The Lord, Yahweh, the true and only God, has created you to live in a relationship with Him and with your neighbor: to live by His grace alone, by faith in His Word and promises, by the active presence and work of His Holy Spirit, with love for Him and for one another in His beloved Son.
This Holy Triune God has made you in His own Image and Likeness, so that, by faith and love, you should thus bear fruits after His own kind, that is, like those of Christ Jesus, crucified and risen from the dead in His own Body of flesh and blood. Good fruits like those of His good Tree.
Trust in Him, therefore, and rely on Him for all that you need in both body and soul, for every good and perfect gift, for life and health and daily bread, unto the resurrection and life everlasting. Be content with whatever He provides, and be at peace with Him who loves you.
And as He does love you perfectly in Christ, your Savior, so also love your neighbor: your spouse, your children, your parents and siblings, your fellow Christians, and your neighbors in the world.
It is not good that you should live for yourself, nor that you should attempt to go it alone in some kind of private isolation. You are created to love, and to be loved, as God Himself is Love, the Father for His Son, the Son for His Father, in the Communion of the Holy Spirit. To live like the Lord, you need your neighbor, and your neighbor needs you, to live as companions in Christ.
Where do you find that kind of life, and how do you live such a life in faith toward God and in love for your neighbor? It is only in Christ Jesus. For He is both your Neighbor and your God, your Savior and your Friend, your Pastor and Teacher, and your Companion through death into Life.
It is only in Christ Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, crucified and risen from the dead, that you know God the Father and receive the Holy Spirit. It is only in Christ Jesus that you not only know the one true God as He truly is, but that you also live in and with Him, both now and forever.
So, then, the real question is: Where and how do you find Jesus? It is on the Mountain where He has directed you to meet Him; which is not a matter of geography or topography, nor of location, location, location in the usual sense, but of Holy Baptism in the Name of the Holy Trinity, and of ongoing catechesis in all that Jesus has taught and commanded by way of His Apostles.
It is by these means of grace, His Word and Sacraments, that you become a Christian, a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ; and it is by these same means of Baptism and Catechesis, to and from the Lord’s Table in the Name and remembrance of Jesus, that you continue to live as a disciple of His.
Consider and learn from the tragic example of Judas Iscariot, who did not continue in the Word and faith of Christ Jesus, but departed and went to his own place, as we heard two weeks ago. On the Mountain in this morning’s Holy Gospel, that wretched man is conspicuous by his absence; for it is “the Eleven,” not “the Twelve,” who are there gathered following the Resurrection.
But quite apart from Judas Iscariot, consider the example of those remaining eleven disciples; for they worshiped Jesus, St. Matthew says, but “some doubted.” Considering the other accounts of the Lord’s Resurrection appearances, it is best to understand that all of them were torn between faith and joy on the one hand, fear and doubt on the other. They were all confused and conflicted.
And isn’t that the same conflict of faith and unbelief that you find in yourself? From one day to the next, and at any given time. Like the father at the foot of another mountain: “I believe! Lord, help my unbelief!” Tossed about and torn apart by the war that rages in your members between the old man, born of Adam, and the New Man, born of Christ and His Holy Spirit.
You are taught to observe all that Jesus has commanded; as a Christian disciple, you are called to take up His Cross and follow after Him in steadfast faith and love. Indeed, the Holy Spirit has called you by the Gospel, enlightened you with His gifts, and sanctified you in this one true faith, so that you do believe in Jesus Christ, your Lord, and come to Him. You are here this morning, after all, to worship Him with heart and soul, with your mind, your body, and your spirit. And yet, to what extent, and in how many ways, are you still doubtful and afraid?
The fact is, that, even knowing the truth, you are not able to approach the Lord Jesus in peace; not on your own. You cannot abide with Him in faith and love; nor can you live as the disciple you are called to be — except by His grace and His forgiveness of all your sins.
That gracious forgiveness is precisely the authority that He has been given by the Father in His Resurrection from the dead, and by which He now and ever calls you to Himself, away from sin and death to faith and life with God in Christ. It is the special authority of His Cross & Passion, and of His Resurrection & Ascension, by which He daily and richly forgives you all your sins, and reconciles you to His God and Father in righteousness and peace, and anoints you with His Holy Spirit, so that you actually receive and share and live the divine Life of the Holy Triune God.
For Christ Jesus, the incarnate Son of the Father, is the One who has died in your place, in your flesh and blood, bearing all your sins in His own Body; it was for you and for your sins that He was crucified, dead, and buried.
And it is this very One who bore your sin and died your death, whom God the Father has raised up again, and upon whom He has poured out His Spirit, in His Resurrection as also at His Baptism. Thus, in the Resurrection of Christ Jesus, you also are absolved and raised from the dead; you are sanctified by the Holy Spirit; and you are declared to be a beloved and well-pleasing son of God.
This is the Great Exchange that Christ Jesus has accomplished by His Incarnation, His Baptism, His Cross and Resurrection: He became like you, in order to recreate you in His own Image and Likeness, to raise you from the dust of the earth, to breathe divine Life into your body and soul.
So it is that you become like Him; first of all in your Holy Baptism, whereby you share His Cross and Resurrection, and receive His Name, and enter into a living fellowship with the Holy Trinity.
And what you have been given in your Baptism, once and forever, you also continue to receive, and you retain it, by the daily catechesis of the Word of Christ; that is, not only the teaching and learning of facts and information, but the catechesis of contrition and repentance, of confession and Absolution, the preaching and teaching of the Law and the Gospel in the Name of Jesus.
It is by and with and in that Word of Christ, and specifically by His Word of the Gospel, that your sins are daily and richly forgiven, that your faith is renewed and strengthened, and that you live in love with God and Man by the Spirit of this same Lord Jesus Christ.
It is by that Word of His Gospel that you know and worship the Holy Triune God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; not as an exercise of dogmatic trivia, but as your Light and Life and Salvation.
As He has taken you to be His own, and as He shall never leave you nor forsake you, so it is that sin and death have no more power and dominion over you. For Christ is your King, who reigns over you in love from His Cross and at the Right Hand of His God and Father; who has redeemed you for Himself; and by whose Blood and Righteousness you live, both now and forever and ever.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.