The grace, mercy, and peace of Christ Jesus rest upon each and every one of you this day.
It’s easy to see the sinful foolishness and hard-hearted rebellion in guys like Pharaoh and the Pharisees, right? How many signs/proofs did God give these guys, and yet they still refused to believe. When Pharaoh’s own magicians are unable to replicate the plague of gnats, they rightly tell him, “This is the finger of God.” They saw what Pharaoh refused to see/believe. The same goes for the Pharisees. Jesus casts out demons, and instead of praising God for such a good thing these religious leaders accuse Him of being in cahoots with the devil. “If this is all being done by the finger of God, then the reign/rule of God has come upon you!” And yet…they refuse to see/believe. The proof was staring these men in the face, over and over and over, and they refused to see, instead hardening their hearts and choosing to remain blind. What a bunch of sinful, rebellious fools!
What about us though? Are we really any different? Do we miss the signs all around us that God gives us? Now, before I go any further, I do need to make a few things clear. I’m not talking about signs/proofs that we selfishly ask for; e.g., “God, if you don’t want me to do this, give me a sign.” And then we hold our breath and wait, and since there is no great rending of the heavens or earthquake or any other “proof” sufficient enough for us, we exhale confidently and proceed to do whatever it is that our heart desires. I’m not talking about those times that we struggle and lament and doubt, and from the depths of our dark despair we cry out to God for a sign. “God, give me something! Give me a sign so that I know that you’re still here; that you still care.” And we hold our breath and wait…and nothing happens.
These are NOT the signs I’m referring to when I ask about the signs/proofs that God gives us (or doesn’t give us) and we fail to see (or refuse to see). I’m talking about the proofs all around you; the stuff staring you in the face. The evidence of sin is all around us. And even here I’m not referring to the obvious evils of terrorism or infanticide posing as “women’s healthcare” or perversion posing as “love.” Those are the easy things; the can’t-miss things. Even many non-Christians recognize these things as evil. (What does that say about the “Christians” who call these things “good”?)
Just look around you. Thorns, thistles, weeds…all proof of our rebellious fall. The sweat from our brow; the fact that a woman has pain in childbirth—proofs of our sinfulness. The fact that we get sick is proof of our sinfulness. Our aches, our pains, our worries…all proofs of our sinfulness. Hospitals and cemeteries are huge in-your-face proofs of the deadliness of sin that infects each and every person descended from Adam; all proofs of the fact that we are poor, miserable sinners who need someone to deliver us; to save us. Add to all this the natural disasters and calamitous weather that seem to happen every day in some part of the world. Do we see the signs to repent and trust in God, or do we look away and try to play God by trying to fix these things with vegan diets, $30 light bulbs, and cars that run on unicorn tears? We try to fix the symptoms while ignoring the disease. All these different signs/proofs show us that the disease of sin is inoperable; incurable by our own reason, strength, and effort. We need a Savior. We need someone to deliver us from this body of death. And yet… “Seeing they don’t see. Hearing they don’t hear.” We may not want to admit it, but this sometimes includes us too.
And that’s where all the problems really stem from: hearing, or rather, a lack of hearing. We all see the same things. However, we don’t all see these things in the same way. We don’t all see what God is showing us because we don’t all listen to what God says.
Now, again, I know it’s very easy to point the finger at everybody else. What about you? There are a number of different ways we could go at this, but I’m just going to cut to the chase. Why did God send His only-begotten Son to take on human flesh and take that flesh to the cross? Answer: Because of the deadliness of our sin. “All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. There is no one good; not one.” We don’t always believe this, though, especially when the reflection in the mirror is assuring us that we’re really not that bad; even pretty good, if we do say so ourselves. Look to this cross. Here is the proof of your sin, on full bloody display, for all to behold.
Look to this cross. What did your Lord proclaim from this cross? “It is finished!” He spoke those words in victory. This doesn’t look like victory though, does it? He said what He meant, and He meant what He said. It is finished, once and for all. Look to that locked room full of terrified disciples on that first Easter Sunday. Your resurrected Lord proclaims “Peace.” He then shows them His pierced hands, and then proclaims again, “Peace.” He wants them to hear and see what true peace is; what their peace is and where it is found—in the wounds of the crucified and resurrected Christ.
Folks: Your Lord isn’t doing anything different with us today. Look to this font. Look to this altar. Look to this pulpit and this communion rail. Here is where your Lord brings you this same victorious cruciform peace in very real and tangible forms. Here is where your Lord directs your faith to behold Him and receive Him. Do you listen? Notice: I didn’t ask if you see. You won’t see if you’re not listening. It’s that simple. If the ears of faith aren’t first opened to hear Christ (which is the working of the Holy Spirit, by grace), the eyes of faith won’t see Christ. Look at all these, His means of grace. Do you hear what your Lord tells you about these, His means of grace? “Forgiveness, peace, comfort, assurance…eternal life and salvation.” That’s all pretty clear, isn’t it? In, with, and under the ordinary means of water, Word, bread and wine your Lord gives you the real and tangible proofs of His victory; of your victory over sin, death and the grave. He gives you proof of His mercy and grace for you; of His peace with you. Do you believe what you hear Him say, in spite of the lowly appearances of what you see?
And that’s what it really comes down to: Your Lord does attach His promises of grace and peace to some very lowly and profane things. Given the lowly and ordinary appearance of all these things, it’s very easy to look past them; to look for something different, something “better,” something more along the lines of what we’d want/expect from an almighty God. Is it any surprise that so many look away from these good gifts and instead turn inward, looking to their dark hearts for guidance/assurance? Is it any surprise that we’re so easily led away from these good gifts, lured like a moth to flame, to anything and everything that has nothing to do with Christ? Because of sin, your eyes will try to fool you. Because the devil hates Christ and hates you too, he will do his level-best to plug your ears, because he knows by plugging your ears he will blind your eyes. “Did God really say…?”
My friends: Here is your God and Lord, right where He says He is; right where He tells you to seek Him and find Him. He says what He means, and He means what He says. “As often as you do this, remember what I have said. This IS My body. This IS My blood. Given and shed for the forgiveness of all your sin.” Faith—God’s gift of faith, wrought by His Holy Spirit—hears and believes these words. Faith sees this reality in the bread and wine. Faith hungers and thirsts for this reality. He is with us always (here’s the proof), and faith wants nothing more than to be with Him, right where He is.
I pray that this sinks in and means something to you. Here is God’s proof to you of His love for you. What do you prove in response? “Let us not love in word or talk, but in deed and in truth.” May your faith not be mere lip service or going through the motions (occasionally or when it’s convenient). May your words, thoughts, and deeds be living proofs of a strong and living faith in Christ (and not contradictions of the faith.) No matter what’s going on in your life; no matter how bad things may get; no matter how bleak or dark things may seem, your Lord is with you…always. He doesn’t sleep in. He doesn’t need a break. He doesn’t treat us like we so often treat Him. Here is the proof of His love, in your midst and staring you in the face.
May you hear; may you see; and may you rejoice, now and into all eternity.
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