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Of All Things! The Gospel of Jesus Christ!

December 7, 2014

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Second Sunday in Advent                                                      Trinity Lutheran Church

7 December 2014                                                                     Murdock, NE

 

+Jesu Juva +

 

Mark 1:1-8

 

Well, here we go again. The last thing in the world you thought you’d ever hear in church. Especially before Christmas. An announcement. Right off the bat the text categorically announces: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

 

Really? No tearjerker stories? No jokes? No rock n roll band? No mediaplex extravaganza? Nope! None of that! Just good news! The breaking good news that Jesus is the Savior of sinners! Everything else or anyone else is just so underwhelming.

 

So, from the outset St. Mark proclaims what is most important. More important than anything! “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Your eternal salvation depends on Jesus! Jesus only! Jesus the Christ – the promised Messiah. Jesus – the divine Son of God who took on flesh to redeem sinners from sin, death and damnation by being brutally hung on the cross and staining the cross and ground red with His divine sin-cleansing blood.

 

Yes, the beginning of the gospel – the good news or “good tidings” (Isaiah 40:9) of Jesus — who speaks the absolution from the cross, “Father forgive them,” and who speaks it now in your hearing: “I forgive you,” through mouth of the pastor or another brother or sister in Christ.

 

Jesus Christ, the Son of God, belongs to … SINNERS! And you belong to Him. Jesus and sinners go together. Don’t try to separate or divorce Jesus from you, His sinners. Don’t you dare to exclude your sins from Jesus. Don’t you politely say that Jesus came for sinners BUT THAT YOU’RE NOT ONE.

 

Oh yes you are! “All men are like grass and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers and the flower fall.” (Isaiah 40:6-7) You’re not invincible. You’re not some immortal divinity. Learn today perhaps for the very first time in your life that you are a sinner and that you desperately need “the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.”

 

The “I forgive you,” that Jesus speaks in the church belongs and applies only to … WHOM? That’s right: YOU! THE SINNER! The divine forgiveness that He achieved and won on Good Friday’s cross is only FOR SINNERS! FOR YOU! To be forgiven – to receive the forgiveness of sins – there must first be a sinner and sin. You! Your sin!

 

Consequently, another preacher’s voice. John the Baptist’s. Of all people! Again, not what you expected. Dressed as the austere Old Testament preacher of repentance and faith named Elijah. Like Elijah he wears camel hair clothes. Leather belt. Locust legs and wings are stuck in his teeth. Wild honey drips from his chin. John’s voice is an Advent voice preaching an Advent sermon. John is the Lord’s voice to advent you.

 

Yes, that’s right. You need to be advented. An advent has to be done TO YOU and FOR YOU. By the Lord. So He sends John. The preacher. You know God’s serious when He sends a preacher with a sermon in his mouth and on his lips. You know God’s after you, seeking you, chasing you – to advent you – that is, to say, to REPENT you and FAITH you, when the preacher shows up.

 

Well, in order to be properly advented you have to be PREPARED! Listen to preacher’s voice. “Prepare! Get ready. Prepare the way for the Lord. Make straight paths for him.”

 

Incredibly, “the whole Judean countryside and all the Jerusalemites went out to” John. To hear him preach. From his desert pulpit.

 

Notice what happens. It’s really incredible how God’s Word has its way with them. They are advented. Prepared. Straight path-ed!

 

Check it out. “Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.” Really? Yes! Absolutely. Who does that anymore? They do! They go to the preacher! They boldly confess that they’ve sinned which also means they’re hardcore sinners. And so they receive John’s “baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” They receive what John gives. In the way John gives it. No “ifs,” “ands” or “buts.” Just: “Thanks John!” “Thank God for you John! That you’re the Lord’s instrument to prepare us! To advent us! Repent and faith us!”

 

And more. For their “comfort” (Isaiah 40:1) voice John preaches Jesus! Remember, Jesus is the title of Mark’s gospel! Jesus is the clincher. Jesus the Christ has “paid for” all sin (Isaiah 40:2)! Jesus is the Savior. John can’t save anybody. Only Jesus does that. And again, Jesus, the mightier One, is the Savior of sinners. “After me will come one more powerful than I,” John declares, “the thongs of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.” John decreases in order to exalt and magnify Jesus! That’s brilliant preaching! The best ever! The “gospel of Jesus the Christ the Son of God” preaching!

 

Typical preacher, voice John keeps going. He has more to say. To “comfort.” (Isaiah 40:1) Speaking the tender mercies of the Lord. Making sure you are faithed for salvation in Jesus. So more of Jesus for the sinner. Listen. “I baptized you with water, but Jesus will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

 

That’s absolutely true. All for you! Jesus has died for you. His bloody Good Friday dying pays for all your sin. There’s no sin He didn’t compensate for. And now listen to what the New Testament says about you being baptized with the Holy Spirit just as John preached. “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

 

Jesus told Nicodemus that, “no one can enter the kingdom of God unless he is born of water and the Spirit,” (John 3:5). Water and the Spirit – that’s the Baptism that Jesus instituted and mandated in Matthew 28:19 – all nations are to be baptized in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Remember, to be baptized in God’s Name is to be baptized by God Himself! And to be baptized in God’s Name is to be given God Himself with all that He is and all that He has FOR YOU.

 

After Peter’s Pentecost sermon had its way with his hearers who were “cut to the heart,” the blessed apostle bids all of them to repent – to believe in Jesus — and receive holy baptism in Jesus’ Name in order to be given two gifts: the forgiveness of sins that Jesus won for them on the cross and to be given the Holy Spirit who is the Lord and Giver of life (Acts 2:38-39).

 

Are you getting it? John the Baptist said Jesus would “baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” Again, that’s the baptism Jesus mandated in Matthew 28. It’s the baptism that the apostles did in the New Testament. It’s the baptism that continues to this day and until the end of time in the church for all the nations.

 

One more verse and we’ll call it good for the day. In Titus 3:5 St. Paul says that God “saved us.” How? Here’s how: “God saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal BY THE HOLY SPIRIT.” What’s the washing? It’s holy baptism! And holy baptism is the washing of REBIRTH and RENEWAL that’s done by the Holy Spirit!

 

Well folks, I beg you to live in and from your Holy Spirit-filled baptism by confessing your sins daily and by daily believing in Jesus who paid for all your sins by offering His body in death on the cross as the sacrifice of atonement. So that you’re properly prepared or advented – repented and faithed – faithed for salvation in Jesus only!

 

Preacher John is only the voice. The voice that preaches Jesus. Jesus the Savior. Savior of sinners. And so every Sunday’s message and focus until Judgment Day is exactly how St. Mark starts: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” and how he ends his gospel in Mark 15 with the centurion confessing this of Jesus as He hangs graveyard dead on the cross: “Surely this man was the Son of God!” For you!

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

 

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