Monday, August 21, 2017

Jericho's baptism [Trinity 10; St. Luke 19:41-48]


Jesus speaks in your hearing today, saying,

In baptism we see a wonderful miracle. Not only is a person saved by it, but the Word of God is in action right in front of us. This belief that Scripture is truly God’s Word such that it produces exactly what it says, in this case a Christian born of water and the Spirit, is what is called a “high view” of Scripture.

And, unless you are within a church of one of the ancient faiths, you will not find this belief held. Outside the Church, God’s Word is infallible, except when it comes to salvation, because as well all know, babies can’t believe, therefore salvation through baptism is not literally what Jesus meant.

To illustrate, take the city of Jericho. We all know the story and Jesus today talks of no stone being left upon another. Israel walked round and round the city seven times, blowing trumpets. Finally on the seventh day of doing so, the Lord caused the walls to crumble in order to let Israel conquer the city and thus fulfill God’s promise to them of getting to live in the Promised Land.

And that’s all anyone cares to know about it. Just a display of God’s power in Israel’s life, probably in order to show that you too can conquer your “Jerichos” in life and topple walls of misfortune and sorrow, all with the power of Christ!!

Because that is exactly what Jesus is doing at Jericho…right? Tumbling your metaphorical “walls”. Right.

The Command from God was that Jericho’s walls were to tumble, not a stone upon a stone was to be left, so one way or another, it was going to happen. However, that’s all people know about this story and that is sad, because you miss the big picture. The tiny picture is that God is angry and violent. The big picture is, Christ has come, even to baby Jacob, to give him faith.

Let me explain. Before Israel goes up against Jericho, Jesus appears to Joshua as the Captain of the Lord’s hosts, with His sword drawn, in order to declare that He will fight, not Joshua and Israel. Which is lucky because no one was going to bring those walls down.

The second lesser-known part comes after the battle. Jericho is down and conquered, yet one family out of the entire, humungous kingdom is spared: that is the family of Rahab the Harlot. Poor girl gets a bad rap in the Bible…

They were saved because they had heard the Word of the Lord and sheltered spies from Israel. They were saved, because the Word had come to Rahab, and made her the great=-grandmother of Jesus. You could pretty much say, that the only reason Jericho’s walls had to topple over, was so that Rahab and her family could be free.

The Captain, Jesus, promises to Moses that the Israelites will be freed from Egypt, not to do whatever the heck they want, but to go three days into the wilderness and worship in the way He will instruct them. Jesus promises Joshua that the Promised land will be conquered under his lead, not to become another Alexander the Great, but in order that the Lord’s Chosen would have space to worship.

Yet, Jericho is not the only invincible-city-walls taken down and yet everything on earth comes to an end by destruction or decay. Jericho was just a shadow of things to come, for truly I say to you heaven has been invaded. It has been surrounded by the Captain and marched around until its walls crumbled.

Yes. Heaven has been conquered. Maybe you are more comfortable saying that the way to heaven has been unbarred, but either way, heretofore, heaven was inaccessible to you and me. Even more so than Jericho, heaven kept out all who wished to enter, even those who thought they could take it by force.

But it could not withstand the Captain of the Lord’s hosts, Who, for the salvation of the world took on human flesh and rescued Rahab and her family. Yes, Rahab is one woman who is counted in the family tree of Jesus Christ, which was so important to keep intact, that not even an invincible city could stop it.

Jacob was conceived and born behind Jericho’s walls. He was formed in sin and came out in sin. Only death was his reward for traversing the long and dangerous birth canal. He was held as tightly and securely as Rahab and her family had been.

This was true, until the Crucifixion of Jesus. For now a crucifix is hung on the walls of Jericho, sin, and death and they will never rise again. Even though Jericho was rebuilt and never really wiped out, its sentence was meted out: Christ has conquered.

And in His conquering, He encounters the dead. The walls tumble and He finds He is too late to save His creatures who prefer sin and death. Thus, Jesus follows them into Jericho. He goes down to the depths of hell, pillages and loots its treasuries, and brings them back out again into the light and into His own resurrection, by baptism.

And in traversing back to heaven, the walls restricted His newly obtained loot, so He knocked those down as well, opening the kingdom of heaven to all believers who are baptized.

Thus, it is baptism that now saves you, not because of magical properties or words, but because the Captain of the Lord’s hosts comes through means and these means are fleshy, just like Him. Jesus has declared that His Church shall be built and not even the gates of Jericho or hell shall prevail against it.

Why? Well, its certainly not these flimsy brick walls surrounding us this morning that stand invincible, but faith. The faith that Jesus has come in the flesh. The faith that Christ has suffered, died, and risen again. The faith given by grace, through faith, for Christ’s sake alone.

These walls of the Church will stand, because Jesus stands within them and sin, death, and the devil now no longer hold dominion over Him and, by baptism, neither is there any hold on those who believe and gather in His Name.

It is not our strong conviction or our superior knowledge, it is the strength of Jesus Who rose from the dead and gives His resurrection to the sinful dead who are stuck behind impenetrable walls.

Jesus destroys the walls of sin, death, and the devil which prevent you from finding Him, from gaining forgiveness, and from obtaining salvation through the waters of the Flood and the Red Sea, pooled in this font.

So while the enemy copies Jesus by doing these same things to us as Jesus does to sin, their attempts are vain. For though our enemies of faith surround us, tear us down to the ground, and our children also, in the midst of that the victory remains ours, because it is Christ’s victory He has given us.

Rejoice with me, brethren. Bring out the white robe of Christ’s righteousness. Set the Table with the Lord’s own feast and let us eat and celebrate, for this son of mine was dead and has come to life again; he was lost and has been found worthy in the Lord.

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