Our spiritual anticipation continues to increase as we draw ever closer once again to that four-day period which we know, commemorate and celebrate as “holy week” the highpoint beginning on Maundy Thursday followed by Good Friday and then Easter morning. We are all looking forward to the commemoration of the truly world-changing events that those four days commemorate, a series of events that surpass in significance everything else that has ever happened since the fall of Adam and Eve into sin for what Jesus of Nazareth endured and did during those four days has in fact removed the divine consequences if Adam and Eve’s sin from our lives.
And yet, the nay-sayers continue. As I have lamented so often during the Lenten season over the years we will once again have a number of opportunities through the means of the modern media to “learn the truth about Jesus”; to finally be told “the truth about Jesus suffering, His death and His alleged resurrection.” A number of modern “Scholars,” people with publically recognized academic credentials are already promising to help us distinguish between “fact, fiction and fable” about this continually controversial religious teacher named Jesus from Nazareth, and they are going to teach us!
The arguments against the divinely-revealed truth of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection by those who are still blinded by their own sinful human nature are as old as the Passion story itself. And so it shall continue unto the end of the age for the naturally sinful human nature can never change on its own and never willingly releases those it holds in its truly terrible spiritual bondage, a bondage that can only be broken by faith in Jesus’ Passion.
This spiritual reality is why the Incarnated eternally-existing Only-begotten Son of God, Jesus of Nazareth, taught what He did; did what He did; and freely chose to endure what He did, even the cross at Calvary which resulted in His own suffering and death. It was for lost and condemned sinners, which includes each one of us! Jesus had to do what He did because no sinner could do it, and all are sinful by nature, from the moment of conception since the fall of Adam and Eve who are of an earthly father and mother. Our Book of Concord summarized this Biblical truth in these words of the Augsburg Confession, Article II entitled On Original Sin:
1] Also they teach that since the fall of Adam all men begotten in the natural way are born with sin, that is, without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with 2] concupiscence; and that this disease, or vice of origin, is truly sin, even now condemning and bringing eternal death upon those not born again through Baptism and the Holy Ghost.
This is why the eternally-existing Only-begotten Son of God came down from heaven and underwent the self-wrought miracles of His Incarnation and Nativity. This is why He lived a life as a man of true flesh and blood – but never, ever sinned! This is why His conception was so totally unique in all of human history since the fall for Jesus alone was not “begotten in a natural way”, He had an earthy mother but His Father remained who He is and has been in all of eternity, God the eternal Father. Thus Jesus was not “born with sin” nor the “disease, or vice of origin” for He had an earthly mother but no earthly father. This is “why” Jesus was able to live a perfectly sinless life and “how” He fulfilled the holy Law of God the Holy Trinity to the degree divinely-required, to absolute perfection. Oh indeed, Satan tempted Jesus in a multiplicity of ways, just as he does us, but Jesus did not succumb to any of those temptations, as our first parents so tragically did in the garden and as have all of their children “begotten in the natural way” since then. This is why Jesus truly is different from everyone else who has ever been born and, thank God the Holy Trinity for that!
Dear redeemed, divinely-revealed truth will remain divinely-revealed truth even past the end of this age. It matters not how sophisticated or technological a society becomes. Having culturally respected academic credentials does not in any way mean that the person is not what everyone else is by nature (save Jesus) “without the fear of God, without trust in God, and with 2] concupiscence;”. The most terrible of all diseases of every age of fallen mankind unto the end of this age was, is, and shall remain sin, and it is passed on inevitably and inescapably when a man and a woman conceive a child. And, in light of some of the modern medical practices of our time, we need to recognize it matters not where or how the seed of the man and woman are joined. The always terminal disease of sin is inherently in the seed of both so, if it is the seed of an earthly man and woman, sin is there. It’s unavoidable and will remain absolutely un-removable by any laboratory process devised by fallen mankind until this age is brought to its truly dramatic conclusion – by Jesus of Nazareth.
The theme and focus of the holy season of Lent was established by the faithful of the Church Catholic to remind her children of these humanly unchangeable realities! This is why the Lord Jesus instituted the two blessed Sacraments of Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. Both Sacraments have been “divinely established” to change the divine consequences of sin – in the lives of sinners, even each one of us. Faith, faith alone in the sinless life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, as it is revealed in the divinely-inspired and thereby infallible and ever-unchanging Bible – is the only divinely given antidote to the sin which infects everyone conceive by an earthly father and mother by nature. Should that sin not be divinely forgiven and that by this one and only saving faith, sin inevitably brings the worst form of death, eternal suffering in Hell, for the rest of forever.
Dear redeemed, we should have continuing spiritual comfort even amidst this continually darkening spiritual age from the fact that the theme and purpose of the holy season of Lent is almost as old as the New Testament aspect of the Church Catholic herself. One of my favorite early Church fathers, St. Irenaeus the bishop of Lyons (ca. 130-200 A.D.) wrote the following which, in a very real way sums up what we believe, teach and confess as well:
The hand of God which formed us at the beginning, and which does form us in the womb, has in the last times sought us out who were lost, winning back His own, and taking up the lost sheep on His shoulders, and with joy restoring it to the fold of life (A.H., 5.15.5).
This is what Jesus is “really” all about; His seeking those lost in sin, those who were and those who still are under the description of Article II of the Augustana above who truly can’t as of yet recognize their own desperate spiritual condition! Out of a love which we will never be able to be fully understand this side of heaven, the Incarnated Only-begotten Son of God experienced everything that is recorded of Him in the pages of the only book of eternal life, the infallible and ever-unchanging Bible. We don’t need someone who is still “spiritually blind, dead and an enemy of God” to explain to us who Jesus “really” is and “what He really did” for the divine truth is staring at them on the printed page – but they can’t see it! But by the grace of Jesus, we do!
What we are so blessedly privileged to recognize is the almost incomprehensible degree of love and direct personal involvement of God the Holy Trinity – in our redemption! It is so revealing that neither Adam nor the Christ was born of human seed. It was the direct intervention of God the Holy Trinity which brought them existence; the first from the dust of the earth the second by the overshadowing of God the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary. The first came from the virgin earth, the second through a virgin womb. And yet, through a willful sinful act Adam and then all of mankind became bound to death by his disobedience. And so, the man (Adam) who had been so tragically deceived by Satan and thus entered into the bondage of sin, is then freed by Him (the Christ) who in turn conquered not only Satan, but sin and death as well! Bishop Irenaeus put it this way:
As the first Adam became a vessel in … (Satan’s) possession, whom he did also hold under his power… by bring sin on him iniquitously…wherefore he who had led man captive, was justly captured in his turn by God; but man, who had been led captive, was loosed from the bonds of condemnation (A.H., 3.21.1)
The heart and essence of the faith we have been so incredibly blessed with divinely-enables us to believe, teach and confess that the “truth” about God the Holy Trinity, Jesus being the Incarnated 2nd divine Persons of that Holy Trinity must be learned from what He divinely-reveals – about Himself – in the only word He has given sin-infected and dying mankind, the holy Bible – un-changed. Where the word, of both Law and Gospel are proclaimed un-changed and where the two divinely-established Sacraments are distributed (and received) according to the institution of the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth – there is truth, divinely-revealed, unchanging and – most important of all – saving truth.
Let not the “educated” council of the nay-sayers sway you for Jesus still is and will forever remain that which He proclaimed: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn 14:6). Thus it is in our lives and so it shall remain, even unto the end of the age. Amen.