Those Who Have Christ Share Him
In the forefront of those sharing the Savior by sharing his Word are those that he has specifically called into that office. What should we expect of them? We should expect that they are ready for some to receive and some to reject that word. Notice that he sends them to share only what they have received; he does not give them permission to fudge the message when many or most reject it. For Jesus does not come through false doctrine to create or strengthen faith. It is in faithfulness to the message and reliance on his promise that repentance is worked which both confesses sin and rejoices in absolution. He will keep his promise when and how it pleases him without the “help” of our opinions, our compromises of the truth, our eagerness to be popular and always successful.
While we can take no credit for the success of the gospel, we can certainly throw obstacles in its path. There is a danger that we degenerate into a certain professionalism that ends up making the assumptions of Amaziah in the first lesson not all that wide of the mark. There is a danger that in a godless age we see ourselves even at our worst as better than the common herd. But God wants us to take his Word seriously before we tell others to do so. Have we become so cocky, so arrogant, so self righteous and self confident that we imagine that these words are dead letters to us and apply only to someone else. May it not be! So noble is our task, so holy our vocation! May we not cheapen it by contempt for its solemn and saving essence!
The Lord's Love Seeks Out Sinners and Dies for Them
Whenever the New Testament Gospels name the women who were with Jesus, St. Mary Magdalene is listed first (John 19:25 is the only exception), perhaps because she was the first to see the risen Savior alive. Luke 8:2 reports that Jesus had cured her of being possessed by seven demons. Through the centuries, she has often been identified with the repentant “woman of the city” who anointed Jesus’ feet as He sat at the table in the Pharisee’s home (Luke 7:36 -50). But there is no biblical basis for this identification of her with a penitent prostitute. Nor is she to be identified with Mary, the sister of Martha, in Bethany. According to the Gospels, Mary Magdalene saw Jesus die; she witnessed His burial; and, most important, she was the first to see Him alive again after His resurrection (John 20:11-18). It is for good reason that Bernard of Clairvaux calls her “the apostle to the apostles.”
Jesus Restores Paradise and Feeds Us Freely
In the Garden of Eden, our first parents received food freely from the gracious hand of God, apart from any burdensome work (Gen 2:7–17). But after the fall, food would be received only through toil and labor. The curse declared, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground...” (Gen. 3:19). In other words, “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). But into this wilderness world came Jesus the Messiah to restore creation. Having compassion on the weary multitudes, He renewed the bounty of Eden on the third day, freely granting an abundance of bread to the 4,000 (Mark 8:1–9). So also our Lord Jesus, having endured the burden of our sin, was raised on the third day to bring us back to Paradise. He now miraculously turns the bread of death into the Bread of Life in the Sacrament, giving you His very body and blood for your forgiveness. For “the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23).
Our Only Hope Is in Christ’s Righteousness
“Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (Matt 5:20). God demands nothing less than perfection and holiness from you in regard to His commandments (Ex. 20:1–17). Your only hope, then, is not in your own goodness but in the goodness of Christ, who did not come to destroy the Law and the Prophets, but to fulfill them for you. In Christ, your righteousness does indeed exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees. For you have been baptized into Christ’s death and your sinful nature crucified. Therefore, he who has died has been freed from sin (Rom. 6:1–11). You are now raised with Christ to walk in newness of life and to share in His resurrection on the Last Day. Christ has brought you through the baptismal sea “out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery” (Ex. 20:2). Therefore, “consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 6:11).
Jesus Makes Fishers of Men
The Lord called fishermen to be fishers of men (Luke 5:1–11). The net they would use is the message of the cross, which is foolishness and a stumbling block to the world (1 Cor. 1:18–25). The power of God to save is not in spectacular signs like wind and fire and earthquakes (1 Kings 19:11–21), nor is it to be found in human intelligence and wisdom. The power of God to save comes in the still, small voice of the preaching of Christ crucified. In worldly darkness the disciples could catch nothing. But in the light of Christ, whose Word was attached to the water, the boats were filled with fish. So it is that in Baptism you have been drawn in to the ship of the Church. Though the nets are breaking and some who hear the Word do not believe, pastors continue to cast the net of the Gospel and the Sacraments, that Christians may abide in the boat of the Church and that we may be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks a reason for the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:8–15).