Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, ‘What are you seeking?’ And they said to him, ‘Rabbi’ (which means Teacher), ‘where are you staying?’ He said to them, ‘Come and you will see.’ John 1:38-39a
When Jesus asks the question, “What are you seeking?” He’s asking the would-be disciples, “What do you want?” That’s a very revealing question. The things that we want are the things that we love. If you want to know what someone loves, find out what they want. The things they want the most are the things that they love the most. They fear losing them. They love having them. They trust those things to make them happy and fulfilled and content. It’s when we learn what someone wants, what they love, that we learn what their god is.
Sadly, most of the time what humans—including all of us—want is something other than God. It can be money, peace and quiet, popularity, power, honor, or anything really. But rarely is having God enough for sinful humanity. All those other things that we fear losing, that we love having, and that we trust more than God are called idols. So when Jesus asks us, “What do you want?” He’s trying to show us all the idols we have in our lives. He’s calling us to want Him more than anything else.
The First Commandments tells us that we should have no other gods. That means that we should fear, love, and trust in God above all things. That means that we should want Him above all things. Why? Because God is the only one who can really give us life and contentedness. The life and bliss that He gives is much more than any other god could give. Everything else that we chase after and want won’t be able to give us eternal life or never-ending happiness. Money gets spent. Popularity fades. Power falls apart. Honor becomes tarnished. But none of that happens when God is what we fear, love, and trust. He is the only thing that lasts forever. And the most wonderful thing about that is that He shares it with us. When He forgives our sins in Jesus, He shares eternity with us. He gives us His own eternal life. He brings us with Him.
Jesus tells those who would follow Him as His disciples, “Come and you will see.” Come after Him. Follow Him. Love Him above all things and you will see all the wonderful things He does for those who put their trust in Him.
Heavenly Father, you know that we have many things in our lives that we fear, love, and trust more than You. Forgive us for this. Help us to love you most of all, because You have loved us enough to send Your Son to die on the cross for us and give us eternal life. In Jesus’ name, Amen.
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he consented.’ Matthew 3:13-15
At Epiphany, we learn that Jesus is on our side. Even more, we learn that He is one of us, that this Man Jesus is also God. Here, at His baptism in the Jordan River, we learn that He’s not content to simply be one of us. He also wants to do for us what we could not do on our own.
When Jesus went down into the water to be baptized by John the Baptist, John knew that this was not going to be any ordinary baptism. All the other people he had baptized had sins that they needed to confess and receive forgiveness for. But John knew that Jesus had no sin. He was the Lamb of God—spotless, pure, and holy. So he said to Jesus, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” John thought that things should have been the other way around.
But this is exactly how Jesus wanted it. He doesn’t want to stay separated from His people. He doesn’t even want sin to get in the way. So He wades down into it all, right into all the muck and mire of every single sin ever committed by humanity, and He meets His people there. Not only that, He picks up those sins and carries them Himself, taking them all the way to the cross, where He willingly pays the price those sins demand: death. He dies so that sinful people can live forever. It might seem backwards to us. It doesn’t make much sense for the innocent to be punished and the guilty to go free. It didn’t make sense to John the Baptist. But that’s what Jesus wants. He says, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” This is His plan of salvation.
At Jesus’ baptism, we see Him beginning His work of saving us. He’s not just one of us, He is right there with us in a misery-loves-company kind of way. He’s with us to redeem us, to take all of our sins from us and to give us His own purity and holiness. This is how he fulfills all righteousness. He does it all for us.
Heavenly Father, at Jesus’ baptism You told the world that He is Your beloved Son to whom we are to listen. Let us always hear His Word and know that because of what He has done for us, we have forgiveness of sins and eternal life; in Jesus’ name, Amen.
And going into the house [the magi] saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. Matthew 2:11
At Christmas we celebrate the fact that in Jesus, God has become man. The eternal Son of God now shares our human flesh and is one of us. He’s taken our side, declaring Himself to be with us forever. And it’s not too difficult to believe that God could do that. Since He really is all-powerful, He can do anything at all, including becoming man.
But with the celebration of Epiphany, we’re faced with something that’s a little harder for many people to believe. At Epiphany, we celebrate that this particular man, Jesus, even as a little child, is the God who is to be worshiped. That takes a lot of faith.
The wise men, as they came from the east, probably had no idea what to expect when they would see the one who was born King of the Jews. So they did what anyone would do: they went to the palace of King Herod in Jerusalem. After all, where else would a king live? But there was no Messiah to be found there. The magi then had to follow the star again until they came to the house where the Savior of the world was born.
What was it that they saw there? A small child with His mother. Anyone who was looking at this would find it hard to believe that this child could be the Savior of the world. He looked like a kid. And yet, the wise men bowed down and worshiped him as God. This is what the celebration of Epiphany is all about. It’s about God becoming one of us so thoroughly that human eyes can’t tell you that this child is truly the Son of God. Epiphany is about coming to know Jesus not through what our eyes tell us, but coming to know Him through faith.
Jesus wants to be known through faith. He wants us to look at Him and not judge based on what we see, but on what He’s said. So when we see Him as an infant, we should still know that He is fully God wrapped up in swaddling clothes. When we see Him as a man who is despised by the powers-that-be, we should still know that He is the One who is praised and adored by the angels. When we see Him dying on the cross, we should know that He is the salvation of the world. Epiphany teaches us not to know Jesus through sight, but through faith. For it is only through faith that we come to know Him as He truly is, as He wants to be known: as the One who redeems us from all sin, evil and death.
O God, by the leading of a star You made Your only-begotten Son known to the Gentile wise men. Lead us, who know You by faith, to enjoy Your presence in heaven; through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
“Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon. And the dragon and his angels fought back, but he was defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world—he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him. And I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, ‘Now the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Christ have come, for the accuser of our brothers has been thrown down, who accuses them day and night before our God. And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.’” (Revelation 7:7-11)
September 29 is the Feast Day for St. Michael and All Angels. Christians have always been fascinated by angels, and you see them all the time in movies, TV shows, and on your Facebook feed. But there are many myths about angels and what they really are. Today, I’d like to dispel two of these myths:
Myth #1: Angels are cute and cuddly.
Sometimes you see angels pictured as playful children or beautiful women. They seem harmless or even fragile. But that is not the case.
Angels are fearsome spiritual warriors. The first words out of an angel’s mouth are usually “Fear not!” Some people have confused angels for God himself.
The word “angel” means “messenger.” These are God’s servants, and because they are in His holy presence, they reflect His glory. With their messages, they bring the glory of God down to earth.
They also fight against Satan and His angels. We know that Michael and the angels will be victorious, not only because the Book of Revelation tells us so, but because Satan has been defeated by Jesus through His death on the cross, and he has no more power over any of us.
Myth #2: When you die, you become an angel.
Jesus does say that in heaven we will become “like the angels” but He is only saying that we won’t get married after we die. The truth is that angels and human beings are different creations of God, and we’re much better off being humans rather than angels.
Jesus did not become an angel. Jesus did not die for the angels, but for all of humanity. We confess that when Jesus returns we will rise from the dead, just as He did, with a new, glorified body, just like Jesus’ Easter body. This is a blessing beyond anything that God has given to the angels.
So no, your loved ones who have died in the Lord are not angels watching over you from heaven. They are at rest awaiting the resurrection of the dead. But God does promise to use His angels to watch over you and defend you, and when your last hour comes, they will bear you to His side.
Everlasting God, You have ordained and constituted the service of angels and men in a wonderful order. Mercifully grant that, as Your holy angels always serve and worship You in heaven, so by Your appointment they may also help and defend us here on earth; through Your Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:9-13)
September 21 is the Feast Day for St. Matthew. On this day we give thanks to God for the good that He has done through St. Matthew in His church. St. Matthew was one of the twelve disciples, Jesus’ closest followers. He also wrote the first gospel (as best as we can tell). Other than that we don’t know too much about St. Matthew. His name shows up in the lists of disciples. The only specific story we have about St. Matthew is the account where Jesus calls him to be a disciple.
We find Matthew here sitting at His tax booth. Think of this like a toll booth, there to collect taxes on those who were traveling on the roads, especially those bringing goods to market. Tax collectors weren’t especially known for their honesty. They were looked down upon as collaborators with the hated Romans, as well as cheats and thieves.
But tax collectors were no common street thugs. Tax collectors had to be able to read and write. They needed to know math and be able to speak several languages. They were probably among the better educated people of their day.
When Jesus saw Matthew, He said, “Follow me.” We don’t know why Jesus chose Matthew. It was simply an act of grace. No matter how smart or wealthy anyone was, no one could earn their way into being a disciple. It was simply Jesus’ choice.
It was amazing that Jesus chose Matthew, and it was amazing that Matthew got up to follow Jesus. What about all the money there in the booth? What about all the paperwork? Who would take over after Matthew left? None of that is important. Just as James and John left their fishing nets and boats behind, so Matthew left his tax booth and his old life behind. Nothing was more important than following Jesus.
Jesus has chosen you, too. He calls you to be a disciple. He calls you leave your old life behind and follow Him. There’s nothing in you or about you that qualifies you to be a disciple. It’s simply Jesus’ gracious choice, as He calls you to follow Him.
O Son of God, our blessed Savior Jesus Christ, You called Matthew the tax collector to be an apostle and evangelist. Through his faithful and inspired witness, grant that we also may follow You, leaving behind all covetous desires and love of riches; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. (1 Corinthians 1:18)
September 14 is Holy Cross Day. It may seem a little strange to have a day set aside to celebrate an object, and it would be strange it that’s what were actually doing. Holy Cross Day is not a celebration of the actual cross on which Jesus died, but it’s a celebration of the one who died on the cross for us, and of the salvation that we received through His death in our place.
St. Paul said, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” Martin Luther later wrote, “The cross alone is our theology.” The cross has always been the chief symbol of the Christian church. We wear crosses around our necks, and we use them to decorate our churches and our homes.
The cross is the summary of the whole Christian faith. Jesus’ death on the cross was the most important event of all human history. When Jesus died on the cross, the sins of the whole world died with Him. Jesus paid the price that we all owed. Jesus said with His dying breath, “It is finished.” And it was finished; our salvation was accomplished.
Unfortunately many people don’t believe this. They think that it is foolish for many different reasons:
Despite all of our objections, the message of the cross is true. It’s so amazing that we can’t always understand or comprehend it. How could God become man and die for me? It is a mystery.
But even when we can’t understand the message of the cross, we believe that it is true because we have been baptized into the death of Christ, we receive His body and blood in the Lord’s Supper, we hear the message and the Holy Spirit works faith in our heart.
As you see crosses around you this week, look beyond the cross itself to the one who died there for you.
Merciful God, Your Son, Jesus Christ, was lifted high upon the cross that He might bear the sins of the world and draw all people to Himself. Grant that we who glory in His death for our redemption may faithfully heed His call to bear the cross and follow Him, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
September 5 is the commemoration for Saints Zachariah and Elizabeth. This is a special day for our family, because my wife and I have two children: a son named Zachary and a daughter named Elizabeth. We didn’t plan to name our children after a biblical couple; it just kind of worked out that way.
Zachariah and Elizabeth played a special role in God’s plan of salvation. They were the parents of John the Baptist, whose ministry prepared the way for Jesus. The book of Luke begins by telling the story of Zachariah and Elizabeth as a way to introduce us to Jesus.
Now Zachariah and Elizabeth were old and they had no children. They were faithful people, and Zachariah was even a priest. But they were sad and disappointed that they had not been blessed with any children. They never expected to be blessed with a child in their old age, and certainly not a child like John who had such an important mission.
When the angel Gabriel told Zachariah that Elizabeth would have a child, he did not believe him, and as a consequence, Zachariah could not speak for the nine months that Elizabeth was pregnant. It was only after John had been born that he was able to speak, and his first words were a hymn of praise to God.
You may feel like Zachariah and Elizabeth did. You may be sad and disappointed about how your life has turned out. You may feel worthless, that there isn’t anything left for you to do.
But just as God used Zachariah and Elizabeth, He can also use you. God isn’t done with you yet. It might be in small, simple ways, like speaking a word of love and encouragement to someone who is suffering, or thanking those who work and volunteer in your facility. You can invite your neighbors to come and hear God’s word at the weekly service. And you can always pray for the needs of your family, your community, and the whole world. And don’t forget to praise God, too, as Zachariah did, for His wonderful grace and mercy shown to all of His servants.
Our Weekly Prayer:“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. (Luke 1:68-75)
This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent. (John 6:29)
How does someone get to heaven? The Pharisees of Jesus’ time asked Him that same question. They phrased it a bit differently, but the point was the same: “what must we do, to be doing the works of God?” So what must we do? Believe. Believe in the one whom the Father has sent. In other words, believe in Jesus.
That sounds too easy. That sounds too simple. What about all that Jesus says about doing good? What about the commandments? What about good works, and where it says that Jesus will be judging us by feeding the hungry and clothing the naked?
Of course, that’s all true. You need to do good works. You need to try to keep the commandments. You need to feed the hungry and clothe the naked. In fact, Jesus even says (quoting the Old Testament), “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:37-40).
Now take a step back and reflect on your life. Have you always, 100% of the time, loved God with all your heart, soul, and mind? With 100% of your heart, 100% of your soul, 100% of your mind always loved God? And have you always, 100% of the time loved your neighbor 100% equal to or more than yourself?
The reality is that no one can honestly say they have done this. No one. In fact, Paul in his letter to the Romans tells us that it’s not only a matter of these 100%’s that I just mentioned, it’s far worse. Quoting the Psalms, he says, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” That’s a very harsh statement isn’t it? And what’s the implication? We all deserve hell. Absolutely every one of us.
So what do we do to get out of this predicament? Believe in Him whom He has sent. Believe in Jesus. Does it still sound too easy? Too simple? For us, perhaps, but it’s better than the alternative. Why not place our hope on the One whom God sent into this world to bear our sin and be our Savior, the One whom God sent to hang on the cross of Calvary, bleeding and dying for our transgressions that we would live by His resurrection? Why not place our hope in this gracious God? After all, as we look at it, yes it’s easy and simple for us, but it certainly wasn’t for Him. And that’s where we see just how great, how deep, and how wide His love for us is. Amen.
Prayer: Lord Jesus Christ, you took my sin upon Yourself, coming into this world as the One sent by our Heavenly Father. Grant me faith to trust in Your mercy, to trust in Your work of dying for my sins. Amen.
“He has begotten us again… To an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fades not away, reserved in heaven for you.” 1 Peter 1:3-4
While we live on earth we must live in hope. For although we know that through faith we possess all the riches of God (for faith certainly brings with it the new birth, adoption, and inheritance), we do not yet see it. Therefore it stands in hope, and is laid aside a little while, so that we cannot see it with our eyes. This he calls the hope of life.
In hope, he says, we await the precious inheritance to which we have attained through faith. For this is the order: out of the word comes Faith, out of faith the new birth, and out of the new birth we enter into hope, so that we are sure of the heavenly good and await it with certainty.
This hope leads us not to look at this world with disdain but with joy for the future the Lord has prepared for it! This world will be recreated by the Word of God in the same manner that we have been reborn in faith.
Prayer: Lord God, Heavenly Father, may we always be excited for the best day of the rest of our lives, the day of the Lord. The day of your triumphant return is indeed on its way and we cant wait! In the name of Jesus, Amen.
“The joy of the Lord is your strength.” Nehemiah 8:13
Behold how daring and bold the prophetess? Who gave him such as stoned if I encourage? Or when it’s did he receive it? From the savior alone. The more people would drive us away from him the firm or reclaim to him. The more sorrow, misery, and harm people do us, the more we rejoice, for our joy is eternal. And the more people want to drag us away from it, the greater it becomes.
And this should be understood as follows: Christ as my Savior; if I no one believe it, it is an eternal joy to me, so long as I build upon it. When, however, the heart and conscience are devoid of Christ, the joy has ceased. Grace continues, but the conscience can stumble and fall. In this essay that you may not be offended if many of your number fall away from the gospel and denied Christ. For Christ is with his comfort and joy, the cross and persecution are not far away.
In this we see that our sinful conscience can often sway with our broken thoughts and intentions but that Christ holds fast onto us. This is the mercy of God, that the work of saving sinners belongs to Jesus and not to the hands, thoughts, and wills of mankind.
Prayer: Lord your Joy is indeed our strength. We know this and pray that you would continually hold it before our eyes that we can know where our true home is. Thank you Jesus! Amen.