Sunday, April 12, 2015

Sermon: 1 John 1:1-2:2, April 12, 2015

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The text this morning is from the First Letter of John, the first and second chapters:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— the life was made manifest, and we have seen it, and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was made manifest to us— that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. And we are writing these things so that our joy may be complete. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. 
Thus far the text.

My dear friends in Christ,
     Christ is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!  And that’s basically what John is saying in this extremely hopeful, wonderfully helpful passage.  For John, the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is no mere theological opinion.  It’s not high and lofty.  It’s not beyond his grasp.  It’s not in an ivory tower of theological superiority.  The Resurrection of Jesus Christ from His three-day rest in the tomb is gritty and real.  It’s bloody and meaty.  And it’s all true.

     You see, for John and the Apostles, Jesus is of utmost importance, and it should be this way for us, too.  Here, John tells us about this Jesus, and it actually echoes much of what John wrote in the first chapter of the Gospel bearing His name.  First, John begins with a bunch of words that tend to be confusing.  “That which was… which we have… which we looked…”  What does he mean?  To what is he referring?  He is referring to none other than Jesus Christ.

     That which was from the beginning is Jesus.  That which we have heard is Jesus.  That which we have seen with our eyes is Jesus.  That which we looked upon and touched with our hands is Jesus.  This Jesus is the Word of Life.  That’s what John is saying.  You see?  

     For John, Jesus just isn’t this God up in the sky who is impersonal, doesn’t know, doesn’t love you, and who you don’t know.  Jesus is John’s friend, and he’s seen Him, loved Him, touched Him, listened to Him.  This Jesus, who has been around for all of eternity past, the one who was never made but begotten, the one who is God, John knew and touched and heard.

     Imagine how that would blow your mind if you were John.  A humble fisherman, called to follow after some wandering rabbi, realizes eventually, though Jesus had been saying it all along, that rabbi is God Himself in human flesh.  And He’s your friend.  You’ve laughed, you’ve cried, you’ve done everything with Him for the past three years.

     There’s only one thing for John to do now.  He’s gotta preach Jesus.  And that’s what he does.  He testifies to the world about the truth of Christ.  He lives in such a way that points to Christ, and in that living, as an Apostle, as a friend, as a bishop of the Church, as a preacher, John preaches Christ and Him crucified.  In fact, he can’t stop.  John can’t stop talking about Jesus.  And he always has the same message.  His Gospel and his first epistle say the same thing, pointing to Jesus who is God before all the worlds began, who became flesh, who is the light of the world, who brings sin and death to their knees, but raises us up out of sin and death, who gives to us the grace of God.  John can’t help himself.  His message is always the same.  Here it is, we’re going to break down the passage from John.  If you will, I’ll speak as John out of his epistle here.

     Jesus is from the beginning.  He is God.  And we have heard the very voice of God telling us what to do, what to preach, what to believe.  And we know that this man, this Jesus, is God for we have seen Him and gazed upon Him and touched Him.  We have seen Him as the fulfillment of all the Scriptures.  We have opened up the Old Testament, the Word of God to His people, and we have seen that Jesus fulfills every passage regarding the Messiah.

     He is the one who has long been prophesied.  He has saved His people from their sins.  He was the one who was accursed for hanging upon the tree.  He bore the punishment that redeemed us from sin, death, and the devil.  And we know this because we have seen Him rise bodily from the grave.  No one but God Himself can make Himself rise, and thus, He is God is human flesh.  He is our God.  

     We have seen Him, He has appeared to us.  He appeared to us on the shores of Galilee.  He appeared to us in the upper room when we were hiding ourselves away.  And He continues to appear to us in His Word and Sacrament, as He has promised.

     And now, we want to tell you who this Jesus is so that we would be of the same mind and the same heart.  We want to proclaim to you this Jesus, preach Him to you, so that you would hear the very Word that He has for you.  For indeed, Christ has come to reconcile us to the Father.  If we are then in Christ, we have a right standing before God the Father and we need not fear Him.  In fact, we have joy because we may stand before the Father as righteous ones.  We want you with us; you standing with us before Him, before God, that would only make our joy all the more full.  If we are all one, our joy would be complete.

     But there are some who refuse to have a fellowship with us.  They say they are beloved of Christ, but they are not.  There are some who, refusing to have fellowship with us, refusing to say the same thing we do, refusing to confess the same doctrine we have, and they refuse Christ.  Some are even in our own midst.  And we must stop believing that they are okay, or even that they are Christians.

     You see, they walk in the darkness.  Their minds and hearts have not been illuminated by the Holy Spirit, because they continually reject Him.  After all, the work of the Holy Spirit is to bring to us two words: words of Law and words of Gospel.  The Law kills you, it declares you to be the most wretched sinner that has ever existed.  This is the Word of Jesus Christ.  This is the Word He gave to Moses on Mount Sinai, the Word He confirmed with the people of Israel, the Word that He wrote onto the hearts of all of humanity.  And it is the Word that we refuse to keep, refuse to love, refuse to obey.  We are damned by our not keeping the Law.  And the Holy Spirit in our hearts and Jesus by His Word tell us this.  We are damnable people.

     If we refuse to admit this, if we refuse to say the same thing as Jesus here, then we are in the darkness.  We’re walking around, pretending to see, pretending everything is fine.  But we will fall into pits.  We will walk into the mouths of roaring lions.  You see, there are those, even in our own fellowship, our own congregation, who claim to have Christ, but they refuse to say that they have sinned, that they are sinners.  They refuse to own up to what they do.  They live in sin and approach the Altar.  They continue to sin and ask for absolution without ever repenting.  They are not of our fellowship, and we are worried for them for unless they repent, they are lost.

     But, God is good.  He is gracious.  And He is light.  Because the other Word the Holy Spirit bears to us is the Word of the Gospel, which is the Word of Jesus Christ, that He has saved you from your sins, that He has redeemed you, a lost and condemned person, from sin, death, and the devil.  And He tells you that you are forgiven.  Here, He has given you pastors and bishops who, when hearing the confession of repentant sinners, forgive all of their sin.  And in doing this, in turning sinner’s hearts to see their damnable state, to see their awful and wretched sin, Jesus brings those sinners, you and especially me, a special Word, that Word of forgivness.

     You see, Jesus says that we are all sinners.  This is true.  If we have no sin, if we even say that in anything we do that it was a sinless act, then we call Jesus a liar.  Jesus knows what you have done, and He is able to see that every act you do with your thoughts, with your words, with your deeds, is sinful and unclean.  Nothing we do is good, because it is all tainted with sin.  So, do not make Jesus a liar.  Confess this.  Confess that you are a sinner.

     Then, and only then, are you in the light of God.  You see, God doesn’t mind sinners in His presence.  He wants sinners in His presence.  But, you must be cleansed.  And if you refuse the Word of the Lord, you are refusing His cleansing, His forgiveness, Christ’s righteousness for your burden of sin.  You are refusing to be in the light.  God offers His light to all of creation, but so many choose to walk in the darkness.  Do not be in the darkness, little children.  Be in the light.  Confess your sins, for you have heard the Word of the Law, confess them and find here the gracious God who gives you every good thing in His righteous Word of Gospel. 

     After all, God is good and gracious and just and He will keep His Word.  He promised that the forgiveness of a man in Christ is His forgiveness.  If ever the pastor forgives your sins, you are forgiven by God.  If ever anyone forgives your sins, you are forgiven by God.  He is faithful and He will do it.  He is just and He pours out grace upon grace in His forgiveness.  

     And He does all of this because the Father has poured out His wrath against Christ.  Christ is like the sandbag that holds back the wrath of God from you.  He bears the brunt of the flood of that wrath.  You know what this looks like: you sandbag against the rising flood so that the flood does not overcome the city.  This is Christ against God’s wrath on the cross.  This is what propitiation means.  He takes all of the wrath from God so that you may live in peace and tranquility.  He holds it all back from you, and from the entire world, so that all may hear the Word of God and believe it. 

     This is our Great Lord’s work.  This is why He has come.  He has come to make you children of the light, not leaving you as children of darkness.  He has come to set you free, not burden you.  Admit your sins, confess them.  Take a load off, Annie.  Show yourself to be His child and He will forgive you all of your sins.  He has forgiven you.  He does so in His Holy Word, His Holy Absolution, His Holy Baptism, His Holy Supper.

     You see, all of this is what John is saying.  He wants to see you in the resurrection, and He shall.  For we will indeed be found faithful.  We are in fellowship with each other, we are in fellowship with the Apostles, we are in fellowship with the Church on earth, and we are in fellowship with the Church who has gone to be with Christ.  We are always with them, for we are sinners and we know it.  But we know we have a greater Savior than our sin, Jesus Christ, the righteous.  And from the grave, that place where He went in paying the price for the forgiveness He so freely offers to you today, from that grave, He is risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Alleluia!  In Jesus’ name, amen.

     Now may the peace of God which passes all human understanding guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus, our Lord!  Amen.

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