[Philippians 4:4-7] Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 5 Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
[John 1:29] The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!
Prepared, Eyes Set on Jesus
Where do you put your focus when you are distressed or when anxious thoughts keep turning in your mind?
In today’s Gospel [John 1:19-29], priests and Levites came to John the Baptist asking him, “Who are you?” The nation was in turmoil over who this camelhair-dressed preacher was. “Are you the Christ?” “Are you Elijah?” “Are you the prophet?” – each of those being figures their somewhat confused minds expected to come at the end.
John confesses he is none of these. John, instead, is one who points their eyes to the Only One for whom they need to look – “Among you stands One you do not know, even He who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.”
The next day, John set their eyes upon that very One – John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold! [Look!] The Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Their minds were full of questions. John directed their eyes to Jesus.
In moments of distress or of many questions, set your eyes on Jesus as the Lamb of God.
Well, where is Jesus to see? You can set your mind on Jesus by prayer, turning the eyes of your soul toward Him. “In everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.”
The anxious turnings of your mind will never arrive at peace. Turn away from them. Deliberately stop and turn the thoughts of your mind into requests made to God. Peace rarely comes from finding an answer to the question that troubles you. Peace comes only in knowing that God, in Jesus, is the One who knows.
Anxious thoughts keep your eyes bent inward. And anxious thoughts, left as such, never end. But a prayer does end with an “Amen” – “Yes, yes, it shall be so”. The constant turning in your mind falls short of faith. Transforming those thoughts into prayers of request to the Lord directs your mind outward to the One whom you trust.
Your eyes do not sit in your head pointing inward but outward. Keep them outward the way they belong toward Christ who, outside of you, has done all that is needed to remedy whatever troubles you.
In the anxiety of your mind, do not look inward – And in the distress of your conscience, do not look toward Moses. The Law of God is not your remedy. God’s Savior is.
Your sins may very well have led to your present distress. You may be justly receiving God’s chastisement or discipline. We, as a whole, in our common distress this year may rightly be receiving God’s chastisement. “For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” [Hebrews 12:6]
Your own sin may be the cause of your distress, but your own righteousness will never be the solution to it. Only the Savior from sin is the solution.
When Moses gave the Law at Mt. Sinai (Horeb), the people could not endure it. In hearing the Law given, they said, “Don’t let us hear the voice of the Lord our God any longer, or else, if we do, we will die!” God responded to Moses, “They are right in what they say!”“But I will send another prophet like you from among their brothers. Let them listen to Him.”
That One sent is Jesus, the Lord made flesh. Jesus is a greater Moses. The Law, given through Moses, shows your sin – shows the cause of your distress – but cannot remedy it. Jesus remedies it.
Putting your eyes on, “I can do better. I will do better” – at keeping God’s Law – puts your eyes on yourself. Determination can accomplish a lot in life. It cannot make you righteous to God. Put your eyes on Jesus.
The remedy to the distress and trouble caused by your sin is found in these words:
“For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die— 8 but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” [Romans 5:6-8]
And these: “Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5 But to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6 just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: 7 ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; 8 blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin.’” [Romans 4:4-8]
God forgives you and counts you righteous because of Jesus’ death and resurrection for your sin, in your place. Because of Jesus, God remedies the distress caused by your sin, and God turns and does you good. Set your eyes only on Jesus.
Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you” [John 14:27]. Jesus gives you the peace that the world, with all its strongest efforts, cannot give. In Jesus is “the peace of God which surpasses all understanding.”
The world cannot give true peace in an ongoing pandemic. Setting your eyes on Jesus gives you peace even as the pandemic continues. Jesus gives peace and even joy at a time of death – peace which the world’s answers cannot give you.
Peace in troubled times, peace in the face of death – and at peace with being a person who falls short – because Jesus, for our sake, has not fallen short.
John the Baptist said, “Look! – there He is! – the Lamb of God – God’s sacrifice for you – which takes away the sin of the world!” This week we look at Jesus as He is born for us – the Lord, meek and mild on Christmas morning – born to grow and to become Jesus crucified-and-risen. And today we look as Jesus comes to us in His Holy Supper. Today, this week, and always, look and set your eyes on Jesus that you may have the peace of God. Amen.