“It starts in our hearts”
Do not stop with the Old Testament, but listen and accept the message of Jesus Christ. This is the appeal Chief Apostle Jean-Luc Schneider made during the divine service in Athens in Greece on 2 April 2023.
“I have been saying this almost every Sunday now because it troubles me,” the Chief Apostle admitted: “There are still so many Christians who have stopped at the Old Testament. They still expect God and His messengers to straighten things out, to drive out the sinner.”
But Jesus did not come to punish sinners, but to save them, the Chief Apostle said. Nor did Jesus come to change society, he added. In fact: “His purpose is to bring about the reign of God, and that starts in our hearts, not in our country.”
King, peace, glory
The Chief Apostle based his sermon on Luke 19: 38–40. When Jesus entered Jerusalem, the crowd of disciples began to joyfully praise God: “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!” Some of the Pharisees called from the crowd: “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples!” and Jesus answered, “If they keep silent, the stones will cry out.”
Shortly before the disciples had experienced many miracles. Jesus had healed the sick, had multiplied the loaves of bread, and raised the dead to life. For them it was clear that Jesus Christ was the King, that is, that He had been sent by God to establish God’s reign on earth. And that meant that He would
- bring peace: “the peace that already existed in heaven. This peace was not simply the absence of war. God’s peace for the Jews at that time was a heaven-like state.”
- reveal the glory of God as it had been seen by the disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration and by Martha when her brother Lazarus was raised from the dead.
Statements bearing potential for conflict
For the Pharisees, this was a controversial message. Jesus was supposed to be the Messiah? The glory of God was supposed to be outside of the temple? And peace was to be had through something other than unswerving loyalty to the Mosaic Law? “That is absolutely impossible! That is why the Pharisees were so terribly upset.”
In His answer, Jesus announced the later destruction of the temple, reaffirming: “I am now the law, I bring peace, I bring glory; the time of the temple is over,” as the Chief Apostle put it.
What does all this mean for us, he asked. “It’s all very well to know history. But there is more to it. We need to do something with it.”
Growing from within
“God wants to lead us into His kingdom, but to do that He must first reign in us. This is not done in a powerful act, but simply in the course of the divine services through God’s word and sacrament,” the Chief Apostle made clear. “Jesus Christ leads us into His kingdom, but for this to happen He must reign in our hearts. It is not just His work that is needed, but also ours.”
Jesus wants to bring peace. However, this peace consists of our putting His commandment into practice, namely to love God and our neighbour, Chief Apostle Schneider said. “If we believe in Jesus Christ, repent, and are humble, we will receive grace and peace.”
And finally, the Chief Apostle said, “The glory of God must come from within. Our soul must be cleansed and sanctified. The new creation must develop within us. Eventually it will become noticeable from the outside. Eventually people will realise: there is something special! They are still imperfect human beings, but a piece of the glory of God is already visible on the outside.”
Greece, Chief Apostle, Divine service