The Fourth Sunday of End Times:
Christ the King November 23, 2008

Preached: November 23, 2008

Our King Proclaims Liberty
Leviticus 25:8-10

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The Word from God through which the Holy Spirit points us to our freedom in Jesus is Leviticus 25

Count off for yourselves seven Sabbath-years, that is, seven years seven times. This will be for you the seven Sabbath-years, forty-nine years. Sound abroad the trumpet blast in the seventh month on the tenth day, the Day of Atonement. Sound abroad the trumpet in all your land. Sanctify the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty in the land to all its inhabitants. It will be for you a year of jubilee. Each of you will return to his possessions. Each of you will return to his family. (Leviticus 25:8-10)

Dear friends in Christ, fellow saints washed clean in the blood of our risen Savior:

The Lord gave his Old Testament people of Israel many ceremonies and festivals. Some you are probably familiar with at least you've heard of them such as the Passover and the Sabbath Day. God gave them to his Old Testament people to point them ahead to the coming of the Savior, Jesus Christ, who is the Messiah, the Anointed One. Now since Jesus has come, these festivals have lost their purpose of pointing ahead. So we no longer celebrate them. They were God's will for his people until Christ came. Now with the coming of Jesus, he has released his people from those Old Testament obligations.

But learning about them can still be a great benefit. For example, you know that on the Sabbath Day each week the people were to rest from their regular work. They were to reflect on the good the Lord had done for them and anticipate the rest for their souls that the Messiah would fulfill.

What a picture of the rest that Jesus brings to our souls! For what is it that makes our souls weary and burdened? It's sin and guilt. All the labors of our hands could not take away this burden. But Jesus did. He brings true rest for your soul He brings you forgiveness through his Word and Sacraments. His rest comes to you not through your works or efforts but through faith alone faith that rests in Jesus' promises. What a picture from the Old Testament Sabbath Day!

But did you know that God commanded not only a Sabbath Day but also a Sabbath year for his Old Testament people of Israel? They were to plant and harvest for six years, but every seventh year all their land was to lie fallow no planting or pruning. In addition every creditor was to cancel the debt his fellow Israelites owed him. What a way to teach that we depend on God for everything and owe him our thanks! We may plant and harvest and work hard, but God makes it grow. What a way for God to train his people to trust him and not our own effort or accomplishments!

Then after seven Sabbath years, that would be seven times seven years, forty-nine altogether, that fiftieth year was to be the Year of Jubilee, an extra special Sabbath year. That year the fields were uncultivated, land was returned to the original owner, and slaves were released. Liberty was proclaimed throughout the land to all its inhabitants. Liberty, freedom, release.

This Old Testament festival illustrates divine truth for us. Let's think about that today as we focus not on political liberty or physical liberty, but rather on the spiritual liberty that our King, Jesus Christ has won for us. Our King proclaims liberty. That's the theme. Our King proclaims liberty. He frees our hearts. He frees our hands. Let's consider those two parts as the Holy Spirit opens our hearts and minds through his Word.

A. Our King frees our hearts

1) What enslaved us?

Our hearts were once held in slavery. Although we were born with political freedoms, we were all born into spiritual slavery. Sin ruled over our hearts. Sin was our master. And what a cruel task master sin is! He drives us with worry, guilt and terror. He drives us into the grave, into death and hell. Martin Luther wrote: “Fast bound in Satan's chains I lay; Death brooded darkly o'er me. Sin was my torment night and day; In sin my mother bore me. Yet deep and deeper still I fell; Life had become a living hell, So firmly sin possessed me” (Christians Worship, “Dear Christians, One and All, Rejoice,” 377:2). What a wretched slavery!

And what vile sinners we still are, running back to that slavery, running back to the chains of worry! Do you think worry was a challenge for the Israelites when they had to let all their land lie unplanted for a year? Yet we, who are so greatly blessed, worry too. We worry about our health, our family, our grandkids, the harvest, the economy, the stock market, our jobs, our finances, our retirement. We worry about those things that we want but don't have. Worry is a hard task master whether you call it worry, stress, tension, or doubt. But the harder worry works us, the farther we stray from God. For worry fails to trust God. Worry accuses God of being an unloving liar who can't be counted on to care for us as he promised. And just because everyone worries, that just proves that we are all sinners. We deserve for God to leave us in chains, enslaved by worry and all our other sins, until they drag us to hell.

2) What did Jesus do to liberate you?

But what did our God do? Early in his ministry, Jesus came to the synagogue at Nazareth on the Sabbath. He was asked to read from the Scriptures. He found the section in the prophet Isaiah that says: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor” (Luke 4:18, 19 NIV). That's what the Year of Jubilee pictured, the year of the Lord's favor.

As Jesus sat down, he said, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:20 NIV). He is the fulfillment of the Year of Jubilee. What the setting free of the slaves pictured Jesus accomplished for you and me. He set you free from slavery to sin. He canceled your debt by paying it for you. He released you from worry's chains. All the links we forged with our worries day after day, Jesus broke them all to release you. What a King and what liberty he proclaims to you!

What King! See how he purchased your liberty. He gave himself to the mocking of the soldiers and the rough wood of the cross. He purchased your liberty with his blood shed as he carried your sin and suffered your hell crucified for you. The Gospel today proclaimed that news.

What a King! Having paid your debt and winning your release, he rose from the dead. He rose in victory our glorious King! The Second Lesson brought his resurrection victory home. What a King who proclaims liberty to you! He frees your heart from the chains of sin and worry. He frees you as he speaks his good news to you: “I, Jesus, have paid for your sin with my blood. I have broken death's chains. I have set your heart free. I, your King, proclaim liberty to you, liberty from sins' cruel control, liberty from the fear of death, liberty from the chains of worry.”

B. Our King frees our hands

1) What promise has God made that frees our hands?

With your hearts liberated serve your King. For he not only has set your hearts free, he has set your hands free. For you see when our hearts are free from guilt and worry, then our hands are free to serve, trusting our King to take care of us.

Think of how the Year of Jubilee was meant to teach Israel to trust the Lord. Rather than worrying about the weather and the yield, they trusted the Lord to provide, for he himself had commanded them not to plant and had promised to provide for them. How that freed up their time and energy to help those in need and to devote themselves to the Lord.

Although he has not commanded us to take a year off from planting, he has promised to provide for us. Remember how Jesus pointed to the flowers and the birds. If our heavenly Father takes care of them so well, won't he also provide us with food and clothing?

2) What has our King freed our hands to do?

This frees our hands to work without worry. It doesn't free our hands to be lazy. But as we carry out our work, we do it faithfully trusting our King to bless our labor and through our diligent work to provide what we need.

This frees our hands from overwork as well. For all too often our sinful nature drives us to worry that we don't have enough or to want all that stuff that others have. The twin sins of worry and coveting scheme together. But your King has set you free. He gives us our jobs and careers to provide what we need, but as his liberated people, he gives us other ways to serve with our hands besides our work.

He frees our hands to carry out our family role as caring parents or obedient children. He frees our hands to be a blessing to our neighbor and our community. He frees our hands to help those in need, such as with the food shelf donations or helping a classmate who struggles. Think of the blessing it is to be free to help your family, community, and others because you know that your King is taking care of you. So you don't need to worry about yourself, but you are free, liberated, to help others.

And finally that brings us to the special synod offering. The Year of Jubilee offering is meant to pay down the synodical debt $22.4 million. If the debt were eliminated $2.7 million a year of debt payments could be used instead to proclaim the Good News of the liberty that Jesus brings to our hearts and hands.

Because Jesus has liberated our hearts from sin and death, that enables us to give cheerfully and generously to his work, whether that's to our local congregation here, or to the mission offering to support our training schools and mission work, or to this special offering. No longer do we need to grasp our money with worrying hands, thinking, “I've got to protect what I have. Who knows what the stock market will do.” Rather, your King is watching out for you. Your heavenly Father promises to care for you. You can give in proportion to how the Lord has blessed you. You can give without worry trusting your heavenly Father. You can give joyfully knowing the great love of your King, who sacrificed himself for you to liberate you as his own people. He has freed your heart from sin and guilt. He has freed your hands to be open as you give cheerfully. What a year of jubilee!

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313

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