O Lord God of our fathers in thine hand is there not power and might, so that none is able to withstand thee? (2.Chronicles 20,6 KJV)
Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. (Matthew 28:18-19)
God is almighty. That’s a given. A god without power and the ability to do, what he wants, is no god. Jesus Christ is the incarnate Son of the Father. During Epiphany the holy Christian Church remembers and glorifies the revelation of his divine mission and the godly abundance of his goodness and mercy and his miraculous accomplishments here on earth – for us and our salvation. The gospel readings for these Sundays recall, how Jesus showed forth his glory as the only begotten Son of the Father full of grace, power and majesty. Nobody and nothing could withstand him as he went about doing good, seeking the lost, healing the sick, deaf and lame, casting out demons, delivering those in bondage, bringing light to those in darkness and shadow of death, saving, forgiving, restoring those broken down, preaching good news to the poor and calling the disciples to follow him and witness all that he was doing and saying. And they perceived his divine glory and they have told his story, the story of the only begotten Son of the Father – full of goodness and grace.
From the beginning there is also lots of evil opposing the little baby Jesus. Even as he grows up and preaches the kingdom of God, announcing and installing it right there amongst the people, there are those, who try to stop him, trip him, make him fail and abandon his mission, write him off, reject him, cast him out and kill him. That’s not just King Herod, not just the Pharisees and scribes, but also the father of all lies, the fallen angel, Satan – the stinking deceiver and accuser of all and everyone – especially those who come in the name of the triune God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – to destroy the works of the devil. Conquer the dark forces of corruption, decay and destruction, promoting truth, love and hope instead. Our Lord Jesus Christ goes his way unperturbed. Even after 40 days and nights of fasting, he withstands the temptations of the willy foe and the angels serve him. No storm can pull him under or drown him. No barren wilderness and empty dreariness can prevent him from gathering believing crowds and create flourishing faith. No illness and not even death escapes his authority and commanding power. Rather he speaks but one word and his servant is healed. He calls but the name and Lazarus rises from the dead and from his grave – although he was dead for four days already. No one and nothing can withstand his power. Even as he suffers and dies willingly, death and the grave can’t hold and keep him, but on the 3rd day he rises victoriously and in his almighty power. He the Lord and God of all +
It is this very God of very God, this Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified and risen Lord, who shows himself alive and in control to the disciples on that mountain in Galilee. They fall to their knees and worship him – although some still doubted. Yet he assures them to not be afraid. He promises that he will be with them always. They will never be alone and they will never fall from his hand. For he is greater than all and everything. Nothing and nobody can snatch us from his hand. With this authoritative and effective encouragement the Lord Jesus Christ puts his disciples at ease. They are not at a loss. They are not alone. They are not a helpless and hopeless bunch, rather they are the Lord’s. They belong to him and just as he took good care of them in the past, so too he would keep and preserve them in the true faith to life everlasting. This special status of Christ’s disciples, people and Church of living in a godly preserve and divine comfort zone, does not mean that they are bored, have nothing to do and just twiddle their thumbs. They are in the good care and company of their divine Lord and good master as they are called and sent into the most challenging, exiting, worthwhile and meaningful mission, business and service of all: Teaching all and everything he has entrusted them with. Starting off with the basic and never ending to delve deeper and further into the divine theology revealed by divine grace and goodness and recorded by the apostles and prophets of old, inspired by the Holy Spirit and led by him in all truth, so that we too would have the firm foundation of the true faith in Jesus Christ, the Son of the heavenly Father from whom the Holy Spirit goes forth to comfort and strengthen us in all truth and saving gospel. Teaching the basic tenants of faith to the young children even growing up in the true faith as summarised in the Catechism of the Church. Telling them the godly story starting off from the beginning when God created heaven and earth and opening up the perspectives right to the very end, when he will judge the living and the dead, create a new heaven and a new earth in which righteousness will abound and we will perceive him as he is. St Paul emphasises this teaching as one of the basic requirements of any pastor, bishop, missionary and evangelist: He must be able to teach! (1.Tim. 3:2) He must know, what Christ entrusted his Church with and he must be able to instruct others too – not just hold random brainstorming, but teaching, what has been entrusted to us in the Law of God, in the ecumenical and catholic Creed of the Church, praying like Jesus himself tutored his disciples and faithfully administering the most holy and precious institutions of the sacraments as Jesus himself instituted them. He’s not so much an innovator, explorer and discoverer, but rather a faithful steward handing out, what has been given to him to those entrusted to him and thus is part of God’s answer to our prayer: “Give us our daily bread!”
Diligent, watchful, caring the pastor and servant of the divine service and calling goes about teaching all that the Lord himself has entrusted to his holy Christian Church. And does not forget to baptise the nations either. It’s the starting and entry point into the Church. Through baptism we are buried with Christ into his death and together with him rise again to live his new life in righteousness and holiness all the days of our life. Through baptism we are his and he is ours. Nothing can separate us ever. The Church is not just a dreary classroom, but a living sanctuary and blessed living and holy community into which we are called, placed and baptised by the grace of God and thus included in the fellowship of Christ’s community – living members of his body of which he is the only head – sharing his teaching, living off his food and sustained by the communion, fellowship and unity with him and amongst each other – all to the glory of God and to the benefit and flourishing of each other.
The divine authority and power of our Lord Jesus Christ as head of the Church, stops all self-indulgent programs and ideas to mushroom in the Church. Here it is not about, what you or he, she or me declare and postulate, but rather about what the Lord has said, is saying and will say. His words of absolution uttered through the mouth of his servant here on earth in the Church are as firm and efficacious as spoken by him in heaven itself. The same holds true for the words of institution at Baptism and the Lord’s Supper. He says and it stands accomplished and as a matter of fact. We pray, he hears and answers definitely.
His power is a deterrent against all other would-be-greats and independents, but it is a comfort and encouragement to all of us, who are dependant and reliant on him, desiring his help and forgiveness, and seeking his grace and goodness, abiding in him – for where else should we go? He has words of life and we have recognised and believed that he is Jesus the Christ – the only begotten Son of the Father. Therefore we are not afraid, but ask him, to stick to his promise and therefore abide with us for the day is far spent and it is nearly night. Amen.
“Fight the Good Fight with All Thy Might” by John S.B. Monsell, 1811-1875
1. Fight the good fight With all thy might;
Christ is thy Strength and Christ thy Right.
Lay hold on life, and it shall be
Thy joy and crown eternally.
2. Run the straight race Thro’ God’s good grace;
Lift up thine eyes and seek His face.
Life with its way before us lies;
Christ is the Path and Christ the Prize.
3. Cast care aside; Upon thy Guide
Lean, and His mercy will provide;
Lean, and the trusting soul shall prove
Christ is its Life and Christ its Love.
4. Faint not nor fear, His arms are near;
He changeth not, and thou art dear.
Only believe, and thou shalt see
That Christ is All in all to thee.
Hymn #447 The Lutheran Hymnal Text: 1 Timothy 6:12
Author: John S.B. Monsell, 1863 Tune: “Mendon”