The Holy Spirit’s job is to move the Words of Christ from ears to heart. In doing so he never lets us forget we are sinners in need of a Saviour, but then he never lets us forget that we are God’s precious, redeemed, holy, forgiven children, through the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Everything that we know of Christ and everything we have received from him comes through this Helper and Comforter, as he convicts and consoles us day to day throughout our earthly pilgrimage. Let us always be seeking his Help, for to properly know the work and person of the Holy Spirit will lead us to be the holy people of God that he calls us to be.
God worked faith in the heart of Lydia and she was washed clean in the waters of Holy Baptism where she was made part of God’s family. Word and Sacrament, the means by which our Helper the Holy Spirit brings us the help we need. Our Gospel text today from St. John contains those familiar words of Jesus: “33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33). These very words of our Saviour are spoken for our comfort out of the love that carried Him to the cross. For “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Ps 46:1). Praise be to God for the help and the Helper.
Paul knows that he will never see these servants of the Ephesian church again. He ends his farewell with a prayer: “I commend you to God and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified” (Ac 20:32–33). He commends them to the grace of God because that is the grace which saves through faith. We as brothers and sisters of our Redeemer Christ Jesus are built up in that inheritance, won for us and now freely ours to receive through Word and Sacrament, which is the work of the Holy Spirit. This is the inheritance for which Paul contested throughout the years of his ministry. This is the inheritance “that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, 5 who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pe 1:4–5).
“Why do you seek the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”
God has a plan—for life! And that is what we celebrate these past days and this very day. It’s what we celebrate every Sunday in the Christian church. God dealt with sin and death. And now comes God’s new creation of life. Only God the Creator can create life when there is no life. And God will also take our lives, already dead in trespasses and sins, and create in us clean hearts and new lives, and on that Last Day, re-create into us that breath of life that makes us part of his new creation.
Christ has died. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! And Christ will come again.
“According to that law he ought to die because he has made himself the Son of God” (Jn 19:7). Let us look to the cross of Christ to understand the truth of these words. For the obedience of our Lord and Saviour consists not only in his suffering and death but also in the fact that he freely put himself in our place under the Law and fulfilled the Law with this obedience. “Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame” (Heb 12:2).
This is now regarded as our righteousness; it is our justification. On Good Friday His total obedience led Him to the cross. He did this for you, so that by the shedding of His blood you might have the forgiveness of sins and eternal life. All of this the Son of God performed on your behalf. As a result, God forgives your sin, considers you upright and righteous, and grants you eternal salvation. In faith you have reconciliation with God. In faith you are made part of His family. It is finished, for you.
When we eat the holy flesh of Christ, the Saviour of us all, and drink His precious blood, we have life in us, eternal life. For 20 centuries the church has prayed the ancient simple prayer, “Our Lord, come,” — Marana-tha in Aramaic. That prayer is not only that Jesus would come back to His people and take them into the presence of the beatific vision for all eternity, but that He would be with us here and now in the Holy Communion. For as often as we receive His very Body and Blood, we proclaim His death, along with the apostles before us and the church triumphant in heaven. We proclaim His death, given to us, for the remission of sins and life everlasting
“25 Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?’” (Jn 11:25–26). Jesus enters Jerusalem on His way to the cross so that in faith you may receive all these benefits. Yes, He comes as king, but a very different kind of king. He will not rule with violence, power, rage, or wrath. Rather His rule is one of grace, mercy, kindness, justice, and every good thing. He is just because He justifies. He saves because He is Saviour. St. John ends his account with the Pharisees bemoaning the popularity of Jesus: “Look, the world has gone after him” (Jn 12:19), they say. But the victory Jesus brings over sin, death, and devil isn’t enough for everyone to go after Him. Some still want more, they want a Saviour in their own image, to be their own god. Such it was then, is now, and will always be. But Christ our Lord comes now, humbly, submitting to the will of the Father, so that we might be raised to eternal life. “Everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.”
That day on the mountain with Jesus heaven and earth came together. But here’s the best part: every week in the Divine Service the same thing is happening. For whenever God’s people are gathered together to receive His very Body and Blood we are miraculously and mysteriously partakers of the same feast as those who even now are gathered around the throne in the never ending banquet feast of the Lamb. “Therefore with angels and archangels and with all the company of heaven, we laud and magnify your glorious name.” We pray those words every time we prepare to receive the Eucharist, and in those very words we confess that our place at the communion rail is joined with the innumerable numbers of the company of heaven who rejoice in the presence of the Lamb. So in this way the mysteries of the faith that are confirmed in the transfiguration are yours now in the Divine Service. The voice from the cloud that pronounces Jesus as the Chosen One points us to the “author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb 12:2 AV). Transfiguration also marks a turning point in the church year as we head into the season of Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday this week. Pay attention to our closing hymn today, for the last stanza is the last time we will sing “alleluia” until we celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord in April. So as we head from the alleluias of Epiphany to ashes of Lent, may the Holy Spirit who brings you to the Son keep you in the one true faith. May you listen only to Him, the One who in His glory reveals His kingdom unto our eternal salvation.
“Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy, for behold, your reward is great in heaven” (Lk 6:23). Jesus is the firstborn from the dead, for He has conquered death by His resurrection and now sits at the right of the Father for us, as our brother. In faith we feast at the Lord’s table and look to the never ending feast in heaven. In faith we repent of our sins now and look to the joy of eternal life. Blessed are you. How do you know? You can tell you’re blessed because Christ died for you. You can tell you’re blessed and that the blessing and gift of salvation is yours because you’ve been baptized. You can tell you’re blessed and your sins are forgiven because you’re given the body and blood of Christ to eat and drink.
So blessed are you who believe in Him, who confess that “Jesus is Lord.” Blessed are you who strengthen and increase in the good works that he has begun. Blessed are you who preserve to the end, abiding in God’s Word, praying diligently, and faithfully using the gifts you have received. Blessed are you in the name of the Lord.