TEXT: John 14:15-21; 1 Peter 3:13-22; Acts 17:16-31
IT ALL COMES DOWN TO THIS ONE MAN!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

Brothers and sisters in Christ; Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 

This coming Thursday is the feast of the Ascension of our Lord.  Forty days after Easter it always falls on a Thursday.  It is a day to rejoice in Christ’s glorious ascending to the right hand of God - the position of total authority in heaven and on earth.   No earthquake, no tsunami, no tornado occurs outside of the authority of this Man.  By His appointment the heavens and the earth stand as they are on this day.

The Son of God, equal with the Father, is also true man born of the Virgin Mary.  God the Son has flesh and blood and bones.  As God and Man he humbled Himself unto death and rose in victory over death.  Ascended on high He now rules the universe!  Jesus’ Ascension trumpets this amazing truth.  It all comes down to this one Man who is the way and the truth and the life!



TEXT: John 14:15-21; 1 Peter 3:13-22; Acts 17:16-31
IT ALL COMES DOWN TO THIS ONE MAN!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting

Brothers and sisters in Christ; Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord. 

This coming Thursday is the feast of the Ascension of our Lord.  Forty days after Easter it always falls on a Thursday.  It is a day to rejoice in Christ’s glorious ascending to the right hand of God - the position of total authority in heaven and on earth.   No earthquake, no tsunami, no tornado occurs outside of the authority of this Man.  By His appointment the heavens and the earth stand as they are on this day.

The Son of God, equal with the Father, is also true man born of the Virgin Mary.  God the Son has flesh and blood and bones.  As God and Man he humbled Himself unto death and rose in victory over death.  Ascended on high He now rules the universe!  Jesus’ Ascension trumpets this amazing truth.  It all comes down to this one Man who is the way and the truth and the life!

That same truth is the center of our readings today!  In the midst of Athens - a city chock full of idols St. Paul said, “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious.  I found also this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’” The elite spent all their time telling or hearing something new.  They conversed and they debated and they formed religious images of art from their imaginations.  Just in case their pantheon of idols came up short they threw in one more for good measure - ‘To the unknown god.’” 

In response St. Paul proclaimed that God made the world and everything in it - that He made every nation of mankind from one man.  No idols of macro evolution here!  He continued, “God…commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”    St. Paul’s proclamation came down to one man – Jesus Christ and His resurrection!

St. Peter wrote to persecuted Christians in Asia Minor in like manner.  In your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience…(1 Peter 3:15, 16).  Notice that in speaking of your hope in Christ he does so in the context of the flood at the time of Noah and of the salvation God gives you in your baptism!  The ugly, terrible destruction and death that we see all around this spring recalls the world-wide devastation and death in the flood.  It was the greatest outpouring of God’s wrath before Calvary.  The flood and this spring’s destruction also point to the end of our own lives and the end of this troubled world.  The horrible scenes at home and abroad reflect our real condition as dying sinners in this dying world.  The ark of safety and life is found only in Jesus Christ.  With all the authority in heaven and on earth, He commanded you to be baptized.  It all comes down to this one Man!

He doesn’t command you to constantly talk about the hope you have in Christ to everyone in the world. (Share Alabama youth presentation)  He does command you to be ready to do so whenever anyone asks you about that hope.  He does command you to regard Christ as holy, as the hope you give answer to.  Constant teaching about Christ is to happen in the home for parents are to talk daily with their children about the Word of God (Deut. 6:4).  Lord, forgive us and help us!  Constant teaching about Christ is to happen when the Church gathers for worship, for pastors are to preach the Word in season and out of season (2 Timothy 4:1-5).  Lord, forgive us and help us.  But Scripture nowhere commands you to talk constantly about Christ in your place of work or to your neighbors or to your friends at school.  What Scripture does command is that you always be ready to give a defense, an answer for the hope that is in you.  You are to do so with gentleness and reverence.  You are to do so having a good conscience – not living in willful unrepentant sin - nor doubting God’s perfect forgiveness of the sin that clings to you.  Consider how such answers might be given.  And note that many questions serve this Gospel purpose – not just the highly unlikely question – “So why do you believe in Jesus?”

The question is asked, “Why are you so focused on weekly worship?  Do you think your habit of taking your family to church each week makes you better than everyone else?”  The gentle answer is given, “We are sinners and we gather together each week to receive the forgiveness and strength of the risen Christ for our weakness.  You are welcome to come with us and hear more.  He desires you and all people to receive the gifts of forgiveness that He won for the world on Calvary.”

Questions may be asked, “Isn’t it terrible what happened in Joplin, MO, and in Alabama and in Japan.  I guess when your time is up – it’s up!  Mother Nature has an awesome fury?  We were lucky to just have a cold/wet spring here in Wisconsin – don’t you think?”  Gentle answers may be given “death will come to all of us because of sin.  It is not a matter of luck but of the time appointed for us by God.  The death caused by these storms is an ugly enemy – as is the destruction we see.  There is no Mother Nature.  The world is terribly out of harmony due to the wrath of God the Father.  Our hope is the wrath He poured out against His own Son – on the cross – for our sin.  God is at peace with us through His blood.  Even should He use an F-5 tornado to call us from this life His peace towards those in Christ remains!  Earthly life is fragile and our dwelling places here are temporary.  What is eternal are the dwelling places He has prepared for us to remain with Him.  He desires you and every person to be with Him where He is.”

We are always to be ready to give a defense, an answer back, for the hope we have in Christ.  We are to do so with gentleness and reverence confessing that Jesus died to forgive the sins of all people, including those asking us questions.  We may also be given opportunity to confess Christ and to invite others to hear His Word when we aren’t specifically asked.  In family conversations, at student outreach tables, in international friendships, at various times – confessing the life that the risen Christ brings to us may flow forth without the prompting of a question.

It is important to note that the Greek pronouns used here are plural.  “the hope that is in you” means “the hope that is among you all.”  You see, the hope that Christ gives He gives to His Church together.  The county song that says, “Me and Jesus got our own thing going,” does not speak the truth.  The hope in the heart of each Christian is the hope that the risen Christ brings His gathered Church.  It is the hope of life and salvation received not only in baptism but also in the hearing of the Gospel and in the eating of His body and the drinking of His blood.  The hope that is in each Christian’s heart is not a different hope.  Rather, it is the one true hope that the risen Christ brings as He forgives our sins.  It all comes down to this one Man!

That’s where the good conscience comes from that answers back to God.  It comes as His gift – along with the forgiveness of sins.  Christ suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God.  There is no question about our great guilt!  Our hope is in the much greater grace of God that takes it all away!  We regard Him as holy by receiving His own holiness!  He has not abandoned us!

On the night of His betrayal, Jesus promised the coming of the Helper, the Spirit of Truth.  I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.  Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me.  And he who loves me will be loved by my Father.  All that Jesus said came down to one man – Himself! 

The word for “commandments” here is a rich word.  It is not the word used for the Law as in the Ten Commandments.  Its core meaning is that which Christ sets up and establishes - His instruction, His mandates, His institutions!  The word for “keep” means to have and to hold, to cherish as a treasure. 

As you read your bibles in English, it is important to be aware of a protestant distortion of this Greek word and others that are often simply translated as “obey” in English.  For instance in the NIV version, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…and teaching them to “obey” (in Matthew 28).  It is the same word as used in our text.  It does not mean, in the first instance, “to obey” the way “obey is ordinarily understood in our day.  In the first instance it means to guard and to keep as a treasure.  The ESV is better in translating as “observe” in that text and as “keep” in our text today. 

Make no mistake, Jesus wants your obedience and Jesus wants your love.  You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Mark 12:30).  How are you doing with that?  You see you can never obey and love God into a state of receiving His forgiveness and His love.  This text does not mean God is waiting on your obedience or your love for a reason to love you.  Good heavens, even earthly parents don’t operate on that basis with their children.  

You see, what Jesus says here is not so much a law like obeying the Ten Commandments – but a promise – to value and keep what He is giving.  Whoever has my commandments (my mandates – what I have set in place for you - what I am handing over to you) and keeps (treasures) them, he it is who loves me.  He it is who loves Jesus because He it is who receives Jesus’ love and thereby the Father’s love and thereby the love of the Holy Spirit!  It all comes down to this one Man!

You see, nothing that comes from God to you depends on your love.  Your love as a response to the Law is and always will be insufficient as will mine.  In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 John 4:10).  And his Son promised, If you love me, you will keep (treasure, guard) my commandments (my mandates. what I have authorized for you, my institutions).  And even that we always do imperfectly as Jesus brings us His perfect forgiveness.

The Word that enters your ears this morning is strange to the ears of this world full of idols.  The Holy Spirit has caused your heart to regard Christ the Lord as holy (unique, set apart, your only Savior from sin and death, the way, the truth, and the life).  It all comes down to this one Man whom the Spirit of truth declares to you.  .

Beloved of God, He has turned to you a Father’s heart!  He gave His dearest treasure!  That treasure spoke these words in the upper room the night before His death – the same night He instituted the treasure of His Holy Supper.  Ascended on high this man now has all the authority in heaven and on earth.  He can do exactly what He has promised and His promises are clear.  I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.”  “Because I live, you also will live.” 

In His Name, Amen. 

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a