St. James, the Elder (Mk 10, 35–45)

Photo by JF Martin on Unsplash

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

“The cup that I am drinking you will drink, and with the baptism that I am being baptized with you will be baptized.”

᛭ INI ᛭

Jesus’ words were true for James. That’s our reading from Acts 11. James, the Elder, was the Apostle John’s brother, and James was the first Apostle to die—put in prison and executed by King Herod, grandson of the Herod who sought to kill the toddler Jesus.

James suffered, died, and was buried, just like Jesus said James would. James’ end was “to be with the Lord,” to await the final resurrection. Herod’s end was destruction. He claimed praise due only to Christ, and “he was eaten by worms and died.” He didn’t “enter into the joy of His master,” but instead suffered a temporal punishment that prefigures the eternal punishment awaiting the Last Day when he will go “where their worm does not die.”

All things happened for James, just as Jesus said. Same for Jesus. “The Son of Man will be condemned and delivered to the Gentiles, and they will kill Him, but on the third day He will rise.” And Jesus did this because “the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom in place of many.” Jesus is most Christ, most Son of Man, when He gives His life, when He sheds “His holy, precious blood,” when He endures “His innocent suffering and death.”

But Jesus isn’t just servant at Calvary. He’s James’ servant, even in our text today. (Your servant, too.) Jesus serves James by preparing him for his coming suffering and death. The language Jesus uses points not only to James’ future suffering and martyrdom, but also hints at the way Jesus prepares James for it. Jesus prepares you for it, too.

JESUS PREPARES YOU FOR DEATH WITH HIS BAPTISM AND CUP.

((I.)) You’re prepared to die through His Baptism.

Baptism prepares you to die because Holy Baptism delivers Jesus’ death and His resurrection right to you. No need to think really hard, remember really hard. He does all the work for you. Jesus not only saves you from sin but also from death: “Or don’t you know,” as St. Paul says, “that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? (NIV) 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.” (ESV)

Calvary delivered—that’s baptism. What Jesus did there for you is given right to you in Holy Baptism. “Baptism now saves you,” Peter says. Faith clings to the Calvary promises of Holy Baptism.

Now, since Christ’s cross, His blood and redemption, and His empty tomb are made yours at the Font, you’re ready for death. Death death. Why worry? Why be afraid? You’re baptized. It’s true that a casket (or maybe an urn) and a grave await you, but it won’t be any casket or urn or grave—an empty one! Just like Jesus’. That’s the promise and hope of Holy Baptism.

But Baptism doesn’t just prep you for the inevitable day when you die. No, Baptism is a far better Gift than that! Baptism also prepares you for daily death, too.

“Offer your bodies as living sacrifices,” St. Paul tells us. “Take up your cross daily and follow Me,” Jesus says. Baptism delivers “newness of life.” Resurrection from death and resurrection from sin, to “love your neighbor as yourself,” to put them first, to die for them. Not only giving your life for them, but spending your life in service to them. “Whoever would be great must be servant; whoever would be first must be slave.”

Not your way, their way. You serving them. You forgiving them. You being merciful and kind to them. All these things are the fruit of the Spirit through you. Don’t kid yourself, if there’s a grudge or a lack of service for anyone in your life, that’s “quenching the Spirit.”

“The Spirit comes with hearing in faith.” (Gal 3) He was “poured out on you generously through Jesus” by “the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Spirit.” You’re baptized. Why try to eke out more from others? Why be afraid to suffer for your faith or be looked at as strange? Why be afraid to serve, afraid to forgive? Why be afraid to die? A clean slate with God, an empty tomb, and eternal life have all been given you in Holy Baptism!

((II. You’re prepared to die through His Cup.))

JESUS PREPARES YOU FOR DEATH WITH HIS BAPTISM.

Not just death death, but also daily death. But the Lord’s service FOR YOU, His Divine Service, isn’t quite done. He’s got another Gift FOR YOU.

JESUS PREPARES YOU FOR DEATH [also] WITH HIS … CUP.

Calvary delivered—that’s also the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper delivers to you Jesus’ redemption, salvation, and forgiveness because the Lord’s Supper delivers right to you “His holy, precious blood.” The bread we break is the communion of Christ’s body. The cup we bless is the communion of Christ’s blood.

Christ drank the cup of God’s wrath, the cup of suffering and death at Calvary. Christ drank that cup, and now we have the cup of His blessing. And by faith in Jesus and trusting His Words, that’s what we eat and drink—His body and blood for blessing, salvation, forgiveness. Apart from faith alone it’s a cup of judgment.

The Lord’s Supper prepares you for death, too. For death death. The day you’ll die. You don’t have to be afraid of standing before God. You don’t have to be afraid of Judgement Day! “My body and blood for you for the forgiveness of sins.” “Whoever believes these words”—faith alone—“has … the forgiveness of sins.” And “where there is the forgiveness of sins there is also life and salvation.”

And so, yes, a grave awaits you. One day there’ll be spot, a place with a tombstone, and your name will be on it! But it won’t just be any grave—an empty one! That’s a promise of Jesus’ Supper, too. “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will resurrect him on the Last Day.”

But the Supper doesn’t just prepare you for death and the Last Day. It also prepares you, makes you ready, enlivens you for every day! We go to the Sacrament, “that [we] may learn to believe that Christ, out of great love, died for [our] sin, and also learn from Him to love God and [our] neighbor.” We pour out our desires for the sake of our neighbors, our grudges for the sake of forgiveness. Why? Christ’s blood was shed for them, and if they’re members here, well, we’ve received the blood of Jesus together. And if they’re not members here? Shouldn’t they be?

((Conclusion.))

Jesus’ Word came true for James. James suffered and died, but he will rise! Just like Jesus. He suffered, died, and rose. That will be true for James, too. You, too!

JESUS PREPARES YOU FOR DEATH WITH HIS BAPTISM AND CUP.

You’re Baptized. Jesus’ Supper is for you—the Supper of His body and blood. Christ’s salvation, forgiveness for all and each of your sins, Christ’s death, Christ’s resurrection, Christ’s empty tomb, eternal life with Christ—all these are delivered in Holy Baptism, all these are delivered in the Supper of His body and blood. How important they must be for you! Since Jesus wants you, commands you, to receive both Gifts, and one “as often as. (Large Catechism, V, )”

“Faith toward God and sincere love toward one another,” or as the Post-Communion Collect puts it: “fervent love.” Both faith and love given in Baptism, both strengthened in the Supper of Jesus’ body and blood. Receive it! Believe it! Live it!

And so Jesus’ Gifts—His font and Supper—aren’t just for your personal God-time. They’re also for your daily neighbor-serving time.

JESUS PREPARES YOU FOR DEATH WITH HIS BAPTISM AND CUP.

Not just when you’ll die someday, but as you die everyday, “offering your bodies as living sacrifices,” toward everyone around you. Hands to serve. Mouths to speak forgiveness. Hearts full of sincere love for everyone. No room for grudges in a heart thus filled by Jesus.

All His work and word for you and through you! Calvary delivered—His Font and Supper. Received by faith alone. And so, through Christ’s Baptism and Cup, “I have been crucified with Christ,” St. Paul says, “it is no longer I who live but Christ who lives in me, and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved Me and gave Himself for me.”

᛭ INI ᛭

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