"It is All About Jesus"

If you have ever heard me preach, lead a Bible study, or speak at an event you have most likely heard me tell you that “Jesus loves you.” After that I tend to say something like, “It is all about Jesus,” or “Jesus Christ is the answer”. Much of what I do in my preaching and teaching is pointing to the centrality of Jesus Christ in our lives. As we begin this new year and are moving quickly toward Lent, I wanted to reflect here on why it is all about Jesus. Most of us accept that Jesus is, as he says, “the way, and the truth, and the life.” (John 14:6). I want to give you some reasons why we make this claim, and why we hold that this Lord Jesus Christ is the one who matters, and is the center of our lives and of all that we are.

The first thing we need to hold onto when we talk about Jesus, is who Jesus really is. We often think about our Lord as the baby in the manger, or the one who died on the cross. We know Jesus and we love him. But do we ever stop to ponder the significance of who Jesus really is? Jesus is God. God became flesh and lived among us. We can remember the beginning of the gospel of John where we hear that, “In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being in him was life, and the life was the light of all people.” (John 1: 1-4).

What St. John is holding up for us is that that was no ordinary baby lying in the manger. The very power of God (that was God) that brought all life and light into being is the one who came to save us. When we look at Jesus we see something unlike anything that had ever happened before or would happen again. The eternal power and Lord that brought everything into being, the creator and sustainer of all life, the source of life and existence itself is the one who had come.

Jesus is the place where the eternal God, the maker of all that is, stepped into this world to save us. This is the Lord who was before anything was made, and this is the God who will exist and who will be in existence when all of the things of this world pass away. When creation, time, and space finally fold up and are no more – God will be there. This one who came into this world and who we knew as Jesus – he will be. Because he exists and because he knows us and loves us we will exist once all things pass away. That is what our Lord means in Revelation when he tells us, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” Jesus is what is, what was, and what will be.

That is the first reason it is all about Jesus. Because Jesus is God, and in the end, God is all that there is.
The second piece of why our Lord Jesus is the center and our all is that it is Jesus and only Jesus who is able to save us from our sins and from our own destruction. (A side note =I am offering you two reasons in this article why Jesus is the center – there could be books and libraries filled with this topic.)

To illustrate how Christ is the only one who can save us I want to share a brief story about Martin Luther. You may know that Luther took a monastic vow as an Observant Augustinian monk. Later he became a priest and a doctor (professor) of the church. While a monk, Luther had an obligation to go to confession and to ask for forgiveness of his sins. The monk Martin Luther loved to go to confession. He felt he had the great weight of his sins on his soul. He was so devoted to confession that he would go confess for 2 hours, 4 hours, and some stories say up to 10 or 12 hours at a time. All the while he was confessing all of the evils that he believed he had done in his life. One account says that Luther finished one of these marathon sessions but when he got up to leave he remembered an unconfessed sin from when he was a boy and had to run back to confess that sin for who knows how long.

I need to share with you that Brother Martin’s devotion to confession was not the standard practice of the other monks. We also might do well to thank God for the patience of those hearing Luther’s confessions.
The problem was the Luther knew he was a sinner. He knew that as hard as he tried he would keep sinning in either thought, word, or deed in things he had done or the things he had left undone. He was afraid that if he didn’t confess all of the ‘evils’ of his heart then God would not have mercy on him because of his dirty soul. Luther thought it was all about him. Luther thought that the way to have forgiveness from God was that he, Luther, had to do the work of confessing or doing things to show his repentance and contrition. Luther realized that the job of confessing all of the things he had done, and the work of being perfect was something that he was simply not capable of doing. In reality perfection is not something we will ever achieve on our own.
But here is what changed everything for Luther. Through prayer, through study of the Bible, through the guidance of his Confessor, Father Johann von Staupitz, Luther started to realize that salvation wasn’t something that he could earn, gain, or something that he was even worthy of.

Yet, in the tender compassion of our God, Jesus Christ came into this world to save us from sin, death, and the devil. Jesus came into this world to save people like you and me. Jesus came to save sinners like you and me and Martin Luther. On our own we are not worthy. On our own we are creatures who can not be perfect. But Christ has come. Jesus poured his life out for us on the cross. Jesus died that we might have life. Jesus shows us on the cross that he has already paid the ultimate price for us.

We cannot make ourselves worthy. But Christ Jesus gave his life to save us. What Luther realized is that though he needed to continue to struggle every day to turn away from sin and from the temptations of evil, he did not need to doubt his salvation. Because, it is Christ who saves us. We cannot save ourselves.
What Luther realized is that Jesus gave his life to save us from eternal death. Jesus pours out his life upon us in the waters of baptism, Jesus feeds us at his table, and Jesus Christ walks with us all the days of our life shaping us into the people that God calls us to be. It is Jesus who saves us, we don’t save ourselves. That is why the Romans 3:28 became for Luther a slogan for his entire life, “For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law”.

What finally clicked for Luther was that his action would do nothing to save him. But that is okay he had already been saved by one who came to save him, Jesus Christ. Jesus gave his life, Jesus took on this life to give it away to save us from sin and death. Jesus is the one who has done all the hard work.
In light of what Jesus Christ has done, and because of all that Christ has done to save us, we who follow him are called to share that love and mercy of Jesus with this world. We are people who are called to love, help, serve, give and share because we have been given so much.

Luther finally realized that the true gift is the grace and mercy that has been poured out upon us in and through Jesus Christ our Lord. We didn’t deserve it, we can’t earn it, if we spent eternity confessing our sins we still wouldn’t get there. However, Jesus freely gives us his life, forgives us our sins, and saves us from death.
So why is it all about Christ? First because he is God who has come. He is the beginning and the end, he is the Lord of all who holds all creation in his hand. All of this will pass away but Jesus Christ will never pass away. Secondly, we know it is all about Jesus because he is the only one who can save us from sin and death. He is the one who has saved us from sin and death by claiming us in baptism. We sinned against God. In response, God got off his throne in heaven and jumped into this world to save us. He did this by dying on the cross and rising to bring us to eternal life. We owe everything to God, we owe everything to Jesus.

It is no exaggeration when our Lord says he is, “the way, and the truth, and the life.” Jesus is all and in all. Jesus is it. He is our creator and he is our savior. He is the one who calls us into being, he is the one who walks with us now and always, he is the one who never lets us go. May you be comforted and led by the presence and life of Jesus Christ now and always.

In Christ
+Bishop Michael