Pastor Aaron Steinbrenner delivers a sermon entitled “When Jesus Speaks…Great Things Happen” based on John 5:25-29 at Peace Lutheran Church in Hartford, Wisconsin.
Delivered on Sunday, November 18, 2018
Aren’t politics a joke sometimes? Don’t get me wrong – politicians and governing officials doing their jobs is no joke. That’s a great blessing. Christians are very thankful for those who serve in the government and we even pray for them. What’s unfortunate is how politicians talk to one another…how they constantly seem to be looking over to the other side of the aisle to see if someone will say something or do something they can pounce on or criticize.
That’s the kind of environment that was starting to develop in Jesus’ day. It wasn’t even the politicians. It was the religious leaders who were watching Jesus very closely to see if he would do something or say something they could pounce on and criticize. What was it this time? He had healed a man who had been an invalid for 38 years. He told him to get up, pick up his mat, and walk. But since he had done this on the Sabbath Day, the religious leaders were in a tizzy. They confronted Jesus. And Jesus starts talking about his relationship with God the Father and how those who honor the Father are supposed to honor him, the Son, as well. That did it. Not only was this man Jesus a Sabbath Day breaker he was also now a blasphemer.
It was in this context that Jesus basically says, you haven’t seen anything yet. And he goes on to speak about the great things that happen when he speaks. For instance, when Jesus speaks, dead people are raised.
Do you remember when Jesus raised Jairus’ daughter from the dead? “Little girl, get up” he said. Or how about the widow’s son from Nain…he was being carried out on a funeral procession. Jesus stopped them and said, “Young man, get up.” And who could forget Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha, who has been in the tomb four days. “Lazarus, come out” he said. In each case Jesus spoke and the dead people came to life.
But here in this first verse Jesus is not speaking about a physical resurrection or a bodily resurrection, like we think about at the Last Day. He will speak about that in a moment. Listen again to what he says: A time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. Jesus is talking about a time, right now in the present, when dead people are actually being brought to life…when dead people are hearing the voice of Jesus and they come springing to life.
I look out over this congregation and here’s what I see: I see dead people…who have now been brought to life.
- I see people, am I’m right there with you, who had no understanding…no faith…no love for God but now our hearts belong to Jesus and our ears are happy to hear his voice and our lips even sing his praise.
- I see people who were once buried and entombed in the darkness and death of unbelief…we were lost…we were doomed…but no longer. We rejoice that we are children of God and we gladly confess our faith in him.
How did this happen? Jesus spoke to us in his Word and Sacrament. And when Jesus speaks, great things happen…dead people are raised to life. A baby is brought to the font and Jesus says, “Little girl…little boy…get up…and live…and believe.” The good news is preached and Jesus says, “Come out…come out of that darkness and into the light…I bring you from death to life…I turn your unbelief into trust…I turn your cold heart of enmity into a dwelling place of my love.” I look out over this congregation and I see life.
And then I look out over the world. And I see more dead people. They walk and talk and go to work and take vacations…but they are still dead. They need to hear the voice of Jesus. And you know great things happen when Jesus speaks. So just as Jesus raised you to life and gave you faith, he can do the same for so many more. Will he use you? Will he use me? Is there any urgency to all of this? I know deadlines can sometimes help me when I’m given a project. One of the first questions I ask is “when is this due.” I need to know if I should get right on this or can I let it sit on the corner of my desk for a few weeks or longer or maybe forget about it altogether. It turns out, there is some practical urgency for you and me not only hearing the voice of Jesus, for our own benefit but also sharing the words of Jesus for the benefit of others.
For a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out – those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned. The practical urgency?…the smelling salts, should we need them? We’re going to die. And we’re going to be judged. And we’re going to spend eternity in heaven or hell.
Those who have done good will rise to live. I’m not sure I like the sounds of that. Could it be that whether I spend eternity in heaven or eternity in hell depends on how good I have been? How good do I have to be?
- Be holy, as I the Lord your God am holy. (Leviticus 19)
- Husbands, love your wives as Christ loved the Church…Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. (Ephesians 5)
- Among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. (Ephesians 5:3)
- Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)
- Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. (Matthew 22:37)
Need I go on? Whose heart can be pure enough, holy enough, good enough? Not mine. And not yours. And yes, that should spell doom. But Jesus comes to the rescue again. He describes those who are good. “I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life” (John 5:24).
The good ones are believers. The good ones are the ones, who through the eyes of faith, realize they themselves are not good enough…never will be…but Jesus has been perfect for us. The good ones are those who have been cleansed and washed and declared righteous, not because they’ve scored high marks in morality but declared righteous because the Son of God has made satisfaction and payment for all their miserable low and lousy marks. The good ones are those who have already been given faith in their spiritual resurrection; one day, they’ll be given a physical resurrection too. They will rise to live…in heaven.
Have you ever heard of Soldiers Grove, Wisconsin? In the 1970’s the whole town had to move to higher ground because of constant flooding. A good deal of government money was used to relocate businesses and homes. When people knew their homes were scheduled to be destroyed in the near future and brand new homes would soon be provided, a couple things happened. They stopped pouring all their time and energy and money into their old homes and they started planning dreaming and looking forward to their new homes. Their minds and hearts were on the new rather than the old. Oh, they still had to go to work and carry on with their daily chores while the old town still was standing, but their minds often drifted toward the new.
When Jesus speaks, great things happen. He has raised us from spiritual unbelief and give us saving faith. He promises also to raise us on the Last Day and give us entrance into heaven – again, all his doing. For the time being, we have work to do…some daily chores to attend to…we have a faith to nourish…the next generation to train up…families to love and care for…a gospel to share…but our minds drift toward the new. What will that be like to have a glorified body? What will that be like to live with no sin? What will that be like to be reunited with loved ones? What will that be like to be with Jesus? Hasten the day. Yes, hasten the day. Amen.