Seventh Sunday after Pentecost – July 11 (Rev. Stan Temme)
Eighth Sunday after Pentecost – July 18 (Rev. Stan Temme)
Ninth Sunday after Pentecost – July 24 (Rev. Stan Temme)
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost – August 8 (Rev. Stan Temme)
It Didn’t End There
Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Our text is from the Old Testament reading. The angel of the LORD came again a second time and touched Elijah and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” And he arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God. Here ends our text.
It could have ended right there. Right there in the wilderness under a broom tree. The LORD had answered Elijah’s prayer, cast down fire at Mt. Carmel, and defeated the prophets of Baal. But now the evil Queen Jezebel threatened Elijah’s life. Despite the LORD’s victory, Elijah was afraid and ran for his life. He ran across the country to the southern tip of Judah. He left his servant behind and traveled a day’s journey into the wilderness where he was all alone. After running for his life, ironically, he sat down under a broom tree and asked that he might die, saying “It is enough; now, O LORD, take away my life, for I am no better than my fathers.” Elijah was in a dark place. The last prophet of Israel, the last of God’s people, laid down under a broom tree in the wilderness, asked to die, and fell asleep. It could have ended right there.
But it didn’t end there. THE angel of the LORD, the messenger of the LORD, some say it was the preincarnate Son of God, touched him and said, “Arise and eat.” Elijah looked, and behold, miraculously by his head, there was this cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. He ate and drank and lay down again. THE angel of the LORD came a second time, touched him, and said, “Arise and eat, for the journey is too great for you.” Elijah arose and ate and drank. In the strength of that heavenly food and drink, he journeyed for 40 days and 40 nights to Sinai, the mount of God. And there, God told him that he was not alone. There were still 7,000 believers who had not bowed to Baal. God promised he would raise up another king to defeat Queen Jezebel. God promised he would raise up another prophet, the prophet Elisha, to take Elijah’s place. The school of the prophets of the LORD would still go on. Elijah didn’t die that day under the broom tree. His life didn’t end there. Instead of dying, Elijah ascended directly to heaven in a chariot of fire driven by the LORD’s holy angels.
It could have ended right there. The Israelites stood on the brink of entering the Promised Land, but they listened to a bad report from ten of the twelve spies. They grumbled against Moses and against the LORD and clamored to go back to slavery in Egypt. Two of the spies, Joshua and Caleb, stood alone and pleaded with the people to repent, but they would not. God judged their unbelief and condemned them to wander for 40 years in the wilderness until their bodies dropped in the desert. It could have ended right there.
But it didn’t end there. The LORD raised up another generation who believed in him. He fed them for 40 years in the wilderness with manna, bread from heaven, and this miraculous drink, water from a rock. God’s people didn’t end there in the wilderness. Instead of dying, this new nation was strengthened by this heavenly food and drink. THE angel of the LORD led them across the Jordan River with Joshua and Caleb into the Promised Land.
It could have ended right there. The incarnate Son of God was alone in the wilderness for 40 days. Jesus was hungry and weak. The evil angel came and tempted him. The devil challenged him, “Prove to me that you’re the Son of God by turning these stones into bread to feed yourself. Prove to your naysayers that you’re the Son of God by publicly jumping off the Temple and having God’s holy angels catch you. Bypass the suffering of the cross and go straight for the glory of ruling the kingdoms of the world by bowing down and worshipping me. There’s no need to suffer from hunger, suffer from the jaunts of your enemies, suffer from the agony of the cross.” If Jesus had succumbed to temptation, it could have ended right there.
But it didn’t end there. Jesus defeated the devil’s temptations with the Word of God. He lived and abided by the bread of God’s Word. He didn’t despair about his suffering and ask to die, but he trusted himself to God his Father. The mission of Jesus didn’t end in the wilderness. God’s holy angles came and ministered to him, and Jesus continued his journey to Mount Calvary.
It could have ended right there. Jesus had just fed over 5,000 people in the wilderness by miraculously multiplying the bread and the fish. Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee by boat, but many followed him on foot. They only wanted more bread to fill their stomachs. But Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.” But the Jews grumbled against him, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” Many of his disciples disputed, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?” After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him, leaving Jesus alone. Without any followers, the ministry of Jesus could have ended right there.
But it didn’t end there. Jesus asked the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” The work of the kingdom of God didn’t end there. The school of THE Prophet, the Lord, would still go on.
It could have ended right there . . . at the cross. Jesus was in great agony from the beating and the flogging, from the crown of thorns and the nails which pierced his flesh. He heard the tempting taunts, “Prove you are the Son of God by coming down from the cross, save yourself, and then we will believe in you.” Jesus could have ended it right there and come down from the cross, but that would have been the end of us. Instead, Jesus showed his love for all mankind and remained on the cross. He was all alone. But Jesus didn’t despair and ask God to take his life. Rather, Jesus gave his life willingly and committed his spirit to God his Father. Jesus cried out, “It is finished!” and then he died. Two of his secret followers took his body down from the cross and buried him in the grave. They rolled a great stone in front of it to seal the cave.
It could have really ended right there . . . at the tomb. Jesus was in a dark place. He’d been dead for three days. It looked like his enemies had won. His disciples had deserted him. They were locked in a room, afraid to go out, because they feared the evil religious authorities and their Roman guard. They were in a dark place. One of them had already despaired and killed himself. The kingdom of God could have ended right there.
But it didn’t end there. On Easter Sunday, the Holy Spirit made Jesus alive in the grave, and God raised his Son from the dead. The risen Jesus came forth from the tomb and showed himself alive to his disciples. He commanded them to go forth and preach repentance and forgiveness of sins to all people in his name. He ascended into heaven to the right had of God to finally rule in glory over all the nations of the world. On Pentecost, the Holy Spirit made the disciples alive in spirit. They came forth from their dark room and preached Jesus Christ and him crucified for the forgiveness of sins and him risen for the eternal life of all believers. The kingdom of God didn’t end at the tomb. It went on to fill the earth in the hearts of men.
It could have ended right there . . . for you. You were in a dark place when you were born, but I’m not talking about the womb. You were born spiritually dead in your trespasses and sins. Your journey through life was only a march to physical death at the tomb and eternal death in hell. But it didn’t end there. God called you by the Gospel, washed you clean in Holy Baptism, and brought you into the light. By the school of the prophets, the Lord taught you and raised you in the Christian faith. You were made a disciple of Christ by water and the Word.
But despite the Lord’s victory over death and the devil, you still journey through a dark world. There are still evil Queen Jezebel’s in our society who threaten and persecute the Christian faith. We have rulers who may not promote Baal worship but who promote the same immorality and wickedness. The devil tempts you, “Prove you are a Christian. Twist the Word of God for your own advantage. You need not suffer, but I’ll show you the way to glory.” The seminary classes, the schools of the prophets, are shrinking. The number of believers in worship continues to decline as people complain, “This is a hard teaching. Who can accept it?” They turn away to follow the god of their own stomach. The media continues to give bad reports about our land, and hope for the Promised Land of heaven fades. Sometimes you feel alone like Elijah in the wilderness. The wicked world, the evil devil, and your own sinful nature are crushing down upon you. You’re tempted to despair and moan, “It is enough, O Lord. Take me out of this life. I am not better off than I was before.” You lose faith. You’re in a dark place. It could end right there.
But it doesn’t end there for you. The messenger of the Lord comes to you today. He awakens you from your sleep and says, “Arise from your bed of despair, arise from your pew. Miraculously, on the altar this day is a heavenly food. Take eat. Take drink. This is the true body and blood or our Lord Jesus Christ given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.” But you don’t come here just once a year to eat and drink, for the journey is too great for you. You arise and eat again and again, week after week. And strengthened by that heavenly food, you journey all the way to the mountain of God, to mount Zion, your heavenly home. Along the way, the Lord encourages you. “You’re not alone. There are thousands, millions of believers in me who have not bowed to the god of this dark world. I’ll raise up other rulers who will depose these evil ones. I’ll call and send more prophets to take the place of those who die. I’ll raise up a new people from the old who will enter my Promised Land.” When the devil tempts you to satisfy your belly with your secular desires and when he entices you to take the way that glorifies yourself, you reply, “Man does not live by earthly bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” You take up your cross of suffering and follow Jesus. But your final destination isn’t the grave. It doesn’t end at the tomb for you either. Jesus said, “I am the bread of life. If anyone eats of this bread, he will life forever.” When the Lord comes again, he’ll wake you from sleep and command, “Arise, on your feet, for the last leg of your journey to the mountain of God.” The holy angels will carry you to your heavenly home to be with the Lord and all his risen saints. But it doesn’t end there. In fact, it never ends. The kingdom of heaven just goes on and on, forever and ever. Amen.
The peace of God which passes all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.