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“He did not do many powerful works in that place, due to their unbelief.”
᛭ INI ᛭
James appears to be the first Christian Bishop of Jerusalem. But he wasn’t from there. He was from Nazareth—step brother of Jesus. Before Jesus’ resurrection, it wasn’t just the Nazarites that took offense at him. James was! Mark tells us about a time Jesus went home, and “when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, ‘He is out of his mind.’” (Mk 3) But after His resurrection, Jesus “appeared to James.” (1 Cor 15) It’s after that, that James becomes the chief pastor, bishop, of the churches in Jerusalem.
Remembering James of Jerusalem gives us the chance to consider these same things about Jesus. Who is He? Where was He from? What does He show up to do? Why do people really take offense at Him? Who are those that don’t, and why?
(3. Whence cometh Jesus?)
Jesus admits that He’s a prophet. It is one of His Offices as the Messiah, as the Christ. We’ve recently heard about Him being King or even Priest. Now He is Prophet. But the people of Nazareth took offense at Him. People were often offended at His being from Nazareth. (Jn 1:46) But the people at Nazareth didn’t like Him either! “Who does this guy think He is?” they say. “Where did this guy get this wisdom and His powerful works?” “Where, then, did this guy get all these things?” It’s all a matter of knowing where Jesus was from.
He was from Nazareth. He is “true man, born of the Virgin Mary.” “He is man, born from the substance of His mother in this age.” He is a “complete human being.” Jesus is a real human being, just like you and I are human beings. He has human body. He has a human soul. But there’s more…
Jesus is the eternal Son of God, and that means He’s “true God, begotten of the Father from eternity.” He is “complete God.” Jesus is “God from God, Light from Light, very God of very God.” He is eternal, almighty, omniscient.
Jesus is Prophet. Not just a human prophet, but a divine prophet. He is God and He is Man. “Although He is God and man, He is not two, but one Christ.” But is that’s exactly not the first reason anyone takes offense at Him. That’s because of what Jesus says and does.
(2. Jesus and His Gifts are τὸ σκάνδαλον τοῖς Ἰουδαῖοις καί τε μωρίαν Ἕλλησι.)
“Where did He get this wisdom and His powerful works?” What Jesus preaches, He is a Prophet, and what He does are what people take offense at. What “wisdom” is the stumbling block? It’s the preaching of Himself and His cross! What works are a stumbling block? Forgiving sinners. His cross. His death. His tomb. As Paul says, “we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.”
Humans are always offended at God’s ways. We’re always looking for something else. Even as Christians! We all “know” the right answers. But how quickly we think so little of Jesus’ His Cross, His Word, and His Gifts. It doesn’t matter if life’s going well for us or if it’s not going so well. Either way me move past Jesus.
We keep God in our back pocket when things go well. What use is the cross, or Baptism, or the Supper of Jesus’ body and blood then? Old Adam gets us to identify ourselves by something else, and so Jesus, His Cross, His death and resurrection, His baptism, His forgiveness, His Supper all fade in our lives. Not really all that important. “He did not do many powerful works in that place, due to their unbelief.”
But the same thing happens when life takes a turn for the worst. In those times Old Adam wants something more than what Jesus is actually delivering. When life’s good we don’t care if Jesus shows up, and when it’s bad we want Him to show up with something else besides what He’s preaching and promising. In those times Christ says to you, “I died for you. I came back to life after three days for you. You are my baptized brother. I forgive you. I sent your Pastor to help you. I give you My body and blood to eat and to drink for the forgiveness of your sins.” To this Old Adam says, “I know, but…” “He did not do many powerful works in that place, due to their unbelief.”
(1. Who Jesus is and what He does are all received sola fide.)
But Jesus shows up to deliver “the powerful works of God.” “God’s ways are not our ways.” It doesn’t look like much. Just a man from Nazareth, but He is the Almighty God come to die for you. Just water and words, just bread and wine and words, just some amish-looking character. But it’s His Baptism to make you a child of God. It’s His preacher to deliver the Gospel, the Forgiveness of sins to you. It’s His body and blood for your forgiveness. “The weakness of God is stronger than men; the foolishness of God is wiser than men.”
The powerful works of God are received by faith alone. Faith has the same quality whether you’re experience good times or bad times. Faith receives the benefits of what Jesus delivers. Faith doesn’t add anything to what Jesus is doing. Jesus does His thing, does His cross, delivers His baptism, His sermon, His Supper, and faith simply receives. Unfaith, unbelief rejects.
Who Jesus is and what He does are all received sola fide. Let’s use the Supper for example, when considering frequency, for example. The Small Catechism teaches us from the Bible: “That person is truly worthy and well prepared who has faith in these words given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” “Whoever believes the words has what they say: forgiveness of sins.” Faith alone.
Who’s Jesus? He’s a Prophet. He preaches the Word of God—His salvation, His cross, His forgiveness. But He’s more than a Prophet. He’s God who died and rose. He shows up to deliver the powerful works of God: the forgiveness of sins. He institutes Baptism. He institutes the Supper of His Body and blood. He sends preachers to deliver the Gospel and Holy Absolution.
JESUS COMES TO DELIVER THE POWERFUL WORKS OF GOD.
Faith alone receives the benefits. Nothing you do makes these things so. Trying to add anything is unbelief. Human measurements, human thoughts about preparation, human ideas about proper action, motivation, or even appearances “have only the appearance of godliness.” But it’s just “unbelief.” Adding to what Jesus is doing when
HE COMES TO DELIVER THE POWERFUL WORKS OF GOD
To forgive you all your sins.