Invocavit Midweek
Delivered By
Pr. Mark D. Lovett
Delivered On
February 17, 2016
Central Passage
Matthew 12:38-50

In the name of the FATHER and of the + SON and of the HOLY SPIRIT.

This is an evil generation. But then, so was the last generation. In fact, every generation since Adam has been an evil generation. The inclination of men’s heart is evil, even from their youth. There’s no golden age of any society or of any generation. Everyone born of flesh is flesh and belongs to the flesh, and therefore is corrupt and does wicked deeds.

But the most wicked of deeds is not fornication or greed or lust, or any of the mortal sins. No, the most wicked of deeds is to demand from the Lord a sign. But not just any sign. Gideon demanded a sign, or at least requested one, and he got it. So, too many of the prophets, priests, and kings. Many of them asked for signs and many of them received the signs. In fact, it seems that one of the oddest passages of Scripture is in Isaiah 6 with king Ahaz refuses to ask for a sign from the Lord and is rebuked for it. That’s when we hear the prophet’s words, “The Lord Himself will give you a sign; behold the virgin shall conceive and give birth to a son. And you shall call His name ‘Emmanuel’.”

Here our Lord rebukes every generation for asking for a sign, and yet as we have seen, many have asked before and received and poor Ahaz didn’t ask, preferring not to put the Lord to the test, and he was rebuked. It seems all backward. That is, until we discover why the sign is asked for.

Every time anyone has asked of the Lord for a sign of His mercy, His favor and grace, they have received such a sign. That doesn’t mean they have heeded the sign or even thought of it as a sign from the Lord, but it is. The sign of His mercy and grace, His love, compassion, and long-suffering, His love toward you, is, of course, none other than the Lord Jesus Himself. He is both the sign and the reward. But also everything that comes with the Lord Jesus: the preaching of His gospel – that’s a sign of His favor; the administration of His sacraments – those are signs of His favor and love for us.

Even tonight, the Lord being among us as He promises, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am among them,” He is giving us the sign of Hs love for us and favor toward us; a sign of His covenant of forgiveness in His blood. When you ask for a sign that God loves you, that He will have and has had mercy on you, this is what you get. If you’re looking for a different sign when you ask for the Lord’s mercy and favor, then you’re part of the wicked generation.

But to the wicked no sign will be given. None but the sign of Jonah, that is. The wicked are those who reject the Lord’s favor and love, His mercy and peace. They don’t want signs of His grace and favor, they want signs that He is, in fact, God; that they must worship Him. They want proof that they must submit to Him. So do you. You want proof, especially when life has gone sideways. So you ask for signs. That’s what the scribes and Pharisees were after. Show us a sign that proves that you are God. Cast out all doubt that you are in control and Master of all. But no such sign is given. The only sign given is the sign of Jonah: His resurrection and the preaching of His gospel. But these are not the signs asked for by the wicked. They won’t believe these signs because they are not looking for His mercy and grace. And they will die in their sins.

So Lord says that the evil spirit – the spirit of unbelief – goes out of a person and wanders around. This evil spirit is exercised by the Holy Spirit who comes with the preaching – the proclamation – of the Gospel. But those who reject the Spirit, who deny the gospel of Jesus, the evil spirit returns and the state of that person is worse than before they heard.

But don’t look to these things as some type of proofs of the faith. Don’t be looking for signs that the evil spirit returns brining seven of its brothers with it. Don’t look for signs at all. Except for those signs the Lord gives; signs and pledges of His love, His mercy, and His grace toward you. These are trustworthy and are, in fact, more than signs. They are what they say they are. The Sacrament of the Altar is not a ritual, it is a the bestowal of God’s love and forgiveness on you, His promise that the risen body and blood of Jesus sustains you in your life and faith.

Baptism has ritual around it, but it is not ritual or ceremony. It is the actual blessing of God, marking you with His name and sealing you by His Holy Spirit.

You have been given the sign of God’s favor and mercy; of His love love and election. It is here, in the breaking of the bread and the prayers. It is here where Christ dwells with men and men with Christ. Rejoice, O blessed generation, for the Lord is good and upright, and He is instructing you in the way of righteousness, the way of true faith.

+ In Nomie Iesu +