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“Jesus saith unto him, Go thy way; thy son liveth. And the man believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way.” John 4:50 (Read v. 46-54)

Are we willing to take Jesus at His word or must we see to believe? When Jesus returned to Cana in Galilee, a certain official at Capernaum whose son was sick and at the point of death heard of Jesus’ return and went to Jesus for help. He begged Jesus to come down to Capernaum and heal his son.

Those who have had children sick and facing death can understand this royal official’s desperation. All seemed hopeless. Only a miracle could save this man’s son, and he had heard of Jesus’ power to work just such miracles. If only Jesus would make the trek down to Capernaum in time!

How did Jesus respond to the nobleman’s request? He said, “Except ye see signs and wonders, ye will not believe.” And it’s true. Think of Martha’s words to Jesus when Lazarus died: “Lord, if thou hadst been here, my brother had not died” (John 11:21). And we might think the same thing as we stand at the bedside of a dying loved one: “If only Jesus were here, he wouldn’t die.”

But wait, Jesus is here. He’s present everywhere. He’s with us always, even to the end of the world (cf. Matthew 28:20). Do we have to see His presence to believe He’s with us? Do we have to see Him lay His hands on the sick and dying to know that He has done so? Must we see signs and wonders with our own eyes before we believe? Is it not enough to read of His mighty works in the pages of Scripture, hear of His love and mercy toward us and know that He Himself died for all our sins, rose from the dead and ascended to the right hand of God the father?

And if we see no miracle, has none occurred? If a loved one dies in the Lord Jesus rather than being restored to health and life here in this world, is not this an even greater miracle? Think about it. Jesus died for the sins of the world and rose again. His Holy Spirit raised up our loved one’s soul, which was dead in sin and unbelief, to faith and life in Christ Jesus. For Christ’s sake, a soul destined to eternal damnation in hell received God’s pardon and forgiveness and was restored to fellowship with God and destined to the eternal joys of heaven. When that loved one died a temporal death, God’s angels came and carried his or her soul into the very presence of Christ our Savior. Is not this a greater miracle than any temporal healing we might see with our earthly eyes? We cannot see it now but, when we get home, we shall see!

When the nobleman said to Jesus, “Sir, come down ere my child die,” Jesus said to him, “Go thy way; thy son liveth.” Jesus wanted this man to trust Him and take Him at His word — He challenged this man’s faith. And, indeed, when we think about it, wasn’t it better that this man’s sick son be healed immediately rather than waiting another day while Jesus walked from Cana down to Capernaum?

Jesus wants us to take Him at His word as well. He promises us forgiveness for all our sins and life eternal with Him in heaven through faith in His name. We can’t see these blessings now, but they are ours just the same. Must we see signs and wonders to know His word to us is true? Must we speak in tongues or work miracles in Jesus’ name before we can believe we are really forgiven and have a place in God’s eternal kingdom?

Knowing our weaknesses, Jesus does give us visible means connected with His Word that we might take hold of and receive the promises. That we might know our sins are washed away and forgiven and that we are born anew as God’s children, He gave us the waters of baptism. Water is used by God’s command and connected with His Word of promise, and through it, He washes away all our sins for Jesus’ sake, regenerates us and makes us children of God by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit (cf. Titus 3:4-7). In and with the bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper, Christ Jesus gives us His body and blood which were given and shed for the remission of our sins — all that we might be assured of full and complete forgiveness as we partake of the sacrificial “Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

The Bible tells us that “faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17). When this nobleman heard the words of Jesus, he “believed the word that Jesus had spoken unto him, and he went his way. And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, Thy son liveth. Then enquired he of them the hour when he began to amend. And they said unto him, Yesterday at the seventh hour the fever left him. So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house.”

Now think of Jesus’ words to us: “Be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee” (Matthew 9:2); “Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world” (Matthew 28:20); or “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:2, 3). Jesus spoke these words and they are recorded for us that we, too, might believe. Through these and many other passages of Scripture, He creates faith in our hearts and assures us of eternal salvation — of a place in His everlasting kingdom!

We may not be able to see all these blessings now — we can only take Jesus at His word and live our lives here in confidence — but when we get home, we’ll see that His words are true. When we were brought to trust in Christ Jesus, God did indeed forgive us all our sins for the sake of Jesus’ innocent sufferings and death in our stead! God was watching over us, caring for us and preserving us in the faith throughout our earthly lives! Heaven is real, and Messiah Jesus did prepare a place for you and me to dwell with Him there in the mansions of His Father’s house!

In fact, when we get home, we’ll be amazed and struck with awe at the blessings which are ours in Christ Jesus — blessings which we didn’t begin to fathom here in this world! The Bible tells us “That in the ages to come” our gracious God will show us “the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7).

Yes, when we get home, not only will we see that Christ Jesus our Savior lives, we will see that we indeed live forever in Him!

O gracious God, grant us faith to take Jesus at His word until that day when we go home and see with our own eyes that all He has promised us is indeed true! Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“The kingdom of heaven is like unto a certain king, which made a marriage for his son….” Matthew 22:2 (Read v.1-14)

The chief priests and Pharisees, along with many of the Jews, rejected Jesus and would not trust in Him for the forgiveness of their sins and a place in God’s eternal kingdom. God’s servants, the apostles and prophets, proclaimed to them the way of salvation through faith in Christ Jesus; but they made light of God’s gracious invitation and even mistreated and killed God’s servants.

With the parable of the king who made a marriage supper for his son, Jesus illustrated to his hearers how they were rejecting God’s gracious invitation to have part in His kingdom and partake of the marriage supper of the Lamb through faith in His own dear Son, Jesus Christ (cf. Rev. 19:7ff.).

As described in Jesus’ parable, the city of Jerusalem and its inhabitants were judged of God for their rejection of Christ Jesus. The city was destroyed and burned with fire, and its inhabitants were either killed or carried away captive. (This was done by the Roman armies in 70 A.D.)

The LORD God has also sent His servants out to invite others to have part in His eternal kingdom through faith in Christ. The Gospel has been preached, not only to the Jews, but also to the Gentiles around the world; and many, by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit through the Word, have heeded God’s gracious invitation. Through faith in Jesus Christ, they have received forgiveness of sins and will partake of the eternal joys of heaven.

They are clothed, not with their own sin-tainted righteousness, but with the perfect righteousness of Christ. It is only for the sake of Christ and His innocent sufferings and death in their stead that they are acceptable to God by faith and have a place in His kingdom (cf. Eph. 1:6ff.).

But, like the man who came without a wedding garment, there are also many who try to earn a place in God’s kingdom by their own sin-tainted works rather than simply receiving the righteousness of Christ which is ours through faith. Such, who attempt to partake of God’s eternal kingdom clothed in the spotted garment of the flesh rather than in the righteousness of Christ, will be cast out into the darkness and eternal torment of hell.

God’s gracious invitation goes out to all, but only the elect of God heed the Gospel call and trust in Christ alone for eternal salvation (cf. 2 Tim. 1:9; Eph. 1:3ff.; Acts 13:48). It is only by the grace of God that we who trust in Christ have heeded the Gospel invitation (Eph. 2:8-9).

We also need to beware lest we take that invitation lightly or begin to depend upon our own sin-tainted righteousness rather than trusting in the perfect righteousness of Christ our Savior.

Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness my beauty are, my glorious dress; midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed, with joy shall I lift up my head. Bold shall I stand in that great Day, for who aught to my charge shall lay? Fully thro’ these absolved I am from sin and fear, from guilt and shame. Amen. (The Lutheran Hymnal, Hymn #371, Verses 1-2)

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“And, behold, they brought to him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed: and Jesus seeing their faith said unto the sick of the palsy; Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.” Matthew 9:2 (Read v. 1-8)

In private confession and absolution, and each Sunday in corporate worship, sinners confess their sins to the Lord God and look to Christ Jesus and His cross in faith for the forgiveness of sins; and the pastor announces unto them the grace of God and, in the stead and by the command of our Lord Jesus Christ, forgives the sins of penitent sinners. “But who can forgive sins but God alone?” some may ask.

This is what the scribes asked within themselves when Jesus forgave the sins of a man, sick of the palsy. They thought Jesus was guilty of blasphemy because He, seeing the faith of this paralyzed man and his friends, said to the man, “Son, be of good cheer; thy sins be forgiven thee.”

Of course, anyone can say the words, but if they lack the authority to forgive sins, those words are but a deception, a lie, a sham. But Jesus proved His authority to forgive sins. He said, “Whether is easier, to say, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (then saith he to the sick of the palsy,) Arise, take up thy bed, and go unto thine house.”

And, what happened? The paralyzed man “arose, and departed to his house.” Jesus’ proved His authority to forgive sins, and He proved that His words to this man were indeed true. This man’s sins were forgiven! He could depart in peace.

And what about the words of your pastor when he hears your confession and points you to Christ Jesus and His innocent sufferings and death on the cross for the sins of the world – when he tells you to “go in peace; your sins are forgiven you”?

He may not be able to heal the sick or raise the dead; but Jesus did, and it is Jesus who commands him to preach “repentance and remission of sins” in Christ’s name (Luke 24:47). It is Jesus who commands His disciples and His pastors to forgive the sins of penitent sinners and to retain the sins of the impenitent as long as they do not repent (John 20:22-23). It is Jesus who said, “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18).

And notice that pastors do not forgive – or baptize, or administer the Lord’s Supper, or preach – in their own name and by their own authority. Rather, it is “in the stead and by the command” of our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus healed the paralyzed man, proving His authority to forgive sins. Jesus even rose from the dead, proving the sufficiency of His sacrifice on the cross to satisfy God’s just wrath against all sins (cf. Romans 4:23-25; 1 Corinthians 15:1ff.; John 1:29). Certainly, He who paid for our sins with His blood and then rose again from the dead on the third day has the authority to forgive the sins of all who look to Him in faith.

So, when you confess your sins to God – whether in corporate worship or in private confession – and the pastor, based on your confession and your profession of faith in Christ Jesus, announces unto you the grace of God and proclaims to you that your sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake, you can depart in peace, in good cheer, for indeed your sins are forgiven by the Lord Jesus Himself – He has the authority to forgive sins! (Cf. Luther’s Small Catechism on Confession.)

O gracious and merciful God, forgive our sins for Jesus’ sake and grant us Your Holy Spirit that we may believe and rejoice in the pardon and forgiveness won for us by our Lord Jesus Christ and promised and assured to us in Your absolution spoken by the pastor. In Jesus name, we pray. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible.]

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“And now, Israel, what doth the LORD thy God require of thee, but to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, to keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?” Deuteronomy 10:12-13

What does God require of you and me – what does He expect of us? God tells us: He requires us “to fear the LORD thy God, to walk in all his ways, and to love him, and to serve the LORD thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul, to keep the commandments of the LORD, and his statutes, which I command thee this day for thy good?”

And note that to do this is for our own good! There is indeed blessing in obeying God’s commandments, summarized in the 10 Commandments given to Moses on Mt. Sinai and, prior to that, written upon man’s heart.

What’s the problem? We can’t! We are, by nature since the fall of Adam and Eve, stiff-necked, stubborn and rebellious – we go our own way and do our own thing rather than respecting God, loving Him and serving Him with all our heart, soul and mind. None of us loves the LORD God with all our heart, soul and mind; nor do we love our neighbors as ourselves (Matt. 22:37-39). Even though God has been good to us and chosen us to be His own, we don’t measure up, we come short, we sin, we are guilty before God and deserving of His wrath and punishment. Instead of being blessed by God’s law, our sin brings its curse and God’s just anger upon us (cf. Gal. 3:10).

What’s the answer? Since we’ve all come short and cannot measure up under God’s good law, the answer and solution were provided by God Himself. He sent His only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ, into this world to fulfill God’s commandments for us; and Jesus Christ went to the cross to suffer the just punishment for our sins and the sins of all as our sinless sacrifice and then rose again from the dead that we might place our faith in Him and be counted just and righteous and forgiven in God’s sight (cf. Gal. 3:13; 4:4-5; Rom. 3:19-26; 4:23-25).

This is why we read in Psalm 34:18: “The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.” When we acknowledge and confess our sins unto Lord and look to Jesus and His cross for pardon and forgiveness, God deals with us in His grace and mercy and forgives us all our sins for the sake of Jesus and His atoning sacrifice upon the cross (1 John 1:7 – 2:2; Psalm 32:1-6).

As believers, then, in Christ, we do, as a fruit of our faith, seek to fear and honor God by loving Him with all our heart and soul and by obeying all His commandments, but we recognize that we cannot be justified and righteous before God by our own flawed obedience. Rather, we trust in Christ’s perfect obedience and His innocent sufferings and death in our stead for our righteous standing before God because only in Christ can we sinners be pardoned, forgiven and given the eternal blessings of heaven.

O gracious and merciful God, we know that Your commandments are good and right, but we are sinners and cannot measure up. We deserve Your wrath and punishment. Graciously bring us to know and trust in Christ Jesus, your Son and our Savior, for forgiveness and preserve us in that faith unto life everlasting. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible]

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“…endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” Ephesians 4:3 (Read v. 1-16)

“There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all” (v. 4-6).

There is only one body of Christ, one Church – the communion of saints – made up of all who trust in Christ Jesus as Savior. There is only one Savior, one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father of all who dwells in the hearts of His children by the Spirit.

It is the Spirit of God, working mightily through the Word of God and the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, who brings us to faith in Christ Jesus and keeps us in that faith. He brings us into the family of God and unites us with Christ our Savior. Thus, when we have faith in Christ Jesus and are baptized in His name, we are united to Him and are one with all other true believers in Christ (cf. Gal. 3:26-27; Eph. 2:11ff.; 1 John 1:3ff.).

This oneness, this unity, is of the Spirit. We do not create the unity; the Spirit does, through the Word. Through the hearing of God’s Word, He brings us to faith in Christ Jesus and keeps us trusting in our Savior. The way, then, to keep and preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace is to continue in the faith created in us by the mighty working of the Holy Spirit. If we are one with Christ Jesus and members of His body, the Church, we will also be united to all other true believers of all time.

And, such unity does not occur through church mergers and cooperative efforts; it occurs where the Spirit brings people to faith in Christ and keeps them in that faith through the Word of God and the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord’s Supper.

We endeavor to live in this Spirit-created unity by continuing in and holding fast to the pure teaching of God’s Word and partaking of the blessings offered and given to us through Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. We are long-suffering, enduring one another’s sins and shortcomings with all patience, forgiving our fellow believers as Christ has forgiven us (cf. Eph. 4:32).

We consider and remember that Christ is our Redeemer and that He has brought each and every one of us to faith. Therefore, we encourage each other to continue in that unity by encouraging each other to continue in the Word and hold fast to Christ Jesus, our Head.

O gracious Father, we thank You for bringing us into Your family and Church – for giving us unity with all other believers through Spirit-wrought faith in Christ Jesus. Grant that we continue in that unity in Christ and move us to dwell within it in patience and in the bond of peace with our brethren. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible]

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