A Body Prepared
Rev. Kurt Lantz 4 Advent C Hebrews 10:5-10
December 19, 2021 Resurrection Lutheran Church St. Catharines, ON
Dear people to whom God has spoken by His Son,
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
“Oh, grandmother,” she said, “what big ears you have.”
“The better to hear you with, my child,” was the reply.
“But, grandmother, what big eyes you have,” she said.
“The better to see you with, my dear.”
“But, grandmother, what large hands you have.”
“The better to hug you with.”
“Oh, but, grandmother, what a terrible big mouth you have.”
... (The Brothers Grimm, “Little Red Riding Hood”)
And, well, you probably know how the rest of the story goes. Even the wolf, disguised as grandmother and speaking to Little Red Riding Hood, knew that there was a purpose to his body parts. It was a nefarious purpose, to be sure, but Little Red Riding Hood took note of the features and soon learned their purpose for herself.
In today’s Epistle reading, the preacher to the Hebrews draws the words of Psalm 40 from the mouth of the eternal Son of God saying to the heavenly Father, “a body have You prepared for Me... Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God” (Hebrews 10:5, 7). Like the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, there is a purpose for the body of Jesus, not a nefarious purpose, but a God-pleasing purpose.
The story of Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf has an overall moral lesson and secondarily a bit of instruction about the biological anatomy of a wolf. What the Bible says about the eternal Son of God being given a body cannot be said to be a secondary lesson. Rather, it is the main point of the divine, holy, truth of God’s Word. A body was prepared for the eternal Son of God for the purpose of fulfilling the will of the heavenly Father. That is the point of the Bible, and the point of Christmas as well, lest we lose sight of that.
In many and various ways God spoke to His people of old by the prophets (Hebrews 1:2), promising to send a Saviour from sin, death, and the devil. Our hymn of the day, “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” rehearses several of those promises that God had spoken through the prophets. But now, in these last days, Jesus has come in the flesh and fulfilled those promises. And to the heavenly Father, who appointed Him for this sacred duty, the Son said, “a body You have prepared for Me... I have come to do Your will, O God.”
“Oh, Jesus, what big ears You have,” to hearken to the will of God to ransom captive Israel.
“Oh, Jesus, what big eyes You have,” to see heaven open and to open to us our heavenly home.
“Oh, Jesus, what big hands You have,” to free us from Satan’s tyranny and give victory o’er the grave.
“Oh, Jesus, what a terrible big mouth You have,” to disperse the gloomy clouds of night and death’s dark shadows put to flight.
A body was prepared for the Son of God to be our salvation from sin, death, and the devil.
The Lord has prepared a body for each and every one of us, hasn’t He? Over the last nine months He was preparing a body for Emma, as He knit her parts together in the womb of Rachael, in a miraculous and mysterious way that only He knows in full. The Lord has called us His children in Holy Baptism and prepared us for good works that are well pleasing to Him. We ought to be eager to do them, but often we are not. We often use these bodies to fulfill our own desires, rather than use them to serve God’s good pleasure.
We don’t know exactly what good things God has in store for Emma or for the other children here. We have a hard enough time trying to figure out what God-pleasing things He wants us to do on a daily basis. But part of the wonder that we enjoy in watching children is a continuation of the wonder of their miraculous development in the womb.
Medical imaging has given us wondrous pictures of what was formerly hidden from sight as a baby grows within its mother. Today’s Gospel reading reveals even more hidden wonders as the power of the Holy Spirit was evident in mother and child when the fetal John the Baptist leaped in Elizabeth’s womb (Luke 1:44) as Mary, bearing the Lord Christ in her womb, drew near and greeted them.
We cannot see everything that God is doing in preparing us, body and soul, for those works that are pleasing in His sight. There is a lot of biological development going on, but also a lot of unseen spiritual development accomplished through His Word as we hear read aloud the promises from the prophets, and the Magnificat of Mary, and the words of Jesus Christ Himself. We believe that God is at work in Emma and all of us through our Baptism into Christ. God is at work preparing us both as our bodies grow and also as they suffer and die, for works that are well-pleasing to Him in this life and for eternal life.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary, knew that He was provided a body precisely to fulfill the will of the heavenly Father. And so Jesus resolved to do just that, to put His body into action for the good pleasure of God the Father. He used His ears to hear the cries for mercy. He used His eyes to see where people needed help. He used His hands to heal and to break bread. He used His mouth to speak the forgiving words of God to sinners. He used His entire body throughout His whole life to do the will of the Father, in keeping the commandments and living a life of sacrificial charity to everyone in need.
And then He used that body prepared for Him to make the one sacrifice that pleases God our heavenly Father, the one sacrifice through which He sanctifies us for everlasting life with Him, “the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Hebrews 10:10). Through His heartfelt hearing and His compassionate seeing, and His merciful healing, and His gracious speaking, Jesus relieved many people of their distresses in this life. But through the sacrificial offering of His body into suffering and death upon the cross, He took away all of our sins and made us holy, so that we could forever be with Him and our loving heavenly Father, and all those who have faith in this sacrificial work of Jesus Christ.
“A body You have prepared for Me... I have come to do Your will, O God.” Those are the words of the eternal Son of God coming into the world, written by his ancestor, King David, 1000 years before. This is the will of God from the foundation of the world. This is how it was always ordained that God should save His people... by preparing a body for the Son of God, which He sacrificed to save us from sin and death. To be clear, it wasn’t just Jesus’ body that He sacrificed, but His whole self sacrificed in His body which was prepared for this very purpose.
When the devil first tempted Adam and Eve into sin, bringing death and damnation to mankind, God promised that the Seed of the Woman would crush that ancient serpent’s head (Genesis 3:15) and free us from Satan’s tyranny. When King David was near his death, God promised him that one of his descendants, a Branch of Jesse’s tree (Isaiah 11:1), would reign over God’s people forever (2 Samuel 7:12-13), to open wide our heavenly home, and make safe the way that leads on high.
And so a body was being prepared when Mary went to visit Elizabeth who was filled with the Holy Spirit and confessed, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:42-43). There was a body being prepared in the womb of Mary.
With pure and holy faith in the Lord’s promises about this Child to His people and specifically to her, Mary acknowledged that her own body had been prepared to be the place where the body of Jesus would be prepared. She said to the angel Gabriel, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1:38). And while visiting Elizabeth, Mary confessed in song, “My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour, for He has looked on the humble estate of His servant... For He who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name” (Luke 1:46-49).
Mary has been the guide of God’s holy people to give a faithful response to what has been done for us through the body of Jesus Christ. He has done great things for us, in preparing a body for the holy, divine Son of God to be sacrificed for the sins we have done in the body. And He has done great things for us in preparing a body for each one of us in which we can bring to expression our thanks and praise of Him, by doing what is good and well-pleasing in His sight.
A body was prepared for Jesus so that our bodies might be redeemed for a holy purpose. The sin that brings suffering and death is taken away in the body of Jesus, so that these bodies which He has sanctified through His sacrifice, and washed in the waters of Holy Baptism, and fed with His body and His blood in the Holy Supper, will not remain rotted and decayed in death. But like His body which rose on the third day and ascended into heaven, these bodies also will rise when He comes again, and those sanctified through faith in the offering of Jesus’ body once for all, will live eternally in that everlasting kingdom where Jesus reigns without end.
The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.