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Lent 5 – Greater than Abraham?

Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad. Then said the Jews to him, You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham? Jesus said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, Before Abraham was, I am. (John 8:56-58 [AKJV]

In this country and time, we are fixated on the notion of greatness and what it entails. In the world of sports, one of the biggest news items this month is the trade of Tom Brady from the New England Patriots to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. There’s a good case that Tom Brady is the greatest quarterback to ever play the game. Will that greatness transfer to his new team, which has been solidly mediocre for almost all of its 45 or so year history? They sure paid top dollar to find out.

All over the sports world, there is a fascination with what exactly greatness means, who has it, and how much. Every sport has its own definition and, among fans, one of the easiest ways to start at the very least a spirited discussion, and sometimes a passionate argument, is to ask who the greatest is in a particular sport or at a particular position.

This phenomenon is not limited to sports, either – we’re out of the end of year period, but December is usually full of lists of the “greatest” things in the year – most important events, best movies, best books, you name it. Last year was also filled with “best of the decade” lists.

Even in the corporate world, we’re obsessed with greatness. Every few years, there has to be an “it” company that the press obsesses over or a set of them. In the late 90s and early 2000s, it was Walmart. These days, it’s Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix and Google. In a few years, it will probably be someone else.

What makes all these people, or teams, or companies “great?” That is one of the biggest things to discuss because different people rank different characteristics differently. In our text for today, the question is almost rhetorical – “You’re not seriously suggesting that you’re greater than Abraham, are you?” The framing of the question is almost comical – how could people who have been paying attention to Jesus’ words throughout the chapter even ask that? Yet, they do. And Jesus’ answer is one of the most impactful statements he makes in his public ministry. His statement, and its implications, ring just as powerfully today as they must have then.

Let’s go back and look at look at the broader context in which this conversation takes place. To be clear, each of these sections of John chapter 8 can, should, and eventually will be entire sermons in their own right. But we’ll review briefly here because what has gone before is important in understanding the words of our text.

As in most of the Gospel of John, this section is part of an ongoing dialog that is taking place between Jesus and the religious leaders of the Jews. John chapter 8 starts with the story of the woman caught in adultery. There was no question of her guilt or innocence, the only question was what should be done with her. The Law said that she should be stoned; and that is exactly what the Jews wanted to do to her – execute her on the spot by stoning her. Legal, yes. But what does Jesus say: “He who has no sin, cast the first stone”, and no one does. To her, he says, “Go and sin no more.” So at the very beginning of this extended dialog, Jesus claims the authority to forgive and retain sin – certainly not the only time he does so, but it’s a very extraordinary claim to make – one that invites challenge. Jesus challenges the Pharisees further by claiming: “I am the light of the world.”

The Pharisees counter with an argument from the Law – you can’t testify about yourself, you need witnesses. If you have witnesses, we’ll believe you. Jesus counters that he alone does have the authority to testify about himself, but that he also does have a witness – his Father. Why does he have the authority to testify about himself? Because he knows where comes from and where he is going. He is beginning to drop hints about where his authority comes from. He says that he is from above, and not “of the world”, and he uses language very similar to what he used with Nicodemus in that night-time conversation – that he would be “lifted up”, and that he is “from above”. Like a parent who is being patient with a child who has no idea how impertinent he is being by asking specific questions, he is being gentle and patient.

The Jews then get to the meat of it – to the thing they were most proud of. “We are children of Abraham! We have never been slaves of anyone”, they say. Wait, does anyone remember Egypt? The plagues? How about Babylon? Daniel and the Lion’s den? Were the Jews free then? How about the Greeks, under Alexander the Great, and the Maccabees? That was about as far before that generation of Jews as the Civil War is from us today. What about Rome? Were the Jews free of Rome? Clearly they weren’t. Again, Jesus lovingly and patiently points them towards his authority. He acknowledges that they are children of Abraham, but says that if they were really children of Abraham, they would do what Abraham did. (And what was it that Abraham did? He believed in God’s promises, and that was credited to him as righteousness.) Jesus tells them something we know, and something they should have known too: Those who love God, love to hear God’s Word. Jesus is in a very direct and literal way speaking God’s Word to them, and yet they were seeking to kill him. That meant that though they may have been descended from Abraham, they weren’t Abraham’s children according to the promise, not in the way that really mattered. The fact that they didn’t want to hear God’s Word meant that they were not of God.

The Jews were now incredibly angry. They claim that Jesus is a Samaritan (that is, not a descendent of their great father, Abraham) AND demon-possessed. In our Gospel lesson last week, they accused Jesus of using the power of Satan to cast out demons, and now they claim that he is demon-possessed himself. Jesus, who has done countless miracles that these people have been witness to or have heard about. Jesus, who spoke with supernatural authority. Demon possessed? The things we hear about how the demon-possessed don’t match how Jesus acted or spoke at all. The demon-possessed would roam the countryside naked, would be a danger to themselves and to others, and they did not speak much if at all. They certainly didn’t heal the sick or have crowds following them to listen and learn from them. And yet this is what they say to Jesus.

Jesus tells them, “If anyone keeps my word, he will never see death.” You can almost hear the Jews reply, “Aha! Now we’ve got you!” Our fathers died, the prophets died, even Abraham died! Now, Jesus very, very clearly says that his Father is the God that the Jews are supposed to, and claim to worship. And further, that Abraham rejoiced that he might see Jesus’ day, and did see it, and was glad. We understand that to mean that Abraham believed God’s promise to send the Messiah, he believed it enough that he was willing to sacrifice his son Isaac, through whom he knew that bloodline would go, because he trusted that the God who was strong enough to give Abraham and Sarah a natural son though they were both nearly one hundred years old, was strong enough to bring that son back from death. They trusted God, they believed his promises and his words.

But these Jews clearly did not trust God in that way. They scoff, “You’re not even fifty years old, and you’ve seen Abraham?” Jesus’ reply rings in our ears even today: “Before Abraham was born, I AM!” The way this is stated is important because the Greek uses two different verbs here. Abraham “comes into being” or possibly “was made.” This is the exact same verb that is used in the prologue to John’s gospel, “Everything was made by him, and without him nothing was made that has been made.” Here, Abraham is something, someone that belongs to the things that were made. But Jesus simply is. He was, and is, and will be. The way he states this recalls God’s announcement of himself in the burning bush, as Moses asked him what his name was: “Tell them I AM has sent you.” Yes, this is Jesus claiming that he is the very Eternal God, in human flesh, standing before them. Is Jesus saying that he is greater than Abraham? Without a doubt he is doing just that. The Jews show that they understood exactly what he meant by picking up stones to kill him. The chapter begins with them picking up stones to throw at the woman caught in adultery, and ends with them picking up stones to throw at Jesus. In neither case do they get to throw them, though.

It’s so easy for us to look down our noses at those Jews. How could they be so foolish? Surely we could have done so much better in their place! We would have given Jesus the honor and glory he deserves, wouldn’t we?

Well, would we? How often do we try, like they did, to justify our actions and our behavior? Don’t we often believe that if we just try our best, that God will accept that, because we tried? Don’t we often act like God should reward us for the good that we’ve done? Never mind the good that we could have done but didn’t do. Never mind the evil we have done. Hey, at least we’re better than our neighbors, aren’t we? Isn’t that enough?

But this is exactly what the Jews were guilty of. They were trying to claim righteousness before God by appealing to the Law. They were trying to use their physical relationship with Abraham as an excuse to do whatever they wanted to do. But in doing so, they became slaves to the Law once again. Paul writes about this extensively in his letters to the Galatians. The Law indeed holds forth the offer of salvation – but only for the one who can keep it perfectly. Whoever keeps the Law, but fails in one point, is guilty of breaking all of it. There’s no difference; there are not greater or lesser laws or more or less important ones. One slip-up is all it takes to be guilty. One violation in thought, in word, or in deed. Our earthly laws usually only deal with deeds, usually not words or thoughts. But God’s Law searches deeper, and as we look at ourselves, we know that we do not and cannot measure up that way. When we try to justify ourselves with God’s Law, we are trusting in our own strength to save ourselves.

Abraham knew that too. He knew that he and Sarah were far too old to have children in the normal way. He had a son with Hagar, in the normal way, but God told him that was not to be the son of promise. That he and Sarah would have a son together, despite it being impossible by any kind of human reckoning. Abraham knew it was impossible for him to do on his own, but that it was not impossible for God to do, and so Abraham trusted God, and we read that God counted it to him as righteousness.

The weight of sins crushes us, too. We want desperately to get out from under it by our own strength and power. We know we can’t, but that doesn’t stop us from trying, does it? When we do that, we place ourselves in the same position as the Jews in our text. We claim that Jesus is a liar, that he doesn’t know what he is saying. That sounds awful, but that is what it means to try to put our confidence in salvation in anything other than the perfect life and death of God’s own Son, whom he sent to pay the price for our sins.

When we falter and stumble, and we will, we know – we must remember who it is who has asked us to cast our burdens on him and to trust him. He truly took on our humanity, so he understands our weakness and frailty. But at the very same time, he is absolutely the great I AM, who promised Abraham than in his seed all the nations of the Earth would be blessed. He is the great I AM, who led Israel out of captivity in Egypt, through the Red Sea and with the pillar of fire and the pillar of smoke. He is the great I AM, who forgave the nation of Israel its sins, not because they deserved it, but because he loved them enough to come to Earth and pay for them himself. And the great I AM loves us in exactly the same way. His promise is that where He is, there we will be with him – and today he sits in power and glory at the right hand of the Father. We will be with him, someday, sooner or later.

Let us hold to his Word in the meantime, and trust him to keep his promises, just as our spiritual father Abraham once did. In Jesus’ name, we pray, Amen.

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The Fifth Sunday in Lent (Judica)

Hymn
“Come unto Me, Ye Weary,” by William C. Dix; Tune – Anthes by Friedrich K. Anthes

1 “Come unto Me, ye weary,
And I will give you rest.”
O blessed voice of Jesus,
Which comes to hearts opprest!
It tells of benediction,
Of pardon, grace, and peace,
Of joy that hath no ending,
Of love which cannot cease.

2 “Come unto Me, ye wand’rers,
And I will give you light.”
O loving voice of Jesus,
Which comes to cheer the night!
Our hearts were filled with sadness,
And we had lost our way;
But Thou hast bro’t us gladness
And songs at break of day.

3 “Come unto Me, ye fainting,
And I will give you life.”
O cheering voice of Jesus,
Which comes to aid our strife!
The Foe is stern and eager,
The fight is fierce and long;
But Thou hast made us mighty
And stronger than the strong.

4 “And whosoever cometh,
I will not cast him out.”
O patient love of Jesus,
Which drives away our doubt,
Which, tho’ we be unworthy
Of love so great and free,
Invites us very sinners
To come, dear Lord, to Thee! Amen.

Invocation
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. +

Confession
Beloved in the Lord! Let us draw near with a true heart, and confess our sins unto God our Father, beseeching Him, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to grant us forgiveness.

Our help is in the name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and You forgave the iniquity of my sin.

Almighty God, our Maker and Redeemer, we poor sinners confess unto You, that we are by nature sinful and unclean, and that we have sinned against You by thought, word and deed. Therefore, we flee for refuge to Your infinite mercy, seeking and imploring Your grace, for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Then the Minister shall say: Almighty God, our Heavenly Father, has had mercy upon us, and has given His only-begotten Son to die for us, and for His sake forgives us all our sins. To those who believe in His Name, He gives power to become the sons of God, and has promised them His Holy Spirit. He that believes, and is baptized, shall be saved. Grant this, Lord, unto us all. Amen.

Psalm: Psalm 43 NKJV
1 Vindicate me, O God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation; oh, deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man! 2 For You are the God of my strength; why do You cast me off? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy? 3 Oh, send out Your light and Your truth! Let them lead me; let them bring me to Your holy hill and to Your tabernacle. 4 Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy; and on the harp I will praise You, O God, my God. 5 Why are you cast down, O my soul? And why are you disquieted within me? Hope in God; for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.

Gloria Patri
Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit: as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Kyrie
Lord, have mercy upon us. Christ, have mercy upon us. Lord, have mercy upon us.

Collect
We ask You, Almighty God, mercifully to look upon Your people that by Your great goodness they may be governed and preserved evermore in both body and soul; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, ever one God, world without end. Amen.

Catechism Lesson
82. What does God say of all these Commandments? He says thus: I the Lord, thy God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me, and showing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.
83. What does this mean? God threatens to punish all that transgress these Commandments. Therefore we should fear His wrath, and not act contrary to them. But He promises grace and every blessing to all that keep these Commandments. Therefore we should also love and trust in Him, and willingly do according to His Commandments.
84. Why does God here call Himself a jealous God? Because He has not only the right to give us commandments, but also the power to execute His threats and fulfill His promises.
138) James 4:12. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy.

Scripture Readings
Hebrews 9:11-15 NKJV
11 But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. 12 Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. 13 For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, 14 how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

John 8:42-59 NKJV
42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love Me, for I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me. 43 Why do you not understand My speech? Because you are not able to listen to My word. 44 You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it. 45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe Me. 46 Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me? 47 He who is of God hears God’s words; therefore you do not hear, because you are not of God.” 48 Then the Jews answered and said to Him, “Do we not say rightly that You are a Samaritan and have a demon?” 49 Jesus answered, “I do not have a demon; but I honor My Father, and you dishonor Me. 50 And I do not seek My own glory; there is One who seeks and judges. 51 Most assuredly, I say to you, if anyone keeps My word he shall never see death.” 52 Then the Jews said to Him, “Now we know that You have a demon! Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and You say, ‘If anyone keeps My word he shall never taste death.’ 53 Are You greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? And the prophets are dead. Who do You make Yourself out to be?” 54 Jesus answered, “If I honor Myself, My honor is nothing. It is My Father who honors Me, of whom you say that He is your God. 55 Yet you have not known Him, but I know Him. And if I say, ‘I do not know Him,’ I shall be a liar like you; but I do know Him and keep His word. 56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.” 57 Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?” 58 Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.” 59 Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.

Apostles’ Creed
I Believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord; Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary; Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead and buried; He descended into hell; The third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into Heaven and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; The holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints; The Forgiveness of sins; The Resurrection of the body; And the Life everlasting. Amen.

Hymn
“Word of God, Come Down on Earth” by James Quinn; Text ©James Quinn. Used by permission. LSBHymnLicense.net #100010399.

1. Word of God, come down on earth,
Living rain from heav’n descending;
Touch our hearts and bring to birth
Faith and hope and love unending.
Word almighty, we revere You;
Word made flesh, we long to hear You.

2. Word eternal, throned on high,
Word that brought to life creation,
Word that came from heav’n to die,
Crucified for our salvation,
Saving Word, the world restoring,
Speak to us, Your love outpouring.

3. Word that caused blind eyes to see,
Speak and heal our mortal blindness;
Deaf we are: our healer be;
Loose our tongues to tell Your kindness.
Be our Word in pity spoken,
Heal the world by sin now broken.

4. Word that speaks God’s tender love,
One with God beyond all telling,
Word that sends us from above,
God the Spirit, with us dwelling,
Word of truth, to all truth lead us;
Word of life, with one bread feed us.

The Sermon

Dear fellow-redeemed sinners, ransomed by the shed blood of Christ Jesus, our Savior. Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Abraham Tested

1 Now it came to pass after these things that God tested Abraham, and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here I am.” 2 Then He said, “Take now your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” 3 So Abraham rose early in the morning and saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son; and he split the wood for the burnt offering, and arose and went to the place of which God had told him. 4 Then on the third day Abraham lifted his eyes and saw the place afar off. 5 And Abraham said to his young men, “Stay here with the donkey; the lad and I will go yonder and worship, and we will come back to you.” 6 So Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid it on Isaac his son; and he took the fire in his hand, and a knife, and the two of them went together. 7 But Isaac spoke to Abraham his father and said, “My father!” And he said, “Here I am, my son.” Then he said, “Look, the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” 8 And Abraham said, “My son, God will provide for Himself the lamb for a burnt offering.” So the two of them went together. 9 Then they came to the place of which God had told him. And Abraham built an altar there and placed the wood in order; and he bound Isaac his son and laid him on the altar, upon the wood. 10 And Abraham stretched out his hand and took the knife to slay his son. 11 But the Angel of the Lord called to him from heaven and said, “Abraham, Abraham!” So he said, “Here I am.” 12 And He said, “Do not lay your hand on the lad, or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from Me.” 13 Then Abraham lifted his eyes and looked, and there behind him was a ram caught in a thicket by its horns. So Abraham went and took the ram, and offered it up for a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 And Abraham called the name of the place, The-Lord-Will-Provide; as it is said to this day, “In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided.” 15 Then the Angel of the Lord called to Abraham a second time out of heaven, 16 and said: “By Myself I have sworn, says the Lord, because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only son— 17 blessing I will bless you, and multiplying I will multiply your descendants as the stars of the heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies. 18 In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.” 19 So Abraham returned to his young men, and they rose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham dwelt at Beersheba. Genesis 22:1-19

Why would God tell Abraham to take Isaac, his only son, whom he loved, and take him to a mountain in the land of Moriah and offer him there as a burnt sacrifice? How could God tell Abraham to give up his only-begotten Son of promise?

The first and often overlooked answer is that sin demands it. The Bible tells us that “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23) and “The soul who sins shall die” (Ezek. 18:20). What Abraham deserved as a sinner, and what Isaac also deserved, was to die for his sin. And that is also what we deserve for our sins.

We remember the words God spoke to Adam in Genesis 3 after Adam and Eve disobeyed God’s command and ate of the forbidden fruit: “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for dust you are, and to dust you shall return” (v. 19).

And Moses wrote in Psalm 90:3-10: “You turn man to destruction, and say, ‘Return, O children of men.’ For a thousand years in Your sight are like yesterday when it is past, and like a watch in the night. You carry them away like a flood; they are like a sleep. In the morning they are like grass which grows up: In the morning it flourishes and grows up; in the evening it is cut down and withers. For we have been consumed by Your anger, and by Your wrath we are terrified. You have set our iniquities before You, our secret sins in the light of Your countenance. For all our days have passed away in Your wrath; we finish our years like a sigh. The days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.”

One thing is certain in the recent coronavirus outbreak: ultimately, the disease and the death suffered by many is a part of God’s curse upon sin and the sinner. Death is the result of sin — not that those who die are somehow worse sinners than those who live, but death is the result of sin and all of us have sinned and deserve to die — and not only temporal death but eternal death and condemnation in hell!

Again, the Bible tells us in Galatians 3:10: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them.” If we have not kept every commandment in God’s law perfectly in our desires, words and actions, we are condemned and cursed by the law, and the just punishment is death, temporal and eternal!

Secondly, God’s test points ahead to what God would do for the sins of the world.

God had promised in the Garden, in the words to the serpent: “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel” (Gen. 3:15). And to Abraham God promised: “In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice” (22:18).

And God fulfilled His ancient promises when He sent Christ Jesus into the world, “born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power” (Rom. 1:3,4). “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10).

God sent His only-begotten Son, born of the Virgin Mary and a descendant of Abraham, to be the perfect and holy sacrifice for the sins of the world (cf. Luke 3:23ff.)

The Bible clearly tells us in Psalm 49:7-9 that none of us “can by any means redeem his brother, nor give to God a ransom for him — for the redemption of their souls is costly, and it shall cease forever — that he should continue to live eternally, and not see the Pit.” Therefore, God Himself had to provide the Lamb — a perfect and sinless Lamb, His only-begotten Son — to be sacrificed in our stead and to suffer and die upon the cross to make atonement for our sins.

And Jesus is called “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” in John 1:29. He is described as “a lamb without blemish and without spot” in 1 Peter 1:19.

Hebrews 9, in verses 11-15, compares the priesthood in the Old Covenant to that in the New. As the Old Testament priests entered into the Most Holy Place once each year, on the Day of Atonement, with the blood of a sacrifice to atone for the sins of the people, so Christ, our high priest under the New Covenant, has entered into the very presence of God with His own blood, shed upon the cross, to atone for the sins of the entire world.

But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation. Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption. For if the blood of bulls and goats and the ashes of a heifer, sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies for the purifying of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this reason, He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance.

And it is certainly significant that God commanded Abraham to offer up Isaac on a specific mountain in the land of Moriah and there provided a substitute ram, caught in a thicket, to be offered up in the stead of Isaac.

First of all, the location is the later site of Jerusalem, where Christ Jesus was offered up for our sins. Consider 2 Chronicles 3:1: “Now Solomon began to build the house of the Lord at Jerusalem on Mount Moriah, where the Lord had appeared to his father David, at the place that David had prepared on the threshing floor of Ornan the Jebusite.”

And, as God provided a substitute ram to be offered up in the place of Isaac, so God provided a Substitute for you and for me – He gave His own Son to die in our stead and make atonement for our sins and the sins of the whole world (cf. 1 John 2:1,2). “…The-Lord-Will-Provide [Jehovah-jireh]; as it is said to this day, ‘In the Mount of the Lord it shall be provided’” (Gen. 22:14).

In faith, Abraham took his son Isaac and was ready to offer him up as a sacrifice, trusting that God could indeed raise him up again and fulfill His promises to Abraham to bless all nations through the Seed of Abraham and Isaac (cf. Gen. 22:18). And, in a figure, Abraham received his son back again alive from the dead.

So also Christ Jesus, who suffered and died the just punishment for the sins of the world, was raised up again on the third day. As the Bible tells us, Jesus Christ “was delivered up because of our offenses, and was raised because of our justification” (Rom. 4:25). His resurrection is proof that God accepted His sacrifice as full payment for the sins of the world, and that through faith in Jesus Christ we are justified and counted righteous and acceptable in God’s eyes. Because Christ died for our sins, in our stead, and rose again, we who trust in Him have the assurance that our sins are paid for in full and forgiven and that we too will be raised up on the last day to life eternal!

O Gracious and merciful God, we thank You for giving up Your only-begotten Son to suffer and die in our stead that we might have forgiveness and life eternal through faith in His name. Amen.

[Scripture is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Offertory
Create in me a clean heart, O God: and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from Thy presence: and take not Thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation: and uphold me with Thy free Spirit.

General Prayer
Almighty and most merciful God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ: We give Thee thanks for all Thy goodness and tender mercies, especially for the gift of Thy dear Son, and for the revelation of Thy will and grace: and we beseech Thee so to implant Thy Word in us, that in good and honest hearts we may keep it, and bring forth fruit by patient continuance in well-doing. Most heartily we beseech thee so to rule and govern Thy Church universal, with all its pastors and ministers, that it may be preserved in the pure doctrine of Thy saving Word, whereby faith toward Thee may be strengthened, and charity increased in us toward all mankind. Grant also health and prosperity to all that are in authority, especially to the President and Congress of the United States, the Governor and Legislature of this state, and to all our Judges and Magistrates; and endue them with grace to rule after Thy good pleasure, to the maintenance of righteousness, and to the hindrance and punishment of wickedness, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty. May it please Thee also to turn the hearts of our enemies and adversaries, that they may cease their enmity, and be inclined to walk with us in meekness and in peace. All who are in trouble, want, sickness, anguish of labor, peril of death, or any other adversity, especially those who are in suffering for Thy Name and for Thy truth’s sake, comfort, O God, with Thy Holy Spirit, that they may receive and acknowledge their afflictions as the manifestation of Thy fatherly will. And although we have deserved Thy righteous wrath and manifold punishments, yet, we entreat Thee, O most merciful Father, remember not the sins of our youth, nor our many transgressions; but out of Thine unspeakable goodness, grace and mercy, defend us from all harm and danger of body and soul. Preserve us from false and pernicious doctrine, from war and bloodshed, from plague and pestilence, from all calamity by fire and water, from hail and tempest, from failure of harvest and from famine, from anguish of heart and despair of Thy mercy, and from an evil death. And in every time of trouble, show Thyself a very present Help, the Savior of all men, and especially of them that believe. Cause also the needful fruits of the earth to prosper, that we may enjoy them in due season. Give success to the Christian training of the young, to all lawful occupations on land and sea, and to all pure arts and useful knowledge; and crown them with Thy blessing. These, and whatsoever other things Thou wouldest have us ask of Thee, O God, grant unto us for the sake of the bitter sufferings and death of Jesus Christ, Thine only Son, our Lord and Savior, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end.

Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven; Hallowed be Thy Name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven; Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil; For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen.

Benediction
The Lord bless thee, and keep thee. The Lord make His face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee. The Lord lift up His countenance upon thee, and give thee peace. Amen.

Hymn
“Lord, keep us steadfast in Thy Word” by Martin Luther, 1541; tr. Catherine Winkworth; tune – Erhalt Uns, Herr; “Geistliche Lieder,” Wittenberg, 1543

1 Lord, keep us steadfast in Thy Word;
Curb those who fain by craft and sword
Would wrest the Kingdom from Thy Son
And set at naught all He hath done.

2 Lord Jesus Christ, Thy pow’r make known,
For Thou art Lord of lords alone;
Defend Thy Christendom that we
May evermore sing praise to Thee.

3 O Comforter of priceless worth,
Send peace and unity on earth.
Support us in our final strife
And lead us out of death to life.

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“And you have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven … and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified. Then the fingers of the hand were sent from Him, and this writing was written.” Daniel 5:23,24 (Read Daniel 5:1-31)

What would you think if you were at a party or celebration and enjoying all your successes in life, and then, suddenly, a man’s fingers appeared and wrote words on the wall — words you did not recognize or understand?

It happened during the reign of the last king of Babylon, King Belshazzar. He threw a great feast for a thousand of his lords and, while he tasted the wine, he called for the gold and silver vessels Nebuchadnezzar had taken from the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem and used them as drinking vessels in which to serve wine to his guests. “They drank wine, and praised the gods of gold and silver, bronze and iron, wood and stone,” verse 4 says.

Daniel 5:5-6 tells us: “In the same hour the fingers of a man’s hand appeared and wrote opposite the lampstand on the plaster of the wall of the king’s palace; and the king saw the part of the hand that wrote. Then the king’s countenance changed, and his thoughts troubled him, so that the joints of his hips were loosened and his knees knocked against each other.”

No one could be found to interpret the writing until Daniel the prophet was called. Listen to what he tells the king before he interprets the writing and reveals to the king that his kingdom would fall that very night: “You have lifted yourself up against the Lord of heaven … and the God who holds your breath in His hand and owns all your ways, you have not glorified.”

Who is it who holds our breath in His hand and owns all our ways? The Lord God who created the heavens and the earth!

I think of the words of Psalm 100:3: “Know that the LORD, He is God; it is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; we are His people and the sheep of His pasture.”

We like to imagine that our lives are our own and that we are in control, and then there is the writing on the wall to remind us of the truth: it is the almighty God, Father, Son and Holy Ghost, who created us in the beginning and breathed life into our bodies and made us living souls (Gen. 1:26-27; 2:7,18ff.; Psalm 139:13-16). He holds our life, our very breath, in His hand.

What Daniel said to Belshazzar is very similar to what St. Paul said to the Athenians at the Areopagus who had altars to many gods and even an altar to the unknown god, just to be safe. Paul said, “The One whom you worship without knowing, Him I proclaim to you: God, who made the world and everything in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands. Nor is He worshiped with men’s hands, as though He needed anything, since He gives to all life, breath, and all things. And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings, so that they should seek the Lord, in the hope that they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us; for in Him we live and move and have our being, as also some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are also His offspring’” (Acts 17:23-28).

The current coronavirus pandemic which has caused fear and panic around the world is another form of writing on the wall. It reminds us that God holds our very breath in His hand and, with something so small that we cannot even see it without an electron microscope, He can take it away.

And the writing on the wall in Babylon? “MENE, MENE, TEKEL, UPHARSIN.”

What does it mean? We read in Daniel 5:26-28: “This is the interpretation of each word. MENE: God has numbered your kingdom, and finished it; TEKEL: You have been weighed in the balances, and found wanting; PERES: Your kingdom has been divided, and given to the Medes and Persians.”

And these words could very well be applied to people today who fail to give glory to the God of heaven by humbling themselves before Him and hearing and heeding His Word. MENE, God has numbered your time and your life in this world and finished it. TEKEL, You have been weighed in the balances and found wanting. PERES, Your earthly kingdom and wealth will be divided and given to others.

What’s my point?

God is in control and holds our lives and our every breath in His hand. He gives us life that we might acknowledge Him and bow before Him by repenting of our self-centered and sinful ways and looking to Him for mercy and forgiveness through faith in the Savior He provided for us — Christ Jesus, who died for the sins of all and then rose again in triumph on the third day.

If we continue to imagine that we are in control and go on in our self-centered ways, refusing to repent and look to Him for mercy and forgiveness in Christ Jesus, the handwriting is already on the wall. The current virus scare is just one more reminder to all of us of who really holds our breath in His hand.

Have mercy upon us, O God, for failing to acknowledge and glorify Your name by true sorrow over our sinful and rebellious ways and Spirit-wrought faith in the atoning sacrifice of Christ Jesus, Your Son and our Savior. Amen.

[Scripture is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

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To listen to the service and sermon, click on the audio file below:

The Hymn.
“Abide with Me! Fast Falls the Eventide”
by Henry F. Lyte, 1793-1847

1. Abide with me! Fast falls the eventide;
The darkness deepens; Lord with me abide.
When other helpers fail and comforts flee,
Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me!

2. Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see.
O Thou, who changest not, abide with me!

3. Not a brief glance I beg, a passing word,
But as Thou dwell’st with Thy disciples, Lord,
Familiar, condescending, patient, free.
Come not to sojourn, but abide with me.

4. Come not in terror, as the King of kings,
But kind and good, with healing in Thy wings;
Tears for all woes, a heart for every plea.
Come, Friend of sinners, thus abide with me.

5. Thou on my head in early youth didst smile,
And though rebellious and perverse meanwhile,
Thou hast not left me, oft as I left Thee.
On to the close, O Lord, abide with me.

6. I need Thy presence every passing hour;
What but Thy grace can foil the Tempter’s power?
Who like Thyself my guide and stay can be?
Through cloud and sunshine, oh, abide with me!

7. I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;
Ills have no weight and tears no bitterness.
Where is death’s sting? where, grave, thy victory?
I triumph still if Thou abide with me.

8. Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes,
Shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies.
Heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me!

The Versicle.
O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise.
Make haste, O God, to deliver me! Make haste to help me, O Lord!

The Psalm.
Psalm 51 To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David when Nathan the prophet went to him, after he had gone in to Bathsheba.
1 Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. 3 For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight — that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge. 5 Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me. 6 Behold, You desire truth in the inward parts, and in the hidden part You will make me to know wisdom. 7 Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. 8 Make me hear joy and gladness, that the bones You have broken may rejoice. 9 Hide Your face from my sins, and blot out all my iniquities. 10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. 13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You. 14 Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God, the God of my salvation, and my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness. 15 O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall show forth Your praise. 16 For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it; You do not delight in burnt offering. 17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart — these, O God, You will not despise. 18 Do good in Your good pleasure to Zion; build the walls of Jerusalem. 19 Then You shall be pleased with the sacrifices of righteousness, with burnt offering and whole burnt offering; then they shall offer bulls on Your altar.

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son: and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.

The Lesson.
Matthew 27:1-10
1 When morning came, all the chief priests and elders of the people plotted against Jesus to put Him to death. 2 And when they had bound Him, they led Him away and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate the governor. 3 Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4 saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!” 5 Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself. 6 But the chief priests took the silver pieces and said, “It is not lawful to put them into the treasury, because they are the price of blood.” 7 And they consulted together and bought with them the potter’s field, to bury strangers in. 8 Therefore that field has been called the Field of Blood to this day. 9 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of Him who was priced, whom they of the children of Israel priced, 10 and gave them for the potter’s field, as the Lord directed me.”

But You, O Lord, have mercy upon us. Thanks be to You, O Lord.

The Hymn.
“There Is a Fountain Filled with Blood”
by William Cowper, 1731-1800

1. There is a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Immanuel’s veins,
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.

2. The dying thief rejoiced to see
That fountain in his day;
And there have I, as vile as he,
Washed all my sins away.

3. Dear dying Lamb, Thy precious blood
Shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed Church of God
Be saved to sin no more.

4. E’er since by faith I saw the stream
Thy flowing wounds supply,
Redeeming love has been my theme
And shall be till I die.

5. When this poor lisping, stammering tongue
Lies silent in the grave,
Then in a nobler, sweeter song
I’ll sing Thy power to save.

The Sermon.

What of Judas Iscariot?

Then Judas, His betrayer, seeing that He had been condemned, was remorseful and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” And they said, “What is that to us? You see to it!” Then he threw down the pieces of silver in the temple and departed, and went and hanged himself. Matthew 27:3-5

Dear fellow-redeemed sinners, ransomed by the shed blood of Jesus, grace, mercy and peace be unto you through faith in Christ Jesus, our Savior. Amen.

True repentance has two parts. One is that we see our sins against God and sorrow over them because we have broken God’s holy commandments and justly deserve His eternal wrath and punishment (contrition). The other is that we trust in God to be merciful to us and forgive our sins for Jesus’ sake (faith). And, where there is true repentance, there will also follow the fruit of an amended life.

The Augsburg Confession, in Article XII, confesses this truth when it says: “Now, repentance consists properly of these two parts: One is contrition, that is, terrors smiting the conscience through the knowledge of sin; the other is faith, which is born of the Gospel, or of absolution, and believes that for Christ’s sake, sins are forgiven, comforts the conscience, and delivers it from terrors. Then good works are bound to follow, which are the fruits of repentance.”

We see this in David’s prayer of repentance in Psalm 51. David acknowledged his sin and guilt and he sorrowed over his transgression. He said (v. 3-5): “For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. Against You, You only, have I sinned, and done this evil in Your sight — that You may be found just when You speak, and blameless when You judge. Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me….”

But David also looked to the LORD God to show him mercy. He prayed (v. 1-2 ): “Have mercy upon me, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the multitude of Your tender mercies, blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.” David trusted that God would deal with him in mercy and grant him forgiveness for the sake of the promised Messiah and Savior who would “redeem Israel from all his iniquities” (Ps. 130:8).

It was then that David prayed (v. 10-13): “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me by Your generous Spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners shall be converted to You.”

Judas, when he realized what he had done — that he had betrayed “innocent blood” and that Jesus was now “condemned” — was remorseful. He saw his sin, was sorry for what he had done, and even tried to return the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders. Judas had sorrow over his sin, but did he trust in God’s mercy? The answer is quite obvious. He did not!

And how the chief priests, as servants of God, failed Judas! When Judas confessed his sin to them, they should have proclaimed to him the Gospel — the good news of God’s mercy and forgiveness for the sake of the Messiah and Savior who would be offered up as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of the world. But, since they did not believe in the Messiah themselves but rejected and condemn Him, they cared nothing for the eternal welfare of Judas and told him, “What is that to us? You see to it!” So, Judas despaired of God’s mercy and “went and hanged himself.”

Could Judas have received mercy? Consider the examples of David in the Old Testament, and Peter in the New. David committed adultery and murder, yet God forgave him. When David, after being confronted regarding his sin by Nathan the prophet, acknowledged, “I have sinned against the LORD,” Nathan told him, “The LORD also has put away your sin; you shall not die” (2 Sam. 12:13; cf. 2 Sam. 11-12; Psalms 51 and 32).

Peter three times denied even knowing Jesus, and he too received mercy and went on to serve his Savior. Jesus had told him in Luke 22:32: “When you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren.” And Jesus, asking Peter three times if he loved Him, recommissioned him to feed His sheep and His lambs (cf. John 21:15ff.).

Could Judas have received forgiveness? Certainly; for Christ died for the sins of the whole world, “the just for the unjust” (1 Peter 3:18; cf. 2 Cor. 5:19,21; 1 John 2:1-2; 1 Cor. 15:3,4). As John the Baptist had said of Him, Jesus is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)!

But Judas thought his sin was too great. He did not believe that God could or would forgive him. He despaired of God’s mercy and died in his sin and unbelief. How tragic!

What about you? Have you ever betrayed or denied your Lord Jesus? Have you ever turned aside from following Him and broken His commandments? You know that you have — we all have! The Bible tells us that “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned, every one, to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6a).

Have you felt sorrow over your sins? Are you saddened over the fact that you have broken God’s holy law? Do you fear God’s judgment and wrath? Does it bother you to know that it was because of your sins (and mine, too) that Jesus was condemned to suffer and die on the cross?

Have you ever felt like Judas must have felt? Have you ever felt that your sin was too great or that you have sinned too many times for God to forgive you yet again? Do you fear that this time God will not forgive you and that you are hopelessly headed for hell?

If so, you are despairing of God’s mercy! You are forgetting the fact that “the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6b); that Jesus has paid in full the penalty for our sins and that, when we turn in faith to Jesus, we “we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace” (Eph. 1:7).

Remember the truth expressed by the Psalmist in Psalm 86:5: “For You, Lord, are good, and ready to forgive, and abundant in mercy to all those who call upon You.” When we look to Jesus and His cross for mercy, God is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” because “Jesus Christ the righteous … is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world” (1 John 1:9 and 2:1,2).

Remember also that our Lord Jesus tells us in John 6:37: “The one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out.” Look to Jesus and receive God’s mercy, pardon and forgiveness.

Dear Lord Jesus, we know that we have denied and betrayed You by our sins. By Your Holy Spirit, bring us to see our sinfulness and repent, having true sorrow over our sins and the just punishment we deserve, but also true faith in You, trusting that for the sake of Your holy life and innocent sufferings and death upon the cross, we have pardon, forgiveness, and the eternal joys of heaven. Amen.

[Scripture is taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.]

The Versicle.
Let my prayer be set before You as incense, The lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.

The Canticle.
The Benedictus (Luke 1:68-79)
“Blessed is the Lord God of Israel, for He has visited and redeemed His people, and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of His servant David, as He spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets, who have been since the world began, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us, to perform the mercy promised to our fathers and to remember His holy covenant, the oath which He swore to our father Abraham: to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest; for you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways, to give knowledge of salvation to His people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God, with which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”

Glory be to the Father, and to the Son: and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be: world without end. Amen.

The Prayer.
Lord, have mercy upon us. Christ, have mercy upon us. Lord, have mercy upon us.

Then shall all say the Lord’s Prayer and the Apostles’ Creed.

Our Father, who art in heaven; Hallowed be Thy Name; Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven; Give us this day our daily bread; And forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us; And lead us not into temptation; But deliver us from evil; For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth. And in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord; Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, Born of the Virgin Mary; Suffered under Pontius Pilate, Was crucified, dead, and buried; He descended into hell; The third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty; From thence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. I believe in the Holy Ghost; The holy Christian Church, the Communion of Saints; The Forgiveness of sins; The Resurrection of the body; And the life everlasting. Amen.

Blessed art Thou, O Lord God of our fathers: And greatly to be praised and glorified, forever.
Bless we the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Ghost: We praise and magnify Him forever.
Blessed art Thou, O Lord, in the firmament of heaven: And greatly to be praised, and glorified, and highly exalted forever.
The Almighty and Merciful Lord, bless and preserve us. Amen.
Vouchsafe, O Lord, this night: To keep us without sin.
O Lord, have mercy upon us. Have mercy upon us.
O Lord, let Thy mercy be upon us: As our trust is in Thee.
Hear my prayer, O LORD: And let my cry come unto Thee.

Let us pray.
We give thanks unto Thee, heavenly Father, through Jesus Christ, Thy dear Son, that Thou hast this day so graciously protected us, and we beseech Thee to forgive us all our sins, and the wrong which we have done, and by Thy great mercy defend us from all the perils and dangers of this night. Into Thy hands we commend our bodies and souls, and all that is ours. Let Thy holy angel have charge concerning us, that the wicked one have no power over us. Amen.

Versicle.
The Lord will give strength to His people. The Lord will bless His people with peace.

Benedicamus.
Bless we the Lord. Thanks be to God.

Benediction.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Ghost, be with you all. Amen.

The Hymn.
“Lord Jesus, Thou Art Going Forth” by Kaspar Nachtenhoefer and Magnus Omeis. Tr. W. Gustave Polack
(Due to the fact that no organ recording was available, you may wish to listen to this hymn in German and follow along in English with the words from The Lutheran Hymnal printed out below).

1. (The Soul:) Lord Jesus, Thou art going forth
For me Thy life to offer;
For me, a sinner from my birth,
Who caused all Thou must suffer.
So be it, then,
Thou Hope of men;
Thee I shall follow weeping,
Tears flowing free
Thy pain to see,
Watch o’er Thy sorrows keeping.

2. (Jesus:) Soul, attend thou and behold
The fruit of thy transgression!
My portion is the curse of old
And for man’s sin My Passion.
Now comes the night
Of sin’s dread might,
Man’s guilt I here am bearing.
Oh, weigh it, Soul;
I make thee whole,
No need now of despairing.

3. (The Soul:) “Tis I, Lord Jesus, I confess,
Who should have borne sin’s wages
And lost the peace of heavenly bliss
Through everlasting ages.
Instead “tis Thou
Who goest now
My punishment to carry,
Thy death and blood
Lead me to God;
By grace I there may tarry.

4. (Jesus: ) O Soul, I take upon Me now
The pain thou shouldst have suffered.
Behold, with grace I thee endow,
Grace freely to thee offered.
The curse I choose
That thou mightst lose
Sin’s curse and guilt forever.
My gift of love
From heaven above
Will give thee blessing ever.

5. (The Soul:) What can I for such love divine
To Thee, Lord Jesus, render?
No merit has this heart of mine;
Yet while I live, I’ll tender
Myself alone,
And all I own,
In love to serve before Thee;
Then when time’s past,
Take me at last
To Thy blest home in glory.

Silent Prayer.

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