08 March 2020

The New Birth and New Creation in Christ Jesus

Abram’s body was as good as dead, and he was still without children in his 90s.  His barren old wife Sarai’s womb was likewise dead and dying.  Their bodies, like yours, were from the dust and returning to the dust.  Born of Adam’s flesh and blood, they were subject to the sin and death of their father Adam.  Such is the legacy of fallen man.  From sire to seed the curse descends.

It is the same for you, as well.  You have received it from your parents, and you pass it on to your children (if you have any).  No amount of intelligence, strategy, hard work, luck, or wealth will break that cycle of sin and death.  No matter what your success may be, it will come to an end.

As you face the future, then, what hope do you have?  What is the point in going forward, going anywhere at all, in doing or attempting anything?  What does it matter, and why do you bother?

If your aim and hope were for this life only, that would be a most pitiable shame.  Whether it be an education, a job, a spouse and family, or fame and fortune — whether you manage to achieve such goals or fail at them all — it would make no difference in the end.  It would not matter.  Not only that, but the rest of the story would be worse than pointless, separated from God in the eternal darkness and despair of ongoing death: existing without life or light or love forevermore.

Except that isn’t all He wrote or spoke.  That isn’t the whole story, because the Author and Giver of Life has created you in Love, in order to give you His own Life in body and soul, now and forever.  And in that same divine Love, He causes the Light to shine upon you by His Word.

So, then, His Word is all that Abram and Sarai had when they set out from their home and family to a new place they had never seen before.  On a wing and a prayer, you might say, but the Lord’s promise came first and led them forward.  “I will surely be with you and bless you,” He pledged.  And not only that, but the Lord would bless the whole world in the Seed of Abram.  For the old man and his barren old wife would have children, not according to the power and promise of their frail and perishing flesh, but according to the Word and promise of the Lord their God.

It doesn’t sound like much to go on.  In fact, it seems like less than nothing at all.  So, too, when the promised Seed of Abram finally comes — the Word of God made flesh of our flesh and blood of our blood — He doesn’t look so promising, either, especially not when He arrives at the goal of His coming.  For the long-awaited Son is born to die.  The beloved and only-begotten Son will be sacrificed upon the Wood of His Cross.  What sort of hope is that?  Certainly not one that depends upon you or your understanding, that is for sure.

The Light shines in the darkness, but the darkness cannot comprehend it.  The shadow of death thus appears to overwhelm the Light and snuff it out.  Men are born, they grow old, and they die.  Or, as often as not, they do not even grow old — nor do they get a second childhood.  However long or short the days may be, the nighttime descends, and all is dark and cold.

And yet, the darkness is not able to prevail against the Light of the Word, nor overcome it.  True, you cannot see where it is coming from, nor can you tell where it is going.  But listen, anyway, to the Voice of the Spirit, which is the Word of God the Father, spoken to and for you by His Son.

This is the very Word by whom all things were made out of nothing, by whom and for whom all things exist and are upheld.  He is the Light of the world, who even now calls forth the Light out of the darkness.  For He is the Life of all mankind, who brings forth Life out of death.  And He has come down from heaven to earth, into the flesh and blood of man, into the depths of sin and death.  Not because there is no hope, but precisely to fulfill the promise of His Father, and to become the Blessing — that is, the “Good Word” of God — by whom all the nations are blessed.

He comes to make all things new, to bring about a New Creation by the new birth of water, Word, and Spirit.  That’s not a “second try,” nor is it a “plan B.” It is the actual completion of the Lord’s original intention in the Person of the Incarnate Son.  In His Body of flesh and blood, conceived and born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, He is the Image and Likeness of God in which you are raised up from the dust of the earth to newness of life.  By His Voice, by His speaking of the Gospel, God the Father breathes the Holy Spirit into your mortal flesh, in order to give you His own immortal Life in both body and soul.  So does He shine the Light upon you in divine and holy Love.

That you might believe in Him — and, believing, have abundant Life in His Name — St. John the Baptist was sent to preach the Holy Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins, and St. John the Apostle was sent to preach and to publish the Holy Gospel.  By the same Word and Sacrament, even to this day and place, the Holy Spirit also testifies that Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of Mary, crucified and risen from the dead, is the Christ, the Son of the Living God; that He has come in the flesh to save you from sin, death, the devil, and hell.  And we know that His testimony is true.

It is in love for His only-begotten Son that God the Father has created you, and in love for His Son that He has given Him to save you.  And it is in love for His Father that God the Son has come to bring about this great salvation, that you might live with God in Love, in the Spirit of the Father and the Son.  He has come down from heaven, from the bosom of the Father, St. John testifies, and He has become flesh, in order to reveal the Father to you — to manifest the fulness of divine grace and truth in Himself.  As the Lamb of God who takes away your sin and bears it in His Body to the Cross, He has come to redeem you from sin and death.  And as the beloved and well-pleasing Son, He has come to raise you up and to bring you into His own relationship with God the Father.

So it is that you are begotten of God and born from above through this one Lord, Jesus Christ.

By His Incarnation, by His becoming flesh for us, and by His Baptism in the Jordan River, the Word and Spirit of God are now to be found in the flesh and blood of this Man from Nazareth.  For His Body is the very Word of God, and the Holy Spirit rests and remains upon Him forevermore.

As the one true God has thus become true Man, so does He also reveal and give Himself to you in earthly means.  And so does He pour out His Spirit upon you through earthly means of grace, even as the Spirit reveals and gives the same Christ Jesus to you in His Word and Sacraments.

Significantly, the Christ who is thus revealed to you, who gives Himself to you and pours out His Spirit upon you, is the very One who is crucified, dead, and buried for you.  Such are the depths of His Love for you, and, at the same time, the heights of His divine Glory as the Lord your God.

He comes down from heaven to raise you up by His Cross, to bring you to the Father in His own crucified and risen Body.  He descends in order to ascend, in order to bring you back to God in and with Himself.  It is thus by the way of His Cross that you now see and enter the Kingdom of God.

As strange as it may seem, the Cross itself — that is to say, the lifting up of the Son of Man in His death by Crucifixion — is already His mysterious and hidden exaltation, the exercise of His Glory as the Son of God, and His return to the Father in perfect faith and perfect love.  It is the voluntary sacrifice of God, whereby He wins the victory of life and salvation for you and all the nations.

It is a striking and mysterious paradox, which you cannot understand until you are enlightened by the Spirit of Christ through the catechesis of His Word.  For He is lifted up on the Wood of the Cross in the form of those fiery serpents — that is to say, in the likeness of the very sin and death which are killing you — in order to save you from those serpents and their poisonous sting.

The Resurrection of the same Lord Jesus Christ is therefore also your rescue from serpent, sin, and death, your reconciliation with God the Father, your righteousness, and your salvation.  It is the New Creation of God by His Word — in the Flesh of His Word, crucified and risen — out of the nothingness of sin and death.  It is the Light of God, shining in the darkness of sin and death, which He also causes to shine forth in your heart by the preaching of this Holy Gospel.

The Resurrection of Christ Jesus from the dead is Righteousness and Life for all who believe and are baptized into Him.  It is the power and authority by which you are born again of water and the Spirit — a Sign as miraculous as the conception and birth of Isaac to Abraham and Sarah, and as marvelous as the conception and birth of Jesus Himself to the Blessed Virgin Mary of Nazareth.

Thus are you begotten and born of God in body and soul through faith in Christ Jesus.  And such faith is itself conceived and born in you by His Word and Spirit, by repentance and forgiveness of sins; which is to say, by the Cross and Resurrection of Christ Jesus, not only for you, but in you.

You are put to death in order to be reborn to newness of life.  You are buried with Christ by your Baptism into His death, in order to be raised with Him in His Resurrection unto Life everlasting.

So it is that, even now, though you are daily being put to death by the Mystery of His Cross, you are also being lifted up and offered to God the Father as a sweet-smelling sacrifice in Christ Jesus.

As you thus live and die on earth by faith in Him — and as He thus lives and abides in you by His Word and Spirit, with His own flesh and blood — so it is that your flesh and blood, your body and your soul, your heart, mind, and spirit, likewise ascend before God and live in His Presence.

Wherever you go, be it near or far, the Lord goes with you by His Word; and you live with Him by faith in His Word.  And by His Word and promise you are blessed, no matter come what may.  Has He not given you the guarantee and pledge of these heavenly things in His own earthly things, in His holy Body and precious Blood, given and poured out for you, for the forgiveness of sins?

If you perish, you perish, but only from this mortal life on earth; for whether you live or die, you are the Lord’s, in whom you shall not perish but live forevermore.

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

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