A Prophet Like Us (Deuteronomy 18)

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Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany + January 28, 2018
Life Sunday

* Order of Service:Matins

* Hymns: LSB #528, 248, 842


SERMON TEXT:The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers. (Deuteronomy 18:15)

Last Monday, our country mourned the 45th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Unfortunately, our lectionary system doesn't align the readings to have worked for last Sunday to celebrate Sanctity of Life Sunday easily. However, today's readings and service bring sanctity of life to the forefront. Not only do we have the promise of the Messiah as Prophet. We will sing the bulk of Luke 1, the great life chapter in the Bible. Mary's Magnificat. Zechariah's Benedictus. Both sung in celebration of the lives that had been promised to the world. The lives God sent into the world. Salvation would be worked out through those lives.

Jesus is the promised Prophet. He is the promised One who will save you from your sins. He gives you this promise through His life. Faithful Christians fight for the sanctity of life because Jesus lived. This year, we focus on evangelism in the way John the Baptizer evangelized. He proclaimed the Word of Him who was coming. He prepared people to receive Jesus. This is your job as a Christian. To prepare people to receive Jesus when He comes again.

He is coming again because He must have come before. He came in the flesh. You just confessed it. “Conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary.”[1] Jesus became just like you. He was conceived in His mother's womb. He was born. He lived. He died. He did everything that a normal person does. He has an ancestry that dates all the way back to the beginning of time. He is one of us because He made Himself one of us.

However, this did not happen in a vaccuum. God promised a Prophet “from your brothers.”[2] Jesus has a mother and father. He has a specific ethnic heritage. He is an Israelite. Of the line and house of David.[3] But He didn't have to be. Mary and Joseph could have sought an abortion. Many people believe that Mary should have had the right to choose whether she wanted to be the Theotokos—the Mother of God—or not. She could have turned her back on the angel Gabriel and said, “Find someone else. I'm not ready to start a family yet.” Mary and Joseph could have chosen to have an abortion or force a miscarriage. But they chose life.

Mary chose the humble path of accepting God's grace in her life.[4] Joseph sought to divorce her until Gabriel also appeared to him, revealing the truth and import of her pregnancy.[5] Joseph humbled himself so that he might not get in the way of God's plan of salvation. They weren't selfish. They weren't antagonistic to God's plans and purposes. They did what God had planned for them since before the foundation of the world.[6] They were Jesus' parents. As God had chosen them to be.

Jesus is also the Word of God.[7] He is the “Word made flesh, whose birth among us hallows all our human race.”[8] Jesus didn't just appear with some other worldly flesh. He first appeared as a fertilized egg in Mary's womb through Gabriel's spoken word.[9] He began life where you did. Conception in his mother's womb. He was born in the Bethlehem stable. His life sanctifies every stage of life. From conception until death. All life is precious. No one can place a greater value on life than Jesus does. This value is granted in His Incarnation. His putting on flesh in order to save you.

God sent Jesus into the flesh so that you might be saved. But He didn't send Him alone. No king goes anywhere with a herald to go before him to announce his entrance. That was John the Baptizer. The impossible son of the aged Zechariah and Elizabeth. The herald of righteousness.

God sent John to go before Jesus to prepare the way.[10] The last of the Old Testament prophets. But Zechariah and Elizabeth could have done away with God's plan and His promises. But they were people of faith. Despite being barren, their faith in God remained strong. Not because they were a priestly family. Because they believed God's promises wouldn't fail.

John went on into the wilderness of Judea to preach a baptism of repentance.[11] Baptism was one thing. It wasn't a big deal. Converts into Judaism were baptized as part of their preparation for God's covenant people. However, John was baptizing Jews. Only Elijah, the Prophet or the Messiah were supposed to baptize. When John comes out to baptize, “the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, 'Who are you?'”[12] John denied being any of them. He was the forerunner of the Messiah. He had his own destiny and promise. He had a life to live. Because God had sent him.

But his sending from God was only in preparation. It would lead to a bad end. “He must increase, but I must decrease.”[13] Jesus was another impossible son. A conception without Joseph's action. Without the action of any man. The promised son born of a virgin.[14] The Word of God enfleshed as the Son of God and the Son of Man. “God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.”[15] God sent Jesus as the Savior of the world.

His conception was the beginning of God enacting His plan of salvation. He is the promised Prophet like Moses.[16] He is the Great High Priest who offered the once for all sacrifice for sins.[17] He is the King from David's line who sits on the throne of the kingdom forever.[18] This is God's plan of salvation. Jesus saves you through Baptism into His life, death and resurrection.[19]

Life that could have been snuffed out at its very beginning. Many people wish that it would have been. At least one sign from the rallys last weekend read: “If Mary had had an abortion, we wouldn't be in this mess.” But we'd be in an even worse mess. Sinners without hope.

But Joseph, Mary, Zechariah and Elizabeth were sinners with hope. It had been delayed for many years. It was coming in its own time and its own way. An unexpected way. A way that made no sense. But that didn't deter their faith. Instead of meeting the unexpected, nonsensical news with derision and spite, they meet it with faith and joy. Granted, Zechariah doubted and was struck mute until John was circumcised,[20] but his doubts were because the news was so incredible at first.

In their faithful joy, both Mary and Zechariah sang. And their songs have been handed down from generation to generation through the Church. The Church continues to sing their canticles. Zechariah's Benedictus has been linked with the morning services. Mary's Magnificat with the evening services. Throughout the centuries, the Church has praised her Lord for her salvation morning and evening in the same faithful joy that Jesus and John's parents had.

These parents were joyful because salvation had come down from Heaven. It was right there. They could hold it in their hands. But it could have been different. The parents could have gotten rid of them, but they didn't. They accepted God's will for their lives. They accepted that the sons born to them were sons of promise. They accepted the great gifts these sons would be for all humanity.

Jesus and John were sent into their mothers' wombs to live and die with a holy purpose. The holiest of purposes. The salvation of mankind. To show the sanctity of all life. From conception until death. Both John and Jesus died at the hands and by the command of rulers who didn't want them dead. They crumbled and succumbed to pressures from those who would make their lives a living hell. But Jesus and John die to show that God has power of life and death. Not us.

The value God has placed on human life is seen through Jesus' Incarnation in Mary's womb.[21] He promised to bestow the Holy Spirit in utero.[22] How much more value should we place on human life? If the unborn can receive the Holy Spirit through the Word of God, how can we not fight against those who want to snuff it out? How can we treat it with utter contempt? God has given it to us to celebrate. To love and preserve.

Regardless of what the authorities may legalize, every follower of Jesus Christ should fight for the right of every human being to have the life God has given to everyone. The right to life is the most basic human right. Mary and Zechariah understood that. And they were joyous for that knowledge. Amen.

  1. Apostles' Creed
  2. Deuteronomy 18:15
  3. Luke 2:4
  4. Luke 1:38
  5. Matthew 1:18-25
  6. Ephesians 1:4
  7. John 1:1
  8. LSB #842.1
  9. Luke 1:35
  10. Malachi 3:1; Luke 1:76; LSB p. 226.5
  11. Mark 1:4
  12. John 1:19-23
  13. John 3:30
  14. Isaiah 7:14
  15. John 3:17
  16. Deuteronomy 18:15
  17. Hebrews 7:27; 9:26; 10:10
  18. 2 Samuel 7:13
  19. Romans 6:3-5
  20. Luke 1:19-20, 63-64
  21. Luke 1:35
  22. Luke 1:15