Monday, June 05, 2023

Life from God

[Below, you'll find live stream video of yesterday's worship services from Living Water Lutheran Church in Centerville, Ohio, along with the text od the message for the day. Yesterday was Holy Trinity Sunday.]

Matthew 28:16-20

On this Holy Trinity Sunday, God, Whose revealed name is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, comes to us in His fullness. He does so, as Jesus says elsewhere, so that you “may have life, and have it to the full…” (John 10:10)

God is going to give you life again this morning in our Gospel lesson, which recounts the last words of the crucified and risen Jesus recorded in Matthew’s gospel.

We need to receive life from God–actually we need to receive God’s life from God–because we are sinners prone, like stupid sheep, to wander away from God and the life that He alone can give to us.

Without life from God, the Author of life, we are dead.

To understand how God is going to give life to you again today in our Gospel lesson, it would be helpful to consider the witness of our first lesson–Genesis 1:1-2:4 in the Old Testament–and see how God gave life at the birth of all the physical universes He created. Genesis 1:1-3 says: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, ‘Let there be light,’ and there was light.”

What happens here? God the Father speaks the Word, Who as we know from the Gospel of John, is Jesus, and the Holy Spirit makes it possible for the “formless, dark, deep”--dead and lifeless–to hear or receive God’s Word.

Wherever God’s life-giving Word, Christ Himself, is heard, life happens.

It is this Word, full of life, gospel, good news, that causes nothing to become something, that causes the dead to come alive!

It was of this Word that the apostle Paul wrote in Romans: “ is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.” (Romans 1:16)

So, the Father speaks Christ the Word and the Spirit wings that Word into dead darkness in order to bring, as 2 Timothy in the New Testament tells us, “life and immortality to light.” (2 Timothy 1:10)

Now that we know how the Trinity–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–gives life, we’re ready to receive life from Him in Matthew 28:16-20 today.

You know the incident well. The eleven remaining apostles–after betraying Jesus, Judas has died–go to a mountain to which Jesus has commanded them to go. There, they meet the risen Jesus!

This surely is a moment of joy, right? Not entirely. Matthew says, “When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.” (Matthew 28:17)

Matthew doesn’t tell us what the disciples doubt. They can’t doubt that Jesus is risen: Jesus is standing in front of them. So, what are they doubting?

The root of the word translated as “doubted” here is διστάζω, a compound word the two parts of which are double and stand. When we doubt, it’s because we’re not sure about where we stand.

When you know where you stand with God, you can worship Him.

When you’re unsure, you doubt not only that you can worship but whether God will accept your worship.

As they wobble and kneel in the presence of Jesus, at least some of the eleven likely doubt that Jesus will forgive them.

Peter may wonder, “Can Jesus forgive me for denying Him?”

The others may wonder, “Can Jesus forgive us for abandoning Him when trouble came?”

They all may wonder, “Are my sins so great that I’m beyond the forgiveness of Jesus?”

What about you? Do doubts like these ever assail you?

“I lied to make myself look good,” you may think.

Or, “I lusted for another man’s wife or another woman’s husband.”

Or, “I was dishonest about money.”

Or, “I have been unwilling to forgive so-and-so for how they hurt me.”

Do you doubt that God’s grace in Christ is for you? Do you sometimes think that Christ died and rose for everybody’s sin but your own?

Friends, the God we know through Jesus Christ knows how you feel and not just because as God, He knows everything you think and do. He knows because He already took all your sin and all mine into Himself and was crucified with it. He knows your sin from the inside out. He knows how horrible it is. He knows how, when you look only to yourself in the light of God’s law–His commandments–that you feel you must be eternally condemned. He was experiencing the condemnation of God’s Law on you when He cried from the cross, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46)

But forsakenness is not the end that God desires for any of us.

After reminding the eleven on the mountaintop that all authority on heaven and earth has been given to Him because He has conquered sin, death, and the devil through His death for us and His resurrection for us, Jesus speaks life to sinners like you and me. (I’m rendering the words in verse 19 here literally.) “As you are going, keep being my disciples in all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit…” Here are the Gospel words that bring you life!

Jesus tells disciples who have messed up, sinned, and betrayed or denied Him, “You are still My disciples. Keep being My disciples. Keep turning back to Me for forgiveness and life.”

Listen, the God Who tells His disciples that, in His power, we are to forgive others seventy times seventy times, is ready and able to forgive and give life to us infinitely more than that!

That’s not a license to sin, of course, it’s freedom to live assured that our Father in heaven forgives us our trespasses and views us as His very own disciples, children, friends.

And it means that we can turn to Him for forgiveness each day because “He remembers that we are dust,” dead dust into whom He breathes the Holy Spirit, the only One Who can give us life! (Psalm 103:14)

We can live in the freedom of being God’s own children because we have been baptized and called to faith in the name–notice it’s name, not namesthe name by which God saved us at the waters of Holy Baptism: the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

This is the name by which God has reveals Himself to us.

And it’s this His name He has placed on us to claim us as His own.

By this name, we sinners are saved and made saints.

And this name assures us that prodigals though we are, we can turn to Him and live.

Not only that, we can baptize others and know that they too have been made God’s children. As Peter reminds us, “baptism…saves you.” (1 Peter 3:21) 

Then Jesus says, finishing the sentence started in verse 19 (I’m rendering His words in verse 20 literally from the Greek again): “...teaching them [the nations] to keep guard over all the things that I have given you to keep guard over. And behold, I am with you all the days until the completion of the age.” (Matthew 28:20, literal translation)

To keep guard of the things that Christ has given to us is to hold the sacred trusts of the Law that condemns human sin and the Gospel that sets us free as God’s message for all nations.

It means to repent when God’s Word calls us to repentance and it means to believe when God’s Word of absolution–in the name of Jesus, all your sins are forgiven–is declared. It means telling the world what Jesus tells us in Mark 16:16: “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

Sisters and brothers in Christ, because the triune God has spoken the Gospel Word to you, giving you both the gift of repentance and the gift of faith in Jesus, sin no longer has the power to condemn you. You are forgiven.

This promise isn’t just for eleven apostles on a mountaintop in Galilee two-thousand years ago. It’s for you too. Again this morning, dear saints in Christ, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, you are forgiven and you belong to God forever. Amen