Archive

Posts Tagged ‘passion’

The Best Thing You Never Did. Last Sunday of the Church Year 2019.

November 24, 2019 Leave a comment

jesus crucifixion criminalsLast Sunday of the Church Year

Emmaus Lutheran Church

St. Luke 23:27-43

November 24, 2019

The Best Thing You Never Did

Jesu Juva!

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

 

Zion hears the watchmen singing, And all her heart with joy is springing,

She wakes, she rises from her gloom.

For her Lord comes down all glorious, The strong in grace, in truth victorious,

Her star is ris’n, her light is come.  (LSB 516 stanza 2)

 

Imagine watchmen singing?  You would expect a soldier to cry out with a hoarse and ragged voice; but Zion’s watchmen sing, according to the old Lutheran hymnwriter.  The watchmen of Zion, God’s city, sing out when her king approaches, because Zion is a city of song and of joy, and especially so when her king appears.  Then the city of God’s heart leaps for joy.

 

The season of the church year that is coming next Sunday—you could say it is the “dress-rehearsal” season for the coming of Jesus.  Advent is like a “preparedness drill”, like the military or first responders might do.  We prepare to enter into the joy of our Lord’s first appearing in the world as a baby in the manger; we also prepare for His coming in glory as King and judge.

 

And today, the last Sunday of the church year, is also a day for remembering the Lord’s coming in glory to “judge the living and the dead, whose kingdom will have no end.”

 

Yet the Gospel reading for this Sunday does not show our King appearing in royal splendor or dressed in the authority of a judge.  Instead He appears in shame, weakness, and humiliation.

 

In our country judges wear black robes that signify the gravity of their office and the authority to apply the power God has given the state to punish the guilty.  In Europe the judges even wear white wigs and ruff collars, the clothing of centuries past, to show that they are representing traditions of law in that country that go back beyond our great-grandfathers.

 

But Jesus has no garb, no splendor to mark Him as a judge or King, as one who bears an office.  He has no clothing at all.  He is naked.  And after they strip Him and nail Him to the cross and lift Him up naked, they cast lots for His clothes.

 

It’s hard to picture our Jesus in such indignity.  Most of us have called Him Lord and God since we were children.  And rightly so; in the Epistle reading St. Paul writes that Jesus is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by Him all things were created….And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together…For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell.  (Col. 1:15-19)

 

But the One in whom all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell is now emptied of glory, stripped of dignity; naked, pierced through hands and feet, hung up to die on a tree between two wicked men.

 

Yet you can see that, despite His humiliation, Jesus continues to speak like a man with authority, like a man in a position of power.  As He is being led away to the place called Skull he tells the women who follow Him, wailing over Him, to wail over themselves and their children instead.  When they crucify Him, He prays to His Father to forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing (Luke 23:34).  Even though He is nailed to the accursed cross, He prays as the One who has God’s ear.  And then He promises paradise to one of the men hanging on the cross next to Him.  Though Jesus is stripped naked, nailed to a cross, lacking every visible sign of authority and God’s favor, He behaves as the judge of the world—even on the cross.

 

He behaves that way because that is who He is, even hanging on the cross.  On the cross itself He judges the world, condemning it as He is crucified, and also pardoning it.

 

And because Jesus has already condemned and pardoned the world on the cross, repentant sinners who believe in Jesus can and should greet the day of His return and rejoice as the watchmen sing out His nearness.

 

Jesus condemns the world from the cross.  It isn’t that Jesus pronounces condemnation on the world from the cross.  Pay careful attention to the fact that even while He hangs bleeding and accursed, He gives a guilty man paradise.  Even as they are driving nails into His hands Jesus prays for the forgiveness of His tormenters to His Father.  Note this.  Jesus does not want to condemn the world.  Jesus does not want to doom the sinners of the world to hell.  He wants to save us all.  Even the ones who hammer nails into His hands.  Even the leaders who falsely accuse Him and hand Him over to be put to death.

 

But Jesus’ presence draws out of the world its own condemnation.

 

The world hates God.  Human beings hate God by nature.  We hate God because He interferes with us doing as we wish.  He not only makes us feel guilty for cursing, for getting drunk, for lusting, for seeking revenge, for coveting—He condemns us to die.

 

So we run from God.  We run so far we forgot we ran from Him.  Then we complain that He seems so far away.

 

But what if God came near to us?  What if He came near to us and made Himself like us so that He wouldn’t overwhelm us, terrify or destroy us?  What if He made Himself weak enough that we could harm Him?  What would we do then?  Would we come back to Him?

 

Jesus told a parable about this right before He was arrested to the priests; in His parable there was a vineyard hired out to renters, and the renters saw the son of the owner coming to collect some of the wine of the vineyard.  What do they do?  They say, “Look, this is the heir.  Let’s kill him and the vineyard will be ours.”

 

And that’s what the human race did when God came near to us, in peace, to reconcile us, to bring us back.  We killed Him.  Yes, it was the Roman soldiers who beat Him and drove in the nails and the spear; yes it was Pontius Pilate who gave the order.  And it was the leaders of the Jews who handed Him over to Pilate with false accusations.  But they were only doing what you have done every time you knew God’s will and did what was contrary to it.  And every time too that you sinned in ignorance.  You wished there was no God who commanded you to obey your parents, to pray and learn His Word, or not to hate, or to be chaste, or to not speak evil of your neighbor.

 

People have been doing that ever since Adam and Eve first hid from God.  But at the cross of Jesus, human beings did the worst thing they ever did.

 

People have done lots of horrible things in the thousands of years we have been on earth.  There have been genocides.  There have been oppressions, powerful and rich holding down the weak and the poor.  And there have been the countless personal sins that haunt our lives—the lazy man who doesn’t support his family, the husband who abuses wife and children, those who cheat at business, those who lie their whole lives.

 

But the worst thing human beings ever did was humiliate and put to death God’s Son when He came to save them.  God gave His dearest treasure and mankind killed Him.  This is why Jesus prayed for us as He was being nailed to the wood.  This is God’s beloved Son, in whom He is well-pleased.  As the crucified criminal said, He has done nothing wrong.  Neither toward His Father, nor toward His brothers in flesh and blood.  He came for one purpose only—to help us and reconcile us to God.

 

Of course you will say, correctly—It was God’s will that He die for our sin.  It was written before it happened.  And that is true.  But that doesn’t make it a good work on our part.  It is the greatest act of wickedness on the part of the human race, to treat shamefully and kill God’s Son.  Our guilt is exposed in Jesus’ naked, crucified body.  His shame is really our shame.  If there was anything good in the human race, would we have nailed the firstborn of all creation to a cross?

 

But we could not avoid it.  His presence exposes our sin.  Either He must die, or we must.

 

Son on the cross we see the condemnation of mankind and each of us exposed already—that we killed the Son of God.  And you have your share in this too, because by your thoughts words, and deeds, you have rebelled against this King.

 

That is the worst thing human beings ever did.  It is the worst thing you ever did.

 

 

2.

 

But Jesus the King also accomplishes another judgment on the cross.  He justifies the ungodly (Romans 4).  Or as St. Paul wrote in Colossians, He delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us into His Kingdom.  (Col. 1:13-14).  He gave us His Kingdom.

 

This, again, is difficult.  A man naked on a cross, stripped of everything, bestows on us a Kingdom.  A man condemned to a cursed death between two criminals lifts us up to Paradise.

 

But what is more difficult still is that we killed this King sent to save us.  This is the worst thing we have ever done, the crowning evil atop the heap of human evil.  How can He now call us righteous and give us a Kingdom?

 

3 successive people or groups of people mock Jesus’ claim to be the anointed one, the King.  The first are the rulers, who say, “If He is the Christ, let Him save Himself like He saved others.”  The second group is the soldiers, who offer Jesus sour wine to drink and say, “If you are really the King of the Jews we have heard about, if you are the One who will rule all nations, even Rome, save yourself from this cross.”  Both of these groups don’t ask Jesus to save them: they ask Him to save Himself, and prove that He is Christ.  Because obviously a King who is going to defend and deliver others first has to be able to save Himself, right?

 

Finally one of the other hanged men rails at Him: “Aren’t you the Christ?  Save yourself and us!”  He seems to think Jesus has the ability to come down from the cross, and he is angry at Jesus for not saving himself (and the criminals as well).

 

But the last criminal doesn’t talk like this.  He says, “We are getting what we have deserved for our deeds.  But this man has done nothing wrong.”  Then he turns to Jesus and asks for a gift: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

 

The last criminal rightly recognizes that his deeds brought him to the cross.  His own works brought him to die shamefully, painfully, and under a curse.

 

Our works brought the Christ, the chosen one of God, to be crucified.  Our works crucified God’s beloved, the One who came to rescue us.  There is no refuge for us in our works.

 

Bu this man asks Jesus to remember Him when He comes to His Kingdom, and Jesus says: Yes, today.

 

Because He didn’t come to save Himself; He came to give Himself.  He freely bestows His Kingdom on those who believe in Him.  Not on those who have treated Him well, because none have.  But on those who believe in Him.  Though Jesus is dying in humiliation, naked, He has a Kingdom He is about to enter.

 

He enters it as He emerges from the tomb, not only the firstborn of creation, but firstborn from the dead.  He is the firstborn of those who die because of sin and are raised by God with sin and death underfoot.  He is the firstborn of those made new, entering paradise.

 

That is Jesus Kingdom.  He came to give it to us.  And even though our wickedness was so total it drove us to put Him to death, it was not great enough to prevent His Kingdom from coming.

 

Now He freely promises it to you as He did the criminal hanged with Him.  Look at that man hanging next to Jesus, you who are troubled by sin, and realize—there was never an unlikelier candidate for paradise.  But Jesus said, “Today, you will be with me in paradise.”

 

He made you the same promise—when He baptized you, and when He absolved you this morning and in that absolution put you back in your baptism.  “I forgive you all your sins…”  That was the sound of the stone rolling away.

 

That is why when the watchmen sing to you that He is near, you should know that the joy is meant for you, the burdened one, the dying one getting what your deeds deserve.  Yes, but now you are going to receive the reward of the best thing you never did, the thing Jesus made of your worst.  He is not coming to destroy you on the last day.  He is coming to give you a kingdom.  Not even your worst could stop Him.  When He comes He will simply announce in glory what has already been accomplished in His weakness on the cross.  “The Kingdom is yours.  I am for you.”

 

That is what He now says hidden under the bread and wine, giving you His body to eat, His blood to drink.  “I am for you.  Take and eat.”  And at the altar, today we are with Him in paradise.

 

Now come, Thou Blessed One,

Lord Jesus, God’s own Son,

Hail, Hosanna!

We enter all

The wedding hall

To eat the supper at Thy call.  (LSB 516 st. 2)

The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Soli Deo Gloria

 

 

When I am Lifted Up, I Will Draw All Men to Myself. Good Friday, Chief Service, 2018. John 18:31-32

jesus crucifixion de ribera.PNGGood Friday—Chief Service (1 PM)

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. John 18-19 (18:31-32, 19:33-37)

March 30, 2018

“When I Am Lifted Up, I Will Draw All Men To Myself”

 

Iesu Iuva

 

In the Name of Jesus.

 

Pilate said to them, “Take Him yourselves and judge Him according to your own law.”  The Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.”  This was to fulfill the word that Jesus had spoken to show by what kind of death He was going to die.  John 18:31-32

 

By what kind of death He was going to die.

 

St. John draws our attention to the kind of death Jesus was going to die.

 

He was going to die by the form of execution the Roman world considered the worst—crucifixion.

 

And John draws our attention also to the fact that Jesus had said beforehand that He would die this kind of death.  That God had planned it out beforehand.

 

In chapter 12, the Gospel for Monday of Holy Week, Jesus said, Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.  And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to Myself.  He said this to show by what kind of death He was going to die.  John 12:31-33

 

Jesus was going to be lifted up.  Not fly away into heaven, away from all the pain and ugliness down here, but be nailed to a tree and lifted up as the very image of all the evil of this world.

 

Our natural response to John’s words about the kind of death Jesus was going to die is to say, “So what?”  We’ve all known since Sunday School that Jesus died on the cross.  Why draw attention to it?

 

The Holy Spirit is impressing on us the offense of the message about Jesus, the craziness of the Gospel.

 

For John’s hearers and readers in the first century of our Lord, and for centuries after, the message of the Gospel was madness.  For Romans and Greeks who believed in the old gods it was insane that Christians preached that the Son of the One True God was crucified.  For the fundamental characteristic of pagan gods was that they were immortal and could not die.  And for the philosophers who believed in one God the message of the cross was crazy because reason told them that the Creator, being eternal and omnipotent, could not suffer.

 

For the Jews, it was unthinkable that God would be crucified, because the Scripture says that people who are hanged on a tree are cursed by God.  And if a man has committed a crime punishable by death and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain all night on the tree, but you shall bury him the same day, for a hanged man is cursed by God.  Deut. 21:22-23

 

And if we lived then and saw the horrible suffering and shame of people who were crucified, it would not take much faith to believe that they were cursed by God.  They were usually pierced through their hands and feet after being flogged and made to carry the beam of their cross to the place of execution.  When they were lifted up, they died slowly, often taking several days to finally die from suffocation.  They were usually crucified in public places, where their last agonies could be watched.  When they died, they typically were left on the crosses to rot and be eaten by vultures and crows.

 

People did not sympathize with those who were crucified.  Many were glad for the peace and order the Roman rule provided, and they supported the Romans making examples out of those who threatened that order.  Crucified people were considered bad people who deserved their death, people whom God had cursed.

 

So when the apostles went out and preached that a manual laborer from out of the way Galilee, who was crucified was the Son of God and the world’s Redeemer, it was mostly received as insane folly.  When Paul wrote in first Corinthians the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, he was speaking from years of experience as a missionary, where his message encountered rejection upon rejection.

 

Today, the word of the Cross is not as strange to us or the people we live among.  It has been preached and pictured in Europe and America’s literature, art, music for more than a thousand years.  It is not strange, but it is still crazy to us when you scratch the surface.  People do not react to it because for the most part they do not take it seriously.  It’s just religious talk, even to many people who go to church.

 

But you see in the popular preachers of today that the message of the cross is still considered ineffective.  And when a church wants to, like Paul, know nothing..but Jesus Christ and Him crucified, the feeling that this is craziness begins to rear its head.  At the grave of my half-brother’s mother, one of the pall bearers talking to me about his church told me, “What is killing churches like yours is a lack of marketing.”  This is a common idea.

 

But it does not appear to be Jesus’ idea.  Now is the judgment of this world.  Now will the ruler of this world be cast out.  And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.

 

By this craziness of God being lifted up to die, accursed, on a tree, Jesus says that He will cast out the devil, judge the world, and draw all men to Himself.

 

According to our wisdom, that is simply insane.

 

And yet, Jesus lifted up to hang from the tree, that message brought down the worship of the old gods in Rome.  Then in northern Europe, Russia.  Then in America.  It is doing the same now in Africa and in Asia.

 

And even if few seem to be listening to this word of the cross today, let us hear it and take it to heart.

 

John also makes a point of drawing attention to the reality of Jesus’ death, how he witnessed Jesus’ side pierced with a spear and the outflow of water and blood from His heart.

 

He is drawing our attention to the fact that Jesus really and truly died; He was not simply passed out from shock or something like that.  He was dead.  As really as our loved ones are dead when we go up and stare into their faces at their wake.

 

God was dead, just as God was cursed and put to shame, just as God was condemned.  And Jesus had said before that this would happen, because it had been God’s plan before the foundation of the world.

 

It was God’s plan for you, who face condemnation and judgment and shame for your sins before the court of God.  And for you whose loved ones die, and who are facing death.

 

God had planned long ago that His Son would be put to shame and cursed and would suffer so that you would be released from the curse you were under and the shame that belongs to you.

 

God planned that His eternal, undying Son would be lifted up and die for you.

 

And in doing so He would bring you to Himself and back to God, without curse, without shame, free from eternal death.

 

The spear that pierced His heart let loose the sign that you are free and that the ruler of this world no longer has any power over you.  Water.  Blood.

 

These streams that flowed out as proof of Jesus death flow to you as God’s pledges that you live.

 

The water flows from Jesus’ death over you in Baptism and cleanses you from sin.  It flows over you and begins your new life.

 

The blood flows from Jesus’ body into the cup that you drink, where Jesus seals to you with His own blood that the folly of the death of God, this unspeakable kind of death on the cross, has given you life.

 

And for all who receive these pledges in faith, now is the judgment of this world, and they are judged righteous, acquitted.  Now the prince of this world is cast out from them, and the prince of heaven reigns in their hearts.

 

The peace of God that passes understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.

 

SDG

 

 

Jesus Will Stop For You. Quinquagesima 2016

February 8, 2016 Leave a comment

Quinquagesima

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Luke 18:31-43

February 6, 2015

“Jesus Will Stop for You”

 

Iesu Iuva

Why should Jesus stop?

 

That may seem like a harsh question. Yet it is in the back of the minds of many people. Sometimes you’ll hear people say something like, “I don’t pray much. Why should God pay attention to my prayers? There are billions of people in this world asking Him for help. What’s so special about me, that He should listen to me?”

 

It’s a question that might have occurred to the blind man on the road to Jericho. It might even have seemed a little arrogant for him to shout at Jesus as Jesus passed with a great crowd down the road to Jerusalem.

 

After all, Jesus is the Son of David, the promised Christ, the King anointed to rule the nations forever. Does this man think this great King has nothing else to do, that He should interrupt His business and stop for a blind beggar? How do you feel when a beggar approaches your car when you’re waiting for a red light, on your way to work? Do you ever feel a little irritated or put out? What if they are yelling for help with a loud voice?

 

Besides this, Jesus is surrounded by a great crowd of people. Does this blind man think that no one else in the crowd might want to ask Jesus for a healing, for a miracle, for mercy? But they don’t interrupt Jesus’ procession to Jerusalem.

 

Maybe this is what the people who rebuke the blind man are thinking. Their rebuke could even seem devout and pious. “Why are you screaming at Jesus? You’re being prideful. Who do you think you are?”

 

Does this man think the world revolves around him? Does he think he’s so important that, of course, Jesus should stop what He’s doing and come to serve him, a blind beggar?

 

This is how we might think. But Jesus makes it clear by His actions and words that He does not think this way. He stops what He is doing to answer the blind man’s prayer. He puts Himself at the blind man’s disposal. He praises the man for his faith.

 

What gave the blind man such boldness?

 

He had heard good news about Jesus. He had heard that Jesus was able to cure the sick, the lame, the paralyzed. And he had heard that Jesus not only possessed such power, but that He was gracious and kind and did not turn away those who came to Him for help. Perhaps he had also heard about how Jesus had mercy and received even the greatest sinners in Israel. Perhaps he drew the conclusion that Jesus was the promised anointed one, or perhaps others told him that.

 

The blind man believed the good news that he heard. He had faith. And when his own conscience and others rebuked him and told him that Jesus had other things to do, he persevered in faith and believed that Jesus would have mercy. He believed in spite of everything that Jesus was able to heal him and that he wanted to heal him, even if it meant that he was the only one in a great crowd of people for whom Jesus would stop and give him his attention.

 

It was not that he thought highly of himself. He thought highly of Jesus’ mercy. He believed that Jesus’ mercy was greater than everything else. The blind man didn’t believe that he was the center of the universe. He believed that Jesus’ mercy and love were so great that Jesus was willing and able to deal with him as though he was the only one in the world.

 

Although this man couldn’t see with his eyes, he saw Jesus far better than most by faith. By faith He saw that Jesus was the son of David, the promised King and Savior. And by faith he saw—perhaps even better than the 12 disciples—what kind of a King Jesus was. He was and is not a king who came to be served but to serve. He came to give of Himself freely; to have mercy.

 

On the other hand, the earlier part of the gospel reading shows us how the disciples did not understand fully who Jesus is.

 

Of course the disciples understood that Jesus was God in human flesh. Three of them saw Jesus transfigured on the mountain. They saw Jesus tell the stormy winds and sea to be still and they obeyed Him. They saw Him raise the dead. Peter had confessed what all the disciples believed—that Jesus was the Christ, the Son of the living God. This is what the season of Epiphany that is now ending is about—Jesus revealing Himself as God incarnate, God with us in our flesh and blood.

 

The disciples believed and knew that Jesus was God with us, but they did not clearly see what that meant. They did not grasp well what the apostle John later wrote in his first epistle, that “God is love” (1 John 4:8).

 

They believed Jesus was God. But when Jesus told them that what had been written by all the prophets was about to be fulfilled in His going to Jerusalem, they could not understand Him. They did not understand what the Scriptures said about God, nor did they fully understand Jesus.

 

“And taking aside the twelve, [Jesus] said to them, ‘See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished. For he will be delivered over to the Gentiles and will be mocked and shamefully treated and spit upon. And after flogging him, they will kill him, and on the third day He will rise.’ But they understood none of these things.” (Luke 18:31-34)

 

This was the third time Jesus told the disciples about His impending death. But they didn’t understand Him. Why didn’t they?

 

This did not fit with their understanding of who God is. They understood that God was all-powerful and glorious, holy and righteous. It was beyond their comprehension that the Son of God should be mocked, treated shamefully, spit on, and killed.

 

But Jesus told them this so that when the Scriptures were fulfilled and Jesus was handed over to shame and execution, they would not think that it happened accidentally, that Jesus didn’t know about it and couldn’t prevent it.

 

How could God be handed over to enemies, be mocked and spit on and be killed? Clearly, the only way this could happen to the eternal, Almighty God is if He let it happen. If He allowed Himself to be taken captive. If He allowed Himself to be mocked and spit on and nailed to a cross.

 

But in their minds, God would never allow this to happen. Why would He?

 

For the same reason He let Himself be stopped by the blind man on His way to Jerusalem. God is as great in mercy and love as He is in majesty and power. As His power and knowledge far exceed our ability to understand, so does His mercy.

 

His mercy is so great that He interrupted His procession to Jerusalem to be the servant of one blind beggar. He stopped to give this man his request, to heal him.

 

But His mercy is greater still. He finished His journey to Jerusalem so that He might serve each one of us individually by becoming sin for each one of us. He went and accomplished what no one was asking Him for, what no one would think of asking Him for. He bore our sin and atoned for us with His death.

 

Jesus saw clearly what was coming in Jerusalem and He went anyway. He did not go grudgingly but willingly to shame and spit and abuse and flogging and death. He went joyfully and suffered for the sins of each one of us. As He was lashed, as He was spit on, as He was laughed at and scorned, He healed us our guilt before God. As the prophet prophesied seven hundred years before, Jesus was “wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed.” (Is. 53: 5)

 

If the disciples had understood the Scriptures, they would have understood that this is what Jesus came to do, and that nothing short of this would save them from their sins and from condemnation.

 

And if they had known that only Jesus’ blood would save them from their sins, would they have dared to ask Him? Would they have said, “Please bear my sin; let Your divine majesty serve me, a sinner with no excuse. Let yourself be captured, mocked, put to shame, spit on, and crucified to pay for my transgressions”? Do you think they would have dared to ask for that?

 

Would we dare to ask that of the high and holy God, of our innocent and gentle Jesus?

 

Yet this is what God proclaimed through the prophets that He would do.

 

Like the disciples, we are slow to believe the Scriptures, and we are slow to believe in the love of God for us. We do not think highly enough of His love toward each one of us individually, or grasp the greatness of His mercy.

 

When the blind man yelled out for mercy Jesus allowed Himself to be stopped and caught by the man. He made Himself the man’s servant. In the depth of His love He allowed Himself to be taken captive by the man’s faith in Him.

 

Like the blind man we also cry out to Jesus for mercy in the liturgy. Like beggars we sing, “Lord, have mercy upon us” in the Kyrie. When we pray that to be sure we are asking that Jesus would bless and help and heal us in this life. But we are asking for an even greater gift; the forgiveness of our sins and for salvation.

But long before we started singing that, Jesus answered our cry. Or better—He answered your cry individually. He did not go to Jerusalem simply to die for the sins of the world as a mass. He died for each one of your sins individually. For your guilt, for your sins which cry out for your condemnation, Jesus willingly went to Jerusalem and was mocked, spit on, flogged, and killed to present you holy and righteous before God.

 

In answer to our cries for mercy, Jesus still stops and serves each one of us. He cleanses us with His blood as it is sprinkled on us in the preaching of the good news of his cross.

 

He feeds us the body that was nailed to the cross for us; He tells us to drink His blood which was poured out for us for the forgiveness of our sins.

 

Today as we prepare to enter the season of Lent in which we remember His suffering and death, Jesus tells us that He willingly endures all this for each one of us. Nothing else can take away your sins except for Jesus, who has mercy on you and endures your shame and punishment.

 

By the blind man’s example He encourages you to hold fast and believe that His mercy is for you, and is greater than you can comprehend. His love is deeper than we can grasp. No matter how much your faith expands it will never be able to exhaust the riches of His love and mercy.

 

We are often doubtful about whether God will listen to our prayers. He is so great and we are so small; the world is full of people and we are just average individuals, with nothing special about us. More than this He is holy and we have provoked His anger with our many sins.

 

We would never have dared to ask God to pay for our sins with His own humiliation and suffering. Yet He did, even when we did not ask. He did it for each one of you specifically and bore your sins. And if He did that, how will He deny us any other good thing?

 

Take courage. Jesus will stop for you.

 

In the Name of the Father, and of the +Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

 

Soli Deo Gloria

Ye Tears, Forth Flow. Wednesday after Judica 2015.

HD-petersdenialWednesday after Judica

St. Peter Lutheran Church

Passion History—Calvary

March 25, 2015

“Ye Tears, Forth Flow”

Iesu Iuva

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.”

Amen.

Soli Deo Gloria

Categories: Lent Tags: , ,

Palm Sunday 2014. At the Name of Jesus Every Knee Shall Bow. St. Matthew 21. 1-11

April 13, 2014 1 comment

palm sundayPalm Sunday + St. Peter Lutheran Church, Joliet, Illinois + St. Matthew 21:1-11 + April 13, 2014
“At the Name of Jesus Every Knee Shall Bow”

Iesu iuva!

Jesus is king. He gives an unmistakeable sign that He is king of the Jews when He sends His disciples to fetch the donkey and rides it into Jerusalem. And when the crowds respond to Him as the Christ, the anointed One, the promised King, He does not refuse their praise. He allows them to lay down their cloaks on the road in front of Him with leafy branches of trees as a royal carpet. He doesn’t stop them when they cry out “Hosanna!” Save us! “Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord!” The Lord has appointed you to rule in His Name!

The crowd reads Jesus’ actions as proclaiming that He is the King. And even the people of Jerusalem pay attention, the citizens of the city the Lord chose for His dwelling place, the temple. Living in such a holy place, the people of Jerusalem aren’t easily impressed by people claiming to be prophets. But today, on Palm Sunday, when the crowds of Passover pilgrims raise the festal shout of salvation, they ask, “Who is this?” (21:10) And the answer comes back, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth in Galilee.” (21:11)

Everything seems to be going so well. Jesus makes signs that He is the King, the Messiah. The people greet Him as their King. So what if Jesus has a few enemies? What are they going to do when the people are laying their cloaks on the road in front of Him? God seems to be making Jesus’ way straight before Him straight to the throne of the King of Israel, and from there Lord and King to the very ends of the earth, over all the nations.

The donkey Jesus needs is right where He says it would be, and its owner sends it just as Jesus said he would. Jesus goes into the temple and throws out the money changers, and no one does anything to Him. He comes back on Monday and Tuesday and silences and rebukes the priests and scribes with their false, godless teaching. God seems to be preparing everything.

And then everything changes. Doesn’t it? Was God really making His way straight before Him? Was He really being made King when He was flogged to the point of barely looking human (Isa. 52-53), clothed with a scarlet robe and crowned with a wreath of spiny thorns? Was He really being made king when the soldiers knelt down in front of Him and spit in His bloody face? Had God really prepared His way to the throne when Pilate brought Him out in front of the crowd, dressed up in this royal apparel, and said, “Behold the man,”? Had God made Jesus king then when the crowd roared “Crucify, crucify Him”?

Yes!

 

Read more…

Christ in the Garden

February 27, 2013 Leave a comment

agony in the garden     Look, how he glows for heat!

What flames come from his eyes!

‘Tis blood that he does sweat,

Blood his bright forehead dyes:

See, see!  It trickles down:

Look, how it showers amain!

Through every pore

His blood runs o’er,

And empty leaves each vein.

His very heart

Burns in each part;

A fire his breast doth sear:

For all this flame,

To cool the same

He only breathes a sigh, and weeps a tear.

PATRICK CAREY

Father, Forgive them, For They Know Not

April 7, 2012 1 comment

Good Friday—Tenebrae vespers

St. Peter Lutheran Church

The seven last words of Jesus

April 6, 2012

 

The first.  “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing”

 

To bear witness to the truth is to suffer.  To serve as a priest is to make the sins of others your own and to go on their behalf before God who is displeased.

 

Jesus, our God, holy and mighty, is being killed by us.  And as He allows us our rage, our “righteous wrath”, as He allows us to inflict injury on Him, our God, He prays for us.  He pleads.  “They don’t know what they’re doing.  Forgive them.  They don’t know.”

 

If you could get a mother who harmed her child to speak honestly with you and bare her pain, she would say, “Oh God, I didn’t know what I was doing.”  I didn’t see how my behavior changed because of my addiction and how I hurt them.  I didn’t realize what I was doing to my baby; all I knew was that I was scared.

 

If we become aware that we have sinned against God’s church, it is the same.  “I didn’t know!” 

 

On judgment day many we will realize how all of our actions were actions toward Jesus.  When our brothers in the Church are in need and we say, “I don’t have time, I don’t have energy, I don’t want to take the risk,” it is Jesus we are saying that about…Jesus who is being crucified.  We didn’t know, the Roman soldiers will say, that we were nailing God to the cross.

 

I didn’t know that all my harsh words, all the cruel things I said and thought that I felt justified about because of the injuries against me—I didn’t know that I was doing violence to Jesus.

 

But we are.  If Jesus had not put Himself in the position for us to harm Him God would have crushed us for all our “justified” sins.

 

So let us no longer say, “I didn’t know,” but look at what you have been doing.  And then you will see that Jesus is not angry with you for what you have done.  He has been praying for your forgiveness.

 

See Jesus, Your God, suffering Your wrath and praying for you.  Seeing this makes you a priest who understands what it is to be a sinner, and a witness to such sinners of God’s salvation.  Seeing His priesthood—His praying for you while you attack Him?  It changes everything. 

It makes you no longer God, no longer Caesar, no longer Pilate, condemned to flog and crucify Jesus to save his own marginal life.  No longer a soldier killing and robbing under the cloak of the law.  No longer Peter, who says he wants to die with Jesus, but is ashamed of him and deserts him to die alone.  To hear Jesus pray for you while you hammer the nails into his hands, to realize that all along you have been after His life–and He is not demanding vengeance but pleading that you would live–

It makes you a priest like Him, who offers Himself up and saves those who hate Him. It makes you a king as He is a King, whose majesty is not outward trappings and an army, but that He wins the hearts of His enemies.

Put on, therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.  And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.  Colossians 3: 12-15

%d bloggers like this: