O give thanks unto the Lord for He is good, His mercy endures forever (1 Chr 16:34). Beautiful Savior Lutheran Church - Winnipeg, MB
Your Thoughts Exposed
Your Thoughts Exposed
Based on Luke 2: 22-40
Preached on December 30, 2012
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Fellow baptized saints, how pure are your thoughts? Can you imagine if someone knew every thought you ever have, and they could expose those thoughts to the whole world? How would you treat that person?
In our text this morning, Simeon said to Mary, "Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also) so that the thoughts from many hearts may be revealed."
In His earthly life, Christ revealed the thoughts of many. In a most obvious way, He sometimes used His knowledge as the Son of God to see the hidden thoughts of men.
But in an even greater way, Christ has shown the thoughts of all men. He did this on the Cross.
Consider that nearly every person on earth puts on an appearance of goodness in their life. They hide what is wicked in them, sometimes even from themselves. Many people go around with a show of righteousness. We all do it sometimes. We even approve or disapprove of others based upon what we see in their external actions. One person we say is good, and another person we say is bad, based on what we see.
But then Christ came, and His Body was laid down in death. He was crucified in a horrifying spectacle of judgment and agony. It seemed like such a terrible injustice, as the purest Man of all appeared to suffer for no good reason.
The reason for His death is that He died for all men, in their place, suffering the punishment they deserved. Therefore, at the Cross, we are seeing the judgment that we should have received. Who are the sinners who deserve this? All of us, every man, woman, and child through history.
What about those people that seem to be good? They also are sinners. Not just a little sinful, but deeply, horribly, full of nasty evil.
For that is the true heart of man. Whatever appearance you may put on in your life, whatever external works you adorn yourself with, your heart is still revealed by the Cross as a thing deserving damnation.
Consider Anna. She was the elderly woman who bore witness to the Christ Child soon after Simeon. Anna was a good woman. She fasted and prayed without ceasing, on top of her vocation as prophetess. Surely this pious, reverent woman deserved to be considered a good person.
Yet she identified herself as one of those who desired and yearned for redemption. She knew that she desperately needed God to pay the atonement price for her sins. The Word of God, His Torah given to Israel, had already revealed to her the contents of her heart. The Lamp of Scriptures had shone into her soul, and she saw the darkness of sin lurking there. So she trusted nothing in herself, but only in the promise of Messiah.
We, like her, have seen that promise fulfilled in the Child born in Bethlehem. We have seen the Light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, who is also the glory of His people Israel. We have seen more than Anna. We have seen not only the Manger, but also Golgotha, and Easter, and Ascension. So much of the Messiah's work is laid out for our unworthy eyes.
But do we follow Anna's example? She never departed from the Temple because she so desired the coming of her Savior. Yet we are easily lured away from the House of God by nearly any excuse.
Although Anna heard the reading of the Word at morning and evening prayer every day, the study of God's Word in this place is hardly attended by any of us.
She fasted often. We can hardly skip a single meal to discipline our body.
She prayed constantly. We pray little and halfheartedly, even when we have great examples from the Catechism and opportunities to join in Matins and Midweek Evening Prayer.
Yet for all that she excelled at outwardly righteous acts, she did count herself righteous because of those. No, the Lord God declared her righteous only because of her faith.
So her works and ours, whether fasting or prayer or attending to the Word, follow from faith.
What do we believe? We believe in the same redemption to which Anna trusted her life. She believed in what would yet come to pass, and she glimpsed it in the tiny face of God-become-Man for her. We trust in what God has completely accomplished in His Son.
For when Mary His Virgin Mother stood upon Golgotha, the chilling sword of painful sorrow pierced her soul as she watched her Son die a gruesome and unjust death. Every parent who has lost a child knows how awful that torture is. But Mary's was even worse, as she watched the holy Son of God, her dearly beloved whom she had nursed and raised and taught and watched grow from a child.
That terrible spectacle of Golgotha, so horrifying to His mother, is also the offensive sign that divides families and nations. It drives men to kill Christians by the millions. It makes us who trust in the Blood of Christ to be enemies of the world. So many angry, hateful words are reserved for the Son of Man and for us.
For this reason He came, that He might be the redemption price for all men, even for those who slander and blaspheme Him. Even for Anna and you and me who fail in our devotion to God's Word. Even for those who slaughter His saints like sheep, even for those He died. His love was too great to do less.
So take comfort in this: that when you were still one of them, an unbeliever who had nothing but blasphemy and hatred toward God in that sin-blackened heart of yours, Christ gave His life for you. He bought you out of sin and death and hell. He did not do this because there was something lovable in you that He saw. No, He saw nothing but sin. Yet He chose you from before the foundation of the world so that He could purchase you as His own.
This is Christ, the perfect Savior, who though He knew your impure thoughts, put them to death on the cross in His body, that He might pour out God's grace upon you. All glory be to Him alone, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God forever. Amen.
By Rev. Eckert