Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Third Sunday after the Epiphany



Third Sunday after the Epiphany (B)

January 22, 2012
Text: Mark 1:14-20

Repent, believe the Gospel, and follow Jesus. That is the pattern of the Christian life. The Law exposes our sin to us, exposes us as sinners, kills us, for the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). This causes great sorrow for us, contrition, repentance. The Gospel, however, bestows forgiveness of sins, covers us with the righteousness of Christ, brings us to new life, for the free gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord. This leads us to rejoice and give thanks. The Holy Spirit brings us to faith by the Gospel, so that we believe in Jesus Christ, trusting in Him for forgiveness, life, and salvation. And then we enter upon the crucified life. We take up our cross and follow Jesus, He who was crucified for our sins. That is to say, we lose our lives for Him, for we have found true life in Him. We offer ourselves up as living sacrifices in our daily vocations, confessing Christ, serving the neighbor in love, putting to death the old sinful nature, and suffering if necessary, like John the Baptist who was arrested and beheaded on account of Christ. We take up our cross and follow Jesus, because we know that after Good Friday there is Easter, after death there is resurrection, and in Christ the Crucified, we have eternal life. Repent, believe the Gospel, and follow Jesus. That is the pattern. We have it right here in our Gospel lesson. And this is the content of all Christian preaching. It is the same sermon Jesus preaches to us this morning. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15; ESV). “Follow me” (v. 17).

First… Repent. Repentance in the broad sense includes both contrition, which is to say, sorrow over our sins, and faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus is speaking of repentance in the narrow sense, however, and here it simply means contrition, to be sorry for our sins. And that doesn’t just mean crying crocodile tears. Repentance means that in the light of God’s Law you recognize just how wicked you are, and how utterly incapable you are of doing anything about it. Repentance means that you recognize your absolute emptiness, your total lack of resources within yourself to accomplish your own salvation or improve your standing before God. In repentance, you recognize that you are enslaved. You are enslaved to sin. You cannot do otherwise. You are enslaved to unbelief. Yes, you cannot by your own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ your Lord or come to Him. You are enslaved to the passions of your flesh, to the allurements of the world. You are enslaved to death. You are born spiritually dead already, and dying physically. You will die. And the worst part of it all is this: You are enslaved to the devil. Your first parents sold you to him for a taste of forbidden fruit. And that means that, unless God does something about it, you will die eternally in hell. Repentance does not try to hide the ugly truth. Repentance is to face up to the situation so that you completely despair of yourself. Because as long as you think there is any hope within yourself, any possibility of working yourself out of the situation you’re in, you are not ready for the Gospel. To repent is to weep the bitter tears of Peter after he had denied our Lord. To repent is to say with St. Paul, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Rom. 7:24). And then there is repentance in the broad sense. To repent is to cast yourself entirely on the mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ, to commend yourself to Him, as does the Psalmist when he prays: “Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD!... If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, O LORD, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared” (Ps. 130:1, 3-4).

That confidence in God’s mercy and forgiveness in Jesus Christ is born of the Gospel. God has done something about your slavery to sin, death, and the devil. He sent His Son to crush the old serpent’s head, defeat death, and atone for your sin in His own sinless suffering and death on the cross. He died for your sins, and He has gained the victory, for He’s risen from the dead and now lives and reigns for all eternity. The Gospel bestows the forgiveness, life, and salvation that our Lord Jesus has won for us, and the faith to believe it, and so receive it. Because the Holy Spirit is active in that Word to call us to faith, to enlighten us with His gifts, and to sanctify and keep us in the one true faith. Repent, and believe the Gospel. That is the pattern. That is what our Lord Jesus preaches to us this morning. It is the same as to say, believe in Jesus. Trust Him. Faith is simply trust in Jesus Christ, the Savior. The Gospel is a freeing Word. Jesus Christ has freed you from slavery to sin. He has freed you from slavery to death. He has freed you from slavery to the devil and to hell. Now you belong to Him. He has purchased you for Himself with His own blood. He bought you for a price, to live under Him in His Kingdom in righteousness and purity forever. This is good news. The Kingdom of God is at hand. It is at hand in Jesus. And now, not only are your sins forgiven so that you are reconciled to God and loved by Him. Now you have eternal life. Believe it. It is yours. Your Lord has made it so. Repent, and believe the Gospel.

And then follow Him. To follow Jesus means to be His disciple, under His discipline. To follow the Crucified means to take up your cross, which is to say, continually live in this pattern of death and resurrection. That is what repentance and faith is. It is death and resurrection. It is putting to death the old sinful nature and being raised with Christ as a new creation in Him. It is living in your Baptism. You died with Christ in Baptism. You were drowned. The Old Adam in you is slain. Then you were raised out of the water, out of death, to new life with Him. Just as He is risen from the dead, so you have a new life. It is a continual present reality, your Baptism, a daily dying to sin and being raised to new life. Repentance and faith, that is what it is. It is confession and Absolution. It is naming the sin and being forgiven by your pastor, which is just as sure and certain, even in heaven, as if Christ your dear Lord dealt with you Himself, because He has dealt with you Himself through the mouth of His called and ordained servant. Repentance and faith, death and resurrection, Law and Gospel, drowning and raising to new life, it is all the same pattern. It is the pattern in which you live your daily Christian life in the world.

You live this pattern in your vocations. A vocation is every calling you have received from God. It’s not just your job. It is every relationship in which God has placed you to serve other people: husband or wife, father or mother, son or daughter, citizen, church member, butcher, baker, candlestick maker. You can do that, serving your neighbor as though serving God Himself, because in Baptism, you’ve died to yourself and your life is now hidden with Christ in God, and because your Lord came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many (Matt. 20:28). The disciples were called to their vocation of being fishers of men, which meant for them that they would be apostles, sent ones, those authorized by Christ to speak for Him to the world in their preaching and writing of Holy Scripture. They were the first Christian pastors. They were called to preach the Gospel and forgive sins in the Name of Jesus. And they were called to suffer. They did not love their lives even unto death (Rev. 12:11). They gave testimony to Jesus and His Gospel even though it meant their suffering, imprisonment, death. Like John the Baptist, they received a prophet’s reward: Persecution and martyrdom. They confidently faced this knowing that death is but the portal to heaven, to life with Jesus, and that though they die in their bodies, their bodies will be raised again on the Last Day. You have this same calling, beloved, not as apostles or pastors, but as Christians, to confess Christ, and to suffer for His Name. You confess Christ whatever the consequences. Maybe you won’t have to suffer to the extent that John and the apostles did. Then again, maybe you will. It could happen, you know. Either way, you will suffer, whether it be the current derisive attitude of the world toward Christianity and the attacks of the devil, or full on persecution and martyrdom. You will suffer, but you can do so in the same confidence of the apostles. For you, also, are baptized into Christ, into His death and resurrection, and you have eternal life. They can kill your body, but they cannot kill your soul. Nor can they keep your body in the grave, because you have the sure and certain hope of the resurrection. Even as you follow Jesus into death, you follow Him into eternal life.

Repent, believe the Gospel, and follow Jesus. That is the pattern of the Christian life. That is what it means to be a Christian. So beloved, confess your sins. Believe the forgiveness that is pronounced over you in the Name of our Triune God. Return to the font each day. Cling to Jesus Christ. And then go out and offer yourself as a living sacrifice to God for the sake of your neighbor. And rejoice. Because this Good News Jesus preaches is for you. The Kingdom of God is at hand. It has arrived in Jesus. Of this Kingdom you are made a citizen and an heir through Baptism. You have eternal life. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

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