A Sermon for the Third Sunday in Easter

Sermon by Pastor Bror Erickson, First Lutheran Church, Tooele, UT

 

[44] Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” [45] Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, [46] and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, [47] and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. [48] You are witnesses of these things. [49] And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:44-49 (ESV) “He suffered and was buried and the third day he rose again from the dead according to the scriptures.” “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” [45] Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, [46] and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, [47] and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” I get a kick our of people who say “no creed but the Bible.” You have to deny Holy Scripture, the Bible, in order to deny the creeds of Christendom. These creeds do nothing but summarize the Bible in light of Christ’s death and resurrection. That is they teach scripture. There is no contradiction between the two. And why in light of Christ’s death and resurrection? Because according to Scripture itself this is what the Bible is about. The Bible is about Christ crucified, and that alone. Christ crucified is the Gospel. It is what God wants you to know if you know nothing else. Christ crucified, and that alone saves you from sin, death, and the power of the devil. Books can be funny at times. People read them and often come up with different understandings of what they are about. I thought “Old Man and the Sea” by Earnest Hemingway was about a man catching a big fish and being lost at sea for three days. I thought it was nothing more than a good adventure story taking place in Cuba. You see I am a big Ernest Hemingway fan. I love his books, and admire his larger than life, life. His gutsy outdoorsman bravado etc. However, I am not much of a literary buff. I don’t know how to catch all the symbolism, in stories and so on. I need it explained to me, most of the time. So I thought “Old Man and the Sea” was an adventure story. That is until I talked to a professor of literature at Concordia Irvine. He opened my eyes, if you will, to show me how the whole thing was really about Christ, a sort of retelling of Jonah and the whale. (Big fish for all you uptight literalists, I don’t think though that Israelites made a distinction between big fish and whales.) How did this Prof. do that? He took me to the book, and showed me the clues that are in there. Three days at sea, thought to be dead, etc. just coincidence? It really is a redemption story! Hemingway wrote it during a bout with Catholicism, he had a few bouts with Christianity between his more famous bouts with bottles. The thing is, none of the clues about the true meaning of “Old Man and the Sea” were anywhere near as glaring a clue, a hint, as Christ’s statement in the Gospel lesson today. So it somewhat surprises me what people do in interpreting the Bible. They absolutely refuse to let the Bible interpret itself! It matters not how many times Christ makes statements like “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me.” (John 5:39 (ESV) People don’t see it. They ignore what the Bible has to say about itself, and its true meaning. Inevitably they search the scriptures, and make it about law and themselves. They never get past the repentance aspect of it, and move to the forgiveness of sins that is found in Jesus Christ. They would rather try to find salvation in repentance than in Jesus Christ. Therefore they never repent. They never repent of trusting in their own works above Jesus Christ who died that we might have life. It is idol worship of the worst kind to put your faith in the work of your own hands, whether it be an idol you made of wood or gold, or helping out at the local soup kitchen. The work of your hands is helpless to give you salvation. But it seems so blasphemous to us, it is blasphemous to the god of our sinful human nature to think that Christ has done it all for us, and there is nothing we can do about it. We think it is a fluke. Why is there law in the Bible if we can’t be saved by it? Doesn’t God want us to follow His law? Yes, but we cannot do it as long as we retain the law as our god, the god of our sinful human nature. The law is good, it is holy, but it cannot be our god, because it cannot give us salvation. But it is because law is such a cherished god to our human nature that we fail to read the Bible aright. It is utter blasphemy to our Old Adam to think that Christ has done it all for us. And it is utter blasphemy in the face of God to put our faith in anything else than the cross of Christ, Christ crucified, Christ’s death and resurrection. Nothing could be more repulsive to the pride within us than the idea that the whole Bible is really not about rules after all, but about God becoming man in Jesus Christ, and dying for our sins on the cross. So man will read the Bible with any other lens than the one Christ gave us, and latch on to the law and make it our god. Seriously, it amazes me to what lengths people will go to hold on to the law, and write off Christ’s death and the forgiveness of sins. We would rather believe that the sky was pink with yellow pokadots. And we may as well believe that if we actually believe that in the face of Christ’s death and resurrection we can contribute anything at all to our salvation. So why the law? So that repentance can be preached, so that we can know that our sins are forgiven. The law does not give life. It kills. At least it should. When you read the law you should see how helpless you are to save yourself. You should see the need for Christ. You should see the absolute need for forgiveness. God gives us the law first and foremost so that we will see what utter sinners we are, and the corruption of death that is within us. The law serves as a backdrop, a contrast that highlights the gospel. But the Bible is about the Gospel, it is about Jesus Christ, His death and His resurrection through which he attained our salvation and forgives our sins. It isn’t just some of the scriptures that are about this, it is every page, every jot and tittle, it all serves to point us to Christ! Because In Christ and Him alone we have salvation, and God desires that all be saved, even you. Even you. He wants you to be saved. So He gives you Jesus, He forgives you your sins, and gives you His word. And in case you missed it he makes it painfully obvious to you what his word is about. It is about Him, it is fulfilled in Him, not you. It is about His death and resurrection, in which you have the forgiveness of sins and life itself. Now the peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.

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The idea that the Bible ought to be a rule book for Christian living is quite popular these days.

This can be a good thing in the short run, and a really bad thing in the long run.

Why?     Do you agree or disgree with that assertion?