Ye Tears, Forth Flow. Wednesday after Judica 2015.
St. Peter Lutheran Church
March 25, 2015
“Ye Tears, Forth Flow”
We should weep tears when we hear the story of the death of Jesus. I know that we are Lutherans and you’re always hearing me say that it’s not about the way you feel about what Jesus has done for you, it’s about what He’s done. Just as what is important in the Sacrament of the Altar is not how you feel when you receive it, but about the reality of what it is—Christ’s body and blood given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins. I know that I am always saying these things. But isn’t it true that we should weep over Jesus?
If He were just some historical figure who died a long time ago then it would be perfectly understandable if we didn’t feel anything at hearing about His suffering. But He is not just some long dead historical figure. He is our Savior. He is not dead but living. He is alive and He is the One who died out of love for us. Why then should my heart be so cold and hard when I hear about His suffering?
After all, we make so much of our own suffering. When we are going through pain and hard times we can hardly think about anything or anyone besides our own problems—am I right? Sometimes we burden other people with our pain, or we take out our frustration and fear on those closest to us. We want other people to care about our suffering. So why do we have so few tears at our Lord’s suffering? He, unlike us, didn’t deserve any of it.
The worst kind of pain is when you suffer unjustly. Why don’t I have any tears at the terrible injustice Jesus suffered? We have been hearing about it at these Lenten services. First Jesus was betrayed by one of His own disciples. Then the others abandoned Him. The high priest and the leaders of the nation unjustly accused and condemned him, bringing false witnesses against Him. Then Pilate out of cowardice gave Him over to be killed by His enemies and didn’t save Him, even though he knew that Jesus had done nothing wrong. And instead of being put on a throne, thanked and worshipped, as He deserved, Jesus was crucified between two criminals, as though He was a criminal, even though He had never so much as spoken an evil word. If we suffer unjustly we are incensed about it! Yet the greatest injustice ever perpetrated is put before our ears, and our eyes barely get moist. See Jesus naked, pierced, hanging on a cross, being laughed at and slandered by everyone—the priests, the people, the soldiers, even the other crucified men! See how everything is taken from Him, even His clothes, and He has to beg for a drink on the cross. And even then people crowd around hoping to see Him do another miracle. Can’t we take a break from worrying about ourselves even this one time of the year and shed tears over the injustice Jesus suffered?
And if the injustice of Jesus’ death doesn’t move us to tears, what about the horrible agony inflicted on our gentle and innocent Lord Jesus? Just imagine the pain you would feel, the agony, if you stepped on a ten-penny nail and it went through your foot! But Jesus had His hands and feet hammered through with nails that were as close to railroad spikes as they are to our nails. Before this He had been whipped, flogged by a crowd of soldiers, beaten and punched and spit on. A garland of thorns was driven down onto His head. His bones were pulled out of their sockets as He was stretched out on the cross. Shouldn’t the brutality of His death move us to tears? And besides the physical agony there was the great spiritual agony of being forsaken by God. Jesus had been deprived all of His life of the earthly comforts we enjoy—good food and plenty of it; clothes, cars, entertainment. Jesus barely had enough to eat and had nowhere to lay His head. He was born in a stable. The one delight of His life was union and fellowship with His heavenly Father, and now that is taken away from Him. He is forsaken in God’s anger because He is getting the reward for our sins. He is tasting the bitter fruit of our self-seeking and our glorifying of ourselves. How hard is my heart that I can stand before you and preach this and not break down in tears! How hard your hearts must be too, to hear of Jesus’ agony for you and not weep!
And what should make us cry even more than all this is that when the nails are driven into His hands and His limbs are wrenched out of joint and He is lifted up on the cross, He prays, “Father, forgive them.” Jesus isn’t faking. He truly loves those who are killing Him in their hard-heartedness. They aren’t weeping over Him. They smile as they do their bloody business. But Jesus doesn’t hate them, nor does He hate the disciples who fled, nor us, with our selfish hearts. He is concerned not about His pain and the injustice that He is suffering, but about the eternal pain and torment those who are killing Him will have to endure if He doesn’t save them. We so often have our minds on our own pain. Jesus forgets His pain. He is thinking about the agony souls will endure in hell if He does not suffer for them.
Jesus is thinking about others. That’s why He tells the women as He is being led out to His execution, “Don’t weep for me, but for yourselves and your children.” He is talking about the terrible hard-heartedness of human beings. If they are willing to beat and slaughter the Son of God, who never did any evil to anyone, what do you think they will do to those who believe in Him? If they are able to watch Jesus weep and suffer and not shed a tear even though through all of it He still loves them and prays for them, what will they do to each other?
But it’s not just “they.” Our hearts are hard and closed to pity too. How often have we closed our hearts toward Jesus, putting His crucified form out of our minds so that we could go ahead and do our will instead of His? And how often have we closed our hearts against other people who dare to interfere with our self-seeking plans? It’s not even just that we harden our hearts. They are hard by nature. We often simply are unable to consider others. And it was for our selfishness, our hard-heartedness too, that Jesus died and was forsaken by God.
But notice as Jesus is being led out to die, He is not thinking about Himself at all. “Do not weep for Me,” He says. He is thinking about us, pitying us, even as He is about to be crucified—the women who cried for Him, the soldiers who crucified Him, and we who with our hard hearts can so seldom be bothered with anyone else’s pain, even the pain of the innocent Son of God who loves us. He is thinking about us.
That is why Jesus went to the cross. Because He was thinking about us and our hard hearts and the eternal misfortune that was ahead of us.
It’s not our tears for Jesus that save us. We are not saved by our hard hearts becoming softer. We are saved by the softness of His heart toward us. We are saved by His grace, because He eagerly desires our salvation. His grace took the form of His battered body on the cross, crying out, being forsaken by God.
It was His desire to endure our hardheartedness and to suffer God’s anger that comes because of our hardheartedness.
That’s why He prays as He is crucified, “Father, forgive them.” He means it. He wants us to be forgiven more than He wants His own pleasure. He is willing to offer Himself to suffer and die for us.
And to the criminal who does nothing other than admit that he was getting what he deserved, and then turns to ask Jesus for mercy, Jesus says “Today you will be with me in Paradise.”
Jesus hungers and thirsts for our salvation. That’s why He died. He pleads with us to turn and be forgiven for our hard hearts. He does everything to assure us that all is forgiven before God.
Maybe your heart is soft enough to weep today at Jesus’ suffering. Or maybe you don’t cry much, even when you probably should.
Jesus has saved you by His agony either way. Even though your heart is still selfish and hard, Jesus has saved You. He has accomplished your salvation without you. He has become sin for you on the cross and received the wrath that belonged to you.
So come with your hard heart. Ask Jesus to work in it so that you notice your neighbor’s suffering and desire his well-being instead of just your own.
Ask Jesus to work in you stronger faith and love for Him.
But don’t doubt that your sins are forgiven today, while your heart is still evil and your eyes are still dry. Today is the day paradise was opened to the crucified thief. While they were still crucifying Him was when Jesus prayed for their forgiveness.
And while we are still sinners, Christ died for us.
It is to you that He says: “This is my body, given for you. This is my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.”
It is for your consolation that He cries out, “It is finished.”
Soli Deo Gloria