Rev. Matthew Zickler’s Sermon for March 19, 2017

March 19, 2017
Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God our Father, and our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  Amen.  This morning we meditate upon Joseph, the adopted father of Jesus, Jesus’ guardian.

As we think about Jesus’ adopted father, about Joseph this morning, we observe this day with the title “The Feast of St. Joseph, Guardian of Jesus.”  Here our Heavenly Father sent His Son into the world and He sent Him into a home with a mother and father—something noteworthy in itself in our day—and as He did that of course that home included Mary.  Mary the woman whose seed Jesus was, the woman from whom Jesus received His very human nature.  But there was also Joseph.  There was Jesus’ father.  As we said in the name of the feast, His guardian.  Think about that word.

I can remember growing up and bringing home permission slips with that line at the bottom that said “signature of parent/guardian.”  I remember asking my mom what that meant.  And she told me about how sometimes a child can’t or doesn’t live with their parents, so there’s someone who acts like their parent.  That person is their guardian.  Of course, I didn’t get it totally, and really didn’t get it until I was older.  That person is a guardian because they are supposed “guard” that child.  They are to guard them, to protect them from someone harming them; to guard them like a parent would.  That was Joseph’s job he was to guard Jesus.  And why did God do this?  He did this because there is nothing that our Father in Heaven cares more about than guarding our salvation.  You see our salvation, your salvation—the forgiveness of your sins—is the absolute most important thing to God.  It’s so important to Him that He has not even spared His own Son for you.  And it’s so important for Jesus that He willingly gave His life for you.  This is why when Jesus entered into this world as this helpless, powerless baby in Bethlehem, God provided this guardian in Joseph to ensure that your salvation would be guarded with Him.

But as we think about and honor Joseph in His faithful work as this guardian, what does this have to tell us?  What does it tell us about our God?

First of all, as we look at what Joseph does in our reading this morning, we see how there are these acts that our Lord tells Joseph to perform in order that they would fulfill His word.  Look at verse 15, look at what Matthew tells us there.  He says that the Lord tells Joseph to take Jesus to Egypt to flee Herod.  Why does He do this?  “This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I have called my son.’”  And look at verse 23: “There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, ‘He will be called a Nazorean.’”  Why did both of these things happen?  Why did Jesus go to Egypt?  And when He comes back from Egypt, why does He go to Nazareth?  To fulfill what God had spoken.

You see, the first thing this tells us is that God fulfills what He has spoken.  He uses Joseph to accomplish it—which we’ll talk more about in a minute—but God fulfills what He has spoken.

In fact, as we think about that God does this, I remember a professor preaching a sermon in seminary where he posed the thought to us this way.  Is there anything that God can’t do?  He’s God right?  And so, we often say that He has the total freedom to accomplish anything, right?  As a friend of mine would always say, “Can God create a rock so big He can’t jump over it?  Yes, and once He created it, then He would jump over it.”  So, to come back to the professor, He posed this question to us: “Is there anything God can’t do?”  Our initial reaction is to say no, isn’t it?  No! God can do anything.  But there is something God can’t do.  He can’t deny Himself, that is He can’t deny His Word.  Once He says something, once He promises something, He must fulfill it.  He must fulfill it and He will fulfill it.

So once God said that He would send the Messiah, once He said that this Son would be called out of Egypt, once He said that this Messiah would be called a Nazorene, once He uttered these syllables by the mouths of the prophets, it was as good as done.  God can’t go back on His promise.

In fact, look at the Old Testament lesson—and I love this story, are you familiar with it?  Here King David is.  He’s sitting in his cushy palace, comfortable, and cozy, and he starts thinking about the Ark.  Now, the ark, for the Israelites, was the place where God promised to meet them.  But do you know where the Ark was located for God to meet them?  Before David had this idea, it traveled around with the Tabernacle.  They built the Ark and the Tabernacle in the wilderness according to God’s description, according to the pattern God showed Moses of the Heavenly Temple, and then the Ark and the Tabernacle moved from place to place with the Israelites.  So, David started thinking about this tent, this Tabernacle that is sort of this transient shelter for the Ark, and he thinks that’s not good enough. If David is going to live in this grand palace, it doesn’t make sense that God should have to deal with a crummy tent.  So, he goes to the prophet Nathan, and tells him the plan.  At first, Nathan says this sounds great!  What a pious idea!  But then the Lord comes and He speaks the Word to Nathan.  And what does He say?  “David wants to make me a house? How gracious of Him! Did I ever ask Him for one?  Did I ever ask for a house while I was with Israel in the desert?  Did I ask for one here in Jerusalem?  Did I complain about not having a house?  And now David wants to build a house for ME?  David, I will build you a house.  ‘the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house.  When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.’”  Yes, Solomon did end up building the temple according to God’s wishes, but who is that offspring?  It’s Jesus.  When God declared to David that this offspring would come, He had to fulfill it.  As it says in Titus, God doesn’t lie.  Once it was spoken it had to be done.  There could be no doubt God would create the eternal household in Jesus from the line of David.

In fact, the reason I love this story so much is because of David.  Did David want to do something good?  Did he want to do something pious?  He did!  What a wonderful, well-intentioned idea!  But you know what?  God doesn’t need our well-intentioned ideas!  He’s got everything in hand.  He’s doing just fine without us.  In fact, we have all these ideas about how we should do x,y, and z.  But what does He do for us?  Everything!  He builds the house for us!  He saves us!  He fights the battle and wins the war for us!  He lives the life we should live, and dies the death we should die.  He fulfills it all in Christ, for us!

So, that’s the first thing this tells us: God fulfills His Word, His promises.  The second thing, like I alluded to before, is that He uses means to do this.  He sent Joseph as this guardian, He used Joseph as the one who would be the instrument to accomplish what His word said.  Joseph carried Jesus to Egypt so that out of Egypt, God called His Son.  “Now after they had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, ‘Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.’ Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod”

He used Joseph as the instrument who brought Jesus to Nazareth.  “But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee.”  And listen to how our God used this instrument of Joseph to guard our salvation, to fulfill His Word.  He gave Jesus to this Joseph, who upon hearing Herod was dead took so seriously his guardianship that he wanted to make sure he didn’t put Jesus in harm’s way.  God used this faithful man to accomplish His purposes.  In the same way, He uses faithful men and women to accomplish His purposes today.  He doesn’t need us to do it, but He uses us.

But lest we think it’s just the faithful He uses as instruments, or the good things, think about David.  Here He promised David a house.  And through which child of David does that house come?  By which son of David is Jesus born?  Solomon.  As Matthew says, “Solomon by the wife of Uriah.”  Remember that?  David sinned and took another man’s wife, killed the man, then took the woman into his own house.  What a break down in character!  What horrible sin!  And God used it to accomplish salvation.  To be clear, this doesn’t mean we should sin, it doesn’t mean that God creates sin, or wants us to sin.  No, but it means that God is so good, He can use even our evil to bring good.

Think about it, because it was in the same way, God accomplished your salvation through the instrument of the sin of the people at the time of Christ.  They did the worst possible thing, they killed the author of life, the perfect man, God in the body.  They crucified the innocent one.  But God used it.  He used the instrument of their sin to accomplish the best possible thing, your salvation!  God guards your salvation.  And He uses instruments to do it.

In the same way, God uses instruments to bring that salvation to you.  Just like Joseph guarded Jesus, He uses His Word to guard your faith.  He delivers that faith to you through the instrument of the Word of Gospel, the promise that Jesus has fulfilled not only the words of the prophets about where He would come from and where He would go, but the Words of the Law that demand your protection.  He has fulfilled all of that for you.  And as you hear that Word, the instrument of sound waves bouncing through air; the Word spoken by the instrument of a man who is a vessel of clay, God uses that to guard your faith.  As God poured water over you with the Word of baptism, God used that to bring you faith and guard it.  As that Word is spoken with the bread and wine, God gives you Jesus’ body and blood, the instrument by which He feeds and sustains your faith.  That faith that receives His salvation.

Yes.  This salvation is God’s priority and He guards it perfectly.  He can’t do otherwise.  That’s who He is.  He did that in sending Jesus to you, and He did it by guarding Jesus through His father Joseph.  He does it now in His Word.  He does it so that as we celebrate Joseph today, Joseph who adopted Jesus as his own, you may know that your Heavenly Father has adopted you as His own.  And He will guard you as well.  Amen.

Rev. Matthew Zickler