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“This, the first of His signs, Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and He revealed His glory, and His disciples believed in Him.” John 2:11 (Read John 2:1-11)

Jesus’ presence at a wedding feast in Cana and His turning water into wine has troubled some. Why would Jesus attend a wedding feast where wine was served? And why would Jesus turn water into wine, making some 120-180 gallons of it for the wedding guests to drink?

Jesus’ presence at this wedding — and we do not know precisely why He was invited — shows His respect for the divine institution of marriage between a man and a woman (cf. Gen. 2:18ff., Matt. 19:4-9). And His making wine, as well as drinking it, shows that drinking wine or alcoholic beverages is not of itself sinful, nor is one holier or more righteous through abstinence.

What is sinful is the overindulgence in it and drunkenness (cf. Matt. 11:18-19; 1 Tim. 5:23; Eph. 5:18; Rom. 13:13; Gal. 5:19-21).

But far more important in this account is what His miracle teaches us about Jesus. Even though it was not yet His time to be revealed as the Son of God in human flesh and the Messiah and Savior of the world, Jesus used the divine power He possessed to come to the aid of a wedding party in a potentially embarrassing situation — they had run out of wine. And not only did Jesus turn water into wine; it was the best wine served at the feast.

And this miracle, of which many at the feast had no knowledge, revealed the glory and power which Jesus possessed as the Son of God to a few — to Mary, to the servants who drew the water, and to Jesus’ disciples.

The result was not only a wedding feast without the embarrassment to the hosts of running out of wine; it was a revelation of His person to His disciples, causing them to believe that He indeed was and is the Son of God and the promised Messiah and Savior of Israel.

The Apostle John, by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, records this miracle for us that we too might see and believe that this same Jesus who humbled Himself and lived among us as a true man is more than just a man or even a great prophet and teacher.

Jesus was and is Jehovah God Himself in human flesh! And this was necessary in order for Him to pay the price required for the sins of the world!

This miracle is but one proof of that fact. He also healed the sick, opened the eyes of the blind, fed the multitudes, raised the dead, and rose from the dead Himself after being crucified! Through the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit reveals to us Jesus’ divine glory and might; and through the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit reveals to us that Jesus redeemed us and all mankind from sin and death by His own innocent sufferings and death in our stead. Jesus’ resurrection is proof that atonement for our sins has been made — we’ve been redeemed by the blood of “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)!

And, through faith in Christ Jesus, God the Son and our Savior, the forgiveness and life He won for all when He paid the price for our sins upon the cross becomes our own. Through faith in Christ Jesus, we have forgiveness of sins and life everlasting!

O that all would see and believe that Jesus is God the Son and that He has paid the price and redeemed us from all our sins!

I cannot reveal Jesus as the Son of God and Savior of the world to anyone. All I can do is preach the Gospel and tell those terrified by the threats of God’s Law of the comforting promises of the Gospel — the promise of forgiveness of sins and eternal life to all who look to Christ Jesus and His cross in faith (cf. John 3:14ff.). Our Lord Jesus Christ, by the gracious working of the Holy Spirit through the Gospel, reveals Himself to those whom He wills (John 6:44,63; Matt. 11:27; John 1:10-14).

It is as we confess in the Unaltered Augsburg Confession (Art. V, Of the Ministry): “That we may obtain this faith, the Ministry of Teaching the Gospel and administering the Sacraments was instituted. For through the Word and Sacraments, as through instruments, the Holy Ghost is given, who works faith; where and when it pleases God, in them that hear the Gospel, to wit, that God, not for our own merits, but for Christ’s sake, justifies those who believe that they are received into grace for Christ’s sake.”

As we think about this miracle worked by our Lord Jesus, I invite you to also think about Holy Baptism. I, of myself, can’t wash away sins or give the Holy Spirit to anyone by pouring or sprinkling water on them. But when water is used in connection with God’s Word, Jesus does wash away sins and give His Holy Spirit (cf. Matt. 3:11; Acts 2:38-39; 22:16; Titus 3:3-7; Eph. 5:25-27).

Think about the Lord’s Supper, of which we are about to partake. I can’t turn water into wine, but Jesus can and did. And, I cannot cause Christ’s body and blood to be present, distributed and received in the Supper (in, with and under the bread and wine), but Jesus can and still does through His words of institution spoken on the night when He was betrayed (1 Cor. 11:23ff.).

Through His words of institution, He offers and gives to all who eat and drink of His Supper to partake of His sacrifice on the cross for the sins of the world — of His body which was given into death for our sins, and of His blood which was shed for the remission of our sins. And, through faith in Christ’s life-giving words, we receive the blessings He won for us when He was sacrificed for our sins. We are assured of and receive forgiveness for all our sins and life everlasting for Jesus’ sake!

Dear Lord Jesus Christ, grant that I see your divine glory and believe that You indeed are my God and my Savior and place my trust in You for forgiveness and life everlasting. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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The Baptism of our Lord

Matthew 3:13-17

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan to be baptized by him. 14 But John prohibited Him, saying, “I need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he permitted Him. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, He came up immediately out of the water. And suddenly the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending on Him like a dove. 17 And a voice came from heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

What if Jesus were to walk into our church today and ask to be baptized? What would we say?

After all, Baptism is a means of grace whereby God offers and gives forgiveness of sins to sinners for the sake of the new covenant established by Jesus’ blood, shed upon the cross for the sins of the world! Cf. Heb. 9:11-15; 8:7ff.

John baptized those who came to him confessing their sins and seeking God’s pardon and forgiveness for the sake of the atoning sacrifice of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (cf. Matt. 3:1ff.; Mark 1:4-5; Luke 3:1ff.; John 1:29). And, on the Day of Pentecost, Peter urged his hearers to “repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38).

And Jesus? He was and is sinless! He “was in every sense tempted like we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). “He is holy, innocent, undefiled, separate from sinners, and is higher than the heavens” (Heb. 7:26). “He committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth” (1 Pet. 2:22; cf. Isa. 53:9).

With John the Baptist, I would have to say, “I need to be baptized by You, and do You come to me?” (Matt. 3:14). And, yet Jesus did come to John and was baptized of him in the Jordan River. He told John, “Let it be so now, for it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). Then John permitted Jesus to be baptized.

Why did Jesus come to be baptized by John? He didn’t need to repent of sin! He didn’t need God’s forgiveness! But God did command and establish Baptism as the sign and sacrament by which one becomes a party and partaker of the new covenant He was putting in place by means of the atoning sacrifice of His Son (cf. 1 John 2:1-2; Heb. 10:19ff.; Gal. 3:26ff.; Matt. 28:18-20).

And it was fitting — to fulfill all righteousness — that our Substitute, our Savior, be baptized that He might associate Himself with us, taking our place under the Law to fulfill it for us and then bearing upon the cross the full and just punishment for our sins and the sins of the entire world of sinners. It was necessary to establish the new covenant and to offer to all who partake of it through Holy Baptism the forgiveness of sins and life eternal which Christ purchased and won for all when he suffered and died upon the cross.

Luther writes of Jesus’ Baptism: “Why does He come and seek Baptism, as there is no sin and uncleanness in Him which Baptism would remove? That will be a blessed Baptism. John here is getting a sinner who in His own person has no sin, and yet is the greatest sinner, that has and bears the sin of the whole world. For this reason, He permits Himself to be baptized and confesses with this action that He is a sinner. However, not for Himself, but for us. For He here takes my place and thy place and stands in our stead who are sinners, and since all, especially the arrogant saints, do not want to be sinners, He must become a sinner for all; He assumes the form of our sinful flesh and complains, as many psalms testify, on the cross and in His passion, of the weight of the sins which He bears” (Luther, 7, 691; 11, 2130).

In another reference, Luther writes: “Jesus says: …If that shall be performed that the poor sinners may come to righteousness and be saved, you must baptize Me. Because for the sake of sinners I have become a sinner, must therefore do what God has charged the sinners to do, in order that they may become just through Me” (Luther, 13, 1575; 11, 2139).

And so, our Savior took on human flesh and blood and joined Himself to us that He might be our Substitute and redeem us. Because Jesus was baptized and then went to the cross to pay the price for our sins, all who believe and are baptized receive God’s pardon and forgiveness, a place in God’s eternal kingdom, by means of Holy Baptism.

In Baptism, we who trust in Christ have our sins washed away in Jesus’ shed blood and, as Christ was raised up from death, we are given God’s Spirit and new life in Christ Jesus!

And what happened when Jesus was baptized? We read in Matthew 3:16-17: “And when Jesus was baptized, He came up immediately out of the water. And suddenly the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending on Him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven, saying, ‘This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.’”

When Jesus came up out of the waters of the Jordan, the heavens opened and the Spirit of God descended upon Him like a dove. And a voice came from God the Father in heaven, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.”

Thus, we have the entire Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — present and participating in Jesus’ Baptism. So also, in our Baptisms, we are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). Though the minister applies water, He does so not in his own name or even in the name of the church he serves. The waters of Holy Baptism are applied in the name of the Triune God, for God Himself accomplished our salvation.

The Father sent His only-begotten Son into the world to redeem us and be a perfect sacrifice to atone for our sins. The Father and the Son give to us the Holy Spirit, who regenerates us, bringing us to faith in Christ Jesus, and washes away our sins in Jesus’ blood, making us children of God and heirs of eternal life through faith in our Savior (cf. John 3:3-6; Gal. 3:26ff.; Tit. 3:3-7).

And John the Baptist, seeing the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon Jesus (cf. Heb. 1:9; Psalm 45:7; Ezek. 16:9), was assured that Jesus was and is indeed the Son of God and the Lord’s Christ.

We read in John 1:32-34: “Then John bore witness, saying, ‘I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “The One on whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” I have seen and have borne witness that He is the Son of God.’”

So, what does all of this mean for you and for me? It, of course, means that Jesus is the eternal Son of God in human flesh, but it also means He associated Himself with you and me, He fulfilled all righteousness in our stead, and He bore on the cross the full punishment for our sins.

In His Baptism, Jesus joined Himself to us that he might be our Substitute and atone for our sins. And in our Baptisms, we are joined to Christ that His death might be our death and our sins be covered by His blood shed upon the cross for the sins of the world. And, in our Baptisms, we are joined to Christ that we might be credited with His perfect righteousness and be accepted as children of God through faith in Christ, our Savior!

God grant to you through faith in Your Savior the blessings of Holy Baptism — forgiveness for all your sins, a new birth and life worked in you by the Holy Spirit, and eternal life in Christ’s everlasting kingdom.

O gracious God — Father, Son, and Holy Spirit — we thank You for the blessings made our own in Baptism. Keep us in the true and saving faith, joined to Christ our Savior through Baptism, unto life everlasting. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary His mother, “Listen, this Child is destined to cause the fall and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign which will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed. And a sword will pierce through your own soul also.” Luke 2:34-35

We have heard the account of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem. We have heard the good news that He is the LORD God born into this world a true man that He might be our Savior from sin and everlasting punishment. We know and have heard of His holy life in our stead, and of His innocent sufferings and death for our sins. But how do we respond to Jesus?

There are many who feel that they can remain indifferent to Jesus and His coming into this world, but this is far from the truth! Whenever anyone hears of Jesus and His coming into this world to be our Savior, this message has an effect. Either one is moved toward repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as his Savior, or he becomes more and more hardened in his sin and unbelief (cf. Isa. 55:10-11).

How do you respond to Jesus? This is a question of great importance for each of us to consider; for, as Simeon told Mary, Jesus’ mother, Jesus was destined “to cause the fall and rising of many in Israel and to be a sign which will be spoken against, so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” (Luke 2:34-35). And, Jesus Himself said that He would cause division on the earth, even within families (cf. Luke 12:51-53).

Among His own people, there was great division. Some, like Simeon and Anna, being raised up from spiritual death, believed that Jesus was the promised Christ and trusted in Him for salvation (Luke 2:25-38). But others fell and rejected Jesus, hated Him and even crucified Him, causing Simeon’s words to Mary (v. 35) to come true. Cf. Isa. 8:14-15; 28:16; 53:3ff.; 1 Pet. 2:6-8.

How do you respond to Jesus? He cannot be ignored!

He came into this world for you, and His Word has been preached to you! Are you, by the grace of God, moved to humbly acknowledge and confess your sins to the Lord and to trust in Jesus’ holy life and innocent sufferings and death for your pardon and forgiveness? Or do you turn away from the crucified and risen Christ Jesus and continue on in your sin and unbelief?

The Bible tells us: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 6:23). God grant that you acknowledge your sins and look in faith to Jesus Christ, your Savior!

“If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. … If anyone does sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the Righteous One. He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 1:8-9; 2:1-2).

O Dearest Jesus, grant that we not turn from You or hide from You and continue on in our sinful ways; but move us to acknowledge You as our God and Savior, to have godly sorrow over our sins, and to sincerely repent, that we may trust in You and Your cross for our salvation. Amen.

[Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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“Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.” Luke 2:29-32 (Read Luke 2:22-40)

Are you ready to die and stand before God, your Maker? Are you at peace with God, knowing that full atonement has been made for your sins? Do you have the assurance that God has fulfilled His promises to send the Messiah and Savior and that He now forgives and accepts you as His own dear child for Jesus’ sake?

Simeon was an old believer who had been waiting for the fulfillment of God’s promises, for the coming of God’s promised Messiah and Savior. And God had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen with his own eyes the Lord’s Christ.

And directed by the Holy Spirit to come into the temple at Jerusalem precisely when Mary and Joseph came to the temple with the Christ Child to do what was required by the Law of God (Lev. 12:1-8; Ex. 13:2,11ff.; Num. 3:13; 3:40ff.; 8:17; 18:14-16), Simeon took Jesus up in his arms and said: “Lord, now let Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have prepared in the sight of all people, a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.”

He had now seen the promised Christ Child — God the Son in human flesh — and held Him in his arms. And Simeon was now ready to die in peace and face God’s judgment because he knew that His God and Savior had come and that, for the sake of the holy life this Child would live in his stead, and for the sake of the innocent sufferings and death this Child would accomplish, atonement would be made for all his sins. Simeon was assured that through faith in Christ Jesus he was forgiven and accepted by God. He was ready to die in peace, for in Christ Jesus he had God’s promised Savior from sin and its eternal punishment!

What about you? Are you ready to die and stand before God, your Maker? Are you at peace with God, knowing your sins are paid for and forgiven for Christ’s sake?

For such confidence, we look to the pages of Holy Scripture; for there we too see our Savior and the salvation God has provided for us. There we see Christ’s holy life for us under God’s law, and there we see His bitter sufferings and death for us upon the cross and His glorious resurrection.

“But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born from a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4-5).

In the Holy Scriptures, we see Jesus, our Savior, the Light of the Gentiles and the Glory of His people Israel. There we hear God’s gracious offer of pardon and forgiveness in Christ Jesus. There we learn that, through faith in Christ Jesus, we are not condemned but have forgiveness for all our sins and life eternal!

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned. But he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:16-18).

When we look at Christ through the Holy Scriptures and hold Him in our arms by faith, we too can be ready, as Simeon was, to depart this life in peace! “Since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we also have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and so we rejoice in hope of the glory of God” (Rom. 5:1-2). God grant us such faith in Christ Jesus our Savior!

Lord Jesus Christ, let our eyes look to You through the pages of Holy Scripture, that we too may trust in You and always be ready to depart this life in peace. Revive the weak in faith and strengthen all of us, that we may stand fast in our Savior until He returns to grant unto us and all believers everlasting life. Amen.

[Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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19 Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” 20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 They asked him, “Who then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” 22 They said to him then, “Who are you? Tell us so that we may give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say concerning yourself?” 23 John said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ just as the prophet Isaiah said.” 24 Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees. 25 They asked him, “Why do you baptize then, if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, “I baptize with water, but One stands among you, whom you do not know. 27 This is He who comes after me, who is preferred before me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” 28 These things took place in Bethany beyond the Jordan, where John was baptizing. John 1:19-23

Who was John the Baptist? He confessed that he was not the Christ, he was not Elijah, nor was he the Prophet promised by Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15ff.

Who was he? “John said, ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord,” just as the prophet Isaiah said’” (Cf. Isa. 40:3).

John was the messenger of God sent to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ (cf. Mal. 3:1; 4:5-6). He prepared people for the coming of the Lord Jesus by calling upon all to repent of their sins and turn to the LORD God for forgiveness and life through faith in the Messiah who was about to appear and be offered up a perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world (cf. John 1:29).

Who are we as Christ’s Church in this world? What are we and all who believe in the Lord Jesus Christ to be in this world? We are not the Christ, but we are a voice “crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord.’” Through our called ministers, we continue to call upon all to repent of their sinful and rebellious ways and to look in faith to Christ Jesus, “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Jesus is coming again to judge the living and the dead. Soon He will appear in the clouds with all His holy angels and every eye will see Him (cf. Rev. 1:7; Matt. 24:29ff.)! Until then, we continue to be God’s voice, His witness, calling on all people to repent and believe on the LORD Jesus Christ (cf. Acts 1:8). In Jesus’ shed blood, there is forgiveness and life everlasting for all who repent and turn to Him in faith for salvation!

Dear LORD Jesus Christ, grant us Your Holy Spirit and embolden us to be Your voice in this world, calling on all to repent and trust in You for forgiveness and life everlasting! Amen.

[Scripture taken from The Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Published and distributed by Charisma House.]

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