Listen to Your Lord
Third-Last Sunday of the Church Year
November 12, 2017
To ordain Him into His Holy ministry our Father anointed His Son with the Holy Spirit and spoke of Him, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him.” Consequently all of His ministry was a proclamation of the Word of God, whether through teaching, preaching, or healing. Our heavenly Father was actively at work in the world in His Son to bring about restoration. This would culminate in His suffering and death on the cross and His resurrection from the grave.
No one knew this though. Not because it wasn’t made known. It was clearly made known. Jesus spoke clearly of it. But His disciples didn’t do what the Father said, they didn’t listen to Jesus. The Father even repeated His injunction to listen to Jesus at His transfiguration. As parents tell their children things knowing they aren’t always going to listen they nevertheless stay the course and keep at it. Our heavenly Father is nothing if not patient. And our Lord exercises this same patience.
In giving the Great Commission He said, “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to Me.” We need to take the words of our Father to heart. We need to listen to our Lord. In His commission He enjoined on the Church to make disciples, Baptizing them and teaching them to observe all He had commanded them. Listen to Him. We have everything recorded in the holy Gospel accounts, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. We have what the prophets recorded in the Old Testament. We have the words written down, they are the words of eternal life.
Why do we not listen to them? Why do we doubt when our Lord tells us that following Him is taking up our cross? Why are we surprised when we endure suffering? Why do we listen to others who want us to change the Word of God in order to be loving and not offensive and in a way that will fit their sensibilities? Why do we not listen to our Lord?
Jesus describes in the Gospel reading the signs of the end times. Why do we listen to those who say that God is at fault for the suffering in world? Or deny Him because it’s not loving of Him to allow suffering and tragedies? Why do we not listen to our Lord? He says in the Gospel reading, “See, I have told you beforehand.” We do not need to wonder why God is the way He is, why things happen as they do. He has already told us. We have everything we need in the Bible.
He has ascended into heaven but has not left us on our own. His closing words in Matthew are, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Ten days after He ascended He sent the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and the Church was born. What did that small group of Christians do? By the power of the Holy Spirit they listened to their Lord. Immediately after the account of Pentecost we are told that the first Christians devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, the fellowship, the breaking of the bread, and the prayers. The apostles’ teaching, everything their Lord had commanded. The people of God were listening to their Lord.
How did that go? After the book of Acts are twenty-one letters from the apostles to Christians. Certainly there is a lot if encouragement to keep the faith. But there is also a lot of teaching. The apostles were doing what their Lord had ordained them to do. They also did a lot of exhortation, excoriation, and reminding of what Jesus had taught.
Why is this? In His eternal mercy our Father made His Church up of sinners. Sinners sin. Not one of us here has successfully made it through without sinning. Two thousand years after He instituted His Church, God is as patient as ever. We continue to not listen to our Lord. The words of His apostles are as needed today as they were then.
Paul says in the Epistle reading today, “I do not want you to be uninformed about those who have fallen asleep.” There were questions and misunderstandings and false teachings about the end times back then even as there are now. Paul does the same thing Jesus had done. He connects the teaching of Jesus with the death and resurrection of Jesus. He says that on the Last Day “the Lord himself will descend from heaven with a cry of command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the sound of the trumpet of God” those who have fallen asleep in Jesus will rise bodily from the grave. Then those of us who are still alive will unite with them and be with them and our Lord forever in heaven. We have this hope now. We grieve but not without hope.
In the Gospel reading Jesus emphasizes that unlike those who steer you to false Messiahs and false prophets and those who do great wonders and signs, when Jesus returns everyone will know. It will happen instantly and there will be no doubt. Everything that happens before then is part of the tribulation of living in this fallen and sin-filled world. Every person who points you away from Christ and His words is leading you astray. You must be vigilant and listen to your Lord.
Here is where He invites you each week to listen to Him. In the midst of natural disasters and tragedies each week is an oasis in which your Lord gives you His pure Gospel and His body and blood for strength. When He warns against false Messiahs and false prophets and those who perform signs and wonders He is telling us that many people will not trust in the simple words of Christ. The reason our Father emphasized that we ought to listen to His Son is that He knows that we are swayed by appearances. If the forgiveness of sins is not accompanied by successful and growing churches or by miracles of healing, many people will think that God isn’t doing anything spectacular. But the way God brings about forgiveness is by the spoken word. It is by attaching His word to water in Baptism and bread and wine in the Lord’s Supper.
Words spoken and simple water and ordinary bread and wine don’t seem like much when there is so much suffering in the world and when in our personal lives we struggle financially or with health problems or in family relationships. Life is difficult and we think that God caring for us should mean that we wouldn’t have to struggle so much in life. That is why when there is so much wrong in the world people look elsewhere. They don’t look to Christ. They don’t hold fast to His words. They listen to people who tell them what they want to hear. They want to hear that God will make things better in their life, that their relationships will improve, that they can be more successful.
Jesus instead brings us back to His cross and what He accomplished there. Lost in all the voices in the world that the Triune God is not the true God and the false voices in the Church that we must do something in order to be saved or to be in the good grace of God is the voice of our Lord. Our Lord tells us beforehand what will happen in this life and it is exactly what happens. There are wars and earthquakes and false prophets. There is suffering and evil and sin. Knowing this, we can face it all in peace and trust in Him because He also tells us that He is salvation incarnate. He forgives and He strengthens. He gives peace and comfort. He alone gives this and that is why what our Father said of Him still is the way to go: Listen to Him. Amen.