12 April 2017

The Gifts Christ Freely Gives in Love for Us

Little children, see what love the Father has for you, that He has given His only-begotten Son for you, and handed Him over to His death upon the Cross.  And see how the Son of God loves you, by giving Himself for you, and by serving you at His own expense.

But no, of course you cannot see it, can you?  Not with your eyes.  It is with your ears, first of all, that you are a disciple of Christ Jesus.  You seek Him, but you are not able to find or follow Him, except by the hearing of His Word to you.  Even at that, it is a hard Word to understand, and it is harder still to bear it and believe it, to trust what Jesus says, and to live according to it in this life.

Nevertheless, it is with His Word that He has cleansed you in the waters of your Holy Baptism.  And it is with His Word that He gives to you His Bread to eat, which is His Body, here at His Table.  So, then, receive what He gives to you here, but do not take it lightly or for granted.

It is indeed a risky business to eat bread with Jesus.  Not only because the world will hate you for it, and it will seek to kill you, as it seeks to kill Him, and as our brothers and sisters in Egypt have suffered earlier this week.  And not only because Satan will rage the more fiercely against you and press you that much harder.  But it is risky to break bread and to drink with Jesus at His Table, especially because you are thus presented with God Himself, His Glory and His Life, in such a way that you may actually receive Him to yourself, into your mortal hands and mouth and body.

As the Lord your God entrusts Himself to you, and as He gives Himself to you in this way, take care that you do not betray Him.  Do not lift up your heel against the One who kneels down to wash your dirty feet, this Servant of the Lord who humbles Himself to serve you with such love.

Do not deny this dear Lord Jesus Christ with the same mouth that has received the Bread from His hand, which is His Body given for you.  Do not curse, swear, lie, or deceive, neither against Him, nor against your neighbor, with the same lips and tongue that have received His Cup of Salvation.

Do not seek a greater glory for yourself, nor strive for any other greatness in your body and life, but bear and carry His Cross in faith toward God and in love for your neighbor.

If you would compete with your fellow disciples, then outdo one another in such love, as God in Christ has loved you.  Live to the glory of His Holy Name, as He has lived for you, and died for you, and ever lives to make intercession for you before the throne of God.  And if you must boast, then boast of this dear Lord Jesus Christ, who has given and poured Himself out for the many.

What would you buy or sell, or spend or give — what would you do or sacrifice — in order to be with this Lord Jesus where He is?  To follow Him, wherever He goes, into eternal life with God?

It is not for you to purchase or to achieve by any machinations or efforts of your own.  It is for you to hear His Word, to receive His gifts, and to follow Him by faith in His Cross, reconciled to God the Father by His Blood.  It is for you to live by His grace, and to love your neighbor graciously.

Are you afraid that you will falter or fail, as Simon Peter did?  Or, what is worse, do you fear that you will be enticed by the devil and fall from grace altogether, like Judas Iscariot?

Child of God, examine your heart and confess your sin, but do not look to yourself.  Look rather to Christ Jesus by listening to Him, to the teaching of His Word and the preaching of His Gospel.  Hear what love He has for you!  Not because you are so good or so faithful; for you are neither of those things.  But He is good, and He is faithful, and in His love for you He does not falter or fail.

Even when you were estranged from Him — at enmity with Him in your unbelief, idolatry, and sin — He handed Himself over to death, and gave Himself for you on the Cross, and shed His holy, precious Blood for you, in order to redeem you from sin and death, and to reconcile you to God.

You are forgiven by His Sacrifice.  Your doubts and denials are healed in His wounds.  If you have even gone so far as to betray Him, to sell Him out for cash, to question His sanity or wisdom, or to deny that you know Him — Repent, and believe the Gospel, the forgiveness of all your sins.

Dear friend of God in Christ, recline here at His Table in peace.  For the Bread that Jesus gives you is not given to be a threat, but as a promise and as the most sacred Gift.  Receiving it, you receive Christ Jesus Himself, that you should follow Him, even through death, into the life everlasting.  Reclining here at His breast, you rest in the bosom of the Father who loves you for Jesus’ sake.

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

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