Sermons, Uncategorized

The Last Enemy Is Destroyed: Sermon for the Funeral of Veva Mae Baden

Veva BadenClick here to listen to this sermon. 

“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at His coming those who belong to Christ. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1 Corinthians 15:20–26).

Randy, Rhonda, other family members and friends of Veva:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

This weekend we observed the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. The “war to end all wars,” it was optimistically, if not naively dubbed. At first idealistic, the term has become quite ironic. In the 100 years since the Armistice was declared with Germany on the 11th hour of the 11th month, our own country has fought in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Gulf War, and is still involved in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. It seems that the moment one would-be dictator is deposed, another takes his place on the world’s stage. Another war begins in the futile attempt to end all wars.

But there’s a much deadlier war going on. A spiritual war that has been going on for centuries—ever since the fall into sin in the Garden of Eden. It’s the battle of the Seed of the woman and seed of the serpent. Good vs evil. God vs Satan. And the toll that it has taken is enormous. Thousands of years with 100% casualty rates. For as we know, the wages of sin is death. And all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. All have followed the path of Adam: From the dust of the ground you came, in the ground to dust you shall return.

The fact that death is our spiritual enemy has immense significance for us Christians, especially on a day like this. Sometimes at funerals, one hears comments such as these: “We shouldn’t be sad; we should only rejoice. God blessed her with many years. Her suffering is over. This is a victory celebration.” To be sure, there is a sense in which this is true. But death, the last enemy and sign of sin’s universal dominion over fallen humanity, will not be swallowed up until the Last Day, and Christians are free to grieve at the death of their loved ones.

Even the 90 years that God granted Veva to serve her family and community, to share her joy of music by teaching piano and playing in church are a drop in the bucket compared to our Creator’s plan for us. God never intended the pain of separation and the heartache that attends death. That sharp pain of grief can be an entirely appropriate manifestation of the biblical understanding that death has not yet been fully overcome. And so, Christians may and should mourn at funerals—but not as those who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).

But there’s Good News on the battle front!

The fight is over. The battle won. Christ is risen. Death is defeated.

Oh, I know, it doesn’t look that way on a day like today. The evidence suggests otherwise. The flowers in the nave. Veva’s mortal remains lie in the casket before us—one of the latest casualties in the conflict of the ages. In less than an hour, we will be committing her body to rest in the ground. But God’s Word clearly declares that death has been defeated!

That victory was won about the 9th hour of the Friday we Christians call Good. In the darkness, when Jesus drew His last breath and shouted, “It is finished!” Again, it didn’t look victorious at all, but that was the end of death’s reign. The sting of death is sin and the power of sin is the Law. Jesus fulfilled the Law. Jesus absorbed the power of sin by becoming sin. Jesus took the sting of death into His own flesh. The Law is fulfilled. Sin is judged. Death lies defeated.

Easter is not the victory. Good Friday is. Jesus’ death is the decisive victory when death swallowed up life and lost. But without the resurrection, the victory remains hidden. Without the resurrection, we wouldn’t know Jesus from Adam. But Christ is risen, the firstfruits of the dead. He unbarred the gates. He broke the chains. He threw open the prison doors. The stone is rolled away. The burial clothes are folded neatly. The tomb is empty. Jesus has risen.

Every harvest has firstfruits. The first strawberries of spring. The first tomato of summer. The first wheat and corn and soybeans of the harvest. Firstfruits mean more to come. Jesus is the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. He’s the first of the dead to rise. But there’s more to come. Many more.

For Christ, the resurrection took place almost 20 centuries ago. For those who have believe in Him, the resurrection will take place when He returns in glory on Judgment Day. The first sheaf was from a grave outside Jerusalem on the first Easter morning nearly two thousand years ago. The harvest will be from graves all over the world when our risen Lord will appear on clouds of glory, and His own will rise from their graves and will be caught up to meet with Him in the air.

“As in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” When Adam fell, humanity fell. When Adam sinned, humanity became a sinner. Death came into this world through one man, Adam. His death was the death of us all. His sin is our sin and our captivity.

That is why Christ had to come as man. That is why the Word had to become flesh to dwell among us. Humanity needed a new head. A new Adam. A second Adam who was like the first and not like the first. Like us in every way except for sin. A sinless Adam who would do what the first Adam did not do and what we in Adam cannot do.

When Christ died, humanity died. When Christ rose, humanity rose in Him. “As in Adam all die, so in Christ shall all be made alive.”

The battle is won, but the war is not yet over. There are still border skirmishes, pockets of resistance, enemy soldiers lurking. Even after the Armistice was declared, the battles continued as generals tried to take more territory before their troops were withdrawn. We still get sick, still have accidents, still grow old, and we all die. We are born of Adam, children of Adam. We are conceived and born with Adam’s inherited sin. Birth is one hundred percent fatal. Everyone enters this world with an expiration date.

But Christ has conquered death on behalf of fallen humanity. Christ is humanity’s new head, a humanity that is destined to rise on the Last Day. That doesn’t mean that all rise to eternal life. It does mean that all rise. Those, like Veva, who trust in Christ and His merits rise to eternal life. Those who trust in themselves and their works rise to eternal condemnation. But all rise. All humanity is caught up in the victory of Jesus and no one is left behind.

What Christ has won for all, He gives in Holy Baptism. Through the water and Word, Veva was adopted into the family of God, made a co-heir with Christ of all the treasures of His kingdom, including forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life. In Baptism, she was declared by God dead to sin but alive to God in Christ. She was buried with Christ in His death and raised to new life in His resurrection.

What happened with Jesus in His death and resurrection is now made yours in Baptism. You are dead and you are alive. Dead in Adam and alive in Jesus. Jesus’ victory over death and sin and the Law are yours. God has granted it in His name. The last enemy has been conquered!

How pitiful it is when Christians talk as though Jesus was nothing more than a crutch to lean on. How pitiful it is when Christians live in cowering fear of death and the grave in full view of Jesus’ open and empty tomb. How pitiful it is when we act as though our puny hold on this life is all there is and all there will ever be. Jesus’ resurrection proves that death isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you!

Christ is risen, the firstfruits of the harvest of the resurrection!

“Firstfruits” means more to come. A future. A destiny. A hope. For Veva. For you. Though you die, yet in Christ you live. And living and trusting in Christ, you never die forever. There is now and there is not yet. Now we live by faith in the Son of God. Now we live trusting God’s promise of life in Jesus. Now we live believing that we no longer live, but Christ lives in us.

But there’s a coming day, a great day, a glory day, when we will see with resurrected eyes what we must now believe and take God at His Word. The end, the Last Day, when every temporal rule and authority and power will be destroyed, when every dead will rise, and every tongue confess Jesus Christ as Lord to the glory of God the Father.

“He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet.” Christ has enemies. The war still rages on. The devil, the world, and our sinful flesh still tempt us, causing us to doubt, to disbelieve, to wander from the flock. We forget the open, empty tomb and live in servile fear of death. We bargain with false religions and quack cures trying to cheat death. We live in denial, as though death were an illusion. We forget the promises God has made for us in Jesus Christ.

The victory is won, the outcome is guaranteed, but war rages on. It is not a war against flesh and blood. It is not a war fought with bullets and bombs. It is not a war fought by power and might. It is not a war that we fight, but one that Christ fights seated at the right hand of the Father. He is restless to put all His enemies under His foot along with the head of the serpent. And He fights that battle with the Word of His mouth and the fiery breath of His Spirit. That’s how this war is fought. Word and Spirit. Word and Sacrament. Baptism. Body. Blood. Forgiveness. Holy Church. Holy Ministry. That’s how the Son of God fights His war against every rule and power and authority. And that’s why it’s important for you to come to the place where He promises to give these things—the Church!

At the end of World War II, there were Japanese soldiers on isolated islands in the Pacific who did know the war was over. They did not realize they had been defeated. They were still fighting a war that had ended years before. Someone had to tell them, and it wasn’t always safe. They were at war.

That’s what you and I do in the world. We tell the people we meet that the fight over sin and death is over. The battle is won. That’s why we gather here in the Lamb’s foreign embassy, the Church to hear it again, over and over and over again. To be reminded, that this fallen world and this broken life is not all there is. To be encouraged to stay strong and ready to the end. The best is yet to come.

The last enemy, death, is destroyed. Christ is risen! The grave has lost its sting! On the Last Day, all the dead will rise, and Christ will bring Veva, Gordon, you, your loved ones, and all who die in the faith to be with Him forever in the new heaven and the new earth. Amen!

The peace of God that passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This sermon is based upon an Easter sermon by William C. Cwirla.


Sermons, Uncategorized

Sermon for the Funeral of Donald Long

Donald LongClick here to listen to this sermon.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

Near the end of his life St. Paul wrote at least two letters to one of his understudies—a man named Timothy. The second is a farewell letter in which the apostle warns the young pastor of false teachers and exhorts his charge to carry on his preaching of the Gospel even as he has begun. In the last section, chapter 4, verses 6-18, Paul begs Timothy to come to him as soon as possible, for he knows his time on earth is short. This will be the basis for my sermon this afternoon:

“For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing.

“Do your best to come to me soon. For Demas, in love with this present world, has deserted me and gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, Titus to Dalmatia. Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry. Tychicus I have sent to Ephesus. When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments. Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion’s mouth. The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into His heavenly kingdom. To Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen” (2 Timothy 4:6–18).

There he was: an old man whose life’s journeys were now drawing to a close. His travels were now measured in terms of feet and yards, as opposed to the miles that he had once been able to journey. The years had taken their toll and he was tired clear down to his bones. Indeed, his movements were restricted by his physical condition. In fact, he knew that the end of his life was at hand and he looked forward to the time when the Lord would call him home to the glory that awaited him. His desire was to depart and to be with Christ which would be far better.

At this point in his life, his needs were few and they were very simple. In his present condition, only the basics of physical and spiritual life were important to him. One of his blessings was to have the medical care that was required. Luxuries, accumulation of material possessions, prestige, and past accomplishment were unimportant at this stage of his life.

His restrictions in movement also came from his surroundings. He could only move about when others allowed it. He was not free to go wherever he wanted, in fact, he was confined. Indeed, when he wrote to Timothy, Paul was a prisoner in Rome awaiting his execution for being a Christian.

As we think about what Paul’s needs were, we can readily see that Don’s were similar. In his letter, the apostle included the request that Timothy bring his cloak. The combination of age, the winter, and the chill of his dungeon left Paul desiring to be kept warm. So also with Don. The man who had always been so active, pursuing his interests collecting coins and guns, hunting and fishing, flying and bird watching—the man who just two summers ago bicycled over 400 miles on the paths around Pipestone was confined—first indoors because of health issues, then toward the last, imprisoned in his own mind. There was the need for the immediate physical necessities—warmth, food, shelter, clothing, and medical care.

But there was also the self-recognition that he needed spiritual care as well. One of the marks of faith is to recognize the need to take care of one’s soul. Men like Paul and Don confessed their sin and looked to God for forgiveness and salvation and eternal life. Whenever they were able, they worshiped their Lord. They were not like those who were once members of the church, but who, like the man named Demas, “was in love with this present world,” and who deserted the faith and had no place for God any longer. No indeed, they acknowledged that they were sinful in thought, word, and deed. They knew that Christ had died for their sins, taking the penalty of their guilt upon Himself on the cross.

Their hope was in the Lord Jesus who rose again from the dead to ensure victory over death; and that they had if only because of God’s grace. Christ was their confession of faith, the only One in whom there is hope for life in the face of death—the only one each of us will face. For each one of us will come to the end of this life here on earth.

Paul knew that his death would come at any moment at the hands of the Romans. Don did not know when the good and gracious will of the Lord would be done—when the Almighty would call him into eternal glory. But both were ready. Both could say: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”

Are you ready? Could you say the same thing? Just as surely as the mortal remains of Don are before us today, so also will it be for each of us here, unless the Lord should return first. When will your end come—will it be today on the way home, suddenly and unexpected, or will you live to be 94 years old like Don did?

Perhaps the most important question is “Will you be ready?” What are you going to do with this Jesus? For those of you who have neglected your spiritual welfare or that of your family, let both the words of Paul and the reality of Don’s passing demonstrate your need for a faithful relationship with the Lord.

Paul stated the truth that those who have no such trust in and worship of the Lord will not partake in the joys and blessings of heaven, but that those who do fear, love, and trust in God can have the greatest confidence when he wrote: “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have loved His appearing.”

That same hope was Don’s and it can be yours, too, for the sake of Christ. We are always in the shadow of death in this sinful world, and we don’t know how much time we have left here. But we can say with confidence, “Henceforth there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day.” No matter what lies ahead, you always have more life to look forward to—eternal life.

Remember that, and remember that it is all for the sake of Christ. See, you might feel very certain of your salvation now, but uncertainty becomes the devil’s haunting weapon of terror when death draws near.

For now, you continue to fight; and it’s a good fight because you’re a child of God, because the Holy Spirit sanctifies your life for the sake of Jesus. But it’s a fight all the same, as the devil, the world, and your own sinful flesh work hard to make you feel miserable for being a Christian. For now you run the race, and it’s a good race, too. Your pace might be faster or slower, but the finish line means eternity with the Lord, not the end. Keep your eyes on the prize—Christ and His crown of righteousness. Keep in the means of grace—God’s Word and Sacrament.

When Paul was no longer able to go about freely and be with the congregation for worship, his desire was still to have the Word of God brought to him. He asked Timothy to bring the books and the parchments to him—to have the Word of God brought to him in his prison cell.

When Don was no longer able to come to church, his desire was to have the Word of the Lord brought to him. From the monthly times when he received the Lord’s Supper and heard Bible readings to the times groups would sing to him and other residents of the nursing home, he was kept close to his Lord.

I might add at this point that all of us, but especially you children, need to take a lesson from Don with respect to memorizing the Bible passages, hymn verses, and the liturgy. When his eyes became such that he could no longer read and when no one was there to read to him, he had the Scriptures because he knew many verses from memory.

Paul wrote that he wanted Timothy and Mark to come to be with him. He needed to have people around him. The same was true with Don. All of the visits by family, friends, and members of the congregation were greatly appreciated. Even when Don was no longer able to speak, he would still smile and hold on tight to your hand as you said good-bye.

Therefore, I am confident that his parting words for you who have come here to remember his life and to pay your last respects, he would say: “Thank you for coming today.” And for those of you who are Christians and who will see Him in heaven one day, he would probably say something like this: “God be with you until we meet again.” Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Sermons, Uncategorized

A House Not Made with Hands: Sermon for the Funeral of Paul Brockberg

Paul Brockberg bannerClick here to listen to this sermon.

“For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” (2 Corinthians 5:1).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

Like the psalmist, I was glad when they said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” That is, to say, I was glad to hear that the visitation yesterday and our service today would be here at St. John’s. It is good and right that we should be at this house of the Lord. Every time that I would visit him, he would ask: “How are things going at the church? How was attendance last Sunday? Was Jeff there? Bryan? Got many kids in Sunday School?”

It’s easy to understand why this house of the Lord would be important to Paul. This was the place in which he was baptized, confirmed, and married, Paul’s children were baptized and confirmed here at St. John’s. Paul served as a Sunday School teacher, church officer, and elder for many years in this place. Here in this place, Paul joyfully and heartily sang the praises of God. Here, week after week, Paul heard God’s Word proclaimed and received Christ’s body and blood for the forgiveness of his sins and the strengthening of his faith.

But today we’re not going to focus on this place, this house made with human hands. I want to spend more time talking about a “building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens” and the place that Jesus has prepared for His followers.

St. Paul describes life now in this body as a tent—“the tent that is our earthly home.” It’s fading. It falls apart. It’s damaged by time, elements, and toxins. Really, the problem is that it’s a victim of the wages of sin. For a while, it’s a source of groaning. Eventually it is destroyed because the wages of sin is death.

So your body preaches sermons to you all the time—sermons of law. The sore throat and stuffy nose of a cold. The ache of arthritis or overtaxed joints. Toothaches. Allergies. The heartbeat that flutters now and then. Cataracts. We’ve each got our own list of pains and maladies: all of them preach that far from indestructible, we’re fragile and vulnerable. All of these remind us that the tent doesn’t last forever. And while that is a sad fact to contemplate, it is a very necessary lesson.

You see, you and I are, by nature, very much materialists. I don’t mean that we love material things more than we should, even though that’s often the case. Rather, I mean that we believe that material things are more real than immaterial things. In this case, your body is the material thing: you can see it, feel it, suffer its pains, enjoy its exhilarations. Because of that, you’re tempted to believe that your body is far more real than the soul—which you can’t see, feel, suffer, or enjoy.

Because you’re so much more aware of, and attuned to, your body, you’re then tempted to judge life and God by how well your body’s doing. If your health is good and your body is in good shape, then life is good and God is good. But if your health is bad and your body is failing, then life is bad and God is failing you. It’s easy to fall into this way of thinking for materialists like you and me. We tend to think of ourselves mainly as bodies that also happen to have souls.

But I propose to you that we are more souls that have bodies than bodies that have souls. We are souls with bodies—the soul is real and the soul is important. We can’t see it, but that doesn’t diminish its worth. In fact, it is more valuable than most of those things we can see. Jesus says in Mark 8:35: “For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?” If your body is in great shape but your soul is stained with sin, you’re condemned. If your body is in poor shape but your soul is cleansed by grace, then heaven is yours forever.

It’s an important point, but there’s another danger lurking here: scorn for the body. Various false religions, as well as some within Christendom, have come to view the body as a prison for the soul. Death to them means release from prison, and an afterlife as a naked spirit free from bodies. That’s going too far in the other direction. The fact is that both bodies and souls are gifts of God.

God created Adam and Eve with both bodies and souls before the fall into sin. That sets us apart from all other creatures. Jesus honored our bodies by becoming flesh Himself in order to redeem us, body and soul. He subjected Himself, body and all, to God’s wrath on the cross so that we might be spared. Buried in the tomb, He sanctified our graves with His body which did not see corruption. Then He rose from the dead, body and all—and ascended into heaven, body and all. So if the Lord created your body and redeemed your body by His death and resurrection, it is not be an object of scorn. It remains your tent for as long as you remain in this world. It remains a temple of the Holy Spirit, for you are a redeemed child of God.

This can be a difficult truth. I think of Paul, who suffered from health issues for many years, the last twelve at Good Samaritan. At times, I’m sure, his body seemed a prison from which he wanted to escape. And in a sense, though there is grief at his death, there is a sense of relief when Paul was finally delivered from his afflictions. But I think it is important to make a distinction: his body wasn’t the problem—the affliction was. Similarly, his life was never a burden—the affliction of his body was.

I think that distinction is important: if you regard your body as the problem, then you will despise the body that God has created for you, perhaps even curse it. But if you regard the wages of sin as the problem, then the toll it takes on your body will lead you to ongoing repentance of your sin and trust in Christ—Christ who by His forgiveness delivers you from sin and death into life everlasting.

This is what St. Paul is getting at in our epistle: “For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building with God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.” Your tent—your body—here is going to fail and fall apart unless the Lord returns soon. But that is not the end: you have eternal life in heaven, and you have a building from God. A building—not a temporary tent, but a building. Your body, just better—perfect, in fact. Better than it ever has been here. Free from corruption. Forever.

St. Paul goes on: “For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” Your body in this world is going to make you groan—it takes a beating and it falls apart. But you don’t groan to be released from a body—you eagerly await to be released from the burden of sin on your body. Heaven isn’t being unclothed so that you’re just a naked soul or spirit, but it is being further clothed in an incorruptible body that lasts forever.

Why is this so? St. Paul tells us: “He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” That’s quite a verse right there: God the Father has created your body, God the Son has redeemed your body, and now God the Holy Spirit is given to you as a guarantee that eternal life in an eternal body with eternally good health is yours. All three persons of the Holy Trinity are at work for you—soul, spirit and body.

And if the Triune God is at work for you, no wonder St. Paul can go on and say, “So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight.” For now, you don’t see the Lord. You see the pills you have to take, the hearing aids you have to wear, the cane or wheelchair you have to use, the smudge on the MRI that means trouble. You see the casket at the foot of the sanctuary that bears Paul’s earthly remains and it reminds you that one day it will be your body in the casket and your family sitting in the front pews. But you are still of good courage, because you know that he and you are fully redeemed by Christ.

And so now, by faith, you know though he is away from the body, St. Paul, your dad, grandfather, relative, friend, neighbor, our brother, is at home with the Lord. He has gone to the place that Jesus prepared for him with His perfect, obedient life, His sacrificial death, victorious resurrection, and glorious ascension. He rejoices with the angels, archangels, and all the company of heaven in the New Jerusalem, where there is no more weeping and distress, no disease or death, awaiting the day of resurrection and the new heavens and the new earth.

And as for you, you live in this tent—and you groan and you grieve. But walking by faith, you know this: you are among those for whom Christ died. Solely for His sake, this tent of body and life are not the end. Only by His grace, the heavenly home is yours. Take heart, dear Christians, and be of good courage in suffering and grief: the day of the resurrection lies ahead. Your mortality and groans will be swallowed up by life everlasting, because you are forgiven for all of your sins.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.




Sermons, Uncategorized

All the Preparations Are Ready: Sermon for the Funeral of Sarah Jane Morman

Morman-Sarah_oval-232x300Click here to listen to this sermon. 

In the sermon text, Jesus was Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

Dear Patricia and Richard, members of Sarah’s family, friends, neighbors, and members of Our Saviour’s congregation,

At times like this, we are reminded of two days that are particularly and especially before us. One of those two days is the day of the funeral—today. As you well know, there have certainly been a great number of things to do and decisions to make since a week ago Friday when the Lord took Sarah to Himself in heaven. There have been numerous preparations in order that the grave site committal could take place and for this funeral service.

Fortunately, Sarah had been preparing for this day and service. She wrote most of her own obituary (although since she was much too modest, Patricia had to add a few things like the variety of sports she played: tennis, bowling, and an industrial baseball league just a step below the one like in “A League of Her Own.”) Sarah chose some of the pictures she wanted to share and indicated she wanted to be buried at Fort Snelling with her husband, Ray.

More importantly, Sarah helped to prepare for our worship service today. She selected the hymns she wanted us to sing, the readings that you have just heard. She wanted all this worship service to focus on Jesus Christ—Christ crucified for our sins and raised for our justification. Though it is never easy to plan a service for a loved one, this certainly made it a lot easier for you to get all the preparations ready for this day.

The second day we all face is much more difficult to prepare for. In fact, it is an impossible day; and to make it even more frightening, no one can tell you what day it is. It is, in all likelihood, a different day for each one of us here. For Sarah, it was a week ago last Friday, the day of her death. What day will it be for you?

What is your death day? I can’t tell you. It might be today; it might be ten years from now. Left all alone, with only yourself and your death day ahead of you, … well … there is no way to prepare for that portal called death which leads to eternity. Indeed, without God there is only eternal destruction and condemnation on the other side of your death day. In the darkness of this day at hand and that day ahead of us, such thoughts are more than troubling … they are terrifying!

The preparations for the funeral service are easy when compared with the preparations for the day of death. Truly, not one of us here can prepare for the day of death. Those preparations must be made for you by God. That’s why, on this day, Sarah wanted you to hear a sermon based on a section from John 14:1-6, and to do so that you may know of the preparations that the Lord has undertaken and brought about for your death day. Please listen to the words of Jesus once again:

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going. Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to Him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

We are not able to make the preparations necessary to enter into heaven and the eternal Paradise that God wants us to have in His presence. Each one of us is a sinful human being who daily sins much in thought, word, and deed … by what we do and by what we don’t do … by what we say and what we don’t say … by what we think and what we don’t think. Hour after hour, week after week, year after year the burden of sin builds and there is terror as we consider just what we deserve from the holy, just, righteous God. For those who take their sinfulness and their sins seriously, to say that our hearts are troubled is an understatement. If left to ourselves and our own devices, our outlook would be hopeless. The Lord God must make all the preparations if we are to be with Him forever.

The Good News to you this day, whoever you are, is this: God has done it. Let not your hearts be troubled. To accomplish your salvation, God the Father sent God the Son into this world to take your place by enduring the penalty for your sinfulness and for all your sins … every one of them. Jesus paid the debt that was yours. Listen to Jesus, “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God; believe also in Me.”

Jesus is God, just as the Father is God. God prepared your redemption when He died on the cross. His words, “It is finished!” indicate a complete payment and accomplished salvation for you. Truly, truly, I say to you, Jesus is our Redeemer and He has made all the preparations for you to be with Him in Paradise.

God baptized Sarah into Christ’s death at Oak Grove United Presbyterian Church in 1930 and her death became His death and His death became her death. Sarah died that day of her Baptism. She was crucified with Christ and from that moment on, it was no longer she who lived but Christ living in her; and the life which she then lived in the flesh, she lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved her and gave Himself for her (Galatians 2:20). On the day of her Baptism, the Lord was preparing Sarah for a week ago Friday, the day when she entered Paradise.

Please remember, the Lord God must make all the preparations if we are to be with Him forever. The Good News to you this day, whoever you are, is this: God has done it. Let not your hearts be troubled. In order to accomplish your salvation, Jesus rose again from the dead on the third day … on what we call Easter morning. Neither death nor the devil nor the grave could hold Him. He has defeated them for you.

God granted Sarah her first resurrection when He baptized her with water and the Word. She was buried with Christ through Baptism into death, that just as Jesus was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so she also walked in newness of life from that moment (Romans 6:4). On the day of her Baptism, the Lord was not only preparing Sarah for a week ago last Friday when she entered Paradise, in that first resurrection of Baptism, the Lord was also preparing Sarah for the Last Day and the resurrection of her body to live everlasting.

The Lord worked faith in Sarah’s heart in Holy Baptism. Attending worship regularly, she heard the proclamation of the Gospel and God granted her faith to believe in Him and His promises. The Lord, through His Word and Sacrament, sustained and strengthened the faith that He created in Sarah throughout her life. You need only look at one of Sarah’s Bibles to see how much she treasured the Word of God—there you will see evidence of how she prayed for her grandchildren and great-grandchildren each day in morning and evening devotions.

A few days before her death, Sarah partook of Christ’s body and blood in the Lord’s Supper for the last time here on this earth. A week ago Friday, the Lord who had prepared a place for her at His banqueting table in Paradise, received her unto Himself that where He is, there she is also now. So she and Ray are together once again and their voices hymn among the angels, the archangels, and all the company of heaven singing the never-ending liturgy of the Church Triumphant. Therefore, let not your heart be troubled.

preparing His followers for what was ahead for Him—for His awful suffering and His cursed death on the cross. He knew that His disciples would need hope in the days that followed. Therefore, He tells them about His ascension … about not only dying and about not only rising from the dead, but also for His ascension in and to heaven. Thus Jesus speaks to you and thus did Sarah want you, this day, to hear these words of hope and comfort.

Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.

But you know something: On the day when Jesus spoke these words, not everyone knew what He meant. At least one person among those hearing the Word that day did not know what Jesus meant. At least one person in the congregation did not know what was being said, did not understand, was not at all certain what this meant. Thomas said to Jesus, “Lord, we do not know where You are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to Him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

“No one comes to the Father except through Me.” That is neither threat nor law. It is a promise. That, dear people, is pure Gospel … pure Good News. Everything of God has its source in Christ and is reached through Christ. Jesus is the Way, the only Way to the Father. Jesus is the Truth. We can trust Jesus because all that is real and true is found in Him. He is God the Word, and through His Word He reveals His salvation. Jesus is the Life, the source of physical and spiritual life. Whoever believes in Him has eternal life.

The Son of God, in His becoming one of us, in His sinless life, in His sin-atoning death on the cross, in His victorious resurrection, in His majestic ascension and in His life-giving and sustaining Word, has made all preparations for you to be with Him in Paradise. Live in His Word and grace each day. Amen

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.


Sermons, Uncategorized

“Fear Not!” : A Sermon for the Funeral of Pat Beyers

20180629_091902Click here to listen to this sermon.

But now thus says the Lord, He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior” (Isaiah 43:1-3a).

Cheri, Scott, Brendon, Cyndi, and other members of Pat’s family, her friends, and Our Saviour’s congregation:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

When I speak at a funeral service, there are often younger people, and maybe some not so young, who are trying to find the place for religion in their lives. They’re asking themselves, “Does this mean anything to me? Is this just something my parents cared about?”

But then, at some point, everybody faces something he or she can’t handle, something that scares us. Maybe it’s the biggest stress we’ve yet faced in this life, maybe it’s an unexpected diagnosis of a dangerous disease, or maybe it’s the eventual realization that we have to face the end of this life. And suddenly we wish there could be some place to turn—or Someone to turn to—outside ourselves.

Then maybe those who’ve gone before can teach us something after all—like how they dealt with those fears themselves. Turning to their example we see that as they learned and grew, their faith became absolutely foundational.

Pat, I think, is one of those people from whom we can learn. We can learn from Pat because she knew where her Christian faith fit into all this. She knew she could face fears because her Redeemer promised to deliver her from them all. In Pat, God illustrated His assurance that we need not fear.

Our text begins, “But now thus says the Lord.” This is important. There are many philosophies, ideas, and different ways to live life out there in the world. There are many ways to handle fear. You can be crippled by it. You can try to act as if no problem exists. You can try to face it on your own strength. Or you can turn to the Lord. As Christians, we want to know what the Lord says, so when we hear, “But now thus says the Lord,” we listen, we turn to the Lord.

Isaiah continues, “He who created you, O Jacob, He who formed you, O Israel” That’s how Hebrew poetry works: say something, and then say it over again with a little twist for emphasis. In this passage, God says: “I have created you,” but then adds, “I have formed you.” That’s a closer relationship. “I didn’t just bring about some great cosmic force that ultimately produced you,” God is saying. “No, I ‘formed’ you. Like a potter with a piece of clay, I have lovingly and skillfully molded you and shaped you to be who you are. From the time of your conception, while you were yet in the womb, I have been actively involved in your life.”

Then come two great words that are the theme of our text: “Fear not.” Literally, “Stop being afraid.” The same thing the angel said to the shepherds at Christ’s birth and to the women on Easter morning. Fear not. That’s what God tells us through Isaiah; and then He tells us why: “For I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine.”

Life is full of fears. Pat went through most of them. Growing up—that’s terrifying for everybody, isn’t it? We each struggle to find our own identity. We wonder what our life will be like, where we’ll work, if we’ll ever get married and have a family. When we do tie the knot, there’s the fear and tough business of making it work, facing the fears and worries every couple experiences: finding jobs, making a home, planning for the future. And when it doesn’t work out as we expect, there are the worries of what to do now, how to carry on and begin anew.

With children in the equation, there’s a whole host of new fears! There’s worry about paying the bills, keeping the kids fed and healthy, about the friends they hang around with, and the choices they’ll make as they establish their own way in the world. In addition to juggling family responsibilities and a job at the Pipestone County Star, Pat somehow still found time for also serving her church and being actively involved in the Pipestone community.

After her children were grown, Pat entered a new phase of her life. It had to be scary as Pat moved away from Pipestone and began a career in economic development in Northfield, MN. But she was up to the challenge and advanced as new opportunities arose in Manchester, Iowa and Granite Falls, Minnesota. Then she returned to Pipestone in retirement—a move Pat called “the best thing she ever did.” And God opened the doors to new adventures and challenges.

Finally, in life, Pat, like each of us, had to deal with her own shortcomings, her own insecurities, her own sinfulness, her health issues, and ultimately, her own mortality. And that can make any of us afraid, too.

No doubt, there were times when Pat was scared. But she heard the Lord say, “Fear not. I not only made you, but I was born that I would experience everything that you can experience. I understand. Don’t be afraid. I redeemed you on the cross when I took all your sins upon Myself. I want you to look at that cross and know that every bit of punishment due you ended right there. I redeemed you, and in the resurrection of Jesus you know that even the last enemy—death—has been defeated in Me. Fear not.”

As the Lord said to Israel through the prophet Isaiah, He also said to Pat: “I have summoned you by name.” That happened many years ago when the pastor put water on Pat’s head in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. At that moment, God said, “Pat, you are My child. You are Mine. I called you by My name. No one shall ever pluck you from My hand.”

And to make sure Pat stayed in His flock, the Lord fed her regularly in the worship service with His life-giving Word and His own true body and blood for the forgiveness of her sins and the strengthening of her faith.

Our text from Isaiah goes on: “When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you.” The first word there is interesting. Maybe we think God should say “if.” If you pass through the waters.” If hard times come.

But the text does not say “if”; it says “when.” We have somehow taken it for granted that there ought to be a way to get through life without difficulties—some medical breakthrough, some fitness program, some perfect planning will help us avoid trials and troubles. But the Bible says, “No. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you.” In this fallen world we can expect, we must expect difficulties, troubles, and trials to come. Because of sin, such things are inevitable.

Even so, the Lord promises, “The rivers… shall not overwhelm you.” Oh yes, they will bother you; they will try you; they may make you want to give up. But fear not. I will be with you. When you walk through fire, the flame shall not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.”

Pat believed these verses. When asked if this were her true confession, she affirmed again and again to the time of her death: “Of course. Of course, God made me. Of course, God redeemed me. Of course, by the power of the Holy Spirit He will watch over me no matter what happens. Of course, He will raise my body on the Last Day that I may have eternal life with Him and all of His people.”

It probably won’t surprise those of you who know her best, but when I visited with Pat a few weeks before her latest stay at the hospital, she wasn’t interested in talking about herself and her weakening condition for very long. She preferred to talk about how much God had truly blessed her. She wanted to talk about her life, her children, her grandchildren, her hobbies and interests.

You know why? Because she believed God’s promises. She wasn’t afraid of her final moments because she knew her final destination was to be with the Lord.

Yes, there’s sadness today, certainly, and there is going to be more sadness I’m sure. You can’t lose someone you love and not feel a sense of emptiness and loneliness. But I pray that in the days to come, you will also feel a sense of peace.

Think of a rainbow. Rainbows don’t appear on clear days. Rainbows come on rainy, drizzly days. You come here today with the storms of your grief. You come here with the grayness of your thoughts. You come here with a sense of emptiness and sadness—but God gives you a rainbow.

Part of that rainbow is God’s work in Pat. Pat’s life lets us see one band of color in God’s whole beautiful promise also to us. In Christ Jesus, who redeemed you by His death on the cross, in your Baptism, by which God called you by name, you have the whole spectrum of His whole bright, many-colored promises. This is why the Lord, your God, the Holy One, your Savior, the One who created you and formed you, says to you today: “Fear not!”

By God’s grace, may you, like Pat and other saints who have gone on before us, find comfort and peace in Him and His Word. May God continue to work in you through His powerful Word to drive away all worries and fears with His forgiveness and love.

I close this message with the Irish blessing Pat wished you to hear:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields
and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand. Amen.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.



Is the Lord My Shepherd?

Click here to listen to this sermon.


The Lord is my shepherd—or so I say. But is He really? Is the Lord my Shepherd? Am I His sheep?

I say that I shall not want… not want anything beyond what my selfish heart desires, that is. I often covet that which He has not seen fit to give me, even though He promises to give me all that I need to support this body and life, and freely gives me all the gifts that I need for eternal life, including faith and forgiveness, grace and peace, His Word and Sacraments.

The Shepherd makes me lie down in green pastures, but look, the grass is greener on the other side of the fence! He leads me beside still waters, knowing well that His sheep cannot safely drink from swift streams, but I see still more exciting places where I’d love to drink my fill. Besides, I’ve never been a very good follower, preferring to do things my own way.

But the Shepherd restores my soul, squelching the wanderlust within me that moves me to live life the way I see fit. He leads me in paths of righteousness when I want to run in the open fields of the world—eating where and what I want to eat, associating with whom I choose to associate, doing whatever I want to do, serving my own appetites, living like the beast I am. Or, just as dangerous, those times when I try to walk the path of my own righteousness, my own good works, my own attempts at self-justification, rather than trusting in the perfect righteousness of Christ that alone justifies me and opens for me the way to eternal life.

The Good Shepherd leads me for His name’s sake, but I want to make a name for myself. I want others to like me and respect me, to look up to me. I want others to envy me, to speak ill of me if they wish, but secretly to covet who I am and what I’ve done. I want to get my own 15 minutes of fame, my time in the sun, and I’m willing to go to great lengths to make it happen.

Oh, I must tell you: I find the Shepherd’s rod restrictive and His staff stifling to my animalistic heart! Come valleys of the shadow of death, come storm and wind, hail and rain, I shall fear no evil, for I know the lay of the land, I can take care of myself, and I’m not sheepish about telling you.

So I, so you, so we sheep, boast in the psalms we sing from our untamed ovine hearts. We do not really want a Good Shepherd but a hireling, one who does not own us, who has no personal stake in us, but who answers to our whims. We want our precious freedoms—freedom to walk in unrighteous paths if the end justifies the means; freedom to pull the wool over men’s eyes, twisting every story to paint ourselves in the best light, lying when we ought to confess, telling tales of others’ sins to make our own wool seem that much whiter in our own eyes.

Repent. For you are sheep going astray. Return to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls. For the freedoms you crave are slaveries in disguise, chains that hell’s butchers cast around your neck to pull you under the slaughterhouse blade. The strange pastures you long for lead only to wandering, wilderness, and wolf, to darkness, death, and destruction.

The Lord is your Good Shepherd. And all He wants is you. You who so often turn your back on the fold and its shepherd? Yes, you. You who have cursed His staff, ignored His call, and gone your own way? Yes, you. You who have been more like a wolf than a sheep, angrily tearing away at those around you? Yes, the Good Shepherd wants only you.

So much does He want you and me, He became one of us. For us, who are but dust, He who is God of God came down, was beaten down Himself, and beat down Satan under our feet. For us, who are sheep that love to wander, the Lamb of God is bound to the altar of the cross in order to bind us to Himself. For us, whose mouths are open far too often, He opened not His mouth like a Lamb that is led to the slaughter. Now we listen to His voice.

The Lord is with us. The Good Shepherd does not send His sheep into places He will not go Himself; He leads us and is with us always. The hired hand sees the wolf coming, leaves the sheep at its mercy, and flees. He lets the wolf snatch them and scatter them, because he cares nothing for the sheep.

Our Good Shepherd goes right after the wolf, attacks him, and rescues us from his jaws. When the lion of hell rises up against Him, our Shepherd seizes him by his beard and strikes him and kills him. No, more than that. He rescues you, but not as the shepherd David did with club or sling and smooth stone. The Good Shepherd lays down His life for you that He may take it up again. He lays down His body between you and the satanic wolf, between you and the lion of hell, and He gives Himself over to be devoured. The beast of Hades licks up the blood of the slain Shepherd, chews His flesh, and gulps Him down.

But that which the beast wolfs down cannot be digested in the tomb of the stomach. And when He who lays down His life takes it back again, that tomb cannot contain Him. The Good Shepherd vacates the stomach that had entombed Him for three days, leaving behind Him a predator that you, O little flock, need fear no more.

Shall you fear the wolf of hell with his burst belly, his broken teeth, and his howls of his own defeat? Shall you fear what mere mortals think of you when God Himself calls you His child, His friend, His beloved? Shall you fear that your rebellious ways have separated you from God when He makes you bone of His bone and flesh of His flesh? Have no fear, little flock, for He who is known by the Father knows you, calls you by name, and has made you His own.

And, as St. Paul reminds us:

If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare His own Son but gave Him up for us all, how will He not also with Him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:31–39).

The earth is full of the goodness of the Lord, for by the humiliation of His Son, God raises up our fallen world. The Good Shepherd raises you up from the pit into which you have fallen. He places you upon His shoulders and rejoices to carry you home. He washes you in cleansing waters, binds up that which was broken, and heals all your wounds. He prepares a Table before you and anoints your head with oil, and His chalice continually runs over—over your lips, over your sins, quenching your thirst while making you yearn for more. All this He does for you, solely out of His boundless goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in you, but for the sake Jesus’ holy, innocent bitter sufferings and death.

Is the Lord my Shepherd? He most certainly is! He is your Shepherd, too. And because He is the Good Shepherd, you are His good sheep. Baptized into Christ’s death and resurrection, covered with His righteousness, He gives His life for you and makes your life His own and His life your own. He becomes what you are, in order to make you what He is—holy, righteous, and blessed.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow you, shall precede you, shall be on your right and on your left, above you and below you, all the days of your life, and you shall dwell in the fold of the Lord forever. Safe in the flock of His Church, you have forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life. Indeed, for Jesus’ sake, you are forgiven for all your sins.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

This sermon is an adaptation of a sermon by Chad L. Bird, published in his book, Christ Alone: Meditations and Sermons.



That He May Send the Christ Appointed for You

peter-and-john-healing-the-cripple-at-the-gate-of-the-temple-1659.jpg!Large“Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets long ago” (Acts 3:19-21).

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!

We need to set the stage a little bit, before we discuss our text.

Shortly after Pentecost, Peter and John are heading up to the temple for afternoon prayer. A man who has been lame from birth is being carried to the Beautiful Gate of the temple court, a prime location for begging alms. Seeing Peter and John, he asks them for alms. “Look at us,” Peter directs. So the man fixes his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them.

And so, he does—just not what he was expecting. But something even better. Peter says, “I have no silver and gold, but what I do have I give to you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk!” And Peter takes him by the right hand and raises him up, and immediately the man’s feet and ankles are made strong. And leaping up he stands and begin to walk, and enters the temple with the men, walking and leaping and praising God.

And all the people see him walking and praising God, and recognize him as the one who sat at the Beautiful Gate of the temple, asking for alms. And they are filled with wonder and amazement at what has happened to him.

Peter, takes advantage of the flash mob and preaches an impromptu sermon on the complete sufficiency of Christ. “Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we have made him walk?”

As he had done on Pentecost, Peter addresses his hearers as “Men of Israel.” This is to remind them of their responsibility as people who had been especially blessed in receiving God’s written Word and God’s revealed religion. It is to challenge them to act responsibly to the miracle they have witnessed and the message Peter will preach.

The healing has not taken place through the power and godliness of Peter and John. They do not want their countrymen to admire them. They want Israel to acknowledge its Savior. Peter’s message proclaims Jesus as Lord and Christ in much the same way and for the same purpose as did his sermon on Pentecost. You see, all of them in Jerusalem had heard of Jesus. They are not ignorant of Him and His crucifixion. That was just too big of news to keep quiet. The question now is a matter of interpretation. Just what does all this mean?

There were two competing interpretations of the crucifixion: 1) Jesus had failed, and 2) it was part of God’s plan, prophesied in the Scripture. Peter argues that the resurrection is God’s proof that the second explanation is the true one, and therefore Jesus has the authority to speak as God’s servant.

The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His servant Jesus, whom you delivered over and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release Him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses (Acts 3:13-15).

In saying, “the God of our fathers,” Peter identifies with his hearers and insists that he and John are also true Israelites. He will not wash his hands of his people, but will try to give them faith in Christ, showing them from Scripture that Jesus is the Christ foretold by the prophets.

The prophet Isaiah had spoken of God’s servant who would suffer and be glorified (52:13, 53:11-12):

Behold, My servant shall act wisely; He shall be high and lifted up, and shall be exalted… Out of the anguish of His soul He shall see and be satisfied; by His knowledge shall the righteous one, My servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the many, and He shall divide the spoil with the strong, because He poured out His soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.

Surely the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob could not deny the one who God had glorified. But they had! Through their representatives they had. Upon hearing Jesus’ answer to the question of His identity, the high priest, Caiaphas, had torn his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy. What is your judgment?” They answered, “He deserves death” (Matthew 26:65-66).

Israel’s Messiah was holy, dedicated to do the will of His Father and blameless in carrying it out. He was righteous, conforming perfectly to the standard of God’s law. The centurion who witnessed Jesus’ last breath, praised God and declared, “Certainly this man was innocent!” Even Pontius Pilate could see that Jesus had done nothing deserving death. When they brought Him to trial, “Pilate sought to release [Jesus], but the Jews cried out, ‘If you release this man, you are not Caesar’s friend. Everyone who makes himself a king opposes Caesar’” (John 19:12). Nevertheless, when Pilate offered to release Jesus or a notorious prisoner named Barabbas, the crowd, persuaded by the chief priest and the elders, chose Barabbas. And when Pilate had asked, “What shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They said, “Let him be crucified!” (Matthew 27:20–23).

Again, it was not only the Pharisees or the chief priests or the Sanhedrin who did this. Peter charged his hearers with complicity and responsibility in the crime: “You killed the Author of life.” What a devastating preaching of the law!

“You killed the Author of life.” Let’s not go past this statement too quickly. Here is a great paradox and mystery. The divine originator and guardian of life was put to death so that you might have life. Peter is saying, “That man is God and God died as that man.” What man was required to do and could not do—keep God’s law—God came and did for us. He came as a man to do it. The work of salvation is divine work, and He who lived and died for our salvation is divine. The God-man’s work was successful and accepted by God, for “God raised [Him] from the dead.”

Peter and John are witnesses that God has done this, and the healing of the lame man is further testimony. It is a further attestation to the fact that Christ is alive and that He acts in grace and power. “And His name—by faith in His name—has made this man strong whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all” (Acts 3:16).

The name of Jesus is the revelation of His grace and power. Jesus’ holy name works not by magic but through trust, or faith. That name, or revelation, created faith in the lame man. It created the faith that enabled the man to receive the complete healing which had filled the crowd with wonder and amazement. Jesus’ grace and power to make him strong were there before the man believed. The man’s faith had laid hold of them. Twice Peter mentions “name” and “faith” to emphasize that no power in him and John or in the lame man had been responsible for this miracle of healing.

To emphasize this is all a part of God’s plan of salvation, Peter continues:

“And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that His Christ would suffer, He thus fulfilled” (Acts 3:18).

Peter does not mean to say that ignorance is innocence. The people could not be excused for disowning God’s servant and killing the Author of life. But Peter is leading into the thought that God has used their evil act for His good purpose and that the gracious Lord is ready to forgive their sins. His words are in the spirit of Jesus, who prayed from the cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). No, God did not order the people to act as they did, or will that they do it. He did not cause their ignorance. But through their ignorant actions, God accomplished what had to occur because His Word had prophesied it.

Popular Jewish belief did not think of the Messiah as suffering. It still does not. But God foretold it and God fulfilled it and His Christ did suffer.

But Jesus’ suffering was not an accident or tragic mistake. It was God’s way of delivering all sinners from eternal suffering. Therefore, Peter calls them to repentance and opens a grand prospect to his hearers, which is far beyond his own former conception and that of all other Jews and their earthly Messianic kingdom:

Repent therefore, and turn back, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus, whom heaven must receive until the time for restoring all the things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets long ago (Acts 3:19-20).

In other words, “Repent of your past sins and turn to God by confessing that He whom you killed is, in fact God’s Anointed and your Savior. Then your sins shall be blotted out; then you shall enjoy seasons of spiritual refreshing; finally, you will experience Christ’s glorious return, and the fulfillment of all prophecies concerning the final restoration of all things. All this will be yours.”

All that the prophets preached and foretold spoke of Christ and His coming to restore everything. The healing of the lame man is an example and a foretaste of what God will do when His appointed time comes.

The Christ who came as a baby, as one of us, God in human flesh, the Savior who comes to the hearts of sinners and makes them saints, the Lamb of God who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification, this Jesus, who was taken up into heaven will come again on the day that God has set as the time to restore everything. As heaven received Him visibly, so will He return visibly.

The results of the Fall will be reversed, and then “the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God” (Romans 8:21). Years after he preached these words, Peter wrote: “But according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:13). John received this revelation from the Lord: “Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more” (Revelation 21:1).

Until that great and glorious day, the Christ appointed for you comes in His Word and Sacraments. In Holy Baptism, He gives you faith and forgiveness by the power of His triune name. Through His called and ordained servant, the Lord preaches the same message of repentance and forgiveness spoken by Peter in the temple courts. The real presence of the Lord is with you in the Lord’s Supper: In, with, and under the bread and wine, you receive Christ’s very body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthening of your faith. Through these means of grace, He brings you times of healing and refreshing.

Repent therefore, and turn again that your sins may be blotted out. Hear and believe this Good News: For Jesus’ sake, you are forgiven for all of your sins.

In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.