, in and with the Holy Spirit.  He is confident and content in the Word and promise of His Baptism, even in the wilderness, and even on the Cross.  He prays to and trusts in the One who is able to raise Him up from death.

But, so that He might be tempted as you are, in order to become your great High Priest and Savior, He deliberately deprives His Body of food: He prays and keeps the fast of forty days and nights.  Even this He does not do at His own whim, but the Spirit of His Father leads Him up from His Baptism into the wilderness, and in faith and love He goes.  He becomes hungry, and so experiences the bodily need and desire for nourishment: not covetous lust, but a real hunger of the flesh.  In this way He is tested by God, like Israel in the wilderness before Him, and He is subjected to the temptations of the devil, to strengthen His obedience to the Father by an active exercise of faithfulness in adversity.

It is more than an example, and more than simply empathy for you.  He suffers this voluntary weakness and want in order to provide for you — to raise you up from sin and death to faith and life — by the way and means of His own persistent faith and perseverance.

In Adam all men die, because in Adam all men sin.  Although the first man and woman lacked nothing, they were tempted by a desire for more, for the one thing that God had not given them.  And by their disobedience, they gave up the contentment and peace of the Garden of Eden, and the friendship of the Lord their God, in exchange for hardship and toil, pain and death.  Such is your inheritance as a child of their fallen blood and flesh.  But, so too, the promise of God to them is also for you and your kin.

Now it is, that One of the sons of Adam, the Seed of the Woman, has become the Head of a new humanity.  He is born without sin, because He is the Son, begotten of God the Father from eternity; but He does not keep His distance from the sons and daughters of affliction.  He does not hold Himself aloof, nor go His own way.  Although He is incarnate God, He humbles Himself and makes Himself nothing, in order to become the Firstborn of many brothers and sisters; that He might be fruitful and bring forth a multitude of children for His God and Father in heaven.

He puts Himself in your place; not in a lush Paradise of plenty, but in the harsh wilderness of blood, sweat, and tears, where you work and work to make ends meet, and still you perish.  In that place of hardship and hurt, of hunger and hard labor, He lives as a true Son.  He returns to the dust of the earth from which you and father Adam are taken, in order to make you and all things brand new by His faith and faithfulness in the promise of His Father in heaven.  Thus, He becomes the new Israel, also, passing through the water into the desert, in order to live by every Word that proceeds from the mouth of God.  He is tempted, tried, and tested, so that His Sonship, His fear, love, and trust in God, and His obedience of faith, are established deeply and forever in His human flesh and blood: for you and all people.

When the Lord your God disciplines you, as a father disciplines his son in love, and when He allows you to go hungry before He opens wide His hand to feed you, He does so to humble you, to break your prideful heart, and to bring you in repentance back to Himself.  He teaches you not to rely upon your own futile self-righteousness, but to rest yourself in Him, to call upon His Name, and to wait upon His providence.

With Christ Jesus, it is the same experience, but also the opposite.  For, unlike you, He is Life in Himself, and He is able to do all things; and yet, He is not prideful or presumptuous.  He has no need of any repentance for Himself.  Rather, He humbles Himself and bears the discipline of His Father on your behalf, and thereby extends His faith and righteousness to you.  He relies upon His Father, and awaits the Father’s rescue from death and the grave, so as to raise you up from the dirt in His Resurrection, to glorify you as a beloved and well-pleasing son or daughter by faith in Him.

That is why He faces what He faces in the desert.  He takes on the tempter and your temptations of heart and mind, body and soul, in order to atone for your sins and failures, and to open up a new way of life to you.

The Way of Life that He opens up and sets before you is the way of faith in the Word that God has spoken.  Such faith does not contrive or compromise; it is not desperate or impatient; it does not seek detours or short cuts around the Cross that God has appointed.  Faith is neither reckless nor presumptuous; it does not attempt to prove God by putting Him to the test, nor to use Him for personal gratification.  Faith loves and worships the Lord, the one true God, and does nothing to contradict or disobey His commandments.  It cannot and will not trade the Kingdom of God and His righteousness for the false and fading glory of this world and its politics of power and prestige.  Faith abides in the Word and Spirit of Christ, come hell or high water against it; no matter how foolish or unreasonable it may seem.

Such faith and life are yours in Christ Jesus; because He has made it so, and He has given these to you by your Baptism into Him.  Here is the new inheritance and legacy of the new and better Adam, which is for you, and for your children, by His grace.  As He entered the wilderness to be with you here by the waters of His Baptism in the Jordan River, so does He bring you through the waters of your Baptism, through His own Cross and Resurrection, out of death into life; out of the desert into the Canaan of His Church on earth; and finally, into Paradise.

By your Baptism into Christ, you have a new genealogy, a new Father, a new and right Spirit, and a new Sonship.  You have a new life.  Or, to say it better, you have a Life instead of death.

How, then, shall you live this life that you are given in Christ Jesus?  How shall you live by faith in God, your dear Father in heaven?  And how shall you survive your time in this wilderness, surrounded by temptations within and without, on your pilgrimage to the Promised Land?

The command and promise of the Lord is this: Resist the devil, and he will flee from you, as surely as he departed from Christ and left Him.  Because the devil actually has nothing but lies and deception.  Even when he cites the Holy Scriptures, he spins and twists the truth into falsehood.  He is crafty and clever, but not creative, because he is not God; he is a creature himself, who has nothing but what the Lord permits and tolerates.  So it is, that, even on your lips, the Word of God defeats him, and Satan must flee as the Lord commands.  Do not doubt that it is so.

In truth, the Lord your God is faithful; He will do and provide for you all that He has promised.  He is the One who preserves you in the wilderness, even in spite of your mortal frailty and sinful weaknesses.  Indeed, by His own resistance of the devil, in flesh and blood like your own, Christ your Savior has already defeated that old dragon, and has established His Victory for you.

As Christ has united Himself to you, and you to Him, in Holy Baptism, and as He now feeds you with Himself — with His Word, and with His flesh and blood, a better Manna from heaven than Israel received — so does He strengthen and sustain you in body and soul, in His own faith and faithfulness: against the devil, and unto God the Father.

To be sure, the Lord does not constrain you against your will.  He does not violate your heart and mind, nor rob you of your freedom in this body and life.  He has created you for love and friendship, and so He leaves you free to love, to be a friend of God and man in peace.  But so are you also free and susceptible to genuine temptations in this present wilderness.  You can and do fall into such temptations, into sins of thought, word, and deed, and into the snares of the devil.  You are tempted by the hungers of your mortal flesh, as it desperately attempt to cling to this life on earth.  You are tempted by the scheming of your mind and fallen reason, by your great brain and money-loving heart, to use and abuse the gifts of God to seize the kingdoms, and the power, and the glory of this perishing world.  And you are tempted by the vanity of your sinful heart, which covets for yourself the glory that belongs to God alone.

Therefore, guard your heart and mind with the Word of God in Christ.  Exercise the new heart, soul, mind, and spirit He has given you, by resisting the devil and turning away from his deceit.

And, where you have failed and fallen, now repent of your sins and return to the Lord your God.  Hear and receive, and rehearse by prayer and confession, the Word and promise of the Gospel in His means of grace.  Above all, seek out His free and full forgiveness of your sins, which is here given to you by His ministers in His Name.  So also, cease and desist from the sins that have ensnared you; not that you will save yourself from them, but that the Lord has rescued you from sin and every evil, and He has made you a child of God, anointed and filled by His Holy Spirit in body and soul.  Be sure of this: He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

Beloved, the Lord who loves you, your merciful and great High Priest, your Savior and your God, He is in you and with you, closer than a brother.  He is with you on the battlefield.  He is by your side upon the plain with His good gifts and Spirit.  He has already won the Victory for you, as your Champion against Satan, sin and death; and even now He defends and protects you, rescues and restores you, forgives your sins, and reconciles you to the Father.  Here He cares for you in mercy. Here He feeds you with this living and life-giving Bread, for which you did not toil and could not pay, but which you receive from His hand, who, by His fasting and temptation, by His hard labor and bloody sweat, and by His Tree of the Cross, has brought forth life from out of death.

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

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