Saturday, March 30, 2013


"The Morning of the Resurrection" by Edward Burnes-Jones
The text for today, The Resurrection of Our Lord, is our Gospel, Luke 24:1-12, which has already been read.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!
There’s something that I noticed about our text this year that I hadn’t thought about before.  That happens to pastors once in a while.  I’m sure it happens to you, too.  Something new jumps out of God’s Word at you that you’ve never seen before.  Well, for me, on this text, it was one question: Where are the men?  I mean the disciples… the Twelve… the ones who followed Jesus and were taught by Him for those three years?  Why are they hiding in the locked room?  I know, hindsight is 20/20, but should all of this really have caught them by surprise?
St. Luke tells us of a least three occasions on which Jesus had told His disciples that He would be killed and rise from the dead.  In Luke 9:22, Jesus said: “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.”  In Luke 9:44, Jesus said: “Let these words sink into your ears: The Son of Man is about to be delivered into the hands of men.”  And in Luke 18:31-33, Jesus became more specific: “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.  For He will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon.  And after flogging Him, they will kill Him, and on the third day He will rise.”
The cross and resurrection are the very purpose for which He came.  Jesus makes that very clear.  But somehow they missed the point.  After all, if they had understood completely what Jesus said the picture would have been quite different, wouldn’t it?  If they really understood, they would have been standing there outside the tomb with Jesus’ clothes waiting for Him to walk out of the grave. 
Imagine the story: “On the first day of the week, at early dawn, all of Jesus’ disciples went to the tomb, taking Jesus’ clothing with them.  When they arrived they rolled the stone away from the grave and waited for Jesus to come out.”
Well, that’s quite a different story isn’t it?  And in fact, St. Luke tells us that each time Jesus shared the cross and the resurrection with them, they didn’t understand what He was talking about.  It was concealed from them and they were afraid to ask Him what He meant.  They did not grasp what was said.  Even though Jesus said, “Let these words sink into your ears…” they didn’t let them sink into their ears, and so those words did not penetrate their hearts and minds, either.
But the women weren’t much better.  They didn’t really get it either.  They didn’t come to see a living Jesus, but to anoint a dead body.  That’s why they took the spices that they had prepared.  They didn’t remember.  All Jesus’ followers—the men and the women—didn’t remember the words that Jesus spoke to them. 
Oh, they believed in bodily resurrection.  They believed that God would raise all the dead at the end of time.  They just didn’t expect a resurrection now.  It’s not that Jesus was speaking in code or something.  What He said was clear enough.  Even His enemies caught it.  Sure, they twisted His words completely in their kangaroo court, but they knew what Jesus was really saying.  They heard Him say that He would raise this body; that’s why they sealed His tomb and posted the guards.  They didn’t want anyone to take His body and say that He had risen from the dead.  No, it’s not that Jesus’ words were unclear—just impossible to believe.
Now, before we look down our noses at them, let’s try to put ourselves in their sandals.  After all, you and I have the benefit of knowing how the story ends.  We are not living it in the moment.  So let’s try to see it from their perspective.
Have you ever gone to a funeral and expected the deceased to get up out of his or her casket?  No!  Death is unforgiving in that way.  When it gets a hold of you, you stay dead.  That’s why it hurts so much for the ones left behind. 
When our loved ones die, we can’t talk to them anymore.  We can’t hug them anymore. We can’t laugh and cry with them.  We can’t hear their voice or look into their eyes.  We can’t share new memories with them.  And it’s not just that they are distant, far away.  There’s a hole where they were, a big empty space that nothing can fill.  That’s death.  That’s the pain it causes.  That’s the finality of it.  That’s what the disciples were feeling on Easter morning.  They didn’t expect Jesus to do what He said He’d do.  After all, He was dead.  How could they believe that He would rise?  That’s impossible!
That is exactly the point.  What God does in Jesus is so amazing, so much against the way that we think, that it just doesn’t seem possible.  Even when we hear it spoken very clearly we just say, “Now that can’t be true.”
It’s right here.  We see the women and the disciples doing that very thing.  The women go out there before dawn and find an empty grave.  They are perplexed.  They don’t believe it can possibly be true.  “Why would the body be gone?  This is where we saw them put Him.  He should be here.”
But thank God, He does things in ways that we don’t understand.  Right there in the middle of their doubt, He sends His angels speak to them.  And as the women were frightened and bowed their faces to the ground, the angels say: “Why do you seek the living among the dead?  He is not here, but has risen.  Remember how He told you, while He was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified and on the third day rise.” 
And then it happens.  God’s Word works in the women’s hearts.  They remembered what Jesus said.  Don’t underestimate that word “remember.”  It’s the difference between being in the dark and being in the light.  It’s the difference between understanding and not understanding.  It is in fact Jesus’ words of promise that are spoken to them.  It’s God’s Word that creates faith and strengthens faith.  And that Word has the power to bring about that which it calls for: “Remember!” 
So the women run back and tell the rest of the disciples: “Christ has risen!”  Only the disciples did not say “He has risen indeed!”  They said, “That’s crazy!”  Or words to that effect.  Still Peter was curious enough he had to go and check it out for himself.  He ran to the tomb.  Saw with his own eyes the strips of linen that had wrapped Jesus’ body.  But he was still not able to figure it all out, to reconcile it in his mind.  He went home marveling at what had happened. 
It takes Jesus Himself to get it all sorted out.  “Peace to you!”  He said, appearing in the upper room.  When they still disbelieved for joy, He reminded them, “These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.”  Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
So, what this mean for you and me?  Well, what about your doubts?  Of course you have them.  Sometimes while you are standing next to the casket, you wonder if Jesus can really raise your loved ones from death.  And sometimes you really are afraid of your own death.  I know you’ve had feelings like those, because I’ve had them myself.  Just like all of God’s people you wrestle with doubt.  At the same time you know that Jesus did rise from the dead.  You know His promises are true.  So what do you do in times like this? 
Remember!  Remember what God has told you!  Remember what God has given you!  Remember who God has made you!  Remember what God has promised you!  In Holy Baptism you were connected to Jesus in His life and death and resurrection.  You were made a child of God and given His holy name.  It’s the very first thing we remembered today, isn’t it?  “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” 
That name in the Invocation is the very name you received in your Baptism.  That name placed upon you gives you the right and privilege to come into God’s holy presence.  In that washing with water and God’s Word, God gave you faith to believe.  What you are remembering is that Jesus’ death is for you for the forgiveness of your sins, including your sins of doubt.  You are also remembering that just as Christ is raised from the dead, you too will be raised from the dead.  Jesus is the firstfruits of the resurrection.  He is the new Adam, as Adam brought all of humanity into sin and death, so Christ brings humanity into justification and life.  As in Adam all die, so in Christ will all be made alive.
This is the Christian hope.  Not that Jesus will fix all our problems or exempt us from the suffering of this life or put a Band-Aid on every hurt that comes along.  St. Paul is clear: “If in this life only we have hoped in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.”  And what a pitiful lot we would be if all the Jesus was for us was some kind of heavenly invisible Friend who bails us out of trouble every time we mess up, a Life Coach who help us make better decisions in life.
The empty, open tomb gives us much more to hope.  Christ is risen, and in Him the dead will rise!  Our last and greatest enemy, death itself, lies conquered, vanquished under the cross-bruised heel of Jesus.  The old icons of the resurrection always show Christ standing on the grave, pulling up Adam and Eve from their tombs.  The reign of death and grave is ended; the reign of Jesus Christ has begun.  
When the women and Peter stepped into that open, empty tomb they were eyewitnesses of the new creation breaking into the old.  The old has gone, the new has already come.  The darkness of death is ended, the sun has risen and the morning sky is bright with resurrection.
That’s why when you stand at the edge of death in doubt; you also stand there in faith.  That’s why we sing hymns like “Jesus lives! The victory’s won!” “Christ the Lord is risen today! Alleluia!” and “I know that my Redeemer lives.”  Those hymns are the words of faith, spoken in the face of doubt.  Those hymns are hymns of remembering that what God says is true.  In the face of doubt, in the face of death, don’t look inside yourself for some kind of inner strength!  Remember instead God’s Word of promise to you in Baptism.
Need more?  I do!  In the face of doubt seek the Lord where He may be found.  Here on this altar, the risen Christ comes again.  He says to you, take the bread that is His body and eat it.  He says to you, take the wine that is His blood and drink it.  “Do it and remember me!” Jesus says.  What you are remembering is that Jesus’ blood shed and His body broken on the cross are for you, for the forgiveness of your sins.  His Sacrament of the Altar is the medicine of immortality, a pure, wholesome, comforting remedy that grants salvation and comfort, that cures you and gives you life in both soul and body.   
Through His Word and Sacraments, the risen and ascended Lord Jesus is with you right now and always with His promise of your own resurrection.  “See My hands and My feet, that it is I myself.  Touch Me, and see,” Jesus said to His disciples that first Easter night.  Today, Jesus puts Himself right inside you so you can have no doubts about His promise to you.  And right here (in your hands and mouth and ears) He gives you faith to believe. 
So our story is a bit different now.  Here we are standing at the mouth of the open grave of Jesus Christ.  The Lord Has not abandoned His soul to Sheol.  He has not let His Holy One see corruption.  We do not seek the living among the dead.  We do not mourn as those who have no hope.  We remember.  We remember Christ’s Word.  We remember His promise.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed! 
And because Christ died and is risen for you, you are forgiven for all of your sins.  In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Jesus' Last Prayer

Click here to listen to this sermon.

"Crucifixion" by Michelangelo

The text for today is Luke 23:44-46:
It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed.  And the curtain of the temple was torn in two.  Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit!”  And having said this He breathed His last.
This is the Word of the Lord.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
It may not be the posture for prayer that first comes to mind.  The Son of Man cannot prostrate Himself with His face to the ground in the custom of the ancient Hebrews or modern day Muslims.  He cannot kneel at the altar railing or by the side of His bed like you or I might.   He can bow His head and close His eyes, but He probably can’t see much already with the blood weeping from the pricks of His thorny crown.  And He can’t fold His hands together like many of us teach our children to do.  You see, both of His hands are stretched out as far as they can reach.  And since He’s nailed in place to the cross, He can’t go away to a desolate place by Himself as is His custom, though He’s certainly never been more alone, even surrounded as He is by the jeering crowd.  The deep darkness is a sign that even the heavenly Father has turned His back on His Son, as He pours on Him the cup of wrath for each and every sin of each and every sinner since Adam’s fall all the way to the Last Day. 
Still with all of that going on, Jesus prays.  And His final prayer, uttered with His final breath, is not in a silent whisper, but spoken with a loud, confident voice: “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.”  Jesus prays the prayer He learned from the lips and laps of Mary and Joseph every night as a child.  It was the bedtime prayer of the Old Testament, Psalm 31.
“In You, O Lord, do I take refuge; let Me never be put to shame; in Your righteousness deliver Me!  Incline Your ear to Me; rescue Me speedily!  Be a rock of refuge for Me, a strong fortress to save Me!  For You are My rock and My fortress; and for Your name’s sake You lead Me and guide Me; You take Me out of the net they have hidden for Me, for You are My refuge.  Into Your hands I commit My spirit, You have redeemed Me, O Lord, faithful God.”  It’s a bedtime prayer, authored by the Holy Spirit, and set to word and music by Jesus’ illustrious ancestor, King David.  Now Jesus—David’s Son, yet David’s Lord—prays it in the very hour of His death: “Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.” 
The psalm is certainly more challenging and substantial, but similar to our own prayer: “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep.  And if I die before I wake I pray the Lord my soul to take.”  Or the last sentence from Luther’s evening prayer that Aimee and I, and so many other Lutherans throughout history, have taught our children: “For into Your hands I commend myself, my body and soul, and all things.  Let Your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me.” 
This is the same message that you will find in the hymn we’ll sing near the closing of tonight’s service: “All Praise to Thee, My God, This Night.”
Forgive me, Lord, for Thy dear Son,
The ill that I this day have done
That with the world, myself, and Thee,
I, ere, I sleep, at peace may be.

Teach me to live that I may dread
The grave as little as my bed.
Teach me to die that so I may
Rise glorious at the awe-full Day.  LSB #883 vv 2,3

“Teach me to die”—that’s how children, including many of you, learned to pray before our society got the well-intentioned, but totally mistaken notion that we should try to cover up all evidence of death, especially from our children.  In our process of censoring and sanitizing we’ve left many people unprepared to deal with death—their own death or the death of their loved ones. 
Psalm 31, both prayers, and hymn #883 all display a healthy awareness that there is evil out in the world that seeks to take body and soul.  But they also confess a firm trust in God’s grace and mercy.  Each expresses a willingness to entrust everything—body and soul—to the Father’s loving hand, with an understanding that while death is not natural, while death is a horrible thing, there is something far more terrible than physical death. 
  Unlike our culture, unlike you and me, Jesus does not avoid death, the talk of death, the thought of death, or even death itself.  He does not run from it.  He was born to die.  You might say that He rehearsed for His death every night when He went to bed and prayed, “Into Your hands I commit My spirit.”
What trust!  Even as He slips into death.  Even when it appears that the evil one has won!  Satan’s taken his best shot at Jesus.  Got one disciple to betray Him.  Another to deny Him repeatedly.  The rest to abandon Him.  And then with all sin heaped on His shoulders, even the Father leaves His Son to suffer the damnation of hell alone as the sky turns to black and the sun and moon cover their eyes in horror at the pouring out of God’s wrath.  The serpent had to be twitching his tail in glee!  
But even in that abandonment Jesus prays with trust: “My God, My God…”  After all, His holy precious blood and His innocent suffering and death blaze the way for your salvation.  They rescue you from every evil of body and soul from the devil.  And Jesus knows it.  He does it willingly and obediently.  As the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, He lays down His life as a ransom for many, as full payment for the wages of sin, for the sin of the world.
All your sin belongs to Him.  He took it all the way to death, to a cursed death on the cross.  Jesus has taken it and answered for it.  He is the once-for-all sacrifice that atones for sin.  He leaves none out.  All sin.  Every sinner.  You too.  With all His saving work accomplished for sinners, Jesus prays with all boldness and confidence: “Father, into your hands I commit My spirit.”  He will not be abandoned in the grave.  Death cannot hold Him.  In three days the Scriptures will be fulfilled.  He will be raised from the dead.  And then He will go to the Father’s right hand in glory.  Jesus knows the end game.  For Him and for you.    
Unless the Lord returns first, you also will die.  That’s a fact, a sobering reality.  You will die.  You will breathe your last.  For some it will come sooner rather than later.  Learn from Jesus Christ how to die.  Rehearse for it every day when you pray the Lord’s Prayer: “Deliver us from evil”—another bedtime prayer of sorts.  For when you pray that way you pray with all boldness and confidence that when your last hour comes you trust that your heavenly Father will give you a blessed end.  You pray trusting that He will graciously take you from this valley of sorrow to Himself in heaven.  All for Jesus’ sake who died for you!  
That’s the end game.  It’s certain and sure.  And the evil one can’t do anything about it for you who trust in Jesus.  This world’s prince may still scowl as fiercely as he wants, but he can’t harm you.   He’s judged.  The Good Friday deed is done.  It is finished!  This one little petition can fell him!  Your life is held safely and securely in Jesus who has crushed the evil one.
“Deliver us from evil.”  This last petition of the Lord’s Prayer is your Nunc Dimittis.  You, like St. Simeon, can depart in peace.  In other words, you can die in peace.  For your eyes have seen the Lord’s salvation.  Jesus and His kingdom has come to you.  And in your Baptism, the Lord has “delivered you from the dominion of darkness and transferred you to the kingdom of His beloved Son in whom you have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14). 
In addition, the Lord’s body and blood in the Sacrament of the Altar are your medicine of immortality, which strengthens you in body and soul unto life everlasting.  It is a foretaste of the eternal feast, the marriage supper of the Lamb.  A pledge and token, so that what you now have by faith you will have by sight when He gives you a blessed end, when He takes you to Himself in heaven, and raises your body on the Last Day. 
Until then, we are like St. Paul, who, while facing imminent death wrote with all boldness and confidence: “The Lord will rescue me from every evil and save me for His heavenly kingdom” (2 Timothy 4:18).  Until then we pray: “Deliver us from evil,” knowing that we pray along with the risen Lord who gives us this prayer.  We pray, trusting that the One who began a good in work in us is faithful and will bring it to completion in the day of Jesus Christ. 
Tonight and every night, you can go to bed in peace, and commit yourself in the God’s loving hands, knowing that you are a beloved child of the heavenly Father.  Knowing that for the sake of Jesus Christ and His work of salvation, you are delivered from every evil of body and soul, including death and hell.  Knowing that your Great High Priest continues to pray for you and intercede on your behalf.  Knowing that through the work of the Holy Spirit you have forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life.  Indeed, you are forgiven for all of your sins.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

I AM: The God Who Kills and Makes Alive

Click here for an audio version of this sermon. 
The text for today is our Old Testament lesson, Deuteronomy 32:36-39, which has already been read.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Moses is speaking to the Israelites.  They are about to enter the Promised Land, while it is time for him to climb Mount Nebo and die.  These are his last words to the people that he has led as a called servant of the Lord for these many years.  It has been a long, hard journey.  No sooner were the Israelites safe from Egypt than they built a golden calf and elected to call it their god.  The Lord mercifully spared them that day, but other apostasy would follow.  For their disobedience, they were rewarded with forty extra years in the desert. 
Now they are finally to enter the Promised Land, and Moses preaches the Word of the Lord one last time and sings his final song.  He prophesies, in part, a terrible future.  Eventually, the people of Israel will completely forsake the Lord and His Word.  They will reject the Lord who has brought them out of Egypt, the God who promises a Savior, and they will turn to worshiping other gods instead. 
The identities of these gods may not be known to them yet, but they will become household names.  There will be Baal, the Canaanite god of nature, a pillar of stone set on the tops of hills.  There will be his consort, Ashteroth, the mother goddess of nature—a tall wooden pole planted into the ground.  There will be Molech, that abominable metal sculpture whose worship involves human sacrifice of the firstborn into fire.  There will be Dagon, golden calves, and many more.  The people will be faithless, turning from the One and Only I AM, the God of Life and Healing, to idols of stone, wood, and metal, of death, doom, and destruction.
What will the Lord do?  Moses declares: “For the Lord will vindicate His people and have compassion on His servants, when He sees that their power is gone and there is none remaining, bond or free.  Then He will say: ‘Where are their gods, the rock in which they took refuge, who ate the fat of their sacrifices and drank the wine of their drink offering?  Let them rise and help you; let them be your protection.’”
If the people wish to call upon these other gods for their help and deliverance, the Lord will obligingly step aside.  If they wish to offer their sacrifices to hunks of rock, curry the favor of chunks of wood, or bow down to images of metal, the Lord will allow them to go about their foolishness.  The Lord is a loving Father.  He offers all of His benefits to His people.  But He does not force His salvation upon them.  That is not His style.
So the Lord will step aside—but not forever, for He is faithful.  If the people trust in chiseled rocks for protection, they will be victimized when the rocks do not protect them.  If they rely on carved wood for help, they will be made helpless.  If they seek life and salvation from molded metal, it is only a matter of time until they are face-to-face with death and destruction.  Rocks, wood, and metal can’t save—they have no life, and therefore cannot give life. 
So God will step aside—but only until the people see how worthless their false gods are.  And when they see that they—both gods and the people—are powerless, the Lord will be there.  When their power is gone, the Lord will declare: “See now that I, even I, am He, and there is no god besides Me; I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of My hand.”
When the people are finally convinced that their false gods are dead and helpless the Lord will be there.  He will remind them that He is alive and powerful—that He is able to heal and give life.  And He will declare that He is faithful.  Although they have forsaken Him, He remains and promises salvation to all who repent and trust in Him.  Thus the Lord God declares: “I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of My hand.” 
This is God’s effective Word that carries across the centuries.  There is an inescapable price to be paid for sin, and those wages are death.  God utters the promise, and therefore the vindication will take place.  But whom will He wound and whom will He heal?  Whom will He kill so that His people might be alive?
At the start of Holy Week, the perfect Sacrifice rides into Jerusalem on a donkey.  He knows better than anyone the sins of the people and the deservedness of God’s judgment.  He knows better than anyone else the false gods which they’ve chased and bowed down.  He knows better than anyone the anger and grief of the Lord over sin.  He knows because He has been there from the beginning to witness the sin and experience the grief.  He knows because He is bearing the awful load of sin and grief to the cross.  This is the Lord God in human flesh. 
In truth, as the donkey plods forward, it is not just Israel in trouble.  All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  All are helpless in their sin, their power gone, and none remaining.  Therefore, Jesus arrives to be the perfect sacrifice for sin.  The sinless Lamb of God enters Jerusalem on the first day of Holy Week to bear the burden of man’s iniquity and to die with it on the cross.  He rides into Jerusalem, and He rides on in majesty, and He rides on in lowly pomp to die.
You have heard this day of the Passion of our Lord.  You have heard of the trials before Herod and Pilate, the conspiracy of the Pharisees and the shouts of the hateful crowd.  You have heard of the crown of thorns jammed upon His head, the beatings by Herod’s soldiers, the scourging of Pilate’s.  You have witnessed in words the staggering journey to Calvary as the cross is shouldered and borne.  You have heard of the crucifixion and the ridicule by those in attendance.  Standing around are clergy, soldiers, and citizens, Jews and Gentiles—a sampling of sinful mankind.  And certainly—beyond the shadow of a doubt—sinful man shows how much he deserves God’s judgment on Calvary.  Not only has he turned to false gods and doctrines, but he puts the true Son of God to death.
On Calvary that day, God’s declaration still echoes from Deuteronomy: “I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal, and there is none that can deliver out of My hand.”  God warns of the danger of rejecting Him, but His warning falls on deaf ears.  Except for the ears of One.  The Son of God knows the score, and that is why He submits to this degrading treatment and death.  The judgment of God is inescapable—it must fall on someone, and therefore the Son of God wills that it falls upon Him.  The Lord’s killing and making alive, His wounding and healing, crisscross at Calvary.  God’s effective words of wounding and death strike His own Son.  Christ is wounded for our transgressions and bruised for our iniquities.  The chastisement for our peace is upon Him.  And by His stripes we are healed.
Behold the compassion of God at the cross.  For us and for our salvation, He wounds and kills His own Son for our sin.  He wounds and kills Him, so that He might heal us and make us alive.  This is the Great Exchange.  This is why even as the Son is wounded and dying He speaks words of healing and life: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” 
The words are spoken, but fall on deaf ears in Jerusalem this Holy Week.  Except for the ears of one—an outsider, at that.  The Roman centurion recognizes the Christ and declares, “Certainly this was a righteous Man!”  It is not Jesus who should have died for sin; there are plenty of unrighteous people around that day who should have.  And the same could be said for the one standing at this pulpit and those sitting in the pews here today.  But the Son of God who knew no sin, made Himself to be sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.
 God’s effective, powerful Word resounds throughout the ages, and it remains true and at work even now: “I kill and I make alive; I wound and I heal; and there is none that can deliver out of My hand.”  For the sake of Christ, God heals and makes alive.  He has wounded and killed His Son for you.  He does not desire your death, but gives to you life and healing for the sake of Jesus.
Of course, for those who reject His Law and the Gospel of Christ’s sacrifice, death and judgment await.  But God is merciful and steadfast.  He does not desire the death of anyone.  He has given His Son for everyone!  So, as with the Israelites of old, the Lord is faithful and seeks to get their attention.  His modus operandi is the same as with those Israelites in the Old Testament.  He allows them to worship their false gods until those gods are exposed as false.  And when they are wounded and powerless, He stands ready to deliver them from their sin.
A god is whatever we place our trust in.  As primitive as it seems, there are still many gods of stone, wood, and metal.  We’ve just given them a modern spin.  Looking for contentment and satisfaction, people worship homes, cars, and things.  Searching for security, gods are made of careers, 401k plans, and investments.  Looking for happiness (or at least a brief diversion from pain and suffering) people turn to alcohol, drugs, gambling, or pornography.  People even make other people into idols, believing that the meaning of their life depends on another person.  How unfair to take another mere mortal and expect him or her to be a god or goddess!
The greatest—and the original—false god is self—the great I, the one and only ME.  It is really our narcissistic worship of self that leads us back to the worship of other false gods rather than the one true God.  In our arrogance, we determine that we know what and how to worship better than God does. 
It is the philosophy of the day to live for self, make up one’s own religion, pursue pleasure, and avoid suffering.  These are popular idols; but they cannot save.  No matter how nice the house, car, or thing, it has no life and can’t give life.  No matter how great the job or the portfolio, it can’t avert death or hear prayers.  No matter how much momentary happiness that substance or activity promises, it only leads to depression and self-loathing.  No matter how wonderful the person, they have sinful, mortal flesh.  As for the self, you are already well aware that you cannot save you.  Otherwise, you would not be here this day.
Such false gods persist and constantly tempt.  And, afflicted by your own sinful nature, you will be constantly tempted.  But such false gods have a way of falling apart, of self-destructing, of disappointing.  Should you lean on such a god, it is quite likely that you will be brought low.  If you are brought low, there is one thing to do: Repent and give thanks to God for His enduring mercy. 
The Lord has compassion upon you, as He always has upon His people.  To save you from eternal death, He trips up the false gods now before you die believing in them.  He brings you low now so that He might show to you the folly of your sin, the weakness of your false gods.  God allows some wounding now so that you might see the path to destruction, be turned from it; all so that He can heal you and make you alive for the sake of Christ.
God has wounded and killed His Son on the cross for you.  Worship of false gods is to throw that Sacrifice in the Lord’s face.  It’s to say, “Thanks, but no thanks for Jesus.  I want to follow something else instead.”  The sin is grave, but God is faithful; therefore, in His mercy, He exposes the powerlessness of what is false so that He might save you with what is true—Christ crucified for your sins. 
Therefore, when crashes occur, when you are brought low, it is a time for self-examination.  It may well be that you have begun to lean on a false god, and the true God has pulled it out from under you to set your sight back on His Son.  This is true for you, and this is true for others.
You will, at times, encounter people who have placed their faith in what cannot save.  It may be obvious to all, except them, that what they are doing is destructive to themselves and perhaps others.  It is painful to witness, and that pain is a cross that you are left to bear.  What shall you do?  Certainly, tell them.  It would be quite unloving if you saw someone ready to walk out blindfolded onto a street full of speeding cars and you didn’t warn them, wouldn’t it?  By all means, try to warn them.  Perhaps they will listen and you will have saved a brother.
But even as you warn them, there is something more important that you can do: Pray for them, and trust that the Lord is faithfully at work, contending for their souls.  Realize that such a one may need to be brought very low, to lose nearly everything before they turn around.  Why?  Because when their power is gone and their gods have disappointed them, they will see their powerlessness and the treachery of their idols.  It is then, when robbed of all false comfort, they may well be ready to be showered with the true comfort of the forgiveness of sins. 
That comfort and that forgiveness is true.  True for them and true for you.  The Lord has compassion upon you, killing and wounding His Son in your place.  He is now your refuge.  He is now your rock.  By grace, He heals you and makes you alive.  And there is no one who can snatch you out of His hand. 
You have been baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection.  Through daily contrition and repentance, you put to death your sinful old Adam that the new man might rise to live in righteousness, innocence, and blessedness forever.  In the Lord’s Supper, you receive Christ’s very body and blood to strengthen and preserve you in body and soul unto eternal life.  Through His called servant, you hear the Word of God—the Law that kills and wounds, the Gospel that heals and brings life.  In each of each of these means of grace, the Lord God delivers forgiveness, life, and salvation.  Indeed, for the sake of Christ’s perfect, life, suffering, and death, “You are forgiven for all of your sins.” 
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Stricken, Smitten, and Afflicted

Click here for an audio version of this sermon.

The text for this message is Isaiah 53:4-6:  “Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed Him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.  But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed.  All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.”  Here ends the text.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Stricken, smitten, and afflicted,
See Him dying on the tree!
‘Tis the Christ by man rejected;
Yes, my soul, ‘tis He! ‘tis He!
‘Tis the long-expected Prophet,
David’s Son, yet David’s Lord;
Proofs I see sufficient of it:
Tis the true and faithful Word (LSB 451:1).

"Crucifixion" by Lucas Cranach the Younger
Do you see Him up there?  Doesn’t look like much of a Messiah, does He?  Can this be the Prophet who would be greater than Moses?  The God-Man—David’s Son, yet David’s Lord?  Not if you use only your eyes to judge.  Stricken, smitten, and afflicted is how the hymnist described Him some 1800 years after that Good Friday.  He echoes the prophet Isaiah who, inspired by the Holy Spirit, saw this scene some 700 years before the Incarnation of Christ.  But that description does not do justice (if we dare use such an ironic term in this context) to the devastating reality.  Jesus was truly a bloody, beaten mess.  A shameful spectacle that “good and decent people” should probably not dare even look upon. 
But you and I must.  For we are not all that good.  In fact, we are not at all good.  We are poor, miserable sinners.  So look up there.  See the One rejected and despised.  The One from whom men hide their faces.  The Suffering Servant.
His suffering was great, His torment heavy.  We cannot comprehend how many His stripes, how deep His wounds, or the bitterness and painfulness of His death.  How inexpressible is His love that reconciled us to His heavenly Father.  In great fear of death, He sweat blood on the Mount of Olives, drops of blood that fell upon the earth.  And there in dark Gethsemane, abandoned by all His disciples, Jesus willingly gave Himself into the hands of those who led Him mercilessly, bound hard and cruel from one unjust judge to another.  He was falsely accused and condemned, spit upon, scoffed at, and struck in the face with fists.  He was bruised with many blows of a rod, His flesh torn open by brutal lashes of a whip.  He was crowned with thorns, and treated wretchedly—like a worm and not a man.  He was despised and rejected by men, a Man of Sorrows, and acquainted with grief, so that even a heathen heart took pity and said, “Behold the man!”  For the sake of our sin He was counted a sinner and hung up between two evildoers as a curse.  He was pierced in hands and feet with nails, and in His highest thirst, He was given vinegar and gall to drink.  Finally, in great pain, He gave up His spirit so that He could pay our debt; by His wounds we are healed.    
Tell me, ye who hear Him groaning,
Was there ever grief like His?
Friends through fear His cause disowning,
Foes insulting His distress;
Many hands were raised to wound Him,
None would interpose to save;
But the deepest stroke that pierced Him
Was the stroke that Justice gave (LSB 451:2).
Yes, it is a bloody, God-aweful mess.  And many try to avoid the cross altogether.  But you must not.  You must look on this One who bore your griefs and sorrows, who was stricken, smitten, and afflicted in your place, whose wounds do justice to your sin, who was crushed by the Law’s condemnation that hung over your head, whose punishment brings you peace with the Father, and in whose wounds you will find your healing.  Look up there!  Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! 
Nowhere and no time is this more true than with Jesus hanging naked and bloody and dead on the cross.  In that one solitary act in the darkness between noon and 3:00 p.m., on that Friday we call Good, the griefs and sorrows of our fallen humanity were borne by the Son of God, our sin was answered for, the just demands of the Law were paid, and we were reconciled to the Father.  The vicarious atonement.  The All-Sufficient Substitute Sacrifice for sin.  One time in history for all times.  One Man for all men.
Ye who think of sin but lightly
Nor suppose the evil great
Here may view its nature rightly,
Here its guilt may estimate.
Mark the Sacrifice appointed,
See who bears the awful load;
‘Tis the Word, the Lord’s Anointed,
Son of Man and Son of God (LSB 451:3).
Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows.  Jesus was the Man of Sorrows, intimately acquainted with our suffering.  You, my friend are His burden.  He carries you, all your griefs, all your sorrows, all that death has done to you, all that others have done to you, all that you have done to yourself—Jesus bore all of that awful load in His own body and took it all the way to the cross.
When we see disaster, tragedy, senseless suffering, or large-scale loss of life we are prone to ask: “Where is God?  Why doesn’t He do something?”  Where was God during 9/11 when the buildings collapsed?  Where was God in the Newtown shooting?  Where was God when my loved one suffered and died?  And why didn’t He do something about it?  We ask those questions, don’t we?
The answer comes from the cross.  There, God is doing something.  He’s going to the heart of why there is suffering in the world.  He’s dealing with the disease, providing a cure, not just dispensing a pill that will mask the symptoms for a moment or two.  Administering an antidote that completely restores health and vitality for eternity, not just applying an analgesic that numbs the pain a little bit.    
It’s tempting to desire an interventionist God, a God who will deflect bullets before they hit innocent bystanders.  A God who will eliminate cancer cells before they become tumors.  A God who will heal every sickness, cast out every demon, restore every blind eye and faulty limb, and do it immediately, if not sooner.  But in a world like that, where God micromanages and intervenes in every little thing, there would be no laws of physics, no ordered universe, nothing but randomness.
God does something entirely different.  Instead of micromanaging, He macro-manages.  Instead of doing rehab on a terminally ill cosmos, He does a death and resurrection job on it.  He embodies everything in the body of His Incarnate Son together with all the brokenness, the tragedy, the disasters great and small, and He reconciles all things in the one perfect death of Jesus on the cross with one word—tetelesthai, “It is finished!” 
Jesus has borne our griefs, your griefs, the collected griefs of mankind, of every death and loss.  It is all accounted for in His death, and it’s made good as only God can do.  He has carried our sorrows, your sorrows, every tear shed by humanity in its suffering—Jesus has taken them all to Himself in His death.  Our griefs and sorrows find their end and meaning in His grief and sorrow.
Look up there!  Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!  You wouldn’t know it by looking at Him.  Jesus looks like One despised by men and rejected by God.  A loser.  Someone who ran afoul of Religion and the State, and God didn’t intervene to rescue Him.  Stricken, smitten, and afflicted.  Not us, but Him.  There by the grace of God goes He—for us and in our place. 
As Luther reminds us, when you look at the beatings and suffering of Jesus on Good Friday, don’t blame the Roman government or the Jewish religious leaders.  They are but the instruments.  The cause is sin—your thoughts, your words, your actions.  Your sin is why Jesus had to suffer as He did.  The world is a mess, to be sure.  But even if you were the only human being on this earth, Jesus would still have had to suffer and die to save you.  That’s what the Law of God calls for: the wages of sin is death.  And without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. 
Don’t ever think of sin too lightly!  Don’t ever think of your sin as simply a weakness, a “mistake,” as so many public confessions like to say.  “I made a mistake.  I had a temporary lapse in judgment.  That is not the real me.”  Sin is more than a mistake.  It is a spitting in God’s face kind of thing.  It is the embrace of death instead of life, of self instead of God, of the devil’s lie instead of God’s Word.  All sin, each sin, has a terrible price attached to it.
He was wounded for our transgressions.  Your transgressions, my transgressions.  He was crushed for our iniquities.  Your iniquities, my iniquities.  We esteemed Him stricken, smitten, and afflicted by God.  But really it was you and me.  Your sin, my sin.  Those were your hands beating Jesus as they lash out against your fellow man.  Those were your words uttered in scorn.  The lashes Christ endured were yours.  The death He died was yours.  And what’s so amazingly graceful is that in this, this gross miscarriage of justice, Justice is served.  God is reconciled to His enemies.  Repent and believe the Good News!
God had promised in the form of a curse to the devil that He would make enmity, that through the heel bruised Seed of the woman God would crush the head of the serpent.  It’s the foundational promise of the Bible, made way back at the Fall in the Garden.  And it finds its goal and fulfillment here with Jesus on the cross.  He who by a tree once overcame, is now by a tree overcome. 
The Second Adam stands in for the first.  “As one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.  For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous” (Romans 5:18-19).
Here we have a firm foundation;
Here the refuge of the lost;
Christ’s the Rock of our salvation,
His the name of which we boast.
Lamb of God, for sinners wounded,
Sacrifice to cancel guilt!
None shall ever be confounded
Who on Him their hope have built (LSB 451:4).
Look up there!  See Him stricken, smitten, and afflicted.  Burdened with your griefs and sorrows.  Wounded for your transgressions.  Crushed for your iniquities.  Chastised with your stripes.  The violence of the cross is your peace.  Again, every act of violence, every inhumanity, genocide, homicide, and injustice is answered once and for all in the death of Jesus.  All of your sin has been paid for and you have been washed in the Blood of the Lamb of God. 
Where is God when bad things happen?  He is there in the crucified Christ to make all things new.  Why doesn’t He do something?  He has.  “It is finished.”  There is peace with God.  You are forgiven for all of your sins. 
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

What Will the Owner of the Vineyard Do?

Click here for an audio version of this sermon. 

The text for this message our Luke 20:9-20.

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
"The Tenants in the Vineyard" by Jan Luyken
Whenever I hear this parable (like many other parables), I end up shaking my head.  Nobody acts the way you would reasonably expect.  Their actions seem foolish, at times, even absurd.  But that is actually the key to understanding any parable: Look for the point of departure from how things are in ordinary, everyday life.  And there are plenty of detours in this one.  We’ll look at them and I think you’ll see what I mean.  But first, let’s look at the context.
With the parables, you always have to pay attention to whom Jesus is speaking.  Is it His disciples?  The crowds?  The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law?  In this case, it is the people who are gathered in the temple to hear Jesus teach, no doubt a sizable crowd because it is the time of the Passover.  Off on the sidelines with their ears carefully tuned to Jesus’ every word, hoping to catch Him with a slip of the tongue, are the chief priests, scribes and elders.  So you might say that this parable is both heard and overheard.  That’s true for us today, too.
At the time of festivals, nonresidents were not allowed to stay overnight in the city limits of Jerusalem because of the large numbers who came to worship at the temple.  Some scholars’ estimates put the figure in the metropolitan area during that week as high as one million people.  So that meant that many of the pilgrims camped on the hillsides that surrounded Jerusalem, which made them easily available for attending whatever important events were happening in the city.  That’s why they happened to be alongside the road as Jesus had entered Jerusalem on the Sunday of the Passover festival, riding on a donkey, in deliberate fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy. 
Jesus had been received with acclaim by the crowd, many of whom expected Him to assert Himself, overthrow the Romans, reestablish the Kingdom of Israel, and rule on David’s throne.  They had waved their palm branches and cried out, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord!”  “Hosanna to the Son of David!  Save now!”  They were hoping for the revolution to begin at any moment.  Instead, Jesus went back to nearby Bethany to stay the night with His friends. 
Jesus returned on Monday and cleansed the temple of the concessionaires who were selling animals and birds for sacrifice and changing Roman money into temple coins.  To them, He said, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of robbers’” (Luke 19:46).
Though it was certainly a potential powder keg in many ways, our Lord did not avoid the unsolicited publicity or religious scrutiny.  Luke says Jesus “was teaching daily in the temple” and that “the chief priests and the scribes and the principle men of the people were seeking to destroy Him, but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were hanging on His words.” 
These religious authorities confronted Jesus, “Tell us by what authority You do these things, or who it is that gave You this authority.”  As He often did, Jesus turned their demand back on them, answering their question with His own question: “Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?”  More concerned about maintaining their positions of authority than upholding the truth, they were unwilling to respond one way or the other.  So Jesus told them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.” It is in this context that Jesus speaks His parable to the people who were gathered in the temple courts to hear His teaching. 
There was a beautiful vineyard, its vines bending, laden with the weight of rich, swollen grape clusters.  For the owner had planted a good vineyard.  He had chosen a vigorous, hardy stock of vine.  He had well prepared the soil to guarantee a good harvest. 
But all was not well in that vineyard.  When the harvest came, the landowner sent one of his servants to collect the harvest.  But they didn’t give the servant what they owed.  Instead, they beat him and sent him away with nothing.  Again, the owner sent another servant.  And the rebellious tenants also insulted him, beat him up, and sent him away with nothing.  So the landowner sent a third servant, whom the tenants wounded and sent away with nothing.  Such terrible tenants, rebelling against the owner, rejecting the servants sent to collect the crop.  Each rejection escalating in its violence and shameful rebellion.
Desperate, the owner sent his own son, thinking, “Perhaps they will respect him.”  But when the tenants saw the son, they hatched an evil plot: “Let’s kill him, so the inheritance can be ours.”   What shameful tenants!  Yes, a mutiny was afoot in the vineyard!  “What will the owner of the vineyard do to them?”  Jesus asks.  But before they can reply He answers His own question: “He will come and destroy those tenants and give the vineyard to others.”
“Surely not!” Jesus’ listeners say, realizing to their horror that His parable is talking about the history of Israel.  Israel ignored the Word from the prophets.  Israel continued to treat the vineyard as if it belonged to itself and not to God.  And the prophets who called the people to repent faced the people’s wrath.  More than a few suffered death.  Finally, God had sent His beloved Son, and they were not only rejecting His message of repentance and faith, cross and suffering, but a number of them were in the midst of plotting how to overthrow Him as well.         
Our text makes it very clear that the scribes and the chief priests understood what Jesus was saying: “[They] sought to lay hands on [Jesus] at that very hour; for they perceived He had told this parable against them, but they feared the people.  So they watched Him and sent spies, who pretended to be sincere, that they might catch Him in something He said, so as to deliver Him up to the authority and jurisdiction of the governor” (Luke 20:19-20).
But Jesus was not just speaking to the scribes and chief priests or the people gathered in Jerusalem the day for the Passover; He is also speaking to you and me.  And the text forces us to ask, “How are we treating God and His vineyard today?”
God has a dire warning for us.  God’s grace is undeserved kindness because of Jesus, not because of you or me.  Without Christ, there is no mercy, no grace, no forgiveness, and no kindness.  In the parable, Jesus has a warning for the Church, God’s Israel of the New Testament.  You can’t have a bride without a groom.  You can’t have the Church without the Lord Jesus Christ.  You can’t have a Christ without a cross.  Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.  The church today that doesn’t proclaim the death and resurrection of Jesus for the forgiveness, life, and salvation of the sinner has the same fate in store for it as Old Testament Israel, the same fate as the wicked tenants of the vineyard in our text.
That’s scary isn’t it?  For most churches today don’t preach Christ and Him crucified for our salvation.  That’s boring stuff people don’t want to hear.  That’s not relevant to our post-modern understanding of religion and life.  And so liberal mainline churches preach about social justice and creating a utopian society.  Many, including some who still claim the name “Lutheran,” call into question the veracity of God’s Word as they deny the miraculous and excuse sins like sexual immorality and abortion in the name of tolerance and choice. 
So-called conservative evangelical churches preach about reestablishing a “Christian nation” and offer practical steps for self-improvement and better families.  Churches follow the latest fads and hope that business marketing techniques will “grow the Church.”  Emergent churches discard sound doctrine and turn people inward with mystical practices.  Word of faith preachers peddle a prosperity gospel of health, wealth, and personal success.  Church bodies with traditions going back many centuries still continue to turn people back to their own good works and human traditions for assurance of their salvation. 
Neither are we immune.  For each of us is prone to itching ears that prefer to be scratched, rather than hear the Law and Gospel—the message of Christ crucified for poor, miserable sinners.  But we don’t get to choose what we do as the Church.  We don’t decide what is right or wrong, holy or profane; Christ has already decided for us.  We are but the tenants who can be booted off the property whenever the landowner decides.  God is perfectly free to entrust the proclamation of the mystery of salvation in Christ to whomever He pleases.  The Church, as a visible and audible sign of Christ’s saving death, will always remain in this world.  Our prayer is that we will always be a part of it. 
In our Old Testament reading, Isaiah speaks of a time when the Lord would do a “new thing.”  God would make a way in the wilderness among the wild beasts.  He would put water in the dry desert and give drink to His chosen people.  That would be something new—a new covenant, a new chosen people, a new way, built on the old foundation, but still new nonetheless.  And those who would cling to the old covenant would miss it.  Their ears won’t hear it. Their eyes won’t see it. 
That was the problem of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day, the Judaizers with whom Paul is dealing in today’s Epistle, and the Roman church in the days of Luther.  They refused to hear the message of salvation by grace through faith in the crucified and risen Christ, but turned the people back to the Law and their own works of righteousness.  They were rejecting the very Cornerstone of the Church.  They were wickedly rebelling against the Lord of the Vineyard.
By God’s choosing, He has given us a place in His vineyard of grace, His Church.  The vineyard is a place brimming with life amid a barren world.  It is an oasis of refreshment in a dry desert.  Here, God blesses us with the life-giving waters of Holy Baptism, which washes away the dirt of our sin.  Here, God nourishes us with His Word.  Here, God gives us to drink wine from the cup of salvation, the blood of His new covenant.  What a great blessing! 
But it is only seen with the eyes of faith.  It is hidden in cross and suffering, the common and ordinary, the despised and weak.  It’s so easy to miss, so easy to misunderstand, when we take our eyes off of Jesus and look to ourselves, to our own selfish desires, our own limited abilities, our own rebellious, sinful old Adam. 
What about you!  Have you treated Jesus and His kingdom as if you are the owner instead of the tenant?  Is the allure of success, as the world defines it, drawing you away from the cross?  Are you looking for a “gospel” that is less offensive to your sensibilities than the one about the sinless Son of God who was bloodied, beaten, and killed for sinners?   If so, be warned!  What was true for the Old Testament tenants of God’s vineyard is also true for you.  When you presume God’s grace, living in fallen, worldly ways, looking no different from the rest of the world, refusing to humbly repent, then only judgment follows. 
Which Jesus do you want?  Do you want a glad-handing, back-slapping Jesus that the Pharisees wanted?  Do you want a Jesus who will affirm and bless what you think about yourself?  Is that the Jesus you want?  Or do you want the Christ of the Scriptures?  Do you want a Jesus who speaks the truth even when it hurts?  Do you want this stern Jesus, the One who didn’t turn His back on sin, but calls sin what it is, and willingly died to save you?  This Savior doesn’t wink at your sinful indiscretions or smile as you turn from Him toward hell.  No, He loves you far too much to do that!  He gives Himself into death and saves you.
In the water and Word, He baptizes you into His death and resurrection.  Now He feeds and nourishes you with His very body and blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.  Each week He calls you to gather with your fellow redeemed to hear the Gospel.  Indeed, today and every Divine Service the very Son of God, your crucified and risen Savior, is here with this Good News: You are forgiven for all of your sins. 
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Into the Wilderness

"Christ in the Wilderness" by Ivan Kramskoy Click here to listen to this sermon. “The Spirit immediately drove [Jesus] out ...