3rd Sunday in Lent

Originally published at: https://confident.faith/2020/03/19/3rd-sunday-in-lent/

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  • Exodus 17:1–7
  • Psalm 95:1–9
  • Romans 5:1–8
  • John 4:5–30, 39–42

Why do we test God? Has not our Father told us that He watches over and cares for us? And yet we doubt. At Meribah, the Jews grumbled against Moses because they did not trust God. In the words of Moses: “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?”

Why do we test the Lord? We test the Lord because we do not truly trust Him. We worry about almost everything. We fear what tomorrow may bring. We harden our hearts and refuse to cast our cares upon our Lord.

We want to have control. We want to believe that what will happen in our lives is in our own hands, and the outcome will depend upon our own efforts — upon our work. More, we want to keep parts of our lives secret; we want to hide — even from God — so much of what we think and do.

Do you not know that what is done in secret will be proclaimed? Before God, deep darkness is as light and night as day. Nothing is hidden from His eyes. And it is not only your actions that condemn you, for God knows also all that you have failed to do and He knows your every thought. He knows the anger and the malice you harbor toward others, and He knows the zeal with which you pursue your own selfish ends. In fact, God knows everything — yes, He has even seen every social media post.

If you were to ascend to Heaven, there you would find Him; if you were to dig to the depths of Sheol, there you would not escape Him. He knows your thoughts before you think them and your words before you speak them. You can hide nothing from Him. So what do you bring before the Judgement Seat?

You cannot plead ‘not guilty’ before an omniscient Judge. You have not yet lived your full life, but His records have everything from your conception to your death. One sin is enough to condemn you. Your situation is hopeless.

Where the worm does not die and the flames do not consume, there will all those who are separated from God spend eternity. There will be no escape — the saints, whether in Paradise or here on Earth, cannot pray for those lost souls and indulgences avail nothing. It is appointed for man but once to die and then the Judgement. All will face Christ at the Final Judgement, and He has only two roles in that court: Judge or Savior. How you will face Him then depends upon how you relate to Him now and, more importantly, how He relates to you.

At Meribah, God stood atop the rock and brought forth water for His rebellious desert children. That same God Who appeared at Meribah would be born of a virgin in Bethlehem and die on a cross at Calvary. His blood has washed away our sins. And He still comes to us today — in Word, in Water, and in Blood.

In the desert, He provided the water that sustains life; to the woman at the well, He offered living water; and today in the cleansing waters of Baptism, He comes to each of us. He is the Rock of our salvation, the firm foundation upon which all our hopes are built. And He did not leave us at the Ascension. In assuming His authority as the Right Hand of God, He has placed all other authorities under Himself. We will meet Him at the Judgement, but not as Judge. In the cleansing flood of Baptism, He washed away all our sins. When the books are opened before the Judgement Seat, a great many of those pages will be blank, for not only have your sins been washed away, but God has promised He will forget them. Your sins are gone, and Christ will welcome you with open arms; you are a child of the Kingdom.

In the desert, He provided manna to sustain His people; to the incredulous Jews, He said they must eat His flesh; and today, He offers us His body and blood in the Sacrament. He is not gone, for He promises to be present where two or three gather in His Name, and He comes to us in, with, and under the bread and the wine, where He gives us His true body and His true blood. He has promised to be with us even to the very end of the age, and His promises never fail.

It may seem, at times, like very little is under control in this world — or at least that very little is under control of the forces of good. We should not endeavor to sugarcoat reality — Satan is allowed a great deal of freedom at present (as are we) and Scripture is very clear that trials and tribulations will come. Many have lost their lives for the faith, and many more will do so before the final consummation of all things. We still live in a fallen world, and a minute or two of news media will confirm as much.

We do not fear though. ‘What can man do to me?’ Those who can kill the body are nothing; they are as we are — dust. As our great battle hymn puts it:

“Nehmen sie den Leib, Gut, Ehr, Kind, und Weib: lass fahren dahin, sie haben’s kein Gewinn, das Reich muss uns doch bleiben.”

“Let goods and kindred go, This mortal life also: The body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His Kingdom is for ever.

The German is more explicit: The powers of this world may ‘take your life, your goods, honor, children, and wife’, but there is no victory for the enemy — the battle has already been won. Christ defeated sin, death, and the devil at Calvary. He bound the strong man, plundered his kingdom, and led a host of captives in His train. The Rock of our salvation stands yet, no matter what the world may throw at us.

So let us worship, let us bow down, let us kneel before the Lord, our God, our Maker. Let us not harden our hearts, for He replaced our hearts of stone with hearts of flesh. “Is the Lord among us or not?” He is with us now and He will be with us always. He brings to us the living water that grants eternal life.

But surely there is something we must do? No. The work of Christ was necessary, and it is sufficient and complete. We have been justified by faith, so we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. And it is by God’s grace that we are given the faith through which we are justified and receive salvation. All who drink will thirst again, but those who receive living water from Christ will have eternal life.

So come what may. We do not fear suffering, because it produces endurance, which produces character, which brings forth hope. When we were weak, dead in sin and trespass, Christ died for us. We were sinners held captive, but we have been freed by His work.

There are countless systems that will tell you what to do to get to ‘heaven’ — Christianity is not one of them. Are good works good? Of course; your neighbor needs them and God commands them, but they will not — cannot — save you. If you try to work your way to Heaven, all you will succeed in doing is filling those books that will be opened at the Judgement. Our great comfort as Christians is that many of those pages will be blank. Works righteousness, so called, fills pages; Christ’s blood wipes them clean. I know in which one I will place my trust.

The Good Shepherd has promised me that I shall not want. All of Creation rests in His hands, and yet we are the people of His pasture and the sheep of His hands. At the last, we know, that He will again stand on the Earth, that we will see Him with our own eyes and embrace Him, and He will welcome us, not as Judge, but as Savior and King.