28 July 2016

Jesus Gives New Life to Your Body

It is evident that Jairus has been catechized by the Word of the Lord, for he comes to Jesus in the hope of His mercy.  He worships Him by faith with his prayers and petitions, and with his body, also, prostrate before his Lord in humility.

It is evident that he, a ruler of the synagogue, has not only cared for others with God’s Word and prayer, but has catechized his own little daughter, as well; else she would not only be sleeping.  The Christian fears the grave as little as her bed, but those who die apart from Christ are swallowed up, body and soul, by eternal death.

Such death is the legacy and inheritance of all the daughters and sons of Adam & Eve.  All of you will die — and must die — because all of you sin and fall short of the Glory of God.  Indeed, it is necessary that you die to your sin, to yourself, and to the world, in order that you be set free and raised up to newness of life in the Body of Christ Jesus.

But so it is, in Him, that death does not have the last word, final though it seems.  Even death cannot end your gladness when you have become a child, not only of man, but of God.  By faith in Christ Jesus, the Son of God, you live, even though you die.

For He has come in the flesh, with a Body and Blood like your own, conceived and born of the Woman, St. Mary, herself a daughter of Adam.  He has entered into the house of sin and death where you are.  He has crossed over to the other side of the sea in the new and greater Exodus of His Cross and Resurrection, even as He was baptized for you and for all righteousness in the waters of the Jordan River.  He has died and is risen to save you.

So does He also now come with His Ministers of the Gospel, who follow Him, and bear His Name, and preach His Word, and give His good gifts to the children of men.  With His Word and the touch of His hand, He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies you and His whole Christian Church with the Holy Spirit of His God and Father.  So does His Word go out into all the world, and His Voice to the ends of the earth.

And so it happens that a great crowd is attracted to Jesus and begins to follow Him.  But be sure of this, that He is more than an object of amazement and idle curiosity.

Jairus is prompted to seek Him out by his desperate need for the sake of his dear daughter, and by his faith in the Word and Flesh of Christ Jesus.  He prays and intercedes for his girl, for the life and health and strength of her body.  He prostrates himself and worships Jesus with his heart and mind, with his words and actions, and with his body, too.  And his prayer is that Jesus would come in the flesh to lay His hands on the little girl, in order to bless her and save her from death.

You hear the attention that is given to the body.  But at the same time, you also know that your body is afflicted by the curse of sin and death.  Your flesh suffers and decays.  It perishes and fades like the grass and its flower.  There is no lasting life but only sickness unto death in your body.

And yet, the truth remains that Christ Jesus has come in His own Body of flesh and blood.  He has suffered and died for your sins and transgressions, and He is risen from the dead in His glorified Body for your justification, in order to rescue and raise you in both body and soul.  For all that He has accomplished for you in His Body, He has also given to you in your Holy Baptism.

Therefore, do not weep and wail and mourn like those who have no hope.  Rather, pray, praise, and give thanks in the hope and confidence of Christ.  Call upon the Name of the Lord, trusting Him to save you from sin, death, and the power of the devil.  Do not be afraid.  Only believe, according to His Word and promise, and rely on Him for the Resurrection and the Life.

Not what your senses, your intellect, or your emotions tell you, no matter how convincingly, but what Jesus says and does for you and gives to you determines what is true and what is real.  The world will mock and scorn, it will laugh and ridicule the hope that is in you, but never mind that.

It is, in fact, as we have sung: The way is dark, but Christ precedes you; past the scowl of death He leads you; spreads a Table where He feeds you with His Body and His Blood.

He raises you up and gives you life, already here and now in your body on earth.  As surely as He has purified your heart and cleansed your conscience by the washing of your body with the water and His Word in Holy Baptism, so surely does He enliven your body with His Holy Spirit; so that you get up and begin to walk in His Way, from your tender youth into your teens and adulthood.

He stretches out His hand to lay hold of you in love, to strengthen and sustain your faith and life in Him through the blessing of His Spirit through His forgiveness of your sins.  He stretches out His hand to give you something to eat, to feed you with the Bread of Life.

The Synagogue and Sabbath Rest of Christ Jesus are where He catechizes you with His Word and calls you daily to repentance.  Thus He returns you, again and again, to the significance of your Baptism, to your dying and rising with Him.  And there He feeds you with Himself for the Life everlasting of your body and soul.  He comes to abide with you, so that you may abide in Him.

Little girl, or little boy; young woman, or young man; child of God, whatever your age, do not continue to sin with your body, nor give yourself over to the laziness of apathy and despair, but worship the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself, in and with your body.  As a disciple of Christ Jesus, follow Him on the Way that leads to Life in the midst of death.  Enter with Him into the House of your true Father and Mother, in which your weeping is turned into joy and your sorrow gives way to feasting.  For here shall your body also rest in righteousness and peace.

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

24 July 2016

Pray with Confidence in Christ

Dear Christian, dear child of God, you are to pray without ceasing.  Your entire life is to be one of prayer to your dear Father in heaven.

It is not an optional choice, whether or not you pray.  For you pray to honor the Lord, your God.  You pray to worship Him alone, who is the true and only God, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

You pray because He has commanded you to pray, and because He has promised to hear you.  Do not despise His command or His promise, but pray because you need Him above all.  Your need for Him is greater than life itself, for He is your highest good, and without Him you have nothing.  Therefore, seek His face always.  Look to Him, and wait upon Him.  Call upon His Name.

Pray with and according to His Word, in faith and hope and confidence.  If you were simply to invent the words to say in your own heart, with which to approach Him, you could have no confidence or certainty that He would hear or answer you.  But as you are armed with His Word, with His commandment and His promise, and with the Words that He has placed upon your lips, so sure and certain is your prayer that you say, “Amen,” knowing that it shall be so.

Do not waver, and do not doubt.  Do not pray as though it were a gamble, as though it were some kind of last ditch resort.  Pray knowing that you pray to your Father, that He loves you, that He hears your prayer, and that He answers.

Pray to Him for everything that you need, both great or small.  Pray for all that you need in body and soul, and for all good things.  But, above all, pray for the forgiveness of your sins, on which everything depends.  Without His forgiveness, you receive nothing.  For you are worthy of none of those things for which you pray, nor have you deserved them.  He gives them all to you by grace

Pray for yourself, for your family and friends.  But pray also for your neighbor, for your friend and for your foe.  Pray for the entire Church of God on earth, and for the entire world.  Pray for all those for whom Christ your Savior died, who died for all the people of all times and places.

Pray that the work of God would be done in you and in your life.  And pray that His work be done through you, as well, for your neighbor.  Pray that His good and gracious will be done throughout the world, to the glory of His holy Name.

Such prayer is nothing else than the voice of faith, which calls upon God in confidence and hope.

But you do not believe as you should.  And because you do not believe, you do not pray as you should.  Think of how often your worship and your prayers have faltered.  How often you forget to call upon God, until some tragedy strikes, or until there is some thing that you want, and you turn to God as though He were your lackey, your gopher.

Prayer depends upon the forgiveness of sins, for you daily sin much and surely deserve nothing but punishment.  But you do not trust God’s forgiveness.  You do not come to Him confidently, knowing that your sins are forgiven for Jesus’ sake.  But neither do you recognize your need for His forgiveness, and so you do not seek His forgiveness diligently for yourself.  Nor do you forgive and love your neighbor in his need, although you are commanded to do so; and if you do not forgive your neighbor his trespasses against you, neither will God forgive your trespasses.

Apart from faith and the forgiveness of sins, you do not know how to pray, and you cannot pray.  Left to yourself, you are left with nothing.  Fatherless and destitute.  Pathetic.  “Being evil,” as Jesus says, with no love for God or man, unable even to pray, you receive nothing because of your doubt and your disbelief.  And you have nothing to give, nothing to offer.  There is nothing with which you can bargain before God to get what you want as though by some kind of payment.

But hear this Word of the Lord, which says to you that Jesus prays.  The almighty and eternal Son of God, He prays.  He prays constantly throughout the Gospel.  He prays without ceasing.

And the Lord Jesus prays, not only as a good example for you; He prays for you.  He prays and intercedes for you, on your behalf, as your merciful and great High Priest.  Indeed, His prayer for you is the culmination and confession and ongoing exercise of all that He has done for you: His Incarnation, His Life, His Cross and Passion, His Resurrection and Ascension.  All for you.

His prayer has become your prayer, as His God and Father has become your God and Father.  For He, the Son of God, has first of all taken your place under the Law, under the burden of your sin, under the judgment of God, in His own flesh, even unto death upon the Cross.  And now by His Gospel, especially in your Holy Baptism, He has given you His place, so that you are a son of God in Him, by grace and by adoption, beloved and well-pleasing to our Father in heaven.

Think of it.  In Christ all the fullness of Deity dwells bodily; yet, He has not only given Himself for you, He has also given Himself to you in Love.  And He has taken you to Himself and wrapped you in His embrace, and united you to Himself forever.  Therefore, all that you are, and all that you say, as you stand before God, is hidden in Christ Jesus.  And for His sake you are heard.

Before you have called — before you were even able to call upon Him or come to Him — He has already answered your prayer in Love, and has provided you with all good things in Himself.

For the sake of His divine and holy love, by His grace alone, the Father has given His Son for you, and given His Son to you.  And in and with His Son, He bestows upon you the Holy Spirit, so that He is your own dear “Abba! Father,” your true and permanent Father; and you are His dear child.

You can come to Him and pray to Him, just as little children go to their fathers; indeed, far better, far more confidently.  For here is a Father who never loses His temper, who never forgets His promises, who never goes away and leaves you alone.  Here is a Father who is always faithful, who always hears, who always answers, who always loves, all for the sake of Jesus Christ, His Son.

He has obtained for you and for the world the forgiveness of sins, for each and every sin.  And He has bestowed that forgiveness upon you by and with His sweet Word of the Gospel, by His means of grace, by His holy Word and Sacraments.

By the preaching of His Word and by His Holy Spirit, He has called you to repentance — not for the purpose of shaming you for your sins, but to call you away from your sins and the death to which they lead, back to Himself in faith and love.  And with His free and full forgiveness of all your sins, day after day, He strengthens and sustains your faith and hope and confidence in Him.

It is in such faith that He opens your mouth to pray.  And it is by and with His Word that He teaches you to pray.  In fact, as you know, He gives you the very Words with which to call on Him.  When you pray, say this: “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed by Thy Name. . . .”

Of yourself, you are small and weak and helpless.  What is more, and what is worse, you daily sin much in your thoughts, words, and deeds.  Of yourself, you could not pray; it would do no good.  For all that you deserve is nothing else but punishment, both for now and for ever.

But Christ Jesus has risen from the dead and ascended to the Father in your stead, on your behalf, in His own Body of flesh and blood like yours.  He who was crucified for your transgressions, who has been raised for your justification, never to die again, He ever lives to make intercession for you at the Right Hand of the Throne of God.

The very Son of God, your Savior, is always praying for you.  And the Father hears His prayer in love, and He answers for Jesus’ sake.  So, too, the Holy Spirit intercedes for you, groaning within you the “Kyrie, eleison!” of faith.  Day and night, evening and morning, waking and sleeping.

Thus, God Himself is on your side.  He contends with you and for you against all your foes.  He who forgives your sins also prays on your behalf.  And His every prayer for you is answered.

Thus do you come before God in peace and joy, and you live in His presence in Christ Jesus, your Savior, who is your Brother in the flesh and your dearest Friend, as He was Abraham’s Friend.

It was for Jesus’ sake that Abraham was counted righteous.  For Jesus’ sake that Abraham was beloved of God.  For Jesus’ sake that Abraham’s prayer was heard, even when he had the nerve to ask again and again that Sodom be spared.

Ultimately it is for the sake of Abraham’s Holy Seed, the one Righteous Man, Christ Jesus, that God’s righteous wrath and judgment against the entire world of sinners has been removed: poured out upon Christ Himself to atone for your sins, to make restitution, and to reconcile you to God.

You pray, then, to Almighty God, in the sure and certain confidence of the forgiveness of your sins.  Your debt has been fully paid and cancelled.  There is nothing that you owe.  The accusation against you has been silenced.  There is no longer any condemnation for you in Christ Jesus.

And it is most certainly true that He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for you, will also freely give you all good things in and with Him, in His Body and His Blood.  Even as He has taught you to pray, and has given you the very Words of Christ with which to pray, and has promised to hear your prayer and to answer you.  Amen. Amen. It shall be so.

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

17 July 2016

Living with Jesus in the House of Faith and Love

Is Martha not doing like the Good Samaritan in serving her neighbor, the Lord Jesus?

And is Mary not keeping the first and greatest commandment in loving the same Lord above all else and listening to His Word?

The home of Mary and Martha is the house of faith and love, the holy Christian Church — to which the Lord Jesus comes with His beautiful feet, shod with the Gospel of Peace.  There it is that He is given and received by mouth and ears, with hands and heart.

Martha labors while Mary listens.  There is a time and a place, a reason and a purpose for both activities.  These two sisters dwell together in one house and have one Lord whom they worship and serve by faith and love.  But dear Mary, here in this case, has the better part.  For she listens and receives in faith.  And, for all of that, she also loves much, because she is forgiven much, and because she lives by the Lord’s gracious Word and loving Service.

All of Martha’s labors depend upon the same Divine Service as Mary’s listening, and her labors serve the same Divine Service for the sake of faith, both her own and her sister’s.  That is the true point and purpose of all Christian service, which hangs upon and returns to the Service of Christ.

Martha’s labors of love depend upon the Lord’s.  Her service depends upon His Service.  Her words and works depend upon His Word of grace and His works of mercy and peace.  Her faith depends upon His faith and faithfulness, upon His preaching of forgiveness and free gift of life.

The same is true for you — as it was for Mary, too, who gladly listened to the Lord Jesus and so received the gifts He freely gave her.

If you strive to labor for your own life, as though your life depended on your own works and accomplishments, then you will never cease being worried and burdened by so many things, which you cannot bear and never will be able to bear.

Therefore, do not labor as though to achieve life for yourself, nor as though to gain your Lord and keep Him by your efforts.  But, as He has come to you in love, and as He comes to you still — as you have received Him, and as you do and shall receive Him, by His grace through faith in His Word — so, then, labor to extend His grace, mercy, and peace to your sisters and your brothers.

Do not suppose that you should not work, but do the work that God has given you to do.  Do not imagine that being justified by faith means that a Christian does nothing at all or has no job to do.

To be sure, the Lord has not called you to labor for your righteousness, life, and salvation.  But neither has He called you to laziness or negligence.  Neither idolatry nor idleness belongs to your Christian vocation.  Rather, six days shall you work, and the Seventh is your Sabbath Rest in Christ, sanctified for you by the Word of God and prayer.  Then leisure serves listening, and rest serves receiving, as the Lord your God speaks to you and provides for you all that is needed.

That is the purpose unto which you labor throughout the week, whatever your particular job and responsibilities may be, that you, your family, and your neighbors may rest in the Peace of Christ, in the preaching of His Gospel, in the eating of the Lord’s Supper at the Lord’s Table in the Lord’s House on the Lord’s Day.  That is to say, all your energy and effort derive from the strength and service you receive from that Holy Supper.  And then, by the same strength and service, you return again, in faith and love — along with your neighbor and your kin — to that Table of Christ Jesus.

Whether you cook or clean, sew or sell, teach or toil, write or read, or whatever you are given to do within your particular stations in life, it is all for the provision and support of that one thing which is truly needed, and a sacrifice of thanksgiving for that same free gift of God in Christ Jesus.  Everything aims at the preaching of His Gospel of forgiveness and at the administration of His life and His salvation in His Liturgy.  Consider that each day, no matter what your job may be.

That is how Father Abraham’s household and family live, and so also his daughters and his sons.  Like Mary and Martha, you receive the Lord Jesus, and you welcome Him into your home.  And then your house becomes an Emmaus, where the Lord is your Host, your Waiter, and your Meal.

It is here at His Altar that you are at home with Him.  As you sit here at His feet and recline here at His Table, you are the Lord’s Body and His Bride, because you receive the Lord’s Body and drink His Blood.  And you, in turn, serve the Lord in His Body — no less so than the ministers of Christ serve His Church — by loving and serving your neighbor in body and soul; by providing shelter and clothing, food and drink, medicine and care, and a place of safety, comfort, and rest.

So, then, faith does not labor, but love does not rest.  Faith receives and trusts what Jesus says and gives by grace.  And love is always working so that faith may have peace and rest in that gracious Sabbath of the Lord Jesus, even in the midst of hardship.  Which is to say that love is always working for the neighbor, so that the neighbor may rest in Christ Jesus by faith in His Gospel.

And it is one and the same Lord Jesus Christ who is actively present and at work in both faith and love, both for you and for your neighbor.

Father Abraham and Sister Martha welcome Him, receive Him, and serve Him with their loving hospitality.  But faithful Mary and even incredulous Sarah receive Him, as well, and they are served by His Word and His promise of salvation.

To each and all of them, and so also to and for you, whom the Lord has called and gathered to Himself by the preaching of His Gospel, by His Word and Holy Spirit, the Son of promise has indeed been given, who is the One Thing truly needed, which shall not be taken away from you.

Father Abraham washes His feet, and Sister Mary sits at His feet to listen to His preaching and teaching; and there she also anoints His feet with oil — for, yes, this is that very same Mary.

You also may wash the feet of Jesus and anoint them with oil, by loving His servants, His sisters and brothers, who serve you.  And there at His feet, beloved of the Lord, hear and heed His Word.  Listen to His preaching, and learn from His teaching.  Receive His hospitality.  Rest in His sure and certain promises.  Be at peace, and live in His love.  For here, with Him, you are at home.

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

03 July 2016

Before the Face of Christ Wherever He Goes

In the Old Testament, seventy-some persons of the family of Jacob entered the land of Egypt in the days of Joseph, thus bringing the people and presence of Yahweh into a new place.

Several centuries later, when Moses led the Children of Israel in the Exodus out of Egypt, he appointed seventy-some elders and ordained them with the Spirit of God to assist him in caring for the people.  For the Israelites were now the people of God on their way to the Land of Promise.

In later generations, it was commonly understood that seventy-some nations constituted all the tribes and languages of people in the entire world.  And so, for example, in popular tradition, a Greek translation of the Old Testament was known as the “Septuagint,” because it was said that seventy-some scholars — representing Jews from all the nations of the world — had come together to produce it.  In this way, the Word of God was rendered accessible to those around the globe.

Now, as Jesus makes a bee-line for Jerusalem, His face set resolutely on His Cross and Passion, His hand upon the plow with no thought of looking back, He makes provision for His Church on earth: He establishes His people and His presence in every time and place.  He causes His Word to be preached to all the nations, that those of every tribe and language might be re-constituted as members of His Body and as citizens of His Kingdom through Holy Baptism into His Cross and Resurrection.  And He shares His Table fellowship with sinners all over the world.

He has already called and sent His Twelve Apostles — the new Patriarchs of a new Israel, unique in their office and authority, superceding even the Prophets of the Old Testament because they see and hear what all the Prophets waited for.  But now He also provides for the continuation of the Apostolic Ministry by appointing and ordaining seventy-some others: seventy-some members of a new family, who go before the face of Christ into new places and territories; seventy-some shepherds of this growing flock, who lead the lambs and sheep of God into the Promised Land; seventy-some preachers of the Word, who bring the Gospel and the Sacraments to all nations.

Though not Apostles, per se, the Seventy(-two) are sent in the same way as the Apostles — in the Greek, they are “apostelled.”  And as such, they are the beginning of all those “Apostolic” Ministers of Christ who follow in the footsteps of the Apostles as pastors of the Church on earth, even to the close of the age.

To be “apostelled” in this way is to receive what we in our day call the “power of attorney.”  That is to say, a sent one speaks and acts with the legal and binding authority of the one who has sent him, as the official and personal representative of the sender.  So binding was this “apostolic” authority that the Jews had a saying: “The apostle of a man is equal to the man himself.”  So also the Word of Jesus this morning: “He who hears you, hears Me.”

Now, two things, in particular, are made absolutely clear and emphatic by St. Luke in this Gospel:

There is, first of all, the utter and complete nearness and “real presence” of Jesus Christ Himself in the preaching and Ministry of those whom He has sent, and so also the nearness and presence of the Kingdom of God in Christ.

And second, this Ministry of the Word of Christ is ever and always the way that He is received.  For He sends His preachers to every place where He Himself shall go.  Wherever the sent ones of Christ are not received, neither will Christ Himself remain.  Which is to say, that one does not and cannot have Christ apart from the preaching of His Gospel and the administration of His Sacraments in His Church by those whom He has sent in His Name and stead.

In contrast to the aspirations of the sinful human heart, it is not the world that draws near to God or enters into His Kingdom — not by good works, not by pious thoughts and feelings, not by sincere efforts, and not by any choices or decisions.  But the Kingdom of God draws near to the world in Christ Jesus, and Christ Jesus draws near to you in the preaching and Ministry of those whom He has sent.  You have only to receive this gracious gift of His presence.

Because the Lord has so chosen to come near to this world by way of His Apostolic Ministers, it is by all means necessary to do as He commands, that is, to beseech the Lord of the Harvest to send out workers into His Harvest.  And according to His promise, that even before we call He answers, the Lord responds immediately and begins to provide the workers He requires, in this case by sending the Seventy(-two).

They are sent, two-by-two, to do what Jesus does: To preach the presence of the Kingdom, to heal and perform miracles, and to speak “Peace” to houses where they are received with hospitality and table fellowship.  But like Jesus and the Twelve Apostles, the Seventy(-two) must also be prepared for the rejection of themselves and their preaching of the Kingdom of God.  For this rejection is a sign of the Holy Cross, which they too must carry, as Christ has carried it for them.

Not just what they say and preach, but who they are and Whom they represent — and what they do in the Name and stead of Jesus Christ — all of this is more than just a message or merely news and information.  It is the drawing near and the real presence of the Kingdom of God in Christ.

The focus of the Seventy(-two), and of pastors to this day, must be on this heavenly gift of grace — not upon sensational success or visible achievement.  For their names are written in God’s Book of Life, beside the names of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the chosen people of old.  And they are part of a pattern which stretches back to the Old Testament Prophets, but which is centered in Jesus, the Prophet par excellence, who testifies to God’s presence and salvation through preaching and teaching and miracles.  So also do His sent ones speak His Word and represent His Person in their Ministry, in accordance with His Word and promise.  As we confess, they act “in His stead and by His command,” and this is just as valid and certain, even in heaven, as by Christ Himself.

So to be “on the Way” of Christ, on the Way of His Cross, these men must travel with the same single-mindedness of purpose as Christ Himself on His journey to Jerusalem.  They are not to engage in trivialities, nor in the distractions and pursuits of the world, but to approach and serve the Lord’s people with His Peace.

Like the Twelve Apostles sent before them, the Seventy(-two) are not to carry any provisions for the journey.  Instead, they are given to bear and carry the Cross of Christ and His suffering.  For they represent emissaries who have forgotten the things of this world, who must depend upon the care and protection of others.  In fact, as Jesus indicated last week, they have renounced their homes and their families.  Their new kin are those who receive them and their word of Peace.  They are, therefore, not to rely upon themselves and their own resources, but to rest their entire hope on the Lord alone and on His Word of promise that nothing will by any means be allowed to hurt them.  Like the Levites of the Old Testament, their sole inheritance is the Lord Himself.

Not only are they New Testament Levites, the Seventy(-two) are sent as “lambs among wolves,” which implies the sacrificial character of their office and mission.  They will be rejected, as Christ Jesus is, and suffer the consequences of ushering in the Kingdom of God.  They are sent to carry out a cruciform Ministry of preaching and healing, for which they will be met with the hostility of the world and its violence.  Like their Lord Jesus, they will become the sacrificial victims of His Gospel, which calls for repentance and a reversal of the world’s values and priorities.  Hence, they are indeed sacrificial lambs, who are sent with full knowledge of the world’s enmity against them.  But in their proclamation they will show that they are not ashamed of Jesus and His Words.

Moreover, the Seventy(-two) carry in themselves, in their own bodies, Jesus’ redemption and His Peace.  For that Peace has come down from heaven in Jesus, and His Apostolic Ministers now bestow it in His Name and by His Word.  As His emissaries, they now represent Jesus.  And as Saint Paul would later write, concerning himself and others, they carry in their bodies the death of Jesus, so that His life may also be manifest in their bodies.

Or again, as we have heard Saint Paul describe so vividly in our Epistle this morning, those who are sent bear in their own bodies the marks of the Lord Jesus.  For those who are sent by Christ bear in themselves, in their conduct of the Ministry, the very Person of Christ Himself — to be received in faith by those who will receive them; but also to bear His Holy Cross and Passion in the rejection and persecution of those who will not.

So it is that our Lord provides for those situations in which His Apostolic Ministers will be rejected: “Whatever city you enter, and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, ‘The very dust of your city which clings to us we wipe off against you.’”

This is a highly serious matter, one not to be taken lightly.  For a Minister of Christ to shake off the dust from his feet against a town or congregation is to place evidence on record for the Final Judgment, that the Kingdom of God has come to that place, and it has been rejected!

It is for this very reason that the Seventy(-two) are sent out in pairs, two-by-two, in keeping with the Old Testament requirement of at least two witnesses for any legal testimony.  Not only as witnesses of Christ to those who receive them, but as witnesses in the Final Judgment against those who do not receive them.

Whatever the excuses might be, for those who thus reject the Apostolic Ministers of Christ, the judgment will be more severe upon them than it is against the wicked Old Testament cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Not only because this sin, above all others, is so terrible, but especially because it is the rejection of forgiveness and life and salvation in Christ Jesus.

But now, by the same token, let the Word of Jesus ring in the ears of those whom He has sent, and in the ears of those, like you, to whom His messengers are sent.  Twice He tells them to say that the Kingdom of God has come near.  For in the very preaching and healing of His sent ones, the Kingdom of God is already a present reality, and the kingdom of Satan is firmly defeated.

In the proclamation of the Seventy(-two), and so also in the proclamation of your pastor, week after week, the presence of Christ to redeem a lost and dying world is at hand — ensuring that His Kingdom will triumph — according to His promise, “He who hears you, hears Me.”  And those who thus speak for Christ should not fear any foe, even though Satan himself will assault them for their preaching of Christ and His Word, because Christ Jesus guarantees that nothing of Satan will by any means hurt them.

In the Old Testament Book of Job, Satan is revealed as the accuser of sinners before the judgment seat of God, the prosecuting attorney against mankind.  And sadly enough, we have all provided him with more than enough evidence to convict each and every one of us for all eternity.  But his case against you is thrown out, and he is thrown out, whenever Christ Jesus enters in as your Advocate and your Defender; for by the means of His Gospel–Word and Sacrament, He interjects Himself and His Cross between you and the judgment of God.  In such a case, Satan has no means or any way of harming you, nor of making any accusation against you stick.

Of course, as he did with Job (under the tolerance of God, who holds all things in His hands), Satan may attack your temporal circumstances, your earthly existence, and your body and life in this world, with all sorts of tricks and trials and temptations and crosses to bear, in an effort to get you to curse God and reject His Christ.  But do not fall for it or succumb to his trap.  It is a lie.

It is not the case that being a Christian will protect you from any and all harm and danger that might come your way in this life.  On the contrary, the Lord promises His people a share in His Cross and suffering.  But in Christ Jesus, no such harm and danger will ever put your soul and body under the judgment of damnation.  In Christ you are preserved for His salvation, ready to be revealed in the last day, but already come near to you in the preaching of His Gospel, in His Word of Absolution, and in His Body and Blood, given and poured out for you who are His own.  In fact, already by your Holy Baptism, your name has been recorded in the Lord’s Book of eternal life.

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