Jan 13, 2019 – I, Too, Sent My Son To Israel
A Jewish father was concerned about his son who was about a year away from his Bar Mitzvah but was sorely lacking in his knowledge of the Jewish faith. To remedy this, he sent his son to Israel. A year later the young man returned home. “Father, thank you for sending me to the land of our Fathers,” the son said. “It was wonderful and enlightening, however, I must confess that while in Israel I converted to Christianity.”
“Oi vey,” replied the father, “what have I done?” So, in the tradition of the patriarchs he went to his best friend and sought his advice. “It’s amazing that you should come to me,” his friend stated, “I too sent my son to Israel and he returned a Christian.” So, in the tradition of the Patriarchs, they went to the Rabbi.
“It’s amazing that you should come to me,” stated the Rabbi, “I too sent my son to Israel and he returned a Christian. What’s happening to our sons? Brothers, we must take this to God,” said the Rabbi. So, they fell to their knees and began to wail and pour out their hearts to the Almighty. As they prayed the clouds above opened and a mighty voice said, “Amazing that you should come to Me. I, too, sent My Son to Israel.”
Now I started with this story because of Who spoke last in our gospel lesson. How do we know that God, too, sent His Son to Israel?
Because, God the Father spoke from the heavens when Jesus was baptized. And when God spoke all those gathered around Jesus knew then that God had sent His son to Israel. There was no denying that God spoke from heaven and made it clear that this, His own son, was the One He’d promised to send to the people of Israel.
Look at verse 15 what does it say there about the people? Right, the people were waiting ex-pec-tantly; they were looking for the Christ, the promised one of God! The people had the expectation that God would fulfill His promise. They were seeking God to keep His word to them.
That word of promise is echoed in the Old Testament lesson today. In verses 5 -7 it says in part, Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will…bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth – everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed and made.
And the people in the gospel lesson today were wondering if John the Baptist was the fulfillment of that promise of God. They wanted God to ‘gather them’ and keep them separated from others in this world so they could glorify God. Of course, some just wanted the hated Romans to be gone, but still, such a desire was rooted in God’s promise to be called together in the name of God.
They were looking for the certainty of who John was and they were seeking certainty from God that He was keeping His word to them. This wasn’t something they did only on the Sabbath, this wasn’t just some religious observance they occasionally thought about or practiced, this was in the people’s hearts and minds. This was something they talked about among themselves.
That’s significant for us. In our coming together to worship we’re doing the same thing, we’re talking about God keeping His word and His promises. We come here to receive His gifts of word and sacrament that deliver God’s promise to us. We come and hear God’s call that we are His sons and daughters that He has created. We gather to talk, not about the hope of God’s promises but of His fulfillment of His promises.
So, we’re not that different than those people who were wondering if John was the Christ. And we are now able to see clearly the fulfillment of their hope, not in John, but in Jesus, revealed by His baptism! He, Jesus and not John the Baptist is the One in whom the longing of the people is made complete. Jesus is the One who relieves all the wondering (and wandering) of the hearts of the people in Luke and all people of all time.
Also note verse 21. Read that out loud with me, “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened.” Jesus was baptized along with ‘all the people’ but at His baptism it says in verse 22, heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended on Him in bodily form like a dove. It also says that the voice of God from heaven spoke of Jesus and made clear to all people that this One, not John the Baptist, but that Jesus, was the fulfillment of God’s promise. This was God’s own Son whom ‘He too, sent to Israel’.
In His baptism Jesus has been revealed as the Christ as the promised one; and not only by His baptism but also by His birth and the events surrounding His birth. God used Gabriel and the angels and the shepherds and the wise men to demonstrate that His ‘ordinary human birth’ was for an Extraordinary Child.
The wise men are significant because last week was Epiphany, the day we celebrate the coming of the wise men. Christmas is our celebration of the appearance of Jesus Christ in human flesh – His appearance as true man. Epiphany is the celebration of the revelation of Jesus Christ as true God, the eternal and almighty Son of God in heaven. Again, in the Old Testament lesson God says of Jesus, I have summoned you by name, you are mine. During our Christmas celebration, we marvel that Jesus is truly human. During our Epiphany celebration, we marvel that Jesus is truly the Son of God.
And today, in His baptism, we see the beginning of His work on earth as an adult. In His baptism we see that the child born in Bethlehem is indeed the holy one of Israel and the hope of the world. He is God’s own Son sent to bring the forgiveness of sin and restoration to God that God promised long ago. What gives our baptism its power is what God does with it, not what we do.
That certainty of God’s work in us, comes to us in our own baptism according to what St. Paul said in the epistle lesson today. 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.
That promise of resurrection is ours. It’s what’s poured out on us in our baptism. God does that! We don’t! God has chosen to give us that certain hope, that assurance of life new and life eternal, through the death and resurrection of Jesus. We’re united with Him in death and in life through our baptism!
Let me ask, what do you want to be doing this year so that others can have the hope you have in Jesus Christ? If you had the permission what would you do so that others could share in the gift of God that is yours through your baptism? I’m not asking you what ‘committee’ or board you want to be on, though that’s a good thing to do, but what do you want to be doing to enable us all to reach out in some way to Bolivar through Hearing, Sharing and Living the Gospel?.
The wise men brought gifts with which to worship Christ, what gifts do you bring? I’ll tell what gifts you bring, you bring the gifts that God, by His grace has equipped you with. But how will you use them? There are some things in life you can control and some things you can’t. But of those things you can control, you alone have the power to use your gifts or not use them. I think that God has given us great gifts and wonderful abilities in the people in this place.
There was a man in New York City some years back they called the subway superman. This guy, Wesley Autrey, jumped on the tracks in a New York subway and held another man still who was having a seizure and in doing so saved his life. When asked about why he did it he said that he had a choice to let his two little daughters see a man die or he could try and do something about it. He chose to do something about it.
Christ chose to do something about our ‘certain death’ situation and His salvation of us does not depend on what we do or what we know. We thank God for that. But that’s what Jesus coming to earth is all about. Because God, too, sent His Son to Israel we leave here today knowing we are Christians by His work. We know that our hope is in Jesus’ name and the work He has done. And we know that others need to hear that.
We are called to be faithful in telling the truth of Jesus, the Christ of God, for whom the world had waited. Jesus is the One who, by His death on the cross and His resurrection from the grave, delivers us from our sin and from the shame of our rebellion against God. Jesus is the promised deliverer who, as we read today, the people were looking for at His baptism. We leave here today refreshed and restored by His work through our baptism and through the gifts He gives us – His word and His very life.
In Jesus Holy and life-giving name, amen.
[Sermon #998 Rev. Thomas A. Rhodes, Pastor – Zion Lutheran Church, Bolivar, MO]
First Reading Isaiah 43:1-7
43 But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, Jacob,
he who formed you, Israel: “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. 2 When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze. 3 For I am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior; I give Egypt for your ransom, Cush and Seba in your stead. 4 Since you are precious and honored in my sight, and because I love you, I will give people in exchange for you, nations in exchange for your life. 5 Do not be afraid, for I am with you; I will bring your children from the east and gather you from the west. 6 I will say to the north, ‘Give them up!’ and to the south, ‘Do not hold them back.’ Bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth—7 everyone who is called by my name, whom I created for my glory, whom I formed an made.”
Epistle Reading Romans 6:1-11
6 What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? 2 By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? 3 Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— 7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.
8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Holy Gospel Luke 3:15-22
15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
17 His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.
19 But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of his marriage to Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done, 20 Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.
21 When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened 22 and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”