31 January 2016

He Comes with Authority to Love You

You are accustomed to thinking that the reason Jesus came, the purpose for which He came, was to die on the Cross and rise again.  And, to be sure, you are not wrong in confessing His Cross and Resurrection!  But, right along with that, Jesus says today that the purpose for which He has come is to preach the Kingdom of God in every city.  Indeed, He is still doing that very thing, even to this day and place.  He preaches the Kingdom of God in and with His Cross and Resurrection.

He is the Son of God, the Holy One, the Christ, anointed by His Father with the Holy Spirit at His Baptism in the Jordan River.  He has come down from heaven to earth, conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary for the life and salvation of the world.  And as He enters in with His Word, God in the Flesh, the Kingdom of God is at hand in His preaching and in His works of mercy.

His preaching has authority.  Even then the people recognized that and marveled at His authority over demons, high fevers, diseases of all kinds, and over all of creation.  Of course, He is the very Word of God by whom all things are made, so in that respect it is no wonder that all things must submit to His authority.  But in particular He comes with the authority that He obtains and receives from His Father by His fulfillment of the Law, by His innocent suffering and death for all of us.

He comes with this authority of His Cross and Resurrection to give Sabbath Rest to His people by the preaching of His Gospel, by the forgiveness of all their sins.  That is why it is His custom to be in the synagogue on the Sabbath Day.  And He is here today to give His peace and rest to you.

Now, the demons are quite right, on the surface of it, when they declare that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.  They cannot help but recognize Him, for He is indeed the Lord before whom every knee must finally bow.  In that sense, they do know who He is.  And yet, they do not know Him.

They are afraid of Him, and they recoil at His presence because He preaches the Kingdom of God.  And when He comes in with that preaching, demons are cast out, Satan is thrown down.  The devil cannot stand in the presence of Christ.  Demonic unclean spirits cannot speak when He says no.

The Lord Jesus sets Himself, His whole Body and Life, and His holy Word against sin, death, the devil, and hell.  He is the Enemy of the evil one.  For Jesus is the Holy One of Israel, the Holy One of God.  He must oppose all unrighteousness and every wickedness of thought, word, and deed.

But more powerful and more important than what He is against, is what He is for, and what He is.  In preaching the Kingdom of God in Himself, in His own flesh and blood, He preaches the Love of God.  Such love is the standard and the fulfillment of the entire Law, which He fulfills in love for you and for all people.  But such love as that is unknown to the devil and his minions.

Christ Jesus preaches the true divine Love, which is patient, and kind, and gentle.  Which does not think of itself but of others.  Which does no hurt nor harm to the neighbor, but helps and heals in whatever way it can.  He preaches not the infatuation, lust, and selfish, self-consuming hunger of sinful desire, which the world calls “love,” but the self-giving and self-sacrificing Love that does not get envious, jealous, or covetous, but concerns itself with caring for the neighbor in his need.

He does come, here and now, preaching this Love of God to you.  And the whole Law is summed up in this preaching.  Thus, in faith and love for God, you also are to love your neighbor as the Lord your God loves you in Christ.  For it is not only what He preaches, but also what He does.

So, then, what are you afraid of?  Why are you so threatened by this preaching of Christ Jesus?  What are the voices  whispering in your head that would make you want the Lord Jesus to go away and leave you alone?  Why are you so convinced that He has come to destroy you?

The pastor comes preaching the Kingdom of God, preaching repentance for the forgiveness of sins in the Name of Jesus Christ.  He preaches Holy Baptism, and so also the benefits and ongoing significance of your Baptism into Christ, that is, the daily dying and rising of repentance and faith in the Word of the Gospel.  To that end, he preaches Individual Confession & Absolution, and he teaches you this salutary practice from the Holy Scriptures and from the Small Catechism.

And you say, “Have you come to destroy us!?  What business do you have with us?  By what right do you say these things?  Would you weigh us down with this Confession?  Would you terrify us?  Would you have us expose our sins, and tell our secrets, and make ourselves weak?”

Why is it that you are so afraid of Jesus?  Why is it that you cower at His preaching and try to hide yourself away from Him and from His Word?  Why is it that you flee from the Kingdom of God?

The demons have it right when they say that Jesus is the Christ, the Holy One, the Son of God.  And they are quite right when they express their fear that He has come to destroy them.  For He has come to cast away the works of darkness, and He does preach against the devil, all his works, and all his ways.  He comes to defeat all the enemies of man, who would devour His dear children.

But the demons are wrong to place their terrible fears and vile accusations upon the lips of men.  And they are utterly wrong when they would have you utter such words, as though the Lord Jesus had come to destroy you.  Such unclean spirits of the devil would have you share their despair and drown in their deep darkness.  They would have you suffer their punishment and their judgment.

But Christ Jesus has not come to destroy men’s lives.  He has come to save them.  To save you.

It is hard for you to believe, because He does send His servants to preach His Law.  He sends men like Jeremiah to speak His Word with power.  He does not wink at your sins or call them cute.  He does not overlook your sins, and He will not permit you to continue in them, for they would in fact destroy you in body and soul.  He calls you away from your sins to live according to His Word.

You cannot get away from this preaching of the Law.  It is like a bronze wall, which towers over you with its strength.  You cannot get past it, go around it, or escape out from under its shadow.

Jesus preaches Love, as I have said, which is what the Law requires.  And you might well say and affirm that Love is good.  You certainly want to be loved.  But how often are you impatient and unkind?  And how often does your heart burn with jealousy and envy?  You do not rejoice with your neighbor when he prospers.  You covet what he has; you want it for yourself; and if you cannot have it, then you do not want your neighbor to have it, either.  You are easily provoked.  You take offense, and you give offense.  You use your words artfully to cut and to hurt, while guarding and protecting yourself.  You do not lift you hand to help, but to wound your neighbor.

Which is why, when Jesus preaches love — that you should love the Lord your God above all else, and, loving God, that you should love your neighbor — when He preaches that you should think not of yourself, but of others — when He calls you to believe and trust in Him, and to be content with what you have — you hear the accusation of the Law, and you know that you have failed.

You are afraid and become defensive when the Kingdom of God draws near in the preaching of
Christ Jesus, because your own little kingdom is threatened by His Word.  When He calls you to give up your sin, to give up your fornication of body and mind, to give up your drunkenness, to give up your filthy talk, and to give up the anger in your heart against your neighbor — when He calls you to give these things up, you are terrified that He would destroy you.  That He would hurt you.  That He would take away these sins that are so precious to you, to which you cling so firmly.

In this way, the Law of God and His preaching of repentance have their way with you and do put you to death — to yourself, to your sins, and to the world with its idols.  And yet, Christ performs this work, by His Word, for the sake of raising you up in His righteousness, sharing with you His own Life and Liberty, and sanctifying you with His own Holiness by His Gospel and His Spirit.

You see, He loves you.  It is in love that He beholds your trouble and misery.  It is in love that He beholds your sin.  And it is in love that He calls you to repentance, that you should live and not die.

Recall that man in the synagogue with the demonic unclean spirit.  Remember how he cried out, “Jesus of Nazareth, have you come to destroy us?”  Jesus commanded that demon to shut up and come out of the man, and as it came out the man was thrown to the ground, as you also may be thrown and brought to your knees when you are called to give up your sins.  It  was likely scary for the people around him, perhaps members of his family, fellow members of his congregation.  It was probably scary for him, as well, to be stripped of the spirit that had taken hold of him and driven him.  And yet, the demon came out at the Word of Jesus, and the man was left unharmed.

You, also, when you come and you confess your sins; when you expose them in the bright light of the Word of God; when you are honest with yourself and with the Lord, and you reveal your secrets and your shame to the servant of Christ Jesus — you are not destroyed but you are healed.  You are not simply crucified, dead, and buried, but you are also then raised up to newness of life.

It is in love that Christ Jesus comes.  It is in love that He preaches.  It is with love that He speaks.

And He is patient.  He is kind.  He is not jealous or boastful.  He is not arrogant or unbecoming.  He is gentle.  He does not think of Himself, but has emptied Himself and made Himself nothing.  In humble obedience He has gone to His death, so that you should have life in His Name.

It is in such love, therefore, that He comes preaching, not to destroy you, but to destroy the demons that possess you, and to shut up the accusations and the condemnation of the Law.  He comes and He preaches to give you peace, to give you rest, and to give you healing in your body and soul.

It is for this purpose that He has established His Church on earth, against which even the gates of death and hell cannot prevail.  You have heard that already in this Holy Gospel.  For Jesus got up and went out of the synagogue, and He entered the home of Simon Peter in Capernaum, where He preached His Word, where sinners heard Him and were healed, and they ate and drank with Him and shared His fellowship and life.  He entered in and healed Simon’s mother-in-law.  He rebuked her fever, as He rebuked the demons, and the fever left her; and she was raised up, no longer close to death, but alive and well and active in service to the Lord Jesus Christ and to her household.

So has He also entered in and made this house His Church, the home of forgiveness and healing in His Name.  For He Himself has borne away your sins.  He has kept the Law in every way, in love for His God and Father, and in love for you and all His neighbors.  And in such love for you, He has already suffered the consequences of your failure to love.  His Cross has atoned for your sins, and in His Resurrection He now raises you up — righteous and holy and reconciled to God.

As Christ lays hold of you in love, as He preaches repentance and forgiveness of sins, and as He calls you to and from the waters of your Baptism, to and from the Altar of His Body and Blood, He delivers you from the fear and bondage of death and the devil.  He sets you free to live and to love in peace, in confidence and hope, to serve His Church and your neighbor with a glad heart.

Though devils all the world should fill, all eager to devour you, do not be afraid.  Do not tremble in fear of them, but fear God and trust in Him, with whom there is forgiveness.  The bronze wall no longer towers over you as a fierce judgment of the Law.  It now surrounds you as a mighty fortress, within which you are safe.  Herein is your Peace with God and Sabbath Rest in Christ.  For here is the preaching of His Gospel, with which He loves you and gives you His own Life.

He does not simply preach and teach about Love, but He actually loves you by His preaching.  So take heart, and take comfort in the Word that you have heard this morning.  For He has said that He must keep preaching.  And He does keep preaching in every city, in every place, and also here.  It is for this purpose that He comes to you, that you should live with Him in the Kingdom of God, here at His Altar, and hereafter in the Resurrection of your body unto life everlasting.

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

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