Presented on The Lutheran Hour on May 27, 2018
By Rev. Dr. Ken Klaus, Speaker Emeritus of The Lutheran Hour
Copyright 2019 Lutheran Hour Ministries
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Text: Acts 2:22-24
Christ is risen! He is risen, indeed! The Savior's resurrection from the dead brings about our rescue and divine redemption. Jesus' fulfillment of the Father's plan of salvation is, even now, being shared by the Holy Spirit. By the Lord's grace, may we believe and offer thanks. Grant this Lord unto us all. Amen.
In the early days of 1925, one name was on the lips of everyone. That name was Floyd Collins. Floyd's location was near Crystal Caves in Kentucky. Well, actually, that sentence has two errors. Floyd wasn't located at Crystal Caves, he was trapped in Sand Cave, part of the complex of underground wonders.
On January 30, he had gone out to try and find a new entrance to the cave and got his leg caught in a narrow crawlspace some 55 feet underground, and 150 feet from the cave's entrance. Regular bulletins about Floyd's physical condition, as well as his state of mind, were broadcast by radio. Soon the curious and the compassionate started to show up at the site. The number grew into the tens of thousands, and street vendors began selling food and souvenirs.
On February 4, the mine entrance collapsed in two places, effectively cutting Floyd off from outside contact. A decision to reach Floyd by excavating the tunnel was abandoned and construction on a tunnel which would intersect with Floyd's position was begun. By the time the tunnel was finished on February 17, Floyd had already succumbed to exposure. Doctors who examined the body said Floyd had probably passed away three or four days earlier.
Sometimes a successful rescue doesn't call for weeks of hardship or long-term planning. That was the situation on November 7, 1907, when railroad man Jesus Garcia noticed that a boxcar, a boxcar filled with dynamite, had caught fire. It was on the line which ran through the village of Nacozari in Sonora, Mexico. The solution to the problem was simple: have someone get the boxcar away from the people. Finding someone to carry out that solution could have proven to be far more difficult. Garcia didn't even ask. Instead, he got that car out of town himself. The explosion which was felt some 10 miles away took the railroader's life. Today, the community Jesus saved is known as Nacozari de Garcia and, in Mexico, November 7 is a national holiday.
Of course, no history of successful rescues can be complete without mention of the 33 miners of Chile who were trapped 2,300 feet underground after the main ramp into the San José Mine collapsed on August 5, 2010. At first it was assumed the miners were all dead, but not so. Contact was established and attempts were instituted to bring about their rescue. All types of heavy equipment were brought in and three separate tunnels to the underground captives were started. The great difficulty: it was expected that none of the rescue efforts would be completed until December.
By August 23, a borehole to the miners made it possible to send down food and water. On September 17 one of the pieces of machinery reached the miners. Sadly, the diameter of the shaft was only 12 inches. That meant a second pass had to be made to widen the hole. On October 9, more than two months early, the re-bored shaft was completed. An incredibly narrow rescue capsule, designed by Chilean Navy, and called the Fenix, slid down the shaft to begin the laborious process of bringing the men up, one by one.
Of interest are some of the first words spoken by these men who had, figuratively speaking, been brought back from the grave. One said, "I have been near God, and I have been near the devil. They had a fight, and God has won!"
My friends, I believe you can understand those comments. You understand, not because you have spent months cut off at the bottom of a mine. You understand because you have experienced the evil that is in this world. You do not have to be on the evening news or on the paper's front pages to acknowledge the world is not the perfect Eden which God intended. Loneliness, like a cold fog can envelop us; depression can make us feel as if we are at the bottom of a pit, devoid of both light and hope. Sorrow and loss can strike suddenly, or they can give us lengthy warning making their arrival doubly difficult to bear. Most of us have encountered injustice, fear, uncertainty, and an overwhelming sense that we are not the persons we ought to be-that the Lord intended us to be.
At such times, it seems as if God were far removed and, by our own power and ability, totally inaccessible to us. From beginning to end, from start to finish, all of these feelings are used by the devil, this world, and our own sinful natures to condemn us. Cold, hard logic tells us that we are, on our own power, helpless and lost. They let us know if there is to be hope, any hope at all, it will need to come from an outward Source; it will have to come from Someone bigger, better, and stronger than we are. It will have to come from God.
Amazingly, thankfully, a plan does exist to save us. Long ago, our first ancestors threw off the loving embrace of the Lord who had made them and allowed themselves to be turned to the devil's darkness. Eating fruit which had been forbidden to them, they brought a Pandora's Box of sin and evil into his world. To say that the Lord was upset by the mutiny of Adam is a great understatement. When the Lord finally confronted them in the place where they had shamefully hidden, He did not back down from pronouncing divinely just words of reprimand and retribution. They had sinned and they would be punished. Death, at least in this world, could not be escaped. But death for eternity, ah, that might be a different matter.
We had shown ourselves to be disobedient children, but the Lord still showed Himself to be a loving Father. Yes, He was a saddened and a frustrated Father, but a Father nevertheless. In the role of our Heavenly Father, He set forth a plan which could bring forgiveness of sins and salvation. The Father's plan was primarily shaped by two divine attributes: justice and grace. Justice demanded that the broken laws must be fulfilled by Someone, that Satan's temptations must be rejected by Someone, that the world's seductions must be refused by Someone. Now the Lord knew that the arrival of sin had opened a wound on humanity which would never heal: a wound which would leave a scar upon every generation that would be born. For that reason, the Lord's plan suggested that the plan's requirements must be met by the only Person who could do the job: His own, innocent Son.
The Father's promise to humankind was simple to say, but incredibly costly to complete. So His Son could be both human and divine, Jesus needed to enter this world through the human birth process. That would be the beginning of the plan's fulfillment. Yes, Jesus would live His life for us, and He would also die for us. Carrying all our sins, Jesus would be railroaded to the cross where His life would be offered up as the divinely dictated sacrifice which would make it possible for those who received Holy Spirit-infused faith to never die.
Both the plan, and God's completion of that plan, are summarized in one passage taken from the apostle Peter's first sermon to the crowd who were in Jerusalem on the day the church was born. Peter said (and these are excerpts),
"Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves know- this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men" (see Acts 2:22-23).
There is no wiggle room here. Yes, the people had sent Jesus to the cross, but it was an action about which the Father had known. Unfair and unjust, the death Jesus received was the most unfair thing this sorry world will ever suffer. Still, that was the price necessary for us to be saved. According to God's definite plan and foreknowledge, Jesus died on that cross, but He did so with a triumphant, "It is finished!" His descent into hell was proof to those souls that He had won; His third day resurrection from the dead was our guarantee that the Father's plan had been successfully accomplished. Jesus has brought light where once there had been only darkness.
That, my friends, is God's incredibly successful rescue plan which is put into human hearts through the work of the third Member of the Trinity: the Holy Spirit. It is His duty to translate the historical events which took place in Israel 20 centuries go and translate them into personal, living, breathing reality in our hearts and minds. Through the Holy Spirit's intervention, billions of souls have been redeemed and rescued. His is the single most successful work that this planet has ever seen.
Sadly, the rescue through faith is not universally successful. If it were, not an unbeliever would be left and not a single set of feet would still be walking the broad road which leads directly to hell. And if you were to ask, "Why has the Father's plan not succeeded in some hearts?"-various answers and explanations might be given. To understand those answers and explanations more easily, I would ask you to think back to those Chilean miners.
Just suppose after the rescue plans had been completed, and the authorities were prepared to bring the miners to the surface, one of them had said, "I don't trust this narrow rescue pod. I'm not getting in that thing." Or suppose one of them had said, "They're digging three shafts. I think I'll just sit here and wait for one of those other tunnels to break through." And here's yet another: suppose one of the miners didn't get the message about the rescue. All those men would remain in their self-imposed darkness; their living death.
Now let's translate all of those statements and apply them to the good news story of God's gracious act of redemption. The Father conceived the plan and His Son fulfilled that plan. For thousands of years, the Holy Spirit has moved across this sinful planet telling the lost about that plan and letting them know the time of salvation had come. Unfortunately, there are still many millions who have not been told, who have never heard the Name of Jesus, who remain unaware of the benefits and blessings which come from having faith in the crucified and risen Redeemer.
Similarly, there are still lost souls in this world who say, "I don't like the Jesus' story. I believe I'll put my trust in another deity, another divinity who will lead me to safety." To such people we can only say, "Jesus alone is the resurrection and the life; only by believing in Him is there salvation and escape from hell." And to the ones who continue to resist trusting the Lord, we can only say, "Go to the foot of the cross. Take a look at the pain Jesus has endured for you. Do not let devil-placed doubt earn you an eternity of suffering and pain. A great deal has been done to rescue you. Don't turn your back upon the grace of God which gives both hope and heaven."
Now, I have tried to say that in as nice a way as I possibly can. The Lord has said it far more strongly because this is His plan, and it was His Son's life which put that plan into effect. In the second chapter of Romans, the Lord tells us, "But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, He will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury."
My friends, today the Holy Spirit is speaking to you. It is happening just as Peter said it would when he told the Jerusalem crowd, "Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing." Please, for your eternal salvation, do not doubt, but believe.
Today's message is about rescues. Let me tell you about just one more. On May 25, 2006, Mt. Everest climber Lincoln Hall was left for dead by his guides who took his hat, gloves, and oxygen. The following day they shared the news of Lincoln's demise. Their announcement was wrong. Lincoln was suffering from altitude sickness, but he was still very much alive. The following day, Daniel Mazur and his expedition stumbled upon Lincoln. Now Mazur was just two hours from completing his own quest and reaching Everest's peak, but he left that goal and spent four hours carrying Lincoln down to the base camp. It was a noble rescue ... a rescue not unlike the Savior who left heaven and sacrificed Himself to save you. I pray you, in gratitude, may offer Him the love His sacrifice deserves. If you hear the call of the Holy Spirit this day, we would like to be of assistance. To that end, please call us at The Lutheran Hour. Amen.
Reflections for DATE
Mark Eischer: You're listening to The Lutheran Hour. That was Pastor Ken Klaus. Dr. Dale Meyer joins us now with some thoughts on Trinity Sunday, which many Christian congregations are observing today.
Dale Meyer: Greetings to all of you, to you, Mark.
Mark Eischer: Thank you.
Dale Meyer: Trinity Sunday, it's an unusual Sunday in the church year because it's a time when we remember that God has revealed Himself to us as three Persons, and yet only one God-the three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Pastor Klaus based today's message on a passage from Acts, Acts 2, and the three Persons are listed in that passage. "Jesus of Nazareth," it says, "a Man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through Him." So there you have Jesus of Nazareth, and God who was active through Jesus of Nazareth, and it goes on and on, and then in verse 33, it says, "Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God," that is, Jesus, "and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit," and that is the third Person, three persons, and yet in a mysterious way, only one God. We're not going to explain the mystery of the Trinity in these next minutes. It cannot be done.
Mark Eischer: In Scripture, we find that God reveals Himself, as you said, He reveals Himself to us as the Triune God, three Persons. What could a person know about God apart from Scripture?
Dale Meyer: A lot. I don't know if people in this busy world where we are so preoccupied with ourselves, I don't know if people stop to think about what we can know about God. But first of all, we can know that somebody made this universe. The idea that it just happened by itself, some people believe that, but I think a lot of thinking people say, "No. This came from some place." Whoever it was that created this vast, amazing universe has to have phenomenal power. We can suspect that there is a God, a great Creator. What we don't know is what is He like. Do you ever have a tornado come near your home?
Mark Eischer: Fortunately, no.
Dale Meyer: Yeah, well, that's pretty scary. Or a tsunami that wipes out thousands and thousands and thousands of people so that the creation does not tell us that this God loves us. Maybe He does, but there are times when He seems capricious, and whoa, that is scary. That's one of the things that we can know about God from natural reason, but we don't know what He is like.
Another way that we can suspect that there is a God is that all people have some sense of right and wrong. Across the peoples of the earth, there are certain things that are right and certain things that are wrong, and that suggests a Creator of mankind who put this sense of right and wrong deep in our beings. But again, you can argue about right and wrong, and when we've done wrong, is there forgiveness? Natural knowledge does not lead us to Jesus, a Savior who died for our sins.
Mark Eischer: I can think of two other points here: one is that God, for our protection, keeps Himself hidden, and also, when we look at creation, we're actually looking at a fallen creation. So, I think it gives us maybe a distorted impression, or it makes it impossible for us to clearly see God if all we're seeing is this broken creation.
Dale Meyer: Absolutely, Mark. You're right. I mean, first of all, in Exodus, God says, "No one can see Me and live." We don't want Him to reveal Himself to us sinners in all His glory, or we would die. Creation has fallen. We need someone to come in and show us both the brokenness of creation and a way forward. That's what Jesus does as He, the Son of God, the second Person in the Trinity, becomes incarnate, lives, dies, and rises again so that we are forgiven and have the restoration of this fallen creation as a promise to know by faith.
Mark Eischer: It's really only through Jesus that we can know God as He intends for us to know Him.
Dale Meyer: Absolutely. 2 Corinthians 4:6, "The God who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness' has shone in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.'" The unseen God is truly revealed to us only in the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Mark Eischer: Some people will object and say the word "Trinity" is not to be found in the Bible.
Dale Meyer: Yeah, that's true. The word Trinity first shows up in the second, I think the late second century A.D., but that doesn't mean that the concept is not in the Bible. There are numerous passages where all three Persons are indicated. Acts 2 that Pastor Klaus preached on just a few minutes ago, the Great Commission from Matthew 28, "Go therefore and teach all nations baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."
The fact that the word Trinity does not occur in the Bible, yeah, it doesn't mean anything. Some years ago, the jet stream was discovered. That doesn't mean it didn't exist until somebody created the word, "jet stream," and then all of a sudden, it came into being. No. No. That's not a helpful argument.
Mark Eischer: Now, how are the Persons of the Trinity different, and how do they show themselves?
Dale Meyer: The Bible tells us that the Father begets the Son, and the Son is begotten of the Father. John 3:16 makes that point, "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son." The Father begets the Son, the Son is begotten of the Father, and then we know that the Holy Spirit proceeds from both the Father and the Son. John 15:26, "When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will bear witness about Me."
Those are the distinctions within the Trinity, and that's about all that we can say about the internal relationships of the Trinity, these three Persons. Might I add, Mark, that these are not masks of God, as if God sometimes puts on the mask of the Father and sometimes the Son and sometimes He puts on the mask of the Holy Spirit. No, no, no. These are three separate and distinct Persons who relate to one another within the Trinity as we just said, begetting, begotten, and proceeding.
They show themselves to us in different ways. The Father is thought of most often as our Creator, Jesus as our Savior, the Holy Spirit as our Sanctifier, but I'd like to make an important point here. All the works that we attribute to God apply to all three Persons so that not only is the Father the Creator, but Hebrews 1 teaches us that Jesus created the world and sustains it by his Word of power, so also we can say that creation and preservation come through the work of the Holy Spirit.
Whatever is ascribed to one of the persons of God can be ascribed to all three Persons of God, with one exception.
Mark Eischer: Okay.
Dale Meyer: That is Jesus alone, true G
od and true Man died for us on the cross. That is the unique focus of our faith in the Trinity, and it is the intent of the Holy Trinity that we should be saved, but only Jesus was incarnate, died, and rose again for our sins.
Mark Eischer: Do I need to believe in the Trinity in order to be saved?
Dale Meyer: We will upset some people, but the history of the Christian faith is yes. A creed that is used in many churches today is called the Athanasian Creed. It's long, and I know sometimes people say, "This is a long creed to read in church. We've gotta get out of church and do what we think is important," but to your point, the Athanasian Creed says, "Whoever desires to be saved must think thus about the Trinity."
The traditional answer based on the Scriptures is yes. I mean, no one can be saved without believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. That is a gift that the Holy Spirit works in our hearts, and it all comes from the Father who before the creation of the world determined that He wanted fallen creatures and creation to be saved.
Music Selections for this program:
"A Mighty Fortress" arranged by Chris Bergmann. Used by permission.
"Come, Holy Ghost, Creator Blest" From The Concordia Organist (© 2009 Concordia Publishing House)