Todd A. Peperkorn, STM
University Lutheran Chapel
The Feast of St. Luke, Evangelist (October 18, 2009)
For an audio MP3 of this sermon, please click StLuke2009
TITLE: “The Kingdom of the Lamb”
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and from the Lord Jesus Christ. Our text for this morning is from the Gospel lesson just read, with focus on the words of our Lord, the kingdom of God is at hand.
Our Lord sends them out as lambs in the midst of wolves. Now you don’t have to be an expert in the finer arts of shepherding to know that sheep don’t do well in the midst of wolves. Lambs are basically, well, they’re lunch. A mutton sandwich for the wolf. It’s hard to picture a more helpless creature in the face of a vicious killer like a wolf. But there it is. Jesus sends out the seventy two as lambs. He might as well have said, “I’m sending you out to die. Go on, get with it. You’re somebody’s meal here. Go and do your job. Die so that these vicious killers can feast on you and live.”
Jesus sends them out as His ambassadors, His sandwiches of goodwill to the world. He only sends them where He Himself will go. Our Lord is the one who is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29). He is the one who brings forth children of peace by the waters of Holy Baptism. And yet this peaceful lamb, the one without spot or blemish, suffers the worst violence against Him imaginable. The weight of the sin of the world is in His flesh. All of humanity’s guilty conscience is laid upon Him. Satan sought to rip Him apart, to destroy Him and with Him you and me and the whole world, all caught up in this frightful whirlwind of destruction.
It is easy to point the finger at Satan as the wolf, but we have all done our own bit of devouring, haven’t we? We bite at each other, tear apart reputations with gossip, we steal and lust hurt in word and deed. Yes, the wolves really have nothing on us when it comes to destructive behavior. And our horrific behavior is not limited to outside the family. No, we hurt those whom we love the most. Friends, classmates, neighbors, family, everyone close to us has felt our teeth. And with each violent act that you do, our Lord’s suffering is all the greater.
But something amazing happens. The wolf eats the Lamb and becomes what he eats. Christ sends the disciples out to be devoured, because by being little Christs to the world, by bearing His death and resurrection, by receiving the scorn and despising the shame, these ambassadors actually make bloodthirsty wolves into Christ’s flock. St. Paul says that His life is poured out as a drink offering to the world. This is so because Paul life is bound up on Christ’s life. That is the way of the apostles.
That is the way of Christ’s kingdom for all. God takes the most horrific situations, the worst violence imaginable, and He turns it on its head and uses it for the greatest of all possible good. The only innocent man in all the world, the Son of God Himself, dies the death of a common criminal, and as a result of this the ultimate injustice, God justifies the whole world.
Now if God can take that event and bring about the greatest good, how much more can He use you, O Baptized? The kingdom of God has come near to you. You have been healed of your sin unto death. The kingdom of God is in your midst, it is in your mouth and poured into you by the chalice of life. Christ Himself, the Lamb, feeds you and makes you His.
Acknowledge your wolfishness. Recognize that you are the one who put Him upon the tree. Confess who you are. You are the sinful despisers of Christ and His Word. By confessing this in yourself, God will use you. He will change you from the wolf that you are to the sheep of His pasture, one of His flock.
But He doesn’t just take a part of you. He isn’t satisfied with cosmetic surgery. No wolf in sheep’s clothing for our Lord. He takes your whole life and everything in it for His glory and for your good. So while Satan will accuse you and fling the gunk of this life at you, you are safe. Luther once said that even the devil is God’s devil, and so it is. God will use everything that happens to you, everything, and will use it to bring about the great and mighty work of bringing His kingdom to a lost and desperate world.
So come to the Supper, you wolves who are now Christ’s lambs. Come and receive the life giving blood which makes you who you are. Feast on the body of Christ which makes you who you are. Once you were of this world, hungry and lustful for the evil within and without. But now you are in Christ. You are free in Him. So feast on Him, and becomes the lamb that you are as His baptized child. The kingdom of God has come near you. It is here, in this very place, in your midst. God’s peace is here for you. Believe it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in true faith, unto life everlasting. Amen.