Devotion #25

Christ is risen!  He is risen, indeed.  Halleluiah!

I know it’s been a little while since I’ve posted any devotions from Matthew.  The last leg of the season of Lent and then Holy Week got the best of me.  I found myself a bit too busy and overwhelmed to get my thoughts down each morning. But I’m glad to be back in the regular routine. 

Today we read about some more miracles.  As usual, these miracles all revolve around Christ’s powerful word. It’s always the case that amazing, logic-defying things happen whenever Jesus speaks.

In our reading, Jesus speaks and a sick woman gains the confidence to reach out and touch the hem of His garment. Jesus speaks and a desperate father asks Jesus for the impossible. Even more incredible, Jesus speaks to the father’s little girl who is dead, and she rises back to life!  Then Jesus speaks and two blind men can suddenly see. 

Do you see it?  

Matthew wants us to see that Jesus’ speaking and teaching gives all of these individuals the greatest miracle of all: FAITH!  They act in faith because they trust the word that is spoken.  All throughout this section of Matthew, Jesus has been traveling around preaching.  People are listening, and through listening they are believing. 

That’s all faith is. It’s trusting the word and promises of our Savior. 

Now let me get a little partisan for a moment…

You all know that I’m a Lutheran pastor, and the backbone of Lutheran theology and doctrine is an unflappable belief that God’s Word always does what it says, even when our own reason can’t make heads or tails of it. I am sure every Christian denomination would agree with me.  However, when the rubber meets the road, not every Christian is so willing to give Christ’s Word the credit it’s due.  Perhaps the best example of this is the miracle of the Lord’s Supper.  I’m sure you’ve noticed that almost every denomination has differing beliefs concerning this meal. Roman Catholics believe that Christ truly does give us His body and blood in the sacrament (the miracle of the Real Presence) but they insist that He does it through something called transubstantiation.  This is just some philosophical explanation of how the bread and wine becomes body and blood even though it continues to look, taste and feel like bread and wine. Transubstantiation is a human explanation and nowhere does the bible teach this.  Yet the Roman Church insists that this is how Jesus does His miracle.  Lutherans believe in the Real Presence but we cannot endorse transubstantiation because it has no bases in the Word. 

On the other side of the spectrum are many protestants and non-denominational Christians.  They reject the doctrine of the Real Presence.  They find it foolish to think that Jesus’ own body and blood would be given for us to eat and drink.  Human reason and logic find that a grotesque and profane idea.  Why would our Lord give something so precious as His body to be chewed by sinners like us?  They would argue that Jesus had to have been speaking metaphorically when He instituted the Lord’s Supper.  They insist that it’s just an idea that helps us connect with Christ.  Many protestants and non-denominationals would make the Lord’s Supper nothing more than a pious ritual or meditative act.

But for Lutherans, the power of the meal that our Lord gives lies solely in the power of His word.  Our Lord says, “Take and eat… this is my body… this is my blood… given for you for the forgiveness of sins.”  (Matthew 26:17-30, Mark 14:22-25, Luke 22:14-23, 1 Corinthians 11:17-30).  And because Jesus says it, we believe it. Period! There is no need for any fancy philosophical explanations like transubstantiation.  Of course, some of my protestant brothers and sisters would argue that if we took everything Christ says literally, then what about statements like when Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the door. If anyone enters by me, he will be saved and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:7–9).  

Isn’t Jesus speaking in metaphor in this passage?

But is He, really? I don’t think so. 

I believe Jesus means what He says.  Sure, He may not be a door like one you have in your home–made out of wood with a knob or handle–but a door is a door, regardless of what it looks like or what it is made of.  A door is the way you get into a room, the only way!  Jesus says He is the door into Heaven, a door made out of flesh and blood. 

In the Lord’s Supper, Jesus gives this same flesh and blood—by which we enter heaven—to eat and drink.  Nevermind that my little mind can’t comprehend the “how” and the “why.”  The power of Jesus’ word makes it so.  The very same word that was spoken at Creation and brought forth all the heavens and the earth.  If my Lord, who spoke creation into existence, tells me the bread and wine is His body and blood, who am I to disagree? Even if it still bread and wine that I eat and drink. And if my Lord tells me it’s for the forgiveness of my sins, why would I think otherwise?  I gladly in faith take it and eat, because I trust His word to do what it says, even if I struggle to understand how it all works. 

Oh yeah, one more thing…

None of these miracles are dependent upon faith.  Again, they happen solely by the power of Jesus word. 

I know it’s easy to think otherwise.  It’s easy to get all tied up pondering what exactly Jesus meant when He said to the hemorrhaging woman, “Daughter, your faith has made you well” and to the two blind men, “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” and “According to your faith be it done for you.”  These statements make it sound like there was something special about the faith of these individuals.  But actually, they were just trusting that Jesus could do what He says.  And the ultimate proof of that is the dead girl.  Was it her faith that enabled her to rise from the dead? Was there some strong desire to live that brought her back to life?  No!  She was dead.  It was Jesus’ preaching that did all that. Only His word can raise the dead.  Only His word can open blind eyes.  And only His word can cause spiritually dead hearts to live and spiritually blind eyes to see.  That’s the miracle of faith. 

All miracles happen this way!   By the power of Jesus’ word.

One day, Jesus has promised to come back and do miracles like these again.  Every tear shall be wiped away and there shall be no more pain or suffering (Revelation 21:4).  Because Jesus has promised, I look forward to that day even as I watch loved ones grow sick.  I know His Word will not fail to do what it has promised, even if it takes another thousand years.  On that day, like for the little girl, death will be undone and we will rise at the command of our Lord. 

Until that time comes, in the meantime, my Lord invites me to come to His table where He offers what seem impossible, scandalous, and strange.  In a miracle He offers Himself for the forgiveness of sins.  Because I trust His word, I gladly eat and drink and believe.  My faith is grounded on the word of Jesus. Like the hemorrhaging woman, I take heart, for if my faith is grounded on the Word, it makes me well. 

Indeed, it is well with my soul. 

That’s the power of the Word.

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