Video of the Divine Service is here. The sermon begins around the 27:30 mark.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
If You are the Christ, tell us plainly. Just say it clearly! Maybe show us a sign. Give us some evidence or proof. “I did tell you,” Jesus says. “But you did not believe Me. The works I do in the Name of the Father testify to Me. But you did not believe Me because you are not part of My flock.”
The works I do testify of Me, He says. Jesus doesn’t just do miracles for no reason. He doesn’t do magic tricks. He does signs. And those signs point to who He is and what He has come to do: that He has come to restore creation in abundance and restore our bodies in resurrection.
But what happens when Jesus speaks plainly and when He does these works? We have heard the blasphemy from His own mouth! He makes Himself equal to God; He makes Himself the Son of God. So He must die. If you are the Christ, prophecy about who struck You. If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross. If you are the Son of God, save Yourself and us.
When the disciples say to Him, Who sinned, this man or his parents that he was born blind? Jesus says, Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. But those who do not believe Jesus can only assume that it was a different man who was blind. When Jesus raises Lazarus from the dead, do the people believe in Him? No, they make plans to kill Lazarus as well. In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus tells a story or a parable about a rich man and a poor man named Lazarus. (I don’t think Jesus does coincidence.) And the rich man tells Abraham to send Lazarus to his brothers so they don’t go to hell. Abraham says, they have Moses and the prophets; let them listen to them. But the rich man says, no, but if someone goes to them from the dead, then they will believe. Abraham says, If they will not believe Moses and the prophets—the words, the promises, the prophecies—then they will not believe even if someone rises from the dead.
And of course, someone did rise from the dead. His name is Jesus. And when He did, the unbelievers simply made up stories about how the disciples had stolen the body. But don’t you think that if they were able to track down the disciples—who were preaching publicly, especially after Pentecost—and if they could have discovered Jesus’ dead body, they would have produced it and put an end to this lie about resurrection once and for all? But they didn’t because they couldn’t.
All of these words and all of these works speak plainly about who Jesus is, that He is the one whom God sent into the world to save the world and give life to the world. But unbelief cannot be pierced by any number of works or any amount of evidence. Unbelief always puts up wall after wall after wall, refusing to believe. There is always another objection, another explanation. You do not believe Me because you are not of My flock.
The only thing that makes believers out of unbelievers is the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit, who goes wherever the Word of Jesus is spoken, and creates faith in His own good time and place. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ, as the Spirit proclaims Christ. It is a miracle that anyone believes ever. And yet, here you are. The Spirit dug you new ears, and exchanged your stone heart for a living heart of flesh, and made you a new creation in Jesus. He broke through all your walls.
But even so, our sinful flesh is always looking for more and better assurance than what God gives us in Jesus Christ. We are always trying to find something more, some more evidence, more proof, more works, more signs. But do we think we know better than God what will assure and comfort us? No, He gives us exactly what we need. The Word will be enough. In the middle of the hurricane of noise that surrounds us, He keeps speaking with a steady, never-ending voice: You are Mine. I know My own and My own know Me. They hear My voice and they follow Me. And no one is able to snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given all of them to Me is greater, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.
He knows that we will never be able to keep ourselves in the Hand of God. So He keeps speaking, keeps promising, keeps reminding. This is why we need to be here as often as possible, so that all the words and nonsense and babbling that is around us and before us every single day will never be able to drown out the Word of our Good Shepherd. I can’t tell you the number of times that I have spoken with people who don’t know what day it is; people who think they saw their grandparents, who have been dead for 50 years, just last week. But when I speak the words of Jesus to them, the words of Jesus’ absolution, the words of Jesus in the Scriptures, the words of Jesus in the prayer He gave, the words of Jesus that fill up the liturgy—they hear and they know the voice of their Shepherd.
This is why we fill up our minds and hearts and mouths with the words of Jesus, because when we can no longer hang on to Jesus, when our minds no longer work the way they’re supposed to, when we are helpless on our death beds, then Jesus uses those same words to hang on to us. No one can snatch you out of His hand. He is the Lamb whose blood washed you clean, the Lamb who is the Shepherd, who leads you to springs of living water, where God Himself will wipe away every tear. The Lamb who is the Shepherd leads you to eat from His own resurrection body and blood. The Lamb who is the Shepherd will lead you to the gathering of all the saints of God, from every tribe, language, people, and nation gathered around the throne and before the Lamb. And with those uncountable multitudes, we will sing, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. “And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7, ESV). Amen.
— Pr. Timothy Winterstein, 5/6/22