Sunday, December 16, 2007

Advent 2 Weekday Service, Dec 12, 2007, Luke 12:50. The Ultimate Exodus

I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! (Luke 12:50, ESV)

The Ultimate Exodus
(Inspired by a series by Rev. William Weedon.
Concordia Pulpit Resource, Volume 17, Part 4, Series C)

Grace and peace to you from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

The bible, the book we hold as God’s only true and inspired word, is really built around to big events, two releases, two journeys, two great acts of salvation from slavery, a first and a second Exodus. Ours is the second, Christ on the cross for the forgiveness of our sins. It is the second and greater, more important event. Without it all would be lost to sin, and death, and hell and Satan. We would be dead in our trespasses and sins. We would be lost. The first is God’s rescue of His people, the Israelites, from slavery in Egypt. These two events are very closely linked. The first points back to the second as a shadow of what was to come. The second points to the first as the most important event in human history. Now, I’ve heard it said that what happened so long ago can’t have any real importance for you and me, “modern people of the 21st century.” But it does. In fact, how we understand what Jesus has done for us is very deeply rooted in our understanding of what God did, when he rescued his people from Egypt, the Exodus.

First, we start by understanding that we are slaves. Our lives are full of suffering and pain. When a baby is first born it begins to die. Sickness and illness show us how helpless we are to prevent death. But it’s not just death. We are bound to our own selfishness. Inside our hearts are evil thoughts. Our passions lead us to murder, unfaithfulness, lies and death. We cannot escape. We are slaves to being human beings. We are slaves to our broken nature. The human race as always been this way living centuries of death and bloodshed. It cannot be changed. Just as the children who were born to the Jews in Egypt were born into slavery that they couldn’t do anything about, so are we born in slavery to what we can’t do anything about. We are born slaves to sin, death and Satan himself.

This situation is intolerable for us, but it is all we know. God is not content with human suffering. He didn’t create the world for this. He sent Moses to lead the children of Israel out of slavery to Pharaoh. God sends Jesus to free us from our slavery to sin. God led the people of Israel through the waters of the Red Sea to freedom. God leads us through the waters of Holy Baptism into freedom from sin, death, hell and Satan.

Remember back to Sunday school? You learned about the Transfiguration. Jesus stood on a mountain and glowed with the light of God. He was joined by Elijah and Moses. They were having a conversation. St. Luke is sure to tell us what it is about. Most of your bibles will use the word “departure.” But that’s not exactly what Luke said, if you look at the word as he wrote it you’d see it is the word, “Exodus.” Jesus and Moses and Elijah were talking about Jesus and his Exodus. We use these words:

…suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died and was buried. He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty.

It was these things that made a way for us from our slavery. Jesus didn’t bypass all that we live in every day, he went right through it. He suffered life and death just as you do. Yet, in all that we are told we see Jesus’ great love for us. He doesn’t strike out against those who seek to hurt him. He replaced the severed ear of the servant of the High Priest. “Put away your sword, Peter. This is sin.” “Father forgive them,” he pleads to the Father for those who drove the nails into his hands and feet and mocked him from the foot of the cross. Jesus suffers all, yet he does it willingly. He is on a mission, a journey, an Exodus to open a way for us to eternal life, a life without sin, suffering, death and the control of Satan.

Jesus calls it a Baptism.

I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how great is my distress until it is accomplished! (Luke 12:50, ESV)

His is in blood. His is a baptism of suffering. His is a baptism of death. He goes though all these things to bring us through them to life forever. He does it to make a path, a way, a journey, an Exodus through it all for us.

Now the way through is easier than we think. We don’t have to slog through using our own strength. We don’t have to fight the demons. We don’t have kill the evil thoughts that come from our own hearts. We don’t have to make ourselves better. Jesus does all that for us. He makes it simple as it has to be for us. He calls us to follow him through the path he has made.

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (Matthew 28:19, ESV)

For us, Baptism in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit is our Exodus. It is God working in us faith in what Jesus has done. It is God dragging us through Jesus, life, death and resurrection to the new and promised life. Afterwards we are called only to leave behind what was a part of our life of slavery. St. Paul puts it clearly:

What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. (Romans 6:1-4, ESV)

We walk in newness of life, life with Christ our Savior. We follow him. You might not remember you Exodus at this font. You won’t if you were baptized as an infant. The little babies who were carried in their mother’s arms through the parted Red Sea didn’t remember that event either. But they were told about it. They were saved from slavery and Pharaoh’s army nonetheless. You have been told about your Exodus. You don’t have to remember it for it to be important. It is, in fact, the most important event of your life.

Now, it is important to remember that for the people of Israel the promised land, their final destination wasn’t right on the other side of the Red Sea. In fact, it lay a far journey away. They were free from slavery, but they hadn’t reached the Promised Land yet. They had lives to live on the way to where God was taking them. Baptism isn’t the end of your journey either. It is just the beginning. In fact, the most difficult part is ahead; trouble, pain, sorrow will come. But our Savior doesn’t leave us to travel alone. He gives us all that we need. His life sustaining Word. His promises, and food for the journey. In fact, he gives us his very body and blood to nourish us on the way. God fed the people of Israel by sending heavenly bread called manna. He gives us the bread of himself.

In all our journey, our Baptism that marks the beginning is also a promise that we will reach the end. After their long journey the people of Israel stood again on the shore, near water. The Jordan River lie between them and the promised land. God parted the river just as he had the Red Sea. They passed through it on dry ground, God kept his promise. Their journey began and ended with a baptism of water. That’s our journey too. It begins with water poured on our heads in God’s name. It ends with our passing through death, through the Jordan into the land promised to us by God. Joshua led the people through the river. our Joshua leads us through death. Did you know that Jesus and Joshua are really the same name? Yea, Jesus is just the Latin version of the Hebrew name Joshua. It means “God Saves.” That’s what Jesus does. He leads us through death to life forever. He saves us.

Right now we live in between. We are on the journey, the Exodus. We don’t go alone. God has given us all that we need. Here we hear of His promises in Jesus. Here we receive the food we need. Here we have fellowship with others on the journey, too. Slavery is behind us, new life is ahead. Amen.

The peace of God that passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

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