"The Son of Man Has Come and Saved Us"
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
St. Luke 9:51-62
July 1, 2007
Immanuel Lutheran Church, Buffalo, New York
Baptism of Rachel Ann Heusinger
IN NOMINE JESU
Today marks a shift in the church year, albeit a subtle one. We often call this season of Sundays after Pentecost the "green season," as the liturgical color for this season is green, representing the life and growth of the Church following the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. This is by far the longest season in the church year, and it can seem a bit monotonous. To this end, liturgical churches such as ours have provided some subtle shifts in emphasis during this season through the observance of minor festivals and through the division of this season into "Tides." In moving from one Tide to another, the Liturgy reflects these shifts in different themes in the Propers, those parts of the Divine Service that change each week: the Introit, Collect, and Readings—and the parts that change with the Tides: the Gradual and the Proper Preface. Such is the case today as we begin the second Tide of the season, as we have moved from Trinity Tide to Apostles' Tide. The shift is seen in our text, as we hear about two men who would become apostles of our Lord.
The beginning of our text also begins a new section of St. Luke's Gospel. Here the Lord turns His face toward Jerusalem. This means that Holy Week was fast approaching. The Lord's earthly ministry was quickly coming to its conclusion. He knew where His ministry would end—outside the walls of Jerusalem on Good Friday. To get to the holy city, He and His disciples needed to pass through a Samaritan village. Many Jews would head toward Jerusalem but would go around the outskirts of the village, for Jews and Samaritans did not get along. Samaritans were half Jewish and were considered unclean by the full-blooded Jews. But the Lord, who by a word can make all things clean, was to pass through this Samaritan town. He sent two of His disciples ahead of them to make lodging arrangements for the thirteen of them.
The Samaritans had heard of Jesus. They heard of His healing miracles. They heard of the many signs and wonders He performed in other towns. They also heard that He would spend days in several of these towns…but not in theirs because they saw He was determined to go to Jerusalem. Perhaps they were jealous. Perhaps they were spiteful. Perhaps they were just being petty. Regardless of that they were, they were not doing to receive the Lord as He came to them. They saw Jerusalem in His eyes. They saw the cross in His eyes, and they had daggers in theirs. They knew He was not going to give them what they wanted; so they hated Him and would by no means receive Him. Two of His disciples, James and John, were furious at the Samaritans, so much so that they wanted to call down fire from heaven to consume the entire village. These fiery-tempered sons of Zebedee the Lord called the "sons of thunder." The Lord rebuked them for their anger, for He came not to destroy souls but to save them. Had the fire rained down from heaven, the Samaritans would have been destroyed and dead in their sins. From this the Lord wanted to spare them, at least until He paid the price for their sins, which was why He had His face set toward Jerusalem. He did not remain in the village because He was determined to save them, but they either could not or would not understand this. Because of their lack of understanding (and their unbelief), deliberate or otherwise, foxes had holes and birds of the air had nests, but the Son of Man had nowhere to lay His head.
The prophet Elijah had nowhere to lay his head, either, for he was running for his life. This man of God fled from the supposed people of God, the adulterous Israelites, for they were unfaithful to the one true God. They broke the covenant He made with them; they destroyed His altars and killed His prophets, and, as Elijah says in our Old Testament Reading, the Israelites sought to kill him, too, the last of the prophets. The Israelites abandoned the faith God had given them by the Holy Spirit's moving the prophets to speak, and they had no use for God or His grace.
True faith eagerly receives Jesus, even if He comes for just the shortest length of time, even if He were to merely pass by. You see, faith wants as much Jesus as it can get, and faith clings to Jesus whenever He comes. Faith looks to devour the crumbs that fall from the Master's table—yes, even from the Lord's Table this morning. True faith thanks Jesus for coming even for the slightest moment and begs Him to continue coming, even as He promises at the end of Revelation, "Yes, I am coming soon," and faith responds as St. John did, saying, "Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus." Such faith the Jews should have had, but they rejected Him as the Messiah. Such faith the Samaritans should have had, but the refused to receive Him even for a moment. Such faith we are to have, but we revile Him in our thoughts, words, and deeds.
The Lord came into this world to save our souls, but we are doing what we can to destroy ourselves. Like James and John, we do not know of what manner of spirit we are. We are of a spirit that does not fear, love, and trust in God above all things. We are of a spirit that relies on the self more than on the Savior. We are of a spirit that does not look to the Lord in times of feast or famine. We are of a spirit that looks for a "God" who comes by extraordinary signs and wonders such as earthquake, wind, and fire instead of the God who comes to us through ordinary means of bread and wine and water and the Word, even as He has come to young Rachel this morning through the Sacrament of Holy Baptism. We are of a spirit that demands a "God" who comes with lots of fanfare rather than the God who brings us words of forgiveness. We are of a spirit that expects God to bring hellfire and brimstone and not His Word and Sacraments. You see, our spirit is one borne not of the Holy Spirit but of the devil. As such, our spirit lacks true faith; it lacks saving faith, for our sinful nature has from our conception been opposed to God. We do not seek God as He comes to us through the means to which He has bound Himself, that is, through Word and Sacraments, but when we do seek Him, we look for Him elsewhere, in places where He has not promised to be. He comes, but we do not want Him as He comes. Rather, we would have Him come as we would have Him come. We try to force our own ideas of "God" upon the one true God, and in doing do we make gods of ourselves, and our faith rests not in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, but in "me, myself, and I." Our souls are in grave danger of being consumed by fire not from heaven but in hell where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. The Lord has come to save us, and we need to be saved.
For this reason the Lord set His face toward Jerusalem. He was "cross eyed" in the sense that He knew His earthly ministry would reach its climax and its conclusion on the cross. He came to Jerusalem to save His people…and the souls of all mankind. His love for us would not allow Him to remain in the Samaritan village. He was a Man on a mission, all the while also being true God. His was a mission of mercy, a labor of love. The Samaritans did not accept all of Scripture, only the books of the Law, not the Prophets or Writings. Even in just the five books of Moses, which they accepted only, we find God's promise of a Savior for all of fallen mankind. God makes His first promise of a Savior in Genesis 3. The promise came through God's spoken Word and was fulfilled through God's incarnate Word, the Word becoming flesh, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
Our Lord set His face not just toward Jerusalem, but beyond it. He was looking past the walls of the Holy City, past the cross atop Mt. Calvary, where He died for us. Our Lord was looking past His death. He was looking toward His resurrection on the third day, for the resurrection of Jesus Christ has brought eternal life to all who believe in Him and confess His Name. Just as His death won the forgiveness of our sins, His resurrection won for us eternal life in heaven—yes, for us! Why? God has given us the faith to believe in Him. He has created in us clean hearts and renewed a right spirit within us.
The Holy Spirit is ever at work in us keeping our spirit right, that we may crave our Lord who comes to us in His Means of Grace. The Holy Spirit calls us to faith by His Word of Gospel. He enlightens us with His gifts of the forgiveness of sins, eternal life, and salvation that our Lord offers in His Word and Sacraments, as He offers them in the Baptism of Rachel this morning and in the body and blood of our Lord this day, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.. He sanctifies and keeps us in the one true faith. The Holy Spirit makes our hearts right with God. He moves us to confess with our mouths that Jesus Christ is Lord and leads us to believe in our hearts that God raised Him from the dead, and by His grace we are saved! The Lord has come and saved us. He comes to us with this message of salvation each time His word is read and preached and when His Sacraments are administered according to His Gospel.
We rejoice this day, for now is the day of salvation. We rejoice that our Lord has mercy upon us, that Christ has mercy upon us. We rejoice that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ set His face toward Jerusalem, for now He makes His face shine upon us and is gracious unto us. He lifts up His countenance upon us (that is, He looks upon us with favor) and grants us His peace. We rejoice, for He has visited and redeemed His people. He has come and saved us, thanks be to God.
In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
SOLI DEO GLORIA
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