Martyrdom of St John the Baptist (Mk 6:14–29; Rom 6:1–5)

Bethlehem Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO

INI + AMEN.

Death and resurrection. They go together. They must because of Christ. Law and Gospel. God’s Word of Law. God’s Word of Gospel. They also go together. You are a sinner—God’s Law tells you that. Jesus alone saves you for free—that’s the Gospel. God’s Law condemns you, tells you that your guilty. God’s Word of Law brings death. “The letter kills,” Paul says.

The Gospel frees you, faith in the message of the Gospel frees you. The Gospel says Christ was condemned for you, guilty for you to save you. Faith clings to that Jesus and His free salvation. The Gospel brings resurrection. “The Spirit gives life,” Paul says.

Death and resurrection are essential, foundational to the preaching of God’s Word—God’s Word made up of Law and Gospel. Without Christ’s death and resurrection our preaching is useless, our faith is empty, and Christianity is meaningless. But death and resurrection aren’t just central for the Christian message. They are also central to the Christian life.

In fact, the Christian message and the Christian life go together, just as death and resurrection go together with God’s Word of Law and God’s Word of Gospel. “I kill and I make alive,” the Lord says. The Christian message is death and resurrection. The Christian life is also those things. And so they don’t just go together, like two peas in a pod. No, they’re the same!

THE CHRISTIAN MESSAGE AND THE CHRISTIAN LIFE ARE THE SAME: DEATH AND RESURRECTION.

((I. The Christian message is death and resurrection—Christ’s FOR YOU.))

First, the Christian message. It is death and resurrection. That’s the Gospel—Jesus’ death and resurrection FOR YOU. That’s what Paul lays out in 1 Corinthians 15. The Gospel is that “Christ died for our sins and was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.” That’s the simplest one sentence summary of the Gospel, the Christian message. The Christian message is death and resurrection—Christ’s FOR YOU.

That’s Jesus’ “name,” what He is known for. “He will save His people from their sins.” And that’s what He does, as promised. He dies and is raised from the dead. For sinners He is condemned before God as sinner, that sinners would become the righteousness of God in Him. A righteousness fulfilled FOR YOU in the waters of Holy Baptism, where Christ’s death and resurrection FOR YOU were delivered right TO YOU. Salvation purchased FOR YOU. Salvation delivered TO YOU.

Jesus’ “name” was also known to Herod. Jesus’ saying and doing were getting spread around. Healing the sick, raising the dead, preaching that He was the Son of God would get around. Herod thought John the Baptist had come back from the dead. After dirty old Herod had John executed because of an oath to his wife’s daughter, who asked for John’s head because of her mother, Herodias.

John and Jesus both died, but only Jesus came back to life. Well, at least for now. Soon Christ will return and the dead will be raised, and those with faith in Christ will inherit “the life everlasting” that Jesus’ purchased with His death and resurrection.

((Transition.))

The Christian message is pretty easy to boil down. It’s death and resurrection—Christ’s FOR YOU. But today, when we remember that St. John the Baptist was martyred, put to death, as the last prophet, we see that it’s not just the Christian message that’s death and resurrection. It’s also the Christian life. They are the same: the Christian message and life. Death and resurrection.

((II. The Christian life is death and resurrection—Christ’s THROUGH YOU.))

This statement really is true, that the Christian life is also death and resurrection—Christ’s THROUGH YOU. That’s the Gift of Holy Baptism. Through Holy Baptism, as Paul says, “You were therefore buried with Him,” with Christ, “through Baptism into death,” into His death, and “if we have been united with Him in a death like His, we shall certainly be united with Him in a resurrection like His.” You will rise from the dead on the Last Day. That’s a promise that was signed with Jesus’ death and resurrection and sealed upon you in the Water and Word of Holy Baptism.

But the resurrection to life, in the power of Jesus’ resurrection, isn’t just a Last Day promise. The Christian life isn’t just “the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting.” The Christian life is daily death and resurrection. As Paul says, “We walk in newness of life.” This is the Spirit’s continued work on you. The Spirit first given you in Holy Baptism, continues His daily work of “repentance and contrition,” through which your old man is drowned and a new man is raised.

The Spirit does His daily “killing and making alive” through the Word, His Word, the Spirit’s Word, God’s Word, His Word of Law and His Word of Gospel. John the Baptizer preached this Word. He preached “repentance” and delivered a Baptism that was for “repentance and the forgiveness of sins.” He preached repentance to Herod in God’s Word of Law: “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife,” and soon after that John’s Christian life ended in death to await the resurrection of his body.

The Spirit does it for you, too. One of His enduring gifts that flow from Baptism, where He was gifted to you. He still comes to you, still works on you. He repents. He kills your old man, and raises a new man. Law and Gospel.

The Spirit’s creative Word says stop sinning. Actually love everyone in your life. Seriously. Don’t keep sinning thinking that you can because, well, you’ll be forgiven later. That’s not the Christian life. That’s a Herod and Herodias kind of life, a life living for yourself, for your wants, your desires. That ends in “temporal and eternal punishment” in hell. He’ll take the word out of your life, let you live in your sins, just like Herod lost John preaching to him.

The Spirit would cut off your sins, prune you, but also strengthen and enliven you. Gospel. In fact, He already did that! Or don’t you know? You’re baptized. You’ve already been crucified and raised. Jesus’ forgiveness delivered TO YOU there, and again and again and again in the preaching of the Word, the speaking of forgiveness one Christian to another, the Absolution, and the Supper of Jesus’ body and blood. For only through the Spirit working there will you actually begin to trust God and actually act in selfless love towards each and every person you interact with in your daily life.

((Conclusion.))

THE CHRISTIAN MESSAGE AND THE CHRISTIAN LIFE ARE THE SAME: DEATH AND RESURRECTION. It really is the Christian message—Jesus’ death and resurrection FOR YOU, for your sins. It’s also Jesus’ death and resurrection TO YOU—in Baptism, in the Word, in the body and blood.

It’s also really the Christian life. The Spirit would work death and resurrection in you. Avoiding His tools that He uses to do—Baptism, His Word, His Preaching, Jesus’ body and blood—isn’t the Christian life, neither is just willfully continuing on in your sins.

But that’s not you, is it? How could it be? You’re baptized. Jesus rules the universe and has gifted you a preacher, a deliverer of His Word and Gifts. He gives you His Word—a daily source of Spirit-worked death and resurrection. THE CHRISTIAN MESSAGE AND THE CHRISTIAN LIFE ARE THE SAME: DEATH AND RESURRECTION.

And that’s what will happen for you. It’s the Lord’s promise. Whether you die like John or however you die. You’ve died. You’ve risen. You rise daily. You will rise. You will live forever. That’s His baptismal promise. Trust the promise, trust Jesus, trust His forgiveness. Jesus already did it all FOR YOU and by the Spirit will continue to do it.

INI + AMEN.

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