Second Sunday in Lent March 5, 2023
158, 144, 519, 145
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
Sermon Audio: https://anchor.fm/ministrybymail
Prayer of the Day: O God, You see that of ourselves we have no strength. By Your mighty power defend us from all adversities that may happen to the body and from all evil thoughts that may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
At that very hour some Pharisees came and said to him, “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” And he said to them, “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’ O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (ESV)
In Christ Jesus, who has secured our future in His heavenly kingdom, dear fellow redeemed:
The future can be frightening in this turbulent and sin-filled world. More than 5,000,000 refugees have now fled the Ukraine since Russian armies invaded. These refugees have crossed over the borders into Poland, Romania, Hungary, and Slovakia seeking safety, but often having no idea of where to go after crossing one of those borders. Families have been separated—women and children exiting the country, while men between the ages of 18-60 are being required to stay behind to defend their country. All their futures seem up in the air and filled with uncertainty.
By the grace of God our country has not been invaded, nor is it at war. Yet, a recent poll by NBC News finds that 72% of Americans believe the United States is headed in the wrong direction as President Biden enters the second half of his term. With inflation still high, political divisions growing ever wider, and violence continuing to trouble many major metropolitan areas, our future as Americans also seems increasingly uncertain.
How ought we view the future and deal with the growing uncertainty confronting so many in our world today? Our text reveals how Jesus dealt with the future. Jesus was facing a future that would be extremely difficult, for it would be filled with increasing opposition and multiple disappointments, yet that future was in no way uncertain, and neither is ours! Jesus demonstrates for us how we ought view our futures and any seeming uncertainty those futures hold. I would, therefore, encourage you to follow Jesus’ example and ENTRUST YOUR FUTURE TO THE LORD! Yes, entrust your future to the Lord despite all opposition and despite any disappointments, knowing that you will receive the Lord’s blessing!
Yes, ENTRUST YOUR FUTURE TO THE LORD despite all opposition! Jesus faced tremendous opposition during His life on this earth and especially as His earthly ministry drew to its end. That opposition was both religious and political. As our text opens, Jesus is approached interestingly by a group of Pharisees who came to Him with a warning: “Get away from here, for Herod wants to kill you.” Now, with rare exceptions the Pharisees opposed Jesus. They were, after all, the religious leaders of the Jews whose primary message was that you would be saved by keeping the Mosaic law and by following the religious traditions they themselves had established over the generations. They opposed Jesus because He clearly taught that you could not save yourself in that way, for the law’s demand for moral perfection was simply unattainable. The purpose of the law, therefore, could not be to save anyone’s soul, for its demands were impossible to meet. The law’s purpose was to reveal to the heart of everyone who heard it, that they needed a Savior from their sins. As the Psalmist revealed: “No man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life, for the ransom of their life is costly and can never suffice.” (Psalm 49:7-8) The cost to save the souls of all people could and would only be paid by the shedding of the blood of the promised Savior! This teaching undermined the position and influence of the Pharisees and their associates the Jewish scribes or legal experts.
Why, then, would they come to Jesus with this warning that Herod wanted to kill Him? We cannot say for sure why they came. It seems highly unlikely that they had the good intentions of protecting Jesus, for the Gospel accounts repeatedly inform us that the Pharisees and scribes along with the Jewish chief priests wanted to kill Jesus themselves. They, however, did not have the legal authority to do so. Perhaps they were trying to scare Jesus into leaving and thereby diminish His influence on the general population, or perhaps they were simply trying to intimidate Jesus into silence. Irrespective of their reasons, Jesus’ answer to these Pharisees reveals how Jesus dealt with opposition and how Jesus viewed the future. Jesus told them: “Go and tell that fox, ‘Behold, I cast out demons and perform cures today and tomorrow, and the third day I finish my course. Nevertheless, I must go on my way today and tomorrow and the day following, for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem.’”
There was no uncertainty in Jesus’ mind regarding the future. Jesus was on a mission—He had a calling to serve as the world’s Savior. Despite opposition, political or religious, Jesus was determined to fulfill His God-given mission and calling. Each day He would reach out and proclaim the truths of the gospel that His heavenly Father had entrusted to Him. Each day He would use His divine power to demonstrate that He was the Son of God. He would continue to do so until that exact day when He would be arrested, tried, crucified, and then die. He would fulfill His Father’s plan as outlined in the Old Testament Scriptures, so that we might be saved!
My dear friends, while Jesus knew every facet of His future, both while on this earth and after His return to heaven, we do not know what will happen to us while we live our current lives in this world. However, we do know what will happen after we die. We will be raised from the dead on the last day, our bodies and souls will be reunited in perfection, and we will spend eternity in the presence of our Savior! Does that make our future in this world uncertain? No, it does not! Our God assures us as His believing children that “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (Romans 8:28) Just as Jesus had a calling from His heavenly Father to serve as the world’s Savior, so God the Father has given us all callings in this world. Yes, we do not know exactly what will happen tomorrow or the next day, but we do know that every day God will be with us to help us fulfill our callings while we live in this world, and God will enable us to do them, even as He works “all things…together for good.” Therefore, we need not fear our tomorrows, for the Bible assures us: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31b) Therefore, ENTRUST YOUR FUTURE TO THE LORD despite all opposition…
…and despite any disappointments! Jesus continues with these words: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not! Behold, your house is forsaken.” I am not sure we can fully appreciate Jesus’ disappointment as He looked ahead to the time when His own Jewish religious leaders and many of His fellow Jews would cry out: “Let him be crucified…His blood be on us and on our children.” (Matthew 27:23b, 25b)
The Jewish people were God’s chosen Old Testament people. They were chosen to retain the promises of the Savior for all people. God had embraced them as His own special people (Deuteronomy 10:15; Isaiah 43:21), but time and time again they turned away from their God and were unfaithful to Him. They rejected God’s prophets and, in many cases, put them to death. God cried out to them to come to Him, even as Jesus so passionately called out, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28) But the vast majority of God’s chosen people were unwilling to come. They felt no need to come. They sought their rest in other places and from other people.
My dear friends, our lives in this sin-filled world will often involve disappointments. Marriages end in divorce; families feud over inheritances; businesses are forced to file for bankruptcy; diseases strip people of good health; and individuals close to us turn away from God. How ought we deal with our lives in this world when disappointments cloud our future’s horizon? We could live our lives in constant fear waiting for the other shoe to drop, but that is not what Jesus did, nor is it what Jesus would have us do. Jesus recognized that as part of the creative process, God has given every human being a free will. Since the fall into sin, that free will is limited and exercised all too often in direct opposition to God. We seldom have control over the decisions of others. Their decisions may well disappoint us and bring us sorrow, but those decisions cannot and will not overcome God’s plans for your life or for mine. Paul assures us: “He (God) who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6), and God assures us that absolutely nothing “will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39b)
Consequently, let me once again encourage you to ENTRUST YOUR FUTURE TO THE LORD despite all opposition and despite any disappointments! Keep on fulfilling your callings each day, depending on God Himself to sustain you, knowing that you will receive the Lord’s blessing! Jesus ends our text with both a warning for those who reject Him and a promise of blessing for those who in faith embrace Him: “I tell you, you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’”
Jesus withdrew His visible presence from this earth when He ascended into heaven forty days after His resurrection, but He promised to return. Two angels confirmed that for Jesus’ disciples at the time of His ascension. They comforted the disciples and us as well with these words: “This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11b) We do not know when Jesus will return, but we do know that He will return in glory with His holy angels (Matthew 25:31). At that time, Paul informs us, “every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue (will) confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:10b-11) Those who have rejected Jesus in this life will bow before Him in terror, but you and I and all other believers will bow with joy, for Jesus’ return will confirm for all to see the truth of what we now embrace by faith and in hope! Then we will hear that wonderful invitation: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world” (Matthew 25:34)
My dear friends, our future in this world may seem uncertain at times and under various circumstances, but do not give into fear, for fear is a weapon of Satan intended to interfere with and impede the work God has given us to do. Rather, ENTRUST YOUR FUTURE TO THE LORD! Yes, entrust your future to the Lord despite all opposition and despite any disappointments, knowing that you will receive the Lord’s blessing! Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.