Advent 2B—December 7, 2014
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bossier City, LA
INI + AMEN.
We all have baggage. We’ve all got skeletons in our closets. We’ve all got specters of sins that haunt us. If you want history, we’ve got it, don’t we? We’ve all got our lockbox of sins. What’s in it? You know what you’ve done. I know what I’ve done. And it would be nice if those sins stayed dead and gone, but they don’t. They rear their ugly heads over and over. It’s not just that we remember them either—as if that weren’t bad enough! We do them again and again. The words come out of our mouths without our realizing it: the curses, the lies, the gossip. Our tempers flare up constantly. Our apathy. Our boasting in our wrong doing. Our mouses seem to navigate themselves. The deep, dark thoughts, desires, and actions. We can’t escape the skeletons, especially when they’re so flesh and blood real. “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty like the flower of the field…the grass withers, the flower fades.” The things we’ve done and left undone, the things we do and don’t do—all of them—we can’t escape them. To us they’re alive and kicking. In our hearts we feel what Paul says, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.” We exclaim with Paul: “O wretched man that I am!” And you know:
3. The Lord will give you double portion for your sins.
If our sins weren’t hard enough, and they certainly are, we have our daily struggles. The heartache. The pains that just don’t seem to go away. The daily battle. The arguments. The daily grind that gets us down. Work stress. Family stress. Life stress! “How did it ever come to this?” we think. Things aren’t going our way—have they ever? That’s how bad it gets, doesn’t it? That we begin to wonder if it was ever actually good. Everything we touch breaks. We’re just the world’s punching bag it seems. There’s no end in sight. We may put on the happy face, the warm handshake, but inside we’re hurting, our hearts breaking, broken. We’re just on the loosing end of it all. We know it. We feel it. Our hearts hurt from it all, and we’re just waiting for not just the second shoe to drop but the third or maybe fourth. We’re definitely on the loosing end, and what will we get for all our pain, misery, and sorrow? We’re dried out, used up. “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty like the flower of the field…the grass withers, the flower fades.” What will be the recompense, the reward?
2. The Lord will give you double portion for your struggles.
There it is again. A double portion? That doesn’t sound good: double portion for our sins, double portion for our struggles. When it comes to the sins and struggles, who wants another helping? Especially with what we think the Lord will do with us when we’ve done XYZ and despaired in ABC. But this double portion is good news for you, for me, for everyone. Because
1. The Lord gives you a double portion of comfort.
That’s Isaiah’s message today. He’s speaking to your heart. “Speak tenderly,” is how we heard it read before, but that doesn’t quite grasp it. The Lord speaks this to your heart. The Lord’s having a heart to heart with you today. “Comfort, comfort My people,” says our God. “Speak to Jerusalem’s heart and cry out to her that her warfare is over.”
You heard that right. Your warfare is over. Your struggles are Jesus’ struggles. Since we are “flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in them.” He did this so that, as Isaiah puts it elsewhere, “He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows.” He bore our pains. He had friends die. His family was broken and had problems—they wanted Him institutionalized. He had friends abandon Him. He was hungry. He was thirsty. He had the stress of work. He was tempted by the devil. He bore it all. He bore God’s wrath against sin. He fought the good fight. And the fight killed Him, but He rose signaling that war between God and man is over, that all struggles are done for. The struggles you have now, the battles are over and done with. Their outcome assured. No matter what assaults you now, your reward is assured. The battle is over. Jesus won it. Now, in the midst of our struggles we know that one day they will cease forever. No matter what happens in our life, none of it can keep you down forever. The Lord has said so: “her warfare is over.” Your warfare is over now, and will be on the last day: “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”
But the Lord doesn’t just stop with your warfare. “Comfort, comfort My people,” says our God. “Speak to Jerusalem’s heart and cry out to her that her iniquity is pardoned, that she receives from YHWH’s hand a double portion for all her sins.” All your iniquity, your sins have been covered, they’ve been pardoned, paid for. Each of them. All of them. Jesus does it. As Isaiah says later, “He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed.” His life, death, and resurrection truly were the true and everlasting sin offering, guilt offering. His blood covers it all. He bore it all. Our sins become His. You don’t have them. He took them from you. He casts every lockbox into the depths of His blood. He crushes the skeletons. Jesus fades and withers at Calvary, from His pierced hands come “the double portion for all our sins.” The flesh-and-blood Jesus wipes out our sins. They are dead, gone, no more, left in Jesus’ tomb forever. Our sins should only be thought of as a passing wind because they don’t even exist to your heavenly Father. If anyone or anything tries to bring them up again, Jesus’ wounds got them covered.
The Lord ends warfare and covers sin, but that’s not good enough for our Lord Jesus. The Lord delivers it to you. Hear what Isaiah prophesies: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the LORD; Make straight in the desert A highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth; The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, And all flesh shall see it together; For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.’ ” Isaiah is speaking of John the Baptizer, the fore-runner, who came, as St. Mark tells us, “baptizing in the wilderness and preaching a baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.” What we have here is that the LORD wants it delivered. He came to do it, and He sends His men to deliver His comfort to you.
This is His everlasting Word to us. “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty like the flower of the field…the grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God endures forever.” Jesus said it in His glory on Calvary: “It is finished!” It is! Your struggles are finished, will be finished. Your sins are finished. All of that stuff is over, done, kaputt. The pierced and raised Jesus gives you now the double portion you need. Comfort in your struggles. He’s wrapped you in the warm, comforting blanket of Himself and His own righteousness at the holy font. No one can your Jesus blanket away. He strengthens your heart, gives comfort to your heart by giving you His own body and blood to eat and drink. He gently calls you, leads you to Himself to give you His reward and recompense: His comfort! Like a mother or father wrapping a child in a warm blanket with a cup of hot cocoa on cold day. That’s your Jesus.
That’s the heart to heart He’s having with you today. Not only is a single gift given for sins, for struggles, but doubled and outstanding gifts are given. There’s nothing that stands between you and Him: no mountain, hill, valley, no rough patch or rocky ground. The Lord is always about His business. His business is comfort.
THE LORD COVERING YOUR SINS AND ENDING YOUR STRUGGLES—NOW THAT’S DOUBLE PORTION COMFORT!
I’ll take some of that! With Jesus, there’s always more helpings.
INI + AMEN.