+ In Nomine Jesu +
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen.
I’m sure many of you remember the old Art Linkletter TV show “kids say the darnedest things.” Linkletter conducted interviews with children. As the interview went along he’d simply go where the kids responses took him. It was pretty funny to watch, because “kids do say the darnedest things.”
Grandchildren, of course, are no exception. Our daughter Jennifer arrived at the airport about a month ago for a couple of weeks visit. Luke, our grandson, of course, was with her. I walked up to greet them. I bent down to say hi to Luke and the first thing he said to me was “what time is?” “What time is it?” I asked him, do you have an appointment or something? I suppose he liked to ask for the time as a way of making conversation. I found out later, if you ask HIM what time it is, he says, 6:40 because, well, because 6:40 is his favorite time of the day.
As children of God, the question of time isn’t an unimportant question. To the contrary, time is very important. We live in a unique time, the time between the already and the not yet. Most of the promises of God have been fulfilled, but there are some of His promises for which we still wait the fulfillment, not the least of which is His coming to “judge the living and the dead.”
What time is it? With this morning’s Gospel reading before us, the question is set in the overall context of Jesus’ mission to save the world from sin, death and the devil. What time is it? Where are we at in Jesus’ work of redemption? What does this hour bring and what should we look for in the future?
What Jesus’ says regarding things to come might sound a bit shocking to you. “I came (He says) to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled! I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division.” Jesus talks about casting fire on the earth, great distress in His baptism and division. What are we to make of these things?
Well, by this time in His life and ministry, Jesus had already been baptized. In that baptism of water, He placed Himself under God’s wrath on behalf of all of humanity. As He said to a confused disciple, namely John the Baptist, who didn’t understand why Jesus should be baptized by him, “permit it now to fulfill all righteousness.”
Jesus had been baptized by water and, as such, He had put Himself under God’s wrath. Here though, He laments another baptism that lay ahead of Him. The first baptism was by water. The second would be by blood. The first took place in the Jordan. The second would take place on the cross of Calvary.
The fiery wrath of God laid on Jesus at His baptism would ultimately lead to his death on the cross. You see, from his baptism on, Jesus stood under the Father’s wrath and continued to stand under the Father’s wrath until that wrath was satiated in his crucifixion. Thus, with every sickness Jesus healed, with every sin he forgave, with every dead person he raised from the grave, Jesus both released creation from its bondage and absorbed into his body all sickness, sin, and death. This is how he put himself in the position to receive God’s wrath against sin. From the moment he stepped forward publicly in his baptism as the world’s Messiah, the process began. For this he came. He throughout His life that he was to bear this fiery wrath and judgment. In His passionate plea before us this morning He expresses His wish that it were already finished.
As much as He despised the shame of the cross, He obeyed the will of His Father. He completed his ministry with a bloody “baptism,” where the full wrath of God was placed upon him as he atoned for the world’s sin. This frame, if you will, of water and blood around Jesus’ ministry, recalls that both water and blood flowed from His side at His death on the cross and that water and blood “testify” that He is God’s Messiah: As the Scriptures say, “This is he who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the witnessing one, because the Spirit is the truth. For those who are witnessing are three: the Spirit, the water, and the blood; and these three are of one accord”
What time is it? Since Jesus has been baptized by water and the blood, it is, right here and right now, the hour of grace! Jesus calls out, “come to Me all of you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” Those who labor and are heavy laden are those who have sought to claw and to climb their way back to God, who have come to the sobering realization that they’ve not made any progress whatsoever. They have worked and worked and worked to win God’s favor, to get God to smile upon them and love them, and they, by God’s grace, have found their efforts futile.
No one comes to the Father, (Jesus says), but by Me. What we so desperately seek to acquire has been given to us freely in the water that imparted to us the merit, the grace and forgiveness of Jesus’ bloody baptism! “Since we have been justified by faith (writes St. Paul), we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God.”
What time is it? It is the hour of grace! It is also, however, a time to long for and to anticipate the unique peace that we will finally enjoy in the glory of heaven. Certainly, a measure of that peace we know here and now. The dividing wall of wrath and of sin and of death that separated us, that separated you from God, has been torn down. As such, you enjoy the peace that passes all understanding, for, whereas Jesus was draped in God’s wrath in His baptism, you were clothed with His righteousness in yours.
And yet, while you have that peace that passes all understanding, the world around you, the world in which you live, is in turmoil. Nations fight against nations. Warring factions fight against one another on the streets across the fruited plain. The differences that cause such turmoil are often trivial. However, sometimes those differences go to the very heart, they go to the very core of the meaning of life, which is to say, they have to do with Jesus and the Gospel of His redeeming love.
The truth of the matter is, the Gospel itself is divisive. It can literally set father’s against their sons and sons against their fathers. One believes in Christ and the other doesn’t. The one who believes is grieved by their loved one rejecting Christ and the salvation and life He came to give. Worse yet, the one who doesn’t believe in Christ is at enmity with God and thus, he finds himself at enmity even with those he loves.
Jesus told us, He told you that tension, that division would exist in your time here on earth. Still, He comes to you in those tense and disheartening situations and He comforts your troubled soul. While your peace is disrupted, your hope springs eternal. Even those who staunchly deny Jesus can yet be brought to faith in Him for it is the hour of grace.
As Jesus comforts your troubled soul in this hour of grace, He gives you the resolve and the strength to confess Him before men. Your goal, my friends, your greatest treasure, cannot be temporal peace. Transformed by the Gospel of Jesus’ love and grace, your life is now hidden with Christ in God. As such, it is your great honor, indeed, it is your great privilege to bear witness to Christ and to Him crucified for the sins of the world.
What time is it? Well, it is the hour of grace! But, it’s also a time to long for and to anticipate the unique peace that you will finally enjoy in the glory of heaven. God grant you that holy longing and anticipation. But, most of all, God grant that it be satisfied in Christ. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
The peace of God that passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus unto life everlasting. Amen.
+ Soli Deo Gloria +
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