24 August 2014

The House That Jesus Built

He is the Son of a carpenter, after all.  So it’s no surprise that Jesus is a Builder, too.  His father on earth (His guardian), St. Joseph of Nazareth, is described as a carpenter, or, more precisely, a craftsman, a master workman; and this St. Joseph, son of David, is a builder, who makes a house and home for his wife, St. Mary, and for her Son, the Lord Jesus.

His ancestor, the great King David, had wanted to build a house for the Lord, but the Lord did not permit that; for God would be the One to build a house for David, and to establish his throne and his kingdom forever and ever.  David’s son, King Solomon, was permitted to build the Temple in Jerusalem, where the Lord in mercy caused His Name and His Glory to dwell among His people Israel.  But to St. Joseph was given the privilege of making a house and a home for the incarnate Son of God.  Like father, like son, you could say that being a builder runs in David’s family.

His father on earth is the builder of a house for Jesus, and the true God and Father of this same Lord, Jesus Christ, is the Builder of the universe.  For He is the true and living God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth; the Maker of all things, visible and invisible; the Author and Giver of Life.  Not only did He bring everything that is into existence out of nothing by His Word, but in Wisdom He has crafted His entire Creation as a magnificent work of art, structured and arranged in a beautiful order and perfect harmony.  He makes of it a House of Life, and Light, and Love.

All of this the Father does by and through His Son, and out of Love for His only-begotten Son, the almighty and eternal Word of God who has become Flesh and dwells among us in His own Body.

This incarnate Son of the Living God, great David’s greater Son, conceived and born of St. Mary — He is the One who has come down from heaven to establish and to build His House, His Church on earth, to be a place of safety, peace, and Sabbath rest for you, and for His people of all nations.

In order to do so, He has first of all established the Rock foundation for His Church in Himself, in His own Body, in His human flesh and blood, in which the Name and the Glory of God abide.

But, oddly enough from the perspective of human wisdom, the solid foundation of His Church is found in and with His Cross and Passion.  It is established by His death, by the shedding of His blood, and it is therefore hidden from the eyes of the world in His crucified flesh.  It appears to be foolish and scandalous, and is seemingly not a firm foundation at all, but an absolute catastrophe.

Here stands the Font before your eyes, the hymn has testified, and the Lord’s Altar here recalls the sacrifice of Christ; as we also confess and behold in the crucifix by the Font and above the Altar.  So, yes, you can see these things, but you cannot see the divine Truth that is hidden within them.

The strength and beauty of the Church’s one Foundation is apparent only to the eyes of faith, and only by the revelation of the Father through His Word and Spirit in the Ministry of the Gospel.

It is not unlike the way the same Lord God, Yahweh Sabaoth, once established a household and family and a people for Himself by calling Abraham and Sarah and starting with them, when they  were so very old.  Sarah’s womb and Abraham’s body were “as good as dead,” the Bible says.  And yet, the Lord did as He had sworn to do, even after many years of waiting, when it seemed as though He had forgotten or was failing to keep His promise.  In their old age, a son was born to Abraham and Sarah, and from him a family, a nation, a holy people, and a chosen generation.

In fact, the Son of God has taken His own flesh and blood precisely from that household and family of Abraham and Sarah.  And He has given Himself over to death and the grave, as Abraham was once prepared to sacrifice his own beloved son, Isaac, as the Lord commanded him to do.

So the Glory of God in Christ is deeply hidden and thoroughly foolish in the eyes of the world.  Not only that, but He and His Glory are hidden from your own outward perception, and are foolish to the reason and sensibilities of your fallen flesh.  But that hidden Glory of the Cross of Christ — the foolish preaching and ministry of this one thing, Christ the Crucified, for the forgiveness of sins — that is the firm foundation of the Church, established by God on earth as it is in heaven.

For this Jesus, the Son of Man, truly is the Son of God in the flesh: Begotten of the Father from all eternity, but conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary in time, the Seed of the Woman.

And He is the Christ, the Lord’s Anointed, because He has been anointed by the Father with the Holy Spirit, in His own Body of flesh and blood (just like yours), “for us men and our salvation.”  Anointed by the Spirit to go the way of the Cross for each and all of us, poor miserable sinners, the children of Adam, who are fallen, mortal creatures, subject to death and the grave because of our sins.  Anointed to bear all of your sins, and to suffer your death and damnation in your stead.

Thus, from the waters of His Baptism in the Jordan River to His death upon the Cross, He journeys in and out of Hades, into heaven.  In love, He voluntarily subjects Himself to humility, weakness, suffering, and death, and thereby offers Himself as the once-and-for-all Sacrifice of Atonement for the sins of the world.  And then, just as He trusted, He is raised up in Glory by His God and Father.

As He is the One who dies for you, bearing all your sins and death in His own flesh and blood, so it is that, in His bodily Resurrection from the dead, you also are raised from death to life in Him.

This Cross and Resurrection of Christ Jesus, the incarnate Son of God, is the Key to the Kingdom of Heaven, the Key that is given to His Church on earth by the Ministry of the Gospel in His Name and stead, which is to say, by His own all-encompassing authority in heaven and on earth.

In the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of sins in His Name; in the washing of the water with His Word in Holy Baptism; in the spoken Word of Holy Absolution; and in the giving of His Body and the pouring out of His Blood in the Holy Communion — one-and-the-same Gospel of the Cross and Resurrection is the Key that opens the Kingdom of Heaven to all believers in Christ.

For the Lord your God is exceedingly rich in His grace and mercy toward you, and toward the entire household and family of His Church, in that He gives you the Gospel in each and all of these ways.  Each in its own unique way, these means of grace all give to you, and work in you, the life-giving fruits and benefits of the Cross of Christ, and so also raise you from death to life in Him.

This divine life that is yours in Christ Jesus is a hidden life, as surely as the divine Glory of His Cross is a hidden Glory.  You can’t see it or feel it in yourself, in your body and behavior, except by faith in the Word and promise of Christ; like Abraham and Sarah awaiting the promise of a son, while their already old and worn out bodies continued to age.

But as God Himself is true, and His Word is true, your newness of life in Christ Jesus is as sure and certain as your Holy Baptism, which is as sure and certain as His own Cross and Resurrection.  So is Holy Absolution in His Name, by His divine command, as sure and certain as the Lord your God Himself, because Christ your dear Lord thereby speaks to you and deals with you Himself.

And in the Holy Communion, the same Lord Jesus Christ gives to you His Body and His Blood, for the forgiveness of all your sins and the strengthening of your faith, yes, and so also for the new life of your body and your soul in Him, unto the Resurrection and the Life Everlasting.

This Holy Apostolic Ministry of the Gospel, which continues to this day and place, even here and now, exceeds that of the holy Prophets, and even that of St. John the Baptist, because Christ the Lord has come in the flesh, and has conquered the gates of Hades by His own Cross and Passion.

He has stormed the gates of Hades by His own death, and they have not prevailed against Him in His Resurrection from the dead.  Neither are they able to prevail against His Church, because it is founded on the Rock foundation of His Gospel.  Nor will the gates of Hades prevail against you, who live and abide within His House upon the Rock.  The box in which your dead body will be buried, the hole in the ground in which you will be laid to rest, will not be able to contain you or keep you from rising in glory on the day of the resurrection of all flesh.  For Christ has blown the gates of Hades off their hinges.  He has undone the grip of the grave from the inside out.

By His innocent suffering and death upon the Cross, and by the shedding of His holy and precious blood, Christ has atoned for the sins of the world.  Therefore, death is defeated, as the Resurrection of Christ Jesus has openly declared before the whole of creation.  Satan is stripped of his weapons against you, because the Law of sin and death has been fully satisfied by the righteous Son of God.  Indeed, the whole world is reconciled to God in Christ Jesus, and all of creation, the heavens and the earth, are not only restored but gloriously perfected in His crucified and risen Body.

So, death, take that!  You’re done.  You could not hold my Lord Jesus, and you shall not hold me.

In the Body of Christ Jesus, a new and better Garden of Eden has been planted and is cultivated.  His flesh and blood are the Paradise of God, His Cross the Tree of Life in the midst of the Garden.

In this Body of Christ, crucified and risen, the Kingdom of Heaven is established and built on earth in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church, which is the household and family of God.  And now the Ministry of the Gospel — the Ministry of the Confession of Christ Jesus — gives to you a place in His House, in His Church, and in His Kingdom, here in time on earth, and hereafter for eternity in heaven.  From the one Man, Jesus Christ, who was crucified, dead, and buried, see how the Lord has filled the whole earth with His children: Not slaves, but sons of God in Christ!

It is because you are a child of God, a son of God in Christ by virtue of your Baptism, that you are free to give your body and life as a sacrifice of faith and love, as Christ has given Himself for you and for all people by His Sacrifice upon the Cross.

Even as you are poured out for others — and even if you perish from this world — your true and everlasting life and your permanent place remain safe and secure with Christ in God.  You remain “at home” with Him, even on that long, hard journey to the far country of death and the grave.

Hades cannot have you, no more than it could hold onto Christ, your Savior.  Whether you live, or whether you die, your life remains with God in the House that Jesus built.  The rains may fall, the floods may rise, and the winds may blow against that House, but it will not fall, for it is built upon the Rock.  Already here on earth, the forgiveness and life and salvation of Christ Jesus are given and done for you in heaven, and that shall not by any means be taken away from you.

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

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