Bethany Lutheran Church—Overland Park, KS
“Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh.”
INI + AMEN.
The 200 fathers at the Council of Ephesus in 431 testified that the Word of God the Father really is Immanuel, God with us, God come into our flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and that this Word of God, this Jesus, is at the same time both God and man. (Anathemas 1–3) “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (Jn 1:14) “The coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh.” These 200 fathers would rejoice with us as we rejoice to confess every Lord’s day what we have received from 2 John today: that Jesus Christ is “God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made,” “incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary and was made man.”
This God, Jesus, our Psalmist praises this morning. Throughout all of Psalm 119 he personifies the Word of God, along with as many synonyms as he can muster, ascribing to the Word attributes of God Himself. Our example today is the well known “Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” (Ps 119:105) But “The LORD is my Light and My salvation.” (Ps 27:1) “It is You who light My lamp; the LORD my God lights up my darkness.” (Ps 18:29) Or another one: “The LORD is the stronghold of my life.” (Ps 27:1) “Give me life, O LORD, according to your word!” (Ps 119:107)
This confusion, this back and forth is cleared up in Jesus. Jesus is the Word. He is also “the Light of the world,” the light no darkness can overcome. He is “the resurrection and the life.” He is also “the Way, the Truth, and the Life, no one comes to the Father except through Me.” So, Jesus, Immanuel, the incarnate God, is God and Man, God and Word of God. He is Light and He is Path, the Way. This Jesus is also Love. He not only teaches love, commands love, reveals God’s love, but Jesus is also Love itself because “God is Love” (1 Jn 4:8), and Jesus is God.
There is no new commandment other than “let us love one another.” “For love is the fulfillment of the Law,” (Rom 13:10): the second table summed up by “Love your neighbor as yourself,” (Rom 13:9), and the first table, too, “Love the Lord your God with all” that you are. To not love your neighbor is to not love God. To not love God will result in not loving your neighbor. To live like that is to live not in the Truth, to walk not in the Way or Truth. It is to deny Jesus, into whom each of you was baptized, and into whom all of us were baptized. And so it is we spend our time knifing each other, those around us, even strangers, maybe this sermon! We’re good at it, even better at denying, justifying, rationalizing, ignoring it. But God knows what’s in your heart, soul, mind, and strength…
Such is why Jesus, the Word of God, came into the flesh. “For us and for our salvation He came down from heaven, and was crucified for us,” “for our sins,” “under Pontius Pilate. He suffered and was buried,” “and was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” God is Love in the giving up of His Son into death for you, for each of us. “Full payment” made by Him. His blood, His death, for your all your sins. The blood of Jesus has cleansed us, each of us, from all our sins, even those done here among us. The Love of God enfleshed and revealed most of all in giving His own body into death and shedding His own blood upon the cross for us all. To not love in word and deed your brother, for whom such a Christ died, is to reject that same Christ who came in the flesh.
We rejoice not in doing evil, we rejoice in our Savior, in His body and His blood, which gives each of us the forgiveness of our sins, but this body and blood, this forgiveness is also for all of us collectively, unifying us in that forgiveness, in His love, uniting us as the body of Christ. We rejoice, then, to actually love those around us not just in word but in deed and truth, to “explain everything” they do and say “in the kindest way.”
The Lord Jesus, Immanuel, is with us, and He gives us His body and His blood. Neither He nor His body and blood are empty, lifeless things. He is “your Light and your salvation, the Stronghold of your life.” He came in the flesh, and His flesh and His blood are, as the Solid Declaration confesses (VIII.76), “a true life-giving food and a true life-giving drink, as the 200 fathers at the council of Ephesus confessed: carnem Christi vivificam, the flesh of Christ gives life.” Life in Him, through Him, like Vine to branches.
That’s how we remain in Christ, remain in His love. Through the Supper of His body and blood we are enlivened by Him, by His forgiveness, His love. There we are also united together. There we are “refreshed” and “strengthened in faith toward God and in fervent love toward one another.” In that faith and love way, “the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ strengthens and preserves you in both body and soul unto life everlasting. Go in peace.”
INI + AMEN.