Lent Midweek—3rd Article (Lk 23, 26–56)

March 24, Bethlehem Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO
March 31, Immanuel Lutheran Church—Bremen, KS || AUDIO

᛭ INI ᛭

The Apostles’ Creed confesses who God is. So do the Nicene and Athanasian Creeds. Not just any God, though, but the God we’re told about in the Bible. There is no other God than the One who reveals Himself from Genesis 1 through Revelation 21.

The Creed confesses God the Father. But not because a god is supposed to be a father. Like being called “father” is part of being a god. God the Father is no Oden or Zeus or Jupiter or whatever other god is called “father.” God is Father because He’s the eternal Father of His Son. We confess God the Father of Jesus.

The Creed gives us the right words to confess who Jesus is. The eternal Son of the Father. He is one with His Father in an ineffable, unknowable way. It’s confessable—the Scriptures reveal it—but it’s not comprehensible. Eternally one with His Father, but Jesus is not His Father.

Finally, we confess the Holy Spirit. He proceeds from the Father and the Son. He is the bond, the unity, the communion of their eternal love for one another. The Spirit is not the Father, nor is He the Son, but yet He is one eternal God with the other persons of the Holy Trinity.

One God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—that’s what God tells us about Himself in the Bible, and so that’s what the Creed says about Him, too, boiling down all the Scriptures into three short, simple Articles.

Tonight, 3rd Article, of course. We’ll get to that more explicitly in the second half of the sermon, but for now I’ve got to set the stage.

The religious leaders had gotten exactly what they’d asked for. They got it from Judas. (30 pieces of silver to get Jesus.) They got what they’d wanted from Pilate, too. (“Their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave sentence that it should be as they requested…and delivered up Jesus to their will.”) They’d even got what they wanted from Jesus! (“Are you the Son of God?” they asked Him. He answered, “It is as you say.”)

It had been a long time coming. Longer than they’d realized. They’d been plotting for a while to destroy Him. That’s how grudges tend to go. But really it was a lot longer than they could imagine. Jesus had said it would happen. He predicted it, but it’s more than that. They had asked Him for it! Now, He gave them exactly what they wanted.

It all went down in Matthew 12. (Parallel in Luke 11.) Some of the scribes and Pharisees answered, saying, “Teacher, we want to see a sign from You.” But He answered and said to them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Mt 12:38–40)

((2. There’s only the sign of Jonah.))

They were always putting Jesus to the test. They always wanted to see Him do something—always one more thing, too. One sign was never enough. They always wanted another and another and another. Prove who you are. Do a miracle. Perform this sign, that sign. Thief on the cross did it too, “Aren’t you the Christ? Save yourself and us!” The religious leaders also at His cross, “If you are the Christ, come down, and we’ll believe in you.”

We want that, too. We really do. We look for all sorts of signs of God’s favor. Or signs of his disfavor. We look at what happens to us. We look at what happens to those we love. If good things, the God’s happy with us. If bad things, then He’s not.

There’s only one sign about the Lord’s favor. Only one sign that shows He’s no longer going to destroy the world and you along with it. It’s the sign of the cross. The sign is Jesus high and lifted up, exalted, glorified on Calvary’s cross. But it’s also the sign of Jonah. JESUS FULFILLS THE SIGN OF JONAH. The sign is Jesus buried in the tomb. “As Jonah was thrown into the sea and was in the belly of the great fish for three days,” so also Jesus was in the heart of the earth. His body was taken down by Joseph of Arimathea, “who wrapped it in linen and laid it in a tomb that was hewn out of the rock.”

But Jesus being buried is only the beginning of the sign. The sign will be completely fulfilled three days later. Just as Jonah was expelled from the fish, so also Jesus came back from the dead. JESUS FULFILLS THE SIGN OF JONAH. “For after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever,” (Heb 10:12) “securing an eternal redemption,” (Heb 9) being “given up for our transgressions,” our sins, our sign seeking rather than seeking Him, “He was raised for our justification,” (Rom 5) “never to die again,” (Rom 6) and “has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.” (1 Pet 3:22)


Jesus on the cross, Jesus buried, Jesus raised is the true sign. Our faith and trust is in Him, and we believe, “without merit or worthiness in us,” that our heavenly Father is pleased with us for we are His children by faith, sealed as children in Holy Baptism. But what does all this sign of Jonah stuff have to do with the 3rd Article of the Creed? I mean, it clearly has to do with the 2nd Article. But tonight we’re looking at the 3rd Article. So, what does it have to do with the Sign of Jonah? Well, much in every way!

((1. This sign is continually delivered.))

So, we wouldn’t know about Jonah, the big fish, or Nineveh, we wouldn’t know that Jesus talked about the Sign of Jonah, and we wouldn’t have heard any of our Passion Reading this evening without the Holy Spirit! “All Scripture is breathed out by God.” (2 Tim 3) Breathed out, spoken by the Spirit, through the authors He chose. “The Scriptures were written for our learning” so that we would have hope and faith in Jesus through them! (Rom 9/10)

After all, “the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son,” and through the prophets (what they did and what they said and what was recorded about them), well, as Peter puts it, “the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating the person or time [of Jesus] when [the Spirit through the prophets] predicted Christ’s sufferings and the subsequent glories,” (1 Pet 1) Jesus’ resurrection from the dead.

So, Jesus, through His Spirit, the Spirit of His Father, the Holy Spirit, told of Jonah. In this way JESUS DELIVERS THE SIGN OF JONAH. Delivered in the book of Jonah. Delivered in Matthew 12. Delivered again today, in our hearing, in Luke 23, where we heard, once again, about Jesus beginning the Sign of Jonah, being buried.

Jesus is all about delivering the sign of Jonah. It’s why we have Bible, why you have a Bible. So Jesus can tell you about Himself. JESUS DELIVERS THE SIGN OF JONAH in the preaching of the Gospel as well. For through the Gospel, “Christ Jesus is publicly portrayed as crucified,” (Gal 3) for “Jews seek signs, Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified.” (1 Cor 1) Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection for you delivered to you.

JESUS DELIVERS THE SIGN OF JONAH, the fruits of His cross, from His cross! “Father, forgive them.” “Today, you will be with me in paradise.” Those words carry the Holy Spirit with them. Not just to those at Calvary, you too! Jesus’ Word always carries the Spirit, even today. Wherever Jesus speaks there’s the Spirit. Where there’s speaking there’s breathing, there’s words.

We receive the Spirit and faith not through our own actions, but “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of Christ.” Sprit-filled Word. Spirit-filled actions. See the centurion about that. Confronted with Jesus’ Words and actions, seeing and hearing Jesus fulfill and deliver the sign of Jonah, “Truly, this man was the Son of God.”


Beginning of the sign of Jonah. That’s what we’re receiving tonight. Jesus tossed to his death, as Jonah was. Jesus was buried in a tomb. Jonah swallowed by a fish. Jesus will rise from the dead. Had to, Jonah was spit up on the seashore.


It’s the only sign we need. Jesus dead and buried. Jesus raised. All that delivered. Sign of Jonah is yours. Jesus is yours. His death, burial, and resurrection are. That’s what carries us through life, that Jesus fulfilled it and delivers it right to us.

The Spirit is the one who does it—Christ’s Spirit, the Father’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit, “who proceeds from the Father and the Son.” He “spoke by the prophets to do it. Scriptures, “Holy Christian and Apostolic Church.” Gifts of Jesus, too. There the Spirit works. “Where and when it pleases God.” (AC V) Baptism, Absolution, Supper of Jesus’ Body and blood.


He was sent by the Father to fulfill it, eternally One with His Father, and Jesus delivers it in His Holy-Spirit-filled Word and Gifts.

᛭ INI ᛭

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