Truth in the darkness

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Lent 4 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
March 14, 2021
Numbers 21:4-9, Ephesians 2:1-10, John 3:14-21

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

            Remember what was like to be a young child trying to fall asleep in a dark room? Your imagination starts working overtime inventing monsters and bogeymen out of every shadow.  Every noise, every shadow, every gust of wind brings fresh terror. The older you get the more you learn to control your fear; you may no longer even need a nightlight, but before you go to bed you lock the doors and many of you have a loaded gun nearby.  Because there is great darkness in the world.

            John 3:19-20 (ESV) 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed.[1]

            Darkness provides cover for evil.  Violent crime is more likely committed under the cover of darkness. Darkness provides concealment; it allows you to hide your sins.  Evil loves the darkness.  Evil loves concealing darkness and the darkness of ignorance of the Truth. 

            Nicodemus comes to Jesus at night; in the darkness.  Nicodemus is literally in the darkness, but also spiritually in the darkness.  This Pharisee, Nicodemus, senses there is something special about this Jesus fellow but Nicodemus is ignorant; he does not understand.  He wants to find out more, but he does not want anyone else to know what he is doing. 

            There in the darkness Jesus enlightens Nicodemus with His Word.  John 3:5-8 (ESV) 5 … “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7 Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ 8 The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”[2]

            Nicodemus still does not understand, John 3:9-15 (ESV) 9 … “How can these things be?” 10 Jesus answered him, “Are you the teacher of Israel and yet you do not understand these things? 11 Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony.12 If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how can you believe if I tell you heavenly things? 13 No one has ascended into heaven except he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man. 14 And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, 15 that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.” [3][1] 

                Jesus is giving Nicodemus deep Truth; eternal truth.  Being born again of water and the Spirit is Christian baptism which is not yet being practiced by Jesus’ followers.  Jesus tells the Pharisee that the Son of Man must be lifted up in order to give all who believe in Him eternal life.  Jesus is talking about the cross, but Nicodemus does not have that Truth yet.  He will know that Truth later and he will be there on that dark Friday with 75 pounds of spices to help Joseph of Arimathea prepare Jesus’ body for the tomb. 

            Jesus continues to pour out the light of the Truth on Nicodemus to push back the darkness of ignorance and unbelief.  John 3:16-17 (ESV) 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.[4]

            John 3:16 is called the Gospel in a nutshell.  It is likely the most memorized verse in the Bible.  John 3:16 (ESV) 16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.[5] This is profound, eternal, enlightening Truth that Jesus is giving to Nicodemus.  It is good to memorize, but the danger with the Gospel in a nutshell is that you may become so familiar with it that you minimize it.  Instead of being an entry point or a handle to an overwhelming Truth it becomes a nutshell-sized truth.  You are tempted to make the Gospel a manageable truth that you can hold in your hand and control.  A truth so small you so you close it inside your fist, cover it up, ignore it, and continue to live in the darkness of your sin.  You hear John 3:16 and think, “Yeah, yeah…God loves me…I have eternal life…Jesus died for me…I heard this before…no big deal.  Not like it is going to change how I live.” 

            But it is a big deal.  It is the biggest deal.  It is life altering.  Almighty God…the creator of the universe…the all-powerful, all-knowing, omnipresent, gracious and merciful God, out of love, sent His Son to save you.  God’s chosen way to save you was to send His own Son to take on human flesh and suffer and die on the cross for you and to rise again from the dead.  The Lamb of God is sacrificed to take away the sin of the world.  What a strange way to save the world. 

In our Old Testament lesson God sends snakes to punish the children of Israel for complaining about being rescued out of Egypt and fed manna from heaven in the wilderness.  After the snakes come, the people repent and cry out for help, and God tells Moses to put a bronze snake on a pole and whoever is bitten should look at the bronze snake and they will live.  What a weird way to save people.  Why not just get rid of the snakes?  Why send snakes in the first place?  God’s ways are not your ways.

            God’s way of saving you is to send His only begotten Son to suffer and die in your place.  His way of saving you is to give you the Holy Spirit who enables you to believe that Jesus died and rose again for you.  God’s love for you is beyond your comprehension.  God washes you in the waters of baptism and seals you in His name to be His child.  You are born again; born from above through water and the Spirit.  God forgives you over and over through His Word, “I forgive you all your sins.”  God feeds you the very body and blood of His Son Jesus to give you forgiveness, salvation and eternal life.

            The Gospel in a nutshell is your portal to the eternal Truth of God.  It is an overwhelming Truth; an incomprehensible Truth; a cosmic Truth.  This Truth brings light into the darkness.  This Truth pierces the darkness in your life.  This Truth brings forgiveness and new life.  This Truth changes you.  This Truth breaks through the darkness of fear, tragedy, sickness, suffering and death with light from above.  You are a baptized child of the light, born again of water and the Spirit, living in a world of darkness.  Reject the darkness.  Live in the light of the Truth.  Do the Truth. Love God, love your neighbor.  Repent of your sins.  Walk in the light of Christ and continue what Jesus began.  Bring the light of the Gospel into the darkness.  Do the Truth. Amen. 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3][1]The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[4]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[5]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Jesus clears the Temple

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Lent 3 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Hilbert Kamps 
March 6, 7, 2021
Exodus 20:1-17; John 2: 13-25

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

Our sermon text for consideration this morning/afternoon is the Old Testament Text of the Ten Commandments as we heard from the book of Exodus and with the Passover Celebration in full swing with the Temple being the setting of our Gospel Lesson where we read again at verse 15.  (John 2:15 And making a whip of cords, He drove them all  out  of the temple, with the sheep and oxen.       And He poured out the coins of the money-changers and overturned their tables.  So far our text.

In order to get a sense of the events recorded  in today’s Gospel, we need to review the layout of the temple grounds in Jerusalem.

A variety of court yards surrounded the temple itself.  These courtyards and the rooms of the temple itself followed a strict access policy.  Only the high priest could enter the Holy of Holies inside the temple, and even he could only enter on one day of the year….that being….. the Day of Atonement. Then there was the Holy Place that was reserved for priests offering a variety of incense sacrifices  and other duties.    Outside the temple was the area of the altar for animal sacrifices located in the courtyard of the priests.  Then came the Court of Men, reserved for Jewish males who had passed Bar Mitzvah. Then there was the court of women which was really for all members of the Jewish family.  Finally, there was the court of Gentiles which was open to all nations.

The tradition of setting aside a place for Gentiles goes clear back to the days of Solomon who built the first temple. The scribes recorded Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of that temple.  Solomon’s prayer of dedication includes these words:  1 Kings s:41- 43  “Likewise, when a foreigner, who is not of your people

Israel, comes from a far country for your name’s sake (for they shall hear of your great name and your mighty hand, and of your outstretched arm), when he comes and prays toward this house, hear in heaven your dwelling place and do according to all for which the foreigner calls to you, in order that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel, and that they may know that this house that I have built is called by your name.

At the time of today’s Gospel reading, in the Temple we have the Court of the Gentiles to be the place of prayer for foreigners from all over East Asia and all of the Roman Empire.  Meanwhile, people of Jewish ancestry and religion had also scattered to the far corners of the known world.  While it is one thing to bring a Passover lamb from other places in Israel, it is just impossible to bring a lamb from Spain or Ethiopia.  So Passover Pilgrims, both Jewish and Gentiles, had to bring along enough cash to  purchase a lamb after they got to Jerusalem.  Sooner or later, someone came up with the idea that it would be really handy to purchase your sacrificial animal right there on the temple grounds.

Now they are not going to set up a market in the Court of Men or the Court of Women, but who really cares about the Gentiles.  The man of the house could pick up his sacrifice in the Court of the Gentiles and then proceed to the Court of the Men and then slaughter  his animal and give it  to a priest to sacrifice.  This is all very convenient for everyone except the God-fearing Gentile.

The Court of the Gentiles had, in effect, become a sale barn.  While a person can always offer up a prayer at any time in any place, it is very hard to meditate or listen to the reading of God’s Word in a sale barn.

This is the scene that confronted Jesus when He entered the temple courts on that particular Passover.  Gentiles were trying to pray while Jews were buying sheep, goats, oxen, birds, and other sacrificial supplies just a few yards away.  Oh, and besides all that!  There was also a currency exchange so that coins from all over the world could be changed into the temple Shekel.  It…was…turmoil.

So we are presented with an uncomfortable fact — Jesus got angry; angry enough to cause a big, violent public uproar in the temple. This is a tough concept to wrap our minds around. We often try and explain it by saying that Jesus’ anger was different. He didn’t fall into sin when He was angered enough to grab a whip and chase everyone out of the temple. He was rightly and righteously angry at sinful things and sinful people.

The Court of the Gentiles had, in effect, become a sale barn.  While a person can always offer up a prayer at any time in any place, it is very hard to meditate or listen to the reading of God’s Word in a sale barn.

While this is certainly correct, this is also precisely where our understanding inevitably goes off the tracks. It’s at this point that our sinful ears filter this knowledge through our sinful hearts and minds, which, in turn, deceive us into believing that our many anger issues are also good and God-pleasing. We can look at everyone else around us and identify their anger issues as sinful. They lose their temper. They gave into temptation and allowed themselves to get riled up and angered.  But…when it comes to us and our anger issues, we’re different.  Sure, we’ll confess that there have been some occasions when we were wrongly, sinfully angry.  But there are also plenty of times when we deem our anger as right and righteous and necessary. And why is our anger over such things justified while our neighbor’s anger deemed sinful? Because we’re the ones who are angry!  No matter what is said about sinful anger versus righteous anger, we’re always going to deceive ourselves into believing that our anger is righteous, when in fact it’s not. It’s sinful. It’s selfishly focused ultimately has to do with our personal preferences and our desire to be in control, and not with God and His means of grace.

I have been really angry since November with the way the election was determined.  Then I became incensed watching those thugs storm our capitol on Jan 6th. Then came the “detrimental executive orders” undoing policies which had been making life better for so many of us.  Also finding out what type of “detrimental Laws” that are being contemplated  against us?  I say us….because WE are 75 million strong…RIGHT?  Or, could it be that some of you are right now becoming angry at me? Or at the very least, angry of what I  am now saying?

Let’s pursue the issue of anger from a Lutheran perspective.  How many of you read the Lutheran Witness?  Specifically the January issue? Where our countries directions are challenged in articles like Male & Female He Created Them and And Such Were Some of You. More specifically in the article Why the Nations are Raging?   Dr. Gene Edward Veith begins his response as follows:  “The nations are raging, the peoples are plotting and the rulers are taking council together.  Hostility against Christianity is intensifying.    Psalm 2 explains why and tells us what God is doing about it.  King David asks the perennial question: “Why do the nations rage and the people plot in vain?  The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed.  Psalm 2:1-2           Veith goes on:  “The political and cultural elite are angry at God, at Christ and at God’s people. They say, “Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.” (PSALM (2:3)

With His 10 Commandments God put limits on our behavior…people naturally resent these constraints.  So they strike out against Him. And His Church.  God’s response is simple. From Psalm 2:4:

He who sits in the Heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision

            But…here’s the thing: This text isn’t really about our anger issues-righteous or unrighteous. I know that’s how this text is so often preached, but  that’s not what it’s about. This text is about God’s righteous anger over sin-all sin-yours and mine included. This is why we meditate on this text during the Lenten season.

Foreigners had come all this way to be in the place where God promised to reveal Himself to His people.  They were in a place where the Holy Spirit would shower them with His gifts.  And at the same time there were cattle sales going on just a few yards away.

From today’s Old Testament lesson, we see that the merchants in today’s gospel were violating every commandment that had to do with loving God.  The livestock sales and the money changing were not the problem in and of themselves.  The problem was that these activities were disrupting  the prayers and meditations  of the faithful.  The commercial activity was disrupting the spiritual activity.

Of course … when we point one finger at others, three fingers point back at us.  What about us?   When the Holy Spirit works faith in a person, that person becomes a temple.  Paul wrote to the Corinthians [1Corinthians 3:16-17] Do you not  know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?  If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.    [l Corinthians 6:1-20] Or do you not  know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.  What does the Lord find when He comes into the temple of our hearts?  What distractions block our relationship with God? What causes Jesus to enter our heart, get out His whip, and start cleaning the heart –  the place that  should belong to Him?

Today’s Old Testament lesson contains a list of characteristics that describe God’s children.          Jesus unpacks many of these commandments in the Sermon on the  Mount. [Matthew 5:21-22] “You have heard that it was said to those of  old, ‘You shall  not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with  his  brother will  be  liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will  be liable  to  the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hellfire. [Matthew 5:28] Everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed  adultery  with her in his heart. [Matthew 5:44] “Love your enemies and pray  for those who persecute you.”      These are just a small sample of Jesus’ teachings concerning the Commandments.  When you hear what Jesus has to say about the commandments, you  realize that you have broken them all.  You realize that the temple of your heart is much worse than that temple in Jerusalem.  Jesus cleared out the temple with a whip made of cords.  He uses something much more precious to cleanse our hearts from sin. He allowed the authorities to abuse the temple of His body.  They arrested Him, beat Him, and then nailed Him to a cross.   They did everything  they could to destroy the temple of His body.             In this way He produced the cleansing agent for our hearts — His holy precious blood and his innocent suffering and death.

Where is the sign that this cleaning agent of His body and blood are effective?  It is the sign that He gave to the temple authorities. “Destroy this temple, and in three days I  will raise it up.”  It is in His resurrection from the dead that we have the sure and certain hope of the cleansing of our hearts.  As the Holy Spirit works faith in our hearts, we know that Jesus has moved into our hearts and made them His temple.  He has carried away all our sins.

Those who believe in Jesus Christ are already part of the family of God.  God the Father is our dear father and we are His dear children.  He speaks to us in His word and we speak to Him in our prayers.   Those of us who have had our temples cleansed by the blood of Jesus Christ can boldly walk into the Holy of Holies, crawl up onto God’s lap, and tell Him anything in prayer.  The Holy Spirit convicts us of our sin, but then brings the comfort of continuous forgiveness to us.  All these blessings are ours because Jesus has cleansed the temple of our hearts with His blood.  We know that we are His and He is ours forever.           Amen

What kind of Christ does Jesus think He is?

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Lent 2 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
February 28, 2021
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16, Romans 5:1-11, Mark 8:27-38

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

            As a teenager I really enjoyed roller coasters.  I would wait in long lines for the Rebel Yell twin rollercoaster at King’s Dominion in Virginia.  This is a huge wooden coaster similar to the Racer at King’s Island.  It was a thrill to ride with the anticipatory clicking up the hill and all the shaking and rattling as it sped down the hill and through all the twists and turns.  After waiting in a long line it seemed the ride was over so quickly and I would be sad to hear the air brakes and feel the car slow down as it came back into the station. The ride was over too soon.  That’s what I thought when I was 14.

            Now, if I ride a roller coaster, there is no more welcome sound than the air brakes announcing the end of the ride.  Roller coasters now feel like they are rearranging my internal organs.  All I can think about when the car is moving is, “please let this be over!  I want to get off!”

            Peter and the other disciples think they have a pretty good thing going with Jesus. Jesus is amazing.  As Jesus tells John the Baptist’s disciples in the Gospel of Matthew, Old Testament prophecy is being fulfilled.  Matthew 11:5 (ESV) 5 the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them.[1]  Jesus is the real deal. 

            Jesus is causing quite a stir in Judah and Galilee.  There is a lot of talk on the streets about Jesus. Who is He?  Where did He come from?  In our Gospel reading today we find Jesus and His disciples talking on the road to the Roman City of Caesarea Philippi about 40 miles north of Jesus’ home base in Capernaum on the Northern coast of the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus turns the conversation to His own identity.  Mark 8:27 (ESV) 27 …. And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”[2] The disciples respond, “Mark 8:28 (ESV) 28 … “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.”[3]

            The people are obviously confused, they know that Jesus is someone special, but they are not sure who He really is.  The people are confused.  What about the disciples?  Mark 8:29 (ESV) 29 And [Jesus] asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” [4]

            Peter and the disciples know better than the other people; Jesus is the Christ; the Messiah; the anointed one.  Jesus isn’t one of the prophets.  Jesus fulfills prophecy.  The disciples seem to be on the right track, but what does it mean to be the Christ? 

            Mark 8:31 (ESV) 31 And [Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.[5]

            Like Peter, lots of folks would rather skip the cross.  The cross is shameful, gory, horrible.  A bloody, beaten, naked man writhing in excruciating agony trying to breath while nailed hand and foot is a shocking sight. 

            This Jesus rollercoaster ride was going pretty good, but for Peter things just went off the rails.  No! No! No! No!  What kind of Christ does Jesus think He is?  This is not going to work for anyone.  A suffering Christ?  A rejected Christ?  A dying Christ?  I don’t think so.  And so Peter is going to set Jesus right.  This is not the ride that Peter signed up for so Peter takes charge and rebukes Jesus.  Jesus does not listen to Peter and instead Jesus rebukes Peter harshly, Mark 8:33 (ESV) 33 … “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”[6] Peter is trying to take charge of Jesus, so Jesus sets him straight.  Get behind me, which is, interestingly, the same word that Jesus used earlier when He called Simon Peter and his brother Andrew, Mark 1:17 (ESV) 17 … “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.”[7] Follow me, Satan.  For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man. God’s ways are not Peter’s ways. God’s ways are not your ways.  Do not take charge of Jesus.  Do not try to lead Jesus.  Get behind Him.  Follow Jesus through suffering and rejection and cross and resurrection even though it can be a rough ride.

            Like Peter, lots of folks would rather skip the cross.  The cross is shameful, gory, horrible.  A bloody, beaten, naked man writhing in excruciating agony trying to breath while nailed hand and foot is a shocking sight.  It is something you want to turn away from; something you are tempted to reject.  This is a ride you want to get off of.  But it is in this suffering that Jesus shows His love for you.  The cross is love.  Jesus is dying for your sins.  Jesus is dying because of His unending love for you. 

            Peter got so side-tracked by Jesus’ suffering and death that he could not hear Jesus say that He would rise again.  Death got in the way of resurrection.  The awfulness of the cross got in the way of Peter understanding who Jesus really is and what He has come to do.

            Jesus’ teaching is not just for Peter but for all those who follow Jesus. Mark 8:34-37 (ESV) 34 And he called to him the crowd with his disciples and said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? 37 For what can a man give in return for his life?[8]

            Jesus calls each of you to take up your cross and follow him.  Christian life is not a promise of a smooth ride.  No promise of an easy, prosperous life. Suffering is a part of Christian life. St. Paul in our Epistle reading teaches that suffering is useful.  Romans 5:3-5 (ESV) 3 More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.[9]

            And what is God’s love?  The next verse tells us.  Romans 5:6 (ESV) 6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.[10]

            You need Jesus’ cross in order to get forgiveness of sins and eternal life. You need Jesus’ cross.  This is a big problem for much of so-called Christianity today.  There are so many who are adopting a “Crossless Christianity”.  So many people want to reject the cross of Christ and create a new religion that is therapeutic and encouraging; a new religion that is all about success and happiness with no sacrifice; no suffering.  It’s all about how God loves you but silent about how God loves you through His suffering and death on the cross at Calvary. 

            I watched Joel Osteen’s sermon from last week entitled “Trouble is Temporary.”  Osteen is pastor of Lakewood Church in Houston which had a pre-COVID attendance of over 50,000 people a week in person and 2 million online.  During COVID more than 4 million are viewing online.  This is awful.  Osteen is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.  His is a crossless Christianity.  He preaches what people’s itching ears want to hear.  As usual, nowhere in the sermon itself does Osteen even mention Jesus, let alone Jesus on the cross suffering and dying to pay for your sins.  His emphasis instead is that you need to keep a positive attitude that trouble is temporary so God will grant you favor because of your faithfulness and obedience.  This is a crossless Christianity.  There is not a cross in sight at Osteen’s Lakewood Church visually, or in the sermon, just God helping you to succeed if you have the right attitude. 

            Jesus rebukes false teachers like Peter, like Joel Osteen, like you and me when we lose sight of the cross, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” 

            Jesus tells us all, quit trying to be the leader.  Quit trying to set the agenda.  Quit rewriting the rules.  Quit telling God how things should be.  Get behind Jesus.  Follow Jesus.  Deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Jesus. 

            “Deny yourself” is not a message of success and achievement.  “Deny yourself” means not indulging your sinful desires.  “Deny yourself” means remaining steadfast through daily temptations, tests and trials.  “Deny yourself” means not having God look to your faithfulness and obedience, but looking to God’s promises and faithfulness, and Jesus’ obedience.  It is looking to Jesus on the cross and not letting the horror of the cross prevent you from seeing the joy of the empty tomb.

            This life is full of ups and downs and twists and turns.  It is not easy going and it can feel like it is going to shake you apart.  Hang on to Jesus.  Do not let the trials, tests and temptations of this life including your own death keep you from looking forward to the joy of your own resurrection.  Follow Jesus all the way into eternal life with Him in the Heavenly City.  Amen. 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[4]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[5]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[6]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[7]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[8]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[9]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[10]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

What you should give up for Lent

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Lent 1 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
February 21, 2021
Genesis 22:1-18, James 1:12-18, Mark 1:9-15

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

            Why is it that Christians moved the primary day of worship from the Jewish Sabbath Day of Saturday to Sunday?  What happened on Sunday that we celebrate each week?  Jesus rose from the dead.  Each Sunday is a little Easter as we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection over and over again throughout the year.  At our voters’ meeting last Sunday our congregational president, Matt Franke, remarked how each Sunday is also a little Epiphany as Jesus’ true identity is revealed again and again. 

            We have entered the season of Lent starting last week with Ash Wednesday.  Lent is a penitential season; a time to reflect on Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross, and to be penitent; which is to be feeling or showing sorrow and regret for having done wrong.  Lent is a time to sorrow over your sin and repent; a time to turn away from sin and turn back to God. 

            There is a tradition of giving something up for Lent.  This can be a spiritual exercise of self-denial and self-control.  Fasting and prayer during Lent can be helpful in meditating on what Jesus has done for you. Extra scripture reading can be added. What you do during Lent is up to you. 

The Roman Catholic Church requires their people to not eat meat on Fridays during Lent.  From what I could glean this is done to remember that Jesus died on a Friday. Rome requires a fast from eating meat from warm-blooded animals, but it is okay to eat meat from cold-blooded animals like fish.  Apparently other cold-blooded animals would also be acceptable, but I don’t think the Friday snake fry or alligator fry has caught on except maybe in Louisiana.

            I think it is good to give something up for Lent but instead of something like chocolate or beer, how about giving up sin for Lent?  What better way to show sorrow over your sin than by giving it up? Repent and believe the Good News that Jesus has died for your sins.  Lent is about baptized children of God living like baptized children of God.

            Now giving up sin for Lent is easy…to say, but it is hard to do.  You are, as you confessed earlier, by nature sinful; by nature unclean.  You sin with thoughts.  You sin with words.  You sin with deeds.  Giving up sin is challenging because you live in a world of sin.  You are in this world, but you are not of this world.  You are by nature sinful and unclean but God has declared you to be holy, blessed and innocent because of what Jesus has done for you.  Therefore you are holy, blessed and innocent.  As a holy, blessed, innocent child of God you are called to stand firm.  James 4:7 (ESV) 7 Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.[1]

            In our Epistle lesson today James is writing to Christian brothers and sisters scattered around the Mediterranean world.  He is teaching about how to live as a follower of Jesus.  A little before our reading today James teaches that trials, temptations and testing are good for your faith.  James 1:2-4 (ESV) 2 Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.[2]

            It is worth noting that there is only one Greek word in James for trials, temptations and testing.  English translations like to pick one of the three in various places but that may be more specific than the writer intended.  We probably should look at the broader range of meanings.  Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials, temptations or testing of various kinds.  In James 1:12 (ESV) 12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under [trial, temptation and testing], for [being genuine] he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. [3] “Being genuine” is a better translation than “when he has stood the test.”  “Being genuine” is the literal translation of the words here.  Being genuine is being a Christian.  Being who you are.  God has promised believers the crown of life. 

            So for Lent give up sin.  Remain steadfast.  Don’t make excuses for sin.  Don’t blame God.  James 1:13 (ESV) 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.[4] Blaming God for sin is popular. Adam used this in the Garden of Eden, Genesis 3:12 (ESV)12 The man said, “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate.”[5]  It is popular these days to say, “God made me this way.  It’s God’s fault.”  James teaches us; don’t blame God.

            James then gives us the progression of sin.  James 1:14-15 (ESV) 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.[6] 

Sin begins with desires so battle sin in your thoughts.  Be aware and be honest about your own desires.  Know which desires are against God’s will.  Be aware and honest about what triggers you to lose your temper, to go to the dark side of the internet, to get drunk, to steal, to indulge your lusts, to be hateful, to be prideful, to be lazy.  What triggers you to give up delighting in God’s will and walking in His ways and instead conform to the ways of the world?  What prompts you to take your sin from a desire to words or actions?  Know your triggers and break the pattern of sin.  Change your behavior and remain steadfast.  Give up sin for Lent.  Stop making excuses…battle sin in your thoughts. 

Sinful thoughts will come to mind.  This is proof you are indeed a sinner, but do not indulge them.  Do not welcome them and dwell on them.  As Martin Luther once said, “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair”

            Battle sin in your thoughts.  Don’t let the sin-bird build a nest and take up residence.  Remain steadfast.  1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV) 13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.[7]

Often, you are successful in resisting temptations and remaining steadfast through trial and test.  You have a sinful thought and you reject it out of hand knowing that it is evil.  You are often successful and you often fail. As you try to give up sin for Lent you will find, in the words of C.S. Lewis in his book Mere Christianity, “When a man is getting better he understands more and more clearly the evil that is still left in him.  When a man is getting worse he understands his own badness less and less.”  Also, “A moderately bad man knows he is not very good; a thoroughly bad man thinks he is all right.”  So as you intensify your struggle against sin you will learn that you truly are, by nature, sinful and unclean.  Knowing this, keep up the struggle, because you do not belong to the world of sin and evil.  You are a baptized child of God.  Live life being genuine to your identity in Christ.

            Remain steadfast through tests, temptation and trials.  When you fail to remain steadfast, repent and remember who you are in Christ.  Return to the Lord, your God.  Sorrow over your failure but remember you have a Savior and Redeemer who has overcome testing, trial and temptation.  You have been ransomed from sin, death and the devil by the Son of God Himself, the Lamb of God, who overcame the Devil and who sacrifices Himself to save you.  Remember it is not about you; it is about Jesus for you. You are forgiven by Jesus who generously pours out forgiveness on you in His Word and in Baptism and Holy Communion. In Christ you are holy, innocent and blessed.

            You may or may not be giving something up for Lent or adding something like Bible reading and prayer; that is all a part of your Christian freedom. But I call on all of you to give up sin for Lent.  Give up sin because you are a baptized child of God.  Remain steadfast in the truth of God’s word.  Be genuine to your “born-again in water and Spirit” identity.  Give up sin for Lent.  And, come to think of it, just like every Sunday is a little Easter and a little Epiphany, living a penitential life of sorrow and repentance shouldn’t just be for Lent.  Penitence is Christian life every day of the year.  Every day die to sin and rise to new life in Christ because you are a baptized child of God.  Amen. 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[4]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[5]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[6]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[7]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Jesus Unveiled – Transfiguration

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Transfiguration 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
Feb. 14, 2021
Exodus 34:29-35, 2 Corinthians 3:12-18; 4:1-6, Mark 9:2-9

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

            Who is Jesus?  Jesus identity and purpose is unveiled for us in the Bible. 

The New Testament unveiling begins when the Angel Gabriel announces to Mary Luke 1:30-33 (ESV) 30 … “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”[1]

At Christmas it continues.  Angels announce to shepherds Luke 2:11-12 (ESV) 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 12 And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”[2]

The mysterious magi from the East follow the star to worship the one born King of the Jews as Jesus identity is further clarified. 

At Jesus’ baptism the heavens are torn open, the Holy Spirit descends like a dove and the voice of God the Father speaks, Mark 1:11 (ESV) 11 … “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”[3]

            Throughout the Epiphany season we see Jesus slowly pulling back the veil to show more and more of who He really is.  He heals, He drives out unclean spirits, He preaches, He teaches, He takes authority over the wind and the sea.  He raises a girl from the dead.  He feeds thousands with barely enough food for a few people.  Jesus is revealing who He is but most of the people, even His disciples, do not fully understand what Jesus has come to do – despite Jesus telling them what will happen. 

Mark 8:31-32 (ESV) 31 And [Jesus] began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. …[4]

            Jesus tells the disciples what is going to happen, but they don’t like what they are hearing and Peter rebukes Jesus — and so Jesus rebukes Peter. After six days Jesus takes Peter, James and John up on a mountain and is transfigured before them.  Jesus shines with the unveiled glory of God.  Moses and Elijah are present with Jesus to show that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Old Testament Law and Prophets.  A cloud envelopes them and the voice of God the Father speaks, Mark 9:7 (ESV) 7 …“This is my beloved Son; listen to him.”[5] Jesus is the Son of God.  Jesus is God in flesh.  There on the mount of transfiguration the veil is further pulled back to reveal who Jesus is.  But still the disciples struggle.  Soon after the Transfiguration shows the glory of God in Jesus, the disciples are arguing about which of them is the greatest. 

            The people, and the disciples, have a veil over their hearts so they do not see the glory of God in Jesus.  As we heard in the Old Testament lesson today from Exodus, when Moses’ face glows after speaking with God, the people are afraid and Moses veils his face.  What are the people afraid of?  They are afraid of the glory of God because they have the Law of God and they know they don’t keep it.  They cannot bear the glory of God because God is holy and they are not. 

            At Jesus time, and still today, there are many who still have veils over their hearts.  They do not believe the Good News of forgiveness in Jesus, they only see the law of God and know that they cannot keep it.  2 Corinthians 4:4 (ESV) 4 In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.[6]  The devil keeps them veiled so they do not understand who Jesus really is and what He has done for them. 

And so, instead of finding joy in Jesus’ forgiveness; instead of believing God’s Law and God’s Gospel they reject Jesus in many ways.  Some just want nothing to do with God because they cannot be good enough and so they live as if there is no God.  Some repeat Satan’s words in the Garden of Eden like a mantra, “Did God really say? Did God really say?” as they reimagine God in their own image and rewrite the Law of God to fit their own understandings.  They just cross out the parts of the Bible they don’t like so that they think they are following God’s law.  They continue to rewrite God’s commands to conform to the ever changing ethics of the world. Others double down on the Law and preach and teach about how you can work your way to heaven by doing the right things.  Some turn Christianity into a self-help program and preach that you can be successful if you just try harder; if you just do better.  Some start to believe that any way to God is a good way and it does not matter what you believe as long as you are sincere.  For so many the Gospel remains veiled and they remain outside salvation. 

            At the Transfiguration, Jesus’ true identity and purpose is further unveiled, but the full unveiling does not come until Jesus has gone to Jerusalem to be crucified.  That dark Friday it seems that the Old Testament veil is strengthened and yet, at the moment of Jesus’ death, the curtain in the Temple is torn in two from top to bottom.  The veil is lifted.  The truth about Jesus is revealed.  This becomes clear on that Sunday morning as Jesus rises from the dead and appears to the women at the tomb, to the 12 disciples, and to hundreds of others.  The truth is completely unveiled.  Jesus Christ is Lord.  He is God incarnate.  Christ has died for the sins of the world and death could not hold Him. Christ is Risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia! 

            You have the unveiled truth of Jesus.  You know that Jesus died for you and forgives you all your sins.  You know that Jesus has risen from the dead and promises to raise you from the dead on the Last Day.  You know that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life and that no one comes to the Father except through Him.  2 Corinthians 3:12 (ESV) 12 Since we have such a hope, we are very bold,[7] Like St. Paul we are under divine obligation to speak the truth of God’s saving promises in Jesus boldly and clearly.

            We proclaim God’s Law and Gospel amidst a permissive, relativistic society that calls good evil and evil good.  We call sin, sin.  We call evil, evil.  We call good, good.  We confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean and into this world of sin we boldly proclaim that Jesus is the antidote to God’s judgement on sin.

            We boldly teach that Christianity is the only saving faith.  There are many religions; there is only one saving faith. There is no other way. 

            We teach that you are not saved by this politician or that politician.  The government cannot save you.  You are not saved by following a strict diet and exercise plan.  You are not saved by mystical experiences.  You are not saved by lessening the severity of God’s law.  You are not saved by pretending that you are good enough. 

You are saved by Jesus’ suffering and death on the cross taking the punishment for your sin.  You are saved by baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.  You are saved by Jesus’ words, “I forgive you all your sins.”  You are saved by Jesus’ Body and Blood given and shed for you.

We proclaim God’s Law and Gospel amidst a permissive, relativistic society that calls good evil and evil good.  We call sin, sin.  We call evil, evil.  We call good, good.  We confess that we are by nature sinful and unclean and into this world of sin we boldly proclaim that Jesus is the antidote to God’s judgement on sin.

            The Devil, the world and your own sinful flesh desperately want you to believe that you can be saved by something other than Jesus; something else…anything else — something that you can do — but it is a lie.  Ephesians 2:8 (ESV) 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,[8].  We boldly proclaim this truth in a world where people’s minds are hardened and their hearts are veiled. 

            Boldly teaching the truth of God’s Word will not make your life easier. Being a member of a church that believes, teaches and confesses that the Bible is true can get you cancelled.  Cancelled from your job, from friends, from opportunities.  When people find out you do not celebrate the latest sexual innovation you will be viewed as a hateful bigot and be rejected by those in synch with the cultural elite. When people find out you believe Jesus is the only way to heaven you will be called intolerant and rabidly exclusive even as you believe, teach and confess that Jesus died for all people and the gift of forgiveness and eternal life is offered to everyone.

            On this the 14th day of February we remember St. Valentine whose history is admittedly murky.  It is thought that he was a priest who was beheaded around 270 AD for performing Christian marriages in opposition to the orders of Roman Emperor Claudius II.  Valentine did what God commanded instead of what the emperor commanded and it cost him his head.  There have been so many Christian over the centuries that have lost their lives because they taught the truth about Jesus.  Boldly teaching the truth about Jesus is what we are called to do. It brings the saving Word of God to the world.  But it can get you rejected, cancelled, abused and even killed. 

            Despite the danger, we are called by God to continue to proclaim the unveiled truth. Do not lose heart.  As Peter, James and John saw in the radiance on the Mount of Transfiguration, and even more clearly at Calvary and at the empty tomb and the upper room.  Jesus is God in flesh.  Jesus did die for your sins.  Jesus did rise from the dead.  Jesus died and rose for you.  Christ is risen!  He is risen indeed!  Alleluia!

            Amen. 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[4]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[5]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[6]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[7]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[8]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Jesus has authority

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Epiphany 4, 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
January 30, 31, 2021
Deut. 18:15-20, 1 Cor. 8:1-13, Mark 1:21-28

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

            In the military obedience is vital.  Recruits are trained to instantly obey the order of a superior.  If you pass someone who outranks you, you salute them. How do you know who’s who in the army? How do you know who outranks who? There are uniforms and on the uniforms are rank insignia.  Just by looking at a soldier in uniform you can tell his rank at a glance.  Private, Sergeant, Colonel, General.  With identity comes authority.  With identity, authority is recognized.

            The Gospel of Mark is the shortest of the four Gospels and it is very action oriented in its language.  Immediately this happens and then immediately this other thing happens.  In the early parts of the Gospel of Mark, who is it that knows Jesus’ true identity and therefore recognizes His authority. 

            There is no Christmas story in Mark; instead it begins with John the Baptist.  John knows Jesus’ true identity, Mark 1:7-8 (ESV) 7 And [John] preached, saying, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. 8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.” [1]

            At Jesus’ baptism Mark 1:10-11 (ESV) 10 … when [Jesus] came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opening and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” [2]  John the Baptist knows Jesus’ true identity and also God the Holy Spirit and God the Father. 

            Who else?  Mark 1:12-13 (ESV) 12 The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. 13 And he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. … [3]  Satan knows who Jesus really is.

            Jesus calls His first disciples, brothers Simon Peter and Andrew, and brothers James and John.  Mark 1:17-18 (ESV) 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him.[4]  We are not sure exactly what these men know about Jesus.  Jesus is a teacher, He is different than other teachers, but what do Peter, Andrew, James and John know about Him.  We are not sure.

            This brings us to our lesson today just 21 verses into the Gospel of Mark.  Jesus goes to the Synagogue in Capernaum where we find someone else who knows Jesus real identity.  Mark 1:22 (ESV) 22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.[5]  The people at the synagogue, much like Peter, Andrew, James and John, recognize that Jesus is a great teacher and different from others, but it is not evident that they know who Jesus really is. Who in the synagogue that day recognizes Jesus?  Mark 1:23-24 (ESV) 23 And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24 “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.”[6]

            This unclean spirit, this demon, knows who Jesus really is.  How does Jesus react?  Mark 1:25-26 (ESV) 25 …Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!”26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him.[7]  This demon knows who Jesus is and he knows that Jesus outranks him.  He knows Jesus has authority over him.  He has to do what Jesus tells him to do. 

            Jesus has authority over Satan and Jesus has authority over demons; Satan’s minions. This is good news for you because the devil and his unclean spirits are quite active in the world.  There is an ongoing war, Ephesians 6:10-12 (ESV) 10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. 11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.[8]

            You need to be aware of this battle.  1 Peter 5:8 (ESV) 8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.[9]

            Jesus’ true identity was not so clear to His disciples until He told them what was coming, Mark 8:31 (ESV) 31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.[11] 

            You should always stay alert, but you do not need to be afraid.  You don’t need to be afraid because you belong to Jesus and Jesus outranks the devil.  Martin Luther writes, “Why should you fear? Why should you be afraid? Do you not know that the (devil) has been judged? He is no lord. You have a different, a stronger, Lord, Christ, who has overcome and bound him. Therefore let the (devil) look sour, bare his teeth, and make a great noise, threaten and act in an unmannerly way; he can do no more than a bad dog on a chain, which may bark, run here and there, and tear at the chain. But because it is tied and you avoid it, it cannot bite you” [10]

            The devil is like a bad dog on a chain.  You can easily avoid him.  And yet there are so many that are fooled by the devil acting like a sweet dog and getting people to come near to pet his head and then they get bitten.  Folks dabble with the darkness of occult practices, addiction, and sexual immorality and give the devil a chance to bite.  Be aware, but not afraid.  The devil is like a bad dog on a chain.  Steer clear. Stay away.  He has no power over you.  You belong to Jesus and Jesus has authority over the devil. 

            Jesus’ true identity was not so clear to His disciples until He told them what was coming, Mark 8:31 (ESV) 31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.[11] 

            Jesus tells this to the disciples and what is Peter’s reaction?  Peter rebukes Jesus.  Peter tells him that this will never happen.  Jesus tells Peter, “Mark 8:33 (ESV) 33 … “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”[12]

            The disciples learn Jesus’ true identity as the Lamb of God; the sacrificial offering for the sins of the world.  Jesus most important task is not to teach or heal or feed, but rather it is to die; to die for the sins of the world and rise again from the dead.  The disciples learn this.  They learn who Jesus really is and they recognize His authority.  Jesus tells the disciples Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV) 18 … “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” [13]  Jesus has all authority and the disciples do what He tells them to do.  They begin to make disciples of all nations by baptizing and teaching. 

So who knows Jesus real identity and authority?  John the Baptist, God the Holy Spirit, God the Father, Satan, the demons, the original 11 disciples, and all those who have been made disciples by baptizing and teaching.  All these know Jesus true identity.  This includes you.  You know who Jesus really is.  He is the Holy One of God.  He is God in flesh.  He outranks you and He has authority over you.  You need to do what He says.  When you fail to obey you need to confess your rebellion and receive forgiveness.  And you give thanks that Jesus has authority, over you, over Satan and his demons, and over sin.  When Jesus says your sins are forgiven; your sins are forgiven.  Thanks be to God.  You know the real Jesus. 

            Amen. 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[4]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[5]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[6]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[7]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[8]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[9]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[10] What Luther Says 1185 CPH

[11]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[12]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[13]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

Really

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Sanctity of Life Sunday 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
January 23, 24, 2021
Genesis 3:1-15, 2 Timothy 3:16-4:5, John 6:63-69

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

“Really” … it is such an interesting word. It can be used in so many ways. There is the “really” said as a question: “Really?” The “really” formed by gossip: “REALLY.” The “really” that expresses interest: “Really.” The “really” that reflects doubt: “Really?” The “really” as a punctuation of belief: “Really!” “Really” is simply a really interesting word.

It can alternate between reflecting disbelief and belief, between “really?” (said quizzically) and “really” (said with conviction). Yet, the “really” said with conviction is often simply a belief in your own “truth”.  And, this goes a long way back.

God creates.  He places our first parents, Adam and Eve, in the garden, saying “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth …” (Genesis 1:28a ESV). The instructions to them are clear: “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:16). The word is clear to the crown of His creation. Our first parents are not to determine for themselves what is right and wrong. They are not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If they do, they will die.

Clear. Straightforward. Simple. They are to “do this” and “not do that.” God means what He says. Really.

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any other beast of the field that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1). No. That is not what God really said, and Scripture reveals that Eve correctly received God’s message. There is no hearing or comprehension problem. Message sent; message received. 

Yet, with the seed of doubt planted, the soil is prepared for depositing the lie. “But the serpent said to the woman, ‘You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil’” (Genesis 3:4-5). The lie is clear. Straightforward. Simple. Satan’s message is sent. The message is received. 

Rationalization leads to Adam and Eve’s own “really” of conviction. It just really seems right to them to eat from the forbidden tree. “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate” (Genesis 3:6).

That sense of “really” (conviction) born out of the certainty of your own thoughts is woven deep inside each of you. It started in the garden. It continues in the desert landscape of your sinful existence. It started with the pluck of the forbidden fruit. It continues with the harvest of your own sin. God is really clear in what He desires for you. Yet, you prefer your own clarity. 

After the fall Adam and Eve realize they are naked. They took their eyes off of God and notice themselves. They move to cover themselves, fashioning fig leaves together. In your sinfulness, you become comfortable in the nakedness of your sin. With your gaze fixed on yourself, you are convinced of the reality of your own convictions. You can be so sure of your own truth. It is woven deep inside of you and transmitted to the next generation.

The “really” (conviction) born of our own thoughts can be ever present. It is seen in the conversation between a couple as they grapple with the news of a pregnancy. Many other couples long for this news, but for this couple, it invokes fear. The pregnancy is not seen as a blessing, but a curse. The “problem” must be dealt with. A family member suggests an abortion. “After all,” the couple is counseled, “it isn’t really a life, just a blob of tissue.” Instead of looking forward to embracing their child, the “solution” to their problem is grasped. “Really,” they reason, “it isn’t life yet.” Their “really” sounds so true to them.

In another home a man is given the news. The woman timidly approaches the topic, afraid of the response. She shares that she is pregnant. Instead of pictures coming to mind of him playing with the child, he sees bills piling up. Instead of thinking about the baby crawling for the first time, first steps, catching a ball, and squealing with delight when he comes home, all he sees is an empty bank account. “We can’t afford a baby,” he exclaims. “You need to take care of this. You are not having this child!” he yells. “Take care of it. Now. Really!” he demands.

In another home, the conversations take a different turn, but the “really” born of one’s own thoughts continue. The woman discovers the child will have special needs. That doesn’t square with the image she held of life after the pregnancy. She doesn’t have the extra time that will be required to care for such a child. She doesn’t want a child who is different than the rest. She sees a challenging future and wants to start over.  She starts to think about terminating the pregnancy she now sees as a problem. The conviction regarding her solution forms into a resolute “really.”

We remain confused about truth. It starts in the garden, continues in biblical times, and persists today. Satan’s question: “Did God actually say … ?” (Genesis 3:1) is still a favorite question. We ask this question. We are confused.  In all the confusion what is God’s response?

The “really” of convictions born of one’s own thoughts has an impact on not only the youngest but also the oldest among us. “Quality of life” becomes a governing principle regarding the elderly, opening up the conversation about euthanasia. The concern is raised about older people “burdening the limited resources of society.” The conversation occurs among the young, while the old are excluded. Soon the conversations become monologues. The “really” of conviction is formed. The course of action seems so right when the only one you have to convince is yourself. 

We remain confused about truth. It starts in the garden, continues in biblical times, and persists today. Satan’s question: “Did God actually say … ?” (Genesis 3:1) is still a favorite question. We ask this question. We are confused.  In all the confusion what is God’s response?

In the story of Elizabeth and Mary the angel gives Mary the message that she will bear the Messiah. Along with this amazing news, she is told her relative Elizabeth is sixth-months pregnant. Mary goes quickly to Elizabeth. Luke 1:41a records: “And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb.” 

Fast forward to the birth account of our Lord. Luke 2:12: “And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” The same Greek word for baby, brephos, is used for the baby inside and outside of the womb. Clarity. God values life in all stages, from birth to natural death.

God’s value of life extends to all eternity. The baby carried in the womb of Mary and born in Bethlehem grows. The toddler Jesus learns to walk. As an adult, He walks to Jerusalem. There, He is crucified for your sin, including devaluing life and being quiet about protecting the most vulnerable among us. Jesus is raised from the dead. The sacrifice for sin accepted. You are washed in His victory in the life-giving waters of Baptism. Eternal life is given to you. Peter says to Jesus, “You have the words of eternal life …” (John 6:68b). And those words of eternal life are declared to you. Really! 

The world needs your voice to declare Jesus’ words of eternal life. The world needs your voice to declare God’s value of life in all stages. The world needs your voice to declare God’s convictions born of His Word. The world needs your voice to declare that God’s word of forgiveness extends to all of us sinners, including those who have chosen abortion. The world needs your voice! Really!  Amen.

Is your body a playground or a temple?

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Epiphany 2, 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
January 17, 2021
1 Samuel 3:1-10, 1 Corinthians 6:12-20, John 1:43-51

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

            How about this idea?  As a way to make money for the church we could turn the sanctuary into a heavy metal nightclub on Friday nights.  We could have the band up here, move some pews for a dance floor, set up a bar in the back; maybe in the narthex.  We could set up some table service in the balcony and have a bouncer out front under the awning.  Does this sound like a good idea?  Why not?

            It is a terrible idea because this is sacred space set apart for the divine service of God.  We don’t even like to have voter’s meetings in here.  This is God’s house.  We would never turn God’s house into a nightclub.

Last Sunday we learned about the baptism of Jesus and how at your baptism you put on Christ.  You are united with Christ.  You have been given the gift of the Holy Spirit.  Titus 3:5-6 (ESV) 5 he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, 6 whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior,[1] 

In baptism you are kept safe and secure in the holy ark of the Christian Church, separated from the multitude of unbelievers.  Jesus’ death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead have been credited to you.  As a baptized believer in Jesus you have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you.  Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.  Your body is a sacred vessel of God.  God used to dwell in the temple in Jerusalem, now God dwells in you.  You have been baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. You have received Jesus’ forgiveness. You have taken Jesus’ Body and Blood into your body.  You have put on Christ.  You are holy. Your body is sacred.  It is God’s house.  What you do with your body matters.

            The trouble is that you live in a world that believes that your body is a playground and that your focus in life should be the constant pursuit of pleasure regardless of how it affects others.  The fact that people are obsessed with their own selfish pleasure-seeking is not a surprise. It is the default position.  It is who you are as a natural born sinner.  You are a natural born sinner, but now you are a new creation in Christ.  Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit.  What you do with your body matters. 

            In our Epistle lesson today St. Paul specifically addresses sexual sin.  There are those in the church in Corinth who are engaging with prostitutes and apparently justifying their behavior by pointing out that food laws have been undone in Jesus so what you eat does not matter because… 1 Corinthians 6:13 (ESV) 13 “Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food”—and God will destroy both one and the other. …[2]

            So…..if it does not matter what you eat, it should not matter who you are intimate with. It is just doing stuff with your body and your body will eventually die and decay.  The Corinthians and so many people today say, “It’s my body — I can do what I want with it.”

            St. Paul corrects the Corinthians.  1 Corinthians 6:13-17 (ESV) 13 “… The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 And God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power. 15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! 16 Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” 17 But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.[3]

            Your body is not just for this life.  On the last day your body will be raised from the dead imperishable.  What you do with your body matters.  The two becoming one flesh sexual union is meant for marriage because marriage is a holy union.  It is a sacred act designed by God Himself as a part of His command, Genesis 1:28 (ESV) 28 … “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it …”[4] The union of husband and wife is a picture of the union of God and the Church. Ephesians 5:31-32 (ESV) 31 “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.[5]

The highway of life is littered with the damage brought by sexual immorality.  Diseases bringing infertility, broken marriages, broken families, struggling single parents, exploited children and adults, millions addicted to pornography, hundreds of millions of aborted babies sacrificed on the altar of so-called sexual freedom which is actually slavery.

            The world around us encourages sexual intimacy with anyone who consents. And too often, not even that.  Child sexual abuse is rampant.  Human trafficking is booming.  Pornography is big business.  There are apps you can download for your phone to find someone to hook up with for a one night stand.  The idea of waiting until your wedding night is thought of as medieval. 

St. Paul’s message was incredibly counter-cultural in the prostitute-filled port city of Corinth 2,000 years ago and it is even more counter-cultural in our sex-soaked world today.  Inside the bonds of the marriage-union of a man and woman sexual intimacy is sacred.  Outside the bonds of marriage, intimacy desecrates God’s plan and brings trouble and confusion.  Sexual intimacy is significant.  It is meaningful.  It is sacred. It is only to happen within marriage. Your body is not your own to do with it what you like.  Your body belongs to the Lord.  Your body is not meant for sexual immorality.

The highway of life is littered with the damage brought by sexual immorality.  Diseases bringing infertility, broken marriages, broken families, struggling single parents, exploited children and adults, millions addicted to pornography, hundreds of millions of aborted babies sacrificed on the altar of so-called sexual freedom which is actually slavery.

            1 Corinthians 6:18-20 (ESV) 18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 20 for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. [6]

            This is a radical message in a world of people that treat their body as a playground instead of as a temple of God.  This message of the sacredness of intimacy is considered hateful and evil and oppressive.  The world rebels against this message and that is understandable because they do not know Jesus.  They are not one with Jesus.  They have rejected Jesus. 

            You have a choice each day.  Live as a baptized child of God who has put on Christ and whose body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, or, live as a friend of the world.  Heed the Bible’s warnings.  James 4:4 (ESV) 4 …Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.[7]  Romans 12:2 (ESV) 2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. [8]

            This is a difficult and challenging teaching.  Nobody has any high ground here from which to look down on others.  We all have a lot to repent of; sins of youth and sins of the not-so-young.  Sins of thoughts and desires — words and deeds.  Repent of being friends with the world.  Make the changes in your life to conform to the will of God.  Live out your identity in Christ.  Your body belongs to the Lord. 

You are a baptized child of God.  You have put on Christ.  Your body is not a playground.  It is a temple of the Holy Spirit.  Amen. 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[4]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[5]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[6]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[7]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[8]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

A Blessed Flood

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Baptism of our Lord 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
January 10, 2021
Genesis 1:1-5, Romans 6:1-11, Mark 1:4-11

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

            In so many ways we are do-it-yourself people.  The big box hardware stores are full of folks working on home projects. There is a great sense of accomplishment when you finish and see your completed work.  Job well done.  In spiritual matters there is a great temptation to make salvation into a do-it-yourself proposition.  If you want it done right you have to do it yourself. 

When it comes to salvation we want assurances, we want guarantees.  We want proof.  We want control.  We want to be able to point to something in ourselves to know we are saved.  We want to point to a decision made, a commitment, a manifestation of the Spirit, a spiritual experience, a feeling, a list of the good things accomplished. It is so tempting to have it be something about you. 

            The trouble is that if you are looking to something in yourself it leaves you with unending doubt.  Relying on yourself leaves you with a world of uncertainty because you don’t do things perfectly; because you are a sinner; because your thoughts and words and actions are tainted by sin.  When you look to yourself you are only left with questions, “Have I done enough?  Am I sincere enough?  Am I good enough?”  And the answer is always, “No.”

            This is why the baptism of Jesus is such an amazing thing. Mark 1:4-5 (ESV)
4 John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 5 And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.[1] 

            The people are baptized for repentance.  The people are baptized by John confessing their sins.  Jesus comes to the Jordan to John to be baptized.  Jesus?  God in flesh? The sinless Lamb of God goes down into the waters of baptism.  And then what happens?

            Mark 1:10-11 (ESV) 10 And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opening and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” [2]

            Immediately the heavens are torn open.  Schizomenos in Greek.  This is the same word used by Matthew to describe the curtain in the temple being torn in two at Jesus’ death.  Jesus tears open the temple and He tears open heaven for you.  There is no barrier to keep you away from God.  In baptism Jesus gives you the gift of eternal life in heaven with Him.  

            In our rite of Holy Baptism we pray, “Through the Baptism in the Jordan of Your beloved Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, You sanctified and instituted all waters to be a blessed flood and a lavish washing away of sin. 

Jesus, the sinless one, goes into the water at His baptism.  At your baptism you pull Jesus out of the water. Galatians 3:27 (ESV) 27 For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.[3]

            Romans 6:3-5 (ESV) 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.[4]

      Being baptized covers you with Christ.  In baptism you die with Christ and you rise with Christ.  You put on Christ.  Your sinfulness is covered by Jesus’ holiness.  You are a sinner but you have been declared a saint because of what Jesus has done for you. So, saint, what do you do?  How do you live as someone who is a sinner but is at the same time a saint?  How do you live as someone who declares, “I am baptized?”  What does such baptizing with water indicate?  Luther tells us in the Small Catechism.  It indicates that the Old Adam in us should by daily contrition and repentance be drowned and die with all sins and evil desires, and that a new man should daily emerge and arise to live before God in righteousness and purity forever.[5]

      As a baptized child of God you learn to hate sin and be saddened by your sin.  You continually turn away from sin because of who you are in Christ.  You have put on Christ. You are a new creation in Christ.  Heaven has been torn open and in your baptism you are brought into the Kingdom of Heaven. Colossians 1:13-14 (ESV) 13 He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son, 14 in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. [6]

            Assurance of salvation is yours because you are baptized. You can trust this because this is not something from yourself, it is from God Himself.  You can be confident in your forgiveness and salvation because it comes from outside of you.  It is a gift from God. 

            God’s own child, I gladly say it.  I am baptized into Christ.

There is nothing worth comparing
To this lifelong comfort sure!
Open-eyed my grave is staring:
Even there I’ll sleep secure.
Though my flesh awaits its raising,
Still my soul continues praising:
I am baptized into Christ;
I’m a child of paradise!

            Amen. 


[1]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[3]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[4]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[5] Luther’s Small Catechism, CPH 2017 page 24

[6]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

We two kings of Israel are…

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Epiphany 2021
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Hamilton, Ohio
Pastor Kevin Jud 
January 2, 3, 2021
Isaiah 60:1-6, Ephesians 3:1-12, Matthew 2:1-12

Sermons online: 
Text and Audio:         immanuelhamiltonchurch.com   click “sermons”
Text:                            pastorjud.org   
Audio:                         pastorjud.podbean.com 
itunes:                         bit.ly/pastorjud
Full Service Audio:    bit.ly/ImmanuelWorship

            “We three Kings of Orient are, bearing gifts we traverse afar.”  This Christmas Carol was written by Episcopalian musician John Hopkins Jr. in 1857 in Pennsylvania.  For almost 100 years this was thought to be the only American contribution to English language Christmas Carols.  It has that unique, plodding rhythm that transports you to the top of a camel’s hump as it sways back and forth moving across the desert following the star to Bethlehem.

            Now we don’t really think that the Magi were kings, although this idea has been floating around since around the 3rd Century as a fulfillment of Psalm 72:11 (ESV) 11 May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him![1] Around the 8th Century names were attached to the three.  They have become known most commonly as BalthasarMelchior, and Gaspar (or Casper). According to Western church tradition, Balthasar is often represented as a king of Arabia or sometimes Ethiopia, Melchior as a king of Persia, and Gaspar as a king of India.[2]  In many nations January the 6th is celebrated as Three Kings Day.  Three kings is one of those traditions that assume a lot more detail than we actually have in the Bible. 

            The magi from the east are sort of a mystery.  Who are they?  Wizards, Astrologers?  Magicians? What do they really know about the one they are seeking?  How many are there?  We don’t really know.  There are three gifts, but we’re not sure how many magi.

            We don’t know much about the magi who often called the three kings.  What we do know for sure about this Biblical account of the magi is that there are two kings.  “We two kings of Israel are, enemies in spiritual war.”

            Two kings.  Both King of the Jews.  Herod the Great and Jesus of Nazareth.  One looks like a king, one does not.  One wears royal robes and a crown and lives in a palace that He had constructed in Jerusalem.  One is a helpless young child living with His parents at someone else’s house in Bethlehem due to a census ordered by Caesar.  

Two kings.  Both King of the Jews.  One is powerful and protected with soldiers and secret police and 2,000 bodyguards.  One is a small boy protected by His father who is guided by angels that appear to him in dreams.

Two kings.  Both King of the Jews.  One pretends to be a Jew for political purposes.  The other is the definitive Jew; all Israel reduced to one. He fulfills what the children of Israel were unable to fulfill.  He comes to save the lost sheep of the house of Israel and then grafts all nations into the root of Israel. 

Two kings.  Both King of the Jews.  One is a political appointee who is declared King of the Jews by the Roman Senate in 40 BC.  One is a descendant of King David who is declared heir to the throne by the archangel Gabriel, and called King of the Jews by mysterious magi from the east who followed a star to find the newborn king.  He is not again called King of the Jews until questioned by Pontius Pilate, one of Herod the Great’s successors.  Pilate’s soldiers mock Jesus by crowning Him with thorns and dressing Him in a robe and saying, “Hail, King of the Jews.”  Pilate has written on a sign above Jesus’ head on the cross, “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.”

Two kings.  Both King of the Jews.  The magi bring to one king word of the birth of the new king.  Their message brings anxiety and fear to Herod and therefore to all Jerusalem.  To the other king the magi brings gifts fit for a king; gold, frankincense and myrrh. 

            Two kings.  Both King of the Jews.  One is paranoid, merciless and bloodthirsty, willing to kill anyone who threatens his rule. He kills one of his wives and her sons and anyone he thinks threatens him.  He will kill another of his sons before his own death.  The other King is full of grace and mercy and will heal the sick and raise the dead.  He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  He gives Himself into death in order to conquer death for all people.

            Two kings.  Both King of the Jews.  One is an agent of Satan and one is the Son of God.  One seeks to do the devil’s work of eliminating the newborn King of the Jews and orders all baby boys 2 years old and younger to be slaughtered in Bethlehem. The other is the Son of God who will do His Father’s will by being obedient to the law.  He is baptized into the sin of the world and pays the price for those sins with His own suffering and death on the cross.  He then rises from the dead to crush the head of the devil.

            Two kings.  Both King of the Jews.  One lives in a magnificent palace that he has built for himself.  The other comes to that palace thirty some years later to face Roman authority.  At that magnificent palace the other King is beaten and mocked and whipped and sentenced to death in order to please the unruly crowd assembled by the Jewish religious leaders.  They want to kill Him so He does not mess up their relationship with Rome. 

            Two kings.  Both King of the Jews.  The chief priests and the scribes tell Herod that the Christ is to be born in Bethlehem but they do not go with the magi to see the Christ child.  They choose to stay with Herod the Great rather than meet the other king.

            Two kings.  Both King of the Jews.  One, at great expense, rebuilds the temple in Jerusalem to be more glorious than ever so his name will be remembered in history.  One of the support walls of that temple still survives in place today and is known as the Western Wall or Wailing Wall in Jerusalem below the temple mount.  The other King later visits the Temple and clears it of those selling animals and changing money.  He teaches at the Temple and upon His death He tears the curtain in the temple in two from top to bottom.  The separation between God and man is undone in Jesus.

Two kings.  Both King of the Jews.  One is temporary, a blip on the radar of history.  The other is the eternal King of the Jews. 

            Two kings.  Both King of the Jews.  One lies dead in his grave buried at his Herodium fortress 7.5 miles south of Jerusalem. The other’s grave in Jerusalem is empty. 

Two kings.  Both King of the Jews.  Who is the true King of the Jews?  It is the unexpected one.  The baby in Bethlehem who has to flee to Egypt is the true King.

Two kings.  Both King of the Jews.  One is temporary, a blip on the radar of history.  The other is the eternal King of the Jews. 

Jesus is your King who at your baptism adopted you as child of God; an adopted son of Abraham.  You have been grafted into the tree of Israel and Jesus is your King. Jesus reigns, He rules not with force, not with 2,000 bodyguards, not by killing His opponents.  Jesus rules in grace and mercy.  Jesus rules in sacrificial service to His people.  Jesus rules by paying the price for the sins of the world on the cross and conquering death by rising from the dead.  Jesus rules by giving you forgiveness in His Word to you.  Jesus rules by giving you His own Body and Blood in Holy Communion.  We learn from the magi that things are not always as they appear. Water, words, bread, wine; what we see with our eyes does not show the whole truth. 

“We two kings of Israel are, enemies in spiritual war.”  Jesus wins the war.  Jesus is the eternal King of the Jews. 

Herod the Great turns out not to be so great.  He has been dead a long time and is remembered not so much for his buildings, but for shedding the innocent blood of Bethlehem boys.  Jesus of Nazareth, the true and eternal King of the Jews, lives victoriously and is worshipped for having shed His own blood to save you. Jesus is King.

Amen.


[1]  The Holy Bible : English standard version. 2001. Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.

[2] https://www.britannica.com/topic/Magi