Sermon – April 25, 2021 – Easter 4

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Pastor Mark R Jacobson  ~  Easter 4  ~  April 25, 2021  ~  1 John 3:1-2

1See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.


Yes, The Father Slobbers Us with Love…


Do you have a memory of being slobbered, of being on the receiving end of frequent, wet kisses, the kind of kisses where you needed the length of your sleeve to dry off? Either that or a beach towel? Puppies and puppy love are known for slobbering, so are parents and grandparents. And it’s great to get slobbered when you’re two or three years old, maybe even four or five, but when you get to be fourteen or fifteen years old those slobbering kisses from parents or grandparents better come with 50 bucks in the birthday card.


  1. …because we are His children.

The Apostle John was an old man when he wrote the words we have before us in our second lesson. John had known the truth of God’s love for more than 50 years, and the truth of God’s love never got old for John. John starts our section, “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us.” As John reviewed his long life he was still awestruck by the love of God the Father. For John, what started out as a day learning from Jesus with his good buddy Andrew turned into three years of discipleship! What looked like the end of the road with Christ’s suffering and death turned out to be just the beginning of the resurrection and the life! And as John carried out his ministry with one problem after another, as we see in the books of Acts and Revelation, John never got tired of watching how God continued to listen to his prayers, to deliver him from evil, and to bring his kingdom to more and more people.

John had experienced the lavish love of his heavenly Father and the result of that love is, John says, “…that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” Understandably, it’s hard for us to think of ourselves as children of God. Often, our behavior doesn’t resemble that of children of God. We defy his commandments. We fail to carry out his will. Our unloving thoughts and unkind words don’t always match what is on his heart and in his mind. God the Father should lash out at us with justice on account of our sins, not lavish us with love, but lavishing us with love is exactly what he does and he has, too. He knows us as sheep, His sheep.

Sheep are frail creatures. Their place on the food chain offers them little chance for surviving. The wolves and the other wild foes would destroy them. And it’s not just the predators that endanger the sheep. Sheep, by themselves, are their own danger. Sheep have a tendency to wander without any thought or concern about their meal, about where the green pastures and the quiet waters are.

It’s kind of embarrassing, maybe even a little disgusting to contemplate how great the love of the Father is for us. God’s love not only pays for our sins with the blood of his Son. God’s love not only raises his Son from the dead to assure us of our forgiveness of sins and of our own bodily resurrection. God’s love is with us to help us with each and every day of our lives.

God’s love understands the delicate nature of our faith. We might compare our faith to a delicate houseplant or a pet. Because faith is living, it needs our continual care and attention. If we have a pet, we need to feed it and give it water. We need to give it time to exercise and play. We need to give it the personal attention it craves. Otherwise it will cry and complain and languish, and in the worst cases of neglect, the pet could even die. The same is true for plants. Plants have differing needs, but they all need sunlight and water and the right kind of soil. Without someone attending to its needs, it cannot survive. God cares for us like I hope we care for our animals and plants.

God the Father puts out food and water for us day after day in his Holy Word. He gives us opportunities to be nourished with others in worship and Bible study. He allows us to encourage and be encouraged by one another through Christian fellowship. And in the sacraments of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion he personally assures us that we are his forgiven, dearly loved children and that the gospel is in the sacraments to strengthen us and our frail faith. Yes, the Father slobbers us with love because we are his children and because of his wonderful promises.


  1. …because of his wonderful promises.

On earth our faith will always be a work in progress. At times we will struggle with doubts, and at other times we will fall into temptation. So often we might wish God would just put an end to the struggle once and for all. We wonder why God makes us wait for his salvation. Waiting is hard. Abraham had to wait 100 years to see the promised son, Isaac. Moses waited 40 years in the wilderness to see the promised land of Canaan. Anna and Simeon waited their whole life to see the promised Christ-child. And in our lesson today, John had to wait, more than any of the other apostles, to see Jesus again. Like them, we too wait. We wait with the same promises. John says, “Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.”

Did you catch those promises? “We shall be like him.” We can understand this promise in the physical sense. Scripture speaks about this existence in negative terms. It says, “Never again will they hunger; never again will they thirst. The sun will not beat upon them, nor any scorching heat.” Death, mourning, crying, and pain will be things of the past. “We shall be like him.” We shall have glorified bodies, patterned after the glorious resurrection body of Jesus. How glorious that day will be! But that day will also be glorious in another way.

“We shall be like him” spiritually, too. In heaven we will be confirmed in holiness, freed from the corruption of sin, so we may serve our Lord in righteousness. All our sin and all our temptation to sin will be removed. What that means I can only faintly imagine as I live in my body of sin, but I know it is coming, and it will be wonderful.

Finally John promises, “We shall see him as he is.” With eyes of faith we see our Savior on the pages of Scripture. But in heaven we will know. In heaven we will see him face to face. With the eyes of our hearts we imagine what he looks like. How do you imagine that encounter will go with the Father and the Son? Will it be a fist-bumps and a congratulatory, “Well done, good and faithful servant?” I suppose, it’s possible the return of Jesus and the in-person meeting of the Father could be a very formal exchange, like a graduation service. I think I am more partial to Jesus’ description of the Parable of the Lost Son, “But while he (the lost Son) was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.”

Our going to heaven will be like going home. He will slobber us with love. It will be awesomely embarrassing and awesomely disgusting. It will be the best thing ever. I hope we will be wearing long sleeves. Either that or have a beach towel. That’s how it will be, and brothers and sisters in Christ, that love and care is with us right now, each and every day, through Word and sacrament, under the shepherding care of our risen Savior. Amen.   

Sermon – April 18, 2021 – Easter 3

Printable PDF:  4–18-2021 Easter 3 Sermon

David R. Clark  ~  1 John 1:5-7  ~  April 18, 2021  ~  Easter 3


5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

Brothers and sisters who walk in the light,

Maybe you have heard of the Dark Sky Association. It was begun to reserve certain places without such things as street lights so that people could stargaze or see planets. Many of our national parks are part of the association including the Grand Canyon.

If you are ever in a Dark Sky park you will notice a couple of things immediately. First, it’s REALLY dark, especially if there is no full moon. Second, if you are going to use a trail early in the morning (or even a public bathroom), you better bring your own light with you. I had personal experience with that at Phantom Ranch and the Bright Angel Trail!

Dark Sky parks aside, the importance of light is not new for anyone who has just celebrated the greatest example of walking in light in history, the resurrection of Jesus. Walking in the light is what we do! But because we live in such a dark world, it is easy to become spiritually confused or lost. St. John has the solution for us.

  1. His light changes how we live. (verses 5-6)

5This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6If we claim to have fellowship with him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live out the truth.

John is using a familiar metaphor. Darkness is a symbol for sin and death. Light is a symbol for holiness and life. How precious it is for us to know that in a world that esteems shades of gray because it is still darkness, God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. God is not a light with a dimmer switch. God is not a light with a lower wattage or different color bulb. God is light. He is perfectly holy.

Through the resurrection of Jesus, God has given us his light. He has gone to great lengths to bring us into his light – even the death of his Son. As we believe, we walk in his light. To describe this walk which we all have as Christians, John uses the word, “fellowship.” It means that we have an intimate sharing based on the light.

That means there is a war going on for us. The dark world wants to be like it is and will use any means possible for that to happen. It will lure us, bully us, and confuse us. Walking in the light takes away any confusion there may be about moral or gender issues. Walking in the light sees God as the ultimate authority not a majority rule. Walking in the light sprinkles our conversation with words like, “I’m sorry,” and “I forgive you.” Walking in the light makes us satisfied with our job, our spouse, and our children. Walking in the light seeks to understand first before we are understood. The light of the gospel sets us apart from the rest of the world.

  1. His light creates fellowship. (verse 7)

Which all sounds well and good, but we don’t always stay on that path. Sometimes it seems we are running down a path with no light at all. Other times it’s like walking a tight rope over Grand Canyon with the winds howling around us. John talks about that too. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

So what hope is there for us when we want to walk our own path? Or what hope is there when we are tempted to walk the well-traveled path of our unbelieving friends or the unbelieving world? The world would tell you to think the way it does. The world will tell you it’s about what you feel or what makes you happy. The world takes the truth and spins it to say exactly the opposite of what God intends. That’s not the light! That’s darkness. So what hope is there for us?

On June 16, 2012 a seventh generation member of the flying Wallenda family was the first person to walk across Niagara Falls. He traversed the 1800 feet of the Falls on a 2-inch cable suspended 200 feet in the air from the United States to Canada. He could never have done that without some help. Certainly his wife and all the generations before him who trained him had helped. But what helped him most was a 30-foot-long pole that he carried for balance.

We also need more than generations of Christians or good training to overcome our failures. We have the blood of Jesus which purifies us from all sin. For when Jesus shed his blood, an innocent lamb led to slaughter, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, he cleansed us from all of our skipping, jumping, and rolling around in the darkness of this world.

Without the blood of Jesus, people focus on the things they don’t like about each other. It’s easy to look down on other people because they are single or married, have children or have none, live close or far, are young or old. That is not the fellowship created by God’s light.

Jesus’ blood that purifies gives us fellowship with God. It also gives us fellowship with one another. That fellowship is an uncommon blessing in this life. As you have been coming back to church, this is what you told me you have missed. We need to smile at each other and rejoice with each other. We need to cry tears together as Jesus did for Mary and Martha. The blood of Jesus makes that a reality, a blood that removes all of our differences and makes us one.

To do this we need more of that light. In his Word you will find it. In his Supper, you will find that blood that takes our failures away. In Baptism we become one with Christ and each other. In these means we have fellowship with God and with each other. And all of that is made powerful by Christ’s resurrection.

You may have been wandering around in the darkness. Perhaps you didn’t even realize it. If you were lost, now you are found. Stay on the path. Walk in God’s light and never be lost again. Amen

Sermon – April 11, 2021 – Easter 2

Printable PDF:  4-11-2021 Easter 2 Sermon

Pastor Wagenknecht  ~  Acts 3:12-20  ~  April 11, 2021  ~  Easter 2 Sermon


12When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? 13The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. 14You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. 15You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. 16By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus’ name and the faith that comes through him that has completely healed him, as you can all see. 17“Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. 18But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Messiah would suffer. 19Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus.


“There will be showers of blessing…” That gospel hymn comes to mind whenever I hear the phrase “times of refreshing.” When you grow up in a dry and dusty climate, you appreciate every shower. When the rain started to fall, as a child, I would go out to my father’s work shed and listen to the raindrops falling on the tin roof, feel the cooling breeze, and smell the dust being washed out of the air. Refreshing. Good Friday and Easter are times of refreshing. I pray today’s worship will be a time of refreshing and bring you showers of blessing.

  1. …when we repent.

The events of our text take place at the gate to the Temple. Peter and John had healed a man who had been lame from birth. Acts 3:6ff: Peter said to the lame man who expected alms, “Silver and gold I do not have, but what I have I give you, in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk!” Instantly his feet became strong and he jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with Peter and John into the temple courts walking and jumping and praising God. When the people saw this familiar beggar walking and heard him praising God, they were amazed. Acts 3:11ff: While the beggar held on to Peter and John. All the people came running to them in Solomon’s Colonnade.

Peter uses this as a teaching moment. No longer the frightened, denying disciple from a few weeks earlier, he starts out “Why does this surprise you as if by our own power or godliness we made this man walk. Men of Israel – faithful Judean worshipers, scribes and Levites, maybe even some of the Sanhedrin; people very much aware of the events of the last few weeks – The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, the God you have come to this temple to worship; has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go.

Peter seems to be boldly staring at people that he knew were in the Roman Praetorium and maybe even followed along to the crucifixion on Calvary. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and shouted for a murderer to be released. You killed the Author of Life! We can see here echoes of Peter’s sermon on Pentecost. The accusing finger of the law before the clear Gospel message of Jesus Christ, the Servant of the Lord, the Holy and Righteous One, the Author of Life. You saw him crucified, dead, and buried. But God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.

Peter is right on! Pointed! Leaving no doubt! By faith in the Name of Jesus this man was made strong. It is Jesus’ Name and faith that comes through him that has given this man complete healing. As you can see! Look at him! You know him! He is leaping and praising God after a lifetime as an invalid.

Peter has their attention. They were cut to the heart…wondering what they should do. It is time for specific, pointed, damning law so Peter declares firmly, “You crucified the King of Glory. Acts 3:17ff: Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer. REPENT THEN and turn to God! Peter sounds like John the Baptist. He sounds like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel. Repent so that your sins may be wiped out.

On this first Sunday after Easter, it is important to notice that the events of Holy Week and Easter form the heart and core of Peter’s witness. Christ’s perfect life, his innocent sufferings and death, and glorious RESURRECTION must always be the centerpiece of our sermons, devotions, and Bible classes. Whenever we witness to our faith – law and gospel, sin and grace, Christ’s death and resurrection form our message.

  1. …when our sins are forgiven.

After the law’s call for repentance and turning to God will come the showers of blessing. Christ died and rose again that our sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord. Last Sunday’s Festival of the Resurrection of our Lord, with its organ, trumpets, instruments, and joyful singing was far better than the rain beating down on Dad’s workshop roof. I think we might all have felt like leaping and praising God along with the lame man in the Temple courts. 

If it is true that every Sunday is Easter all over again, then this moment is a time of refreshing through the Gospel. We are being refreshed with showers of blessing. Nothing comes from our own power or godliness. Whenever we look within our hearts we see the helplessness of our human condition. We know we cannot save ourselves. We are condemned by our own sinful thoughts, words, and deeds. We cannot pay the least drop of blood for our own atonement. We must turn to the Glorified Servant of the Lord. We look to Jesus the Holy and Righteous One. We trust in the Author of Life whom God raised from the dead.

The people who came to the Temple Courts to worship the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would have known what God had foretold through all the prophets that his Christ would suffer. While these people did not need healing from their handicaps, they did need complete healing. Peter recognized that this lame man’s jumping for joy and praising God came from faith in the Name of Jesus. He was healed in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth. He might have felt great to be walking, but his true refreshing came from turning from his sins and turning to God so that his sins would be wiped out. He went home refreshed that day.

For times of refreshing here in Arizona, a good thunderstorm will clear the air and irrigate the flowers. If you did not grow up here, I have another picture of refreshment. When I went to school in Watertown, Wisconsin, I found that a slow, soft, snowfall in a peaceful evening was refreshing. To walk over the unmarked snow; to make the first visible trail; to see the glistening white trees is still fresh in my memory. Now I have no desire to go back up north some winter to walk in the pure, white snow. I’m satisfied with our showers of blessing. In fact, I drove home last Sunday very refreshed by the Easter Gospel. Amen

Sermon – April 4, 2021 – Easter Festival Services

Printable PDF:  4-4-2021 Easter 1 Festival Sermon

David R. Clark  ~  John 20:19-23  ~  April 4, 2021  ~  Easter Sunday


19On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 20After he said this, he showed them his hands and side. The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord. 21Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”


Brothers and sisters in our risen Savior,

Can I start by saying how pleased I am to see all of you? Seeing you here feels like a family reunion to me. I feel like I want to share a firm handshake or a platonic hug with each of you the way we used to. I want to look you in the eye and ask how well you have weathered the COVID storm.

Some of you have done very well. Despite a few gained or lost pounds and some different hair styles, facial and otherwise, you look good! But appearances can be deceiving, so what I really want to know is, “Are you doing ok?”

I don’t think it is going too far to say these past months have been traumatic. Some, maybe many of us, feel like we’ve been robbed of this time, like we have just been spinning our wheels, like we haven’t really been able to live our lives.

In your moments of solitude or just thinking out loud have you dreamed of getting back to living, really living, not this pale imitation of life through which we have struggled?

On Easter Sunday the Bible has something very pertinent but very jarring to say about really living. As much as we love them, really living is not about hugs and handshakes, a lack of masks in public places, or even a crowded theme park to share with our kids. It’s about an empty tomb. We need the happy shouts, “Christ is risen! He is risen indeed.” We need Jesus’ appearance to the disciples showing them his LIFE-GIVING HANDS, and explaining to them that a life worth really living is Easter.


  1. Jesus offers / bestows peace.

The disciples’ trauma was different but distressing. John tells us “the disciples were together, with the doors locked for fear of the Jewish leaders” (verse 19). Three days before Jesus had explained in significant detail what was going to happen. And it had all come to pass. The arrest. The denial. The crucifixion. And that followed months during which Jesus had been preparing them for all of this. Yet they still seemed genuinely shocked and surprised as they watched him die on the cross Friday afternoon. And that’s where they were stuck. They were acting like Jesus was dead, and their lives weren’t worth living. They felt guilty and afraid.

Jesus wanted to calm their nerves. That’s why he led with, “Peace be with you.” (verse 19) They had seen the empty tomb and heard the reports of the women, but they hadn’t seen Jesus with their own eyes. So Jesus came and stood in their presence, showed himself alive, and then gave them a moment to grasp the truth. “Guys, it’s me! I’m not a ghost, and I’m not dead. I’m standing right in front of you.” “After he said this, he showed them his hands and side.” (verse 20) Those life-giving hands convinced the disciples that they were looking at their resurrected Lord. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed.

You and I may disagree about the wisdom of our politicians and how the media reports what has happened. Here is something no Christian is going to disagree with: this world is a dark place; filled with doubt and despair, guilt and grief. It is so dark that it makes us want to cower behind our own locked doors in fear! It’s not just the disciples that can get stuck feeling that there is nothing more than Good Friday.

But it’s the third day. It’s Easter, and Christ is alive! “The disciples were overjoyed when they saw the Lord” (verse 20). Easter joy makes life really worth living. The hopelessness of the world died on Good Friday, and so did the darkness of sin. Easter means joy, and it means peace. Jesus conquered sin, he defeated the devil, he rose from the dead. He’s alive! Jesus’ life makes your life really worth living.


  1. Jesus offers / bestows purpose.

The easy part of Jesus’ visit was done. But Jesus had more in mind that Easter evening than ‘show and tell’ with his life-giving hands. With his resurrection also came a mission and a purpose. “Again Jesus said, ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.’” (verse 21) The Father had sent Jesus from heaven on a mission to forgive the sins of the world. In the same way the Father sent Jesus, he now sends us.

What a big job! Within moments, the disciples had gone from terror to Easter peace and joy. Then they were commissioned as Christ’s ambassadors. Jesus added that they wouldn’t go alone; they’d be serving with divine power. “And with that he breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (verse 22). What the disciples received was much more than the Spirit-given gift of faith. The Holy Spirit enabled them to carry out God’s call, “As the Father sent me, I’m sending you” (verse 21).

But to do what? “If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven” (verse 23). Do you remember the first time you handed over the keys of your car for your child to drive alone? With these words, Jesus hands every believer the keys to heaven. He didn’t give those keys so that we keep them in our pockets. What better way to live Easter daily than to use our hands for God’s life-giving purpose. What can be more meaningful than forgiving the sins of the spouse from whom I’m estranged? Reconciling with a coworker or a member at church? Resolving differences with an old friend? Keys are valuable only when you use them. God gave them to you to use them. There are many who cannot see beyond Good Friday. You have the power to share Easter joy and forgiveness. That makes life really worth living.

Did I tell you how blessed I feel to see all of you? Maybe we can see the past year with all of its challenges as practice for the time from today until the end of time. And maybe today is practice, too. Just as today is a time when we get to see some of our brothers and sisters in Christ for the first time in months, so a great resurrection of the dead is coming when you and I will see all those who have gone before us and will be raised again. And maybe, just maybe, you and I can live each day knowing that we ARE really living, especially as we use his keys to set others free. We look forward to that day when you and I, with all the saints, can stand together before Jesus and see those pierced, life-giving hands for ourselves and exclaim, “Christ is risen!” He is risen indeed. Amen.

Sermon – April 4, 2021 – Easter Sunrise

Printable PDF:  4-4-2021 Easter 1 Sunrise Sermon

Pastor Mark R Jacobson  †  Easter  †  April 4, 2021  †  John 20:1-18

1Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance. 2So she came running to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one Jesus loved, and said, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don’t know where they have put him!” 3So Peter and the other disciple started for the tomb. 4Both were running, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. 5He bent over and looked in at the strips of linen lying there but did not go in. 6Then Simon Peter came along behind him and went straight into the tomb. He saw the strips of linen lying there, 7as well as the cloth that had been wrapped around Jesus’ head. The cloth was still lying in its place, separate from the linen. 8Finally the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went inside. He saw and believed. 9(They still did not understand from Scripture that Jesus had to rise from the dead.) 10Then the disciples went back to where they were staying. 11Now Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb 12and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus’ body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot. 13They asked her, “Woman, why are you crying?” “They have taken my Lord away,” she said, “and I don’t know where they have put him.” 14At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus. 15He asked her, “Woman, why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?” Thinking he was the gardener, she said, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him.” 16Jesus said to her, “Mary.” She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, “Rabboni!” (which means “Teacher”). 17Jesus said, “Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” 18Mary Magdalene went to the disciples with the news: “I have seen the Lord!” And she told them that he had said these things to her.


Ordinarily empty is not good. An empty gas tank won’t get you anywhere. Cupboards that are empty won’t satisfy your hunger. A wallet or purse that is empty won’t pay the bills. Initially, the empty tomb didn’t look good to Mary Magdalene either. A living Jesus was never a possibility for her. Mary Magdalene saw Jesus die. She saw the soldiers make sure when they pierced his side. Mary watched Joseph and Nicodemus take the lifeless body of Jesus down from the cross, wrap the body in linen and placed it in the tomb. When the stone was rolled over the entrance Mary could no longer deny what she couldn’t believe. Jesus was dead.

Jesus had done so much for Mary. The Bible says Jesus drove seven demons out of her body. When Jesus had done that, it was like he had given her life back to her. In return, Mary had dedicated her life to serving Jesus, and as Mary went to the tomb, she did so with the intention of serving him one last time by anointing his body with spices.

Mary’s heart was heavy as she went to the tomb, but her heart began to pound as soon as she saw the tomb. Something wasn’t right. The stone had been rolled away and Mary assumed the worst. She thought that someone, probably those bloodthirsty Jews, had stolen the body. And, later, as Mary Magdalene returned to the scene of what she thought was a horrendous crime, Mary was inconsolable, so inconsolable was Mary that the appearance and the conversation of angels did nothing for her. These angels, who had so scared the mighty guards at Jesus’ tomb that the Bible says they shook and became like dead men, were practically invisible to Mary, and so was Jesus. Mary thought Jesus was the gardener.   

Do we have any Mary Magdalenes here, people who have come to church this morning with heavy hearts? What is it that makes you so sad? What is your brain so busy trying to understand? Are you sad and at times inconsolable because like Mary Magdalene, you are living on the wrong side of Easter, assuming the worst about your situation? Don’t judge your situation too quickly. Don’t be so overcome with emotion that you cannot see Jesus and his holy angels ministering to your soul’s deepest needs. Read your Bible, keep coming to church, attend a Bible class and see what this empty tomb means to you.

And in a way that’s exactly what Peter and John did, didn’t they? In the shuttle run of Easter morning Mary Magdalene handed the baton to them, and they raced to the tomb. John got to the finish line first, but Peter broke through the tape when he went into the tomb. And they didn’t need their FBI training certificate to start eliminating possibilities. They both saw the strips of linen lying there and the burial cloth folded up by itself, separate from the linen. Thieves do many things to a house, but one thing they don’t do is housekeeping. The evangelist Luke writes that Peter, “wondered what had happened.” John himself writes that he saw and believed, but qualifies his faith in parenthesis by writing, “(They still did not understand from the Scriptures that Jesus had to rise from the dead.)

We’ll give these disciples a participation ribbon for their investigation, but they were too slow to receive the prize that Jesus wanted them to receive from the starting line. Peter and John didn’t need to run. They didn’t even need to go. Peter and John could have simply sat back in their rocking chair or headed to fish had they simply took to heart the words of their Savior Jesus. Jesus had predicted his death, and Jesus had also predicted his resurrection. They heard Jesus say to the Pharisees, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.” Jesus said to the disciples, “I am the good shepherd. I lay down my life for the sheep. I lay it down on my own accord…and I have authority to take it up again.”  And if the imagery of buildings and shepherding were too difficult, time and again they heard Jesus say, “The Son of Man…On the third day he will be raised to life.” That was why Pilate posted a guard in the first place. A proper investigation wouldn’t have left these disciples to simply return to their home as it says in verse 10, but to rejoice and to be glad that what Jesus said about his rising from the dead was true.

How is your investigation going?  Are you searching the Scriptures and taking God’s Word to heart, or has your attention to God’s Word lapsed like these disciples? Don’t be slow in your study and understanding of God’s Word. Though your life might be fine today, you don’t know what’s coming tomorrow and this week. Mary Magdalene thought the empty tomb meant that the body was stolen. Peter and John weren’t sure what to make of the empty tomb. Do you know the full meaning of the empty tomb, so you are ready in a time of crisis? It’s time to wake up and listen. Learn what the empty tomb means for you. We start to learn what the empty tomb means as soon as Jesus says, “Mary.”

“Mary.” What did this little word mean? It means Jesus wasn’t the gardener. Jesus was and still is Rabboni (which means teacher) and the first lesson of Easter is ‘Jesus lives.’ Jesus has power over death. Yes, he was dead, the soldiers made sure of it, but now he lives. And because Jesus lives, we also will live. The stone was rolled away for the benefit of the women, not for Jesus, and so I don’t know if the coffins will be dug out of the ground and opened or if the urns with ashes will break, but as surely as Jesus physically made his way out of that tomb, so also all of our believing loved ones will be physically raised from the dead to be with Jesus and all believers. And as Jesus was made perfect so also will we be. Jesus did not come out of tomb with crutches or a wheelchair. Jesus didn’t walk with a limp or speak with a sore throat. Jesus experienced no side effects from the resurrection, no post dramatic stress from all he had been through. His resurrection from the grave was easier than your getting out of bed. Jesus only kept the nail marks and the pieced side because they are cool. Those war wounds tell the story of his great victory. In the same way we, too, will live like him without the ache of arthritis or the pain of disease or the loss of hearing. We will live as he lives. That’s what Easter means, but that’s only half the story.

Jesus will raise us up physically from the dead. Jesus will also raise us spiritually. The empty tomb also means we live with peace and purpose. Jesus told Mary, Do not hold on to me, for I have not yet returned to the Father. Go instead to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” “My brothers,” Jesus called them. Jesus didn’t call them, “traitors,” or “scaredy-cats.” Jesus doesn’t kick them out of the family and the church. Jesus says, “my father and YOUR Father, my God and YOUR God.” The empty tomb announces that God the Father accepted his Son’s holy life and sacrificial death as the full payment for the world’s sins – including the sins of the disciples and your sins and mine. The empty tomb proclaims peace. The empty tomb also proclaims purpose.

I don’t know what Mary Magdalene did with those spices. Did she use them on someone else? Did she keep them as a memento? She didn’t use them on Jesus. Instead Jesus used Mary as an apostle to the Apostles. Jesus sent Mary for the sole purpose of proclaiming peace to the Apostles and in turn the Apostles would be sent to proclaim to peace to the world. That was their mission for the rest of their lives, and as Christians that mission is now our mission. It’s our turn. We turn from “Come and See” investigation to our “Go and Tell” purpose. Share the good news of the empty tomb. Don’t just tell people how your Easter weekend was. Tell them what your Easter means. Tell them your Easter was empty, and that empty never felt so good. An empty tomb means a full life, a life filled with forgiveness and filled with peace and filled with joy. Amen.   

Sermon – April 2, 2021 – Good Friday Morning

Printable PDF:  4-2-2021 Good Friday Sermon

Pastor Myrl Wagenknecht  –  Luke 23:32-34  –  April 2, 2021  –  Good Friday Sermon

The Nail-Pierced Hands of Jesus

Were you there? It’s the thought provoking title question that is repeated again and again in the old African-American spiritual, #119 in Christian Worship. Were you there on that Good Friday that Christians around the world observe today? Were you there on Good Friday? Were you there when they crucified my Lord…when they nailed him to the tree…when they laid him in the tomb? Before you answer, let’s look at some of the people who were there at Calvary and who played prominent roles in our Savior’s passion.

Some Roman soldiers were there. They had to be. It was their job, and they carried it out with brutal efficiency. None of them realized that when their hands drove home the nails and cast lots for Jesus’ clothes, they were fulfilling prophecies that were hundreds of years old. But one of the soldiers, a centurion, did recognize that the man hanging on the middle cross was different. He confessed that Jesus was the Son of God (Matthew 27:54).

Two other criminals were there, and they didn’t have a choice either. They were being punished for their crimes. One of them even acknowledged that they were getting what their deeds deserved. But after he confessed his sins, he also confessed his faith by asking Jesus to remember him. And Jesus assured him that they would soon be reunited in paradise (Luke 23:41-43).

The Jewish leaders were there, perhaps to make sure that Pilate would follow through on his order to execute Jesus. They had waited a long time for this. They were going to enjoy this. In their minds they had won a great victory and continued their cruelty with their words. They shook their hands at him and jeered and challenged Jesus to come down from his cross, totally oblivious to the fact that at any moment he could descend and destroy them all.

Even if Pontius Pilate was not physically present at Golgotha, he made his presence known by having a sign posted at the top of Jesus’ cross. It read, “JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS” (John 19:19). When some wanted him to change what he wrote, the Roman governor just raised his hands and declared, “What I have written, I have written!” But for Pilate it was too little, too late. His hands were just hands of self-preservation.

We might have expected that all the disciples were there to give support to their Lord in his dying hours. But they weren’t! They had deserted Jesus the night before in the garden. They had abandoned him in his time of need, just as Jesus had predicted. Only one disciple, John, had come to Calvary. And another person Jesus dearly loved stood by his side.

Jesus’ mother was there on Good Friday, and what Mary witnessed must have made her heart break. As a young girl she had received the amazing news from the angel Gabriel that God had chosen her to give birth to the promised Messiah. Not long after that child was born, she received some news that wasn’t so good. In Jerusalem, in the temple, while holding her perfect child in his hands, Simeon predicted that a sword would pierce Mary’s soul (Luke 2:35). While she watched her son slowly dying before her eyes, Mary could fully understand what those words meant and clutched her loving hands over her heart in grief.

Working through a list like this helps us remember the people and places and events of Good Friday, but it doesn’t answer our question: Were you there to see those nail-pierced hands? The obvious answer is “No!” We weren’t there. You and I are separated from that day by thousands of miles and thousands of years, so it would be impossible for us to be there except in our mind’s eye.

There is another way to look at that question, however, and there is another hymn that suggests a different answer. The title is “God Was There on Calvary,” and we sang it as our opening hymn today. (Christian Worship #140). Listen carefully to what the hymn writer says in stanza 2: “All the world on Calvary, crucified the Prince of life, pierced the hands of God’s own Son, there on Calvary.”

That tells us the entire world was there on Calvary on Good Friday. So you were there; and so was I. We didn’t bring the charges that were used to convict Jesus. We didn’t shout, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” We didn’t hand down the order to crucify Jesus. Our hands did not swing the hammer that drove the nails through his hands, but we were there because our sins were there. Jesus carried them there. On the cross “he has for all a full atonement made.”

That means our guilt is the reason God’s Son had to suffer and die. That means you and I are guilty just like the people who were there on that first Good Friday. If you are having a hard time accepting that, don’t look around and compare yourself with the Roman soldiers, or the Jewish leaders, or the AWOL disciples, or anyone else who was there on Good Friday. Look up at the cross. Look deep inside and examine your heart and compare yourself with Jesus. He forgave us.  Are we that forgiving ourselves?

Think about the many times Jesus taught about forgiveness (“turn the other cheek,” “not 7 times, but 70 times 7,” the parable of the prodigal son, etc.). Jesus prayed from the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (verse 34). He asked God to pardon the people who were putting him to death, and to forgive us. Ponder the selfless love of Jesus.

Compare this to our own actions, the perceived slights and petty squabbles, the hurtful things we have said and the vengeful things we have done. Start thinking about the times—way too many times—when we withheld forgiveness and held on to grudges instead. Then we come to the condemning conclusion: “Do I forgive like Jesus? No, I am guilty, not following in Jesus’ footsteps, not at all deserving of God’s love, in desperate need to be rescued from my sins.”

The man who performed so many miracles during his ministry didn’t look like a Redeemer on Good Friday. He looked weak and helpless. Stripped of his clothing. Stripped of his dignity. Bloodied. Beaten. Unable to carry his cross. Barely able to stand. Nails through his hands. Jesus had been defeated. The devil had won the day. The Easter hymn “He’s Risen! He’s Risen!” sets the stage for the resurrection in verse 2: “The foe was triumphant when on Calvary the Lord of creation was nailed to the tree. In Satan’s domain did the hosts shout and jeer, for Jesus was slain, whom the evil ones fear” (Christian Worship #143, stanza 2).

But the celebration in hell turned out to be short-lived. The evil ones had good reason to fear the Messiah. He was about to perform the climax of his redeeming work; to declare his final victory over the devil; to demonstrate his power over death; to announce to the world that reports of his demise had been greatly exaggerated. To assure you that all your sins have been forgiven, Jesus holds out to you his nail-pierced hands, hands full of mercy.

A couple of days after Good Friday the disciples, the same people who were nowhere to be found on Calvary, gathered together behind locked doors. They were confused about what had just happened. They were fearful about the future. They became even more afraid when what they thought was a ghost appeared among them. But this was no apparition. It was the Lord, and he brought them a message of peace. Then Jesus did something else, something special, something personal, something that instantly allayed their fears. He showed them his hands – his nail-pierced hands.

Scars are not usually attractive, but for the disciples those nail marks were the most beautiful thing they had ever seen. Those scars led Doubting Thomas to confess, “My Lord, and my God! The beauty of those scars is not lost on us either. Those nail-pierced hands remind us of the high cost of our redemption. Jesus took on our flesh. Jesus felt our pain. Jesus endured the righteous wrath of God in our place. Jesus prayed for our forgiveness, and he suffered and died on the cross to earn it.

The unconditional, sacrificial love of Jesus is what makes this day “good.” When your sins condemn you, he intercedes for you. When Satan attacks you, Jesus defends you. When you are feeling guilty, spiritually empty, totally unworthy of God’s love, remember what Jesus has done to save you. Remember that he will never leave you nor forsake you. Go back in time to stand at the foot of the cross and remember that he has ascended into heaven to prepare a place for you. Above the altar in some churches is the statue of the ascending Savior with uplifted hands in blessing, and they are nail-pierced hands.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord? Then answer, “Yes!”

Will you be there when he rises from the grave? Then answer, “Yes!”


Sermon – April 1, 2021 – Maundy Thursday

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Pastor Mark R Jacobson  †  Maundy Thursday Sermon  †  April 1, 2021


1It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. 2The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. 3Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; 4so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. 5After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him…12When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them. 13“You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. 14Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. 15I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. 16Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. 17Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.  – John 13:1-5, 12-17

It was their anniversary. The two of them were seated at a fancy restaurant, and they were hungry. They began to peruse the menu and waited for the server. Ten minutes passed. Then twenty. Nobody even came to offer them a glass of water. Thirty minutes. Finally the man pretended to go to the restroom so he could find out what was going on. Seeing a man who looked like he had some standing in the restaurant, he asked him what was going on. Just as he started, though, he was interrupted. “I’m sorry, sir, but my attention is needed at another table. I’ll be with you in a moment.” That was it! He had been put off for the last time. He returned to the table, gathered up his wife, and left in a huff.

Have you ever had a similar experience? Maybe you saw a retail store clerk wearing an apron that says “Ask me, I’m here to help,” but the clerk made it clear he didn’t want to help. Or you were in the hospital and you pressed the nurse call button, but nobody answered and nobody helped. Or you made that big 8:00 to noon or 1:00 to 5:00 block of time to be home when the repairman said he would come, but he didn’t. You know that good service is hard to find. The Internet has spawned rating systems, presumably so you can discover those merchants who do a good job, but most of them are filled with jilted customers who just want to tell their horror stories.

God created people to depend on each other and their acts of service. Many of us have an expertise in one field or another, but the time will come when we need someone else’s expertise to help us through life: taxes, health care, home or car repair, etc. The world doesn’t work without people serving one another. Serving one another is so crucial to our existence, and good service is so rare that we’re often willing to honor those who do their jobs especially well with handsome tips and enthusiastic referrals.

If that’s the case, then you will certainly be ready to refer your friends and relatives to Jesus when you learn about the kind of service God provides. In tonight’s lesson, Jesus not only provides incomparable service to his disciples, but he does it for free. With no demands of payment, without pulling rank, without excuse-making, or being condescending or patronizing, Jesus serves his disciples with his…


Jesus had a lot on his mind that night. John repeatedly records the interplay between Jesus’ divine and human nature, especially how Jesus knew ahead of time what was about to happen. “Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father” (verse 1). He knew! He knew ahead of time that within 24 hours he would lay down his life for the sins of the world. He knew ahead of time that Satan had baited Judas to betray him (verse 2). He knew that the Father had laid all things at his feet (verse 3), and he entered the evening with complete omnipotence and omniscience. Yet rather than leveraging his full authority in some dazzling display of the divine, Jesus exercised humility.

While Jesus’ mind raced with anticipation of the pain of sin and suffering of hell, his disciples were engaged in a petty argument over which of them was greatest! Their quibbling carried over into the upper room where they realized that there was no servant on duty to wash their stinky feet before the Passover. Then who was going to do it? Which one of the disciples would step up and volunteer? They all just stood there. Not one man even reached for the bucket. Jesus once taught his disciples how to be great. “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave” (Matthew 20:26-27). On this Thursday evening, Jesus didn’t opt for another lecture but chose instead to model for them what humble service looks like. “So he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him” (John 13:4-5). If Jesus would have blown a gasket, we would have understood. But Christ’s love never wavered. Without frustration or exasperation, Jesus handled their pride with perfect patience. The King of creation, the One who has all authority in heaven and earth, bent the knee to serve his disciples with a task so menial that servants jockey to avoid it. Christ came from heaven on a mission from his Father to redeem the world, and he wasn’t about to quit in the 11th hour. “Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end” (verse 2).

Most of our Christian service falls short because we base it on the behavior of our neighbor. Doctors are slow to follow up on the patients who are the most belligerent. The wait staff label those who make special orders as difficult. Inside our own families, we tiptoe around the hothead and walk on eggshells around the opinionated in-law. We are tempted to shun people who don’t agree with us.  Worse yet, we sinfully justify our poor Christian service by suggesting that they had it coming because they were being obnoxious. If Jesus based his service on the disciples’ behavior, no one would have had their feet washed. No one would have had their sins forgiven because Jesus would have never made it to the cross! Jesus’ humility shines brighter and greater than ours because it’s not based on human behavior. Jesus’ humility is based on God’s love and grace. He serves us because he loves us. His love is unconditional. His love is perfect. Not our behavior, but God’s love moved him to wrap the towel around his waist and wash their feet—and he even washed Judas’ feet, too.

You don’t get the idea that Jesus would ever walk out of a restaurant upset over poor service. He didn’t walk out on his disciples, and he didn’t walk out on you either. He came to serve you. “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28). Christ’s obedient death served you well; it paid the ransom price for our pride and entitled attitude, for our obnoxious rank-pulling, for making people feel smaller and lesser, and for every other shallow and insecure excuse we’ve ever offered God for failure to serve. “The blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). The disciples had a history of missing the point. After Jesus washed their feet, it would be very natural for them to feel ashamed. Their disgraceful bickering had been laid low by Jesus’ humble hands. Jesus, though, wanted to do much more than shame their pride; he wanted to rewire their attitudes and invite them to use their hands of humility. “Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you” (John 13:14-15). Jesus was their Lord and Teacher, and by virtue of his office he was their superior. But he didn’t wag his title in their faces or use it to avoid humble service to anyone. “Washing one another’s feet” means to show Jesus’ love toward our fellow man. That’s a kind of love that forgets to feel superior, a love that stoops to the lowliest of service and is blind to what it is doing or who it is serving; it’s a love that serves so freely it pays no attention to what it costs, and a love that is so humble it voluntarily serves, regardless of human behavior; a love so pure it seeks not the recognition of man but only the approval of God. Love and serve your neighbor like Jesus did, with humility. Let Jesus’ humility and servant attitude rework your attitude, too. Jesus closes by saying, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (verse 17). Jesus was blessed to be our Savior. The disciples were blessed to start the New Testament church. We, too, are blessed to be associated with Jesus and his church. And we can show our love for him by how we are willing to serve one another. Amen.