Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
In the name of the Father and of the +Son and of the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Our Lord is an artist, an author, a poet beyond all others. The wonders He works make you drop your jaw. The stories He tells—true stories, astounding stories—make you ponder and ponder and ponder the things He has done. Like an ear-worm or song that won’t get out of your head. He has a way of putting images, stories, concepts, mysteries into your heart, mind, and imagination. They grab hold of you and they won’t let you go. That’s part of what the Small Catechism means when it says, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Spirit has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith.” (Explanation to the 3rd Article of the Creed) Faith is not something you have the power to work. But our amazing Lord gets inside your mind, takes over your heart, and converts you from the inside out. You didn’t do it. He did. With His wondrous Word.
That’s what is set in front of us this day. A mighty mystery. A wonder. A word of truth and power. Not only that Christ our Lord, the creator of heaven and earth without Whom nothing was made that was made (John 1:3), descended to earth through the womb of the virgin Mary taking on our flesh. The Creator becoming part of His creation. Not only that He suffered on our behalf, died our death, and rose in victory and now ascends into heaven to sit at right hand of His Father, enthroned as the king of the universe ruling all things (Ps. 110:1) so that you might also ascend to heaven with Him on the Last Day. (Eph. 2:6-7) But even more than that He had all of this planned out from before He created anything. (Eph. 1:4; 1 Pet. 1:20) So that He imbedded this in history, foreshadowing what was to come by those saints of Old Testament and the events of their lives.
Just think on this amazing story of Elijah. As a prophet of the Lord he knows his time on earth is short. (2 Kings 2:6) That the Lord is about to take him home to his eternal reward. He’s planned for this, prepared for this, trained up Elisha as his successor to finish off the work Elijah had been sent by the Lord to do. (1 Kings 19:16-17) It’s sad. He’s about to go. These two dear friends—prophet and servant, mentor and mentee, master and disciple—are about to be parted. Elijah says, “Stay here. You don’t want to to see this.” (2 Kings 2:6) But Elisha loves his master so much, there’s no way he won’t be there till the end. He persists. Finally Elijah gives his last will and testament. “Ask of me what I can do for you before I am taken up to heaven.” (2 Kings 2:9) “Lord, that I might have a double portion of your spirit. I’m not as strong as you. I haven’t done the great things you have done, seen things you have seen. I need twice as much of your prophetic gifting if I am to fulfill the calling you’ve placed on my life.” (2 Kings 2:9) So Elijah says, “Thats a tough ask. But if you see me when I am taken up by the Lord. If you persist, if you go with me till the end, if you keep your eyes open and focus on the glorious things Lord is doing in our midst, then you will receive a double portion. A portion twice of what I had. So that you might do greater things than I did.” (2 Kings 2:10) And so on they go. Leaving behind the spot where Elijah had split the river with that prophet’s mantel. His cloak. Which is described as a sheep skin in the Greek. (2 Kings 2:8, 13LXX) An interesting image and foreshadowing of John the Baptist who came in the spirit and power of Elijah (Luke 1:17; Mt. 11:14; Mal. 4:5) preaching repentance (Matt. 3:1-2) and wearing a hairy cloak of camel skin. (Matt. 3:4) And that sheepskin split the water of the Jordan (2 Kings 2:8), just as Joshua had done with the ark of the covenant (Josh. 3:7-17), and Moses had done at the Red Sea. (Exod. 14:15-29) Elijah is telling Elisha this is what you’ve signed on for. This is an enormous responsibility. With great power comes great responsibility. Moreover, we’ve been given this power in order to preach repentance to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. Your road ahead of you Elisha is HARD. No one likes anyone who calls them to repentance. Though if they actually repent and are saved, boy, are they thankful then.
And suddenly a flaming chariot and horses and Elijah ascends into heaven in a whirlwind. (2 Kings 2:11) And as Elisha is staring up into the sky at that pillar of cloud which took Elijah away, down comes Elijah’s mantel. (2 Kings 2:13) His cloak. That powerful sheep skin which Elisha picks up and strikes the river with in the name of the Lord (2 Kings 2:14) crossing the water. And he clothes himself with it. (Gal. 3:27) To which the sons of prophets in Jericho say “The spirit of Elijah rests upon Elisha!” (2 Kings 2:15)
And what a story. Elisha is literally clothed by Elijah’s spirit. Just as we who are baptized have been clothed with Christ (Gal. 3:27), having put on Christ and His righteousness. For the Lamb who was slain His name is attached to water (Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38-39) and by it you are clothed with the righteous sheep skins of Jesus, with His righteousness which covers all your sins. Just as our Lord covered Adam and Eve with sheep skins after their sin. (Gen. 3:21) And this mantel makes you bold before your Father to be His witness to very ends of the earth. For this has nothing to do with you or your personality of boldness, or lack thereof.
It has everything to do with how Christ our Lord has caught hold of you with His Word. How He has put into your mind a story, a concept, an idea, a faith in Him which you can not shake no matter how hard you’ve tried. He’s baptized you into His death and resurrection (Rom. 6:3-4), and try though you might in sinful obstinance, you can’t get away from Him and His justification of you. His covering over all your sins with Himself. And Jesus told His disciples that after He ascended they had to wait in Jerusalem. (Ac. 1:4) Wait till not a literal sheepskin cloak fell down from heaven, not Elijah’s spirit or power, but Christ’ own Holy Spirit would be poured out on them. (Ac. 1:5, 8) So that they might do greater works than He had done. (John 14:12) Works such as treading down Satan under their feet (Mark 16:17-18; Gen. 3:15; Rom. 16:20), crushing the enemies of mankind—sin, death, and Satan—by the powerful word of repentance and forgiveness in Christ’s name. (Mark 16:20) A word which casts out demons (Mark 16:17), casts down kingdoms, humbling the powerful (Ps. 110:1; Luke 1:51-52) as it brings individuals and whole cities nations to repentance and faith. (Jonah 3:6-10)
For this word gets inside you. It is wonderous to behold. Marvellous to hear. Some aspect of it infiltrates you like an ear-worm you just can’t get out of your head. And it converts you heart and soul, so that you do love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and when you don’t the same Spirit inside you calls you to repentance. (John 16:7-11) That Spirit who got there through this word, through that water and word (Eph. 5:26) which has covered you (Gal. 3:27) with Christ the Lamb of God who takes away your sins (John 1:29), so that you are clothed in Christ. A mantel even greater than that of Elijah. This is your calling. This is your reality. This is your destiny to be His. Clothed by Him. Called by Him. Given life and salvation and a purpose: to love Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind and your neighbour as yourself. To do the hard thing. To follow Jesus who has yoked you to Himself, but whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light. (Matt. 11:27-28)
For Christ has ascended to the right hand of Father and now uses us as His hands and feet and skin on earth to extend His covering to all who will believe in Him.
For Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!
In +Jesus’ name, Amen.