web space | free hosting | Business Hosting Services | Free Website Submission | shopping cart | php hosting

Jesus, Priceless Treasure:

An Introduction to the Christian Faith


Pastor Gregory L. Jackson

A Mighty Fortress Lutheran Church

Glendale, Arizona


Illustrated by

Norma Boeckler – Part I

Virginia Roper – Part II





Martin Chemnitz Press

6421 W. Poinsettia Drive

Glendale, Arizona 85304




Copyright, Gregory L. Jackson, 2001

The entire text of Jesus, Priceless Treasure is posted on the Internet.



Bibleworks 4.0, Copyright 2000, Bibleworks L.L.C. All rights reserved. Used with permission. All Biblical quotations are from the King James Version, using Bibleworks software.


A Comprehensive Explanation of Holy Baptism and the Lord’s Supper, 1610, by J. Gerhard. Repristination Press. Used with permission.


The Lutheran Hymnal, Copyright 1941, Concordia Publishing House. Used with permission.




            For years people have asked for a basic introduction to the Christian faith. I thought it would be good to offer an outline of the public ministry of Jesus as the primary focus of the book. In addition, some of the basic doctrines of the Christian faith are presented in the ministry of Christ and expanded somewhat in the second section of the book. The central message of the Bible is forgiveness through faith in Jesus. His atoning death on the cross is the priceless treasure of the Christian Church. All the teachings of Christianity are related to the salvation won for us by the death and resurrection of our Savior, Christ Jesus, the Son of God. Every Christian book should have as its goal the conclusion of the Gospel of John:


John 20:31 But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.


The orthodox Christian faith has existed from the beginning and will continue until history comes to an end with the return of Christ. When Martin Luther and the authors of the Book of Concord witnessed to their faith during the Reformation, they argued that they were teaching what the early Church taught until her doctrines were corrupted by various factors. This argument is still true today. Everything in the Christian faith can be established through the Scriptures alone. Mormon missionaries told me that there are “One hundred interpretations for every verse of the Bible.” I agreed, saying, “Ninety-nine wrong ones and one correct one.” When they sputtered and tried to recover, I asked, “Do you really think that God became man, died on the cross for our sins, rose from the dead, and then left a record so vague and contradictory that no one could understand it?”

No one should be alienated by the long history of conflict over what the Bible teaches. The Scriptures are extremely clear, teaching us all we need to know about our salvation and eternal life. The Word of God moves us to believe in Christ and to please God in our lives.


Philippians 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.


The best way to learn the truths of the Bible is to study the Scriptures patiently, using a few books as study aids. It is a blessing to have a congregation and pastor where the orthodox Christian faith is taught and practiced. Those who do not live near a faithful congregation can correspond and learn through the Internet.

            The most important way to begin a study is with a reliable Bible. The King James Version is still the most reliable and precise. It is ideal for public reading and memorization. Some people find the older forms of English in the KJV to be difficult. There are many updated versions of the KJV available. The most promising is the Third Millennium KJV. The New KJV has been used extensively, but I hope that updated translations more faithful to the original will displace the more creative versions.

            The authority, inspiration, and inerrancy of the Bible should be accepted without debate today. Unfortunately, clever attacks against the Scriptures have left many people with an odd stew of ideas about the Bible. The best way to test what a minister teaches about the Bible is to ask a simple question. “Are there any errors or contradictions in the Bible?” If he answers “Yes,” he has departed from the historic position of the Christian Church. He may be in the majority today, but he is still wrong, a blind guide. It is better to trust what Jesus says about the Bible:


John 10:35   …the scripture cannot be broken.


Or the apostle Paul:


2 Timothy 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.


Or King David:


Psalm 119:105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.


The Word of God creates a new man who loves God and seeks to serve his neighbor.


1 Peter 1:22 Seeing ye have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit unto unfeigned love of the brethren, see that ye love one another with a pure heart fervently: 23 Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth for ever.


            Many people have helped in the creation of this book. A few years ago, Cleo Kiehler asked for a book that would be an introduction to the Christian faith. My wife Chris has given me constant encouragement to write. Members of A Mighty Fortress helped with the printing costs. Editors included Pastor Peter Prange, Brenda Kiehler, Mr. and Mrs. Walt Boeckler, Dr. Stanley Radford, Toni Marie Westwood, Terry Howell, and an anonymous WELS pastor. I am especially thankful for two artists who dropped their other work to provide illustrations for this book: Virginia Roper and Norma Boeckler. The Gospel of forgiveness through Christ is eternal-life-giving. I hope that this little book will be another stone thrown in the pond.



The Stone in the Pond


"The preaching of this message may be likened to a stone thrown into the water, producing ripples which circle outward from it, the waves rolling always on and on, one driving the other, till they come to the shore. Although the center becomes quiet, the waves do not rest, but move forward. So it is with the preaching of the Word. It was begun by the apostles, and it constantly goes forward, is pushed on farther and farther by the preachers, driven hither and thither into the world, yet always being made known to those who never heard it before, although it be arrested in the midst of its course and is condemned as heresy." [1]






Jesus, Priceless Treasure is dedicated to


C. Fred Hoenes


World War II Navy Veteran




Norman W. Woehrle

World War II Navy Veteran



And to all those who have served

in our Armed Forces.




Table of Contents


Introduction. 3

The Stone in the Pond. 7

Dedication.. 9

Table of Contents. 11

One: The Virgin Birth.. 19

Genesis 3:15. 19

Luke 1:30-33. 20

Matthew 1:20-22. 21

Isaiah 7:14. 23

Luke 2:7. 24

Luke 2:8-15. 24

Silent Night! Holy Night! 25

Two: Pre-Existence of the Son of God.. 25

John 1:1-2. 25

John 1:3. 25

Genesis 1:3-26. 25

O Word of God Incarnate. 25

Three: Angel of the Lord.. 25

Exodus 3:2. 25

John 8:57. 25

Genesis 15:1. 25

Genesis 22:11-13. 25

Genesis 22:12. 25

The God of Abraham Praise. 25

Four: Jesus in the Temple. 25

Divine and Human Natures. 25

Luke 2:47. 25

Within the Father’s House. 25

Five: Baptism of Jesus. 25

Matthew 3:14. 25

Matthew 3:16-17. 25

On Jordan’s Bank. 25

Six: Temptation in the Desert. 25

Matthew 4:4. 25

Matthew 4:7. 25

Matthew 4:10. 25

Hebrews 4:15-16. 25

What a Friend We Have in Jesus. 25

If God Himself Be For Me. 25

Seven: Gathering of the Disciples. 25

Mark 3:14-19. 25

Matthew 16:24-25. 25

John 21:15-17. 25

John 20:31. 25

Dear Christians, One and All Rejoice. 25

Eight: Healing Miracles. 25

Matthew 8:5-10. 25

Luke 17:16-18. 25

Mark 1:34. 25

Matthew 15:29-31. 25

John 11:47. 25

Acts 8:7-8. 25

John 10:38. 25

Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun. 25

Nine: The Lord of Creation.. 25

John 2:11. 25

John 6:11. 25

Mark 4:39. 25

Mark 6:50. 25

Mark 6:51-52. 25

Beautiful Savior. 25

Ten: Unrequested Miracles. 25

Luke 7:14. 25

Luke 7:16. 25

Mark 5:36. 25

Mark 5:42. 25

John 11:33-36. 25

John 12:10-11. 25

Awake, My Heart, with Gladness. 25

Eleven: Teaching in Parables. 25

Matthew 13:3-9. 25

Almighty Father, Bless the Word. 25

Twelve: Jesus Said – I AM.. 25

John 8:58. 25

Exodus 3:13-14. 25

John 18:5-6. 25

Jesus Christ, My Sure Defense. 25

Thirteen: The Bread of Life. 25

The Bread of Life. 25

John 6:35. 25

Matthew 5:6. 25

John 6:51. 25

I Come, O Savior to Thy Table. 25

Fourteen: The Light of the World.. 25

Psalm 119:105. 25

John 1:4. 25

John 8:12. 25

O Splendor of God’s Glory Bright 25

Fifteen: The Good Shepherd.. 25

Psalm 23:1-6. 25

Isaiah 40:11. 25

John 10:11. 25

Shepherd of Tender Youth. 25

Sixteen: The Resurrection.. 25

John 11:25-27. 25

John 11:43-44. 25

John 12:9-11. 25

John 5:28-29. 25

On Christ’s Ascension I Now Build. 25

Seventeen: The Way.. 25

John 14:6. 25

Acts 4:11-12. 25

Jesus! Name of Wondrous Love. 25

Eighteen: The True Vine. 25

John 15:1-2. 25

John 15:5. 25

Chief of Sinners Though I Be. 25

Nineteen: Entrance into Jerusalem.. 25

John 10:17. 25

John 12:13. 25

Matthew 21:15-16. 25

Mark 10:15. 25

Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me. 25

Twenty: The Last Supper.. 25

1 Peter 1:18-21. 25

Matthew 26:26-28. 25

Soul, Adorn Thyself with Gladness. 25

Twenty-One: Arrest and Trial. 25

Matthew 26:39. 25

John 13:38. 25

Matthew 26:63-64. 25

Matthew 27:24. 25

Isaiah 53:4-5. 25

Matthew 27:29-30. 25

O Dearest Jesus, What Law Hast Thou Broken?. 25

Twenty-Two: The Crucifixion.. 25

Matthew 16:24-25. 25

Genesis 3:15. 25

Matthew 27:35. 25

Mark 10:33-34. 25

Psalm 22:7-8. 25

Matthew 5:11-12. 25

John 19:19-20. 25

Acts 2:36-41. 25

Christ, the Life of All the Living. 25

Twenty-Three: The Atonement. 25

Exodus 30:10. 25

Isaiah 53:7. 25

John 3:16-18. 25

Galatians 3:13-14. 25

Romans 6:23. 25

Mark 10:45. 25

1 Timothy 2:5-6. 25

A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth. 25

Twenty-Four: Death and Burial. 25

John 19:30. 25

Isaiah 53:9. 25

O Sacred Head, Now Wounded. 25

Twenty-Five: Empty Grave. 25

Mark 8:31. 25

Mark 16:5-7. 25

John 20:8-9. 25

Awake, My Heart, with Gladness. 25

Twenty-Six: The Risen Lord.. 25

John 20:21-23. 25

John 20:27-29. 25

John 21:15-17. 25

Like the Golden Sun Ascending. 25

Twenty-Seven: Ascension.. 25

1 Corinthians 15:3-8. 25

Matthew 28:19-20. 25

Acts 1:8. 25

Acts 1:11. 25

Crown Him with Many Crowns. 25

Twenty-Eight: Return of Christ. 25

Matthew 24:3. 25

James 5:7. 25

Matthew 24:30-31. 25

1Thessalonians 4:16-17. 25

1 Corinthians 15:51-52. 25

Philippians 2:9-11. 25

John 5:28-29. 25

Matthew 25:45-46. 25

Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart 25

Part II. 25

Thirty: Original Sin.. 25

Genesis 3:6. 25

Romans 7:18-19. 25

Romans 3:10-18. 25

1 Corinthians 15:21-22. 25

Power of the Devil’s Kingdom.. 25

Thirty-One: God’s Law... 25

Ten Commandments: Exodus 20:1-20. 25

Commands about God. 25

Commands about Man. 25

Jeremiah 23:39. 25

Romans 1:28-32. 25

James 1:13-15. 25

1 John 3:4. 25

1 John 3:5-6. 25

Psalm 42:1-4. 25

Chief Office of the Law.. 25

Thirty-Two: The Gospel. 25

1 Thessalonians 2:13. 25

Psalm 23:1. 25

Isaiah 43:1. 25

Psalm 103:8-17. 25

Jeremiah 31:31-34. 25

Isaiah 66:12-13. 25

Priceless Treasure. 25

Thirty-Three: Justification by Faith.. 25

Romans 5:1-2. 25

Romans 5:6, 8, 10. 25

Galatians 5:22. 25

1 John 4:10-12. 25

John 16:26-27. 25

John 3:18. 25

Faith Lays Hold of the Treasures. 25

Thirty-Four: The Means of Grace. 25

Romans 3:23-26. 25

Ephesians 2:5-7. 25

John 4:40-42. 25

Hebrews 4:12-13. 25

Christ: Through the Means of Grace. 25

Thirty-Five: The Spoken Word.. 25

John 15:9-11. 25

John 6:65-66. 25

Titus 3:3-7. 25

The External or Spoken Word. 25

Thirty-Six: Holy Baptism.. 25

John 4:13-14. 25

The Flower of God’s Church. 25

Thirty-Seven: Holy Communion.. 25

Luke 22:19. 25

1 Corinthians 11:23-26. 25

1 Corinthians 10:16. 25

Matthew 26:28. 25

1 Corinthians 11:27. 25

God’s Action in Holy Communion. 25

Thirty-Eight: Absolution.. 25

1 John 1:7-10. 25

Mark 1:14. 25

Isaiah 52:7. 25

Philippians 4:7. 25

Our Need for Absolution. 25

Thirty-Nine: Sound Doctrine. 25

Matthew 13:24-26. 25

2 Corinthians 6:14-16. 25

Galatians 1:8-9. 25

2 Timothy 2:15-17. 25

Titus 3:10-11. 25

2 Peter 3:17-18. 25

2 Thessalonians 2:3-4. 25

2 Timothy 4:3-4. 25

Rewards for False Teachers. 25

Forty: Christian Life and Worship. 25

Hebrews 12:22-24. 25

Matthew 19:27-29. 25

Prayer. 25

Matthew 21:21-22. 25

Luke 11:9-13. 25

1 Peter 3:12. 25

Worship – The Third Commandment 25

Forty-One: Marriage and Family.. 25

Genesis 1:27. 25

Ephesians 5:25-31. 25

Ephesians 5:22-24. 25

Ephesians 6:1-4. 25

1 Peter 2:9-10. 25

Water into Wine, Marriage into Delight 25

Forty-Two: Social Issues. 25

Psalm 139:13-15. 25

The Fifth Commandment 25

Forty-Three: Reading List. 25

One: The Virgin Birth



            Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary. Few sentences have had such an impact upon human history as this one statement – that God became man and was born of a virgin. History changed at that moment, fulfilling what was promised at the beginning of time. When Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden of Eden for violating the Word of God, at the depth of their shame and sorrow, God promised them a Savior. In cursing Satan, God gave mankind the First Gospel:


Genesis 3:15

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.


The prophesy meant that the Savior (her seed) would crush Satan (thy seed), that Satan would injure Him. When Satan led his forces in crucifying Christ, the innocent Lamb of God, the Savior Jesus crushed sin, death, and Satan.

            Because Adam and Eve sinned against God’s Word, their children inherited and passed on what we call original sin. The term original sin means that all our actions, words, and thoughts are tainted by selfishness, self-centeredness, greed, and lust. Mankind has recorded many noble thoughts and wise advice, but human history is a vast record of shame, murder, and folly. We can hardly deny original sin when we realize how often we fail to keep our promises, violate our own principles, and rebel against God’s commands, even when we know that God commands what is good for us.

            The Virgin Mary had a baby. That had to be the greatest miracle in God’s Creation. God became man. That does not mean that God turned into an ordinary human being. Nor does it mean that someone decided that an ordinary person was God. The baby Jesus was both God and man. He is still both God and man. Once He took on our human nature, He never gave it up. When we study the Gospels, we can see that Jesus is one Person with two natures united in Him. The two natures are divine and human.

            God decided the time and place for the birth of the Messiah. He sent the angel Gabriel to tell a young maiden that she would give birth to the Savior of the world.


Luke 1:30-33

1:30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. 31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. 32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: 33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.


Mary wondered how this could be, since she was a virgin. The angel told her that the Holy Spirit would overshadow her and conceive the Savior. The Christian Church calls the Virgin Mary the Mother of God because the Son of God took on human flesh in her womb, uniting His divinity with her humanity.

            Mary was betrothed to Joseph but they were not yet living together. The Jewish custom was just the opposite of ours today. At that time couples were betrothed in a religious ceremony but waited for a period of time before they began living together in the same household. Now couples move into the same household and wait several years—and often several children—before getting married.

            Mary’s condition caused severe embarrassment for Joseph. He knew that he could not be the father of her child. He resolved to divorce Mary quietly. Anyone can imagine how both of them must have felt. However, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and revealed to him that the child would be the promised Savior.


Matthew 1:20-22

1:20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. 21 And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.


Matthew revealed that this was taking place to fulfill the Old Testament promises.


22 Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, 23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.


The unity of God’s plan and purpose becomes clearer when we consider that the First Gospel of Genesis 3:15, the Virgin Birth prophecy of Isaiah 7:14, and the birth of Jesus are all in harmony, in spite of various human authors, enormous stretches of time, and different languages.

            The prediction of the Virgin Birth of Jesus came about in a strange way. God used an evil Jewish king to proclaim the certainty of His greatest miracle. King Ahaz promoted idol worship, so he did not deserve to hear such good news. But God offered him the chance to request a miracle, either in heaven or on earth. Ahaz could have asked to be delivered from his enemies, but he trusted in his own schemes and refused a direct command from God: “Ask for a sign.” When Ahaz proudly refused a miracle, the prophet said, “You will receive a miracle anyway.” The miracle was:


Isaiah 7:14

Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.


We can see that God revealed His will in separate predictions.

  1. The Savior will be born of a woman (Genesis 3:15), “the seed of a woman.”
  2. The woman will be a virgin (Isaiah 7:14) and the child will be “God with us,” Emmanuel.
  3. The woman will be Mary (Matthew, Luke) and the child will be named Jesus –“Salvation.”


            The promise of a Savior being born should have earned Joseph and Mary many favors and blessings, but first they experienced great difficulties. The Roman government ordered a census, so Joseph and Mary had to travel uphill from Galilee to reach Bethlehem. Many Christmas cards show Mary sitting gracefully on a donkey, but the Bible does not have any record of an animal carrying her. Most likely Mary trudged uphill on foot for that long journey. She was about to give birth, hoping for some relief when she and Joseph reached Bethlehem.

            Every mother wants to have the best for her newborn baby, especially the first child. Joseph and Mary might have expected to stay with relatives, or barring that, at an inn. But the crowd was so great that they were forced to stay with the animals in the stable near the inn. The Gospel of Luke describes this touching scene in a few words:


Luke 2:7

And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.


A manger seems so pleasant, dry, and clean, because people recreate the scene with a wooden box and some dry straw every Christmas. However, no parents today would put their newborn baby in a feeding trough, the actual meaning of manger.

Princes, scholars, and noblemen should have come to the stable to see the newborn Savior. A new pizza parlor enjoys more publicity today than the newborn Savior received. However, God chose to tell shepherds about the birth.


Luke 2:8-15

2:8 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. 12 And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. 13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. 15 And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.


The wisdom of God unfolds when we consider how tenderly the Savior comes to us. Born into poverty in the humblest circumstances, Jesus does not intimidate anyone. Instead, people are drawn to Him, especially when they hear about the circumstances of His birth. Although the angels might have directed the scholars and the rulers to see Jesus, the messengers of God revealed His grace and glory to working men, who rejoiced to see their promised Messiah on his earthy throne, surrounded by animals rather than nobles.

            The hardships did not stop when Jesus was born. Wisemen from the East came looking for the Savior, after following the Star of Bethlehem. Pretending to love the Savior, Herod asked the wisemen questions because he feared this newborn king. The wisemen presented gifts to Jesus but did not return to Herod. Nevertheless, Herod sought to eliminate his rival by killing all the boys under two years of age. God warned Joseph to leave, so the family went into exile in Egypt, returning later to Galilee.



Silent Night! Holy Night!


Silent night! Holy night!

All is calm, all is bright,

Round yon Virgin Mother and Child,

Holy Infant, so tender and mild,

Sleep in heavenly peace, Sleep in heavenly peace.


Silent night! Holy night!

Son of God, love’s pure light

Radiant beams from Thy holy face,

With the dawn of redeeming grace,

Jesus, Lord at Thy birth,

Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.[2]

Two: Pre-Existence of the Son of God



            The Virgin Birth of Jesus draws us to the Savior because of His humble circumstances, but the miraculous arrival of the promised Messiah points to His divinity as well. No person in history was both God and man, born of a woman and yet conceived by the Holy Spirit. The pagans often wrote about god-like men and women, but no one thought of them as real, historical persons. Jesus lived and walked among us. God became man. Jesus is still both God and man.

            The Bible teaches us that the Son of God has always existed. The Gospel of John starts with the same words as Genesis—In the beginning—reminding us that the Son of God has always existed and was the creating Word in Genesis.


John 1:1-2

1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 The same was in the beginning with God.


Think of a great church bell calling people to worship. The three-fold tolling of the bell—

The Word—reminds us that the Son of God is a member of the Holy Trinity:

In the beginning was The Word

And The Word was with God,

And The Word was God.

The Word, the Word, the Word. The majestic opening of John’s Gospel teaches us that the Son of God existed from the beginning, that He was with God the Father, and that He was God.

            The divinity and the pre-existence of Christ are under attack from many sides. Anti-Christian cults like the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the Trinity and the divinity of Christ. Liberal religious leaders deny the Virgin Birth of Christ. The Bible is perfectly clear about Jesus being the eternal Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary.

            The opening of John’s Gospel directs us to Genesis and to Creation by the Word:


John 1:3

1:3 All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made.


One little girl understood this better than most adults. She pointed at the stars in the sky at night and said, “See Mommy, Jesus made all the stars!” There is nothing in this universe we can see or touch that is not from Jesus, the creating Word.

The eternal Son of God is the creating Word in Genesis, when God commanded, And God said:


Genesis 1:3-26


First Day

1:3 And God said, Let there be light: and there was light.


Second Day

1:6 And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.


Third Day

1:9 And God said, Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. 10 And God called the dry land Earth; and the gathering together of the waters called he Seas: and God saw that it was good. 11 And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.


Fourth Day

1:14 And God said, Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for days, and years:


Fifth Day

1:20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly the moving creature that hath life, and fowl that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of heaven.


Sixth Day

1:24 And God said, Let the earth bring forth the living creature after his kind, cattle, and creeping thing, and beast of the earth after his kind: and it was so. 25 And God made the beast of the earth after his kind, and cattle after their kind, and every thing that creepeth upon the earth after his kind: and God saw that it was good. 26 And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.


People seldom think about the meaning of this passage – Jesus created everything we enjoy, from the plants and animals of this beautiful planet to the milky expanse of stars in the sky. The little girl who pointed at the evening sky and said, “Look, Mommy. Jesus made the stars” helps explain why those who believe in Creation have such a great appreciation for all forms of life: the unborn child, the birds flocking to the feeder during a winter blizzard, the flowers blooming in a well kept garden.


O Word of God Incarnate

O Word of God Incarnate,

O Wisdom from on high,

O Truth unchanged, unchanging,

O Light of our dark sky –

We praise Thee for the radiance

That from the hallowed page,

A lantern to our footsteps,

Shines on from age to age.


The Church from her dear Master

Received the gift divine,

And still that light she lifteth

O’er all the earth to shine.

It is the golden casket

Where gems of truth are stored;

It is the heaven drawn picture

Of Christ the living Word.[3]




Three: Angel of the Lord



The Son of God appeared many times in the Old Testament as the Angel of the Lord. God created angels to be His messengers and servants, so we know there is a great difference between a created angel and God the Creator. An angel speaks in the name of God but is not God. In the same way, an ambassador speaks for the President of the United States but does not call himself the President. An ambassador will say, “The President has decided to do this.” He does not say, “I am the President.”

For this reason we can see from the very words of Scripture that the Angel of the Lord is not a created being but God. He is called God and calls Himself God. The Angel of the Lord appeared to Moses in the form of a burning bush that was not destroyed by its fire.


Exodus 3:2

3:2 And the Angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a flame of fire out of the midst of a bush: and he looked, and, behold, the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed.


The Angel of the Lord called Himself God.


Exodus 3:6 Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.


When Moses asked for the name of the name of God, he received this answer:


Exodus 3:14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.


          The name of God, I AM, is used by Jesus to identify Himself and to show that He has always existed.


John 8:57

John 8:57 Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham? 58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.


As we will see later in this book, the I AM passages in the Gospel of John are very important for all believers to study, understand, and believe. This particular verse, John 8:57, identifies Jesus with God in the burning bush. The Angel of the Lord revealed in the burning bush is the Son of God before He came to live among us.

          When we start to recognize the Son of God in the Old Testament, many more passages take on new meaning. To show this, I capitalized The Word in the following passage.


Genesis 15:1

Genesis 15:1 After these things The Word of the LORD came unto Abram in a vision, saying, Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward.


The Word is the name for Jesus in John 1:1. In Genesis 15:1, The Word of the LORD said, “I am thy shield.” Knowing that the Bible is one unified truth, we can see:

1.     God promised Adam and Eve a Savior.

2.     The Savior spoke to Abram (Abraham) in a vision.

3.     The Savior appeared to Moses as a burning bush and spoke to him.

When we read the Old Testament, we should not think of it as a long prelude to the New Testament Gospel of Jesus. Instead, we should read the Old Testament as the first part of the Gospel of Jesus, filled with promises, blessings, comfort, love, mercy, and forgiveness.

            The Savior’s appearance as the Angel of the Lord is worth special consideration in the story of Abraham and Isaac. The Lord promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations. In fact, as the first believer of modern times (after the Flood), Abraham became the father of all Christians across the earth. But when Abraham and his wife Sarah were considered too old to have children, they were promised a son. Sarah laughed, so the baby was named Isaac, a pun on the word for laughter in Hebrew.

            Have you ever known a man who had his first child in old age? It is obvious how deeply Abraham loved his only son with Sarah. Nevertheless, God commanded him to sacrifice his only son on a distant mountain. Abraham obeyed and took his son Isaac with him on a three day journey to Mount Moriah. When the boy noticed wood and fire for the sacrifice, he wondered why he saw no lamb to be slaughtered. His father said, “God will provide Himself a lamb for the sacrifice.”

            Abraham left his servants and took his son up on the mountain. He tied Isaac and placed him on the wood on the altar. Any father who loves his only son can imagine the unbearable pain felt by Abraham as he lifted his knife over Isaac, obedient to God’s command. The Scriptures indicate no struggle from the son, who obeyed his father. Then the Angel of the Lord called out his name twice:


Genesis 22:11-13

22:11 And the Angel of the LORD called unto him out of heaven, and said, Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I. 12 And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me. 13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.


          The almost-sacrifice of Isaac remained a mystery to everyone until the Father sent His only-begotten Son to be a sacrifice for all sins. The Son obeyed the Father’s will and laid down His life to redeem the world from sin. Once the apostles understood and believed in the cross and resurrection, the ancient story became clear. God intended that Abraham and Isaac would help all people identify with the Father sacrificing the Son. Although the story of Abraham and Isaac turned out well, just as the sacrifice of Christ did, both events are filled with agony and wonder. We can appreciate the cross of Jesus better by understanding how this story of Abraham and Isaac was told with agony and wonder for centuries before the baby Jesus was born.

            The Angel of the Lord stopped the sacrifice. He was not a created being, because He identified Himself as God. Abraham feared God and did not hold back his only son from Me.





Genesis 22:12

And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from Me.


The Savior was present to give Abraham a substitute for the sacrifice. The substitute was a ram, representing the Man Who would be our substitute through His atoning death.



The God of Abraham Praise


The God of Abraham praise;

All praised be His name

Who was and is and is to be

And still the same!

The one eternal God,

Ere aught that now appears;

The First, the Last: beyond all thought

His timeless years.[4]





Four: Jesus in the Temple



            The only description of Jesus as a child is found in the Gospel of Luke. Almost everyone would like to know much more about Jesus growing up. The Scriptures tell us what we need to know to prepare us for eternal life, leaving out the details that we would like to know to satisfy our curiosity. However, the brevity of the Bible is a blessing rather than a handicap. Every single passage is filled with spiritual wisdom and leads to more passages overflowing with comfort, mercy, peace, forgiveness, love, and joy. Every passage is a goldmine never exhausted by study, always leading to more treasure in additional passages.

            Jesus accompanied His family on their trip to Jerusalem when He was twelve years old. The family went with relatives and friends, so Joseph and Mary did not look for Jesus on the way home. They assumed He was with His young friends and relations in the group. Joseph and Mary traveled a day before they began to wonder and look for Jesus. Then they headed back up to Jerusalem—an uphill climb to the heights of that ancient city.

            Joseph and Mary did not find Jesus for three days, finally seeing Him in the Temple talking with the religious leaders. Jesus was in a circle of scholars, listening to them and asking them questions. Mary was angry with Jesus and made it clear that both parents were extremely disappointed and grieved.

            Jesus said, “Did you not realize that I must be doing the work of My Father?” Joseph and Mary did not understand what He was saying. In conclusion, Luke stated that Jesus returned to Galilee with His parents and was subject to them.


Divine and Human Natures

            This Gospel lesson, so well known to children and adults, teaches us about the human and divine natures united in Jesus. In most of the story Jesus seems to be an ordinary boy, doing what most boys will do from time to time, losing track of his parents. However, Jesus stayed behind in obedience to His Father’s will, not to play with friends. When Jesus was in the Temple, His divine wisdom became obvious to the learned scholars.


Luke 2:47

And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.


The teachers of the Law saw a twelve year old boy, but they heard the wisdom of the Lord of Creation. That is a good example of the divine and human natures of Jesus. Since the Son of God took on our human nature, we use the term God Incarnate (God in the flesh) for Jesus.

            Jesus is both God and man. His divine nature allowed Him to do anything as God, never limited by His humanity. Nevertheless, Jesus chose not to reveal His divinity most of the time, so people saw an ordinary looking man. It is wrong to think of Jesus as only God or as only man. Jesus is not part God and part man. He is both God and man.



Within the Father’s House


Within the Father’s house

The Son hath found His home,

And to His Temple suddenly

The Lord of Life hath come.


The doctors of the Law

Gaze on the wondrous Child

And marvel at His gracious words

Of wisdom undefiled.[5]


Yet not to them is given

The mighty truth to know,

To lift the earthly veil which veils

Incarnate God below.


Five: Baptism of Jesus



            The baptism of Jesus is one of the most beautiful scenes in the New Testament. John the Baptizer was preparing people for the coming of the Messiah. John baptized those who listened to his message and felt a true godly sorrow for their sins. He attracted a large following because He taught the true Word of God.

            Jesus came to John to be baptized in the Jordan River, to fulfill all righteousness. John recognized Jesus as the promised Savior and did not feel worthy to baptize Jesus.


Matthew 3:14

But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?


Jesus did not present Himself as above us. He urged His disciples to baptize others as He Himself had been baptized. He went off by Himself to pray. He traveled the way ordinary people do even though He always had the divine power to move wherever He wished. Jesus asked to be baptized by John, even though John did not feel worthy to until the sandals on Jesus’ feet.

            When Jesus humbly entered the Jordan to be baptized, an extraordinary event took place. The Holy Spirit descended upon Him and the Father spoke.

          Matthew 3:16-17

16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: 17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.


This is one of many passages about the Holy Trinity in the Bible. The Son of God is being baptized. The Holy Spirit descends upon Him. The Father speaks His blessing upon His Son. Jesus is His beloved Son, His only-begotten Son, just as Isaac was the only son of Abraham and Sarah.

            When a child or adult is baptized, the words are always, “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” When we baptize someone, we remember the baptism of Jesus and the revelation of the Triune God, the unity of the Three Persons. We bring the baptized before the Holy Trinity – a soul with a Christian name, a specific person who is precious in the sight of God.[6]

            The Scriptures show us how often God placed the Gospel before His people. He first announced the Savior to Adam and Eve. Noah and Moses believed in the Savior and preached the Gospel. Through the Old Testament prophets God taught His people about the Savior for thousands of years before the birth of Jesus. Doing the Father’s will meant that the boy Jesus spoke to the most learned teachers of the Law in the Temple, eighteen years before His public ministry began with His baptism.

            Jesus came to His own people in the most public way possible, because He taught with the Word. His baptism proclaimed the Savior’s unique role: “This is My beloved Son, in Whom I am well pleased.”


On Jordan’s Bank


On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry

Announces that the Lord is nigh;

Come, then, and hearken, for he brings

Glad tidings from the King of Kings.


All praise, eternal Son, to Thee

Whose advent sets Thy people free,

Whom, with the Father, we adore

And Holy Ghost forevermore.[7]

Six: Temptation in the Desert



            After He was baptized, Jesus went immediately into the desert where He was tempted by Satan. The human nature of Jesus meant that He experienced everything we would feel in the same circumstances: hunger, thirst, loneliness, weakness. And yet, as the Son of God, Jesus confronted and defeated Satan with the Word of God as an example to us.

            Satan knew the Savior was promised, but he did not know the Name of the Messiah until Jesus was born. This knowledge increased Satan’s fury and trickery. Jesus fasted for 40 days, so He was hungry. Satan attacks us where we are vulnerable, so he tempted Jesus by saying, “If you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread.” Nothing is so satisfying as bread, even more so when someone is famished. Jesus was tempted to prove His divinity and to satisfy His hunger. Today many people are tempted to do wrong because of their fear about material security.

            Jesus defeated the first attempt by using the Word of God, quoting the Scriptures:


Matthew 4:4

But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.


True living does not consist in satisfying physical needs first, but by relying upon every Word from God, Who gives us eternal life and our daily bread.

            The devil then took Jesus up to the highest part of the Temple in Jerusalem. The cleverest of all teachers of the Bible offered his unique perspective on the Scriptures. Jesus should throw Himself off the Temple and prove how God’s angels will protect Him. The father of all lies and murder is best at using the Bible in his attempt to steal faith from believers. Christians tempt God when they expect certain specific results from their prayers, as if God must prove His power and His love by providing what His followers demand. Congregations and church bodies have tempted God by insisting on specific results, ordering God to make them feel good about themselves. Martin Luther pointed out the error in having the creatures manage the Creator.


"In like manner, St. Paul says that God's ability is thus proved, in that He does exceeding abundantly above and better than we ask or think. Ephesians 3:20. Therefore, we should know we are too finite to be able to name, picture or designate the time, place, way, measure and other circumstances for that which we ask of God. Let us leave that entirely to Him, and immovably and steadfastly believe that He will hear us."[8]


Jesus responded to Satan’s urging with the Word of God:


Matthew 4:7

Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.


Believers tempt God all the time by demanding that He prove His love or power. Rather than asking in faith and receiving from God in faith, believers listen to Satanic teachers who insist God owes them immediate gratification of their desires. They are tempting God by insisting on a new car, a new house, or instant cures.

            The final temptation placed Satan and Jesus on a high mountain where He could see the kingdoms of the world. If only He would bow down and worship Satan, all those kingdoms would belong to Him. Give up Your cross, Your humility, Your suffering and death for the sins of the world.

Matthew 4:10

Matthew 4:10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.


Every Christian faces the same temptation. Bow down and worship Satan by adopting his tactics. Lie, steal, and manipulate to get ahead. Betray friends. Stand for nothing except getting ahead in the career. And this does not apply just to clergy, but to the laity as well. They are tempted in the same way in their jobs, but the damage they do is not as serious. A murderer may steal our lives away, but a false teacher murders our souls.

            Whenever we are tempted in any way, Hebrews urges us to look to Jesus.


Hebrews 4:15-16

15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.


For this reason, Jesus is our salvation, comfort, hope, joy, peace, and treasure.

What a Friend We Have in Jesus


Have we trials and temptations?

Is there trouble anywhere?

We should never be discouraged,

Take it to the Lord in prayer.

Can we find a Friend so faithful

Who will all our sorrows share?

Jesus knows our every weakness,

Take it to the Lord in prayer.[9]


If God Himself Be For Me



My heart for joy is springing

And can no more be sad,

‘Tis full of mirth and singing,

Sees naught but sunshine glad.

The Sun that cheers my spirit

Is Jesus Christ, my King;

The heaven I shall inherit

Makes me rejoice and sing.[10]

Seven: Gathering of the Disciples



            Jesus invited the disciples to follow Him. The word disciple means student. Jesus taught them so they would spread the Gospel after His resurrection.


Mark 3:14-19

14 And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach, 15 And to have power to heal sicknesses, and to cast out devils: 16 And Simon he surnamed Peter; 17 And James the son of Zebedee, and John the brother of James; and he surnamed them Boanerges, which is, The sons of thunder: 18 And Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Canaanite, 19 And Judas Iscariot, which also betrayed him: and they went into an house.


Some disciples are more prominent in the New Testament. Simon Peter, James, John, and Andrew are mentioned most often. Judas Iscariot is known as the one who betrayed Jesus. John is the author of John’s Gospel, “the disciple Jesus loved.” Matthew wrote the Gospel of Matthew. Thomas doubted the resurrection of Christ but believed and confessed, “My Lord and my God.”

            Many people wish they could have been with Jesus as a disciple. Jesus promised them the cross rather than earthly glory and fame.


Matthew 16:24-25

24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.


The disciples faced many difficulties when following Jesus and even more when they went out as His witnesses to the corners of the world.

The Bible is the only religious book where the flaws, weaknesses, and sins of the leaders are discussed so frankly. The shortcomings of the disciples allow us to see the same failings in ourselves, to see how patient the Savior is with our sinful nature. Peter is one of the best examples. During the trial of Jesus, Peter denied knowing his Master three times, just as Jesus predicted. The risen Lord appeared to Peter and the disciples while they were fishing. Instead of abandoning His weak disciples or denouncing Peter, Jesus asked him three times, “Do you love me?”


John 21:15-17

15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. 16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.


Peter denied Jesus three times before a charcoal fire. Three times Jesus absolved him by a charcoal fire and sent him out to do His work: “Feed My sheep.”

            Jesus chose the disciples to continue His work. The 50,000 miles of the Roman Empire’s highway system allowed the disciples to reach the corners of civilization. Persecution often drove the Christians forward to new cities to establish the Gospel. The disciples or apostles served as the first ministers and then trained new pastors. The apostles went forth as witnesses of the resurrection, as sinners forgiven through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. Their message was one of comfort, forgiveness, and salvation.


John 20:31

But these are written, that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye might have life through his name.

Dear Christians, One and All Rejoice


He spoke to His beloved Son:

‘Tis time to have compassion.

Then go, bright Jewel of My crown,

And bring to man salvation;

From sin and sorrow set him free,

Slay bitter death for him that he

May live with Thee forever.


The Son obeyed His Father’s will,

Was born of virgin mother,

And God’s good pleasure to fulfill,

He came to be my Brother.

No garb of pomp or power He wore,

A servant’s form, like mine, He bore.

To lead the devil captive.[11]

Eight: Healing Miracles



            Jesus performed miracles to confirm His relationship to His Father. Many people came to Jesus to be healed or to request healing for their friends and relatives. Jesus also gave His disciples the power to work miracles in His Name, to confirm the divine authority of their teaching.

            Jesus attracted people because of His wisdom, compassion, and the power of His teaching. Previously the people heard others teach about God’s will. When Jesus spoke, they heard God speak God’s will. Miracles and teaching worked together. When Jesus spoke the Word, people saw and experienced miraculous results. He always used the spoken Word to convert people to faith. The greatest miracle is converting dead sinners into followers of Christ, forgiven through His grace.

            Jesus healed people by commanding them to be healed. God’s Word always brings results. A Roman military leader knew and believed in the power of the Word.


Matthew 8:5-10

5 And when Jesus was entered into Capernaum, there came unto him a centurion, beseeching him, 6 And saying, Lord, my servant lieth at home sick of the palsy, grievously tormented. 7 And Jesus saith unto him, I will come and heal him. 8 The centurion answered and said, Lord, I am not worthy that thou shouldest come under my roof: but speak the word only, and my servant shall be healed. 9 For I am a man under authority, having soldiers under me: and I say to this man, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it. 10 When Jesus heard it, he marvelled, and said to them that followed, Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.


“Speak the Word only, and my servant shall be healed.” The servant did nothing to earn the miracle and remained at home. God’s Word, immune to all barriers, accomplished the will of Jesus.

            Another miracle of Jesus teaches us about being thankful to God. Ten lepers begged Jesus to heal them. The Savior sent them to the priest and they were healed on the way. However, only one man returned to Jesus to express his gratitude.


Luke 17:16-18

16 And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan. 17 And Jesus answering said, Were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine? 18 There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.


The miracle reminds us that God showers His blessings upon us all the time. Although we long for relief and comfort, we are often unthankful and indifferent once we receive what we requested from God. Many miracles come to us unrequested, in the abundant blessings daily provided us through God’s love and mercy.

            Jesus performed many miracles. Some are summarized in the Gospels:


Mark 1:34

And he healed many that were sick of divers diseases, and cast out many devils; and suffered not the devils to speak, because they knew him.


Matthew 15:29-31

29 And Jesus departed from thence, and came nigh unto the sea of Galilee; and went up into a mountain, and sat down there. 30 And great multitudes came unto him, having with them those that were lame, blind, dumb, maimed, and many others, and cast them down at Jesus' feet; and he healed them: 31 Insomuch that the multitude wondered, when they saw the dumb to speak, the maimed to be whole, the lame to walk, and the blind to see: and they glorified the God of Israel.


The religious opponents of Jesus knew Him for His miracles.


John 11:47

Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles.


The apostles also performed miracles:


Acts 8:7-8

7 For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. 8 And there was great joy in that city.


As the Son of God, Jesus always had the power to perform miracles. He also gave that power to His disciples.

            Some question why so many miracles were performed by Jesus and his disciples but so few today. Phony healing miracles by religious frauds make this even more apparent. However, God’s miracles have not stopped. Believers recognize many miracles taking place in their lives. The miracles of Jesus and the apostles were needed by unbelievers to distinguish them from the many deceivers of the day, who claimed miraculous powers.


John 10:38

But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.


The works or miracles Jesus performed were so far beyond the powers of anyone else that everyone could say, “He is the Son of God.”



Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun


Blessing abound wherever He reigns;

The prisoner leaps unloosed his chains;

The weary find eternal rest,

And all the sons of want are blest.


Where He displays His healing power,

Death and the curse are known no more;

In Him the tribes of Adam boast

More blessings than their father lost.[12]


Nine: The Lord of Creation



             Skeptics will say that many teachers worked miracles at the time of Jesus, but no one can claim that the wonder workers set aside the principles of Creation. The laws of nature are subject to the Lord of Creation, as Jesus proved many times.

            Many times people identify miracles with the marvels of life created by God: the birth of a baby, the design of a human eye, the balance of nature. An evolutionist explained a bird feather on TV as “a miracle.” We should thank God for these daily miracles, signs of His purpose and design. A miracle is most evident when the normal course of life is suddenly changed, whether in a person or in nature itself.

            Jesus’ first miracle took place at the wedding in Cana. Jesus attended the wedding with His disciples. Apparently His mother was hosting this wedding for a relative, so she told Jesus that they were out of wine. Jesus responded that it was not His time to reveal Himself, but He performed the miracle anyway. He instructed the stewards to pour water into stone jars and then to draw the water out. The servants put water into the jars but drew out wine. The wine was so good that the bridegroom was accused of holding back the best wine until last, contrary to custom. This miracle showed the disciples the power of Jesus over nature.


John 2:11

This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him.


            When a multitude followed Jesus and found themselves stranded without enough food, the disciples did not know what to do. There was not enough money to buy food and not enough food to share among so many. Jesus knew what He would do. He had the men sit down in ranks.


John 6:11

And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would.


When the fragments were gathered, the disciples had enough to fill twelve man-sized baskets. Therefore, a huge multitude was fed from a boy’s dinner, leaving more than they had at the beginning.

This miracles shows us a number of things.

  1. God provides all we need and abundance besides, even before we ask.
  2. When we figure out that we do not have enough money or resources, we are showing a lack of faith in the Lord of Creation.
  3. If we wonder how Jesus can provide His body and blood to so many over the centuries, this miracle proves His ability to supply us beyond our ability to imagine.

If we ever wonder about God’s love for us, we should remember the Feeding of the Multitude.

            When the disciples were crossing the enormous Sea of Galilee, they were overwhelmed by a fierce storm that threatened to swamp the boat and drown them. Jesus slept in the rear of the boat, making His disciples think He was indifferent to their fears. They woke Him, saying, “Don’t you care if we die?”


Mark 4:39

And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.


Jesus severely criticized the disciples for their fear and their lack of faith. They let their immediate sensations feed their emotions. The Savior they loved so much suddenly became so uncaring in their eyes that they felt compelled to wake Him up and chew Him out for His apathy.

            We all think, “How foolish for them to be fearful with the Lord of Creation in the same boat with them!” However, we often let our emotions run away with us, judging the facts for ourselves without trusting in the Word of God. The Scriptures must have more authority than our emotions and judgments. If not, then we are placing ourselves above God’s Word. Therefore, if we judge truth by our emotions, faith will run out the door.

            The disciples found themselves in another fix when they were crossing the sea without Jesus. He appeared walking on the water, causing them to cry out in fear. Jesus comforted them.


Mark 6:50

For they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid.


Doubters have offered some hilarious explanations for Jesus walking on the water. Perhaps He was still on the shore and just seemed to be on the water. Then again, He may have known where all the sandbars were and wisely walked on them! Human reason can harden the heart to accept fantastic explanations instead of Biblical revelation. Such rejection points to a refusal to believe in Jesus as the true Son of God. We can also reject the implications of our faith, as the disciples often did.


Mark 6:51-52

51 And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered. 52 For they considered not the miracle of the loaves: for their heart was hardened.

God patiently works to teach us His power, compassion, and mercy.


Beautiful Savior


Beautiful Savior, King of Creation,

Son of God and Son of Man!

Truly I’d love Thee,

Truly I’d serve Thee,

Light of my soul, my Joy, my Crown.


Fair are the meadows,

Fair are the woodlands,

Robed in flowers of blooming spring;

Jesus is fairer, Jesus is purer;

He makes our sorrowing spirit sing.


Fair is the sunshine,

Fair is the moonlight,

Bright the sparkling stars on high;

Jesus shines brighter,

Jesus shines purer,

Than all the angels in the sky.


Beautiful Savior,

Lord of the nations,

Son of God and Son of Man!

Glory and honor,

Praise, adoration,

Now and forevermore be Thine![13]




Ten: Unrequested Miracles



            If miracles depend upon the faith of the individual, as scoffers say, then the New Testament has given us some real puzzles. Jesus raised three people from the dead through His Word. It is almost convincing to claim that a sick person would feel better in the presence of the Lord Jesus, but far more difficult to imagine a corpse having faith.

            A widow in Nain was grieving at her only son’s funeral when Jesus and His disciples entered her city. A widow’s life in those days was especially hard, but even more difficult with the loss of an only son. Who would provide for her and do work for her? The practical questions and the acute grief would be difficult to bear. Jesus had compassion on her. He raised her son from the dead with His Word.


Luke 7:14

And he came and touched the bier: and they that bare him stood still. And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise.


The young man spoke, and Jesus gave him back to the mother.

Luke 7:16

And there came a fear on all: and they glorified God, saying, That a great prophet is risen up among us; and, That God hath visited his people.


            Similarly, no one expected a dead girl to be raised from death by the command of Jesus. Jairus was a ruler of the synagogue. Having faith in Jesus, Jairus went to the Savior and asked that his sick daughter be made well. In the meantime, a woman was healed by touching the hem of Jesus’ robe. Then a servant came and told Jairus to leave Jesus alone. “Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the Master any more?”

            Jesus responded, pointing out that the opposite of fear is faith:


Mark 5:36

As soon as Jesus heard the word that was spoken, he saith unto the ruler of the synagogue, Be not afraid, only believe.


Taking only Peter, James, and John, Jesus went to the house of mourning, where people were crying in their grief – “a tumult.” Jesus said, “Why weep and make such an uproar? The girl is not dead but sleeping.” The mourners laughed Him to scorn. They knew better. Jesus ushered them out and took the parents into the room with the dead child. How their hearts must have been breaking at the sight of their twelve year old daughter prepared for the grave. Jesus took the little girl’s hand and said in Aramaic, “Little girl, I say to you – Arise!”



            The Word of God turned death into life.


Mark 5:42

And straightway the damsel arose, and walked; for she was of the age of twelve years. And they were astonished with a great astonishment.


The people who laughed Jesus to scorn were soon overwhelmed with the sight of the young girl walking, her parents transformed from grief to joy. In the same way, the Word of the Gospel gives eternal life to all who believe in the Savior.

            The power of the Word was even more evident when Jesus was called to help His friend Lazarus, who was very ill. Mary and Martha, the sisters of Lazarus, sent a message for Jesus to come and help their brother. Jesus loved all three of them, but He did something very peculiar. He stayed an extra two days instead of rushing to Bethany where Lazarus was dying. Jesus headed for the town only after announcing that Lazarus was “sleeping,” meaning that his friend was dead.

            Lazarus was dead for four days when Jesus arrived with His disciples. Bethany was close to Jerusalem, so many mourners came from the nearby city for the funeral. Jesus saw the grief expressed for His friend, and felt the same.


John 11:33-36

33 When Jesus therefore saw her weeping, and the Jews also weeping which came with her, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled, 34 And said, Where have ye laid him? They said unto him, Lord, come and see. 35 Jesus wept. 36 Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!


The mourners wondered, as Mary and Martha did, why Jesus did not heal His friend. Then the Savior asked to have the tomb opened up, since it was fashioned from a cave, as His tomb would be.

            Martha objected to opening the grave. After four days in the grave, “He stinks.” Jesus prayed to His Father and then said with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” Lazarus came out of the tomb, still wrapped for death. The raising of Lazarus created an enormous commotion, for several reasons:

  1. Lazarus was a prominent citizen whose funeral was attended by people from Jerusalem and the surrounding area.
  2. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, He was followed by the throng from Bethany and met by those coming out of the city who already heard that He raised Lazarus from the dead.
  3. Lazarus accompanied Jesus to Jerusalem, where the evidence of the Lord’s power enraged the Pharisees.


John 12:10-11

10 But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; 11 Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.


The power of God’s Word in raising the dead showed people that Jesus was indeed the promised Messiah. However, it also prompted His opponents to crucify Him.


Awake, My Heart, with Gladness


Now I will cling forever

To Christ, my Savior true;

My Lord will leave me never,

Whatever He passeth through.

He rends Death’s iron chain,

He breaks through sin and pain,

He shatters hell’s dark thrall, —

I follow Him through all.


He brings me to the portal

That leads to bliss untold,

Whereon this rime immortal

Is found in script of gold:

“Who there My cross hath shared

Finds here a crown prepared;

Who there with Me hath died

Shall here be glorified.”[14]


Eleven: Teaching in Parables



            Jesus taught in parables. In other words, His lessons to the disciples and the larger crowd were visual. Jesus took His examples from their everyday lives: sowing seed, herding sheep, baking bread, growing grapes. Many stories involved some drama as well, so listeners experienced the parables: a lost coin, a lost son who repents, a man beaten and robbed on a road.

            The parables do not make much sense to non-believers. They are blind to them. However, when the Gospel places faith in our hearts, the parables anchor our understanding of Jesus and His Kingdom.

            One of the most important parables is the Sower and the Seed.


Matthew 13:3-9

3 And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow; 4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up: 5 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: 6 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away. 7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them: 8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold. 9 Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.


This illustration teaches us how the Word is broadcast in all directions, taking root and growing miraculously in spite of apparent failures.

            The seed is the Word of God, as Jesus explained. Falling on the hardened footpath next to the garden and being devoured by birds represents Satan taking away the faith of a believer. These people, according to Luther, are the religious figures who rule in the Church and yet no longer have any faith. They continue to mouth the religious formulas they know, but they do not believe what they say. That has always been true to some extent but it is worse now than ever before.

            The seed falling on rocky soil is like the people who hear the Gospel and have great joy in knowing their sins are forgiven. However, they do not apply themselves to the Word and therefore do not develop deep roots of spiritual wisdom for the time when difficulties come along. As soon as Christianity feels like a burden, their faith withers away.

            The thorns are the cares and anxieties of the world that choke the faith. Many people believe in the Gospel but get so involved in work or leisure that they no longer nourish their faith with the Scriptures or worship.

            When seed falls on good ground – those are the ones who hear the Word and receive it. Jesus did not explain that they were good people or better than the others. They are the ones who continue to hear and believe. The results are a multiplication of the Word in other believers. This takes place commonly when a man and woman get married and have their children baptized. They raise their children in the Christian faith, so their children also want a Christian spouse. When the orginial couple dies in the faith, after having grandchildren and great-grandchildren, it is not unusual for dozens of faithful Christians to have descended from a Christian marriage 50 years before.

            When children received sunflower seeds in church to demonstrate this parable, interesting things happened. One boy ate his seed in the car going home, so he had none to plant. One girl planted hers in rocky soil, so the weak plant hardly grew. Other children planted their seed in good soil where sun and water encouraged rank weed growth. However, some seed grew into flowers twelve feet tall. The seed heads were larger than a pizza; the seed far outnumbered the original seed sent home.

Almighty Father, Bless the Word


Almighty Father, bless the Word

Which through Thy grace we now have heard.

Oh, may the precious seed take root,

Spring up and bear abundant fruit!


We praise Thee for the Means of Grace

As homeward now our steps we trace.

Grant, Lord, that we who worshiped here

May all at last in heaven appear.[15]

Twelve: Jesus Said – I AM



Believers love the Gospel of John because the Apostle gives us so many sermons from Jesus about His role as our Savior. One phrase to notice especially is “I am.” Many people pass by this phrase because they think Jesus is just describing Himself (I am the Good Shepherd) or identifying Himself, such as when someone says, “That’s me.”

The Gospel of John clearly means to teach us that I am should be understood as meaning I AM THAT I AM, the name of God. When Jesus debated with His religious opponents, He claimed to be the very Savior expected by Abraham, the father of faith. They did not understand how a younger man could claim to know what Abraham thought and experienced centuries before.


John 8:58

Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.


Jesus’ statement does not make sense in any language, unless we believe that He has always existed as God. God is a continuous state of being – I AM. An ancient person would say, “Before Abraham was, I was.” But only God can say, “I am.”

            Moreover, by saying “Before Abraham was, I am,” Jesus identified Himself with the voice from the Burning Bush. When Moses asked the name of God, the Angel of the Lord said, “Tell them I AM hath sent me unto you.”


Exodus 3:13-14

13 And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? 14 And God said unto Moses, I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.


The miracles of Jesus were far beyond anyone’s expectations because He is God in the Flesh, Immanuel, God With Us.

            When the authorities came to arrest Jesus, He again revealed His divine nature in His response to them. Their reaction shows us that only God could drive soldiers backwards by saying, “I am.”


John 18:5-6

5 They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he [he is inserted by the translators]. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them. 6 As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground.


What made these powerful armed men fall backwards to the ground? Jesus revealed His divine majesty in two words. This revelation served as a witness to Jesus’ disciples that He was allowing Himself to be arrested, fulfilling the Scriptures. The religious and government opponents also had no excuse in thinking they were killing an ordinary man, a pretend Messiah.

            Although the unbelieving world has no use for Christ and His followers, we should always remember that His “I AM” can strike armed soldiers to the ground. He is our Savior, our Strength, our Rock, our Sure Defense.

Jesus Christ, My Sure Defense


Jesus, my Redeemer lives;

I, too, unto life shall waken.

Endless joy my Savior gives;

Shall my courage, then, be shaken?

Shall I fear, or could the Head

Rise and leave His members dead?


Nay, too closely am I bound

Unto Him by hope forever;

Faith’s strong hand the Rock hath found,

Grasped it, and will leave it never;

Even death now cannot part

From its Lord the trusting heart.


Then take comfort and rejoice,

For His members Christ will cherish.

Fear not, they will hear His voice;

Dying, they shall never perish;

For the very grave is stirred

When the trumpet blast is heard.


Laugh to scorn the gloomy grave

And at death no longer tremble;

He, the Lord, who came to save

Will at last His own assemble.

They will go their Lord to meet,

Treading death beneath their feet.[16]


Thirteen: The Bread of Life



            Jesus said “I am” to reveal His divinity and eternal existence. He also gave a series of sermons in the Gospel of John to define His mission as our Savior. Some of these descriptions are:

These sermons are wonderful ways to learn about Jesus. Each one gives us a vivid image in connection with the message of the sermon.


The Bread of Life

            Nothing is quite so satisfying for a hungry person as bread. The aroma and texture of the bread remind us of good meals and pleasant company. No other food is quite so universal in its appeal, since even the poorest family can make bread out of meal. Jesus offered His followers a special bread from God, and they asked for this bread.


John 6:35

And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.


These are great promises – never to hunger and never to thirst. This sermon is one way of explaining one of the Beatitudes:


Matthew 5:6

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.


When we long for our sins to be forgiven, we are hungering and thirsting for righteousness. Good works do not give us peace of mind because we cannot earn our own forgiveness. However, Jesus has already paid the price. He has already atoned for our sin. Those who believe in Him receive complete and full forgiveness for all their sins.

            Not everyone wanted to hear Jesus speak the truth. When the religious opponents of Jesus objected to this sermon, Jesus compared Himself to the manna from heaven that fed the Jews during the Exodus.[17] That form of bread was miraculous, but it did not keep the people from being hungry again. The God-sent manna coming down from heaven only solved their immediate physical hunger. Jesus is another kind of bread sent from heaven.


John 6:51

I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.


Forgiveness of sin means eternal life. When we receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the sacrament of Holy Communion, we receive the forgiveness of sin and the promise of eternal life.

I Come, O Savior to Thy Table


This feast is manna, wealth abounding

Unto the poor, to weak ones power,

To angels joy, to hell confounding,

And life for me in death’s dark hour.

Lord, may Thy body and Thy blood

Be for my soul the highest good.


Thy body, given for me, O Savior,

Thy blood which Thou for me didst shed,

These are my life and strength forever,

By them my hungry soul is fed.


Who can condemn me now? For surely

The Lord is nigh, who justifies.

No hell I fear, and thus securely

With Jesus I to heaven rise.


My heart has now become Thy dwelling,

O blessed, holy Trinity.

With angels I, Thy praises telling,

Shall live in joy eternally.[18]




Fourteen: The Light of the World



            People dread trying to walk outside or even through their homes in total darkness. A light shining in the darkness shows us the way, reveals danger, and dispels fear. The Psalmist wrote:


Psalm 119:105

Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.


The Word is Jesus. He is truth, so His light overwhelms the darkness and brings eternal life to all who believe in Him.


John 1:4

In him was life; and the life was the light of men. 5 And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.


Jesus declared Himself to be the light of the world.


John 8:12

Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.

This statement clearly divides everything between truth and falsehood, light and darkness. The Bible only describes two classes of people: believers and unbelievers. Those who believe in Jesus as their Savior walk in light and have eternal life. Those who do not believe in Jesus walk in darkness and face everlasting torment in Hell.

            This simple phrase, “I am the light of the world,” teaches us to let go of everything that would take us away from complete trust in Jesus: philosophy, advice, tradition, science, experience, and feelings. That does not mean that faith in Jesus makes us oppose learning or any practical art. However, anything that undermines trust in Jesus is darkness.

            The more we learn that the entire Bible is a testimony to the saving message of Christ, the more we take comfort in every phrase. The Scriptures have the power to increase our confidence and understanding as we read, mark, and inwardly digest the wisdom of the Holy Spirit.


O Splendor of God’s Glory Bright


O Splendor of God’s glory bright,

Who bringest for the light from Light;

O Light of light, Light’s fountain spring;

O Day, our days enlightening.


Come very Sun of truth and love,

Come in Thy radiance from above

And shed the Holy Spirit’s ray

On all we think or do today.


On Christ, the true Bread, let us feed,

Let Him to us be drink indeed,

And let us taste with joyfulness

The Holy Spirit’s plenteousness.[19]

Fifteen: The Good Shepherd



            Many people know the 23rd Psalm, uniquely told from the viewpoint of a sheep. The poetic structure of the Psalm and the simple phrases make it easy to understand and remember.


Psalm 23:1-6

The LORD is my shepherd;

I shall not want.

2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:

he leadeth me beside the still waters.

3 He restoreth my soul:

he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil:

for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

5 Thou preparest a table before me

in the presence of mine enemies:

thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:

and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.


The wonderful unity of the Bible can be seen in the way Jesus answered this Psalm about the shepherd by teaching us, “I am the Good Shepherd.”

            The sermon about the Good Shepherd is especially comforting, because we all tend to wander like sheep. We are weak and frail, easy prey for the aggressive, and in need of a loving Shepherd. This ultimate Shepherd was promised many centuries before the birth of Christ.


Isaiah 40:11

He shall feed his flock like a shepherd:

he shall gather the lambs with his arm,

and carry them in his bosom,

and shall gently lead those that are with young.


Can we imagine anything more encouraging than this promise – that He will hold the children in His arms and gently lead those who are expecting? That is how the Holy Spirit creates and sustains faith in Jesus, by teaching us these Gospel promises.

            Jesus told us that He is the Good Shepherd and defined what that means for us.


John 10:11

I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.


Jesus used many familiar images from shepherding in this sermon, but no shepherd died for his sheep. That claim makes Jesus the ultimate Shepherd, transcending anything we can imagine. He laid down His life for His sheep. He became the sacrificial lamb. As John the Baptizer said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, Who bears the sins of the world!”[20]

Shepherd of Tender Youth


Shepherd of tender youth,

Guiding in love and truth

Through devious ways;

Christ, our triumphant King,

We come Thy name to sing

And here our children bring

To join Thy praise.


Ever be Thou our Guide

Our Shepherd and our Pride,

Our Staff and Song;

Jesus, Thou Christ of God,

By Thine enduring Word

Lead us where Thou hast trod,

Make our faith strong.[21]

Sixteen: The Resurrection



            Jesus was good friends with Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha. When Lazarus became ill, the family sent for Jesus to come and cure His friend. However, Jesus deliberately delayed returning to help. Therefore, Jesus and His disciples arrived days after Lazarus died and was buried. Martha met Jesus outside their home and said, with blame in her voice, “If you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Still, Martha expressed faith in Jesus being able to do anything asked.

            When Jesus said that Lazarus would rise again, Martha stated her belief in the resurrection at the end of time. Jesus identified Himself with resurrection and eternal life.


John 11:25-27

25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this? 27 She saith unto him, Yea, Lord: I believe that thou art the Christ, the Son of God, which should come into the world.


Jesus’ statement is the Gospel message of forgiveness and eternal life. Anyone who believes in Christ will never die, and the person who dies in Christ will enjoy eternal life.     

            Jesus had even more good news for Mary and Martha. He went to the tomb of Lazarus and called him out of death into life.


John 11:43-44

43 And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth. 44 And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go.


God’s Word has so much power that a man may be lying dead in his grave for days and yet rise again. Our greatest fear is death; the Gospel of Jesus Christ conquers death.

            Many do not realize that the raising of Lazarus contributed to the danger confronting Jesus. When Lazarus came out of his tomb dressed for death, the funeral for this notable figure was in its third day. Jerusalem was near, so relatives and friends took the news all over Bethany and Jerusalem. Then Lazarus joined Jesus and His disciples in going to Jerusalem. The multitude followed Jesus from Bethany and another multitude came out of the gates of Jerusalem to see the Messiah, laying down coats and palm branches to honor Him. The religious leaders were not so thrilled.


John 12:9-11

9 Much people of the Jews therefore knew that he was there: and they came not for Jesus' sake only, but that they might see Lazarus also, whom he had raised from the dead. 10 But the chief priests consulted that they might put Lazarus also to death; 11 Because that by reason of him many of the Jews went away, and believed on Jesus.


So the raising of Lazarus helped create the climate of hostility leading to the crucifixion of Christ. But it also showed people that an ordinary looking man named Jesus had power over death itself.

            On the Last Day, the Word of God will call everyone out of their graves.


John 5:28-29

28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.


The great hope and confidence of all believers is that Jesus will call them out of death into the resurrection of eternal life, just as He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven.


On Christ’s Ascension I Now Build


On Christ’s ascension I now build

The hope of mine ascension;

This hope alone has ever stilled

All doubt and apprehension;

For where the Head is, there full well

I know His members are to dwell

When Christ shall come and call them.[22]

Seventeen: The Way



            Many kind, generous souls are willing to allow that Jesus is a unique figure, remarkably kind, compassionate toward the poor, an able teacher, and even the Savior. But, they hasten to add, there are many other teachers and saviors. Whatever suits an individual is appropriate and not to be questioned, they argue. Obviously, this faint praise for Jesus is really a rejection disguised with pious words.

            If anyone expresses a doubt about whether Christ is the only way of salvation, then remember this verse, one of the great I Am statements.


John 14:6

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.


The wording suggests the strongest possible interpretation of Jesus’ statement. He is really saying, “I am the only way, the only truth, the only path to eternal life.” The first part of His declaration becomes especially clear in the negative expression – “No man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” That is the same as saying that salvation without Christ is impossible, that we receive forgiveness, salvation, and eternal life only through Jesus.

            Knowing this saves us from many foolish quests to find the truth in various world religions or the universal truth in all religions. Nor should we ever be ashamed as Christians to claim that Jesus is the only source of salvation. If anyone chooses to argue with this truth, his battle is with the Savior and not with us. Even if we engage in a cowardly compromise and concede that the world has many saviors, Jesus will still remain the only true Savior. His role, mission, and titles do not depend upon whether many believe in Him or even whether anyone believes in Him.

            The Holy Spirit has spoken through the Scriptures to give us comfort, peace, and assurance. The apostles, surrounded by hostile opponents, had absolute confidence in Jesus as the only true Savior of the world. They said:


Acts 4:11-12

11 This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders, which is become the head of the corner. 12 Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.


Jesus is the only name by which we are saved. There are no others.

Jesus! Name of Wondrous Love


Jesus! Name of priceless worth

To the fallen sons of earth

For the promise that it gave

“Jesus shall His people save.”


Jesus! Only name that’s given

Under all the mighty heaven

Whereby man, to sin enslaved,

Bursts his fetters and is saved.


Jesus! Name of wondrous love,

Human name of God above;

Pleading only this, we flee,

Helpless, O our God, to Thee.[23]

Eighteen: The True Vine



            Jesus called upon the knowledge of His audience in the growing of vines when He explained the Christian life. Grapevines grow better and produce more fruit when they are pruned. The pruning is two-fold. The fruiting branches are pruned to make them fruit again. The dead wood is pruned away to keep it from using up the energy of the plant.


John 15:1-2

1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. 2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.


Everyone who believes in Jesus is in Him, attached to the True Vine. But some people stop believing and are no longer fruitful, just as vines will develop dead wood. The Scriptures warn us many times against losing faith in Christ. Believers need to be cleansed (purged) to be fruitful. God does this through the Law and the Gospel. The Law shows us our sinful state and our need for a Savior. The Gospel teaches us how Jesus died for the sins of the world.

            When believers worry about how they will live a Christian life and glorify God in their words and actions, they only need to consider this passage.


John 15:5

I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.


Abiding in Christ makes us fruitful through the Word and Sacraments. The Gospel comes to us in preaching and teaching, as well as in Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. The True Vine will always be fruitful because the divine power of Jesus causes us to be fruitful.

            The Father tends His True Vine by providing ministers of the Gospel, the Scriptures, and the Holy Spirit working through the Word and Sacraments. Just as a carefully tended grapevine will be fruitful when it is nurtured, watered, and pruned, so is the Christian Church fruitful when the Word of God is faithfully administered.

Chief of Sinners Though I Be


Chief of sinners though I be,

Jesus shed His blood for me;

Died that I might live on high,

Lived that I might never die.

As the branch is to the vine,

I am His, and He is mine.


Oh, the height of Jesus’ love!

Higher than the heavens above,

Deeper than the depths of sea,

Lasting as eternity.

Love that found me wondrous thought!

Found me when I sought Him not.


O my Savior, help afford

By Thy Spirit and Thy Word!

When my wayward heart would stray,

Keep me in the narrow way;

Grace in time of need supply

While I live and when I die.[24]


Nineteen: Entrance into Jerusalem



            Jesus said about His role as the Good Shepherd:


John 10:17

Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again.


When Jesus entered Jerusalem with His disciples, He was laying down His life. He had just raised Lazarus from the dead. People followed Jesus from nearby Bethany and streamed out of Jerusalem to meet Him.[25] Jesus had raised others from the dead, but Lazarus was prominent and walking with Him. Jesus attracted the love of the crowd and the hatred of His enemies.

            The people:


John 12:13

Took branches of palm trees, and went forth to meet him, and cried, Hosanna: Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord.


We celebrate the entry of Jesus into Jerusalem as Palm Sunday because of the palm branches laid on the road to honor Him.

            Children also praised Jesus, because they believed in Him.


Matthew 21:15-16

15 And when the chief priests and scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying in the temple, and saying, Hosanna to the Son of David; they were sore displeased, 16 And said unto him, Hearest thou what these say? And Jesus saith unto them, Yea; have ye never read, Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings thou hast perfected praise?


When people claim that children have no faith, it should remind us of Jesus saying that even babies praise God. Moreover, He said that saving faith was the faith of a child.


Mark 10:15

Verily I say unto you, Whosoever shall not receive the kingdom of God as a little child, he shall not enter therein.


It would be difficult to believe as a child if children did not believe.

            So we can picture Jesus riding into Jerusalem, hailed as the Messiah, the Son of David, by adults and children. Meanwhile, this uproar threatened the religious leaders and the Roman occupation government as well. Jesus was popular because of His miracles and kindly nature, but He was hated by anyone who imagined himself pleasing to God because of his own good works. If someone thinks he is good because of his virtuous thoughts and deeds, Jesus’ message of righteousness through faith in Him is intolerable.

            We all have trouble with the events of Holy Week. How could anyone arrest, torture, and kill Jesus, the Savior who never sinned? The miracles help explain the animosity toward Jesus, but not the extreme hatred leading to the crucifixion. Jesus taught that righteousness comes through Him and not from man.       

Rock of Ages, Cleft for Me


Rock of Ages, cleft for me,

Let me hide myself in Thee;

Let the water and the blood,

From Thy riven side which flowed

Be of sin the double cure,

Cleanse me from its guilt and power.


Not the labors of my hands

Can fulfill Thy Law’s demands;

Could my zeal no respite know,

Could my tears forever flow,

All for sin could not atone;

Thou must save, and Thou alone.


Nothing in my hand I bring,

Simply to Thy cross I cling;

Naked, come to Thee for dress;

Helpless, look to Thee for grace;

Foul, I to the fountain fly—

Wash me, Savior, or I die![26]


Twenty: The Last Supper



            Jesus celebrated the Passover with His disciples in an upper room. The Passover was a special meal from Old Testament times. The angel of death passed over the homes of those Israelites who marked their doorposts with the blood of an innocent lamb. The first-born males of the Israelites were spared while the Egyptians lost their eldest sons. This last miracle convinced the Egyptian pharaoh to let the Israelites leave.

The Israelites ate the same lamb whose blood they used to mark the doorposts, but they ate their Passover meal ready to escape the Egyptian slave-masters, standing up and dressed to leave quickly. For centuries the Jewish people celebrated their Passover in the same way, preparing for the Lamb of God.


1 Peter 1:18-21

18 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; 19 But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: 20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you, 21 Who by him do believe in God, that raised him up from the dead, and gave him glory; that your faith and hope might be in God.


Jesus fulfilled the Passover by revealing that He would set His people free by shedding His innocent blood for the sins of the world.

            Jesus began the Sacrament of Holy Communion by consecrating the elements of the Passover through His Word.


Matthew 26:26-28

26 And as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. 27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; 28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.


Jesus did not speak about symbols or comparisons. He said, “This is My body…This is My blood.” He made it clear that this visible form of the Word accomplishes God’s will, because it is given for the forgiveness of sin.

            The Christian Church has made Holy Communion central to worship from the Apostles until now. Whenever a believer receives the elements of Holy Communion, he receives what God promises – grace, mercy, love, and forgiveness. We call Holy Baptism and Holy Communion sacraments because they combine the Word with earthly elements. We call them Means of Grace because the Word and Sacraments are instruments giving grace to believers.

Soul, Adorn Thyself with Gladness


He who craves a precious treasure

Neither cost nor pain will measure;

But the priceless gifts of heaven

God to us hath freely given.

Though the wealth of earth were proffered,

Naught would buy the gifts here offered;

Christ’s true body, for thee riven,

And His blood, for thee once given.


Human reason, though it ponder,

Cannot fathom this great wonder

That Christ’s body e’er remaineth

Though it countless souls sustaineth.

And that He His blood is giving

With the wine we are receiving.

These great mysteries unsounded

Are by God alone expounded.


Jesus, Bread of Life, I pray Three,

Let me gladly here obey Thee.

By Thy love I am invited,

Be Thy love with love requited;

From this Supper let me measure,

Lord, how vast and deep love’s treasure.

Through the gifts Thou here does give me

As Thy guest in heaven receive me.[27]


Twenty-One: Arrest and Trial



            After the Last Supper, Jesus took His disciples to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray. He asked them to stay awake and pray while He prayed by Himself. The divine and human natures united in Jesus are clearly seen in His prayer:


Matthew 26:39

And he went a little further, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.


As a human Jesus was tempted in every way we are tempted. He wanted to live. He did not want to be arrested, abandoned, tortured, and executed as criminal. Yet He prayed, “Not My will, but Thy will.” He was tempted as a man but did not sin, since He was and is the Son of God.

            During this agony of prayer, Jesus returned to His disciples three times. Each time they were asleep rather than praying. In His great hour of trial, they could not stand up to temptation. “The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak,” Jesus said. It seems shocking that the disciples were so weak, yet it encourages us to see how Jesus forgave them their failings and entrusted them with the Gospel.

The traitor Judas Iscariot led the armed party to Jesus and identified His Master with a kiss. The divinity of Jesus revealed itself in the way the Lord allowed Himself to be arrested yet commanded the armed men to release His followers. Seldom do the police obey a man they are arresting for a capital offense. Jesus allowed Himself to be captured because it was the Father’s will that He die on the cross for the sins of the world. He commanded the soldiers because it was God’s will that the disciples escape.

When they led Jesus off for trial, Peter and another disciple followed at a distance.[28] During the trial of Jesus before the high priest, beside a charcoal fire, Peter found himself being questioned three times about being a follower of the Lord. Each time he denied it, until the rooster crowed twice. This fulfilled what Jesus said at the Last Supper:


John 13:38

Jesus answered him, Wilt thou lay down thy life for my sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, The cock shall not crow, till thou hast denied me thrice.


This event warns believers not to deny Jesus. We find ourselves identifying with Peter, eager to pledge our lives but timid during a time of crisis. The Gospel strengthens our resolve by showing how Jesus restored Peter after the resurrection.

            The trial of Jesus began a series of humiliations for our Savior. When He answered Caiaphas, the high priest, he was slapped. False witnesses testified against Him. Doubters like to claim that Jesus never called Himself the Messiah. The trial contradicts this falsehood.


Matthew 26:63-64

63 But Jesus held his peace. And the high priest answered and said unto him, I adjure thee by the living God, that thou tell us whether thou be the Christ, the Son of God. 64 Jesus saith unto him, Thou hast said: nevertheless I say unto you, Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.


Jesus warned his accusers that He would be seated at the right hand of God and returning in judgment. Therefore, He answered clearly that He was the Messiah. The high priest and His accusers agreed that His answer made Him worthy of the death sentence. They spit on Him, slapped Him, and mocked Him.

            Jesus’ opponents then took Him before Pilate. They wished to have Pilate issue the actual death decree, so they would not be guilty of death during the Passover. Pilate also wanted to avoid guilt, so he tried to set Jesus free according to the Jewish tradition. However, the religious leaders stirred up the crowd to demand freedom for Barabbas, a criminal. Pilate washed his hands to signify his lack of guilt over the death of Jesus.


Matthew 27:24

When Pilate saw that he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent of the blood of this just person: see ye to it.


            The soldiers whipped Jesus first. The Roman whip had bits of bone or metal embedded in the leather straps, so the effect of scourging left the back an open, bleeding wound.


Isaiah 53:4-5

4 Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 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.


Next the soldiers took Jesus to a common hall where they could mock Him in front of all the soldiers. They stripped Him of His clothes and placed a mock robe on Him.


Matthew 27:29-30

29 And when they had platted a crown of thorns, they put it upon his head, and a reed in his right hand: and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews! 30 And they spit upon him, and took the reed, and smote him on the head.


Then they led Him out to be crucified at Golgotha, the Place of the Skull, named for its grisly appearance.

            We are tempted to complain bitterly about how the Romans and Jews treated Jesus. However, all the suffering of Jesus was to atone for our sins. We should say to ourselves, “Those are my sins. I caused the scourging, the mocking, the spitting, and the crucifixion. My sins were laid upon the innocent Lamb of God.”

O Dearest Jesus, What Law Hast Thou Broken?


Whence come these sorrows,

Whence this mortal anguish?

It is my sins for which Thou, Lord, must languish;

Yes, all the wrath, the woe, Thou dost inherit,

This I do merit.


What punishment so strange is suffered yonder!

The Shepherd dies for sheep that loved to wander;

The Master pays the debt His servants owe Him,

Who would not know Him.


And when, dear Lord, before Thy throne in heaven

To me the crown of joy at last is given,

Where sweetest hymns Thy saints forever raise Thee,

I, too, shall praise Thee.[29]



Twenty-Two: The Crucifixion



            Jesus carried His own cross to His crucifixion, after being whipped, hit, spit upon, and insulted, and mocked for being what He was—the King of the Jews. Jesus commanded us to take up the cross, and He was the first to do so.


Matthew 16:24-25

24 Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. 25 For whosoever will save his life shall lose it: and whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.


The Romans forced Simon of Cyrene to carry Jesus’ cross. It is likely that Jesus could not carry His cross the whole distance because of blood loss and exhaustion.

When the execution party reached Golgotha, Jesus was nailed to the cross, between two criminals. Crucifixion was a horrible form of torture and death. The victim would try to lift himself to keep breathing, but it was too painful to hold that position. When he stopped lifting himself, he slowly suffocated. Many consider crucifixion to be the worst kind of slow, tortured death.

When the Romans nailed Jesus’ feet to the cross, they began to fulfill the very first Gospel promise. Satan would wound the heel of the Savior.


Genesis 3:15

And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.


The soldiers gambled on who got to keep Jesus’ robe.


Matthew 27:35

And they crucified him, and parted his garments, casting lots: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots.


The religious leaders mocked Him and wondered out loud how such a powerful Messiah could be nailed to the cross. Jesus told His disciples this would happen to Him and later to them as well.


Mark 10:33-34

33 Saying, Behold, we go up to Jerusalem; and the Son of man shall be delivered unto the chief priests, and unto the scribes; and they shall condemn him to death, and shall deliver him to the Gentiles: 34 And they shall mock him, and shall scourge him, and shall spit upon him, and shall kill him: and the third day he shall rise again.


A thousand years before the crucifixion, King David predicted that this would happen to the promised Messiah.


Psalm 22:7-8

7 All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, 8 He trusted on the LORD that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him.


Jesus promised believers that they would share His cross, although never with such severity. He knew that future false religious leaders would persecute on His faithful followers and then mock them for their suffering, glorying in their shame. But blessings come from sharing the cross of Christ.


Matthew 5:11-12

11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.


Believers understand that the experience of the cross strengthens and purifies their faith but their sinful nature still complains bitterly about the burdens imposed. Although we all complain, we also experience the blessings of the cross. We receive forgiveness and eternal life from the cross of Christ. When we trust in the Word of God, our experiences of the cross burn away our selfish desires and attachments to this temporary life on earth.


“When through fiery trials

Thy pathway shall lie,

My grace, all sufficient,

Shall be thy supply:

The flames will not hurt thee;

I only design

Thy dross to consume,

And thy gold to refine.”[30]


The only way we can escape the cross is to give up the Gospel.

            Pilate placed a sign on the cross.


John 19:19-20

19 And Pilate wrote a title, and put it on the cross. And the writing was, JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS. 20 This title then read many of the Jews: for the place where Jesus was crucified was nigh to the city: and it was written in Hebrew, and Greek, and Latin.


The religious leaders did not like the suggestion that Jesus really was the King of the Jews, the Messiah. They wanted it changed to “He said he was the King of the Jews.” But Pilate refused to change the sign. The title is the reason people find INRI in many churches. The initials stand for Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. The Old Testament term for King of the Jews is Messiah. Many people saw Jesus crucified with this sign on the cross, leading to future conversions.


Acts 2:36-41

36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ. 37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost… 41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls


The Scriptures show us that many of those who mocked Jesus at His crucifixion were later converted to faith in Him by the preaching of the Gospel.


Christ, the Life of All the Living


Heartless scoffers did surround Thee,

Treating Thee with shameful scorn

And with piercing thorns they crowned Thee

All disgrace Thou, Lord, hast borne

That as Thine Thou mightest own me

And with heavenly glory crown me.

Thousand, thousand thanks shall be,

Dearest Jesus, unto Thee.


Thou hast suffered men to bruise Thee

That from pain I might be free;

Falsely did Thy foes accuse Thee,

Thence I gain security;

Comfortless Thy soul did languish

Me to comfort in my anguish.

Thousand, thousand thanks shall be,

Dearest Jesus, unto Thee.


Thou hast suffered great affliction

And hast borne it patiently,

Even death by crucifixion,

Fully to atone for me;

Thou didst choose to be tormented

That my doom should be prevented

Thousand, thousand thanks shall be,

Dearest Jesus, unto Thee.[31]


Twenty-Three: The Atonement



            For centuries the Jewish people offered a blood atonement for their sins in the Temple.


Exodus 30:10

And Aaron shall make an atonement upon the horns of it once in a year with the blood of the sin offering of atonements: once in the year shall he make atonement upon it throughout your generations: it is most holy unto the LORD.


They read the prophecies of Isaiah.


Isaiah 53:7

7 He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth.


When Jesus died on the cross, He fulfilled all the Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah and His saving work. He allowed Himself to be the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world.

We call Jesus the Savior of the world because He died for the sins of all people for all time. That sacrifice is an objective reality. The message of His atoning death is the Gospel that creates faith so that believers receive the benefit of Jesus’ cross, the forgiveness of sins. Without faith we are condemned to eternal damnation in Hell. John 3:16 is called the Little Gospel because the verse sums up the entire message of the Bible. The next two verses, John 3:17-18, explain the Little Gospel.


John 3:16-18

16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. 17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. 18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.


The Bible divides all people into two categories – believers and unbelievers. The Bible does not know about levels of Christianity, religious hierarchies, or any other distinctions concerning salvation. The message of salvation is clear. The Little Gospel teaches us that every single one who dies believing in Christ—in spite of the worst sins committed—will enjoy eternal life.[32] Those who die without faith in Christ—regardless of their heroic virtues and good deeds—will receive eternal damnation.

            We call Jesus the Redeemer of the world because He paid the price to set us free from sin.


Galatians 3:13-14

13 Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: 14 That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.


Because of our sinful nature, we can never perfect ourselves or pay the price of our sin.[33] Jesus commanded:


Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.


The demand of the Law to be perfect is fulfilled only by Jesus taking our sin upon Himself, to give us His righteousness. We are captured by sin, slaves of death and Satan. Because we are all sinners, we have to pay the penalty for sin—death.


Romans 6:23

For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.


But Jesus has paid the ransom note to set us free.


Mark 10:45

For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.


1 Timothy 2:5-6

5 For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.


When we feel overwhelmed and assaulted by temptation and sin, we can look to the cross as the ransom price for our sins. The cross of Christ strengthens us against temptation.


A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth


A Lamb goes uncomplaining forth,

The guilt of all men bearing;

And laden with the sins of earth,

None else the burden sharing!

Goes patient on, grows weak and faint,

To slaughter led without complaint,

That spotless life to offer;

Bears shame, and stripes, and wounds and death,

Anguish and mockery, and saith,

“Willing all this I suffer.”


And when Thy glory I shall see

And taste Thy kingdom’s pleasure,

Thy blood my royal robe shall be,

My joy beyond all measure;

When I appear before Thy throne,

Thy righteousness shall be my crown,

With these I need not hide me.

And there in garments richly wrought

As Thine own bride, I shall be brought

To stand in joy beside Thee.[34]

Twenty-Four: Death and Burial



            The extreme tortures of the crucifixion brought the life of Jesus to an end. Jesus said, “I thirst.” The soldiers brought a common drink, a sour wine called vinegar in the Bible. They extended it to Him on a sponge.


John 19:30

When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost.


The Jews wanted the bodies taken down early, to keep from violating the Sabbath. They asked Pilate for this favor, so the soldiers began to break the legs of the three crucified men. That was the intent and it seemed natural for the soldiers to break the legs of Jesus second, since He was in the middle. Instead, they determined that He was dead and pierced His side with a sword to make sure of it. This fulfilled the Scripture saying that


A bone of him shall not be broken.[35]


Blood and water flowed from the wound of the sword, symbolizing for many early Christians the sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion.

            Joseph of Arimathea was a secret follower of Jesus. He asked Pilate for permission to bury the body of the Savior. Nicodemus, another secretive follower, helped take care of the body.[36] They used a newly carved grave near the place where Jesus was crucified.


Isaiah 53:9

And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth.


Jesus died in humiliation and shame, as an enemy of the Roman government and as a blasphemer who called Himself the Son of God. Yet men of substance took care of His body and honored Him in His death, when such associations were extremely dangerous.

            Risking their lives for Jesus, Joseph and Nicodemus were brave and bold because of their faith, but Pilate and the religious leaders were worried. Jesus promised to rise three days after His death, so Pilate ordered His tomb sealed. The grave was carved into rock. A flat stone rolled in a groove to serve as a door. Pilate had a guard posted to watch over the grave. Events soon took place that made the guarded and sealed door nothing in comparison with the power of the risen Lord.


O Sacred Head, Now Wounded


O sacred Head, now wounded,

With grief and shame weighed down,

Now scornfully surrounded

With thorns, Thine only crown.

O sacred Head, what glory,

What bliss, till now was Thine!

Yet, though despised and gory,

I joy to call Thee mine.


What language shall I borrow

To thank Thee, dearest Friend,

For this Thy dying sorrow,

Thy pity without end?

Oh, make me Thine forever!

And should I fainting be,

Lord, let me never, never,

Outlive my love for Thee.


Be Thou my Consolation,

My Shield, when I must die;

Remind me of Thy Passion

When my last hour draws nigh.

Mine eyes shall then behold Thee,

Upon Thy cross shall dwell,

My heart by faith enfold Thee,

Who dieth thus dies well.[37]



Twenty-Five: Empty Grave



            Those who have lost a dear friend or a beloved member of the family can imagine how grief weighed down the followers of Jesus after His death. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome headed to the tomb early on Sunday morning, just as the sun was rising. They wanted to complete the preparation of His body for burial. Forgotten were the predictions that Jesus would rise on this, the third day.[38]


Mark 8:31

And he began to teach them, that the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected of the elders, and of the chief priests, and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.


Instead, the women discussed how they would roll the stone lid away from the opening of the tomb. When they approached the tomb, the stone was rolled away. They looked inside and found no corpse.


Mark 16:5-7

5 And entering into the sepulchre, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a long white garment; and they were affrighted. 6 And he saith unto them, Be not affrighted: Ye seek Jesus of Nazareth, which was crucified: he is risen; he is not here: behold the place where they laid him. 7 But go your way, tell his disciples and Peter that he goeth before you into Galilee: there shall ye see him, as he said unto you.


The women ran away, trembling and afraid, and said nothing to anyone at first.

          Mary Magdalene told Peter and John about the empty tomb, so the two disciples raced to get to the empty tomb. They both went into the tomb and saw the abandoned burial clothes.


John 20:8-9

8 Then went in also that other disciple, which came first to the sepulchre, and he saw, and believed. 9 For as yet they knew not the scripture, that he must rise again from the dead.


Peter and John went back, but Mary Magdalene stayed near the tomb. She wept in grief, thinking that the body of Jesus was stolen rather than raised from the dead. Jesus appeared behind her and asked why she was crying. She thought He was the gardener and asked for the body of Jesus.

            Jesus responded to her request by saying, “Mary!”

            She immediately recognized Him and said, “Teacher!” Then Jesus told Mary that He would soon ascend to God the Father. Mary had the great honor and privilege of telling the disciples that she had actually seen Jesus risen from the dead.

The good news of the resurrection brought joy and confusion at the same time. The disciples heard that Jesus would rise from the dead, but they were not fully aware of all that had taken place and what would soon develop. Mary stood weeping outside of the tomb, seeing the reality of the resurrection but feeling only pain and loss. In the same way, when we lose someone to death, we are overwhelmed by pain and grief at first. Many months often pass before the Gospel transforms our grief into joyful memories and the hope of eternal life.

Awake, My Heart, with Gladness


Awake, my heart, with gladness,

See what today is done;

Now, after gloom and sadness,

Comes forth the glorious Sun.

My Savior there was laid

Where our bed must be made

When to the realms of light

Our spirit wings its flight.


The Foe in triumph shouted

When Christ lay in the tomb;

But, lo, he now is routed,

His boast is turned to gloom.

For Christ again is free;

In glorious victory

He who is strong to save

Has triumphed over the grave.[39]


Twenty-Six: The Risen Lord



            Jesus first appeared to His disciples when they were locked in a room because they were afraid of the Jews. Although they should have known better, the disciples had reason to fear that their lives were in danger, especially since their powerful Teacher was dead. What could they do without Jesus?

            In the midst of their confusion and fear, Jesus miraculously appeared in the upper room with them, in spite of the locked doors. His divine nature was never limited in any way by His human nature. When a crowd surrounded Jesus and threatened to kill Him, He passed through their midst miraculously.[40] When Jesus rose from the dead, He passed through the sealed tomb. The Lord of Creation did not need anyone to open the tomb.


O Love, how strong Thou art to save!

Thou beddest Him within the grave

Whose Word the mountains rendeth.[41]


Jesus greeted His disciples with “Peace” and showed them His hands and side. He told them:

John 20:21-23

21 Then said Jesus to them again, Peace be unto you: as my Father hath sent me, even so send I you. 22 And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: 23 Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.


Jesus was sent by His Father and He sent His disciples to continue His work. The term we use for the disciples in their post-resurrection work is apostle, from the New Testament word for sent.

            Thomas was not present in the locked room when Jesus appeared and spoke to the disciples. Earning the description forever associated with his name, Thomas doubted whether the report of the other disciples was true. He refused to believe unless he saw and touched the wounds of Jesus. A week later Jesus appeared again in the same locked room, where the disciples remained.


John 20:27-29

27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing. 28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God. 29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.


Jesus seems to speak from the page to us, “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” Every single person who believes in the resurrection of Christ is pronounced blessed by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

            Jesus again appeared to the disciples when they were fishing on the Sea of Galilee. He asked them about their success at fishing. They had not caught anything. Jesus told them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. When they obeyed His Word, they could not draw in the catch. John called out, “It is the Lord!” and Peter jumped into the water to swim back. The disciples arrived shortly with their catch and they ate together with Christ around a charcoal fire.

            Simon Peter, who denied Jesus three times beside a charcoal fire, found himself grilled and absolved beside a charcoal fire.[42]


John 21:15-17

15 So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. 16 He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. 17 He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.


We can see how gently the risen Lord dealt with Peter. How many bitter words would we have shot at Peter for his three-fold denial? How many punishments would we have assigned him? Would we not have excluded him forever from the company of the apostles? Giving us an example of gentleness, Jesus gave Peter three chances to state again that he loved the Savior. More than anyone, Peter knew what it meant to sin and be forgiven through the grace and mercy of Jesus. This is first of all a lesson in the loving-kindness of Jesus toward all sinners. It is also an example of how we should deal with someone who is contrite.


Like the Golden Sun Ascending


Like the golden sun ascending,

Breaking through the gloom of night,

On the earth his glory spending

So that darkness takes to flight,

Thus my Jesus from the grave

And Death’s dismal, dreadful cave

Rose triumphant Easter morning

At the early purple dawning.


Though I be by sin overtaken,

Though I lie in helplessness,

Though I be by friends forsaken

And must suffer sore distress,

Though I be despised, contemned,

And by all the world condemned,

Though the dark grave yawn before me,

Yet the light of hope shines over me.


For the joy Thine advent gave me,

For Thy holy, precious Word;

For Thy Baptism, which doth save me,

For Thy blest Communion board;

For Thy death, the bitter scorn,

For Thy resurrection morn,

Lord, I thank Thee and extol Thee,

And in heaven I shall behold Thee.[43]

Twenty-Seven: Ascension



            The risen Lord appeared to His disciples a number of times. The apostle Paul listed them in his letter to the Corinthians.


1 Corinthians 15:3-8

3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: 6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. 7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. 8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.


Jesus told His disciples:


Matthew 28:19-20

19 Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.


The Savior told His disciples not to leave Jerusalem, but to remain until they received the Holy Spirit.


Acts 1:8

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.


Then Jesus ascended toward heaven and a cloud blocked Him from their sight. They kept gazing until two angels said:


Acts 1:11

…Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.


How the disciples must have longed to see the risen Lord a little longer!

            The disciples returned to Jerusalem, where the Holy Spirit came upon them on the Day of Pentecost, a Jewish holiday marking 50 days after the Passover. The sound of a rushing wind filled the house where they were staying. Tongues of fire appeared over each one and they began to speak in foreign languages they had never spoken before. Peter preached a sermon to the multitude drawn to the house. The Gospel converted 3,000 souls that day to the Christian faith.[44] For that reason the Day of Pentecost is called the birthday of the Church.

The apostles soon scattered across the civilized world, helped by 50,000 miles of paved roads connecting the Roman Empire.[45] The Romans insisted on paving roads through every conquered land, to make their victory complete and certain. The same highways helped the Gospel conquer the Roman Empire for Christ. The Internet is the new highway system for the proclamation of the Christian faith.

Crown Him with Many Crowns


Crown Him the Lord of Life

Who triumphed over the grave

And rose victorious in the strife

For those He came to save.

His glories now we sing

Who died and rose on high,

Who died eternal life to bring

And lives that death may die.


Crown Him the Lord of Heaven,

Enthroned in worlds above,

Crown Him the King to whom is given

The wondrous name of Love.

Crown Him with many crowns

As thrones before Him fall;

Crown Him, ye kings, with many crowns,

For He is King of all.[46]

Twenty-Eight: Return of Christ



            After the Ascension of Jesus, the angels asked why the apostles were still staring into the sky. “This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.”[47] The return of Christ is called the Second Coming by some people, but the Biblical term is The Coming, used over twenty times in the New Testament.


Matthew 24:3

And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?


James 5:7

Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.


The return of Christ will mark the end of history on earth, the final judgment.

            Contrary to many popular claims, the return of Christ will not establish an earthly kingdom of Christians, commonly called the Millennium. First, a trumpet will sound.


      Matthew 24:30-31

30 And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. 31 And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.


                1Thessalonians 4:16-17

16 For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: 17 Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord.


             1 Corinthians 15:51-52

51 Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.


The entire world will see Jesus as He is, the Lord of Creation.


       Philippians 2:9-11

9 Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: 10 That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; 11 And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


For every believer, this Day will be great and glorious, the fulfillment of all the promises of the Scriptures. For unbelievers, the complete revelation of God’s power will be terrifying and final.

            Jesus will return for final judgment. The souls of believers who died before the coming of Christ will enjoy Paradise with Christ until Judgment Day. The souls of unbelievers will be in a place of torment until Judgment Day. When Christ appears, all the dead will be united with their bodies.


John 5:28-29

28 Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, 29 And shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.


Matthew 25:45-46

45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. 46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.


Unbelievers will be condemned for all of their sins and suffer bodily torment for eternity. Believers will have no sins because they have been forgiven through Christ. Believers will also be rewarded for their good works done in faith to glorify God’s Name. Believers will enjoy a new heaven and a new earth.


Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart


Yea, Lord, ‘twas Thy rich bounty gave

My body, soul, and all I have

In this poor life of labor.

Lord, grant that I in every place

May glorify Thy lavish grace

And serve and help my neighbor.

Let no false doctrine me beguile,

Let Satan not my soul defile.

Give strength and patience unto me

To bear my cross and follow Thee.

Lord Jesus Christ, My God and Lord, my God and Lord,

In death Thy comfort still afford.


Lord, let at last Thine angels come,

To Abram’s bosom bear me home,

That I may die unfearing,

And in its narrow chamber keep

My body safe in peaceful sleep

Until Thy reappearing.

And then from death awaken me

That these mine eyes with joy may see,

O Son of God, Thy glorious face,

My Savior and my Fount of grace.

Lord Jesus Christ,

My prayer attend, my prayer attend,

And I will praise Thee without end.[48]

[1] Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 202. Ascension Day. Mark 16:14-20.

[2] Joseph Mohr, “Silent Night! Holy Night!” The Lutheran Hymnal, #646.

[3] William W. How, “O Word of God Incarnate,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #294.

[4] Thomas Olivers, “The God of Abraham Praise, ” The Lutheran Hymnal, #40.

[5] James Woodford, “Within the Father’s House,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #133.

[6] Matthew 10:29 Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. 30 But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. 31 Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.

[7] Charles Coffin, “On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #63.

[8] Sermons of Martin Luther, 8 vols., ed., John Nicholas Lenker, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1983, III, p. 179f. Fifth Sunday after Easter Ephesians 3:20. (Now unto him that is able to do exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us, 21 Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen. Ephesians 3:20-21).

[9] Joseph Scriven, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #457.

[10] Paul Gerhardt, “If God Himself be For Me,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #528.

[11] Martin Luther, “Dear Christians, One and All Rejoice,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #387.

[12] Isaac Watts, “Jesus Shall Reign Wherever the Sun,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #511.

[13] Author unknown, “Beautiful Savior,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #657.

[14] Paul Gerhardt, “Awake, My Heart, with Gladness,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #192.

[15] Author unknown , “Almighty Father, Bless the Word,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #52.

[16] Author unknown, “Jesus Christ, My Sure Defense,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #206.

[17] Exodus 16:35 And the children of Israel did eat manna forty years, until they came to a land inhabited; they did eat manna, until they came unto the borders of the land of Canaan. Psalm 78:23 Though he had commanded the clouds from above, and opened the doors of heaven, 24 And had rained down manna upon them to eat, and had given them of the corn of heaven.

[18] Friedrich C. Heyder, “I Come, O Savior, to Thy Table,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #315.

[19] St. Ambrose, “O Splendor of God’s Glory Bright,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #550.

[20] John 1:29

[21] Clement of Alexandria, “Shepherd of Tender Youth,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #628. This is the oldest Christian hymn.

[22] Josua Wegelin, “On Christ’s Ascension I Now Build,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #216.

[23] William H. How, “Jesus! Name of Wondrous Love,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #114.

[24] William McComb, “Chief of Sinners Though I Be,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #342.

[25] KJV John 12:17 The people therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bare record. 18 For this cause the people also met him, for that they heard that he had done this miracle.

[26] Augustus M. Toplady, “Rock of Ages,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #376.

[27] Johann Franck, “Soul Adorn Thyself with Gladness,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #305.

[28] John 18:15 And Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple: that disciple was known unto the high priest, and went in with Jesus into the palace of the high priest.

[29] Johann Heermann, “O Dearest Jesus, What Law Hast Thou Broken?” The Lutheran Hymnal, #143.

[30] “K” in Rippon’s Selection, “How Firm a Foundation , Ye Saints of the Lord,” Service Book and Hymnal, #558. 1 Peter 1:7 That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ:

[31] Ernst C. Homburg, “Christ, the Life of All the Living,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #151.

[32] The Gospel promise of forgiveness should never be interpreted as a license to do whatever we want. Martin Luther called this using the Gospel as a pillow on which to fall asleep. Galatians 5:13 For, brethren, ye have been called unto liberty; only use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another.

[33] 1 Kings 8:61 Let your heart therefore be perfect with the LORD our God, to walk in his statutes, and to keep his commandments, as at this day.

[34] Paul Gerhardt, “A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #142.

[35] The Israelites could not break a single bone of the Passover lamb. Thus it was clear that centuries of the Passover meal prepared the Jewish people for the Lamb of God. Exodus 12:46 In one house shall it be eaten; thou shalt not carry forth ought of the flesh abroad out of the house; neither shall ye break a bone thereof.

[36] John 19:38 And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus. 39 And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight. 40 Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury.

[37] Paul Gerhardt, “O Sacred Head, Now Wounded,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #172.

[38] The Jewish way of counting days began with the first day. Jesus died on Friday, so Sunday was the third day.

[39] Paul Gerhardt, “Awake, My Heart, with Gladness,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #192.

[40] Luke 4:29 And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong. 30 But he passing through the midst of them went his way,

[41] Paul Gerhardt, “A Lamb Goes Uncomplaining Forth,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #142.

[42] John 18:18 And the servants and officers stood there, who had made a fire of coals; for it was cold: and they warmed themselves: and Peter stood with them, and warmed himself.

[43] Thomas Kingo, “Like the Golden Sun Ascending,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #207.

[44] Acts 2:41 Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.

[45] The term disciple refers to someone under the teaching authority of a rabbi. Jesus chose twelve of His disciples to be apostles (from the word sent in Greek). The Bible calls these men the disciples, the twelve, or the apostles. The apostles included men who were not among the original twelve. Judas Iscariot was replaced. Other apostles were men like Paul who saw the risen Lord. Being a witness of the resurrection was a requirement to be an apostle. Luke 6:13 And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles….

[46] Matthew Bridges, “Crown Him with Many Crowns,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #341.

[47] Acts 1:11.

[48] Martin Schalling, “Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart,” The Lutheran Hymnal, #429.