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.


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?

12 Responses

  1. But, the Jesus rules….they did away with all that inconvenient stuff..right? So now we only have the “good rules” right? Can you hate your family and even your own life? Luke 14:26 (Well, some of us do…) Can you love your neighbor as yourself? Mark 12:33 (Well…maybe not like myself, but definitely like my *brother…) When you saw the license plate that read
    “4 U LORD.” on a Jaguar weren’t you coveting just a little? (Yeah, you know you were!) Looks like we’re still a few bricks short of a full load…Even if it were full…how long to you think you could lug it around?

    *I don’t have a brother…

    • No. We have the same old rules. Jesus didn’t change the rules; he fulfilled them. No. We still can’t obey the rules as God wants us to; but Jesus gives us His righteousness so that we will not suffer the wrath of God. All we have to do is repent,believe the gospel and love our Lord and Savior in submission and obedience to His will. Not exactly “cheap grace”, is it?

  2. Well that was a long minute Steve.

    If you had a brother you might find that loving your neighbor as your brother would be quite an easy thing to do. Siblings rarely get along.
    I hate myself so it is easy to love my neighbor as my self. (I jest).

  3. Theology of vicariousness or invisibility. Remove the rules you also remove justice and accountability. Whats so gracious about a grace that has no foundation?

    • This is where Law and Gospel is utterly confounded.

      To have to be TOLD what to do is to already INTO sin, damnable sin. Accountability matters little, to have to be told is to condemn already and to already be in damnable mortal sin – all ready in the state thereof. That is to say to already need “justice and accountability” is to say, “your are condemned”. This is how we are bound under the Law, this is what it means to be UNDER the Law and thus condemned (damned, bound of will, without hope, and utterly against the Law)

      For the Law points to that which is greater, not “justice” but the restoration of the relationships and thus to be done without being told to be done, to be utterly selfless without regard to self but utter love toward the other; to love God through the neighbor. Like a spouse needs not be told to love the other spouse, a child their parent, a parent their child. To be told to “have to do that” in order to “have justice and accountability” is ALREADY of Satan and the fall, damned.

      The Law ultimately serves the Gospel and not vice versa. It is eternal in the damned in that it always demands, that is calls for and points to that kind of love that is just that – it must be done WITHOUT it, the law, saying so. The Law is eternal in the blessed in that it is now and always will be fulfilled through Jesus Christ such that nothing is done. In this age we see this partially, in the age to come, eternity it is in fullness. Such that hell for eternity will be filled with the damned where the Law forever accuses, hell is such a place where the rules remain and the accusations for justice and accountability remain and demand forever and as such the damned gnash their teeth at each other and at the blessed under grace. Heaven remains forever where the blessed are reconciled via Christ and forgiveness of sins before God and neighbor and the relationships are restored such that God is loved through the altruistic love of neighbor.

      What the Law DOES NOT point to is “rules so that justice and accountability” remain for these are the signs that that which it imposes these are condemned criminals, not those who fulfills its letter. Those under the power of “justice and accountability” and think this is what the Law demands are like the murderers walking in their orange prison suites with their arms bound headed for the gas chamber as the Law escorts them there. The Law, nor God, is not interested in such rank and putrid hypocrisy pretending it fulfills it.

      What the Law does point to is the Gospel that fulfills it such that nothing is left to do ever and calls INTO being the new man.

      The fallen Adam will forever in this life complain about the invisible new man not being visible, for it is an article of faith and thus hidden from the site of the old Adam who is truly bound of will, dead in sins and tresspasses. The old Adam no more comprehends the new man nor has any apprehension of him than a rotting corpse in the grave yard x miles from you right now comprehends or apprehends your living existence at this moment. The one has no communication in common with the other nor any “bridge” language. It takes the creative Word, the Gospel, to call into being by a “let there be…” to give creative rise to the new man. And the new man is of faith and seen only by God.


  4. “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. ”

    It’s so hard to get, like really understand or believe, when you are so wrapped up in your own doing–but such a relief.

  5. No James, it is not cheap grace…It was totally undeserved and we will never be able to earn it on our own merit…Which is the point. Not that we have no concern for the righteous laws of God…but that we will never be able to keep them in the perfect way required. We will always miss the mark! Reducing Gods Living Word to a book of rules and examples when it is about the Blood of Jesus poured out for us will leave us in a works mentality which is futile as far as salvation is concerned. Jesus paid it all…there is nothing left for us to do…We are free from condemnation in all areas…but are called by love into all things LIFE!

  6. Nothing to earn diminishes the value of the object we desired

    • This is fallen religion, utter hypocrisy and Satanic love that comes into being based upon the value of its object and then ceases to be when the value of the object in it eyes is lost. And the basis of all fallen religions, theologies of glory and that which parades itself around as “Christian”.

      This is in stark contrast to the love of God which is a creative love, that is it creates out of nothing that which it will love. It loves the unlovable and in fact destable. Thus, at the Cross is Christ revealed the true Creator again. For here Christ takes the nothing, the unbeliever, the sinner and as Creator whose love creates loves the unlovable which is of course true love and true Law.

      Hence Christ says “love you enemies” (nothing to earn) for pagans love their friends (the somethings to earn).

      For Christ earned NOTHING by saving the objects of His desire, sinners who are by definition nothing and in fact unlovable. But CREATED in this true love the infinite value of the objects His love created, namely His saints. Thus, the objects are given value by the Word Himself because He speaks it so and not by any intrinsic value of its own.

      Thus, fallen man like Satan says to God ultimately when fallen man “prettys” himself up to generate perceived value so as to be earned and so as to “catch God’s eye (God earns)”, “Bow down and worship me for I am a god”.

      Nothing could be further from the Cross of Christ.

  7. “Hence Christ says “love you enemies” (nothing to earn) for pagans love their friends (the somethings to earn).” (Larry)

    Let me break my sentence down for you with the example provided:

    (a) Love your enemies – friends to earn

    (b) Love your friends – nothing to earn – already your friends

    If we make the object of desire less meaningful – then we give less to it – including time, thought, and resources. I think faith is beginning to function on this level – becoming meaningless because there is little to ‘put in’ or ‘get out’ now…according to you Larry – all is done – we are not required or needed.

    Pretty meaningless stance to take in some way…some people may see this faith as empty because what is their involvement? If Christ did everything for them – what is their role?

    • This faith is far from an empty faith but a very busy faith. Nothing is left “TO DO” toward God and Salvation and now this faith which is the only true faith is busy constantly doing all things. For you see I do not argue for “doing nothing” but much “doing” which has plenteously been stated in many times and places. Our argument is not nor has ever been you arguing for doing something on one side and I on the other side saying “do nothing”. In short the debate is not “doing” versus “not doing”, and not once has that been stated. In fact I’ve plenteously stated of the business of faith in constant terms. What really is being argued and fought against is “faith according to the law” and “faith according to the Gospel” for the two are in utter oppositions with each other and two separate religions, spirits, christs and gospels – one false the other true and real. At the end of the day “faith according to the Gospel” (nothing left to do) is the true stumbling stone and folly of the Cross being tripped over by the false faith.

      Luther once commenting on the delusion man has toward his own good deeds and works, even as a Christian, argues that even “love” must take a back seat to faith. In other words not even love (which is really not true love) that forces itself above faith or the formation or engenderment of faith is nothing less than “another gospel”, and is just as cursed/damned as is an apostle, angel from heaven or any other man who brings “another gospel” which is no gospel at all. For all apart from faith, the fount from which ONLY all things come, is sin, that is to say damnable sin. Luther rebuking Erasmus in BoW holds forth, like Christ to the Pharisees, those pastors and teachers who are more concerned with ethics and moralism, to improve things, and to make a man “better” as the puriest of evils and the greatest of deceivers. For in doing this to men they may clean up the outside but yet eternally damn their souls. And NOTHING is more evil than that.

      This is the great paradox of nothing left to do because Jesus did it all that creates a faith that does constantly. This faith is FAR from meaningless, this faith is FAR from not having meaning but apprehends, fights for and retains the ONLY meaning. This faith is in constant motion battling unbelief and exuding love. This faith battles the flesh, the devil and the world endlessly, sufferingly, and passionately. This faith is so very busy that the false faith (faith according to the law, which is no faith at all) espoused cannot even see it. The false faith constantly falsely accuses the true faith of doing nothing because it thinks it lives by its works and deeds. Thus, the false faith’s constant language, aroma and aura around it is one of ‘works language’, where as true faith’s constant language, aroma and aura around it is one of “Christ and Him crucified”. This faith is ever so busy as it goes to the Word and Sacrament constantly and is very busy doing this BECAUSE the Word and Sacrament not only have the only meaning whereby it IS, but Word and Sacrament feed it, strengthen it, nourish it. This faith wars for its object (Christ alone, Christ has done all such that NOTHING is left TO DO) SO THAT true LOVE (the Law) can be done (all apart from faith, including so called justice and “love” is sin, deadly sin, damnable sin). This faith is returned to loving (action) God through loving (action) the neighbor (for in as much as you have DONE to the least of these, you have done to me), yet this faith does absolutely nothing toward gain toward God. On the other hand the false faith of religionist attempts to “love” God directly, or USE the neighbor to love God directly for its own earning and hence truly hate their neighbor and in blindness hate God (Lord, Lord did we not do this and that in your name, and I, says Jesus, will say, depart from me you evil doers I never knew you).
      Let me break it back down to you with the examples provided:
      (a) Love your enemies – friends to earn = self love/false faith/self worship
      (b) Love your friends – nothing to earn – already your friends = self love/false faith/self worship (even the Pagans do this says Jesus)
      (a) Love your enemies with no earnings expected and indeed in spite of their friendship or lack their of but FOR THEM = true love from true faith (nothing left to do faith). The way Jesus loved Judas EVEN at the institution of the Lord’s Supper He gave Him His body and blood KNOWING Judas would betray Him. No friendship was earned but Jesus loved him (as with us) anyway. Nothing at all earned for Jesus.
      (b) Love your friends not for their friendship but FOR THEM = true love from true faith (nothing left to do faith). The same.
      There is in the fallen world faith, love, and friendship (keeping with our theme here) according to the Law (earnings and merit which is false law really). This is fallen world existence and nothing more than the faith, love and friendship according to Satan’s kingdom. Then there is created faith, love and friendship according to the Gospel that fulfills the Law, which is the same according to the Kingdom of God.

      (I’m paraphrasing something someone else wrote here) Thus Luther points out that Christian liberty lay not in our works but in our faith because no one needs the law or works as a means to salvation ever (all is done period and forever, one can in NO WAY possibly do good works without this first and constantly). Works, therefore, are not be done to glorify God, but to the glory of God. As Luther says the Christian man is free from all things, in the sense that justification and salvation are gifts from God, and not obtained by works. But yet the most dutiful servant of all, free to do so and constantly (LAW BECOMES PROMISE). In fact as Luther argues in the HD works can even be harmful and a hindrance withholding man from salvation if performed as justifying one towards salvation in any sense. Therefore, one must be on guard at all times (this cannot be emphasized enough) against the vain confidence or presumption of being justified by outward works. And as Luther also warns from distorting one’s sense of freedom in order to indulge the flesh in ‘an occasion of license’. The common link in both license and legalism is both are “self justifying” of themselves. One abstains from legalism to be justified and the other abstains from license to be justified, both are damned.
      Thus the Christian life and flow of BEING is not marked by “faith formed by love” (Rome’s false gospel) nor “faith proved by love” (modern protestantism’s false gospel); but rather by faith working through love or faith that exudes love. The faith is utterly passive, that’s what it means to suffer, and love is utterly busy in all ways high and low, great and small, much and little, etc…. No Christian lives in himself but is essentially dead, but in Christ where our life is hidden and too our neighbor where love is active due to this hidden faith. Thus, it is not from, by, with or due to our works that we are set free by our faith in Christ, but Christ who will justify us before God which this faith apprehends and clings too we are set free. Luther’s recapturing of Christian Gospel and faith, and what Christian freedom means to be free, utterly, was rom the idea that good works are in any sense or presentation a means to salvation (in any form), yet in Christian freedom one would exercise good works in light of and caused by the very grace God itself whereby NOTHING IS LEFT TO DO.

      I’ve quoted this before but it is so apropos it bears quoting again so that men are set free by the Gospel:

      Pastor Cwirla quoting Hal Senkbeil from, “Sanctification – Christ in action.”, “That Christ, by His perfect active obedience, has already fulfilled your vocation for you and brought it to its glorious telos (perfect completion) in His all-reconciling death (which means there’s no way for you to screw it up except the refusal to be reconciled), that you’re essentially dead, you no longer live but Christ lives in you, so that it is Christ at work who serves your neighbor, and Christ is in your neighbor to serve (“as often as you have done it to the least of these, you’ve done it to me”).

      So the One who receives your ministrations of vocation is also the One who perfected them in His vocation as the embodiment of humanity under the Law, and who gives you His perfection as a free gift that you might enjoy your vocation in His glorious liberty and stop agonizing over whether it’s Law or Gospel.”


  8. “If we make the object of desire less meaningful – then we give less to it – including time, thought, and resources”.

    I think the real question to address is what is the objective in all of this – if we (now) love friends and enemies, and we live and have our being due to one who truly loves the world and His creation? The answer – the ‘value’ is that the purpose of creation is to express, to reflect some aspect of His nature – the depth and richness of the fellowship known between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit – that is what will define our true worth. We cannot find ourselves or eternal ‘value’ away from here.

    Our actual present purpose, then, when we trust in His care, is to taste life which derives from the over-arching reality of the coming order, and to seek to express some aspect(s) of this through love in our current lives – a sharing of that wonder in the midst of our broken world.

    “Value” is defined not only in terms of someone who has ‘done everything’ for us, which is true, but also with regards to the entire fabric of ‘all things’ truly coming to glorify (express the significance of) the one who fashioned this and who holds it together. That, as Pieper, for example (noted in his works on Leisure), is the entire purpose of culture.

    “The more genuine and deep our community becomes, the more will everything between us recede, and the more clearly will the work and person of Jesus Christ become the one vital bond between us. We have one another only through Christ, but through Him we do have one another, wholly, and for all eternity”. Dietrich Bonhoeffer – Life Together.

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