How You Know Jesus Loves You
The Second Sunday in Lent has historically been named Reminiscere from the first word in the Introit Remember.' Remember how as a kid you sang "Jesus loves me this I know"? Do you remember what you sang? Did you sing and' or for'? Did you sing, "Jesus loves me this I know and' or for' the Bible tells me so?" If you sang and' you were saying that you knew, felt, sensed Jesus loved you and the Bible also said it. If you sang for' you were saying that you knew Jesus loved you because the Bible told you so. Which do you think is preferable? Let's see.
Remember to link Jesus with God's Word. Jesus does so in a dramatic way in our text. He says, you save your soul/life/self by losing it for Me and the Gospel. Here Jesus emphasizes His Person. In the end He does the opposite. At the Second Coming Jesus says He will be ashamed of whoever is ashamed of me and the Word of Me. Here Jesus emphasizes His Word.
In this text the images of denying self, taking up your cross, and following Jesus dominates this text, and obscure the prominent way Jesus links His Person with God's Word. Your relationship to the invisible Jesus now is seen in your relationship to the visible and/or audible Word of God. To paraphrase 1 John, anyone who claims to love Jesus but despises, looks down on, or doesn't use the Bible, or Baptism, Absolution, or Communion is a liar.
Church history is filled with people who believed you could think and speak one way about God's Word, particularly the written Word, and another way about the incarnate Word, Jesus. You could say the Bible had errors, was bound by time, or contained the words of men, while not saying that about Jesus. You could still believe Jesus was holy, omniscient, transcendent, and had all the fulness of the Godhead dwelling in Him bodily while believing the Bible was uninspired or errant.
You can look this up on the internet but be careful. The sites that want to give you a quick overview often obscure things. For example, some say Anglicanism believes the Bible is inspired and inerrant, as confessional Lutherans do. But if you dig deeper their own writings don't say that. No, they say it contains all things necessary for salvation and it is the foundation of their faith along with the Creeds and early church fathers. Some say that the liberal ELCA has the same inspired and inerrant doctrine as the LCMS, but if you look farther, you'll find the ELCA says nice things about the Bible but not that it is without errors.
Remember Jesus links His Person and God's Word, and you can't say different things about them. What you say of one, you say of the other. How you treat, use, trust the one is how you do the other. And remember rhetorically worded questions answer themselves and therefore are all the more powerful. Jesus' two statements powerfully linking Him and His Word bracket 2 equally powerful rhetorical questions, so why do we debate them in our hearts?
Jesus asks, "For what does it profit a person to gain the whole world and to forfeit the soul/life of him? It is undebatable that you can forfeit your soul, your life, who you are. It is undebatable that gaining the whole world itself would not be worth that exchange. It is undeniable that people make this exchange for far less. David does it to sleep with Bathsheba. Judas does it for 30 pieces of silver. Peter forfeits his soul to save his skin.
Go ahead; focus on the world, your pleasure, your success, your happiness; wring every bit of sweetness, power, prestige, and satisfaction you can out of the world, and you'll find someday, some night that you've awakened in a nightmare that is no dream. You'll find the soul that you sold for a few minutes pleasure, that you've let go of to the grab the world's brass ring, is required of you.
And that's the next rhetorical question Jesus asks. "Because what can a person give in exchange for his soul?" And some day "they" will demand it. That's what Jesus says in Luke 12, "You fool this night they demand your soul of you!" The nebulous, unidentified they' makes the demand all the more threatening. Who knows when they will come, but come they will, and what can you give in exchange? "Take my money instead;" "take the happiness, the pleasure, the lusts I've satisfied instead of my soul?" This isn't a Jack Benny shtick. When they come they don't say, "Your money or your life?" Nope, they say, "Your soul is required of you."
You can, do, and are exchanging your soul every time you give up, give in, or ignore sins against God's Word. Every time you prize your body more than your soul, every time you indulge its lust, greed, pride, unbelief, you are making the devil's exchange. And according to this text you can measure how far you're into the exchange based on your attitude toward the Bible. Billy Sunday, the foremost American evangelist in the early 20th century use to thunder, "Dust on your Bible is rust on your soul." The 19th century English Baptist preacher, Spurgeon, said even more memorably, "'There is dust enough on some of your Bibles to write damnation' with your fingers'" (tollelege.wordpress.com/2009/01/25).
That is so Baptist, so fundamentalist. That is so ancient history, that is so last century, and it was till Jesus reminded us that the only link we have to His Person today is the Word He left us. It's true He left us both a visible Word, the Sacraments of Baptism, Absolution, and Communion, and the written Word. But it's only by the written Word that we have the Sacraments. If you don't lose your soul-life-self for Jesus or His Word, you're lost. If you're ashamed of Jesus or His Word, He'll be ashamed of you come Judgment Day.
The answer isn't to rush home and dust off your Bible because that neither removes rust from your soul or prevents damnation from being written on it. Remember, link what the person of Jesus did once and for all back then to His Word now. The text does this by use of Greek infinitives. You don't need to know what they are to see what Jesus is doing. Our text says that Jesus began "to teach" and the come 3 more infinitives telling you what He taught. He taught them what must happen to Him: He says it is necessary for the Son of Man to suffer many things; to be rejected by the Old Testament church, and to be killed. Following these 4 infinitives are 4 about us which in practice are the only ones we hear: to follow Jesus, to save soul, to gain the world but not to forfeit your soul
Don't start with the infinitives that apply to you but to the ones that apply to Jesus. Why is that? Because the holy Son of Man came to give His life as ransom, the Son of Man came to give His body over to death on the cross for you; the Son of Man came to pour out His blood for the remission of your sins. There was no dust on His Bible, and there was no rust on His soul. Damnation wasn't written on the dust of His Bible. See how the Man Jesus recites Scripture, uses Scripture, trusts Scripture even down to the very tenses of the verbs used? See how He doesn't live by bread alone but by every Word that proceeds out of the mouth of God found in the Bible?
Jesus is in effect our whipping boy.' This was a boy raised with a prince. When the prince did wrong, since you couldn't lay hands on the royal person of the prince, you whipped the boy. People go back and forth as to whether this happened at all, only in some cases, or was widely used. I don't know, but I do know that Jesus was indeed our whipping boy," and He suffered a lot more than a whipping. He suffered "many things". Here are just some of the many things: cast off by His Father as guilty of all our sins; rejected by the church because we are unfaithful members. And not just killed but flogged, ridiculed, beaten, slapped, and spat upon. And then the real suffering starts: Abandoned by God to hell for three dread hours on a cross, so horrible was the sight that even the sun was ashamed to look.
But Jesus speaks, and your Bible records a 5th infinitive, and it's equally necessary, and since there is no corresponding 5th infinitive applying to us, this one is empathic. I don't think we hear it any more than the disciples did. It's not only necessary first for the Son of Man to teach, to suffer, to be rejected, and to be killed, but to rise on the third day. This isn't one more data point. This is game, set, and match. This is the whole enchilada.
Jesus dies guilty of the dust on our Bibles and rust on our souls. Damned is writ large on His thorn-crowned head. By raising Him from the dead 3 days later, the Father shows He accepts the Son's payment for your dusty Bibles and my rusty soul. He shows that by Jesus forfeiting His body and soul to sin, death, and devil in place of ours, He gained the world without end for you. There is something to exchange a man's soul for. In fact, Luther referred to this as the "wonderful exchange." Namely, "Our sins are no longer ours but Christ's and the righteousness of Christ not Christ's but ours" (Werke, (Weimar, 1883), 5: 608). This isn't a Luther whimsy. It's Scripture: 2 Corinthians 5:21 says, "The Father made Jesus who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him."
The resurrection on the 3rd day proves that the wonderful exchange was successful. God sees you in Christ as righteous, holy, sinless, guiltless, redeemed, dust-free, and rust-free. How do you know this? You may or may not have a sense of this, a feeling of it, but you can know it "for/because the Bible tells you so." The Word brings all of what Jesus suffered, paid for, forgave, and defeated 2,000 years ago to you now. The Word brings it into your eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and hands by Bible, Baptism, Absolution, and Communion.
The famous or infamous Swiss theologian Karl Barth who "did not identify the Bible with the Word of God" (Lutheran Cyclopedia, 77), who opened the floodgates for the unbelieving historical criticism of the Bible (Handbook of Theologians, 401), came down on the side of for'. He said his whole theology could be summed up by: "'Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so'" (Illus. Bib. Preach., 377). Amen
Rev. Paul R. Harris
Trinity Lutheran Church, Austin, Texas
Second Sunday in Lent (20180225); Mark 8: 31-38