Second Sunday of Easter

The Risen One Sends Us

These are the readings for the Second Sunday of Easter.

God’s Word for This Week

Imagine someone discovering the cure for cancer yet keeping it private. Impossible! The need is too great; the news is too good. So it is with our Lord’s resurrection from the dead. “We cannot help speaking of what we have seen and heard.”

Traditional First Lesson – Acts 5:12,17-32

What did the angel who brought the apostles out of the public jail tell them to do?

The angel told the apostles, “Go, stand in the temple courts, and tell the people the full message of this new life.”

Why will we never stop testifying to others that Jesus has been raised from the dead, even if we face strong opposition?

We will never give up telling others that God’s crucified Son has been raised from the dead because a) it is such good news, b) it creates the faith that alone saves us from hell, and c) Jesus himself has told us to spread the good news of who he is and what he has done. Jesus is God! “We must obey God, rather than men.”

What two main things does God the Father want to give all people by raising his Son from the dead?

The two main things God the Father wants to give us is forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

Supplemental First Lesson – Genesis 15:1-6

When God appeared to Abram to comfort and reassure him, how did Abram respond? (See 15:2,3.)

Though God came to Abram in some kind of vision, Abram responded by complaining at first. Abram had no children. All he could foresee was one of his servants becoming his heir.

What did Abram see when God took him outside his tent?

Abram saw far more stars than he could count.

When Abram believed what he could not see, what happened?

“Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” Picture God putting a credit in his ledger, not a debit, despite what Abram deserved. (The same happens for us, through faith in the risen Christ.)

Traditional Second Lesson – Revelation 1:4-18

What does the last apostle left on earth call himself as he begins writing the Bible’s last book?

The last apostle on earth simply calls himself, “John.” This shows a) that he was well-known, and b) that he wouldn’t dream of using any titles that would exalt himself.

How does John describe Jesus before he sees him?

Despite appearances, John calls Jesus a) “the faithful Witness, the Firstborn from the dead, and the Ruler of the kings of the earth”; b) the One who “loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood”; c) “the Alpha and the Omega, who was and is and is to come, the Almighty.”

Supplemental Second Lesson – 2 Peter 1:16-21

On a hilltop, what did Peter, James, and John eyewitness?

Peter, James, and John were eyewitnesses of Jesus’ majesty. They saw him gleaming with glory only God has.

What does this sight mean for all of us, who have not seen Jesus in his glory?

Peter says what he witnessed proves that we do not believe myths about Jesus. He really rose from the dead, bodily. He really reigns at the Father’s right. He really will reappear soon to judge all people when the day finally dawns “and the morning star rises in your hearts.” We can trust every word of God’s inspired Word totally.

Gospel – John 20:19-31

Each of the four Gospels has a commission near its end to share the good news. What is that commission in John’s Gospel?

“Peace be with you,” Jesus said. “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” With that he breathed on the disciples and gave them and us amazing authority: “If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”

If with your own eyes you have not seen your Lord, now raised from the dead, is that a problem?

With Job and believers through the ages, we long to see our Lord—yet Jesus told Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

What is the ultimate purpose of all that John wrote down about Jesus?

The Spirit did not inspire John to write down every miraculous sign Jesus performed. Whatever John shares with us in print has one main purpose: that we may believe that Jesus is God’s Anointed One, his only Son, and that by believing we may have life in his name.

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Easter Day

The Crucified One Has Risen

These are the readings for Easter Sunday.

God’s Word for This Week

Today is Easter. Easter is everything. If the Son of God had not come out of his borrowed tomb, Satan would have won, our faith would be worthless, and we would still be in our sin. But Jesus lives! To the Lamb who stands triumphant upon God’s throne, all heaven sings a new song.

First Lesson – Exodus 15:1-11

Why did Moses and the Israelites praise the Lord?

With a colossal miracle, God had just rescued them from the most powerful nation on earth. God had drowned all of Pharaoh’s army in the Sea of Reeds, hurling the foot soldiers, chariots, horses, and horse-riders into the sea.

Since Jesus has risen from the dead, what has he, the Lord, become for us? (See verses 2, 3,11.)

He has become our Strength, our Song, and our Salvation—he has rescued us from our guilt and our graves and given us eternal life through faith in his blood. Every day, he strengthens us by his Word and gives us such reason to sing. He is also our Warrior against the forces of darkness. No one else compares. No one even comes close.

Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 15:1-11

The good news that Jesus has risen is not just what Paul preached. What else is it?

The good news that Jesus has risen is what we have received deep in our hearts by the gift of the Holy Spirit. We have taken our stand on it.

What will happen if we stop trusting in Jesus and start trusting in ourselves?

If we do not hold to the gospel firmly to our dying day, but end up trusting in ourselves instead of Jesus, our current faith in the Risen One will have been worthless. We will be damned, as we deserve.

How does Paul prove that Jesus really died?

Paul proves that Jesus really died by adding that Jesus was buried. Friends who could not have been fooled laid Jesus in a tomb near the place where he was crucified.

How does Paul prove that Jesus really rose from the dead?

Paul gives many proofs that Jesus really rose from the dead: Jesus appeared to Peter on Easter Day and to all the apostles on Easter evening. Then he appeared to more than 500 Christians at the same time—no mass hypnosis—many of whom were still alive and could testify to seeing the Risen One. Then he appeared to his brother James and to all the apostles again. Lastly, he appeared to Paul on his way to Damascus.

Gospel – Luke 24:1-12

What, besides the heavy stone, had the women who went to the tomb forgotten?

The women had forgotten that Jesus said he would rise on the third day.

Why didn’t the Eleven believe the women?

The Eleven didn’t believe the women because in their grief the women’s words seemed like nonsense to them.

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Palm Sunday

Jesus Is Our King and Lord of All

These are the readings for Palm Sunday.

God’s Word for This Week

Palm Sunday gets its name from the palm branches that people spread to make a path of victory for Jesus as he entered Jerusalem. There he would gain a victory they did not expect. The victory over sin and death, won for us by his own suffering and death. On Palm Sunday, the crowd hailed Jesus as king. Yet Jesus cried on his way down the Mount of Olives on the donkey, because Jerusalem did not recognize God’s coming to them. Bottom line: Jesus is more than the crowds knew. He is Lord of all. He is King of the world. He wore a crown of thorns for us and for all people. Praise his name forever!

Traditional First Lesson – Zechariah 9:9-10

Who does Zechariah mean by “Daughter of Zion” and “Daughter of Jerusalem?”

Zechariah means the people of Jerusalem (Zion—the temple hill in Jerusalem) and then by inference, all of God’s people. Both Old and New Testament believers can “rejoice greatly” because that King whom Zechariah describes here WOULD come and DID come in the person of Jesus Christ.

What New Testament scene did Zechariah see by inspiration?

By inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the prophet Zechariah “saw” Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem as King. He even mentions the details of that humble but stirring (significant) event. This is a Messianic passage pinpointing this event in the life of Christ our Savior, the righteous King, who will come again in glory as our King on the Last Day.

What peace would this King bring to the world?

Jesus Christ brings a true and lasting peace to those who acclaim him as King. The battle against sin and Satan has been won by Christ and we are at peace; at peace with God. The peace Christ won is a universal peace. It is for all people; for “the nations,” extending “from sea to sea” (v. 10).

Supplemental First Lesson – Isaiah 45:22-25

Whom does God want to turn to him? Why?

God tells all the earth to turn to him and be saved from eternal death apart from him. He is God. There is no other God. In him alone are righteousness and strength.

Will people who raged against God get a second chance to repent after death/judgment day? Explain.

No. People who raged against God will not get a second chance to repent after death/judgment day. It will be too late, and they will not want to. They will come to him and be put to shame.

On the other hand, what will all who have descended from Israel do?

Isaiah says, “In the LORD all the descendants of Israel will be found righteous and will exult” (45:25).

Traditional Second Lesson – Philippians 2:5-11

What is the Christ-like attitude that St. Paul encourages in us here?

We Christians are to have the humility, self-sacrificing spirit, and attitude of our Savior. He “made himself nothing” to redeem us, though he is very God. We are already nothing except damnable sinners. How could we not live in humility before our God and serve him and others?

Describe the contrast that we see here as Paul sketches the life and mission of Christ.

God became man. Jesus took on himself the humble nature of a human being although he is the holy, almighty God. But God the Father exalted him again as Jesus returned to honor and glory as God in heaven.

Who will acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and King? When? Why?

All people will have to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord and King on the Last Day, whether they want to or not, for his power and glory will be so evident to all. That acknowledgement will be too late for the unbeliever, but an eternal joy for the believers in heaven.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Hebrews 12:1-3

What two things are we to throw off, so we can run the race with perseverance?

We need to throw off 1) “everything that hinders” and 2) “the sin that so easily entangles.” (Many things that are not sinful still can keep us from following Jesus and running the race of faith with perseverance if we get too busy with them. Picture trying to run a race with a refrigerator on your back.)

Runners focus on the finish line. On whom do we fix our gaze?

In the same way a runner aims at the finish line, we fix our gaze on Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith.

What kept Jesus going, despite the shame of the cross?

For the joy that would be his, and ours after he accomplished the work the Father gave him, Jesus endured the cross and scorned its shame. Now he is seated in the position of all power and majesty in the universe. He is the Father’s equal in every way.

Gospel – Luke 19:28-40

How did Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem resemble that of an earthly king?

Jesus rode into Jerusalem like a king who had been victorious in battle with a crowd shouting his praise. Any people in the crowd who considered Jesus an earthly king were wrong, but Jesus was and is King—the almighty, eternal Savior-King of all people.

How was Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem different from that of an earthly king?

Jesus rode on a donkey, not a proud war stallion. He entered Jerusalem on a borrowed, lowly donkey, not a horse decked out with the finery and jewels of an earthly kingdom; in lowliness and humility although he is the Son of God. But this humility he bore as one of us. He bore even death on a cross for us and for our salvation.

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Fifth Sunday of Lent

Jesus Is the Cornerstone of Our Faith

These are the readings for the Fifth Sunday in Lent.

God’s Word for This Week

Jesus makes clear that he is the cornerstone of our faith. Those who believe in him will receive the blessings of which St. Paul speaks in the second lesson, telling us to put away the “former things” of this world. Sadly, those who continue to cling tightly to the rubbish of their own righteousness will be broken into pieces or have this “stone of Christ” fall on them and crush them. Let us instead look to the “new thing” of God, the deliverance won by our Savior Jesus, the cornerstone of our faith.

First Lesson – Isaiah 43:16-21

What famous event is God talking about when he says he made a way through the sea, drew out the chariots and army, and extinguished them?

God is referring to Israel’s miraculous escape through the sea from slavery in Egypt. God’s rescue through Moses was ancient history by Isaiah’s day, yet was the most vivid example to that point in history that the LORD saves!

What “new thing” is God foretelling that will make the people forget what their favorite story of rescue, the Exodus was?

God says he will make a way in the desert, leading his people back from their coming captivity in Babylon. Then God will trump that rescue. He will send the Messiah, who will bring the water of life. Today as we tell people how great a deliverer God is, we tell the story of Jesus delivering from sin, death, and the devil. The once-famous Exodus goes to the “back burner.”

People talk about finding purpose for their lives. For what purpose(s) does the LORD say he formed us? (v. 21)

The LORD formed his chosen people for himself. Our nature rebels at the thought that we do not exist to seek our own goals and interests. Also, we were formed to proclaim the LORD’s praise. Since we have pardon in Christ, our new self gladly adores God and tells others how marvelous he is.

Traditional Second Lesson – Philippians 3:8-14

How many great things did Paul gain in Christ that made him ready to consider his past honors as a Pharisee rubbish?

He gained righteousness from God by faith, knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection, and fellowship with Christ through suffering. Paul gained his own resurrection from the dead on the Last Day and the prize of eternal life!

Compare Lot’s wife as she left Sodom with Paul leaving behind his comforts and status to follow God’s call.

Both were called to leave behind earthly things that had filled their lives. Lot’s wife kept thinking about what was behind and looked back, to her loss. Paul made a point to forget what he gave up and focused on his heavenly goal.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Romans 11:11-21

Paul’s main analogy here is of an olive tree. Jewish people formed the root of the tree. Jewish unbelievers are like branches broken off from the tree. How do Gentile believers—wild olive shoot—become part of tree?

Gentile believers become part of the tree by being grafted into it. (Note: Wild olive shoots don’t graft themselves into trees.)

Paul warns Gentile believers not to be arrogant. We might expect him to tell us, therefore, to be humble. What does he say, instead? (See Romans 11:20‒21.)

Paul tells Gentile believers to be “afraid.” Why? Because we could repeat the stupidity of Jews before us who lost their place in God’s olive tree. Like dead branches, they got broken off from the tree, due to their unbelief. We get grafted in by faith. But if God didn’t spare them, God will not spare us, either, if we follow their foolish example.

Gospel – Luke 20:9-19

What does this parable teach us about Christ?

Jesus is the son sent as the last opportunity for the evil tenants. He is the heir and holds a unique place as the son. The other messengers came as servants. Christ identifies himself in this parable as the unique Son of God.

What does this parable teach us about men?

God’s chosen people were given a good land, but they mistreated his messengers (prophets) and were about to kill his own Son! God rightfully expects “fruit” from the people he puts in his vineyard, also today!

What does this parable teach us about God?

God is patient and merciful, like the owner giving the tenants many chances. But God’s patience can be exhausted; in his wrath, God treats hard-hearted rebels severely.

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Fourth Sunday of Lent

God’s Amazing Grace is Received by Faith

These are the readings for the Fourth Sunday in Lent.

God’s Word for This Week

Today we see the sincerity of our Savior’s love. God keeps waiting to show his children mercy. God is ready, even anxious to forgive us. He pleads that we come to him and be saved. Such constant and free forgiveness doesn’t make sense to human logic. But God’s ways are greater than our ways. If his grace were not so great, it could not cover all of our sins. We rejoice in God’s amazing grace which always gives forgiveness for all sins.

Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 12:1-6

Who alone can save us from God’s anger?

“The LORD, the LORD himself, is my strength and my song; He has become my salvation” (v 2). It is the LORD himself who saves us from his own fierce anger over our sins. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). This is God’s grace, that he has turned away from us his anger (which we deserve because of our sins) and shows us instead his love (which we have not deserved) by sending his own Son to provide salvation for us through his suffering and death on the cross.

What does God’s saving grace do for us?

God’s saving grace drives away all our fears (v 2) and fills us with an eternal joy in Christ (v 3).

What does God’s saving grace lead us to do?

God’s saving grace leads us to express our joy in heartfelt worship. “Give thanks to the LORD…. Sing to the LORD…. Shout aloud and sing for joy” (vv 4,5,6). It also leads us to share the Good News of salvation in Jesus with others—our family, our friends, our neighbors, and people all around the world—so that they too may know the glorious things that our God has done for us!

Supplemental First Lesson – Judges 10:6-16

In this preamble to the story of Jephthah the judge, what do the Jews do again? (See Judges 10:6.)

The Jews again served many other gods besides the LORD. They did not worship the LORD or serve him.

What did God do in his anger to cause the Israelites finally to call out to God for help?

God let the Philistines (on their west) and Ammonites (to their east) oppress them, even crush them, for 18 years. Then they finally admitted their sin as a group.

At first God said he would no longer save his people. They surely didn’t deserve it. How did he feel in the end, though? (See the second half of Judges 10:16.)

In the end, the LORD could bear Israel’s misery no longer.

Traditional Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 1:18-25

In what way is the message of the cross “foolishness?”

With this bit of sarcasm Paul describes how the world foolishly views God’s amazing grace revealed in the cross of Christ.

For whom has the “foolishness” of the cross now become the wisdom and power of God?

Those whom God has called to faith, who believe the “foolish” message of the gospel, are saved through faith in Christ (v 21). They see Christ for who and what he really is, “Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God” (v 24).

Supplemental Second Lesson – James 4:7-10

Submitting to God does not come naturally. List a few other commands God gives here that we would never obey on our own.

On our own, we would never resist the devil. We would just give in. On our own, we would not come near God; we would try to avoid him and try to create personal pleasure apart from him. On our own, we might apologize for sin, but we would never grieve, mourn, and wail over our sin. Lastly, humility does not come naturally to any of us.

Why would any sinner humble himself or herself before God?

James says that if we humble ourselves before the Lord, he will lift us up. (Note that James doesn’t say when or how; part of our humility is not dictating any terms to God, just trusting God’s promises.)

Gospel – Luke 15:1-3,12-32

What do we learn about God’s grace from the wasteful younger son?

From the younger son in the story, we learn, amazingly, that our sins do not nullify God’s grace. “Where sin increased, grace increased all the more” (Romans 5:20). God gladly receives and forgives every penitent sinner, no matter how many or how terrible our sins.

What do we learn about God’s grace from the “faithful” son?

From the older son in the story, we learn that we cannot earn God’s grace by our steady service. God gives us grace freely in Christ. God’s grace is always ours though faith. (See Luke 15:31.) Therefore, we should not be offended when God gives his grace freely also to another, no matter how notorious a sinner we might consider them to be.

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Third Sunday in Lent

God Offers Deliverance to Sinners

These are the readings for the Third Sunday in Lent.

God’s Word for This Week

Today’s lessons encourage us to take heart and trust in the Lord. We also view numerous examples of people who lost their hold on eternal life because they gave in to their fears and doubts. However, in his grace, God promises deliverance from whatever difficulty he may lovingly allow to come our way. Thank God!

Traditional First Lesson – Exodus 3:1-8b, 10-15

How old is Moses when God calls him to deliver Israel? In light of this, react to the statement, “I’ve done my time; it’s the younger generation’s turn to take the lead.”

Moses was 80 years old (40 years in Egypt and 40 years as a shepherd) when God called him to deliver his people—Israel—from Egypt. Initially, Moses heavily resisted God’s call. He was comfortable where he was in Midian and was very willing to live out the rest of his days in relative peace and quietness. Yet, God had other plans for him. He had been training Moses all his life for this monumental task to which he was being called. Very few (if any) others would have been ready for such a task as this. May each of us also realize about ourselves, “I am God’s work in progress—a clay pot of my God who is constantly molding me for works of service now and in the future.”

What is a more accurate translation of “I Am Who I Am,” and what’s the significance?

“I Is Who I Is.” Though grammatically terrible, it is accurate. There is no God besides the Triune God because “God just IS” and “IS” forever. And he is our promised deliverer.

Supplemental First Lesson – Numbers 16:23-40

When Korah, Dathan, and Abiram rebelled against Moses’ authority, what did Moses say would be the proof that the Lord had truly sent him and put him in charge? (See Numbers 16:30.)

The proof would be the Lord doing something totally new and making the earth swallow up Korah, Dathan, Abiram, and their families.

Why did God tell Moses to tell Eleazer the priest to hammer a bronze cover over the altar? (See Numbers 16:35-40.)

Not only had the earth swallowed the rebels and their families, but fire had come out from God and eaten up the 250 men allied with Korah who had been offering incense from bronze censers. The bronze overlay was to remind the Israelites that no one except a descendant of Aaron was to act as a priest before the Lord and offer him incense, or they would suffer the same fate as Korah and his followers.

Isn’t God full of mercy and patience? How could he do something like this?

God is full of mercy and patience. He is also full of wrath against sin. (See Numbers 16:46.) We must not test God’s patience. In the Bible God gives us many examples of his judgments to warn us about taking him and his commandments lightly.

Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 10:1-13

What are the main dangers in being spiritually lazy or careless?

Some of the main dangers of spiritual lethargy are: a) going through the motions in worship; b) losing focus on God-given goals (heaven, living to thank God, encouraging fellow believers in their faith, sharing Christ with unbelievers); c) main goals turning into “being comfortable” and “getting ahead.”

What is wrong with this statement? “I can handle anything because I have a strong faith.” (See 1 Corinthians 10:12.)

Thinking we can handle anything due to our strong faith is dangerous, for one, because we are focusing on ourselves, not on our faithful and powerful Lord. (See 1 Corinthians 10:13.) Only through a watchful, childlike trust in him, his promises, and his protection can we live and die securely.

Gospel – Luke 13:1-9

What kind of judgmental words are we tempted to say when bad things happen to people?

When bad things happen to others, it is tempting to say, “They must have done something bad to deserve this.” In pride we assume that we have not experienced something similar because somehow, we are better.

How is Jesus’ answer different from what his disciples thought?

Jesus visualizes every situation within the spectrum of pure grace. As God in the flesh, he reveals horrible situations, not as punishments for specific sins, but rather as God’s tools (real-life illustrations) to call people to repentance. Jesus wants all people to turn away from sin and to place their trust for forgiveness and salvation in him. He is the one who has promised to deliver them. They can’t do it.

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Second Sunday in Lent

Salvation Through our Savior’s Sacrifice is Rejected by Many

These are the readings for the Second Sunday in Lent.

God’s Word for This Week

“It is God’s will that you should be sanctified” (I Thessalonians. 4:3). What if we ignore God’s call to holy living? God says to examine ourselves, repent of our failures and ask for his forgiveness. Yet we never do any of those three perfectly. We must confess, as an old prayer says, “we have no power to defend ourselves.” So how can we not end up among those who permanently reject God’s rescue? Only by God’s constant grace in Christ. In his mercy, God even used Jesus’ rejection by his Jewish countrymen to put Jesus on the cross. Rejoice doubly then: Christ did not reject his Father’s will, he died for you. In Christ, God will also keep you from rejecting him.

First Lesson – Jeremiah 26:8-15

It seems impossible that God’s people should want to kill his servant just for speaking his God’s Word. How did it come to that?

Jeremiah’s warnings that Jerusalem and the temple would be a desolate ruin and Jeremiah’s call to repent infuriated them. They did not want to give up their pride or the city and temple that they loved more than they loved God. Jeremiah’s call to repent attacked their pride. They responded with death threats.

What was the connection between the people reforming their ways and the Lord not bringing the disaster he had pronounced against them?

Giving up outwardly what the Jews didn’t want to give up inside could not have spared them from God’s wrath. God sees inside. He demands that we be holy from the inside out. If the Jews had let go of their pride and looked to God’s grace for their standing before him, they would have desired righteousness and abhorred sin. Then by grace, for Jesus’s sake, God would have spared them.

Second Lesson – Philippians 3:17-4:1

Paul points out how unbelievers think and live. How do such descriptions serve as a blessing for believers like us?

When a believer sees flagrant displays of sin, he is appalled. When we are in the middle of a temptation, we may not see how bad sin is. But when we see that sin in others, the Bible’s descriptions of sinners help us ask ourselves, “Is that really what I want to be like? If I persist, won’t I end up where they will end up?”

Our citizenship is in heaven; soon Jesus will come down from heaven. How do such mercies help us resist temptation?

Picture an engaged couple, so in love with each other that they give no thought to anyone else’s attractiveness. That couple looks forward so much to the thrill of being together in marriage. In the same way, we are engaged to Jesus, to spend eternity with him. The more we ponder his love for us and what living with him face to face in his eternal kingdom will be like, the more we will want to please and thank him now. No one else comes close.

Gospel – Luke 13:31-35

Even though repentance and faith are works of God, why can’t those who lack repentance and faith blame God for that?

God works through his Word. The reason some do not repent of sin and trust in Jesus is that they harden themselves to the Word, rather than giving up their favorite sins or their pride. Rather than simply point our finger at the Jews of Jesus’ day, let’s examine ourselves. Are we doing what they did, or in danger of that?

At the end, Jesus warned that Jews of his day would not see him as he really is until he came in glory on the Last Day. How did Jesus’ warning serve as a call to repentance and faith?

The Jews ought to have been terrified at the thought of seeing Jesus coming again in glory on the Last Day. After hearing the testimony of the Old Testament and of Jesus’ teachings, and after seeing the evidence of his miracles, they had to know that Jesus coming in glory to judge them was more than a possibility. If they had cried out, “Lord, make me ready for that day,” he would have sheltered them under his arms. (Some Jews did repent later.)

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First Sunday in Lent

Our Great Deliverer Defeats Satan and Secures Our Salvation

These are the readings for the First Sunday in Lent.

God’s Word for This Week

Being “tempted” may make us think of the creamy alfredo sauce or rich chocolate cake which leads some to overindulge. In God’s view, temptation to sin is a far bigger problem. God says the one who tempts us, by our lack of self-control, is Satan himself (1 Corinthians 7:5). Temptation happens, God also says, when by our own evil desires we are dragged away and enticed (James 1:14). So? “Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” No wonder Jesus tells his disciples, “Watch and pray so that you will not enter into temptation” (Luke 22:46).

Traditional First Lesson – Deuteronomy 26:5-10

Compare Israel’s deliverance from Egypt with our deliverance at Calvary’s cross?

Israel was delivered from slavery in Egypt. We were delivered from slavery to sin and Satan through our fear of death. Israel began their march to the Promised Land. At the cross we begin our march to the Promised Land of heaven.

What is the connection between remembering how the Lord delivered us and giving our first fruits?

There is joy when we receive a sudden windfall. Living in America, it’s hard for us to imagine what our joy would be if that sudden windfall were freedom after living in slavery for generations. If we feel generous and throw a little money around after a windfall, thinking about the windfall of spiritual and eternal freedom we have from the Lord causes rich generosity to well up in us. However, rather than throwing our riches around for trinkets, it is our privilege to be the Lord’s instruments in bringing many more to freedom. Praise God for his indescribable grace!

Supplemental First Lesson – Joshua 7:16-26

After the fall of Jericho, which Jewish man was tempted to steal?

Achan was tempted to steal.

What did he take from Jericho?

Achan took silver, gold, and a beautiful Babylonian robe from Jericho, even though all the plunder from Jericho was the Lord’s.

What do you think God wants us to conclude from his death by stoning and the huge pile of rocks that marked his grave?

God seems to want us to conclude that temptations to sin are not “small potatoes.” With us, as with Achan, temptations that may seem meager are terrible. They lead to death and permanent disgrace.

Traditional Second Lesson – Romans 10:8b-13

What might cause a person to doubt that God’s love is near?

Sometimes it may seem like God’s love isn’t near, because we are faced with a difficult and desperate situation, we prayed, but we haven’t seen any answers. Guilt is an even greater cause of such feelings. With our heads we know that Jesus died for us. Yet our hearts keep on condemning us.

How can we be sure God is near to us?

We can be sure only by continually holding to the gospel in Word and sacrament. Through the gospel, God’s love is near!

How does being sure that God is near to us help us to fight lapses into selfishness and indifference?

The gospel fills our hearts with amazement that in spite of our sins and in spite of our lack of faith, God is faithful to us. Our joy and amazement over that fact fills us with the desire to confess him to others and sours our desire for sin.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Hebrews 4:14-16

Since Jesus is God, were his temptations only illusions?

The temptations Jesus went through were not illusions. Jesus “was tempted in every way, just as we are, yet without sin.” As man, he was really tempted, though he could not have fallen, since he is God.

What, therefore, should we do with confidence?

Since Jesus was tempted just like us, but did not give in, we can approach God’s throne of grace with confidence to get the help we need.

Gospel – Luke 4:1-13

Compare Satan’s temptations of Eve (Genesis 3:1-5) in the Garden of Eden with his temptations of Christ.

Satan tempted Eve to doubt God’s love and Word, to make her own decisions about her care, and to think that created things could somehow satisfy her more than the Creator. Satan tempted Jesus in similar ways. Therefore we must watch out for the same tactics from the tempter.

What can we learn from Jesus’ method of defeating Satan’s temptations?

When we are tempted, we need God’s Word in our heart. (The more we have memorized, the more weapons we have to fight off the devil.) Just as Jesus used God’s Word from Deuteronomy to defeat the devil, in temptation we go to God and his Word. They will be the source for our answers to Satan. They will give us strength to stand firm. By the power of his Word, God created all things and raised his Son from the dead. The power of his Word is limitless. We must not rely on our own power at all. Trusting in God’s Word, we can overcome and win the victory, even in our final hours. (How furious Satan will be if we die trusting in Christ, not ourselves, and slip between his hideous fingers into our Father’s hands forever!)

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Transfiguration Sunday

Jesus is Our Glorious Savior

These are the readings for Transfiguration Sunday.

God’s Word for This Week

Scripture says that Jesus only shone with glory once before his resurrection. That was on a high hill, where Peter, James, and John had a terrifying look at Jesus’ perfect glory. One reason Jesus did it was to give his disciples a glimpse at what the future holds for all believers. The Twelve were about to enter a difficult time. They would see their Messiah crucified, but in the end they would also see that Jesus is our glorious Savior.

First Lesson – Exodus 34:29-35

What had happened to Moses’ face when he went to receive the two tablets of the Testimony on Mt. Sinai?

Moses’ face began to reflect the glory of God.

How did the people react?

Aaron and the people were afraid to come near Moses. Paul tells us that “the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory” (2 Corinthians 3:7). This is the natural reaction of sinful people to the glory of God (The disciples of Jesus would react the same way when he was transfigured before them (Mark 9:6). Moses was eventually able to first coax the leaders back to him (Exodus 34:29) and then all the people (Exodus 34:32).

What did Moses do to help relieve their anxiety?

Moses placed a veil over his face, which he took off whenever he went into the Lord’s presence.

Traditional Second Lesson – 2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Who is the god of this age, and what has he done to the unbelievers of this world?

Satan is the god of this age, and he has darkened the hearts and minds of unbelievers so that they are unable to see Jesus for who he is: our glorious Savior.

How is it that we have seen Christ’s glory?

Paul says that God “made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.” In other words, he has brought us to faith through the preaching of the Gospel. (See Romans 10:17.)

Supplemental Second Lesson – 2 Corinthians 3:12-4:2

Just as Moses covered his face with a veil, what problem did people of Paul’s day often face? (See 3:14-15.)

People of Paul’s day who misunderstood God’s covenant to Israel through Moses had a “veil over their hearts.” They did not realize that the first covenant was temporary; it prepared for the permanent covenant in Christ’s blood.

How did being ministers of God’s new covenant make Paul and his companions feel? (See 4:1-2.)

Being ministers of God’s new covenant kept Paul and his companions from giving up, or from trying tricky ways to convert people. They simply set forth the truth about Christ plainly to people who would have to stand before God.

Gospel – Luke 9:28-36

Who met Jesus and his disciples when they climbed this high mountain?

They met Moses and Elijah, who were generally considered by the Jews to be the two greatest prophets in the Old Testament.

What happened to Jesus when they arrived?

Jesus was transfigured before their eyes. The Greek word is our English word: metamorphosis. This is what a caterpillar does when it changes into a beautiful butterfly. Its outward appearance changes dramatically. So also Jesus’ body underwent a metamorphosis, in which, while still being man, he shone with the glory of God.

What suggestion did Peter make in verse 33?

Peter wanted to build shelters on the mountain for Jesus, Moses, and Elijah, in order to preserve the glory of God for themselves. St. Luke suggests that Peter was speaking foolishly.

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Third Sunday after Pentecost

Your Dread Enemy, the Devil, Won’t Win

These are the readings for the Third Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

Adam and Eve ruined everything for everyone. They destined themselves for death. They took the perfect world that God created for everyone and put it under constant attack from all the demons. But God made a promise almost immediately. God said he would send a descendant of Eve to crush Satan’s power. Jesus, that descendant, demonstrated his authority over Satan even before he rose from the dead.

First Lesson – Genesis 3:8-15

Why were Adam and Eve hiding from God?

Adam and Eve hid from God because his nearness exposed their guilt. Satan had promised Eve that she would be like God; instead, Adam and Eve became fools, thinking they could hide from the One who sees all. And Adam and Eve ran away from their best friend, rather than turning to him and repenting. How tragic when we do the same!

How did Adam and Eve respond to being “found out?”

Adam blamed Eve. Eve blamed the snake. Adam, in effect, blamed God for the situation he was in that supposedly made him fall (“the woman you put here with me…she gave me…”) Look at your own response to being found out for your sin. Real repentance owns up to the full guilt of your reactions, as well as your previous actions.

How did God respond to Adam and Eve’s deadly fall?

God responded in amazing love by providing a way of escape. He set up the only plan to undo the damage of sin. He promised that a “seed” of the woman (Jesus) would crush Satan’s head, even when his own heel was struck. That promise came true when Jesus died for us and rose again.

Traditional Second Lesson – 2 Corinthians 4:13-18

What gave Paul and the apostles boldness to speak?

What you have in your heart and mind will show itself in what you say. Their “spirit of faith” was based on the assurance that since Jesus was raised from the dead, all believers will follow suit.

How did this affect them in their daily pains and troubles?

They didn’t “lose heart” even though their health was deteriorating, and circumstances were hitting them hard. They saw those as “momentary” in comparison with what they were going to experience in eternity with Jesus. Instead those things helped them keep focus on what is eternal rather than the common short-sightedness connected with the material world.

Supplemental Second Lesson (Revelation 20:1-6)

In Revelation 1:18, Jesus said he holds the keys of death and Hades. Who, then, is the angel?

This angel seems to be Jesus himself.

Will Jesus reign on earth for 1000 years before judgment day?

No, Jesus will not reign visibly on earth for 1000 years before judgment day. He is reigning right now in heaven for 1000 years (a picture of the New Testament era). Those beheaded for their faith reign with him. They are winners, though when they died, they seemed losers to the world.

Gospel – Mark 3:20-35

What accusation did the religious leaders level against Jesus?

The leaders said that Jesus was demon-possessed (possessed by Beelzebub, “Lord of the Flies”). They claimed Jesus must be one of them if he could drive demons out.

How did he counter their argument?

Jesus said Satan could not survive if he worked against himself. “A house divided against itself will not stand.”

Is there any sin for which people will not be forgiven?

Those who turn against the Holy Spirit’s workings in their life through the gospel and fall away from Christ shut him out. They persistently wall themselves off from the only thing that could save them—God’s forgiveness.

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Fifth Sunday after Epiphany

Jesus is Revealed by His Tireless Compulsion to Preach the Gospel

These are the readings for the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany.

God’s Word for This Week

In all three lessons we read today, people are hurting. Jesus reveals himself as God by healing the people of Capernaum. Why doesn’t he take all hurts and troubles away from us now? We do not know, but his Word promises that he has power over sickness and the devil, and his Word gives many examples of God using evil for our good. Jesus himself did not stay in Capernaum to be their miracle man. He traveled throughout Galilee. First he prayed—perhaps that his popularity would not go to his head and keep him from going to the cross for us.

First Lesson – Job 7:1–7

How was Job feeling about his life?

Job was frustrated with his lot in life. Tired and depressed, Job figured that he would never be happy again. Job had lost his desire to proclaim good news about his Savior God.

Why did Job feel the way he did?

Job had lost his fortune, his children, and his reputation. Then he lost his health, too. His friends figured that he had done something terrible to deserve such treatment from God. Job resented them and their accusations. God seemed distant and unfair. Job’s suffering led him to discouragement and despair.

Job had not lost his faith in God. How can you tell?

Though frustrated, tired, and depressed due to all the calamity touching his life, Job still addressed God in prayer (verse 7).

Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 9:16-23

How much was Paul being paid to preach?

Paul was preaching to the Corinthians free of charge, not using his right as a minister of the gospel to be paid for his work among them (cf. 1 Co 9:15). Normally this would bring disappointment, but Paul boasted of the situation. He was motivated to preach by the gospel, not by payment.

What does Paul mean: “I have become all things to all men”? (Verse 22)

Paul is referring to the servant attitude he had taken toward his listeners. Although as a Christian Paul had been given complete freedom in Christ in matters of conscience, he surrendered his Christian freedom in order “to please everybody in every way” (1 Co 10:33). He did this so that he might have an opportunity to preach the gospel.

What was Paul’s motivation to preach?

Paul was motivated by the freedom that Jesus gives through the gospel of forgiveness. He couldn’t help but proclaim that message of forgiveness to others. He had a tireless compulsion to preach the gospel.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Romans 8:28–30

Earlier Paul has said that we know that the whole world is groaning as in pains of
childbirth. What else do we know?

We also know that all things work together for good to those who love God, whom God has called to faith.

God’s purpose is not necessarily to make us happy now. What is his eternal purpose?

God’s purpose now and forever is to conform us to the likeness of his Son. This is why he chose us to be believers before he made the world. (What grace!)

What unbroken chain does Paul want us to picture?

The unbroken chain of God’s grace is that those God predestined in eternity to be his children, he also called to faith in Jesus here in time. Those he called he also declared innocent in his courtroom for Jesus’ sake, and those he justified, he also glorified. We are not on the new earth yet, shining like the sun, but because of God’s grace it is as good as done. (What amazing grace!)

Gospel – Mark 1:29–39

How did Jesus feel after a long day of ministry?

Jesus was worn out and looking for solitude. People were demanding an audience with him. Sadly, it seems that they were more interested in earthly blessings (miracles of physical healing) rather than the heavenly blessings that Jesus had to offer: the forgiveness of sins and eternal life.

How did Jesus respond to the demands of the people?

Jesus left and went to other villages, realizing that his primary mission from the Father was to preach the gospel and bring eternal healing to souls. He had a tireless compulsion to preach the gospel.

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Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 28, 2017

The Church is Meant for all People

These are the readings for the Thirteenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

The Church is meant for all people. The Prayer of the Day reminds us that it is only by God’s gift of grace that we come into his presence to offer true and faithful service. Today’s lessons teach that the gift of grace given to Israel, God also intended to give through Israel to the world. The Church is meant for all people: a display of God’s mercy and a result of the living and active Word of God.

Prayer of the Day

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift of grace that we come into your presence and offer true and faithful service. Grant that our worship on earth may always be pleasing to you, and in the life to come give us the fulfillment of what you have promised; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

First Lesson – Isaiah 56:1, 6-8

Agree or disagree. In the Old Testament, God intended the promises of salvation only for the Israelites, his chosen people.

Disagree. While God generally spoke his promises to his chosen people, he did not abandon those of other nationalities. In the Old Testament, God extended his forgiving love to the Ninevites through the prophet Jonah, blessed a Syrian officer through the testimony of a young Israelite servant girl, and inspired King David to write: “Declare his glory among the nations, his marvelous deeds among all people,” to name but a few.

The words of this lesson came to the mind and mouth of our Savior when he confronted the gross perversion of temple worship in Mark 11. Through Isaiah God told the world that God-fearing Gentiles would always have a place within his temple. Yet in his temple on earth, the religious leadership turned the court of Gentiles into a marketplace that robbed both man and God. Jesus cleansed it of both the commerce and corruption and quoted this lesson. The godly Gentiles described are the exact opposite of the Jews in Matthew 15. God in his grace calls the Gentiles into his presence and makes his Church a house of prayer for all nations.

Second Lesson – Romans 11:13-15, 28-32

How was Israel’s rejection of the Gospel a blessing for the world?

The rejection by the people of Israel finally caused the apostles to direct their preaching instead to the Gentiles. While we do not rejoice in the loss of souls among the Jews, this new focus did bring unprecedented numbers of Gentiles into the family of God.

What hope still exists for the Jewish people?

It is still God’s desire that all should be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. The amazing condition is that their very life of disobedience is an opportunity for God to extend his mercy. The same call God gave them in the Old Testament he gives them today—God’s promises are irrevocable.

This is the twelfth in a series of sixteen lessons that run through Pentecost 17. On this day celebrating faith for the Gentiles, St. Paul warns his Gentile readers against any pride on their part or prejudice against the Jews. Note the point of this Apostle to the Gentiles: he reaches out to the Gentile with the hopes of also winning the Jew. Verse 15 makes the point of our Gospel lesson. Rejection by the people of Israel meant Christ would be preached to the Gentiles. How personal this statement is for Paul! How many synagogues had he preached in, only to be cast out and make his way to the Gentiles? But yet Israel retains its dual status: enemies that are beloved. When the nation of Israel turned from its Savior God and his Messiah, God set his face against them as enemies of the Gospel. But yet God’s call and his Word of promise remain. Such is grace, that God does not love the lovable, but makes the unlovable his dear possession. Just look at what he did with the disobedient Gentiles! Both Jew and Gentile apart from Christ languish in the fearful prison called “Disobedience.” God shut them up together that locked thus, all hope and all self-help were gone. Disobedience was all they had and all they could bring forth. Only one door permits one to leave this prison, and it is inscribed: “God’s Mercy.” (R.C.H. Lenski)

Supplemental First Lesson – Joshua 2:8-21

It is reasonable that spies would hide themselves in a house of prostitution. It is reasonable, too, that this prostitute Rahab tried to cut a deal to preserve her life in the face of the Israelite onslaught that the whole city knew was coming. But what reason is there that she did it out of faith in the LORD? What reason did she find to have faith in the God of free and faithful love?

There is no reason for that but the unreasonable gift of God worked in her heart by the living and active Word of God. Clearly, God meant his Church to be for all people. But he didn’t stop there! What reason could there be that this foreign woman, this prostitute from a godless country, that hers would be the womb through which line of the Blessed Seed would descend? There is no reason for that at all. That can only be grace. Grace meant for all people.

Gospel – Matthew 15:21-28

Note the context of chapter 15. The children of Israel—and especially their religious leaders—found nothing but fault in Jesus of Nazareth. The chosen people of God to whom belonged the patriarchs, the promises, the covenant and the temple, could see nothing in Christ but a breaker of man-made traditions. Jesus’ words to them could not be harsher. They were the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophesy: their outward rites and rituals belied an inward spiritual emptiness. The very people who should have been closest to Christ were most distant. So Jesus distances himself from them and goes to the Gentile land of ancient paganism, Tyre and Sidon. There he finds a most inexplicable thing: the Greek text notes it as both surprising and extraordinary: ἰδοὺ γυνὴ Χαναναία (Look! A woman, a Canaanite woman). After leaving the land of God’s chosen people, Jesus finds a woman—a Canaanite woman—who received the Word of God and trusted in God’s promises in a way that shamed every one of the religious teachers. The male leaders of God’s people failed to recognize him, but behold! Look carefully! A woman, a Canaanite woman, cries out, “Kyrie eleison!” (Lord, have mercy!) And to whom does she cry? She called him “Lord, Son of David,” with all of its messianic implications. How amazing is the grace of God that chooses the weak and lowly things of the world to shame the wise and proud. Only twice are we told that Jesus called someone’s faith great. Both were Gentiles, and both exhibited a God-given trust in the Word and promises of God made man.

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Tenth Sunday after Pentecost – August 7, 2017

The Christian Seeks Spiritual Wealth

These are the readings for the Tenth Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

The Christian seeks spiritual wealth. This Sunday’s readings are centered on the very ancient Prayer of the Day. For nearly 1600 years God’s people on this day have prayed that God might give them true spiritual wealth. “Teach us always to ask according to your will that we may never fail to obtain the blessings you have promised.” What a magnificent prayer for the materialist world in which we live! Our lessons today show people who have come into great wealth, but yet this earthly wealth only serves to illustrate where true treasure lies. Today we see that true, spiritual wealth can only be found in God and his eternal blessings for us in Christ.

Prayer of the Day

O Lord, your ears are always open to the prayers of your humble servants, who come to you in Jesus’ name. Teach us always to ask according to your will that we may never fail to obtain the blessings you have promised; through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

First Lesson – 1 Kings 3:5-12

What would you have asked for? If anything in the world could be yours, what would be your request? God only gave one man the choice between unlimited riches and spiritual wealth. Can you imagine facing his dilemma? What should I pick, temporal blessings or eternal ones? What should I value, the things of this world or the things of God? How well Solomon expressed the words of our prayer for today, to ask according to God’s will. We marvel at his faith in choosing great wisdom over great riches—especially since we so often fail in the pitifully small choices we make! It’s not for all the riches in the world that we turn down spiritual wealth, but for paltry over-time hours, or a little extra in the check book that we shaved off our offering. For such small things we are willing to trade away opportunities for true spiritual wealth. Look at Solomon and see an example of what God means by spiritual wealth. He doesn’t mean we need to live as mendicant monks; he doesn’t ask us to forgo all earthly treasure. He just doesn’t want us to value them more than the pearl of great price. After choosing spiritual treasure, God blessed Solomon in unbelievable ways. (Do the math on the twenty-five tons worth of gold that was part of Solomon’s annual income.) Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness and all these things will be given you as well.

Second Lesson – Romans 8:28-30

This is the ninth in a series of sixteen lessons that run through Pentecost 17. Paul explains the spiritual wealth that belongs to every Christian. Like the man who found treasure buried in the field, we brought no merit or worth to our calling. Rather, we were chosen. The surprising grace of God found us and gave us the ultimate treasure: predestined, called, justified, and glorified.

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 Timothy 6:17-21

Could Paul’s words be more timely or appropriate for this generation? He instructs preachers everywhere to warn the rich about the two pet sins of the wealthy: arrogance and false hope. Mankind so easily falls in the error of thinking that earthly treasures can provide security or a sense of worth. In our affluent society both of those sins run rampant in many a Christian heart. God commands us not to trust in earthly treasure because he wants us to have a firm foundation on which to stand, a certainty on which to place our hope. That can only be found in spiritual wealth. God richly provides for us, and then we give thanks by being rich in good deeds. Spiritual wealth is certain and secure, for it is treasure laid up in heaven. How can we possibly carry out this command? Teach us to ask according to your will that we may never fail to obtain the
blessings you have promised.

Gospel – Matthew 13:44-52

Jesus’ parables teach us to seek spiritual wealth. Both of the men in the parables found great treasure. For one it was a complete surprise, as unexpected as it was valuable. For the other it came from an expert search by a discerning man. Before they found these new treasures, both men no doubt valued what they previously owned. But once they saw this new treasure, see how little they valued all else they had! The spiritual wealth of Christ and his Gospel puts everything else into perspective; in fact it marginalizes all else. The importance of this truth comes to light in the parable of the net. All people, rich and poor, will be caught up. Only those who found true spiritual wealth are spared the furnace. Jesus concludes with an encouragement for the preacher of the Gospel: you have found true wealth in Christ; you have been given a storeroom full of treasures new and old. Bring them out to God’s people with joy and delight.

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Fifth Sunday of Lent – March 7, 2016

Jesus Is the Cornerstone of Our Faith

These are the readings for the Fifth Sunday of Lent.

God’s Word for This Week

Jesus makes clear that he is the cornerstone of our faith. Those who believe in him will receive the blessings of which St. Paul speaks in the second lesson, telling us to put away the “former things” of this world. Sadly, those who continue to cling tightly to the rubbish of their own righteousness will be broken into pieces or have this “stone of Christ” fall on them and crush them. Let us instead look to the “new thing” of God, the deliverance won by our Savior Jesus, the cornerstone of our faith.

First Lesson – Isaiah 43:16-21

What famous event is God talking about when he says he made a way through the sea, drew out the chariots and army, and extinguished them?

God is referring to Israel’s miraculous escape through the sea from slavery in Egypt. God’s rescue through Moses was ancient history by Isaiah’s day, yet was the most vivid example to that point in history that the LORD saves!

What “new thing” is God foretelling that will make the people forget what their favorite story of rescue, the Exodus was?

God says he will make a way in the desert, leading his people back from their coming captivity in Babylon. Then God will trump that rescue. He will send the Messiah, who will bring the water of life. Today as we tell people how great a deliverer God is, we tell the story of Jesus delivering from sin, death, and the devil. The once-famous Exodus goes to the “back burner.”

People talk about finding purpose for their lives. For what purpose(s) does the LORD say he formed us? (v. 21)

The LORD formed his chosen people for himself. Our nature rebels at the thought that we do not exist to seek our own goals and interests. Also, we were formed to proclaim the LORD’s praise. Since we have pardon in Christ, our new self gladly adores God and tells others how marvelous he is.

Traditional Second Lesson – Philippians 3:8-14

How many great things did Paul gain in Christ that made him ready to consider his past honors as a Pharisee rubbish?

He gained righteousness from God by faith, knowing Christ and the power of his resurrection, and fellowship with Christ through suffering. Paul gained his own resurrection from the dead on the Last Day and the prize of eternal life!

Compare Lot’s wife as she left Sodom with Paul leaving behind his comforts and status to follow God’s call.

Both were called to leave behind earthly things that had filled their lives. Lot’s wife kept thinking about what was behind and looked back, to her loss. Paul made a point to forget what he gave up and focused on his heavenly goal.

Supplemental Second Lesson – Romans 11:11-21

Paul’s main analogy here is of an olive tree. Jewish people formed the root of the tree. Jewish unbelievers are like branches broken off from the tree. How do Gentile believers, wild olive shoots, become part of tree?

Gentile believers become part of the tree by being grafted into it. (Note: Wild olive shoots don’t graft themselves into trees.) Paul warns Gentile believers not to be arrogant. We might expect him to tell us, therefore, to be humble. What does he say, instead? (See 11:20‒21.)

Paul tells Gentile believers to be “afraid.” Why?

Because we could repeat the stupidity of Jews before us who lost their place in God’s olive tree. Like dead branches, they got broken off from the tree, due to their unbelief. We get grafted in by faith. But if God didn’t spare them, God will not spare us, either, if we follow their foolish example.

Gospel – Luke 20:9-19

What does this parable teach us about Christ?

Jesus is the son sent as the last opportunity for the evil tenants. He is the heir and holds a unique place as the son. The other messengers came as servants. Christ identifies himself in this parable as the unique Son of God.

What does this parable teach us about men?

God’s chosen people were given a good land, but they mistreated his messengers (prophets) and were about to kill his own Son! God rightfully expects “fruit” from the people he puts in his vineyard, also today!

What does this parable teach us about God?

God is patient and merciful, like the owner giving the tenants many chances. But God’s patience can be exhausted; in his wrath, God treats hard-hearted rebels severely.

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Pentecost 22 – October 19, 2015

Jesus Shows Us True Greatness

These are the readings for the Twenty Second Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

“I am the greatest,” shouted Muhammad Ali after one of his more famous boxing victories. “I am,” he later added, “the greatest heavy weight of all time.” How would you define greatness? Is it power? Wealth? Fame? In our readings for this Lord’s Day, the Greatest who ever lived, he who died for us all and rose again, shows us that true greatness comes through humble service.

Traditional First Lesson – Isaiah 53:10-12

In the verses preceding this reading, Isaiah describes in detail Jesus’ suffering on the cross some 700 years before he was even born. Why does this suffering servant deserve a portion among the great?

Because he gave his life for the world. Jesus willingly allowed himself to suffer the punishment of all the sins of all people of all time. He paid the price with his humble service and won the victory for all people.

What does it mean that this suffering servant has justified many?

“Justify” is a courtroom term. It means, “to declare innocent.” Jesus, the righteous or innocent servant, suffered the punishment of the guilty in order that they might be declared innocent of all charges. Through Jesus the suffering servant, we have been justified, i.e., declared innocent of all sin. We are now free to enter into the Kingdom of Heaven.

Supplemental First Lesson – 2 Chronicles 26:16-23

What did King Uzziah do wrong that caused God to afflict him with leprosy?

In his pride, Uzziah went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the golden incense altar inside the holy place. Only priests were allowed there.

Therefore, what couldn’t Uzziah do for the rest of his life? (See 26:21.)

For the rest of his life, due to his skin disease, Uzziah could not enter even the outdoor courts of the LORD’S temple where other Jewish people could go.

Traditional Second Lesson – Hebrews 4:9-16

The Book of Hebrews demonstrates how Jesus is superior to every aspect of the Jewish religion. In the Old Testament, what was the “Sabbath”?

The word “Sabbath” literally means, “rest.” Just as God rested on the seventh day of creation, he commanded his Old Testament believers to rest on the seventh day and dedicate it to him and his Word.

What superior “rest” does Jesus give?

The Sabbath Day symbolized the eternal rest that God would give his people in heaven—the perfect rest that comes only through faith in Jesus. Even today through the double-edged sword of his Word, God gives us the spiritual rest that we need to make it through this sinful world and prepare ourselves for the one to come. May we never despise preaching and his Word!

How is Jesus a superior High Priest?

Part of the High Priest’s job in the Old Testament was as intercessor, i.e., he was to offer up prayers on behalf of the people. Jesus is our perfect intercessor who understands our trials because he has faced them. Yet he did not sin. He won for us the right to approach God with confidence.

Supplemental Second Lesson – 1 Corinthians 9:7-12, 19-23

Did Paul and Barnabas have a right to be paid for the labors among the Corinthians?

Yes, Paul and Barnabas had a right to be paid for their gospel work. Both logic (Paul cites soldiers, vineyard owners and shepherds in 9:7, and plowmen and threshers in 9:10) and the Old Testament (Paul cites Deuteronomy 25:4 in 9:9) show that Paul and Barnabas had a right to be paid. Pastors and other hard-working servants of the gospel today have the same right.

Why didn’t Paul and Barnabas make use of this right? (See 9:12.)

Paul and Barnabas did not make use of their right, so as not to hinder the gospel of Christ when they were in Corinth.

Why was Paul so adaptable and flexible in his ministry methods? What was his goal?

Paul was so adaptable and flexible in his ministry methods so that all in all, he might save some people (9:22) and that he might share in the gospel’s benefits himself (9:23).

Gospel – Mark 10:35-45

How did the disciples define greatness?

Jesus’ disciples considered greatness to be a position of honor among themselves. They considered greatness to be having a seat right next to Jesus when he came into his glory.

According to Jesus, how should we define greatness?

Jesus, the Great One, gave us the greatest example of greatness. He humbly offered his life to pay for the freedom of all mankind from eternal death. True greatness comes through humble service. May we follow Christ’s example of humble service, not out of selfish ambition, but out of thanks and love to him who loved us first.

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Pentecost 21 – October 12, 2015

Jesus Warns Us to Guard against Greed

These are the readings for the Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost.

God’s Word for This Week

“I’m a little envious,” we claim. It is far worse. Envy is wishing God were not so good to someone else while ignoring how good God is to us. And our greed? “Greed is idolatry,” God says (Colossians 3:5). Still, God in Christ provides for all our needs, including the greatest–forgiveness of sin. He places in the repentant believer’s heart proper priorities. God even promises everlasting treasure in his holy presence, all by his grace.

Traditional First Lesson – Amos 5:6, 7, 11-15

Amos addresses people who had lost their priorities. What does seeking the Lord involve?

Seeking the Lord involved giving up the worship of false gods in Bethel, Gilgal and Beersheba. For us it means the same—to give up worshiping the false gods of our society. Those gods include sexual immorality, consumerism, selfishness, etc.

Amos states that we are to “hate evil.” When is hate appropriate?

There is a place among Christians for righteous anger. Following Christ Jesus means loving what God loves and hating what God hates. God gives us his word to guide us in our thought life. When you think about it, hell is God’s righteous wrath that burns forever on those who reject his gospel of salvation.

Supplemental First Lesson – 2 Kings 5:14-27

How did Gehazi, Elisha’s servant, lie to Naaman? What did Gehazi request?

Gehazi lied to Naaman by asking him for clothes and money for two young men from the company of the prophets (perhaps seminary students, in our terms–future pastors). Naaman gave Gehazi about 150 pounds of silver and two sets of clothes– tens of thousands of dollars.

How much did Elisha know about what Gehazi had done? (See 5:26.)

Elisha not only knew about Gehazi’s deceit, he knew that Naaman had stepped down out of his chariot to speak with Gehazi. He knew that Gehazi had started thinking about the olive groves, vineyards, flocks, herds and servants he would soon acquire. In other words, Elisha knew everything. Today, too, God knows everything about our greedy thoughts, words and actions. We must never try to conceal them, but confess them and find mercy in Christ.

Traditional Second Lesson – Hebrews 3:1-6

Compare Jesus to Moses. In what way is Jesus superior to Moses?

Moses was God’s servant and mediator of the old covenant. The Israelites got their identity and status from Moses. Christians get their identity and status from Jesus. Jesus is the mediator of the new covenant. In every way Jesus is superior to Moses.

What determines if “we are in his house”? What is the “courage and the hope of which we boast?”

Though Moses was part of the house in which he served, Christ is the builder of the house. Though Moses was a servant in the house, Christ is the head of the house.

Supplemental Second Reading – Hebrews 13:1-6

As the writer to the Hebrews (Jewish Christians) wrapped up his letter with specific encouragements, which of them had to do with money?

Many of the writer’s encouragements had to do with money: a) being hospitable, b) keeping our lives free from the love of money, c) being content with what God has given us, and d) confidently trusting in the Lord instead of people.

In Deuteronomy 31:6, aged Moses told his successor, Joshua, something that the writer to the Hebrews says God promises all of us. What was Joshua to trust, according to Hebrews 13:5? And what are we to trust, as well?

God told Joshua, and God tells us, “Never will I leave you. Never will I forsake you.”

Gospel – Mark 10:17-27

What is Jesus trying to accomplish with the request he makes of the rich young ruler?

The rich young ruler thought he was good enough to get eternal life on his own, so Jesus served the rich young ruler a big helping of law–telling him to go and sell everything he had, give to the poor, then follow his Lord. Jesus wanted the man to see that his possessions had become his god. In doing so, Jesus wanted the young man to despair of being good enough for God on his own, and trust in him.

What does Jesus want the disciples to realize when he contrasts the camel with the eye of a needle?

Jewish people in Jesus’ day were familiar with the camel as the largest beast of burden they used. They were also aware of just how small the eye of a needle was. When Jesus compared the largest with the smallest, he quickly conveyed the idea that it was impossible by human means to save oneself from sin and enter God’s kingdom.

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Pentecost 9 – July 19, 2015

Jesus Gives the Bread of Life by his Faithful Word

These are the readings for the Ninth Sunday after Pentecost.

 

God’s Word for This Week

Last week we saw how Jesus gives the Bread of Life through faithful public ministers. This week we focus more on their message. Public ministers must faithfully proclaim God’s Word. When pastors do not preach the whole truth of God, they destroy faith and turn people away from Jesus, for “faith comes from hearing the message” (Romans 10:17).  Nothing else will do.

Traditional First Lesson – Jeremiah 23:1-6

Who were these “shepherds” (prophets) who were destroying and scattering the Lord’s flock (his people)?

The shepherds to whom God refers are the false prophets in Judah during the days of Jeremiah.

Since others were not faithfully proclaiming his Word, what did the Lord plan to do?

The Lord would come himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, to shepherd his flock by his faithful Word.

Supplemental First Lesson – Numbers 27:12-23

Why did Moses ask that God appoint a man to replace him as leader of God’s people? (See 27:17.)

Moses asked God to appoint a replacement for him so that the LORD’s people would not be like sheep without a shepherd. (Isn’t Moses’ love for the Israelite people amazing, considering how often they complained about his leadership over the years?)

How did God describe Joshua, Moses’ replacement?

God described Joshua, Moses’ replacement, as a man in who was in the spirit.  This may mean a bold spirit of leadership or the Holy Spirit who gives such boldness.

Traditional Second Lesson – Ephesians 2:13-22

How did Jesus bring together the Jews and the Gentiles into one Christian Church? (vv 15-16)

Jesus brought these two groups together by fulfilling and abolishing the Old Testament law, which separated the Jews and Gentiles. Salvation and membership in the Church is not to be based on following certain rules and regulations, as so many still preach today. Instead, Jesus won forgiveness, salvation and entry into eternal life for all people through his death on the cross and powerful Easter resurrection from the dead.

Upon what does Paul say this Christian Church is built?

The Church is founded upon the faithful word of the Old Testament prophets and the New Testament apostles. Jesus, who is himself the Word of God, is the chief cornerstone. (John 1:1)

Supplemental Second Lesson – Hebrews 13:7-8, 17-21

What is the one reason why believers should obey faithful pastors and submit to their authority? (See 13:20.)

Christians have good reason to obey faithful pastors and submit to their authority because Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever: Jesus’ words do not change. The grace we receive from him does not change.

How does the writer to the Hebrews describe Jesus, now that the Father has raised him from the dead? (See 13:20.)

The writer to the Hebrews (we are not certain who he was) describes Jesus as “the great Shepherd of the sheep.”

Gospel – Mark 6:30-34

What did Jesus want his disciples to have? What stopped them?

After they returned from a preaching trip, Jesus wanted his disciples to have a vacation. They didn’t get it, for large crowds followed them when they tried to get away.

How did Jesus feel about the crowds that followed him? Why did he feel that way?

Mark says that he had compassion on them because, spiritually-speaking, they were wandering aimlessly like lost sheep with no shepherd.

How did Jesus respond to the people’s needs?

He began to give them the Bread of Life by his faithful Word, teaching them the truths of God.