INI + AMEN.
((5. Oops!: What’s your heart weighed down with?))
There’s so much worry. People in the world are worried about so many things. Their hearts are weighed down by it—“heavy burdens they’re unable to bear.” 2020’s almost been the year of worry! Unrelenting worry. There’s hardly a corner of our lives that hasn’t been affected by covid. There was the election. When will it all end? What will 2021 hold? How will we make ends meet?
What about you? It’s not just those people out there. No finger waging allowed. What’s your heart weighed down with? Jesus turns your eyes to the idol factory of your heart. Your heart turns out false gods faster than you can recite the 1st Commandment (“You shall have NO other gods.”) and its explanation from Catechism (“We shall fear, love, and trust in God above ALL things.”).
So what is it? The force of what Jesus says is this: “Keep watch on yourselves so that your hearts aren’t weighed down like those out in the world.” So what is it? Are your hearts weighed down with living it up? Drunkenness? Better binge a show or go on a shopping spree or however else you ignore your problems. Or maybe you’re just awash in worry and fear. “Cares of this life.” Worrying the nights away in your bed.
You won’t make it weighed down like that. If your heart’s there, that day, as Jesus says, “will come suddenly upon you like a trap” snapping shut. That day will come, as will all the trouble Jesus describes. “It will,” as Jesus says, ”come upon all who dwell on earth.” You will be stood before the Son of Man.
((4. Ugh!: What sort of Jesus will He be on the Last Day?))
But it’s going to get worse. The world’s going to end. It’s all going to fall apart. Jesus says so, promises it! “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth distress of nations in perplexity because of the roaring of the sea and the waves, people fainting with fear and with foreboding of what is coming on the world. For the powers of the heavens will be shaken.”
Everything we trust in will be taken away. That’s part of the problem with 2020. Normally, we always find another false god to hide behind and take comfort in. If something goes sideways at work, there’s family. If that’s messed up, there’s work. If it’s all cracking, at least there’s sports. But the pandemic has cast all our idols down, but those places where we will allow for risk, show us what our true gods are.
The world is terrified of being exposed. Our success and power fool people into thinking we’re in charge. But it’s Jesus who’s in charge, and the Last Day will show that. All will see it! “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” They will pray “to the mountains and rocks, ‘Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?’”
And it will happen. Jesus will come. His Word always comes true: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My Word will never pass away.” Then what? What sort of Jesus will He be then? What sort of word will He speak to you?
((3. Aha!: Why does Jesus say lift up your head?))
What word does He speak to you in our text today? “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your head.” Why?
Is it that you can’t hide from it, so you might as well face it? Face Him? You will be face to face with Jesus some day. You will be stood before Him. He will have you brought in before the court. There you’ll stand before Him. Gonna happen. So face it like a man? Is that it?
Is it some sort of warning to get your act together? Better behave because Jesus is going to find who’s naughty or nice? Is that it?
Is this some sort of “Keep calm carry on” sort of advice? Yeah it’s going to be bad, but be tough. Toughen up. Get your worry under control? Is that it?
It actually all hinges on the last thing Jesus says. It’s not about your straightening up. It’s not about your raising your head. “Now when these things begin to take place, straighten up and raise your head.” Why? “Because your redemption is drawing near!”
((2. Whee!: JESUS IS YOUR REDEMPTION!))
It’s all about that! Redemption. That means it’s all about Him! All about Jesus! He not only “secures for you eternal redemption.” (Heb 9:12) JESUS IS YOUR REDEMPTION! And so you don’t have to cower in fear, or ask mountains to hide you. You can actually be happy that Jesus is coming, because JESUS IS YOUR REDEMPTION.
That’s what Paul says: “Christ Jesus became for us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption.” (1 Cor 1:30) He is “the Sun of Righteousness” who has “healing in His wings.” (Mal 4:2) Healing in the stretching out of His arms in love for you on the cross. “In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses,” (Eph 1:7) “the forgiveness of our sins.” (Col 1:14)
He redeems your heart. He forgives the sins that flow from it, and He promises a new heart. He answers your prayer: “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” (Ps 51:10) He answered even before you asked Him. As Jesus promises through Ezekiel, “I will take out their heart of stone,” a heart that produces fear and death and “dead works.” “I will put My Spirit within them and give them a heart of flesh.”
Holy Baptism. For there “the blood of Christ” purifies “our conscience from dead works to serve the living God.” (Heb 9:14) For through Christ’s death, and your Baptism into His death, “our hearts are sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Heb 10:22) There also His Supper, “This is My blood poured out for you.” Through faith, there life flows into your heart, even as Jesus’ body and blood are put into your mouth, and through His Supper you are strengthened in faith toward God and love toward one another.
And that’s the Jesus He wants to be for you. That’s the Jesus He is! Jesus will be face to face with you, not just as Your Redeemer, but as your very Redemption. No need to be afraid. You will be brought before the Son of Man, you’ll be brought to stand before your Redemption. Your Redemption will judge you. Judge you redeemed, forgiven, of course. JESUS IS YOUR REDEMPTION! How could Redemption give any other judgment than “forgiven” to the one who trusts in Him?
((1. Yeah!: Hope, endurance, strength all come from Him, too!))
JESUS IS YOUR REDEMPTION, but more giving from the LORD. He “wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let Him who boasts, boast in the LORD.’” John also says in Revelation that he “shares in the endurance that is in Jesus.”
That’s why Paul talks about God being the God of endurance, the God of peace, the God of hope. Because Jesus also gives those things! You aren’t the one who’s got to get some endurance for yourself. You can’t spiritually strengthen or enliven yourself. In fact, Jesus says, “pray that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man,” and He asks to pray for it because strength, endurance, and hope can’t possibly come from you!
You’ve been trying for 10 years, 18 years, 35 years, 50 years, 70 years—however many years!—to find the inner strength to show forth at least some good effort for Jesus. Just need more time right? If 70 years hasn’t been enough, what makes you think 8.54 more will do? (And if you’ve made it past the 78.54 average U.S. lifespan, well, you’re on borrowed time! Better hurry up!)
God is the God of hope, of faith, and trust. He gives those things! He fills you with peace. He gives endurance, strength. He causes you to stand. But we keep trying to prepare enough, do enough. Decades and lifetimes of that. The LORD gives what He demands, and what He tells us to ask for! The Lord’s got His endurance, peace, and forgiveness delivery systems all in place.
“Endurance and comfort come from the Scriptures,” because they tell you the story of Jesus—what He has done to save. The Lord comforts you with preaching, with the forgiveness of sins you speak to each other, that I also speak to you. He fills you with strength, life, and forgiveness that only His Son’s body and blood can give. Or you could just keep cracking away at it with all your self-help systems. Weighed down. “Burdens unable to bear.” A weight dragging you down into hell. If you want to keep trying, you’ll end up praying to the mountains to hide you, too.
But the Lord has already loaded your burdens on Himself. He did at Mt. Calvary! Best to have that mountain hide you! Through your Bible, His Font, and His Supper, it does! Jesus shines upon you with the unending light of His righteousness, strength, peace, and eternal life. That’s what JESUS YOUR REDEMPTION does for you. And He will redeem you on the Last Day, too. “You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall.” Bounding out of your grave, your casket, to stand face to face forever with Jesus, your Redemption.
INI + AMEN.