Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
Think for a moment about Jesus coming to you. Seriously. Spend 30 seconds picturing Jesus coming right to you, looking you in the eye, and saying something to you.
Now, was this experience a good thing or a bad thing? Did the Jesus of your imagination harshly condemn you or did he warmly welcome you?
Some people I speak with are very afraid of Jesus’ return on the last day. They are very conscious of their own sinful deeds and are afraid of Jesus’ harsh punishment. In their fear, they want Jesus to stay away from them.
Other people I speak with cannot wait for Jesus to come back. They picture Jesus giving them a warm embrace, filling them with loving warmth. Also lots of light and overwhelming love.
Because of our sin, we should all fear Jesus’ coming for judgment. But for you who are baptized into Jesus, you should joyfully anticipate the welcoming return of a glorious Jesus. And this joyful anticipation is only because Jesus first came to Jerusalem as a servant.
When Jesus entered Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, some created a raucous party atmosphere. Some became angry and fearful. Still others reacted with confusion. Yet Jesus did not come to create a party nor fear nor confusion. Jesus came into Jerusalem as the servant-king who would serve you by taking away your sin. Jesus was enthroned upon a cross and wore a crown of thorns. Pontius Pilate put a sign upon the cross: “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.”
Through Jesus’ loving service to you—his death and resurrection—all your reason to fear Jesus is gone. Jesus dies on the cross to serve you. Jesus shows you his love by dying for you. Jesus teaches you by his Resurrection that you will rise to newness of life. And Jesus teaches you that when he returns, he comes to give you the riches of his kingdom for all eternity.
Almighty and everlasting God, you sent your Son, our Savior Jesus Christ, to take upon himself our flesh and to suffer death upon the cross. Mercifully grant that we may follow the example of his great humility and patience and be made partakers of his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 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.