Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Sermon for 12/14/14: Advent III



All Flesh

Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen. 

Often, we hear well-intentioned Christians speak as if God would never count sins against a little child. After all, no one wants to think of children suffering—not even for sin. The problem is, that undermines the Gospel. Which is more innocent: a baby born of sinful parents, or the sinless Son of God? Is Jesus less innocent than one of our children, who gets mad if Mommy doesn’t get the bottle to his mouth in time? When you don’t get there quite in time, the crying escalates. And by the time you do get bottle ready, there’s just no satisfying the child. It’s no longer about the bottle. The baby is angry. Sin has manifested itself at that early age. If babies aren’t accountable for sin, then how can God hold Christ, the only truly innocent One, accountable for all our sin?

If only some of us are sinners, if only some of us accountable to God, then why does God declare through Isaiah, “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field.” The wages of sin is death. And even babies died, for example, when God sent Noah into the ark and sent the flood. Like all others, babies need God’s forgiveness, so God says through His prophet, “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.” All flesh. God doesn’t leave out anyone—not children, not those on their deathbeds, anyone—who need the saving Jesus brings.

Many Christians have a faith that wars against the Gospel. Have you heard someone say, “I know that GOD forgives me, but I just need to forgive myself”? They are like John, sitting in a prison cell, wondering where their release will come from. They claim to believe it comes from God, but they behave as if it comes from them. This is not from the Holy Spirit. Israel didn’t come out of bondage when they decided that their suffering was over. They came out when the mouth of the Lord had spoken. God Himself released them and brought them home. God delivered forgiveness of sins, saying, “Your iniquity is pardoned.” And with that, Israel received double—more grace than sinners deserve—for her sins.

All flesh is sinful. And all flesh is rescued in the sinless flesh and blood of God’s own Son. Jesus takes the lambs into His arms and carries them to Calvary, to forgiveness and life. John’s voice proclaimed to all Israel the double portion God has for all sinners in Christ Jesus. Don’t let anybody rob you of the double portion that God gives to you. And when you doubt—for you will doubt—even then, do not think you’re too far gone. Even John, the last and greatest Old Testament prophet from God, asked questions. "Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?" Jesus gives John the answer. John’s release from prison will be delivered through the Mouth of the Lord. “Go,” Jesus says, “and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them. And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” Jesus puts salvation entirely on Himself, so that John has nothing to fear from a closed cell door or from the axe that will fall upon his neck.

Jesus released all of Israel from her awful captivity. He released John from his captivity. And He releases you from your captivity. He did it by His dying and rising in your place. He does this by giving you repentance and forgiveness. He does it by pouring out His Word and Water, like a flood, like the bursting of the prison house of sin once and for all. The promise is for you and for your children. The only innocent One took upon Himself the sins of everybody else. You are free, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken. In the name of the Father and of the Son (†) and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

The peace of God which passes all understanding will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus always.  Amen.

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