May 14, 2017 – 5th Easter Sunday – Exactly Right
There’s a razor blade ad that goes something like, ‘when close just isn’t good enough’. And then there’s the famous Maxwell Smart quote, “Sorry Chief, missed it byy thhaaat much.” In your baptism however, God missed nothing. You have been given, by grace alone, everything needed for faith, life, and salvation in Jesus Christ alone.
Do you recall 6-7 years ago or so when Harold Camping and his group didn’t come quite close enough to accurately predicting the end of the world for May 21st 2011? It’d be real easy for us to take pot-shots at him, but a lot of people skewered him afterward that up till his death in Dec of 2013.
Sadly, he provides us with an example of what happens when you try to replace good solid bible doctrine with speculation and man’s reasoning. It isn’t enough to just sound good or sincere – it isn’t enough to come close – you must get it right. Exactly right. You can’t just sound like you know what you’re talking about, you have to know!
When guys like Harold Camping spout their sadly foolish words by trying to reduce the word of God to their own formulas, it reminds us that we all need to grow in our baptismal faith and trust and be well-studied in God’s revealed word in order to not be taken in by – sometimes sincere – but wrong people. Eternal truth is what God has revealed through Jesus Christ and not just what someone wants it to be.
Jesus made it clear in the gospel lesson today that He alone is the way to heaven, to our Father in heaven. There’s no formula that any man can come up with that will ever supersede what Jesus says of Himself today, I am the way the truth and life no one comes to the father but by me. Jesus is the only and exact path we travel to heaven. Jesus and Jesus alone. And in the gospel lesson today Jesus spoke quite a lot about travel and His father’s house.
In verse 2 Jesus speaks of traveling to His Father’s house to prepare a place for His disciples. In verse 3 Jesus speaks of traveling to return to His followers – then more travel as they, together with Jesus, travel back home, to the place that Jesus has prepared for them in His Father’s house. All of this traveling happens by or with Jesus Christ alone. There is no other direction, path, compass heading, longitude and latitude, road, boulevard, or thoroughfare that any man can choose. And that travel will happen only at a time of God’s own choosing not any sooner or later.
This travel talk is taking place in the upper room the night before Jesus is to be crucified. The setting is Maundy Thursday; the night He gave us His ordinance establishing Holy Communion and the night He gave the new mandate to “love one another as I have loved you”. Before giving that command, Jesus has washed the disciple’s feet, Judas has left to betray Jesus, and Jesus has foretold Peter’s denial.
This sets up why all the talk of traveling to the Father’s house is so important. Jesus says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.” Why does He say this? Because, peace for troubled hearts comes only through belief, through trust, in Jesus Christ alone.
There’s an old Japanese proverb that says, you will never see the sunrise if you keep looking to the west. That proverb reminds us that looking for peace in things, religions, or people other than Jesus will never work. Seeking the assurance of heaven by some formula of man will never bring the peace of our heavenly Father’s house that Jesus speaks of today. Only by looking to the Son of God, by focusing on Him, do we have the comfort and peace of a relationship with God. That peace is what was poured out on you in your baptism and what we take into mouths when we partake in Holy Communion.
This is a very intense and intimate passage in the upper room. Jesus is bringing to a close His three years of ministry with these people and now, before He goes to the cross and resurrection, Jesus needs for them, and for us, to hear and understand that what He does in dying and rising to life again is exactly the right thing needed to bring the realty of God’s word to the entire world.
That comforting word is what Jesus brings in today’s readings. He knows that in this world we have cares, concerns and troubled hearts. In speaking of going to the Fathers house, of preparing a place for the believers and the coming back to take them there, He’s saying that we have a place beyond this world that He assures us is ours. That’s one of the reasons why this passage is so often chosen for funeral and memorial services. It focuses us on the heavenly home that Jesus promises to those who believe in Him and that’s the place that awaits us in His Father’s house.
When He speaks of going to prepare rooms in His Father’s house, that’s the language of a bridegroom. That’s what a bridegroom did before getting married in Jesus day. The groom would go to his father’s house and add-on rooms so that he would have a place to bring his bride. It would be their own place, but within the protection of the Father’s house.
The Father’s house provided safety and it was a place that showed you belonged in the family. It’s a haven, a place of safety, and it’s a place for children. This is the intimate picture that Jesus is giving them on this night before going to the cross to make the way to that home He’s just promised.
And that’s why He goes to the cross. That’s where He does the work of God’s mercy in preparing our way to heaven. To prepare a place for them, and for us, means Jesus must suffer and die on the cross for the sin of the world. And by His resurrection God assures us that Jesus’ work is complete. Jesus, by doing that work has made the exactly right way, the only way of salvation for us.
Our salvation, as spoken of in the text from First Peter that we read, is what we all are to grow up into. When we were baptized, God did His work of bringing to us the salvation that guarantees our place in His heavenly home. That was done by God’s command through Jesus’ word as we read. And it was exactly right! There’s nothing short of what’s needed.
And we now share the hope and certainty of the salvation that Jesus Christ has won for us all. It’s now for all who’ve been baptized to be taught and to grow daily in that baptismal grace.
We have been given mercy as Peter said because we are now, by the blood of Christ, the people of God. We are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, and a holy nation. We have been given the gift of faith to trust in the word of God alone for our way home to heaven. And that way is perfect in the blood and empty tomb of Jesus Christ; there’re no mistakes, detours, or wrong directions. It is exactly right, it is exactly what is needed by everyone in this world. And it’s what gives us the right to say, Christ is risen…
Today and every Sunday we proclaim Jesus’ death and resurrection till He comes again. And that day and hour only God, our Father in heaven, knows. No one will know or find that day out apart from when God chooses the exact right time to reveal it. And that is the comfort and assurance we grow-in as we read, study, and inwardly digest His word to us, Jesus Christ our Lord. In His name amen.
Sermon #891 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO
First Reading Acts 6:1-7
A 1 In those days when the number of disciples was increasing, the Grecian Jews among them complained against the Hebraic Jews because their widows were being overlooked in the daily distribution of food. 2 So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together and said, “It would not be right for us to neglect the ministry of the word of God in order to wait on tables. 3 Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom. We will turn this responsibility over to them 4 and will give our attention to prayer and the ministry of the word.”
5 This proposal pleased the whole group. They chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit; also Philip, Procorus, Nicanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicolas from Antioch, a convert to Judaism. 6 They presented these men to the apostles, who prayed and laid their hands on them.
7 So the word of God spread. The number of disciples in Jerusalem increased rapidly, and a large number of priests became obedient to the faith.
Second Reading 1 Peter 2:2-10
A 2 Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, 3 now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
4 As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him— 5 you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. 6 For in Scripture it says:
“See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
7 Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe,
“The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”
“A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.”
They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.
9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Holy Gospel John 14:1-14
14 “Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God; believe also in me. 2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? 3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4 You know the way to the place where I am going.”
5 Thomas said to him, “Lord, we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way?”
6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. 7 If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
8 Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.”
9 Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.