at HVLHS in Westland, Michgan
Jesus Comes Through Messengers.
In the name + of Jesus.
The Lord does not do things the way we would do them. We would like to see the Lord demonstrate his glory by signs and miracles. We think that would get the world's attention and would get them to repent and believe. We think that miraculous signs would also manage to keep our attention, keep us impressed, and keep us believing. But God does not do that. The Lord has never done miracles to entertain or to impress. And even when the Lord did do miraculous signs, the world did not repent and believe. Instead, Israel sacrificed to idols under God's nose at Mt. Sinai, and the Pharisees plotted to kill Jesus. And so, the Lord does not come to us through miraculous signs.
The Lord does not do things the way we would do them. We think that it would be best to entrust the message of salvation to angels. After all, when Jesus was born, an angel spoke to the shepherds. When Jesus was risen, angels declared it to the women at the tomb. But God does not use angels anymore. The angels did not tell everyone in Bethlehem; the shepherds did. The angels did not proclaim the news to all of Jerusalem. Jesus' disciples did. Besides, whenever angels did come to proclaim God's word, people were terrified. They cowered in the presence of holy creatures. And so, the Lord does not come to us through angelic messengers.
The Lord does not do things the way we would do them. Even when the Lord came to save us, he hid himself in flesh. He appeared as a frail, flesh and blood man. While no one ran from Jesus in fear, neither did people rally to him because he appeared in glory. People became believers the way they always had—through the preaching of the word. Jesus preached God's mercy to sinners. Jesus fulfilled God's love through his sufferings and death for you. He declared himself to be the atoning sacrifice for your sins—the innocent one dying on behalf of the guilty. It was not obvious. Most people saw a nice man from Nazareth dying on a cross. Those who believed the word of God saw the Son of God dying for the sons of men. Only God's word reveals God's Savior.
After Jesus' resurrection from the dead—the proof that his payment for sins is complete—Jesus ascended to heaven. He entrusted the preaching of the word to his redeemed. Sinners were to tell other sinners about forgiveness of sins through Jesus. You and I might think there is a better way to do this—certainly a more impressive way to get this message out—but Jesus comes through messengers. The God who became flesh for flesh and blood sinners sends flesh and blood ministers to declare God's salvation in God's name. If that seems unimpressive, it probably is. But God does not act to impress or to entertain you. He acts to save you. Jesus comes to you through messengers.
Jesus said to his apostles: “Whoever receives you receives me, and whoever receives me receives him who sent me. The one who receives a prophet because he is a prophet will receive a prophet's reward....” (Matthew 10:40-41) Jesus Christ has sent ministers to administer his gifts. Jesus Christ comes to you through his messengers in order to declare his salvation. Jesus does not tell you to take a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to find your salvation. All that Jesus won for you there he bestows to you through the word which is preached and the sacraments which are administered by his messengers.
Jesus still does not do things the way we do them. When we tell our stories, we like to glorify ourselves. We like to be the hero. Even when we are describing a disagreement that we are in, we make sure that we come out looking good even if we must omit a few facts to make that happen. This is not true of the messengers Jesus sends to you. Pastors do not preach about themselves. Pastors are not the heroes of the story. Neither are you. If we are to come before Jesus, it is not as heroes, but as sinners. Good news: Jesus Christ comes for sinners. Therefore, Christ's messengers speak Christ's words. Jesus said that if you receive the messenger who stands in the stead of Christ and speaks for Christ, then you are receiving Christ. And if you hear Christ's messenger, then you receive the prophet's reward, which is the eternal life he is declaring to you.
Once again, this is not always impressive. But Jesus does not work the way we would. But Jesus does work for your salvation. He sends you messengers so that you can hear the word of the Lord spoken through the mouth of his messenger. He hands you his body and blood for the forgiveness of your sins through the hands of his messengers. And if you are haunted by your sins, Jesus does not leave you alone to figure out how to find comfort or to be relieved of guilt. He has sent you a pastor who will speak to you Christ's word in Christ's stead, and he bestows on you Christ's forgiveness.
Christ's messengers declare to you his amazing grace: The Lord made you. He has redeemed you, and he loves you. The Lord has made this known in the Bible and sends messengers to preach it so that you can be comforted and confident of the Lord's salvation.
In the name of the Father and of the Son + and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.