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Second Sunday of Easter (Quasimodo Geniti)

April 07, 2024; Rev. Kurt A. Lantz, Pastor
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Conquer the World

You can conquer the world. Several people throughout history have attempted it and had global impact. About 400 years before the time of Jesus, Alexander the Great attempted it. He really didn’t get all that far but was able to make Greek a universal language across countries and cultures. During the time that Jesus walked the earth, the Roman Empire included territory in Europe, North Africa, and Western Asia. From what we know today it was nowhere close to conquering the entire world, but it did bring a lot of infrastructure and order.


The Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan controlled the largest continuous land empire in the world, from East Asia to the Middle East and Eastern Europe, but that was only a fraction of the world. The British Empire, closer to our time, the largest in history, controlled land on every continent, but in total only about a quarter of the world. Its process of colonization is deeply criticized in our day for erasing cultural distinctions while it brought a system of education and industrial revolution, not to mention a language which is mostly known even throughout the parts of the world that it did not colonize.


You can conquer the world. Many people think that is what the leader of the Russian nation is contemplating as he has sought to increase his great territory by invading Ukraine. There are conspiracy theories that the Chinese republic has this in their sights as they advance in technology and hold much of the debt of other nations. There are political leaders in many nations who talk and act as if they have already achieved this or could at any time they want.


You can conquer the world. That is the strategy of media moguls making advances in internet and artificial intelligence. You can conquer the world. That is the desperate plea of environmental activists who think that the future stability of the natural world lies in their efforts. You can conquer the world. That is the promise of Jesus to you through the Apostle John.


John was at the table with Jesus when Jesus said to all of His apostles, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). The first part of the promise is definitely true. We can all attest to that. “In the world you will have trouble.” We do have trouble in the world, as have all of Jesus’ followers. Jesus was talking about the world opposing those who try to live by His message. The world would oppose them because it opposed Him. And what is that message, but to “Love one another” (John 13:34-35). That is the new commandment that Jesus gave on that night.


The world opposes our attempts to love because the world thrives on something different. It thrives on sinful selfishness. That is the way that it operates. That is the structure it has built for itself. Economy and politics and society in the world are all founded on selfishness. If you are not living for yourself, you pose a threat to the ways of the world. The world’s control, its method of making money, its predictions of what you will do and how you will react and how it will dominate you depend upon you being selfish. That is why you buy the things you do. It is why you obey the laws that you do and oppose the others. It is why you react to media messaging the way that you do, and why you put out the messages that you do.


The world has you under its control when you are living according to its structure based on sinful selfishness; that is, when you are always evaluating what you can get out of the situation, rather than looking for how you can give to someone else. The world has trained you like a dog to be obedient to its ways and even when you think you have broken free from its hold, you find yourself being just as manipulative of others as they were of you. You even seek to control people with kindness and manipulate them in your acts of service.


If you oppose this way of the world and attempt to live in the love of God, you arouse the anger of those who don’t understand what you are doing. They cannot fathom a way of life that is outside of sinful selfishness. They don’t know what the love of Jesus is and they are wary of it. They try to put a stop to it. They make you pay for trying to live outside of their control.


The world is opposed to you doing anything outside of its structure of selfishness because it will cost the world its power and its hold upon you and upon others. If you live in love toward others then the world loses its hold on them. It no longer controls what they get and when they get it. It no longer controls what they will think they need. It takes away their ability to predict what you are going to do. And it realizes that it no longer controls you.


Jesus overcame the world when He lived His divine love for others. “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down His life for His friends” (John 15:13). Jesus was loving others during His whole earthly life, and when the world decided to put a stop to it Jesus continued His life of love by laying down His life, not only for His friends but also for His enemies.


The world tried to put an end to it by sealing the stone of the tomb and setting a guard, but Jesus passed through in resurrection glory and continued to extend His love to Mary, who cried outside the tomb (John 20:15-16), and to Thomas who was not there when He first appeared to His apostles (20:27), and to Peter who had denied Him three times (21:17), and to you.


He proved through His own death and resurrection that He had overcome the world and its ways of sinful selfishness. The world could not put a stop to Him, not even in death. Jesus is victorious not merely for His own glory, but so that He might set you free from the sinful selfishness of the world, and give you the victory. In His love, through His death and resurrection, He forgives you all of your selfish sins and releases you from the grip of the world. He sets you free and promises that you, too, can conquer the world.


That is what we heard from St. John in our Epistle reading today. “Every one who has been born from God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?” (1 John 5:4-5).


You have been born from God in Holy Baptism. He has given you the faith that is your victory over the world. You believe that Jesus is the Son of God and so you also overcome the world. It is your faith in Him that sets you free from the world’s domination and turns the tables. It is by your faith in Jesus as the Son of God that you rise above and overcome and conquer the world that would try to put you under its foot as it tried to do to Jesus.


But it couldn’t do that to Jesus and it cannot do that to you as one who is born of God through Holy Baptism; as one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). They are blessed as those who have been given the victory of Jesus. They are blessed as those who have conquered the world and its ways. You conquer by faith (by believing).


But don’t be confused that this faith is an act of your will to love rather than to be selfish. It doesn’t work that way. That way only results in you selfishly exalting the power of your will. Rather, it works by your faith in Jesus, in who He is as the Son of God and what He has done in giving His life for the forgiveness of your selfish sins. It is only by faith in Him and not in yourself that you overcome the world.


In order that you might have this faith, God has sent people to proclaim to you who Jesus is and what He has done. That includes the apostle John. He refers us to the time when he stood huddled at the foot of the cross with Mary, the mother of our Lord, watching the love of Jesus in giving His life for the world that was trying to do away with Him.


It looked like the world was winning, that it had conquered Jesus, that it was doing what it wanted with Him. In John’s Gospel, which we heard together on Good Friday, John tells us that he saw Jesus die. He was right there and he heard Jesus say, “It is finished,” and he saw that Jesus “bowed His head and gave up His Spirit” (John 19:30). And to add insult to injury, the soldiers left His dead body hanging there for some time after they knew He had died.


When the day was coming to an end, they broke the legs of the other two who were crucified because they knew they were still alive and they wanted to take away their ability to lift themselves in order to draw in anymore breath. But because they knew Jesus was already dead, they didn’t break His legs. What they did instead was another act to try and show that the world had conquered Him. If His body had been lying on the ground, they would have given it a good kick in the ribs in their disgust. But because His dead body was still on the cross and they couldn’t kick it, one of the soldiers thrust His spear into the side of the corpse.


John was right there and he saw all of this. And he saw when they pierced Jesus’ side that blood and water flowed out (John 19:34-35). The spear thrust confirmed that Jesus was dead, if there was any doubt. The manner of His death was thoroughly witnessed by John. John saw Him give up His Spirit, and he saw the blood and water come out of Jesus’ dead body. These are the witnesses that John gives to you: the Spirit, the water, and the blood. This is John’s witness of the love of Jesus for you and the world. Jesus died for your sins and overcame not only death, but also the world for you.


John was also at the tomb on the following Sunday morning. He was the first to see the empty linen shroud. Later that day he was with his fellow apostles when Jesus came to them in the locked room, both without and a week later with Thomas. John was there when Jesus came to them in Galilee by the seashore, too. He is a witness of Jesus’ resurrection and victory, not just over death, but over the world which could not put an end to the love of Jesus.


In both the Gospel and this Epistle, the same apostle John points out the significance of three witnesses which he saw, which are also present in your Baptism (the Spirit, the water, and the blood). Jesus gives up His Spirit, the Holy Spirit, to you at your Baptism, the same Spirit He gave up when He died on the cross and when He appeared to His apostles after His resurrection. You are baptized with water and the Spirit for the forgiveness of sins that was purchased for you by the blood of Jesus. The Spirit, the water, and the blood continue to testify to you of the love of Jesus that has overcome the world and overcomes your selfish sins.


This victory has been given to you in Baptism. You have your Baptism as the testimony of the Holy Spirit within you. Daily, in the renewing power of your Baptism you have the witness of the love of Jesus for you and for the world. This faith by which you believe what you have not seen, overcomes the world for you. It frees you from its sinful selfish hold. It frees you to live outside its structure of self-service.


By daily renewing your faith in the grace of God toward you (poured out upon you at your Baptism), you break free from the selfishness of the world that tries to hold you in its grip, and you are freed to conquer the world with the love of Jesus which you extend to others. This faith in the One who loved us, overcomes the world that we may love one another.


You can conquer the world. You can overcome its temptations. You can break free from the grip of your sins. You can break out of the structure of its sinful selfishness to love one another as Christ has loved you. Your faith has overcome the world and given you the victory; your faith based on the witness of the Spirit, the water, and the blood; the faith given you in Baptism, not just to believe that Jesus is the Son of God and has died and risen again for you, but that you also have become God’s child.



“Little children, keep yourselves from idols” (1 John 5:21).

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