Trinity Lutheran Church
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31 October 2010
Someone comes along and presents you with a gift. Totally unexpected. Completely surprised. And what is the usual response? “You shouldn’t have! No, really, you really shouldn’t have!”
Strange isn’t it? How we try to protect ourselves from gifts.
And then even stranger still after receiving the gift we come up with all kinds of reasons that justifies why we should receive it. “I’ve really been doing my best.” Or, “I really am quite handsome.” Or, “I really am better than everyone else.”
And then it gets even stranger. You give me a gift and then I’ve got to pay you back. You give me a gift and then I’m under an obligation to give you an even better gift in return.
Many times the husband splashes around loads of cash, flowers, candy, dinner, and jewelry. But he’s really not gift minded. He expects something in return.
What I’ve just described really isn’t really that strange. It’s precisely how we operate on a day-to-day basis. With people. And … with God! Something for something. This for that. Keeping score. Doing measurements. That’s the way of justice. It is the way of the Law.
But the Epistle from Romans speaks of something else today: the Gospel. The good news that Jesus Christ is the-atoning-sacrifice-for-all-sin-gift from God. “God presented him [Jesus] as a sacrifice of atonement.”
In John 8 Jesus has been preaching that Gospel. And the lodestar of the Gospel is this: Christ’s Good Fridaying the world by His lifted up on the cross death! As He’s been preaching this good news many have believed in Him. Good Friday Sheer Gift Jesus! For the salvation of the world!
And yet there are those then and those today who say: “Oh, you shouldn’t have. Really, you shouldn’t have!” Good Friday Gift of Salvation Jesus stands right before our very eyes – overwhelming Gift – and they/we just can’t take it!
We who believe in Jesus often times have our faith tested by Jesus. Sometimes by His gift giving! The test today is in receiving gifts … or refusing them … from Jesus.
Listen to what happens. Good Friday Gift of Salvation Jesus is refused. “We are descendants of Abraham. We’ve never been enslaved to anyone. And yet you Jesus tell us that you have come to set us free?” Today the justification of the self goes like this: “We are descendants of Lutherans. We’ve jumped through the hoops. Got our kids baptized and confirmed. Done our duty. Now leave us alone. We’re not slaves to anyone. I’m my own person.”
Diminishing Good Friday Gift of Salvation Jesus. Cut down to size the overwhelming and enormous gift standing before our very eyes.
Jesus cuts right to the heart of the matter: “Truly, truly I say to you. Whoever sins is a slave to sin.” Sin is John’s Gospel is unbelief – THE REFUSAL TO BE GIVEN TO! To deny God as the categorical Giver and turn Him into a payroll God. If you not a sinner, you’re not enslaved. And therefore you don’t need … to believe in Jesus or receive gifts from Him. This is how unbelief talks: “Jesus, You shouldn’t have. Really, I mean it, you shouldn’t have!”
But Jesus interrupts our lives and insists on given gifts. Turning us from the unbelief of slavery to sin to the freedom of faith and living in the house as a son. He gives Himself into death. For your salvation. He justifies the ungodly. While we were still sinners, Jesus died for us.
And so we are given the hear Christ’s word. To abide and remain in Christ’s Word. For through His Word He provides gifts. Sheer gifts. His word diagnoses that we are sinners. Enslaved to it. Can’t get ourselves out from underneath it. Totally helpless. Unable to save ourselves.
But then Jesus comes along to speak another Word. And it’s good news. Gospel. You are died for! He shed His blood for you! For the forgiveness of your sins. “Continue in My Word,” Jesus says.
He promises that you are forgiven . . . saved … redeemed! “Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” “My Body. My Blood. The new testament of forgiveness – for you.”
Such a Word of forgiveness sets you free. Free from the relentless task to trying to pay God back and put Him under an obligation. Free to receive all that Jesus did on the cross. And even more from Him in His Word preached and His Word hooked to water, bread and wine. How then does faith talk? “Thank you Jesus.”
Can you trust what Jesus says and gives through His Word? This is today’s test. And the answer is: “Of course!” All because Jesus gives Himself completely to us. Totally. He withholds nothing from you as He dishes out all the benefits of His Good Friday dying for you in His Word. Faith never says: “Oh, your shouldn’t have.” Faith simply says: “Jesus I believe. Give me more. You are everything. I am nothing. I’m totally dependent on You.”
And that’s why Jesus says: “Continue in My Word. That’s what my disciples are all about. And you’ll know the truth. The truth that your are a forgiven sinner because of Me. And that truth sets you free. Free from always trying to save yourselves. Free to relish and enjoy My Good Friday and all My Good Friday benefits.”
Have a Happy Reformation Sunday!
In the Name of Jesus.