Sunday, January 18, 2009

Epiphany 2

Lord God, You showed Your glory and led many to faith by the works of Your Son. As He brought gladness and healing to His people, grant us these same gifts and lead us also to perfect faith in Him.

Introduction: How do you related to Jesus? That’s what our text calls to us to consider. What is the proper relationship of Jesus? There are some who haven’t any. They haven’t any connection or association to Him. How does such a relationship start? It is inaugurated by the Savior’s simple invitation, “Follow Me”

We need to examine today our relationship to Jesus Christ to be motivated to a relationship of true discipleship. There are three directions you can go with respect to your relationship with Jesus Christ. You can go before Him, you can go beside Him, or you can go behind Him.

1. You can go before Him. In such a case Jesus is placed second. You are out in front, living your own life, making your own decisions, following your own plans, strategies and agendas. Certain persons from the Scriptures took a similar journey. Such would be found in men such as Pilate who simply didn’t want to be bothered by Jesus. Although Pilate found Jesus innocent of any crimes, nothing close to handing Him a death sentence, Pilate had the Savior scourged hoping this would satisfy the crowd. But it wasn’t enough. Pilate condemned Him to quiet the crowd. Jesus was expendable. For Pilate the goal was to win no matter what the cost.

Caiaphas saw Jesus as a threat to his power base. Jesus had the potential to steal away everything he had worked for which, was the support and the backing of the people. Therefore Jesus had to be eliminated. It was expedient for on man to die for the sake of people, he would explain to his peers.

Peter feared what others might say. He desired a good reputation. What would people think if they knew he was a friend of Jesus? He as willing to compromise clear Biblical principles in order to fit in. In his own mind he really wasn’t denying his Lord. He was merely saving face. It was a limb he was willing to climb, a line he was willing to cross. He said to these in the courtyard “you’re talking to the wrong person. What price will you pay to acquire acceptance, approval, acquiescence? Which is harder to be liked or to be respected? In the case of Judas it led to betrayal. Jesus was the price he was willing to pay to receive financial independence.

Transition: Of course there are other paths to walk with Jesus.

2. There is the path of walking besides Jesus. In this case Jesus is your brother, a fellow-human, a friend. True, very true Jesus is your friend – your closest friend. But let me be clear. You have nothing, absolutely nothing to do with your salvation. God is completely responsible for our salvation from front to back! We don’t one day decide to follow Jesus – Rather, He plants the seed of faith in our heart. He then nourishes that faith by giving us His eternal Word which is able to make us wise unto salvation. This is what St. Paul reminds us when he tells us in Ephesians 2:8-9 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- not by works, so that no one can boast.”

Martin Luther explains in the 3rd Article of the Apostles Creed. I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith. In the same way He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith. In this Christian church He daily and richly forgives all my sins and the sins of all believers. On the Last Day He will raise me and all the dead, and give eternal life to me and all believers in Christ. This is most certainly true.

Transition: You can walk before Jesus, you can walk beside Him, or you can be a Christ follower.

3. You can walk behind Jesus – “Follow Me” Jesus said. Jesus is the Master, you are His servant. Christ is you leader you are followers. Jesus is the Good Shepherd you are a sheep of His fold a lamb of His flock a sinner of His own redeeming. Yet notice what our Gospel lesson tells us. Philip then found Nathanael, and told him, “We have found the one whom Moses and the prophets wrote about in the Bible. His name is Jesus. (V45) Being a Christ follower means we lead others to Jesus. Being a Christ follower means we heed the voice of the Savior when He says, “follow me.” Being a Christ follower means we invite others saying we have found the Christ.

Conclusion: With the hymn writer may this be our prayer, “Christ be my leader by night as by day. Safe through the darkness, for He is the way. Gladly I follow, my future His care, Darkness is daylight when Jesus is there.” [LSB 861 stanza 1]

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