INI + AMEN.
Eden. The Decapolis. Here. The Lord always has a place for His Word. A Word to a place, a Word to a person, a Word through a person, a Word of promise—now, that’s the Lord’s way of doing things. Place, person to, person through, and promise all come together according to the Lord’s gracious provision, blessing, and working. All that’s left for us is to receive and rejoice.
((2. The Lord delivers in a specific way.))
Place. The Lord picks one. He may be everywhere, but He’s not just anywhere. Eden. The Lord picked there. The whole world was created as gift, but the whole world wasn’t Eden. No, that Garden was “planted eastward.” Right where Yahweh wanted it. So also our Gospel text. If you wanted the Lord, to hear the Lord Himself speak with your own ears, well, you had to go to the area around the Decapolis—ten Gentile cities east of the Jordan.
Person. The Lord picks that, too. “Again a great crowd had gathered” around Jesus. There the “people to.” The Lord God Himself—Jesus!—was the “person through.” It was the same way in Eden. “There He put the man whom He had formed.” To him He spoke, “Of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” That Word was for and to Adam, but it also went out through him, too. Adam preached it to Eve.
We hear all that, and we’re like, “Wow, that’s interesting!” But how quickly we don’t rejoice and receive. Our flesh, our Old Adam rejects the Lord’s place and person—the delivery point of His Word. If I say, “Not going to church is sin, because not going is to not cherish the Lord’s Word—breaking the 3rd Commandment.” (Now, all other sins work that way, too.) But how quickly we think: “That’s too harsh.” “How dare you judge people like that!” “That’s salvation by works.” “I don’t need to go to church to be a Christian.”
Like people with cancer who say they don’t need their cancer doctor but their own homespun treatment, like a spouse who’s never around yet claims to be faithful, so we are with the Lord. The Lord sets the terms not you. He’s the Lord, you’re not. Someone can’t be a Christian if they go about murdering or robbing banks or watching porn every day, but continually not even giving the Lord an hour or two out of your week—we like to think, “Yeah, no problem.”
Sure, just putting in your time in the pew doesn’t save. But Old Adam twists that: “See, I don’t need church, just need to be a good person.” Or Old Adam will respond: “You need to do more to prove you’re a meaningful Christian.”
We should be ashamed of all this—besides all the other stuff we should be ashamed of. The fruit of all this is death. For all this Jesus was shamed in your place. God died because of our twisting His Gifts, rejecting not just His Word and Gifts, but even God Himself.
Truth is: you can’t really be a Christian without Christ. Christ picks a place: Eden, the Decapolis, here. There He delivers His Gifts. There He is to deliver and save. Jesus works only where and how He promises. There He wants to work on you to deliver His own life to you. He wants to enliven you with His love. He picks place and person (through and to) in order to deliver what we most need: His promise, His salvation, Himself!
((1. The Lord delivers specific Gifts—3rd Article Gifts.))
The problem is that our flesh only wants 1st Article Gifts—gifts of this life. Gifts of food and stuff that the Lord really does abundantly provide. “Daily bread.” “House, home, land, animals,” and so on. We end up taking those gifts rather than the Giver. It’s why we can so quickly pass by the 3rd Commandment. It’s why Jesus Himself had to cherish the Sabbath in our place dead in a tomb, after dying on the cross for all our rejecting of God and neighbor, our sin.
Now, in His earthly ministry Jesus often delivered 1st Article gifts as a sign and testimony that He was there, and had the authority and power and command, to deliver the 3rd Article Gifts of forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life. But there was no promise from Jesus that such 1st Article signs would remain. Rather, He established new signs, testimonies that deliver His 3rd Article Gifts—Baptism, Absolution, the Gospel, and the Supper. There wholesale He delivers the whole lot—full, free, firehose amount of forgiveness, salvation, Holy Spirt, and life.
Jesus wants to gift the Holy Spirit to you. That’s what He’s all about. That’s who He delivers. The Spirit makes you holy before the Father, abundantly forgiving your sins, delivering Jesus and His righteousness to you. Not piecemeal—like 1st Article Gifts. In those gifts some receive more or less than others. Besides, those gifts wear out—what good is your house, your farm, your job, your money when you’re dead? Not so the Spirit’s gifts. The whole abundance of Jesus and His death and resurrection, His entire righteousness and forgiveness—wholesale, nothing left out—is delivered abundantly again and again. Only in and through those Gifts of the Spirit—Baptism, Absolution, Gospel, and Supper—does the Spirit then produce His fruit. No Spirit, no fruit.
Place. Person. Promise. That’s the Lord’s way of doing things in Eden, the Decapolis, and here. And so THE LORD HAS ESTABLISHED HERE TO DELIVER HIS GIFTS TO YOU. The Lord’s everywhere, but not just anywhere. Adam could only go to Eden to eat the tree of life and to not eat the tree of knowledge. In Eden he cherished Yahweh’s Word. Only around the Decapolis, where Jesus was, could you hear Him speak and be cared for by a miracle that proved Jesus had more eternal gifts to give. So also THE LORD HAS ESTABLISHED HERE TO DELIVER HIS GIFTS TO YOU. Gifts of Absolution, Gospel, and His Body and His Blood.
Place, person to, person through, and promise all come together according to the Lord’s gracious provision, blessing, and working, every Lord’s Day for you.
INI + AMEN.