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Archive for July, 2012

Joseph of Arimathea

This Joseph, mentioned in all four Gospels, came from a small village called Arimathea in the hill country of Judea. He was a respected member of the Sanhedrin, the Jewish religious council in Jerusalem. He was presumably wealthy, since he owned his own unused tomb in a garden not far from the site of Jesus’ crucifixion (Matthew 27:60). Joseph, a man waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went to Pontius Pilate after the death of Jesus and asked for Jesus’ body (Mark 15:43). Along with Nicodemus, Joseph removed the body and placed it in the tomb (John 19:38-39). Their public devotion contrasted greatly to the fearfulness of the disciples who had abandoned Jesus.

Reflection:  Joseph of Arimathea is a critical actor in the burial of Jesus.  If a congregation were to do a Passion play, the role of Joseph would be a bit part, just one or two lines. Many an actor wants of course the lead. Yet, like any part in a play, big or small, each role is crucial. Most of us will ever and only have a bit part in the life we are called to lead, yet your part is crucial, even critical in the lives of someone else.  We will flub our lines and make missteps and miss our cue.  Yet, the Lord will teach us the role we are assigned and it takes practice, the practice of discipleship and Joseph of Arimathea was Jesus’ disciple.  He was looking for the Kingdom of God and he buried Jesus’ Body.  When he put Jesus in his tomb, he may have not known he was entombing the reign of God.  But even the large stone in front of his new tomb could not hold the Lord of life. He is risen.  By his service to the Lord, Joseph of Arimathea, helped form  The Apostles’ Creed:  “and was buried and on the third day…”  Do not minimize nor maximize your calling in the Lord’s work. You just may have the ‘line’, the part that the Lord uses for His work of salvation.

Prayer of the Day

Merciful God, Your servant Joseph of Arimathea prepared the body of our Lord and Savior for burial with reverence and godly fear and laid Him in his own tomb. As we follow the example of Joseph, grant to us, Your faithful people, that same grace and courage to love and serve Jesus with sincere devotion all the days of our lives; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

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Lessons for July 30th:
Psalmody: Psalm 50:1-6
Additional Psalm: Psalm 130
Old Testament Reading: 1 Samuel 15:10-35/ New Testament Reading: Acts 24:24-25:12

The Lessons for this day are from The Treasury of Daily Prayer.  They do not reflect the Commemoration of Robert Barnes, Confessor and Martyr.  (The brief bio on Robert Barnes is below, also for your edification.) I included the appointed lessons  because of the reflection below by  Pr. Murray  in his wonderful book of meditations with the Church Fathers for daily prayer:  A Year with the Church Fathers:  Meditations for Each Day of the Church Year (Concordia Publishing House)

 Pr. Murray is reflecting on the Old Testament lesson (listed above) in which the Lord ordered King Saul, after winning a battle, to kill all his opponents including the King, Agag.  Because Saul spared King Agag, the Lord forsook Saul as King and regret ever having trusted him!  This is a rough lesson by our modern/post-modern sensibilities.

Please read Pr. Murray’s reflection. Here is my brief take on Saul and Agag which I think is consonant with Pastor Murray’s.

 In the St. Augustine quote below, the Bishop of Hippo disapprovingly observes that one could call what Saul did as “compassionate disobedience.”     Compassionate disobedience to the Lord in His unvarnished Word.  We do a lot of that in our day and win the roaring approval of the world:  adultery, same-sex ‘marriage’, violence, greed as “good”, gossip, virulent atheism and the like.  No wonder we are in such bad shape.  If Robert Barnes had compassionately disobeyed his calling, yes, he would have saved his life…but not his soul.  It is not easy but Jesus said much about bearing one’s cross and self-denial.  If we obey the self, we certainly can not obey the Lord. No, His will is hard to understand and that’s why He calls our obedience in Jesus Christ faith.  We think by our compassionate disobedience that we are saving lives…no, we are losing lives…even our own and those we love. This is not our calling.

Meditation by Pr. Murray

There can be no freeform holiness that comes from our own hearts. We often define and act on our own set of pious principles in seeking our own righteousness. This is purely a rebellion against the clear and unchanging will of God in the Law. There can be no holiness apart from the specific commands of a holy God. Our revision of the divine Law arises from seemingly righteous principles. Perhaps Saul spared Agag (1 Samuel 15) out of a desire to be compassionate and gracious, which God Himself claims to be (Psalm 86:15). Why shouldn’t Saul be able to get in on the compassion act? Simply because he had a direct command from God to do otherwise.

A veteran pastor was confronted by two married couples whom he considered pious members of his parish. They announced to him that they were swapping spouses and wondered if he might unite them in a double wedding. They argued that their spouse swap was loving and that, after all, the Holy Spirit had let them know that this was a good thing. He strongly suggested to them that they could not ignore the Sixth Commandment, and that maybe their spouse swap was merely self-serving. Our impieties are often perpetrated for pious reasons; love and compassion being common among those pious reasons. We even argue that God agrees with us. Like Saul, who as a worldly ruler considered it his prerogative to spare Agag, our pieties tend to benefit ourselves. We must flee from creating our own righteousness and remain tied down to the clear Word of God.

“Saul saw fit to use compassion when he spared the king whom God commanded to be slain (1 Samuel 15:9-11). However, he deserved to have his disobedient compassion, or, if you prefer it, his compassionate disobedience, rejected and condemned, that man may be on his guard against extending mercy to his fellow man in opposition to the sentence of Him by whom man was made. Truth, by the mouth of the Incarnate Himself, proclaims as if in a thundering voice, ‘Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God’ (John 3:5). And in order to except martyrs from this sentence, to whose lot it has fallen to be slain for the name of Christ before being washed in the Baptism of Christ, He says in another passage, ‘Whoever loses his life for My sake will find it’ (Matthew 10:39)” (Augustine, On the Soul and its Origin, 2.17).

 

Prayer of the Day

Almighty God, heavenly Father, You gave courage to Your servant Robert Barnes to give up his life for confessing the true faith during the Reformation. May we continue steadfast in our confession of the apostolic faith and suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from it; through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Robert Barnes, Confessor and Martyr

Bio:  Remembered as a devoted disciple of Martin Luther, Robert Barnes is considered to be among the first Lutheran martyrs. Born in 1495, Barnes became the prior of the Augustinian monastery at Cambridge, England. Converted to Lutheran teaching, he shared his insights with many English scholars through writings and personal contacts. During a time of exile to Germany, he became friends with Luther and later wrote a Latin summary of the main doctrines of the Augsburg Confession titled Sententiae. Upon his return to England, Barnes shared his Lutheran doctrines and views in person with King Henry VIII and initially had a positive reception. In 1529, Barnes was named royal chaplain. The changing political and ecclesiastical climate in his native country, however, claimed him as a victim; he was burned at the stake in Smithfield in 1540. His final confession of faith was published by Luther, who called his friend Barnes “our good, pious dinner guest and houseguest … this holy martyr, St. Robert Barnes.”

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Mary, Martha, and Lazarus were disciples with whom Jesus had a special bond of love and friendship. The Gospel According to Saint John records that “Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus (11:5).”

On one occasion, Martha welcomed Jesus into their home for a meal. While she did all the work, Mary sat at Jesus’ feet listening to his Word and was commended by Jesus for choosing the “good portion, which will not be taken away from her (Luke 10:38-42).”

When their brother Lazarus died, Jesus spoke to Martha this beautiful Gospel promise: “I am the Resurrection and the Life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.” We note that in this instance, it was Martha who made the wonderful confessions of faith in Christ (John 11:1-44).

Ironically, raising Lazarus from the dead made Jesus’ enemies among the Jewish leaders more determined than ever to kill Him (11:45-57).

Six days before Jesus was crucified, Mary anointed His feet with a very expensive fragrant oil and wiped them with her hair, not knowing at the time that she was doing it in preparation for her Lord’s burial (John 12:1-8). (From The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House) 

Reflection:  The old theologians rightly commented that Mary and Martha represent two essential aspects of our life in Christ:  respectively, the via contemplativa and the via activa, the way of contemplation  and the way of action/service.  Martha was busy with much serving.  Mary was seated at the feet of the Lord listening to Him teach. Both are essential.  Contemplation without service leads to mere mysticism and the tendency to look inward and not outward to the Lord in His Word.  Service, action without the Word and the contemplation of it,  results in mere activism and busy-ness and as evidenced in Martha:  resentment.  And I think the order of contemplation and service is reflected in the 7 days of the week:  The Lords’ Day for His Word and then week of work.  See  Luther’s teaching of the 3rd Commandment.  In fact, every day should begin with prayer and contemplation  of His Scriptures for our daily bread.  First, contemplation/prayer then service, the first is the root of faith and faith  grows the fruit of love. 

The Lord chided Martha for her busy-ness and rightly so, but preachers have a tendency to overly chide Martha in their sermons and extol Mary’s faithfulness in listening to Jesus’ sermon.  When Martha and Mary’s brother died, Mary was so distraught she could not go with Martha to meet the Lord.  Martha did and the Lord said to her:   “Your brother will rise again.”   Martha responded:   “I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”  Martha knew her catechism!  Then the Lord said, “I am the Resurrection and the life”.  Martha was tough, pragmatic and knew her stuff!  And she loved her sister and brother. So it is not so easy for us to pigeon-hole a person.  Martha contemplated as well and learned as well from the Lord, while Mary in her hour of grief forgot.  Yes, we are all Mary and Martha and knew both the via contemplative  and via activa around the Lord in His Word and Sacraments to us, for us, in us and for the life of the world. Let us pray…

Heavenly Father, Your beloved Son befriended frail humans like us to make us Your own. Teach us to be like Jesus’ dear friends from Bethany, that we might serve Him faithfully like Martha, learn from Him earnestly like Mary, and ultimately be raised by Him like Lazarus. Through their Lord and ours, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever

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Need a Laugh?

A colleague posted this on Facebook. You don’t need German to understand this commercial: “So papa, how do you like the iPad we got you?”

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Johann Sebastian Bach, Kantor

Bio:  Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is acknowledged as one of the most famous and gifted composers in the Western world. Orphaned at age ten, Bach was mostly self-taught in music. His professional life as conductor, performer, composer, teacher, and organ consultant began at age nineteen in the town of Arnstadt and ended in Leipzig, where for the last twenty-seven years of his life he was responsible for all the music in the city’s four Lutheran churches. In addition to being a superb keyboard artist, the genius and bulk of Bach’s vocal and instrumental compositions remain overwhelming. A devout and devoted Lutheran, he is especially honored in Christendom for his lifelong insistence that his music was written primarily for the liturgical life of the Church to glorify God and edify His people. (from The Treasury of Daily Prayer, Concordia Publishing House) 

Reflection:  On this day in 1750, Johann Sebastian Bach died, thus it is for the saints in Christ, a “heavenly birthday”.   When I was at  Concordia Junior College, Milwaukee (Now Concordia University, Mequon Wisconsin), I took the one credit on Lutheran Hymnody.   Professor “Ollie” Ruprecht pointed out that Bach’s library had around 80 volumes in it.  Prof. Rupprecht pointed out that back then book were quite expensive and about 60  of those volumes were books of orthodox Lutheran theology.  

Now I may not remember the professor’s numbers correctly but the impression has lasted.   Orthodox Lutheran theology is all about proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Son of the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God.  And so did Bach’s music.  One of Bach’s most marked set of volumes was Abraham Calov’s 3 book set of Luther’s Bible, with Calov’s commentary.  Bach, spending a large fraction of a year’s salary, purchased a 7 volume edition of Luther’s writings which Calov has based his commentary.  Calov wrote regarding Luther:

“It hinders a preacher greatly if he wants to look around and concern himself with what people want to hear and not hear.”

Bach double-marked that sentence for emphasis (from Evening in the Palace of  Reason by James R. Gaines). That sentence sums up Bach’s understanding of music, “his” music, as he would mark on his scores AMG, ad mairorem Dei, to the greater glory of God.  In his day, the Enlightenment, ‘modern’ music was suppose to reflect how the composer felt and what the people wanted to hear.  Sound familiar?  Not for J. S. Bach:  it was to proclaim the Gospel.  In fact, one author’s book on Bach is appropriately entitled, The 5th Evangelist.

 Bach in the age of the Enlightenment was already becoming a ‘has-been’ and not well-received.  Only two of Bach’s works were ever published in his life time.  But the word of the Lord endures forever and the Lord gave Johann a gift that he did use to the greater glory of our Lord.

On the blog Cyberbrethren, there is a good article on Bach and the writer observes,

.. That’s usually how it is with Bach. People grow increasingly uncomfortably the more specifically Christian the talk gets. But Bach’s great church music was all about Christ. They can’t help but tell us that when they feature the popular chorale from Bach’s Cantata 147,  Jesus, Joy of Man’s Desiring.

Almighty God, beautiful in majesty and majestic in holiness, You have taught us in Holy Scripture to sing Your praises and have given to Your servant Johann Sebastian Bach grace to show forth Your glory in his music. Continue to grant this gift of inspirationto all Your servants who write and make music for Your people, that with joy we on earth may glimpse Your beauty and at length know the inexhaustible richness of Your  creation in Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives,and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. 

Luther on Music:

I would certainly like to praise music with all my heart as the excellent gift of God which it is and to commend it to everyone…. Next to the Word of God, music deserves the highest praise. She is a mistress and governess of those human emotions—to pass over the animals—which as masters govern men or more often overwhelm them. No greater commendation than this can be found—at least not by us. For whether you wish to comfort the sad, to terrify the happy, to encourage the despairing, to humble the proud, to calm the passionate, or to appease those full of hate—and who could number all these masters of the human heart, namely, the emotions, inclinations, and affections that impel men to evil or good?—what more effective means than music could you find? The Holy Ghost himself honors her as an instrument for his proper work when in his Holy Scriptures he asserts that through her his gifts were instilled in the prophets, namely, the inclination to all virtues, as can be seen in Elisha [II Kings 3:15]. On the other hand, she serves to cast out Satan, the instigator of all sins, as is shown in Saul, the king of Israel (1 Sam. 16-23)

Thus it was not without reason that the fathers and prophets wanted nothing else to be associated as closely with the Word of God as music. Therefore, we have so many hymns and Psalms where message and music join to move the listener’s soul, while in other living beings and [sounding] bodies music remains a language without words. After all, the gift of language combined with the gift of song was only given to man to let him know that he should praise God with both word and music, namely, by proclaiming [the Word of God] through music and by providing sweet melodies with words. (The Treasury of Daily Prayer)

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This article was originally published in 2005 in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Recent events in the Aurora movie theater draw us again to the Lord’s Word for wisdom and comfort. A pdf article in brochure form is available here, please feel free to use and distribute this in any way to find to be helpful for the Gospel.

The images and reports of the human suffering coming from the southern states is heartbreaking for all of us. The winds of hurricane Katrina blew in death and destruction. Hundreds, perhaps thousands dead, millions of homes destroyed, and billions of dollars in damage. Where is God in the midst of all this destruction, disaster and catastrophe?

The Ancient Question

This question is an ancient one, the question of theodicy: How can an all-powerful and all-good God coexist with all the evil in the world? The answers usually shake out in two different directions, either God is not all-powerful (and therefore cannot stop evil) or God is not all-good (and therefore does not want to stop evil). Both of these are wrong. The Bible teaches that God is all-powerful:

“But our God is in heaven;
He does whatever He pleases.” Psalm 115:3

Scripture also teaches that God is also all-good:

“No one is good but One, that is, God.” Matthew 19:17

“Oh give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good.” Psalm 136:1

So then, the question remains, where is God in the midst of evil, disaster, catastrophe and destruction?

Hide and Seek with God

Where is God? How do we find Him? And, more importantly, how do we know how He looks at us? Does He love us or hate us? If we see disaster and catastrophe as an expression of God’s heart toward us, then we can only conclude that God hates us or is mad at us. But is it true that God hates us?

God is often hidden from us. “Truly You are a God, who hide Yourself, O God of Israel, the Savior!” [Isaiah 45:15] This is how God is in our suffering; He is hidden, not to be found. If we go looking for God where He is hidden we will never find Him. If we ask, “Why, Lord, did this happen?” we will never find the answer, and the more we ask, the farther it seems the answer is from us. Chasing after God’s hidden will only leads us closer and closer to despair.

What, then, are we to do? If we can’t determine how God looks at us from the circumstance of our lives, how are we to know it? How do we know if God loves us or hates us? The answer: Jesus and His cross. This is where God has revealed Himself. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, so that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” [John 3:16] We know that God loves us because of Jesus and His death on the cross. This is the only way that we know the Father’s heart.

To say it another way, if we try to determine how God feels or thinks about us in any other way than Jesus’ death on the cross, the only conclusion will be that God is angry with us, that He hates us. We can never be sure of God’s abounding love for us unless we fix our eyes on Jesus and our hearts on the good promises of His Gospel. [See John 1:18; 14:7-11] Jesus is the demonstration of God’s love, mercy and grace toward us. Apart from Jesus all we can know of God is His anger and wrath.

If we seek to know God through the disasters and catastrophes in this world, be they personal, national or even world-wide, we will never find Him to be a good and gracious God, but only a God of anger and wrath. So we seek to find God where He has revealed Himself: in the life and death of Jesus. There we find God who loves us even to the point of suffering and death; there we are comforted and assured that God cares for us.

We find God, not in our own suffering, but in the suffering of Jesus. Finding Jesus in the midst of suffering gives meaning to our own suffering and death, for being sure of Jesus’ love for us we can endure suffering and even death to His glory. We know that in the midst of suffering and devastation that He will “never leave us or forsake us.” [Hebrews 13:5]

Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People?

We know that bad things happen, but do they happen to ‘good people’? Are there really good people? Are we all so good and innocent that we deserve a life with no suffering? It would be more accurate to say: bad things happen to bad people. ‘Bad people’, that’s how the Bible describes all of us. “There is none righteous, no, not one… There is none who does good, no, not one.” [Romans 3:10,12] We are truly poor miserable sinners, and so we are always praying for mercy: that God would give us what we don’t deserve. We deserve His wrath and punishment because of our sins, but we pray that He would not look upon our sins, but upon Christ and His cross, and spare us from what we deserve.

But there was one good person: Jesus. He was perfect and sinless. And something bad did happen to Him: He went to Jerusalem, was rejected, suffered and died. In the history of the earth, this is the only bad thing to happen to a good person. And so instead of asking, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” we should ask, “Why did a bad thing happen to the good person?” This is the right question, and we know the answer. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” [Romans 5:8]

Why did a bad thing happen to this Good Person? For us and for our salvation. He died for us, in our place, for the remission of our sins. And this forgiveness He gives freely, as a gift. We do not deserve His grace and love and forgiveness and life and salvation and the sure hope of heaven, but He gives them to us anyhow. Here our human desire for justice is turned on its head. The Gospel is not fair; Jesus gets our sins and death, we get His righteousness and life. No, the Gospel is not fair, but it is good, and so we rejoice.

The Purpose of Suffering

In Luke 13 some people report a tragedy to Jesus, that massacre of some Galileans at the hands of Pilate. Jesus responds,

“Do you suppose that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse sinners than all other men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish.” [Luke 13:2-5]

Jesus knows that we want someone or something to blame for tragedy; that catastrophe must be punishment for a particularly bad sin. This type of thinking would say, “New Orleans is being punished for all of its wickedness.” Now, New Orleans is certainly a city full of wickedness, but this is the type of thinking that Jesus rejects. Were the men slaughtered by Pilate or the men crushed by the tower worse than other men? Jesus answers, “No.” Were the people killed by the hurricane or left homeless by the flood waters worse sinners than everyone else? Jesus answers, “No.” You cannot work backward and deduce a person’s sinfulness based on the tragedies that happen to them. Job, for example, was an example of uprightness, and yet is visited with tragedy after tragedy.

While Jesus doesn’t give us the reason for the tragedy, He does, however, say what we are to do when we hear of tragedy, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” [Luke 13:3,5] Whenever we see or hear of a catastrophe we are to repent, knowing the we deserve the same, or worse, and that it is only by God’s grace that we are spared and given another day. God’s purpose is always repentance, that we are sorry for our sins and at the same time trust the promise that our sins are forgiven through Jesus death on the cross.

The flesh reacts just the opposite when tragedy strikes. It rises up in pride and anger against God and cries, “How could You let this happen?” The sinful flesh thinks that it deserves a life of peace with no suffering, but faith knows better. We deserve nothing that the Lord gives. May God grant that tragedies, big and small, always lead us to repentance and not a hardened heart, to humility and not pride, that we may receive His visitation with meekness and faith.

Testing Faith and Love

Dr. Luther teaches us this about suffering:

We should be comforted by our certainty that it is God’s punishment sent upon us not only to punish sin but also to test our faith and love- our faith in order that we may see and know what our attitude is toward God, and our love in order that we may see what our attitude is toward our neighbor. (Luther: Letters of Spiritual Council, ed. Theodore Tappert, Regent College Publishing, Vancouver, BC. 1955. p. 237)

Luther reminds us that catastrophe and disaster are a test of our faith toward God and our love toward our neighbor.

Instead of fear and despair, disaster should provoke and strengthen our faith in God. Job is our example. After he had lost almost everything (including his ten children) his wife says, “Do you still hold to your integrity? Curse God and die!” But Job does not let disaster drive him from God. He responds to his wife, “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept evil?” [Job 2:9-10] Job’s disaster doesn’t silence his prayers but amplifies them; it doesn’t quench his faith but strengthens it.

Luther also notes that catastrophe is a test of our love, providing opportunities to love our neighbors. James writes, “If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warm and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?” [James 2:15-16]

We rejoice that catastrophes provide us the opportunity to help our neighbors in time of need, to clothe the naked, feed the hungry and tend to the sick. Faith always works in love for the neighbor, keeping the law, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” [Leviticus 19:18] Faith looks upon the neighbor’s need as an opportunity to love and give.

Thus disaster provides the opportunity for us to confess our faith and God and to show our love for our neighbor.

The Schoolhouse of Hope

This life is full of disaster and catastrophe. We live in a veil of tears, in the valley of the shadow of death. [Psalm 23:4] In all of this, all of our struggles and tragedies, all of our sorrow and tears, all of our catastrophes and disasters and in the midst of suffering and death, in all of this we are learning to hope for heaven. This life is the schoolhouse of hope; we learn from this life to long for the life to come, to long for heaven where “God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying; and there shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.” [Revelation 21:4] In all of our suffering and pain we look to heaven and the hope that the Lord has for us there, and we cling even tighter to the sure promises that He has given us of eternal life.

May God continue to grant us His Holy Spirit, that we live evermore in faith toward Him and fervent love for one another, and in the midst of all of this world’s disasters and catastrophes cling to the sure hope of eternal life in His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

Pastor Wolfmueller
Saturday, Pentecost 15, 2005

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At the beginning of this past Sunday’s Gospel reading (St. Mark 6 : 14-29) Herod Antipas hears the news of Jesus’ Name becoming well known.  Herod Antipas heard theological discussion on the identity of Jesus of Nazareth. 

Some said, “John the Baptist has been raised from the dead. That is why these miraculous powers are at work in him.” 15 But others said, “He is Elijah.” And others said, “He is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.” (Mark 6)

In a similar fashion, Jesus asked for the same discussion over His identity in Mark 8: 27-30 and received similar answers from His disciples:

 And on the way he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” 28And they told him, “John the Baptist; and others say, Elijah; and others, one of the prophets.” (Mark 8) 

The similarity of these responses seem to reflect the theological scuttlebutt. The theological answers are about the same except here in chapter 6, Herod Antipas reaches a theological conclusion, but Peter made his confession:  “You are the Christ.”   Herod Antipas concluded:   “John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.”  

A conclusion and a confession  are  not the same.  A conclusion may reflect an intellectually settled opinion but that’s all.  A confession involves one’s whole person.  A person will not risk martyrdom for a conclusion but risk one’s life for a confession. Peter’s Confession comes by the revelation of the Father (St. Matthew 16:17). Herod’s confession comes from his own estranged head and heart.  Herod Antipas’ conclusion is his own ‘theology’ which seems to come from his need.    

Herod Antipas’ conclusion was factually incorrect, but why would he have reached such a conclusion?  Herod Antipas had John in his palace to preach.  He kept John safe, we are told.  Maybe Herod Antipas reached his conclusion because he could assuage himself in the guilt of his sin of killing the prophet by the lie  that John was actually alive, resurrected!  Very convenient!

We really  do not know because the text does not say so but never the less, ‘Jesus-is-John- raised- from- the-dead” is blatantly a false theology.  With many blatant false theologies, men and women assuage themselves  of their guilt from Scientology to Mormonism to works righteousness to all sorts of spiritualities, thereby skirting the real thing:  forgiveness of sinners in the Lord, true repentance, day by day, in His grace, mercy and peace. Confession of His holy Name for sinners is repentance and forgiveness. Herod wanted to be excused not forgiven because forgiveness would have meant Herod leaving his sinful way of life.   Herod Antipas wanted to be excused of his guilt by this false and heretical teaching but there are no excuses before the living God:  In Him there is only forgiveness.  In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, 14who is the guarantee of ourinheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory. (Ephesians 1)  

O Lord, You granted Your prophets strength to resist the temptations of the devil and courage to proclaim repentance. Give us pure hearts and minds to follow Your Son faithfully even into suffering and death; through the same Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.

(Opening Collect, 7th Sunday After Pentecost)

In this Medieval masterpiece, the Isenheim altarpiece, John the Baptist is to the right of the Cross, pointing as he was called to preach: Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world–St. John 1: 29

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