Tag Archives: the cross

The Presentation

bellini2Purification

Today we celebrate The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple by Joseph and Mary. From the Gospel of Luke:

When the time came for their purification according to the law of Moses, the parents of Jesus brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male shall be designated as holy to the Lord”), and they offered a sacrifice according to what is stated in the law of the Lord, “a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.”  (Luke 2:22-24)

Let us look at this event as if it were part of a three act play. This was the first act of purification – a ceremonial purification. Mary was considered unclean on the birth of her child, according to Jewish law. After a waiting period of about forty days, she and Joseph were required to offer up their son to God. Mary would then be considered pure and her child would be declared holy before God.

A ritual of ceremonial purification was not without meaning or significance. It was a rehearsal of a spiritual purification which was to come. Today, in many churches, parents present their children to God with the expectation that these children will be raised in the Christian Faith.

At the time of Jesus’ presentation the prophet Simeon blessed the family of Jesus and said to Mary:

“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.” (Luke 2:34-35)

This prophecy foretold the second act of purification – a purification of the Law of God. Simeon prophesied that Jesus will bring about major changes in Judaism. Jesus said that he did not come to set aside the law but to fulfill it. The essence of the Law had to do with loving God and neighbor, but it had become merely an elaborate set of rules to follow. As the Word made flesh, Jesus demonstrated by his life the true righteous requirements of the law. God requires transparency and truth. We cannot cover up our sins by our “good deeds.”

Joseph and Mary were presenting Jesus to God in the Temple. Jesus would soon change the whole temple worship by becoming the temple himself. He would become the new Temple by satisfying all the requirements of the old one. His blood, spilled on the cross, would become the atoning sacrifice for all our sins, once and for all.

From Hebrews we read:

Since God’s children share flesh and blood, Jesus himself likewise shared the same things, so that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by the fear of death.   (Hebrews 2:14-15)

The last act of purification has to do with the purification of the saints. We read in Malachi:

For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap; he will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the descendants of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, until they present offerings to the LORD in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.   (Malachi 3:3-4)

The Apostle Paul writes that Jesus, by his atoning sacrifice, is able to present us pure before the Father:

And you who were once estranged and hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, he has now reconciled in his fleshly body through death, so as to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before him — provided that you continue securely established and steadfast in the faith, without shifting from the hope promised by the gospel that you heard, which has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven.   (Colossians 1:21-23)

Paul makes it clear that we must continue in the Faith. Jesus makes this promise for those who do:

“Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.   (Matthew 10:32-33)

Mary and Joseph presented Jesus holy to God. Jesus turned the tables. He presents Mary and Joseph and all saints as holy to God. Mary and Joseph offered up their son before God. God, the Father, offered His Son as a sacrifice for us all that we may be made holy before him. The Presentation of Jesus becomes our presentation before God the Father. Amen.

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The Baptism of Our Lord

Fulfilling All Righteousness

In the Season of Epiphany, the baptism of our Lord Jesus stands out as the epiphany of the epiphanies. It reveals both the identity of Jesus and his mission. Reading from today’s Gospel of Matthew:

Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.”   (Matthew 3:13-17)

John understood who Jesus was and his mission. Jesus is the Messiah. He is one who would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Why would Jesus have to undergo John’s baptism of water? Jesus provides the answer:

“Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.”

What did Jesus mean? God the Father wanted to make all of us righteous as he is righteous. The baptism of Jesus is very much a part of his plan. Let us see how.

Jesus needed to be baptized as an example for us, but he also the anointing of the Holy Spirit to carry on his ministry on earth. We have to understand that when Jesus was borne of a woman he was fully human. He had given up all of his divinity and position in heaven. We read from Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians that Jesus:

though he was in the form oaf God,
    did not regard equality with God
    as something to be exploited,
but emptied himself,
    taking the form of a slave,
    being born in human likeness.
And being found in human form,
    he humbled himself
    and became obedient to the point of death—
    even death on a cross.   (Philippians 2:6-8)

Jesus needed the power of the Holy Spirit. He needed to understand fully God’s word. All of his miracles and teaching came from the Father through the Spirit. He needed the guidance of the Spirit.

If Jesus was like us in every way, except that he did not sin, how much more must we need to receive the same baptism that Jesus did? We need the Holy Spirit to guide us into holy living. We cannot be righteous on our own effort. We with the power and direction of the Spirit. We need the baptism with the Holy Sprit and with the fire of God to burn away our dross.

How do we then, receive this baptism. We need Jesus, himself, to be the one who baptizes us. Jesus spoke of this in the Gospel of John when he met the Samaritan woman at the well. Remember, she had questioned him why he would ask her for a drink of water because Jews did not associate with Samaritans. Jesus answered her:

If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”   (John 4:10-14) 

What is this living water. Jesus further explains in John chapter seven:

On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart[l] shall flow rivers of living water.’” Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit, because Jesus was not yet glorified.   (John 7:37-39)

In order for God to pour out his Spirit on all flesh, sin had to be dealt with. Jesus removed all of our sins with his sacrifice on the cross. We simply have to believe that he did. There is another step, however, We need to submit to Jesus. We need the baptism with the Holy Spirit that only Jesus can provide. He, alone, is the baptizer with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

The psalmist wrote:

The Lord sits enthroned above the flood;
the Lord sits enthroned as King for evermore.

The Lord shall give strength to his people;
the Lord shall give his people the blessing of peace.   (Psalm 29:10-11)

Are we ready for the flood of living water? It is required to fulfill all righteousness. Let us ask Jesus to baptize us with the Spirt. Let us ask him daily. Jesus says to  us:

“If you know the gift of God, and who I am,’ you will ask me and I will give you living water.”

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Good Friday

Behold the Lamb of God

Long before the cross was even an instrument of torture and death there was prophecy concerning a certain death by crucifixion. Psalm 22 is a perfect description of the crucifixion of Jesus:

I am poured out like water,
and all my bones are disjointed;
my heart is like wax,
melting within me.

My strength is dried up like baked clay;
my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
You put me into the dust of death.

For dogs have surrounded me;
a gang of evildoers has closed in on me;
they pierced my hands and my feet.

I can count all my bones;
people look and stare at me.

They divided my garments among themselves,
and they cast lots for my clothing.  (Psalm 22:14-18)

What was the purpose for such an agonizing death? The Prophet Isaiah tells us:

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.

 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. (Isaiah 53:3-6)

In the face of so great a sacrifice on our behalf what are we to do?

Therefore, brothers, since we have boldness to enter the sanctuary through the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that He has inaugurated for us, through the curtain (that is, His flesh); and since we have a great high priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed in pure water.  (Hebrews 10:19-23)

The cross always brings us to the point of decision. We cannot look away from it. We must look upon the Lamb of God in His agony if we are ever to be set free. What does the cross of Christ mean to us today? Is Good Friday a good day for us?

The day was a day of agony for Jesus, but it was also a day of triumph. He defeat sin, the grace, and Hell. Is his victory our victory? Not if we look away. We must see the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.

See, my servant shall prosper; he shall be exalted and liftedup, and shall be very high.   (Isaiah 52:13)

Jesus told his disciples:

Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.” He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.   (John 12:31-33)

Are we drawn to Jesus this day? Are we drawn to his cross? He is our only hope of redemption and salvation. This day is a good day for all who believe in him.

And just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.   (John 3:14-15)

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