This morning’s Psalm spoke of those who have “flattering lips and [with] a double heart they speak.” Of all the characters in Our Lord’s Passion, this sends the mind immediately to Judas Iscariot, the betrayer. He ranks with Pontius Pilate as one of the pitiable men in the Passion. While our minds are inclined to think, “If only they had thought twice, this wouldn’t have happened,” that’s not a salutary thought. The Jews, Pilate, and Judas get a lot of the blame, but to focus on them that way is to miss a key fact of the Passion. Remember what Jesus said: “The Son of Man indeed goes just as it has been written of Him.” Yes, there were people who bore specific guilt in the death of Jesus, but He was not a victim of their treachery and deceit. He was a lamb who went silently and willingly to its execution.
Why does the Pastor preach? Scripture explains that the role of preaching the Word of God is how saving faith is created: “How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in Him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!’ … So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the Word of Christ” (Romans 10:14-17). The Augsburg Confession, seeing this connection between the Preaching Office and saving faith, summarizes Scripture on the Office of the Holy Ministry in this way: “To obtain [saving, justifying] faith, God instituted the Office of Preaching, giving the Gospel and the Sacraments. Through these, as through means, He gives the Holy Spirit who produces faith, where and when He wills, in those who hear the Gospel. It teaches that we have a gracious God, not through our merit but through Christ’s merit, when we so believe” (AC V 1-3). The whole reason the Pastor preaches is so saving faith can be created, so we know that “we have a gracious God” who loves us and has saved us from our sin by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.