Our sin and our failures demand only one thing—judgment. What our thoughts, words, and actions have earned for us is not only death, but a complete separation from God and his love.. In other words, hell. Today, though, we hear again about a Savior who goes to war for us. A Savior who comes with one mission and a singular, unwavering focus on that purpose: to save us. Jesus has come to suffer. Jesus has come to die. Jesus has come to take the judgment our sins deserve and to stand condemned for them. Jesus comes to take our judgment and overcome—and he does! He now lives and promises us that our sin is forgiven, that there is now no condemnation for us! So, while we see his suffering and death for us, we rejoice in the victory he has given us.
There's a snake under your pew! It is the stinging awareness of our failure to love God and our neighbor. We are impatient with God as well as with our neighbor. Sometimes we're tempted to look for a better god or a better neighbor. As long as we obsess over our troubles, our frustrations---our "snakes"---they will keep biting and sin will keep killing us and our relationships. The Word today lifts our eyes to see that Christ on the cross took the bite of our sins into Himself in order that, as faith gazes and focuses on Him, we receive the perfect antidote to sin and death: forgiveness in Christ. Our Savior overcomes even our sin!
So many things in our world and in our life clamber for our attention and want to be first in our lives. It can be hard to weed out the unimportant and keep the important in the right priority. Even more difficult, no, impossible, is to do if perfectly each and every day. Your Savior God wants to be first in your life. He went to war for you fighting the devil, the sinful world, your own sinful nature so that your relationship with God might be restored. His perfect obedience and sacrifice for us assures us of our salvation.
German philosopher and economist Karl Marx once stated that religion is the opium of the masses. Marx believed that religion had certain practical functions in society that were similar to the function of opium in a sick or injured person: it reduced people's immediate suffering and provided them with pleasant illusions. In other words, religion is something that is supposed to reduce suffering. Yet, listen to the readings from God’s Word this morning—they don’t describe happy times. Jesus’ life here on earth was marked by suffering because of who he was and what he came to do. The price of our salvation is steep—it involved Jesus suffering and dying for our sins. In our Savior though we see the stark reality of the love of God and how it is inseparably connected to the cross, both his and ours! Salvation and suffering go hand in hand, for Jesus and for us too! May God strengthen our hearts as we see Jesus overcome suffering to assure us of our salvation, and to strengthen us when we must suffer. Our cross drives us to his cross both for forgiveness and for strength.
This past week with Ash Wednesday, we entered the time of the church year called Lent. During the season of Lent, we reflect on our Savior’s battle with the devil with a somber realization that it was our sins that brought on his suffering and death. Through the next several weeks we are going to see our Savior go to war—to fight for us on our behalf and to fight against the devil, the sinful world, even death itself. Today, we see our Savior battle the devil and his temptations, something you and I are intimately familiar with. How often doesn’t the devil strive to lead us away from our Savior and into sin, and how often don’t we fall. But Jesus didn’t. Jesus overcame temptation, and in overcoming temptation, defeated the devil and won our salvation. We see our Savior go to war and come back victorious over temptation.
Ash Wednesday calls us to a forty-day journey of repentance and renewal. The forty days of Lent are set aside as a time to take a look at our walk with God. Our attention is especially directed to the holy sufferings and death of our Lord Jesus Christ. From ancient times the season of Lent has been kept as a time of special devotion, self-denial, instruction, and humble repentance born of a faithful heart that dwells confidently on His Word and draws life and hope from it. In our service today as a reminder of our mortality and our sin, ashes are imposed on the foreheads of believers. Note the sweet Gospel phrases that dominate: Return to the Lord, for he is gracious. Having obtained his pardon, we seek a renewal of our faith and life that we might live as baptized children of God.
The season of showing his glory to those he has called is coming to a close. We stand at the threshold of the season of his ultimate humiliation. But before we go down to the valley of the shadow of death, he gives us a glimpse of the glory which he hid so carefully even while he was revealing it. Lent is coming; hang on to the glory that soon will be covered in shame and washed with blood!
In today’s Gospel lesson, we see God reveal our Savior to us through the miracles he did. But those miracles were not the reason Jesus came. Rather, the miracles Jesus performed pointed out that he was the Anointed One, the Savior Promised by God for thousands of years. He was the One who came to accomplish the forgiveness of sins and to bring eternal life. Our revealed Savior comes to heal the hopeless. He came down to rescue and save you and me in our need!
“This is my Son, whom I love. Listen to him!” proclaimed God the Father at our Savior’s baptism. This week we see Jesus and his newly minted disciples head to church on the Sabbath day where Jesus proclaims the good news and the people are amazed. We too have come to church today to hear our Savior speak through God’s Word. “Listen to Him!” For our Savior speaks words to us comfort us with the news of forgiveness, the strengthen us with the promises of his presence, and embolden us to share our Savior with those around us. Listen to the Revealed Savior!
As God reveals to us our Savior through Epiphany, we also see him call people to share the revealed Savior. From the reluctant prophet Jonah to his disciples to you and me, Christ’s followers are called to share the revealed Savior with those around them. Our message hasn't changed: the Savior has come! Repent and believe!
It is in the Word that we hear the call of God that has in it the secret power of God to give what he commands. He commands: Believe! and the Word creates faith. He says, Follow me! and the Word creates the desire and the ability to follow him. That he should consider it glorious to call sinners, is that not an amazing thing? That he should attach such power to his Word that we answer the call, is that not a wonder that lasts an eternity for each of us?
There were so many mysteries in life as a child. As you grew up, many of those mysteries were revealed and understood, but not all. There are still those things that remain a bit of a mystery… love, friendship, how a sock gets lost in the laundry. Throughout the season of Epiphany, we see another great mystery revealed as God reveals to us his plan to save the world. In Jesus, we see our Savior revealed in his words and in his works. Today, as we look in on our Savior’s baptism, we marvel at God’s love for us and reflect what Jesus’ baptism means for our baptism. Rejoice! Our Savior is Revealed!