In Trouble He Will Comfort You
On the eve of His death, He tells His disciples that they will be put out of the synagogue on account of Him and whoever kills them will imagine that they are offering God a service.
Yet in the midst of this dire prediction, the Lord Christ makes a promise. It is to their advantage that He goes to the Father by way of the cross. For by His going, He will send them the Helper, the Comforter, the Spirit of Truth. Jesus says “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” The hymn and this Lenten Season then draws to a close where it began: “Dear Christians, one and all rejoice/With exultation springing/And with united heart and voice/And holy rapture singing/Proclaim the wonders God has done/How His right arm the vict’ry won/What price our ransom cost Him.”
Your Ransom and Your Rescue
In stanzas 7-8 of our hymn, Luther has Jesus preaching to us. He pledges Himself to you as “your rock and castle.” You are the one for whom He strives and wrestles.” He promises that where He is, you will remain and that the old evil foe will not divide you from Him. He shed His blood to make it so. He suffers scorn and reject, bearing the wrath of God in your place. He suffers it all for your benefit, for your good. And to you He says be steadfast and believing for His victory snatches life out of death, His innocence bears your sin “and your are blest forever.”
Jesus goes to the Father, that is He goes to the cross, that you may be His forever. By His atoning death He has purchased and won you to be His own. You are not left as orphans but heirs of God’s grace through faith in Christ Jesus. You are His and He is Yours. His blood says so.
Jesus: God's Son and Your Servant
From the beginning, God’s Son is your servant. Jesus was born under the law to redeem those under the law says the Apostle (see Galatians 4:4-5). The previous stanzas of our hymn have confessed our human plight: fast bound in Satan’s chains, brooded over by death, tormented by sin with life itself becoming a living hell. Good works are no help. The freedom of the will is worst than powerless for it fights against God’s judgment. If we are to be saved, it will not come from ourselves. It will take a Savior who does for us what we cannot do for ourselves.
Jesus came not to be served but to serve and give His life as a ransom (see Mark 10:45). The old Adam is ever the activist, always devising some scheme for serving God. Jesus puts an end to it all as He comes to give what we could never achieve. Righteousness is received not achieved. Behold God’s and your Servant; He is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
From the Father's Heart
Jesus moves ever closer to the cross. He had entered the holy city on Palm Sunday; now he speaks of His impending glorification. Glory will come to Jesus not in the way that princes are elevated to their thrones but by a cross which will lift up the Son of Man as the sacrifice for the sins of the world. Jesus speaks of His crucifixion as the purpose for which He came to this hour.
This hour was in the mind of the Father from all eternity. So Luther’s hymn shows us the Father who beholds the misery and wretchedness of our sin “before the world’s foundation” and so there in mercy plans for my salvation.
God “did not choose the easy part but gave His dearest treasure.” That treasure was and is His own Son, begotten of the Father from all eternity and born of the virgin Mary.” When God turned to you a Father’s heart, He gave you Jesus. He gave you His Son to be His Brother. When our hearts condemn us, we indeed have One who is greater than our hearts. We have God’s own heart. We have His Son crucified and raised.
"Possessed by Sin and Bound by Death"
Do you think that you are free? After all you live in “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” Our age champions personal liberty, interpreted to mean, you can do or become anything you please-perhaps with proviso that you don’t hurt anybody or interfere with their freedom. Autonomy (literally, a law to oneself) has become one of the watchwords of our public vocabulary, especially in the area of ethics. So sexual permissiveness, abortion and euthanasia are claimed as options in the increasingly unbounded arena of personal freedoms.
Are you free? Not really. Werner Elert, a Lutheran theologian of the last century spoken of autonomy as an unfulfilled illusion.
But you are free, for the Son of God Himself has freed you from the curse of the law, the darkness of death, and condemnation of Satan. You are free-you need no longer live in enslavement to self. An old hymn has us sing “Make me a captive, Lord, and then I shall be free.” And that is the wonder of our freedom in Christ. Freedom is not to be found in living as though God did not exist so that we can be who and what we will to be. Freedom is found only in Christ. Shortly before his death, Luther scribbled a few words on a scrap of paper found in his vest pocket after he died. The note read, in part: “We are beggars. It is true.” The tired, worn-out old man knew the truth that before God we can stand only as beggars, but beggars set free to live by faith in the gracious promises of a merciful God. Freedom is found only in Jesus’ words. “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”