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Worship Theme: Victorious Sight
Sermon Theme: The Risen Savior Opens Your Eyes
In Acts 9:1-22, we learn that when Saul’s eyes were opened, both spiritually and physically, his life was changed. He saw Jesus to be his Savior and saw the mission and the purpose that God had for him. God does the same for you. “The Risen Savior Opens Your Eyes.” May 1, 2022.
Today is Confirmation Sunday. It’s a day to hear and to celebrate the confession of faith in Jesus that will come from some of our young members. But before that happens, I have a very important question to ask. Do you like brussels sprouts?
I never ate them as a kid. They weren’t a part of my family’s vegetable palate. I asked my mom why that was and she told me because her and my dad didn’t care for them and she didn’t really know how to best cook them. Here’s a piece of knowledge for you…back in the day they didn’t have Google, Siri, or YouTube to find the best brussels sprouts recipe! So, growing up, I thought that brussels sprouts were gross (that’s what I had heard).
Then one day in my adult life, my wife and I got a basket of random vegetables that included brussels sprouts. We thought we’d give it a try. We looked up a recipe on how to cook them. We sautéed them in olive oil along with some onion and garlic, and added some salt and pepper. Then came the secret ingredient… bacon. Oh yeah, add in some crumbled bacon and my goodness, I couldn’t believe how good brussels sprouts were! My eyes were opened to see this food in a new way!
You’ve experienced that before, too. Maybe not with brussels sprouts, but perhaps a different food that you didn’t like, but then saw it in a different way later on in life. That could happen with a professional athlete that you loved to hate, until they were suddenly playing on your team. Or perhaps a person that you didn’t get along with, until some occasion opened your eyes and changed the way you saw that person and now, you’re BFFs.
Having your eyes opened to a new food isn’t necessarily that life-changing. So let me tell you about something that truly is eye-opening. The risen Savior.
The apostle Paul, the guy who served as a missionary in the early Christian church and recorded a good portion of the New Testament in the Bible, wasn’t always onboard with the gospel message. He needed to have his eyes opened, in more ways than one. [One thing to note here, if you’re not familiar with Paul, in this account, Paul is referred to by his Jewish name, Saul. Saul and Paul are the same guy. So, I’ll use the name Saul as it’s used here.]
Saul was a highly educated Pharisee which meant that he was a religious leader who viewed his relationship with God self-righteously. So, when the disciples of Jesus started proclaiming the gospel message that Jesus was the Messiah who came to rescue the world of sinners, Saul fought against it. In fact, he famously persecuted the early Christians, hunting them down and putting them to death. Now understand, Saul was very zealous for the God of Israel, he was just blind to the truth that Jesus was the fulfillment of God’s promise of salvation.
Saul was on his way to the city of Damascus to persecute Christians. Along the way, something powerful happened. A bright light from heaven shown around Saul and the risen Lord Jesus appeared to him. Jesus asked him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” First of all, notice that even though Saul was fighting against Jesus, Jesus loved him. He came to him, he showed himself to him, he called him by name. Then he asked him, “Why are you persecuting me? Why are fighting against me? Why don’t you accept me?” Why did Saul persecute Jesus? Was it a matter of human reason? Was he in love with the power he had?
We can’t really answer for Saul, but you can answer for yourself. Jesus’ question is one that he asks you. Why do you persecute him? Why are you hostile to God? Every time you disobey God, you sin. So why do you do it? You’re stubborn? Because you’re right? You don’t like what God says? You don’t think you need him or don’t think that you’re wrong? At the same time, what are you spiritually blind to? Your sin? Your forgiveness? What it means to live as a Christian? Your daily need for Jesus in your life? Does an uncertain future or challenges in your life cover your eyes and keep you from seeing Jesus? Your spiritual blindness leads you to an eternal dead end.
There was nothing that could open Saul’s eyes better than the risen Savior appearing to him. Jesus proved to him that he was the promised Savior who died and rose again. Jesus’ appearance, his message, and his promise opened Saul’s eyes of faith to believe. Jesus came, and lived and died and rose for him. His heart was changed. The message that he couldn’t stand, that he tried to squash, became the message that he couldn’t live without.
Jesus came and lived and died and rose for you too, to rescue you from your sin and to open your eyes to see him as the Savior. But I don’t know that God is going to come to you in the same way that he did to Saul. But that doesn’t mean that Jesus doesn’t show himself to you. In fact, think to your confirmation classes or your Bible information classes. There you studied the Catechism which taught you the truths of God’s Word and there you got to see Jesus. You can actually find Luther’s Small Catechism in the hymnal starting on page 286. You’re welcome to open up to that if you’d like. As you studied the commandments, you saw how sinful you really are and unable to live up to God’s perfect standards. But you saw Jesus, the one who kept every one of those commands perfectly for you. When you studied the Creed, you learned who God is and what he’s done for you from creating you, to redeeming you, to calling you to faith and life with him. There’s Jesus! As you studied the Lord’s Prayer, you see how you can pray to Jesus your Savior and come to him. And you saw Jesus coming to you in such special ways through the words and promises of Holy Baptism and Holy Communion. Open up the Bible and see. See the risen Savior in a whole new light as the one who came to rescue you and set you from sin so that you can live in a right relationship with God now and forever. He knows you by name and calls on you to see in him a new way to eternal life, not through what you do, but through what he did for you.
When Saul’s eyes were opened, both spiritually and physically, his life was changed. He saw Jesus to be his Savior and the Savior of the world. He also saw the mission and the purpose that God had for him.
Part of Saul’s conversion was the loss of his sight for three days. I’m sure that during those three challenging days, he had plenty of opportunity to reflect on the truth of Jesus that had been revealed to him. God sent a disciple named Ananias to bring healing of sight to Saul. God had a mission for Saul. God said to Ananias, “This man is my chosen instrument to proclaim my name to the Gentiles and their kings and to the people of Israel.” Quickly after Saul’s sight was restored, he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. What a change! He went from persecuting to proclaiming. Why? Because his eyes were opened to see Jesus and the need to share that good news. He had a new mission. He continued to grow in his faith and mission. Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Messiah. He amazed the people with that fact that he was preaching about Jesus and he opened their eyes to see that Jesus was the Savior.
God does the same for you. He sends faithful believers into your life to help you see Jesus – pastors teaching the catechism, parents who bring you to church and share Jesus in your life at home, friends who offer you Christian encouragement. When you see Jesus, you can see that you are special to him, that he chose you to be his own. You can see that you have a purpose in this life. To serve your loving Lord and to share his love and message with the way you live and speak. Today is not a graduation, but a push and a reminder to continue to grow to see Jesus more and more clearly in your life as you build on the faith that you confess. Go out into your world and baffle those around you as you live for your risen Savior. Because Jesus lives, you have life now and forever.
You young ladies being confirmed today chose meaningful passages that reflected on the promises of the Lord to be with you all your days wherever you go, to strengthen you and help you, to work for your eternal good. Those are beautiful promises to remember all your life. They are true and reliable because Jesus lives to be your Savior and mine. My prayer is that you regularly see those promises with eyes opened by the risen Savior.
Your eyes may never be opened to the wonderful taste of brussels sprouts. That’s ok, because thankfully you don’t have to like brussels sprouts to enter into heaven. For heaven, you only need the risen and living Savior. I pray that the risen Lord Jesus not only open your eyes to the life that he has secured for you but that he keeps your eyes faithfully focused on him all your days. Amen.
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