Monday, May 08, 2023

Do Not Be Troubled

[Below, you'll find livestream video of both May 7 worship services from Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio, as well as the message presented during the services. Have a blessed week!]

Our Gospel lesson today takes us back to the room in which Jesus and the apostles observe the Passover on the night of His arrest, just before His suffering, death, and resurrection.

The disciples are troubled for several reasons.

One reason is that they’re in Jerusalem. Not long before, Jesus has raised Lazarus from the dead, and, alarmed by His power over death, the leaders of the Jews from Jerusalem had vowed to get Jesus killed by the Romans. In Jerusalem, Jesus is easier to seize.

Also troubling to the apostles is Jesus’ announcement that one of them would betray Him.

Peter is troubled because Jesus insists that Peter will deny knowing Jesus before the rooster announces the new day by crowing three times.

None of the apostles can imagine turning their backs on Jesus.

Or that they, faithful men of Israel, would be so disloyal and sinful toward the One they said was the Messiah.

You and I may be troubled by many things about our world today.

Abortion used as birth control.

Almost daily mass shootings.

The LGBTQ+ agenda being crammed down our throats.

Misogyny and violence against women.

The ideology that tells us one’s gender can be chosen.

Racial injustice.

These troubling things are all expressions of our fallen, sinful human nature that befoul the cosmos in which you and I live.

But, like the apostles, something else might trouble us.

Our sin.

Our disloyalty to God.

Our betrayal of Christ.

Our denial of Him.

This is evidenced in our thoughts, words, or deeds daily.

The apostles thought they were righteous because they were Jews who did the right thing. We tend to have the same self-righteousness.

But Jesus and all of God’s Word tell us that if we think God is going to judge us righteous because we think we’ve led pretty good lives, we are deluding ourselves.

God’s judgment of us for our sin is clear.

Ecclesiastes 7:20 tells us, for example, “Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous…”

And Paul, the apostle of grace, puts things even more pointedly: “ you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men[ nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10) If we’re honest, that list pretty much takes in the whole human race in one way or another, including you and me.

But to us who are troubled by the ills of the world and might be troubled by the horrors of our own sin that separate us from God and mark us as unrighteous from our births and worthy of condemnation, Jesus tells us, as He told the apostles on Maundy Thursday: “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.” (John 14:1-3)

Now, I’ve always known that these three verses from John 14 presented a Gospel Word, a Word of promise from our Savior. But I used to think that the promise was that after He died, rose, and ascended to heaven, Jesus would get a house in heaven ready for us to occupy after we die and rise. I pictured Jesus remodeling heaven to accommodate us.

But, it isn’t heaven or the kingdom of God that need to be changed though. It isn’t God that needs changing, it’s us! We need to be made righteous, because in our inborn state of unrighteousness, we’re not fit for life with God, now or ever.

So, this is how Jesus prepares a place for you, how you can live with untroubled hearts: Jesus goes to the cross for us, the righteous God of all creation taking on human flesh, offers His sinless life to take the damnation and death we deserve so that all who trust in Him have the very same life God the Father restored to Jesus on the first Easter Sunday!

When did Jesus go? When He went to the cross!

When did He come back? When He rose!

And when we’re able to trust in Jesus, we know there’s already a place for us in God’s vast and gracious kingdom!

This is God’s Gospel Word for you and me, a Word that the Bible speaks to us repeatedly.

“At just the right time, when we were still powerless,” Romans tells us, “Christ died for the ungodly.” (Romans 5:6)

And Peter reminds us: “Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.” (1 Peter 3:18)

And in Ephesians, we’re told, “In [Jesus] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us.” (Ephesians 1:7-8)

Of course, one day, this creation’s last day, Christ will raise those who have died while believing in Him and welcome them into His new heavens and new earth. All our grief, tears, and troubles will be behind us. But already, all who have been baptized into Christ and who have, by the power of His Word. come to believe in Him, live in His kingdom, live in the certainty that through Christ, all our sins are already and eternally forgiven.

By His death and His resurrection, Jesus has already prepared a place and given us a place with Him. Right now!

This is what the Bible means when it says, “If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!” (2 Corinthians 5:17)

People say, “How can I know I’m saved? How can I be sure?” Do you believe in Jesus Christ? Yes. That’s how you know. If your heart, in response to the Holy Scriptures and the witness of the Holy Spirit can believe and if your mouth can declare that Jesus is your Lord, then you know you are saved!

So the next time someone asks you, “Are you born again?” you can say, “Yes! I was born of water and the Spirit according to the Word and will of Jesus as expressed in John 3, at my baptism. And, by the power of the Holy Spirit Who has been unleashed in my life since then, I know that Jesus Christ is my Lord. Now, get behind me, Satan.”

When Luther was taunted by the devil and temptation, he would declare, “But I am baptized!” It doesn’t matter how I feel, my salvation comes down to what God has done for me. Jesus has prepared a place for you. It’s already furnished.

Through His Word and His Sacraments, the crucified and risen Jesus comes to you today and promises that wherever He is, in heaven or on earth, there He is, triumphant over sin, death, darkness, weeping, and sorrow, with you!

Sin no longer condemns you, friends.

Jesus has destroyed its power over you, Don’t let the devil try to convince you otherwise because the devil has been a liar from the beginning. This is how He has prepared your place in God’s Kingdom.

Because He has, you can be assured that He is with you now and as His Holy Spirit empowers you to trust in Him, you are His now and forever.

Jesus has freed us to believe in God and in the Son He sent to spare you an eternity in hell. You need not be troubled.

By grace through faith in Christ, you belong to God, now and eternally. Amen.