The sinful heart is filled with “bitter jealousy and selfish ambition” (James 3:14), which causes hostility, quarrels and conflicts, even among those who are fellow members of the body of Christ. This should not be so! Rather, God “opposes the proud” with His Law, in order to humble them unto repentance; He “gives grace to the humble,” in order to exalt them by His Gospel of forgiveness (James 4:6–10). This true “wisdom from above” is found in the gentleness, mercy and peace of our Lord, Jesus Christ, who humbled Himself and sacrificed Himself for the salvation of sinners (James 3:17). He was “like a gentle lamb led to the slaughter,” committing Himself to God, His Father, “who judges righteously, who tests the heart and the mind” (Jer. 11:19–20). Therefore, “after three days,” His Father exalted Him by raising Him from the dead (Mark 9:31). In Holy Baptism, He takes disciples of all ages into His arms like little children. In receiving Him through repentance and faith in His forgiveness of sins, they receive from His Father a share in the glory of His cross and resurrection (Mark 9:36–37).
The Lord proclaims the Gospel “to those who have an anxious heart” to comfort and encourage them with His presence. He comes not only with threats of “vengeance” and “recompense,” but with His gracious salvation (Is. 35:4). He opens “the eyes of the blind” and “the ears of the deaf,” and He loosens “the tongue of the mute” to “sing for joy” (Is. 35:5–6). Like water on thirsty ground, He speaks His life-giving Word to people of all nations. With His Word and the touch of His hand, He does “all things well,” so that you may now speak “plainly” (Mark 7:31–37). You confess the truth of God in Christ to the glory of His holy name, and you call upon His name in every trouble, confident that He will hear and answer. As you pray and confess with your tongue, so also “love your neighbor as yourself” (James 2:8). Show your faith “in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory,” by loving without partiality. For God has “chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom” (James 2:1–5).
God the Father sent His Son into the world, so that the world might have life in Him. Now He “draws” you to His Son, Christ Jesus, by the preaching of His Gospel. “Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father” comes to Jesus, who will never cast him out but “will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44–45). He is “the bread of life,” who “comes down from heaven” in the flesh, that you may eat of Him and “live forever” (John 6:48–51). Although “the journey is too great for you,” in the strength of this food you shall come to “the mount of God.” Do not be afraid, and do not despair, but “arise and eat” (1 Kings 19:5–8). And “no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds” (Eph. 4:17), but “walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us” (Eph. 5:2). In Him, you have been “created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:24). Therefore, “be imitators of God, as beloved children” (Eph. 5:1), by “forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you” (Eph. 4:32).
Having spared faithful Noah and his family from the flood, the Lord established His covenant with them, “and with every living creature,” that never again would there be “a flood to destroy the earth” (Gen. 9:9–11). He signed and sealed this everlasting covenant with His rainbow in the clouds, by which He sees and remembers His promise that “the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh” (Gen. 9:13–16). Although creation suffers under the curse of sin, the Lord preserves and orders creation for the benefit of His Church. In particular, all of creation is redeemed and sanctified by the incarnate Son of God. “Take heart,” and “do not be afraid,” for He is with you on the sea. He is not a ghost, but He has come in the flesh to save you. He has gotten “into the boat” with you, and the wind that was against you has ceased (Mark 6:45–51). For He is the Word and promise of the Father, and His own flesh and blood are the covenant by which you are “strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being” (Eph. 3:16–17).
Amos did not choose to be a prophet, but the Lord took him “from following the flock” and said to him, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel” (Amos 7:15). It was a hard word given him to preach: King Jeroboam would “die by the sword,” and Israel would “go into exile away from his land” (Amos 7:10–11). For this word, Amos was hated and threatened. St. John the Baptist also suffered for his faithful preaching of repentance. King Herod “sent and seized John and bound him in prison,” even though he knew that John “was a righteous and holy man” (Mark 6:17, 20). Out of pride and fear, Herod “sent an executioner with orders to bring John’s head” (Mark 6:27). Yet in Christ, St. John the Baptist “has been raised from the dead” (Mark 6:14, 16). For Christ is the destruction of death itself “before the foundation of the world,” and even now by faith, “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ” has blessed us in Christ “with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places” (Eph. 1:3–4). Through Baptism into Christ, you also “were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit” for life and salvation (Eph. 1:13).
The prophet Ezekiel was raised up by the Spirit of the Lord and sent to speak an unpopular Word to the rebellious house of Israel. As a prophet, he was not to speak his own word, but to preach the Law and the Gospel: “Thus says the Lord God,” whether the people “hear or refuse to hear” (Ezek. 2:4–5). So, too, in the footsteps of the prophets before Him, the Lord Jesus “went about among the villages teaching” (Mark 6:6). In His hometown, as elsewhere, “many who heard him were astonished,” marveling at His wisdom and at the “mighty works done by his hands,” and yet, “they took offense at him” (Mark 6:2–3). The offense culminates in His cross, which is, ironically, the heart and center of His “authority over the unclean spirits” (Mark 6:7). It is by that authority of His cross that those He sends preach repentance, “cast out many demons” and heal the sick (Mark 6:12–13). Thus, the apostle Paul boasts in the cross of Christ and in his own weaknesses, knowing that God’s grace is sufficient and that the power of Christ “is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12:8–9).