Don't Look Back!
Irenaeus of Lyons, Pastor
28 June 2016
Don't look back! Think of what happened to Lot's wife as she fled Sodom! Longingly, she looked back to the old, fleshly life that she was fleeing and was turned into a pillar of salt. When I was a college student we were warned not to look back at the college after we graduated, because it was said we would turn into a pillar of meatloaf, if we did. I did not look back! Although, some might doubt it!

Jesus did not look back, setting His face toward Jerusalem (Lk 9:51-62) and the events by which He would save the world: His suffering and death. Jesus came to seek and to save the lost (Lk 19:10). He has no other mission. Everything else is subordinate to this. Even when the Samaritans rejected Him, because He was headed toward Jerusalem, He refused to bring down judgment upon them. This would have been incompatible with the mission that He had been sent to carry out. He rebuked His disciples for their desire to wreak vengeance and retribution against the Samaritans (Lk 9:55). He refuses to be deflected from His saving purpose and He wants His messengers to learn the same from Him. Judgment is God's business. Not theirs. Their sole purpose is to deliver that saving message about the saving work of the Messiah into the world.

The preachers are not the message. The preachers are not in charge of the message. The message is God's. The message is God. God was in Christ setting His face toward Jerusalem. To proclaim this the preacher must constantly be crucifying the flesh, as the apostle says: "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires" (Gal 5:24). They may not look back toward Sodom. To live the crucified life, they must die. And that way Christ will live in them. Here we see Christ is "the way, the truth, and the life" (Jn 14:6). As John the Baptizer says, "I must decrease. Jesus must increase" (Jn 3:30). To become nothing; to become empty is what the preachers are called to do, so that what is God's might suffice in filling their full of our whole vocation.

There's no going back, no looking back to find your old self. The old self is being crucified with its sinful desires. Here we're not talking merely about sexual desire, but the lust to be in charge, the lust to be in power, the lust to be seen, the lust to be praised, and the lust to be honored. In contrast to this, our Lord calls us to weakness and humility: to peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal 5:22-23). These are the emptying practical habits of those who exist for the others, for the needs of the sheep that belong to Christ. It is that stewardship for which the preachers will give an account at the judgment. Now's not the time to be looking back. You may not say, "I will follow you, Lord, but let me first say farewell to those at home" (Lk 9:61).

Since Jesus Himself refuses to look back and sets His face toward Jerusalem, neither is it possible for you to look back. After all, there is nothing there worth looking at. The cross is before you, which is an easy yoke and light burden. Before you is the trophy of the cross: glorious and conspicuous, the spoils won by Christ, the Victor, the firstfruits of our nature, the treasure of our King, our eternal inheritance. In the Gospels, Jesus will lead you by turning your face toward Jerusalem as you follow Him. In peace, follow Him! He will lead you and show you where death is set forth as crucified, where sin is hanged up, and where there are wonderful offerings from this war, from this battle at the cross. There's no looking back!

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

Cyril of Jerusalem

"Are you persuaded that Jesus willingly came to His passion? Others, who do not anticipate death, die unwillingly. However, Jesus spoke in advance of His passion: 'You know that...the Son of Man will be delivered up to be crucified' (Mt 26:2). See how this Friend of man did not shun death, lest the whole world should perish in its sins. Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be betrayed, and will be crucified; and again, He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem (Lk 9:52).
Would you know certainly, that the cross is a glory to Jesus? Hear His own words, not mine. Judas had become ungrateful to the Master of the house, and was about to betray Him. Having but just now gone from the table, and drank His cup of blessing, in return for that drought of salvation he sought to shed righteous blood. He who did eat of His bread, was lifting up his heel against Him (Ps 41:9). His hands had just received the blessed gifts, and presently for the wage of betrayal he was plotting His death. Then Jesus said, 'Now is the Son of Man glorified' (Jn 13:31). See how He knew the cross to be His proper glory? Isaiah was not ashamed of being sawed in two (Heb 11:37), and shall Christ be ashamed of dying for the world? Now is the Son of man glorified. Not that He was without glory before. For He was glorified with the glory which was before the foundation of the world. He was ever glorified as God; but now He was to be glorified in wearing the crown of His patience.

He did not give up His life because He was compelled, nor was He put to death by murderous violence, but of His own accord. Hear what He says: 'I lay down my life that I may take it up again' (Jn 10:17). It is as though he were saying, 'I yield it of my own choice to my enemies; for unless I chose, this could not be.' He came therefore of His own set purpose to His passion, rejoicing in His noble deed, smiling at the crown, cheered by the salvation of mankind, not ashamed of the cross, for it was to save the world. For it was no common man who suffered, but God in man's nature, striving for the prize of His patience."

Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures,
Psalm 85

LORD, you were favorable to your land; you restored the fortunes of Jacob. You forgave the iniquity of your people; you covered all their sin. Selah
You withdrew all your wrath; you turned from your hot anger. Restore us again, O God of our salvation, and put away your indignation toward us! Will you be angry with us forever? Will you prolong your anger to all generations? Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your steadfast love, O LORD, and grant us your salvation.

Let me hear what God the LORD will speak, for he will speak peace to his people, to his saints; but let them not turn back to folly. Surely his salvation is near to those who fear him, that glory may dwell in our land.

Steadfast love and faithfulness meet; righteousness and peace kiss each other. Faithfulness springs up from the ground, and righteousness looks down from the sky. Yes, the LORD will give what is good, and our land will yield its increase. Righteousness will go before him and make his footsteps a way. (ESV)
Lord of all power and might, author and giver of all good things, graft into our hearts the love of Your name and nourish us with all goodness, that we may love and serve our neighbor; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, Amen.

For the family of Larry Bless, whom our Lord Jesus Christ released from the burdens of this life, that those who mourn his passing would do so with confidence in the resurrection of the flesh and the life of the world to come

For Vicar Matthew Bless, who was bereaved of his father, that the holy angels would be with him as he returns home for funeral services

For Lisa Bronson, who is suffering from breast cancer, that the Lord of all faithfulness would grant her both strength and healing and that those who serve her needs would be upheld in every good deed
Art: Durer, Albrecht  The Adoration of the Trinity (1515) 
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2016
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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