15 April 2018

The Flesh and Blood Life and Salvation of Christ

Dear child of God, your Father loves you, and He has raised up His Servant, Jesus, from the dead for your salvation.  Therefore, you are justified in Him; your sins are forgiven; and you are saved for life with God.

Why, then, are you troubled and afraid?  Do you not know that Christ is risen, He is risen indeed, and death has been defeated?  There is nothing at all that can harm you any longer forever.  If you are in Christ Jesus, your sins are all forgiven.  You share in His divine Life and eternal Salvation.

Yet, you have your doubts and fears, your troubles and frustrations.  Your life in the world is scary and threatening, whereas the Word and promises of God seem so flimsy.  His gifts appear too small and insignificant to satisfy the deepest longings of your heart.  How often does the risen Lord Jesus seem more like a ghost or a spirit and feel more like a fairy tale than anything of solid substance?

Examine yourself.  Allow the Word of God to have its way with you.  And consider how is it with your heart and mind, with your spirit, soul, and body.  Are you at peace with God in your thoughts, words, and deeds?  Do you find comfort in the death and Resurrection of Christ Jesus?  Are you confident of His forgiveness?  Or do you alternately question and tremble in fear at His presence?

Fear not, little child, for your God and Father loves you.  And consider the character and content of His Love, that He has given His only Son to die for you, and that He has raised Him up again.

Everything that God has ever spoken or done has been accomplished and fulfilled in His Son, Christ Jesus.  In His flesh and blood, which He shares with you.  In His Cross and Resurrection, which He also graciously shares with you.  It has all happened in accordance with the Scriptures.  It is what God intended.  It is what He desired.  It is what He has done.  And all of this for you.

In handing Christ Jesus over to death, the Lord your God has abolished your death forever.  In sacrificing His Son upon the Cross, He has atoned for all of your sins; He has removed them from His sight.  He has reconciled you and all the world to Himself.  And in raising Christ Jesus from the dead, He declares that you also shall be raised to be like Him.  You shall not die but live.

But does all of this seem a bit too ethereal and too elusive, outside of your grasp, and frankly not much help, as you get up in the morning and go about your days, and as you drag yourself back to bed again at night?  After all, your life here on earth is quite tangible.  You can touch it and feel it, you can see it and hear it, and far too often you can smell it, whether you want to or not.  Your body hurts, it gets tired, it falters and fails.  You have duties and obligations that can’t be ignored.  Your days are challenging and difficult.  And by comparison to all of that, Christ seems so unreal, as though His Cross and Resurrection were a nice story, and all of that, but far away and long ago.  Meanwhile, here you are, deeply embedded in the flesh, in the world, surrounded by sin and death.

It is the case that, if you are too much “of the world,” if you know the world too well, then you will not recognize or know the Lord Jesus Christ.  In that event, even when He is standing right in front of you, you will not be able to see Him or receive Him.  For no one who sins knows or sees Jesus.

So, how is it with you?  Do your sins prevent you from seeing and believing the Lord Jesus Christ, though He is present with you in His Word of the Gospel and with His very Body and His Blood?

“If you persist in your sins, you cannot see Him.”  “But if you abide in Him, you have no sin.”  Yet, that Word of the Lord seems paradoxical.  It actually sounds as though St. John were contradicting himself.  Which is it?  Do you have sins, or do you not?  Can you see Jesus, or can you not?

In yourself, you are full of sin and death, from which you cannot free yourself.  And if you claim otherwise, then you’re a liar, and you accuse God of being a liar.  But if you are in Christ Jesus, then you have no sin, because it is forgiven.  It is removed.  The Lamb of God has taken it away.

If you are in Christ Jesus — which is where He calls you to be, and where you are by faith in His Gospel — then you are righteous, and you practice righteousness, as He Himself is righteous.  For He is your Righteousness.  So it is that you shall be like Him, and you shall see Him just as He is.

If you would know Him this way, if you would abide with Him, and if you would rest in His Peace, then remain here in His City, in the midst of His Jerusalem, that is to say, within His Church.  For here you are clothed by His Father with the Holy Spirit through His Word of the Gospel.

It is by the preaching of His Cross and Resurrection that He comforts you and lifts you up from your doubts and fears to hope and joy and gladness in Him.  That is the preaching of repentance for the forgiveness of all your sins in His Name, that you should believe and trust in Him, and live in Him by faith, with peace in your heart through the hope and promise of His Resurrection.

Such repentance, faith, and life with God are accomplished in your body and life by the preaching of the Cross and Resurrection, because it is by the Cross and Resurrection of Christ Jesus that He has accomplished everything for you.  His dying and rising are your repentance, faith, and life.

Repentance is not just in your heart and head.  It is not just feeling sorry for your sins.  It is to be crucified, dead, and buried with Christ, and raised with Him in His Resurrection.  It is to be united with Him in that which He has already done and accomplished for you and for all, in order to die to yourself, to your sins, and to the world, and brought into life with God in Christ Jesus.

All that He has done and accomplished for you in His own Body of flesh and blood, He does and accomplishes in you, in both your body and your soul, by and with the preaching of His Word.  For His Word is powerful and active; it does and gives exactly what He says.  Your sins are forgiven.  God no longer looks at them.  With Him they no longer harm you, because He does not count them against you.  Your sins harm you only when you abide in them, and not in Christ, your Savior.

Cling, then, to His Cross and Resurrection, to His forgiveness of sins, to His Life and Salvation, by clinging to His Word and the preaching of it — just as that lame man clung to Peter and John, not for silver and gold, but for the Word of Christ Jesus and the healing authority of His Name.

Cling to His Word, and call upon His Name, although He comes to you and deals with you by the way and means of His Cross, which neither the world nor your own fallen flesh can comprehend.  You embrace His Cross and the Word of His Cross, not by your own reason, wisdom, or strength, but only because Christ in His mercy opens your eyes, your ears, your heart, and your mind, to understand the Scriptures.  To understand the Holy Scriptures is to understand Christ, crucified and risen from the dead.  For the whole Bible is the Book of Christ Jesus, and He is the One who opens that Book to you.  Not to make you smart, but to make you alive, and to make you His own.

The preaching of His Cross does crucify you.  It puts you to death and buries you with Him.  But at the same time, His Word of the Cross also removes all of your sins and raises you up with Him.

And Christ Jesus preaches this Word to you in flesh and blood like your own.  For He was not only crucified in the flesh, and not only did He shed His precious blood for you upon the Cross, but He is also risen from the dead forever in His own Body of flesh and blood.  He has known the curse of your sin and death, He has suffered your blood, sweat, and tears in His Body, that you might receive and know His Life and His Salvation in your own body of flesh and blood forevermore.

So, then, He is not far distant and removed from you.  In fact, He and His Word and His Gifts of the Gospel are more tangible, more real, and far more permanent than the world around you.  He and His Gospel are likewise more real, more solid, and more true than your sins and the sins of your neighbors against you.  His Cross and Resurrection are decisive.  His crucified and risen Body is the dawning of the New Creation, from which and to which He preaches His Gospel to you.

He preaches to you as the One who has borne your sins in His own Body, who has carried all your sorrows and felt them in His heart, mind, and soul, as He sweated those great drops of blood in the Garden, and as He trembled at the prospect of bearing the sins of the world, including all of yours.

He has suffered all that you suffer.  He has undergone every temptation that you face.  He has died the death that you have deserved.  He has endured the damnation of hell that you have merited by your sins and unbelief.  And He has satisfied the entire Law of God, which would otherwise accuse and condemn you.  He has done it all.  Not from the safety of some far distant place, but up close and personal, in His own flesh and blood.  He knows hurt and hunger and thirst, and tiredness, and abandonment, and sorrow, just as you do in your life under the Cross, in this poor life of labor.

He has done and suffered everything for you, that He should be your faithful and merciful High Priest in all things pertaining to God.  He is your Advocate and Defender.  He has come close to you, He is here with you, and He has made Himself to be like you, so that you might be with Him where He is forever, and that you might be like Him in His Resurrection from the dead.

That is why He comes to be with you here.  That is why He stands before you here in His Church.  That is why He is gathered together in the midst of His disciples, where they are gathered together in His Name, that is to say, gathered by the preaching of His Word, and around His Word, and for His Word, and in His Word, for the eating and drinking of His Word in His own Flesh and Blood.

He is here with you in His Church, and He addresses Himself to you.  He speaks from His great heart of love to your own heart and mind, to your body, soul, and spirit.  In the midst of your pain and confusion and difficulty, He’s here talking to you.  And by His Word to you, He removes your burdens, and He grants you the peace and hope that are found in His Resurrection from the dead.

It is true that He does call you to repentance, and that is a challenging Word, because it’s not just a mental exercise.  He actually calls you to turn away from your sins, from the grudges that you’re bearing, from the gossip that you persist in sharing, from your selfishness and greed, from your quick temper and short fuse, from your impatience and anger, from your laziness and negligence.  He calls you away from all of that.

Dear child of God, do not sin, for Christ has died, and Christ is risen, He is risen indeed.  Alleluia!  Thus does He call you from your sins back to God, from the death of unbelief to the life of faith.  And He has opened that way of repentance, faith, and life, for you and all, by His Cross and in His Resurrection.  Do not complain that it is impossible.  He has already done it.  Repent, therefore, and believe the Gospel.  Stop pursuing your sins and pursue the righteousness of faith in Christ.

It is not “too good to be true.”  It is as sure and certain as the Resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead, as solid and steadfast and true as He is.  So it is that He reaches out to lay hold of you in both body and soul, your flesh and your bones, with His own holy Body and His holy, precious Blood.  All of this He does for you, that you should receive the fullness of joy and pleasures forevermore from His own hand, in your heart and mind, in your soul and spirit, and so also in your body.

As He ate with His disciples then, after He had risen from the dead, so does He graciously invite you to eat with Him here and now — indeed, to feast upon Him, the true Passover Lamb of God.

It is true that, for now, you cannot see the wounds in His Body, the marks of His Passion in His hands and feet and side.  You cannot see them with the eyes in your head.  But here you are fed from His hand, as He gives you to eat and to drink the Fruits of His Passion, His holy Body given for you, His precious Blood poured out for you.  Those Gifts are here, as Christ Himself declares.

He causes His Word to be preached to you here in this place, in this city, that you may know Him and receive Him in the Breaking of the Bread, and that you may know and love the Gifts Christ freely gives you by and with His Word.  So that, hearing and receiving, trusting and believing, you may abide in Him, and be purified in Him through His forgiveness, and raised up to newness of life in Him, both body and soul, in perfect health and strength, at peace with God forevermore.

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

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