Feb 15, 2015
St. Luke 18:31-43
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, X and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
When things are important to us, we talk about them often. They are the first things on our mind in conversation. If we could overhear all the conversations around the world at once, we would hear common important themes in many of them. We’d hear stories from parents about their children, employees talking about their jobs, children talking about games and books; teenagers about girls or boys; friends about past memories.
Jesus, as true Man, talked about what really mattered with His disciples. And what mattered was His death. Biblical students can find fourteen (or more) predictions from Jesus’ own mouth about His upcoming sacrifice. I’m not sure it would even possible to count all of the OT prophecies and predictions of this event with any amount accuracy. But Jesus says today that EVERYTHING that was written about Him in the Old Testament will be accomplished—will come true. Jesus’ death is the most important thing in the history of the world. The Old Testament Prophets couldn’t stop preaching and writing about it. Jesus preached about it often to His disciples. And after those events took place, His disciples put it to paper for preservation for the whole world to hear about.
It’ a morbid topic. It seems like we should shy away from it and talk about happier Jesus stories. But if our Lord himself saw fit to keep it before His disciples’ eyes, then we would be going against His wishes to talk about something else. So the accusation leveled against Lutherans is true—we love to talk about our Savior’s death. But we stand in good company, because that’s what the Christian Church, and indeed the whole company of heaven, loves and can’t get enough of. St. Paul’s proclamation rings forever true: “we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles” (1 Cor. 1:23).
Out of the 14 or so times Jesus tells His disciples about His impending sacrifice, there are three major detailed predictions in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, of which this is the third. The first prediction was preceded by Jesus feeding the 5,000 and St. Peter’s confession of Him as the Christ. The Second was after the Transfiguration, and today His prophecy comes after the healing of the ten lepers. Jesus, true God and true man follows up clear demonstrations of His divinity with predictions of his mortality as a man. He does not want to leave the people or His disciples with the delusion that He came for an earthly kingdom of glory. He came to die. But the predictions also serve to warn against future offenses against His disciples’ crosses and trials in this world. For the servant is not above his master. If the master suffered, then the disciples can also expect to suffer. We are not meant for an earthly life of glory. We are meant to go to heaven.
The most important teaching in all of Scripture is that Jesus died for the sins of the whole world, redeeming people and reconciling them to His Father. This is the chief doctrine. This is the truth that gives you hope for everlasting life. It forgives sins and comforts consciences.
But why do you need the forgiveness of sins and comfort for your conscience? Because the devil, the world, and your sinful nature will not let you rest while you are in this world. Your sins and the sins of others will cause suffering, pain, and ultimately death. Another accusation leveled against Lutherans is also true—we will not shy away from talking about sin, real sins, actual sins, and death. But again, we find ourselves in good company. King David writes: “For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long” (Ps. 32:3), and again, “mine eye is consumed with grief, yea, my soul and my belly” (Introit), St. John says, “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 Joh 1:8). And St. James adds: “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16). St. Paul is quite clear when he says, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Phil. 1:21). The way the Holy Spirit leads you to forgiveness is through the recognition of your sin and the realization that you need a Savior. “You need a strong rock and a house of defense to save you” (Introit). You need someone to defend you “from all evil” (Collect). You need someone to “strengthen [your] weak hands, and make firm [your] feeble knees” to give comfort to feeble hearts (OT). You need a Redeemer who is true God and true man.
That is what Jesus is. And He accomplished your salvation in this way. He went up to Jerusalem, was handed over to the Gentiles, was mocked and treated shamefully, spit upon, flogged, and killed. On the third day He rose again. This is the center and substance of your faith. This is what gives you hope. And this is the essence of God’s love for you—the death and resurrection of Jesus (Ep).
“For just as He died for the sake of your sin, so also He arose for the sake of your righteousness (Rom. 4:25).
“Just as His death is a sacrifice for your sin, so also His resurrection is a victory over your enemies.
“Just as His death is the lowest depth of His state of humiliation, so also His resurrection is the beginning of His state of exaltation.
“Just as by His death He showed himself to be [a] true Man, so also in His resurrection He was mightily shown to be the true Son of God (Rom. 1:4).
“Just as His death is your life, so also His resurrection is your awakening [from death].
“Just as your old man should be crucified and put to death along with Him, so also your new man should arise with Him to a new life (Rom. 6:3-6)” (Gerhardt, p. 216).
Immediately after this Passion prediction, He hears the cries of blind Bartemeus (Mark 10:46). In the giving of sight to this blind man, you see the true Messianic character of Jesus—mercy. The son of David came to have mercy upon those in need. He came to have mercy upon the blind, deaf, lame, and mute. He came to open eyes, ears, and mouths to the glories of heaven. He came to cause people to walk in the ways of the Lord. He came to rescue you from sin and death and sorrow over death.
In the waters of Holy Baptism, the Holy Spirit created saving faith in you thereby opening your eyes, ears, and mouths to salvation. By that washing of new birth, what was lame on account of sin, now leaps in the hope of everlasting life.
Jesus did not come to set up a life of glory for himself in this world. He came to die, to rise, and to join you to that death and resurrection by Baptism. You, His disciples have not been promised a life of ease or a life free from pain and suffering. But you have been promised a release from your suffering at the proper time. The suffering in this world cannot be compared to the glories of heaven to come. After Baptism, everything in this world is meant for your good, even your suffering.
This week, on Ash Wednesday, we turn our eyes toward Jerusalem once again in the season of Lent. We stare out over time to Jerusalem, the place that murders the prophets. But unlike what you and the world expect, we do not look out at the place of the skull with sorrow and deep shame. For in that place of the skull, true joy and comfort is found. Jesus does not gather all men to himself for mourning and weeping, but for rejoicing and celebration. In His death, death is consumed and loses its power and sting. Suffering is placed in the perspective of the eternal lens and shows itself to be temporary. And light breaks through the darkness and shows us the eternal God of love.
Jesus does not regret His death. He marches toward it with purpose. He longed to share it with you in Baptism. And now joined to it as His redeemed you proclaim it every time you eat His crucified and risen body in the Sacrament. You proclaim His death as your own victory when you receive His body and blood given and shed for you. This is no funeral supper. It’s a feast of victory to be enjoyed by all who wish to glorify and praise God.
In Jesus’ X Name. Amen.
Rev. Michael N. Frese
Redeemer Lutheran Church
Fort Wayne, Indiana