Law and Gospel in Joyful Clarity
In Baptism Jesus Bring His Cross to Us
In your Baptism your Lord Jesus today calls you His friends and His brothers and sisters. He gives you the new birth of water and the Spirit, and makes you heirs with Him of the heavenly glory. Most of all, Jesus brings to you the victory of His cross, the victory of His death over death and the devil, that is, the forgiveness of all of your sins. He has brought these things to you freely as gifts of His love, His mercy and His kindness.
Paul writes in Romans 6, “We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.” (Romans 6:4) The death and resurrection of Jesus, that is what the Lord delivers to us, with all of it benefits, in your baptism. And all of us, the Lord’s baptized, participate in these same gifts.
This is a wonder, the gift of baptism, and the gift of the death and resurrection of Jesus. The Prophets, says the apostle Peter, longed to look into these things, to see how it was that the Lord would rescue us from their sins. They knew that the Lord would send a Messiah, that He would come to redeem and rescue us, that He would even die, but how all of this would unfold, the details of the Lord’s death and resurrection, these are things were waiting to be revealed.
The Prophets and the Heavenly Council
In fact, in the Old Testament (and understand that this is all background for our Gospel reading, Jesus prophesying His death and resurrection, and the healing of the blind man), in the Old Testament, the prophets are the ones who were take into the “council of God.” Jeremiah 23 says of the false prophets of his day:
Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. 17 They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’” 18 For who among them has stood in the council of the LORD to see and to hear his word, or who has paid attention to his word and listened? (Jeremiah 23:16-18)
The false prophets have not stood in the council of the Lord, the true prophets have. Now, how are we to think of this council? Here is the Lord’s throne, the Father sits there. Then, the Son in on the right hand, the Spirit all around, the four living creatures with eyes all around surround the throne, and the angels are gathered together, and the elders. This is the Lord’s council, and there is conversation there.
Moses stood in the council of the Lord, and he takes what he sees there and designs the tabernacle and the earthly sanctuary. Isaiah stood in this council and saw the virgin birth (Isaiah 7). David stood in this council and saw the Lord pierced (Psalm 22). In fact, all the promises of Jesus, all of the comforting promises of the Old Testament come from the prophets standing in this council, and hearing the conversation between the Father and the Son. Conversation is what happens in a council, and the conversation here is about the salvation of the world, it is the conversation of the cross.
The Heavenly Council on Earth
Wonderful! Now, back to the Gospel reading, Luke 18. Jesus has descended from that council to bring it to the earth. He has gathered His disciples around to that council so that they would know the mysteries of the kingdom of God. He is telling them, now, about His death and resurrection for a third time.
And taking the twelve, he said to them, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. 32 For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. 33 And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise.” 34 But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said. (Luke 18:31-34)
These twelve disciples are brought into the council of the Lord, and they are here given to know the details of the world’s salvation like no one else before them, but still they do not understand. Luke, in fact, is emphatic to the point of absurdity in pointing out the disciples lack of understanding, “But they understood none of these things. This saying was hidden from them, and they did not grasp what was said.”
There is nothing confusing or unclear about the Words that Jesus is speaking, they are plain words, but they are words so profound that they are only had by faith, understood by the Holy Spirit.
It is not until these things happen, and then, fifty days later when the Holy Spirit is poured out, that they understand these words, and believe these words, and have life and salvation in these words.
Church: Hearing the Voice of the Heavenly Council
That’s Pentecost, and something very significant happens on that day. The apostle’s have tongues of fire over their heads, and they are preaching in the native tongues of all those gathered in Jerusalem for the feast, and the people think that they are drunk, and Peter stands up to preach, and quotes the prophet Joel.
For these people are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. 16 But this is what was uttered through the prophet Joel: 17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; 18 even on my male servants and female servants in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy. (Acts 2:15-18)
And here’s the point, in the New Testament, everyone will know the council of God. Everyone will see God’s plan and His heart unfolded. Everyone, even the children, even the babies, the youngest among us, will have the full blessing of the Gospel and the Lord’s mercy. Why? Because, dear saints, to us is given the vision of the cross, the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Do you remember the text when Jesus was talking about John the Baptist, and He calls him the greatest prophet ever, but then says that the least in the kingdom of heaven will be greater than John? That’s because John died before Jesus; John died before the cross. John never knew that Jesus was condemned by Pilate, that He was crowned with thorns, that He was scourged by the Romans, nailed to a cross. John never knew that Jesus hung on the cross for six hours, that there were three hours of darkness, that He spoke seven dying words. That He was buried by Joseph of Aramathea in a new tomb, and that He came out of the grave three days later. John, the greatest of the prophets, never knew this.
I have a picture in my mind about this, maybe someday an artist will give this a try, Isaiah the prophet, aged, with all of the marks of his prophetic office, sitting on the ground with one of our young confirmands, furiously and with wonder writing down all the things they know, as they simply recite the Apostle’s Creed.
Dear saints, dear baptized, to you has been given the greatest treasure in the universe: Jesus, and His death, and His resurrection, and His life. Today we have stood in His council, and we have heard His voice. You are His. Amen.
Pastor Bryan Wolfmueller