Pastor's Blog

March 2018

Holy Week 4: But How Then Would the Scriptures Be Fulfilled That Say It Must Happen This Way

Please enjoy these devotions from a series published in 2016 by Martin Luther College entitled "Searching Questions from Christ's Passion."

“Put your sword back in its place,” Jesus said to him, “for
all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (Matthew 26:52-54)

December 21, 2012, was a date that not a small
number of people looked forward to with fear. Not
only was it the shortest day of the year, but according
to one interpretation of the Mayan calendar it was
the day the world would end. Some people lost their
heads completely, doing everything from traveling to
mountains in order to best experience the end to trying
to overthrow communism around the world. Obviously,
like every other apocalypse prediction, this one did not
pan out.

During Holy Week, we know exactly what we are
looking forward to. The Lamb of God will be led to the
slaughter and will offer himself willingly in our place.
His disciples didn’t understand it. And while you and
I can read exactly what happens, it’s still so easy to lose
our heads about it. I have found myself asking why it
had to happen. Why did an all-powerful God have to
die to complete his plan? I can think of ways that I think
are better. Why couldn’t God? Even when Jesus asks
his question—“But how then would the Scriptures be
fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?”—I still
don’t understand why God’s plan had to include his own
suffering and death.

We don’t have answers to every “why” question. But
we can answer with certainty why God chose the plan
he did. Quite simply, there is not a better plan. The
alternative plans we try to come up with may work in a
perfect world. But this is not a perfect world. If it were, there wouldn’t need to be a plan in the first place. So to remedy this imperfect world, God came up with a perfect plan.

In the days leading up to Good Friday, our Savior knew what was going to happen. There was no doomsday prediction or set date on the calendar that everyone knew about. But this date had indeed been on the calendar from eternity. Jesus knew what was going to happen in the Garden of Gethsemane—that he would be handed
over to his death—but he was not going to lose his head.

Instead, he reminded his disciples of the plan they had been told about many times. He reminds us of the plan we also have been told about. And we have the joy of knowing that this plan is complete—that even as Jesus gives up his body to death, he likewise gives his body and blood for our life. Today, as we celebrate the institution of the Lord’s Supper, we find in the true body and true blood the fulfillment of the plan put in place from the beginning of time: Christ’s death means our life.

Lamb of God, you are our perfect sacrifice. Lead
us to confess our lack of appreciation for your
perfect will and for your suffering. Open our
hearts and fill us with your love and forgiveness,
found only in you. In your name we pray. Amen.

--Rev. Isaac Crass

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Holy Week 3: Will You Really Lay Down Your Life for Me

Please enjoy these devotions from a series published in 2016 by Martin Luther College entitled "Searching Questions from Christ's Passion."

Simon Peter asked him, “Lord, where are you going?” Jesus replied, “Where I am going, you cannot follow now, but you will follow later.” Peter asked, “Lord, why can’t I follow you now? I will lay down my life for you.” Then Jesus answered, “Will you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times!” (John 13:36-38)

Sometimes a person needs a “reality check.” A reality
check helps you see that the real situation is not the same
as what you believe. For example, you may believe you
are in perfect health, but then the doctor gives you a
reality check. He helps you see the real situation through
some test results.

Jesus once gave Peter a reality check by asking him a
searching question: “Will you really lay down your
life for me?” (John 13:38). Jesus asked this question to
help Peter—and us—see the truth about our spiritual
weakness and our need for a Savior.

Peter needed a reality check. Jesus warned him that he
was not ready to follow him down the road of suffering
and death. Nevertheless, Peter insisted, “Lord, I will lay
down my life for you” (John 13:37). Peter ignored his
spiritual weakness and underestimated sin’s great power.
So Jesus gave him a reality check by asking him, “Will
you really lay down your life for me? Very truly I tell
you, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three
times!” (John 13:38). Jesus wanted Peter to know the
truth—that he would fail to fear, love, and trust in him
above all things.

We also need a reality check. How easily we become
complacent about the spiritual dangers in our lives. We
too need to hear Jesus’ searching questions: “Will you
really lay down your life for me? Do you really have the strength to fear, love, and trust in me above all things? Do you really have the power to resist all temptation and to face suffering and death for my sake?”

To each of those questions we would have to confess that we don’t have the strength to lay down our lives for Jesus. But, thanks be to God, Jesus could and would lay down his life for us and for all people! He boldly promised, “I am the Good Shepherd . . . I lay down my life for the sheep” (John 10:11,15). But unlike Peter and
us, he made good on his bold promise. He truly laid down his life for us as he cried out, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46).

Sometimes we need our eyes opened to the truth. Praise God that through his Word he opens our eyes to see the reality of our spiritual weakness. But more importantly, thank God that through his Word we can see the reality of Jesus’ life-saving sacrifice. Through that good news alone, our gracious God will give us the desire and strength to lay down our lives each day for him.

O Lord, how often we foolishly copy Peter and
substitute spiritual overconfidence for humble
faith. Through your dear Son forgive and restore
us, even as you forgave and restored Peter. Grant
us grace to trust your strength and not our own.

--Prof. Brian Hennig

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Holy Week 2: Couldn't You Men Keep Watch With Me for One Hour?

Please enjoy these devotions from a series published in 2016 by Martin Luther College entitled "Searching Questions from Christ's Passion"

Then he returned to his disciples and found them sleeping.
“Couldn’t you men keep watch with me for one hour?” he
asked Peter. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into
temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
(Matthew 26:40-41)

How are you at staying awake? Some of us probably
wished for a do-over after nodding through crucial parts
of the latest Star Wars movie.

On the night Jesus was betrayed, his disciples could not
keep their eyes open. Picture the Garden of Gethsemane.
Jesus led the Eleven to a quiet place to pray. Then he
urged Peter, James, and John, “My soul is overwhelmed
with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep
watch with me.”

Upon his return from praying, even Jesus seemed
surprised that his friends could not stay awake.
Consider what he had told them. “This is my blood
of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the
forgiveness of sins.” Consider what he showed them. His
peaceful countenance overwhelmed with sorrow. Sweat
like great drops of blood falling off him after he prayed.

How could they sleep? The Spirit through Luke tells
us they were exhausted from sorrow. So the burden
of suffering that weighed down Jesus to the point of
death crushed his disciples too. But notice that Jesus
did not sleep. He prayed. For himself. For the successful
completion of our salvation. And he woke them up. He
alerted them to the dangers of sleeping. “Watch and pray
so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is
willing, but the body is weak.”

Here is good news for you and me, the spiritually weak.
Our Savior Jesus does not save us because of what we will
do for him. He is not selling salvation to the ones who can best avoid temptation. His demands are more exacting than can be met by adding a few prayers.

His demands have been met, only could be met, by him. His holy life lived in our place. His innocent death as payment for our sins. And his resurrection, God’s ultimate wake up call.

So when he tells us to watch and pray, he is not laying out our way to earn his forgiveness. He is alerting us to the dangers of having his forgiveness through faith. Our enemies are around us. They are not sleeping. They are alert to our weaknesses and eager to use them against us. In our times of sorrow and distress, and in our times of accomplishment.

Thankfully we have a Savior who has defeated our enemies—sin, death, and the devil. In his amazing grace he is eager to help us in our time of need. Oh, how we need him. “Could you not keep watch with me one hour?” No, Lord, we cannot. But with your help and strength, empowered by your mercy, we will. Lord, help
us to watch with you.

Lord Jesus, you suffered the temptations of our
spiritual enemies and defeated them for us. In
our daily struggle against the spiritual forces
of darkness and in our inner battle with our
sinful nature, shield us with your protection
and strengthen us with your grace, that we may
stand firm in faith and obtain the victory. Amen.

--Rev. John Boeder

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Holy Week 1: Do You Understand What I Have Done For You?

Please enjoy these devotions from a series published in 2016 by Martin Luther College entitled "Searching Questions from Christ's Passion"

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his
clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. (John 13:12-15)

Jesus asked this question because he knew his disciples
of all times would have trouble grasping this point about
Holy Week—Christian leaders get down on the floor.
So Jesus made this lesson clear and direct. He is the
master teacher; here he took the eternal truth and
expressed it in a vivid, even uncomfortable, object lesson.
He laid aside all the power and glory the Father had
given him, got down on the floor, and washed the feet of
his followers.

What makes this hard to understand? Our pride and
sense of privilege. We think we have done well when we
are patient and polite with other people, especially with
people who seem below us. Jesus tells us we need to
bend lower.

You may be the smartest one in the room. You may be
the leader—gifted, appointed, and even called. But God
has put you in that position to serve others, to serve
in the lowest ways. “How many times do I have to . . .
tell these people? clean up after these people? do what
someone else should have done?” Well, one more time,
at least.

What I Have Done: Jesus—the holy, anointed Teacher
and Lord—got down on the floor and showed what
Christian leaders do. He washed his disciples’ feet. This
action echoed the greater washing Jesus was doing that
week, purifying us by paying the wages of our sins. He died for all the times I refused to lift a finger, lose a privilege, or forget a time when I was disrespected.
This washing was also a literal, practical, and daily job. The dirt sticks and collects along the miles, and a bowl of water with strong hands soothes and refreshes. This cleansing feels so good when you hire someone to do it, so think of what an absolute delight it is when the one who washes your feet is your lover and lord.

For You: Jesus, during Holy Week, “loved [us] to the end”
(John 13:1). Our Lord and Teacher got down on the floor to wash our feet. And then he got up on the cross. He did this to be the humble servant we’ve never been, and he did this to inspire us to do what we find so hard.
Do we understand? As we watch Jesus on the floor with a towel around his waist and a basin, we better understand our sinful pride. We treasure Jesus’ love and gift. And we better understand what Christian leaders do. We get down on the floor to confess. We bow down to marvel at Jesus’ love. We kneel to serve—to be a delight to
one another.

Dear Jesus, washer of our feet and souls, forgive
us for our pride and lack of love. Lead us in your
grace to live new lives serving each other. Amen.

--Professor Brian Dose

reprinted with permission

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The Dawn of Your Commitment

He could take the easy way out. To him it seemed obvious: the marriage was failing. But he knew that he had made a commitment: thick and thin and all of that. Now it was definitely thin. And the easy way out was through the front door. Would he do it? Would he waver in his commitment to a marriage that he knew had its problems? But couldn’t those problems be resolved? Couldn’t they be fixed? Doesn’t commitment mean to at least try? He tossed and turned in indecision. Dawn was approaching. The hour of commitment had come.

The dawn of Christ’s death was approaching. Was he committed to it? Was he resolved to bear the sins of mankind? Or would he take the easy way out? Of course we know the answer. We wouldn’t be here today, talking about Christ’s commitment if he hadn’t set his face like flint toward Jerusalem, and walked that lonely path to Golgotha.

John 20, "Jesus answered them, 'The time has come for the Son of Man to be glorified...Now my soul is troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? No, this is the reason I came to this hour. Father, glorify your name!' A voice came from heaven: 'I have glorified my name, and I will glorify it again.'"

We follow in the dusty trail of the cross. As Christ went, so must we. And we often ask ourselves: could there be an easier way; could we take the easy way out? Only you can answer that question, but I’m guessing if you’re like me, you’re not proud of the answer. Our commitment is pretty shaky at times. Faced with temptation the easy way is often the one we choose. But dawn is approaching. The hour has come to be committed. And thankfully, Christ’s commitment becomes ours, and his crucifixion enables our praise.

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Look and Live

We all know that eventually it will be for our good, but aren't you glad when the road construction is finished? It’s no fun having to find a new route to work every few weeks. It’s no fun getting stuck in traffic. And if there’s an accident things really get snarled up. And it’s not just hard on us it’s hard on the construction workers, too. It’s risky working with these big machines, on busy roads, with impatient or frustrated drivers. And one way to prevent accidents is with a sign that you might have seen at some of the construction sites. It’s a sign that reads, “Look up, and live.” And if you look up, what do you see? You see power lines directly overhead. It’s a warning to the guys driving the big machines that they better not hit those power lines if they want to stay alive. “Look up, and live.”

As a Christian, who couldn’t read that and think of a deeper message? Look up and live. Look up to heaven, look up at God, look to your Savior and live. Through his prophet, Moses, God has the same message for us today: Look and live. Moses had put a snake on a pole and everyone who looked at it would be saved from the poisonous snakes that were killing them. That snake on a pole was a foreshadowing of our Savior, Jesus Christ, who himself was put on a pole. Jesus said in John 3, "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in him may have eternal life."

Look and live!

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Temples of Flesh and Spirit

The Temple in Jerusalem was a busy place in Jesus’ day. It had recently undergone a major building project that reconstructed the temple courts and the inner rooms. It was a place of prayer where people could gather in the corners and alcoves of the outer courtyard and spend some quiet time praying in groups or by themselves. It was God’s house where he dwelt among his people, where he could renew his promises, where he could forgive them.

So you can understand Jesus’ anger when God’s house had been turned into a marketplace. Upon entering the Temple grounds, there would be people offering to change your Roman currency into the Temple’s currency—for a fee. There would be tables where you could purchase the appropriate animal for your particular sacrifice—at an elevated cost. Perhaps you brought your own animal for sacrifice. Then your animal had to be inspected. This too had its price.

And all of this was open to abuse. Fees for inspection could be very high. The money changers would change their rates. So you could imagine the arguments, “What do you mean my lamb isn’t good enough? It’s perfect!” “This is extortion! You charged him half as much as you’re charging me!” And where did all this money go? It went into the pockets of the priests who had cleverly created a system that made them rich. In other words, God’s house was now a place of selfishness. Love and honor for wealth had been placed high above love and honor of God. God’s commands were being abused for profit!

If your blood boils at this blatant disregard for God’s commands, watch yourself. This is a mirror for us. We look at that marketplace and we see a reflection of what often happens inside our own hearts: greed, disregard of God’s commands. We put inside our own temples, our hearts, a marketplace of things that we love more than God.

How do we get back to a right relationship with God where we love him and his commands above all else? How do we kick out the things in our life that push God away? We can't. But Jesus does. He chases away our sins. His death condemns the sin in us and his death frees us from death. Jesus destroyed the Temple of his own body so that he could build a new, holy Temple within each one of us, the spiritual dwelling place of his presence. In Christ, we are reunited with God.

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Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom. ~ LUKE 12:32