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December 9, 2018     “Who Is Jesus? The Son of Abraham”        Matt.1:1

 {5 part series: son of ~ David, Abraham, Solomon, Mary, Sinners; Concordia Sem}

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Dear brothers & sisters in Christ,

It’s pretty safe to say that more attention has been given to Jesus-of-Nazareth than any other person in the history of the world. ‘Attention’ being: /curiosity, /interest, /devotion, /prayer, /adoration, /disagreement, /& opposition. Think of how people just accept that Confucius said this, Aristotle said that, Shakespeare wrote that.   *Are you sure they did?   And yet, every recorded word that Jesus said has been /sifted, /inspected, /analyzed, /scrutinized /dissected, /debated, /doubted, /contested, /disputed & disbelieved == every single word.

Jesus has had more attention than all kings & queens, philosophers & scientists put together.

After 2,000 years, as the world daily turns, is there ever one minute on earth that thousands are not studying what Jesus said. Of course, He deserves this much attention, but its interesting to ponder. Especially IF he’s just a person who lived for a short time, in a tiny country, so long ago == *how could he possibly affect us & our lives in this advanced day & age?     Yet, it’s his birth that divides human history BC and AD == ‘before Christ’ and ‘Anno Domini’ = the year of our Lord.   Billions of people have heard of Him; BUT how many can explain WHO he really is?

So, for the Sundays in Advent, we ask: Who is Jesus?   Matthew, in his gospel, takes the time to make a list of his genealogy, or family tree; the original ‘ancestry.com’.   Matt.1:1 says: “A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”   Here’s a question for you Sunday school students = both young & old: (just answer in your mind)   *Who is Abraham’s famous son?    That would be … Isaac.

And, *what is the most well-known story associated with Isaac? His sacrifice.

I don’t say his ‘near’ sacrifice. As far as Abraham was concerned, when God directed him to sacrifice his only son Isaac, it was as good as done; Abraham was not NOT going to do it.   For our Father-of-the-Faith, his son Isaac was the son of sacrifice. That son helps us answer the question: who is Jesus.   Jesus is the greater Son of Sacrifice.

To know Jesus, we need to know Isaac’s story = one of the most dramatic events in the Bible. Abraham & Sarah had been trying to have children all their adult lives.

Then at the ripe old age of 100 for Abraham & 90 for Sarah, a promise is made to them, & 9 months later, their miracle son is born.   He’s given the name Isaac; in Hebrew, meaning ‘laughter.’  Sure, Sarah laughed at the thought of having a baby at age 90, but Isaac also brought Abraham & Sarah great joy.

Isaac grows up; but not too much, as Abraham still refers to him as a ‘boy’. So he’s a lad, likely not yet a teenager, when God speaks those haunting words to Abraham, “Take your son, your only son, Isaac, whom you love, and go to the region of Moriah. Sacrifice him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains I will tell you about.” (that’s in Gen 22)

*Can we relate to what Abraham felt? Maybe we’ve gotten a phone call with some bad news that doesn’t register at first. Well, it kind of does, but we don’t want to believe we heard it right. Its news that makes us feel like we can hear our own heartbeat in our ears; / our mouth starts to say ‘no, no, no’ before any sound comes out; / we can’t remember if the sun is shining or not, but we don’t care; / it seems like the most urgent thing to do is to sit down.

A child is born with spina bifida; / A brother or sister dies; / A business goes bankrupt;   /a fire or a storm causes terrible damage; /a father has alzheimers, or grandmother has dementia, they’re no longer who they were; / a divorce, an arrest, a miscarriage, a cancer diagnosis.

*How do we feel? We feel lost in despair; we bury our feelings, or get buried in our work; we get angry at others = at the world, at life.   And yet, *who do people turn to for help?

One name most often comes to mind: Jesus.   Why; *why turn to him? Because Jesus understands sacrifice; He’s the Son of Abraham = the son of sacrifice.

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We’re actually not told what Abraham ‘feels’; we don’t see him react, he says nothing. God speaks His instruction, and Abraham gets up the next morning, and follows those instructions to the letter.   He’s the Father of the Faith.     This event begins with some preparation for this test-of-faith. It says: “After these things God tested Abraham.”

*After what things? Things in his life. Abraham had seen the LORD safely guide him from the region of Ur of the Chaldeans, to Haran, and then to Canaan. Abraham had heard the LORD say, “I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the heavens.” (Gn 15:5).

Abraham had witnessed the blessing of those who feared the Lord, and the condemnation of the wicked cities of Sodom & Gomorrah. Now he had witnessed the impossible gift of childbirth thru two people who were ‘as-good-as-dead’.   All these things prepared Abraham for his test.

You & I have also witnessed blessings & curses in the world where God is still at work; healings & miracles; / chastisements & rebukes; / people whose lives go to ruins, and people whose lives are changed & made new.   Our faith is to see these things, and be encouraged & strengthened, especially to withstand times of testing.

God prepares us for those times with Holy Baptism, the Living Word, & the Holy Supper; these are the NT tools of the Holy Spirit.   He uses these to deliver to us forgiveness, confidence, & trust in God; with the hope & joy of this eternal faith. We have always called the word & sacraments the ‘means of grace’;   they are the NT vehicles thru which God pours out upon us courage & confidence; / insight & wisdom; / hope & peace.

*Do you know that everything that happens to the children of God is no accident?

The things in your life are no more random, chance accidents than the things were for Abraham & Sarah.   *Would it make a difference to you if you knew that everything in your life is part of God’s will for you? …not including your own actions of sin, but including all the things that you have no control over.   *Do you trust God = the One who gave you life?

This life will test your faith; but every test is ‘Father-filtered’.   HERE ~ with his baptism grace,   with his living word, & with his communion presence,   we are prepared for every test.

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So, “God tested Abraham …” says Gen 22:1.   *For what purpose is any test?

Think of an eagle & a storm. *Why is an eagle not afraid of a storm? Certainly the wind can toss an eagle out of the sky or against a rocky cliff.   But the eagle uses the wind;

it will turn & face the storm, & tilt its wings; so now a dangerous wind will drive it upward until it rises above the storm. The power that threatens to destroy is used to rise to new heights.

God sends tests to bring us to greater heights of conviction & courage, and good Christian character.  That’s why Abraham is commended for his faith. This is the purpose for a test.

The Spirit explains this in 1Peter. Peter writes: “In this you greatly rejoice, tho now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith =of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire= may be tested genuine, and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. ” (1:6–7).

There is a story about a young man who was taking a philosophy course in college.  He’d studied & studied. When he came to the final exam, it had only one question: ‘Why?’ The young man thought for a while, wrote down one word & handed in his paper: “Because!”

Philosophy is about asking that question: ‘Why?’ = Christianity is about listening to God’s answer: ‘Because’.

When we’re going thru a test, we ask: Why me? /Why now? /Why this?  *Do we trust God enough to accept his answer: “Because.”?  What He means is….+“Because your faith needs to be tested & refined; +because this old world cannot last = its moving forward & toward an end. +Because I made you & love you, and I need you to move from point A to point B to point C, and still trust all my good promises to you. That’s why. +Because I’m trustworthy & merciful; you don’t need to know more than that.’

Our tests refine us; /they mature us; /they season us; /they humble us. God tests us to strengthen us. Satan tries to mimic a ‘test’ with temptation, especially the temptation to doubt God’s goodness; to doubt that God knows us & cares for us; or to be afraid to trust God too much. The Devil attacks us at the weakest points of our life, to fear the storms & turn from faith.

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Thank God for the example & witness of the strong-in-faith; like Abraham, Sarah, Isaac. God’s tests are not intended to harm us or destroy us; God’s tests develop us, and move us on to the next class, leading to our graduation.   God will never again ask anyone to sacrifice their child to him; he did it once to show us what faith looks like on our part. He did it just that once to show us what HE would be willing to do to be reconciled to us sinners.   He gave Abraham a son-of-sacrifice in order to reveal His own Son-of-Abraham who was sacrificed on the cross in our place.

God spared Isaac, and He spares ALL the children of Abraham’s faith, by sending a substitute.   (Abraham)….took the ram, and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place, ‘The LORD Will Provide.’ And to this day it is said, ‘On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided.” (Gn 22:13-14).

God always provides. God sees the need of Noah, and provides an ark. He sees Israel in Egyptian bondage, and provides a way through the Red Sea. He sees David out-muscled by Goliath, and provides a rock to defeat the Philistine. He sees Shadrach, Meshach, & Abednego in a fiery furnace, and provides a protector — a fourth Man.  And he sees YOU. With every test, God provides a way out, says 1Cor.10: “And God is faithful; he will not let you be tested beyond what you can bear. But when you are tested, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

Who is Jesus? Jesus is the One who perfectly reveals this one, true God of Abraham & Isaac. This is why people listen to Jesus, study him, & call upon him.   The Father sent to us his only begotten Son to provide for us; that our faith would stand upon him, like a rock. As Romans 8 says, “He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all = how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

The price had to be paid. Jesus willingly carried the wood up mount Golgotha, and -there- The Lamb allowed his blood to be shed;   there was no last-minute substitute ram for Him. He suffers & dies because this is no test = it’s the only way for the world to be redeemed. And ‘it is finished.’   It is finished, and He is risen == the greater Isaac, the Son of Abraham.

Abraham faces his test, trusting his Lord. And thru him we see what faith is.

Abraham leaves the mountain and gives it a name.   Not ‘mt. sacrifice’ or ‘mt. the-worst-time-of-my-life’ or ‘mt. God’s-being-mean-to-me’.   He calls the mountain ‘the Lord provides’.   How can WE be sure that in the time of our testing that the Lord will also provide?

Because!  Because we know Jesus, the Son of Sacrifice.

Amen.