Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May 29/30, 2011
Nate Buchner
Matthew 16:21-26

On Maundy Thursday, I had the opportunity to listen to a pastor preach in Mequon. In his sermon he talked about a lady he had just met who asked him about Maundy Thursday. She did this because she really had no idea what it is. When she did this, the pastor then asked her what she thought Maundy Thursday was. She said that it was the night when Jesus got together with all of his friends and told them that it had all gone bad and that he was going to die soon. You see, many people don’t understand what Jesus’ death was all about. They don’t understand why he had to go to the cross to die. However, our lesson before us clearly tells us what the cross is all about. We have a cross-eyed view of Christianity. We see that Christ has born his cross. And we carry our cross and follow Christ.
Our lesson for today picks up in the middle of the year when Jesus was crucified. At this time Jesus was undergoing heavy persecution from those who denied his message. Because of this, he needed to prepare his disciples more fully for the events that were about to happen. Previously he had prepared his disciples by asking them who they thought he was. In response to his question, Peter confessed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
And although Jesus’ disciples had grown in their understanding of who he was, they did not yet fully understand Jesus’ mission. For this reason, Jesus prepared his disciples using obvious words by saying that “he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” These words not only show the suffering Jesus had to undergo, but they also showed the glorious ending. But the shock of these words was too much for Peter. He could not grasp that his friend was going to die. Because he got caught up with Jesus’ death, he was unable to see the magnificent ending Jesus had just foretold.
Because of this, “Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. ‘Never, Lord!’ he said. ‘This shall never happen to you!’” Imagine Peter taking his Rabbi aside and you can almost hear what was going on in his head, “What? My friend’s going to die? Why would he ever have to do that? I better tell him that he’s wrong.” The emotion that Peter was feeling is made all too clear by his words, “Never, Lord! This shall never happen to you!”
But Jesus in his ultimate knowledge and compassion did not fall into this trap that Peter unwittingly placed before him. Without pause, Jesus turned and commanded Peter, “Get behind me Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men."
After hearing Jesus’ rebuke of Peter you may be thinking, these are some strong words! But when we understand the meaning behind Peter’s words, it becomes apparent why Jesus responds so intensely. First of all, the all-knowing God was the one dealing with Peter. And since he is God, there is no need to doubt that Jesus understood why Peter said these things. Peter had this view because he didn’t understand why his friend would have to die, and also because he did not understand his own sins. On top of this all, Peter was not looking at what Jesus’ death would mean for all men. Instead he acted as an instrument of Satan by caring only for the things of men.
Now you may be wondering, what are these things of men? By Jesus’ words, “you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men,” he is telling us that the things of God and the things of men are opposites. The things of God include his plan for salvation, something unattainable for men without the death and resurrection of his Son. But in opposition to this, Peter was thinking about things like the loss of a friend. At the same time he could’ve also been thinking, “If Jesus sticks around, I’m going be to an important man with a powerful friend. Perhaps if he stays I’ll even receive honor, praise, and wealth.” With such thoughts, Peter was trying to make Christianity into a cross-less religion.
And if you still are wondering why Jesus used such strong words, just look at what could’ve happened if Jesus would’ve followed Peter’s rebuke. If Peter would have succeeded in his rebuke, it would have meant that Jesus would never have died. He never would have risen. And ultimately, everyone who trusts in him as Savior would have had a faith that’s futile and would still be in their sins.
Also don’t doubt that this wasn’t a real temptation for Jesus. Remember that he was still true man. Can you think of a man who actually wants to go through suffering and absolute hell? That is what Jesus was facing. Again, this example reinforces why Jesus used such strong language and even called him Satan.
Take a step back and compare yourselves with Peter here. Aren’t we similar? Now, obviously, we never rebuked Jesus and then were told, “Get behind me Satan!” But yet, we have all been guilty of having in mind the things of men, instead of the things of God. Haven’t we all acted bitterly towards God because something wasn’t done our way? Haven’t we all been more concerned with things like riches, honor, and glory, than we were with God and serving him? This happens because we all like Peter have had in mind the things of men, and not of God. And also like Peter, we at times even doubt the seriousness of our sins.
And because of this, we all deserve death and hell. However, Jesus did have in mind the things of his Father, and not the things of men. For this reason, he sent his Son to, “suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests and teachers of the law,” and then “be killed and on the third day be raised to life.” Because of our sins, it was necessary that Jesus do this all. It was necessary that he refuse to be trapped by Peter. It was necessary that he walk head on into the suffering of hell for us. For our sake he did this, because he knew that we could not do it on our own. In his grace, Jesus bore his cross in our place. And now through faith, we have a cross-eyed vision of Christianity. Thanks be to God that Jesus had a cross-eyed view, that he had in mind the things of his Father and not of men. He was more concerned with our well being and our salvation, than what he knew would happen to him.
When we hear of the great things Christ has done for us, we can do nothing other than give thanks. And we can express that thanksgiving by following the words of Christ. For Jesus explains not only to his disciples but also to us how to give thanks to God. In thanksgiving, we keep on with our cross-eyed vision and we do this by bearing our own cross.
Jesus says in verse 24, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” Now you may be wondering, but what does this mean? What is Jesus asking by saying deny yourselves, take up your cross, and follow me? When Jesus asks us to deny ourselves, he’s asking that we put to death our sinful ambitions. This is no easy thing to do. For each of us, we have been waging war to deny ourselves since the day God gave us faith. However, even today we still wake up and wage that same war. Part of us sees what Jesus has asked us to do and we want to do it so that we may show our love for him. But, another part of us wishes that we lay down our arms and give up on the fight. Because of this, we must fight and wage that war, keeping in mind the things of God, and not the things of men.
Jesus also asks us to take up our cross. When we take up our cross, we stand out from the world. We endure the persecution of those who mock us for keeping our minds on the things of God. And we all know that at times the cross can feel like a boulder upon our backs. That boulder forms because our sinful self is right there with us, egging us on to put down our cross and follow the thoughts of man. Because of that sinful self, the way of our cross is a fight until the bitter end. However, we are not alone in this fight. We have a general. One who leads us into battle and shows us the way.
For this reason our general, Jesus Christ, asks us to follow him. And in reality who better to lead us? He has already born his cross. He knows all the temptations that face us along the way, especially the temptation to simply quit and to lay that cross down. And he knows that we do not follow his same exact path. So what is Christ saying when he asks us to follow him? He’s asking us to see him, to have a cross-eyed view of what he did and to live our lives giving glory to him. We fight to keep our focus on the cross, to maintain a cross-eyed vision, not giving into the things of men.
But if these tasks seem too daunting, Jesus shows what happens when a person is more concerned about the things of man and wants to save his life. Jesus states, “For whoever wants to save his life will lose it.” If a man wishes to save his own life, that means he is only concerned about the here and now, about the things of men like riches and success. And although he may keep his earthly life longer by focusing on the things of men, he ultimately loses his spiritual life. The only thing this person has to look forward to is hell, a place of eternal pain and death.
On the other hand, “whoever loses his life will find it.” What Jesus is saying here is that this person does not have in mind the things of men, like his earthly life. Instead, he places his eyes onto the things of God, and through faith finds eternal life. We are this person. We focus our eyes on the things of God, doing so with a cross eyed vision. We through faith take up our cross and follow Christ, because we know that even if we lose our life here, we will have an eternal life awaiting us with Jesus.
We do this because the gift we have been given is worth it. Jesus shows us why in verse 26 when he says, “What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?” Not even all the riches of the world compare to the glories lying before us in heaven. The world only offers temporary things, but what God has given us is for all eternity. On top of this all, earth can only offer things tainted by sin, while God offers gifts of perfection. Not only this, but the world’s riches can’t even compare with the spiritual riches we possess now through faith. Because of this, we take up our cross and follow Christ.
Brothers and sisters, many people believe that the cross was the end for Christ. However, as Jesus foretold, the cross was not his end. He did rise from the dead. And because of this, our faith is not futile. We have a cross-eyed view of Christianity. He has born his cross, and for this we bear ours too.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

May 8/9, 2011 sermon by Pastor Paul G. Eckert

May 8/9, 2011 - Easter 3 - Sermon by Pastor Paul G. Eckert
Various texts - they are printed in the body of the sermon
Mother’s Day does not have a place on the church year calendar like Christmas or Good Friday or Easter or Ascension or Pentecost, church festivals that emphasize the greatness of what God has done for us. But that does not mean that we cannot in church talk about mothers on Mother’s Day. After all, God’s Word has plenty to say about them.
For our sermon today then, instead of using just one main text I have chosen to use a number of Scripture texts, texts that have something to do with mothers, texts that also show a connection with our Savior. So in a little different format today let us talk about JESUS AND MOTHERS and consider 12 subjects, starting out with
Genesis 3:20 Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living.
1. We did not come from the foolishness of evolution. We all go back to a common mother who had no mother, who was created to be the first mother by God’s amazing wisdom and power.
Genesis 3:6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
2. This first mother did not stay perfect as God had created her with her husband. Eve with Adam chose to disobey God, and sin was now a part of their nature, and with sin dying came into the picture.
3. That sinful nature has been passed on, also to us. That is why death is a part of our lives, and why hell is what we all deserve.
Genesis 3:15 "And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel."
1. God’s love took over right away. He would conquer the devil by using the offspring of a woman, of a mother who would give birth to the promised Savior. He would get struck in the heel, get hurt terribly on the cross. But He would end up crushing our old evil foe.
Isaiah 7:14 Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.
2. God in advance revealed much about this promised offspring of a
mother, including the fact that He would come by a virgin birth.
Matthew 1:1, 5-6 A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham: --- Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.
1. Here is more detail about the promised Savior’s genealogy.
2. Notice the inclusion of Rahab, a sinful woman from Canaan, and of Ruth who also was a foreign woman, from Moab.
3. Do you see what this tells us? Jesus is not ashamed to have a public sinner in His genealogy, or women who were not from Israel.
4. And what does that tell us sinners and Americans or whatever background our nationality is? - Jesus is not ashamed of us either.
Luke 1:39-41,45 At that time Mary got ready and hurried to a town in the hill country of Judea, where she entered Zechariah’s home and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit. --- "Blessed is she who has believed that what the Lord has said to her will be accomplished!"
1. God had also foretold a forerunner, John the Baptist.
2. Elizabeth, his mother, knew about that, and spoke to Mary about that, Mary who believed God when He told her about her role.
Matthew 1:18, 22-23 This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about. His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. --- All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" - which means, "God with us."
1. Remember the promised offspring, the virgin birth foretold?
2. It happened, and Mary became Jesus’ promised birth mother
Luke 18:15-17 People were also bringing babies to Jesus to have
him touch them. When the disciples saw this, they rebuked them.
But Jesus called the children to him and said, "Let the little
children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of
God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will
not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter
1. There are people, there are mothers who, like these disciples, don’t see the importance of bringing their children to Jesus, the Savior, mothers who sad to say at times may not be the best mothers.
2. Mothers here, don’t ever be like that. Don’t concern yourself about the best of everything for your children but neglect bringing them to the Savior in Baptism and bringing them up in His Word.
3. Instead may all of us be "like a little child" when it comes to believing, for adult-like thinking that rejects Jesus means eternal loss.
Mark 7:24-30 Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an evil spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter. "First let the children eat all they want," he told her, "for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to their dogs." "Yes, Lord," she replied, "but even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs." Then he told her, "For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter." She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.
1. Mothers, be persistent in your prayers for your children.
2. If at first answers you want don’t come, maybe Jesus is giving you, like this woman, a chance to exercise your faith. Remember, He loves us and will give only the answer to prayer that He knows is best.
Luke 7:11-15 Soon afterward, Jesus went to a town called Nain, and his disciples and a large crowd went along with him. As he approached the town gate, a dead person was being carried out - the only son of his mother, and she was a widow. And a large crowd from the town was with her. When the Lord saw her, his heart went out to her and he said, "Don’t cry." Then he went up and touched the coffin, and those carrying it stood still. He said,
"Young man, I say to you, get up!" The dead man sat up and
began to talk, and Jesus gave him back to his mother.
1. Grief comes into mothers’ lives today too, even death.
2. Here Jesus showed a mother His power in a special way, a power that will be evident for all believing children on resurrection day.
Luke 23:27-28 A large number of people followed him, including women who mourned and wailed for him. Jesus turned and said to them, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children."
Mt. 27:55-56 Many women were there, watching from a distance. They had followed Jesus from Galilee to care for his needs. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.
John 19:25 Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother, his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene.
Mark 15:47 Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was laid.
1. Here are examples of mothers who wept at Jesus’ crucifixion.
2. Mothers today have to do a lot of weeping for other things.
3. But weep because of the crucifixion, because of the fact that Jesus atoned for our sins with His perfect life and innocent death? Certainly not for that! For His victory, His forgiveness, we rejoice!
Mark 16:1-6 When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they might go to anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they were on their way to the tomb and they asked each other, "Who will roll the stone away from the entrance of the tomb?" But when they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had been rolled away. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man dressed in a white robe sitting on the right side, and they were alarmed. "Don’t be alarmed," he said. "You are looking for Jesus the Nazarene, who was crucified. He has risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid him."
Matthew 28:8-9 So the women hurried away from the tomb, afraid yet filled with joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them. "Greetings," he said.
1. They came in sorrow, but heard a message of victory, of a living
Savior, of someone who had accomplished all He had promised.
2. I don’t think it took long at all for them to wipe any tears from
their eyes, to have a smile of wondering, and finally when they later
saw the risen Jesus to give each other some high fives.
Ephesians 6:2-3 "Honor your father and mother" - which is the first commandment with a promise - "that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth."
1. We have looked mainly so far at mothers, mothers who were somehow connected with Jesus, our Savior.
2. Now let’s look at children, at God’s will for children of mothers.
3. That will of God is that children give their mothers honor and respect - and not just on Mother’s Day.
4. Not doing that, sin of any type, will lose God’s blessings.
5. But for doing that, God even promises special blessings
Matthew 12:46-50 While Jesus was still talking to the crowd, his mother and brothers stood outside, wanting to speak to him. Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to speak to you." He replied to him, "Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?" Pointing to his disciples, he said, "Here are my mother and my brothers. For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother."
1. Today we may think in a special way of mothers.
2. But whether a mother or a father, a son or a daughter, a brother or a sister, the important thing is to be a part of our Savior’s family, family members who give evidence of that in their lives.
3. And that is by faith in our Savior who alone is our forgiveness, our daily source of strength, and our sure hope of eternal glory.
4. And so, to stay in that family, let’s keep doing what the early Christians did.
Acts 1:14 They all joined together constantly in prayer, along with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.
To all mothers here today, "Happy Mother’s Day!" To all of us, may God keep us united as members of Jesus’ family!