Date: April 20, 1941

The Lord shall deliver me from every evil work and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory forever and ever. . . . The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. Grace be with you. Amen.2 Timothy 4:18, 22

God, Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier:

Accept the praise of our thankful hearts for Thy protecting watchfulness over our lives and for the love by which all things, even the hardest blows of adversity, work together for good, became we are Thine, purchased forever by the Savior’s redeeming blood! Especially, O Triune God of power, mercy, and strength, do we beseech Thee: keep us constantly grateful for the victory over sin and death won by Jesus in His crucifixion and glorious resurrection. Preserve the saving Gospel to our country, our homes, our churches! Let it be a light for every darkened pathway before us, a heavenly comfort in the hour of personal or national suffering! As we plead with Thee for honorable peace among the nations, we know not what the approaching weeks may bring; yet teach us always to find courage in Christ, inner peace for our distressed souls at the cross and His empty grave! Bless this broadcast and this congregation of the air! May Thy Holy Spirit employ the message, hymns, and prayer to call sinners from their evil ways, bring back those who have wandered from Thy truth, comfort the afflicted, and grant us all the joy of life; through Christ, our only Savior, both now and forever! Amen.

TODAY we broadcast the last message in our present series. We had fervently hoped to continue this Mission of the Air unbroken through the whole year; for during the critical period before us the masses in our country will need Christ’s Gospel above all else. The cost of maintaining our network intact for the entire summer would be at least $100,000 additional, and our heavenly Father has not yet shown us how we can secure this immense sum.

We thank God nevertheless that much of our radio testimony will continue. In scores of large cities these Bringing-Christ-to-the-Nations messages, transcribed to reduce expense, will be heard Sunday after Sunday. Our foreign program in twenty-four countries outside the United States will uninterruptedly send the Savior’s truth from continent to continent. We ask your prayers and support in a greater degree than previously, so that, our broadcasting richly blessed through the summer, we may return in the fall over an even greater hookup and more closely approach our ultimate objective, a year-round, worldwide radio system which will proclaim the eternal Gospel in dozens of languages to the very ends of the earth.

This may therefore be the last time I speak to you. Before the ninth Lutheran Hour begins about 750,000 people in the United States and Canada will have died. What assurance have we, in the uncertainty of modern existence, that next October you and I will still be numbered among the living? Who can forecast the tragic changes which may occur in a brief half year? Do you think that six months ago people in Belgrade believed their city would be swept by a devastation which would leave 10,000 corpses covered by the smoldering ruins of their own homes? Did King Peter anticipate on the Sunday before last that he would reign less than two weeks before fleeing into exile? If an army of a million men surrenders unconditionally after only twelve days of warfare; if a thousand lives are crushed out during a single night’s bombing; if in a few seconds aerial torpedoes can irreparably shatter the toil of long years, even centuries, how terrifying the destruction which can intervene before we are privileged to resume our testimony to Christ!

Don’t make the mistake of denying that disaster can come or imagine the United States secure from all perils! We are closer to war than at any other time since the conflagration started in September, 1939. A review of the past months reveals a gradual, day-after-day edging closer to actual fighting. Even if divine mercy prevails and we are spared the horrors of active participation, our beloved, God-blessed country may face trying days, with financial, industrial, social, moral, political, religious difficulties the like of which this nation has never witnessed. Add to this uncertainty the pressing weight of personal problems, inner sorrows, invisible griefs, insistent conscience claims, and you will agree that multitudes inside our borders face question-marked weeks, a fear-freighted future.

Yet—praise be to God!—you can meet with immovable calm the worst the veiled months may produce. Whatever the approaching crisis brings, however crushing your individual trials, I offer you in this season’s last broadcast an unfailing source of strength. For all darkened hours, each sudden reverse, every collapse of cherished plans; for war and bloodshed, pain and agony, desertion and loneliness, sin and sorrow; for the crowded moment of life and the lonely hour of death, there is

COURAGE IN CHRIST—

help for earth’s cruelties, hope for heaven’s happiness. This double promise is found in the glorious confidence at the close of Saint Paul’s Second Letter to Timothy (chapter four, verses eighteen and twenty-two): “The Lord shall deliver me from every evil work and will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory forever and ever. . . . The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit. Grace be with you. Amen.”

I

WE TAKE COURAGE BECAUSE CHRIST WILL “DELIVER US FROM ALL EVIL”

These were the last words of Scripture Saint Paul wrote. During the reign of blood-crazed Nero the apostle was rearrested and again brought to Rome. Deserted by most of his friends, he defended himself alone against malicious accusations, including perhaps the charge that he, a Christian leader, had conspired to burn Rome. The hearing concluded, he was sent back to prison to await judgment. There in bonds this Second Letter to Timothy was composed. Paul knew that he would not be acquitted, for he asserted: “I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day.” Peering into the darkened future, dictating the final lines of his farewell epistle, the preeminent apostle (author of the Letter to the Romans, with its unparalleled explanation of justification by faith, the Letter to the Galatians, with its marvelous emphasis on Gospel freedom, and other sacred writings which have stirred the souls of millions since his day) declared resolutely, “The Lord shall deliver me from every evil work.”

May God give us the same courage, for we in the United States also face a trying future! What I say now will find little applause, but the Church dare not cater to the popularity that blindly sets divine truth aside. Every minister of Jesus Christ is to be a watchman who, studying the trends of his times, warns and comforts his people. Therefore, when disturbed Christians, repeating the ancient Bible question, ask, “Watchman, what of the night?” we must be guided by complete honesty and absolute indifference to public acclaim. Under this conviction I tell you that in the deliberate opinion of many sober-minded investigators, within the Church as without, the United States faces the possibility of more numerous, more subtle, more imminent disasters than in our entire previous history. The most dangerous perils arise not from without but from within. Small countries may be overrun by military machines, but rich, powerful peoples succumb to internal treachery, the consequences of their own sins, the disregard of God’s Word. As Christians we must wholeheartedly do our share in building and strengthening the nation’s defenses; but we dare not overlook the truth that the contempt of divine will in American life can become a hundred times more destructive than any foreign invasion.

As Saint Paul, looking out on an age of rebellion against God, knew that evil would confront him, so present-day followers of Christ must have discerning eyes to recognize the uprisings against the Almighty continually flaunted before them. We should think, for example, of the anti­religious, atheistic tendency in American culture. For years unbelievers have boasted that the overthrow of our democratic life would spring from academic circles. They have systematically endeavored to tear the love for God from the hearts of our young people. Denying man’s divine origin and his divine destiny in Jesus, they have deliberately reduced the human race to the animal level. University professors who tell their students that the Ten Commandments are as out of date as the 4,000-year-old Code of Hammurabi; that the Bible is full of mistakes, contradictions, even immoralities; that Jesus, if He ever existed, was a misguided, mistaken idealist—these men constitute a far greater menace to our country than Hitler. The United States can repel any foreign foe, but if youthful hearts are mobilized against Christ, the Bible, the Church, we can only plead: God help America!

Another national weakness is found in many godless homes. Easy, quick, cheap divorce; willfully childless marriages; condoned unfaithfulness in wedlock; children without reverence for God and respect for parents, suffering from spiritual malnutrition but overdosed with sordid dramas, underworld stories, gangster romances—all this foreshadows disastrous consequences.

A third national sin is our notorious crime record. The Federal Bureau of Investigation in Washington reveals that one of every twenty-eight Americans is a criminal. Almost five million criminals are in this country, at present a greater army, doubtless, than any invading forces which will ever assail us. About one and one half million serious crimes—murder, manslaughter, rape, robbery, burglary, assault—are annually committed in the United States. We lead the world in lawmaking as in lawbreaking; and we ought to be intelligent enough to understand the retribution that a holy God may demand.

We are similarly depressed by the corruption of justice, according to the Old Testament, a definite cause for national collapse. Eminent jurists have admitted that collusion is widely practiced, particularly before domestic courts. In some cities it is impossible to convict those who manufacture or distribute immoral books and pictures. Judges have repeatedly been the puppets of politicians. Their decisions could be bought and sold.

An additional liability is class conflict. The violent battle between the employee and the working-man; the atheistic, Communist leadership in some sectors of organized labor and the selfishness of certain capitalists; the growing disdain of hard work, thrift, economy; the clash of color, with cruel discrimination against the Negro—these are conditions that God will not tolerate indefinitely.

We must further condemn the greed and oppression by which the poor are continually becoming poorer. The number of those without the proper food, clothing, and shelter is alarming, while some on the top rung of the financial ladder have steadily exploited the masses.

Deeply significant is the current world philosophy that nations can get along without God. We must help bar this delusion from our country. It should be a basic principle that nothing in American law or administration contradicts the divide code of governmental morality; but legislatures legalize gambling and champion the disruption of the home. Civic affairs, according to the admission of authorities, are often controlled by corrupt leaders allied with the underworld.

Another moral danger is the selfish promotion of war either for personal gain or for national conquest. The Bible emphatically denounces such bloodshed, as the psalmist asks God, “Scatter Thou the people that delight in war!” Yet there are those who would cast this country into conflict (regardless of the disasters which can follow even a complete victory) and seek the same private profits (through the blood of our American youth) that in the last hostilities created an army of war millionaires, but left masses destitute.

More dangerous, however, is the spiritual tragedy in many churches, which by maintaining loyalty to Christ and the Scriptures should prove a defense against national peril but have lost their allegiance to the Savior. Not merely from hundreds but thousands of American pulpits sermons are preached each Sunday in which the Trinity, Christ’s deity and atonement, the inerrancy of the Scriptures, and every foundation truth of our faith are deliberately assaulted.

This religious treachery, in turn, contributes to widespread irreligion and unbelief. More than half of our people belong to no church whatever, and among those officially listed on congregational rosters a lamentably large percentage gives God only occasional lip-service.

As we thus survey the future with Saint Paul in our text, we, too, must be aware of the threat to our national and individual welfare exerted by those menacing forces. Unless a wave of religious reawakening and repentance sweeps across the country (of which we can see no signs at present); unless churches undertake an intense, all-out preaching of the crucified and risen Christ, we must be prepared to face the most difficult days that have ever dawned on America. No people can continually prosper in disregard of the Almighty. No country is rich enough to purchase exemption from the consequences of its sins. God is too holy to permit evil to flourish unrebuked. With prospects of heavy, continued taxes; confronted by the serious financial problems of a postwar and practically bankrupt world; face to face with the astounding growth of anti-American radicalism, we should not be surprised if startling upheavals shake this country and impose new restrictions on the Church’s work.

The Holy Spirit help us to use the power of our faith in bringing America closer to the Almighty! The Christian walking humbly before God is a greater asset to the country than all the gold stored in subterranean treasuries at Fort Knox. Followers of Jesus on their knees in fervent prayer for their homeland can defeat hostile hordes. A spiritually prepared people, armed in a soul-defense program, can succeed where armaments fail.

Yet, come what may, we should find courage in Christ. We can join the Apostle’s triumph over doubt, “The Lord shall deliver me from every evil work!” This assurance is grounded in God’s eternal mercy as revealed in the Savior’s crucifixion and resurrection. Christ loved every one of us with a heavenly devotion. He suffered the punishment of our sins, shed His blood to wash our iniquities away, died on the cross to pay the penalties of our transgressions with His death, so that we, pure and holy in God’s sight, might be reawakened by the power of His Easter victory into the glories of eternal life. Now assuredly the heavenly Father, who, sacrificing His Son for our sins, proved His divine compassion, will not leave those who approach Him in faith without hope and help in this world. He cannot look on indifferently when we are tossed about by the hurricanes of hatred nor sit by unconcernedly while we are ground under the heel of hatred. Strikingly the apostle argues, “God, who spared not His own Son but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?” If our Father has offered us the treasures of eternity, He will not refuse the comparative trifles of this world. If He enriches our souls with the Bread of Life and the Living Water, He will not permit our bodies to starve. Granting the greater, He will not withhold the lesser.

Millions of Christians know, as Saint Paul did, that God can and does answer their prayer, “Deliver us from evil!” Last Sunday we told you of a woman in Oregon, discharged from the WPA, completely destitute, with a dependent eighty-year-old mother. Her trust in Christ soared over despair, and during the past week her prayers were remarkably answered. Someone who had borrowed money from her twenty-one years ago unexpectedly came to make a small payment. Friends, entirely unsolicited, offered their help. Daily the Lord shows similar grace to multitudes as He fulfills His promise, “call upon Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver thee!” Every hour Christ’s love binds up the soul-wounds of thousands who, bowed down under repeated adversity, accept His invitation, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest!” Every moment the Holy Spirit, called “the Comforter” because He can give our souls peace, changes darkness into light, sorrow into joy. While Christians hope, pray, and work for better times and blessings on their country, they know that, even if these problem years bring their worst, if their own lives, quite apart from such world-moving issues, are afflicted with sorrows that cut to the quick, they can always find courage in Christ.

Will you not agree, then, that you need Jesus above all else? If up till this moment you have remained untouched by His grace, distant from His blood-bought love, may the Holy Spirit accompany the appeal of this farewell broadcast to create within you a desire to acclaim Christ yours and find in Him forgiveness and the pledge of His protection! The Savior, who died and rose again, offers all you require for the best possible life! There is no substitute for Jesus; neither wealth, position, learning, nor power can grant the trust and the joy which will be yours even in affliction through humble allegiance to the resurrected Redeemer! While the Spirit urges you, write us, so that we can help you solve your problems and send you a Christian pastor with Heaven’s own pledge for God’s help in any present trouble or for any future trial! Accept Jesus as your Savior now, and you will be blessed eternally!

Some of you, however, may protest that despite his confident assertion, “the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work!” Saint Paul was not rescued; that he was taken from his Roman prison to die a martyr’s death. But this objection misunderstands entirely the extent of divine power and the wider reach of heavenly love. God could have liberated the apostle from his bonds. Remember what happened at Philippi, when in the depths of night a miracle opened the prison-doors to free the apostle! At dozens of other places Saint Paul had been in danger of destruction, yet each time the Almighty intervened to save him. Now the Lord has another deliverance, the greatest which even He can give, the end of earthly sorrow and the beginning of unending happiness.

In Christ we can find the same guidance for our lives. Hundreds of Scripture-passages assure us of His providing, sustaining, protecting love. Were it not for the fact that our God “neither slumbers nor sleeps”; that He has given “His angels charge concerning” us; that He has promised, “There shall no evil come nigh thy dwelling,” you and I would not be here today. In unnumbered instances disaster and death might have overtaken us. Often, however, situations arise when for our own good, the purifying of our desires, the strengthening of faith, the fortifying of trust, God permits reverses to check our plans, sorrows of many sorts to surround us. Despite prayers for relief the thorn in our flesh may not be immediately removed. But at His own time, in His heavenly way, always higher than ours, He will surely deliver us, if necessary by a miracle. Though He answers in His own manner, He never gives us less than we need; His help never comes at the wrong hour or place. Finally, however, the time arrives when He wants us to come home; and through the most magnificent of deliverances, the complete escape from all evil, we enter heaven’s joy. What courage in Christ, therefore, to know that, when life’s battles turn against us, the final victory still is ours; to realize that, even if our friends or family desert us, Jesus will abide with His own forever; to have the confidence that, though God permits us to lose our money, work, home, good name, health, and finally even life itself, ultimately we gain so much more that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that shall be revealed in us”! For the unspeakable joy of this eternal deliverance I beseech you once more in the name of the risen Redeemer: Acclaim Him your Savior from every sin and the Deliverer from every sorrow!

II

WE TAKE COURAGE BECAUSE CHRIST WILL PRESERVE US FOR HEAVEN

The bars of no Roman prison could prevent Saint Paul from looking assuredly into the open heaven and beholding, far beyond the executioner’s block, the throne of his eternal Lord. Therefore in the last recorded triumph of his trust the stalwart witness to Christ unflinchingly cries out, “The Lord . . . will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom.” No “if,” “perhaps,” “maybe,” lingered in the apostle’s mind. He was assured of his salvation. Loyal, even as death’s shadow approached, he trusted his Savior’s promise, “He that endureth unto the end shall be saved.”

The faith which can give us courage must likewise be an immovable conviction of Christ’s sustaining, preserving power. I do not want to complete this season’s broadcast and leave any of you uncertain concerning your salvation. We do not deal with guesses and wishful thinking in our Christian assurance of a blessed hereafter. We have advanced beyond the laboratory stage or the experimental level. Therefore you can do much more than hope, wish, or pray for your salvation. You can face a world arrayed against you and with Christ at your side exult confidently in the apostle’s confident challenge: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or sword? . . . Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor powers nor things present nor things to come nor height nor depth nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus, our Lord.”

Here, then, you stand before the glorious climax of divine mercy. When the Savior is yours, you can say not only, “Jesus loved me. He gave Himself for me. He died on the cross for me. He rose again on that first Easter for me. He intercedes with His heavenly Father for me. He promised me help in every need”; but with Saint Paul’s confidence you should triumph, “He will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom.” Is there a more radiant reassurance than this? Can even God in His limitless might grant a more marvelous blessing than the sacred conviction that Christ will “preserve” us “unto His heavenly kingdom”? Don’t let anything keep you from this glorious hope! If you feel unworthy because your faith is small, wavering, inconsistent, ask Jesus to intensify it, and the blessed Savior who said, “My strength is made perfect in weakness,” will fortify your trust! Don’t think that you can assure yourself of a place in heaven by your self-sacrifice, self-denial, self-imposed penances, by your personal virtues, achievements, and accomplishments! Everything involved in our salvation is 100-per-cent pure mercy. Saint Paul says here, not, “I will preserve myself unto the heavenly kingdom,” but, “He”—the Lord Jesus—“will preserve me.” Our title to the prepared place is bestowed only by grace; it comes entirely from Christ’s undeserved love.

This does not mean, however, that you make your redemption automatic and boast, “Once saved, always saved!” What folly to risk your blessed eternity on the delusion that, if you have once believed on Christ, you can spend the rest of your life in sin, rebellion against God, denial of His mercy, and somehow before death be brought back to the Lord! What false comfort backsliders and nominal Christians find in this misinterpretation of Scripture! Many who once followed Jesus have deserted Him and died with unbelief, blasphemy, despair, on their lips. Therefore the Bible warns against falling from the faith, and it mentions some who believed only for a short time and then were lost. We should rather follow the Scriptures and maintain close contact with our Savior in the sacred Word by which the Holy Spirit grants us constant grace and the strength to abide in Jesus. Read the Bible, study it, hear it explained in a true church, apply it to your own life, to your family—and the Christ, who can “preserve” you “unto His heavenly kingdom,” will come constantly closer to give you more complete victory over sin! Combine with this love of God’s Word, “which is able to build you up,” your fervent, personal, penetrating prayer to God in Jesus’ name! Come before Him when temptations seek to entice you, doubts dissuade you, afflictions drive you to despair, and as He promised, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall ask the Father in My name, He will give it you,” you will have Heaven’s own help in securing this benediction, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life!”

To emphasize this truth, let me repeat what I have tried to tell you in each one of the more than two hundred sermons I have preached over a radio network: For this courage by which you can rejoice even in adversity you need a firm personal trust in the Savior. More books are written about religion today than at any other period in human affairs; but too much of this printed material is vague, hazy unbelief, which specializes in individual theories and manmade claims but completely rejects the true Christ. Last Sunday, on the day of the resurrection, a weekly magazine featured what was called “A Message for Easter Day” by a famous scientist and Nobel Prize winner. The article mentioned Albert Einstein, Thomas Mann, Sigrid Undset, Jules Romains, Franz Werfel, Maurice Maeterlinck, Thomas Edison, and other notables, some of whom deny the existence of a personal God or who have written immoral books; yet that entire Easter discussion did not once even refer to our resurrected Lord and Savior. A creed of this kind will never save anyone. It will not rescue even the American democracy which it proposes to help preserve.

So that none of you can say: “I was never warned; no one ever told me the truth,” I now solemnly assert: There is no other way to a courageous life and a blessed death than through Jesus Christ, who declares, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” There is no other volume of everlasting verity besides our Bible; no saving Gospel other than the message of Jesus’ cross, His blood, His atoning death; no possibility of your getting right with God, if you are not justified by faith in that Savior.

In this last broadcast I give you a summary of our Christian hope (which, printed on a small card, I shall be happy to send you as a constant reminder of the holy Gospel), words distilled from Scripture by that mighty hero of the Reformation, Martin Luther: “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord, who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death, that I may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence, and blessedness, even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.” Cling to that Christ, and you can find courage to face both time and eternity!

I cannot close this period in our Mission of the Air without thanking God publicly for the privilege of being able to serve you in Jesus’ name nor without expressing sincere gratitude to the members of this far-flung radio congregation for their generous support, particularly their fervent intercession in my behalf. It is not easy to leave you even for a few months in times like these, but I want you, particularly those who have not yet joined the Church, to feel that we shall be happy to assist you in any way the Lord permits. Our parting appeal asks you not to postpone giving yourself wholly to Jesus. Your heavenly Father wants you now! Why delay when “all things are now ready”? God grant that you will resolve immediately to accept Jesus as your Savior!

For you, my tried and true Christian friends, I have the assurance that, though most of us will never meet personally here on earth, in Christ every one of us can say, “The Lord . . . will preserve me unto His heavenly kingdom, to whom be glory forever and ever!” Glory for His mercy! Glory for His preserving guidance! Glory for His heaven! Confident that I shall stand in that celestial radiance with you who are Christ’s, I look forward through Jesus, my only Savior, to the joy of knowing personally many millions who have joined us in this worship.

If this eighth annual series of broadcasts is to conclude, as it began, with God’s Word, what passage could be more appropriate as I plead with you to keep your courageous trust in Christ than these last words in Saint Paul’s last letter, the final wish of our text, the petition with which I commend you to our Savior’s love until, God willing, we meet again in spirit, the parting prayer of this broadcast for every one of you: “The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit! Grace be with you! Amen.”

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: April 13, 1941

Then were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord.John 20:20

Christ, Our Resurrected Redeemer, Victor over the Grave:

If all our years were spent in continued praise for Thine Easter triumph, every moment devoted to heartfelt thanks for Thy bursting death’s bonds, the longest life would be far too short worthily to acknowledge the blessings of this radiant day. Make us understand that through the Easter faith we in our resurrected bodies and the life everlasting will be able to glorify Thee eternally! May Thy Spirit direct us constantly to prepare for the heavenly homeland, assured that, since Thou hast destroyed sin, the wages of death, the grave has lost its terror! Since Thou livest and reignest forever, Thou canst and wilt hear us, help us, save us, and resurrect us, always to be with Thee! May we never become so engrossed with earthly affairs that we lose sight of heaven with its celestial radiance, its sinless beauty, its endless privilege of beholding Thee face to face! Enrich us with the assurance of these Easter blessings even now and stir our hearts with the desire to tell others of the everlasting bliss promised all who acclaim Thee their atoning Christ! Send this assurance of never-ending joy to our souls by the pledge of Thine own empty tomb! Amen.

A BLESSED, heart-gladdening Easter to every one of you! Does not the fulfillment of this wish answer the greatest need of millions in war-torn 1941? The earth throbs with the new life of spring, the beauty of the first emerging flowers, the tinge of early blossoms, the soft green of reawakening nature. Yet vast areas are strewn with the hideous wreckage of man’s cruelty, ugly evidences of violence and death. Ours is a world planned by God with room, food, shelter, opportunity, for myriads more than the present population; yet, instead of working shoulder to shoulder, hate-driven armies for the second time in this generation are destroying lives. We look for peace, but the Easter full moon reveals total war, all-out destruction. We hope for light, and blackouts blanket Old World nations.

On this nightmare of ever wider suffering Easter has again dawned to fill our hearts with gladness. Let nothing restrict our joy! In the seventh century Christians were forbidden to sing during church services; however, the Easter exaltation was too real to be passed silently, and many congregations broke forth in hallelujahs. May your resurrection rejoicing likewise reecho irrepressibly! But let it be the true Easter cheer! During the Middle Ages Easter sermons often took a humorous turn. Preachers told ludicrous stories until the congregations rocked with laughter, all in the effort to remove any solemnity that might linger after the Lenten weeks. Our Easter ecstasy must be far deeper.

It is my prayer that this sunrise has brought you more than a holiday, a joyous spring festival when you welcome a reviving nature, more than fashion parades with their new, expensive clothing or a banner business season with sales 18 per cent higher than last year. Forget all this to concentrate your devotion and gladness on the all-absorbing thought that today is the anniversary of your Savior’s resurrection!

Millions in the United States and Canada, however, have started this day without joy. Despite the boom of defense projects they are unable to find work, and their financial problems mount steadily. Many are sick, crippled, helpless, or have seen their homes broken during recent weeks. Others realize that their sins have finally caught up with them. The past weeks have brought members of this radio audience deeper grief and personal sorrow than they ever believed possible.

Now, to you who in any way may be disheartened, embittered with life, desperate; and to you for whom Easter should recall double happiness since you have never known real affliction or suffered any heavy pain of body or soul, I bring heaven’s highest joy, the promise of God’s most glorious peace,

EASTER GLADNESS

With the Spirit’s help I want you to experience the same exultant rejoicing which came to Christ’s followers after His resurrection, “Then,” according to Saint John’s gospel (chapter twenty, verse twenty), “were the disciples glad when they saw the Lord.”

I

WE, TOO, ARE GLAD BECAUSE CHRIST IS RISEN

The evening of the first Easter Sunday found the disciples assembled behind barred doors in a secret hiding-place. Fright was plainly written on their faces, the unmistakable fear that those who had crucified Jesus might vent continued hatred on them. Undisguised disappointment ran through their conversation. They had looked for a crown, only to find a cross. They had hoped Christ would reign as a glorious King; He was crucified as a criminal. Yet during all their lament and disappointment Jesus was risen.

Is it not true that also many of you lead dark, secluded lives as though the Savior were still dead? Some unforgiven, unremoved sin disquiets you. You dread its consequences, dismayed because your transgressions will be revealed. You cower before your conscience, while the living Christ has long been ready to pardon you. After peace had been declared ending the War of 1812, hard battles were still fought and much blood unnecessarily shed since it took weeks for the news of the treaty to reach our shores. Don’t make a similar mistake in your life! The enemies of your soul were defeated on that first Easter. In remote sections of the South where Lincoln’s emancipation was not known slaves remained in bondage after the Civil War, although they had been legally freed. Your liberty from the tyranny of fear was purchased on the cross and sealed at the open grave. Break the locks that keep you from the joy of life! Come out from your lonely isolation!

Miraculously Christ entered through those closed doors. Bars and barriers meant nothing to Him. He can come to you also, no matter how many obstacles would blockade His way. Mexican governmental authorities prohibit religious broadcasting; yet the Savior’s invitation still leaps over their boundaries. A Mexican general happened to hear our message through a foreign station, and he was led to Christ. You may live far beyond the railroad, in inaccessible territory destitute of churches, but Christ will find a way to you or make one, as He does by this Easter message. Listeners on the island of Rooke, across from Borneo, are the only white people for miles around. Yet Christ comes to them by our broadcasts. You may be in jail, but penitentiary walls and locked cell-doors cannot exclude Jesus. A few Sundays ago I mentioned the penitent thief. That message struck the heart of a man in a Minnesota State Prison, who wrote, “I am a thief, too; but how I thank God for your assurance of a merciful Savior!”

Hardly had the risen Lord entered, when, to overcome amazement and remove doubt, He showed the disciples His nail-marked hands and riven side. These are the marks of the true Christ. When the body of Livingstone, mighty evangelist of Africa, arrived in England, skeptics questioned whether the remains actually were those of the intrepid missionary. In this uncertainty someone recalled that Livingstone’s arm had been broken by an attacking lion. Examination of the corpse showed the evidence of that encounter. Scars identified Livingstone; nail-wounds and spear-mark reveal Jesus. If ever men try to show you a Christ without wounds; if they preach a Messiah who was not crucified for your sins, no matter how high their other tributes, turn away from them forever! They have a counterfeit, manmade Jesus!

No longer did uncertainty linger in the disciples’ mind. The Lord was risen! They never should have doubted His resurrection, for it was clearly predicted in the Old Testament and foretold by the Savior Himself in the New; but, like us, His followers were sometimes too weak to accept Scripture at face value. Therefore in His overabundant mercy Christ proved the Easter victory by appearing to them.

I say that He “proved” His resurrection because the Easter records are as fully attested by reliable witnesses as any fact of history. In a day when propaganda and distortion often make it impossible to distinguish between truth and error, the story of the open grave should receive ready acceptance as God’s own revelation. Many skeptics who are unwilling to endorse the statement of the second article of the Apostles’ Creed, “On the third day He rose again from the dead,” are constantly being won for absurd isms, which demand far more credulity than the Easter story. Congressman George H. Bender was right when he declared that continued laxity in spiritual education throughout the United States had produced a condition by which almost any kind of fraud can “get by.” People believe the most irrational and self-contradictory theories; but when God speaks in His Word, they refuse to listen.

By contrast, hear this testimony to the certainty of Christ’s resurrection from Thomas Arnold, famous headmaster at Rugby and modern history professor at Oxford: “The evidence for our Lord’s life and death and resurrection may be, and often has been, shown to be satisfactory; it is good according to the common rules for distinguishing good evidence from bad. Thousands and tens of thousands of persons have gone through it piece by piece, as carefully as every judge summing up on a most important case. I myself have done it many times over, not to persuade others, but to satisfy myself. I have been used for many years to study the histories of other times and to examine and weigh the evidence of those who have written about them, and I know of no one fact in the history of mankind which is proved by better and fuller evidence of every sort, to the understanding of a fair inquirer, than the great sign which God has given us that Christ died and rose again from the dead.” Listen to this single sentence by Brooke Foss Westcott, professor at Cambridge, one of the most eminent scholars the Christian Church has known in modern times: “Taking all the evidence together, it is not too much to say that there is not a single historic incident better or more variously supported than the resurrection of Christ.” If recognized authorities have accepted the Easter record as unassailable verity, by what right do unbelievers and amateurs, often ignorant of the gospel statements and unacquainted with laws of evidence, seek to discredit their accuracy?

How gloriously the resurrected Christ removed the disciples’ fear and sorrow! These men, who had felt themselves completely forsaken, were now transformed by the assurance that their Lord had kept His Word and was truly risen. May this gladness possess your hearts! Can you not see that the Savior’s triumph over death and decay proves He is your God? No man could vanquish the grave as Christ did. Where are Mohammed, Buddha, Lao Tse, Confucius, Zoroaster? Where are the other self-appointed prophets of the human race? Have they not disintegrated in their tombs and returned to the dust? Because Jesus is God, “all power is given unto” Him, even the rule over death. Safely guarded in Washington is the great seal of the United States. Without its imprint important documents would be valueless. Now, the open, empty grave is heaven’s great seal on our Lord’s deity.—The first Easter lesson you must learn, then, is this: Christ, crucified, dead, buried, but—praise His holy name!—revived on the third day, is your Lord and your God.

Don’t mar this resurrection radiance by demanding an explanation of this inexplicable mystery! If every day of your life; every inch of ground beneath your feet; every breath of air around and above you; every part of your body, your skin, tissues, blood, bone; every morsel of food; every glass of water, is filled with miracles for which neither you nor any scientific genius can adequately account, why, since you accept these commonplaces, marvels though they be, do you reject the evident truth that the living Jesus is your God?

Easter gladness should likewise take possession of your hearts because this day’s events prove beyond question that Christ’s sin-atoning, soul-saving, hell-destroying work has been completed for all time. The sweat and agony of Gethsemane, the blood and anguish of Calvary, have fulfilled their purpose. Your sins are entirely atoned, your transgressions removed, the handwriting against you blotted out. Nothing is left that you can or should do for your salvation. You are saved! You need only believe, only claim your redemption!

Let this resurrection day ring with rejoicing! We have in the risen Christ the eternal God, whom you approach in each trial and for repeated sorrows. When you pray to Him, you are not addressing a dead superstition, but a mighty Savior, who can and will answer. If you want additional proof for the Easter verity, take your cares and worries to Jesus; and as His help brings deliverance, you will personally realize that He lives. Last week I received this letter from a discouraged listener: “I have walked the streets for the past four years month after month, week after week, fifteen or twenty miles a day, often without food, trying to get a job. But I am forty-nine years old, and I am told that men over forty are not wanted. I have written about two hundred applications, but to no avail. What am I to do? Become a thief? I am getting desperate.” A distracted woman in Oregon writes that she has been dismissed from a WPA project, adding: “I cannot sit by and watch my eighty-year-old mother go without food and medicine. Do you think God has forgotten us altogether? We have nothing but illness and poor food and have lost all our friends because of these conditions.” To those who stagger under like hardships or suffer from a thousand other causes, Easter promises: “Because Christ is your God and Savior, because He has the power to destroy death, He certainly can lighten your burdens, provide you with work, clothing, health, happiness. Take heart on this day! Easter has come for all mankind, but especially for you, to make you rejoice, even in your tears. Jesus lives, and therefore in His time and in His blessed way He will lift you from the depths of sorrows.”

Only a resurrected Redeemer offers our defeated age the pledge of victory. What would the world be without Easter? To picture that catastrophe, we must imagine the churches torn down; the institutions of mercy—hospitals, orphanages, asylums—by the tens of thousands destroyed; the schools and colleges built by Christians demolished; the foundations on which our culture rests blasted away. Deny the angelic announcement, “He is not here; He is risen,” and you will help our age go back to pagan perversions. Not long ago an expedition to New Guinea discovered a valley inhabited by 60,000 natives who had never seen a white man. Cut off from the rest of the world, they had never heard of Jesus Christ. You and I should be like those natives, were it not for the Easter Gospel. I do not mean that we should necessarily follow them in keeping our bodies naked or cutting off a finger whenever death strikes our family. We might still have airplanes; but as we think of women and children lying under the debris of bombed cities, we ask ourselves, “Has the conquest of the air not brought much more tragedy than good?” We might still have motion-pictures, but some of us feel that America would be better off without many of them. Deprived of the risen Christ, we might record a hundred other scientific achievements, but ours would be nevertheless a dark, morose, hopeless outlook on life; a code of cruel, grasping principles; a lust-filled heart; a sensual, superstitious mind; a fear-gripped soul, just as those 60,000 in New Guinea’s unexplored valley. Banish the risen Christ from the United States, and you will help revert to the reign of terror that marked France when the revolutionists officially dethroned God or that more recently ruled Russia when Moscow public buildings were plastered with signs denouncing all religion, particularly Christianity, as opiate for the masses. Thank God, we can say with the apostle, “Now is Christ risen!”

II

WE ARE GLAD BECAUSE WE, TOO, SHALL SEE JESUS

The disciples’ delight was rooted not only in the victory by which Jesus burst the sealed grave, but also in His appearance before their very eyes. The text testifies, “Then were the disciples glad, when they SAW Jesus.” Beholding Him in His resurrected form, they, as witnesses of earth’s mightiest miracle, were also blessed by a foregleam of their triumph over death, the glory of their revivified bodies.

Let this also be our Easter joy; we, too, shall see Him. Though our bodies are placed into the ground, where they must decay, if we have truly believed in Christ’s triumph over the tomb, they will come forth into a celestial newness. This was leprous Job’s confidence when he exulted: “I know that my Redeemer liveth and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth. And though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God; whom I shall see for myself and mine eyes shall behold.” This was the apostle’s anchor of faith when he exclaimed, “We shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”

Can you think of a more wondrously welcome message than the promise that in Christ you will have a heavenly Easter, a bodily resurrection? International issues and world problems may change from year to year, but the basic questions regarding death, the fundamental perplexities concerning the hereafter, remain unaltered. The Old Testament query, “If a man die, shall he live again?” looms up afresh in every life. Despite the remarkable advances by modern science and culture, the gruesomeness of the grave has not been removed.

How hideous and repelling death can sometimes be! Carefully we try to banish all thoughts that even suggest the disintegration of our bodies. At funerals the mounds of earth are covered with artificial grass. When the solemn words “Ashes to ashes and dust to dust” are spoken, not a piece of the sod but beautiful flowers are thrown into the grave. The entire plan and structure of cemeteries are being revolutionized to make these last resting-places of our beloved, spots of natural beauty and artistic adornment. At some funerals, poems are read, beautiful music played. Caskets are constructed of costly material, protected with metal or concrete vaults. No previous age has done as much to reduce the pain of parting. Yet with all commendable advances we have only lightened some of its darkness. The heart-clutching sorrow still remains after every funeral that the body of the loved one laid into the grave will in the years’ relentless succession decay and be consumed.

Beyond the body’s decomposition the question of the soul’s destiny rises up to haunt men. They know that their lives have abounded with hatred, impurity, cruelty, vice, covetousness, greed; and they cringe before the thought of an inescapable retribution, which will right the wrongs of life. Say what you wish about any other fears, none can approach death’s terror. To escape its clutching skeletal hand, men will sacrifice anything they own. They will have their limbs cut off to save the rest of their body. They will cling to floating wreckage for weeks, crawl across deserts’ withering heat, lie half frozen on floating ice-packs, if only they can live. Finally the doom of death overtakes them; and what then? How can they be prepared for severance from the land of the living?

Now, it is common for unbelievers to laugh the whole issue off, to deny any continued existence once breath ceases and the heart stops beating. But every rejection of the hereafter is opposed by a ceaseless questioning and protest from within. That is why men who have glibly, brazenly denied the Easter truth, decried the Christian religion, denounced the hope of our resurrection; freethinkers who have asserted that man, only a superior animal, dies like the beast he is have often ended in terror as avenging remorse tormented their last hours. Voltaire frequently boasted that he was ready to sell his place in heaven for a Prussian coin! Yet the nurse who waited on him in his dying days declared that it would not be worth all the kingdoms of Europe to relive this frightful experience.

Others have vaguely persuaded themselves that there should be another life. They philosophize, theorize, guess; but without certainty they never know peace. At the age of seventy-five the poet Goethe confessed that he had not lived four weeks of his entire career completely happy. He was always rolling heavy stones, he admitted, worrying about the hereafter.

Scientists have spent many thousands of dollars and long hours in psychical research designed to answer for all time the questions concerning the next world, but their efforts remain unrewarded. Suicides promised that their spirits would return to reveal death’s mysteries, but they have not come back. Against the law of most cities spiritist mediums, who claim to be the connecting links between the seen and the unseen world, feature alleged communications from departed souls; but never has one of their séances proved their assertions. On the contrary, much grief has resulted from disregarding the Scriptural truth that spiritism must be condemned.

Where, then, my fellow-redeemed, amid these failures are we to find positive surety? Where, indeed, if not at the open grave and in the Savior’s promise, “Because 1 live, ye shall live also.” Whatever else you may have thought concerning the hereafter, behold the living Christ today and let the Easter record engrave these truths on your soul: Death does not end all! There is a life after the grave!

With holy emphasis and sacred repetition Jesus teaches this comforting truth! He tells us that the great purpose of His suffering on the cross was to show: “God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” He declares: “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.” He who says, “I am the Resurrection and the Life,” He who during His earthly days commanded the dead to rise, promises, “I give . . . eternal life.”

Here, then, is Christ’s Easter promise to you, the grant of eternal life with Him. First, the Savior pledges that your body, marked by disease, marred by accident, abused by the sins of youth, worn and shriveled by age, weakened through sieges of illness, will be restored without disfigurement, spot, or blemish. What joy for you invalids and cripples, you maimed and shell-shocked victims of war!

The second Easter assurance guarantees us that, when we see Jesus in the realms of resurrected glory, there will be no more sin and therefore none of earth’s aches and pains, its sorrow and anguish, its disgrace and dismay, its weeping and moaning; only perfect bliss. Is not this the promise for multitudes today who see only misery on all sides, strife in their homes, unfaithfulness in their families—burden heaped upon burden? Can you not understand why world-weary, continually afflicted souls have found death attractive because it brought them this highest happiness?

The third Easter endowment is the comfort that, when we shall see Jesus, we “shall know even as also” we are “known.” We shall have a resurrected body incomparably superior to our terrestrial form, but also a resurrection understanding immeasurably exalted over our present, limited mental powers. In the heavenly homeland the supreme truths of our faith, before which our restricted reason balks, will be understood. In the fuller knowledge God’s ways which here in time were past finding out will be revealed as the pathways of His divine love. Questions which seek the reason for our suffering will be answered there. What hope, what promise, for you baffled by trials, to know that your sorrows will be revealed as soul blessing!

The fourth Easter pledge tells us that, when we see Jesus, we shall be reunited with those who have died in the faith. Husband and wife, parents and children, will recognize each other and be bound together not by ties of earthly family life but with unspeakably more blessed heavenly love. What solace for you widows and widowers, orphans and bereft parents, to know that after death your dear ones can await you!

The fifth Easter verity asks you to contemplate, as far as possible, the indescribable perfection of the Paradise to come. The most attractive spots in this world, where majesty and sublimity of nature combine to form the highest pictures of beauty, are but poor shadows of God’s peerless city, to which those who are Christ’s approach more closely every day. Heaven is so glorious that it far exceeds our powers of understanding; and to help us realize something of its grandeur, the Scriptures employ the symbol of costly metals and precious stones. Recently the newspapers told of the world’s largest diamond, a 700-carat Brazilian stone; but this gem is inconsequential, less than a pebble, in comparison with the celestial splendor. Find comfort in “the glory that shall be revealed in us,” if life has had little beauty for you, if you have constantly been confronted by the sordid, the ugly, the hideous!

The sixth Easter truth emphasizes that, as the disciples were glad “when they saw Jesus,” so in eternity we, too, shall rejoice in the most glorious privilege, the adoration of our crucified and living Savior, the standing face to face with Jesus, the singing of the hallelujahs to our Triune God. Mass choirs, symphonies, orchestras, composed of artists—these highest musical delights at present will be silenced by heaven’s incomparable music and melodies, the raptures of the celestial choir. Now some of you hardly dare speak of Jesus. An unbelieving husband, scoffing children, skeptical associates, ridicule you when you open your lips to testify to His grace; but then, what glory to sing to Christ!

Finally, the Easter triumph deals in terms of eternity. Its radiance is everlasting. No one can ever take you from Christ. There is no night or darkness, no farewell in heaven. You are Christ’s always.

“Oh, that I were there to see Jesus now!” some of you are saying. And it is the mercy of the resurrected Redeemer’s grace that you can be with Jesus if only, repenting of your sins, clinging to His grace, you personally accept Him as the Son of God, the Savior of the world, and, today especially, the Victor over the grave. Nothing else besides your own faith and trust in Christ is required.

May your grateful hearts direct you to follow the risen Savior’s command “Go, tell!” and spread the Easter message to others! Last year I explained that the United States is the only large country in which the customary greeting for this day contains no reference to Jesus. While our people say, “Happy Easter!” millions throughout most of the Old World, in scores of languages, salute one another with “Christ is risen!” and answer, “He is risen indeed!” I repeat my appeal, for this glad message is so beyond measure in its mercy that our entire lives should be devoted to its spread. During the last weeks I have received several anonymous letters. Written in the abusive, uncouth language used by moral cowards who are afraid to sign their names, these communications take me to task for preaching the Scriptural Christ and His blood atonement. You, too, will meet hard-hearted opposition if you put Jesus into your Easter greetings. But can we who have been saved eternally do less than proclaim His victorious conquest of death to friend and foe alike? God bless you, as in the larger or smaller circle of your influence you tell others, “Christ is risen!” “He is risen indeed!” Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: April 6, 1941

Much people . . . took branches of palm-­trees and went forth to meet Him and cried, Hosanna.John 12:12-13

And He, bearing His cross, went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha, where they crucified Him.John 19:17-18

Christ, Meek and Lowly Prince of Peace, Self-Giving Savior of Our Souls:

Once Thou didst enter Jerusalem amid loud hosanna, and waving palm-branches—to be rejected and crucified a few days later. Come to us despite our frailties, our fickleness! Give us Thy Spirit’s guidance in building a firm faith, with heartfelt sorrow over our transgressions, unchangeable reliance on the power of Thy blood to cleanse and save to the uttermost! Keep us ever close to Thee, so that we do not acclaim Thee today and betray Thee tomorrow! O Jesus, as we thank Thee for the matchless mercy of Calvary which this Holy Week again commemorates, look down upon our world of widening war, and may it please Thee, who on Palm Sunday didst come in peace, to break the terror of the present conflict and make an end to this bloodshed! Bless the preaching of Thy love as manifested for all men at Calvary and give Thy Church the sustained courage required to proclaim Thee the only Hope for our eternal salvation! Hear us, our Christ of the cross, as throughout the land our hearts now sing: “Hosanna! Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Amen.

HOW quickly public opinion reverses itself! How easily the mind of the masses is changed! How abruptly a people’s mood can turn against a national benefactor! The Bible itself testifies to this fickleness. In ancient Israel David, the psalmist-king and applauded hero, was driven almost overnight from his throne, hunted like a wild animal, stoned by his followers, deserted by practically the entire nation.

Every age has seen the weathervane of popular favor swing in opposite directions. In early Greece, after a remarkable sea battle, the victorious admirals were feted throughout the land, until suddenly, clutched by a wild hysteria, the citizens sentenced the same naval victors to a disgraceful death. During the Middle Ages Jerome Savonarola became the dictator of the Italian city Florence. Impassioned and eloquent, he so completely won the hearts of the people, particularly the rising generation, that they willingly sacrificed their costliest possessions and publicly threw to the flames sinful, luxurious articles valued at many tens of thousands of dollars. A short year after his greatest success Savonarola was burned to death at the stake, while “ferocious screams of triumph rang through the mob.”

We see evidences of the same fickleness today. Fourteen years ago a young aviator who conquered the Atlantic in a small airplane became a national hero, acclaimed as no other young man in our history. Because of his modesty, bravery, and determination he was pictured as the ideal for American youth. The entire wing of a large public building in this city is required to house only part of the tributes sent to him from admirers all over the world. Yet because he pleaded that our nation be kept out of Europe’s war, he is branded as a Fifth Columnist, and choruses of hate chant their denunciation.

Such turnings of the popular tide, however, hardly deserve mention in comparison with the recoil of the mob spirit under which our Lord Jesus suffered in the change from Palm Sunday to Good Friday. What an unparalleled week of contrast that was! On its first day Jesus blessed as a conquering king and on its sixth day cursed as a blaspheming criminal! When that week began, multitudes removed their outer garments and laid them in the pathway of His procession, but before it was over, greedy hands tore the clothing from His wounded, bleeding body. He entered Jerusalem while a jubilant throng marched in His honor; He left the city after His own disciples had deserted Him.

On Sunday enthusiastic crowds welcomed Jesus as Israel’s King. On Monday Christ entered the Temple as the Lord of that sanctuary, and even the children sang praises to Him. On Tuesday He frustrated the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the scribes, and received the homage of Greek visitors. On Wednesday He rested. On Thursday He was betrayed, arrested, imprisoned; and before Friday closed, He had faced six hearings, only to be sentenced to death in the final analysis by public acclamation. For when the Roman governor asked the mob, “What shall I do, then, with Jesus?” and the heartless crowd screamed, “Crucify Him! Crucify Him!” they really pronounced the doom of crucifixion on our Lord.

This shift from “Hosanna! Blessed is the King of Israel that cometh in the name of the Lord” to “Away with Him!” “Let Him be crucified!” concerns us; we either accept Christ with the prayer, “His blood cleanse us and our children!” or reject Him with the damning “His blood be on us and on our children!” Ultimately we stand shoulder to shoulder with those who cut down palm-branches and waved them in welcome to Jesus or with those who cut down the tree and in hatred shaped its timbers for His cross. Therefore on this first day of Holy Week I ask you in the name of the Crucified: What are your thoughts toward Jesus? How will you meet Him—with faith or unbelief, with

PALM-BRANCHES—OR HAMMER AND NAILS?

As we seek our answer, may God’s Holy Spirit enlighten our minds, warm our hearts, and cleanse our souls to learn the life-or-death lesson contrasted in these two passages: “Much people . . . took branches of palm-trees and went forth to meet Him and cried, Hosanna” (Saint John, chapter twelve, verses twelve and thirteen); “He, bearing His cross, went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha, where they crucified Him” (Saint John, chapter nineteen, verses seventeen and eighteen).

I

GOD HELP US WELCOME THE PRINCE OF PEACE!

It was a spring Sunday when Jesus began that triumphant procession. Our Lord had been resting at Bethany, apparently at the home of his friends Lazarus, Mary, and Martha. They lived only about two miles from the walls of Jerusalem, yet far enough removed from the turmoil to afford the Savior the recuperation that He, as true man, busy with helping others, sorely needed. How signally blessed that family circle to receive our Lord’s repeated instruction and to be strengthened in the hour of their bereavement by His life-giving power! Our households likewise can be enriched by Jesus’ presence. Though in His heavenly majesty He no longer requires relaxation, He eagerly awaits an invitation into your home; and when Christ crosses your threshold, He brings joy, peace, salvation.

If people had expected Jesus to hold His entry into Jerusalem with imperial pomp, at the head of parading chariots and prancing steeds, they were disappointed. Having no conveyance of His own, our Lord requisitioned an ass and its colt, mounts that served in peace, not in war; and fulfilling Old Testament prophecy, He rode as one who was “meek and lowly.”

We should not lose sight of Jesus’ renouncing military show; for some clergymen are now telling us that to be good Christians we must be ready to send our soldiers across the ocean. Our Lord never raised His hand in war. Amid plenty of oppression, tyranny, dictatorship, under the Roman rule, He, the incomparable Preacher, could have delivered a fiery appeal which would have summoned enthusiasts and fanatics from the far corners of Israel to fight against Caesar’s troops. But He left war to the civil authorities; and the world today would be far better if preachers would stop serving as recruiting agents for furthering hostilities. Clergymen of America, on this Palm Sunday behold the humble, peace-loving Christ; and as you remember His instructions to love our enemies, His refusal to defend Himself with the sword, pray God that you, too, may constantly serve one all-absorbing purpose—to bring true, abiding peace into the hearts of your people!

Jesus had hardly started out with His disciples when many pilgrims at Jerusalem for the Passover joined the group. Every few feet, it seemed, the ranks were increased by new supporters, and whatever of formality and splendor the procession may have lacked, the desire to acclaim the miracle-working Teacher from Galilee constantly added larger numbers to the marching column. Soon voices were blended in praise songs; applying the ancient psalms to Christ, the multitudes preceding Him and those following cried: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord; hosanna in the highest!” So loud and enthusiastic was this welcome that the envious Pharisees asked Christ to stop these hosannas; but the Savior predicted that, if His disciples were silent, the very stones would cry out. How eloquently the stones of Jerusalem do preach a message of warning! Nothing is left of the whole city that existed in the Savior’s time but a wailing-wall where Israel even today bemoans its departed glory. The rest has been buried under heaped debris. Destruction, devastation, desolation—thus the rocks proclaim the tragic fate of a chosen but ungrateful, unbelieving people! Let America, selected by God to enjoy the greatest material blessings any people has ever known, take heed!

The procession moved on, until suddenly, perhaps at Olivet’s crest, where Jerusalem burst into view, it stopped, and Christ looked down on the proud metropolis, far more attractive in those days than now. Even Roman writers paid tribute to its splendor. Yet while others might have stopped to survey its grandeur, Jesus halted to measure the sins and sorrows of a doomed city. Tears trickled down His face, not the evidence of mourning for individual bereavement, like the tears at Lazarus’ grave, but the sobbing over a nation that would soon destroy itself. Remember those tears shed for Jerusalem! Jesus has also surveyed our cities with their filth, greed, crime, their treachery in high and low places. Former Governor Lloyd C. Stark of Missouri recently declared that organized civic corruption in the United States is more dangerous than any Fifth Column. He asserted: “Grafters and bribers have gained control of our machinery of government in many large cities. They have set up profitable alliances with criminals of the underworld.” But forget the sins of politicians and believe that Jesus’ tears have been shed for you, too, over the wrong which has blighted your life! He loves every one of you with such personal and intense devotion that He is cut to the quick when those whom He has ransomed with His life reject one merciful invitation after the other.

Our Lord, however, did not stop with weeping and lamenting. He drew close to the city, and about this time, it seems, another throng came from Jerusalem to meet Him. For a few glorious but all too brief hours the Savior was greeted with the greatest enthusiasm. While modern conquerors parade between heavily armed regiments, Jesus entered the city with cheering crowds flanking His roadway. Branches had been cut off palm-trees, and joyfully the people waved this foliage—the symbol of peace and victory. Longer and longer the procession stretched; louder and louder the hosannas, stronger and stronger the waving of the palm-branches! The whole city was moved. People peered through their latched windows, ran hurriedly to the street, and one question sprang from the lips of all, “Who is this?”

In answer they called Him “the prophet of Nazareth in Galilee.” He was a Prophet. No man has ever preached as He. No Elijah or Elisha, no Isaiah or Jeremiah, ever revealed God’s full counsel with the clarity and conviction that leaped from His lips. Yet He was more than a Prophet! They hailed Him King; and indeed He was of royal lineage. No Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, ever ruled a domain comparable to Christ’s realm. But He was more than a King!

To understand the real Jesus of Palm Sunday, the true Christ of Holy Week—and no knowledge in your entire life is as vital as this—you must realize that Christ, our Prophet and King, is also Christ, our Priest. When He rode into the city, clad in the ordinary garments of the common people, He seemed far removed from the imposing splendor of that sacred office. But long after the Temple had been burned to dust, its holy vessels seized, the robes, ephods, breastplates with their costly adornment destroyed, our Lord’s priesthood would be acknowledged throughout the world. He was to have no altar, nothing but an accursed cross; no sacrifice except—O wondrous love!—His own holy body, the one sin-offering for the complete removal of every transgression with which the myriads of men from the beginning of time until its end have sent their souls on the road to hell. No blood of rams or bullocks signalized this central sacrifice for all mankind—instead, His own life-blood, the one cleansing power on earth or in heaven itself that can remove our guilt. No elaborate form and ceremonial marked the Savior’s self­giving into death, nothing but the ugly echo of hammer­blows, the shriek of unfathomable terror, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” and the other sacred utterances from the cross, particularly the cry of triumphant relief, “It is finished!” With that announcement the whole Old Testament system of sacrifice came to its end. The entire old covenant ceremonial, the Levitical sacrifices, the offerings of animals, the circumcision, the Temple, the Sabbath, the religious preeminence of Jerusalem, were abolished. “Who is this?” we ask again as we envision Him riding into Jerusalem amid swelling welcome. Oh, may God give you the faith to blend your voice in the chorus which has reechoed from the first Palm Sunday and sing, “‘Hosanna! Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord,’ my Christ, my Prophet, my King and self-giving High Priest!”

Yet Jesus was even more. To give His sacrifice at Calvary eternal value, to have His blood exert its cleansing throughout the ages, He had to be stronger than mere man. Soldiers are killed on the field of battle; military airplane pilots are hurtled to their death; sailors from torpedoed warships may be devoured by sharks; still, with grateful praise to their heroism we realize that despite their greater love by which they laid down their lives for their fellow-men this has not influenced our souls. All the armies in the world, the tens of millions of men under arms—were they to perish in the defense of their countries—could not save your soul. Angel hosts perform stupendous miracles; they can destroy armies and mighty cities; but they cannot break the tyranny of sin over your life. Only God Himself can accomplish that superhuman, superangelic victory. And it was God incarnate in Christ who rode into the royal city amid the waving, shouting throngs. I cannot expect you to understand how this humble Hero of the first Palm Sunday was the almighty God, whose creative fiats produced the universe and adorned this globe with its marvels and magnificences, the divine Sustainer who charts the course of history and “upholds all things by the Word of His power.” Although reason rebels at this truth, believe it! If every moment of your life is built on the acceptance of a hundred facts which neither you nor anyone else will ever be able to explain, don’t let your puny intellect rob you of Christ’s most blessed assurance! Don’t obstruct the Spirit’s way into your heart by a know-it-all attitude and supercilious doubt! Because Jesus called Himself God, proved Himself God, permitted Himself to be honored as God; because only our Lord Himself could fully atone for our sins, pay the appalling total of our moral indebtedness, remove this crushing burden, and completely satisfy the standards of His own justice by taking our place and suffering as our Substitute—Christ had to be God!

This same Jesus, both your God and your Savior, wants to enter your heart. As He once approached Jerusalem, so every time you hear the divine assurance, “Christ died for our sins,” in whatever language, by whatever means, in whatever place, this truth may come to you, the Holy Spirit seeks to bring the Redeemer to your soul. This may be the first time you have heard that the compassionate Christ wants you regardless of your sins, failures, ingratitudes, and uprising against God; or in Heaven’s inscrutable wisdom this may be the last time Jesus will seek entrance into your heart. But first or last, may this assurance be deeply impressed on your consciousness: Christ loves you, you in prisons or in palaces, you the ragged or the rich, you the helpless in pain or the powerful in the prime of achieving lives! Jesus wants you as His own!

Many who sang Christ’s praises in that happy hour misunderstood Jesus. They were dreaming of an earthly conqueror, and some selfishly looked for a restored kingdom of Israel in which they could assume positions of power. But the greatest glory for which they longed was incomparably less than the blessing with which Christ would enrich us. He comes with peace for our souls, to end the warfare between a sinless God and sinful humanity; to announce the complete, perfect harmony established between Heaven and earth by the blood of His mediating love. He offers every one torn by fear, prodded by a restless conscience, a serene calmness; for by trusting His cross­earned grace, you can reject any inward misgivings as they try to make you doubt the full promises of your salvation. Pointing to the cross and the Crucified, you can say, “I know whom I have believed and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed to Him.” You can repulse hell’s attacks which would throw many of you into despair, when inner voices whisper: “There is no hope for you! You are too wicked! You have broken God’s Law again and again!” For, triumphing over the thought of your own unworthiness, you can hear your Savior say, “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.” The Christ who today wants to enter your heart offers you assurance for a peace-robbed, afflicted life. Only Jesus has been able to solve the mystery of sorrow and to answer the plaintive “why?” that so frequently seeks an explanation for your trials and griefs. As He endured immeasurable anguish only to be exalted, so, if we suffer with Him there, we shall reign with Him. When our lives are wholly dedicated to Christ, they are entrusted to divine wisdom and love, so that every affliction, as hard and inscrutable as it may seem, is only the disguised evidence of His love, by which our faith is refined, our trust strengthened, our love purified.—The Christ of Palm Sunday brings us peace with our neighbors—even our enemies. It is the pledge of the inspired Scriptures, “If any man be in Christ Jesus, he is a new creature,” and in that twice-born faith hatreds, selfish ambitions, destructive desires, are restrained. As the Spirit possesses our hearts, we become more Christlike, stronger in the ability to resist temptation, more compassionate toward suffering mankind, more ready to sacrifice ambitions and advantages for the welfare of others. If you want to know what this sin­encrusted world needs today, when the flames of war begin to eat their greedy way over wider areas of the world’s surface, I point you to the “meek and lowly” Christ, the “Prince of Peace,” and say: “Let Him enter the capitals of this world, the hearts of hardened statesmen, the souls of shriveled warmongers! Let Him, unarmed and unsupported by tanks, airplanes, and massed divisions of panzer troops, march into Berlin, London, Rome, Tokyo, Washington, and other cities! Let Him be genuinely welcomed by national leaders, accepted if He has been previously rejected, embraced with real faith where up till now He has received only lip-service and formal worship! Let people stop talking Christianity to practice it!” and we shall witness the world’s greatest demonstration of peace.

If you want these blessings of peace for yourself, welcome Christ today! Stand in spirit along the highways of life, strewn as they are with those wounded by man’s cruelty, dying as victims of our hundredfold hatreds! Take your place with all the depressed and sorrowing, the fear-gripped and conscience-stricken, those terrorized by sin; and as Jesus in this message approaches you as your Savior and your God, raise your voice to sing, “Hosanna! Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Throw everything else away that your hands now clutch, so that they may be free to grasp palm-branches as symbols of the peace that is yours, signs of your victory in Jesus! When Christ passes before you, as He does every time you hear His Gospel, realize that He pauses and appeals to you, asking you to join this procession, and follow Him through death itself into the eternal triumphs of heaven!

II

GOD PRESERVE US FROM CRUCIFYING HIM ANEW!

From Palm Sunday the scene shifts to Good Friday. Instead of entering Jerusalem, Jesus now leaves it. Instead of being home triumphantly into the city, He now is driven out, bearing a cross until He collapses under its pressure. The hosannas have given way to ridicule. The discarded palm-branches wither in the gutters. Pilate’s soldiers carry a heavy hammer and large nails; as our text records, they “went forth into a place called the place of a skull, which is called in the Hebrew Golgotha, where they crucified Him!”

Stunned by this change, we ask, “How can we explain this shocking upheaval?” Is the reason for this reverse not to be found in the fatal ease with which the masses may be influenced and their good intentions revoked? Influential, cunning men, priests, Pharisees, social leaders, craftily seeking their own interests and the privileges of their class, stood in the background to plot and manage the crucifixion. Because Temple propaganda knew how to churn the people’s emotions, they were able to turn Sunday’s cheers into Friday’s jeers.

We witness the same process today. Artificially stimulated war hysteria begets the mob spirit, and under the pressure of skillful propaganda, paid for by interests which profit through bloodshed, the public can be led to demand conflict. The people of the United States in overwhelming majority do not want war; but millions are being persuaded that they should want it. The same psychology works against you young people. Palm Sunday recalls the time when you renewed your baptismal vow and pledged yourself to suffer death rather than deny your Savior. Today many of you know with particular force that whatever Christ teaches and His Church preaches is the truth; and with the fervor of your youthful faith you want to maintain your loyalty to Jesus. Too often, however, you found yourself in a crowd where Christ was rejected; and because no one rose to His defense, you hesitated to be different from the rest. Often you attend classes where teachers, the twentieth-century counterparts of Caiaphas and his priestly accomplices, seek to destroy your faith in Jesus; but because you think you are the only one who disagrees, your silence gives consent to blasphemies. Let nothing I say excuse the heartless rabble which, obeying the satanic direction of the priests, cried for the Savior’s blood; yet it often seems to me that those deserve the most severe censure who as disciples and pilgrims had followed Christ acclaiming Him five days before, but who during His six hearings spoke not a word in His behalf.

Can you not see, my fellow-redeemed, that the duty of protest against every assault on Christ and the responsibility for defending His holy cause dare not be avoided? Some of you write me to ask whether it is really necessary to speak out plainly and pointedly against rampant sins and open assaults on our Christian faith. I answer by pointing to the highest example, the Savior Himself, during this last week. On the day after this first Palm Sunday He drove out the money-changers, the profiteers in religion. Can we be true to Christ if we do not disavow all ill-gotten wealth and cry out against the widespread notion of making money through religion? On Tuesday of that week Jesus rebuked the scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, in unsoftened terms. The most scathing denunciation He ever uttered was spoken three days before He died. Do you want us to remain silent when our faith is assaulted? Whatever you may think, we will continue, as God gives us the power and the means, to preach the Savior’s whole truth to the Americas.

Churches which bear His blessed name should avoid every letdown in Christian principles under the stress of emergencies. It may mean the loss of official favor and public support to send forth the message of the crucified Redeemer. His kingdom is not built by officialdom or popular applause but by loyalty to His sure mercies, the whole Bible, through which the Holy Spirit calls and converts sinners. The true prophets of Israel did not permit sin to pass unchallenged; uncompromisingly they denounced unbelief and the moral weaknesses of their own people. There was another class of religious leaders in ancient Israel. The Bible calls them false prophets, although they often flourished under royal favor and popular support. They saw nothing seriously wicked in Israel. The king and the people of the chosen race could do no wrong. They pointed to the Temple, emphasizing God’s goodness to the Hebrew people as assurance for future security. It was their approval of sin and the perpetuation of their selfish ambition that sentenced Jesus to the cross and pronounced the doom of awful destruction on Jerusalem. We have false prophets in the United States today, often in high position and popular favor. God give us the power to protest; for if we remain silent when Jesus is attacked, we have become unfaithful; we have sent Him to Golgotha without one plea on His behalf.

The call of Holy Week, therefore, asks every one of us to come out from our sins and wholeheartedly acclaim Christ our Savior. There can be no halfway loyalty between the palm-branches and the nails; no 50-per-cent acceptance of Christ and 50-per-cent rejection. If this war has shown that it is impossible for any people to remain completely neutral either in thought or in action, all impartiality in the war between Christ and unbelief is utterly precluded!

It is vital, then, that you know Jesus in a personal, assured faith. The events of Holy Week warn us against relying on our emotions. How often this now-hot, now-cold Christianity has led to utter indifference! You do not build your business on emotions. Why, then, entrust your soul merely to impressions, changing whims, and fancies? Do not rely on anyone else’s faith! There is an intensely personal responsibility about our relation to Christ. On the one hand, do not rest on a cold, intellectual understanding of the Gospel! Is it not significant that the Jerusalem intelligentsia was almost solidly arrayed against our Lord and that His bitterest enemies were those who should have known from the Scriptures that He was the promised Messiah? Do not base your hope for heaven merely on church-membership! That was the mistake of those who defiantly sent Christ to the cross. They found false comfort in the fact that outward religion, the mere performance of rite and ritual, was a sort of charm and protection, while God asks in His Word, “My son, give Me thine heart!” Build your hope only on Christ, your royal Redeemer, your very God! Look for pardon and peace only at the cross! As you behold the wounded hands, the lacerated feet, the riven side, find the pledge of healing for earth’s sorrow and the guidance to celestial joy only in that “Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world”! Then wave the palm-branches of peace and victory to acclaim your Savior in deathless loyalty!

Israel’s temporal punishment for rejecting Jesus can be measured and tabulated; but who can describe the eternal consequence: separation from God, banishment from heaven into hell? If self-confidently you have always dismissed thoughts of the hereafter from your mind, this week of wondrous love calls to you: “O sinner, look at the crude hammer and the blunt spikes which are to pierce through the hands and feet of your Savior! Your sins are the driving power that will use these instruments of death in riveting Him to the cross! Listen to these hammer-blows reechoing down the corridors of time; for each reverberation warns: ‘You struck this blow! You nailed your Christ to the accursed tree!’ Behold the blood flowing from each impact and let God’s Word preach this truth into your soul, ‘He was wounded for your transgressions; He was bruised for your iniquities!’” If nothing in the world, no earnest sermon, no pleading of your parents or pastor, no warning from punishment in your own life, no plea from the horrifying end of other unbelievers, no lashing of your conscience, has ever been able to convince you that you are lost without Christ, stand once more at Calvary; and may the Holy Spirit now, by the miracle of conversion, touch your heart with Christ’s grace and bring from your repentant, trustful heart this plea: “Jesus, I cast this hammer and these nails from my hands forever to grasp the palm-branch of peace and victory, because, my suffering Savior, You endured all this soul-agony and pain of body for me. From this moment on, with my sins washed away by Your holy, crimson blood, being justified by faith, pardoned by this matchless mercy, I pledge myself to Thee. O Christ of Calvary’s gory cross, hear me and help me so to live that I will not crucify Thee anew by unbelief and ungodly living!”

If the holiday throng at Jerusalem could acclaim Christ before He went to Calvary, how much more should our praises be raised to Him after its blood and agony, its ridicule and rebuke, its darkness and death! In these very moments as the victorious Christ, Golgotha’s grief passed forever, comes to us, my fellow-redeemed, let us picture ourselves in spirit first at the roadside of His approach, waving palm-branches in welcome, homage, and thanks! With the host of all the ransomed souls, the myriad times myriad, who from that first Palm Sunday and that first Good Friday have looked forward to the second coming of the Lord Jesus, let us, beholding the clear signs of His imminent return, express our faith in the hymn of Palm Sunday praise: “Hosanna! . . . Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: March 30, 1941

There stood by the cross of Jesus His mother and His mother’s sister . . . and Mary Magdalene . . . and the disciple . . . whom He loved.John 19:25-26

Christ, Our Crucified Redeemer:

Accept the thankfulness we bring Thee in this broadcast today for the atoning love which sent Thee to the cross as our Substitute! Give us the grace to stand at Calvary again, and as we behold the writhing of Thy death agony let every one of us say, “It was for me, precious Savior, that Thou didst endure these tortures!” Thou knowest how frail and faulty we are; therefore give us the spirit of loyalty and devotion even unto the end! Show us how in the depth of Thy crucifixion all Thy disciples, save one, fled from grim Golgotha; how all Thy followers, except a few women, were too timid to remain with Thee beneath the cross, and strengthen us for vigilant loyalty! When we waver, forgive us and fortify us with the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, daily and with more devoted allegiance to pledge our souls and lives anew to Thee! Come to us, our Christ, and help us consecrate ourselves to Thee! Amen.

I HAVE a thrilling joy to share with you this afternoon. First, our Gospel radio system now includes the Hawaiian Islands. Second, we are invited to broadcast in British Guiana. Third, three new American stations were added last week. Fourth—one of the happiest announcements I have ever been able to make—the radio committee of the Lutheran Laymen’s League, under whose auspices we broadcast, has passed the resolution to increase our Mission of the Air by adding powerful transmitters in Central and South America. At present we use some fifty Latin American outlets; and with these new facilities in Argentina, San Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Peru, and Venezuela, we shall broadcast in twenty-two countries outside the United States, Alaska, the Philippine Islands, and Hawaii. Fifth, arrangements are completed in cooperation with the Schenectady shortwave station to send our weekly Spanish message for rebroadcasting throughout Latin America. Sixth, by the same means our Portuguese addresses will be received throughout Brazil. Seventh, and in summary, with humble gratitude to God, rejecting every semblance of boasting or reliance on numbers, we report to you that this radio system which seven years ago had two stations will include more than three hundred outlets in North America, South America, Asia—as far as we know, the world’s largest regular broadcast. What an astonishing demonstration of God’s power! We started entirely on faith. We were told that the modern mind was not interested in Christ, His cross and His blood. But God put all doubts to shame, and today, without any personal guarantors financing this “Bringing Christ to the Nations” endeavor, without the benefit of free hookup time which certain other religious programs enjoy, we are able to preach the crucified Savior to millions in this country and in two dozen other lands. Thank God with us, you especially who stood by the Lutheran Hour from its start! Vast, immeasurable opportunities still confront us. At this moment a missionary is on the high Pacific with a letter to Generalissimo Chiang Kai Shek outlining a plan by which unoccupied China will hear our messages in the language of its undaunted people. Correspondence in Dutch and French points to the possibility of East Indian and African stations. We must be ready when this war is over—God grant that it will be over soon!—to bring Christ as the divine reconstructing agency for ruined nations, heavenly strength for the trials preceding the new world order. Pray for us as never before! Lend us your help in publicizing these messages and inviting friends, particularly the unchurched, to tune in! Send us your contributions to help maintain and increase this continent­to-continent testimony for Christ!

Some, however, may ask, “Why do you spend these hundreds of thousands of dollars for radio time?” By way of answer I wish you could examine the 182 Spanish letters which came in one mail from a single station in the Dominican Republic, with many heart-stirring expressions of devotion to the Christ whom we preach. You ought to read the correspondence from Mexico, where, despite the technical ban on religious broadcasting, the opposition to our Savior is weakening. You would see how the Holy Spirit works through the radio, how a man in Mexico City who happened to tune in our message from Ecuador was convicted of his sin but convinced of our Savior’s greater grace, and with his whole family came to our Mexico City missionary for instruction in the Christian faith. You would recognize, if you could spend a day in our offices, that our efforts are dedicated to only one purpose: the preaching of the atoning Savior from Alaska to Argentina, from the East Indies to the West.

Today, as we continue our Lenten messages, we ask for faithfulness to the cross-riveted Redeemer; and I have prayed God that when this broadcast is over, many of you will be ready to arise, stand before your radios, wherever you may be, and speak this resolution:

I PLEDGE ALLEGIANCE TO THE CRUCIFIED CHRIST!

It will take repentance, faith, and trust in the Savior to express this determination of loyalty, whether you make the promise for the first time or renew your devotion to our Lord. For spiritual encouragement we shall study the Scriptures, which tell of those who stayed with Christ on Calvary to the last, the words of Saint John, chapter nineteen, verses twenty-five and twenty-six: “There stood by the cross of Jesus His mother and His mother’s sister . . . and Mary Magdalene . . . and the disciple . . . whom He loved.”

I

BELIEVERS BENEATH THE CROSS SHOWED THIS LOYALTY

The deepest cruelty at the crucifixion was not the soldiers’ brutality but the cowardice and desertion of those who should have befriended Jesus. Today the most vicious criminal doomed to execution may have the sustaining services of a clergyman. Yet, when Jesus, innocent on every charge for which He had been condemned, hung on the cross, He enjoyed practically no comforting companionship.

Where were the multitudes whom He had healed and helped? The least sense of loyalty, the smallest feeling of sympathy should have brought thousands to Calvary to keep the deathwatch with Jesus and support Him during His last moments. Yet the Gospel record is tragic in its truth. Not one of those recently benefited by Christ stood beneath the cross!—The same thanklessness marks the modern world. Every blessing of progress, culture, and happiness that is ours, every advantage separating us from the heathen world, comes ultimately from the Savior. Nevertheless millions rise up against Him.

Where were the priests, who should have known from their own Scriptures that Jesus was God’s Son? They kept their distance from the cross, or, with a savagery which degenerates show, raised blasphemous voices to revile the dying Savior. Some of them would willingly have supported Christ as long as they thought He could supply loaves and fishes or offer a rallying-point for the overthrow of the Roman rule; but when our Lord deliberately shattered these ambitions and was crucified, their sympathies changed to hatred. Similarly twentieth-century Modernists, rejecting the atonement, are ready to hail Jesus as a social or moral Messiah but not the bleeding, dying Messiah. They are willing to acclaim Him the mighty Preacher but not the dying Sufferer. They will make room for a human Jesus but not for God’s agonized Son. They will lend their support to a reconstructed Christ but never to a redeeming Christ.

Where, during the crucifixion, were the other leaders of society, the scholars, who could have seen through the screaming injustice of the Savior’s death sentence and who should have supported the truth for which He was being sacrificed? If any prominent citizens lingered on Calvary, they, too, lost the veneer of their refinement as they cried: “Let Him save Himself if He be Christ, the Chosen of God!” “Save Thyself and come down from the cross!” Where, we counter, is the intelligentsia today, if not, for the most part, enthusiastically side by side with those gloating scoffers on Golgotha? When we ask you for the resolution, “I pledge allegiance to the crucified Savior!” you ought to be clear on this: Loyalty to Christ will probably not bring you shoulder to shoulder with Nobel Prize winners, authors of best sellers, society leaders, political tycoons, international bankers. With notable exceptions, you will find yourself in the company of ordinary middle- and lower-class people, and sometimes even here a haunting loneliness may besiege your heart.

One more question arises: Where were the disciples, who during three and a half years with Jesus had seen overwhelming evidence of the Savior’s love, who on the previous night had vowed to remain faithful in the face of death? We can understand why those who never knew our Lord kept their distance from Calvary, but it would be altogether impossible to account for His disciples’ ingratitude and desertion when with one exception they fled like cowards, were it not that the same disloyalty besets us, who have seen more of Christ’s power than even they did.

If Jesus in the Garden before the crucifixion pleaded for His disciples’ company, how much more would He have appreciated their presence when He hung on the tree of shame! Today masterpieces of painting and sculpture, the choicest artistry of song and poetry, the skill of reverent crafts executed in precious metals and costly gems, have made the cross an emblem of beauty, splendor, and glory. Yet how completely opposed to this were those two ugly pieces of coarse wood, stained with the Savior’s life-blood! We have made the cross a sign of mercy in war and peace, but on that first Good Friday it was a token of humanity’s deepest cruelty and hatred. We wear the cross to show our love for the Crucified, but on the day of His death the masses shrank from it. Touch it, they thought, and you are unclean. We place the cross on our churches or enshrine it in sanctuaries as an invitation to find hope, rest, peace, through Him who was once nailed to its post and crossbeam. For Jesus the cross brought tormenting, racking, convulsing pain.

Many in this audience could not even witness the horror of the crucifixion; yet the Savior had to bear it alone. Think of the bodily suffering He endured and remember that He bore its unrelieved agony because He refused to take the opiate, the strong wine mixed with myrrh which could deaden His consciousness and soothe His pain. He confronted death in His full senses, to prevent anyone from contesting the sacred truth that He had laid down His life voluntarily. He felt the fiery fever, the burning wounds, the weighted tension of His body, the tormenting thirst, the exposure of the elements, and the other physical misery. How welcome the services of friends and words of consolation would have been! Yet how little help did He receive from His own! When His thirst was to be assuaged, it was a soldier who pressed the sponge against His mouth.

More penetrating and piercing was the torture of His mind. How painful to have mercy and love rudely rejected! Here hung the Christ whose unselfish words and actions, thoughts, and endeavors were directed toward the welfare and happiness of His own countrymen. What was His reward? The most heartless scoffing, blasphemous ridicule, fiendish laughter history has ever seen. “Save Thyself!” “Come down from the cross!”—this chant of hatred was dinned into His ears. How reassuring, had a loyal band of believers around the cross shielded Jesus from these cruelties! Yet David’s ancient prophecy was fulfilled, “There is none to help!” Not one sentence of sympathy is recorded by the gospel-writers! Those who could have aided failed in this supreme crisis!

Soul anguish, however, was the heaviest burden of the cross. We can understand what happened on Calvary only when we realize that Jesus suffered there what no saint or angel could ever endure. His soul writhed under the terror of every man’s sin because our transgressions were imputed to Him, our fractures of God’s Law laid to His account, our iniquities, with all their guilt and punishment, transferred to Him.

I hope that none of you has become so calloused to God’s warning concerning unforgiven sin that you refuse to measure the terrifying consequences of wrongdoing. If a single violation of divine truth and light can open the floodgates of misery; if blind obedience to one man in control of a nation can cause havoc for millions; if in the smaller circles of your lives a single step from the narrow path can start fears and phobias that rob you of your peace, who can even begin to understand the crushing horror which bore down on the innocent Savior when on Calvary God “laid on Him the iniquity of us all”? Who can fathom the depths of that desolation when, with His blood flowing from nail-pierced hands and feet, His life ebbing slowly from His martyred body, His soul torn by the pain that cut sharpest, the penalty of my sin, yours, the whole world’s, all history’s, He gave Himself as the eternal, complete atonement for men’s wickedness, cruelty, lechery, greed, falsehood, profanity, unbelief, idolatry?

How welcome the slightest sign of understanding and compassion from Christ’s friends and followers would have been! Even helpless tears coursing down the cheeks of Peter, James, Andrew, the other disciples, would have brought some degree of comfort. Yet our text tells us that of the thousands crowding Jerusalem for the Passover, of the multitudes who had heard Christ and seen His miracles, only four remained under the cross until He died our death. Some, particularly the devoted women from Galilee, stayed at a distance, and doubtless others in the motley throng felt a slight compassion for this Victim of priestly hatred. But only four waited close to our Lord, the three Marys and Saint John, the disciple whom Jesus loved.

No one knows how much their loyalty cost them. They had to face constant ridicule, stifle their own misgivings which increased as they saw fond hopes shattered in the crucifixion. The most distressing sorrow, however, must have been their utter helplessness in relieving Christ’s anguish. Think of Mary, His mother! She was too thoroughly human, too completely like your Christian mother and mine, not to feel in her sensitive soul the echo of every taunt and the reflex of every pain her Jesus endured. See the other two Marys, their lives and hopes closely related to Christ, who witnessed His God-forsakenness and last terror-filled moments. Picture Saint John, bound to Jesus with special ties of personal devotion, yet powerless to soothe these harrowing blows or shield his Master from heartless mockery. As this scene is reenacted in your mind and you envision these faithful four beneath the cross until the lifeless body is taken away, may the Spirit move you to declare before God and man, “I pledge this allegiance to my crucified Christ!”

II

WE, TOO, SHOULD SHOW THAT LOYALTY

Nothing less than this complete loyalty can ever ensure us the full blessings of our Redeemer’s self-sacrifice. It is not enough to know that nineteen centuries ago a noble Figure trod the Palestinian pathways and that malicious men crucified this Jesus. We must stay at the cross until we realize He was nailed on that accursed tree for us. No one should be satisfied merely with thinking lofty thoughts about Christ. We must hail Jesus not merely as a glorified Leader but as the crucified Savior; not as one of many redeemers but the only Ransom for sin that God Almighty recognizes. His Gospel must be acclaimed not as a possible truth to be tried and verified but as Heaven’s own surety. Faith, if it is to save, must be more than a think-good, speak-good, do-good, be-good life program by which, we hope, God finally has to reward us. Spurning all self-justification, each of us must stay at the cross and there, without a single justifying claim, without a glance for anyone else besides God’s suffering Son, declare, “O Jesus, You, and You alone, are my Savior; the blood that drips from Your wounds, the only cleansing for my sin-stained heart; the agony You endure here, the only assurance of my escape from hell; the death that here makes You cold and still, the only promise of my life!”

With that trust we cannot adopt a take-it-or-leave-it attitude toward Jesus. We cannot be for Him with His friends and against Him with His enemies. If forgiveness, salvation, heaven, are to be ours, then, as true as God is God, we must pledge our full adherence to the crucified Savior.

What a powerful example of this loyalty you American women can find in Mary, the mother of our Lord! With Jesus your position is far more pivotal today than many of you realize. You can do more to build America through allegiance to Jesus than by any political or social program. If you stay with Christ; if you bring up your children “in the nurture and admonition of the Lord”; if you make your home an abiding place for the blessed Savior, you will contribute more to the welfare of the United States by a life lived in harmony with Christ’s precepts than by any present legislative or civic program.

I hope you will not be misled by the nationwide campaign against motherhood and childbirth recently inaugurated by a national committee for “planned parenthood.” Last week a newspaper advertisement covering almost an entire page asked the public for funds to help lower the American birthrate. “Make America stronger,” they cry. How? By using artificial birth-control methods, by stopping the poor from having children! Do these people forget the experiences of France? Are they deaf to the warnings issued by competent sociologists? Are they blind to the fact that one of every three United States homes is childless now and that our population is practically stationary? Have they poisoned their minds against the repeated Biblical command, “Be fruitful and multiply!”? I would suppose that these agitators are utterly unconcerned about what the Scriptures say, were it not that at least four clergymen are on this committee. Talk about Herod and Pontius Pilate becoming friends on Good Friday! Look over that roster, and you will find there ministers working together with men who have viciously blasphemed the Lord Jesus Christ! Because the Bible regards children as a blessing and not a burden, parenthood as a privilege and not a social liability; because Jesus Christ Himself, God’s Son, was born of an earthly mother, I ask you, American women, to repudiate this unnatural, physically dangerous, morally destructive tendency.

Mothers, stay close to Jesus! Teach your little ones to pray in His name! Sing them to sleep with a lullaby of His love. As He looked down from the cross and provided for Mary, so today He will look down from heaven to help you in your needs. The Savior asked John to take her as his mother; and we often wonder why Jesus did not entrust Mary to some of His own close relatives. May it not be that the kinsfolk who could have taken care of her did not accept Christ and that as the first requirement for every home Jesus wants the spiritual unity by which parents and children, husband and wife, worship with the same hope and assurance? Day by day my contacts with your problems force me to understand with increasing clarity that for a happy, God-pleasing household we need faith-founded families; that the increasing number of religiously mixed marriages as the marital union of Christians and unbelievers are major causes of domestic misery and spiritual collapse. Let our churches do much more to maintain close contact between their young people and ceaselessly show the advantages of establishing homes at the cross!

Some of you women object, “I could never have the courage and strength of Mary, the Savior’s mother!” In all friendliness I say you are wrong. The Holy Spirit, through faith, can work the same miracle of loyalty in your life! Besides, there were two other Marys at Calvary, and you can find encouragement in their faith. The one was the wife of Cleophas. We know little about her except that perhaps she was the Savior’s aunt; otherwise she seems to have been an average woman with no particular distinctions. Many of you may never enjoy applause and acclaim; no headlines will commemorate your work. But if you remain loyal to Christ until the end; if, following the injunction “Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus,” you look after your husband’s interests, take care of the children, conscientiously supervise the household, then, as you wash the dishes, dust the rooms, hang up the family laundry, prepare the meals, you can do all this to the glory of Christ. Someday, too, your sons and daughters will rise up to call you blessed. In Boston my own mother is listening to this message, and I know that the joy of faith which is hers under the cross is the same incomparable spiritual happiness which ten thousands of you Christian women experience.

The third Mary is called Magdalene. Much of her past is shrouded in uncertainty; but this much we do know: she had been marvelously healed and cleansed by Jesus. Out of gratitude she gave up everything, left her Galilean home, and devoted her life to the Savior. Her humble service impresses us again with the truth that the highest hope of womanhood lies not in political position or social distinction but in service to Christ. A claim like this sounds medieval, with modern theories and practices seeking to emancipate our women, destroy their finer qualities, and rob them of their greatest usefulness; but I ask you, Has the nation become better since women have received the ballot? Have American homes grown stronger now that wives work, often without necessity? Has our family life been elevated by birth-control programs? Whenever the principles of the Christian faith have been assaulted, womanhood has likewise been attacked.

We need more of the devotion shown by this Mary. If Christian missionaries in Korea were arrested because they urged prayers for peace, the time may come when you will meet resistance in working for the soul calm that Jesus offers. But look to Mary Magdalene beneath the cross; take her for your example and let your service be for Christ, and not for side-issues.

Women of America, Christ can cleanse you as He purified Mary of Magdala, and though your tears may flow when you see what your sins cost the Savior, you, too, will share the joy that lifted this Mary’s soul to the height of bliss when on Easter she was the first to greet the resurrected Redeemer. If you have been unfaithful, indifferent, unconcerned about Jesus before; if your sins have been dark and repulsive, stand with the three Marys beneath the Savior’s cross, and as you say, “I pledge allegiance to the crucified but now risen Christ,” a joy that you can never exhaust will come to bless you.

Only one man remained at Calvary with Jesus: John, who had leaned on the Savior’s breast and was attached to Christ more closely than any of His fellow-disciples. Those hours with his dying Master became a turning­point in his life. We are often inclined to think of John as meek because of the unparalleled emphasis his gospel and epistles lay on love. He wrote after the crucifixion, however; before that time he had been strong-willed, impetuous, and overfilled with resentment toward those who opposed Jesus. John was among those disciples who would have called down fire from heaven to destroy the unbelieving Samaritans. But when on grim Golgotha he heard his Savior pray, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”; when he saw Christ’s unswerving devotion unto death, his faith was strengthened, and he began to learn the lesson of self-sacrifice. His writings, filled with the Gospel of Jesus’ heavenly compassion, give twentieth­century manhood the assurance of the Savior’s power and blessing.

“More men for the Church!” must be the cry today. As three of the four loyal believers under the cross were women, so in many congregations throughout the United States only one fourth of the attendance is men. In hundreds of missions women are working without the full cooperation that you fathers, brothers, sons, should offer. The cause of Jesus Christ is retarded under the destructive delusion that religion is for women and children but not for you “he-men”—as though this world has ever seen anyone more virile than the Savior, braver than His disciples who laid down their lives battling for Christ against a hostile world, more courageous than His missionaries who faced the fury and fiendish torture of heathen empires!

Now, if you insist on rejecting Jesus; if, after you have again heard His appeal, you still turn coldly away from Him, sneer at the Church, oppose your wife’s membership, keep your children away from Sunday-school; if you think that you are a “real man” when you curse and swear, laugh at lewd stories, show your contempt for the Bible, shake your fist against the Almighty, all I can say is, May God have mercy on you and somehow shake you out of your self-conceit! Unless you have Christ, you are lost! But if your conscience tells you that you are wrong in spurning His Redemption; that the Church, your wife, your mother, your children, your friends, are right in urging you to accept Jesus; if today, seeing the Savior deserted except by a few, His Spirit has created the desire in your heart to acknowledge Him not only the Redeemer of the world but your Ransom and Atonement, then may this appeal find answer in your soul when I tell you that Christ’s arms, once stretched wide on the cross, are now extended to you; that nothing more than faith is required if you would approach Him and find the full treasure of His merciful forgiveness! When King Alfonso lay dying in Rome, friends in Spain sent him a cape, a piece of clothing said to possess miraculous power, and asked that the alleged wonder-working mantle be draped over Alfonso. Despite this, the exiled monarch died. If you, without any relics, charms, or superstitions, cling only to the Lord Jesus Christ, you will be so clothed by Him that you will never taste eternal death. You will be able to sing:

Jesus, Thy blood and righteousness

My beauty are, my glorious dress;

Midst flaming worlds, in these arrayed,

With joy shall I lift up my head.

Men and women of America, old and young, where will you stand on Calvary? If you know the sin-bearing Savior as your Redeemer and understand that you need only come penitently to declare in truth, “Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief,” will you not, I ask you in Christ’s name, sincerely renounce sin and unbelief, earnestly promise to resist Satan’s temptations, the lusts of your flesh, and the world’s wicked ways? As agitation increases and our nation is steadily pushed, day after day, week after week, into situations which must soon bring us into war unless the merciful God intervenes; as you read that the present conflict takes the lives of fifty civilians for every one killed in military or naval service, pray for your soul’s peace during these dangerous days before us! Give yourself wholly to Christ! Remain loyally with Him to the end, and His promise will be fulfilled, “Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life!”

As a token of this faith and victory, join me wherever you may receive this message, and, your mind’s eye directed to the cross, your thoughts riveted on the Savior, resolutely declare, “I pledge allegiance to the crucified Christ! God help me!” Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: March 23, 1941

He questioned with Him in many words; but He answered him nothing.Luke 23:9

Jesus said unto him, Verily, I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.Luke 23:43

Father Almighty:

In the midst of a world crowded with war, hatred, destruction, we have no refuge but in Thee and the love by which Thy Son gave Himself into the agonized death of Calvary to make complete atonement for all iniquity. Fill our hearts with gratitude for thy mercy and lead us, by unfaltering faith, ever more deeply into the full riches of Christ’s grace! Bless the invitation of Thy Gospel and show every sin-weighted soul that the same Savior who in His dying hours pardoned a penitent criminal has forgiveness and compassion for every one of us despite our black and scarlet sins, if only we approach Him with the firm assurance that He is our God, our Savior, our King! Send Thy Spirit to abide in us as our daily Guide and Comforter! Give us the heavenly wisdom whereby we can constantly walk humbly and penitently before Thee! And, O God, triune and triumphant over all enemies, keep our thoughts, desires, and ambitions ever close to the cross on which the Savior paid for our transgressions with His life! We ask it in His precious name. Amen.

A FEW days ago a copy of Sir John MacDonnell’s book Historical Trials came into my hands. As I read the eminent jurist’s account of ten famous legal cases, from the procedures against Socrates down to the court actions in the seventeenth century, a comparison with the Savior’s death trial was inevitable. One remarkable difference separates the prosecution of Jesus from these other notable hearings. It is not the injustice, the perjury, the ruthless fracture of all lawful procedure involved in the sentence that doomed Jesus to the cross; for although history has never witnessed a miscarriage of justice comparable with the verdict “Guilty of death!” pronounced upon Christ, there have always been corrupt judges, controlled courts, bought and biased juries. We have them today. The distinctive mark in our Savior’s arraignment before His fellow-countrymen and the Roman authorities is this: Not only did Jesus decline to plead in His own behalf, but at each of His hearings the time came when He sealed His lips and refused to speak. Caiaphas, the worldly-minded Sadducee high priest, screamed his blasphemous charges against our Lord; and soon the Savior, serene in the face of death, fell into unbroken silence. When Pontius Pilate, shrewd, unprincipled politician, extended his questioning, the captive Christ deliberately disdained to answer. In the scene we shall study today, after Pilate sent Jesus to Herod, the ruler of Galilee, that sensual weakling hurled question after question at our Lord without receiving a single reply.

This impressive silence was not accidental. Seven and one half centuries before, Isaiah, beholding his suffering Savior, had predicted, “He was oppressed, and He was afflicted, yet He opened not His mouth: He is brought as a Lamb to the slaughter.” While I speak of fulfilled prophecy, let me take a moment to remind you how our Lord’s Passion is foretold with detail hundreds of years before Gethsemane and Calvary. His betrayal by a disciple, the thirty pieces of silver as the traitor’s fee, the potter’s field bought with that blood-money, the perjury of false witnesses, the crucifixion itself, the vinegar given in His burning thirst, the blasphemy of malicious enemies under the cross, the division of His clothing, Jesus’ prayer “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” the atoning power of His substitutionary death, His burial, not in an unmarked grave but in a rich man’s tomb—these and more are the startling predictions accomplished to the letter on the night of the Savior’s capture and on the day of His death. We challenge any unbeliever to produce completed prophecy, not even a long series like this, but only one instance. Why do some of you skeptics continue to doubt or deny God’s Word when you have this convincing evidence of divine foreknowledge?

Yet, while our Savior, in harmony with Isaiah’s ancient forecast, refused to answer King Herod, only a few hours later on that same Good Friday, when nailed to the cross, He did speak hope into the soul of a convicted criminal.

Can you not see in this startling contrast: silence for proud rulers, pardon for a crucified thief, that there are two classes of men, some who make Christ turn from them in cold, condemning silence, and others whom He gladly receives? In this day of the question-and-answer craze, when every night the radio features quiz programs, every week many thousands of dollars are spent for intelligence broadcasts, every year winners receive stacks of silver dollars and huge piles of prizes, no issue is of comparable importance with our question for today:

WILL JESUS ANSWER ME?

Will He pardon and welcome me, or will His lips remain locked when I stand before Him? Thank God, you can have a definite understanding on this life-and-death truth. A wide knowledge of geography and history is unnecessary; you need only know what happened on that rough hill of Golgotha and what the cross means to you. No specialized training in chemistry is required; your soul is cleansed, not in research laboratories, but through faith in Christ. Higher mathematics is ruled out; Jesus deals with unnumbered sins and unlimited grace. He demands no literary test; He is concerned with only one Book, and its promises are so clear that even a child can understand them. If your heart holds the right response to this question, “Will Jesus answer me?” Heaven’s most magnificent blessings are yours forever. If you give the wrong answer, you are heading for eternal disaster.

May this message, which divine wisdom and love can make a turning-point for many, give you an assured answer to this question of hope or despair, heaven or hell, “Will Jesus hear me when I try to come before Him?” To that blessed end we read this record of the Savior’s Lenten suffering in Saint Luke’s twenty-third chapter, verse nine: “He [Herod] questioned with Him [Jesus] in many words; but He answered him nothing,” and then in verse forty-three: “Jesus said unto him [the thief crucified at the side of His own cross], Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise.”

I

JESUS WILL NOT ANSWER IMPENITENT PRIDE

During the death trial before Pontius Pilate, while one charge after the other was hurled at our Savior, it was mentioned, perhaps in sarcastic scorn, that Jesus had come from Galilee. When Pilate heard this, he resolved to send the captive Christ to Herod, whom the Roman conquerors had permitted to rule over Galilee and who happened to be in Jerusalem at that time for the Passover Festival. What a convenient way, Pilate concluded, to get rid of Jesus! Somehow the mysterious Prisoner disturbed his pagan mind. Convinced that Jesus was innocent, he repeatedly tried to sidestep a decision and wash his hands of the whole affair. Finally, however, he had to make a personal, definite choice concerning Jesus, just as every one of you is either for Christ or against Him. There is no straddling, no middle ground, no neutrality here! On Friday morning, then, after three hearings by His own countrymen and the first trial before Pilate, Jesus was once more led through the streets of Jerusalem toward Herod’s palace. Don’t forget that our Lord had to endure six distinct legal hearings within twelve hours! By contrast, a labor leader who first faced deportation procedures three years ago is still in this country!

Herod, the Galilean king, was “exceeding glad” to see Jesus, the Galilean prophet. The Savior’s name was on everyone’s lips. His miracles were the subject of public discussion; and now the moment had come when Herod could gratify his curiosity and perhaps induce Jesus to perform a dazzling wonder. “He questioned with Him in many words,” our text summarizes. Herod was like many of the 70,000,000 unchurched people in this country who are indifferent to Christ even in a crisis that should drive men back to their God and Savior. They demand, Christianity must offer modern social miracles by which people can find quick money and light work. Jesus treats them just as He did Herod when throughout that entire questioning “He answered him nothing.”

It would have been easy for our Lord to produce a spectacular display, answer curious questions, then plead for justice and deliverance. Herod, his favor won, could have had the farcical trial ended with complete vindication for Christ. But Jesus would curry the favor of no man nor ingratiate himself with the rich and important.—Let American churches pause thoughtfully before this scene in which Jesus spurns wealth and influence! The frequent indictment directed against Christianity today charges it with neglecting the working-men and the poor while trying to creep into the good graces of the moneyed classes, paying court to the prominent and powerful. It may be that in some instances certain groups have been guilty. They should learn of Christ now before the most far-reaching social reconstruction in modern history begins after this war, when losses, totaling not billions but hundreds of billions, will create deeper poverty throughout the world! More than ever before in this country churches must follow the Savior in condemning ill-gotten wealth and in rededicating themselves to bring His Gospel to all men, particularly to the lower, underprivileged classes. Today, with the lure of blood-money and excessive profits stronger than ever, we must repeat Christ’s warning, “Verily, I say unto you that a rich man shall hardly enter into the kingdom of heaven!”

Wealth in itself, of course, can be a bountiful blessing. I have been in large, impressive homes that have had more genuine, humble, and complete trust in Christ than I have sometimes found in middle-class families. Herod, however, was sinfully rich, wicked, and dissolute. Inflamed by carnal passions, he had discarded his wife and taken Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife. He thought that he was a law unto himself. The king could do no wrong, he doubtless boasted. Too many crowned heads and national leaders in this generation have followed in Herod’s footsteps. Within the last ten years three European kings have practiced immorality before the whole world. One, openly estranged from his wife, was associated with repeated scandals. Another broke his marriage vows and lived in illicit relations with an adventuress. A third married a twice-divorced woman. May God in His grace give the United States men in the Presidency and high national positions whose lives are untouched by public or private scandal! Once the championing of lax marital relations marks our governmental circles, the common people will only too quickly seize upon such examples as justification for their own similar sins.

Sustained immorality regularly goes side by side with unbelief; and Herod was no exception to this rule. His hands were stained with the blood of John the Baptist, that courageous witness and forerunner of Jesus Christ; for when the royal adulterer in Galilee married his brother’s wife, Herodias, John had not permitted this flagrant incest to pass unrebuked. With the courage that I pray the Holy Spirit will give every true minister of Jesus Christ, this wilderness preacher, clothed in coarse camel’s hair, sternly denounced the roue ruler. Herodias, shrewd, scheming woman, who dominated her husband, with the fatal results that often follow when an unscrupulous wife controls the family, immediately laid plans to destroy the meddlesome preacher. At a voluptuous banquet, after the usual carousal, Herodias’s daughter Salome performed an Oriental dance, disgraceful even in those days, before the wine-inflamed, passion-filled guests. Keep the following tragedy in mind, those of you who want the churches to turn their Sunday-school rooms into dancehalls, you pastors who tell me that your Sunday-night parish dances are among the most successful features on your program! From lewd exhibitions like Salome’s performance down to its modern forms, the dance has hurt the Church, endangered the souls of its young people, robbed unnumbered devotees of their purity, and ruined thousands of girls. Not long ago a young man asked me whether he should accept an offer to become an orchestra leader in a Seattle ballroom. I answered, “No!” for he would have every reason to expect that his music would lead to the downfall of some young women and lure young men into forgetfulness of God. If even the United States Government officially warns against certain types of dancing, how can anyone who loves the Lord Jesus knowingly support a project which can undermine decency? Call this old­fashioned if you will, but facts are stubborn, and there is much evidence that mothers of unnamed children as well as lecherous young men were frequently started on the road to disaster through public dances, with the usual sequence of drinking and seduction. Many of us share the horror of a noted English preacher who said that every time he contemplated the abandonment and sensuality of the immoral dance, he had an uncomfortable feeling about his neck, for he recalled John the Baptist.

You know how Herod, aroused by Salome’s wanton display, offered her anything she would name, were it half of his kingdom; how after consultation with her adulterous mother she demanded the head of John the Baptist; and how the wretched king, unwillingly, yet goaded by revengeful Herodias, killed that valiant witness of Jesus Christ. The gory head of the fearless preacher was presented to the lewd dancer, while Herodias smiled in satanic satisfaction. Men, young and old, see in this repulsive story how a loose, shameless woman can lead from enticement to adultery to killing—the fatal sequence revealed daily in metropolitan newspapers. Herod, the son of the royal murderer who slew the innocent babes at Bethlehem, becomes a murderer himself! Like father, like son!

For a while, it seemed, what may have been left of Herod’s conscience protested against this bloody butchery. The ghastly specter of Salome, carrying John’s blood­drained head on a platter, haunted him, and when he first heard of Jesus, he exclaimed, “This is John the Baptist; he is risen from the dead.” Gradually, however, these fears wore off. Consciences can be killed so that sin, instead of appearing as the damnable soul-destruction that it is, enshrouds itself in an alluring light.—One day Father Damien, intrepid missionary to the lepers, accidentally poured some boiling hot water on his foot, and when he experienced no pain, knew immediately that he had fallen victim to the fatal disease. If you, as Herod, stop feeling the horror of sin, your soul is leprous.

Herod’s whole attitude toward Christ, then, when the captive Savior stood before him, was idle curiosity; and as he plied his quick, repeated questions, Jesus “answered him nothing.” Why? Not in this instance because the Savior, driven by His consuming desire to die for us, refused to raise His voice in any plea for freedom; not because His face was so unchangeably directed toward the cross that nothing could keep Him from reaching the goal of our redemption. Christ’s lips refused to move because that wretched Galilean ruler approached Him in pride, with murder on his hands, doubt in his heart, unbelief in his mouth. Scores of times before Herod could have heard Christ. If he had ever sincerely invited the Lord to explain His Gospel, the Savior would gladly have left everything to give His divine instruction. Herod could have learned the way to life from John the Baptist, a prisoner in his own fortress. Had he gone down to John’s cell and shown one sign of repentance and faith, the voice of the forerunner, which had been so uncompromising in its denunciation, would have become tender and appealing in its promise of forgiveness. Now, however, these opportunities for grace spurned, the moment had come for Herod when Jesus turned away from him.

If you now ask whether Jesus will answer you, I know that my God wants me to raise this warning: The Savior of limitless love will remain silent if, like Herod, you approach Him without trust in His atoning love, without deep-rooted contrition over your sins. As long as you continue stubbornly in rebellion against God, in illicit relations, in unbending pride like Herod’s, you can ask Christ a thousand curious questions, but He will give no response. As long as your heart is destitute of faith and Christianity is only a try-it-and-see-what-happens experiment, church attendance only a meaningless action motivated by curiosity or the desire for personal gain, you can approach Jesus by day and by night, and always, even on the deathbed, you will find the way closed, barred by unbelief and persistent sin.

While there is time, try to escape that disaster! God’s outraged justice quickly overtook Herod. History tells us that he was deposed and died in exile shortly after the crucifixion. Perhaps some of you have lost your work, good name, respect, as a direct punishment for rejecting Christ. Yet if, by God’s unsearchable ways, you seem to enjoy earthly prosperity with your defiance, there is no escape from divine punishment in the hereafter. You will be banished from heaven! Those whom Christ will not hear and answer in this life will never be heard and answered in the next. He Himself warns with divine finality, “Whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven!”

II

JESUS WILL ALWAYS ANSWER PENITENT FAITH

What glorious comfort, however, to know that within a few hours after His silence before Herod our Lord Jesus answered another inquirer, to bestow His overabundant grace. It is now shortly before noon on the day of death. The big, blunt nails have crushed through the Savior’s quivering hands and feet. The cross has been raised on Calvary’s crest, flanked on each side by crosses bearing two dying criminals. One of these robbers, even in the pain of his approaching end, musters enough strength to vilify Christ, with the same persistence in evil for which some of you suffer heavy punishment, total loss, and yet remain firmly embittered against your God. The second crucified thief begins to see Jesus in a new and wondrous light. He rebukes the other malefactor who had reviled our Lord and defends Christ with the words, “We receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man hath done nothing amiss.” His is the first and only voice at Golgotha before the Savior’s death to declare Him not guilty. Even more, this malefactor sees in Jesus the Lord Himself, King of a heavenly realm, who, though the crucifixion may take His earthly life, will soon enter the radiance of the celestial kingdom. He looks in faith to Christ and, like Herod, he also asks Jesus to perform a wonder, but a miracle far mightier than any spectacle for which Herod’s curiosity longed, the supernatural pardoning and cleansing of a sinner. Acknowledging himself a wretched transgressor, well deserving the death that soon would claim him, he implores Jesus, “Lord, remember me when Thou comest into Thy kingdom!”

What astonishing faith! The dying thief sees a wounded, bleeding Sufferer, reviled both by the religious and the social leaders and the mocking masses. Yet his trust beholds in the Crucified the martyred Savior, the eternal King of kings! He gained more soul-knowledge during those closing hours of his life confronted with Jesus in His utter weakness and humility than Bible critics, worldlings, and wastrels have learned in their entire existence confronted by our Lord in His glory and power as His Church spreads from shore to shore. Pray God to give you that same Christ-directed confidence which never apologizes for the cross, never obeys the threatening throng nor listens to the unbelief in the so-called upper classes—the firm reliance which is not ashamed to confess the dying Redeemer your own Ransom! Then you, too, will be able to approach Jesus and pray, “Lord, who hast triumphed over death, remember me now in Thy kingdom!”

Had Jesus turned His bleeding head from the crucified thief and permitted His parched lips to remain unmoved, could we blame Him? There on the cross, in anguish of body and soul that earthly measurements can never gauge, our Lord endured the punishment, terror, curse, of all human sins. How can we expect that in the midst of such fierce agony He could consider a single sinner, a man in the lowest depths of human society, a convicted highway­man? Praise be to His eternal mercy!—the same Savior who a few hours before had no reply for an arrogant, stiff­necked monarch now turns to this poor, contrite criminal and shows every generation that no penitent, believing sinner can ever sink too low, commit too many grievous crimes, to be welcomed, pardoned, and cleansed by the Lord Jesus Christ. With the marvel of mercy which has repeatedly brightened the dying hours of Christians since that day, the crucified Lord declares, “Verily, I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with Me in Paradise!”

Study this deathless answer, for these words express the mercy which will save you! “Verily,” Jesus begins and by this oath lends His promise double assurance. There can be no hit-or-miss, no guesswork, no perhaps or maybe about this pledge, when the Lord of Truth declares, “I say unto thee!” We cannot blame those who distrust men’s promises when within less than a half year after explicit political and campaign platform promises to keep us out of foreign wars we are being pushed in step by step. But never doubt Jesus’ Word!

Consider especially, however, the full and free grace in the Savior’s reply! The malefactor’s past life had been a career of crime; in the few hours left he could do nothing good, with arms nailed to the cross, nor join a pilgrimage to a sacred place, with feet similarly riveted. He could not even bend his knees or fold his hands to perform any ritual of penance. But to show us from the height of Calvary that we are saved entirely by grace, that our deliverance is all Christ’s, Jesus received the penitent. In his last, lingering moment he was justified by faith!

My fellow-redeemed, strain every effort to preserve the pure Gospel in the pulpits of American churches! Testify to it! Work for its continuance! Organize against its opponents! Too many sermons are preached with lavish references to Christ, but not the bleeding, agonized, sin­atoning Sufferer on the cross. We must know more about Jesus than that He died on Calvary; much more even than that He died for us, for soldiers lay down their lives for their country, parents for their children; heroic and self­sacrificing as this is, it cannot influence souls. We must say, and I find that this heart and center of our Christian faith is often missing, “Christ died for us in complete atonement for our sins, so that we may be redeemed by grace without any compensation or payment on our part, saved entirely and eternally by His love.” Preaching this free mercy may cut down the revenue of some churches, but it will enrich more souls with heavenly treasures!

Without one condition or demand, then, Jesus promises the repentant malefactor entrance into Paradise, His kingdom on high, where the perfect bliss of the first Eden, lost through sin, will be restored; and as the crowning pledge of mercy the dying thief is to pass through the celestial gates on that very day—not after a long period of probation or purifying. Five or six hours at most remained before that Friday ended with nightfall, yet this was ample time for the most radiant of transitions, this change in a twinkling from earth to heaven.—If some of you have believed that when death comes the Savior’s mercy is not sufficient to save you completely, read this record again with its clear testimony that the repentant thief, burdened by abhorrent crimes, is directly translated into a blessed eternity without any intermediate stage, without long years of penance and purging. Why detract from this limitless love, “The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from ALL sin”? Because our Lord, who can “save to the uttermost,” is God’s Son and His self-offering at Calvary the only required and acceptable sacrifice for our sins; because the work of His redemption is forever finished, you, too, can be divinely sure of your immediate entrance into Paradise.

If now, having stood on Calvary, you ask, Will the Savior speak to me when I plead for heaven? you have the answer. See yourself in that penitent thief! Take heart today! Believe that, no matter how far you have wandered from your God, how grievously you have offended His holiness and majesty, when you approach Jesus in faith, plead with Him in contrite trust, acclaim Him your eternal God and Savior, then, as you with all your weakness become less than nothing and Christ with all His mercy becomes more than everything on this earth; the wickedness of the entire race cannot keep Him from answering you and offering pardon, peace, and Paradise.

Ask God’s help this minute! Too many of you have been wasting precious years in uncertainty, doubt, and worry, while the joy of salvation, spiritual happiness for your home, could have been yours. We are told that when in the dark, heavily taxed days after the Revolution a rebellion in Massachusetts collapsed, the leader, Captain Daniel Shays, fled into a remote, wooded section of Vermont to avoid capture and death. He stayed in hiding over eleven long, lonely years; his hair turned gray; he grew a beard; his features were altered by sorrow and fear. Yet all the time, without knowing it, he had been fully pardoned by Congress.—Christ has forgiven every one of you, no matter how bitterly you have rebelled against Him. Don’t run away from Him and destroy your hopes for heaven’s blessing by not hearing and believing that His blood has bought your deliverance and a prepared place in Paradise! Accept His grace! Trust it through life and death!

As we contrast the Savior’s silence before self-condemned Herod, with His words of living promise to the penitent thief, God grant that every one of us, though overloaded with sins, heavily weighted with sorrows, may kneel in triumphant faith at Calvary’s cross and, beholding our crucified Christ with the eyes of trusting faith, declare, “O Jesus, Thou art mine, and I am Thine! Remember me mercifully in Thy heavenly kingdom!” And as true as that Jesus is the Son of God and the Redeemer of the race, He will answer you by sealing salvation forever in your soul! God give you that assurance by Christ’s constant grace! Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: March 16, 1941

Judas, which had betrayed Him, when he saw that He was condemned, repented himself and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? See thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the Temple and departed and went and hanged himself.” – Matthew 27:3-5

Beloved Lord Jesus:

Keep Thy Spirit uppermost in our souls and help us realize in humble, personal faith that Thou didst suffer for us! Out transgressions nailed Thee to the cross of shame, and Thou didst taste death as out Substitute when Thy life was offered as the one ever­valid sacrifice for all humanity’s sins! We confess, precious Savior, that we have often denied, even betrayed Thee by impure ambitions, unholy living. This weakness and wickedness rests heavily on our conscience, and today, without reservation or excuse, we come before Thee to express heartfelt sorrow for our disloyalties. We promise wherever possible to make amends for our shortcomings. Penitently, yet confident of Thy mercy, we look only to Thine atoning mercy for pardon and peace. Deepen our appreciation of Thy truth and show us that we must come to Thee with more than sorrow over our iniquities, with real repentance and immovable faith in Thy sin-removing love! Plant the certainty of salvation into our souls, O Jesus, and draw us ever closer to Thee—if necessary, by affliction! Hear us, for we have no other hope in life or death! Amen.

SORROW for our sins, remorse over our failures, can become life’s most terrifying scourge. Every day your letters testify to the fury of an aroused conscience. A Kentucky young woman writes that since she violated her chastity, only to be jilted, she can hardly find forgetfulness even in sleep. An Indiana couple, each previously divorced and now married to each other against the Scriptures, is tortured by the realization that for years both have openly lived in adultery. A county official in a Western State who stole public money and lost it in speculation is almost paralyzed by fear over the State auditor’s impending visit. A Michigan girl, because of previous transgressions, is haunted by the terror of having committed the unpardonable sin. A Kansas listener laments that she has been robbed of peace because she opposed her parents, neglected them in their needs, and, now they are dead, can never make amends. Although forty years have elapsed since the crime, an Ohio mother is relentlessly pursued by remorse for having destroyed her unborn child.

Life is not secure under the torment of self-condemnation. The appalling suicide toll in the United States takes many who mistakenly felt themselves driven to self­destruction under the lash of an outraged conscience. We are, of course, accustomed to read of suicides after naval disasters when a captain (by a code of the sea which all civilized nations should revoke) deliberately goes down with his ship. For years self-murder has been an accepted social escape in Japan. There military officers who fail are expected to destroy themselves by the prescribed rites of hara-kiri. Annually hundreds of Nipponese young people, frustrated in love, join hands, leap into the crater of a favorite volcano, and are burned to cinders by molten lava. How shocking to hear that the number of suicides in the United States is practically as large as in pagan Japan! The most intense sorrow over missteps and mistakes is not enough. A lifetime of regrets is not sufficient. Suicide only brings eternal horror and suffering. We must learn the lesson millions in America have forgotten, the truth which can change our existence from years of extended fears to a career of sustained peace in Christ, the conviction that for the removal of our sins we must, beholding Jesus, have

MORE THAN REMORSE—REAL REPENTANCE!

To this end may God’s Holy Spirit guide us in our study of the warning and, by contrast, the comfort offered by Saint Matthew, chapter twenty-seven, verses three to five: “Judas, which had betrayed Him, when he saw that He was condemned, repented himself and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What is that to us? See thou to that. And he cast down the pieces of silver in the Temple and departed and went and hanged himself.”

I

REMORSE IS NOT ENOUGH

We often think of Judas as a hideous monster, an ugly, misshapen, beastlike creature, a veritable Frankenstein, while in truth he was an ordinary man, doubtless with many amiable qualities. When as a boy he played in the streets and fields of Kerioth, a little village in the South, often, doubtless, his parents, smiling at their happy child, dreamed of the day when their Judas would be a respected, successful citizen, an elder in the community council, even as you fathers and mothers like to envision your sons as making their mark in the world. After he grew to manhood, he cannot have been destitute of ideals, for a day of destiny came when a Stranger, mysterious, yet compelling, a Galilean Teacher called Jesus of Nazareth, preached a heart-searching message and confronted Judas with the invitation, “Follow Me!” Although he knew that obedience to the Lord meant bearing the cross of affliction, Judas gave up everything to accept the Savior’s leadership. Among the Twelve he, the only disciple from Judea, gained a certain distinction; for before long he was entrusted with the treasury, meager though it was. We search in vain throughout the early gospel records for evidence of his disloyalty; there is none. Like his eleven comrades he, too, acclaimed Christ, who, he thought would liberate Israel and establish a magnificent kingdom. When, after a hard sermon by Jesus, many of His followers forsook Him, Judas did not leave. I am trying to impress on you the truth that Judas was one of us. If in a surge of self­righteousness some of you protest, “Well, I certainly would never do what he did!” you don’t know Judas, and you don’t know yourself! The only people who cannot commit his sin are the heathen who have never heard of Jesus; those are the closest to repeating his betrayal who, as he, are nearest Christ. “Let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall,” the eternal Word warns; and not until we see in that thankless disciple the same guilty, evil impulses which occupy our own hearts are we honestly concerned with our immortal souls’ welfare.

The trouble started with Judas where it often begins in our lives: with money. Other explanations, of course, have been advanced. A favorite theory claims that Judas wanted to bring Christ’s cause to a climax; so he betrayed his Lord only to create a situation by which Jesus would be obliged to demonstrate His power. But the Scriptures know nothing of this. The gospels tell us that Judas loved gold; and gradually, it seems, he became disappointed in Christ. His materialistic imagination had pictured the Savior with a resplendent crown on His head; but these hopes were soon replaced by resentment when our Lord spoke of submission to His enemies, of martyrdom and a death of shame. It may well be that Judas argued within himself: “I will still get something from following Christ! The Temple authorities want to put Him out of the way! They can use me, and I will make them pay.”

Whatever his reasoning was, he went to the priests, perhaps soothing his conscience with the alibi that these men were supposed to be representatives of the Most High, that they would welcome his betrayal as a pious, God-pleasing act. People use the same tactics today. Sin loses its stigma if the Church can be made to approve it. The unjustly divorced often want a preacher to solemnize their second matrimonial venture. The bereaved relatives of a foul­mouthed infidel who died without a thought of Jesus are eager for a Christian burial, since it would remove the disgrace. Gamblers like to have roulette wheels, dice, cards, games of chance, in congregational buildings for the sanction and prestige that religion offers. War-promoters—and we shall constantly hear more of them—piously call the present hostilities a battle for God, a crusade for Christianity, a struggle for the faith, so that the churches’ influence may be enlisted to throw our youth into the vortex of Europe’s war. But we need much more than outward religious sanction to justify our actions. It must be said to the shame of certain church groups that frequently they have become part and party to proposals which utterly repudiate Christ. In the blessed name of Him who is Peace and Love clerics have preached hatred and destruction. They have sanctioned murder, theft, false witness, divorce, adultery, unjust, aggressive wars of conquest.

Masking his hypocrisy in mock piety, Judas approached the religious leaders with the age-old question of grasping greed, “What will ye give me?” And those Temple officials, the men required to show God’s holiness, bargained with a traitor! “Abhorrent!” you exclaim, but not so depraved, I answer, that a similar desire to get rid of Jesus does not animate some churchmen today. They exhibit the same outward zeal of Annas, Caiaphas, the scribes, and the Pharisees, but they also have the same hatred for the Biblical Christ. “Away with Him!” their cry reechoes, repeating the malicious verdict of the first Good Friday. “Away with Jesus as God’s Son and the world’s Savior, the virgin-born, crucified, resurrected, ascended Redeemer! Away with Him as the only Hope of a perishing world!” This rejection has become so widespread and influential that it can keep Gospel broadcasts off the country’s largest stations. Voices regarded as authoritatively Protestant often reject the basic, Biblical truths.—If you love Christ, work and pray that this discarding of His deathless Word be stopped in many churches now!

“What will ye give me?”—this barter of greed is quite modern. “The love of money” is still “the root of all” (kinds of) “evil.” Stripped of its disguises, most war is promoted by avarice. Commercial supremacy, domination of the seas, more territory, fertile farmlands, productive oil-fields, rich mineral deposits, economic ascendancy—these are the objectives for which world meddlers have laid unsuspecting, high-idealed youth on gory altars before the idol of war in a human sacrifice far more despicable than the Canaanite child-offerings in Hinnom’s valley. “What will ye give me?”—this selfish inquiry motivates the struggle in our American industrial circles, where, instead of cooperative harmony, we witness growing antagonism. “What will ye give me?”—this personal profit­seeking urges Christians to stretch out their hands for unholy gain in a hundred different forms of theft, which some of you have been able to conceal, not, however, from your conscience and Almighty God.

Judas’s sin was heightened because he was ready to sell a life for blood-money. It has been questioned whether he actually believed the Savior’s enemies would go to the extent of crucifixion. But how could anyone accompany Jesus for three years and doubt that the priestly venom would be satisfied with anything less than death? Many today share the same guilt. This generation particularly should read carefully the scandals of past wars with their hideous profiteering. During the first world conflict British soldiers in the Dardanelles were mowed down by British guns in enemy hands. Austrians on the Galician front were killed by rifles originally made or repaired by Austrians. Two French firms were able to import, on their own account, German steel through Switzerland. We, too, have tragic records of spoiled meat, inferior equipment, defective weapons deliberately sold to American armies; and even now a Congressional committee has been appointed to investigate evidences of profiteering in our defense program. Not many forms of depravity are lower than this clutching desire to march on to wealth over bodies sacrificed to greed. Few figures are more despicable than international munitions-manufacturers who, though decorated and knighted by a dozen governments, as some were, grew rich and powerful through unscrupulous arms traffic.

Many of you, however, who would shrink from harming your neighbor in his body may for the sake of profit cause his soul to suffer. With the drop in morality that war brings already unmistakable (London reports an increase of 40 per cent in juvenile crime); with taxi dancehalls springing up around our half-finished military camps (and I pause to ask you Christian young men in the service for loyalty, not only to your country, but also to your Christ); with a growing army of Americans making their livelihood directly or indirectly from the sale of suggestive books and sex magazines, pictures or plays that glorify sin, drugs or drink that injure the body and serve lust, there can be only one course for those who serve Christ, and that is specified by the command “Come out from among them, and be ye separate!” I do not stand before this microphone to utter a blanket condemnation; for the Savior’s word is clear, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged!” I do pray, however, that the Spirit may fortify these words: If you work as owner or employee in an office, factory, store, or business where the enterprise deliberately seeks to take people away from Jesus, attacks the Bible, assaults Christian morality, destroys the ideals of truth, purity, and honesty; if young people can point their finger at you, charging, “You helped lead me on the road to sin,” then remember Judas! Ask our Lord’s forgiveness and the strength to stop the heinous wrong, give up that destructive employment forever! This will take courage. Immediately you will hear whispered objections: “Where can I get another job? This position pays a good salary. If I don’t make or sell this, someone else will. I give a large check to the Church every week.” But that comes from the same satanic Tempter who brought Judas to fall. Steadfastly look to Jesus, and as you exalt Him, you will find His promise fulfilled, “If any man serve Me, him will My Father honor.”

Lured by avarice, Judas not only deserted Christ, connived with His enemies, bargained for blood-money; as history’s most damnable Fifth Columnist he sold the Savior, not for 30,000,000 pieces of silver nor even 30,000. We could understand how a depraved wretch might have been tempted by such fortunes. But thirty paltry pieces! Hardly enough to buy food and clothing for a few months! Barely sufficient for the priests to purchase an unwanted, out-of-the-way piece of land as a potter’s field, the burial-place of the unclaimed or criminally dead! Christ sold for thirty pieces of silver, $18 in our money! “How incredible!” we exclaim. Satan does not always have to bid that high. Some of you have sold Christ for less. A wild night’s entertainment which cost your companion, say, $15; a $9.98 set of antichristian scientific volumes which an unbeliever gave you; a free visit to a spiritist medium, who usually charges a dollar; a fifty-cent blasphemous book or a five-cent blue paper-covered infidel pamphlet that some atheist sent you without charge—these may be the only inducements the devil had to offer in turning you against Christ. For trivial honors and the smallest sensual satisfaction people are sometimes ready to adopt Judas’s tactics and beneath smirking hypocrisy array themselves against Christ.

The Gospel narratives do not tell us how Judas spent the time after he placed the kiss of betrayal on the Savior’s cheek. If it is true, as a few scholars claim, that he followed Christ at a distance and witnessed the beginning of His trials, we understand the more clearly why a startling change gradually overtook him. At first perhaps Judas played with the silver pieces, letting them fall through his fingers, polishing them, placing them in rows, jingling them at his ears, dreaming of the power the money-mad think they can conjure with clicking coins. But “when he saw that” Jesus “was condemned,” the attraction of that minted silver suddenly vanished. The treachery, which had seemed such an easy, cunning scheme, now became an avalanche of terror.

Do you know that Judas, recoiling from his despicable sin, showed more concern than some of you? He at least realized his monstrous crime and hated it; you see only the sensual appeal of your transgression and love it. You—this is your boast—will do what you want, and no one can stop you! The Lord Jesus Christ’s name is just an aid to your profanity. For your soul’s sake I pray God that He will hurl you down from your self-conceited unbelief, if necessary, into the depth of suffering, so that, helpless, you can learn what even Judas knew, “Sin never pays, while the sinner always pays.” If some of you young people who once thought that there could be nothing sweeter than the forbidden fruits begin to experience an aftertaste of bitterness, thank God! You will never know Christ until you recognize your own sin!

Judas went a step farther. He returned to the priests, hoping he could secure help in the Temple; yet just as little as people today can find soul-comfort through any religious teacher not blessed by God, so the distracted disciple vainly sought guidance in the Sanctuary. Terrified, he confessed the enormity of his crime, saying, “I have sinned!” And then Judas, the hypocrite, the traitor, became the first in the story of the Savior’s suffering to declare Jesus not guilty. Hear his cry reecho through the Temple, “I have betrayed the innocent blood!” Again, Judas was far in advance of many modern Americans; he confessed his sin, while voices throughout the country in education, literature, philosophy, science, give it new names, excuse it, even justify it, and—this low have they stooped!—even glorify it! Judas told the men who had directed the plot against Christ that Jesus was blameless; let this statement from the lips of our Lord’s archenemy urge you to recognize that Jesus has always been innocent of every calumny and attack perverted men have hurled against Him. Unless you understand that our Lord was guiltless and that the death penalty placed on His stainless body and soul was incurred by your transgression, you cannot know true repentance nor find the pathway to heaven.

The priests coldly shrugged their shoulders as they replied, “What is that to us? See thou to that!” and showed the devilish unconcern which always marks sin. Many of you recall how friends who coaxed you into wrongdoing were the first to turn against you. Despite priestly indifference, however, Judas’s conscience continued to drive him on. He tried to make restitution. As impossible as it was for him to rescue Christ from His enemies, he could at least rid himself of the blood-profit gained through the suffering of the Innocent One, and in despair he hurled the thirty pieces of silver to the Sanctuary floor.—Have you tried to make restitution for your sins? If you have stolen money, have you returned it? If you live in an illicit relationship, are you ready to stop and do what God expects of you? If people have suffered through your greed, have you done anything to compensate them? The nation has a conscience fund in Washington, and through receipt of smaller sums it has grown to sizable proportions; but if all money and property sinfully acquired could be returned to the Government or defrauded individuals, the country’s financial problem would be minimized and millions now destitute could live in comfort. It may be too late to make amends, but unless you do everything humanly possible to refund your thefts, you cannot stand before the Almighty!

As the money rolled on the floor, Judas ran from the Temple in headlong flight, the doom of death written on his countenance. Fear such as only the damned can experience pursued him like hellhounds of endless remorse. Completely in Satan’s control, he ended eternally damned; for we read, “He . . . went and hanged himself.” The carefree child that once played in the lanes of Judean Kerioth, the disciple eager to serve Christ, now dangled in a suicide’s noose, until either the rope or tree branch broke, and he fell headlong into death and—hell!

Do you say: “What a fool Judas was! People with any degree of intelligence can avoid what he did”? Are you sure? Can you prove the popular theory that education is the best preventive of self-destruction? Why is it that intellectual leaders and university graduates are frequently numbered among those who take their own lives? Unless you are ready to go farther than Judas went, you have absolutely no assurance that your end must be different from his.

II

REAL REPENTANCE IS NECESSARY

Judas’s suicide impresses on us that more than remorse is necessary. We must have real repentance—in Christ! None of life’s fears is more treacherous and destructive than the gnawing despair of an aroused conscience. Richard III of England, who murdered his two innocent nephews, kept an unsheathed sword at his bedside and constantly fought invisible imaginary foes. Charles IX of France, who signed the death-warrant for tens of thousands of Protestants mowed down in the Saint Bartholomew massacre, asked for music when he awakened at night to soothe his terrorized soul and take his thoughts from the horror of his sin. No matter how intense your remorse may be, if you stop where Judas did, you can cry your eyes dry every day, count each long hour of the night in sleepless anxiety until you collapse in nervous breakdown; without Christ this is all wasted energy, futile suffering!

It is not enough to declare, “I am sorry!” Dogs show a sort of creature sorrow when punished for wrongdoing! It is not sufficient to resolve, “I will stop this evil. I promise to make good what I have done wrong!” Educated Greek and Roman pagans said the same thing; yet they ended without the assurance of forgiveness! It is not enough to know who Jesus is, to proclaim His innocence. Even the Mohammedan Koran gives the Savior greater glory without being able to offer its followers the pledge of pardon. The factor which makes repentance acceptable in God’s sight is the faith by which we place our entire hope for pardon on the Lord Jesus. Only when repentance is made in His name, but always when contrite hearts are lifted first to His cross and then to the open heavens, can we be sure that our sins are removed.

Beholding our Redeemer on the cross, we are to believe, with hearts freed from every doubt, that “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed.” The Beginning and End of our faith based on the plain Bible truth that “Christ died for our sins,” the Innocent for the guilty, the Eternal for the mortal, God for man, we not only overcome the fear of consequences, the dread of exposure, the panic of an enraged conscience, the furies of hell itself; but because we believe assuredly that “the blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanseth us from all sin,” we know that our iniquities have been taken away forever. Pledged to the Savior we have no reason to cringe before God, fearing that our transgressions may not have been completely forgiven; for the acceptance of divine approval was stamped upon our Lord’s redemptive work when after His death-gasp, “It is finished!” He was gloriously resurrected from the dead on the third day. Nothing remains undone, nothing necessary for our salvation unfulfilled, not even the most insignificant part still to be accomplished. Judas could have been pardoned and restored had his remorse given way to a true, Christ-centered contrition; and if Jesus would have forgiven even His betrayer had that desperate disciple sought forgiveness in faith, you should believe that, since no sin could possibly be worse than Judas’s treachery, the Savior has pardon, love, peace, for you. All you need—however scarlet or bloody your sins may be—after deep penetrating sorrow is sincere trust in the Lord Jesus—nothing more!

When Judas hanged himself and his disfigured body fell headlong to the ground, it was too late for repentance. Thank God, you still have a chance! But if you love your soul, do not postpone your contrite return to the Father! Don’t figure on deathbed penitence or plan to live in sin until your last hour comes and then conveniently be converted to God! True, the thief on the cross was saved in the eleventh hour, showing that as long as there is life, it is not too late. A Christian physician in Maine who has systematically observed the dying moments of hundreds of sufferers, writes me to corroborate a happy certainty that often a last-moment word pointing to Christ can be of eternal blessing. Yet it is equally sure, as Christian ministers can testify, that in most cases dying unbelievers are not physically, mentally, spiritually, able to understand the offer of Christ’s love. They have toyed with salvation, and it has slipped beyond their grasp!

Several years ago reports from Russia announced that Red atheists would erect a gigantic, widely visible statue of Judas Iscariot to show their defiant rejection of Christ. I have not been able to ascertain how far they succeeded; nor does it matter. Some day the Soviets will learn the whole lesson of which even now they have apparently accepted the first chapters, that no country can long prosper in rebellion against the Almighty. It is of more personal concern that you and I never altogether lose sight of Judas nor forget the lessons which his despair and suicide teach. Look at him once more in that fatal flight from the Temple; for in him we must see our own weaknesses mirrored; but while he ran from Christ, O God of all grace, help us hasten to the Savior with more than remorse—with real, Christ-directed repentance! Make us a truly contrite nation, in which devout citizens, though surrounded by the pomp and parade of the hour, humbly confess their faults and prayerfully seek divine guidance for the United States during the hazardous years ahead! Grant us truly penitent churches, keenly conscious of their reluctance to give everything in bringing the crucified Savior to masses in America! Bless us with repentant homes, so that grim despair may be banished from families united in trustful adoration of Christ! Give us, in our foremost benediction, truly contrite hearts, deep sorrow for our wrong, sincere resolve for the right, through faith in Jesus Christ our own and only Redeemer! We ask it in His name! Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: March 9, 1941

Then said Jesus unto him, Put up again thy sword into his place; for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.Matthew 26:52

Blessed Lord Jesus:

Forgive us out hatred, envy, strife, and by the power of Thy bleeding and dying for us, merciful Son of God, enable us to walk meekly and humbly in Thy footsteps as we search for reconciliation with God and our fellow-men! Help us to pray for our enemies, even as Thou didst intercede for those who crucified Thee! Destroy all selfish prejudices against men of other races, colors, creeds, and classes! In an hour of great national crisis we implore Thee, if it be Thy will, to prevent the spread of bloodshed, stop the horrors of these hostilities, and bestow true, equitable peace. Bring to naught the treacherous counsels of those who seek war for war’s sake, who grow rich by the blood spilled on fields of battle, or who spread hate-breeding falsehood! O Jesus, without Thy love complete darkness would encircle us! Give Thyself to us by the Holy Spirit for our comfort, guidance, light, strength, and salvation! Bless this message in many hearts! Let it bring multitudes to the cross and help those who know Thee to persevere in the faith/ We ask this by the promise of Thy mercy. Amen.

NATIONWIDE interest was aroused last week by the unusual proposal of a Louisiana sheriff. He held in his custody four men, convicted murderers, sentenced to die in the electric chair. Believing that a warning from their lips might help to keep others from breaking the law and suffering a similar end, the sheriff arranged to have a microphone placed in the death-cells; and shortly before they entered the execution chamber the four doomed prisoners were to tell the world by radio that crime does not pay. State authorities objected, however, and the broadcast was rightly canceled. Much more than last-hour expressions of regret is required to stop murder and felony. Many different confession magazines, so-called “true-story” publications, are issued today; but if all these crime accounts, gangster motion-pictures, and underworld broadcasts were a real influence for good, our penitentiaries would not be overcrowded with the largest penal population the country has ever known.

In these days of widening war, when every week extends hostilities, an appalling age of brute force, with falsehood enthroned and truth sentenced to the scaffold—we need a divine arraignment of all aggression, tyranny, mass murder, a divine power, to check savage bloodlust and ruthless destruction. No merely human agency can outlaw the glorifying of bloodshed and the exalting of savage strength which sinister forces support. What more revealing evidence of men’s sinfulness could be required than the demonstration that despite our culture, scientific progress, and social advance neither legislation, education, diplomacy, nor international conflict has been able to teach this generation that violence does not pay. Have you ever stopped to realize how much of man’s time, effort, and money is devoted to malice and destruction at this crest of human achievement? We have paid far more in men and dollars for the turmoil of crime and losses through war than any previous quarter century. Yet war hysteria continues. Therefore, we must have a heavenly voice to resound above the shriek of bombs and the explosion of torpedoes, a power from God which will enable us to overcome the hateful, violent tendencies of the human heart. That command and that power—thank God!—are granted us by the Lord Jesus Himself. Beholding this world of weak and wicked men, each one inflamed by the passions of hatred, He, the Son of God and the Savior of the world, cries out:

“PUT UP YOUR SWORDS!”

How else can we interpret these words of the Lenten story (Saint Matthew, chapter twenty-six, verse fifty-two) in which Jesus tells fiery, impetuous Peter and those of like mind in our age, “Put up again thy sword into his place; for all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword”?

I

HOW NECESSARY THIS WARNING!

When Jesus rose from that intense wrestling with human sin in the Garden, the Roman soldiers, accompanied by the priests’ henchmen, broke into Gethsemane’s stillness. Their torches and lanterns soon revealed Christ, who, because of His holy, heavenly love for us, made no attempt to escape (how different the European monarch whose further flight was recorded last week!), but resolutely assured His captors that He was Jesus of Nazareth whom they sought. The Savior had hardly declared, “I am He!” when, as if in final demonstration of His majestic greatness, the entire hostile throng, bearing spears and staves, retreated before His commanding presence and fell helpless to the ground. Once more our Lord asked, “Whom seek ye?” and when they replied, “Jesus of Nazareth!” He showed His deep concern for the welfare of the disciples—the same devotion He extends to you—and declared, “If . . . ye seek Me, let these go their way!” How completely in accord with our Lord’s substitutionary atonement! He, the Innocent, is captured; yet He pleads that we, the sin-stained, may be freed!

The scene was now set for the most dastardly deed in history. By connivance with the Savior’s enemies, so no possible slip-up could mar their plans, Judas, in the arch­treachery of the ages, approached Christ for the betrayal. If in that moment lightning had flashed from heaven to strike down the perfidious disciple, or if the ground had opened to swallow him, our human sympathies would almost breathe a sigh of thankful relief. But the Savior’s marvelous mercy calls Judas “friend,” an intimate, appealing term, which in the original means “comrade.” He asks, “Wherefore art thou come?” pleading with that disloyal disciple to reconsider the terrifying consequences of his crime—just as Christ often warns you who are planning evil, betraying your trust in God, breaking promises to fellow-men, perhaps even to your own husband or wife. But Judas had sold out to Satan. Nothing that Christ said stopped him. Smirkingly he kissed the Savior, whom he had betrayed for thirty pieces of silver. Paltry pieces of blood money, we say—yet an amount larger than the sum many of you have received in payment for your denial of Christ. That traitor’s kiss was the prearranged sign, and the soldiers, who otherwise might have been unable to identify their Victim with certainty, now quickly laid their hands on the Savior. That capture served as a signal to the disciples, who, awakened by the tumult, stood about bewildered, helpless, while Pilate’s legionaries bound Christ. Suddenly it seems to have flashed across their conscience how inexcusable their sleep was when Jesus had asked them to watch and pray. Peter especially must have recalled his boastful promise of loyalty made hardly an hour earlier when, as the disciples’ spokesman, he had declared, “Though I should die with Thee, yet will I not deny Thee!” Dismayed and desperate because Jesus was captured by His enemies, while he and his companions had done nothing to save Him, Peter, with a feeling we can well understand, cried, “Lord, shall we smite with the sword?”—Two of the disciples, it appears, were armed. Perhaps they believed in being prepared, or perhaps their weapon was the large swordlike knife used shortly before in connection with the sacrifice of the Passover lamb. Without pausing for an answer or stopping to consider how futile it would be to fight with only two blades against a company of fully trained soldiers, Peter draws his sword, begins to slash about in a holy war and cuts an ear off the high priest’s slave. Then, in the rebuke which rings out clear and decisive through the centuries, Jesus, spurning every thought of self-defense and of recourse to arms, tells Peter, “Put up again thy sword into his place!”

If only all who have followed the Savior since that day would have heeded His command! Throughout church history misguided men have used violence against their opponents or in spreading their doctrines. Under the threat of pain and punishment thousands of pagans in ancient France and Germany were forcefully made nominal Christians, baptized at mass ceremonies, while regiments stood by, ready to use their swords, should any prove unwilling to submit. No one has ever been able to compute the toll in millions of lives and the unspeakable suffering sustained through the seven crusades when European Christians sought to tear the Holy Land from Mohammedan control. Zealous bigots were so blinded that they even encouraged children to undertake a special crusade, believing that perhaps by some miracle boys and girls could capture the places made sacred through the Savior’s life. About 95,000 children under twelve took part, but only 10,000 returned. The rest were killed, sold into slavery, or died of disease and starvation. The darkest chapter we find in the records of the Inquisition, the torture practiced by churches against those who would not submit to their teachings. Nothing has brought greater reproach to the Christian cause than the fact that in Jesus’ name the most excruciating cruelties and devilish devices were employed to murder women and children, whose only “crime” was the insistence with which they followed the dictates of their conscience in worshiping Christ. Church medals have been struck to commemorate massacres in which many thousands of Christians were killed. Long defenses have been composed to justify these persecutions, but they still shriek in protest to the highest heaven. If you want proof of the depths to which men can sink, survey the instances when, under the emblem of the cross, they massacred their fellow-men, worshipers of the same Savior. Get from your public libraries the old classic that deserves restudy, particularly in dangerous days like these, Fox’s Book of Martyrs, and you will read records of hanging, beheading, drowning, burning, racking, stoning, starving—instigated by both friends and foes of Christ! Go over to Europe’s museums, and you will see the Iron Maiden which the victims of the Inquisition had to embrace, a cruel machine in the shape of a beautiful virgin, so designed that when its victim was locked in its arms, sharp daggers stabbed him to death. You will see cages too small for a prisoner to stand, too uncomfortable for him to lie down. You will see ropes with which Christians were hanged to the ceiling by their thumbs, and heavy weights with which at the same time they were pulled to the ground. You will discover the most hideous apparatus that vicious inventors could devise—all used in the name of the church and its Lord.

How fervently we pray God that this may remain a part of the past! But who, in view of the present debacle, would dare to say that streams of martyr blood will never flow in this country? Even today many groups forget that Christ’s realm is not of this world and therefore cannot be extended by earthly force. During the last decades we have seen repeated instances of governmental intrusion into the Church’s work. Most of the Protestant congregations in Germany have been brought into a Nazi-directed union, and on our own shores voices are asking for one national American Church, where, of course, faithfulness to the Lord Jesus Christ and loyalty to His teaching will be secondary or ignored altogether. Throughout Abyssinia and Albania Protestant mission-work is stopped; and on this side of the Atlantic infuriated mobs destroy the churches of a small sect (whose teachings I can in no way endorse) only because its adherents refuse to salute the American flag. Loyal otherwise, they simply have the mistaken notion that this is a gesture of disobedience to God which violates the First Commandment. Throughout Europe, we are told, the freedom of worship is restricted, as, for example, in Norway, where soldiers of the occupation attend services to report on the sermons; and in the United States superorganizations are at work, attempting to direct and control Protestantism, dictate who may have the privileges of radio broadcasting and punish those who disagree with their policies. Old World churchmen have repeatedly petitioned civil authorities to enact laws for the support of their particular denomination or religious group; and in the State of Delaware Christians who do not understand that the Old Testament dispensation is past and that there is no New Testament Sabbath keep Sunday blue-laws, which require the fine or imprisonment of those who refuse to respect this error! While we thank God that despite the prevalence of tyranny throughout the earth our divinely blessed nation still enjoys the liberty of conscience, worship, and expression, let us be on our guard during these problem-weighted years before us lest our freedom be undermined. When Jesus calls to His disciple, “Put up thy sword!” may His command help to check every use of force, physical, legal, or financial, by any religious group! Though we can never compromise with error or refuse to indict attacks on Christ and the doctrines of His faith, even such protest can be made in charity and without personal reference or animosity. Besides, we can pray the Holy Spirit to give all who love the message of salvation as the only hope for a perishing world a greater degree of true unity, real agreement on every Scriptural teaching.

The Savior’s cry “Put up your swords!” also reminds us that each unjustified use of force must likewise be denounced. Those who deny that fundamental truth without which one cannot understand why Christ shed His blood, the Biblical doctrine that every man by birth and nature is sinful, vile, and wicked, should survey the horrifying record of wars fought from the beginnings of time. Because this is an age of aggression, we ought to restudy and restate the Bible’s pronouncements concerning war. Avoiding the extremes of the pacifists, we must clearly understand that there may be just conflicts, particularly those fought against invaders or in national defense. As you protect your home, property, and dear ones against burglary, fire, and other similar calamities, so you must be prepared to guard with your lives, if necessary, these homes, and the country that gives you its blessings. Avoiding the extremes of militarism, which seeks to glorify all bloodshed, we must understand that there may be unjust wars, those which are purely acts of organized thuggery, in which an empire without cause falls on a smaller, helpless land. The annals of humanity have been filled with such unrighteousness—and it should be clear that, regardless of consequences to themselves, we cannot support conflicts of this kind. If it is wrong for you and me to attack a man, destroy his property, and take his life, it is wrong for Christians to help their government in any aggressive act that seeks to despoil another people. Now, it may often be difficult to decide whether a war is defensive or aggressive, right or wrong; and in such uncertainty Christians should obey the government, which must bear the responsibility for its actions. Those who are honest conscientious objectors should be treated with consideration.

Let it be recognized that, whether a conflict is justified or not, it comes as a scourge from God, with its destruction of life and property, its multiplied hardships, its moral degradation and hostility to the Christian Church. Therefore, Christian citizens urge the Government to weigh carefully now, before it is too late, the consequences of war’s terror. After a declaration is made, that action is beyond recall. We must understand, too, that God’s Word lays it on the conscience of His children to work for peace, to pray earnestly for the avoidance of bloodshed. I pause in this crisis moment to ask American Christians whether they individually have met this obligation, by interceding for the preservation of tranquility. How we wish that the cry of the captured Savior, reechoing down through all the changes in human affairs, “Put up your swords!” would be heeded by those who promote international strife, who selfishly profit by every life lost and every day the battle is extended!

This disavowal of force should be followed also in the prolonged conflict between employer and employee, in the savage struggle between classes and races, but notably in the third divine institution besides the Church and the State, the home. Here, where a man and a woman are united by the most enduring bonds, protected by the closest ties and the deepest blessings that God Almighty has given us for this earth, we certainly are entitled to expect the absence of constraint and, instead, the reign of love. Yet one of the most frequent problems with which we have to cope—a difficulty which each year brings thousands of letters asking advice and constantly leads a stream of people to my office—is the tragedy that hatred has usurped the place of love in many families, that physical force or legal power breaks an increasing number of American homes. This week a Missouri legislator introduced a bill to make our State a mecca for divorce-seekers. He pointed out that millionaires and motion-picture actors spend many thousands of dollars in dissolving their marriages, and he sees no reason why Nevada, Arkansas, and several other States should receive practically all this lucrative revenue. He wants Missouri to have its share—the same twisted logic which the bartender employs when he concludes that the half-drunken wretch before him will spend his money in some tavern anyway, that he may as well be the one who profits—as though there ever could be any benefit in money gained through disregard of the divine Law! Besides these organized onslaughts from without, the home suffers internally under the rule of resentment, selfishness, cruelty. Fathers and mothers tyrannize their children; sons and daughters, when their parents are too weak and worn for productive work, insist on sending them to the old folks’ home. With husband arrayed against wife, parents against children, with distrust and suspicion often accompanied by unfaithfulness, our Lord’s cry rings with double appeal throughout every unhappy home: “Stop this strife here at the hearthside, where, more than at any other spot, love and peace should reign! Put up your swords!”

Let us not pass lightly over this injunction, “Put up your swords in the churches, in the State, in the home!” When Jesus specifically warned, “All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword,” He did not exaggerate. Look at history! Many a European church, for example, in Spain, that a few centuries ago promoted inquisition has been partially or wholly destroyed, and before our generation ends, perhaps other religious groups that favored violence will similarly be wiped out. Countries which eagerly grasped the sword for conquest have been laid waste. Where are the great military nations of the past: Babylonia, Assyria, Egypt, Persia, Rome? Though they gathered the wealth and brains of the world, they were not rich and wise enough to escape the punishment that Christ here predicts, “All they that take the sword shall perish with the sword.” Families ruled or broken by compulsion can never enjoy Christ’s blessings of harmony and happiness. Brutal criminals, war lords, who promote strife, individuals who hate—these, by the punishment they suffer on earth and, if unforgiven, in hell, prove the inescapable truth of the Savior’s verdict: Force leads to force! Taking the sword in violence brings back the sword in destruction!

II

HOW BLESSED THE SAVIOR’S SUBSTITUTION OF LOVE FOR FORCE!

By this command and His immediate healing of the slave with the severed ear, Jesus showed us that He had come to extend love, help, hope; that the weapons of His kingdom were not carnal but spiritual.—A severe testing­time may face Christians throughout the world as they try to follow Christ in this emphasis on love. We need a new understanding of His compassion, a new commentary on His Sermon on the Mount, with a practical, 1941 application of its inspired, divine program for peace and against violence. Everyone who acclaims Jesus his Savior should in all seriousness seek to convince himself that Christ meant exactly what He said when He declared: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. . . . Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the children of God.” It is His clear instruction: “Resist not evil; but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” Deliberately does He command, “I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you, that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven.” We have no justification whatever for taking these words in any other sense than that which we must find in their clear reading. Yet how far we are from that complete spirit of love! During a hearing at Washington the president of our oldest university, who urged that, if necessary, we send our youth to Europe’s battlefields, was asked in cross-examination whether, obedient to the Scriptures which he quoted, he had prayed for those whom he regarded as this country’s enemies; he admitted that he had not. Most of you would have to make that same confession. Yet here is Christ’s Word, teaching meekness, prayer, and intercession for enemies, love and forbearance! As the churches put these sacred requirements into operation, they will, by divine grace, receive new and heavenly strength; for it is still true in our day as 2500 years ago in Zechariah’s time that the Kingdom is built “not by might nor by power but by My Spirit.” And that holy, sanctifying Spirit comes with hearing, believing, practicing, the whole Word of God.

Jesus not only taught that love; He lived it. A hundred times His own countrymen so maliciously opposed Him that with our sinful emotions of anger and hatred we would have turned away in deep-souled resentment. Again and again their blasphemy was so vile that they even associated their Messiah, the sinless Son of God, with Satan. Had we been among Christ’s followers then, we, too, would have joined John in asking the Savior to invoke destruction from heaven upon those who rejected Him. The Christ of endless compassion would not stoop to that. Nailed on the cross, He pleaded with His Father to forgive everyone who had a part in making Him endure the agony and shame of the crucifixion.

Jesus, however, not only taught that all-enduring love and lived it; He shed His own lifeblood and gave Himself into atoning death to prove it. We were God’s enemies, estranged from Him by our wickedness. We had no claim for any consideration by Christ. If we had been made to bear the punishment of our innumerable and repeated sins, pay the full penalty, suffer the accumulated guilt of every transgression recorded day by day against us, we could have no complaint, no reason to charge our God with injustice. By that inexpressible devotion with which He loved us, frail, false, full of pride as we all are, Jesus, God’s own Son, removed these iniquities, not simply by forgetting them or crossing them off; not merely by some mechanical transfer, but by assuming Himself in His own sinless body the retribution for every unholy impulse, every impure utterance, every selfish action with which we have served sin and rebelled against God’s holiness.

Pray the Father ceaselessly that you may accept your Savior and, having confessed Him, to abide in His love, loyal unto the end! Nothing else in life counts in comparison with that Christ-directed faith. It is the one priceless possession for time and eternity; and this assurance of salvation through Him can be fully yours, so that conscience’s protests, hell’s furies, death’s terror cannot move the rock of trust. The Savior’s love can be yours freely; for if you have learned to say, “Jesus shed His blood for me,” you know this keystone truth of the Christian creed: we are “justified by faith, without the deeds of the Law.” You can have His love unconditionally despite the heavy transgressions which make you wonder whether there can be grace even for you. As you behold the Lord in Gethsemane disavowing the use of the sword and going unflinchingly to His death on the cross, now hardly twelve hours distant, believe that He treads this path of suffering for you; that He permits the nails of death to rivet Him to the cross for your sake; that He endures the God­forsakenness, the thirst, the ridicule, the anguish of body, and the incomparably worse agony of soul, so that you can be saved for a blessed eternity. As I beseech you in the name of the bleeding, moaning, dying Savior: “Give yourself to Christ now! Accept His mercy today!” may God’s Spirit, without which my words would be only empty phrases, find His victorious way into sin-darkened, hope­robbed hearts and bring this answer to your lips: “O God, my Father, heartily do I repent of the wrong with which I have offended Thee. Contritely do I confess myself to be unworthy of all Thy mercies; but steadfastly do I cling to the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ, my Savior. His blood is the only cleansing for my sins, His death the one promise of my life, His truth the sole guarantee for heaven’s glories!”

With such faith you will be able to practice the compassion which turns from violence and the sword. Just as “there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved” but the precious name of Jesus Christ, so there is no antidote to the poison of hatred besides the pure Gospel of the Savior slain for the world’s sins. A few days ago a scrubwoman, who each weekday evening cleans a Chicago office-building, was given a four­hour beauty treatment; her cotton house dress was exchanged for a fashionable frock; and a transformation was effected which, the newspaper said, turned a charwoman into a Cinderella. No human process can plant love in a heart of hate nor create that spiritual beauty which is reflected on the peaceful, happy countenance. Only the Holy Spirit can produce that regeneration. We must have the rebirth which makes us new creatures in Jesus!

The history of Christ’s Church, from the time that Stephen sought God’s pardon for those who were stoning him to death, down to the present moment, bears witness to the renewing power of the Holy Comforter. Tamatoe, converted South Sea island ruler, discovered a plot contrived by those of his people who had remained heathen. They planned to seize him, together with native believers, and burn all Christians to death. Tamatoe captured the conspirators unawares, but to their astonishment, instead of killing them, he set a feast before them. This mercy was so unexpected that the savages deserted their idols and were converted to Christ. When Jesus reigns in our hearts, we, too, can have peace instead of poisonous envy. By His grace I promise those of you whose family happiness has been destroyed by rankling hatred that, if you make Jesus the Head of your home; if He abides with you in faithful family prayers and Scripture-reading; if you invite Him to every meal and ask His blessing at the beginning and close of each day; if with the Spirit’s power you try to lead Christlike lives, you can master bitterness, selfishness, and disappointment. You can start over in your home (your letters prove that this is not theory but God’s truth) with a fresh, happy beginning and the hope of better things to come. If in your individual lives envy, jealousy, malicious, covetous thoughts, rule where consideration and devotion to others should reign supreme, give Jesus full sway, and you will find that He truly can create a clean heart and renew a right spirit within you.

As the Lenten scene once more portrays Christ rebuking His disciples with the command, “Put up thy sword!” may we be given the grace to understand that God will take care of us, our country, our churches, our homes—as long as we are Christ’s. If necessary, those twelve angel legions which Jesus could have called may be summoned for defense in danger and protection against enemies. What a blessed thought in the midst of temptation, sorrow, and trial to know that the same Father who directed His Son’s destiny from Gethsemane through Golgotha and the grave to His glorious resurrection will lead us without hatred and fears, without the sword, from earth’s trial to heaven’s triumph! Unto Him, the all-merciful, ever-glorious, never-­ending Christ, the Cleansing for our iniquities, the Savior of our souls, the Peace for our troubled hearts, Jesus, the only Hope in a sin-cancered world, the only Light during our sin-darkened days, the only Promise of inner peace throughout a war-racked world—unto Him be the loyalty of our contrite hearts, the praise of our Spirit-filled lives, the adoration of our ransomed souls, both now and forever! Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: March 2, 1941

He cometh unto the disciples and findeth them asleep and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray that ye enter not into temptation.Matthew 26:40-41

Christ, who didst Suffer Agony in the Garden for Us:

Give us the penitent faith which recognizes that, when the weight of human sin crushed Thy soul almost into death at Gethsemane, Thou didst endure such anguish for us! Abide in us, O strengthening Savior, to reinforce the faith by which we may overcome the slumber of carnal security and, watching prayerfully, resist evil forces which would keep us from Thee! Contritely do we confess that the sleep of sin has often overtaken us when, instead of arousing ourselves to faithful vigilance, we rested unconcerned, while enemies of Thy grace sought to restrain the Kingdom’s course. Pardon us for every refusal to follow the appeal of Thy love with unwavering devotion! Continue to look down mercifully on a world that has forgotten and betrayed Thee! If it be Thy will, restrict the horrors of further war! Grant us, although we have not deserved it, a beneficial, building peace! O Jesus, without Thee we can do nothing. Bless us, then, and enrich our souls by the grace of Thy Cross and the cleansing power of Thy blood! Amen.

CRUCIAL days have dawned for America. Perhaps even before I speak to you again momentous decisions will have been reached by Congress. Whether we realize it or not, the nation’s destiny is being shaped not only for this crisis year but for decades to come.

Little doubt remains that we are close to war. Every day on the Senate floor the assertion is emphatically repeated that the United States must take an active part in European military operations. Confidential reports released by financial experts regard our part in the struggle as practically inevitable. After the first World War we said, “It must not happen again!” Now we fear, “It will happen again.” Only a miracle can save this country from war.

Even if the miracle should occur and we be spared actual participation in bloodshed; if, despite its unworthiness, the world be granted an honorable, constructive peace, for which I still ask you to work and pray in this eleventh hour, we nevertheless stare into a problem-filled future. We shall experience financial hardship; for even though we hardly glance a second time at headlines reporting multibillion-dollar appropriations, these staggering expenditures must finally be paid by the people. War or peace, active belligerency or passive, long-drawn hostilities or quick armistice, we should prepare to counteract the immoralities which flourish in days of easy money and lavish spending like these. The most alarming upswing in American crime began after the last war. Have we any reason to suppose that with the far greater proportion of our present-day difficulties the revolt against God’s Law and man’s will decrease during the years before us?

Dwarfing these social and moral perplexities, however, is the increase of opposition to Christ which the churches will soon meet. In this national emergency every American Christian should understand clearly and personally that our faith will be tried as never before. Recent reports from Britain tell us that through constant war strain the Church of England has been paralyzed. What reason have we to suppose that the Savior’s cause in the United States will not suffer appalling setbacks? If the late war put Karl Marx and his atheism over Jesus Christ and His Gospel in Russia, placed the State over the Church in Germany and Italy, helped to enthrone reason more solidly over revelation in Britain, France, and our own country, let us put on our spiritual armor to defend ourselves, before it is too late, against a large-scale assault on Jesus within our borders.

Although circumstances which have brought about this crisis are now out of our control, we have a command by Christ, our Savior, that marks our path of duty and promises peace, courage, confidence, to all who love Him and follow His instructions. I thank God that in this first Lenten message I can give you as the crisis cry for inward and outward struggle, the battle-call for the Church in its conflicts, this motto of militant Christianity:

AWAKE! WATCH! PRAY!

a plea which takes us back to the beginning of our Savior’s Passion in these words of Saint Matthew (chapter twenty­six, verses forty and forty-one), “He cometh unto the disciples and findeth them asleep and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with Me one hour? Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation.”

I

AWAKE!

This command by Jesus broke the nocturnal stillness in the Garden of Gethsemane, one of the few Palestinian localities, hallowed by our Savior’s suffering, that can be identified with some certainty. If it was of the same size as the present site, this enclosure, which Saint John alone calls the “garden,” was a small plot, only about fifty yards square; but the whole world would not be large enough to contain adequate descriptions of the agony which Christ experienced there. Only eight gnarled olive-trees today mark the place, but the most magnificent and costly monument that wealth and art could erect would never begin to commemorate worthily the convulsive agony which there almost crushed Jesus into death.

Gethsemane was only half a mile from the Jerusalem city walls; and the pathway which crossed that distance could have been traversed leisurely in fifteen minutes. Yet what startling difference a half mile and a quarter hour produced in our Lord! Before that last walk we hear Him in His high-priestly prayer, confident, joy-filled, triumphant, concerned chiefly about the preservation and deliverance of His disciples; but now, after this short span of space and time, rejoicing has given way to relentless anguish. His thoughts are riveted on the impending ordeal. Until this hour the disciples depended on the Master, but in Gethsemane, Jesus needs His followers with the deepest urgency. He selects three, perhaps those of whom sympathy and perseverance may best be expected: Peter, James, John; and taking them with Him to a secluded spot, He engages in the most penetrating prayer earth and heaven have ever heard. As the Passover moon sends its beams on Christ, we can witness terror and soul­searing pain, such as human eye will never otherwise see. The Scriptures themselves can hardly find adequate words to picture that agony. They state that Jesus was “sorrowful,” “sore amazed,” “very heavy,” “full of sorrows.” Neither these four terms nor four hundred more can plumb the abyss of His grief. Jesus falls on His knees to plead with His Father, only to find that the torment of His soul casts Him prostrate on the damp ground. Had it not been for the preordained plan of our redemption, Christ would have died then and there. And He almost did, for He moaned, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” No human agency could save Him. An angel had to come from heaven to revive Him for the climax on the cross.

The voice which the three selected disciples had heard defeat the grave when Jesus, gripping the cold hand of a lifeless corpse, cried, “Maid, arise!” now pleads for help. Thrice that never-to-be-forgotten cry rings out through the night, “O My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from Me!” The countenance which these favored followers had seen glorified on the Mount of Transfiguration, where the Savior’s face shone as the sun, is now pale and covered with bloody sweat!

As you ask God ever to keep this glimpse of the Savior’s unparalleled agony before your mind’s eye, stop to learn why Jesus was stretched out on Gethsemane’s soil! It was not merely fear that almost took His life, a cringing before His crucifixion, a dread of death, as modern enemies of the Cross declare. Our Lord knew how to overcome such terror. See Him a few hours after this ordeal in the Garden, when, calm and composed, He endures one cruelty after the other by His Jewish countrymen and the Roman authorities. Behold Him on the way to Calvary stopping to preach to the women who fringed that road! Picture Him on the cross as He promises a penitent thief the immediate glories of Paradise. Confidently He cries, “It is finished!” and commends Himself into His Father’s hands. You need not be a Christian to know that there is nothing fearful and cowardly in the Christ of Gethsemane.

The only true explanation of this mystery in the Garden is that there the Savior’s suffering for all human transgressions begins. We sometimes limit Christ’s agony to the physical pain He endured throughout the various hours of torture that culminated in His death on the cross; but we should not exclude Gethsemane’s soul-grief which Jesus sustained (not for His own sins, since He had none; and even His enemies’ perjury could invent no true charge against Him) for my iniquities and yours. Here, by God’s eternal plan for our redemption, the Guiltless languished for the guilty, the Faultless for the fault-filled, the Lawgiver for the law-breaker, the eternal God for His death-marked creatures!

What a terrifying curse Jesus assumes as He prepares to die by man, yet for man! A single sin in your life can open the floodgates of unspeakable misery for the rest of your days. The one misstep that some of you young folks take can torment you as long as you live. An isolated transgression can visit its disastrous consequences on the third and fourth generation. How immeasurable, then, must be the penalty for the wrong committed! But how horrifying the retribution which God’s outraged justice must demand for the total of all sins committed by mankind throughout every century of mankind’s sordid history! Yet nothing less than that appalling aggregate was laid upon Christ in the Garden. There His soul was afflicted for social outcasts, prostitutes, degenerates, murderers, war­profiteers, white-slavers, debauchers of youth, as well as for you, the self-righteous and self-satisfied. You brought Him to Gethsemane. You made Him cry, “Let this cup pass from Me!” You, no matter how good you think you are or try to show yourself, regardless of the esteem in which you are publicly held; you, whoever, wherever, whatever, you are, made Him fall to the ground and require the strengthening angel. Admit that now! Declare before your God that Jesus hears the brunt of this indescribable pain for you!

Then you will not wonder why Christ in that last conflict craved the companionship of His own followers. He was so truly human that even their presence would have brought Him assurance in His anguish. So He asks His three trusted disciples, the inner circle, we may say, of the Twelve, “Tarry ye here and watch with Me!” What a modest request that was! We gladly keep long night­vigils at the bedside of our beloved ones. A true Christian pastor will gladly forego sleep to pray with any one in his charge who is besieged by heavy sorrows. Even the Government grants a convicted murderer the sustaining counsel of a spiritual adviser in the final hours before the electric chair. Yet small as was this last service which Peter, James, and John were asked to render the Lord, it was too great. What depth of human weakness we see in these words, “He cometh unto the disciples and findeth them asleep.” Their cruel slumber seems too much even for the gentle Christ; and beholding Peter, who only a few minutes before had loudly boasted that he would readily die for Him, now relaxed in heavy slumber, the agonized Savior cries, “What, could ye not watch with Me one hour?”

We seek an explanation for this heartless sleep, and the Scriptures give two reasons: the disciples were weary, and they were heavy with sorrow. Yet, before we pour out our scorn on these men who could not stay awake for a single hour during the one crisis for which Jesus asked their companionship, let us be honest enough to admit that the best among us fall asleep when Christ’s cause suffers attack and we should be awake to the danger. Jesus has just as little help from many a professing Christian today as He had from that slumbering trio. If Saint Paul had to tell first-century believers, “Now it is high time to awake out of sleep,” the cry that should shake twentieth­century church-members from their lethargy asks, “Christians of America, awake! Our faith is being assaulted! Wake up to the truth that the Savior is being assailed by indifference, compromise, and denial within the churches! Wake up to the peril that modernist unbelief is often capturing your pulpits, divinity schools, church-papers! Wake up to the realization that many churches are spiritually dead, without the living Christ in their sermons, without missionary zeal in their members’ lives! Wake up to the dangers of this hour, when atheism, materialism, sensualism, are arrayed against the Church in the strongest force ever mobilized in this country! Wake up, churches of America, to the conviction that in this crisis only Christ can solve our difficulties!”

The Savior’s appeal for wakeful followers, however, is an individual plea to every one of you. May it reach some who are slumbering securely in the carnal sleep of sin! Too many of you are in a constant coma of spiritual carelessness, as unconcerned about your soul as a sleeping man is about his body. You think your life without Jesus is satisfying. You don’t want Christ because you claim that you do not need Him! Or do you? Before long the sins you serve will find you out. Before long you will face eternity, when death, which this week summoned king and commoner, comes to you. How terrifying, then, this spiritual encephalitis, the sleeping-sickness of the soul! Before it is too late, wake up! See Christ convulsed in the Garden and say, “O Jesus, all this agony was for me! Forgive me! Make me Yours! Keep me awake!” And that plea will be answered.

II

WATCH!

Christ demanded more than mere wakefulness. “Watch,” He told the disciples, “that ye enter not into temptation!” Encircled, as He was, by sorrows without number, He is now concerned with His followers’ welfare. Satan, He knows, will assault them with redoubled force; temptations will multiply. In His betrayal, capture, and arrest their human weakness will need support. So He pleads, “‘Watch!’ Be on your guard! Be prepared!”

The same trials which tested these disciples surround us day and night. The enemies of the Cross have increased, and it is still true even of the most loyal among Jesus’ followers that “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Ten thousand forces of evil, each one a crafty, superhuman power of hell, line up against us; and daily do we need the Savior’s warning “Watch . . . that ye enter not into temptation!”

“‘Watch,’ Christian youth of America,” His Word commands; “guard against the evil which appeals to your baser nature, asks you to reject the sacred statutes of purity and to run along with the world!” “‘Watch,’ Christian parents of America! Resist the dark forces which seek to destroy Christian home-life, belittle parenthood, childhood, and the sacred marriage vow!”

“Christian citizens of America,” Christ would say, “‘Watch!’ Take steps to guard the religious liberties, the separation of Church and State, the right of assembly, the freedom of worship that is constitutionally ours!” War emergencies may seek to restrict or destroy this heritage. Last week the people of Germany were told that they were not primarily Protestants or Catholics. First of all, their Fuehrer commanded, they were to be Germans. Let us hope that in our own country, as the times become more critical, no false nationalism will demand that we give Christ a second place. No conflict ever need arise between our Christian creed and our love for country; but if the time should ever come (and in view of present tendencies, who will say that it cannot?) when we are told, “You are Americans first and Christians second,” may the Holy Spirit strengthen us to declare, “We ought to obey God rather than men,” and give Jesus uncontested supremacy in our hearts!

“‘Watch,’ Christian churches of America,” the Savior cries to us from the Garden. Prepare for the darker day! Get ready now for the new conditions that will follow the war, by bringing the Gospel to the masses! Let American people know that this Christ in Gethsemane is the Savior of the common people, too! When Millais’ picture of Jesus in the carpenter shop was exhibited throughout England, great throngs of working-men flocked to inspect the canvas, because, they said, “This is our Comrade.” American labor should repeat their acclaim of our Lord. You men in the factories, as welcome letters assure me, are passing the word from one worker to the other that this broadcast is for the masses and not reserved for a few, just as Christ is the universal, not the restricted Savior. The churches should “watch” by fortifying our children against the temptations of these coming years, giving the rising generation daily Christian instruction in church­supported schools. With the mandate from God Himself “Comfort ye, comfort ye, My people, saith your God!” ringing in our ears, we who are Christ’s must “watch,” so that churches do not waste their efforts in political or cultural discussions which leave souls untouched. Instead, they must bring the pure message of Christ’s saving, sustaining Gospel to the distressed multitudes. The poor, the dispossessed, the unemployed, may be won for any future revolutionary upheaval unless churches show a more concerted desire to help the destitute and avoid slanting their favoritism toward the rich. Remember what happened in Russia, Spain, and Mexico! Let us preach Christ’s Gospel with greater force and frequency, pointing overburdened souls to the grief-gripped Christ in Gethsemane, with this message, “He suffered for you so that you might be spared eternal agony”; directing the forsaken to that solitary Sufferer with the assurance, “He was abandoned, deserted, so that you need never be alone in life or death.”

Despite that pleading, warning, repeated “Watch!” the disciples failed. Sleep continued to weight their eyes. Yet Christ mercifully forgave them! And He can pardon us! We are moved by the story which tells how Abraham Lincoln extended clemency to a soldier sentenced to death for having fallen asleep at his post. Today, in this glimpse of sacred Gethsemane, Christ offers you complete acquittal for every failure to keep awake and watch, for each instance in which Christ’s enemies have triumphed because you have fallen asleep on duty. As Lincoln’s commutation of sentence called forth inexpressible gratitude in the sentry saved from the firing-squad, so may the Savior’s pardoning love make both us and the angels of God above rejoice when we, unfaithful soldiers of Christ, are restored and saved!

III

PRAY!

The Savior’s command to the drowsy disciples also asked them to “pray,” to implore God for strength that they might resist the temptations to disloyalty which would soon confront them. Jesus Himself knew and practiced the power of such petition. This was doubtless not the first time He knelt in the Garden. The Gospels tell us that He customarily retreated to its shade and protection. Our Christian life would be stronger and the number of soul-tragedies reduced, were prayer a holy habit with us! If Christ, the sinless Son of God, found refuge and strength in prayer, how eagerly should we follow the appeal “Ask, and it shall be given you”!

Have you ever recognized that His pleading in the Garden, as a sort of final but unspoken instruction, summarizes everything we need to know about prayer? Jesus, kneeling in Gethsemane, shows us to whom our petitions must be addressed as He cries, “O My Father!” the only recorded instance He uses the word “My” in addressing His Father; and it is only when we address the Triune God, whom Jesus clearly revealed, only when we, too, call God “our Father” through Christ, that we can have assurance of answer.

Jesus, pleading in Gethsemane, also teaches us how to approach the holy God despite the unholiness in our sinful lives. Pointing to Christ, we say, “Father, that Savior whose soul was ‘exceeding sorrowful, even unto death’ has made me Thy child.” Jesus Himself promises, “If ye shall ask the Father anything in My name, He will give it you.” What a clear-cut rejection of all Christless prayers! What a sacred promise for Christ-grounded petitions!

We must likewise be impressed by our Lord’s earnestness. Can we read the story of Gethsemane without being moved by the truth that this prayer, far from being mere routine, was the outpouring of the Savior’s innermost soul? Blessed are we, too, if we speak our petitions with the fervor of faith! Jesus falls on His knees; if God’s Son could thus humble Himself, who are we to forget that posture of lowliness?

The suffering Savior prayed alone, in solitude with His Father; and while we need prayer in the churches, prayer in the family, we must also cultivate the private, personal pleading, which brings its rich reward in stronger faith and intensified courage. Select some spot in your home or, as the Savior did, in the realm of nature and learn what a privilege it is to speak confidently with your God, without any distraction whatever!

Note that Jesus pleaded three times, “Let this cup pass from Me!” The last night of His early life reminds us how necessary protracted prayer often is. Do not expect the Almighty to hear you immediately when Jesus had to repeat His petition! Our omniscient Father sometimes delays in answering because postponement makes us realize more keenly how completely we depend on Him. Wood used in carving must be seasoned to prevent warping; and if God wants to fashion your life into a masterpiece of His mercy that will not lose its symmetry, do not complain when the process takes time! Keep on praying, and you continue to store strength!

Particularly, however, let us learn of Jesus how to plead submissively, in accordance with God’s gracious will. In His soul torture, bearing the total of human transgressions, suffering as our Substitute, Jesus begs that the cup of sorrows might be taken from Him; yet He adds, “if it be possible,” and “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as Thou wilt.” How contrarily our requests specify their answer! We even dictate to God the time, place, manner, of His response, and we are so short-sighted that, if He were to follow our petulant demands and give us everything we ask, we should ruin ourselves. For your spiritual advancement and for the glorious triumph of faith learn to follow Jesus when you implore God in the Third Petition, “Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven”! With the Spirit’s help, overcome stubborn self-will and acquire the calm composure of a life completely surrendered to God!

The cup did not pass from our Lord. He had to drink it to its bitter dregs. Yet His crucifixion was not the end, death not the final chapter. After Calvary came the resurrection; after the cross, the crown of heaven. Similarly in our lives it often may seem that God is deaf to our entreaties; yet all the while His loving heart has planned to give us something far better than we have requested. If He keeps us poor on earth that we may be unspeakably rich in heaven; if He checks our ambitions and we remain unnoticed during this life that during the next we may experience how blessed is the fulfillment of His promise, “The last shall be first,” why should we dare to think unworthy thoughts of our Father when He gives us gold instead of glitter?

May the Holy Spirit touch you so that this sincere wish will form itself in your contrite heart, “I want to pray as Jesus did”!

Do not be discouraged by the tragedy that we have so little Christ-centered prayer today! During difficult times, men think that they themselves can build defense against the approach of every evil, individual and national; but you cannot build a life, a home, a church, a community, a country without God and expect that it will prosper. As I look into the future, I fail to see a single ray of purely human hope which can guarantee peace and blessing. Yet come war, with its wounds and death; come inflation, repudiation, bankruptcy; come the restriction of our religious liberty, persecution for the churches; come a totalitarian America—if we behold the Christ of Gethsemane, hear Him plead, “Awake! Watch! Pray!” and ask God, “O Father, keep me wakeful, watchful, prayerful, with my Savior!”; if at the cry: “On your knees, America!” “Prayer in the homes!” “Prayer in true churches!” we humble ourselves penitently before the Almighty, then just as Gethsemane gave way to the resurrection glory, so we, too, shall meet our nationwide perplexities and emerge from our personal afflictions stronger and better than ever before. May God thus graciously show every one of us that the Savior’s grief in the Garden becomes our sacred pledge of spiritual peace on earth, our assurance of redemption in heaven! May we learn, if necessary in heart-trying experience, that the pathway to Christian power is marked by obedience to our Redeemer’s repeated request, “Awake! Watch! Pray!” We ask this in Jesus’ name! Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: February 23, 1941

The glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them that they may be one, even as We are one: I in them and Thou in Me.John 17:22-23

Precious Savior:

As we prepare once more to witness Thy suffering in out stead, Thy crucifixion on our behalf, Thy death for our life, give us a humble spirit that banishes all self-righteousness; a contrite heart clinging penitently to Thy mercy; a trusting soul which, freed from doubt, confidently builds its hope only on Thy blood-bought atonement! O Jesus, our God, our Sovereign, our Redeemer, bless us during the coming Lenten season, above all else, with this glorious faith! By the Spirit’s indwelling remove every sinful distraction which would prevent us from centering our love on Thy suffering and dying for our redemption! Help us gladly to bear the Passiontide message and apply its truths to ourselves! In Thy love stifle every doubt that would keep us from confessing our transgression, and finding pardon and peace in Thee! Give us both the desire and the power to walk in the light and show forth Thy praise before men! Preserve us in this truth until Thou shalt come to call us home to Thy glory! O Christ of endless compassion, hear us, as Thou hast promised! Amen.

IF you are burdened by cares and worries; if you suffer pain of body, mind, or soul; if you are dissatisfied with yourself, distrustful of others, disturbed by fears for your salvation; if, above all, you want certainty of faith, here is Heaven’s promise, the seventeenth chapter of Saint John’s gospel. When our broadcast is over, do Christ the honor of taking the three or four minutes required to read this glorious chapter thoughtfully for yourself, aloud for your family. When you have finished, you, too, should say: “What a hallowed glimpse of the Savior’s love has been ours! What holy self-giving, heavenly strength, divine comfort, lives in these twenty-six verses!”

Many Christians acclaim this intercession the greatest of all prayers preserved in the Scriptures; yet no one knows the exact place nor the precise hour of the night it was spoken. Perhaps the Holy Spirit would center our entire attention on each word overflowing with sustaining truth and remind us that through Christ, particularly before ordeals and trials such many of us face, we, too, can approach God anywhere, at any time.

We do know, however, that the outstanding mark of this monumental prayer was Christ’s personal pleading for His disciples. As in Old Testament days the high priest interceded for the people before God, so Christ, both the eternal New Testament High Priest and the everlasting Sacrifice for the world’s sins, implores His Father in this unparalleled chapter for those who are His. Before twenty-four hours have elapsed the Lord Jesus will have been betrayed, taken captive, beaten, buffeted, bespat, crowned with thorns, condemned to death, crucified, killed, and laid in the quiet of Joseph’s new grave; yet with the rest of His earthly life measured only in hours, the Savior in this prayer primarily thinks not of Himself, the anguish in the Garden, the agony at the hands of His own country­men, the soul-crushing guilt of all human sin that would nail Him to the cross; with less than a day separating Him from torture such as mankind has never known, Jesus, in His boundless love, intercedes for you and for me. Clearly He says,
“Neither pray I for these [the disciples] alone but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word,” that is, for everyone who since that Thursday night has accepted Christ as the only but all-bestowing Savior. Hold fast to this promise of Jesus praying for you, your own High Priest, not adorned with sacred ephod and robe nor with breastplate of precious stones and triple crown of gold but dressed in the ordinary clothing of His day, a true man among other men, yet the Son of God on His knees in earnest intercession as His petition wings its way heavenward for your redemption!

Only a divine Christ could pray that way. Only the unquenchable love of God’s own Son could speak these entreaties for you and me a few hours before the horrors of hell would break loose upon Him. What better can we do, then, my fellow-redeemed, as we prepare for the Lenten pilgrimage to Calvary, than direct our attention to the Savior as He appeals for us in the words of this high­priestly prayer (Saint John, chapter seventeen, verses twenty-two and twenty-three), “The glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them that they may be one, even as We are one; I in them and Thou in Me,” and to send an echo of Christ’s words back to Him in heaven as we pray,

SON OF GOD, GIVE US THY GLORY!

the glory of sonship, of spiritual unity, and of Thy constant indwelling in us.

I

GIVE US THE GLORY OF DIVINE SONSHIP!

What is this glory that Jesus gives all believers? Bible students have offered various answers; but if we approach God’s Word without bowing to contradictory reason, tradition, or expediency and take His statements at full value, we find Christ’s greatest glory in this, that He is the eternal Son of God. Blunted, bigoted enemies may speak of Him in a dozen other ways and diabolically seek to destroy this central truth. Yet Jesus remains God’s Son. That is the glory He had with the Father before the beginning of the world; and now, as His earthly life draws to its close, Jesus, ever-blessed Savior that He is, in this high-priestly prayer says that He shares the glory of His Sonship by making us the sons of God!

If the Scriptures had not given us this assurance, we would think it blasphemy to presume that we in our sins can ever become sons of God in His holiness. But His Word, which can never be broken though the earth beneath us give way, though the mountains move, the seas dry up, and the heavens fall, His inerrant, inspired truth, pledges, “Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us that we should be called the sons of God!” Here is the additional surety, “As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God.” Here is repeated certainty, “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.”

Despite this multiplied grace our too human heart exclaims, “We the sons of God?” This is such astonishing mercy that in an age of treachery, cruelty, degeneracy, we hurry to ask, “Oh, where can we find the promise of becoming God’s sons to share Jesus’ glory?” At the cross, we answer, where Christ’s blood cleansed us from our sins! At Calvary, where He cried in the agony of black loneliness as our guilt brought its punishment upon Him! At Golgotha, where He died to reconcile us with His Father and make us children of grace instead of wrath! You become God’s sons through faith, by knowing, believing, trusting Jesus, by approaching Him in contrite sorrow over your sins, yet in the confidence of their complete removal. You become God’s sons through that new and second birth in which all who are born of the flesh are reborn in the Spirit.

With that limitless grace, why do Christians ever say that they are poor when they are heirs and joint heirs with Christ of everything God possesses; when despite earthly poverty their heavenly Father can give them, if necessary, the riches of the universe? Why do Christ’s disciples often feel that they are helpless when angel legions can be summoned to assist God’s sons? Why do we who love the Lord Jesus think at times that we have been defeated when life’s sorrows crowd in on us? We ought to believe that God Almighty, who knows our needs better than we ourselves, will turn every trial into triumph, each bodily affliction to our spiritual advantage. We ought to have the confidence that, since our Father cherished every one of us with a devotion that sent His Son to a death of shame and horror for us, He loved us too much to have life’s cruelties overwhelm us.

If you are Christ’s, then hold your head high as you direct it to the cross; for you are God’s child and share the Savior’s glory. If men revile or condemn you, do not lose courage! In this high-priestly prayer Jesus declares that He has given you this glory, not that He will give it. His indescribable blessing starts here on earth when you are brought back to God through faith. You can be God’s son now. The glory that Christ wants to bestow on us begins in this life, in the peace of soul and mind we have with God as our Father, in the calm confidence for every earthly anguish that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.”

It was of this heavenly radiance, too, that Jesus spoke in our text. Because we are God’s sons through His suffering in our stead and our behalf, we partake of His glorious eternity. Our bodies may be wasted in disease, broken by accident, worn out through old age; the time may come—it is closer to some of you than you realize—when the lungs stop breathing, the heart stops beating, the warmth and color of life turn to death’s cold pallor; but if we have Christ, who says, “I am the Resurrection and the Life; he that believeth in Me, though he were dead, yet shall he live,” we know that the grave is not our destiny. Because our Savior proved His everlasting Sonship by removing the shrouds of death and bursting the rock­sealed tomb, no question nor uncertainty, can linger regarding our own resurrection. As God’s son, we must live again. Because Jesus pleaded in this divine intercession, “Father, I will that they also whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory which Thou hast given Me,” and because Jesus is now enthroned in heaven’s power and radiance, we shall share that glory with Him.

The Scriptures promise—oh, how we fail to grasp fully the merciful riches of His endless grace!—that there with the ten thousand times ten thousand “we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.” What surpassing grace! Hear it again, “We shall be like Him”! Who can begin to describe the fullness of that splendor? There, through faith, when earth’s toils and labors, its sorrows and agonies, are over, we shall have His glorious resurrection body, with the marks of sin and sickness removed, the limitations of time and space conquered. “We shall be like Him” because we shall be endowed with His joy in that better land, which has no more suffering and pain, no more fear or fright, no more discontent and disappointment, no more aching hearts or anguish of mind, no more trials and tears, no more decay and death—nothing but indescribable rejoicing!

To live forever in heaven with Jesus; to behold Him face to face before whom the angels sing their “Holy, Holy, Holy”; as sons of God to partake of the rapture of His presence—all this is likewise the glory that Jesus mentions in His high-priestly intercession, “The glory which Thou gavest Me I have given them.” This promise should so completely sweep aside everything else in life that now in millions of hearts the resolution is formed, “I want to become God’s son, too!” If the Spirit has awakened in you only a flicker of that desire, my fellow-redeemed, do not waste a moment! Pray now with all your soul, “O Son of God, give me the glory of Thy sonship!” Do not let anything bar you from approaching the merciful Savior with that petition! Your own unworthiness, your repeated transgressions, need not keep you from Christ; He asks you to come just as you are, despite your own unworthiness and your multiplied sins. Your weak faith must not deprive you of these full blessings, since He tells you, “My strength is made perfect in weakness,” and the humbler we are, the mightier is the demonstration of His divine power. Your past antagonism to the Cross, your previous hatred of the Savior’s precious name, even your recent blasphemies, are no insurmountable barrier on the way from earth to heaven; for as Christ, a few hours after this prayer, mercifully beheld Peter, who had denied his Lord and cursed as he denied, so He is ready to wipe out the handwriting against you and give you the strength to start life anew. For the sake of Christ, so that the cleansing power of His blood and restoring grace of His cross may not be rejected by your unbelief; for the sake of all who today would thank God on bended knees if some of you stubborn, self-satisfied sinners would give yourselves wholly to God (I am thinking of a devout father or mother to whom your unbelief has brought more agony than you yourself can ever atone, a Christian helpmate whose life you have made heavy through rebellion against your Redeemer, children who may coast down the highway to hell by your example of indifference or hatred of Christ); for the salvation of your own soul I ask you now in Jesus’ name: As in spirit you see the Christ, the High Priest of all the world, interceding particularly in your behalf, kneel beside Him to pray, “O Son of God, give me Thy promised glory! Bring me to the Father!” and even as this prayer is spoken in your heart, a new sense of joyous deliverance will dawn on you. Returning to God through Jesus with this plea of the penitent, “I am not worthy that I should be called thy son,” His Father’s heart of overflowing mercies will answer, “Thou art My son through Christ and the glory of the grace that He has given you.”

II

GIVE US THE GLORY OF UNITY

This seventeenth chapter could also be called the Christian Unity Chapter, for five times Jesus repeats in substance the prayer “that they [the believers] may be one.” What striking lessons we should learn from this fivefold petition for the complete union of all Christ’s followers! A single plea would have been ample evidence of our Lord’s holy desire; but four additional appeals should show us that Jesus seems to have forgotten the impending agony of the crucifixion in His concern over the sacred oneness of all who would call Him their Savior. Do not lose sight of the fact, either, that this was Christ’s last night of earthly life and that His words therefore should have an intensified meaning for us. How we treasure the final utterances of great leaders! How rigidly even the cold statutes of the law safeguard the last will and testaments of men! Should we not pay redoubled attention to our Lord’s petition “that they may be one,” when we know that it was part of His farewell prayer, His final instruction to the Church! God grant us the love to echo Christ’s prayer, “O Jesus, give us the glory of true unity!”

Now, there is a magnificent oneness in the Church Universal. Look wherever you will throughout the world, and at every place where sinners have penitently turned to Christ as their only Redeemer, you will find Christians bound together by a sacred bond, hidden from man’s eyes, yet blessed beyond expression. Even though believers, reborn in Christ and sanctified by His Spirit, look different, follow contradictory customs, speak conflicting languages; though they live in democracies or monarchies, under totalitarian or even Communist control; though they be forced to fight against each other on opposite sides during this disastrous war, though they represent the extremes of culture or ignorance, riches or rags, they are united in Christ just as marvelously and divinely as He and the Father are one. The Savior Himself said He is a Vine and they are the branches. He is the Head and they the members in the one spiritual body. No earthly conflicts can break this unity. True followers of Christ, in whatever denomination they may be, however many the errors in that group, are blessed by the fellowship of the faith. You can see therefore how presumptuous and anti-Scriptural it is to insist that there is no salvation outside a particular, exclusive Church or that the way to heaven is found in obedience to the teachings of only one denomination. Enemies have charged my Church with making this claim, and I take this opportunity publicly to deny that charge and to repeat Scripture’s promise that “whosoever,” in whatever denomination he may be found, “shall call upon the name of the Lord,” and with all his heart acclaim Christ his divine Redeemer, “shall be saved” and by his faith be made a member of the international, world-wide, ageless communion of saints. There are, however, churches which officially teach that the only pathway to Paradise is marked by their manmade creeds, the only vessel on which you can safely reach the celestial shore is the ship of their Church. Few claims, it seems to me, are more arrogant and cruel than this flat rejection of our Savior’s own word and the prayer that all who sincerely believe the Lord Jesus Christ have in that faith and without any human additions the assurance of spiritual union here on earth and in heaven.

No unity that men can ever effect is as glorious as this oneness of faith. Over in Europe the Nazi philosophy cries, “Unity!” but it strives for racial union, which systematically excludes the Jew, while the Church of Christ welcomes Hebrew Christians just as it embraces all disciples of Christ, regardless of color, country, or continent. I ask you to thank God with me that a powerful 50,000-watt shortwave station in San Francisco is now sending our Gospel appeal to the entire Orient, that the equally strong shortwave station in Schenectady will soon direct our Spanish messages to South America, supplementing the almost fifty weekly broadcasts we already have in Latin America. Pray God with us that the 50,000-watt shortwave station in Boston, which reaches Europe, may soon be added, so that at last we can invade the Old World with the promise of newness in Jesus. Radio, you see, is one of God’s particularly powerful means for helping people to understand the strengthening, soul-building doctrine of the one holy Christian Church spread over the earth.

In our own country the cry that reechoes in this disturbed hour asks for national unity; but can we be a truly united people when, as the Tuskegee Insitute report on 1940 lynchings shows a Southern Negro was murdered simply because he tried to vote? By contrast I say to you colored Americans that you can have an uncontested citizenry in Christ’s commonwealth, shoulder to shoulder with me; that in the sight of the Lord Jesus your dark skin and my light make no difference whatever; that despite unfair human discrimination the Lord loves you as He loves me; that on the day after speaking this prayer for Christian unity He gave Himself into the death on the cross for your sake.

We have organizations which seek to emphasize the brotherhood of men and which for this reason are called “fraternities.” But how frequently are applicants for membership blackballed and barred! God be praised, there is no blackballing in the brotherhood of Christ’s true believers! Jesus promises, “Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out.” By this pledge of God’s sinless Son I appeal particularly to you who have lived your lives without the Savior and ask you to remember that here, in Christ’s Church, is a worldwide group to which every one of you can belong though you may have been excluded from other organizations. Here, by the freest grace that God Almighty Himself could offer, by the merits of the Savior’s bleeding and dying on the cross for you, by the power of faith that can conquer sin, the world, death, and hell itself, you have the invitation of Jesus: “Come unto Me” and His heavenly assurance “Neither shall any pluck them out of My hand.”

When our Savior, in the sacred solemnity of that last hour, prayed for His followers and for us “that they may be one,” even as He and the Father are one, He asked that this inner unity be zealously guarded. A hundred forces are mobilized to tear Christians from their faith and its fellowship. Temptations increase, moral standards give way; betrayal of Jesus steadily becomes easier as sin is popularized, and unbelief constantly attempts to pull us from Christ’s altar. We must not delude ourselves into believing that we can maintain our unity by our own strength and through our own resources. We need Christ not only every hour but every moment. There is no strike among the forces of hell engaged in this unholy task of undermining your trust. The agencies of destruction are working on twenty-four-hour day-and-night shifts, seven days every week, to make you deny the Savior who purchased you with the price of His own blood. If Jesus found it necessary to pray that we may be kept in the unity of faith, how much more should every one of us who wants to lead a clean, consecrated life defy the lusts of the flesh, destroy grasping selfishness, choke off hatred, conquer doubt and distrust, kneel before Jesus, and pray, “O Son of God preserve me in this fellowship of faith!”

Jesus also wants us to express our unity. Twice our interceding High Priest asks His Father in this prayer that by our oneness “the world may know” Christ’s truth as it is demonstrated in outward unity. How dismally we have failed in this respect! During long, dark centuries men sought to kill each other in the name of religion. The most devastating war in Europe’s history was a church conflict that lasted for thirty years of unspeakable horror. Today, too, in the face of modern progress, we have not established external unity. The world cannot know that God has sent Christ nor recognize the glory of the Gospel by the divisions, subdivisions, and sub-subdivisions in outward Christianity. On the contrary, skepticism and unbelief point to the opposing creeds that claim to be Christian and sneer, “Is that how you have followed Christ’s instruction?”

We must try to remove that reproach. Many cries for unity resound throughout our world today with an emphasis we have never before known. Some have proposed that this country be combined with Great Britain. Others have advocated the Old World form a United States of Europe, even that all countries be merged into a great international federation. But with this striving for agreement, little is done systematically to promote the union of Christ’s churches on the basis of a true, inner, and complete oneness. Only entire accord, Scripturally grounded and Christ-exalting, can have any hope of blessing. All church unions by force, through the government, all compromises dictated by church politics, are worse than worthless. Pray Christ, “O Son of God, give us the glory of greater outward unanimity!” Though men may deny this possibility, divine mercy and omnipotence can give us a far greater and more truly united front before the world than many of us are ready to concede.

However imperfect this outward spiritual harmony may be on earth, it will be one of heaven’s highest glories. There before the glorified Savior—and how the last book of the Bible emphasizes this thought!—those who are Christ’s will be gathered with members of every “nation and kindred and tongue and people,” the ransomed, white­robed redeemed before Christ’s throne in unbreakable, eternal, heavenly unity. O Christ, give us that glory!

III

GIVE US THE GLORY OF THY INDWELLING!

This seventeenth chapter of Saint John may also be called the Indwelling Chapter, for repeatedly Jesus speaks here of His being in the Father, to prove His divine Sonship, and of His being in us, to strengthen our souls with the promise of His constant companionship. “I in them and Thou in Me”—these words of our eternal Intercessor contain the assurance we need for dangerous days like these. It seems that with each recent Sunday on which I have spoken to you, world conditions have become more terrifying and confused, with wars and threats of new hostilities increasing from week to week. If we look ahead and ask, “What of the future and the new social order that most competent authorities agree must follow after the wake of this war?” little doubt will remain that America must face the most serious problems in its existence and that the post-war order can bring sharper suffering and more complicated perplexities than we have yet known. Atheism made serious inroads into every European country which participated in the first World War, and new indications point to wider conquest by anti-Biblical forces over the earth when the present conflict ends.

Millions in this country must therefore learn to adjust themselves to new levels and find spiritual contentment in a discontented day. That is a hard lesson, and it is acquired not by psychology courses, high-souled resolutions, the practice of self-denial, but through acceptance of this truth, “God in Christ and Christ in us,” through trusting the heavenly guidance which enabled Saint Paul to face hatred, persecution, suffering, greater than you and I will ever know and still say, “I have learned in whatsoever state I am therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased and I know how to abound; everywhere and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.”

Take these words, “God in Christ and Christ in us,” as the motto for a victorious life! Let the worst that a cruel world may be able to inflict seek to destroy your happiness and peace of mind! Face it calmly because you are not alone; Christ, your Savior, is in you! We are told that the late Dr. Wilfred Grenfell, who left a life of luxury in London to become a medical missionary among the isolated fishermen of the forbidding Labrador coast, was once summoned on an emergency call which necessitated his crossing a frozen bay. Suddenly, however the ice broke with a thunderous roar, and Dr. Grenfell found himself carried on a large floe out to sea. After a few moments of reflection he killed one of the dogs and made a distress flag from its bones and skin. His next action was surprising; he lay down to sleep partly to save his strength and partly because he knew that Christ was with him. Drifting toward the open ocean, he slept as quietly as at home. And his confidence was not unrewarded. Some hours later the Eskimos began a search for him, discovered his perilous plight, and rescued him. Such confidence does not come automatically. It is born of the sustained realization that through faith Christ is in us; that earth and hell together are not powerful enough to defeat His gracious purposes.

“God in Christ and Christ in us,” despite our weakness and willful wrong, that is the victory cry by which we can overcome evil, defeat temptation, rejoice in adversity, endure pain, conquer fear, triumph over death itself. “God in Christ and Christ in us”—can there be for earth and heaven a more blessed, soul-strengthening conviction than this pledge of the Savior’s presence in our reborn, revitalized lives? “God in Christ and Christ in us”—the promise of power and blessing these words convey to you by faith is so magnificent that you ought to be ready to give up everything which seeks to keep you from Christ. May God’s Holy Spirit today touch your heart, so that as you prepare to follow the Savior along the pathway of His suffering, you may begin with this prayer, “Son of God, come to me, strengthen me, abide with me, dwell triumphantly in me through life and death until, saved by grace, I behold Thee face to face in heavenly glory!” Amen.

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.

Date: February 16, 1941

A whole year they assembled themselves with the church and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.Acts 11:26

Triune God:

Accept our heartfelt thanks for the preaching of Thy saving Word, Christ’s promise of pardon for every evil in our lives and the pledge of Heaven’s blessings through faith in His merciful atonement! For His sake forgive us our slowness and sleepiness in spreading the message of hope and happiness pledged by the Cross! Make us zealous to enlarge the boundaries of Thy Church by leading lost souls to Jesus! Holy Spirit, use our broadcast as the means of converting sinners to their Savior, recalling the unfaithful, comforting the bereaved and afflicted! Bless true Christian congregations with increasing loyalty to Thy Word! Grant them a greater degree of outward unity in doctrine and practice! May those who love Thee as their only Redeemer and therefore are members of Thy Church Universal also be united before men, even as Thou, our Triune God, art one! Rebuke everyone who would split the churches by doctrines opposed to Thy Word, confusing many minds and promoting dangerous heresy! As the clouds of war darken, show us the gleam of hope radiated by a loving faith and make us light-bearers in an age of gloom! In Jesus’ name we ask this and whatever we need for soul and body. Hear us by His promise! Amen.

OVER in war-torn Europe, the newspapers state, churches must be kept open day and night. What reassurance we could find in this report if the new regulation had been made to accommodate vast throngs, reverently, repentantly crowding God’s house from early morning until midnight! Instead, the opening of these buildings is simply designed to prevent loss of time in breaking through locked doors when fighting fires caused by incendiary bombs!

In our own country we sorely need fire from heaven to stir Christian zeal into flame and direct many of our churches to keep their doors unbarred, so that, day or night, those without Christ—and Jesus Himself has told us that means without eternal hope—can hear and study God’s plan for their redemption. We should have churches that bring Christ to the people on street corners and in public meetings, in gold-coast apartments and slum tenements, on the right and the wrong sides of the railroad tracks; churches which will deflate the boast of the Communists that they alone are interested in all groups and races; churches preaching the full Christ to all classes and masses, colors and conditions, ranks and races.

No one can carefully study world trends today without quickly coming to the conclusion that millions of our fellow-men, perhaps we ourselves, may meet privation, suffering, horror, on a far wider scale than ever before. The war is spreading. Its shadows have already overcast the Balkans. The thunder of approaching battle may soon begin to rumble over the Near East, and on our own shores statesmen predict a definite date for America’s entrance into the war.

How crucial the task of Christ’s Church in such times! Where, in the midst of soul sorrows, individual anguish, a hundred kinds of grief and trouble, can we find courage, guidance, unfailing hope, if not in our Savior’s sin-canceling, burden-sharing love and in the Church that proclaims His grace? Other agencies are trying to prepare the American people for difficult days. The millers and bakers have announced a new kind of bread, with minerals and vitamins that will help the nation “withstand the stresses and strains of war.” But “man shall not live by bread alone,” especially not in heart-trying periods like these. The churches must give spiritually famished men the Christ who says, “I am the LIVING Bread.”

Politicians cannot solve our perplexities, especially not when they admit that preelection pledges are nothing more than “campaign oratory.” Our vast defense program, as necessary as it is, alone can offer no assurance of personal protection. The supreme need of every age, but the emphasized superneed in this crisis, is the Lord Jesus Christ; and the divinely appointed institution for bringing us this Savior is the Church.

God grant that in this hour of dark urgency, while the souls of men are dying, American churches will not fritter away their time by preaching self-improvement, self­righteousness, self-deliverance (and that is essentially the sum and substance of Modernism), hut point sinners to the cross!

If we are to be blessed by loyal churches that can save the world from itself and speak peace, pardon, comfort, strength, hope, to men’s hearts, we must disavow every modern denial, every twentieth-century question-mark, every present-day compromise between truth and error. We must return to the fundamental principles that lived in the first-century Church.

With the cry, then,

BACK TO THE EARLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH!

let us through God’s Spirit learn vital lessons for today from His Word in Acts, chapter eleven, verse twenty-six: “A whole year they assembled themselves with the Church and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch.”

I

IT WAS A TRULY CHRISTIAN CHURCH

Saint Paul, mightiest missionary of Jesus Christ, together with Barnabas, his assistant, founded the first Christian church in Antioch. This city, the third largest of the Empire—sometimes called “the second Rome”—promoted everything that the apostle’s message sternly forbade. In that imposing metropolis of long, broad, colonnaded avenues paganism had built a temple to Apollo, perhaps the most magnificent edifice of its day; and by contrast, Christ’s first followers were probably far too poor to have even a small, one-room church; instead, they turned their homes into churches. The central object in that jewel­studded, lavishly adorned temple was a huge marble statue, glorifying Apollo, chief of many conflicting gods and goddesses; and the ceremonial pomp with which he was worshiped was most spectacular. In contrast, Saint Paul could offer only a blood-stained cross with the crucified Savior, whose atoning death for sinners was irreconcilably opposed to everything which the heathen temples in Antioch taught or the masses believed and practiced. Outside the city were the notorious groves of Daphne; and there, in the name of religion, commercialized vice, unbridled sensuality, hideous perversions, flourished for the profit of pagan priests. Into that stronghold of sin, superstition, and savage lust Paul and Barnabas, alone, were it not for the Savior’s presence, unarmed except by God’s Word, came to issue the warning that this degrading idolatry, these practices too abhorrent even to mention, were helping to send masses in Antioch to hell; that the pretentious temples would fall and the glittering idols crumble; that the proud image-worshipers, boastful of their Greek culture, relying on the wealth and commerce of their city, must turn in repentance to Jesus Christ and acclaim Him who in despised Judea had died as a convicted criminal, their living Savior and true God.

It took courage to speak with such unsparing denunciation of sin; and God give us preachers today who will not be moved by thoughts of personal gain or loss nor by fear or favor of their membership, but who as true watchmen over souls will issue clear-cut warnings against the inescapable destruction that follows all godlessness! More than courage, however, was required when Paul and Barnabas, according to our text, stayed in Antioch for a whole year and during the first part of their joint ministry “assembled themselves with the church and taught much people.” They had God with them, and neither the influence nor the money in that stronghold of satanic vice could defeat their efforts.

Note that they “taught” the people of Antioch. We pay far too little attention to solid teaching and sound indoctrination. I will venture to say that today there are dozens of churches in any large American city which receive as members people who have no previous religious training and who may not even be Christians at heart. Membership thus easily gained is frequently broken with corresponding ease. How different the insistent teaching of Paul and Barnabas, this week-after-week building the groundwork on which an unshaken faith could be reared! No wonder those Antioch Christians could defy ridicule and torture!

If twentieth-century congregations are to regain the power too many have lost and prepare their members to withstand the perils of a threatening future, the cry must be: Back to the early Christian churches for their earnest, painstaking, thorough teaching of God’s truth! Christian pastors, back to the apostles’ patient, persevering instruction in the saving Word! Give us sermons with texts from the Scriptures rather than subjects from magazines or motion-pictures, Bible classes in churches rather than dramatic-arts classes, daily Christian soul- or heart­training for our children in preference to any modern theories of mind-training, catechisms with the Christian doctrine explained in questions and answers, a thousand times rather than some of the Sunday-school books with stories about bluebirds and pussy-willows, yet not a syllable about Christ! Let the church-workers go from house to house, introducing family prayers, family hymns, family Scripture-reading; and by this sound instruction we shall be able to recapture the unconquerable courage of those first Christians.

What was it, do you suppose, the apostles taught those first worshipers in Antioch? If you know Saint Paul, that question answers itself. Wherever he went, to whomever he spoke, he could say, “I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.” His soul, heart, and mind were moved by a single purpose. You can sum it all up in one word: Christ. He believed Christ, trusted Christ, preached Christ, practiced Christ, defended Christ, exalted Christ—Christ always and Christ alone! Listen to him as he condemns every rival creed and tells the Galatians, “Though we or an angel from heaven preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed!”

On this international radio system that your interest and prayers, under God, have helped build to astonishing proportions, we likewise have only one message: Christ’s eternal Gospel of grace. All else in life is so trivial, temporal, and worthless in comparison with this privilege of repeating for you Jesus’ first sermon, “Repent ye and believe the Gospel,” that every broadcast finds its basic appeal in the Cross, the promise of salvation through Christ’s atoning death.

Once more, then, we cry out across America: Behold the Lord Jesus Christ, the truest Friend you can ever have, the only Guide to eternity, the one unfailing Counselor in all affliction, the divine Companion on life’s hardest, dreariest ways, the heavenly Helper for each need of soul and body—but first of all your Savior from sin, your Redeemer from ruin, your Deliverer from death! Behold Christ in His unbounded love for each of you, sinful, disobedient as all men are! See Him in His eternally finished atonement as your Substitute, suffering the terrors of your sins, so that nothing remains for you to earn, fulfill, or complete! Consider Christ in His astonishing mercy, by which every one of you, overshadowed by dark sins of the past, distrustful of your own ability to defeat evil, fearful of what the future may bring, can make Christ your own, without price or payment, condition or credential, introduction or recommendation, simply by believing His blood­bought promises! Lift up your eyes to the cross in this faith—and Christ will not only grant you “the power of God unto salvation,” forgiveness for your own soul, courage and strength for your own heart; He also gives to twentieth-century churches their one message, their supreme purpose, their only right to existence.

But Christ—and I mean the Biblical Savior, the true, eternal, and all-powerful God, and not merely an exalted human figure; Christ, the bleeding, dying, resurrected Redeemer, not simply the Example and Leader—is being systematically pushed out of many pulpits, barred from numerous churches, passed over silently in large religious periodicals, repeatedly attacked in divinity schools. Recently a theological professor at one of the oldest universities in our country wrote a new book on Christian revelation. That man, employed to train students for the ministry, unhesitatingly declares that the Scriptures are not inspired and inerrant, that Jesus Christ is not literally the Son of God, that the Virgin Birth is unnecessary and other miracles impossible. He denies, as Modernists regularly do, the sinfulness of all mankind, and hence he has no room for the vicarious atonement, no place for the cross, the blood, and the open grave as the evidence of our personal redemption. Jesus, according to his book, is not the only Way, Christianity not the only creed. The Bible is by no means the final revelation; instead we witness a constant development and growth by which the race with increasing clarity can understand the divine will.

Because such denial of every fundamental Christian truth is shared and supported by a constantly growing number of clergymen, congregations, theological seminaries, we need not wonder why the richly blessed United States has experienced, side by side with this apostasy, deep-rooted national, industrial, and social perplexities that neither statesmanship nor the expenditure of increasing billions has solved. If in His all-wise providence God sees fit, despite our prayers, to have our nation hurled into active conflict, do not say that we have not deserved the terrifying ordeals which even victory must bring! As empty pews, closed houses of worship, and waning religious influence remind us that many churches are slipping fast, let the cry that sweeps across this land demand: Back to the early Christian Church for its loyalty to Christ! Back to Gospel-preaching, Bible-teaching, Scripture-searching! Back to the Cross!

If this be a summons asking you of the clergy for a more definite, unhesitating acknowledgment of Jesus Christ in your sermons and in your testimony against apostasy in your own denomination; if this cry, Back to the preaching and teaching of Paul! Back to the simple Gospel! mean that in churches where the crowded calendar of socials, card parties, dramatics, dances, and other non­spiritual activities leaves little time for personal missionary activities, you strive to see that the Lord is accorded the first place; if this cry, Back to the early Church! Lead you of the laity to protest against the assault on the Lord Jesus Christ from the very pulpits of buildings you have helped erect and, when such protest is unheeded, to withdraw entirely from any church that sells out to Modernism—I still say, Back to the Christ-centered loyalty of the early Church!

It was faithfulness to Christ which helped give the believers in Antioch and us the name “Christian.” For a dozen years the name of Jesus Christ seemed to have been ignored entirely by the world at large. To all human appearances the crucifixion was the end. Jesus had failed completely. Those who followed Him called themselves “brethren,” “children of God,” “believers,” “disciples.” And when in Antioch, almost thirteen years after Christ’s death, the term “Christian” appears for the first time, it seems to have been introduced as a title of ridicule. In only two other passages is the term “Christian” found: once when Agrippa, having heard Paul’s impassioned plea to accept Christ, turned to the apostle and objected, “Almost thou persuadest me to become a Christian,” as if Agrippa would say, “You have nearly succeeded in making me, with all my wealth, power, and dignity, one of those low, outcast followers of Christ.” In the other passage Saint Peter speaks of suffering “as a Christian”; he implies, we may suppose, that the word “Christian” called forth the picture of a persecuted, martyred believer following in the footsteps of his Savior’s suffering.

The sophisticated Greeks and Jews in Antioch did not name the first believers after Paul, Barnabas, or any noted disciple of Christ. The mighty apostle and his assistant so effaced themselves that the only impression heathen visitors at these early Christian services ever received was the continued exaltation of the Lord Jesus. One name constantly stood out in the sermons, the hymns, the prayers: the Name above every name. Christ’s Word was their guide, Christ’s cross their glory, Christ’s death their life. If a doctrinal difficulty arose, they inquired, “What does Christ say?” If they were confronted by a question of daily conduct, they asked, “What is the verdict of Christ’s instruction?” If thoughts of increasing sorrow burdened them, they said, “What comfort does Christ give?” No wonder, then, that with their faith completely pervaded by Christ, they were called Christians!

How about us? If the world today were to give American churches names derived from their teachings, what would we be called? Not always “Christian,” I answer; for I have copies of sermons by reputed leaders in which the mention of Jesus is so incidental or directly opposed to the true Christ that, if someone who knew nothing about Christianity were to pronounce judgment, he could easily call these preachers “reformers,” “socialists,” “politicians,” “moral uplifters,” ‘war fomenters,” but would never think of them as “Christians,” because they offer Christ scant attention. There would be much more honesty and mutual understanding, much less hypocrisy and misleading of trusting souls, if those who have rejected Christ as the Savior, our one and only Redeemer, would also discard His name and say openly, “We no longer lay claim to the title ‘Christian.’”

Another fact must also have been responsible for this title: the Christ-directed life of those early worshipers. In heathen Antioch one could see that they were a separated people by their language, the absence of profanity, licentious talk, slander. Their homes were different. They kept their distance from the groves of sensual Daphne. As an early writer concedes: “Christians marry and have children like everyone else, but they do not expose their children. They have meals in common but not wives. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh.” Another Greek writer exclaims, “What women these Christians have!” So it was, then, that Antioch in its blunted paganism, unable to understand the strange people in its own midst, called them after Him in whose footsteps these believers tried to walk.

We note, however, that the word “Christian,” when spoken by a customary but slight change of pronunciation in the Greek, could mean “good,” “virtuous,” “gentle,” and it is more than likely that this was an additional element of sarcasm. The Christians, so worldly-minded Antioch concluded, thought themselves better than the rest. They were the virtuous people, the “goody-goodies” who were not to be found in the pleasure palaces, the drinking­dens, gambling-places, or before the depraved spectacles at the arena. They lived Christ and hence were called “Christians.”

We have reason for pause here. Once again we may well ask, “If our names described our conduct, would we still be called ‘Christians’?” Thank God, the renewing power of rebirth in Jesus, today as always, under the Spirit’s blessing produces “new creatures.” It can be shown in a hundred ways that true faith helps to keep Christians from lawbreaking and crime; that of all classes in the United States the followers of Jesus Christ as a group are the most law-abiding in the nation and its leading moral force. But it is similarly true that often the requirements for congregational membership become lax. If I mention the term “church discipline,” more than half of you will not understand me. But among the early believers this rule prevailed: Whenever anyone who belonged to the Church became guilty of a public, scandalous sin, he had to repent publicly; and if he then stubbornly refused, he was excommunicated. In how many churches is this rule still maintained? Is it not true today that in some congregations which bear the Savior’s name men and women are tolerated as members or even function as officials who are engaged in an enterprise that willfully destroys morality, who transact shady business deals, oppress the poor, connive with unrighteousness, profiteer through others’ losses? Is it not a practice that churches craving the limelight of publicity open their pulpits to atheists, multi-divorced actresses, unconverted millionaires? Is it not common knowledge that some religious societies—you can see the pictures in your newspapers—put on entertainments that differ only in degree from the risque theatricals of the world? If you want one of the reasons the churches have not grown as they should, you can find it in the tragedy that the line of separation between believer and unbeliever is being systematically erased, that the requirements for church admission are too frequently dependent upon the size of contributions rather than the extent of a consecrated life. Correspondingly, if you want a source of new blessing and convincing publicity for the Savior’s cause, more direct than any advertising which men control, have Christians live their faith! Let every follower of Jesus put His teachings into practice for a year or two, and this nation will be shaken by the greatest upheaval for good it has ever experienced. Let Christians throughout the world live Christ, without compromise or concession, and as hard as it may be in those areas where the conflict between Christ and Caesar means persecution, confiscation, imprisonment, it will not be long before the marvelous dynamics of God’s Holy Spirit are working stupendous changes over the entire earth. What else, then, must the cry be if not: Back to the early Church for its insistence on a Christ-centered life!?

If you young folks know that by accepting Christ as your Savior you cannot go with the fast crowds which reject Him; that you must deny yourselves and follow the instruction of His Word: “Flee youthful lusts!” “Keep thyself pure!” ask God for strength when worldly companions sneeringly call you a “Christian,” to resist these tempting assaults! Resolve that, God helping you, the name of Christ which you bear will not be blasphemed by refusing to keep yourself clean and pure for your marriage.

Realize, every one of you, that the title “Christian” is the highest and holiest of all names any one can ever bear. A few of you can say, “I am a millionaire.” Thank God that you are! But your millions will never solve your earthly problems or purchase your entrance into heaven. Others can say, “I am a Harvard graduate, a Phi Beta Kappa, too,” and I will answer: “My hat is off to you for your achievement. But what help can a Cambridge diploma and a fraternity key bring when the doctor whispers, ‘Only a few minutes more!’?” Some of you say, “I am a Daughter of the American Revolution,” “I belong to the United Daughters of the Confederacy!”—and I would be the last to belittle the benefits that are yours through illustrious ancestors. But you yourself are fighting on one side or the other in a battle far more decisive than the Revolution or the Civil War. The supreme question for you is not, “What title does my money, my learning, my social position, my ancestry, bring me?” but: “Am I a Christian?” “Am I Christ’s in my faith and life?” Everything else will pass away. Prizes, university degrees, public acclaim, will be hushed by the silence of the grave; but when on that great Day we stand before the throne and can say, “I am Christ’s, and He is mine,” we shall recognize that this title “Christian,” “Christ’s,” once used in sarcasm, has become the seal of a triumphant faith which brought us to glory.

II

IT WAS A TRULY CHRISTIAN CHURCH

If you are blessed by this trust, then no matter what the color of your skin is, whatever race or creed may be yours, you are a member of the holy Christian Church. If you reject Jesus as God’s Son and your Savior, then, lest there be any fatal misunderstanding, I repeat God’s truth: you do not belong to His Church, though you may be a fully enrolled member, a deacon, an organist, even a pastor of a congregation.

So much misunderstanding lurks behind the term “church” that I want to explain it to you, as Saint Paul showed its meaning to the early believers. In the first place, there are churches which you and I can see, local groups or congregations, like that which our text describes when it says of Paul and Barnabas that “for a whole year they assembled themselves with the church.” In such bodies there may be hypocrites and unbelievers, and it is a serious mistake for anyone to believe that if he is a member of a local congregation, he has the keys to the Kingdom. Equally wrong is the attitude which refuses affiliation with a true congregation where the Word is preached and God’s ordinances are obeyed.

At the Apostle’s time such groups of Christians were found in Judea, Samaria, Syria, in various sections of Asia Minor, and they were glorious congregations, despite their weaknesses. They had one blessing which men have removed from us, entire agreement in faith. At Jerusalem, Caesarea, Damascus, Cyprus, here in Antioch, all Christians confessed the same creed. There were no denominational differences then, no Protestants or Catholics, no Lutherans or Reformed, no liberal or conservative churches. These primitive Christians lacked much that we enjoy. Many groups had no church-building or pastor of their own. Theological seminaries did not exist. Despite these difficulties, however, they had what we, with all our wealth and advantages, have never been able to achieve: complete unity.

Today in the United States alone there are over two hundred different forms of Christianity. In place of cooperation we have competition, and not always fair, clean competition. Instead of churches standing together against their common enemies, atheism and Modernism, we read in religious papers, for example, savage attacks like these on the Church I represent: “With the exception of the fall of man the human race has suffered no disaster com­ parable to that of the Protestant revolt. . . . Adam’s disobedience separated men from the friendship of God and cast them out of Paradise; Luther’s rebellion separated men from the friendship of Christ and cast them out of the Church.” Instead of worshiping together, Christians are kept apart; for no true follower of the Lord Jesus will knowingly make any concession to willful error. Within some denominations (you write me this yourselves) there are two distinct trends, one dearly modernist and Christ­denying, the other loyal and Christ-exalting. You would not tolerate a fundamental difference of that kind in business; yet it flourishes almost unchallenged, it seems, in the King’s great business.

Often the claim is raised that denominationalism is good because it strengthens the spirit of competition. If there were blessings in such rivalry, it certainly would show itself today, when we have more Christian creeds than ever before; but, as the Government census reveals, one large denomination after the other has lost in membership during the last decennial census. Whichever way you look at it, with all the good God has permitted to be accomplished by denominationalism, the fact that there are so many different creeds in conflict, the one denying what the other affirms, is ultimately due to sin, someone’s refusal to take God’s Word as the supreme authority, some leader’s insistence that reason, perhaps even pride or personal acclaim, must be placed above divine revelation.

If you stop for a moment to realize what a completely harmonious Church would mean, with Christians unanimous in their acceptance of every Scriptural, revealed truth; if you could see church-members throughout the world united in the same faith, their hostility buried forever (and there is no hatred more cruel and deep than the antagonism which has burned thousands at the stake, cut off their heads, dropped them into seething oil, choked them before a crucifix), does not this prayer form in your heart, “O God, bring us back to the first Church with its unity of faith!”?

Can such outward oneness be reestablished? God is great and all-powerful. Who among us would dare to say that this is impossible under His blessing? I feel equally sure, however, that if outward Christianity does not pray and work and strive in efforts far greater than in the past, unity will not come, since God will not force it upon us. Therefore pray for true unity, a 100-percent acceptance of God’s Word—no outward agreement reached by behind-the-scenes concessions or double-meaning phraseology, but by absolute inner oneness.

Work for a return of unity! In my own Church we are eager to unite the Lutheran bodies, and I ask those within my group to pray to our heavenly Father that these efforts may be blessed, in His time, by a true, God-pleasing agreement. But why should such efforts be restricted to the Lutheran Church? The great Reformer protested until the last against the use of his name to designate those who followed him. He did not want the churches separated. We are ready to go as far as God’s Word goes on these questions. When we are asked to go beyond the divine Word, however, no matter what the cost of refusal may be, we, too, put our hand on the Bible and say with Luther: “Here we stand. We cannot do otherwise. God help us! Amen.”

If only every Christian who subscribes to these two statements, “We believe the Bible to be the inspired and inerrant Word of God; and we believe that through faith in Jesus Christ, God and man, our only Savior, we are redeemed for time and eternity” (the two truths uppermost in the hearts of many of you Baptists, Methodists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians, Roman Catholics, Greek Catholics, and other Christian groups) would systematically study the differences that separate us, with the resolution: “I will not be moved by tradition, association, or human authority. I will not consider loss or gain. I will not put my denomination above Christ nor any manmade creed above His Word. I am willing to come out and be separated from any form of denial,” we could feel confident that God would give us far greater outward unity.

With all existing differences, however, we should not forget that the term “church” is also used in the Scriptures, and was so explained by Paul and Barnabas to the people of Antioch, as a designation for an invisible group that you cannot count, the congregation of “all believers,” whoever they may be and wherever they are, the Church Universal. ‘The communion of saints” has no foundations of brick or granite, no dated cornerstone laid by man’s hand. It is built rather “upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief Cornerstone.” What surpassing comfort in the truth that the kingdom of God, as Jesus promises, is “within you”! This great Christian Church is not an earthly but a spiritual realm. Although we are separated into various denominations, in this one holy Christian Church, which extends from continent to continent, all who love the Lord Jesus are bound together by ties that will be fully expressed only in the perfect oneness of heaven! In that invisible, glorious Church there are members of every Protestant or Catholic division, people of every color and dime, land and language! For, however else they may differ, they are one in their complete acceptance of Jesus Christ and of Him alone as their Savior, no matter what their Church may teach in contradiction.

My fellow-redeemed, if you are a church-member, what appeal could be more direct than the apostle’s plea, “Examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves!” If you are outside the Church and want to have the assurance of forgiveness, God’s guidance for all troubles, Christ’s help in every need, the Spirit’s blessing in resisting temptation, ask God with your whole heart to make you—not wealthy, learned, influential, but—a Christian, redeemed by Christ, washed in His blood, blessed by membership in a true Church! God give you that surpassing grace for our Savior’s sake! Amen!

Published with the permission of The Maier Center, Concordia University, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48105.