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BETHLEHEM LUTHERAN CHURCH: | Mason City, Iowa USA | Pastor Mark Lavrenz

May 14, 2017  SERMON ARCHIVE

Sunday Sermon - Pastor Lavrenz Stained Glass - Communion

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

The text for our meditation today is the Gospel Lesson for this Fifth Sunday of Easter, John 14:1-14. There we read these words:

Jesus said, "Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father's house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going." Thomas said to him, "Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?" Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him." Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves. "Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father. Whatever you ask in my name, this I will do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.

We begin in the name of Jesus, AMEN

Dear Christian friends, Imagine the reaction you would get at some gathering or another if you were to start the conversation by saying out loud, "I can do greater things than Jesus did."

Obviously, those people who heard you would probably think you were either crazy or you were making a tasteless and ill-mannered joke. The few people who might take you seriously would probably suggest that you think way too much of yourself.

I mean, how could you even dare to joke that you do greater things than the things your Lord Jesus did? Who are you to make such an audacious claim?

Well, dear friends, you are the hearers of God's living and powerful Word, that is who you are. You are the ones in whom God has planted His miraculous gift of faith; You are the believers who are undeniably included in Jesus' Words from this Gospel.

You dare to confess by faith that you do greater things than Jesus did because Jesus Christ Himself said, "Whoever believes in Me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do."

Right now, you are probably feeling a little bit like the Virgin Mary felt when the angel appeared to her and declared that she would be the mother of God. Through the angel, God said to Mary some things that sounded just as impossible for her as today's Gospel might sound for you. God told Mary she would do something that was totally possible to for her to do: "You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus" (Luke 1:31).

In a similar way, God is saying something to you in today's Gospel that sounds equally impossible: "You shall do greater works than Jesus did." As impossible as this sounds for you, we know and believe that "nothing will be impossible for God" (Luke 1:37).

Stained Glass Baptism Window

There are a couple of ways to think about Jesus' words in today's Gospel, that you will do greater things than He. Luther explained this Gospel to refer to the limitations of Christ's human body during the days of His humiliation. Simply stated, Jesus did not get around that much.

Any of you who has ever been outside of Iowa has traveled farther than Jesus traveled in Palestine. Martin Luther said "Christ preached and worked miracles only in a small nook, and for just a short time" (Luther, AE 24, p. 78).

By comparison, most of you here have been baptized and have confessed the faith from the earliest days of childhood. Even if you counted only those times you spoke the Apostles' Creed, each one of you here has proclaimed the life-giving, faith-bestowing Word of God more times and possibly in more places than Jesus did.

The Lord Jesus Christ certainly initiated the work of spreading the Gospel throughout the world, but this work extended "farther and farther through the apostles and those preachers who came after them" (Ibid.) than it did through Jesus alone.

The same work of spreading the good news of God's salvation continues to happen through you even today. This speaking of God's life-giving Word happens through your confession of faith, through your giving of gifts, through your personal reliance upon God's gift of Holy Baptism and through your reception of Holy Communion.

In view of these things, which proclaim the wonders of God unceasingly to the world around you, Jesus says to you today, "whoever believes in Me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do." This is true because there are many more of you than there is of Jesus.

Another way you should understand this verse has to do with the great love and compassion Jesus has for you. In other words, Jesus' Words in today's Gospel have to do with the way He regards and cares for you in comparison with Himself. As far as Jesus is concerned, He is the lesser and you the greater. Jesus regards Himself the servant, and you the ones whom He has come to serve (Matthew 20:28). Your life holds much greater value for Him than His own life holds.

In the same way, your works have much greater value for your Lord Jesus than His works have. Any earthly father would naturally consider his own life's work to be inferior to the future work his children will do. A father regards his own work as inferior to his children's work because his own life is spent working for the sake of his children. In the same way, Jesus regards His life and work inferior to yours because He spend His life and work exclusively for you, for your forgiveness, and for your life.

Again, just as the servant of the household would not regard his own menial tasks as being superior to his master's tasks, so Jesus does not regard His own works as greater than yours. But what does Jesus say? "Whoever believes in Me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do."

But you still kind of feel like Mary, don't you? Even after Mary had heard the angel's thrilling proclamation that she would be the mother of God, she still could not grasp what it all meant for her . Mary said to the angel, "How will this be?" (Luke 1:34)

Stained Glass Confirmation Window

In the same way, when you hear Jesus saying to you in today's Gospel that you will do greater works than He, you may also be wondering to yourself, "How will this be?

This is how the angel answered Mary: "the Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).

By comparison, listen again to how Jesus in today's Gospel answers your question of how it can be that you would do greater things than He: "greater works than these will [you] do, because I am going to the Father." In other words, Jesus makes you able to do greater thing than He by the power of His mighty ascension into heaven!

With these Words, "I am going to the Father," Jesus makes it clear that you are not left to your own devices when it comes to doing "greater works."

Rather, Jesus promises to be the One who lives and dwells within you- within each of you individually and also within me-empowering and creating these "greater things" that we do. By going to the Father, Jesus ascended to fill the heavens and the earth, subjecting all things under His feet.

By going to the Father, Jesus left the confines of being in one place at one time and He took up resurrection residence in the hearts and minds and lives of all His believers. By going to the Father, Jesus declares to you, I will work in you who believe in Me and who have My Word, Baptism, and Sacrament, and remain faithful to these. And just as I am Lord over sin, death, hell, the devil, the world, and everything, so you shall also be lords over these and be able to glory in the same power. This is yours, not by reason of your own worthiness or strength but solely because I am going to the Father (Ibid., 85).

Dear Christian friends, Christ is risen! Not only has Christ risen from the dead, but He has also ascended to the Father, and He is sitting in power and glory at the right hand of God.

Do not think that Christ's going to the Father means that He has gone away from you. Far from that! The risen Christ has placed His life-giving Words into your mouth and His merciful works into your hands. Because He is always with you, Jesus declares to you His undying promise today: "Whoever believes in Me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father."

Do you still feel like Mary, still wondering what sort of words are these that Jesus has spoken to you in this Gospel? Don't feel too bad. Mary's response is the only response Christians will ever need: "Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your Word."

Christ Is risen.

Luther Rose

 

Christ Is Risen
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