3rd Sunday of Easter – Vicar Bartelt
May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. Amen.
Even though it’s an ordinary activity, a fixed part of daily life, a seemingly harmless part of human existence, the truth is eating can be a risky business. Take Esau for example. He came in from the field with an empty stomach and saw his brother cooking a pot of lentil stew. After some haggling, Esau sold his birthright as the first-born son to Jacob, all for a piece of bread and a pot of stew. A desire for food led to his downfall. Or take the Israelites in the wilderness. Licking their lips as they recalled the tasty treats they enjoyed back in Egypt, they whined to Moses that they were fed up with this Manna. “Who will give us meat to eat?” they whined. God did end up giving these unfaithful, ungrateful complainers some quail to eat, but as Moses says, “while the meat was still between their teeth, before it was chewed, the anger of the Lord was kindled against the people, and the Lord struck them with a very severe plague.” Greedy desire for food sparked a flaming curse among them.
Both these stories, however, pale in comparison with the meal of unbelief in Eden, the meal that devoured all mankind at the beginning of creation. The devil, hidden from Adam and Eve in a snakeskin disguise, prepared a table before them at the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He approached Eve with a question designed to lead her to doubt God’s Word: “Has God really said, ‘You shall not eat from any tree of the garden?’” After Eve’s response, the devil chided her, “You surely shall not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from this tree your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” As if to say, “O foolish woman, to actually believe all that God has spoken to you! It’s not necessary for you to enjoy this food and thus to enter into God’s glory?” And the rest is history. As Eve and Adam’s teeth closed on the fruit of disobedience, their eyes were opened, and they recognized that they were naked. Then and there, righteousness, peace with God, and life itself, all vanished from their sight. This eating was not simply risky business; it was the food stuffed with the wrath and damnation of the almighty judge. The parents of the human race were left with a belly full of food, but a life empty of God.
This is a life we know very well. A life empty of God and full of the stuff of this world, full mainly of ourselves. And as strange and sad as it is, it’s the kind of life we prefer, a life revolving around ourselves. The kind of life where we can go about our daily routine, do our chores, take care of our business, have our fun, with the fewest interruptions from anything that might distract us from whatever we want. The kind of life we can live for ourselves, do what makes us happy, avoid what makes us sad, engross ourselves in whatever gives us pleasure. The kind of life where we don’t have to sacrifice much for our family members or neighbors, much less strangers. The kind of life where nobody asks us to do something we hate doing or that is somehow “below us”. That’s the kind of life we know very well, a life full of ourselves. And you know it’s true! You have lived as if God did not matter, as if your neighbor did not matter, and as if you mattered the most. If you were in the garden you would have shoved Eve aside to reach the fruit first; you would have devoured the food of wrath and damnation.
From all this today you must repent. Repent of thinking more highly of yourself than you ought. Repent of living a life in which the achievement of your happiness is the goal of every single day. Look at yourself, your true image, in the mirror of God’s law. See and know that this is not the image of a fairly good person, but of an ugly, self-serving sinner, just as naked as Adam and Eve, with the fruit of disobedience still stuck between your teeth.
Know who you are in order that you can begin to know who God is and what he has done for you. See for yourself that you are naked of righteousness in order that you can recognize the God who clothed himself not only in your flesh but also in your sins that he might cover your nakedness with his grace and forgiveness.
This God is the God on the road to Emmaus, the God who revealed himself in the midst of a meal. The two disciples, their hearts heavy with grief, dragged their feet along the road leading out of Jerusalem. Jesus approached them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. As the devil approached Eve with a question, so also Jesus approached them with a question, but not designed to lead them to doubt, but to lead them to faith in God’s word. Because their hopes for redemption had been dashed when Jesus was crucified. What’s more, some of their number claimed to have actually seen Jesus raised. At this point Jesus chided them, “O foolish men and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary for the Christ to suffer these things and to enter his glory?” As if to say “He must surely die! For God knows that in the day he is killed on the tree of the cross, heaven will be opened, and you will truly be like God, knowing him as your heavenly father.” And beginning with Moses, the psalms, and all the prophets, Jesus catechized them in the things concerning himself. He opened their minds to see him as the fullness and the fulfillment of all that the prophets had spoken.
Yet even after this teaching that opened their minds, they still did not recognize the man who was catechizing them. Their eyes were still closed. Only at the end of the road, as they reclined at the table with this teacher, as he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them that they recognized him. As their teeth closed on the bread which Jesus gave, their eyes were opened, and they recognized the God who clothed himself in their sins to cover their nakedness with his grace and forgiveness of sins. Then and there, the one who is their righteousness, their peace with God, and their life itself, made himself known.
And so it is today. By his word and by his meal, Christ makes himself known to you. He is the fleshandblood God who lived his life and died his death with the achievement of your salvation set as the goal of every single day. Behold him, the true icon of God, the exact representation of the Father. See and know the image of this man is not that of a fairly good person but of a perfect, holy, sinless savior who has swallowed your sin, devoured your death, and digested your damnation, and who now lives and reigns as your resurrected redeemer.
He lived the life you do not and cannot live. He died the death you cannot and will not die, the death that slew death and buried the grave, all for you. For all the days and all the hours that you have lived for yourself, Christ lived for you, to rescue you from the food stuffed with damnation and wrath which is the very fruit he ate willingly and fully from the tree of the cross.
But now, for you, there is a meal that is not stuffed with wrath and damnation but with grace and salvation. Now, for you, there is a meal by which the human tree of life, Jesus Christ, places his body inside your body and pours his blood into your veins. Now, for you, there is a meal by which you are restored to the Garden of Eden, by which you gain more than Adam and Eve lost, by which you eat and drink and digest God himself. Today your shepherd has prepared a table before you in the presence of your enemies, at which your eyes are opened, and you see and sing to God, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.” Amen.
May the peace of God which surpasses all understanding guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.