When You Are Bitten, Behold The Christ

Text: Numbers 21:4-9

In the name of Jesus: Amen.

April, Matthew, and NaKayla, as you live your lives from this day forward, you will be tempted to complain and bicker towards the Lord.  Yes, it is easy to do this.  When things do not go the way that you may want them to go, it will be easy for you to get impatient and frustrated and angry at the Lord, for you will want things your way.  There may even be times when you will complain to the Lord, and instead of things getting better they may actually get worse.  Yes, you may find yourselves praying to the Lord so that He might take your trials, pains, and bad circumstances away, but instead, things get worse. 

When this happens, remember what you have learned in Confirmation.  Remember what you have been given in your baptisms.  Remember what you are confessing today in the confirmation rite.  Remember what the Word has declared to you and to me and to your church family today! 

What are you to remember? 

When the grumbling and complaining and impatient Old Testament Israelites were bitten by snakes in the wilderness, many of them died.  The poison ran through their veins.  It infected them, poisoned them, and brought death to them.  However, in the midst of Israel’s grumbling, impatience, and poisoned bodies, the Lord told Moses to make a pole out of bronze, with a serpent on it, and whoever would look at it would be healed – the poison would not harm them. 

But what on earth does this have to do with confirmation today, besides being out Old Testament Lesson?  What does it have to do with you?

April, Matthew, and NaKayla, you have a far deadlier venom in your veins than mere snake poison.  You and I and the rest of this congregation have the sinful Old Adam – the sinful nature – and with it, death.  None of us can claim to be an innocent victim.  We all brought this upon ourselves, by every act of rebellion against God – every sinful thought, word, and deed.  Not making it any easy, the world drinks down this venom of sin as if it were a fine wine and the devil markets this venomous sin as if it were righteousness. 

However, in the midst of this terrible predicament and in the midst of this world and in the midst of the evil one and in the midst of all the grumbling and complaining of life, the Lord God provides a cure for you and for me and for your church family. 

In our Old Testament lesson, the Lord did not banish the snakes, but rather He had Moses put a fiery snake on a pole.  Yes, a bronze serpent was nailed to a cross – like the serpent of the Garden of Eden.  It was then lifted up, and all who looked to it were healed and lived. 

Considering all of this,  April, Matthew, and NaKayla, you have beheld in confirmation not a mere snake on a pole, but Jesus Christ, the Son of God, suspended on the Cross – the Christ lifted high on a cross for you to see, so that you would be protected and healed – so that you can live.

Take a moment and think about this. 

In confirmation, you were not told that your condition of sin was not a serious problem.  The venom of sin was not diminished or normalized or glorified.  You were not given a bunch of life principles and life pointers to overcome the venom of sin.  You were not entertained with puzzles or coloring books or superficial games to ignore the venom of sin.  You were not given a bunch of Christian fads.  You were not taught the ideologies of the world.  But rather, Christ – like the snake in the wilderness – was lifted high upon the cross for you to see.  He was lifted high upon the cross for you to see that the sting of poisonous sin finds its end in Jesus.  In other words, confirmation was a time to lift your eyes out of the grumbling world, and it was a time to lift your eyes off of the snake bite of sin towards the cross of Jesus.  Confirmation has been a time to re-direct your eyes off of yourselves, off of the world’s ideologies, and away from the pain of sin, towards God’s answer to your sin – Jesus.

April, Matthew, and NaKayla, as you know and confess, Jesus - who is like a living serpent on the pole – took the poisonous sins of the world upon Himself.  He drank the venom for you.  And then He died.  Jesus Christ then rose from the grave as the victor over sin, death, the world, and the devil.  Your victor; your Lord; your salvation.

April, Matthew, and NaKayla, today is the end of your three-year journey of confirmation.  You have taken the necessary sermon notes, you have attended the necessary classes, and you have been examined by your pastor.  This means that today you will be acknowledging your baptism and making a profoundly bold vow, that is to say, an oath.  Yes, the three of you will be renouncing the devil and all of his works and all of his ways, which means you are confessing the devil as the enemy of your souls.  You will be confessing that you do not hold to the flimsy and changing opinions of the world, but rather, the inspired Word of God.  Furthermore, today you will be confessing that you intend to live a Godly life and to remain steadfast to the Christian confession and this church.  You are confessing that you are willing to suffer all, even death, rather than fall away from this Christian faith. 

Now, this is a very big oath that you are making today.  It is not to be taken lightly.  However, you are not making this oath alone though, for you are joining all of these beloved Saints of Zion Lutheran Church who are standing against the Devil, the ideologies of the world, and their sinful flesh with you. 

All of this stated, we must take note that this bold confession and oath – that you will be making today – does not come without a cost.  You see, when a person renounces the devil, one can be sure that trouble lies ahead.  The devil does not roll over easily, but typically hisses back at God’s children.  When a person clings to the Word of God and not the slogans and ideologies of the world, one can be sure that the world won’t applaud and dance, for the world demands allegiance to its ways of doing things.  The world can’t handle noncompliance; it does not know what to do with individuals who are no longer lemmings unthinkably following the masses who are rushing headlong into destruction.  Finally, when one confesses that they are sinners in thought, word, and deed and when a person finds hope of salvation in their baptism, the sinful nature squirms, for it does not want to be drowned in the mighty waters of baptism.  

April, Matthew, and NaKayla, today you are making a confirmation oath, by the grace of God, which places a target upon you from the devil, the world, and your sinful nature.  As a result of this target, you will undergo hardships in this life.  For the Christian we can expect trials and tribulations, for the devil will continually hiss, the world will continually harass, and the sinful flesh will continually grumble.  However, come hell or high water, Christ crucified has been lifted high before your eyes.   You have beheld Jesus – crucified for your sins.  Nothing can change that, and nothing can overcome this Christ. 

So, when the devil sinks His teeth into you – behold Christ Jesus, the victor over evil.  When the world sinks its teeth into you – behold the Lamb of God, who was lifted up and sacrificed for you and for the sins of the entire world!   When your sinful nature sinks its teeth into you – behold Jesus Christ, your salvation, your life, your hope, and your assurance.  Yes, behold the way the truth and the life – Jesus.    
Christ – lifted up on the cross for you – is what confirmation is about.  That is it.  It is about focusing your eyes upon Him and His gifts for you.  Confirmation is about you understanding your sin – through the Ten Commandments.  It is about you understanding who Jesus is – through the Apostle Creed.  It is about you understanding how Jesus delivers the benefits of the cross to you – through Baptism, the Word, and the Holy Supper. 

So, dear April, Matthew, and NaKayla, today make the bold confession against the devil, against the world, and against your flesh that Christ Jesus was crucified, died, buried, and resurrected – for you.  Make the bold confession of who you are in Christ – a baptized forgiven child of God.  Make the bold confession of the Christian faith, for Christ has been lifted up to you these past three years and is lifted up to us right now in His Word.  Make the bold confession and then approach the Lord’s Supper in faith, to receive the very true body and blood of the Lord Jesus Christ – for the forgiveness of your sins and the strengthening of your faith.

In the name of Jesus, who was and is lifted high before us all: Amen.  

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